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Joel Rosen, Palm Coast City Council Candidate: The Live Interview

| August 23, 2014

Joel Rosen is the only candidate among the seven running for Palm Coast City Council to have served on a government board before: he was a Flagler County School Board member for two years in the 1990s. (© FlaglerLive)

Joel Rosen is the only candidate among the seven running for Palm Coast City Council to have served on a government board before: he was a Flagler County School Board member for two years in the 1990s. (© FlaglerLive)

Joel Rosen is a candidate for the Palm Coast City Council, running in District 2, an open seat. Incumbent Dave Ferguson, an appointee to the seat, chose not to run. The other race is in District 4, where incumbent Bill Lewis is running again.

District 2 has drawn three candidates: Rosen, Anne-Marie Shaffer and Heidi Shipley. District 4 has drawn four: Woody Douge (pronounced DO-jay), Lewis, Steven Nobile and Norman Weiskopf.

If a candidate wins at the Aug. 26 primary by more than 50 percent, that race is over: the candidate is the next city council member representing that seat. Should either or both races fail to produce a winner by outright majority, then the top two vote-getters will go on to face each other in a run-off in the Nov. 4 general.

Though delineated by districts, all residents of Palm Coast who are registered voters may cast a ballot in the election, regardless of where they live, regardless of party affiliation, including independents. It is a non-partisan election. Council members serve four-year terms and are paid $9,600 a year.

FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all council candidates, who replied in writing, with the understanding that some follow-up questions may be asked, and that all exchanges would be on the record. Each candidate was also given the opportunity to ask his or her opponent questions. Follow-up questions, when necessary, appear in italics. When a candidate fails to answer a question, that’s noted in red. The questions and follow-ups attempt to elicit precise answers, but the candidates don’t always comply.

The Questions in Summary: Quick Links

Candidate Basics

The Candidate:

Place and date of birth: Reading, Pa., January 25, 1937.

Current job: I am a full service insurance broker (AJ Enterprises of Palm Coast).

Net worth: See his disclosure.

Party Registration: Republican

Website: Facebook

1. What qualifies you to be a city council member?

Prior to owning my own business I was in management with the Metropolitan Insurance co. for 30 years. I’ve been in the insurance industry for 51 years. This background has taught me how to think out of the box and also how to work with other people to get things done. I also have government experience. I am one of a few people in the United States who has served on elected school boards in two states. I have served on statewide committees in both states some appointed by the Governors. I have served on and held offices in volunteer organizations in Flagler County. My complete resume is posted here.

2. Tell us who you are as a person—what human qualities and shortcomings you’ll bring to the council, what your temperament is like: what would your enemies say is your best quality, and what would your friends say is your worst fault? Give us real-life examples to illustrate your answer. 

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I have over the years developed the ability to work with others to get things accomplished I am a very positive person and try to approach life looking towards the rainbow. My wife (Audrey) is a professional artist and we have just celebrated our 50th anniversary. My enemies (assuming there are some) say I’m too nice a guy. Examples might be the many organizations I have been an active in. I try to accomplish projects that will help Flagler county and Palm Coast be a better community. I have championed many projects to help children; an example is a statewide committee that developed the pre-k program

What faults might you have that would have a bearing on your way of doing business on a board?

If I have a fault its being very aggressive when I question people on their recommendations and sometimes annoys the presenter but I like to see between the lines.

3. Candidates for city or county government routinely speak of bringing jobs if elected. Do you think it’s in your power—and your job description–to bring jobs? If so, how would you? Are you satisfied with the city’s economic development focus by way of the Business Assistance Center?

Yes, I feel as a city official I will have an obligation to work hard to promote economic development. We know the community is made up of mostly residential areas but business development costs a lot less for the city to service while contributing the quality of life in the city. I think the city’s efforts are on the right track but we need to do more. An example is to work with the Florida National Guard, who will soon be located at the Flagler airport. They have contacts with many high tech industries and could help us bring them to the city.

It would be unusual for the National Guard to do what might be construed as lobbying business on behalf of a city. Aside from the Guard, how would you, as a council member, effectively make a difference in terms of bringing more jobs?

As part of my professional life, I do human resource fairs for various groups. I did the Florida National guard convention in Daytona Beach a few weeks ago. I was amazed how many high tech companies that the guard deals with. Their conference next year is in St. Augustine and hopefully we can convenience them to consider Palm Coast in 2016. But more than that with the guard locating here, we may have a chance to discuss with them convincing some of their suppliers to consider relocating to Palm Coast.

