Sparks fly at the St. Johns County REC meeting
Chairman, Sean Mulhall, had his hands full keeping civilly at the St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee (REC) meeting on April 10, 2014. The tension started when former chairman, Harlan Mason, pictured left, introduced a resolution which, among other things, opposed an increase in the sales tax rate and proposed a rollback on the millage rate for the citizens of St. Johns County, FL. From the beginning it was apparent that the resolution had wide support.
In attendance were four of the five County commissioners. Commissioners Jay Morris, Ron Sanchez and, Cyndi Stevenson were present to dissuade the REC from adopting Mr. Mason’s resolution. Speaking for the Commissioner majority, Commissioner Stephenson approached the REC members with the same old story. The budget is just too complicated for mere citizens to understand. It was reminiscent of Commissioner Sanchez’s frequent approach. This reporter has witnessed numerous times when Sanchez has talked down to the public. But here was Cyndi Stevenson talking to savvy precinct captains who, one would assume, would be useful to have on her side during future elections. [Commissioner Stephenson is not up for re-election in 2014. Perhaps that’s why she was the spokesperson] As her presentation faltered, tough questions were asked. She stumbled even farther, at which point she announced that she did not wish to take over the meeting and made a beeline from the podium to the exit.
Commissioner Morris tried to rescue their cause by impressing the REC members. He detailed his military service, along with all of the honors and decorations he received. Morris also reviewed a resume of his extensive business experience with various firms. The Commissioner then reported that St. Johns County government was one of the most transparent and efficient operations that he had ever seen. The tension in the room, crackled. In the name of civility, Chairman Mulhall fended off what he perceived as argumentative questions.
In one last attempt at defeating the resolution, Commissioner Sanchez took to the podium. He assured members that he worked very hard to improve the “quality of life”. He went on to suggest that the “quality of life” comes from government, not people. “The phrase ‘Quality of Life’ is a code word for growing government. It fits right in with ‘Change’ and ‘Forward’ which are, historically, socialist and communist rallying calls,” a Tea Party member in attendance said. Frustrated, Commissioner Sanchez reminded the REC that there were Republicans on the outside that would agree with him, and suggested that the REC did not speak for the Party.
The REC members were reminded of the last millage rate increase when County commissioners manipulated public opinion. They have their meetings during the day when everyone else is working, By using on-site County employees and busing in school children to fill the “Palace”, they appeared to have support. At the last Town Hall meeting, pushing for the millage increase, nearly everyone spoke in opposition. Why? Because it was an evening meeting and the 9 to 5 tax paying citizens who work during the day could attend.
Commissioner Ron Sanchez and Commissioner Ken Bryan were enraged that their ‘Horse and Pony Show,’ so popular during the ‘matinée shows’ attended by sycophants and children, was received with such scorn by the actual tax payers who were going to foot the bill! So what did Sanchez do to those who disagreed with him that night? He joined forces with Bryan called security and had them throw out the dissenters. So much for ‘Free Speech’ at the County Commissioners meetings!
A new comer in the primary race to replace Sanchez, Mr. Jeb Smith, a farmer from Hastings, has discussed the possibility of more evening meetings so that working tax payers, not just County employees, will have a voice in the decision to raise taxes, or not.
The resolution passed unanimously
In spite of the efforts of the three incumbent Republican commissioners, the REC members unanimously approved Harlan Mason’s resolution. From the comments made after the meeting, it appears that the Commissioners are determined to raise taxes again. It’ll matter little whether the public supports it, or if their political party is on board. The general conclusion of the people in attendance was that, growing the government appears to be their agenda. The only Commissioner to come through unscathed was Bill McClure. Mr. McClure did not address the group. He didn’t have to. His direction is not the majority position. The price for his independence was revealed by the shameful conduct of the Commissioners at their March 18, 2014 meeting. The Commissioners made a distinction between themselves and the public on March 18th. They viewed the public, “Outsiders”, as a security problem. “The people can never be the “Outsiders” in own their building,” a REC member said.
The alleged security issue prompted Michael Gold to challenge the Commissioners over their conduct. Mr. Gold distributed “Caution Outsider” pins [See picture above] at the conclusion of the REC activities. Mr. Gold was involved in the “trumped up” security issue which the majority Commissioners used to attack Commissioner McClure. [ http://historiccity.com/2014/staugustine/news/florida/politics-security-... Michael Gold is the Publisher of Historic City News]
County government is a microcosm of Washington.
Saint Augustine Tea Party members who were in attendance at the REC meeting concluded that, “Government growth and domination in the lives of the people extend way beyond Constitutional restraints in Washington. The arrogance and criminality in the Nation’s capital encourages arrogance and misconduct at local levels.”