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Palm Coast Government’s Arrogance
Proves It: Charter Review Is Overdue

| October 16, 2015

jim landon jon netts palm coast charter review

Mayor Jon Netts, who often blindly follows City Manager Jim Landon’s lead, is opposing a charter review. (© FlaglerLive)

Before getting into the brisket of this discussion here, I’d like to point out a fact that escapes the majority of the members of the Palm Coast City Council. It’s this: Steven Nobile got elected to the council by almost twice as many votes as three other council members got, combined. Mayor Jon Netts was elected by 2,145 votes, Bill McGuire by 2,874, and Jason DeLorenzo by 2,766.

Nobile got elected by 12,384 votes.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive.com flaglerlive So if there’s any debate as to who is more representative of whom, these numbers should settle it. Of course Nobile was elected after the city changed its electoral cycles to coincide with general elections. But no one kept voters from voting in previous elections. And for all of Nobile’s love of weaponry, no one held a gun to a single voter’s head to vote for him last year. If the council wants to take credit for changing the charter to enable those even-year elections, great: that proves how charter changes can be a very good thing.

Isn’t that Nobile’s point?

When Nobile first talked about reviewing the city charter in May, I was suspicious. I thought he was reflecting the wishes of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies. I’m a fan neither of Ronald Reagan nor of his alleged assemblies, some of whose members are great bomb-throwers but don’t know civics from skivvies. (The Reaganites have distanced themselves from Nobile’s thrust anyway.) And I’m certainly no fan of Nobile’s ideological extremities, some of which remind me of Freddy Krueger thumbing through the Constitution.


But the more the rest of the city council has been treating Nobile like a parvenu on its precious little board, the more I’ve warmed to his idea, if not to him: I don’t like people ganging up on someone, whether it’s on a playground or on an elected council. And this council, for all its pretensions of decorum, has been ganging up on Nobile as if he’d crashed their playground. They claim to be protecting Palm Coast’s brand of democracy. How ironic that they come off looking like a bunch of defensive autocrats looking out for their fraternity.

I’m now entirely for a charter review commission. Nobile didn’t convince me. The rest of the council did. I doubt I’m alone. The council, led as always by City Manager Jim Landon, who sets the tone, is showing itself to be stodgy, clubbish, arrogant and fearful. Fearful of change, primarily, but especially fearful that its current dynamic is tampered with.

Here’s how ugly this council has been toward Nobile. They use his lack of eloquence, his difficulties outlining an issue, against him. Yet they’re the ones–and by they, I mean specifically the three barely-elected members cited above and their unelected manager–whose reasons to counter Nobile lack eloquence and speak of their contempt for the very process (and the people) they claim to be representing. Take three of those reasons.

They say no one has complained. No one is clamoring for a review (aside from 12,384-vote Nobile). True. But this council claims that if it’s not receiving emails or getting swarmed by constituents about an issue, then that issue does not exist. Strange, considering that constituents have no clue and don’t care about most of what the council approves week in and week out, because that’s the nature of governing and managing: it’s a sausage factory most people are happy to leave to their elected. You think anyone cares or knows what contractor the city hires to pave roads, repair bridges and rebuild parks? Two and a half people do. That’s about it.

Those projects are no less essential. It’s what we have a government for. But when one of those elected decides to make an issue his own, don’t then turn around and discredit his idea because he can’t produce busloads of disciples. That’s not how representative government works. (Where were the busloads supporting DeLorenzo’s chronic war on impact fees? Where were the busloads championing Netts’s love affair with the Florida Inland Navigation District? Where were the busloads clamoring for McGuire’s push for more civility toward Palm Coast employees?)

Council members claim no one knows the first thing about the charter. They’re right. But aside from the contempt for the public that their claim reflects, it’s precisely why a charter review is periodically necessary: it re-familiarizes people with their form of government, reestablishes those civic connections council members themselves complain are lacking, it educates the public about the differences between the charter and the ordinances the council enacts, it generates new ideas that could enrich the charter, or prune it of outdated or inappropriate clauses (like that ridiculous, nearly $1,000 fee to run for council, absent petitions. It’s reflects the aristocratic attitude of the current council, an attitude Netts defended under the guise of not opening up the process to just anyone. Is this 2015 or 1788?)

