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  • Guest Column: Tea Party Chairman Mesmerizes Republican Club

    Lance Thate
    St Johns County
    Special to Historic City News

    On June 13, 2022, the Republican Club of Greater St Augustine held its monthly meeting at Cucina Giovanni Restaurant on SR-16, St Johns County, Florida. The featured speaker was Shawn Morrison, Chairman of the St Augustine Tea Party. This is the second time a Tea Party Chairman has addressed the Republican Club. The earlier event occurred on August 14, 2015, when I was Chairman.

    The St Augustine Tea Party has been on the right side of Conservative politics in St Johns County since its inception in 2010. Since 2015, the leadership of the Republican Club has been divided between two elected Republican Executive Committee members. Each has been the President and the Vice-President of the Club over the years.

    Currently, Peter Royal is the President and Marty Miller is the Vice-President. Both men were once members and frequent attendees at St Augustine Tea Party meetings. Both had participated in Town Crier activities. Both men withdrew from the St Augustine Tea Party when they acquired leadership positions in the Republican Club. They each allied with “establishment” enemies of the St Augustine Tea Party who held membership in the Republican Executive Committee.

    The moment Club President Peter Royal handed the microphone to the St Augustine Tea Party Chairman, The St Augustine Tea Party was in control of the meeting. It was like watching an old faded black and white film representing the Republicans, with Grassroots Patriots blazing on the screen in bright living colors. So it is when the living meets the dead.

    Chairman Morrison read the complete text of Section 847.0133, Florida Statutes, as it relates to minors and obscenity. Morrison explained that 7 books have been identified as obscene in St Johns County school libraries. The total number of books may be as high as 50. Morrison reported that at the School Board meeting held on May 24th, the members were forced to hear passages from the books that contained obscenity.

    The School Board’s reaction was to refuse to remove the books from the school libraries. Instead, they removed the Patriots informing them of this outrageous reality. Their removal was accomplished by using St Johns County sheriff’s deputies, under the direction of Commander Scott Beaver.

    In the hallway outside the School Board meeting, Commander Beaver was confronted by Chairman Morrison who explained that a crime is committed when one knowingly transmits obscenity to a minor. In front of numerous witnesses, Beaver promised to investigate the situation and get back to the Patriots. Beaver has failed to respond to those involved, to this date.

    The goal of the Patriots present was to make sure that the School Board was informed of the law. The Sheriff’s Department, now complicit, is also on notice. To knowingly provide minors with obscene material is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each offense.

    “Now you have been informed and failure to take action would make you complicit or at least supportive of their behavior,” Morrison said, speaking to the Republican Club members present. “You need to call the School Board members and you need to call the Sheriff’s Office, demanding enforcement of the law.”

    Chairman Morrison challenged Club President, Peter Royal, to introduce a resolution to the Republican Executive Committee removing support for any School Board member who votes to keep the obscene books. After three failed attempts to get Royal to act, the Club President finally said, “Put that in the form of a motion”.

    Morrison fired back a most coherent motion. Royal, sensing the mood of the crowd, made the second on the motion. A voice vote, without discussion, passed the motion in less than a minute. This is how important the issue is to “WE THE PEOPLE”.

    The Republican Party no longer stands for anything related to its namesake. America is a republic! A republic is based on the concept of equal justice under the law. The American middle class is under attack by the Democrat Party and Republicans have bought into the lie that America is a democracy.  They have become a “ME TOO” party that really stands for nothing and as a result, does nothing. Both parties serve the same masters, central banks and international corporations.

    The Town Criers have witnessed the disillusionment of middle-class Republicans on the streets of St Augustine, Florida since 2012.   This disenchantment is why the Republican Club has gone from hundreds to its current number, of around 50 members, according to the Club’s membership Chairman. It is only logical that a social club run by the Republican Party members would take a hit. Who celebrates with people you no longer trust?

    The opinions and remarks of the writer of this column are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Historic City News, its advertisers, employees, or others producing this publication.

  • Guest: Hordes of many colors

    Guest: Hordes of many colors

    Special to Historic City News

    We now know the principal source of our immigration problem: hordes.

  • Letter: City determined to destroy salvageable sailboat

    Gena Suzanne Gaston
    St Augustine, FL

    Dear Historic City News readers:

    I’m writing about an abandoned, derelict vessel that my boyfriend and I recovered recently. The City of St Augustine allowed the vessel to sit abandoned in the Salt Run marsh for over nine months.

  • Guest Column: Proposed restriction on soil and water boards is unconstitutional


    Ponte Vedra Beach

    Historic City News reprinted with permission

    “Madam Chair, I had to check my watch to make sure it wasn’t April Fools.”

