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Palm Coast Council Rebuffs Steven Nobile’s Latest Call for Charter Review Process

| September 15, 2015

steven nobile jon netts charter review commission

‘You have not so far had three people willing to go down that road,’ Mayor Jon Netts told council member Steven Nobile on Nobile’s wish to have the council appoint a charter review commission. (© FlaglerLive)

This time blame Vince Liguori, the old-time member of Flagler’s home rule coalition and a forceful voice on municipal and county politics—when he uses it, as he did this morning before the Palm Coast City Council. .

“I’d like to resurrect the charter,”  Liguori  said, bringing back from the dead last May’s at-times withering council discussions on a charter review, an exercise the council or the city have never comprehensively conducted since the city’s incorporation in 1999. Back then, it was rookie council member Steven Nobile who was leading the charge for a charter review commission. He was beaten into submission by an unwilling council, which had some persuasive evidence on its side: other than Nobile and one other person (Dennis McDonald, a persistent critic of local government), there’s never been a movement or so much as even isolated calls from the public for a charter review.

Then came Liguori. “In my opinion, with an election coming up, you may be precluding—the current rules may be precluding—good and talented people” from running for the council, he told council members. For example, the current charter requires that for city council candidates to qualify for the ballot without paying a fee, they must gather petitions totaling 1 percent of the population of the district from which they’re running. “It’s becoming unwieldy,” Liguori said. The alternative to get on the ballot is paying 10 percent of a councilman’s salary, which is $9,600, or $960. “This is not fair, this does not encourage good and talented people to come aboard.”

The 1 percent requirement to get on the ballot is not a Palm Coast requirement: it’s in state law. But the qualifying fee in lieu of petitions is dependent on how cities set it. In Flagler Beach, the requirement is 6 percent of a commissioner’s salary, or $439.21. In Bunnell, it’s either turning in 16 petitions or paying a $288 qualifying fee.

But that was as far as Liguori got regarding a charter discussion. He did not go so far as to request a comprehensive charter review. But he’d given Nobile the opening Nobile appeared ready to seize again.

“You have not so far had three people willing to go down that road,” Netts told Nobile.

“Since the charter was brought up again, I firmly believe that a charter review is currently necessary,” Nobile said, to the consternation of some fellow-council members. “We have many items in the charter that we need to look at that were written in the early days of the city, which wasn’t that long ago. But dramatic changes have taken effect, have been infected since that time.”

During the public comment period, Liguori was followed by Ralph Lightfoot—the chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee—who last spring had suggested to the council in an email that it considers a raise for its members. He did so again this morning. Nobile cited the idea, though to note that, as he had previously, he wasn’t comfortable with council members themselves choosing their salaries. That should be left up to a charter review board “in order to decide if that’s even an issue that needs to come up, along with other issues,” Nobile said, before citing Jim Canfield, the previous mayor, as supporting his call for a charter review.

Nobile explicitly put it to his colleagues. He wanted a council workshop to decide how to approach the charter matter—“is this something that we should be doing, I want discussion on that, and how should we do it, via a charter board, or should we bring up items one by one for the council to decide. So I’m asking if we can have consent or get consent on bringing that to a very near future workshop.”

Nobile’s proposal appeared headed for oblivion. Council member Bill McGuire spoke up, but about the salary matter, not the charter. He wanted City Manager Jim Landon to find out what other cities the size of Palm Coast pay their council members (who happen to be paid the same amount as Bunnell’s city commissioners: $9,600 a year, though Palm Coast has about 26 times the population of Bunnell).

Mayor Jon Netts was on the verge of moving on to the next item on the agenda—effectively, ignoring Nobile–but stopped himself. He took on the charter matter for a brief history lesson. He recalled that in the first 10 years the city was not allowed to conduct a charter review—other than for minor errors. Since 2009 it could, but it doesn’t have to. He summarized the ways charter reviews can be made. The council could propose charter amendments and place them on the ballot.

The public can also place charter amendments on the ballot. But it’s a prohibitive effort that requires the proposal to first gather petitions from 25 percent of registered voters in a city that has generally had lower turnout than that for its council elections (though that was before a charter amendment moved the elections to coincide with the national calendar).

The third option is for the council to appoint a charter review commission, with those proposals placed on the ballot following two public hearings. Contrary to a council member’s impressions, the proposals from the charter review commission do not have to be—and in fact may not be—approved or rejected by the council, but must appear on the ballot as presented by the charter review commission, as the charter states.

