The City Manager of the City of St Augustine, John P. Regan, a professional engineer, is one of only three employees that are hired by the members of the politically elected city commission.
He is supposed to manage the city. The city commission is supposed to set the policies and direction for him to follow – however, they are supposed to communicate that direction after public discussion, through one voice, and then step away. If Regan doesn’t implement the policies or follow the direction of the commission, he is looking for another job. The direction of the board comes to the city manager through the mayor. Other commissioners are not authorized to direct the city manager how to do his job. Likewise, the mayor, absent the action of the full board, is not authorized to direct the city manager in the day-to-day operation of city government.
That chain of command puts responsibility on a professional public administrator to conduct the affairs of the city in accordance with the ordinances and applicable laws of the state, without the pressure of political aspirations of elected city officials. How well has John Regan done that? Is he in fact the man calling the shots at city hall and the captain of a team of 330 dedicated and hardworking people?
In a letter from Regan sent to the St Augustine Record this morning, Regan falls on his sword, conveniently on the day before early voting that will ultimately replace three-of-five members of the board who will be his new boss.
Regan outlines ten areas in the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015 where the city has received resoundingly poor marks; failing the city taxpayers, failing the city’s residents and business owners, making poor decisions that favored the few loudest voices in his ear – not the least of which has been St Augustine’s answer to Huey Long, Mayor Joe Boles.
On the introduction of his letter, Regan writes, “While we are still recovering from the recession, we are reducing costs, creating new revenue streams and proactively seeking grants to allow us to move forward despite economic challenges.” Spending at city hall seems to be in full swing. Cash requirements have not been appreciably reduced, so, I have no idea on what basis he makes that claim. It sounds good though, like a campaign promise. But Regan doesn’t run for office – he’s the hired help.
How does government create revenue streams? Government is not in business. With the exception of enterprise funds, like public utility services, fines, permits and user fees, the city is not supposed to make money, in the business sense. That is, of course, unless our city government is in competition with local businesses – a function that is absolutely inappropriate. Is the city planning to buy and sell more property like it did with the M&M Market, or engage in other speculative investments that are not in the public interest? Perhaps he means the city is going to raise the rent on the Florida Cracker Café property leased to Mayor Joe Boles and subleased by him at a substantial monthly profit?
And, then, “seeking grants to allow us to move forward despite economic challenges”. When has having the money BEFORE committing to the project ever slowed this administration down? The Picasso exhibit comes to mind, and, of course the Mumford Gentlemen of the Road stopover. “We can get grants, increase fees, attract corporate sponsors” we were told – kind of like the entire 450th Commemoration over the last four years. LONG on promises, SHORT on deliverables.
So now, in a politically timed announcement about how the city will better spend your money NEXT year, we get the ten budget-related honeypots:
Infrastructure and Streetscape Aesthetics
Promote a Proactive/Visionary Planning Department
Livable City Initiatives
Parking and Traffic Management
St. Augustine 450th Commemoration
Improve the Balance of Financial Burden between Residential/Tourism/Commercial Sectors and Develop Policy to Limit Intrusion into Neighborhoods
Improved Customer Service & Public Information Dissemination
Keep your eyes open wide and your memory sharp. St Augustine has survived for hundreds of years, but not without suffering its share of carpetbaggers and charlatans. They come couched in good intentions, often escorted by lawyers and bean counters. I’m reminded of the old joke about the knock at the door and the guy that stands there saying, “I’m from the government. I’m here to help.”