At the conference, I spoke to the general in charge of the Florida guard and he was interested in the idea. In addition there is a organization called the small business majority, I plan to meet with. They assist businesses in relocating. I also believe we can do a lot to make Palm Coast more user friendly by spending up the permit process, etc.

4. The Town Center CRA has had its share of controversies over the years, not least the way it was designed as such. It subtracts about $1 million a year in county government revenue. And it hasn’t lived up to its development promise. Do you think it’s time to sunset the CRA? If so, why, and if not, why not?

This is an issue I’m not totally familiar with but it is on my radar to research and bring it up for council discussion My understanding it has saved the taxpayers of the city quite a bit of money.

5. Red-light cameras have divided the city between ardent supporters and ardent opponents. On which side are you? Explain your defense or opposition to the cameras. If you support keeping them, would you support adding more or reducing their numbers? If you would repeal them, how would you propose to break the contract with ATS before the contract’s end date in 2019? How would you then address safety concerns at intersections? 

I believe the use of red light cameras has been overdone. We need to identify the intersections that have a large number of accidents due to traffic light crashers and leave the cameras only at those intersections. We need take a look at the time the yellow stays on. We also should meet with the red light contractor in an effort to renegotiate the contract at little cost to the taxpayers.

6.Evaluate the level and quality of policing in the city. What changes, if any, would you push for, and how would you pay for them, if those changes entail an increase in services? Would you favor Palm Coast having its own police department?

The latest cost estimates I’ve seen show that the cost to establish our own police dept would far exceed contracting with the county, however, we should meet with the sheriff’s deptartment to establish Palm Coast’s priorities for quality policing.

How is quality policing not already being executed? Where do you see the lags?

There is some communication between the Police Dept. and Palm coast city already, I’m told some of the council members already meet with the officials of the county police on a regular basis, I would join in those discussions. Examples to control speeding in the city we need the use of speed bumps which has been proven very effective in other cities. I would like to see us be more proactive with dealing with youths at risk. I , formerly was chairman of the Volusia-Flagler  Juvenile Justice Commission and found that increasing opportunities for them to participate in the arts dramatically brings down juvenile crimes like house break-ins

7. Where do you stand on Amendment 2, the constitutional proposal to legalize medical marijuana? Palm Coast is considering regulating eventual medical marijuana dispensaries—assuming the amendment passes—in similar ways that it did pill mills or would less-than desirable businesses, through restrictive zoning. Do you support the approach? If so, explain why, or why not. 

I believe medical marijuana could be tolerated but after my experience as chairman of the Volusia-Flagler Juvenile Justice commission, I’ve seen how youth may overuse any drug. This could create a big problem to the community so; I’m against legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. If it is legalized, however, we need to control where it is made available.

There are no initiatives to legalize marijuana for recreational purpose. Why would you control where medical marijuana is made available any more than you would control where any other legal product is made available? How is legal Xanax, available at Target, any different than legal pot (other than Xanax’s much higher death toll from abuse)?

I’m already getting flyers for a movement to legalize recreational pot so the movement is there. My son-in-law is pharmacist, he is presently is a supervisor for them and I will get a lot of advice from him on Xanax, etc. since I’m really not that knowledable on that drug.  I don’t think creating an specific area for selling medical marijuana will work very well and will create a burden on our police force. It is however, an issue I want to do more research on. I’ll get back to you on that one.

8. In 2012 the council was sharply divided about home-based businesses, finally voting 3-2 to deny a low-impact home-based bakery business from going ahead. Since home-based businesses are a growth industry, the matter may arise again, and your vote could decide it one way or the other in Palm Coast. Understanding that the city already makes room for certain home-based businesses “where information-oriented business activities are limited to paperwork, computer, mail, telephone, and filing,” for example, what’s your position on home-based businesses—how would you liberalize or restrict them?

I believe in this computer age home based business is growing and contributes to the city’s economy. Before Palm Coast became a city, the county’s policy seem very reasonable which is to require the applicant to post signs around his property announcing his intent and date of the hearing, hold a hearing to decide whether or not to issue a permit including public input and decide to issue a permit or not.

