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Paying Tribute to Tea Party Faithfuls, City Council Candidates Hear Tax-Me-Not Earfuls

| July 22, 2011

flagler county tea party palm coast city elections

Collective bargaining, tea party style. (© FlaglerLive)

Politicians hoping to win or hold office know that they’d have a much harder time doing so if they don’t attend tea party forums, answer tea party questions, curry favor with tea party officials, especially when tea parties themselves have taken to fielding candidates and threatening to throw out politicians who don’t vote their way.

The Flagler County Tea Party is no different. Like it or not, it’s a force to be reckoned with, especially in a county where the two other parties are each fractured by brawling and jealousies and competing clubs. Tea party events draw big crowds. Republican and Democratic party events draw yawns. And independents or those unaffiliated with any party are still the fastest growing group of voters. They represent 25 percent of the registered electorate in Flagler County, up from 20 percent in 2008 and 10 percent in 1998.

And so prospective voters crowded around two rows of tables lined opposite each other at the Knights of Columbus’s main hall in Palm Coast Tuesday evening, anywhere from 150 to 400 people—depending on who was counting–, many of them wearing Flagler County Tea Party shirts, most of them looking to know for themselves what candidates for Palm Coast’s mayoral and city council elections stood for. It was less than a third the crowd that filled out the tea party’s last candidate evening, last year. But that election featured many more races, and Palm Coast’s off-year council elections are notoriously low turn-out affairs—which favor those who turn out the most: older, conservative voters with an antipathy for taxes. In other words, tea party voters.

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“Here’s what we hoped to accomplish,” Tom Lawrence, chairman of the Flagler County Tea Party Group, said when the evening was done. “We hoped to get a good turnout. We think we got a reasonably good turnout. We were delighted that all the candidates accepted, and I think the one guy that didn’t accept has dropped out of the race, the young guy. So what we were trying to do is put the voters together with the candidates in an environment where they can have one on one questions. This isn’t going to be a three-minute stump speech followed by three canned questions. It’s going to be, I walk up and I talk to you, I ask every question on my mind and I get your input. Then I walk across the hall to your opponent and I talk to him, and maybe it rings some bells and I come back and I ask you again, so by the end of the evening I would have had a chance to really probe into your thinking and get an honest appreciation of where you’re coming from, better than I could have gotten from a forum.”

The crowds around individual tables told a story: Jon Netts, incumbent mayor and the city’s longest-serving politician, was never at a loss for inquirers—or words of his own. In a different place and time, Netts might have rivaled Anthony Trollope for word production. He was also positioned first, as you entered the hall, catching that first wave. Next to him was Holsey Moorman, the incumbent council candidate running from District 2 against challenger Bill McGuire, further down the row. McGuire identifies himself with the tea party. Organizers had placed Jason DeLorenzo between Moorman and McGuire. DeLorenzo is running for Ditsrict 3, an open seat vacated by Mary DiStefano, who is term-limited. Each had a steady stream visitors.

Jack Howell, right, fielded his flying teens for his man. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Across the hall, tables were set up for Dennis Cross, the candidate who said he felt like a yo-yo—from not knowing from one week to the next whether he was a qualified candidate, then not knowing when, in September or November, he would get to run. Cross is running against DeLorenzo. He would like to identify himself with the tea party, but there’s a bit of controversy around that: the Flagler County Tea Party chairman, Tom Lawrence, is supporting DeLorenzo, a Democrat. Moorman, too, is a Democrat, though candidates prefer to say that the race is non-partisan. The other candidates are all Republicans.

Cross, like Charlie Ericksen at the neighboring table, chose not to stand behind their tables like other candidates, but to mingle in the center of the hall and hold their conversations there. Ericksen said he had contact with 125 people with whom he hadn’t previously spoken. “I did not sit down,” Ericksen said, “as I think it offensive for residents to come up to elected officials who are either seated, awaiting people, or unwilling to stand up and talk.” Ericksen projects a laid back, unassuming demeanor that masks a skill for sharply cutting remarks when he wants to make them: the statement was a dig at both his opponents, Netts and Joe Cunnane, both of whom sat throughout the evening. Several young people with blue Charlie Ericksen shirts walked around like biped billboards. They were members of Teens in Flight, on whose board Ericksen serves, and whose president, Jack Howell, is an Ericksen supporter.

