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Coalition of Cities Meets, Its Mission As Fuzzy as Its Place in Flagler’s Economic Bog

| July 15, 2011

Bunnell's Armando Martinez, at the head of the table, with Flagler Beach's Jane Mealy and Alice Baker on one side and John Walsh on the other. (© FlaglerLive)

The Coalition of Flagler Cities held its inaugural meeting Friday afternoon under the banner of unity but in a mood of somewhat frustrated opposition to the county’s broader—if fraying—economic development initiatives. But despite its best intentions, some of the same factors that made it difficult for the county’s various interests to find substantial clarity on aims and means emerged in the coalition’s first meeting.

The same words—and many of the same bromides—that animated the nearly half-dozen county-wide economic development summits since January animated the coalition’s first meeting: unity is important. There are no borders when it comes to unemployment. Constituents come first. In the words of Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez, who originated the idea of the coalition, “Palm Coast isn’t the bad guy, the county isn’t the bad guy, everybody is the good guy.”

So why were these guys here?

The answer wasn’t clear after the inaugural meeting, even after participants asked the question in various ways. Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Beverly Beach and Marineland were all represented around the table Friday, in the cramped conference room of Bunnell’s community development department. Palm Coast declined an open invitation. Curiously, while Flagler Beach had four representatives around the table, three of them elected—Mayor Alice Baker, commissioners Jane Mealy and Marshall Shupe, and acting city manager Bruce Campbell—Bunnell had just one: Martinez (one with a voice at the table, anyway; two city staffers were also present.)

“I’m still hung up on this—what’s our purpose,” Campbell said. The county-wide summit and its aftermath produced a lot of bad things, but a lot of good things came of it too, Campbell said. “I didn’t know better it’s like this group is going to take on the rest of the county and say we don’t like this plan,” he said, suggesting that that would be premature when the county’s plan itself has yet to be clarified.
So Flagler Beach appeared to have a clearer idea of what the coalition was not about than what it was about. Flagler Beach is not willing to turn the coalition into an instrument against the county’s broader efforts, or even an instrument that would parallel the county’s on a separate track. Flagler Beach’s interest is to remain involved at the decision-making level, wherever those decisions that affect all county residents are being made. Bunnell’s is, too, though Martinez’s coalition-passion appears to be driving the city’s train more than any clear idea of where that train ought to be going. Martinez was a marginal voice at the various countywide summits. In the coalition, he sat at the head of the table and dominated discussion.

The coalition is Martinez’s brainchild. He reacted publicly and angrily to a proposal by Enterprise Flagler last month to restructure that public-private economic development partnership by cutting its board in half and reducing governments’ representation to Palm Coast and the county, seemingly excluding Flagler Beach and Bunnell. Martinez proposed creating the coalition in response. His commission and Flagler Beach’s went along.

But one of the Enterprise Flagler proposals has since been amended to include Bunnell and Flagler Beach at the table, ostensibly making the coalition unnecessary. Martinez’s public outcry against Enterprise Flagler’s move, however, gave his coalition momentum even after that coalition was made to seem superfluous. But Martinez was also crediting the coalition for forcing the issue at Enterprise Flagler. That may well be the case, although it does not resolve the larger issue: the county is more divided today than it was six months ago when its serial summits began, with the coalition underscoring the frayed political landscape behind facades of unity. And the county is not much more advanced on an economic development strategy. Summit participants have developed five general goals, but with diminishing buy-in and still no money to enact the plans or an agreed-upon structure through which those plans would be enacted. The Coalition of Cities is even less prepared to enable either.

“The coalition’s position now is to wait and see where the dust settles,” Martinez said. That’s pretty much where all participants are in the process, whatever their allegiance.

The coalition’s first two motions were to install Martinez and Mealy as the group’s chair and vice-chair. The third was to adopt the group’s letterhead. The floor was then turned over to John Walsh, publisher of the Palm Coast Observer, who’d been invited to make a presentation on his notion of economic development—as a courtesy rather than as any indication that the coalition was endorsing anything. Walsh, who summed up the current state of economic development talk as “frustration, frustration, frustration.”

“The summit is feverishly racing to the cliff,” Walsh said. (The summit’s next installment has been cancelled twice, so far.) Walsh then described a governing structure that would be headed by the county and tailored after that of the Tourist Development Council, a powerful advisory board made up of representatives from local governments (minus Bunnell, ironically) and private, hospitality industry representatives. But the TDC manages $1.3 million in annual revenue from the county’s dedicated 4% bed tax on hotel, motel, RV and other temporary-dwelling spending in the county. In other words it has money to do something with.