Council members claim Nobile can’t say clearly what and why he wants to review in the charter. But he owes them no justification. Voters elected him, not the council. Their demands for clearer explanations again speak to their presumptions. They’re not the gatekeepers of another councilman’s ideas. They can disagree with him and of course block him. Nobile makes noise, but he’s terrible at building coalitions. But his colleagues are blocking him on false pretenses–namely, that he’s not explained his proposal. False: he started in May by proposing a citizen-led, council-appointed charter review commission. That’s as lucid an idea as there is. The council has been doing its best to detract from it, showing its true, undemocratic colors.

Several specific ideas Nobile has brought up, whether they’re his or not–increasing the number of council members, raising salaries, enabling council members to have more hands-on authority over the administration–are patently absurd, and council members’ direct involvement in the administrative process is (and should remain) inadmissible, if not illegal. It betrays Nobile’s poor understanding of local government and his hunt for alarming shortcuts. That’s why charter reviews shouldn’t be left to council members. It’s a conflict. But his absurdities aside, the principle behind Noble’s quest remains sound: the city charter is due for review regardless.

So enough contempt. This council’s arrogance–product of the existing charter–is just why an independent charter review makes sense. It has never happened in Palm Coast’s 16 years. That alone is wrong. The current charter says it may happen. The first necessary change to the charter should be that such review commissions shall be appointed every so many years. Florida does it with its constitution every 20, as it’s getting ready to do in 2017. Bunnell, for heaven’s sake, just did it with its charter, and came up with 10 amendments. Most cities that have a shred of democratic responsibility do. Palm Coast shouldn’t be exempt just because a majority of council members, elected by fewer people than live in the P Section, claim it doesn’t need it.

Let’s hope Nobile doesn’t give up the fight, or fall for the latest trap disguised as compromise–to let the council conduct the review. If that’s the case, you might as well turn over the whole drafting exercise to Landon and be done with the charade, because that’s what it’ll amount to. The point is to create distance and independence from the council, which would control the charter panel enough as it is, with its own handpicked appointees.

That’s assuming we even get that far. It’s assuming too much for a council that has managed to make the reactionary among them look like the most reasonable guy at the table, while the rest of them continue to blob and bow in Landon’s shadow.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

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31 Responses for “Palm Coast Government’s Arrogance
Proves It: Charter Review Is Overdue”

  1. Lin says:

    Go Pierre
    The only word I would add to your description of the Council is condescending both of Nobile and his & their constituencies.

  2. BIG JOHN says:

    Great article Pierre! Again you have reminded us all that a government that is run in secret cannot and will not be a government of the people, by the people and for the people for long. Every American who cares about having a just and free nation should watch the YouTube video “JFK’s Secret Society Speech.”

  3. Richard S. says:

    My wife and I voted for Steven Nobile because he wanted to do away with the red-light cameras which the majority of the Palm Coast citizens wanted and we supported that. I suspect that is why Nobile got such a large vote. We are now awaiting the next election to get rid of the rest of the red-light supporters on the council. Only Jason DeLorenzo was against having them installed.

    I am not sure if there has to be any changes to the city charter, but to assume that Steven Nobile has any clout on this issue is a false assumption. Let’s wait until the next election to see what happens and then see if any changes are needed.

  4. Fredrick says:

    You are right Big John, Our city council should be as transparent as the current administration currently running our country. Never has then been an administration so transparent and trustworthy. No secrets, complete honesty and everything done fair and above board. Our council could learn a few things from our great leader!!