If Netts was busy, Cunnane, a perennial candidate for mayor, was not. His table was the second-loneliest of the evening despite a large bowl of Hershey kisses. It wasn’t as lonely as the table next to his: that of Ray Minami, the recent Matanzas High School graduate who briefly entertained a run for mayor. He was a no-show.

The sort of questions candidates were asked during the evening is a gauge of what that particular group (and particularly influential group) of voters is concerned with. Two issues were mentioned by every single candidate as eliciting recurring questions: the proposed city hall, and taxes. Every candidate was asked whether he supported a new city hall. To one degree or another, every candidate said no, at least not in the way that the project was proposed earlier this year—as a $10 million, cash project. But they each had varying degrees of qualifiers, saying they’d welcome a referendum on the project, and consider a city hall to be in the city’s future.

But taxes topped the list. “Taxes and spending was the absolute number question people had,” DeLorenzo said. “The interesting part about that is that other than for the incumbents, this election won’t have anything to do with that because the initial millage rate is going to be set Aug. 6.”

None of the candidates said that people made a distinction between raising the tax rate as opposed to raising people’s tax bills—to different things: the rate could go up and still generate less revenue, and lower tax bills for residents, because property valuations have fallen so far. But most voters don’t see it that way. To them, if the tax rate goes up, it’s a tax increase regardless.

“Don’t raise our taxes,” Moorman kept hearing all evening, “but also, don’t cut our fire and emergency response, don’t eliminate that, maintain our roads, we like the beautiful landscaping, we like the paved roads, we like the service we’re getting. But don’t raise our taxes. So how do you do that, how do you maintain what they have without paying for it? It’s not free, so somewhere along the line you have to reduce services or pay a little more to maintain the services we currently have.”

Jon Netts on the witness stand. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Netts said he spoke to about 20 to 30 people wearing tea party shirts, half of whom told him he had their support. That would be like a team going on the road and winning half its games: not a bad percentage, if home turf produces a higher result.  “What was interesting, as I look back on it,” Netts said, “the bulk of the questions were about taxes, tax rates and government spending and not a lot of questions about economic development and what government is doing to rectify the situation, which is kind of interesting.”

Ericksen, one of the newcomers to political races, was asked the questions about city hall and taxes, but also about his work experience, whether he would sell the city’s golf course—a big money-loser since the city acquired it—whether he would consider consolidation of fire departments (a question posed several candidates) and, in what appeared to have been a prepared line of questioning that other candidates also heard, repeated questions about City Manager Jim Landon’s contract and his pay (the manager made $183,000 last year; his total compensation package was $218,000.  Ericksen considers Landon overpaid. Netts has always defended the contract.

Solitary, valliant Joe Cunnane. (© FlaglerLive)

Solitary, valliant Joe Cunnane. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Other questions included inquiries about the city’s “neighborhood stabilization program,” where the city takes over distressed properties, rehabilitates them and sells them to qualified buyers as a way to reduce the backlog of foreclosed properties. Cross said various people spoke to him disapprovingly about the program. He himself has no objections to it except its rental component: he doesn’t want to the government acting as landlord.

The evening lasted about two hours before people left or remnants shuffled over to the bar for a drink in the adjoining hall.

“I went around, got a consensus of all participants, and all of them told me that they were all treated respectfully, with no animosities shown or no vulgarity shown, and it was a very, very good meeting,” Vince Ligouri, a tea party member, said. “Whether they were tea party or not I couldn’t distinguish unless they were wearing a t-shirt. But that was my job, to go around and make sure that nobody was disrespectful and nobody jammed anybody with anything.”

No other candidate evening is likely to draw the same crowd, except perhaps the evening organized by the local chamber, Realtors and homebuilders on Aug. 24. That will combine a social hour, when people can mingle with candidates, with a more formal questions-and-answer period.

