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Palm Coast Redistricting Plan Disqualifies Dennis Cross From City Council Election

| May 26, 2011

That hook east of I-95 is Grand Haven. It's turning blue.

Dennis Cross, one of five candidates for the Palm Coast City Council election—that primary is on Sept. 13—would be disqualified, through no fault of his own, should the city council approve the plan its redistricting commission unanimously recommended this afternoon, after a single, little-noticed meeting on redistricting options.

The commission considered five alternate mapping plans, three of which balanced population within court-proof norms. It approved so-called alternate 2. (See the numbers and the maps.)

The recommended plan would be a boon for the candidacy of Jason DeLorenzo, the government affairs director for the Flagler Home Builders Association. DeLorenzo’s visibility and constituency’s clout work to his advantage against the only other candidate left in what would be District 3, Charles Ballard, a relative unknown. Ballard lives on Palmwood Drive, which is unaffected by boundary changes.

Incumbent Holsey Moorman and his challenger Bill McGuire, both in District 1 to the north of the city, are largely unaffected by the changes. The race for mayor is also unaffected. Qualifying for the races doesn’t end until Aug. 9, and others may yet declare themselves, particularly in light of the new boundaries. The one near certainty, if the proposal doesn’t change, is that Cross is out.

“That’s kind of revolting, isn’t it? I’m totally in shock,” Cross said. He intends to dispute the proposal and request that redistricting be delayed until the next election. “What’s probably most startling to me is the timing of this,” he says, reading from an April 18 document from Kimberle Weeks, the Flagler County supervisor of elections, certifying his candidacy based on the 138 petitions he submitted. “In my case this is the worst scenario,” Cross said. “I’m denied an opportunity to even be a candidate in the district where I live now.”

At no point after the city began issuing paperwork to candidates in spring did it warn them that their qualifying materials, including petitions or eligibility, may be in doubt because of pending redistricting, Cross and DeLorenzo said. At no point did the city warn them that the money they’d be raising form supporters, and money they’d be spending for their campaign, may be for naught.

It wasn’t malice so much as inattention—and the fact that census data wasn’t in until a few weeks ago: It wasn’t until May 10 that City Manager Jim Landon appraised the council of various requirements the city, as the manager of its own elections and redistricting, was responsible for, including requirements to appoint a redistricting commission—and on the possibility that redistricting could bump existing candidates out of contention.

The city charter spells out the city administration’s and council’s redistricting requirements following every decennial census. (See pp. 8-9)The council is required to appoint a redistricting commission “[b]y the first day of the month following official certification notification of the decennial census to the state.” The commission then has 120 days to file a redistricting plan, based on administrative support and data provided by the city manager’s staff. “After receipt of the commission report, the Council shall adopt a redistricting ordinance at least 90 days before the next regular city election,” the charter states.

The next regular city election is Sept. 13, the primary, which may decide several races. The general election, if necessary, is scheduled for Nov. 8. The council is not scheduled to approve the plan, on a second hearing of the ordinance formalizing it, until June 21. There would then be less than 90 days between that approval and the election.

But City Attorney William Reischmann is interpreting the date of the next election as the general election, not the primary. That’s not sitting well with Cross, either.

Cross, who has the backing of the tea party movement, lives in Grand Haven, an affluent gated community east of I-95 and east of Colbert Lane. That area was part of District 3, which extends west to Belle Terre Parkway, and occludes around Palm Coast Parkway to the north. Under the proposed redistricting plan, the entire area east of I-95 would become part of District 2 to the north, the seat currently held by Frank Meeker, whose seat is not up this year. That district is currently the most disproportionately under-populated, relative to the three other districts. Its population would grow from 11,922 to 18,402.  All four districts would then have populations ranging from that number to a maximum of 19,487, in District 1, the seat held by Holsey Moorman.

District boundaries today: the full map. Click on the image for larger view.

