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Overflow Crowd at a Wonkish Forum for 7 Palm Coast City Council Candidates

| August 23, 2011

Standing room only, and then some at the Hilton tonight. (FlaglerLive)

There was no apathy here.

At the Hilton Garden Inn’s conference room this evening, every chair was filled, spectators stood along the walls, spilled a bit into hallways, and zeroed in on the three candidates for Palm Coast mayor–Incumbent Jon Netts, challengers Charlie Ericksen and Joe Cunnane–and four candidates for two seats on the council: Bill McGuire Challenging Holsey Moorman, and Jason DeLorenzo running against Dennis Ross for the open seat being vacated by Mary DiStefano.

The forum, organized by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, the Flagler Homebuilders Association and the Flagler County Association of Realtors, drew 168 people at the Hilton’s conference room, some of whom gave the candidates a standing ovation when it was over.

The event, broadcast live on WNZF and moderated by David Ayres, was helpfully preceded by cocktail hour. The forum itself was compelling, but not exciting. Except for Cunnane, the least serious of the candidates and the most relaxed, the panel–seated shoulder to shoulder along a white-clothed set of tables–was earnest, humorless, and at times technical enough to sound like the replica of human resources workshop.

The questions were straightforward, eliciting answers on economic development, the city’s business friendliness (which got middle to good marks from the four candidates asked about it), staff and managerial salaries, infrastructure, city hall, Palm Coast’s water desalination project, Palm Coast’s code enforcement policies: the questions may have been policy wonks’ dream, but they were not the sort of question that, in themselves offered much insight into what separated the candidates from each other.

On almost every count, the candidates more or less agreed that the city could become more business friendly but has been doing a good job getting there anyway (the city’s new Business Assistance Center was on every candidate’s approving lips). Holding employees, including the manager, accountable for their salaries is a good idea, though–with the exception of Cunnane–there was little desire to be critical of City Manager Jim Landon, and, though the manager remained nameless in their assessments, praise from the incumbents for what’s been accomplished on his watch (though Moorman and Netts did their best to take credit for those accomplishments). There was no disagreement over shifting sales tax dollars from repaving to stormwater improvements. And even on desalination and a new city hall, the candidates agreed this is not the time. That agreement included Netts, who is a past champion of both, though he maintains that desalination will be in Palm Coast’s future at some point.

Answers to the questions were not as telling as the way the candidates answered them: Netts seemed as comfortable on his candidate seat as he is in his mayor’s seat, deconstructing questions with long, discursive answers that at times require a guide map to follow, though he always knows his destination. Ericksen was more stiff, displaying none of his dry humor and appearing once or twice at a loss for words, though reading from a statement, he closed on a challenge to the mayor and the city manager: “Right now Palm Coast needs an experienced administrator-mayor to lead the city council. I bring a new set of eyes and problem-solving skills to challenge existing problem areas.”

DeLorenzo drew on his many memberships on local boards or committees to differentiate himself from Cross, a retiree with business experience. DeLorenzo alone mentioned his age: 40, making him by far the youngest in a field of retirees. McGuire repeatedly drew on his history as a cost-cutting manager for large companies who’s eager to do the same for Palm Coast, contrasting himself with the more laid back Moorman, who described himself as having “enjoyed serving the people, because all of my adult life, I have served.”

Below is a blow-by-blow account of tonight’s forum, transcribed as it was happening.

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16 Responses for “Overflow Crowd at a Wonkish Forum for 7 Palm Coast City Council Candidates”

  1. Liana G says:

    This is impressive! Would have been great to be there in person but duty calls – purchasing school supplies, again. There has got to be more to living than frequent trips to such stores.

  2. Jerry M says:

    Now I really don’t know whom to vote for.

  3. PJ says:

    This was excellent Peirre. I enjoyed the commentary and exchanges with the other commentators.

  4. Rob says:

    Very good coverage

    I know exactly which candidates I will not vote for.
    New perspectives will not hurt and may possibly help this community.

    If you continue to do what you have always done how can you expect anything other than the same outcomes.

  5. Nick D says:

    This was a great forum and I enjoyed attending it. However, I noticed one thing all the candidates had in common; they all know where they would like to take the city but none of them laid out a path or gave a plan to achieve such goals.

    If I had to pick a “winner” from just this form for each race it would be tough…but;

    PC District 1 –
    William McGuire
    Holsey Moorman – WIN

    PC District 3 –
    Dennis Cross
    Jason DeLorenzo – WIN

    PC Mayor –
    Joe Cunnane
    Charles Erickson Jr. – 50%
    Jon Netts – 50%

  6. Lin says:

    Agreed, Pierre, the questions were not illuminating in any way.

