Alan Lowe is a candidate for Palm Coast City Council, District 2, running against Theresa Carli Pontieri, Sims Jones, and Shauna Kanter.
The District 4 seat is also up, with Cathy Heighter and Fernando Melendez vying for it. But since only two candidates are running, that race will only be on the November ballot, along with the potential candidates in a runoff from the District 2 race.
As in 2018, both races are for open seats. Victor Barbosa, who was elected to a two-year term to complete the term of Jack Howell, resigned the District 2 seat in March. Eddie Branquinho chose not to run for re-election in District 4.
With the 2018 election, the entire council had turned over in just four years. With the 2022 election, three more seats, including that of the mayor, will have turned over again, leaving Nick Klufas as the council member with the most seniority, and the only council member to have won re-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 Palm Coast council elections, even though the district winner ostensibly represents that particular district.
Palm Coast council members serve four years. Until November, they were to be paid $9,600 a year, $11,400 for the mayor, not including a monthly “telecommunications” allowance. In April, the council voted itself a 151 percent raise. Starting with the first paycheck after the election, council members will be paid $24,097, plus health benefits (not included in the 151 percent calculation), plus the telecommunication allowance of $910 per year, plus a car allowance of $1,196 per year, for a total pay of $26,203 per year, plus a 2.5 percent increase per year.
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. Interviews of candidates who competed in the primary ran in July. 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.
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The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Method and philosophy
- Needs and wants
- Housing affordability
- Denise Bevan
- Rap sheet
Place and Date of Birth: May 5, 1961, Massachusetts.
Current job: Landlord, handyman.
Party Affiliation: Republican.
Financial Disclosures: See Lowe’s disclosure form here.
Resume: Not provided.
Website: Vote4Lowe, and on Facebook.
1. What makes you qualified to be a city council member? How have you specifically prepared yourself to be ready to succeed from day one? Tell us about you as a person: your personality, your temperament, your foibles: what character flaw do you bring to the council? Who do you admire most in office today among elected officials in Flagler County—the person you’d consider a model of leadership? Who in the world at large (beyond Flagler), and among the living, do you consider a role model of political or intellectual leadership?
As a 39 year working resident of Palm Coast, 35 years owning local businesses and with 33 of those years in my district, I have a unique perspective of the past present and a history guide to the future for our city. I have also attended the majority of city council meetings for the past couple years. As a concerned citizen I have spoken with thousands of residents and on numerous occasions have brought their voice to the podium in city hall. As such, I am the only candidate that continuously participates, even when not a candidate. This combination of local involvement has prepared me with an understanding of resident needs and the workings of council so that I am the best qualified to make an easy transition.
As mentioned above, as a concerned citizen I have attended the majority of council meetings and have commented on numerous issues during public participation at city hall. Some candidates have never approached the podium. I have attended the Palm Coast citizen academy and the Florida Institute for Political Leadership virtual classes. For a couple of years I have held my own public meetings to discuss issues, have met with council members and talked with city staff to gain an insight from all sides. I am the best prepared to make an easy transition. As a concerned Citizen, I presented a case for saltwater canal maintenance that is now on the city’s strategic plan. No other candidate can claim this level of involvement.
I have a driven personality that likes to tackle tough issues and find unique solutions that benefit the most people. I have an even keeled temperament and have a thick skin. I am not sure it is a character flaw but I tend not to give up on issues until a solution can be found.
I admire anyone that is willing to stand up and run for office. I don’t have a single model of leadership but I look at it as a team effort and admire the team when all parties can work together.
I like our Governor Ron Desantis.
We have a rich panoply of elected officials locally that gives you ample opportunity to choose the official you most closely identify with–not 100 percent, not even anywhere close if you prefer, but at least somewhat more than others. Who would that be?
There are actually two leaders in town that I honestly look to, one lesser known than the other. First would be Sheriff Staly. He has a great ability to appeal to most people (criminals may feel otherwise) and leads by his example of building bridges with various groups or factions within our community. This, giving us the a strong measure of safety. The other is Fire Chief Jerry Forte. Not so well known by most people but a leader nonetheless. He has brought our fire department together, reduced response times and by implementing a succession plan has a great replacement stepping in when he retires this year.