Moorman’s district would more than double in geographic size, but almost all the new area is uninhabited. It’s part of Palm Coast’s long-term growth plan. Moorman’s district would add a bulge of neighborhoods within the Pine Lakes Parkway loop south of Palm Coast Parkway. Like DeLorenzo, Moorman may have to gather some new petitions to qualify, because candidates’ petitions must all be gathered from the district they’re running for, whatever the redistricting entails.

“I was happy that I didn’t fall out of my district,” DeLorenzo, who attended the redistricting meeting, said.

“It’s going to add some work to our campaign,  because I’m sure I’m probably going to lose 40 to 50 percent of our petitions, so I’m going to have to walk the community again and get more petitions signed.”

The redistricting commission, nominated by the council, was made up of five members: Albert Cunningham, Clint Smith, Louis McCarthy, Patricia Bottoms and Chris Vorndran. The meeting was barely noticed: the city listed it on its web page on its “Calendar at a Glance” section as a “Redistricting Commission Meeting” on May 26. But it wasn’t otherwise noticed anywhere. Nor was the redistricting documentation, including the five alternatives prepared by the city administration’s planning staff, made available to the commissioners at the meeting, made available on the website ahead of time. The city’s relatively new Facebook page, which the city administration has been touting as a fresh, useful tool to keep residents in the loop and involved, is rich in leisurely happenings, but makes no mention of unusual meetings, or issues that may—as in this case—impact the totality of the city’s population for the next 10 years. Cross was not at the meeting. He knew it was taking place, but was under the impression that it was closed to the public. (It wasn’t.)

Beside the commission members, several city planning staffers were at the meeting to assist the commission, and just two members of the public, both of them candidates in the city election: DeLorenzo and Charlie Ericksen, who’s running for mayor.

The redistricting commission will meet again on June 2 at 2 p.m. at the city office’s conference room, at City Market Place. That meeting is open to the public as well, as must all city-appointed commission, council and advisory board meetings must be. The city council is scheduled to hear the first reading of the redistricting commission ordinance at a special meeting on June 14, and again at a regularly scheduled meeting on June 21. Cross said he intends to make his and his supporters’ presence felt at some of those meetings.

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29 Responses for “Palm Coast Redistricting Plan Disqualifies Dennis Cross From City Council Election”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    City has to redistrict after this incoming election as this decision is grossly unfair to Mr. Cross and totally favoring the “who is who” among county and city VIP’s, Di Lorenzo. What else to do to favor the Di Lorenzo’s a very much cheered and helped by the Flagler Chamber? When construction business started fading away and affected incomes, Mrs De Lorenzo was conveniently hired as a right hand of Doug Baxter Chamber CEO. Now they change the district after Mr. Cross got his 138 signatures, qualified and was certified by our Elections Supervisor? I find it grossly unfair. Though Mr. Cross will have anyway a very much uphill battle in the election as a Tea Party sponsored (I am not for it) and also the 100% support that Chamber will give Di Lorenzo, its protected favorite. Di Lorenzo VIP in the chamber, Di Lorenzo VIP in the Builders Association and also in government….? Coincidentally Di Lorenzo was in the redistricting meeting…?

  2. tulip says:

    Wouldn’t you know, we actually get a really good candidate to run and he gets redistricted out of the running. Not fair.

  3. Ralph Belcher says:

    Could Mr. Cross requalify before the August Deadline by getting more signatures (still, unfair to him, but it IS a viable option, I’d think)? He might be down, but not truly OUT. We can either gripe about this or do something. And for Mr. Cross, I’m thinking this could right the ship. But of course, he shouldn’t have to resort to this. Don’t leave the idea off the table.

    Life is never fair. I look at how people play the hand they’re dealt… but that’s just me, only an ordinary fellow sitting in the cheap seats.

  4. Layla says:

    I’m not thrilled about the chief lobbyist of the Builders Assn. being my councilman. That’s a HUGE conflict of interest in anyone’s book.

    This reeks. We all need to attend the next council meeting and let them know it.

  5. It needs to be said says:

    As far as redistricting; it needs to be done. However, I agree the timing is off and it should be postponed until after the next election. Not only is it the socially right thing to do; it’s the legally correct avenue to take.

