Florida Irma Update

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for the Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach and the Florida Keys.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the Jupiter Inlet southward around the Florida peninsula to Bonita Beach, the Florida Keys, Lake Okeechobee, and Florida Bay.

EVACUATIONS AND SHELTERS
Based on recent forecasts, the US Army Corps has been reviewing how the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike will be impacted. Governor Scott spoke to Col. Jason Kirk with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today and the Corps. believes there will be additional impacts from excessive wind pushing some water over the Dike. While they have assured the Governor that the structural integrity of the Dike will not be compromised, Governor Scott has ordered voluntary evacuations beginning immediately in the cities surrounding the southern half of Lake Okeechobee from Lake Port to Canal Point in Hendry, Palm Beach and Glades counties. Mandatory evacuations will be put in place for these communities beginning tomorrow morning. Information regarding transportation and sheltering will be released tomorrow morning. This decision was made due to Governor Scott’s sole focus on life safety as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida. The seven cities affected by these orders are as follows:
o  South Bay
o  Lake Harbor
o  Pahokee
o  Moore Haven
o  Clewiston
o  Belle Glade
o  Canal Point
Brevard – mandatory evacuations for Zone A, Merritt Island, barrier islands, and some low-lying mainland areas along Indian River Lagoon beginning Friday
Broward – voluntary evacuations mobile homes and low-lying areas; mandatory East of Federal Highway including barrier islands beginning Thursday
Collier – mandatory evacuations for Goodland, Everglades City, Chokoloskee, all mobile homes beginning on Friday
Flagler – mandatory evacuations for nursing homes, all varieties of assisted living facilities, and community residential group homes within coastal and Intracoastal areas and voluntary for zones A, B, C, F beginning on Thursday; mandatory for Zones A,B,C,F, and substandard housing beginning on Saturday
Hendry – voluntary evacuations for low-lying areas, non-slab-built homes, mobile home and RVs beginning on Thursday
Lee – mandatory evacuations for barrier islands – Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Captiva, and Pine Island beginning on Friday AM
Manatee – voluntary evacuations for Zone A
Martin – voluntary evacuations for mandatory for barrier islands, manufactured homes, and low-lying areas beginning Saturday
Miami-Dade – mandatory evacuations for all of Zone A, all of Zone B, and portions of Zone C. Miami Dade residents can find their zones by clicking HERE.
Monroe – mandatory evacuations for visitors and residents. A dedicated transportation hotline is available specifically for individuals in the Keys at 305-517-2480
Palm Beach – mandatory evacuations for Zone A and B, voluntary for Zone C
Pinellas – mandatory evacuations all mobile home and Zone A
St. Lucie – voluntary evacuations
School buses are available for transportation needs in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties. At this time, Monroe has accepted 10 buses to help with evacuations, Miami-Dade Counties are using these services to help evacuate those with special needs and Broward has buses on stand-by.
Additional evacuations are expected throughout the state. All Floridians should pay close attention to local alerts and follow the directions of local officials.
Shelters are continuing to open, including shelters for people with special needs, pets and general populations. DOH is coordinating the set up and staffing for special needs shelters. A list of all open shelters will be available at floridadisaster.org/shelters.
The state is working with the American Red Cross to identify shelter capacity both during and following the storm.

MILITARY SUPPORT
Governor Scott has activated a total of 4,000 members of the Florida Army and Air National Guard to support with planning, and logistics operations in preparation for potential impacts from Hurricane Irma. These members are stationing across the state and actively assisting with preparation efforts.
At the direction of Governor Scott, all remaining National Guard members will be reporting for duty tomorrow morning. Additional guard members will continue to be activated this week as needed.
The Florida National Guard has coordinated with the North Carolina National Guard to utilize air assets to assist with ongoing evacuations in the Florida Keys.
The Florida National Guard has coordinated with the New Jersey National Guard and approximately 130 soldiers and more than 50 vehicles are in route to provide transportation assets for movement of troops, supplies and equipment to aid mobilization efforts during Hurricane Irma operations.
The Florida National Guard has coordinated with the Ohio National Guard and Pennsylvania National Guard to have teams standing by for Hurricane Irma support.
The Florida National Guard has 1,000 high water vehicles, 13 helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators on standby.
The Florida National Guard is coordinating with the National Guard Bureau to identify approximately 30,000 troops, 4,000 trucks, 100 helicopters, and air evacuation crews that are standing by for Hurricane Irma support, if needed.
The Florida National Guard Joint Operations Center at Camp Blanding has activated to Level 1 to facilitate Hurricane Irma mission command and coordination efforts.