  5. Jack Howell, PhD says:

    Pierre,

    You are right on the mark with your comments and insight. I concur with your comments and opinionsI voted for Mr. Nobile and I’m proud to say so. I am looking for change in an administration that does not bother to listen to their constituents. No question that the City Manager is a bully if he thinks he can get away it. Steve Nobile has shown his grit and is not backing down.
    It is time to review the Charter…period. Do we have to form a citizen’s committee to demand that this be done? Trust me, I have no reservations about establishing such a group. Furthermore, I won’t be bullied by the Mr. Landon. Many years ago when I was working on the staff of the Secretary of Defense, I had to work with some congressional staffers who thought they were the Congressman. Did not take long for me to tactfully remind they were not. If I can these folks and win, Mr. Landon is an easy target for me. He is a light weight!

  6. Groot says:

    Arrogance does not even come close to describe it. I have been in meetings with Governors who were more down to earth than his majesty, Landon I. Got get them Mr Nobile. You have a mandate, now exercise it.

  7. Kendall C says:

    My stance toward Nobile has changed as I see that he really is working to represent the citizens of Palm Coast. We need a charter review and we need someone like Nobile that is not beholden to the status quo and instead will question and challenge the puppets we have in office and on the city payroll.

  8. Knightwatch says:

    Nope. Still not convinced it’s necessary. Once we go down that path, I’m not sure what comes out the other end. And I don’t want Nobile’s supporters in charge.

  9. chopshop says:

    12,000 votes of 75,000 citizens, you must be kidding. It doesn’t sound like a majority to me , It sounds like special interest at work and that’s all Nobile is about special interest. He could care less about the rest of the citizens of palm coast. If he has thousands of people that support him like he says then where is the referendum with signatures. Oh that’s right it takes work to get a referendum and he cant do it on a one and a half day work week as he stated at the council meeting.

  10. m&m says:

    When Landon and Netts are SO AFRAID to open the charter tells me there”s somethings going on they don’t want the public to know about. I think the citizens deservre to know.. FESS UP LANDON AND NETTS.

  11. Steve says:

    It is the Noble supporters, together with Jason DiLorenzo, that will make Palm Coast a better place. Transparency is very important. Without it, the city council gives the impression that they have something to hide. Bravo, Noble.

  12. Brad W says:

    I have to strongly disagree. Not that a review is or is not overdue, but that we should consider elected Council Members who question unsupported claims as “arrogant” and “ganging up”. They were elected to stand up and protect the residents and our community. So is it really arrogant to question a fellow Council Member who suggests something be done making what is obviously a false claim (lie is a better term actually) about the demand for that action? Is it really arrogant for the others to question the motive when there is obviously one and it’s a motive that is obviously intended for self-serving desires that has the potential to do irreparable harm to current and future residents? I say no and we should be commending Mayor Netts, Bill McGuire, and Jason DeLorenzo to have the courage to stand up and protect OUR government and community when another makes such a play. In terms of the criticism because of the number of votes cast for these three to be elected, I would argue that this supports that perhaps the quality of Council Members declines when more people turn out to vote.

    The real question in all of this is not whether the review should or should not be done in all honesty, the real question is what are the intentions behind Mr. Nobile fabricating demand which FlaglerLive proved to be a lie because of the lack of evidence and no one showing to support even after his own supporters were invited to very early on. The devil is in the details as they say right? And it’s pretty obvious that Mr. Nobile has very clear intentions that are purely self-serving and not anything about improving and/or protecting life for Palm Coast residents. Mr. Nobile wants to shift and gain power by changing our government model, increasing pay by over $100,000 for the total Council, increase the number of Council Members, and reduce voting rights by taking away the ability for all voters to vote for all Council Members regardless of district. ALL being things that are self-serving, open the door wide to political corruption, and are never in the best interest of citizens. In essence, ALL things that our Charter (that I have read) was obviously designed to protect us against. Mr. Nobile’s actions aren’t admirable and they are certainly not in the best interest of Palm Coasters unlike the efforts of the other three Council Members you mentioned.

    IF it does come to a formal review I will raise my hand to be on the commission and insist that all meetings be held in the evening so all people and especially those my age that are working can participate.

  13. tulip says:

    http://flaglerlive.com/wp-content/uploads/palm-coast-charter.pdf

    http://laws.flrules.org/node/5608

    How many people have actually read the entire charter? I looked at it,got bored and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, and I certainly have no idea why the Mayor and council are dead set against revealing it. There is nothing in it that is a big deep dark secret.

