Part I of a Series
On May 29, 2012, Fernandina Beach opens a new chapter in its tumultuous history with the arrival of its latest city manager, Joe Gerrity. With his arrival, the city elections of November 2011 can truly be declared over. Campaign promises to oust then-city manager Michael Czymbor and install Joe Gerrity as his successor have been fulfilled. Now what? Do we just twiddle our thumbs until the next election in November 2012 and replay this melodrama again? Or can all of us – City Commissioners, Charter Officers, City employees and Fernandina Beach citizens – try something new: working together to build a better city.
There will always be divisions in our community, and that is not a bad thing in and of itself. Thoughtful discussion over a variety of ideas in the public forum should lead to better decision-making. Our problems seem to stem from our approach to public discourse, which invites conflict rather than conciliation. Rather than entertain for a moment the thought that the other guy just might have a point, we stick our fingers in our ears while we chant “la-la-la-la-la” as loudly as possible to insure that our thought processes are not subject to challenge or contamination.
And we are so clever at putting labels on ideas. Once we have labeled something, we can deify or demonize it more easily. Think about it at a national level: how did the word “liberal” come to stand for evil, foreign, godless; and the word “conservative” come to stand for good, American, Christian? Communist Party vs. Tea Party? Left-leaning vs. right thinking?
The problem is even worse at the local level. Here our labels start becoming more personal. We treat the public arena like a sports arena: “On my right, the good old boys from Fernandina; on my left, the newcomers from New York and New Jersey.” Issues with serious public consequences are viewed as contests between Good and Evil. In the game of life, the motto is “win all you can.” What we need to realize is that if we treat public policy like athletic contests, we will have winners and losers. Losers often become sore losers, whose grievances against the winners fester until they burst forth in ways that create a crisis of confidence in government, discourage investment in local business and even invite lawsuits. Consequences like these damage our city’s reputation and imperil our ability to preserve our small town feel and values for future generations.
So what can we do about it? Do we accept the premise that because that’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it will always be? Or can we begin a public dialog (as opposed to diatribe) on ways to build a better, more responsive local government, realizing that such a goal involves at its heart a compact among citizens, elected officials and those in the government apparatus to listen and learn from each other?
All of us need to play a productive role if we truly care about Fernandina’s future. In order to do that, we need a better understanding of our form of government and the jobs assigned to elected officials and the Charter Officers, especially the City Manager.
In the weeks ahead, we’ll begin examining the roles, responsibilities and challenges facing our local government today. In the meantime, if you’d like to do some homework, I’d suggest reading the City Charter, which may be found on the city’s website, and checking out the following 23-minute video on YouTube (The Council Manager Form of Government ).
2012 Cabot Cheese Community Tour Comes to Fernandina
Susan Hardee Steger
On Sunday, May 20, Fernandina native Mike Pikula welcomed Bob Spiegleman, Basil Campbell, and Cathy and Myron Schott, cycling members of the 2012 Cabot Cheese Community Tour. Mike Pikula, along with area cyclist, and Troy Crist of the North Florida Cycling Club, escorted the group from Mayport to Fernandina Beach.
The Cabot Community Tour is a 53 day cycling event and will cover 2300 miles from Miami to Maine by way of the East Coast Greenway, a traffic free multi-use trail connecting major cities on the eastern seaboard. Not all members will be able to complete the entire route Basil Campbell will end his trip in Washington, D.C. As the group heads north, cyclist from various communities will play host and accompany the tour. After a tour of Fort Clinch and Fernandina’s Historic Downtown, members were “spellbound,” and are planning a return trip.
The local East Coast Greenway Trail between Mayport, Fernandina, and St Marys was developed with the help of a number of area bicycle enthusiast. This link brings users through Fernandina and is dependent upon the St Johns River Ferry in Mayport and Amelia River Cruises in Fernandina. Although, Amelia River Cruises discontinued regular ferry service between Fernandina and St Marys, with sufficient notice cycling groups are accommodated. Should the St John’s River Ferry discontinue its operations, East Coast Greenway users will be directed to U.S. 17, limiting the number of East Coast Greenway travelers to Fernandina
Cabot Cheese based in Vermont is sponsoring the 2012 Cabot Cheese Community Tour “to bring awareness to the unique cooperative business principles of promoting volunteerism and supporting communities.” Major tour stops include Charleston, Durham, Fredericksburg, Wilmington, New York City, Providence and will end in Portland, Maine on July 7.
