If there has ever been criticism of recent administrations at City Hall, the un-Godly length of the meetings, largely caused by unnecessary pablum from the commission table, must be at the top of the list. City residents might start participating in the meetings again if they know that the chair won’t delay them all night listening to a bunch of worthless, dumb, silly, and especially empty remarks from the “me too” gang of commissioners.
Clearly Mayor Upchurch, an attorney who previously served as a St Augustine city commissioner, is a former mayor, and former member of the Florida House of Representatives, understands Roberts Rules of Order and comes across as the type who will move the meeting along towards adjournment. That’s the way it is supposed to be. Efficient and concise, no repetition, consideration and vote on the issue, then on to the next item.
The city commission meeting tonight was the first under Upchurch, and it was nothing short of refreshing. Historic City News is on the record that he passed his audition. We can tell he’s off on the right foot when the meeting is called to order, the minister has delivered the invocation, the pledge of allegiance has been recited, and the clock says 5:03 p.m. He referred to each public speaker by name, was courteous, didn’t mumble to a live microphone in the background, and keeps his cool even when the concerns being expressed involve his office.
The usual suspects took the microphone for their three minutes of “public comments”, completely drama-free. There was a sense of civility and even conviviality that was very welcoming.
Tom Reynolds was surprisingly reserved as he rose in support of the accessibility needs of handicapped citizens. Like a bad penny, Ed Slavin returned to the podium in support of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, noting that in all the years he has continued to request the commission to examine the benefits of such a program, they have never discussed it.
When Ronald Rawls came forward, he was still pushing his agenda, seeking more volunteers for his upcoming disruption of business event. He cited an unnamed city employee, who he said was fired after having expressed what he described as derogatory racial remarks, and yet rehired after the smoke cleared. Like Chicken Little, he let loose his usual threats of Armageddon against the city’s white people who are perpetuating the spirit of white supremacy in St Augustine as it existed 50-years-ago, although tonight he was about 10-decibels less deafening.
Two new speakers came to address the reputed violent past of our founder, Pedro Menendez, suggesting that we either need to stop celebrating his birthday and remove landmarks that perpetuate his memory for some citizens, or surrender our claim to the title “Compassionate City”.
Finally, with concerns, not criticisms, B. J. Kalaidi brought forward her objections to the way the City handled communications with the public in the vetting and selection of our sitting mayor. She went into some detail about what she sees as cronyism and secrecy at the hands of the city manager and past administrations. Upchurch didn’t even blink and thanked her for her comments the same as he had done with all previous speakers.
Items that might have been of interest included:
- Presentation by Dr. Chester B. DePratter, Senior Research Professor at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, regarding the possible location of the second settlement of St. Augustine (1566-1572);
- Presentation by Jim Bush, North Area Manager of Florida Power and Light Company regarding undergrounding utilities in the City;
- update on vacation rentals following-up on previous discussions;
- discussion regarding the regulation of alcohol sales and the city’s noise ordinance.
Be sure to catch the city manager, John P. Regan, Sr., who flubbed up — addressing Mayor Upchurch during the reading of the consent agenda as “Mayor Shaver”. Oops. Wake up, Regan. Elvis has left the building.