Races Focus on Issues of Quality of Life; Parking, Tourism, Historic Preservation Are Talk of Campaign Circuit

By Lewis, Ken | The Florida Times Union, October 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

Races Focus on Issues of Quality of Life; Parking, Tourism, Historic Preservation Are Talk of Campaign Circuit


Lewis, Ken, The Florida Times Union


Byline: KEN LEWIS, The Times-Union

The races for the St. Augustine City Commission have resulted in informal teams battling over a downtown parking garage, candidates pointing fingers over campaign contributions and a debate between saving money and preserving living standards.

George Haynes Jr. and Errol Jones are running for Seat 1; Susan Burk and Bill Lennon for Seat 2; Joseph Boles Jr. and Hank Whetstone for Seat 3; while Jones and Lennon also challenge George Gardner for the title of mayor. The positions are non-partisan and will be voted on Nov. 2 in the general election.

There has been plenty of maneuvering for the seats, which pay $12,000 yearly, with the mayor receiving $16,000.

Whetstone, Lennon and Haynes are calling the commission wasteful and demanding that city residents be allowed to vote on whether to build a much-needed parking garage at the Visitors Information Center north of downtown. The commissioners who were elected two years ago won by vowing to prevent a garage from being built behind the Lightner Museum downtown, scrapping a $500,000 plan and starting another.

The incumbents shifted around for the election, with Jones leaving his two-year Seat 3 to go for Burk's four-year Seat 1, and Burk leaving hers to try to shoulder Lennon out of his four-year Seat 2.

Haynes said he'll fight for property rights, affordable housing and no tax increases. He wants to repair roads and sidewalks. He questioned the loyalties of rival Jones, who received contributions from Chester Stokes, developer of the Ponce De Leon golf course.

Jones said his "experience counts" and that he has been the voice of reason on the commission. He said he isn't "owned" by any contributor and that he needed the money because contributors from his neighborhood were not as rich as contributors from Haynes' neighborhood.

Burk said she stands for historic preservation and solving the city's traffic problems. Like Haynes, she questioned her opponent's acceptance of contributions from Stokes and contractors who work in the city. If she wins, she will maintain the quality of life and the atmosphere of St. Augustine, she said.

Lennon said he is the fiscal conservative of the commission, watching dollars and people's rights. He wants to work with residents to create neighborhood plans so they can have a say in the design of their neighborhoods. He said Burk "says an awful lot of untruths" and that he didn't want to get "down and dirty."

Boles said running a city is not like running a business, because the commissioners are "building a community," instead of focusing on profit. He said the city's biggest challenge lies in managing the hoards of visitors, which can be done with a parking garage that is part of a traffic plan.

Whetstone went so far as to sue the city to prevent the creation of the parking garage at the Visitors Information Center, a project that he said should go before the voters for approval. He attacked the "general attitude of waste" throughout the city. He said that some of Gardner's neighborhood associations serve as special interest groups.

Gardner said the neighborhood associations served to give power to the residents after years of control by businessmen. …

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