Walsh is proposing that the county use a portion of $622,500 currently proposed for economic development in the county’s 2011-12 budget to pay for two positions that would lead the economic development effort from the administrative end. (Enterprise Flagler currently has two or three positions, depending how they’re counted.) His presentation over, Walsh left, returning the group to deliberations over its identity—and monthly meetings.

Baker, the Flagler Beach mayor who’s also a member of the Flagler League of Cities, headed by Palm Coast Mayor Jon nets, wasn’t sure what had been accomplished Friday. And as Martinez conceded that the coalition’s place at the larger table may have been secured, he said that matters remained cloudy, and that the coalition will stay in place just in case: if the larger effort is derailed, the coalition will be ready to “leave the station.” Destinations remain as elusive as ever, however.

A particularly severe thunderstorm storm raged outside during the meeting, flickering the lights inside. The storm had mostly blown over by meeting’s end.

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16 Responses for “Coalition of Cities Meets, Its Mission As Fuzzy as Its Place in Flagler’s Economic Bog”

  1. Larry says:

    Flagler Beach don’t waste your time with Bunnell. These folks don’t have a clue what they are doing. Campbell was right. What is the point of all this?

  2. Willie says:

    Are you Lonely? Don’t like working on your own? Hate making decisions?
    Then Call A Meeting!
    You can…
    SEE People
    DRAW Flowcharts
    FEEL Important
    FORM Subcommittees
    IMPRESS Your Colleagues
    MAKE Meaningless Recommendations

  3. lilith says:

    and why wasnt palm coast there?………. probobly because they dont want the many failures they produced pointed out to them…

  4. PJ says:

    There you all going just shooting your mouth off when you don’t attend a public meeting, don’t say what you want in a public forum and maybe not even vote the folks that run your boards but you know how to complain and your very good at it too. So on this comment board you complain instead of saying nice try to the group, keep talking look for the avenue to travel and question other local governments on behalf of the rest of us. You know let me say it like this. Move to St. Johns or better yet Orlando were your whinning voice of reason would even be considered.

    Thank for allowing me to say my piece, or should it be PEACE!!!

  5. Joe says:

    This is all so ridiculous, summits and meetings and now. more meetings about meetings. This is what these officials do when they don;t know what else to do! You hit the nail on the head charlie, it is all on the publics dime!!!

  6. The Piranha says:

    Sounds like another ploy from Martinez in an attempt to get the support he so desperately lacks. Sit at the head of the table and command people to hear his voice and they just might believe he is important. His decision making as Bunnell’s police chief, public safety director, city manager (any other forgotten hat) have been costly and now he wants to spread his wings? Palm Coast wasn’t there for the same reason that those who once supported him no longer want association. The time for honoring himself could not end soon enough. Great photo Flagler Live, was he spreading a wing, offering prayer or giving command?

  7. Ella says:

    That meeting yesterday was to ensure the little guys in the county that they will have an opportunity to be heard. This is America and we are a democratic society. It is not a dictatorship. Those cities just want to participate and help in any way they can get Flagler County moving in the right direction again!

  8. PJ says:

    Ok so let’s just sit around and do nothing. Let the County and Palm Coast run our Cities too. If you have a business in any of the Coalition cities then you need to be a part of a movement. be on top of what is about to be done with your tax dollars. Speak up or you can let the rest of them make your mind up for you. You may not want to complain about Martinez and this group anymore once plans have been confirmed.

    Oh yea you can write on the comments section to speak your mind. So far I’m clearly not impressed with the comments, grow up stop complaining get involved. PEACE OUT!!!

  9. Larry says:

    Nothing will come of all of this… just more wasted tax dollars. This group is incapable of accomplishing anything. Wait a see.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Please PJ do not get so mad…you do not want your blood pressure to shot up! Otherwise ask Martinez!
    I am with Martinez on this one…He was right to raise holly hell because the Enterprise elite wanted and actually did, kick out the small cities that do not contribute to their red tape at least $90,000 a year as PC and County unfortunately do. Let me tell you something, Mar-ti-nez with and rrr, is a Cuban Latino and as such probably a Republican. If many of you good old country boys, can get beyond that, he is not dumb and took a stand sticking very loudly his neck, for you guys in Bunnell, not to be excluded from a potential deal on the economic development and Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Marineland and Beverly Beach right to VOTE on decisions to be made. He was the one that broke the news about the secretive Enterprise meeting were the decision was to prevent those small county cities the right to vote….I can tell you is not easy to confront the powers that be, that may even cost Martinez not only his blood pressure to shot up, but maybe as well his post in Bunnell…just guessing here. Sure I know myself, that witch hunting is alive and well in this county, if you dare to take a stand, for what is right and against special interest.

