Following the steering committee members’ reports to the St Augustine City Commission last night, together with mixed public comment, Historic City News learned that the proposed “facilitator” for the project, Herb Marlowe, has submitted a revised proposed plan and fee schedule for the completion of the visioning initiative.
Marlowe has already been paid $15,000 for what the Director of Public Affairs, Paul Williamson, referred to as the “ice breaker” for the 15 volunteer members of the appointed steering committee to “get to know each other”.
Criticism of Marlowe came early when it was determined that he had basically taken a plan that was done for another location and dropped in the correct names and addresses for St Augustine. Former Mayor Len Weeks, who spoke last night, said that he expected the paid facilitator to develop a visioning plan that is custom to our area, uniquely St Augustine, and not a makeover of someplace else.
Rhey Palmer said flat out that he did support a visioning plan update — but did not think Marlowe was the right man for the job. Palmer suggesting that the City could save the $85,000 asked by Marlowe by relying on City Commissioner Roxanne Horvath, who pushed the whole issue to the front burner, and City Manager John Regan provide facilitation, while the volunteer members of the committee, and its task forces, completed the work.
Palmer observed that he felt like everyone expected him to be a “rubber stamp” for the facilitator’s plan — a position he was not comfortable with. Even before anything operational has been advanced by this blue ribbon committee, it appears off to a rocky start. Philip McDaniel, initially appointed to the committee, sent word that, because of his resignation, he felt that he should not offer a report.
Generally, criticism of Marlowe, his communication style, management skills, and apparent lack of willingness to allow the “vision” to come from the committee participants — rather than a text he already had prepared, became the fly in the ointment. That was the case, even for the three members that seem to be saying they think the City should continue the process with Marlowe at the helm. It was somewhat disturbing that the logic expressed in the discussion that followed, included consideration that, since we’ve already given Marlowe $15,000 so far, we shouldn’t walk away from an otherwise poor decision.
The steering committee will review the revised plan at a meeting on Tuesday, June 17th from 4:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.in the Alcazar Room. Based on that outcome of that meeting, the committee will offer its recommended action to the Commission at its June 23rd meeting.