Eddie Branquinho is a candidate for Palm Coast City Council, District 4. The District 2 seat is also up. Steve Nobile resigned his District 4 seat in May, and incumbent Heidi Shipley decided not to run for re-election.
The District 4 race has drawn three candidates: Eddie Branquinho, Corinne Hermle and John Tipton IV. According to the city charter, that means they must compete in the Aug. 28 primary. If one of them gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then that candidate is the elected council member. If none of the three manages to cross the 50 percent threshold, then the top two vote-getters will go on to a run-off in the Nov. 6 general election.
When three seats were up two years ago, the council’s majority turned over, with two new council members and a new mayor elected. This year’s election will complete the council’s entire turn-over, as two new members are certain to be elected, though “new” may be a relative term in the District 2 race: the two candidates for the District 2 seat are Jack Howell and Jon Netts, who as former council member and mayor has served on the council more than any other official since the city’s birth in 1999. Netts was first elected in 2001 and served until 2016, when he was term-limited out of the mayor’s seat. Howell has once run for Flagler County sheriff before but has not won an election. All three other candidates for council are newcomers to politics.
Since the District 2 seat has drawn just two candidates, they will compete only in the Nov. 8 election.
This is a non-partisan, at-large election. That means all registered voters in Palm Coast, regardless of party or non-party affiliation–Democrats, Republicans, independents and others–may cast a ballot for the District 4 seat, even though the district winner ostensibly represents that particular district.
Palm Coast council members serve four years. They’re paid $9,600 a year, $11,400 for the mayor, not including a monthly “telecommunications” allowance.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
Note: Branquinho’s interview was held back a day to give him more time to answer the follow-up questions. He had not answered them by publication time, but said he would sometime this weekend.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Amendment 1
- Public service tax
- How to spend $500,000
- Arts funding
- Council dynamics
- Council report card
- Jim Landon
- Manager search
Place and Date of Birth: Portugal, 04/10/1956
Current job: : Retired from Newark Police Department, NJ.
Party Affiliation: Republican
Financial Disclosures: Own my home and three automobiles
Flagler County Commission
Greg Hansen (Rep., Dist. 2)
Dennis McDonald (Ind., Dist. 2)
Joe Mullins (Rep., Dist. 4)
Jane Gentile-Youd (Ind., Dist. 4)
Flagler School Board
Janet McDonald (Dist. 2)
John Fischer (Dist. 2)
The Candidates on ESE
Palm Coast City Council
Jon Netts (Dist. 2)
Jack Howell(Dist. 2)
Eddie Branquinho (Dist. 4)
John Tipton IV (Dist. 4)
My top priorities are as follow: Fiscal responsibility, do not spend what you don’t have.
Straight and strengthen the relations/communications with the Flagler County Commission. There should be flexibility on both parts. I believe that with common sense and good will, it could be achieved. This includes cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office (Specially the School Resource Officers). This is a way to directly invest in education. (If we don’t invest in education, we will have to later invest in hospitals, rehab centers, and hospitals).
We have to attract business to Palm Coast, preferably non-polluting industries like Silicon Valley. These industries usually have higher pay, therefore it will hold our young professionals locally. Also, business that don’t deplete our natural habitat.
Is the city being fiscally irresponsible in any way, or lacking in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office, which provides its policing services? Candidates always talk about bringing clean industry, but not one has as yet been able to say: “I brought such and such a company here.” How do you propose to be different, and how is that even your role as a councilman?
No, I do not think that the city is being fiscally irresponsible, what I said is that I’m fiscally very responsible. Bringing non-polluting industries to our area is not exactly the job of a councilman. The duty of the council is to facilitate and–why not?–coordinate such initiatives, if presented with the same.
Better job at listening to the citizens’ concerns. I would like if possible to have two days a month at City Hall where I could speak face to face with my constituents and try to help them right then and there, with the help (again if possible) of the responsible/respective city personnel.
Transparency, make sure that transparency is always of the outmost importance, (Specially the Sunshine Law) I believe that the City Council should be more informed/involved by/with the City Manager, before the issues come to the floor to be voted on, or there will be no time for an intelligent way to analyze the issue.
At the risk of repeating myself, I will work to improve the somewhat cold relations with the County. There are common interests between the city and county. Fire, Police and Medical First responders, are examples of the utmost importance. City and County are both elected bodies. Both were elected to defend the citizens interests without having to hurt each other. I want to bring dialog.
Your first point assumes that citizens are not being listened to, though the city has an elaborate customer-service structure and its council members tend to be individually engaged with constituents. Can you cite a couple of examples to the contrary? Do you not see a problem with council members directly acting like problem-solvers with constituents, rather than guiding constituents to the right channels through the city administration?
