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Why Can’t Kessler Tell the Truth?

Why Can’t Kessler Tell the Truth?
My opponent has finally figured out, he can't win this election by telling the truth.  Since he has run out of options, he is hoping that he can trick you and beat me by telling complete lies.  You can see examples of his dirty politics by clicking here and here. Now, let's break down his lies! Lie #1 Kessler says, "Help Stop a Miami-Water Grab in Wakulla" Well, if a Miami-Water Grab existed in Wakulla County, I would be happy to lead the fight to stop it.  I would be proud to stand alongside Kessler and do everything within our power to make sure that never happens.  Fortunately, the Water Grab he is referring to only exists in one place.  Inside his head!  No one is proposing to take our water and if they try, they will have to fight all of us. Kessler wants you to think that you cannot survive without him protecting you. We all know that is just silly! Lie #2 Kessler asks, "Why are these Miami special interests concerned with Wakulla elections? He wants you to think that I have some ties to Miami.  I do not.  I have not received a single dime from anyone in Miami.  Every contribution that I have received has been properly disclosed and is available to the public by clicking here. Lie #3 Kessler says, "powerful special interest have been spending thousand of dollars on Wakulla's elections, donating $2,500 money to my opponent" The $2,500 that he is referring to was properly reported on my campaign reports.  Here is an excerpt. What Kessler doesn't say, these are Wakulla County property owners.  They own property and pay taxes in Wakulla County, just like you and me.  In fact, if you check the Wakulla County Tax Collector's website by clicking here, you can confirm, they pay a combined total of $7,974.05 every year, including: School Tax County Tax North Florida Water Management District Tax Fire Tax Garbage Tax Wonder why Kessler thinks it is ok to refer to Wakulla County Property Owners and Tax Payers as "Special Interests"?   You pay Wakulla County Taxes, does that make you a "Special Interest" to Kessler? Wonder why Kessler thinks he knows what is best for Wakulla County Property Owners and Tax Payers while also thinking they should not have an interest in local politics...

Re-Elect Ralph Thomas for County Commissioner, District 1...

Re-Elect Ralph Thomas for County Commissioner, District 1
     For the past four years, I have had the pleasure of serving the citizens of Wakulla County as the Commissioner representing District 1.  I have come to learn that it is not an easy job, but it is one of the most rewarding positions I have ever had.  We are blessed to live in a beautiful county filled with great people who love their families, care for their neighbors and always take the time to help a stranger.        Most of us lead busy lives, trying to balance work, family time, and maybe squeeze in a bit of fun and relaxation when we can.  That leaves very little time for families to spend on local politics.  This reality, makes me understand and appreciate the importance of electing citizen servants who are commited to dedicate the time required to understand the complexities of local issues and the ability to make the difficult decisions that protect our way of life.           In November, you will be given a choice to determine the future of our county.  This year, there is a distinct difference between me and my opponent.  My job now, is to make sure you know the differences between us, to help you choose the best candidate who understands your struggles and shares your values.   Over the next few months, I will use this blog to re-cap my last 4 years in office.  It is my sincere desire that you know, I am the same person I said I was, when campaigning in 2012.  I believe my record reveals this truth.  My wish for this campaign is for you to truly know my heart and my character, as well as that of my opponent.  I trust the judgement of the good people of Wakulla County and I am committed to be at peace with the outcome.      I understand, I cannot win this battle alone.  I need your assistance!  There are many ways that you can help to ensure victory.  If you have questions about my record or my plan for the future, you can reach me by phone at 850-251-0415 or by email at wakullaforthomas@gmail.com  If you would like a personal meeting for a single person or a group, just let me know.  I welcome the opportunity.  If you would like to host a friend raiser, I would love the...

Wakulla Veteran’s Day Celebration 2014...

