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Nancy Smith

Walton County Commission Forks over $1,000 so a Lame-Duck Commissioner Can Publicly Humiliate Sen. Passidomo

September 14, 2018 - 6:00am
Mike Huckabee, Kathleen Passidomo and Cecilia Jones
Mike Huckabee, Kathleen Passidomo and Cecilia Jones

It's not quite as painful as Cersei's walk of shame through the streets of King's Landing, but, by God, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples and Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole, D-Plantation are walking down those cold, stone steps -- figuratively speaking -- every day of the week.

They get email. They get phone calls, they get texts and letters, and they get slammed across all platforms of social media.
 
All because they introduced HB 631, a bill dealing with customary use -- public access to private beachfront property. The intent of the new law is to allow customary use practices to continue, but in a way that is more transparent, efficient and cost-saving while requiring active dialogue between local governments and private property owners. The idea was to avoid costly legal challenges.

I Beg to DifferThe walk of shame is going to escalate for Passidomo. 

She's about to be publicly humiliated at the 2018 Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association conference in Clearwater Sept. 19-21 when Walton County Commissioner Cecilia Jones calls her out in front of the whole assemblage. All paid for by Walton County taxpayers.

Certainly it's an indication of the County Commission's position generally. Incumbent Jones was defeated at the polls in August. She only has six more weeks to serve. Yet, the rest of the commission voted 4-0 over the Taxpayers Association's objection to send her and her good friend, Commissioner Tony Anderson,  to the conference -- at $1,000 each.

Jones argued she deserves to attend. After all, she said,  she was the commissioner who spearheaded the customary use movement. (None of the commissioners suggested, at least on the record, that Jones' crusade for repeal of HB 631 might have been instrumental in her August defeat.)

"The lady that sponsored the bill (Passidomo) is going to be there and I'd like to look her straight in the eyes and tell her what chaos and what havoc she's caused in Walton County," Jones announced. "That we have neighbors fighting with neighbors and that we really don't appreciate someone from South Florida meddling in Walton County business." (A clip from the meeting is shown below, or can be seen here.)

Commissioner Jones doesn't think a state senator should "meddle" outside her district? Really? Where did she go to school? This is high school civics stuff.

My guess is, Jones will bomb at the conference because Passidomo will use it as an opportunity to explain, as she always does when challenged, why 631 is a bill that actually will strengthen customary use.

Incidentally, Edwards-Walpole, who fields her share of abuse -- but still listens and replies "to help people understand the law" -- is not attending the conference. "I wasn't invited," she told me Thursday night.

Astounding, at least to me, is that the two ringleaders for HD 361 repeal, restaurateur Dave Rauschkolb and attorney Dan Uhlfelder, imply to followers, the media, anyone who will listen, that "an email exchange" between Passidomo and powerful former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is the "smoking gun" behind a plot that will lead to the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declaring customary use unconstitutional.

I think Dave and Dan have looked into so many cameras since July, they have Hollywood delusions: One day they'll make a movie and tell our story! 

But, I ask you, do Huckabee and Passidomo sound like a pair of plotters to you?

Huckabee in his Jan. 17 email: "I'm one of those beachfront owners whose title goes to the mean high water line (the wet sand)," he wrote to Passidomo on Jan. 17. The email followed a number of entirely transparent committee meetings at the Capitol, most of them televised on The Florida Channel. "Walton Co. taxes me on that property and I pay handsomely for it! I actually don't mind people who simply want to enjoy the beach and certainly not walk on or past. … What beachfront owners object to is illegal taking of taxed and titled property without compensation or even consideration. In fact, we are demonized as 'greedy, selfish and rich' owners who want to deprive the poor of their 'rights.' ..."

Passidomo in her response: "Thank you for a detailed and thoughtful email to my Senate website. ... She then agreed with his assessment that, “when dealing with a government taking of private property for public use, neither the state nor local government has the right to do so without a judicial determination.” (Did I miss something? Was that some fiendishly clever code for "You can count on me to take their beaches away, Mike"? )

Huckabee in a Jan. 19 email to Passidomo: “The county is spending my tax money to take my property, and then I have to spend additional money to fight them to keep it from happening. I’m grateful for your efforts. It’s not a political issue in my mind but a constitutional one. Either private property rights mean something or they don’t."

Actually, you can see and click on the full email exchange, which Passidomo provided in an attachment just below this story.

"I am happy to provide all my emails to reporters who ask for them," Passidomo told me. "I answer everybody who writes to me, the ones who like what I've done like Mike Huckabee, and the ones who tell me I would make a better cleaning lady. I like people to know their comments were heard."

