Monday evening at the time and place proscribed by an outdated charter that nobody in City Hall seems willing to move forward for review and revision, 59-year-old Barbara I Blonder, will assume her seat at the City Commission table, together with Mayor Tracy Upchurch and returning Commissioner Roxanne Horvath. When the ceremony starts at 7:30 p.m., all three commissioners will take their oaths of office. The special meeting will be held in The Alcazar Room of City Hall, located at 75 King Street.
At that time, the sun sets on the rollercoaster ride of political wrangling that was witnessed over the past twelve years through the sometimes-childish behavior of Leanna Freeman, a local divorce lawyer. A press announcement advised that the remaining commissioners would select a new vice-mayor, a position previously held by Freeman. They will also adopt a resolution establishing Commission policies, rules, and procedures.
Remarking that she has been excited since the November election, Blonder, who is an associate professor of natural sciences at Flagler College, said that she has been getting herself prepared to take office. “I will be hitting the ground running,” she said.
Historic City News subscribers are speculating whether Nancy Sikes-Kline and Mayor Tracy Upchurch will be the next to go when elections are held in two years. At issue, the removal of an authentic, historical artifact erected in 1879 by the Ladies Memorial Association of St Augustine. The cenotaph listed the names of 46 confederate soldiers whose remains were never returned to their families living in St Augustine. Even though the memorial went up soon after the end of the American Civil War, most of the family names still live in St Augustine and St Johns County.
One commissioner was rewarded, and one was punished in the November election, for the actions taken at the behest of controversial city manager John Regan — who allowed the city to be bullied and threatened by a black activist preacher. On November 28, 2018, police were called to the AME church to investigate the complaint of a church usher who reported being threatened at gunpoint in the church office by the preacher.
The thuggish behavior, fueled by Antifa, New Black Panther Party, and Black Lives Matter rhetoric, has since resulted in the preacher’s removal from a local AME church where he worked. For a short time, before he was replaced, he attacked local business leader Mark Bailey, demanding Bailey resign from the Board of Trustees of Flagler College. Bailey’s crime? He brought the City a win-win solution that included buy-in from the black community, cash from direct contributions, and fundraising sufficient to finance sewer upgrades in West Augustine while the historic veteran memorial would remain standing in the Plaza de la Constitution. As some predicted, the preacher left town overnight and returned to Gainesville where he had lived the entire time.
Thousands of residents are disgusted with the way the three commissioners unceremoniously overruled Commissioner John Valdes and Commissioner Roxanne Horvath, returning Horvath for another term and making vows to support Valdes if he decides to seek reelection in 2022.
The Commission will return on December 14th, for the only regular meeting remaining on the schedule this year. The Communications Department advised that public access to the meeting room will be limited because of COVID-19, but people can watch the meeting live at citystaugtv.com or on Comcast GTV Channel 3.