Sally Hunt, District 1
Jill Woolbright, District 1
Lance Alred, District 2
Will Furry, District 2
Courtney VandeBunte, District 2
Christy Chong, District 4
Leann Pennington, District 4
Janet McDonald, District 2
Greg Hansen, District 2
Denise Calderwood, District 2
Palm Coast City Council, District 2
Theresa Carli Pontieri
2. What is in council member’s power, and what isn’t? What is your understanding of when and how, if ever, you may direct or in any way exercise any authority over administrative staff other than the city manager and the city attorney? How would you deal with a problem, perceived or real, regarding a city employee, a manager (not the city manager) or a director?
A Single Council member is but one vote out of five. What is within each member’s power is to meet one on one with staff to listen to their position on issues and then bring that back to the Dias to share with other council members to develop a consensus and direct the city manager to move forward. Council works through the city manager and does not direct staff. All issues that I may become aware of would be directed to either the city Manager and or city legal council for action. City council members do not hire, fire nor discipline staff. Only the city manager and legal council are under the direct preview of city council.
3. How do you describe your governing method and philosophy: how do you (or will you) prepare for each council meeting and workshop, what is your analytical method, issue by issue, and what drives your decision-making? What role do politics, ideology or immovable principles have in your decision-making approach?
I would read each meeting packet (as I do now) and ask questions of the relevant department administrators to gain a the best informed understanding of a given issue. I would then research online to see if other municipalities have had similar issues and looked at their solutions. I would then bring that to the city council meetings and share my findings.
Nobody is fully unbiased but I utilize facts to make a decision. If I have a certain opinion of a matter and there is data showing I am incorrect, I will adjust my opinion according to the data and/or evidence presented.
One issue is to ensure we have properly managed smart development. I believe we need to adhere more consistently with our master development plan and listen more closely to the concerns of residents.
Our swale system has drainage issues. We need additional crews and/or equipment to aid in faster response times. Although the city tries, I believe communication of issues, ideas and events is not reaching the majority of residents. Having a city cable channel may be one improvement.
The swale system is reliant on the stormwater fund, which in turn generates revenue from the monthly fee on Palm Coast residents’ utility bills–currently set to reach $23.95 a month by 2024, up from $11.65 a month in 2018. The city would be adding three stormwater maintenance positions this year, for a total of 40, according to the proposed budget being presented to the council this month. Do you consider that sufficient, and do you consider the stormwater fee adequate?
We have hundreds of miles of roads and thus swales. We have engaged in response maintenance for quite some time and when people call they are sometimes told it is a year to two years’ wait. I am greatly encouraged by the manpower increase and would like to see four to five teams dedicated to swale maintenance so that we can eventually reduce response time to a handful of days rather than months.
With so many people cutting the cord, so to speak, and the city having eliminated what used to be its TV channel in favor of more targeted videos and council meeting broadcasts on the web, wouldn’t a city cable channel be a step back?
It is also possible to advertise local issues and events on streaming channels. With the thousands of people I have spoken with over the past few years it is astonishing how many wouldn’t recognize our mayor and equally many that couldn’t say the name of a single council member. Whatever the platform, we need better community outreach.
5. Candidates and council members hear the phrase “needs, not wants” from many constituents, usually as a criticism of some specific proposal to spend money on a project the speaker considers a “want.” Please give two or three examples of what you consider “needs” and how you would address them as a council member, and two or three examples of “wants” that you believe are important enough to justify the required spending.
The city needs to maintain infrastructure such as roads and swales. I believe we need to breakdown department needs into a prioritized list and use that list as well as the strategic action plan to make informed decisions. The city needs to add additional swale crews/equipment to maintain or repair more miles of swale each year. I, and others want to see more evening City Council meetings to allow working members of the public to attend meetings. I would want to see more than a cursory response to questions and/or issues presented at public comment by residents. People feel they aren’t heard.
Combining your last two points, the city instituted its Palm Coast Connect system to give residents a more direct route to having their issues addressed, with real-time information along the way. The system is being used routinely, at least for day-to-day issues–pep tanks, road repairs, drainage matters, and so on. Do you consider it insufficient?