Fair crowd. (© FlaglerLive)

34 Responses for “Paying Tribute to Tea Party Faithfuls, City Council Candidates Hear Tax-Me-Not Earfuls”

  1. Lucine says:

    Tea Party = I want my cake and eat it too.

    Can’t have it both ways.

    We need a “Coffee Party.”

  2. John Smith says:

    The TEA PARTY is just what it sounds like a bunch of OLD FOlKS with nothing better to do than force their opinions on everyone else. You see what they gave us for a GOVENOR. WE CAN THANK THEM FOR THIS TANKING of our state.

  3. rickg says:

    “Don’t raise my taxes!!!” Is that the extent of the Snake Flag Republicans?? Why don’t you go to the oil companies and scream “don’t raise the price of gasoline” or “don’t raise the price of my homeowners insurance” or “don’t raise the price of my groceries”.. Really, I have never seen a larger group of those who lack common sense and the perspective of history in my life…. Oh except for that fiasco in Washington led by the disgraced Glen Beck.

  4. John Smith says:

    Don’t these candidates realize that by associating with this group of people that they are going to be demanded to cater to them and all there wishes or be threatened just like the ones that are in there now and be voted out or worse be hated by the TEA PARTY. What a JOKE. Hope you also realize it is Flagler County TEA PARTY that is behind this in Palm Coast. COUNTY COUNTY COUNTY sounds like the county wants Palm Coast TAX money back all to them selves again. Is there a PALM COAST TEA PARTY?

  5. PCer says:

    Has anyone ever noticed that TEA is pretty bitter unless you add a whole lot of sugar?

  6. Dorothea says:

    I have listed a few links for your use. Contact your city councilmembers here and let them know that you are opposed to the tea party taking over Palm Coast and that the tea party is a noisy, destructive minority and that you, too, will be voting in the city elections.

    Use these links to research the Flagler County Tea Party contributors:

    Time for a Palm Coast Coffee Party to give our elected officials a jolt of reality.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Thank you so much Dorothea for your informative research, you are an exceptional citizen.
    Who else resides in district 3 that won’t represent these two extremes. Please if someone out there is still deciding to run against DeLorenzo and Cross, do it now please. We need you!

  8. Jack Howell says:

    I believe that the tea party has out lived it’s usefullness. I agree with Dorothea’s assessment and our poorly performing council members need to pay attention to the rumble of discontent by the voters!

  9. Liana G says:

    “None of the candidates said that people made a distinction between raising the tax rate as opposed to raising people’s tax bills—to different things: the rate could go up and still generate less revenue, and lower tax bills for residents, because property valuations have fallen so far. But most voters don’t see it that way. To them, if the tax rate goes up, it’s a tax increase regardless.”

    Here we go again, the homeowners being expected to sacrifice and suffer by paying a higher tax rate on their worthless property in order to keep the tax revenues at a level that allows higher ups in city gov’t to maintain their bloated salaries and status-quo.

    Is it not enough that these houses are underwater and people are still having to pay mortgages that are 3 to 4 times greater than what their homes are now worth? A $240,000 home is now worth $60,000 according to REALISTIC market value, and not the figure the county’s property appraiser is fudging.

    What incentive is there for homeowners to remain in their underwater homes with an even greater tax rate? Where is the help or breaks for these homeowners, especially those who are retired, unemployed, and those who are low end income earners – the folks that make up the greater population of this community? Where we would have received a tax break on our underwater homes, we are now being expected to forgo that so that bloated salaries for higher ups are maintained

    Now I would like to ask what personal sacrifices these higher ups making? Mr Landon’s salary is not the only one in question, but those in other areas of gov’t too. Let’s see cuts and restructing of salaries for ALL higher ups in ALL offices of gov’t.

  10. Bigfoot says:

    How many of the OLD FOLKS that you disparage payed up to 73 % taxes’ fought in W W 2 ; earned our way without all the handouts and raised children to respect others ? Now you play the Obama game to yhe hilt and call it honor. Glenn Beck ferreted out many injustices and if you can’t see that then you need help.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    BigFoot I can’t figure out where do you get your distorted data. Can you document that 73%, please?

