Suanne Z. Thamm Reporter-News Analyst
Forward Fernandina, or F2 as many knew him, died a relatively quiet death on Tuesday, February 19, 2013. Three Fernandina Beach City Commissioners—Charlie Corbett, Pat Gass, and Sarah Pelican—voted to pull the plug on his life support system and pack off his remains, valued at slightly more than one million dollars, to his parent lending institution. In so doing, these commissioners ignored suggestions from commissioners Ed Boner and Arlene Filkoff that the city seek second opinions before pulling the plug and find perhaps other ways to memorialize him through funding important capital improvements in Fernandina Beach. Many of F2’s friends were at his bedside as he expired, sobered by the realization that none of their pleas for further study, rational thought and more time had any influence on the deciders.
City Manager Joe Gerrity made no public attempt to influence the decision and watched the scene unfold with no expression. He took on the role of undertaker by disposing of F2’s remains as directed, although apparently not as quickly as at least one commissioner would have liked.
The world didn’t end when the Mayan calendar ran out. Nor will it end because in its infinite wisdom the Fernandina Beach City Commission voted to return the Forward Fernandina loan largely unspent. While many of us mourn F2’s passing, we know that life will go on somehow in our little city. But to date we have seen a spectacular lack of leadership from our city commission. There has only been a sense of urgency in two areas: replacing City Manager Czymbor with City Manager Gerrity and killing Forward Fernandina. Now that they can declare mission accomplished on these fronts, where are they planning to take our city?
While economic development was a priority of the previous two commissions, this one does not seem to think that investing in either downtown or the airport area has any sense of urgency. Expanding our tax base does not rise to the same level of importance as, say, expanding the restroom facilities at MLK Center, a city facility so underused that last year commissioners actually considered mothballing the facility.
In addition to being opposed to borrowing money for capital improvements that could expand our tax base, at least one commissioner has expressed opposition publicly to accepting government grants on the grounds that grants come from taxes that someone else paid. So if we don’t accept grants, how will we come up with the millions of dollars needed for beach renourishment projects and the like? Bake sales?
So, City Commission, how about some positive direction for a change? Where do you want to take us? How will you do it? How much will it cost us? Or have you merely replaced a forward thinking plan with … nothing.
A new budget year is fast approaching, and if numbers currently circulating are in the ballpark, we are more than a million bucks short. Now would be the time for you to dazzle us with your vision for our future. We could use some good news that would show us you understand how government works, the importance of budgeting and planning for the future. Or have you merely replaced Forward Fernandina with Backward Fernandina and higher ad valorem taxes?
Editor’s Note: Suanne Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues impacting our city.
February 28, 2013 4:58 p.m.