“Thus far,” Netts said, “city council has discussed this at previous workshops and has not felt the need for charter amendments. The public has not generated any sufficient number of petition signatures, and the idea of a charter study commission remains a possibility for the city to look at.”

Nobile contested the conclusion, as he had in May. “The portion of the charter that states that the review shall occur,” he said, quoting the charter accurately. “Does the term ‘shall’ not mean ‘must’? What about the intent of the original scribers, which I spoke to and said it was intended to after 10 years be reviewed?”

The charter’s wording reads: “The Charter shall be reviewed no sooner than 10 years after the creation of the City of Palm Coast on December 31, 1999, and thereafter it may be reviewed every 10 years.”

Steven Nobile. (© FlaglerLive)

Steven Nobile. (© FlaglerLive)

“It’s been my opinion that the most logical and reasonable interpretation is that it is permissive,” City Attorney Bill Reischmann said. “It could not be reviewed prior to the 10 years, but after that it could be reviewed, and then every 10 years thereafter.”

Landon claimed the city council did go through the process of reviewing the charter after 10 years, when it proposed changing the election schedule so council elections would coincide with national elections.

Landon is misrepresenting the city’s recent history. The council never conducted a comprehensive review of the charter, but quickly and with little fanfare placed the matter of election scheduling on the ballot. Voters approved it. But it was by no means a systematic review of the charter itself, or a study of the charter, as Landon claimed, other than in that single regard: the council never held public hearings or solicited public input regarding potential changes to the charter, let alone broader changes, and of course never appointed a charter review commission. Landon, who has not infrequently contrived narratives after the fact with his intended conclusions, was doing so again even as he claimed that “people aren’t remembering the fact.” In this case, they may not be remembering something only because it did not happen.

Nobile seized on the issue. “I’m talking about an official review, and I’m talking about a review by the people, not by the council,” he said. “I know people are flipping their eyes and going oh my gosh, here we go again, but I’ve got to apologize. The last time we discussed this it was more of a mini-battle royal. There was some things that occurred in the council that I was not aware of earlier in that year, and it was a sore spot to mention the charter review. So it was not a valid discussion on should this be done, how should this be done. And to piggy-back on Mr. McGuire’s request, if we look at other cities of our size and term, they do that regularly.”

Nobile said he was not suggesting changes. That would be left up to citizens.

“I disagree with you wholeheartedly that there was not a valid discussion of this,” Netts said, referring to last May’s extensive and at times heated debates at the council on the issue. “It was discussed. At any time, at any city council workshop, at any city council meeting, any member of the council can propose the creation of a charter study commission. It would take three votes in order for that to happen. You have not so far had three people willing to go down that road. But at any time the three council members want a charter review commission, they can create it.”

At that point Nobile got a surprising second: Council member Heidi Shipley, who had been silent throughout, asked if the matter could be put on a coming workshop agenda. The mayor agreed. But judging from today’s silent majority on the council, the outcome appears foretold.

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22 Responses for “Palm Coast Council Rebuffs Steven Nobile’s Latest Call for Charter Review Process”

  1. Gkimp says:

    The Charter should be reviewed by a committee of citizens every 10 years. That revision should be put in so issues that come up, but are not pressing can be looked at and recommendations can be made.

  2. chopshop says:

    More of Mr. Nobile’s bullying tactics, running his big mouth, with no facts or data to back it up. It”s well known on the street he wants to open the charter to get rid of Palm Coast Government, and code enforcement etc. and turn the city of Palm Coast into a slum city. It is also very well known that he is for special interest only, and not in the interest of all Palm Coast citizens. Does he really believe that his bullying of the citizens is not going unnoticed. Maybe the citizen should purpose a charter amendment to get rid of gun stores, in the City of Palm Coast as a public safety and nuisance.

  3. Bon Bell says:

    Dear god, we’ve got our very own rabid Ted Cruz Tea Party Council member…determined to destroy the City of Palm Coast and rebuild it in his -and the Tea Partys- own likeness. And now with backup: “At that point Nobile got a surprising second: Council member Heidi Shipley.”

    He also appears to want to be the hero of the big developers and let them tear down all the regulations that made the City of Palm Coast one of the most beautiful, charming, well-managed cities in Florida. Shock—make it easier and cheaper for the developer to drop their ugly, cookie cutter buildings onto our very valuable lots with vastly reduced landscaping. This kind of thinking got us the un-indicted Medicare Fraud guv…TWICE!! How’s that working for us ?

  4. Who follows rules? says:

    The City changed their election schedule and did not follow provisions in Chapter 166 Florida Statutes which are part of the City Charter-Are they following the Charter? Are City elections legal? Shipley and Nobile need to look at that and maybe the others who are asleep at the wheel will wake up and show those who they work for they are representing us. Nett’s and Landon must be hiding something or be fearful to be so resistent on this topic.

