Editorial: Commissions need to tend to their knitting

Editorial: Commissions need to tend to their knitting

Michael Gold, Editor in Chief

Editorially, Historic City News has taken the position, and, as a consultant to candidates and elected public officials, I have personally advised my clients to “mind their own business” when it comes to issues that do not fall under their jurisdictional authority.

The worst offender I quickly recall was David Shoar. For whatever reason, during his 2004 campaign, before he ever held an elected office, he had his nose in everybody else’s campaign; offering to do one thing or another that he thought would help them get elected. He would call and schedule meetings with everyone from local municipal candidates to a candidate for the 7th Circuit public defender, when he should have been on his own campaign trail meeting voters and delivering his own message to them.

Fourteen-years later, some politicians still won’t listen to that advice; but, I am going to continue giving it whether they want to hear it, or not.

Most recently, motivated by compassion, St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver asked that a discussion be added to the regular agenda; usually reserved for items of business to come before the city commission for action.

Because of the recent shooting deaths at a Parkland, Florida, high school and frustration over the tragedy, citizens were already calling for local mayors to take steps to outlaw “assault” rifles and restrict the sale of clip-loaded handguns even further.

I advised against it. I did so primarily because every city commission in Florida is powerless to affect such a change and at best you would be leaving those who participated in the meeting with false hope that the St Augustine City Commission could somehow ignore state and federal preemption over such matters.

If you needed something to fill 30-minutes on the city commission agenda, take up the topic of returning artists to the Plaza de la Constitucion and listen to what your constituents think about that — something within your authority to control.

Florida is among 43 states that in some way restrict municipalities from enacting gun laws stricter than those in place at the state level.

Florida law prohibits local municipalities from passing ordinances that regulate firearms or ammunition, and if one is passed that violates the state statute, it will be declared void.

Elected or appointed officials involved in the drafting or passage of such local rules face fines of up to $5,000, will be unable to use a city attorney and could be held responsible for footing up to $100,000 of the legal bills for anyone who challenges the local rule in court.

The governor is also given the power to kick them out of office.

There is a time and place for everything. I have no problem with citizens discussing their feelings about gun control, even if I don’t agree with some of them. But that’s a discussion that should be held between citizens and the Florida legislature, not the city or county commission. I learned a long time ago that if you can’t bite, don’t growl.