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Majority of Palm Coast Council Would Forego Early Voting Fees, But Weeks Hardens Over Space

| August 27, 2013

Jim Landon and Kimberle Weeks aren't really talking to each other. (© FlaglerLive)

Jim Landon and Kimberle Weeks aren’t really talking to each other. (© FlaglerLive)

Rather than moving toward a resolution, the feud between Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks and Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon over the use of the city’s community center for early voting next year is getting more strident.

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Weeks is not moving away from her request—or “demand,” as Landon sees it—for use of the larger community center meeting room for what would amount to a total of four weeks for early voting and Election Day voting in the 2014 primary and general election.

Landon is not moving away from his offer that Weeks use a smaller room. He is also requiring that she either pay for at least some of the use of the room, or barter with the city to exempt Palm Coast of any fees it would normally be charged to have its 2014 council elections on the ballot.

But Landon is promulgating a fee arrangement the city council does not support.

At least three Palm Coast City Council members—Mayor Jon Netts and members Bill Lewis and Jason DeLorenzo—say they’re willing to dispense with fees and grant Weeks free use of a facility at the community center. DeLorenzo made his position clear in a meeting earlier this month, saying the few hundreds of dollars the city would charge Weeks aren’t so significant that they can’t be dispensed with. Netts and Lewis, interviewed Monday, say they’d also be willing to offer Weeks use of a room at no charge.

But the council members also agree that the free room would be the smaller option at the community center, which Weeks is not accepting, even though she’s previously accepted to hold Election Day balloting in the smaller room. She says she needs the larger room because voters have complained about the smaller room in the past.

The larger room is 2,100 square feet. The smaller room is virtually half that size—1,160 square feet, according to figures provided by Carl Cote, Palm Coast’s construction manager.

Ironically, the smaller room is actually bigger than the early voting meeting room Weeks uses (free of charge) at the public library on Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre. That room is 972 square feet, and has been the prime destination for early voting for the past several elections. In 2012, voters waited up to 75 minutes to cast a ballot there, during the eight days of early voting. The Legislature had at the time scaled back early voting days, but has since expanded them again.

“For Early Voting, the large room is needed,” Weeks wrote in an email, in response to a question that asked whether she’d be willing to take the smaller room, now that council members are willing to provide it, free. “This building belongs to the people, and was given to the City for Governmental Services, and it is maintained with the tax payers money.  I don’t consider their workshop and meetings as services, I consider them as functions.  Because this building is mine to use, a fee should never be charged and it is insane that Mr. Landon made the proposal that he did.”

In an Aug. 21 letter, Landon had written Weeks that early voting hours extend beyond the normal business day, and would therefore require extra city staffing at the community center. He said those costs should be paid out of countywide dollars, not city dollars, since all county voters would benefit from the early voting location.

Landon’s point in this case is a stretch: Palm Coast voters account for about 80 percent of the electorate, and the community center location would likely be used by an even larger proportion of Palm Coast voters, for whom it’s designed, as it would be the third early voting location. Weeks will also provide early voting at the county library and at the Government Services Building in Bunnell.

“However,” Landon wrote, “we are proposing that if you assure us that you will not charge the Palm Coast taxpayers, through the city budget, for any election costs, we will agree to pay the extra community center city staffing costs caused by an election out of the city budget.” Otherwise, he said, the city will bill the supervisor for use of the facility.

Weeks countered that if the city made a key available to her staff, there would be no need for city staffing during extra voting hours. Weeks was miffed by the suggestion that her own staff could not supervise the building as properly and safely as city staff during those extra hours, particularly since most unused rooms in the building would be locked after hours.

The billing matter may be academic, if that majority of the council sticks by its pledge to do away with the fee—but only if Weeks agrees to using the smaller room.

But Weeks, citing documents dating back to when the community center was a county property, insists that the city may not stand in the way of her use of the facility as she deems fit. The city doesn’t agree with that interpretation of the older documents.

Weeks also says that it’s the city, not her office, that’s being inflexible over scheduling.  “It is interesting that their meetings/workshops have been cancelled for their elections,” she wrote, “and that they schedule is obviously flexible, but they refusing to be flexible at this time.”

Weeks is mostly wrong on that score.