    As to the accusations made by PalmCoaster –

    There is, was, and always will be and inter-circle of people’s lives that help one another get elected, appointed, or hired into various positions in life. However right or wrong you may perceive these actions; they are going to take place. As human beings we have a natural desire to take care of those we feel will return the favor when needed. So tossing darts at the opposition for using someone else’s so called “coat tails” to advance ones self is pointless. Everyone does!

    I agree that some major changes are needed the key players within Flagler County. When it comes to the elected representatives we can deal with them in the next election. When it comes to the Flagler Chamber of Commerce it’s a different story and sadly the worst kind. When you look at the backgrounds of the top “paid” executives it truly brings out the question; “how did these individuals get their jobs?” In the past 13 years of Rebecca DeLorenzo’s (Chamber Executive Vice President) working history she spent 6 years as an event planner and catering manager. She also spent 3 years with Southern Title as and Account Executive. Yes, it’s only my opinion but these two jobs (nor the time spent in them) qualify Mrs. DeLorenzo for the position she holds. Oddly enough, her husband has more of the preferred qualifications to hold it. Doug Baxter (Chamber President) is viewed by many as money hungry as most members only hear from him when the Chamber needs money. The sad part of this portion of the story is the fact it takes the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors to make these kinds of changes. It’s only a matter of time before the inadequacies of the tops Chamber executives become a direct reflection of the Board of Directors inability to function as a unified voice for our business community.

    The sole purpose of any Chamber of Commerce is to be the collective voice of the Business Community. To be an advocate for local business and stand up to the local, state, and federal entities that come knocking and want to do harm to our businesses, jobs, and ultimately our way of life here in Flagler County.

    To all the players involved in this mess; I’m all for helping a friend get a job. But when your friend’s ability to do that job jeopardizes the community as a whole just remember; your family lives here too.

  6. Layla says:

    To Ralph Belcher: Mr. Cross would have no problem getting petitions signed, but they redistricted his home right out of the district that he was running in and he is now ineligible to run. There were 3 other alternatives where no candidate’s homes would have been in jeopardy of being redistricted out of the running. Why did they choose this one?

    This group of political appointees met for the first time, with no previous instructions, and voted this 5-0 in favor of this plan. What are the odds of that happening in one session? And we’re supposed to believe this was all above board, this close to the election? An election redistricting authorized by the City Manager and the Mayor…really? Without any accountability or objections.

    By the time the council meets on the June 14th, it will be less than 90 days before the primary election is to take place.

  7. Will says:

    There are plenty of issues here for people to discuss without casting aspersions on ANY candidate.

    To be representative of our wider community, I think it’s good if we have a variety of interests among council members. Right now we have Frank Meeker as the only one of five who is actively employed – I think for the St. Johns Water Management District. At the moment we have four retired people serving from various backgrounds. All have good ideas to bring to the table. Having a council member actively working in private business is, to me, very important, so Mr. DeLorenzo makes sense from that perspective.

    To Layla who called that a conflict of interest – I suggest rather it’s a congruence of interest – for Mr. DeLorenzo has worked diligently for several years, attending county and city government meetings, to help cut through red tape and streamline governement for the small business people who make up so much of our business community. He already understands the myriad codes and rules so he can hit the ground running.

    Before slamming someone it might be worthwhile to get to know their positions on issues and how their peers assess their integrity. You cannot assume that because their employer takes such and such a position that the individual will not be independent as an honest council member. I have great respect for Mr. DeLorenzo and think he would tackle tough issues openly and fairly.

    This is not to say that Mr.Dennis Cross would not also be a good candidate. It’s difficult to get good citizens to run for office, and it’s a shame that problems like this pop up unexpectedly. I don’t yet know Mr. Cross and would be interested in what he may have to say

    Let’s keep this non-partisan race clean.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    To “it needs to be said”; mine are not accusations, but real facts. Many in our community and already some here, will agree if they know their ways around Flagler County. I agree with you regarding some at the top of the local chamber. As well I agree and have the same concerns as Layla. There has been enough damage inflicted to our local residents by the uncontested pressures to benefit builders in the recent past in Palm Coast. We do not need any more builder friendly councilmen even if a Democrat.

