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Marhefka and Carter win
in Cross City runoff elections
Kirk Marhefka and Angela Carter are seen in this celebratory picture after they won the runoff elections in Cross City on Friday (Sept. 25).
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 26, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
CROSS CITY – Kirk Marhefka and Angela Carter were the two winners in runoff elections held Friday (Sept. 25), after an earlier Cross City municipal election on Sept. 15 led to that required runoff to decide members of the City Council in two seats.
In the Sept. 25 runoff election, the unofficial results showed the following:
Council Member Seat 1
Kirk Marhefka – 259 votes (53.07 percent)
Judy McLeod Sumrall – 229 votes (46.93 percent)
Council Member Seat 2
Angela Carter – 285 votes (55.88 percent)
Melody Padilla Rollison – 225 votes (44.12 percent)
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In the Cross City Municipal Election of Sept. 15, there were winners declared in two of the races for four seats, and two other races show a runoff election to decide them.
Kenneth "Tank" Lee won the Seat 5 election with a landslide of 344 votes (59.52 percent) over the two other contenders for that seat -- Amanda Bell - 94 votes (16.26 percent) and Antonio Williams 140 votes (24.22 percent), according to records.
J.Ryan Fulford won the Seat 3 election with 344 votes (59.31 percent) over Heddie Johnson's 236 votes (40.69 percent), according to records
The runoff election on Sept. 25 was between two of the three candidates who sought Seat 1, and two of the three candidates who sought Seat 2.
That runoff resulted after the tally in the Sept. 15 race showed the following results:
Charlie Heidelburg - 185 votes (32.17 percent)
Kirk Marhefka - 199 votes (34.61 percent)
Judy McLeod Sumrall - 191 votes (33.22 percent)
The runoff in the Seat 2 race between Angela Carter and Melody Padilla Rollison resulted after the tally in the Sept. 15 race showed the following results:
Angela Carter - 280 votes (48.19 percent)
Melody Padilla Rollison - 194 votes (33.39 percent)
Matt Wallace - 107 votes (18.42 percent)
Berlon Weeks’ resignation
holds after Town Council
votes 3-1 to recognize it
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 25, 2020 at 6:10 p.m.
BRONSON – A Special Town Council meeting of the Bronson Town Council on Sept. 22 confirmed that Berlon Weeks is no longer on the Bronson Town Council.
This special meeting was a week after the Sept. 15 special meeting, where Weeks became so frustrated that he said he intended to provide a letter of resignation on Sept. 16.
He changed his mind overnight and did not submit a letter. However, at the direction of Mayor Beatrice Roberts, Attorney Steven Warm drafted a letter to tell Weeks that the mayor had accepted his resignation.
At the Sept. 22 meeting, Warm advised the Town Council via telephone.
Mayor Roberts said that she took it on Sept. 15, when Weeks walked out of the meeting and said “I resign” that he meant that he resigned.
Vice Mayor Jason Hunt spoke in defense of Weeks.
“Berlon did speak,” Hunt said. “He did say some things. But with the heat of argument going on, he lost control and said some things that he didn’t mean. I don’t think he wants to resign.”
Councilman Aaron Edmondson he took Weeks’ statement of those words to be as they were stated.
Councilman Robert Partin weighed in on the matter.
“Well, there’s no question about what he said,” Partin said. “The heat of discussion, is the heat of discussion. You lose your composure.”
Partin added that he hates that it reached this point.
Partin said he is on Town Council to help the town. By a constant level of bickering happening, Partin said, he feels less is being accomplished than could be done.
Weeks told Warm that he has informed the town attorney that he did not mean to resign, but instead that he had reacted more to the beratement he was receiving during the Sept. 15 special meeting.
There was a 3-1 vote to recognize the sept. 15 verbal statement by Weeks to be his resignation from Town Council. Vice Mayor Hunt voted against it.
Voting in favor of recognizing the verbal resignation was Mayor Roberts and councilmen Edmondson and Partin.