    One question I have is that if our Council has no power over personnel issues (it is City Manager function) — then the voters are electing a council with no power and also no accountability for things that don’t go right. They seem to take credit (the incumbents) for a wonderful city but when it comes to problems, let’s look at the City Manager. All candidates including incumbents say it is not the time for a new City Hall — so who sent out Landon with the 5 presentations? Landon said he was not in favor of it at the presentation I attended. We elect Council people who say they have no power over some issues — yet they hired Landon, right?

    Seems to me we have an extra layer of government here — we elect the Council but it is the City Manager who makes the decisions insulating the Council from accountability for what happens here. I know the Charter prescribed this form of government but maybe it is time for a change – we need to elect THOSE IN POWER.

    The candidates touted their presence on committees and commmissions — nice for them, but how does that help the voter — how does that prove they are or will be good Council members? I think there are all too many meetings & discussions and too little being accomplished in government in general. Candidate McGuire did say that his meetings with School District & other personnel produced budget savings of 3 million $. In my business life, my presentations needed to show the feature AND THE BENEFIT.

    No doubt, we need change in Palm Coast — In my opinion, McGuire showed how he can get us some budget savings. Dennis Cross has lots of business experience, said he is retired & this will be his full time work. Good — the pay for Council members is not enough to support a family. Time for a new Mayor — Erickson looks good to me. 5 years is too long — how about 1 year, then 4 if they do a good job.

  7. Rob says:


    You have hit the nail square.
    ” I know the Charter prescribed this form of government but maybe it is time for a change – we need to elect THOSE IN POWER. ”
    You are one of the few who see the light.

    I also agree that the terms are too long. Three max, not four.
    And the manner in which the councilors changed the voting to even years allows two of them to sit for 5 years. They could have made the change so that they sit for one year less but opted to lengthen rather than shorten the term.

  8. Yogi says:

    The city council hires and fires city managers. The city manager must execute directives from the council. Directives from the council tell the city manager what goals to accomplish, not how to go about accomplishing those goals. If the City is dysfunctional it is because the city manager is not doing the job right. If the city remains dysfunctional, the city council is to fault for not removing the city manager. If the city council doesn’t fire the problem and hire the solution, then we are to blame for not communicating our will in a convincing manner. The city council continues to work to promote an ever expanding government that controls every facet of our lives. We elect them and we can remove them by recall petition at any time we can show due cause. The end result is, if you what to point a finger at the one to blame, go look in the mirror. In my opinion none of the incumbents deserve to be re elected. The others should be re called.

  9. Jack Howell says:

    I totally agree with Yogi. The current city council has shown nothing but a pompus and cavalier attitude towards the citizens of Palm Coast. None of the incumbents have any fresh ideas. The same old blah ,blah, blah same old rehetoric and pontification. It is time for change. Charlie Ericksen will bring fort soild ideas, is sincere and he actually listens to you Your input is not automaticlly dismissed and it would be with our current council members. Furthermore, I don’t see Charlie Ericksen making any deals with special interest groups just to get elected mayor.

  10. Bill McGuire says:

    “Wonk” (Merriam-Webster) – a nerd. That does it, Pierre;the gloves come off. I challenge you to a duel…Roget’s Thesaurus at 10 paces!

  11. Layla says:

    I went to the event last night but wondered why it was held in such a small place. The room capacity there is about 80. It was hot and many had to stand.

    Disappointing, too, were the softball questions lobbed at the candidates. My assessment: Bill McGuire is going to get my vote over Holsey Moorman this time. I want someone in that job with more direct managing, cost cutting experience. Cross is going to get my vote over DeLorenzo. He too has a strong business management background as well as having held elective office before. I will not support DeLorenzo, the chief lobbyist for the Builders Assoc. for City Council. DeLorenzo sits on the planning commission as well. Talk about letting the fox into the henhouse…. If there isn’t a huge conflict of interest in both of these, I’ll eat my hat. I like what I hear from Charlie Ericksen. He has done is homework on the desalination plant and mostly I like him because he doesn’t talk down to people like our current mayor…..a real breath of fresh air.

    Why were questions from the audience not allowed? DeLorenzo sounded like he’d already memorized his answers in advance. He lost his train of thought in the middle of responding to a question while the audience prayed it wouldn’t be too long before he remembered what point he was attempting to make. The longest, most uncomfortable silence I’ve ever sat through.

    And lastly, let us not forget Joe Cunane, the reason many walked out during the 15 second stretch granted to the audience. As I drove away, listening on the radio, I heard him say something about the fact that Palm Coast needs to bottle its water and sell it? I just could not sit there through another one of his answers.