    Those were GOP Sen. Jeff Brandes’ opening words in the Appropriations Committee debate over a bill that disqualifies perhaps 95% of Floridians from candidacy for the small, unpaid position of Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

    Not even a soil and water scientist qualifies to serve on the board under SB 1078, sponsored by my own state senator, Travis Hutson. The bill effectively fired me from the job I was elected to by 73,840 people. Hutson cut my term in half, and it will end this year unless the governor vetoes the bill.

    This is the same senator whose land development company spent $10,000 trying to stop me from winning the office. Other developers brought the war chest to $43,000 (for a position no one had previously spent more than $100 running for in St. Johns County), and I was outspent 14 to 1.

    What drew the ire of four large developers and 15 PACs was that I had successfully fought to protect 100 acres of conservation land surrounded by the only National Estuarine Research Reserve on Florida’s east coast.

    Henry Dean, GOP Commissioner in St. Johns County, wrote to me: “Thank you for all your efforts to stop incompatible development of 66 homes smack dab in the middle of our crown jewel of nature in northeast Florida.”

    One year after I defeated Hutson’s candidate for SWCD, the Senator filed a bill to eliminate all SWCDs in Florida.

    Had his candidate won, it seems unlikely he would have sponsored legislation to fire him.

    During the committee proceedings, Hutson maligned all SWCDs as doing “nothing.” Now, why would Hutson’s company have spent $10,000 trying to put a candidate on a board that does nothing?

    SB 1078 mandates that SWCD supervisors must be agricultural workers, exemplifying government overreach to the extreme. As Brandes pointed out, the only government jobs requiring an occupation to qualify are attorneys general, judges … and Soil and Water Board members.

    He observed that he, a senator, would not qualify to run for the Soil and Water board.

    Only reasonable restrictions are allowed under the 14th amendment. Hutson’s precedent-setting restriction is clearly unconstitutional and will likely be challenged in court on the taxpayer’s dime.

    SB 1078 will cost our state dearly in conservation activities; dozens of projects were described to the legislators by SWCD supervisors, from saving millions of gallons of water to planting 20,000 longleaf pine seedlings. This bill will also reduce diversity on boards; in my neighboring Duval County, two of the people of color on Duval’s board will be disqualified.

    I was floored when Hutson convinced his fellow legislators that Florida’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts deserted their “core mission” of farming — a verifiably false statement.

    Farming is not the commission’s core mission. The senator never once read into the record Florida Statute 582.02’s first, actual “purpose of districts — (1) It is the policy of the Legislature to promote the appropriate and efficient use of soil and water resources, protect water quality, prevent floodwater and sediment damage, preserve wildlife, protect public lands, and protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of this state.” Nothing about farming in #1.

    The statute later mentions “farm” along with forest, grazing lands, green spaces, recreational areas and natural areas — all of which are deemed “necessary” by state statute to be conserved. Not even the SWCD oath of office mentions farming: “… I will, to the best of my ability, defend from waste the natural resources of the District, its soils and minerals, its forests, its water and wildlife …”

    The farmer on our board, Chuck Owen, made a statement disagreeing with the bill: “We need scientists. We need other folks that have a resume background.”

    Hutson revealed how out of touch he is with farmers when he said farmers have “staff” to assist them with matters that those experts contribute whom he disqualified from running for the office. He then segued into a “farmers aren’t stupid” diatribe.

    Rep. Keith Truenow similarly misled his colleagues when he introduced the House version of the bill, claiming SWCD’s activities to be “duplicative of Water Management Districts.”

    In fact, I would be charged with impersonating a regulatory authority if I attempted to duplicate what the SJRWMD does.

    When I tried to refute a false statement of Hutson’s during my public comment, Madam Chair would not allow it.

    Perhaps we need a bill that requires fact-checking of bill introductions as well as documentation of alleged complaints that bills are based on (which did not show up in a FOIA request), to prevent more bills to fix things that aren’t broken.

    There’s still hope that Gov. Ron DeSantis will see the many failings of SB 1078 and give it the veto it deserves.

    Nicole Crosby serves as chair of the St. Johns Soil and Water Conservation District.

  • Spring forward Saturday night — again

    Historic City News subscribers are reminded to “Spring forward” tomorrow (Saturday) night.  Daylight saving time in Florida will begin at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 13, 2022.  But more and more of our readers have been asking, “Should the Sunshine State stop trying to save daylight?”

