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Was the Wetlands Petition Really About the Right to Vote?...

Was the Wetlands Petition Really About the Right to Vote?
Last year, the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance embarked on a petition drive to give the Citizens of Wakulla County the “Right to Vote”.  Were they being sincere when they told everyone this issue was about the right to vote or was that message chosen to convince voters to sign their petition?  Was it ever really about the right to vote?  Let’s take a look to see if their actions line up with their words. In the photo below, you can see their message. Now let’s take a look at what our County Charter says… To summarize, after the minimum number of petitions are obtained, the Board of County Commissioners had 2 choices: 1. Adopt the ordinance as referenced on the petition, which would take away the citizens right to vote on this issue. 2. Do not adopt the ordinance as referenced on the petition and allow the citizens to vote on the proposed ordinance. If the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance sincerely wanted the voters of Wakulla County to have the right to vote, wouldn’t it make sense that they would encourage the Board to approve option #2, Do not adopt the ordinance and give the voters the right to vote? Unfortunately, that is not what they did.  The vast majority of speakers encouraged the Board to adopt the ordinance and take away the voters right to vote on this issue. It turns out, the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance abandoned their “Right to Vote” message after the petitions were obtained. Thanks to 4 Commissioners, you still have the right to vote and I hope you will vote NO on Referendum A! You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share this with everyone you know and please leave a comment below. See for yourself by clicking the link below!...

Tyranny in Wakulla?

Tyranny in Wakulla?
Merriam Webster defines Tyranny as:  Why is this important to Wakulla County?  In November, you will be asked to vote for or against a proposed Wetlands Ordinance.  The ordinance includes the following statement:  Sec. 32.016. Ordinance Modification or Repeal. This chapter may only be modified or repealed by a referendum of the voters in Wakulla County, as provided for in the Wakulla County Charter, or by a unanimous vote of all five Wakulla County Commissioners at a legally called Wakulla County Commission meeting. If the new ordinance is adopted and we later realize that it needs to be amended, all 5 Commissioners will have to agree to change it.  If one Commissioner refuses to agree with the others, that one Commissioner will possess the power to “Veto” the other 4 Commissioners. Even if you support the wetlands ordinance, do you think it is a good idea to elevate one Commissioner to have power over the other 4?  This will be equivalent to a Presidential Veto, with one major exception.  If the President of the United States vetoes a decision made by congress, congress can override the veto with a two thirds vote.  No member of the United States Congress has the power to veto the entire governing body.  No member of the State Legislature has the power to veto the entire governing body.  No County in the State of Florida has an ordinance with a  Tyranny Clause.  Wakulla County will be the first, if this ordinance passes.  Our Government is built on a system of checks and balances, not supreme power by a single individual.  Why would we give this power to a single Commissioner? This risk does not exist today.  A yes vote on Referendum A will create this situation in Wakulla County.  A NO vote on Referendum A will eliminate this threat. You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share this with everyone you...

King of Wakulla

King of Wakulla
What would you say, if someone proposed changing the Government structure in Wakulla County to give one Commissioner the power to control the other 4?  Would you vote for that?  Which one of your current Commissioners would you want to have this ultimate power? Would you believe it, if I told you we have a group of people in Wakulla County who want you to vote for this?  The Wakulla Wetlands Alliance wants you to vote to adopt a wetlands ordinance in November.  This proposed ordinance includes the following statement, “these regulations can only be modified or repealed by referendum vote or unanimous vote of the County Commission”. So imagine this.  If the new ordinance is adopted and we later realize that it needs to be amended, all 5 Commissioners will have to agree to change it.  At first that doesn’t sound too bad.  If all 5 Commissioners agree, chances are the change is truly needed right?  What happens if a change is truly needed, but one Commissioner doesn’t agree with the other 4?  In that situation, we no longer have majority rule or consensus rule.  We will then have a situation where one Commissioner has the power to control the entire board.  If the lone Commissioner refuses to reach consensus with the others, a referendum will be required to take the issue back to the voters. Even if you support the wetlands ordinance, do you think it is a good idea to give one Commissioner, power over the other 4?  This will be equivalent to a Presidential Veto, with one major exception.  If the President of the United States vetoes a decision made by congress, congress can override the veto with a two thirds vote.  No member of the United States Congress has the power to veto the entire governing body.  No member of the State Legislature has the power to veto the entire governing body.  Our Government is built on a system of checks and balances, not supreme power by a single individual.  Why would we give this power to a single Commissioner?  I don’t want it!  I don’t want my fellow Commissioners to have it and I don’t want future Commissioners to have it. This risk does not exist today.  A yes vote on Referendum A will create this situation in Wakulla County.  A NO vote...