    This is painful, but I will be at the next one.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    First of all I want to express my concern that now in our city council will be no women representative unfortunately. Hope for next election we have one of our lady residents run for office without the concern about FCCOC endorsement or not.
    Regarding our candidates for Mayor….as Jon Netts will try to spearhead again the polluting astronomical costly desalt plant, he will not get my vote.
    Now I will vote for Mr. Ericken “only if he promise” to erase from his plans to raise our sales tax to fund ED blunders like the ones geared to benefit special interest until now..
    Mr. Ericken we have a realistic 16.5% or more unemployment counting the individuals that have already exhausted their unemployment benefits. Flagler already has a 7% sales tax one of the few counties highest in Florida and you plan to propose further increases? I can see buyers buying their mayor appliances and other valuables in St. John or Volusia County. So please strike that bad idea off “for good” as will take votes away from you, and sales away from the local small business!
    Also Mr. Ericksen regarding your “Palm Coast having to be a team player for Flagler county” I am very concerned about that your statement, as until now Palm Coast not only has been the bruised team player in in this county and its elite closed neat kick ball team, but also still is the cash cow milked by these commissioners wastefully pathetically bad blunders over and over. I am glad that you support the city in house new ED approach. Though far from fully effective is the best, if its true only 50,000/year cost that gets closer to the idea to invite the local professionals retired or active, realtors and small business owners in this city to volunteer to help and give their valuable input. Yet I do no see the owed transparency to us all regarding the missing information about which business received $20,000 help via Joe Roy ED City Dept. head… maybe Office Divvy if not who? Should be public information.
    Mr. McGuire will not get my vote simply because I refuse to consolidate any of our already paid fire rescue as the only proposals were that “we give it away to the county” so far. Pathetic! If any move in that area should be the other way around County taken over by Palm Coast Fire Dept. We worked very hard to become a city given the abuses and lack of services we had to endure from this county when ITT left us on their hands and holding the bag and stripping us illegally from all our amenities.
    Salary raises by performance only could become very detrimental for our city employees as could lead to plenty of bias….that around here runs havoc.
    My advise to Mr. Moorman is not to be so depending of what county will do about ED….they have showed us already their inefficiency. No we we have to really get into these 3 commissioners re-election to stop Holland and Peterson on their tracks regarding their vote for Hiser’s over 27% budget raise and the idiotic creation of a new Enterprise look alike accommodated elite CEO post for Holland’s new brain storm BS ED.
    So far as per my perception Mr.Moorman should stay, just do not be so much county cozy.
    If Mr. Cross in the coming weeks shows me that he is not a fanatic local Tea Party( looking defunct now with its Rep. leader supporting a Democrat from local undermining elite) he will have my vote. Also please do not base raises for city employees on performance only….that will only further accentuate the elite unfair approach.
    Now and maybe given my rant here, I just learned thru the Observer that those poor owners of devaluated properties around the eyesore Matanzas Woods Golf Course will have a renovation and reopening of the course that is being bought by “The Golf Group of Palm Coast LLC”…? where a Mr. Ranciato is head and spokesman or so. Lets make sure, as I was just told by a very well informed resident owner there, that they do not tag along to locate “low income housing there” if the golf membership/pay to use do not have success.
    Please local owners around the Matanzas Golf Course get involved and demand to the core information on this one, from Netts and Landon. If all is as shinny as is shown my big hand to those local investors in the Matanzas Golf Course, that actually was sold illegally by ITT as was the amenity and higher price for residents that bought their homes around the course and paid for it as the FTC ITT filing.
    Next we should ask our current and also running candidates for City of Palm Coast to look into the selling by ITT of our grand father in rights to use of the Palm Coast Marina with free launching ramp and other benefits to Palm Coasters. The Marina is very profitable still and we need to appropriate it rightfully back before the statute of limitation kicks in. That Marina can open a fully stocked bar and appetizers business on it, so we can recover some of what Sheraton used to offer and employ several Palm Coasters along the way. Maybe some of the 300 fired from the beloved Palm Coast Resort. Will be a successful business as I read the out of state boaters comments, while passing by and missing the facility on their way. We do not have another fuel/food/sewer service marina for a big distance on the Intracoastal. Also keep in mind that when the statue of limitation kicks in Pulte homes may even close the fuel service in the Marina if they wish… Pioneers contacted State of Florida Attorney Pam Bondi on this issue for our illegally taken amenities from Palm Coasters and she directed them to contact our City and yet no answer was receive to this regard. Also the ocean front pool, cabanas and parking given by the county to Ginn, was taken away from us Palm Coasters and we need it back..