Passidomo also provides on her website a full explanation of how she came to work on 631 and present the bill to the Senate. Cecilia Jones might want to dial that up before next week when she leaves for Clearwater.

If Huckabee had emailed before the committee meetings, before the bill was first discussed, there wouldn't be so many people today laughing at the notion of a conspiracy theory.  Nevertheless ...

Rauschkolb, after he saw Huckabee's email: “This is simply proof after months of speculation that Gov. Mike Huckabee used his considerable political influence to push for Florida House Bill 631. Gov. Huckabee, who, after only being a resident for a short time, quickly found his way into coordinated actions along with a small number of beachfront owners and lawyers.”

This is how Dave wants to characterize the issue, to keep it alive. He insults people's intelligence.

Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News confronted Huckabee directly, asking how much involvement he had in 631. 

“The extent was doing what you see,” he told the reporter in an email sent soon after the question was posed. “Sending an email like any other voter can do.

“If the critics accuse me of some ‘big’ role, don’t they think I’d have better access than the public response form on a senator’s website?” Huckabee asked. “That’s just how ridiculous the misinformation has been. And the bill does not prevent customary use. It just ensures that it isn’t adjudicated by the same body that legislates it. It’s a pretty straightforward constitutional separation of powers issue.”

On Thursday morning, Rauschkolb, the man many in Walton County call "the Irony Poster Boy," the man working hard to make all beaches public while he lives in a private, gated beachfront community --  displayed a photo on a Facebook site (and displayed on this page) that sums up the complexity of Walton County history and the kind of baloney the Dave-and-Dan team  peddle: an artsy shot in a gated community ... of a private boardwalk ... to a private beach ... over a "public" coastal dune lake. A sight perfect for Dave, but the rest of us? Not so privileged. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Sunshine State News has removed the photo referenced here from readers' view at the request of Rauschkolb's attorney, David Pleat. The child shown is Rauschkolb's daughter. Though SSN is not legally obligated to do so -- Rauschkolb uses his children regularly on public Facebook pages and they appear with him in TV news stories -- SSN nevertheless has extended this courtesy to the Rauschkolb family.)

Sen. Passidomo, steel yourself. Cecilia Jones will have come a long way to get in your face. I don't think you can say anything to change her mind but I don't think you'll stop trying. Good luck.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith 
   

Comments

Is this not about the lame duck commissioner, C. Jones? She is worthless and a majority of the voting residents (registered voters), clearly agree. Focus should be on her removal from office and allowing the ELECTED candidate a forum for their opinion as he clearly has a path to potentially solve this problem. While I don't subscribe to his theory 100%, his is better than anyone else has provided and should be looked into. Bye C. Jones, good riddance. Please don't try to get a county job, although you'd probably do a better job than Sid does now... :) County Employees are very happy now!

Focus should be on the removal of Larry Jones, the George Soros of customary use in Walton county. He's spent the last decade and then some plotting to get rid of private beaches in Walton county and making them all public. Investigate this clown and you will find a clear misuse of public office.

I like the lead on this. I'll be certain to follow up. Thank you.

