Editorial: Is there hope for elected public officials?

Michael Gold, Editor in Chief

This week the St Johns County Commission handled the people’s business with distinction.  In a couple of bold moves that restored my faith in the ability of our elected officials to do the right thing for the right reason, I applaud Chairman Jeb Smith and newcomer Jeremiah Blocker.

In a climate where well financed development interests, their lawyers, and their lobbyists have their way with local government, Historic City News readers may have a reason to celebrate.  Don’t abandon all hope just yet.

I am fortunate and thankful to have lived on Vilano Beach during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Those were simpler times.  People who lived here, raised their families here, and made their living here, never conceived of a time when an administrator would consider a plan to charge residents to use the beaches.  And, if that day ever did come, we had elected officials in our city and county who would act quickly and with resolve to correct the problem.

Two separate matters came to a head this week; the closing of Mickler’s Landing to accommodate construction workers and a plan to contract for paid parking at beach accesses and boat ramps.

For years I’ve watched as rival interests tried to rationalize that a paid parking system would provide the unbudgeted funding needed to support beach maintenance projects.  A combined on-beach and off-beach pass would have cost residents $100.00.  To park at boat ramps, there would have been an added annual pass costing $50.00.  It was refreshing to see commissioners vote 5-0 to reject the plan with Republic Parking System.

  • Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker said he had concerns about the burden being added to residents.  “I think we have other means and other avenues to approach this.”
  • Commissioner Jeb Smith questioned whether the county needed beach parking revenue, “especially when we have a $15 million surplus. I have a real issue moving forward with something that appears not to be necessary.”

St Augustine Beach has been considering a paid beach parking system as well, but it’s city commission decided to wait for the county to settle on its parking system.

In the Mickler’s Landing fiasco, neighbors became furious with the county when the ramp and parking was closed to residents and beachgoers for a private sand dune renourishment project.  That’s a problem said District 2 Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker, who represents the Mickler’s area.

The truth gives me comfort; because, not only did these elected officials back the individual residents Tuesday, halting the paid beach-parking plan, and reversing the closing of Mickler’s, but they also fired our over-bearing, over-paid, abusive county administrator.  Way to hold our leaders accountable.

“It was apparent that in the last year or so, Wanchick lost his ability to manage staff,” said Blocker.