    Was our gathering place on the ocean front by the pool for an affordable fee in the Players Club. What about recovering our Tennis Players Club as well. Beautiful Tennis installations going to waste now in the exclusive heart of Palm Coast near the Hammock Dunes Bridge. Lets recover what was ours to begin with after ITT sold all the percentage of residential properties as per their Federal Trade commission and HUD filing, when they started to develop Palm Coast. If we do nothing nothing will change for the better. Lets all ask, to have our current and running candidates to work on this. My appreciation to all present at the meeting and the very detail information by Flagler Live. Looks like finally we are all getting involved for a common cause.

  13. Bill McGuire says:

    Well, Pierre, if you get Hizzoner’s Barlett’s Familiar Quotations, then it’s only fair that he let me have Anthony Trollope! Now who’s the alpha dog?

  14. Liana G says:


    There are plans being made to develop 54 multi level apartments homes in the L section which will adversely affect the value of already depricated homes in this neighborhood. Should you drive around this area you will see pink signs in windows that read ‘’. The golf course needs a LOT of work. I bike ride on the golf course, but there are giant sink holes / cave ins that has me getting on and off my bike to get around but which doesn’t really bother me since I prefer the nature aspect of these trails. I have a feeling I will be long gone before this course gets back into commission.

    On another note, can the city do something about all those shoes haning from powerlines in the ‘L’ section. They are an eye sore!!!

  15. palmcoaster says:

    That is just ridiculous with all the vacant apartments and housing in this city, still approval from this council for more development? I thought they advocated for that astronomical costly and polluting desalt for …. lack of water correct? These developers always get their way around our elected ones. More unpaid loans and mortgages in the future in this planned 52 units apartments…Tell me which developer you are among the Who is Who and I will give you the stimulus funded new loan and no matter if they pay it back or not.
    Matanzas Woods residents please attend and to our City Council, just vote the wish and fairness to these residents!!
    MONDAY SEPTEMBER 12TH 6 TO 7 PM AT PARKVIEW BAPTIST CHURCH 5435 Belle Terre Pkwy. Palm Coast, FL 32137 386.445.5440 (library unavailable due to elections)
    Planning & Land Development Regulation Board Meeting
    for Sawgrass Apartments TO BE ANNOUNCED
    Speaker Card.doc
    The City Clerk acts as Recording Secretary at City Council meetings.
    Mail speaker cards to:
    City Clerk 160 Cypress Point Parkway
    Suite B-106
    Palm Coast, FL 32164
    The Planning & Land Development Regulation Board Meeting Notice:
    The Planning – Land Development Regulation Board Meeting Notice.pdf
    If you live in the Matanzas Woods neighborhood, this project will impact your life!
    Impact our utilities: especially water use
    Create an emergency exit hazard – the unit has only one exit which must be shared with all the residents of Lee, Leidel, Lemay, Lee Place, Lema which again must use Londonderry as an emergency exit.
    Increase an already flooded rental market
    Increase crime
    Increase traffic
    Increase noise
    Reduce home values
    Threaten wildlife habitats (gopher tortoise and crane breeding area, etc…)
    Increase current drainage problems
    Expose boundary homes to 24 hour apartment street lights
    Expose boundary families to second story windows of apartments – the fence is only 8 ft, PVC plastic with small shrubs. All boundary families will lose privacy they now have because the units are two story.
    Why bring 54 multifamily apartments to Matanzas Woods?
    There is a compatibility problem!!
    The key component is the consistency aspect of the development in relation to the existing neighborhood makeup: single residence dwellings, most one story
    -Land originally zoned for 34 residential properties.
    -The parcel was rezoned multi-family prior to neighborhood being built. Rezoned with Flagler County – not City level. This is important! Zoning needs to be addressed!
    -Land is now owned by Putnam State Bank after property loan defaulted. The banks’ goal is to sell the property to recover financial losses. They will sell it to a developer “fully ready to build” per permits and regulations. A developer is NOT in the picture at this time!
    Be part of creating a compatible solution! Urge both the City of Palm Coast and the Bank to create a compatible land use solution that supports our family focused neighborhood!
    Land Use Solutions:
    -Project designated as an age restricted gated community
    -Project designated as a nature reserve
    -Project designated as single residential homes only.
    -Other solutions provided by neighborhood
    Project designated as the Matanzas Woods Park providing picnic, playground and recreational options.
    See the Palm Coast Comprehensive Plan for 2020 (page 8-10) that set aside 12 acres for a park in Matanzas Woods. We do not have a park, playground, golf course, bicycle trail or community park. This is a great time to create a playground and park. This is a wonderful piece of land for it!
    Palm Coast Comprehensive Plan 2020-1.pdf

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