At no point did I assume that the citizens are not listened to. What I want do, due to the fact that I’m retired and have the time (and proven community dedication) is open yet another avenue of direct contact with my constituents. I see absolutely no problem with me directly acting as a problem-solver, especially if I know the answer, if it is legal for me to do so, and if it is in the better interest of everyone.
3. Voters this fall are likely to approve Amendment 1, an expansion of the homestead exemption to up to $75,000. All local governments except schools will see shortfalls. First, do you support the additional exemption? Please explain your answer. Second, how will you make up the lost revenue?
I do not support Amendment 1. Local governments will be adversely impacted by lower revenues. Also, Amendment 1 will affect homes with values bellow $125,000.00, it appears that will hurt mostly those who could afford it the least.
There are only two ways to make up for the lost revenue, either raise taxes, or cut services. None of these two options, are good nor desirable. Lets hope that Florida residents are enlightened by the respective local governments and vote NO on Amendment 1.
Are you saying you would not raise taxes regardless, even if voters prove unenlightened in Amendment 1’s regard–and understanding that none of your predecessors have managed not to raise taxes at some or at several points in their tenures? In other words, are you just making a vote-baiting promise for the campaign trail, knowing that it can’t be kept?
If anyone in office can promise or guarantee that he or she will not raise taxes at any point, it would be hard to believe. My commitment is to not raise any form of taxation without a very, very, very, strong reason behind it. Plus, the citizens would have to be heard on these matters. There is no vote-baiting here, I am what I am, and that is what I want people to see.
4. Palm Coast has the authority to impose a public service tax on your utility bill of up to 10 percent, and a franchise fee on utilities, which would be passed to customers, of up to 10 percent. The money may be spent at the council’s discretion. Many counties and cities around the state partially or fully levy one or both the taxes. Palm Coast considered imposing a 6 percent electric franchise fee and a 2 percent public service tax in 2012, but reversed course in the face of strong public opposition, even though the two new taxes were intended to replace the existing stormwater fee. Either of the new taxes, proponents argue, would diversify the city’s revenue stream. Either could be used to generate revenue that would otherwise have to be generated by property taxes, though the public service tax and the franchise fee are regressive in comparison. Where do you stand on either new tax becoming part of Palm Coast’s taxing structure?
I’m fiscally very responsible, I don’t believe in spending money that we don’t have. And I do not believe that any type or form of taxation should be created without a very credible justification.
That’s understood. But you’ve not answered the question.
I think I answered this question under question number three.
Other than referring to his answer to question 3, Eddie Branquinho did not answer the question.
5. Every time a developer proposes an apartment complex in Palm Coast, rebellion breaks out from neighboring residents. Yet the city has a need for affordable housing. How do you propose to diversify Palm Coast’s housing options? By what criteria would you approve or reject apartment complexes? Would you approve raising the density and height of multi-family, or apartment, structures in select areas of the city zoned for the purpose?
My view on affordable housing, is that before you create or build affordable housing, you have to create the jobs that could make the affordable housing affordable for those moving into them.
Your reply sidesteps the question. Are you saying–as a Republican, which would be quite original–that creating jobs is government’s responsibility? That aside, let’s deal with the reality on the ground now, where evidence tells us there’s a lack of affordable housing, and repeated resistance to apartment buildings. It is your responsibility as a council member to approve zoning rules and site plans that presumably enable apartment buildings. So we ask again, about both densities and your criteria for approving or rejecting apartment buildings.
I usually try to be precise and concise and short if possible. Even dough minimal, it could be the responsibility of any type of government to create or help to create jobs. Again, once the conditions are created for the affordable housing to exist, I will look into the rezoning aspects of the same. (Flexibility is good thing).
Eddie Branquinho did not otherwise answer the question.
Projects like city lights for example.
7. At around $30,000 a year, the city’s support of the arts is extremely stingy. Some governments, Volusia County among them, dedicate a small, proportional fraction of tax revenue and public spaces to programs often referred to as Art in Public Places. Would you support such a dedicated tax?
Public Art is a form of education. As I said before, I’m a firm believer in education investment.
But can you answer the question directly?
Eddie Branquinho did not answer the question.
Policy should always be controlled by the City Council. Its implementation should operationally be the City Manager’s Job.
You’re giving us the textbook definition of council dynamics, not your analysis of this actual council and manager, and what you’d change about it.
Eddie Branquinho did not answer the question.
9. Mayor Milissa Holland, Council member Nick Klufas and to a lesser extent Council member Bob Cuff were elected on promises of change and novel visions two years ago. Evaluate their performance, their successes and shortcomings, and tell us if you think they’ve lived up to their promise. What will you bring to the council that they don’t?
