Historic City News readers have been discussing our article, reported May 21st, titled “Free shuttle service during summer holiday weekends” announcing a public shuttle for St Johns County residents and visitors during the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays that will allow beachgoers to park off-site yet still enjoy beach activities.
Three days earlier, on May 18, 2016, we published an article titled “Meet the Mobility Advisory Task Force” announcing who the St Augustine City Manager had selected to serve on that resident-focused committee.
During Monday night’s meeting of the St Augustine City Commission, a number of residents rose to object to the process and selections for the fifteen-person panel. There is high anxiety on the topic of mobility in the city, it will no doubt become one of the central components in the November elections.
At issue was a criticism by St George Street resident and Historic City News reader Lee Geanuleas; who commented that “40 percent of this task force doesn’t even live in the city.” That did not go down well for residents who feel that they have been swallowing bitter medicine for long enough when it comes to downtown traffic; both commercial and residential.
One example that Geanuleas used was the appointment of Becky Yanni, who has resided in St Augustine Shores for the past 16-years, outside the city limits of St Augustine. A second concern was the number of appointees with close ties to the sale and development of real estate.
Yanni is a real estate broker who has held a Florida real estate license since November 2003. She was listed as a member of the St. Augustine Regional Women’s Council of REALTORS®. Previously affiliated with Realty Executives of St. Augustine Beach, when she last updated her records in January 2010, she was employed by First Network Realty Inc. Her real estate license expires in March 2018.
Geanuleas also pointed out that Yanni is the Executive Director of the Council on Aging who operates the Sunshine Bus; a competing vendor for transportation contracts. He suggested that a conflict benefiting Sunshine Bus or Coastal Transportation could present itself through Yanni’s appointment to the Mobility Advisory Task Force. “Ideally, a city resident, who is not a real estate broker, or executive director of a private transportation company would be a better choice for the appointment,” Geanuleas observed.
The past executive director of the Council on Aging, Cathy Brown, posted comments to our article defending Yanni’s appointment and challenging Geanuleas’ critique. We are posting a copy of the recent contract between the county and the Council on Aging as an example of the types of financial negotiations Yanni, who signed the contracts, might find herself in with the City after her appointment.
City Manager John Reagan left for the Miami airport with his wife and adult children today; they are on their way to Spain for vacation — he will be out of the country for the next three weeks, so it is unlikely that there will be any action on these controversial appointments.