I believe this characterizes our situation adequately and offers solutions whether our County is awarded renewed Customary Use or not. ACCESS AND USE, CONVENIENCE ADVANTAGES AND SOLUTIONS FOR HOUSEKEEPING ON THE BEACH This issue is based on the difference between access and use. In most privately held areas access to the beach is controlled just like in Seaside, Rosemary, Watersound, Watercolor & Alys and others. Use is a different thing all together which is causing all the hullabaloo over Customary Use. The perception problem I see with the private beach advocates is this: "if I own the access, I own the beach." I say they are two different things entirely and the problem arises when one group perceives them to be together and another group sees them as separate. Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Watersound, Alys and others all have accesses that are private, meaning they control the "easy" access to the beaches; they are the closest to guest homes and parking. Each street has an access for convenience much in the same way Seagrove Beach was designed by Cube McGee. Unlike in Seaside, Cube in the 1940s kept the access public and the beach was and most of it still is deeded for public use. Having an easy access is premium. The fact about going to the beach is, most people just don't want to lug all their beach stuff in the sand more than say, 50 yards. In Seaside, Robert Davis has chosen, for the past 40 years to allow public access to town center. That access is a positive element when you purchased because "it accommodated all."; I believe the public town center access is good for our town. Again, we are talking about "access." In these instances where privately held towns/resorts have private access it is bought and paid for; it is the most convenient for that reason. In most all of these towns you have to either be staying there or own there to access the beach conveniently. Public access is an element of wonderful beach towns all around the world and Seaside, thankfully is no different. Part of what makes Seaside exceptional is it's town center public access. Watersound, where I live has the closest public access at Deer Lake State Park just towards the western boundary of Watersound. The closest public access on the east is about a half mile east of the Peninsula gate at Watersound on the other side of the lake bridge. Non residents and tourists do come to Watersound but not too often because it is a long walk. Roughly 65 feet of sandy beach is dedicated to the public in Watersound and all St. Joe properties due to a land deal with the State in the 80's. So, even now Watersound is a public beach with predominantly private access but a large area of the sandy beach is open to the public for sharing if they take the walk. The beach chairs are only usable by renters, homeowners, beach club members or both. Anyone my set up and enjoy the normal customary beach activities anyone would participate in at Watersound Beach. We all know Rosemary Beach and Aly's all have combination locks at all town beach accesses except from the nearest public access. Since HB631 folks may only walk in the wet sand in Rosemary, Alys and the parts of Seaside away from the town center public access area. Now let's discuss use. Because I am a proponent of Customary Use, I believe that anyone who may access the beach from a public access point may use the beach as people customarily have for centuries. Once they are on the beach they may traverse east or west on any part of the sandy beach and enjoy the beach wherever they please provided they are willing to walk that far with all their stuff. Beach vendors used to take orders for chairs and placed them individually for each call wherever the renter wished. At the end of the day they picked up the chairs. It was a clean transaction; drop off, pickup and get paid. They did not take over large swaths of the beaches with unattended beach chairs like they do now; I expect that is about to change. And my hope is Customary Use will prevail so we may go back to the way we have alway used the beaches until July 1, 2018 when HB631 went into effect. I contend that all these towns including Seaside have a geographic advantage or rather, a convenience advantage. Remember I said people don't like to lug their stuff more than 50 yards? It is well documented that the areas where conflict occurs regarding use are the sandy parts of the beaches closest to public accesses. Rosemary Beach's E & W border streets, Seaside's E & W border Streets, Blue Mountain Beach, Ed Walline Beach access, etc....the concern and conflicts mostly happen in these areas because you have the public moving on to the beaches behind private homes that border the public access. I would contend that the interior homes that are more than 100 yards from the public accesses have fewer issues if at all. People just don't have the proclivity to walk long distances to go to a specific beach. So, those beachfront owners who bought near a public access should have known people would be using the beach behind their homes. They had the option of buying an interior home with more seclusion but they did not. Many of those folks, the border folks, are the loudest voices pushing for private beaches. I say if you buy a home right next to a cow pasture...well, then get used to the cows. Buyer beware. Pretty simple. We are not hearing so much complaining from the folks in the more secluded areas away from public accesses. I was in Hanalei Bay on Kauai with my wife some years ago and we stayed at the Princeville Resort. There was a public access around the property to accommodate the public to get to the beach. It was a long walk that most did not take except for the surfers wanting to surf the bay. If you stayed at the resort you had "private access" which was more convenient and provided the privilege of beach chairs and other amenities tied to the resort. The locals and tourists came to the beach by a nearby, bordering public walkway. They had to carry their stuff and were not permitted to rent or use the beach chairs as they were not staying at the resort. They were permitted to use the beach though and set up with their own stuff if they wished. Very few ever did because the resort had a geographic advantage and people had to park and walk a long way to get there. They both shared the resource but with fair ground rules everyone understood. Different access but shared use. Private access on the one hand, Public access on the other. Shared use. Simple, fair and equitable. Lastly, I suggest, whether CU is re-instated or not, to regulate behavior, be proactive and educate beachgoers we should expand the army of TDC paid Beach Ambassadors. They would be uniformed and trained in public relations on the acceptable Walton County beach do's and dont's. All the current volunteers led brilliantly by Laurie Reichenbach could and should be paid positions. I suggested this program to the County, TDC and Sheriff almost two year ago. Through the partnership of a group of dedicated volunteers and paid TDC staff the program is excellently working to help address behavioral complaints from homeowners and inform the beachgoing public. The irony is, I first suggested that program idea to help address behavior complaints from Beachfront owners and since HB631 they may no longer use and traverse most private beaches to do what they were meant to do. I suggest breaking out all of the Walton County Beaches into 3 separate sectors with 3 phone numbers. Each team of Ambassadors would work the beaches 24/7 on some acceptable, small vehicle. Electric would be best because they are quiet. These Ambassadors would respond to Beachfront owners concerns about behavior behind their homes. They would call a Beach Ambassador instead of the Sheriff if someone got out of line. If it escalated then the Sheriff would be called. Mostly they would be helpful, friendly, welcoming ambassadors of our community. Keeping an eye out for deep turtle hole diggers, encouraging safety and informing the public. Occasionally they might be needed to usher someone off the dunes or a private walkover. This program is already working; let's make it really work for beachfront owners and us all.