Knowledge Gained at the Historic Preservation Matters Workshop
City of Fernandina Press Release
Adrienne Burke, City Planner
In order to help current and prospective historic property owners learn more about their properties and
how to maintain and improve them, the City of Fernandina Beach hosted a first-ever historic preservation workshop on May 19, 2012 at St. Peter’s Campus at 801 Atlantic Avenue.
Titled “Historic Preservation Matters,” this FREE event provided assistance to current and potential historic property owners through a series of workshops designed to highlight special needs of historic buildings. The following speakers addressed a variety of topics:
Former Nassau County Emergency Management Director and Historic District Council member Nancy Freeman tackled disaster preparedness for historic buildings, Interim Fire Chief Jason Higginbotham, Code Enforcement Officer Michelle Forstrom, Detective Marty Scott of the Fernandina Beach Police Department were on hand to discuss safety and security issues, Lori Miranda, architect and Amelia Island Genealogical Society member, taught about researching house histories, Kira Lake, Conservation Supervisor with Florida Public Utilities, discussed energy efficiency, Tony Brauda, Executive Vice President with First Coast Community Bank, offered possibilities for financing restoration and construction, and Steve Gaul, Extension Agent with the University of Florida/IFAS, and Marshall McCrary of the Community Development Department, talked wildlife- and Florida-friendly landscaping.
In addition, event partners the Amelia Island Museum of History and the Florida PublicArchaeology Network (FPAN) sponsored two educational activities for children. The first, conducted by the Museum, was called “Box City” and is based on a well-known model for teaching children about city planning and architecture. The children who participated learned about zoning, historic buildings, and ultimately built their own city. The City will be on display this summer at the Museum, and will also be part of the Museum’s summer camp offerings.
The second children’s program, hosted by FPAN, was entitled “Shoebox Dig!” and taught children about archaeology through the use of layers of sand and artifacts in a shoebox. Each child made their own “dig” and learned about prehistory and history in Northeast Florida through their artifacts.
Lastly, FPAN hosted a short version of their Cemetery Resource Protection Training (CRPT) in the afternoon. This session covered cemetery management, typology, and protection strategies in a classroom setting, and illustrated proper headstone cleaning in a hands-on session at the St. Peter’s Cemetery. CRPT training is offered by FPAN as a full-day session throughout Northeast Florida.
This workshop was funded in part by a Preserve America grant offered through the Florida Division of Historical Resources. The City of Fernandina Beach is a Preserve America community. Additional funding was provided by event sponsors First Coast Community Bank, Myers Tree Service, Fast Signs, Custom Homes by Bryan Lendry, the Florida House Inn, and the Amelia Island-Fernandina Restoration Foundation. Donations not used for the event will go towards the City’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
The City thanks all of the event participants, sponsors, partners, and volunteers who helped make this event a success.
For more information, please visit www.fbfl.us/HPMatters or contact Adrienne Burke, Historic Preservation Planner, at 904-277-7325 or [email protected]
Straight to the point and well written! Why can’t everyone else be like this?
To effectively work together it will be necessary for the City represent all. We cannot continue to defer
major projects such as the Nassau County Federal Shore Projection and Storm-water improvements, while moving forward with other selected projects. The City also needs to get finances in order. I believe the major issue in the last election was the methods of financing Forward Fernandina. The Commission failed to listen and rushed to vote on getting a loan before the new Commissioners were seated.
Of course the increase in franchise taxes to finance is a simple method of increasing taxation.
All Capital projects should be evaluated realistically and and priortized using existing criteria and then proceed, based on funding available, or go to referendum and let the residents decide.
The City also need to get the pension funds in order and ensure the Utility Enterprise Fund is not continually used to finance the shortfalls by the other Enterprise Funds. Both of these were identified by the Audit report.
When the needs of Forgotten Fernandina are merged with Forward Fernandina we will be able to move towards working together.
If the articles by Adrienne Burke and Suanne Tham are any indication, this publication should have a glorious future.