    • chopshop says:

      That’s crazy talk. Any changes to a charter must be submitted to state regulators for review, It s not just a council decision. the state elections board must also approve. charter reviews are a lot bigger then just city council. why not go after your state reps.

  5. DwFerg says:

    Re: Charter Review—-What besides salary and the petitioning provisions(or fee to run for office) does Mr. Nobile(Councilmember) want to review.? The “cry” for a review may be from a “lone wolf” (plus some advocates) or as claimed , “the voices of the electorate”. Until demonstrated as a more broadly supported, “good idea” that is really needed, I suggest any specific changes be discussed/resolved individually. ” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…”.

  6. Joe says:

    Why does the Mayor always seem afraid to venture into this issue? Seems very suspicious to me!

  7. Derrick R. says:

    What exactly is “Noons” issue you want to waste time and money, at the resident owners expense to review something that is readily available to the public to review on their own 24/7, which I have done myself. You find something of a concern you bring it forward at a council meeting. Your article cites the path required to be placed upon the ballot. I myself think it should be an even higher amount in fact upon a second thought it should require a fee and the 1% of property owner/resident signatures period. How did Noble the Noon, get on the ballot to begin with? I reside in his district and he never knocked on my neighbors or my door. Seems to me if you want to represent the people you should have to put in then time & wear out the shoe leather first.

  8. Bill says:

    The charter’s wording reads: “The Charter shall be reviewed no sooner than 10 years after the creation of the City of Palm Coast on December 31, 1999, and thereafter it may be reviewed every 10 years.”

    “It’s been my opinion that the most logical and reasonable interpretation is that it is permissive,” City Attorney Bill Reischmann said. “It could not be reviewed prior to the 10 years, but after that it could be reviewed, and then every 10 years thereafter

    This is where OUR governments get screwed up by politicians and lawyers. They rule us on their OPINIONS and INTERPITATIONS of what IS put on paper and in law. The city Charter clearly says SHALL be reviewed no earlier then 10 years. That clearly means it should be reviewed after 10 years. Otherwise it would have read like the second part saying it MAY be reviewed ever ten years thereafter. You ALL are elected to follow what IS there NOT how you INTERPERAT it.

  9. Rich Mikola says:

    Any changes brought about by the ‘charter review’ requested by the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Flagler County, will somehow benefit the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly and not the good people of Flagler County.

    • Layla says:

      Pretty convenient to blame these evil republicans for everything here in Palm Coast, isn’t it?

      Bon Bell, Wow, lots of positive remarks here. Maybe that’s why we’re not developing. Please explain to me how any one councilman is going to “rebuild in his image?” You don’t give the others much credit, do you? I think there are too many unfamiliar with this subject. I think the citizens have the right to know the pros AND CONS of both sides of this argument before anybody says no.

      Gimp, Agreed and good points.

  10. carol says:

    Mr. Nobile, if you need income, find a job, a real job.
    City Council is a service to the community.

  11. Knightwatch says:

    Beware the charter review! We all know Nobile’s, and his shadow government, the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly’s, purpose — to populate the review committee with RRRA members. Then, a general trashing of the charter including the dissolution of the city manager’s position, downgrading the council, imposition of an all-powerful mayor and the election of Dennis McDonald to that position. In other words, a complete takeover of our city by the radical RRRA.

    Palm Coast City Council … do not let this happen!

    • Layla says:

      Oh brother! This poor community will never develop.

      Rich Mikola, How does one do that, Mr. Mikola? How can a simple review benefit anybody?

      Bill, hank you for clarifying this. A review threatens no one, does it? What is this Manager, this Council afraid of? Transparency?

      DWFerg, Why is everybody so afraid of a review? Could it be that the developer friendly council feels threatened? ABOUT WHAT?

      They don’t “review” anything here. They shut you up. With less than 50% voting, that’s pretty easy to do.

  12. Rob says:

    Are all of the people who commenting here afraid of something? They sound like the old let’s keep things as they are crowd. What is the underlying reason? What are they afraid of? On the other hand the town council is all in on a review of the city building codes. Why not keep things as they are in this case? The reality is that the charter, building codes and other codes need review and updating. A charter review may lead to, and hopefully so, a change in form of government. A strong mayor form of government would work best; one thing it would do is remove the town manager. A position that provides grossly overpaid compensation. So no wonder Jim Landon is against it. While reviewing the charter change the terms of the town councilors to two years and install an elected mayor for three years.
    And no to Mr McGuire and his notion of paying what other cities this size pay town councilors. Stop paying based on size and begin paying based on prosperity or median income for this locale. The median income for this area is equal to or less than $23,000 per year. How can a town manager be compensated close to ten times the median income? And there are others in the town government who are making well into the six figures.
    Too many people in this city have their heads stuck down in the sand.