Weeks was not allowed to vote.
In other action from the meeting, the Bronson Town Council discussed its effort to choose a town manager and a deputy town clerk. The Bronson Town Council approved the newest version of an ordinance to have a town manager.
There has been no discussion about the total revamping of the Town Charter yet.
162 More Fla. COVID-19
Deaths In 24 Hours;
1 More Hospitalized
From Tri-County Area In 24 Hours
Above are the results on Friday (Sept. 25), according to the Tallahassee office of the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). These records are the current TOTAL numbers updated by the FDOH in the most recent 24-hour period measured. In the Tri-County Area, there are 28 people TOTAL who have died from COVID-19 so far. There have been 167 people TOTAL so far from the Tri-County Area who have been reported as hospitalized because their COVID-19 symptoms were so serious they needed to go to the hospital.
Published Sept. 25, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
PUBLIC HEALTH ADVISORY
Residents are advised to wear masks
in public and to socially distance.
Avoid crowds, closed spaces & close contact.
COVID-19 can be transmitted by people who show no symptoms.
The best method to reduce the odds of infection and the subsequent symptoms of serious illness and even death from COVID-19 is to limit contact with other humans.
To find the most updated information and guidance on COVID-19, please visit the FDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage by clicking HERE.
For information and advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), please visit the CDC COVID-19 website by clicking HERE.
For another set of data, former Florida Department of Health geographic data scientist Rebekah Jones has created FloridaCOVIDAction.com. Those numbers are different than the FDOH, which are in the graphic above.
Woman shines as
exemplary graduate from
Levy County Mental Health Court
Levy County Court Judge James T. Browning addresses the successful graduate from the Levy County Mental Health Court program on Thursday afternoon (Sept. 24). He made it abundantly clear to all people in the courtroom that facemasks and social distancing were mandatory to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Judge Browning is among the judicial leaders who consistently exemplifies that he cares about other humans.He made it abundantly clear to all people in the courtroom that facemasks and social distancing were mandatory to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Judge Browning is among the judicial leaders who consistently exemplifies that he cares about other humans.
Story, Video and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 24, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.
BRONSON – A woman who was the second person to complete the relatively new Levy County Mental Health Court program received her certification Thursday afternoon (Sept. 24) from Levy County Court Judge James T. Browning.
Click on this photo of Assistant Regional Counsel Phyllis Wiley to go to the YouTube video. In this video of three clips, Levy County Court Judge James T. Browning begins to walk toward the award recipient. Then Eighth Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Darla Whistler shares her feelings about the young woman who earned recognition through completion of the program, and the clips end with Assistant Regional Counsel Phyllis Wiley giving her input to the recipient.
Seen here (from left) are Mental Health Coordinator Jan Gibson, Eighth Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Darla Whistler and Assistant Regional Counsel Phyllis Wiley giving her input to the recipient. These ladies like everyone wore masks to reduce the odds of spreading COVID-19.
The person who is not named in this story per her request shines as an excellent example of how the program can help people turn their lives around – away from drug abuse and criminal activity.
Mental Health Court is a diversionary court for individuals with a diagnosed mental health disorder who have been charged with certain misdemeanors or third-degree felonies. The participants agree to abide by a treatment plan with a designated treatment provider and upon adhering to the plans, orders of the Court, and progressing through the three phases of the Program, the State of Florida will dismiss the charges against the participant.
By providing defendants access to the least restrictive treatment, training, and support services necessary to reduce recidivism and ensure public safety, the program is designed to divert the mentally ill and developmentally disabled defendants from jail and to expedite the legal case processing through the criminal justice system. The judiciary, the State Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, and treatment providers that work directly with the participants are all partners in this program.
In Levy County, this program came to fruition from a seed planted by Assistant Public Defender Gary Ford, according to Jan Gibson, a 916 forensic program manager with Meridian Behavioral Healthcare Inc. A 916 program is a conditional release program in Florida’s judicial circuits.