LAW ENFORCEMENT;
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has more than 200 officers standing by for the first wave of response based on potential storm impacts. Thirty teams with supporting resources such as trucks, coastal and river patrol boats, an ATV and two shallow draft boats are preparing for evacuation support, search and rescue missions, or any additional needs.
FWC is also coordinating with partners in states such as Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas in case additional officers or resources are needed.
FDLE is assisting with fuel escorts in impacted areas. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) established 18 emergency response teams for deployment to impacted areas and those teams will begin deploying tomorrow to pre-staging locations. Each FDLE region is operating its Regional Law Enforcement Coordination Team in advance of the storm to assist local law enforcement with any needs.
The entire Florida Highway Patrol, approximately 1,700 troopers, is on 12-hour shifts, with the primary mission to assist emergency preparedness and response, including escorting fuel trucks.
A total of 330 FHP troopers are currently on standby for deployments. A 33-member team is currently in route to the Fort Myers area for quick response efforts once storm track and potential impacts are determined. Additionally, equipment such as high water recovery vehicles have been prepared for quick deployment to assist with recovery and road clearance efforts.
The Division of Motorist Services has its Florida Licensing on Wheels (FLOW) mobiles on standby and will deploy them to impacted areas as needed.

TRANSPORTATION & PUBLIC WORKS
Governor Scott directed the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to suspend tolls across the entire State of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Tolls will be suspended for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida.
Real-time traffic information and evacuation routes is available at http://www.FL511.com
FDOT has increased the number of road rangers who are patrolling Florida’s roadways 24/7 to assist motorists.
Around the state, FDOT has 13 Traffic Management Centers where hundreds of DOT workers are monitoring traffic cameras 24/7 to ensure traffic flows continue and evacuations proceed without interruption.
FDOT officials are also monitoring road cameras at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee around the clock to help keep traffic moving.
FDOT is coordinating with Google’s emergency response team to prepare to ‘close’ roads in Google Maps in real time in the event that Hurricane Irma forces the closure of any roads in the aftermath of the storm. Google Maps are used for Uber and Waze among other directional applications.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has suspended construction contractor work and prepared key evacuation routes for possible shoulder use.
·         FDOT is coordinating with county emergency operations centers directly to coordinate any necessary response actions, including activating traffic counters, providing local evacuation support and providing maintenance of traffic and other assistance.

·         The state is monitoring conditions at all airports and seaports. Key West International Airport will be suspending operations this evening. All seaports are open and making preparations.

VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATIONS
Volunteer Florida is coordinating with volunteer organizations across the state and has partnered with the American Red Cross to provide shelter operations training to volunteers and AmeriCorps grantees. To volunteer, go to volunteerflorida.org or call 1-800-FL-Help-1.
Governor Scott has set a goal of 17,000 volunteers. So far, more than 1,500 state employees and more than 8,300 members of the public have signed up with Red Cross to take the volunteer sheltering training.
Volunteer Florida is working with the Red Cross to identify staffing for host shelters in Sarasota, Alachua and Leon Counties.
Volunteer Florida has 43 Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) on standby to deploy to areas of need. Many of these teams have begun to work in local call centers and prepare for sheltering assistance.
American Red Cross teams are coordinating feeding at shelters and have staged 26 tractor trailers at the State Logistics Response Center, 150 trailers at the State Farmers Market, and 100 emergency response vehicles in North Florida.
The Salvation Army has the capability to provide 100,000 meals a day. Salvation Army is on standby with 32 cooking units and two field kitchens stationed in Palm Beach and Miami. They are also coordinating additional supplies awaiting deployment from neighboring states.
The Florida Baptist Convention has eight kitchens ready and the ability to feed 90,000 people immediately. Twenty-seven more kitchens are on standby ready to feed 35,000 meals a day.
Feeding Florida has received nine truckloads of food from Kellogg’s to assist in shelters with 16 additional trucks coming in. Feeding Florida currently has more than 4,000 food boxes on hand capable of sustaining a family of four for five days. Feeding Florida has 3,000 shelf stable meal boxes ready to distribute to staging areas in Miami and Orlando. Volunteers are compiling 20,000 food bags, which hold 20 pounds of food and can be distributed as needed. Feeding Florida also has baby food/formula kits available for distribution.
Church World Service has hygiene kits and cleanup buckets on standby.
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida has showers and trailers available in Pensacola and Lakeland for deployment, as well as supplies such as chainsaws, shovels, safety equipment and 1,200 tarps.
Church of Latter Day Saints has chainsaws, tarps, and water on standby.
United Methodist Church has hygiene kits and flood buckets on standby.
Angel Flight SE has 700 pilots based in the southeastern U.S. available to assist.
Church of Scientology is activating volunteers for FL and receiving volunteers and donations in Clearwater.
Church of Latter Day Saints is transporting material (primarily tarps, chainsaws, food and water) to Orlando, more on order from Atlanta Bishop’s Storehouse
Mission North American Disaster Relief is staging equipment in various locations across the state and have two shower trailers available.
UMCOR has 2,500-3000 flood buckets on hand and 3,000 hygiene kits.
United Way is arranging enhanced staffing for 211 to support and direct residents.