    • chopshop says:

      I don’t know where you got the median figure of 23,000 from. The censes shows it at 46,000 per household.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you both may be right! Rob says~ “. The median income for this area is equal to or less than $23,000 per year.
        chopshop says~ The censes shows it at 46,000 per household.

        Rob is talking about individual income you are talking about household. So a household with TWO incomes at $23K a year would equal $46K

      • Rob says:

        Divide 46,000 by 2. That is one way to determine the median individual income. The other way is to reference the US Census Bureau.

  13. Heidi says:

    Mr. Nobile had brought up a review of the charter some time ago. It was not on our agenda to prepare for a subject of such importance. The reaction was a negative one but it was never an actually an agenda item. As a council person elected by the people of Palm Coast he has again brought up the charter review along with someone at our meeting. I know others are in agreement with him because I read Flagler live for one.

    My feelings on this is not that anyone is afraid to review it, not that anyone has a RRR agenda but that a fellow council member is asking that we review something. I give him that respect that he brings these issues to the table and we discuss them as our government allows us to. Tomorrow I may ask to review something that he might think is ridiculous but I need brought to the table for discussion for one of the residents who contact me.

    I do not feel it is up to me personally to decide wether a grievance or a question is relevant that a resident asks of me. I bring it up for discussion, take the hits from those who disagree and tell the ones who requested it that I did my best. I would not expect to be dismissed by fellow council members because they do not agree. That is why we have five different people on the city council. If we were all the same it just wouldn’t work.

    So though some are surprised that I might allow a member of the RRR to say his mind at a meeting that is his job, I just see it as a member of my team would like to address something and I think he deserves to be heard. It’s his job now to convince us that it is needed or just one topic to be addressed.

    My response on here was a prompt by a concerned citizen who voted for me and misunderstood my intentions and asked me to explain myself. As her representative I have responded.

  14. Brad W says:

    Through all of this I think the important question that everyone needs to be asking is why does Mr. Nobile and Ralph Lightfoot really want a review? It’s actually not because of wanting to make things better for the residents of Palm Coast in my opinion. Mr. Nobile has laid out the reasons publicly and the plain and simple truth is that they are purely for reasons of political control and lay the groundwork for opening the door wide to actual corruption in our City Government.

    According to a Facebook post Mr. Nobile published in May, it’s clear what he and Mr. Lightfoot are attempting to change (see the Facebook post at

    1. City Council salaries should be increased to attract a more diverse candidate list. Maybe attract younger candidates.

    2. Increase the number of Council Member from 5 to 7. 4 Districts, 2 at Large, 1 Mayor.

    3. District Council Members should be elected from within their district, not at large.

    4. Also, what are your thoughts on the current governmental structure? Currently, we have what is called a council-manager form of government. Would you like to see the Mayor have less/more power, the City Manager have more/less power or the Council have more/less power.

    In a nutshell . . . Mr. Nobile believes we should have highly paid City Council Members running the show as a larger body while reducing the voters’ power since it reduces who can vote for our Council Members. That is the exact same model used in many other communities across the US traditionally that has bred nothing but corruption and destroys communities. It’s an agenda for selfish purposes and reduces our rights. Our Charter is designed to protect the rights of us as residents by minimizing the politics in our City government and minimizing the chances for corruption to take place by not resting large amounts of power in one place. So the question I ask is why would anyone who is supposedly “for the people” want to dismantle the very thing designed to protect us and create a model that traditionally has proven damaging and disastrous to communities time and time again?

    I think everyone should read the Charter. It’s not a long document and almost half of it outlies the City boundaries.

    • chopshop says:

      Brad w, is wright on the money. Mr. Nobile is trying to take the power of referendum from the people of palm coast and give it to a one mayor dictator. He is suppose to be for all citizens of palm coast as stated in the charter and per-state law. Council has the tools to sensor or impeach him per- charter and state law. Citizens can also file a complaint with the state regulators per- their web site for abuse of public office. They also have the power to remove him after a investigation .

  15. Edith Campins says:

    I have yet to get a clear answer as to why we need to waste time and money on a charter review. What exactly is wrong with the charter as it stands? What do the proponents of the review seek to improve?

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