Entire Wetlands Ordinance

Entire Wetlands Ordinance
It seems that everyone has an opinion about the new wetlands ordinance that will appear on the ballot in November.  I certainly do!  If you are a Wakulla County voter, your opinion, and the opinion of your neighbors will determine the fate of the ordinance and the future of our county.  I have attempted to do my best to breakdown this issue and share many of the key components of the proposal.  Several people have asked me how they can get a copy of the entire ordinance.  The proposed ordinance is almost identical to the prior ordinance with the addition of the following language: Sec. 32.016. Ordinance Modification or Repeal. This chapter may only be modified or repealed by a referendum of the voters in Wakulla County, as provided for in the Wakulla County Charter, or by a unanimous vote of all five Wakulla County Commissioners at a legally called Wakulla County Commission meeting. To View the entire proposed ordinance CLICK HERE! After you read it, please share your comments below....

Question and Answer – Wetlands Ordinance Modification...

Question and Answer – Wetlands Ordinance Modification
I received the following question from a citizen seeking clarification of the proposed ordinance.  I welcome the opportunity to share the truth! Question: If the ordinance is adopted and causes law suits to be brought against the County, I was told it could be changed with a unanimous vote of all 5 Commissioners.  Is this true? Answer: That is a great question, unfortunately, it is not completely true, because it does not tell the whole truth.  That statement was included on the petitions that were signed to place the ordinance on the ballot.  It also appears in the resolution that placed the referendum on the ballot, as follows: “Sec. 32.016. Ordinance Modification or Repeal. This chapter may only be modified or repealed by a referendum of the voters in Wakulla County, as provided for in the Wakulla County Charter, or by a unanimous vote of all five Wakulla County Commissioners at a legally called Wakulla County Commission meeting.”  Here’s the problem.  The Wakulla County Charter 6.1.2 states, “The Board of County Commissioners shall not amend or repeal an ordinance adopted by initiative prior to the next succeeding general election, without the approval of a majority of the electors voting at a referendum called for that purpose.” Therefore, if the ordinance needs to be changed for any reason, the Board of County Commissioner will have no authority to change it for 2 years, until the 2016 General Election.  Prior to this date, it can only be changed by a special referendum by the voters of Wakulla County.   The Wakulla County Charter, section 6.1 also states, “The electors of Wakulla County shall have the right to initiate county ordinances in order to establish new legislation that is not in conflict with the State Constitution, general law or this Charter…” So, language in the proposed ordinance will be in conflict with the County Charter.  This is yet another reason why the proposed ordinance is bad for Wakulla County.  It will bring risk and financial liability to our tax payers and our hands will be tied to correct it.  The best way to avoid this risk is to vote NO and encourage your friends and family to do the same. The risk I have described above does not currently exist in Wakulla County.  We eliminated this risk when we repealed the Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance.  A...

Quick Fact – Is the Financial Risk to Wakulla County Real?...

Quick Fact – Is the Financial Risk to Wakulla County Real?
By now, you may have heard me say that the Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance put our county at a financial risk of lawsuits.  This risk, along with my desire to protect property rights was the basis for my support of repealing the local ordinance.  My opponents, on this issue, do not posses the same commitment to property rights and they appear to be unconcerned about the financial risk they are inviting on Wakulla County Tax Payers.  I want you to know that the risk is REAL!  Below, you will find excerpts from the Florida Statute know as the “Private Property Rights Protection Act”.  I have included the most relevant sections for brevity and to communicate the basic idea.  To ensure that I am not accused of taking any part out of context, at the bottom of this article I have included a link to the entire statute.  All of my comments are in blue text.  The remainder is directly out of the Florida Statute. Section 70.001 of Florida Statute is referred to as the “Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act.” The Legislature recognizes that some laws, regulations, and ordinances of the state and political entities in the state, as applied, may inordinately burden, restrict, or limit private property rights without amounting to a taking under the State Constitution or the United States Constitution. The Legislature determines that there is an important state interest in protecting the interests of private property owners from such inordinate burdens. Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature that, as a separate and distinct cause of action from the law of takings, the Legislature herein provides for relief, or payment of compensation, when a new law, rule, regulation, or ordinance of the state or a political entity in the state, as applied, unfairly affects real property. (2) When a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property, the property owner of that real property is entitled to relief, which may include compensation for the actual loss to the fair market value of the real property caused by the action of government, as provided in this section. (e) The terms “inordinate burden” and “inordinately burdened”: 1. Mean that an action of one or more governmental entities has directly restricted...