  12. Bigfoot says:

    Nothing distorted about the 73% ,it had been 90% before that and we paid 73% on income in about 1970. Will find the dates but would all remember that c;ose to 50% now pay nothing and many receive big $$ from the welfare kitty, and your future will see the effort to make the top 15% pay our debt down, taking all of the top will not dent payouts and still the scream [ get more] .Agood political move until it all falls in. More later.

  13. Bigfoot says:

    TAX RATES 1950 400,000AND OVER 84.35% 1960 400,000 and over 91 % 1970 200, 000. and over 71.75 % .Note the 1970 went to 200,000.and above. Now we live as everyone must have IT NOW. The jobs are not coming back even with socialism [ a good system ] until they run out of everyones elses money and this country will lose living standards. Some of wanted to save;many others spent reckleness and now want the others money until it runs out. For our country time has run out and we bitch about so old GEEZERS that hate to see it is our country down and blame all others .The above is the rates.

  14. Layla says:

    Thank you, Tea Party, for holding the event. It was a good one. The more people interested in what’s going on in government, the better.

  15. Yogi says:

    The tea party is made up of working Americans in the private sector who are done with the tax and spend policies. They are huge in numbers. They are committed. They work hard to see their country is saved.

  16. Kyle Russell says:

    Bigfoot: what socialism?

  17. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Here’s a definition of socialism for kids.

    You might want read up on the subject before you make any more comments on it, but in brief it’s a system that’s being foisted on us by a bunch of lefties now in power who if they aren’t shown the door next election, will bring us down to third world status before they’re done with us.

    Don’t believe it?

    Check out Euroweenieland (formerly known as Europe). They’re way ahead of us on the road to socialism.

  18. Layla says:

    Ask those who immigrated from the former Soviet Union what they think of your glorious definition of socialism. Go ahead, ask them. Maybe we should invite them to address our school children?

  19. lawabidingcitizen says:

    My definition of socialism isn’t glorious, but it is accurate and it wasn’t practiced in the Soviet Union. They had full blown communism inflicted on them and it would be an excellent idea to have people who’ve lived under an oppressive centralized state talk to students. Another good idea would be to have someone from the uber-unionized welfare paradises of Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc. talk about what happens when they run out of other people’s money to spend. A lot of kids and even those long past their student years seem to think there’s a free lunch out here for them.

    There isn’t.

  20. palmcoaster says:

    What do Ericksen and Cunnane think of Netts pushing to give our Palm Coast fire department to the county other than the other way around.? We need Netts if for any of his past blunders, just for this, his proposal. One more. What does he want to give away all the stations and estate of the art equipment we palmcoasters paid for, so then the county turns around and ask the city to pay another 3 millions extra as it does with the sheriff now in order to service us? Netts was a late arrival here around 2002 I think way after Palm Coast incorporated and doesn’t know jack what we endured under this county’s foot. If any fire services are to be taken over got to be the County transferred to city or nothing!
    Otherwise we are moron’s! Is not any feud, is the reality!! Also a referendum should be presented to transfer our services to another tax district!

  21. Rebecca says:

    The Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, Flagler County Association of Realtors and the Flagler Home Builders Association candidate forum will take place on Tuesday, August 23 at the Hilton Garden Inn at 5:00 p.m.

  22. palmcoaster says:

    Sorry I get very upset on the sight of so much distortion against our fellow Americans in need.. In my other post I wanted to say that I volunteer to pay for our employee’s 50% share of his medical, that he could no longer afford to the loss of his second job, so he could have his vital surgery done. I may not wear expensive jewelry, just drive an older car and do not often eat out, but I do not swallow lies either. These well orchestrated rift raft among ourselves, is destroying America taking us back to the 1800’s
    Txs for the info Rebecca.

  23. NortonSmitty says:

    Are folks who haven’t drank the Kool-Aid invited?