The council cancelled its Nov. 8 workshop in 2011, for example, to accommodate the city’s election day, though the workshop was to be held at the city’s offices at City Marketplace, where bi-monthly workshops are usually held. But the council has not cancelled a meeting at the community center to accommodate an election: even on Nov. 6, 2012, the day of the last general (and presidential) election, the council started its meeting at its usual larger chamber at the center, at 6:30 p.m., half an hour before polls closed. In other words, voting was still taking place in the nearby “secondary” meeting room a few steps down the hall. That was also the case on Election Day in November 2010 and in 2008.

That’s why council members and Landon are at a loss over why the supervisor is being adamant about using the larger room, when all sides could be accommodated, including voters (and taxpayers), if she conceded to using the smaller room.

But Weeks was unbowed, and turned up the volume on council members and the city administration.

“I am only asking for the big room for two weeks every election and elections are typically every two years,” she wrote. “I don’t see that as being unreasonable. I see them as being unreasonable.  If the council members have no more regards for our elections process, and don’t think of the voters when making their decisions, shame on them.  I hope they remember they are elected, and they are accountable to the people. Are they trying to keep voter turnout low, and prevent making voting more convenient?”

Palm Coast has had a problem with turnout in its last few elections, with turnout plummeting to below 15 percent, and voting locations also being reduced drastically in cost-saving measures. That was before the city decided to pair its elections with even-year federal and state elections, to save money and encourage more turnout. Weeks and the city have had a checkered history over that period.

“We reached out to the city when we were doing redistricting and considered fire stations as polling locations and again they wanted to charge a fee,” Weeks wrote. “The City of Flagler Beach, City of Bunnell and Town of Beverly Beach help us to advertise elections (at no cost) in their utility billings, and when reaching out to the City of Palm Coast they wanted an outrageous amount of money.  The ballot box should never be controlled by the budget!”

She added: “If there was a good reason why I shouldn’t be seeking the use of the large room at the Community Center I would consider other options.  Thus far a good reason hasn’t been presented.”

The city disagrees.

Weeks will make her case to the council at a Sept. 3 meeting, at 6:30 p.m.–in the council’s larger room at the community center. Weeks has also been invited to a council workshop to discuss the matter, on Sept. 10, at 9 a.m., at the city’s City Marketplace offices. Both meetings are open to the public and are streamed live on the Internet.

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22 Responses for “Majority of Palm Coast Council Would Forego Early Voting Fees, But Weeks Hardens Over Space”

  1. You tell me says:

    If everyone should pay their share, then is the City going to pay for 80% of the elections in 2014?

    I have read this story and see no reason why the City can’t or shouldn’t allow the space requested for elections. It is about time the Council members show they are in charge, and not Jim Landon. Landon’s judgment proves to be cloudy by proposing that the supervisor waive any fees for the city municipal election in exchange for the use of the space the supervisor is already entitled to.

  2. Will says:

    Does mad cow in a china shoppe come to mind?

  3. tulip says:

    Now Palm Coast gets to endure the bad behavior and arrogance that Weeks is good at handing out to people.

    She made the statement that ‘”the ballot box should never be controlled by a budget”. Well, thank Heaven it is because she would be spending even more and not necessarily wisely.

    It is okay that the City Council agreed to waive the fees, but I hope they stand their ground on the size of the room issue and don’t give in to being bullied by her. I also hope that next election people will remember and consider voting for someone else.

  4. Charles Gardner says:

    Don’t blame me. I live in Bunnell and voted for Apperson.

  5. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    I’d say our City Manager, an unelected and highly overpaid official, is wading into deep water. Time to end his contract.

    This issue is only one one example of his disregard for the citizens here.

  6. Carolann says:

    I agree with Kimberle Weeks. The city should not be charging for citizen use of the larger room. There are issues with access to the smaller room for wheelchairs. Its not like the City Council meetings have a large citizen participation – lots of us know not to attend and be talked down to or dismissed with their condescending attitudes. I don’t consider their format “citizen participation” at all, and I’m surprised it passes legal muster.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    I can’t think of a better use for a community center than providing a convenient place for the citizens of that county to vote.

  8. tulip says:

    According to the article, the smaller room at the community center is 1160 sq. ft and the library is 972 sq. ft. If the Library space works, then the 1160 ft room should work. On ELECTION Day itself, then maybe the larger room could be used?