  9. Bob E. says:

    I would raise the question to “it needs to be said” and “Layla”, do you know or have you ever talked to or worked with either of the DeLorenzos you are uncertain about? I have and know Jason to be an upstanding father and member of our community interested in all facets of the community, schools, government and law enforcement. I have been involved with him in Chamber events and know that when he qualified for the seat that he is running for, he out of a preponderance of caution dropped his involvement in the Chamber to avoid the perception of impropriety. Mrs. DeLorenzo is a capable and well informed lady and mother, very capable of performing her duties as requested by Mr. Baxter. Check the progress of the chamber for the past several years before you condemn her or the chambers progress. Being a nay-sayer for the sake of an agenda is counter productive “it needs” and I am confused why you feel a person is incapable of doing a job simply because they do not have a Harvard Law Degree. Incidentally, Mr DeLorenzo is a Florida licensed lawyer, how many of our other city council members are? Netts, Moorman, Meeker, Lewis, I think not!

  10. Layla says:

    Let me be clear about this, it was not my intention to attack ANY candidate’s credentials with regard to their ability to run for office and fulfill those responsibilities. I already know that anyone of the 3 candidates in the District 3 race are qualified. I have done my homework.

    What concerns me is that much of the political power in this town comes from the Chamber and the Builders. They exert strong control over projects in Palm Coast. In that regard, Mr. LeLorenzo is qualified. I might also remind you that in this town, serving on the Council is a part time job. Mr. DeLorenzo would still be a full time lobbyist and spokesperson for the Building Industry Association. That is what I and others are objecting to.

    We have plenty of attorneys and business people in this town representing their interests. We’d like a candidate to represent our’s. Anyway you look at it, this is a conflict of interests.

  11. Will says:

    To Bob E. – I don’t believe Mr. DeLorenzo is a lawyer, although he is well versed in our local ordinances and has helped revise some.

  12. LG says:

    Redistricting at this time, just before an election, smells fishy to me! No candidate, representing his district, should be disqualified or not given the opportunity of running for a position on the council because 5 members of the community have decided to change boundaries so shortly before an election especially when there are three other options to consider that would NOT disqualify any candidate. Besides that, Mr. Cross has met all the requirements for running for the position.

  13. Jerry Crowley says:

    It is difficult to find good people to run for elected positions in any and all municipal communities.
    We need people like Dennis Cross. To shut him out of this upcoming election for city council for district 3 when there were three other alternatives that would have kept Mr. Cross as a candidate in the race is unfair to us all. If the council agrees to this they are ignoring the requirements that this must be done 90 days prior to an election and the election in questions is September 13, 2011. At present the council plan is to make this decision after the June 21 (second public meeting) which is less than the required 90 days. Why is the primary election being ignored? We all need to keep in mind that a person can be elected to a position in the primary election by receiving 51% of the votes cast. The present Mayor and the Council person (who is being replaced in the upcoming election) for the third district were elected in a primary election.

    Residents and voters of Palm Coast, you need to think about what is going on in your city and attend the next meeting and ask what is going on with the hurrying up of the re-districting before the next election.

    I have known Dennis Cross for the past twelve years that I have lived in Palm Coast. I hope this matter of redistricting gets resolved so that he can be a candidate for district 3.

    I know that Dennis will not give up on this endeavor unless he is officially out of the race as directed by the present council. I hope that all of you have a chance to meet Dennis when he is out and about campaigning for this position. Please take the time to meet Dennis. IT’S WORTH IT!

    Be sure to attend the upcoming public meetings regarding this redistricting on June 14 and June 21.
    Jerry Crowley

  14. Art says:

    What I found most puzzling about this whole redistricting “boondoggle” was the city’s failure to inform any of the prospective candidates of the redistricting options being considered. Had they done so, the city would have given the prospective candidates the opportunity to make an informed decision concerning their bid for elected office, before going through the time and expense of the qualification process. Not to mention, the arduous task of putting together a cohesive campaign.

