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Q&A Forum Featuring All Candidates for Local Office Monday at Palm Coast’s Hilton Garden Inn

| July 30, 2014

WNZF's David Ayres, seen here moderating a political forum for Bunnell in March, will moderate Monday's Q&A. (© FlaglerLive)

WNZF’s David Ayres, seen here moderating a political forum for Bunnell in March, will moderate Monday’s Q&A.
(© FlaglerLive)

One of the election season’s only significant forum for local political candidates, who’ll be participating in a public Q&A, is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 4, starting with a little booze at 5 p.m. and a lot of questions at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Palm Coast.

The public is not only welcome but urged to be there: voter apathy has been embarrassingly pronounced in Flagler County, with the last two off-year election primaries striking successive turn-out lows of 23 and 22 percent.

All candidates for the three local governments–school board, county commission and Palm Coast City Council–are due to be there, as are two candidates for the State Senate race (incumbent John Thrasher and challenger Derek Hankerson). Rep. Travis Hutson, whose district includes all of Flagler County, is running unopposed, but he’ll be there as well. 

The forum will, as always,  be moderated by David Ayres, the general manager at WNZF, and broadcasting on the radio station as well as on 106.3FM. It is the first of two forums, with a second forum taking place  before the Nov. 4 general election. It’s organized by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, the Flagler County Association of Realtors and the Flagler Home Builders Association, whose staffers are preparing the questions that’ll be posed to candidates.

Social hour begins at 5 p.m., affording members of the public to freely speak with candidates of their choice. There will be a cash bar, making such conversations much easier. Snacks, too, will be available, but visitors are encouraged to have a hearty dinner before showing up, as it will be a long evening.

After the state legislators and Hankerson speak, it’ll be the turn of candidates  on the primary election ballot for the three local governments to answer questions in turn. Candidates running for Circuit Court Judge have been invited to attend the social hour, but will not participate in the Q&A portion.

Here’s the agenda:

5 to 6 p.m.                  Social hour with cash bar

6 to 6:10 p.m.            Opening remarks: Moderator David Ayres and Rep. Travis Hutson

6:10 to 6:20 p.m.       Remarks by Senator John Thrasher and Derek Hankerson

6:25 to 7 p.m.            Q&A: Flagler County Commission Candidates

7:05 to 8PM             Q&A: Flagler County School Board Candidates

8:05 to 9 p.m.        Q&A: Palm Coast City Council Candidates

Times are approximate.

Flagler County’s Chamber, Association of Realtors and Home Builders Association have a successful track record of hosting nonpartisan candidate forums before elections. Candidates answer tough questions, address issues and talk about their qualifications for serving in government roles. The forums also give voters a chance to learn more about candidates and make informed decisions when they head to the polls.

The forum is free. For more information, call the chamber at 386/437.0106, or visit the chamber’s website.

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38 Responses for “Q&A Forum Featuring All Candidates for Local Office Monday at Palm Coast’s Hilton Garden Inn”

  1. Nancy says:

    “moderated by David Ayres, the general manager at WNZF” …. Oh, the Glenn Beck, Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin … station. Oh yeah, the shut down the government, sue the President party. Sure… lots of FOXie fairness and balance to be had HERE !

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Nancy, keep in mind that it’s at David Ayre’s invitation that my pinko liberal pot-legalizing gay-marriage Saul Alinsky old Europe commie undocumented-immigrant loving Camus beats Hemingway views are invited to make their weekly pitch every Friday, on WNZF, on David’s show. Beyond that, I’ve seen him moderate a dozen of these things. He’s less biased than Ted Koppel and funnier than Anderson Cooper (OK, not too difficult that one), so it’s not quite fair to confuse him with that lineup of self-inflicting stupor.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    To be fair to David Ayre, I have asked him to host a progressive talk show. He said he would be glad to but he didn’t think he would get the audience. So I go online to find Progressive stations.

  3. confidential says:

    Voters should attend and get to know those candidates for and educated choice at the ballot box. Have your questions ready and hold them all to the answers given, if elected.

  4. Lin says:

    Having submitted questions in another forum that didn’t make the cut
    And seeing the limited amount of time in each segment
    I wonder how many citizens’ questions will be asked

  5. bluefish says:

    Agree with Confidential, please get out and learn about the people that will be competing to run this city & county! Don’t listen to people like Nancy who are closed-minded…..we need to change our elected leaders as they are definitely not leading us down a better path.

    We need to get rid of red-light cameras! Perhaps we can get a foot in the medical marijuana industry, allowing farms in the county part of the county and encouraging online tech businesses to set up shop here. We need to showcase Daytona State College and their programs, namely their IT programs —- creating guaranteed scholarships for tech companies that set up shop here!!

    WE need fresh, innovative ideas to attract good paying jobs — not more entry-level fast-food or department store jobs….not “woohooo Arby’s is coming to town” uggh!

  6. confidential says:

    I copied all my local friends on this event and gladly some replied they are attending! C’mon copy yours too!