I think that for the most part, the Mayor and the City Council have done a good job. I believe in the old saying “If it is not broken, do not fix it.”
So why are you running? What are you bringing to the council?
I believe that as a long time public servant, it is my duty to do so, also it is in memory of a good friend who back in 2014 encouraged me to enter local politics, and was ready to guide because he believed in me as a person. I’m referring to Frank Meeker.
As to the second part of your question, the following is what I bring to the council: Since I remember, even as a young kid, (according to my mother) I was always helping others. After I legally arrived in the country of my dreams in 1975, a few months later at the age of 20 I became the Secretary of the PAPA Club at Varick Street, New York.
This was beginning of my community life in the USA. Then, I moved to New Jersey where I have a track record of working with or heading multiple cultural and sports oriented organizations. Over 30 years ago I became o Police Officer in Newark, N.J. I retired from the police department, as a Detective Commander of a Unit called Office of Legal Affairs, with a proud record, and multiple awards. In 2009, I got elected to the Board of Education in Elizabeth, N.J. With the other commissioners, we were in charge of overseeing a $440 million budget, over 22,000 students and 4,000 employees.
In 2010 I bought a home and a little later moved to the beautiful city of Palm Coast. I was then elected the president of the Portuguese American Cultural Club, which is the biggest cultural center in our city. After that, I managed the Administrative and Structural part of the Honorary Consulate of Portugal in Palm Coast. (The only diplomatic representation in our city). Even though I was offered a salary, I never accepted one. Then I became the president of the General Assembly of the Portuguese American Cultural Center, which I proudly served. I could go on with a few other things, but I think this gives a general idea of what I could bring to council.
As to Jim Landon, I think he happens to be an intelligent man with a strong personality. His tendency is to impose his opinions, instead of properly explaining them to the City Council. I consider it a weakness due to the fact that it could be counter productive, specially with other strong minded Council Members. Landon’s strengths boil down to his knowledge and experience, which is a very valuable asset.
11. The council is looking for a new manager. Evaluate the manner of the manager’s search to date, now that it is more than a year in the making, including your assessment of the current manager’s involvement in the search. Would you have been willing to pay the current manager’s severance to speed up the process? What will you look for in a new manager?
Do not know enough about the manner used (up to now) to find a new City Manager. I’ll answer that question in a near future. As to the new city manager, he/she should have an established business background, and very good knowledge of municipal law/management. I also believe that he should have a vision as to where he would like to guide Palm Coast to. Together with that vision, he should also commit to make it his mission. “I don’t believe in having visions without making it a mission to finish it.”
For someone looking to be a council member, it’s a bit concerning that you’ve not familiarized yourself with the council’s recent history, its issues and challenges. How many council meetings and workshops have you attended or followed this year? How many members of the administration or council have you met with at length to gain a deeper understanding of a council member’s responsibilities and challenges–finding a new manager among them?
I have been to a bunch of council meetings and workshops, and those I could not attend I tried to see them on television. I met with The Mayor Milissa Holland, Vice- Mayor Robert Cuff, and Nick Klufas.
12. Palm Coast relies on the sheriff for policing. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of that contract, and tell us what specifically you would change about it. Are some areas of Palm Coast less effectively policed than others? Do you favor an independent police department for the city, now or in the near future?
I believe that we should completely rely on and trust our Sheriff for the city’s policing. Not being perfect (nobody is), he is doing a phenomenal job, both administratively, and operationally. The cost of creating a Palm Coast Police Department would be so astronomical that it would make no sense at this time. Just think about the amount of extra revenue that the city would have to collect (taxes) in order to pay for it. If it is not broken, don’t fix it.
2018 Election Candidates, Flagler County
|County Commission District 2||Greg Hansen, Incumbent (Rep)||Abby Romaine (Rep)||Dennis McDonald (NPA)|
|County Commission District 4||Nate McLaughlin, Incumbent (Rep)||Joe Mullins (Rep)||Jane Gentile-Youd (NPA)|
|School Board District 1||Andy Dance, Incumbent||Unopposed|
|School Board District 2||Janet McDonald, Incumbent||John Fischer||Carl Jones|
|School Board District 4||Trevor Tucker, Incumbent||Paul Anderson|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 2||Jack Howell||Jon Netts|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 4||Jose Eduardo Branquinho||Corinne Marie Hermle||John Tipton|
|Florida House District 24||Paul Renner, Incumbent (Rep)||Adam Morley (Dem)|
|Congressional District 6, Democratic Primary||Stephen Sevigny||Nancy Soderberg||John Upchurch|
|Congressional District 6, GOP Primary||Fred Costello||Michael Waltz||John Ward|