Wakulla Veteran’s Day Celebration 2014
It was my honor to speak at the Veteran's Celebration this year!...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Can I Build a Dock?...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Can I Build a Dock?
I received the following question from a citizen seeking clarification of the proposed Wetlands Ordinance.  I welcome the opportunity to share the truth! Question:  If the new ordinance is passed, will I be able to build a dock on my property? Answer:  The proposed ordinance states: (1) Docks. The dock shall be located on the property at the point of least distance between the uplands and the open water body to minimize the intrusion into the wetland or other surface water. A dock shall only extend far enough to reach a maximum water depth of four feet below mean low water, so long as it does not extend beyond 20 percent of the width of the water body and have more than 500 square feet of over-water surface area in Outstanding Florida Waters or 1,000 square feet of surface area in waters not designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. If there is a vertical seawall along the shoreline and the water depth at the point at which the dock is constructed is already four feet below the mean low water line, the dock shall not extend more than 25 feet beyond the vertical seawall. The access walkway of a dock shall be no more than four feet wide. The terminal platform of a dock shall be no larger than 160 square feet. Boards or other opaque materials, if used to construct the surface of the dock, shall be no more than eight inches wide and be spaced at least one-half inch apart. Any part of the dock located over submerged or emergent aquatic vegetation shall be elevated a minimum of five feet above the mean or ordinary high water line. Most of these requirements sound acceptable right?  Carefully consider #1. “The dock shall be located on the property at the point of least distance between the uplands and the open water body to minimize the intrusion into the wetland or other surface water.”   On every piece of property, there is one spot of least distance between the uplands and the open water body.  That particular spot may be an acceptable location for a dock and everything will work fine.  If that particular spot is not the best location for a dock, an alternate location would not be allowed and the dock permit would be denied by Wakulla County, even...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Beaches and Springs...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Beaches and Springs
Below, you will find questions I received from a concerned citizen.  I welcome all questions and I appreciate the opportunity to share the truth! Question:  So if the state is doing such a good job protecting our wetlands why are our beaches closed so often? Answer:  Wakulla County is unique.  More than 65% of our county is protected forest land. Forests contain wild mammals. Wild mammals poop in the forests. Poop contains bacteria, like Fecal Coloform and Enterococci.  Rain washes the bacteria into our bays. Our bays are shallow and situated in the “bend” of the pan handle.  This creates a pooling effect that does not quickly flush out our bays.  We typically see our beaches closed as a result of water quality after periods of heavy rainfall.  Heavy rainfall flushes everything in the forests into our bays.  While humans certainly have an effect on water quality, if they were the primary cause of poor water quality, we would see the problem more often.   Question:  Why are millions of our tax dollars being spent to restore our springs? Answer:  Some folks like to claim that the State, specifically the current administration, has no interest in protecting the springs.  If that was true, the Governor and Legislature would not be spending millions of dollars to restore our springs.  Lots of people live upstream from our springs with septic tanks that add nitrogen to the aquifer.  Tallahassee has a waste treatment spray field serving 250,000 people north of our springs that adds nitrogen to the aquifer. South Georgia contains large farms, that contribute nitrogen to our aquifer, that ends up in our springs.  The millions of dollars you reference have nothing to do with the buffers in the proposed wetlands ordinance.  The State is spending that money in an attempt to reduce nitrogen in our springs.  We all want to protect our wetlands.  We all want to improve the drinking water in our aquifer.  We simply do not need multiple layers of government to achieve these goals.  The most recent data shows the nitrogen in Wakulla Springs comes from the following sources: Septic Tanks 50.66% Atmospheric 12.86% Sinking Streams 10.50% Farm Fertilizer 7.61% Livestock 7.09% Waste Water Treatment Facilities 6.30% Urban Fertilizer 4.46% Source: http://floridaspringsinstitute.org/Resources/Documents/2014.08%20V3%20Wakulla%20Restoration%20Plan.pdf   Question:  Isn’t the most effective government the one closest to the people? Answer:  Yes, I...

Lawsuit Risk Eliminated!

Lawsuit Risk Eliminated!
Commission repeals wetlands ordinance Wakulla County to adhere to state standard protections, citizens will vote on reinstatement at Nov. 4 referendum Wakulla News, Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 11:55 am By NICOLE ZEMA nzema@thewakullanews.net Commissioners repealed the local wetlands ordinance at the July 14 meeting of the Wakulla County Board of Commissioners with a 4-1 vote, with Howard Kessler opposing. This means the local 75-foot wetlands buffer is scaled back to the state standard, which requires an average of a 25-foot buffer. Citizens were concerned that repealing the ordinance, and possibly reinstating it in the November referendum, could make the county vulnerable to lawsuits. Outside the meeting, Commissioner Ralph Thomas said there is a lot of confusion about the potential for lawsuits. He said repealing the ordinance now actually eliminates the risk of a lawsuit. ‘As far as property goes, we’ve eliminated the risk of a lawsuit, because the ordinance would be a prohibiting factor for them not being able to build,” Thomas said. “Last night we eliminated that risk. In November when people vote, they will be voting to bring risk back to us.” Thomas said once the Department of State registers the repeal within 10 days, a builder could get a permit approved within the “window of opportunity” before the November referendum. “If the ordinance comes back, they can still proceed on,” Thomas said. But people who buy property expecting to build on it after November might have a problem if the ordinance is reinstated. Commissioner Randy Merritt said, “If the citizens decide they want to impose buffer zones, and a 5-0 (board) vote is required to change the buffer zones, and deny people use of their property – the citizens of Wakulla County should be willing to compensate those people for that.” Kessler said he would attempt to make a friendly amendment to make the effective date of a possible repeal after the referendum in November. “If people here want to protect their wetlands, they have to do it themselves,” Kessler said. “They cannot rely on the state.” Citizen Bill Anderson, a candidate for commission seat 4, said the board’s decision to repeal the ordinance is reckless. “If you do away with this ordinance tonight, and the public puts it back in, it’s a very reckless act on your part,” Anderson said. “You’re supposed to steer...