Gibson, who is the mental health coordinator for this particular graduate, is very pleased with how well the program has succeeded so far in Levy County.
Levy County Court Judge Browning was the judge who agreed to be onboard for the program, Gibson said.
Eighth Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Darla Whistler and Eighth Judicial Circuit Assistant Public Defender Midori Lowry, Gibson said, are the people who brought this program to life in Levy County. Without Whistler, Gibson noted, the program would not have begun.
The team succeeded in obtaining a startup grant for the Mental Health Court in Levy County, Gibson said. Right now, she said, this is a “bare bones” Mental Health Court.
The hope for the future is more services such as groups and counseling specific to this type of case, Gibson said.
To achieve the presentation of certification of completion, Gibson said, typically takes from six months to a year. The participant must attend counseling, successfully complete a substance abuse program, consistently participate in mental health services, remain in contact with their Mental Health Court coordinator, and complete drug tests.
The first year of this program in Levy County, Gibson said, there were nine participants in Mental Health Court. From those nine, one person did not complete the program and one reached graduation, like the person did on Thursday afternoon, Gibson said.
This year, right now, there are five more people who are active in the program, Gibson said, and there are two or three people who are referred as good candidates for the program.
As Judge Browning opened the graduation celebration Thursday, he noted this woman has succeeded by meeting all of the challenges she faced since entering Levy County Mental Health Court.
The judge said Assistant State Attorney Whistler and Assistant Public Defender Lowry are the gatekeepers to select potential participants in this diversionary program.
“They were certainly right about you,” Judge Browning said to the person, “as shown by your progress.”
The judge said this person did not walk away from the challenges she saw. She did not pretend the challenges did not exist.
“You addressed those challenges,” Browning said. “And you did it! This will make you a better person, personally and professionally.
“And the one thing that has jumped out at me,” Browning said, “is your spirit – your character. You seem like a very sweet, sweet person. And I could not be happier for you than today.”
Here, Judge Browning is seen presenting a vase with roses, and a motivational journal to the graduate whose name and likeness is withheld from publication at her request.
The judge presented the graduate with a certificate of achievement. Then, he gave her a vase full of beautiful red roses, and a motivational journal for women – titled “She Believes She Could, So She Did.”
Mental Health Coordinator Gibson spoke about the woman who is the second graduate from the Levy County Program.
“She really, really wanted to do better for herself,” Gibson said. “She is a hard worker. “She lost her job during the (global) COVID-19 (pandemic). And she’s out there hustling. She’s making money any way she can.”
In addition to being “a real go-getter,” Gibson said this person is “a really sweet, caring individual who helps people when she can.”
Gibson advised the program graduate to not settle for anything less than she deserves.
Assistant State Attorney Whistler said the woman has been a perfect model participant in this program. There was 100 percent agreement by all who saw her that this person set the highest standard in the program.
“From the State Attorney’s Office perspective,” Whistler said, “you are somebody that we can hold out to the community as an example of how this program can work as a method of diversion (from other forms of punishment or rehabilitation).”
By participating in this program, Whistler said of the woman, who put her past behind her and moved forward with her life, it gave everyone reason to be proud of her.
Like Judge Browning, Whistler presented the graduate with gifts from the Eight Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office – as well as from her attorney -- Assistant Special Counsel Wiley.
Assistant Special Counsel Wiley echoed the comments of Browning, Gibson and Wheeler, although she added another perspective.
This person was the first client with whom Wiley had worked in the program.
Wiley said she was immensely proud of the success of this graduate in the program.
“You made it so easy,” Wiley said, “that I have become spoiled. I feel that everyone should be like this. But I do recognize that not everyone is going to be like this, and I do recognize how difficult the road was, and that it is just because you are the person who you are.”
As Wiley spoke through her facemask, she said if not for the COVID-19 global pandemic, she would give her first client a big hug. Instead, she said, to just feel the love.