  11. PJ says:

    Palmcoaster, I agree. Martinez has excelent staff that run damaged departments from the past city managers. No
    blood pressure here but these posters like to do nothing but complain. Please move to the Villiages and complain there is all I’m sayin. Keep up the good work Palmcoaster!

  12. palmcoaster says:

    I will PJ and the fact finding information to be provided maybe will finally move our local tax payers residents to start demanding in droves, some justice around (like when residents went to the redistricting Palm Coast Council meeting and WON) and change finally the modus operand of our local government elected officials and administrators. All for the sake of creating the jobs outsource elsewhere, that our county desperately need and improve our so expensive over nothing so far “economic development”..Just give me time to gather all this sad pathetic and realistic research I am doing right now, that will open the eyes of our community. It’s a lot of work …but I will get it done maybe in time for our residents to print and take it to present to our candidates night in the Nights of Columbus today afternoon or evening…I think to be held…..If we do seat around and don’t go at least to some important meetings bring these issues and “do nothing, then nothing will change for the better or improve” This is our beloved America and probably the only country in the world where we can still bring Change. Just have to work for it and in big numbers peacefully exercising our Freedom of Speech and sharing real facts.!

  13. palmcoaster says:

    Economic Development so much advocated and costly to the tax payers and inefficient to say the least, continuo to be handled by the same failing institutions and the same inept elite all the time. Those are; FC COC, FC Enterprise and a long list of well connected and self appointed representatives of about 800 only (of the total + – 9,000 ) local businesses (of the total + – 9,000 ) that have shown so far only pathetic failure.
    Now we are invited to an Enterprise breakfast 7/26 where Commissioner Milissa Holland and Peggy Heiser (COC TDC appointed and handsomely paid) will talk about the wonders and job creation that tourism can bring to us all, of course if we attract them to stay in Flagler…something that we all, already know. TDC (Tourism Development Council is each Florida County Agency that receives the 4% (in Flagler) bed tax charged by daily stays rentals in hotels, hostels and bead and breakfast and the like, in order to be utilized for advertisement, capital improvements and other investments to attract tourism to these counties. In few words is a public tax funded agency. Lately TDC has allocated to Volusia County resident and TDC VP of tourism Development Peggy Heiser about TDC $670.000 budget to do her job. I just started some research and find out that for one….Heiser is listed as a contributing writer of the local “Flagler Parent Magazine”, there is a Volusia edition as well.
    Now what calls my attention is that this publication is “privately owned” by Charlene Michaux of Brady Publishing with a Palm Coast business area address. I see also the TDC logo imprinted under the incorrect line of Proud Members of , along with the COC’s logos of our local one and the Volusia COC’s. Actually trying to justify incorrectly the real reason for the TDC logo in the magazine that, if following the TDC policy and guidelines,
    is a formal requirement to exhibit TDC logo when receiving their grant to the entity. Then my point is, why not being the Parent Magazine a tourist industry publication and as private business, receives a TDC Grant and if so for how much? Also are their contributing writers like Peggy Heiser listed, paid employees or pro bono? If paid, I could see a serious conflict of interest. Does the Volusia TDC also contribute as the Flagler County one, to this private business? As I do not see their logo listed incorrectly under Proud Members of. TDC Volusia generates 5 times or more what the Flagler counterpart does as has so many hospitality bussinesses (hotels, etc).
    Most of our Non Profit all volunteer operated community arts and historical Flagler County organizations are denied or reduced theirTDC grants for their public events by the 9 members board,
    on the basis and questioning of how many hotel rooms their event will sell. Something always very hard to achieve. Can anyone tell us how many hotel beds Parent Magazine generates, but with real facts please. Or is just the elite connections at work, while gifting from ther 4% bed tax payers funds to some private enterprise?
    Economic Development should be started by putting the horse in front on the carriage and not the other way around as so far done until now. Should be the example from inside our government entities spending our local generated tax revenues in our local manufacturing small businesses and suppliers that are the real contributors to the local economies.
    When Commissioner Barbara Revels was elected about 2 years ago or so, she complyid with her promise in the campaign trail and called a meeting of all the local businesses and all the government buyers trying as she try to promote change of policy regarding local suppliers and better chances to be assigned more government contracts. There we learned why we are not given even a chance to bid in the largest contracts assigned as the county utilizes and outsource Internet bid contractor which guidelines I enclose. Now we learn that in order to just get a copy of the bid details on the Internet we have to pay $5 each…and there is a 1% charge of the grand total if we are granted the contract , never mind the formalities and paperwork and the membership cost that even when reassuren is free we have to pay one. Why do we have to pay to see a bid requirement, for a contract funded by our taxes to an outsource internet contractor profiteering? And if we do not get the bid the $5 are not refundable of course. These hand picked by buyers make the easy $$$ don’t they.? While destroying our economic development .Contractors and small businesses owners present in Revels meeting complained that they never were granted a bid contract they applied to OnVia/OnstaronDemand. That was a big waste of their time and $$ to got thru them..and if try to get deal with the buyer directly their irresponsive unwelcome will deter them as well.An these are for the large bids over $25,000 shown only. The many small bids have another even more difficult policy to overburden the local suppliers as are awarded with less restrictions for the buyers.
    In the following link of you will be able to see in the cases that is disclosed that most Flagler County and Bunnell government contracts are granted to outside the county contractors. From lawyers to pavement companies, to any other services, If and when …they show the beneficiary and the contract $$$ total awarded. Check the link “awarded bids” to find out, then you will see how county commissioners DO NOT promote economic development in reality…Our Americans tax revenue is the magnet for profiting for whom should not, while creating jobs and wealth elsewhere.
    I did find a bid granted to a local Hammock Dunes CB Paving operating from a private residence, for about $26,000 contract.
    What about a guideline that should be in place that bid applicants to be eligible should be located in a physical business store?
    That will also add more fair competition generating more revenue for office space for rent/sale, occupational license and insurance coverage sold. I am still wondering how come Hammock Dunes or Hammock Beach HOA’s were CB Paving address is shown approves a business in a non exclusive commercial location? We the one’s operating from office space always have to endure the competition of those that operate from their residences while outsourcing the work.
    What few dollars savings in a contract, as are always some of the excuses to outsource, gains when promotes one more displaced worker collecting unemployment insurance and not generating sales locally? When the outsourcing is directed overseas (like the Parent Magazine does with Digital Workshop Graphic Design only Google location found, in Hong Kong) then the disadvantages created by the displaced worker are worse as there are NONE generated income and payroll taxes to help our depressed federal budget.
    I saw exceptionally at least, a contract awarded to a good local company that employs local workers, machine and commercial space lease, Clein. Congratulations!
    Economic development needs to be placed in the correct path, no with pricey consultants or hand outs to highly compensated elite, our hard earned taxes. Just simply using common sense and ask our community real businesses “not their so called leaders” how to go about it!