    Why not give people a certain amount of time to read it, then the Council can set a time on the agenda and the residents can attend the Council meeting and present their thoughts to the Council on what they would like to change, if anything. Or, if there is large amount of people that actually would read it and want to express their thoughts, perhaps a special meeting could be called just for that issue.

  14. Richard Mikola says:

    Aaaah, it appears that Pierre has gone over to the dark side! Is an honorary membership in the RRRA next?

  15. Rob says:

    The use of statistics deflates your argument. A little more than 10% of voters participated when Netts and McQuire were elected, 44% participated when Nobile was elected. I would be interested in hearing your definition of a majority.

    It is obvious why Landon is in disfavor of a charter review. Even many of the slow thinkers in this city may finally conclude that the town manager form of government should be shown the door. That would yield an immediate $240,000 surplus. Furthermore, and highly improbable, if there were enough forward thinking voters they would vote to suck up the county government and form one government rather than 80% of the citizens paying for two governments. Let that sink in. 80% of the people are paying for two governments and they are being served, for the most part, by only one.

    Why are the “keep it like it is” crowd so steadfast against reviewing the cities charter, bylaws etc?

    Flaglerlive editor if the tables do not format after submitting please delete the post.

    Candidate Year Registerd Voters Votes Cast % Voted Total Votes Winner’s % of votes
    Nobile 2014 55251 24466 44.3% 12384 50.6%
    Netts *2011 49574 5248 10.6% 2500 47.6%
    McQuire 2011 50059 5693 11.4% 2874 50.5%
    * Primary > 50%

    Source, Flagler County Supervisor of Elections

  16. Will says:

    Do you really think that a knowledgeable voter would buy your argument that Nobile more represents the views our residents than does Netts, McGuire, or DeLorenzo because he got 12384 votes in the 2014 election? Lewis got 12082 votes and lost. Nobile probably beat Lewis only because he had more signs out and Lewis didn’t even really campaign. On the other hand, the total voting turn out in the 2011 election was 5300. Do you believe that because most people stayed home, that they didn’t agree with the views of the winning candidates? I believe Nobile’s desire for a charter review is self-serving. I would also argue that if Councilmen were offered no salary, we would still have very good candidates running for office.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Will, do you really think that 12,384 voters are ignoramuses because they voted for Nobile? We have our share of village idiots, but I doubt it’s that high. As a matter of numbers–actual votes, no conjecture–far more people voted for Nobile than the three amigos. To call him unrepresentative is demonstrably false. As for Lewis, he lost not because he was sick, but because he was ineffective. He was uninformed, he did not do his homework, his contributions to council discussions were nil except when he wanted code enforcement to polish up the leather in its goose-step. He had one distinctive achievement in his last years: raising the arts grants totals from $25,000 to $30,000. He could have done that with a couple of appearances before the council. But on the council, he was taking up space and proving (to my infuriated chagrin) why Flagler County Democrats are such a lost cause. But you’re right, the salary thing has nothing to do with candidate quality, though again I wonder why Ralph Lightfoot, the Democratic Executive Committee chairman–who should have more necessary things to do with his time, like putting in want-ads for candidates in the Penny Saver–has been making the salary bump his issue. The county commission offers $50,000 a year, the school board $32,000. The quality of candidates there isn’t distinctly better (except in one regard: it’s significantly less presumptuous. Covering those panels I don’t feel like I’m at the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, but money has nothing to do with it). Look at our right honorable congressman: he makes $174,000 a year, and that guy is so far right he makes Nobile look like Gloria Steinem.

