The Duval Street Underworld editorial on this page was written and published here back in 1996. It is timely to publish it again. As the story of t-shirt shop ripoffs on Duval Street continues year after year after year, many citizens simply cannot understand why our government and our law enforcement agencies seem so impotent in solving the problem. Recently, one of Police Chief Buz Dillon's young officers went undercover for months, actually working in several t-shirt shops. She apparently sat there day after day, month after month, and watched instance after instance of fraudulent activity going down but not one single arrest has been made on consumer fraud charges!
Our 1996 editorial called for the formation of an interagency task force to investigate the Duval Street underworld from top to bottom. We still think that's a valid recommendation or, at the very least, a full-time special prosecutor. Or a special Grand Jury. This is doable. But our government officials refuse to do it. Why do you think that is?
We need a leader to step up here. And Mayor Jimmy Weekley isn't it. He is a proven failure in this area. In fact, it took an editorial in this newspaper to motivate him to stop selling a t-shirt at Fausto's that was emblazoned "You Can't Beat Our Meat". And it isn't Buz Dillon. He's found his retirement home down here. We don't think he has either the energy or the interest to make any sustained effort to solve the problem of consumer fraud in the t-shirt shops.
In the end, the responsibility to make something happens falls to the City Commissioners. But their performance so far has been disheartening. How about this idea? What if the City Commission were to pass a resolution asking State Attorney Mark Kohl to get involved to put together whatever organization he needs to fully investigate this continuing scandal and, if justified, prosecute.
Here's what may an even better idea: Borrow activist Linda Berard from her job over at the Housing Authority, give her a few months to come up with recommendations and, then, put her in charge of building and coordinating a consumer protection program here. Ms. Berard, who recently organized the picketing of some of the Duval Street t-shirt shops, has experience in business, government and law. She is competent and motivated.
The time for talk is over. Just do it!