  24. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Kool-Aid is the drink preference of the left, but I imagine if you behave in a civilized manner, i.e., not like union thugs, you would be welcome at any public event.

  25. Jerry Crowley says:

    I think the tea party just may save the country.

  26. becky says:

    I can tell By reading the negative comments about the Tea Party, that the writers have no real understanding of the group, or its members. They do seem to know all the distorted and mistaken talking points used on MSNBC and the main networks that support big government. Maybe they should go to a meeting, or go to to get a basic idea that is factual. Oh yes, just a little aside..I recently got a Twitter account, and was shocked to see how many black conservatives there really are!

  27. NortonSmitty says:

    I just wrote a 1500 word post that somehow disappeared. It was really good, and I’m PO’d that it’s gone, but it was important to say it, at least to me. The gist of it was about how the Tea Party is made up of a group of older working class Patriotic Americans that see the obvious fact that their country is being stolen from them. We all see this. And you all can’t understand why the so-called Liberals and Democrats dismiss you as fools instead of admiring you for standing up and caring enough to try to save the America we all knew.

    I myself have been accused of this by several of you. LAC, you asked me once why I was so angry at a group of Americans who cared enough to get involved and speak up, but I’m not angry at allabout your efforts. Hell, we all should be pissed enough to grab a torch and a pitchfork and head to the nearest Capitol before it’s too late.

    But you have to realize that your movement has been hijacked! Your righteous anger has been cynically used by the very powers you should be rising up against, the international Bankers, Wall Street hedge fund thieves and multi-national corporations that have bought our government and have spent billions on a propaganda machine the likes of which the world has never seen, to corrupt your movement and turn it to their own ends.

    As I said, I wrote a long post linking the Bankers and other thieving scum that have looted our Treasury corrupting your original founders by using well-funded front groups like Freedom Watch to push aside the original Tea Party founders and turn your agenda to theirs, but I’m not going to write it all down again, but please think.

    LAC, after Wall Street was handed Trillions in bailout money, half of it that went to Germany and English banks, after two major unnecessary wars while giving tax cuts to the top 1% of the country, after the middle class that we were told WAS America is milked like Holsteins to transfer their hard earned savings worked for over generations to let the top 1% double their share of the American pie since 1980 at our expense, after all of these incontestable statistical facts…

    We STILL have to listen to you boneheaded morons, Yea, I’m talking to you LAC, tell us you KNOW that EVERY problem with the American economy could be cured if we just get rid of the teachers pensions and Unions and let the Banks and Corporations go tax and regulation free, well THEN we would live in Paradise!

    I had a lot of stats regarding everything from Corporate taxes collected, the spending chart for government services (per capita and vs. GDP) from 1960 to the present, a lot of shit to prove my points, but you wouldn’t listen to them anyhow. Your mind has been convinced that these facts must be skewed if it makes you question what have become your core beliefs. More importantly, the greatest sales and propaganda juggernaut ever devised has made these political and economic points of view more than beliefs, more than a mere point of view that can change by facts. You have been sold thatTHIS IS WHAT AND WHO YOU ARE! You, by the grace of God, are A CONSERVATIVE! Just like Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney, John Wayne, Rush Linbaugh, Hannity, all of those studs!

    They have sold you this identity just as our fathers were sold the importance of being a Cadillac Man, Marlboro Man, Chesterfield smoker, whatever. And for the same reason, MONEY. Doesn’t matter how expensive or how bad it is for my wallet or lungs, by God, I Believe!

    So I give up trying to convince you with rational thinking and statistics. Well, I had…

    But I ran into an expenditure in the line-item budget that is just so basically undeniably mind-bendingly outrageous that to absorb and ponder it has to shock anybodies perspective of the problem we face changing the Federal Government of We the People. Please, if you think the deficit spending problem we have is caused by Welfare, Tax cuts for the Rich, the EPA, whatever. Please try to wrap your mind around this single line item in the 2011 military budget:

    The total cost of Air Conditioning all of the tents in Iraq and Afganistan is budgeted at $20 Billion dollars in 2011.