Go Navy Junior ROTC!

Go Navy Junior ROTC!
As a Navy Veteran, I understand and appreciate the importance of teamwork and service to our community and to our country.  We are fortunate in Wakulla County to have a Navy JROTC program.  We are blessed to have leaders who model real leadership to our youth and instill a sense of pride in them and a desire to make their community and their world a better place.  These students have chosen the “path less traveled”.  It doesn’t take long to figure out, that path requires more effort.  It requires dedication, and it requires teamwork.  We probably do not praise their efforts enough even though we constantly see them quietly serving our community.  I know they do not serve for praise or attention but I also know everyone appreciates hearing, job well done!  On Monday night, the Board of County Commissioners had the honor in participating in a presentation from Keep Wakulla County Beautiful to the Wakulla High School Navy JROTC students.  When you see these young leaders in our community, I hope you will join me in saying thank you and job well...

No Adverse Impact to Wetlands in Wakulla County Determined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection Determined...

No Adverse Impact to Wetlands in Wakulla County Determined by Florida Department of Environmental Protection Determined
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, February 20, 2014, Jennifer Portman The Wakulla County Commission eliminated wetlands protections from its comprehensive plan as expected on Tuesday, as organizers of a citizen-led petition drive announced they will have enough signatures to let voters decide the issue in November. The commission voted 4 to 1 to remove from its comp plan a provision that calls for a 75-foot buffer around wetlands. The move is the first step, begun last summer, to get rid of the county’s wetlands protection ordinance, which bans all development within 35 feet of wetlands and restricts building within 40 additional feet if no other options exist. The current majority of the board says the rule is an unnecessary impediment to development and infringes on personal property rights in a county where about 60 percent of the land is wetlands. The move signals a departure from years of efforts to enhance local policies aimed at water-quality protection. Three years ago, the board, with different members, unanimously approved the reinstatement of the ordinance, first adopted in 2006. Commissioner Ralph Thomas said he expects the commission will press ahead and vote to rescind the enforcing ordinance as soon as possible, despite recommendations from the county’s planning staff that the board wait until after the results of the November vote. He stressed existing state regulations provide enough protection for wetlands. “I love the wetlands just as much as anyone, but some people want too much protection,” Thomas said. “We are giving rights back to our citizens. I do believe this vote is going to fail.” Commissioner Howard Kessler, the lone board member opposed to striking the local wetlands protections, asked in August that the land-use decision be left to the citizens. When the effort was rejected in another 4-to-1 board vote, citizens mobilized and launched an initiative-petition drive to put the question on the November general election ballot. If supporters of the initiative petition drive prevail at the ballot box, the wetlands ordinance would be reinstated and only could be removed by a unanimous vote of the commission or another citizen vote. “I think we’ve got a good shot,” said Ron Piasecki, with the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance, which started collecting signatures in September and will now shift to educating voters. “We will know in November, is all I can say.” The alliance began turning...

Will You Lend a Hand?

Will You Lend a Hand?
You Can Make a Difference in Our Community! Would you like to give input on important matters in Wakulla County?  Are you willing to contribute your talents and take an active role in local government? Are you interested in serving our county? If so, there are numerous opportunities to serve My Appointments Code Enforcement Board Member – May live in any District in Wakulla County. Library Advisory Board Member – Must live in District 1 Parks Advisory Board Member – Must live in District 1 If you are interested in serving in any of these positions, please give me a call at 597-3858, or send me an email at rthomas@mywakulla.com Additional Positions Available Tourist Development Council Member, Deadline 12/20/2013  Click Here for details Industrial Development Authority, Deadline 12/8/2013  Click Here for...

Straight Facts?

