Neighborhood Council of St Augustine has informed local Historic City News reporters that they will not hold a Primary Election forum this year. Four candidates are running for City Commission Seat 1 in this election, the top two will move to the November General Election unless one of the candidates receives more than 50% of the votes cast.
“Please don’t forget to vote in the Primary on August 30th,” Lincolnville resident Judith Seraphin told Historic City News. “The polls are open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.”
Running in alphabetical order are:
- Sandy Flowers sandyforstaugustine.com
- Roxanne Horvath (incumbent) roxannehorvath.com
- Rhey Palmer rheypalmercampaign.org
- Ron Stafford electronstafford.com/bio/
The Neighborhood Council asked each of the candidates for Seat 1 to give their stance on two important questions facing the City of St Augustine. We believe the Mobility Process will be an important part of the upcoming year.
Question 1: What do you see as being the biggest Mobility Problem facing the City of St Augustine and why?
In my opinion, the biggest problem is that there is little that we can actually do to hinder through traffic along State Road A1A which runs through our town. In spite of all the great ideas that are floating around, the honest truth is that our city is surrounded by the best of North Florida’s natural resources and the people will keep coming. To me, this is the biggest problem facing our city because there is only so much we can do about it. I expect to see some engineering changes come out of the new mobility study and they will probably help, but the politicians don’t want to tell us the ugly truth that we already know. The traffic will only get worse. Just the traffic from the county will increase with further development which is going to happen. In the more distant future, we may have no choice but to go residential parking city wide. As a result, we have resort traffic from the Island and from Ponte Vedra turning around and spending their money elsewhere, while our city sits gridlocked with pass through traffic. When the traffic doesn’t flow neither does the money. And that is something we should all be concerned about. My water transit system is a possible answer and I hope that the idea of taking to the river for taxi service as well as high speed transit is in our near future.
The biggest problem we have in the Mobility realm is the shear volume of tourist, and county residents wanting to visit our outstanding Historic City. We have spent a number of years advertising our City for our 450th Birthday and we have been discovered! St. Johns County, because of the advertising and the fact that our schools are rated # 1 in Florida, has doubled in the last 15 years and is due to double again in the next 10 years. There is a finite number of people and cars that can comfortably occupy the small streets and limited area of our City. During the “Vision” work I initiated during my first term, we identified “Mobility” as the highest item of business. We are on the way to finding some solutions from the consultants that we have hired to work on this problem. These data driven solutions will take into account the various means of transportation such as carriages, segways, pedicabs, bikes, motorcycles, etc. I suspect the solutions will include some satellite parking and some form of mass transportation to shuttle visitors into the City. Bicycle and walking will be encouraged with additional bike lanes and sidewalks. We need to visit the Bed Tax revenue, which is currently used for advertising for more tourists. It would make a lot of sense to redirect some of this money toward mobility issues.
Short-term quick fixes are being substituted for long-term solutions — there is a lack of strategic and forward thinking by the majority of the Commissioners and senior City Staff. We have had consultancies and reports and studies for years all of which gather dust on shelves. The biggest downfall is lack of action/implementation of what we already have. I fear the outcome of the Mobility Task Force will suffer the same end — inaction. We need a multiple-year plan to address the myriad of issues surrounding mobility, then fund and implement it. Having said the foregoing, the biggest problem is lack of balance between the livability/quality of life for residents and business interests. Mobility is not a standalone problem — it involves many facets which impact our neighborhoods. Thus the need for a multi-phasic, multi-year funded and implemented plan.
The largest Mobility problem facing the City of St Augustine as I see it is balancing the needs of the residents and tourist. While tourist are important to our income, our residents come first, they are the ones who pay our bills. We need a system that will give the residents the ability to access parking in the downtown area. In the sixties St Augustine ran a bus line that ran thru the downtown area and west St Augustine, a bus line would also help with the parking problem we are having with tourist which will free up downtown parking and parking within the neighborhoods. Making the downtown parking permitted parking for our residents will then give balance to our residents and tourist.
Question 2: IF elected Commissioner, what “Quick Fixes” in mobility do you see getting done in your first year in office?
Although my platform is firmly planted in increasing our tourism revenue by way of attracting more cruising vessels into our port, specifically because they don’t bring cars and spend more money, I also think that taking another look at limiting bridge openings is a worthwhile pursuit. The City of Beaufort S.C. did a bridge log study which demonstrated the degree in which recreational traffic was effecting local safety and gridlock issues for the town. Armed with the quantitative data, they were able to convince the Coast Guard to grant them limited openings for several months during which time the Coast Guard would study the effects. This program concluded last August and we should follow up on this with our own data and see if we can do the same thing. I am waiting for the Coast Guards decision on whether to continue the limited openings or not. This is big news for us, if Beaufort can pull this off why can’t we. Another idea which could help immediately would be to actually complete the parking garage plan. Without a dispersal system, like golf carts, the plan is not complete and will never reach its maximum value for the city. We currently have a company already running 8-14 passenger golf carts all over town. The owner advised me that he would love to provide service from the parking garage or any other parking lot downtown. The price would be lowered on his end, the city would come up with a little $5,000 grant and the passenger would pay only $1. The golf carts would quickly and happily disperse passengers throughout the main shopping areas using side streets only. This small grant could give us immediate feedback and would provide our mobility council with real time results without wasting much money at all. Other first year goals would be to promote and encourage a full time water transit system which would service St Augustine, Ponte Vedra and the Island. This system is not a taxi4 and the details and pictures are laid out in my website.
I believe that we will have the cut thru traffic issue fixed at the Nelmar Neighborhood. I hope that we will receive the grants that we are seeking for the Bayfront Park rework to address connectivity and sea level rise. The project is shovel ready and if the funds are acquired, the park could be completed within the first year. We could have our current Bonds refinanced which could possibly be used to further the continuation of underground and surfacing of our streets and sidewalks. We currently have $525,000 each year for the next five year earmarked for this effort.
There are no “quick fixes”. However, there are several “quick wins”. They were identified in the very first mobility meeting and have been promoted by the Mayor. Those are the first things to tackle for mobility. The “fixes” will take longer and must relate to a multi-phasic, multi-year plan that is funded and implemented.
First, use permitted parking to support our residents and permanent parking for tourists, then work to keep more of our bed tax, then it will free more funding to support permanent parking.
Registered voters may vote at any of the Early Voting Sites within St. Johns County. Early Voting Dates are August 20th through 27th. Early Voting Hours are 9 AM -6 PM Daily including Sunday.
PRIMARY DAY VOTING
Tuesday, August 30th 7 AM -7 PM, you must vote at YOUR PRECINCT and bring Photo ID.
Further info at www.votesjc.com