There is no 100 percent effective method or platform to have issues addressed. In my opinion the more channels of communication the better. I monitor many local social sites online and see the same questions repeatedly asked. This is why I think we need to investigate additional methods. Having said that, it also takes community involvement. I have tried to encourage people to come to the city council meetings but I am often one of a small handful of attendees.
The Flagler Beach and Bunnell commissions hold all their meetings in the evening, but unless there’s a significant issue of concern on the agenda, seats are mostly empty. Is it not the nature of local government that for the most part, residents are too busy to attend these, well, not necessarily thrilling hours? Are two meetings a month not sufficient–or are you looking to have evening workshops, which could tax administrative staff particularly?
Palm Coast has one evening meeting per month out of the normal three meetings. I can say that a large number of people have told me they would attend if the meetings were at night. I understand the additional cost associated with that yet if it creates a stronger community interaction, it would be worth it. Perhaps having the two business meetings in the evening for a few months to see if it does increase attendance would let us know if it is worth continuing.
6. The city’s budget, like all local government budgets, will likely face revenue shortfalls in an expected recession. How will you make up the lost revenue? Where do you stand on property tax increases, including adopting tax rates that are not at rollback (which amounts to a tax increase under Florida law)? Short of new sources of revenue, and if you intend to stick to a rolled back tax rate, which nearly limits any growth in the budget, what city programs would you eliminate and what service levels would you reduce to achieve that?
Recessions / inflation, reduce buying power. Lost revenue derived from sales tax and impact fees can be improved by taking a stronger stand on economic development and looking to reduce spending before any tax increase is looked at. However, it seems that even in this economic downturn the city is still growing and that will help with stabilizing revenue generation to some degree. Managed growth balanced with economic development is key.
I do not support increased taxes during a time of high inflation and fuel costs as my interactions with people suggests that many of our fixed income and lower income residents are already nearing their spending capacity. Why would we not look at other potential sources of revenue? Before eliminating programs or services, I would look at reductions in spending overall. As mentioned earlier, I believe we need to create a priority list of department needs over wants and go from there. Cutbacks do not have to be permanent but a stopgap measure until the economy stabilized. We can not expect our residents to shoulder the tax burdens without the city first tightening its belt.
Can you name one potential new source of revenue other than hit-or-miss grants that, in any case, cannot be used to fund recurring expenses in the general fund? Based on your familiarity with budgets, bi-weekly back-ups of meeting materials and issues in general, can you name just two areas in the general fund specifically that could bear the sort of spending reductions that would make an actual dent in the budget, in the million-dollar range?
No matter what fees or taxes are instituted there will be some public pushback. We need to make sure we have the funds to continue to operate without unduly burdening the public. As once brought up by former Palm Coast Observer reporter Brian McMillan, I would also institute or increase a fee for the city to mow the front city setback on unimproved property. Home owners are responsible for maintaining the set back, why shouldn’t the owners of unimproved property also be responsible? If there are 10,000 unimproved lots and a mowing fee of $100/ year was instituted, that would generate an additional $1 million in revenue.
I believe that the only prudent way to make significant reductions that won’t cause a rippling effect through other departments is to sit with department heads that understand the interconnections and then focus on reductions overall and not in one specific area. Without having done this exercise, I can not answer the question and be able to support that answer.
7. The city’s golf course, its tennis center and its pool serve a fraction of people, and all at a fee, but are heavily subsidized by general fund dollars, are in constant need of expensive upkeep, and, as in the tennis center’s case, in the midst of lavish expansion. Are you supportive of those amenities? How will you balance spending tax dollars for pools, tennis, golf or pickle ball when so many people don’t use these facilities?
I support amenities but I believe we must look closer at our costs before adding more. Since impact fees can not be used for future maintenance and those costs would fall on the resident’s shoulders, we need a true detailed breakdown of projected maintenance expenses before an action can be taken. Let’s take care of what we have before further using tax dollars adding more. I have in the past stood at the podium with future maintenance cost concerns with the new racquet center. We must look at future costs when planning today’s projects. Those amenities used by the least amount of people should have usage fees increased to offset cost. In some cases, such as pools, a partnership with private concerns such as the YMCA as an example could be used to offset costs.
Had you been on the council, would you have voted for the just-approved $11.4 million expansion of the tennis center/Southern Recreation facility, which does not draw on general fund dollars–but will, once its operating costs are recurring?