HUMAN SERVICES
While the state is working with retail partners to fill grocery store shelves with water and other emergency resources as quickly as possible, it is important to be considerate of neighbors and take only what each family needs to be prepared.
Governor Scott has requested federal resources such as disaster tarps, water, baby food supplies, supply trucks, search and rescue personnel and equipment and incident management teams.
The state has established local points of contact with mass care organizations and volunteer agencies, including working with the American Red Cross to coordinate sheltering and feeding operations. The American Red Cross has also established a Disaster Relief Operation (DRO) in Orlando and is actively opening shelters.
The state is staging mass care supplies such as meals, shelter support trailers and water at the State Logistic Response Center in Orlando for deployments as needed.
The state is sending 120,000 dehydrated meals to The Salvation Army and The Florida Baptist for distribution as needed.
Food Safety Response Teams are beginning to be placed on standby for recovery assessments.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has released September Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to current recipients who have not yet received them to assist with Hurricane Irma preparations

 CHRIS SALAMONE

 

Advertisements

Finding New Leadership: Humboldt Harbor District Executive Director Steps Down

Eureka, Ca., (KIEM)- A change in leadership comes to the Humboldt Harbor District as Executive Director Jack Crider’s resignation was officially accepted during a public meeting of the commission today.

According to Commission Chair Richard Marks, the board is hoping to appoint a new leader by Mid-December. With that in mind, they assembled a list of names (including two current and some former commissioners) to join a selection/appointment committee that will seek out a successor for Crider. That list was formulated in a closed meeting earlier in the day.

That list, however, was not particularly well received by a number of community members who appeared at Thursday’s meeting. People like Kent Sawatzky took to the podium asking that the selection board be expanded to include a more diverse group of individuals with a vested interest in the harbor.

“We strongly support not having prior commissioners on this force. We’d like to see new blood, diversified.” Sawatsky said, “Everything from Bay Keepers to the local people who participate in the fishing industry. Everybody should have input on this process. It’s very important to Humboldt County and the future of our Bay.”

Sawatsky mentioned that a committee without diversity could be slanted, and make the community feel excluded. Commissioners argued that their original list was drafted with experience and efficiency in mind for its members. Still, they remained receptive to the messages left on the floor by Sawatsky and his peers.

After listening to public comment, the commission voted to wait on officially naming the final members of the selection committee. In the weeks to come they hope to have more eyes hit resumes and be involved in the interview process for a new executive director.

Somaliland’s women show kindness and leadership in the face of a humanitarian crisis

For three years now, Somaliland, like much of East Africa, has experienced extreme drought. Drought that has become more and more severe, until earlier this year, with thousands on the brink of starvation, the government of Somaliland declared a national emergency.

The crisis should serve as a warning to the rest of the world to prepare – and prepare well – for extreme weather events, which are occurring with greater frequency and ferocity than ever before.

As the drought ravages the communities of Somaliland and its neighbours, hurricane Irma is making its destructive path through the Caribbean islands towards Florida. Countries in South Asia have been battling floods affecting more than 24 million people. Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc on the United States’ Gulf of Mexico. Sierra Leone has scrambled to respond to the deadly impacts of a landslide that took nearly 500 lives.

Needless to say, the impacts of these events are wide reaching. They extend beyond the obvious food, water and shelter shortages to the inevitable knock-on effects, such as mass migration within and across country borders, and the aggravation of pre-existing inequalities.

