Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) held its first regular December meeting on Tuesday, December 4, 2013. Poinsettias bedecked the commission bench, but the mood was relatively somber. This was the last official business meeting for the current commission. With the runoff election scheduled for Tuesday, December 10, 2013, a new commissioner will be elected to replace retiring commissioner Arlene Filkoff. The second regular December meeting will be preceded by an reorganization meeting to seat the new commissioner and elect a mayor and a vice mayor.
It was to that point that city resident Tony Crawford rose to speak during the public input agenda item. Prefacing his comments by telling commissioners that he was following their advice to bring items of concern to them before they voted on them, Crawford went on to urge commissioners to follow the will of the people, as expressed in the general election straw poll, and elect Ed Boner as new mayor.
“I don’t care which one of you would have been elected,” Crawford said. “It’s about the people who spoke and had their voices heard at the election. Now I’ve heard a lot of these times at these [FBCC] meetings, ‘well, I’m here to represent the people who aren’t here. ‘ Well, guess what? The people who didn’t vote [in the general election] don’t deserve [representation on that issue]. If they didn’t get out to vote, they lost their vote. It’s that simple: we vote and the majority wins. So what I’m asking you is to respect what the public asked for …, in this case, Ed [Boner to be elected mayor]. “ Crawford turned to audience members Andy Curtin and Johnny Miller, the two runoff candidates for city commission, and stressed the point to them as well. “Respect what the public asked for,” he told them.
Turning his attention back to the commission, he said, “We hired you and as I’ve said many times, we can fire you. You work for us. So before the vote’s taken [to elect a new mayor], I’m asking you to respect what the public asked for.”
Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett asked Crawford if he was aware that the vote of the people was “just a straw vote and no way binding in any manner and that all 5 commissioners are eligible to be mayor and vice mayor, even the newly elected people.”
Crawford replied, “Absolutely. But I would like you to honor what the people said: listen to us. That’s why [the straw poll is] on the ballot.”
Corbett replied, “I’ll tell you why it’s on the ballot. Because once upon a time the council used to decide among themselves who would be mayor and vice mayor. Since that was against the Sunshine Law the straw ballot was used as a way to avoid such violations, because two commissioners were brought up on charges.”
Crawford then asked, “How many times has the vote gone against the straw poll historically?”
Corbett said, “None that I know of but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future.”
Crawford was quick to agree. “Oh no. Believe me. I know anything is possible with this commission. Trust me.”
Corbett pressed on saying, “There is no requirement to [abide by the straw vote].”
Crawford countered, “That’s why I’m asking you to honor the straw poll vote.”
Corbett replied, “That’s fine.”
Crawford concluded saying, “I understand perfectly. It’s your ball and your court.”
Mayor Pelican thanked Crawford for his input and moved on.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. 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 that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.
December 4, 2013 4:20 p.m.