The graduate thanked Wheeler, Midori, Wiley and Judge Browning for their help.
The program, she said, made her a better person. It made her stronger and able to think more clearly. She intends to open her own business soon.
Judge Browning reminded the graduate that everyone has good days and bad days. If there are times when she needs to reach out, she should not hesitate to call Gibson to connect her with assistance.
This device is at the entrance to the Levy County Courthouse, for judicial matters. It can read a person temperature as a method to detect if they have a fever. A fever is a significant symptom of COVID-19, however people can show no symptoms and still have the disease and be contagious. Face masks are required in the judicial section of the courthouse. Keeping six feet apart is another requirement in that part of the Levy County Courthouse. The Eighth Judicial Circuit courts have implemented methods to keep employees and members of the public as safe as possible during the COVID-19 global pandemic. (Photographer Jeff M. Hardison can be seen as the device has a camera to help the person be close enough for it to read the temperature. The journalist had a normal temperature.)
Williston shows progress;
Potential exists to become
future tiny house hub of the Southeast
In this screen shot from the meeting as it was broadcast on YouTube.com live on Tuesday night are (from left) City Councilman Elihu Ross, City Councilwoman Debra Jones, Mayor Jerry Robinson, Council President Justin Head and Council Vice President Marguerite Robinson.
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 22, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.
WILLISTON – The piece of property that is clearly representative of slum and blight, and is known as the “old Winn-Dixie property” in Williston, shows the potential five years from now in becoming the hub for tiny houses in the Southeast, according to what was said and done at the Tuesday night (Sept. 22) regular Williston City Council meeting.
Matt Crandall was attending the meeting via a Go To Meeting ap that was instituted by former City Manager Scott Lippmann after the COVID-10 global pandemic caused governmental entities to be creative in finding methods for public participation.
Other people could watch that meeting live via YouTube.com, and even in the past by searching for it on YouTube.com.
Crandall is a developer who already has created a small house resort section in Williston near the center of town. If his intended purchase of the “old Winn-Dixie property” on State Road 121 (1050 N.E. Sixth Blvd.) reaches closing during the week of Oct. 19 as he hopes, or relatively soon thereafter, then he will move forward with “Year One” of his plan for the future scene of tiny houses, tiny retail outlets, tiny establishments for short-term lodging and a tiny entertainment venue at that scene, which some people now call “Zombieville.”
In the first year of his ownership of that property, Crandall said, he will begin cleaning it. That process is currently set to begin on Jan. 1, 2021 and it will be cleared enough to start the next phase of development by Dec. 31, 2021, he said.
Tuesday night, Crandall said he visited a tiny-themed community just as is planning to build. It was in Copenhagen. This place impressed him, and he said the idea for tiny-themed locations is spreading in Europe.
He believes when this potential future project of his is completed, it will draw visitors from Ocala and Gainesville, and from all around the United States of America.
Williston could become “a tiny house hub” -- a center of the tiny house universe in the Southeast United States, Crandall said.
As for the property at 1050 N.E. Sixth Blvd., Crandall said he intends to clean it and develop it over the next five years. It will become a multiuse facility that will include tiny retail, tiny residences, tiny lodging and a tiny entertainment venue.
A Williston Code Enforcement lien of $91,500 could have been a deal breaker for Crandall to purchase the property from its current owner – who has shown zero interest in bringing the property into compliance over the past many years, and hence has accumulated such a huge total of code enforcement fines – resulting in the lien.
After about an hour of discussion by newly-elected City Council President Justin Head, newly-elected Vice President Marguerite Robinson, City Councilman Elihu Ross and City Councilwoman Debra Jones, as well as proper legal advice (with no advocating for the municipal leaders to make one choice or another) City Attorney Frederick L. Koberlein Jr., there was a motion and second, and a vote.
The motion calls for Crandall to pay 5 percent of the lien plus some expenses. That is seen now in the range of $5,273 plus $698 for a total of about $6,000 rather than $90,000-plus.
