Send in The Clowns...
Fernandina Beach has been blessed by many different resources. We have the historic district full of old homes and old stores and warehouses. We have the rivers and marshes and, of course, the beach. We have public pools, tennis courts, a golf course and a city owned marina. It is a virtual empty canvas, small town America at its finest, a place where you can paint your life's dreams. More importantly we have wonderful residents who, in their diversity, make this a place just about anyone could live.
But, that could also be part of the problem. People move here and decide they need to fill in that canvas for all of us but not with their pocket book. What attracted them isn't good enough after a few months or maybe a year. We can do this better, or "the best way is this!" they tell you. I always tell friends who buy new homes and want to immediately renovate they should wait a year or two and live in the house and with the house before they make major changes. A new hometown should probably be even longer. Cycles of a community aren't just four seasons there is much more.
We have had more than our fair share of newcomers whose two cents towards improvements have cost us as a community. Not just monetarily, which they certainly have, but in camaraderie and neighborliness. The Independence Day celebration where a city commissioner had to brag about his donation after the public reaction was wholly negative towards him. How divisive he turned out to be! How interesting that Sammy Alvarez, a hometown boy who went off and came back after a military stint was finally outed as a Green Beret, the elitest of the U.S. Army. "Who'd a thunk it?" was repeated many times after his letter railed against the Great Hooha.
How about the $44,000.00 in "uplights" that didn't. They didn't "uplight" at all! "What happened?" everyone wanted to know. Well, another case of someone who had a brighter idea, pun intended. A city employee certainly outside her field of expertise that let downtown deteriorate and decided that it would be easier to remove the tree lights and reward a specific company by writing the request for a product for their benefit. Made her life easier, to hell with the appearance of our beautiful historic downtown.
Parking meters! Again, and again and again ad nauseam. They were done away with decades ago because they weren't good for the community. But no, we can spend thousands and thousands of dollars to buy these things, administer them and repair them in hopes of generating a few dollars. All while our city's budget is swollen beyond its seams and ready to burst ala California.
Two rec centers! "Too many" if you're the Great Hooha and have no respect for our community's history. Sometimes there are deeper currents than a few dollars that don't regenerate themselves. For instance, does the police department pay for itself in dollars into the city coffers? I would bet its not even close but who thinks you do away with police protection. Same with the Fire and Rescue! Those are people who help make our city what it is but we need to pay for them. Programs for children are in the same group. May not pay for themselves in dollars but the community benefits far exceed the dollars spent.
No, our leadership for years has been of the opposite school of thought, Ignore what makes this good for the people and that we can afford. Spend money on other things! McGill Aviation for instance! And don't forget their lawyers, almost a million dollars later. Our City Attorney assured us we would prevail on appeal, it was money well spent. What she meant to say was that in her opinion it was "our money" well spent. What agreement did she have to share in the loss? Pay half of the additional costs in interest, transcript costs and attorney's fees. I bet not! She won't lose a dime for her "leadership" on this issue.
How about the money we're spending on Forward Fernandina. Bursting budget, rising taxes, increased user fees and, I'm willing to bet, another increase in the taxes we call franchise fees to pay for all of this. "Hey money is cheap," they tell us. Of course that was the prevailing opinion in California also - four towns in bankruptcy and the whole state government one foot in the same hole and the other on a pile of banana peels. Don't worry left coasters, Fernandina is following in your footsteps.
How about our recent interim city manager. The one we paid an additional month's salary because his contract for a temporary job - isn't that what interim is supposed to be - included a thirty day notice clause. It was only seven or eight thousand dollars you will be told. Yeah, that's right, but it was our seven or eight thousand dollars. Not a stewardly way to spend tax dollars!
I am certain Frank Sinatra is delighted with government in Fernandina. If he had it to do all over again he would certainly live here where our city anthem has to be one of his old hits, Send in the Clowns. How else do we attract them all? Zoul and Czymbor are only two examples there have been others. Lawyers, engineers, building officials are all part of the parade. We need to change this pattern and return to a simpler, sounder and safer way of governing.