9. Along the same lines of business and the business climate in Palm Coast, there are often-repeated claims, some of them documented, that the city is not business friendly (recall Panera’s retreat from two planned stores to one), businesses speak of too-restrictive regulations down to the sort of landscaping and buffers they’re required to have or a laborious inspection process. On the other hand, the restrictions ensure that the city doesn’t turn into replicas of stretches of U.S. 1 in south Florida. What is your analysis of the business climate in the city and the city administration’s management, in step with council direction? What concrete changes would you call for? Alternately, what would you build on that you see is working?

Palm Coast still has a reputation of not being business friendly. A recent example was the Verizon store on Belle Terre Pkwy. They had one minor violation so they weren’t given their certificate of occupancy until it was fixed. The owner told me in most cities, they would have been given their CO and given 30 days to correct what ever had to be done. I do not know the city’s version of the incident but there have been other incidents that have been reported in the newspapers. I want to look in to the cities procedures and see if we can apply some “common sense” to speed up the process. I agree we need to be careful that we don’t open Pandora’s Box. I think we need to think out of the box to change the city’s image. Rethinking how we handle business will improve our image.

10. What defines a great city—beyond its employees, its manager, its council, its great people and its beautiful medians—and what will you do to make it so? Please give at least three specific examples within the scope of what’s doable by you as a member of the council. Also, give at least two examples of where Palm Coast is failing as a city, outside of infrastructural or economic issues.

The Palm Coast Council’s Mission statement says it all. The council has to consider every vote in that context. The statement will be my bible as I research issues. I believe the council needs to look towards the future as we face the issues related to growth. We are a great city to live and work in. challenges such as pollution control and water supply are some examples of areas we need to look in too. This positive approach should be used in all our publicity.

Can you elaborate on what you mean and would like to see regarding pollution control and water supply?

We know that water in Florida is going to be a problem in Florida and our area, I just think we have to think out of the box and stay ahead of the curve both on preventing additional pollution issues as well as alternative water supplies.

11. How do you support the arts locally (beyond, say, signing your name to a proclamation or attending a show)? What would you do as a member on the council? Palm Coast’s budget for the arts has been declining: $33,000 in 2009, $20,000 in 2011, $25,000 this year. Why the decline, and should a city of this size be so stingy when it comes to the arts?

I’m so glad you asked this! I must declare I am a bit biased on this issue, my wife Audrey, is a professional artist. I was the originator of the idea to build a preforming arts center in Town Center, and yes I believe we need to put more emphasis on cultural endeavors. Not all of these efforts would require additional cost. Working closely with private groups to help them achieve their goals would be a big step forward and by increasing grants to these organizations could be an option. This would help attract new businesses, who look for cultural activities for their employees. It also has been proven that when we get our young people involved in the arts, Juvenile delinquency drops dramatically.

We take it you’d want the city’s cultural budget increased?

I believe the arts will help in many ways. For example it will help in attracting new business to our area, Most business people when considering relocating consider cultural activities for their employees also as mentioned before these activities help control juvenile crimes. I believe the city can #1 encourage these activities and yes, contribute a little more in the cultural budget since the dividends will offer a worthwhile pay back. So you know my wife is a professional artist.

12. It is almost certain that during your tenure, the city will need more revenue: in the last two years, it increased the stormwater fee from $8 to $11 a month for the typical house, and it increased water rates 22 percent, spread over three years. If you have an issue with those raises, please explain how else you would have addressed the city’s needs. Looking ahead, where would you seek additional revenue—an increase in the property tax? The addition of a utility franchise fee? Any other ideas?

I don’t accept your statement that the city will need more revenue. Our growth is picking up automatically increasing our tax base. When I was on the school board the growth eliminating the need to raise taxes, so I believe that growth will now have the same effect on city income. I am concerned that new city hall because we will have more space which will present the opportunity to hire more personnel. I would make the departments justify all new hires. Also it is not too late to look at decreasing our monthly expenses on the building by thinking out of the box and exploring things like solar panels. I am a conservative when it comes to spending so I favor zero budgeting to justify every expense.

Fair enough, but assuming that the next four years of your tenure aren’t as predictable, and you are in need of new revenue, not just cuts, what would you favor?

Both. I am a fiscal conservative. During my tenure on the Flagler County School Board, we lowered taxes every year. I believe in zero budgeting and would encourage that in the city.

Actually, lowering or raising taxes for general revenue on the school board was not in your power. That’s the Legislature’s doing, though it is in your power at the city. We must press the question to get a clearer understanding of your understanding of the budget: where would you look first for new revenue?