  15. Bob E. says:

    There is no solution to making Mr. Cross whole in this entire mess. He has been eliminated due to nothing he did. The intelligent thing now is to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The readily available solution would be to change the City Charter which makes the requirement for redistricting immediately necessary. There will be another issue like this in 2020 if it is not changed and 2020 will be a presidential election year where there are many more positions elected, thus possibly disenfranchising many more candidates. The city should change the election cycles to coincide with the years of the presidential elections and the off-presidential year elections requiring only election cycles every 2 years instead of having some election yearly, Presidential and off-presidential in even numbered years and city elections in odd numbered years. Even if that change is made, it would still be necessary to change the re-districting requirements. I don’t know if it is statutory that redistricting be done immediately as the city charter writers chose, but if not it should not be done until after the voting cycle has passed. This type situation would only occur in 2020, 2040, etc every 20 years.

  16. Layla says:

    It was not necessary to eliminate Mr. Cross or anyone as a candidate. There were several options presented to the commission of political appointees. Having never met as a commission before, they voted 5-0 to choose the only option eliminating the candidate and ignored the other options. Why? What are the odds of this happening? Coincidence? Sure doesn’t look like it to me.

    The point here is that the council/commission are in violation of the rules of forming such a commmittee. The Council will have to vote on this plan at their meeting on June 14, I believe. The law says all of this must be completed 90 days before the election, which the City Attorney says is the November election. However, the primary election is to be held in September and by the time of the next council meeting, that will violate that 90 day rule. Two of our Councilmembers were elected in the primary and did not have to run in the general election.

    It does not appear to me they are following the rule of the law here. I don’t think we can allow them to pass this without a court intervention.

  17. Layla says:

    For those interested in this issue:

    The next meeting of Palm Coast Commission on Redistricting is THURSDAY, June 2, 2pm at City Hall offices in the City Market Place.

    Please attend and bring your friends.

  18. what the heck says:

    It is amazing to me all the hearsay going on here by people who do not check thier facts.
    for instance. the redistricting is lawfully done by the state/federal or city government the chamber has nothing to do with that. The Chamber of Commerce and the FHBA are there to help local businesses to succeed and actually goes to bat for them in the local government to HELP businesses them. if you want to really see who is looking out for citizens then you should check your facts.

  19. Rob says:

    “Cross, who has the backing of the tea party movement….”

    If he is backed by the tea party and represents their positions then good bye and good……..

  20. what the heck says:

    @Layla & palmcoaster- so what you are saying is that you don’t want anymore building in Flagler county and that all the people that are unemployed because of the lack of building can just move somewhere else? oh yea and that when you want work on your existing home you don’t mind having someone who is unlicensed and under insured doing the work and that if the permits are illegally high that’s fine too?
    Mr. DeLorenzo has actually saved you money by being involved with the FHBA.
    these postings are freedom of speech at it’s lamest. statements based on opinions instead of fact. sounds like a lot of sour grapes. just sayin…

  21. palmcoaster says:

    What the heck, stop distorting facts….what we do not want here in Palm Coast are blunders like the one allowed to Centex in the Palm Coast Resort all promises and no delivery. The at least 5 million of palmcoasters tax funds to help fund the Town Center CRA, are we going to be refunded?. Why are we supposed to fund this rich developers just because their lobbyist aka Jason Di Lorenzo within our government? Who are you, Jason’s campaign manager? or some inactive bored builder in the County?In which ridiculous way in your feverish mind has Mr. Di Lorenzo saved us the tax payers of this county monies? Sour grapes for what? for someone that did not last in their Southern title company more than 2 or 3 years? …and saved their incomes aka beans by both by being appointed to the Chamber and the FPCHBA? Very easy way to get a job in a county with 16% unemployment. By the way the HBA is not the entity to enforce that contractors be licensed and bonded or insured, the state, county and city are. And when it comes to verify that Chamber and HBA are are there to help the local businesses ..well, well, that is really to be seeing. Take this one; we have about 9,000 businesses in this county and maybe now between 800 to 1000 are chamber members…? only about 10%, could you wonder why? I think the only one that really needs to go about real fact finding is you ..what the heck! Wow, Lyla and I maybe shaking the heck out of the “wasp nest”.

