Residents want Arlington activist to back off

Woman known for reporting many code violations in neighborhood

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A well-known Arlington activist who's been involved in many community events and has a reputation at City Hall of being someone who is relentless and won't give up on an issue is now getting pushback from some residents who want her to stop.

Roberta Thomas has been praised for her work over the years, but she's also been criticized.

Angie Oliver, who has lived in Arlington for years, said it's a good neighborhood, but she's tired of what Thomas is causing her and others to go through.

"It's in her opinion of what color you can paint your house and where you can park your car," Oliver said. "If you can't park it in your driveway, you need to park it in the garage. She doesn't like Christmas lights. She doesn't like any kind of decorations. We just think that's not being very friendly."

Thomas' neighbors sent her a letter that says to cease and desist. There's no legal action involved, but basically it asks Thomas to leave them alone. They sent copies to the mayor and City Council.

Upcoming Council President Clay Yarborough is very familiar with Thomas. In fact, Channel 4 checked with the city and found she has emailed him more than 3,000 times since 2007. In one email, for instance, she refers to people living in nearby houses as scum and slum.

Despite that issue, Yarborough and other council members say Thomas usually raises valid issues and speaks out when others won't. Many of the cases Thomas brings up are code violations and have been verified.

"The concerns that are raised a lot of times are legitimate, but the method of delivery can go a long way to getting someone to make a change on their property or just going about things the right way," Yarborough said. "The way you deliver a message can be effective, and the way that you do it can cause folks to coil up and not want to go along with it."

Thomas said she's done nothing wrong.

"I have done nothing wrong, and of the people who I am told who are involved in these complaints against me, I believe the city records, if the media does a thorough investigation, will show that most of these people have a long history of valid city code violations," Thomas said in a phone interview.

Both sides said they hope they can work this out.

"I just hope that she learns to be a friendly person and just leaves us alone," Oliver said.

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