    In defense of the City Coucil, the larger room is where all the tv and audio equipment is installed and they need that room for their council meetings.

  9. Mike says:

    Talk a about a power struggle, this is insane that two top officials bicker like these two; this is why Government is failing overall. City Manager wants to charge, election supervisor does not want to pay and wants the bigger room, how about you except the smaller room for free and we extend the hours to make up for the smaller room. This is not rocket science, government creates most of their own problems, these two need to step down off the pedestal that they “BELIEVE” they live on and create a solution with out any further embarrassment to their positions.

  10. Willy says:

    I find it odd that Weeks is accusing the city of trying to keep voters from the polls and reducing voter accessibility. She her self closed a few long time poll locations herself. The residents of Rima Ridge have to drive all the way to Korona some 20 miles to vote. The previous SOE kept this location open with the same budget as Weeks even during heavier turnout in the 2008 election.

    I do agree that voting and the act of registration to vote should be as simple and acessible as obtaining a library card. However picking a fight with the city for image improvement purposes I dont agree with.

    • Read the New Paper says:

      In the information I received explaining why there was a reduction in precincts, Commission Peterson was quoted as stating that year that he demanded that Weeks reduce the polling locations, and he even went as far to make the statement that he didn’t care if it was an inconvenience to the voters because it was only for one day. I don’t recall the previous SOE ever being told how to do her job by the County Commissioners, or that she ever received hassles over receiving funds to operate. When the SOE’s hands are tied, she can only do what she can do. The Supervisor is independently elected, and that is for a reason, and it is not to be manipulated by Peterson, Landon or anyone else. I appreciate the Supervisor of Elections looking out for the peoples best interest.

  11. georged1_us says:

    How about the City impose a poll tax to cover the cost of using a public place to exercise our most sacred right. How about we use a broom closet.

    • Shocked, I tell you... says:

      @georged1_us: LOL. In past years a broom closet would have been sufficient. Let us hope the larger turnouts continue.

  12. confidential says:

    I am a resident in the east side of I95 in Palm Coast and I am sure, like probably most of us in this side, welcome the early voting suggested by SOE Mrs. Weeks in the conveniently located Community Center of PC Parkway and Club House Drive. Our SOE is a very common sense constitutional official. Lets do not forget that she advised the School Board for their Referendum to hold it via mail to save most of the 80,000 plus cost and her good idea was unceremoniously rejected with the disastrous consequences for all to see. Our taxes wasted for nothing. Every time our dedicated current SOE comes up with a good suggestion to our elected officials and their administrators she confronts resistance, opposition and battles. Our elected officials and administrators are not the SOE and lack her training, same thing as if they would want to micro manage the Sheriff, Clerk of Courts or Property Appraiser. Even the poll workers can have a better idea than PC elected and administrator officials, regarding how much space, a large precinct with 4,000 registered voters, may need in order to avoid long waits and long lines and offer enough space to our ADA residents to access the polls. That narrow hallway to the “smaller room” does not have enough space for voters waiting in line and a wheelchair moving along. I know that community center is known among poll workers not being an easy one as, “gets really busy and some times tempers flair”. Our SOE should expect a big turn out and she is planning for one well ahead of time. If half of the 4,000 registered voters in that precinct, whether vote early or absentee by mail or do not vote at all, still we may have 2,000 voters in 12 hours (7 AM to 7 PM) equal 166 voters per hour and we never know how long that ballot would be, as per the last minute additions, like in 2012 and the longer the items on it, the longer takes a voter to complete. Record shows that at the library early voting people waited up to 75 minutes!! That is not what the voters want and our SOE is trying to prevent that, by asking for and offering the community center as early voting for the first time and our elected ones and administrators should collaborate … and yes she needs the larger room as well, to set up more booths and prevent long lines of voters exposed to inclement weather; if is Florida’s scorching sun or storms in hurricane season. Council should move their couple of meetings falling in those days to the smaller room after all how often those meetings attract a crowd…? Personally I hardly see in general neither 10 residents in most council meetings. Maybe were three residents in the last one. I am glad council decided not to charge us the voters twice for the use of the location for a government business as important as elections. Mr. Landon’s proposition of barter, borders the pathetic, really takes away the luster of his credentials. You lobby so much for some and so little for the voters/ taxpayers. Did I hear sounds that also some bartering is being planned for that community center soon, in favor of more profits for certain local legal team… again? Hope is just out of the wrong grapevine.