I’ve recently spent two weeks in the small, self-declared independent state in the northwest of Somalia, meeting women leading the humanitarian response to the disaster in their villages. Just hours outside Hargeisa, Somaliland’s tiny capital, I met women in drought-ravaged communities who have taken up leadership roles for the first time in their lives. These women are desperate to protect the lives of those most at risk in the ongoing crisis.

Women lead emergency food and dignity kit distribution in Qoyta region, Somaliland.
Women lead emergency food and dignity kit distribution in Qoyta region, Somaliland. Photograph: Holly Miller, ActionAid Australia

The impact of the drought on Somaliland’s communities has been extreme. The first two years were increasingly difficult, the women told me, but this last year has been the worst. After years of coping with dwindling water supplies – supplies required for business, for food preparation, for sanitation – it eventually evaporated almost entirely. Money ran out, animals died. With little to eat, whole communities became malnourished.

In Somaliland, those who were marginalised before the drought have experienced its greatest effects. In Saylabari, women have formed a collective to ensure that those most in need are the first to receive assistance when aid is distributed in their village.

And who are most affected? Women, they tell me. Women, who have long borne the brunt of a patriarchal system, and its brutish brother, poverty.

Singularly responsible for the care of their children, the stress that mothers have experienced in the drought has been severe. High rates of illiteracy among women who have been denied education means less access to information about what relief is on its way and who will have access to it.

Levels of domestic violence have increased significantly. Women whose husbands have left in search of alternative income are now responsible for providing for their families, as well as caring for them. Forced to forage for water in far off places, women are often raped on their journeys.

For those who migrate, the stories are worse. Over the past six months, people have left their homes in great numbers to search for water and for places their animals can graze on healthy vegetation. Leaving is a gamble –people leave in the hope that there is more sustenance further afield, but without any guarantee of finding it.

Somaliland’s experience of disaster is typical of any emergency insofar as it disproportionately affects women and those marginalised before the crisis. This is a well-recognised truth that should teach us an important lesson. The only way to prepare adequately for disasters of this scale is to address the deeply entrenched gender inequalities in access to resources and decision making.

One hundred kilometres from Saylabari and its women’s collective, a burgeoning women’s coalition have waged their own humanitarian response to the crisis in the village of Gorgeysa.

Women lead emergency food distribution in Qoyta region, Somaliland.
Their own community is unaffected by the drought, but the women’s coalition introduced a policy that every family in the community must take in two families. Chairwoman Ruun Essa Habane said, “We were receiving so many migrants – so many people who were searching for safety and for food and water. We had to work out how we could care for them.”

The collective pooled its resources, resources that the women had been saving over the three years that they have been working together. They used them to provide for those in their care. They donated clothes.

When I expressed my stunned (Australian) admiration, Essa Habane seemed surprised. “What else could we do?” she said. “We have the money.”

“The community cannot make decisions without us,” said Essa Habane. “We decided we wanted to support those affected by the drought and that was it.”

There is much that Australia could learn from the women of Somaliland and their response to the country’s protracted disaster. While the women in communities in Somaliland give up the little they have to support those who lack their basic needs, Australia struggles to respond humanely to the asylum seeker crisis that we have created.

Rather than responding with kindness to our fellow human beings, our politicians wallow in arguments about space and resources, postulating threats of terrorism and disseminating notions of greedy people jumping queues to grab “our” resources.

It’s worth considering how we might respond if our leadership wouldn’t primarily consist of white advantaged men, who struggle to see beyond the privilege that has always defined their lives, to empathise with those on the margins.

How long can Australia get away with this cruel and selfish response to those in need? Climate change is taking its toll – and it’s a toll that will eventually catch us up.

Extreme weather events are already leading to forced migration, in Somaliland and well beyond it, and in the years to come, millions of people will be on the move, in desperate search of food and water.

If we are to respond effectively to these impending crises – if we are, like the women of Gorgeysa and Saylabari, to ensure that nobody goes without, especially those most vulnerable – we must take action now to ensure that women are equally represented in leadership positions, and that they have the support to maintain them.

Women’s Collective leading humanitarian response in Gorgeysa, Somaliland.
Women’s Collective leading humanitarian response in Gorgeysa, Somaliland. Photograph: Holly Miller, ActionAid Australia

Female leaders create space for other women to take up leadership roles and to participate fully in decision making. They consistently make decisions that benefit whole communities, and ensure that everybody is considered and cared for.

At the end of every conversation I had with different women in Somaliland, they would ask me the same question: “What are things like for women in your country? What advice do you have for us as we strive for greater things – for presidency?”

