David Alfin is one of four candidates for Palm Coast City Council, District 2.
Ordinarily three seats on the Palm Coast City Council would have been up in this election cycle: the mayor’s and the council’s odd-numbered Districts 1 and 3. But in July Jack Howell resigned his District 2 seat for health reasons. The council appointed former Mayor Jon Netts to the seat for the months until a special election could seat the candidate who’d finish the two years left in the term.
That special election is taking place in conjunction with the general election. In an unprecedented turn in the 20-year-old city, four seats are up, and all four may see a new member seated. Two most certainly will, since Bob Cuff elected not to contest his District 1 seat, and the special election for Howell’s seat will lead to a new council member regardless. The mayor’s race, the District 1 and the District 3 races have all resulted in runoffs as none of the incumbents managed to clear the 50 percent threshold to make a runoff unnecessary.
The special election has drawn four candidates: David Alfin, Victor Barbosa, Bob Coffman and Dennis McDonald. Three of them appeared at a candidate forum. See the details here. None of the candidates has held public office before.
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 in all the council races.
Palm Coast mayor and council members normally serve four years, but the District 2 term will be for only two years. They’re paid $9,600 a year, $11,400 for the mayor. The council members and the mayor also each get a $1,200 car allowance and a $910 communication allowance each year, so in sum council members’ total pay is $11,710, the mayor’s is $13,510.
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 conducted by email and 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.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Aging Palm Coast
- Economic development
- Matt Morton
- Council dynamics
- Social media
- Rap sheet
Place and Date of Birth: Teaneck, N..J., February 20, 1953.
Current job: Commercial real estate.
Party Affiliation: Republican.
Website: https://www.facebook.com/DavidAlfinPalmCoast/ and https://davidalfin.com
- Oppose tax rate increases
- Protect public safety budgets
- Increase number of quality jobs
Opposing tax rate increases during the next two years will require a conservative approach to considering budget requests for new and additional expenditures. I will prioritize expenditures to protect public safety and invest in projects that yield more quality jobs and additional health care services. I am prepared to reduce budgeted expenses in non-priority budget items.
You make the distinction between tax rate increases and tax increases. So you would not oppose keeping the tax rate flat, even though, under Florida law, that would amount to a tax increase if valuations improve at all? Can you give two examples of non-priority budget items? What, in any government expenditure, is not a priority?
I would not oppose keeping the tax rate flat. Non-priority budget items might include non-critical infrastructure improvements, i.e. Road widening or Public/Semipublic zoned land improvements, scheduled on extended timelines.
- Economic Development
- Slow pace of quality job creation
- Accelerate commercial project permitting
The City should increase focus on economic development. Today’s lifestyle and future improvements should be protected and upgraded by following a strategic process that identifies, qualifies, attracts, and develops tax paying resident friendly commercial business to Palm Coast. Building a network of site selector resources can be accomplished during the next two years.
What are “site selector resources” and how do they relate to the ordinary voter? The county since the Great Recession, and pre-covid, has seen its job-holders increase at a rate of roughly 1,000 per day, with 10,000 new job holders in the past 10 years, bringing the county’s pre-covid unemployment rate to between 3 and 4 percent. How is that a slow pace? We frequently hear candidates, especially business-minded candidates, speak of wanting “less red tape,” quicker permitting, or as you say, “accelerate commercial project permitting.” The statements appeal to ordinary voters, but they don’t explain why permitting may not be as quick as you wish–that having to do with regulatory due diligence conducted by planners and development officials. So what due diligence would you sacrifice to accelerate commercial project permitting? Or are you suggesting that the city’s development and permitting administration is lazy?
Site selector resources include commercial realtors, residential and commercial developers, investment partners, and all professionals participating in property improvement. The “resources” represent a network of individuals who market and promote Palm Coast for future project consideration.
Quality job creation raises the average wage compensation. Higher paid jobs have been created at a slower pace than the lower paying service sector. Due diligence supports good environmental stewardship and protects our land value. Accelerated permitting without sacrificing any due diligence could be accomplished by improving communication between City Staff and newly arrive Developers. Early project ‘hand holding’ championed by project City staff leads could acquaint new project developer staff with policy and procedure, reducing flawed submissions and minimizing wasted timeline.
