Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Beach Meet: Dueling Reviews

We weren't able to attend last night's beach meeting, sponsored by District 4 county commissioner Grover Robinson IV. But friends were. Here are excerpts from two reports, edited for this family blog:

Beach Resident Report No. 1:
It was obvious that Grover Robinson's first and main agenda was to get justification after-the-fact for his success at turning the BOCC around on the title bill effort. He started right out by saying that "nobody" wants to pursue title until we have our "day in court" -- when he knows perfectly well the "nobody" thing is just not true.

After that opening salvo, Grover pretty much threw the floor open to questions. The topics ranged from tax issues (lots of complaints about assessments, MSBU's, commercial taxes and lease fee percentages, etc.) to protecting public lands, problems with law enforcement, municipal incorporation, and on and on.

Grover spent most of his time either saying he and the BOCC had nothing to do with certain issues, or that he would look into something, or just blathering on rather ineffectually. He managed to make very few commitments to anyone about anything.

I've said before that I like Grover Robinson, but I was just not at all impressed with him tonight. He reiterated over and over that he was sure "nobody" wanted to proceed with any of 'these other possibilities' until the Pensacola Beach residential leaseholders' suit was taken all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court if necessary.

Then he asked a very slanted question: "May I see a show of hands of how many people want to see the lawsuit go all the way through the courts?"

Well, DUH.... Of course almost everyone raised his hand to that one. Grover was so pleased with himself he practically slapped himself on the knee, turned to someone in the general vicinity of the County Administrator in attendance and said, gleefully, "You're my witness!!"

Then he started to ask for a show of hands of those on the other side of the issue. But he interrupted himself and decided to leave it at that. Of course. He didn't want to know -- nor could he likely find an honest way to word the opposite hand question. ["All those in favor of continuing to throw good money after bad with lawyers who don't win anything, please raise your hands."]

It was obvious from the show of hands in response to Grover's weighted question that most leaseholders present still have their heads buried in the sand. They expect somehow that this one remaining case is miraculously going to turn out differently from all the rest all over the State of Florida and in our own backyard, not only on Navarre Beach but in the very commercial core of Pensacola Beach. Grover Robinson is right there among that crowd, failing to prove a voice of wisdom and leadership, happy to wait and hope against hope for a court ruling in favor of the residential leaseholders. No statesman here.

Not that he's any hero of mine, but Fred Simmons spoke up tonight saying he was finally getting to the point of wanting to throw in the towel and say to heck with it. He feels like he's being "taxed and fee'd to death."

That's pretty much the way I felt, too, though for different reasons. I love the island but I'm disgusted with the situation. I'm feeling like, what's the matter with me? Why don't I just lie back on the beach and forget about it and let the chips fall where they may, as everyone else apparently is willing to do.

We'll see what tomorrow brings and cry about it then. And boy, will everyone be crying.

Beach Resident Report No. 2:

I can't find fault with Grover. I believe he is sympathetic to the Island. He is a leaseholder too.

I think he did the right thing, getting the resolution for deeds rescinded. He said let the lawsuits take their course and we can do deeds later, if necessary. He rightly pointed out that there are limits to what he can do as a commissioner to affect any taxing attempt by the Property Appraiser.

Grover Robinson didn't have any real answers to the taxing issue, but then how could he? He said that he has had his disagreements with Chris Jones in his appraisal methods and he urged two people in the audience to boldly state their complaints to Chris Jones.

He pointed out that if Chris Jones hears nothing, then nothing will happen. You can be sure of that.

Robinson does have a problem with Jones in that Jones seems to have cherry-picked a date when there was a super spike in property valuations for his property appraisals. Now that the market has fallen flat, he hasn't modified the appraisals to conform to reality.

Grover listened respectfully to those in the audience, gave everyone plenty of time to talk, and answered as best that he could.

Fred Simmons and June Guerra of Jubilees very strongly stated and summarized the position in which the commercial people find themselves. June got the only big applause of the evening.

Grover was in total agreement with one man's complaint about the poor behavior of the Boardwalk juveniles and their pit bulls on chains. On this subject, he brought [SRIA General Manager] Buck Lee into the discussion. Lee said that we are paying for an officer to be at the Circle K and two officers on the Boardwalk on the weekends. He said if we don't find the officers at their duty stations, call him on his cell phone. Then he gave out the number.

Someone asked, 'Are you going to answer your phone at 11 pm on a Saturday night?' Buck replied, 'Yes.' Others in the audience assured the questioner that this is true. Buck Lee will answer his phone and take care of business, day or night.

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