All I could tell them was that in Australia, we’ve taken great steps forward but that the road ahead is long. I said that we could learn from them. That by supporting women’s leadership, perhaps we too, some day, might say, “What else could we do? We have the money.”

 

 

CHRIS SALAMONE

Toronto Real Estate’s ‘Scariest Chart Ever’ Is Looking Better

 

Several months ago, we presented the “scariest chart ever” for Toronto real estate owners.

It showed a steep decline in the city’s sales-to-new-listings ratio — a measure of how many of the city’s homes available for sale are being snapped up by buyers.

The ratio plunged off a cliff this spring following the province’s announcement of new housing rules that included a 15 per cent foreign speculators’ tax. It was a sign that Toronto’s house prices were about to plunge.

CAPITAL ECONOMICS

And plunge they did. The average price for all property types sold in Toronto has come down by about 20.5 per cent since it peaked in April. It was $732,292 in August, down from $920,791 at the top.

But according to BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic, the worst of the price collapse may now be in the past. Kavcic published an updated and seasonally adjusted version of the scariest chart ever, and the latest development is a small but noticeable bounce-back in the sales-to-new-listings ratio.

BANK OF MONTREAL

That bounce-back suggests “the market has started to balance out,” Kavcic told HuffPost Canada by phone. Prices could continue falling for several months, but the worst of it took place this past summer, he said.

Good news for those worried about losing the equity in their homes, bad news for homebuyers hoping for more affordable prices.

Rising interest rates a risk

 

But Kavcic did warn of one downside risk to his forecast: The Bank of Canada’s suddenly aggressive interest rate hikes.

Raising the cost of borrowing for mortgages “will affect the psychology of the market, and affordability as well,” Kavcic said.

With borrowers so used to rock-bottom interest rates, “it doesn’t take a lot of movement (in interest rates) to start altering affordability.”

Case in point: Ratehub.ca estimates that a 0.25 percentage point rate hike, like the one put in place by the Bank of Canada this week, would add $84 to the monthly cost of a variable-rate mortgage on average-priced Toronto home valued at $750,000.

“Since the beginning of 2017, variable rate mortgage consumers have had to increase monthly payments by $168 per month, or an additional $2,016 per year,” Ratehub said in a statement.

BMO has updated its forecast for interest rates in the wake of the bank’s hike on Wednesday. It now expects the Bank o

f Canada’s key lending rate to hit two per cent by the end of 2018. The bank’s current rate is one per cent, up from 0.75 per cent before Wednesday’s hike.

If the bank were to move more aggressively than expected in raising rates, “the impact on housing will be material,” Kavcic said.

 

CHRIS SALAMONE

 

Two Florida men, 16-year-old girl arrested for murdering MMA fighter Aaron Rajman

Two men and a 16-year-old girl have been charged with murdering a professional mixed martial arts fighter who was shot during a Florida home invasion in July, police said.

Roberto Ortiz and Jace Swinton, both 18, were arrested Friday along with high school junior Summer Church, for the death of Aaron Rajman, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said.

The three murder suspects, who were indicted by a grand jury on Thursday, face a first-degree murder charge and two counts of armed home invasion robbery with a firearm.

Church, who is 16, will be tried as an adult.

Rajman was shot dead on July 3 after “unknown males” went to his Boca Raton home, the Sun Sentinel reported.

An argument broke out and at least one shot was fired before the suspects drove off, the sheriff’s office said.

They made no mention of a female at the time of Rajman’s death.

Church, who was arrested Friday on her way to school, met the MMA fighter at a convenience store in January, her mother Judith Church told the Palm Beach Post.

Judith Church claimed her daughter, who was dating Swinton at the time, was held at gunpoint by Ortiz and three other men.

https://www.facebook.com/aaron.rajman

An argument broke out at Rajman’s home and at least one shot was fired, the sheriff’s office said

(FACEBOOK)

They forced the 16-year-old to call Rajman and let her out the car before they arrived at the MMA fighter’s home, according to Judith Church, who argued that her daughter’s murder charge was undeserved.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg issued a statement Friday.

“This was no random act of violence. Mr. Rajman was targeted by these defendants and we intend to seek justice for the victim and his family,” he wrote.

Rajman was a member of the American Top Team gym, and maintained an 8-1 win-loss record as an amateur fighter before he turned professional in 2014 with a 2-2 record.

The 25-year-old was a devout Orthodox Jew who often shared his religious beliefs and taught kids at a Jewish community school.