  • Editorial: Former Mayor Shaver visits the town with an eye toward the future

    Historic City News founder Michael Gold was invited to meet with former St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver this week on a visit mixed with business and pleasure.  The now-retired Shaver, like many Florida retirees, finds that although her life with her two children and granddaughter is abundant, with hobbies including photography and appearances as a washboard player in a local band, she misses her day-to-day involvement before leaving the public eye.

  • The legislature is in session — hold on to your wallets

    Historic City News reporters watched Tuesday as Florida Governor, and St Johns County resident, Ron DeSantis delivered his “State-of-the-State” address during the opening day of the 60-day, election-year, Legislative Session.

  • Editorial: Fighting to keep Florida the “Sunshine State”

    Michael Gold
    St Augustine, FL

    Florida Statute 97.0585 provides that confidential voter details, like social security number, driver license number, and Florida identification number, are exempt from public disclosure under s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Article I of the State Constitution.

  • Letter: A reflection of the legacy of Former Mayor Edward Mussallem

    Tracy Upchurch, Mayor
    City of St Augustine

    Dear Historic City News readers:

    On Friday, November 19, at 8:00 a.m., the city flag poles will fly our Nation’s flag at half-staff in honor of former Mayor Edward “Eddy” Mussallem.  We hope our show of respect and gratitude will help bring his family comfort in a difficult time.

  • Letter: Where has the time gone?

    Max Royle, City Manager
    City of St Augustine Beach

    Dear Historic City News readers,

    The year 2021 marks my 45th year in the city management occupation. From that perspective, now may be an appropriate time to share some occupational observations.

    Here are two of many lessons I have learned during my career in public service.

    Believing that a staff member without degrees cannot be a competent department head.

    In a previous city where I worked, I hired a police chief and a fire chief.  In both instances, I looked for candidates with a college degree. In both instances, the person I hired from outside the city did not serve their department well. After a respected citizen suggested I consider hiring from within, I found in each department a long-term senior officer without a degree who was dedicated to serving the community, knew their respective department’s strengths and weaknesses, and was willing to remedy the weaknesses. They each proved to be excellent department heads.

    Assuming can be a slippery slope.

    Maybe managers use assumptions more than they should because time is limited, the tasks are many, and assuming can be a convenient shortcut to getting the work done. For example, did Employee X understand the instructions for a particular project? I assume they did until I get a report from them that shows otherwise. I blame myself for not making certain the assignment was clear by verifying with the employee, well before the report’s deadline, what they were to do.

    Shall I offer some advice?

    After my 45-years, I guess I could be licensed to dispense advice to aspiring public managers like an aging pharmacist of philosophy. In 1974, when I was a student in the University of Kansas’ public administration program, the long-time, former city manager of Kansas City, Missouri, advised my class that public managers foremost need a sense of humor and a thick skin to cope with the inevitable barbs of criticism that will be hurled at them.

    To which I would add:

    • Take the long view concerning problems, that is, don’t sweat the small stuff and know that today’s “sky-is-falling” issue will likely be next month’s faint memory
    • Remember why you’re a public manager — which is to serve.  Not to inflate your own ego, not to play power games, and not to get rich at the taxpayers’ expense
    • Communicate, communicate, communicate with the citizens, the employees, the City Commission, and other governmental agencies. City Managers have summarily been shown the exit because they’ve not returned (or had a staff member return) phone calls or emails (letters in the old days), or not kept the members of their elected board informed about matters significant and otherwise.

    My “most memorable” event

    My most memorable meeting occurred in 2001 when the City Commission had to decide whether our fair City should keep its small, mostly volunteer fire department or contract with St Johns County and its far larger, professionally trained department.

    Development and population growth in the City of St Augustine Beach required the decision. The room was packed with residents who vehemently demanded that for the sake of its “identity” the City keep its department.

    Despite the strident clamor of the crowd, three of the five Commissioners showed firm and true leadership by approving the contract with the County. They realized it was not in the financial best interest of City taxpayers to be burdened with the incredibly significant labor and other costs of operating a 24-hour, 7-day a week, modern fire and rescue department. It was far better for the City, and its 3,000-plus taxpayers, to be included in the County’s fire district and share paying the department’s costs with the district’s tens of thousands of taxpayers.

    By the way, the City’s identity is still intact — and strong.

  • Letter: Silverleaf development wants to add 5600 homes and 2408 acres

    Letter: Silverleaf development wants to add 5600 homes and 2408 acres

    Al Abbatiello, Chairman
    Wm. Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway Management Group

    Dear Historic City News readers:

    The developer of the already huge Silverleaf development in northwest St Johns County is planning a major expansion.  Silverleaf has asked to add 5600 residential units and 2408 acres to the development, for a total of 16,300 new homes.  The “plan” also includes more than 3,000,000 square feet of commercial space.