I believe “zero-based budgeting is a very efficient way to do a budget instead of just adding on % every year which may include items where funds weren’t even spent. Also as a council member, I would review every department’s budget for area’s that could be revised. Example: might be some licensing requirements where it cost more to collect the fee than we take in. I My background is in accounting and I have been the treasurer of many organizations over the years as well as during my professional career with a major insurance co. I had to make budgets for my office.

 In terms of new revenue, I would ask the city manager to propose all the alternatives as well as explore some myself if we need new revenue. Again I would prefer to cut unnecessary expenses first.   

That still leaves the essence of the question unanswered. 

 

13. Assuming strong growth resumes on your watch, and the half-dozen odd DRIs in the city begin to build up. Would you support reviving the city’s desalination initiative to ensure the city’s water supply in the future?

Yes.

The question was poorly phrased (imagine that!). Given your support for desalination, but also its considerable expense, how would you propose to pay for it?

Saying I was a fiscal conservative in question 12, I must point out where the benefit would be worth The expense, I am open to listen. I believe for the sake of the future, we need to stay a head of the curve on this one. Probably a bond issue would work but we need partners from are surrounding counties to keep the cost down and this will be one of the challenges; we will need to work on.

14. What makes for an effective council member, what makes for a lousy council member? Give examples of both, and give us your analysis of current council dynamics. Who on the current council does your philosophy most closely aligns with?

An effective Council Member is one that puts city concerns at the top of his list when it comes to city business. I am running because Palm Coast is still a young city and decisions made now will set the course for the future. Since only two council seats are up in this election, whoever, gets elected has to work with the present three council members. That doesn’t mean that I would endorse everything the present members propose but whoever is elected needs to have the ability to back proposals introduced by the new member. My prior government experience on government boards gives me the ability to do just that. I am a totally independent thinker so I am not aligned with any special interest groups or present council member.

We’re not referring to political alignment, but merely to affinities, though every candidate attempts not to answer this question. The question fairly goes to your philosophy in relation to your colleagues and to the dynamics of the board, which voters have every right and expectation to understand as much as possible in order to make an enlightened choice going into the voting booth. Can you try again? Have you seen your potential colleagues in action enough to make an informed assessment?

Experience is my answer. I believe I am the only choice representing district 2 that has had the experience in politics to know how to work with a board to get results done. I have chaired dozens of committees and government bodies. I know the time commitment that holding public office requires and I have the time to devote 24/7. I am used to doing research on issues and also knowing how to listen to my fellow board members concerns. 30 years in management with a major insurance company taught me a great deal in dealing with people as well as coming up with solutions to difficult problems.

You are not answering the question, which is about who you find you have most affinities for on the current council, not what you have done in the past.

I am able to work with anyone so I really don’t care who is on the council now and besides since 3 are not up for election this year , there isn’t anything I could do about it. My goal is to get them to see and understand my point of view so that we can positive things done. And I believe I have the ability to do that.

That, too, still leaves the essence of the question unanswered. 

15. Evaluate City Manager Jim Landon’s performance in your view, citing strengths and weaknesses. If the city weren’t under budget constraints, would you give him a raise?

The performance of any city manager depends largely on what his council members demand of him or her. I’m not sure what the present council has really demanded from Mr. Landon in the past but I would want him to justify any recommendations he would make to council by spelling out all alternatives he explored to reach his conclusion. Any raises should be made based on his ability to achieve the goals set by council for him.

16. Other candidates’ questions.

The candidates in District 2 have chosen not to ask each other questions.

 

Joel Rosen provided this final thought:

I appreciate all your questions, it gave me a chance to think about the challenges that I will face as a city council member. I confess I don’t know all the right answers and I know you may not agree with my answers but I will try my hardest to find the right answers. I have no ties nor have I accepted any funds from any special interest group or group of candidates. People who have served on boards with me know I am aggressive in questioning about the issues. I look forward to input and help to make Palm Coast an ideal city to live in.

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2 Responses for “Joel Rosen, Palm Coast City Council Candidate: The Live Interview”

  1. Red Face says:

    Mr. Rosen partially supports Red light Cameras on question #5. Please step aside and allow another opponent to step up! You are either for or against the Cameras. If you are on the fence, then you can’t be trusted.

  2. Pride of Cucamonga says:

    I don’t run red lights so, red light cameras are not a problem for me. Good interview.

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