Fernandina Beach commissioners advised to tone it down after heated debates
Via Wes Wolfe

220316 cofb behavior
Talk calms after contentious Central Park playground discussions.

Passionate feelings about the future of playground equipment at Fernandina Beach’s Central Park has led to acrimonious talk and pointed words, particularly in a February meeting of the City Commission and in the days afterward.

Mayor Mike Lednovich attempted to bring debate back down to a collegial level at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Our chamber lectern is affixed with a quote which reads, ‘Kindness costs so little,’” Lednovich said. “That’s sage counsel from President Abraham Lincoln. In that spirit, commissioners, I respectfully request that we treat one another with dignity, respect, and conduct ourselves in a professional manner. (City Clerk) Caroline (Best) wrote that, and she did a very good job providing me with those thoughts.

“I’ve been frustrated over the past two meetings, because we haven’t done this. If I’m short with you, it’s because we’re not following protocol of when to speak, and sometimes we’re not following protocol on how to speak. We’re better than that. So, I want to remind everyone: I want debate, but I want debate that is centered around facts and around logical arguments. I want to exclude emotionally charged characterizations.”

Weeks earlier, local parents repeatedly voiced their frustrations about the condition of a Central Park playground structure, and a city advisory board voted unanimously for its immediate replacement.

A few commissioners bandied about ideas on possible paths to take, when Lednovich reminded them of the panel’s vote and his opinion that commissioners frequently don’t follow the recommendations of the city’s advisory boards.

Commissioner Chip Ross’ wife sits on that particular board, and he said Lednovich used his influence as Mayor with the board members to push them in the direction he wanted to go.

“Yes, it was 7-0 on that committee, but I can tell you that you had your thumb on the scale,” Ross said to Lednovich at the Feb. 15 meeting. “You were at that meeting advocating something and … pushing that committee. So, it’s not like they, out of the blue, decided to do that. I’ve had conversations with the people on that committee — not just the one that I sleep with — and they felt bullied, to be honest.”

Lednovich said he asked questions of the panel and sought their advice, which he said wasn’t the sort of behavior of a bully.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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