By Dale Martin
April 3, 2020
We are all about to embark on perhaps the most significant challenge of a generation. With Governor DeSantis’ statewide Safer at Home order (Executive Order 20-91), the full extent of the threat should now be obvious.
For those otherwise oblivious that need to still be reminded: stay at home, only go out for essential purposes, and when out, maintain spacing and avoid groups. Those precautionary instructions have been plastered everywhere for several weeks- now is the time to actually adhere to those instructions.
Rarely has the entire nation been simultaneously confronted with such an immediate threat. A hurricane ravages Florida, a tornado rips through Oklahoma, a flood roars through Pennsylvania, towers crash in New York- emergencies and disasters are typically local. Communities stagger under the blow, regroup, then recover. That cycle will inevitably repeat itself again, but on an unprecedented national and global scale.
My focus, obviously, is first on my family- doing my best to ensure their health and safety. Take care of your family. A sobering aspect of the conronavirus is that, in our likely moments of grief to come, we will not be able to comfort each other as we traditionally have. We’ll receive word that a family member has become ill, and we’ll have to refrain from rushing to be at their side. We won’t be able to attend far away funerals. Cherish the moments now, because families and friendships may not be the same in as few as two short months.
My second focus is on our community, and continuing to provide the level of services and support that this community has come to expect from City staff. I am extremely confident that City staff will rise to this challenge. As soon as the Governor’s Executive Order was announced, nearly every Department Director called immediately to ask, “What can I do? How can I help?” In times of crisis, some step up; others step back. This City staff will step up confidently, willingly, and repeatedly to serve this community.
The City Commission remains firmly in front of and guiding the City’s response. While I speak with each Commissioner daily, it has been nearly a month since a formal meeting of the City Commission has convened to perform its governing function. The governance and operations of the City must continue. On Tuesday evening, the City Commission will conduct its first “virtual” meeting.
The meeting will be based out of the City Commission Chambers at City Hall, but only four people will likely be present: Mayor Johnny Miller, City Clerk Caroline Best, Mr. Dana Whicker (Information Technology Director), and myself. The remaining Commissioners and necessary staff will participate remotely, likely from home. It will be a “work-in-progress” that unfortunately will be repeated several times. Please be patient as this new format evolves. The meeting will still be broadcast via television and online as meetings have been in the past.
The agenda for the meeting has been parsed. Public proclamations and presentations have been eliminated. With no public in attendance, the portion of the agenda designated for Public Comment will be changed, too.
Public comments are always welcome at any time and many are received daily through email during the course of normal business. Please continue to share comments or concerns in that fashion. Those messages are permanently archived on City servers.
If you wish to make comments to be included as part of the formal City Commission meeting record, though, please submit those comments via email to me at [email protected] on Tuesday, April 7, beginning at 5:00 PM. To be considered, all comments must include the name and address of the sender (as is normally required at City Commission meetings). Public comments to be included in the formal record will be accepted until the Mayor closes the Public Comment portion of the agenda (approximately 6:30 PM). Comments received will be shared with City Commissioners and, as indicated, made part of the formal record (and, under Florida statute, become public records).
City staff is working with County staff to provide daily news related to the current public health emergency. On the City’s web site, an Emergency Alerts page has been activated http://www.fbfl.us/AlertCenter.aspx. If interested, you can request to be notified when new information is posted by utilizing the Notify Me button on the City’s home page. Similar information to what is posted on the web site is also posted on the City’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CityofFernandinaBeach/.
This will be a challenge, but if we work together, the challenge can be overcome in a matter of weeks. It will involve the disruption of daily routines, but the sooner we can pull through, we can return to enjoying the many things that make this community so wonderful.
Take care of yourselves, your family, and others, if possible. Thank you for those efforts.