CHRIS SALAMONE

City Rejects Proposal to Ban Religious Displays During Holiday Season

The 10-foot, 300-pound satanic pentagram in Sanborn Square last year won the right to remain. Following a Boca Raton City Council meeting on Aug. 22, the city found the banning of religious displays unconstitutional and the ordinance was killed.

Initially the Boca Raton City Council proposed to discontinue a policy that allowed religious displays at Sanborn Square Park each December following the backlash and criticism the pentagram display received last year.

Preston Smith, the Boca Raton Middle School teacher who put up the display, was firmly against the proposal.

“It’s ironic that the quickest way to shut down the public forum is to have a different opinion,” he said. “It is astonishing hypocrisy on the city’s part.”

The first amendment protects Smith’s freedom of speech to express what he believes, but the large pentagram which displayed the words, “May the Children Hail Satan” stirred controversy around the country.

At the council meeting, City Attorney Diana Grub Fresier reiterated the display had not broken any laws.

“Once we allow the private installation as we had historically, then we must allow all private installations,” she said. “We cannot under the constitution and have not made distinctions based on content, such as making one permitted and another is not. We have never discouraged anyone from using Sanborn Square as a freedom of expression zone.”

Historically this is true when looking at the Sanborn Square holiday tradition. In 1990, the city had installed a Christmas tree in Sanborn Square, but one of the Jewish groups wanted to put up a menorah. Following a lawsuit, a settlement was reached. The city decided to allowed private installations, which has remained a custom to this day.

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie believes the pentagram is a rare incident, but one that should be addressed.

“After all the attention last year’s display received,” she said. “In my opinion, it was extremely offensive and it offended many of our residents. We could have several of those unless we close this we cannot control the content of those displays.”

Among those who share Haynie’s displeasure were Boca Raton residents Laurie Colbert and Therese Brady, who are both in favor of the proposal.

“I’ve been here for 30 years and all of the sudden we have this satanic display from last year that seems to be squashing our ability to show the true meaning of Christmas,” said Colbert describing her personal view of the display. “The true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Christ, whatever religion you are.”

The display last year was so offensive to some that a few took matters into their own hands to destroy it. The pentagram display was vandalized repeatedly and even ran over by a truck. Both incidences occurring during the several weeks it stood, as Smith continued to rebuild it.

“Perform your duty of encouraging public safety, even if many city officials may disagree,” Joe Masserie of Highland Beach told the council. “Issue the permits and secure the permits. This is a policing issue. It’s the responsibility of the public authority.”

As for the individuals who vandalized the pentagram on different occasions, they were never caught.

“The backlash of the display really should have made the city take more precautions like installing flood lights or cameras,” said Smith.

“There should be cameras in the park to see what goes on,” said Charles Fix, who also had a similar solution to Smith’s idea. “Forget changing the ordinance. Just install cameras.”

The decision to install such a controversial display was Smith’s initiative to “force change” and he mentioned that he will continue to do so this December.

“It’s a battle that will continue for many, many years,” he said.

The park, which recognizes a “freedom of speech” zone, will still allow holiday installations provided they not be permanent in nature and be removed after that event.

Florida emergency managers monitor Irma, urge residents to be prepared

This is a satellite image of Hurricane Irma.

JACkSONVILLE, Fla. – Although Hurricane Irma is about 2,500 miles from Florida’s shores, people along the Florida coast are being encouraged to review their preparedness plans, know their evacuation zones, review their insurance policies and update their disaster kit.

News4Jax surveyed the Emergency Operations Centers, and the directors all said Irma is too far out to begin any physical preparations, but they said they’re ready to make moves when the time is right.

Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said his county’s EOC is monitoring any storms that could threaten and is making sure the county is prepared. He said county agencies will hold meetings next week on Irma’s progression and decisions on preparations will go from there.

In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry said preparations are already underway ahead of Irma and that the county’s EOC is working closely with the state to coordinate and improve evacuation routes.

Curry emphasized he wouldn’t hesitate to order evacuations if Irma is expected to make landfall in the area.

In St. Johns County, where some are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, people are more aware of what’s happening in the tropics. The emergency management coordinator said the department is keeping a close eye on Irma. The county held a hurricane exercise in June and improved communication for a faster response. Flagler County Emergency Management technician told News4Jax that the county is reviewing plans it can quickly put into action and briefing staff. They’ve also fixed a technical problem discovered with the Palm Coast call center during Hurricane Matthew.

CHRIS SALAMONE