The motion met with a 3-1 vote. Councilman Ross voted against it. Councilman Charles Goodman was absent. Also absent was Interim City Manager Dennis Strow, who took his wife on a short trip out of Florida for vacation.
President Head clearly has said more than once his view regarding the city imposing fines for code violations and the tools to bring owners into compliance.
Head does not want the city to own property via foreclosure. He wants the City Council to establish a better procedure, too, so that a $5,000 lot does not accumulate a $10,000 lien from unpaid fines.
The City Council president repeatedly has said the goal is to bring property into compliance with municipal codes. Fines, liens and foreclosure are tools to reach that result.
Meanwhile, in this instance, the problem went so long in time that it reached the point where it did. That is why he recommend the 5 percent solution for this case.
Meanwhile, City Planner has reported more than once to the City Council her plan to present options for revising the current process. She did not have anything ready to present on Tuesday night but again said she is working on it. Tuesday night she intimated that she had gathered other cities’ methods in this activity.
Some people may argue that the city gave away some tens of thousands of dollars in fines via a 95 percent lien forgiveness. If Crandall does not close on the sale of the property, the lien still exists. He will pay his share at closing of the sale of this property to him, according to what was said and recorded during the regular meeting.
As for anyone buying that property with the lien on it, there has been no action in that direction.
Meanwhile, the city is moving forward with the potential to create a new economic engine in Williston. Crandall’s tiny house resort already provides new jobs for five people.
Crandall promised to clean up the property before the end of 2021.
After getting it to this point, where it can be productive, the development will create jobs for builders to start. When the venues open, then there will be new sustainable jobs created, Crandall said.
He is seeing this future project as creating “significantly more jobs” than the five he established already at the tiny houses resort, located at Northeast First Street and Second Avenue in Williston.
The vote to approve the lien reduction upon his closing the deal with the current owners of the “old Winn-Dixie property,” and conditioned upon him bringing it into compliance with municipal codes before Dec. 31, 2021, was passed 3-1 with Councilman Ross casting the dissenting vote.
Candlelight vigil held
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
at Levy County Courthouse
Candles and flowers are placed on the steps of the county courthouse.
Photo and Information Provided By Deborah Goad
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 20, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.
BRONSON – A candlelight vigil was held Saturday night (Sept. 19) to honor United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (March 15, 1933 – Sept. 18, 2020).
People who were at the candlelight ceremony on the Levy County Courthouse steps Saturday night are seen here.
Photo by Deborah Goad
Justice Ginsburg, who was 87 when she passed away after fighting cancer for about two decades.
Justice was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 14, 1993.
She had served since Aug. 10, 1993. Ginsburg became the second of four female justices to be confirmed to the Court after Sandra Day O'Connor. The two female United States Supreme Court Justices were Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan
There were several speakers at the event in Bronson -- on the Levy County Courthouse steps, which included flowers being laid and candle being lit in her honor. The event came together relatively quickly after the first thought to have it was mentioned.
Kathy Johnson spoke about Ginsburg’s contributions to women’s rights. Johnson reviewed Ginsburg’s rise through the years in her career, from graduating college to the Supreme Court.
Brandon Peters, the Florida Voter Protection director for Biden-Harris campaign, addressed the gathering.
Peters reminded the audience that Justice Ginsburg was Jewish and that Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began on Friday at sundown. He offered the traditional Hebrew New Year’s greeting of “L’Shanah Tovah.”
As noted in “The meaning of the traditional New Year wishes,”
By Menachem Posner, Shanah Tovah means “good year,” with no context. In “L'Shanah Tovah,” the "L" is a Hebrew preposition that corresponds in this case to the English preposition "for," and the context is the greeting "May you be inscribed for a good year!"