My concern when the tennis center was first introduced was not only the almost $1 million that previously was to come from the general fund but also the ongoing maintenance costs that no doubt would have had to have been subsidized above membership fees. There was no plan nor cost analysis so I was hard set against it at the time. Now, there are cost estimates. Now there is no construction cost taken from the general fund and the presentation given suggest just a small increase in maintenance costs and mostly to add an additional employee. As such, I would have voted in favor.
8. Palm Coast’s population has grown over 30 percent in the past decade and a half. A certain amount of NIMBYism—not in my back yard—is a recurring theme of existing residents opposing further development, and not just apartment complexes. Do existing residents have a right to close the development gates behind them, when Palm Coast as ITT envisioned it in the late 60s was planned for 600,000 residents? How do you define overdevelopment, and how do you define smart growth, with existing examples in the city. What percentage of our housing stock should be single-family homes as opposed to apartments?
People have a right to build. Rezoning is not a right. I am in favor of preserving commercial property for commercial use to offset the 92% property tax burden currently shoulder by residence. I have lived here 39 years and have seen the growth at times feel as though it is out of hand so I understand why some feel this way. We soon will have a clean canvas to work with west of U.S. 1 I believe developing some of that area with the original idea of Town Center (apartments over shops) would reduce traffic, provide a destination area and working people could possible walk to work.
Overdevelopment is when the rate of development outpaces infrastructure capacity or maintenance. For instance we have a large shortfall in Public Works for road maintenance and in some areas continued development will increase the wear on these roads. Smart growth would be to ensure the balance between maintenance and development is kept in check. Quality over quantity should be our theme. I’m not sure there is a one size fits all ratio between apartments and single family homes. I believe that in our community the people desire a larger percentage of single family homes vs apartments but as mentioned earlier, opening the area west of U.S. 1 provides some great opportunities.
9. With the Flagler Realtors Association’s May 2022 report showing median house prices at $400,000, up from $294,000 a year ago, the city faces an affordable housing shortfall. 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?
I understand the argument for “workforce” housing. I personally believe that we should encourage trade school and apprenticeship programs to increase a person’s skill level to make the person more valuable and thereby increase their income rather than reducing home cost. However, since we are opening the West area of U.S. 1, perhaps we can create a master plan that address these issues there rather than rezoning existing parcels on the East side. As mentioned earlier, building an area with the original intent of Town Center (apartments/condos) over shops could create a balance between housing costs and available jobs. This is a case by case bases issue. If it is in an area of existing apartments than that is one consideration that I would look at. You suggest that the property is already zoned for apartments. It is then most likely already zoned for the density and height. I would be inclined to stay within the existing zoning requirements.
10. Palm Coast’s saltwater canals may need dredging. It’s never been done in the 50-year existence of the city and its ITT antecedent. But the canals—like those recreational amenities mentioned above–are limited to a few neighborhoods. If and when it comes to that, who should pay for the dredging, and through what taxing mechanism?
The canals were spot dredged in the 1980s. At a Council Meeting a member of the public presented information showing that there were 4600 docks and seawalls on the canals. This is more than a small number. The city property tax revenue is generally higher from waterfront property. I presented a large number of documents to the city including potential grant sources. I would seek out additional state and federal grants. Although the city may be hesitant to admit it, the saltwater canal systems are a drainage spot for our strategic stormwater drainage system. There are additional grants for stormwater maintenance. If the job of dredging were spaced out over x number of years the annual cost may be covered by grants.
Are you saying no property taxes, no special district taxes, for canal dredging? Going the route of grants, even Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) grants wouldn’t come near the sort of revenue needed for such a large-scale project, and Florida Department of Environmental protection and Department of Transportation funding is being sharply syphoned toward beach and “resiliency” type projects that cover entire communities rather than particular neighborhoods. Do you have one or two types of grants in mind?
I do not favor a tax increase nor a special taxing district. The proper function and maintenance of the canals affect all residents via property values and related property tax revenue generation. The project doesn’t need to be done in one big chunk. We can look at the worst affected areas and fix those first. Then move forward as needed in the future with other areas on an as needed bases. The bathymetric survey will identify those areas. If we recognize the system as part of the strategic storm water drainage system as I believe it actually is, then there are grants available to help with drainage that reduces the chance of flooding. I presented Council with a packet that included a few grant sources to investigate.