3. The city’s budget, like all local government budgets, will likely face revenue shortfalls in the next two years. How will you make up the lost revenue? Short of new sources of revenue, what areas of the budget are ripe for cuts? Please be specific.
The magnitude of anticipated revenue shortfalls determines the best approach to balancing the budget. Larger cost centers may survive cuts better than lesser line items. Public safety and job creation related budget items should be protected from cuts, while expense items that are part of a future project or activity should be budgeted for future expense periods. Capital improvement projects i.e. Public Works, Utilities, and Road Maintenance, may be re-scheduled for future dates to conserve present cash flow, as necessary.
We assume you have studied Palm Coast’s budget. What, in that budget, is a “job creation budget item”? Should a local government be in the business of “job creation” ahead of public works and road maintenance (understanding that utilities are not part of the general fund)? Are you not upending the purpose of government? How are good jobs to be attracted to the city if it’s got shoddy infrastructure and if existing residents’ services are sacrificed to the benefit of speculative jobs?
Cities do not make jobs but are responsible for creating an environment that promotes, stimulates, and attracts employers. Local government is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure that supports a positive environment that attracts job creating business.
4. Evaluate the city’s response to the coronavirus emergency. As of this writing, the city, unlike a growing list of local governments across Florida, has not mandated the use of masks in public places, though it’s in the council’s power to do so. Tell us how you’d vote on a mask mandate, and explain your answer, citing appropriate authorities.
The City has followed State direction and guidelines efficiently and effectively. I vote yes on a mask mandate understanding that a mandate is not obligatory and requires a serious marketing campaign to communicate the benefits of wearing a mask. The success of a mask mandate is dependent on widespread ‘buy in’ from residents who have been educated to understand the benefit.
5. 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. 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?
Public opinion regarding service and franchise tax issues has not changed and should not be considered again at this time. City Council is responsible to represent the best interests of the majority of residents in policy decisions like taxation. New opportunities for commercial development in Town Center and other commercially zoned areas can diversify revenue and relieve homeowners from continuing to suffer a skewed tax burden imposed on residential property.
6. Just in the last 10 years, Palm Coast has grown by 15,000 people, but it has grown older, with people 65 and older representing nearly 28 percent of the population, up from 23 percent in 2010. That’s a substantial increase, almost all of it as the proportion of school-age children has diminished: the school district’s population has remained at around 13,000 for 10 years. Should Palm Coast encourage that accelerating retirement-community trend? What would you do to ensure that Palm Coast is addressing the needs of its growing elderly population. Alternately, what would you do to reverse the trend, if you’re more interested in broadening the working-age population base?
While the location and lifestyle of Palm Coast continue to fuel population growth, the health and balance of national, regional, and local economies dictate demographics. The City Council should remain current on population data and develop policy that provides services demanded by each trending resident population group.
You’re not telling us what the city should do with the current data we have–an aging population: is the city addressing that demographic as it should, and should it do anything to encourage broadening its younger working age population?
The Town Center MedNex partnership addresses both young and old demographics in a single initiative. Older residents will enjoy more health care services delivered by better quality medical professionals while the younger student population benefits from new health care training opportunities leading to more local quality jobs.
7. Some apartment complexes have gone up in the past two years, but the city still faces an affordable housing shortfall as housing prices have risen steadily. 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?
The City of Palm Coast was originally designed and planned for a population reaching 250,000. Reliance on the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) dictates zoning requirements. Housing options for a growing population should be balanced to insure that First Responders, Health Care Workers, School District & City Employees and Service Sector Workers can afford to live in Palm Coast. The Land Development Code describes permitted housing types and density calculations for new development.
The question is how to balance and ensure those housing needs you refer to: development advocates argue that raising the density and building heights on lands zoned for apartment complexes would provide for less expensive apartment options. You are not telling us specifically if you would approve of such a change.
Increasing the number of higher paying jobs reduces housing shortfall by making more housing affordable to wage earners. Increasing worker’s value puts more workers into housing without looking backward and building lesser housing.