Peters noted that in the Jewish tradition, a person who dies during Rosh Hashanah is considered to be a person of great righteousness. He stated that the Hebrew death blessing “Baruch Dayan HaEmet” means “Blessed is the One True Judge,” and according to research beyond Peters’ statement, this is a phrase recited upon receiving bad tidings, especially news of a person's passing.
Peters concluded with an acknowledgement of Justice Ginsburg’s contribution to American jurisprudence.
“She fought each and every day for the same principles that we hold dear,” Peters said, “so that this nation would one day realize the aspiration of its Pledge of Allegiance – liberty and justice for all.”
Jessie Caudill spoke.
“I was raised in Chiefland,” Caudill said. “The concept of ‘gender equality’ was not something I was fully aware of, and feminism was only the butt of jokes – never a serious topic of discussion.”
It was not until college when Caudill saw the impact of this woman on American history and justice.
“Her unapologetic demand for fairness and equality, regardless of sex, was refreshing and inspiring,” Caudill said. “I will forever be grateful for her image on my own self-image and worth. She spent almost three decades on the Supreme Court fighting to make the lives of others better and more just.”
Among the other thoughts that Caudill shared on this somber occasion was that every person should do all they can to honor the legacy of Ginsburg “… to fight tooth and nail” for the replacement Justice appointed to this honorable post to be “someone of equal character, intellect and empathy.”
Deborah Goad’s 9-year-old granddaughter Emma Goad spoke during the event.
While she appeared to be nervous to speak in front of others, Emma Goad was adamant to share the following statement.
“She was a good person,” Emma said. “She made the world a better place.”
Man to be offered
city manager job;
Council president resigns post
Williston City Council President Charles Goodman (in red, at right) looks away from Mayor Jerry Robinson and toward City Councilwoman Debra Jones and others on that side of the dais as he speaks about his dismay regarding Mayor Robinson. Later in this meeting, President Goodman resigned his post as president purely because he would not serve in that capacity as long as Robinson was mayor. Goodman was very displeased by the mayor’s alleged statement to a TV reporter about the Black Lives Matter movement, and about the mayor’s negotiating with the next city manager to possibly be hired by the city. On another matter from this meeting, about three of the 25 or so people in the meeting room wore masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. At least three people were coughing in the room, and they were not the ones wearing masks. Leaders in Levy County are not leading by example to reduce the spread of COVID-19. There are known active cases of COVID-19 in Levy County now. Some people appear to believe all of the active cases have been detected and those people are isolated. That is not correct. People visit Levy County from other places, too. This is a dangerous and very contagious disease that accounts for a global pandemic – which reaches even into rural America. Two people from the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties just became hospitalized from COVID-19 in the most recent 24-hour reporting period, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 16, 2020 at 1:10 a.m.
WILLISTON – Andrew E. Hyatt of Duval County will be given a written contractual offer to start the job as the next Williston city manager after a relatively interesting emergency meeting of the Williston City Council Tuesday night (Sept. 15).
In this photo, Williston City Council Vice President Justin Head (hidden mostly from view of the audience by a big notebook computer screen) is at the left. Meanwhile, Mayor Jerry Robinson looks toward the audience as President Charles Goodman tells Councilwoman Debra Jones (to his left) about his being bothered by the manner in which the City Council went about negotiating with the next city manager for Williston. Goodman made his very unfavorable opinion of the mayor’s alleged comment to a TV reporter regarding racial inequality made known during this meeting. The mayor said nothing about his feelings or lack of feelings regarding the Black Lives Matter movement during this emergency City Council meeting held to work toward hiring the next city manager in Williston.
Hyatt will be given an offer with a starting salary of $85,00o a year as well as a significant benefits package, after a 4-1 vote in favor of that action.
On a motion by City Council President Charles Goodman, seconded by City Councilwoman Debra Jones, the City Council voted 4-1 to approve offering Hyatt the job via the contract the City Council finalized Tuesday night.
Although Goodman made the motion to approve the offer, he was the lone dissenter voting against making the offer to Hyatt.