Wetlands Question and Answer – State of Florida Reaction Time...

Wetlands Question and Answer – State of Florida Reaction Time
Below, you will find a question I received from a concerned citizen.  I welcome all questions and I appreciate the opportunity to share the truth! Question: When I’ve spoken to some who plan to vote yes in November they state that it is because the state fails to react in time before irreversible damage is done to the wetlands. They feel that having the county ordinance in place helps ensure the state doesn’t drop the ball. I’ve really haven’t heard many say they buffer needs to be 75 feet. Just that something extra needs to be there to ensure preservation of our wetlands. What are your thoughts about the citizen’s concerns about the state dragging their feet and that being the reason why a county ordinance is needed? Answer: Great question! This is a widespread real concern that many people have. None of us want to allow harm to the wetlands. I think the best way to answer your question is with a recent “real world” example. A few week ago, a complaint was called in about a Wakulla Citizen who was filling in wetlands on Shadeville Road, just south of Wakulla Springs. In less than 24 hours, I visited the site, unannounced, and found the following: a stop work order had been posted on site by the Wakulla County Planning Department, a staff member from the Wakulla Planning Department was onsite along with 4 State Inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection and the North West Florida Water Management District. This clearly indicated that the State has the necessary resources and regulations to protect wetlands and is committed to enforcing these regulations. On the other side of this argument, I saw photos posted on Facebook of beavers in wetlands and excavation equipment filling in wetlands. These photos were posted with the announcement of this alleged “wetlands violation” even though the photos were taken somewhere else in the world. A concerned person would assume the photos were related to this incident and tend to be appalled. Unfortunately, this deception is not accidental, but it is the reason why good people are afraid to trust that the state is doing it’s job. Personally, when someone tries to deceive me for the benefit of furthering their agenda it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that I need to do the...

Quick Fact – Did you know the State regulates almost all changes to the landscape that affect surface water flows?...

Quick Fact – Did you know the State regulates almost all changes to the landscape that affect surface water flows?
You have been told that the State of Florida does not protect wetlands.  That is simply not true!  The State regulates “almost all changes to the landscape that affect surface water flows“. Did you know, even if a property contains no wetlands, it is still subject to State Wetlands Permitting if changes to the landscape will impact other properties?  This is more stringent than the proposed local ordinance and this State Wetlands Protection is already in place. A yes vote on Referendum A will add additional layers of Government Regulation. If a Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance is adopted, it can only be changed by a unanimous vote of all County Commissions or by another referendum of Wakulla County Voters. A NO vote on Referendum A will eliminate this threat. You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share with everyone you know, by Facebook, email, and personal conversations. Also leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Click the image below to enlarge it or Click Here to visit the State Department of Environmental Protection...