Thoughtful write up with a clarification. Watersound from Passages to Bridges, has almost a mile of beach. Since our beach club is membership only, haven't been too concerned about this controversy. Otherwise David makes some great points in how to move forward for beaches with public access.

Yes, but you see, prior to your subdivision being built, my family and I customarily used "your" beach. Now you have cut us off from using it by eliminating the customary access we were used to go for decades. Thanks...

The county needs to make all who cut off our beach pay $$$ for public access so people don't have to walk so far (disabled persons need to sue!!!!). Unfair that the rich get to control who can use the beach :(

Yes, agree. Let's start with Watersound.

Excuse me? Dave Rauschkalb’s attorney is David Pleat? The same lawyer representing Rosemary in its fight to keep its private beach? This is all getting more hilarious than a Carl Hiaasen novel.

What Rauschkolb clearly needs to do for his following groupies is to stop showing pretty pictures and explain that they are no kidding suing all property owners in court and what the process is actually going to look like. Each property owner will be a defendant in litigation. Each owner will be served a legal complaint listing themselves as the defendant right around Thanksgiving. They will be required to go out an hire an attorney, pay many thousands of dollars each to defend themselves. They don't get to use taxpayer money like the CU plaintiffs do - they will forced to use their own money. Money that might have been earmarked for retirement, starting a business, kids college, medical bills, taking care of sick parents, you name it --- that money is going to defend their property which they did nothing, but were targeted and attacked by CU leaders to gain control through a false narrative, whipping up public animosity, then demanding the strong arm of the county take unlimited actions to gain legal rights to their property and hand them over to the public. These Rauschkolb groupies wonder why these defendants just aren't happy about all this, and fighting back. So mean! Why are the defendants upset when these CU hippies are out there singing songs, wearing t-shirts and peddling affidavits, placing visitors rights above theirs and proud of it. They point to the defendants and wonder "Why are you so greedy, selfish and mean? Why don't you want to go through with this? Don't you want the process to continue?" Are you kidding? These CU groups have done nothing but rabble rouse, I don't see any of them taking out thousands of dollars from their family's pocket - no not one dime - because they have big brother county government do their dirty work for them. This is the problem, the CU groupies are completely disconnected and insulated from the actions they are taking against these defendants. They have literally no skin in the game, no understanding of what they are really doing, they risk nothing and they lose nothing, they are being hustled and are just happy to be part of the in-crowd, the popular clique. But this isn't a poker game, this is very real and very serious. HB631 should be amended that a grand jury is required to determine if there is enough to move forward, rather than a bunch of hippies and socialists who want to play ultra high stakes poker not with their own money but with millions of other people's money, backing 5,000 defendants into a corner through mob rule. CU advocates should have to pay for the defendant's attorney's fees if they lose in court - period. Florida Beaches for All should be made to put up a judicial bond. They went around collecting affidavits as if they were the county government? Well the same people should have to walk up to each property owner and serve them the legal complaint and say "I am your neighbor - I am suing you - see you in court." Sadly we know many of them would jump at the chance to stick it to the retired property owner. In this nation everyone has a right to face their accuser, these brave community organizers should at least have the guts to face all of us - to stand in front of us - look us in the eye, one on one. Instead they are allowed to operate as a mob with torches and get the Big Brother county to do their bidding.

When you stick to the facts you make sense. Shorter posts please. You can get your message across in 80% less words.

Man dude, you are unhinged.

Watch out Senator. This nice Christian lady will probably do the same thing she did to me. She will call you a B..., then tell you you are a Jezebel (The one they threw out the window and killed) And then she will tell you that she see evil spirits coming out of you. She will repeat that several times. Then she will run to her “handler” Blue boy and sic him on you and your family.

Cindy (Meadows) former County Commissioner - why didn’t you report any of that to law enforcement? Is PART of it because you were acting the same way? The video archives are full of video of you acting the same. Stop blaming your Reelection loss on Cecilia Jones. Now she has lost too. Because That is not how we want our guv reps to act. Grow up.

Bye, bye C. Jones. History will show you as one of, if not the Worst!

Ding *** the wicked witch is dead.