When Jones asked Goodman why he voted “No,” he said he would explain that very soon. He then announced that he resigned effective immediately as the Williston City Council president – although he intended to serve as a member of the Council.
Goodman said in no mistaken terms that he would not serve as president with Mayor Jerry Robinson in office as the mayor.
Goodman then said, “Meeting adjourned” and he exited the meeting room. Then Jones started speaking to the mayor about him going to offer Hyatt the job.
City Attorney Frederick L. Koberlein Jr. was asked what to do since Goodman resigned as president and he adjourned the meeting. Koberlein said he would conduct research instantly to determine if Goodman had the power to adjourn without a motion and second to do so.
Within some number of minutes, Koberlein found the answer.
Citing The Florida Municipal Officials' Manual: A publication of the Florida Institute of government in cooperation with the Florida League of Cities, the city attorney explained the situation.
A motion to adjourn, Koberlein said, is a privileged motion. Therefore, unless the time to adjourn is set at the outset of the meeting, then a motion to adjourn (and a second and a vote) can be made at anytime during the meeting. The attorney noted there was no motion to adjourn, nor a proper second, nor a majority vote in favor of adjournment.
While outgoing President Goodman “adjourned” the meeting, Koberlein intimated, his action was not binding on the other four members of the City Council that Tuesday night.
City Council Vice President Justin Head took the gavel and resumed the meeting.
Jones then asked who would present the final contract to Hyatt for his consideration to accept or reject. By a 4-0 vote, the City Council decided after some discussion that since the mayor had established some level of rapport with the potential future city manager, he should go as the city’s representative in this regard.
The City Council also sought to have Hyatt understand that it would like him to begin his job at the city as soon as possible, although it mentioned that it can be no later than the last week in October.
Koberlein assured the mayor that the final document would be ready to present within a couple of hours after 8 a.m. on Wednesday (Sept. 16). Therefore, Mayor Robinson could tell candidate Hyatt to anticipate the document to be ready for his signature before noon tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 16).
The resolution required for adoption by the City Council, Koberlein added, is ready for the next regular meeting of the City Council. That meeting starts at 6 p.m. on Sept. 22 in City Hall.
As for outgoing President Goodman, he opened the meeting with a strong speech in which he expressed his dismay and disgust with Mayor Robinson on two fronts. First, he felt the mayor should not be the man who negotiated with the city manager candidate alone; second, Goodman said the mayor’s comment about Black Lives Matter was not reflexive of the City Council as a whole or of the City of Williston, and especially not of Goodman himself.
In one story by a TV reporter from a Gainesville station, Mayor Robinson reportedly said "I don't support the Black Lives Matter movement, period. All lives matter. You can quote me on that."
As he opened the meeting, President Goodman said beyond how taken aback he was by Mayor Robinson offering $85,000 as a starting salary after Hyatt rejected $77,500 to start. Goodman said in no uncertain terms that he felt Robinson overstepped his authority.
Later in the meeting, Goodman learned that the other four City Council members Vice President Head, Councilwoman Jones, Councilman Elihu Jones and Councilwoman Marguerite Robinson had given Mayor Robinson that authority during a meeting Goodman missed.
Mayor Robinson, according to the City Charter, has no vote. Yet in ranking the candidates for city manager he was given an equal vote with the five City Council members.
Also, according to the City Charter, the City Council hires the city manager. Mayor Robinson is married to Councilwoman Robinson, and this has been researched to determine there is no conflict of interest because of the differing duties of the two offices.
As for Mayor Robinson allegedly saying "I don't support the Black Lives Matter movement, period. All lives matter. You can quote me on that," that lit a fire under President Goodman to call the mayor out in public at the meeting.
Past and recent events have led the United States of America and Williston to a place of deep reflection, Goodman said early in the emergency meeting called to possibly choose a city manager.
This has led, unfortunately, to polarization, Goodman said.