  22. Layla says:

    I’m certain that Mr. DeLorenzo is very good at his job. I hear they are about to begin building, what is it….5,000 new homes down 100? Soon Palm Coast will be known for the ghost town of new development construction.

    My point is this, having the Chief Lobbyist for the Building Industry serve on the City Council is a conflict of interest to the population here. That does not imply in any way that Mr. DeLorenzo would not be a good Councilman. But because his primary income would be as Chief Lobbyist to the Builders, I don’t think he’d convince many voters here that he will put their interests first. It’s a conflict more glaring than what is taking place on the national level.

    When do we stand up and say “enough?”

  23. palmcoaster says:

    To Bob ; the city of Palm Coast incorporated in 1999…then your 20 year mention does not apply yet.
    Whatever states the city charter, rules. No matter what, redistricting should take place only after the incoming election.

  24. what the heck says:

    Those comments are from Mr DeLorenzo’s website:

    “In-depth Knowledge of Palm Coast Government:

    “As a Government Affairs Director for the Home Builder’s Association, my primary function is to analyze proposed legislative actions and determine the potential impact on the organization while directing policies and objectives involving local government.

    “Notice how that sounds a lot like what a City Council Member does. Over the last four years I have had legislative language adopted, helped write the County’s Comprehensive Plan, participated in Planning Board workshops that shaped the Land Development Code, presented a water conservation plan to the Utility Advisory Committee, attended Code Enforcement Hearings, and spoken countless times at City Council Meetings.

    “My week to week immersion in Palm Coast gives me the in-depth knowledge to hit the ground running with full understanding of the issues facing our community.

    “Government Watchdog: In 2007 that in-depth knowledge led to the recovery of $7 million in building permit fees for the citizens of Palm Coast. In June of 2009, after nearly two years of work, Palm Coast finally admitted to having over-collected building permit fees. Through a negotiated settlement, the City reduced permit fees by 90% for all citizens.”

  25. Layla says:

    Tomorrow’s Redistricting Commission hearing at 2pm has been moved from City Hall to the Palm Coast Community Center. Hope that everyone will attend.

  26. Layla says:

    To What the Heck: Are you telling us that Mr. DeLorenzo is the ONLY person who can do the job? You prove my point. His entire perspective is from the Builder and Chamber’s point of view, TOTALLY that point of view.

    Mr. Cross has experience as a City Councilman. He also served on the CDD Board of Supervisors the last 5 years. (Sounds like a working knowledge of the issues to me…)

    He retired from a 30 year career with AT&T and managed a nearly $175 million annual budget as well as directed a work force of 1700 people.

    He promises to be a full time Councilman; be fiscally responsible and reject unnecessary tax increases; prioritize resident needs based on benefit and affordability; support existing businesses so they can expand jobs and services; DEFER major capital construction projects until the economy improves; promote a commercial friendly environment for new and existing businesses.

    I got all this from his campaign literature. Sounds experienced to me.

  27. what the heck says:

    I never said anything at all against Mr Cross. I never questioned his qualifications the way that you have the DeLorenzos. I am not in the habit of slandering people just because they are running against someone I like in the way that you have in these remarks. I feel for Mr Cross and believe that the City should have informed him in advance of the redistricting plans (which are determined, by the way, by when the census info comes in from the state/federal government) and not some grand scheme to bump Mr Cross out of the election. I do not believe that Mr. & Mrs DeLorenzo are the cause of this debacle as you seem to insinuate and it seems to me that you think that ONLY Mr. Cross is qualified for this seat just because he is retired from the “BIG Corp”. so your statements here sound a bit hypocritical.
    Hopefully whomever is elected will do a fine job for the citizens of Palm Coast . thats really what we all want anyway isn’t it?

  28. tulip says:

    This morning there were 44 comments on this subject. I didn;t get a chance to read them all and just went back to read the rest and there are only 27 comments from May. Where are the rest of them?

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