  7. Franklins Tower says:

    Good idea. I would like to have seen the City Council candidates go first, but then, a lot folks would have left afterwards. I asked some pointed questions to those candidates on my ballot and all were quite cooperative. Palm Coast has a chance to make some substantive changes with the upcoming primary and election.

  8. Will says:

    It’s my understanding that questions from the audience will not be part of the program. A committee of people from the three sponsoring organizations is preparing questions, in a balance to fit the tight timeline of the evening. Please attend, but don’t expect questions from the floor. There are many races and candidates to fit into the program.

    • Gretchen Smith says:

      Thanks, Will, for that comment.

      It’s true that we won’t open the floor to public questions during this forum. There are many candidates participating in the primary, and we want to make sure that each has the same opportunity to respond to questions. We’ve developed an extremely tight agenda for the program and there’s a lot to go through in three hours.

      We plan to host a second forum October 14 and will consider adding a public Q&A segment. In the meantime, residents are welcome to call me at the chamber (437-0106) and submit questions for consideration in October’s forum. I welcome your input!

      Finally, the seating capacity for the Hilton’s banquet room is 150 people. I encourage you to come early if you’d like a seat. For those preferring to listen from home, you can catch a live broadcast on WNZF News Radio 106.3FM starting at 6PM.

      I hope to see many of you Monday….

      Thank you,

      Gretchen Smith
      Government Affairs Director
      Flagler County Chamber

  9. Ed says:

    I have to work that evening. So, could somebody please ask the Palm Coast City Council Candidates what their stance is on the Red Light Cameras? These cameras have ruined the livelihood for locals and Small Business Owners. Thank you in advance!

  10. Lin says:

    Disappointed the public won’t have an opportunity to ask ?s publicly
    Yes the time is short for each office to speak — but we will hear what we heard last time (what they think we want to hear) and no one calling them on any past statements
    But who is going to screen ?s even for October? The Chamber?
    The primary is in august.
    Same old story
    Does anyone care what the citizens want or think?

    • Franklins Tower says:

      Allow me to elaborate on my comment above and provide a comment regarding questions to the candidates. I emailed the city council candidates with specific questions and they were all kind enough to respond. I only asked a few questions. I would suggest my approach for anyone who has specific questions for the candidates in the upcoming primary.

    • Will says:

      The forum is sponsored by the Chamber, the Home Builders, and the Flagler Co. Realtors. A committee of people from all three organizations is involved in selecting questions for the primary, and will probably be at it again for the general election. I learned this as a member of one of the organizations where I asked how it worked.

      Also, since this is an affiliation of business groups, I think we will see the focus on issues more related to business and government than some other possibilities.

    • Nancy says:

      What a good question! Glenn Beck station, Chamber of Commerce …had to be in on what ? get through. Extremely unbalanced event.

  11. Lin says:

    In my opinion there is a difference between Answers given in emails and answers in a public forum with no access to materials, time and “help”.

    By the way, I sent a brief email recently to all the incumbent county commissioners, the sherif, Thrasher and Hutson regarding the never-ending discussions about facilities on Flagler for adult and child victims of sexual assault and received answers from none of them

  12. tulip says:

    The seating capacity is 150? Why couldn’t most of the tables be removed, which would make more room for more seating? Also, so many of the seats are taken up by supporters of individual candidates that it doesn’t leave much room for the people who want to be there to learn about the candidates and may leave or not show up at all because of lack of seating. In the past , I’ve been to some candidate nights and a large percentage of seats were taken by supporters. Standing for 3 hours is not a good thing.

  13. Lin says:

    Then this isn’t a public forum — it is a business forum

    Seems to me that business groups have their own agenda.

    The Taj mahal has hosted very comfortable forums — more room.

    • Will says:

      Lin, Flagler Live says some of what i said above – about the three co-sponsoring organizations. Flagler Live kindly says the three sponsoring have a successful track record of hosting non-partisan candidate forums before elections. And this one follows in that pattern.

      Almost all of the members of the Chamber, Realtor, and Home Builder organizations are small business people, and many people here work for small businesses of one kind or another. This isn’t being driven by big business. Most of these people are our neighbors, so I suggest it IS a public forum. All are welcome. I would think the questions would cross over some issues of concern to most voters.

      Voters should know that since around 90% of taxes in the community are paid by homeowners, we need to broaden our tax base to increase the percentage of taxes paid by businesses, while they use fewer services. (This is by encouraging and bringing more business, not taxing existing business more.) Thus, concerns of the business community should be of essential interest to taxpayers in general.

      Regarding the location, I heard it said that the location is not political – so as not to favor any candidate over others. Maybe government buildings would be too comfortable for incumbents and less so for challengers. Maybe not, but I’ve heard it.

  14. Lin says:

    I think you are assuming that I’m anti business — quite the contrary
    In fact the question I had for 2 candidates regarded comments they made that were anti business.
    We are small business people
    You are pleading the case for needing small business to the wrong person — I am in that corner

    My point is only that the public is shut out of the discussion
    What if a student has a question? A senior? A crime victim? What if someone would like to know how the candidate would handle a specific situation? The public needs to hear the answers to non-set up questions to make their decisions or it is just a show.

