Milissa Holland, Palm Coast Candidate for Mayor: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | August 1, 2016
Since its incorporation in 1999, when all five of its council seats were up for election, Palm Coast has not had an election like this year’s, when three seats are open. The council majority, in other words, is certain to turn over, with three new faces in November joining two relative newcomers: Steven Nobile and Heidi Shipley were elected only in 2014. That’s because Mayor Jon Netts, who has been on the council since 2001, is term-limited. Council member Bill McGuire resigned effective Aug. 15. And Council member Jason DeLorenzo is running for a county commission seat.
Of all the candidates running for Palm Coast City Council, only one–Milissa Holland–has held public office before. She was a county commissioner for six years. It will not only be the greenest council in 17 years. It is almost certain to be the youngest council, ending an era dominated by mostly retired council members.
This is a non-partisan election. That means all registered voters in Palm Coast, regardless of party or non-party affiliation–Democrats, Republicans, independents and others–may cast a ballot for all three seats, regardless of district.
If a candidate wins more than 50 percent in any of these races on Aug. 30, the race is over: that candidate is the winner. But if none of the candidates clears the 50 percent hurdle in the primary, then the top two vote-getters will face-off in a run-off on the general election ballot on Nov. 8.
Palm Coast council members serve four years. They’re paid $9,600 a year, $11,400 for the mayor, not including a monthly “telecommunications” allowance.
FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.
But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.
The Questions in Summary: Quick Links
- Charter review
- Public service tax
- EMS and fire services
- Palm Coast v. County
- Council dynamics
- Post-Jon Netts
- Jim Landon
- Pot and civil citations
- Code enforcement
- Golf and tennis clubs
- Community center
- Netts 2.0 or Holland 1.0
I would forge better working relationships between the City of Palm Coast and the County primarily, as well as the other municipalities in Flagler County. From a policy standpoint, I would initiate regular meetings with elected officials from all those entities to discuss, strategize, and collaborate on areas of mutual interest. City and County staffers could be directed to work together on specific projects. This is a realistic accomplishment, as I pursued and instituted a similar policy as a County Commissioner.
I will lead the Council in exploring collaborative efforts and initiatives for creating strategic partnerships in bringing State dollars to our community. When speaking with Sen. Travis Hutson recently, I asked him about our lack of ability to obtain State funding for certain activities and projects and asked him if he thought we were ready to stand on our own at the State level. His response — an unequivocal “yes.” Both he and Rep. Renner annually seek and receive State funding for communities to the North and South of our community. Over the last decade, in both my capacity as an elected official and an advocate for several local Florida governments, I have developed strong working relationships at the State level. I will call on that experience and those relationships to further the ability of our community to share in available State funding for local governments.
I will nurture and maintain the unique “sense of place” that has attracted so many people to Palm Coast. This uniqueness was at the very heart of the original vision ITT set forth for Palm Coast, and that uniqueness is just as important today and for the future. I point to the many natural resources Palm Coast residents enjoy — our old growth forests, trails, beaches, intracoastal waterway, and estuaries. I would pursue funding available through private and State sources to preserve and enhance our natural resources and other quality-of-life amenities. Businesses and residents both locate here because of the abundance of natural resources and the special quality-of-life opportunities in our community.
The second part of your answer has the ring of seeking state funding for the sake of seeking state funding, because it’s there: you’re not telling us funding for what, or why it’s necessary in the first place, or whether your strategic approach would consider seeking such funding even though it might benefit the county more than the city: Palm Coast’s fishing for state dollars has been limited, compared to county fishing expeditions. Would you even be willing to go that far and, understanding that there’s a level of zero-sum gamesmanship in state funding, actually lobby for, say, state dollars for Marineland Acres if there’s a better chance to land those dollars than for, say, a city water project? In your third part, this is the first time we hear of an old growth forest anywhere in Florida outside of Big Cypress and Apalachicola forests. And you used the plural: where are those forests? You mention securing funding to preserve natural resources, but what, specifically, would that funding be used for? Acquire additional preserves like Long Creek? Parallel the county’s decimated Environmentally Sensitive Lands fund? Just as importantly: preserve these resources from what, if not development?
To me the governance of the City of Palm Coast is not a game but a serious job filled with responsibility to bring to bear the full extent of my political knowledge and experience on the issues at hand on behalf of the 80,000 people who choose to reside in our community. I would never seek funding just for the sake of seeking funding.
Every legislative session, local governments visit our legislators in Tallahassee seeking State funds for a myriad of local purposes. Recurring funds are different than one-time appropriations. For example, last year our School Board sought and received a one-time allocation for Adults with Disabilities. They will need to reapply this year. If there were a mechanism in place to receive recurring dollars rather than one-time appropriations, our legislative delegation could fight for other dollars, such as funding for Marineland Acres drainage or Palm Coast water projects. Our legislative delegation is competing for local dollars with every other county in the state. With the institution of intergovernmental meetings, which will lead to an understanding of the needs of all local governments by each governmental entity, we can work collaboratively toward setting up mechanisms to tap into available state recurring funds and our legislative delegation can seek annual appropriations.
My reference to old growth forests were to those pockets that are found at Princess Place, Washington Oaks, and Graham Swamp, as well as the many old growth trees throughout our community.