The City Council and the Williston Police Department have taken proactive steps to ensure “peace, prosperity and unity in our community,” Goodman said. And yet, unrest has found the easternmost city of Levy County.
Goodman said he was one of five children raised by a single mother in a nearly entirely minority neighborhood.
“I have seen firsthand the cruelty systematic racism has and visits on the minority community,” Goodman said.
While some people may learn these lessons in the classrooms, Goodman acquired this insight by living in that environment – in his day-to-day life as a child and teen. He saw it in the small diner where his mother worked, and he saw it during the integration of public schools.
Like so many from the minority community, Goodman answered the call to arms during the Vietnam War. He was wounded in battle in that war.
“There – the color of our skin was unimportant,” Goodman said. “We were a band of brothers, black and white – simply trying to survive a war that the privileged easily avoided.”
He joined in the fight during that war when he was 18. He reconciled in his mind and spirit the differences that social class, color and education would mean to his own success and to the success of those around him.
“Let me state my position very clearly,” Goodman said, “as has been done by other members of this body. Black lives matter. And there are systematic and tragic consequences to so many not understanding that.
“When I say, ‘Black lives matter,’” Goodman continued, “It does not mean that blue lives don’t matter. It doesn’t mean that white lives don’t matter. It means that as a person who lived through the segregation -- that each of us and the country as a whole must come to terms with the fact that our past should not dictate our future.
“No citizen in our community should ever fear law enforcement,” Goodman said. “And no law enforcement officer should ever be presumed to be racist without evidence.”
Goodman believes city leaders must work tirelessly to remove racism from the community. Every person in the community should be able to pursue their goals in “a safe, unified community that recognizes an individual based on their contributions” to the community.
There should be no discrimination against any person based on the color of their skin. Race, gender or any factors beyond the content of a person’s character are not to be considered in this city, Goodman said.
“Due to the statement of a single member of our governing body,” Goodman said as he made reference to what the mayor said in regard to black lives mattering, “myself and others within the city of Williston have received threats on our lives. Calls to resign. And we have been accused, I believe wrongly, of being complacent in the disparagement of our minority community.”
Goodman reminded all listeners that each person in the city government is an individual.
“I do not believe that a handful of individuals looting during a protest means that the entire protest itself is unlawful or immoral,” Goodman said.
For the city to grow and prosper,” Goodman is calling upon others to see each member of the city government with an open mind. The words and actions of one member of city government, does not constitute agreement by all members of that body, Goodman reminded people who think.
Goodman fought for the right of all Americans to be able to exercise free speech and he embraces American freedoms fully.
Still, Goodman intimated that he has, in this instance, been forced to suffer from words he did not utter and words with which he does not agree.
The member of City Council sees the city as a wonderful community. It is full of diversity in businesses and in opinions. He encourages discussion – and a peaceful meeting of minds to heal the wounds that are causing decay and degeneration from the essence of brotherhood that can exist when people unite.
As for Goodman’s choice to resign from his job as president of City Council, but to remain as a councilman, City Clerk Latricia Wright is now tasked with placing on the agenda this required action by the City Council to choose a new president, and if Vice President Head is chosen as president, then also to choose a new vice president.
The annual wage for a Williston City Council member or vice president is $2,400. The annual wage for a Williston City Council president is $3,000. The annual wage for a Williston mayor is $3,000, according to records. Each of those six people also enjoy a relatively minor amount of value in annual benefits, with the City Council members and vice president scoring another $184 annually, and the president and mayor netting another $230 a year in benefits, according to records.
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127th Jingle Singers
This is (from left) Johnette Ross, Carmen Tozzo and Stacey Peters singing the HardisonInk.com jingle on Sept. 26, 2020 in Chiefland. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to email@example.com. He asks people to sing the jingle, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!)
CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO SEE THE VIDEO ON YouTube.c0m.
Published Sept. 26, 2020 @ 1:10 p.m.
© Photo and Video by Jeff M. Hardison, All Rights Reserved