Letter: St Augustine Beach silences most protected form of speech
Dr. Michel S. Pawlowski, D.Sc., CEM
St Augustine Beach, FL
Dear Editor: NEWS FLASH:
The Saint Augustine Beach Commission and City Manager are violating Supreme Court decisions regarding free speech. The Supreme Court determined that the most protected form of “free speech” is “political free speech”.
As a citizen in our free society, political signs for candidates are free speech and shall not be infringed. In my opinion, the Saint Augustine Beach Commission and the Saint Augustine Beach City Manager are violating this Supreme Court decision.
On Sunday afternoon, about 3:15 p.m. August 21st, while I was manning the Early Voting booth for the Republican Party of Saint Johns County at the Saint Augustine Beach City Hall. The City Manager for Saint Augustine Beach, appeared and started taking down all the political campaign signs.
I asked what he was doing. He said a new sign ordinance banned Political signs at the St. Augustine Beach City Hall voting location, just like at Jacksonville Beach. I stated, Saint Augustine Beach is not Jacksonville Beach.
When I asked who ordered him to take down the political signs, he stated he takes his orders from the City Commission who just passed a new sign ordinance. The public was not made aware of this.
I observed, that the posted signs inside City Hall proclaim that the Sign Ordinance is not being enforced. They read, “The City of St. Augustine Beach announces that it has ceased enforcement of all regulations governing temporary, non-commercial speech as those relate to the City’s sign code.”
Max Royal, City Manager, stated that the posted sign does not apply to political signs. I talked to one Beach Commissioner by phone who was not apprised of what was going on Sunday afternoon and who had no knowledge that political signs were being taken down by the City Manager.
So, who authorized this violation of the highest level of free speech? Someone needs to be accountable for this assault on free speech!
This is a clear violation of the Supreme Court ruling on political free speech, in my opinion, and is also an attempt by the existing members of the Saint Augustine Beach Commission, who are up for reelection, to suppress free speech.
It is no wonder that the community of Saint Augustine Beach does not trust the Saint Augustine Beach city commission, because they appear to be ANTI-Business and ANTI-Public Input. Members of the commission treat the public with disrespect and try to schedule meetings at inconvenient times when people are commuting or still at work.
I am requesting that Governor Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi conduct an immediate investigation of the Saint Augustine Beach City Commission, the City Manager’s Office, and the City Attorney to determine why this violation of the highest level of free speech is occurring.