Great article, you continue to show what's really going on. We can't depend on our local newspapers - they are either in bed with the customary over density zealots and write crazy pieces like "Beach property is worthless" (where the whole they don't pay taxes myth now a talking point originated). Or they just stay neutral, never any investigative journalism. And all the underground mob is operating under the cloak of private social media groups. So the real underbelly and the actors pouring gasoline on the civil war and egging it on are never exposed until these articles appeared. All Dave Rauschkolb could do was faux outrage was that a photo, that he himself posted on Facebook to 5,000 people was used in the article. In all other cases, Dave and Daniel parade their children to the press, they take them to breakfast to wait for the media at a political stop. He didn't want it this time because the narrative was not the usual bouquet of flattery and cheer leading that he normally expects and receives. Keep these articles coming. David Rauschkolb needs to own up and take responsibility for igniting this civil war and apologize in public. Cease his underground deep web cyber operation against those who won't surrender to his crusading campaign of taking control of private beach property and reshaping it into his vision. Dave, Daniel, the Walton Commissioners, Keith Dean/ECAR called down the thunder, well now here it is.

As an out of state property owner that has come down to enjoy my property, I'm getting an education on the "CU" as its being called. Where I never really had an issue with folks, reading, talking and gathering information, especially about these two social organizers has really got me to change my mind and question all this "pubic" use. I'll be sure to share with our other out of town friends that own or have come to visit us as it sounds like an attempt at a power grab, with emotion being the driving force and not facts, or as it may come to be, the letter of the law. As for the ousted BCC Member, we got some of her trash mailings to the house and that's where they went, in the trash. Sounds like a good change for the area. Lets hope so.

Edward - just wondering - do you rent your house out? Serious question. If you do, I’ll post a series of quick questions.

My response was posted, where are your "questions"???

I do rent my home. I just fired my rental management as I've found they have Realtors working on behalf of CU. We will look at making some upgrades now, to include dune preservation fencing. I'm going to look at other options now. Post your Q's and I review for reply.

This site does not alert when Someone replies, so I didn’t know that you had. Anyway, My questions were really just about what kind of trend you’re seeing in your Rental bookings because of this issue and whether you think fellow owners out of state understand that an affidavit is a legal document (in a case that they will be a party to) if the lawyers for the beachfront owners decide to follow the letter of the law. It wasn’t and isn’t a petition, as some are being led to believe. I would like to talk with you about your rental as I can help, not sure how we connect.

Aside from THIS issue, Cecelia Jones has always been a useless Walton Commissioner...so good riddence to her (NOW we have get rid of her protege "Anderson" next election); BOTH of these inept commissioners have caused untold turmoil in order to create 'jobs' umbrella and beach chair venders, which are both causing stress on the beaches. As for Huckabee, Arkansas beckons you, call home,.. then GO HOME (and try to prevent Ark. people from walking river banks..).

Did you mean protege or "partner" -- LOL! Let's face it, we need an entirely new Commission. The September ordinance hearing/non-hearing-because-we-screwed-up-the-notices proved that. That is why people like baby belligerent lawyer Ulfelder and this guy Dave Rauschkalb are getting so much attention. Well at least it is comical on both sides of the issue. They all deserve each other.

Fatcat GOPs just ******* around with one another! NO "private beaches" ... PERIOD!

Simply defined, It is a confusing law that did not need to happen... Bottom line, this party of power near constantly argues for less gov't intrusion, except when it benefits them or those paying their bills... Imagine that.

C. Jones is a lame duck and only wants to try to buffer herself for another run in two years (Dist. 5). She is a worthless commissioner, nasty person and she got beat in the election. Go home C. Jones, go home.

I think you're wrong but appreciate the comment. Why? -because I don't see Mrs. Jones running against the guy she helped put in office and with whom she's had a romantic tyrst.

So you write this repetitious article, since I read almost the same statements on another “news site”, to underscore Dan and Dave for being outspoken in this fight but you say nothing about what it is that they are gaining by doing a thing about it. The article states though that HB631 allows the owners to do as they have been doing and that is delegate who can and cannot be on their dry sand. Which should have never been in on any property assesment since the beach moves in all directions. Huckabee’s home and the dune that he had built should have not been allowed by DEP but somehow the grease got put down for them. Now you bring in Cecilia but can’t spell her name twice the same way or the right way and say she spearheaded CU which is another fact you need to check. The entire article is hit and miss. But mainly an attack on Dan, Dave with the hilarity of adding one of their opponents into the story. Since Dan and Dave helped in Cecilia’s defeat.

Get used to these articles - they are just beginning. Wait until the county SUES 5,000 property owners with all those affidavits who had no idea what they are signing. Wait until they find out they signed up to SUE 5,000 property owners, and that their affidavits are public records, signing under penalties of perjury that they trespassed. You don't someone or some group isn't going to get a hold of all those affidavits and file a CIVIL lawsuit against them? You think there are articles now? Get ready.

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