Editorial: Government and Business rarely understand each other

It has been the experience at Historic City News that almost every time local government attempts to tell local business owners how to run their businesses; or worse, tries to regulate the operation of privately owned businesses, they end up sticking their oversized, taxpayer-financed boot into a king-sized bucket of s**t. 

It hardly ever ends well, it always costs taxpayers twice as much as it had been left to private enterprise, and we move one step closer to assigning absolute power to ill-prepared, non-business minded bureaucrats.  We know that nothing corrupts like absolute power.  We also know that absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

In a self-initiated campaign by “Doris Day” Commissioner, Nancy Sikes-Kline, adopted by our solely un-accountable City Manager, John Regan, rubber-stamped by the “me, too” members of the St Augustine City Commission during last night’s meeting, Regan announced that he now knows how the City should manage its nightlife.

A word of guarded optimism for Mayor Tracy Upchurch who said that the city should be sure to craft a plan “that won’t hurt the nighttime business community”, which he correctly identified as an “economic engine” for the city.

“We want to be very sure that we don’t kill the golden goose,” Upchurch cautioned the four commissioners; knowing, from his own experience in the Florida legislature and during his time on the city commission, how these things can overreach their intended purpose.

Despite cautionary advice from Upchurch, Regan appears to find failure on the part of local businesses to establish “responsible community standards” on their own — presumably indicating that a pro-active plan by city management is required to preserve our “downtown character”.  Lord help us.

So, short of another taxpayer-financed junket to Spain, St Augustine’s temperance movement leader, Commissioner Kline, packs her cymbals and bass drum and travels with Chief of Police Barry Fox to attend the “Responsible Hospitality Institute” conference, March 2019.  Jealous of Kline, City Manager Regan makes his own travel plans with Fox; this time, to attend the “West Palm Downtown Development Authority” workshop, May 2019.  Wrapping up the whirlwind tour, with Mobility Manager Reuben Franklin under her skirts, Kline also traveled in May to see if they have found a way to keep the drunks off Orlando’s streets at night. 

Then, based on Kline’s observations and claim that she has been concerned about the negative changes in our downtown area for some time (?), Regan made modifications to the February “strategic plan”.

  • Using propaganda prepared by city staff, on the city payroll, Regan presented charts, graphs, statistics, and a lot of other anecdotal evidence that we should believe that crimes and calls for police service brought the city’s nightlife into focus.  (We know it was Kline, but sometimes you just get tired of restating the obvious)
  • With the blessings of a pie-eyed city commission, the city manager received support to pursue an overhaul of what the city will do to inhibit nightlife and return to the quiet little fishing town that rolls up the streets at 5:00 p.m. 
  • Regan will be changing alcohol regulations, including requiring an extended-hour permit from the city for businesses that serve alcohol after a certain time.

Regan expects to spend about $250,000-$300,000 (a number he pulled straight out of his a$$ without any documentation whatsoever) to pay for increasing the police presence, more frequent cleaning of St. George Street and other parts of the city, improving street conditions and lighting, and creating ride-share hubs to help people leave the city in an orderly fashion.

Expecting pushback from the business community downtown, the hoteliers, restaurateurs, local pubs and other nighttime entertainment venues, the City is giving the public what passes for a chance to be heard (for three-minutes, or less) at a mid-day workshop; scheduled at 3:00 p.m. on August 28, 2019 at City Hall.

The City says they are “getting input from the public about possible changes to alcohol regulations”, but everybody knows The Regan Plan will again be adopted without objection.  

And, if you serve alcohol in your establishment downtown, you’ve got another obstruction to free enterprise attached to a hefty price tag from those in City Hall who blame you for their poor management of the city’s affairs.