    I do not think that our Palm Coast elected officials and administrator have seeing or have any idea of the extreme effort that many voters show on election day, like obviously coming to vote even right out their convalescent beds their pale faces smiling, some not even being able to stand too long due to debilitating illness, many aided by walkers or canes a wheelchair or a relative, reading thru magnifying sheets provided or signing with difficulty, young mom’s with their small children hugging their legs while they complete the task as not all can find or pay for care.. ..if any of you ever been a poll worker in a large precinct on election day…you would have already approved the request of our SOE as presented. The reason our brave ones give their lives on the battlefield is for our Freedom and we honor them by exercising that Freedom at the ballot box. So please let us vote! I hope that PC council, Mayor and Mr. Landon use common sense and show us the voters that suppression is not the name of the game in Palm Coast on elections. Ask yourselves where you all voted in the last elections, did you have to wait or voted absentee? Were you in any of the same limiting conditions of some of the voters I described above? Ask the voters their wishes…or we have to all show up to the next city council meeting?.

  13. Voter says:

    If the Board of County Commssioners hadn’t demanded that Kimberle reduce precincts she wouldn’t have had to close them. Now, just like back then, she’s being manipulated and and is being prevented from doing the job we elected her to do.

  14. BW says:

    This is simply another example of Mrs. Weeks going out on one of her personal vendettas and throwing childish temper tantrums by playing it out in the press. Has anyone figured out how self-absorbed this woman is to go out of her way to make issues out of non-issues just to see her name being talked about?

    This stuff of “the people voted me in” as a basis for her arguments is what people say when they really have no argument. The truth is that NOT everyone voted for this woman. Likewise, history is littered with people voted into offices that do poor jobs and make bad decisions. Mrs. Weeks has been on the list twice now.

    Here’s the bottom line, we need the second location for early voting and thank goodness the law was changed to allow that. The smaller room is adequate and she is not being charged for it as she originally claimed was the issue. Let it go in regards to the bigger room. IF we don’t get the second location with the smaller room it is entirely because of Weeks and no one else. enough with the “I don’t like Palm Coast” stuff. Palm Coast is the good majority of the County and brings in most of the County revenue. Get over it Mrs. Weeks and just give us the second voting location.

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    WOW! What a tempest in a tea pot! Do our community leaders have nothing better to do other than look foolish with these public political power plays? What better use of a Community Center is there than voting? May the citizens (who pay for the center) please use the “BIG” room, Daddy?

  16. tulip says:

    The small room at the community center is close 200 sq ft LARGER than the one at the library, so there should be no problem using it.

    Library 972 sq ft
    Comm. Center 1160

    • Anonymous says:

      If the library has extensive lines during early voting, why would the Supervisor want more of the same by accepting the small room?

  17. We The People says:

    I smell Voter Suppression! Since when should we not be permitted to vote with convenience, and have more options of being able to cast our ballot? We should not be forced to stand in line because some with authority want to flex their muscle. The Supervisor asks for the big room, and should get what she needs.

  18. confidential says:

    Tulip. Have you ever volunteered working in a precinct as a poll worker?
    The library has a pretty large entrance exterior overhang for people waiting in line…the community center has none…elections take place in hurricane season. Also if council decides to take up an argumentative issue in their public meeting council agenda at the same time of the early voting or on election day, have you ever seeing the overflowed parking into the street and adjacent areas? Then where the voters are going to park? Will be none spots available and they will go back home without voting, specially our elderly voters with physical impediments. Why doesn’t our city council and manager cede the community center for those days for the elections purpose and instead use the City Market Place meeting room for that couple of meetings and let Freedom Ring by helping us the voters? You actually won’t be bowing to or helping SOE Mrs. Weeks, but will be helping us the voters other than suppressing us!

  19. Anonymous says:

    How do you explain to a 75 year old mother who uses a waker that wants to vote she has wait I line for an hour because only the small room is availabe, but if the large room were available the wait would be 15 minutes because 3 times the voters would be able to vote. Council men need to think about this, apparently Weeks has.

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