  17. Lin says:

    Brad W – your post is very concerning

    “…and we should be commending Mayor Netts, Bill McGuire and Jason DeLorenzo to have the courage to stand up and protect OUR (your caps) government and community”

    Since when is it the Council’s job to protect the government — and protect it from whom, their constituents?
    Someone needs to protect the citizens from excesses of their government instead

    and the most concerning quote of all
    “In terms of the criticism because of the number of votes cast for these three to be elected, I would argue that this supports that perhaps the quality of Council members declines when more people turn out to vote,”

    If I was looking for a joke here, I would say that this means that the losers of the election are of higher quality than those we elected, better than your three heroes. But no, this is no joke, and you are insulting all those who voted and would vote and perhaps you would like to control or limit those who can vote. You’ve insulted a whole lot of people.

    Your criticism seems to be about Nobile’s seeking power. All politicians seek power — hopefully to make decisions and yes, some changes, that will result in benefit to the citizens. What can they accomplish without power? Do you not seek power in these posts you write, power to influence people. I do. Power for its own sake isn’t bad. But low-voter turnout limits the voice of the people. My goal would be to lay it all out there and see if our charter can be improved.

    last quote
    “If it does come to a formal review I will raise my hand to be on the commission and insist that all meetings be held in the evening so all people and especially those my age that are working can participate.”

    I would volunteer also, but what’s this “especially those my age that are working can participate” about?
    I definitely agree that meetings should be held when the most people can participate.
    But especially your age group and working?
    Retired people and older folks not encouraged to vote?

    I have been voting all my life. You WILL NOT take that away just because you insist on your rules. I would insist on that.

  18. Steve says:

    If they have nothing to hide, why not have the review and the transparency?

  19. vincent A. Liguori says:

    Pierre-Great article! People who deserve recognition rarely receive it-you do.

  20. Brad W says:

    Lin,

    I’m glad you are concerned. To answer your questions and clear up your misunderstanding.

    1. Yes, the government is OUR’s (and thank you for reminding me of when I captialize letters). As in the residents of Palm Coast. It is our government and not “their’s” as Pierre had referred to it. Yes, we do elect those Council Members and a part of their responsibility is to protect that institution because it is an institution that provides valuable services to our community which contributes to all of our quality of life now and for future residents.

    2. I was not referring to the candidates that lost in this most recent election or ever at all. I was referring to the comparison of Netts, McGuire, and DeLorenzo who Pierre pointed to receiving far less votes to be elected in past elections. My point is that they are a far better quality Council Members than Nobile as I agree with all of the Nobile short-comings that Pierre so eloquently pointed out about Mr. Nobile. If that still insults you and so many others, I guess so be it. People are always insulted about something.

    3. I agree that higher voter turnout is always optimal. Unfortunately, people that seek to harm a community can fool a community and get elected. In my opinion, Mr. Nobile is a clear example of that. Thank goodness it is not a Council of one.

    4. A true politician doesn’t seek but rather to serve the public selflessly. Why would anyone vote for someone to fill a position with the purpose to simply gain power for themselves? Perhaps that is how you vote and although I would characterize it as a misguided thoughtful reason, it is not how I choose to decide on who to vote for. I prefer the who-will-work-for-the-best-interest-of-the-people route. Do I seek “power” by writing and expressing my opinion? No. I am merely expressing my opinion on a matter that impacts me and my family as residents and taxpayers and if my opinion sways the opinions of others then so be it. To gain power? No. Actually just to quell the silliness and get down to far more important matters than this junk.

    5. Our City likes to hold workshops and committees during the day during the week excluding the younger (although I am a grandparent) and working residents. Evening meetings work better to be more inclusive and also address Mr. Nobile’s concerns that younger, and more, people are not involved.

    Clear it up for you?

  21. Lin says:

    Brad W
    Thanks but I do understand and don’t need your help to clear anything up.

    You say you post to quell the silliness not to gain power
    You are posting on a public forum. If you were sitting at home in your pjs talking to the mirror it would have no effect, right? You are seeking to influence other people. Politicians who have all the right things to say yet have no influence to put forth their ideas (no power) are useless and nothing is changed for the better.

    Quell means to thoroughly overwhelm and reduce to submission or passivity — not my goal at all.