Wakulla 9/11 Memorial Ceremony

Wakulla 9/11 Memorial Ceremony
      This morning, I had the pleasure of speaking at the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.  My words fall short of the honor our First Responders deserve, but I did my best to communicate the appreciation and respect I have for them.  At the beginning of the Ceremony, a beautiful rainbow appeared above their vehicles. Here is a transcript of my speech.      I’d like for you to talk a walk with me, back in time. Today is September 11, 2001 8:45    am.  Just another peaceful morning, in New York City. One minute later, at 8:46, peace will  be shattered by the most evil attack ever perpetrated in the heart of our great nation.   Nearly 3000 people, from 93 nations, died that day.      2,753 in New York      184 at the Pentagon      and 40 more on Flight 93, 20 minutes outside of Washington DC.      341 firefighters and 2 paramedics from the New York City Fire Department      37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department      23 police officers from the New York City Police Department      8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics      3 New York State Court Officers      And 11 unborn babies died that day who never had the opportunity to live Since the attack, more than 1,400 rescue workers have died. 1,140 first responders and residents of Lower Manhattan have been diagnosed with cancer This was not just an attack on the United States of America. This was an attack on humanity. This was an attack on innocent, peace loving people.      The rag tag group of terrorists who perpetrated this attack did not have the military might to face the United States of America on the battlefield. On this day, they intended to shake our confidence, spread fear throughout our nation and weaken our reputation as a Super Power on the World Stage. They failed to realize, the United States of America has never been, and never will be, shaken or defined by the intensity of those who rise up against us. The United States of America is defined by the grace of God and an overwhelming desire for freedom, secured by our Founding Fathers and handed down from generation to...

THEY ARE NOT FOOLING ME!

THEY ARE NOT FOOLING ME!
Follow me closely on this one.  Tell me if this makes sense to you. The Wakulla Wetlands Alliance wants you to vote to impose a wetlands ordinance on the citizens of Wakulla County.   Their proposed ordinance states: Sec. 32.003 (7) “It is intended that the implementation of this chapter will accomplish the following objectives: c. Ensure that owners of property containing wetlands and other surface waters shall not be unconstitutionally deprived of substantially all beneficial use of their property by the application of these regulations. That sounds great right?  They are acknowledging the Constitution and their statement appears to be concerned with protecting the rights of property owners.  Let’s take a closer look to see if they really mean this. The proposed ordinance goes on to say…  The Wakulla County Board of County Commissioners may grant a variance for the following: (1) The development of residential and non-residential properties within Buffer Zone Two if a failure to allow such development will deprive the developer of substantially all economic and beneficial use of the property, and so long as such development is consistent with other provisions of the Wakulla County Code of Ordinances, the Land Development Code, and the comprehensive plan. Stills sounds pretty good right?  Sounds like they really do not want to “deprive the developer of substantially all economic and beneficial use of the property”, right? Take a closer look.  This variance only applies to Buffer Zone Two.  Buffer Zone Two is 35 feet to 75 feet outside the wetlands.   What happens if the lot size requires the home to be built in Buffer Zone One?  Buffer Zone One is also outside the wetlands, 0 to 35 feet outside the wetlands.  The proposed ordinance will not allow a variance in Buffer Zone One.   If a proposed home will only fit on a property if allowed to be built within Buffer Zone One, and the proposed ordinance has no provision to grant a variance within Buffer Zone One, can’t we conclude that the property owner will be “unconstitutionally deprived of substantially all beneficial use of their property”? Remember the intent of the proposed ordinance? Sec. 32.003 (7) “It is intended that the implementation of this chapter will accomplish the following objectives: c. Ensure that owners of property containing wetlands and other surface waters shall not be unconstitutionally deprived of substantially all...

MOW NO MO?

MOW NO MO?
Do you think it’s acceptable for your neighbors or the Government to tell you that you are forbidden to mow your yard and maintain your landscaping? Will you vote to take away your neighbors ability to landscape and maintain his yard? Do you want that much Government control over private property? The Wakulla Wetlands Alliance wants you to control your neighbor’s property.  (If your neighbor is not free to control his own property, are you free to control yours?) In November, they are hoping that you vote to impose this control over your neighbors.  Their proposed ordinance includes the following statement: “…the following uses shall be permitted provided they do not have an adverse impact on the wetland or other surface water or the buffer. …Buffer Zone Two: a. Landscaping and yard maintenance activities within an area not to exceed 25 feet in the front, 15 feet in the back, and eight feet on either side of the principal building located on such property and in a manner consistent with the design standards set forth in section 32.010 of this chapter.” So, what does this mean?  Simply stated… In the wetlands – No maintenance or landscaping is permitted! Within Buffer Zone One (35 feet outside of the wetlands) – No maintenance or landscaping is permitted!  That means no mowing, no planting, no weed control, nothing can be done in that area, even though it is outside of the wetlands area. Within Buffer Zone Two (Between 35 feet and 75 feet outside of the wetlands) – Maintenance is allowed 25 feet in front of the home, 15 feet in the back of the home, and eight feet on either side.  Grab your tape measure and measure how much lawn you are maintaining around your home.  How would you like it if you were limited to eight feet?  Don’t forget, we are talking about 75 feet outside of the wetlands, not within the wetlands.  Also, refer back to the proposed language in blue above.  Notice the use of the words “principal building”?  Don’t miss this point.  Within 75 feet of wetlands, no maintenance is allowed around any building that is not the principal building.  If you have a shed, barn, or detached garage, how would you like it if you were forbidden to mow around it? This risk I described above has already...

