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It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” –Samuel Adams

Town Crier Committee Report

July 21, 2015.

Intimidation Rules the Day


County Commissioners Ok School Board’s Sales-tax Initiative 4 to 1

County Attorney, Patrick McCormack, answering loaded questions by Chairperson, Rachel Bennett, dominated the County’s school sales-tax discussion on July 21, 2015. Bennett spent her time ‘schooling’ the other Commissioners via getting clarification from County Attorney over the word “shall, must and may”.  The attorney, himself, also said there were “consequences” if the Commissioners voted against the increase, but refused to clarify the “consequences” in public. It was hard to separate legal opinion and political opinion in McCormack’s comments. One has to wonder if a county employee can be objective in practicing the law when the Administrator and the Commissioners have an agenda. “Can a county employee really practice law considering the political ramifications?” some people in the audience questioned. Blatant intimidation was so obvious as to be embarrassing. In an interview with Commissioner McClure, on July 20, 2015, he said, “The County Attorney told me if I vote no I will be sued.” When asked by whom, McClure continued, “The school board.” It should be remembered that Mr. McClure opposed the sales tax consistently on every vote. The last time the special election issue was addressed the vote was 3 to 2 against an election on November 3, 2015. This special election will now cost the taxpayers of St. Johns County in excess of $200,000 and there is a good likelihood that the vote will be skewed. The St. Augustine Tea Party was out in force today. They had members outside at the entrance. Tea Party members also addressed the commissioners on at least nine occasions. However, speaking to commissioners in open meetings appears to have little impact. And today it was exceptionally true. Chairperson Rachael Bennett announced to the audience that public comments were not required because this agenda item was mainly administrative. But, because of the controversy, public comments would be entertained. This signaled that the “Fix was in” and that the dissenters could have their three minutes but it wouldn’t matter.

During a recess period, a woman approached Commissioner Smith, the lone no vote, and said, “ Thank you, Mr. Smith for being an honest man.” Jeb Smith ran for County Commissioner as a Republican, but sought no help from the GOP. Smith was a grassroots candidate who appealed to the public on his personal integrity and demeanor.

The Tea Party presence contrasted sharply with the largely government crowd. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox news affiliated stations in Jacksonville, Florida eagerly sought interviews from Lance Thate SATP Chairman and David Heimbold, SATP Media Chairman. In addition, Mr. Thate was also interviewed by WOKV Jacksonville’s talk radio station.

http://www.news4jax.com/news/sjc-votes-on-future-of-school-funding/34270166 http://staugustine.firstcoastnews.com/news/news/194511-half-cent-sales-tax-november-ballot-st-johns-county

Tea Party Continued to challenge Free Speech Zones in County Parks

In addition to speaking to the sales tax issue, Tea Party members were also contesting the “Designated Free-speech Areas” in County Parks. The SATP Chairman, addressing the Commissioners, stated: “According to Mr. McCormack, the First Amendment only applies to the Congress of the United States. State and local governments can place restrictions on free speech, under the concept of time, place and manner” (TPM). The concept of TPM is based on case law. Mr. Thate called for a prohibition of Free Speech Zones submitting a proposed addition to the Park ordinance 2005 – 114.

According to Mr. Heimbold, SATP Media Chairman, “Mr. McCormack sought out Mr. Thate, in the parking lot during the lunch recess, to assure him that he was still working on the First Amendment problem. McCormack also claimed that Thate had misquoted him when addressing the Commissioners.” According to Thate, he and Mr. McCormack had a meeting on July 2, 2015.  At that meeting, the County Attorney, on several occasions, pointed out that the First Amendment applies only to Congress by stressing that Congress shall make ‘no law’ (re: the 1st Amendment) and implying that local government could. It appears that this is an example of the confusion between political and legal opinion.

During the Commissioner’s comments at the end of the agenda, Commissioner Jeb Smith proposed that the County Attorney prepare a full accounting of the “Designated Free Speech Area” authorization and justification, and then present it to the Commissions for a public review. The motion carried  5-0 in favor. “It appears that those seeking redress on this First Amendment issue earlier in the day, will have a public hearing,” Chairman Thate said.

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