Economic development is a balance of business growth, residential property value appreciation, and resident satisfaction. During the next two years I will support the MedNexus initiative to train Health Care Service Professionals, provide quality jobs and additional health care services. I will work together with fellow Council members to build consensus necessary to support the development of MedNexus and Town Center. Quality job creation, small business relocation and startup fuels economic success.
The transition to a new City Manager has been controversial and has complicated the role of the City Council. Council members must work as a team to develop a shared vision for the future. Excessive attention paid to City staff changes distracts residents from a focus on demanding successful achievement of short- and long-term goals. A major change in City management should be accompanied by sufficient PR to set public expectation and reduce controversy.
10. Evaluate your own successes and shortcomings, with specifics, telling us why you’re better suited to be elected than any of your challengers. Do you see your role in the next two years—since your term will be limited to that—as continuing in the footsteps of Jack Howell, or is Howell’s approach now irrelevant to you?
The residents of Palm Coast will participate in a special election and choose a new Council member based on each voter’s preference and choice. Voters are not tied to any past considerations and will consider candidates on their own merits.
I am engaged, hardworking, and experienced. Past experience includes completion of Palm Coast Citizens Academy, Flagler County Citizens Academy, and Flagler Political Leadership Academy. I currently serve as Vice-Chair of the Flagler Value Assessment Board and past Chair of Palm Coast Citizens Advisory Task Force. I work hard to deliver my skill, care, and diligence to every task I undertake. My real estate Broker’s License and its accompanying code of ethics is not well understood by some in the public. At times they brand realtors with the ‘scarlet R’ because some do not understand our responsibility to serve the public and maximize the use and value of real property.
11. 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 support the results of FCSO’s manpower analysis of immediate and near future law enforcement staffing needs. The results indicate a continuing effort to catch up to optimum manpower and a warning that increases in crime consistent with population growth may outpace the sheriff’s ability to keep up. We enjoy improving statistics at present but may not be able to produce improving results in the future. The current contract process should be updated allowing for more frequent updates and discussion as population and crime statistics data is available. Financial requirements for a City dedicated police department are not feasible in any foreseeable budget.
The sheriff’s analysis would require additional deputies, as you note, but that may not be possible without some increase in the city’s tax rate: public safety is one of the top three most expensive demands on the city’s budget. How do you square your earlier statement that you would not raise the tax rate with your commitment to follow the sheriff’s staffing analysis?
Executing new initiatives like MedNex that increase City revenue combined with belt-tightening expense reductions, when necessary, provide funding for the Sheriff’s budget.
Note: MedNexus is not expected to increase city revenue, at least not for the first few years, when it will, in fact, remove a land parcel from the tax rolls. What revenue it may generate in the future would be the indirect result of a more educated medical-field workforce employed in regional health care institutions, renting and buying local homes, thus eventually generating some tax revenue.
12. Elected office is no stranger to bluster. Tell us about you as a person: your character, your temperament, your foibles. Tell us who do you admire most in office today among elected officials in Flagler County—the person you’d consider a model of leadership.
I am hardworking, engaged and an experienced leader. I subscribe to a commonsense approach to analysis supported decision making. I am realistic about expectations and understand that consistency combined with predictability best satisfies the demands of our electorate. I admire Representative Paul Renner for his ability to communicate policies and issues in fair and understandable language. Heated rhetoric and fear mongering are not effective in earning the trust and support of the public. I accept the obligation to practice qualities of collaboration, teamwork, and civility.
13. Should you be held to account for what you display on your social media pages any differently than for what you would say anywhere public? Do you have different standards of behavior between the way you’d conduct yourself as an elected official—in a meeting, at an official function—as opposed to on your social media platforms?
I do not separate the ‘pen’ from the person. I am accountable and responsible 24/7.
14. Have you ever been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor anywhere in Flagler, Florida or the United States (other than a speeding ticket), or faced a civil action other than a divorce, but including bankruptcies, or faced any investigative or disciplinary action through a professional board such as the bar or a medical board? If so, please explain, including cases where charges or claims did not lead to conviction or disciplinary action.
Lesson well learned and never to be repeated.
2002 – Operating Vehicle Alcohol Impaired.
2007 – Driving While Ability Impaired Alcohol.
Where were the two cases prosecuted and what were the dispositions of the two cases?
Alfin responded that he was fined in Ulster County, N.Y., in both cases.