WHO’S BINDING WHOM?

WHO’S BINDING WHOM?
Would you vote to adopt a local Wetlands Ordinance that contained the following statement? “In the event that the planning department issues a wetlands and other surface waters preliminary letter which includes an incorrect determination, the county shall not be bound by this determination if additional information received subsequent to the date of the letter reveals that wetlands or other surface waters are likely to exist.” Do you think it is acceptable to proclaim by ordinance, “The county shall not be bound” after the county makes a mistake and issues an incorrect determination? What if this property belonged to you or your family and you built your home exactly as the county told you to, and then you learned they made a mistake. Guess who will become bound if the county is not allowed to be bound? FYI, the statement above is in the proposed ordinance the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance wants you to adopt in November, Sec. 32.006 (b) (4). This risk has already been eliminated.  A yes vote will bring it back.  If it comes back, it can only be changed by a unanimous vote of all County Commissions or by referendum of Wakulla County Voters.  A NO vote on Referendum A will eliminate this threat. You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share with everyone you know, by Facebook, email, and personal conversations. Also leave a comment below and share your thoughts....

Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance Repealed!

Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance Repealed!
 On July 14, 2014, I voted with 3 of 4 of my fellow Commissioners to repeal the Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance. With our vote, we restored fairness, restored property rights and eliminated the risk of lawsuits for our tax payers. In November, the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance will ask you to vote to bring the ordinance back, to return to a double standard that divides the “haves” from the “have nots”. The Wakulla Wetlands Alliance wants you to vote to give government control over private property. They want you to vote to bring back the risk of lawsuits to tax payers. They want to eliminate your property rights. They do not want you to have what they have. Watch this video to see the the discussion at the Board Meeting.  Vote NO in...

Wakulla Oyster Farmers!

Wakulla Oyster Farmers!
Last night I had the pleasure to see the future of Oysters in Wakulla County. I met an Australian Oyster Farmer named Leon.  He is a 25 year veteran of oyster farming in Australia. I attended his presentation at the Wakulla County Library. I was intrigued and excited about the possibilities this will bring to our county. Thanks to The Wakulla Environmental Institute, this technology is now a reality in Wakulla County. My hat if off to the new Wakulla Oyster Farmers, pictured below. They are modern pioneers!  Click here to see a video of the process they are bringing to our county....

Florida Association of Counties Board of Directors...

Florida Association of Counties Board of Directors
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2014 Contact: Jessica Welch Office of Communications & Public Services (850) 926-0919 Commissioner Ralph Thomas Appointed to the FAC Board of Directors LEON COUNTY, FL – Wakulla County Commissioner Ralph Thomas was appointed to the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) Board of Directors by FAC President, Escambia County Commissioner Grover C. Robinson. Commissioner Thomas was selected to fill one of six At Large seats on the Board. “FAC is a tremendous asset to County Governments,” said Commissioner Thomas. “Their experienced staff, dedication to advocacy of legislative issues and commitment to education allows counties to be a vital part of State Government. I am honored to represent Wakulla County on this Board.” The FAC Board of Directors is elected based on Florida Senate districts with an additional six at-large directors appointed by the FAC President. This year the seats from even districts were up for election at the FAC Annual Business Meeting at the 2014 Annual Conference & Educational Exposition. “The Board of Directors is the leadership of the Association, they provide operational guidance as well as strategic vision for the future of FAC,” said FAC Executive Director Chris Holley. “Commissioner Thomas’ experience as a leader in his community is a valuable asset to the Board.” Directors are elected to serve two year terms while At Large seats are appointed annually. For more information of the governance and leadership structure of the association please visit the website at www.fl-counties.com....

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