Straight Facts?
On the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance website, they have a list of what they call: STRAIGHT FACTS addressing misinformation and rumors: The truth will always stand up to scrutiny.  Let’s see if they are telling the truth.  Their words are in red and black.  Mine are green. MISINFORMATION Wakulla County has paid $600,000 for wetlands lawsuits – the most that has been paid was an out-of-court settlement of approximately $125,000 for administrative errors made by the county. Let’s straighten this out.  It’s not that difficult to verify the truth and stick with the facts.  Show me the money! MISINFORMATION Changes cannot be made to the wetlands ordinance after the referendum is passed: This is not true. The wetlands referendum allows commissioners to make wetlands changes with a unanimous vote or by referendum. This comment matches the WWA’s proposed referendum.  I’m not personally aware of anyone making the statement they are calling misinformation, so I would encourage the WWA to quote their source for this statement. MISINFORMATION Builders need to use the wetlands to be profitable: Not so. A few developers will profit. At this time, Wakulla County has over 7,000 buildable lots waiting to be built upon. Builders have thousands of Wakulla County lots for construction and new jobs without destroying wetlands. I would encourage the WWA to quote their source for this statement also.  It certainly did not come from me!  My initial reaction, the WWA is probably the one spreading misinformation on this one.  Even if Wakulla County had no Wetlands Ordinance at all, state regulations do not allow development in the wetlands, when avoidable.  When unavoidable, mitigation is required to offset adverse impacts. Here is an excerpt from DEP’s policy titled “OVERVIEW OF THE WETLAND AND OTHER SURFACE WATER REGULATORY AND PROPRIETARY PROGRAMS IN FLORIDA” Elimination and reduction of otherwise unpermittable adverse impacts to wetlands and other surface waters is required to the maximum extent practicable prior to considering whether mitigation can be accepted. However, Florida does not have an alternatives analysis like that in federal regulations. In some cases, mitigation may not be able to offset impacts sufficiently to yield a permittable project. Source: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/docs/erp/overview.pdf page 8 In layman’s terms, according to State Regulations, if a property owner’s proposed project will adversely impact wetlands, they must take every step to first eliminate or reduce the impact.  If they own sufficient upland...

Common Good or Individual Freedom?

Common Good or Individual Freedom?
I enjoy open dialogue with those who may not agree with me.  Engaging in a polite and respectful conversation, gives us the opportunity to understand the other person’s perspective and hopefully allows us to find some common ground.  I received the following comments and questions below, from fellow citizens on Facebook.  I believe the discussion is worth sharing with everyone. Citizen Commment I am familiar with what you are proposing to do in your position on this county commission.  You do not understand that you represent a broad spectrum of citizens in this county.  To remove environmental protections of county wetlands does not relate to the broad issues of private property rights as you claim.    Why won’t the board allow the wetlands referendum to be placed on the ballot? The First Amendment’s protections of free speech, press, assembly, and petition allows individuals the right to petition the government in order to express their views and ask for change. The decision to remove local protection regulations of the wetlands represents a small minority of county citizens and is in opposition to the will of the majority who are intended to prevail by the U. S. Constitution. Citizens who voted for you included majority and minority citizens. The minorities’ personal interests must sometimes give way to the common good. A referendum vote will clear up this issue. Please address my specific concerns as I have relayed them to you:)  Thank you. My Reply Thank you for your comments.  You have included a lot in this paragraph.  I will do my best to address each of your comments.  I certainly understand that I represent a broad spectrum of citizens.  To say that I do not understand, assumes that I am ignorant of this fact or that I do not care.  Neither are true.  State wetlands regulations will remain, therefore, the environment will remain protected.  I don’t understand how you can think this issue does not relate to property rights.  Anytime government or public will, proposes to trump the will of an individual property owner, it is certainly a property rights issue.  You keep asking, “Why won’t the board allow the wetlands referendum to be placed on the ballot?”  Your group is actively involved in placing the issue on the ballot, through a legal mechanism provided in our County Charter, therefore, we are not disallowing...

Keep Wakulla County Beautiful Coastal Cleanup...

Keep Wakulla County Beautiful Coastal Cleanup
We had a great day cleaning our beautiful coastline.  I would like to say a big thank you to JoAnn Palmer for a successful cleanup today.  While many of us spent a couple hours in the heat today, JoAnn has spent a couple of weeks, or more, bringing everything together.  Job well done and thank you again for your service to our county! ...

Community Comes Together to Stop Foreclosure...

I was invited to speak with Preston Scott on WFLA 100.7fm about Wakulla County’s plan to foreclose on properties with code enforcement liens. ...

Wakulla Wetlands

Please take a moment to let me know how you feel about the wetlands in Wakulla County. Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Not Allowed in Wakulla County?

Not Allowed in Wakulla County?
The new sign ordinance says only one roof sign is allowed on a building and it must be setback 3 feet from the edge of the roof.  Signs like this will now be non-conforming in most of Wakulla County.  The Cities of St. Marks and Sopchoppy are not required to follow the new ordinance, unless their Commission chooses to adopt the County’s Ordinance.  Do these signs cast our county in a negative light in any way?  What do you think about...