    And having a forum in a location because the candidate may not be comfortable in a public building? Well, I hope they are able to get comfortable there if they are elected. Why do you have to make it more comfortable for non- incumbents anyway? You are controlling this aspect too. I thought it was just for a benign reason of selling some drinks to have it at the Hilton — guess I was wrong

    • Will says:

      Lin – you’re right that a variety of people might have questions – and that’s why the event has the “social hour” mentioned above at 5 PM. People can ask any candidate anything at that time – or even afterward.

      And the Hilton with the cash bar is more relaxed than the government buildings – and though I posed one of several possible reasons above for having it there – I don’t think that was a controlling reason. It seems to me to be a reasonable compromise – 0n 100, at least for people from Bunnell and the west, and not too far away from people in the north and south ends of Palm Coast – and not far from the beaches either. I doubt that any thought of “control” entered into it.

      • Lin says:

        I already know the answers to my questions
        The point is to have the public hear the questions and UNREHEARSED answers
        To attempt to get close to candidates who are surrounded by their supporters at a cocktail hour is a farce. Why can’t you expose the candidates to public scrutiny?

        • Gretchen Smith says:


          Please call me tomorrow at the Chamber if you’d like.. I’d be happy to go over why we chose the Hilton, our format, plan for the evening and answer any questions you might have about the event.

          Gretchen Smith

        • Nancy says:

          Lin, Your questions are so on point and succinctly stated. Holy cow…just dawned on me…that is what investigative journalism looks like. Wish you had a column of your own somewhere here In PC. Thank you for bringing a little who, what, when, where and why!

    • Rick says:

      “My point is only that the public is shut out of the discussion.
      What if a student has a question? A senior? A crime victim? What if someone would like to know how the candidate would handle a specific situation? The public needs to hear the answers to non-set up questions to make their decisions or it is just a show.”

      Good point Lin. I didn’t happen to think of it this way until now. It sure does make sense though.
      Up until I read your comment along with a couple others, I planned on attending. Sadly I believe I’ll be in my own comphy chair for the evening…..possibly monitoring 106.3FM.
      Thank You.

  15. Toni Baker, Candidate for School Board says:

    I’m very grateful to the Chamber to be hosting this event. I am looking forward to seeing and meeting everyone tonight. I believe the Chamber asked us not to have more than 5 supporters so there is more room for the public. Personally, any questions you may have for this school board candidate, please feel free to call me. I would adore being able to go in depth (which is difficult at a forum) with ANYONE who has questions or concerns. I do know the the Flagler County Realtors have already endorsed their candidates, through an interview process held on July 7th.

    • Oceanside says:

      Thank you for the information. City council + school board candidates = 15 candidates. If each of those individuals brought 5 supporters, that is a total of 75 supporters plus 15 candidates.

      I’m guessing the room reserved for the event had a max seating capacity of perhaps 100. There was potential for 90 of the 100 to be candidates and their supporters.

      Which suggests to me that perhaps this really wasn’t meant to be an event for the public. Or some of the organizers didn’t do the basic math. At any rate, it explains why so many people had to walk away because there was not even standing room available.

      I’ll be sure to check with the organizers on their venue and seating capacity before I show up for another event!

  16. Lin says:

    I hope you did monitor the forum on your radio — sorry if I discouraged you from going. That was not my intention — just thought the public should have input
    A lot came out about the candidates knowledge (and lack therof) and opinions
    I did change my mind about candidates I thought I would vote for before tonight.

  17. Steven Nobile says:

    I’m happy to say that I was at the forum last night and the turn out was great, the candidates where great and the moderator was great. I enjoyed the evening and hope a lot residents were listening on the radio. Great Job by ALL!

  18. Denise Calderwood says:

    The room at the Hilton was very small to hold this event. There was standing room only and the venue was very hot and not just because there were politicians talking! By the turnout, there appears to be an interest in the candidates and so more of these events should be held and questions from the audience should be taken. The voters need a place where they can ask their questions. As a No Party Affiliation, NPA, candidate for County Commission District 4, I would advise anyone who wants to ask me a question to please contact me.

    • confidential says:

      Another pleasant surprise this event attendance…probably turn out would be like in 2012 as I already read in the DBNJ that Volusia and Flagler have a very high unusual number of absentee ballots already received.

  19. Oceanside says:

    I attempted to attend the forum last night, but by 6 pm, there was no parking in the Hilton lot and by the time I reached the forum room, there was not even standing room available. Others came as I was leaving and left also.

    Glad to see there is interest in the electoral process, but as a newcomer to this area, wondering if these candidate forums are always this crowded? Or do some sponsors choose larger venues?

  20. Oceanside says:

    Will there be any additional forums prior to the primary? If so, does anyone have information on when and where? Thanks.

  21. Lin says:

    There is a forum hosted by NAACP with school board and city council candidates
    August 14 5-7pm
    @ African American Cultural Society 4422 US1
    Public welcome

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