    I’d rather use words to add to the discussion not shut it down
    I’d rather my representatives speak out unafraid of consequences at public meetings
    And I’d like the public to speak at meetings also with respect from the Council
    I’d like to have election forums more like town halls (that are truly NON-partisan, not questions screened by any group such as realtors and chamber of commerce)

    By the way, I only met Nobile once before the election at a forum and I guess you could say we had a very contentious discussion about one of his positions. I don’t think either one of us was moved. We need to open the charter for discussion and not put it in the drawer until those on the Council give us permission to review it. Yes, it is our government.

  22. Oldseadog says:

    This whole fiasco reminds me of a great quotation:

    “Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey-cage.”

    ― H.L. Mencken

    It is now rather widely thought locally that we are indeed being run by monkeys, not renown for wisdom, and further handicapped by being out of touch with the whole situation as they are confined to their own cage. The sheer terror shown for a simple review of the charter after so many years is so apparent that it furthers that view, IMHO.

  23. carol mikola says:

    Pierre, I would also “like to point out a fact that escapes” you. “It’s this:” Steve Nobile had 12,082 people who voted against him which is almost twice as many as voted against three other council members, combined.
    Nobile won his race by 1.2% against Mr. Lewis yet you refer to 3 of the council as ” barely elected.”

    You were suspicious of his motives when he 1st brought the issue up with good reason but because of the way the council is “treating” him, you now trust his motives? You think their asking him questions such as, what changes are you considering, amounts to ganging up on him. That’s ridiculous. You also take the word of the Ronald Reagan “Republicans” that they have distanced themselves from Nobile’s push for a charter review. Well, I guess if the RRR’s said it, it must be true. Right? Nobile has not distanced himself from them, though. This is who he is and what he believes.

    I see nothing wrong with a charter review; I see a great deal wrong with Steve Nobile and his political allies My opinion is that the council still remain suspicious of him and his RRR supporters and I’m quite certain that you understand why that would be the case.

  24. Steve says:

    I agree, oldseadog. It appears that there is something the council doesn’t want to change. May be political, I don’t know. But I do know the Noble is on to something that the council fears. Transparency, guys. Jason can be helpful and has the ability to persuade.

  25. Steve says:

    If the council agrees to the review, all of this becomes a non issue. After the review, all members, not only Steve, can voice their opinions on any changes they would consider. Why are they so headstrong on not reviewing the charter? It’s about time.

  26. Anonymous says:

    The push behind the review comes from the arrogant behaviour of the council, in particular Mr. Landon. I say again, if he is the issue, there are other ways to deal with him.

    As for Pierre, contrary to what the wingnuts think, he is a fair and balanced journalist who see both sides of an issue.

  27. PJ says:

    Simple:

    What does the City Charter say about when a review should take place?

    Just simply follow the Charter isn’t that what the Council is supposed to do, uphold the Charter?

    Nobile had my vote and is still going to get my next vote again!

  28. Brad W says:

    This was a post that Steven Nobile wrote on his Councilman Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/StevenNobileForCityCouncil/posts/990676990971220) – “Another point I would like to make. If you read the comment you will find those who have nothing but bad things to say about me are know saying the same about Pierre.

    This proves that they are not for nor against the issues, but the person. These people care very little about the issues and the prosperity of Palm Coast.”

    I would respond to this on his page and comment on this but I am blocked BECAUSE I disagreed with Mr. Nobile in the past. Each time I have disagreed with Mr. Nobile he then calls it a “personal attack”. So as you’ll see Mr. Nobile has read these comments and each of you who have disagreed with him according to Mr. Nobile do not care about your City or it’s future. This is your Councilman saying this about you.

  29. Oldseadog says:

    Again I just have to question why not an examination of this issue.
    I submit the following observation that was made so many years ago!

    “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
    the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
    ———————Plato——————–

    Perhaps this applies to our Mayor and City Manager ?

    Ya think………………..!

  30. Havana Woody says:

    It appears that BW is in the thick with the arrogant, Ive seen him post so many selfies its Obvious he has a high opinion of himself. I think you are dead on Pierre the arrogance is sufficient to warrant a review. My bet is next election cycle will be a large turnover.

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