The city manager seems to be doing a good job overall. Although I would have been in favor of going outside for someone with a history of municipal management, at this time I believe she is working out fine. She shines in her ability to work with staff but that can also be an issue when close long term relationships are involved. She appears to be handling that well. I think she could improve by making herself more of a central figure in discussions and offer her insights at council.
12. Palm Coast relies on the sheriff for policing. Evaluate that relationship. Do you consider the steep expansion of the Palm Coast policing force (and budget) justified in a low-crime era? Do you favor an independent police department for the city, now or in the near future?
The low crime appears to be because we have a strong sheriff department. As our population increases it is a natural requirement to increase law enforcement and our fire department to maintain safety and thus is has increased impacts on the city budget. These things are the cost of growth. The start up costs for a local police department for the size of Palm Coast is not something the city should be looking at right now. Additionally, we would still have to pay a portion of the sheriff departments costs as they would most likely be in charge of investigating murders, drug seizures and the like. As such it is a beneficial idea when we have other department shortfalls.
13. 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? Have you ever been demoted? If so, please explain, including cases where charges or claims did not lead to conviction or disciplinary action.
I have no criminal record. I have no felony charges. There is some kind of frivolous record of a petty theft charge about 30 or so years ago but it was dropped before I was made aware of it. I have never filed bankruptcy. I have never been brought before a professional disciplinary board. I have never been demoted.
Can you address in your own words the issue of your sovereign citizenship from a few decades ago, which has justly been interpreted as placing yourself not only outside the legal system altogether, but in defiance of it, as you answered to what you considered was a higher law. You mentioned that it was a passing phase, but you only started voting roughly two to three years ago, though you’re 61. What do you tell voters who may be skeptical about your past judgments and current motivations? [See Alan Lowe’s “Declaration of Independence” here.]
Yes, I recognize I made a mistake 30 years ago in the infancy of discovering my deeply held spiritual beliefs. Although it was turned into a smear campaign against me, the truth is that I never gave up my citizenship, nor have I ever legally entertained the idea to do so. As mentioned and displayed throughout my campaign, I have 30 years of passports proving that I’ve always been a citizen of the United States.
Back then I disagreed with the way the government was operating (much like millions of people have felt over the past several years). We have a right to peacefully protest and that was what I did, in the form of a letter. Thirty years ago when I wrote the words “sovereign citizen” it meant to me that I was a spiritual citizen of God’s kingdom. I was not a member of any group or organizations. At the same time, I have stayed within our laws, paid all taxes due and I’ve always stood on the belief that the United States is the best country in the world to live in, taking pride in what our country and her people have accomplished.
As to the issue of voting, it’s said that, “with time comes wisdom.” Being self-employed for many years my time and concentration was spent taking care of my business and family. I didn’t feel like my vote mattered. As I got older and began to slow down a bit and saw more and more things happening in our country in recent times that I disagreed with, it became clear that I needed to change my thinking. I realized that my vote was the only way to see positive change happen and without it, I had no right to complain. I wanted to become part of the solution and use my voice through my vote. If you look at the fact that we have nearly 90,000 registered voters in this city, yet fewer than half of them show up at the polls for local elections, you can see that I was not alone in my thinking. Part of my campaign has always been to encourage others to join me in using our collective voices (votes) for the good of this place we call home.
2022 Election Candidates, Flagler County
|County Commission District 2||Greg Hansen, incumbent (Rep)||Janet McDonald (Rep)||Denise Calderwood (Rep)|
|County Commission District 4||Joe Mullins, incumbent (Rep)||Leann Pennington (Rep)||Jane Gentile-Youd (NPA)|
|School Board District 1||Jill Woolbright, incumbent||Sally Hunt|
|School Board District 2||Lance Alred||Will Furry||Courtney VandeBunte|
|School Board District 4||Trevor Tucker, incumbent||Christy Chong|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 2||Theresa Carli Pontieri||Sims Jones||Shauna Kanter / Alan Lowe|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 4||Cathy heighter||Fernando Melendez|