    Please let me put that figure into perspective for you. We just ended the Space Shuttle program and laid off just about the entire NASA workforce and have no plans to design and build a replacement. We have decided that in these lean times, we cannot afford to spend out tax dollars exploring space or furthering our knowledge of space, in spite of the innovations, from transistors to computers, it has brought us in the past.

    THE ENTIRE BUDGET OF NASA IS LESS THAN WE ARE SPENDING ON AIR CONDITIONING THE TENTS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN! Forget the bombs, drones, payroll, bribes, fuel, graft. Don’t even consider corruption possible due to the fact that the lions share of this contract is going to Halliburton, our ex Vice Presidents old company on a no-bid contract, that’s beside the point.

    But I do so hope that the next time you put on that tri-cornered hat and disrupt the local town hall screaming that we have to close the library and stop funding lunches for retarded kids and feeding poor mothers and the homeless, please think about that $20 Billion AC bill. Please ask yourself why the people who bussed you in and got you so riled up haven’t mentioned that maybe we should stop giving billions of dollars a year in cash grants to Shell and Exxon and AIG and Goldman-Sachs, but you should scream and foam at the mouth because a 40 year teacher gets enough to live on when she retires.

    If you do think about it, it may not be enough to make you turn to your friend standing next to you and risk your standing in the club by saying “Wait, maybe we are being used by these politicians who have been bought by the billionaire Koch brothers and such to further their oligarchical corporatist agenda to take over our government:” That may be too much to hope for.

    But hopefully, this may have planted a seed in your brains. And maybe it will sprout and grow. But this probably is too much to ask for. But I hope to God that maybe, just maybe, the clouds will part and it will hit you like a ray of sunshine, and just maybe you will understand why the rest of us think your all such fucking idiots.

  28. palmcoaster says:

    This is what our staggering unemployment and our wide open doors to imports generates for us all.
    For the sake of good old greed fattening the already billionaires and corporations outsourcing our jobs!
    People and small businesses can’t not even afford the postal services we used to before.
    Wake up my fellow Americans!

  29. Bigfoot says:

    Unions and the world economy shoved our jobs overseas and while we can scream all we wish until the unions and the world wage structure come UP we won’t be getting the jobs back.Obama and crowd USE you folks to the hilt and LIES at every speech .

  30. palmcoaster says:

    Big Foot…
    Not the unions, not our so called overpaid laizy workers sent our jobs overseas, but the loosen conservatives and their deregulations and the greedy corporations that will always profit from slavery wages and conditions overseas! This is until will tax the heck out of their imports here. Obama was handed by Bush, a box of rotten eggs to bake this cake!
    This following link show you the likes of Apple reasons, to take manufacturing to China and away from us. Is this what you expect your American fellow worker to get paid and this treatment?

  31. lawabidingcitizen says:

    palmcoaster, you’re wrong, but don’t worry, you’re in the majority now. In a few years, when we’re in the same shape as Europe, you might understand how it happened, but it won’t matter because there’ll be no going back.

  32. NortonSmitty says:

    LAC, Why is she wrong? And there’s already no going back.

  33. Layla says:

    In reading over these arguments, I am seeing that we are on the same team here, folks. But we are too busy playing the blame game, which is EXACTLY what they want us to do, to not realize it is politicians that are killing this country, BOTH SIDES. And the ONLY way either side wins is by turning one against the other. They have succeeded. I suggest you all read the Cloward and Piven Strategy. it’s quite eye opening and 100% successful. You can Google it.

    Florida has 25% of the nation’s homeless children. What are Sens. Nelson or Rubio doing about that? What is anybody doing about that? These numbers are SKYROCKETING. People cannot make ends meet anymore. THAT is a fact that COULD have been fixed if we all spent more time contacting our elected officials than squabbling amongst ourselves about WHO is responsible.

    There already IS a huge depression going on in this country and all our politicians are doing about it is campaigning and squabbling.

  34. palmcoaster says:

    Norton Smitty, there is little that we can do, when there is not worst blind that the one that refuses to see.

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