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  • 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.

  • Letter: If they are “insurrectionists” why haven’t they been charged?

    Letter: If they are “insurrectionists” why haven’t they been charged?

    Bob Fliegel
    St Augustine

    Dear Historic City News editor:

    Someone will correct me if I’ve got this wrong, but I don’t think that any of the rioters, or if you prefer, zealous protesters, who stormed the Capitol on January 6th have been charged under the federal insurrection statute, and yet their acts are often described as “insurrection”.

  • Letter: Reinstate safety of St Johns Forest school bus

    Kim J Kendall
    St Johns County

    Dear Historic City News:

    After nearly 10-years of having two buses pick up students from St Johns Forest and take them to Liberty Pines Academy, the School Board voted unanimously in October 2018 to end the second school bus service.

  • Letter: Stop Comares Avenue conservation zone development

    Letter: Stop Comares Avenue conservation zone development

    Howard Allgood
    North Davis Shores

    Dear Historic City News editor:

    I am the owner of a condo at 33 Comares Avenue, known as Corona Delmar.  I also own three (3) lots across the street from Corona Delmar.

  • Cohn: Social media bill is un-constitutional

    Social media bill is un-constitutional
    Ari Cohn, J.D.
    Special to Historic City News

    Gov. Ron DeSantis claims his “Transparency in Technology Act” would protect free speech. The bill restricts how social media sites moderate objectionable content and requires “detailed definitions” of what content is prohibited. But the bill’s entire premise is backwards. As private entities, social media companies are not bound by First Amendment restrictions. In fact, they have their own First Amendment right to determine who may publish using their websites, and what messages will be allowed.

  • Hey, Senator Hutson! Just say NO, please

    St Augustine attorney Jane West, Policy & Planning Director for 1,000 Friends of Florida, asked the Historic City News editorial review board to evaluate several pieces of what she described as “very damaging bills” that are moving forward quickly in the current session of the Florida legislature.

  • GUEST: Five ways the Legislature wants to block your right to know

    Pamela C. Marsh, Executive Director
    Florida First Amendment Foundation
    Special to Historic City News

    Florida lawmakers are at it again this year. Your legislators want to make even more difficult to access important government information.

  • You cannot have democracy without a free press

    Freedom Forum
    Special to Historic City News

    There is a reason we need a free press, despite its faults and foibles: Democracy won’t work without it.

  • EDITORIAL: Tell Travis Hutson to stay out of local building design

    If approved, Florida Senate Bill SB-284, and companion House Bill HB-55, entitled “Building Design”, will take away another tool from local government. This legislation seeks to remove the authority of local governments to regulate building designs in many areas.