  14. PJ says:

    Hey Palmcoaster nice work.

    Many times the staff does call locals for pricing first. If it looks fair or they use the three quote system it could be enough to hire locals. For the most part that is what takes place. More times than not locals may not do the work (eg:qualifications and such) so I say don’t be so quick to judge staff.

    I can’t comment negative on the county Commissioner Holland and Revels as I see them as thinking for the greater good of the residents and sincere. I will say that the issue is they the COC just like many boards seem to run on a trend because out of ecnomic desparation they can’t be innovative enough n their own and use what sounds good ideas(TDC) to attract attention like, eco tourisim?(every city with a beach in Florida is now an ECO/Tourism location destination)

    How about that eco/tourism idea seems like a good idea and getting back to the basics this may work well together. So lets give Eric Estrada a call and get those retired folks to see how much further their monies can go here in Flagler County, Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Marineland, Beaverly beach and Palm Coast.

    Here let me start the pitch:

    Film Director to Eric Estrada:
    Mr. Estrada action please!

    Eric Estrada:
    Come to beautiful Palm coast located in eco/business friendly Flagler county. with the great cross roads support for business friendly of the City of Bunnell, the beautiful beaches of Flagler Beach and Beaverly beach along with the historic dolphin saving history of Marineland. You too can retire with many things to do.

    oh did I mention the excellent healthcare list of doctors and golf courses to keep you healthy and fit. Just like me, you can live the Florida lifesyle. Just call 1-800 … too simple >Hmmmm -PJ

  15. Larry says:

    PJ and Palmcoaster… get a room. All this ego massaging and buttslapping is grossing me out.

    I am still waiting for the coalition of cities to accomplish something. By the way, I agree Martinez was right to point out that the “little guy” should have been included in the economic development efforts but assembling this separate organization and meeting is a waste of my tax dollars. He could have made his point and moved on with the public’s business but he decided to make an even bigger show at the public’s expense. Bunnell, Palm Coast, and the County keep drawing lines in eachother’s sand box. While they play around, other cities and counties are on the move. Despite how nice of a location Flagler has, its ineffectiveness is going to cause it to be left behind in the new economy.

  16. PJ says:

    Larry, your just so smart. Once again people like you have nothing to say but complain about everyone else. I knew you would crawl out of the wall one day. I don’t need a room when I have something constructive to say to others. Unlike you. At least Palmcoaster does his homework. It’s pretty evident your 5th grade education is shinng through. Put up or shut up. Or you can say something stupid on a comment board.>PJ

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