The majority of the land preserved over the years was a result of partnering with the Trust for Public Land. We matched local Environmentally Sensitive Land Funds with State dollars. Places like Princess Place, Long’s Landing, Linear Park are all examples of that partnership. Amendment 1, overwhelmingly approved by voters last year, will open up similar opportunities in the future. Although some groups are challenging the State on the approach to use of those funds, I believe we will be able to tap into them. There are many reasons why we purchase lands to protect and preserve, not just from future development. They provide a home for our natural habitat, environmental benefits, and passive recreation. I will take a look at these opportunities in the future.
Can you name one city initiative, other than the sewer-plant dollars the city unsuccessfully sought last year, for which you would seek state funding?
The City has sought funding for well field expansion dollars over the last few years…unsuccessfully. One year it was approved by the House and Senate but vetoed by the Governor. I would support the funding request. The other item sought is wetland monitoring…again unsuccessfully. Again, I would support as this was a State required mandate with no funding attached to it, which often is the case.
I believe the Mayor and City Council could do a better job in establishing clear objectives and performance measurements to ensure staff is responding to residents’ needs in a helpful and timely manner. I would pursue a more formal process for establishing such goals and measurements. This would include a clear outline of what is expected from both the City Manager and City Attorney. I see this as a collaborative process — involving dialogue with the City Council, City Manager, City Attorney, and residents. I would use an annual review (as outlined in the City Charter but not currently in place) to exercise the City Council’s role and provide feedback to City employees. I believe the Council would welcome this transparency. It would create a more thoughtful decision-making process with less reliance on anecdotes and subjective opinions.
I would work to create a more business friendly city to promote economic and job growth. At a recent job fair at Daytona State College, I had the opportunity to talk with some Flagler County employers. In general, their concerns were issues relating to workforce technology and permitting. I believe the City can help in each of these areas if it sets a clear priority. In terms of workforce, I believe City leadership could do more to get out in front of this issue. A handful of technology companies are thriving in Palm Coast. I have spoken with executives of these companies and was told that they are looking to the local labor pool to fill jobs, often without success. I would pursue collaboration with education leaders at Daytona State College and the Central Florida High Tech Corridor Council (which offers funding) toward developing technology curriculum to produce the kind of jobs and job candidates we need for job opportunity growth. I also would work with Daytona State College officials to help strengthen their medical training curriculum. Local employers are looking for job candidates in both these areas. I would look to the wonderful intellectual resources we have in Palm Coast, such as the City Business Center and SCORE, to support new and startup companies. In the future we also need to improve our technology infrastructure, such as cell towers and broadband.
Permitting issues are cited again and again by businesses as a problem area in working with the City. I believe some changes have been made, but clearly there is still work to be done in this area. We must be creative in our plan to welcome new businesses to our community and work with them hand-in-hand through the permitting process. Perhaps an ombudsman approach could work, or staff might separate the simple from the more complex permits and assign a staff account executive to help move the more complex permits through the system.
Permitting has been an issue–with developers. No surprise there. Is it an issue with residents at large? Palm Coast was incorporated–with your father’s influential hand–as a haven from the sort of sprawly, coastal Florida urban mazes we see from Jacksonville to the Keys, with Flagler’s rare exception: don;t we owe that in part to a rigorous permitting process? Won’t weakening the rigors risk undermining a central plank of your platform–preserving the beauty and quality of life in the city? Quality of life is often an abstraction, but wouldn’t city permitting officials say they’re quality of life’s first responders?
Thank you for your kind words about my father’s influence on the incorporation of the City of Palm Coast. As I campaign this year, hardly a day goes by without meeting someone who knew Jim Holland personally or who has heard about all of the good things he did for our community. It is heartwarming for me.
In regard to permitting, at every one of my meet and greets, at every candidate forum, at every candidate night, I am asked about the permitting process by business people, working residents, and retirees. So, yes, I do think this issue is important to our residents at large.
In my original answer, I was not suggesting that the permitting department relax permits required or associated fees. Those are policy decisions. I do, however, think we can look for ways to make the permitting process more transparent and timely.
Yes, I have read the City Charter. There are three ways for the City to review its Charter. One is a City Council Charter review with the Mayor and Council discussing items within the Charter they would like to address and taking a vote on those items. The second is a Charter Study Committee, which is a group of residents appointed by the Mayor and City Council to review the Charter, making recommended changes and putting those changes to a referendum vote. The third is a Charter Commission appointed by the Mayor and City Council, to review the Charter and make recommendations to be voted on by the Mayor and City Council.
If a Council member requests a Charter review, I would have no problem supporting a review, just as I did as a Flagler County Commissioner, when the Commission appointed community members to similar committees. One of those committees was to research a change in the form of government and the other was a citizen finance committee to make budget recommendations. The original City Charter process solicited and received an enormous amount of input from the community. I was proud to watch my father play an integral role in that process, and I always have sought community input and involvement as an elected official.
It appears that while you would not stand in the way of a review, you do not yourself see the need for any specific changes. Is that an accurate assessment?
Yes, that is an accurate assessment.
4. Palm Coast has the authority to impose a public service tax on your utility bill of up to 10 percent, and a franchise fee on utilities, which would be passed to customers, of up to 10 percent. The money may be spent at the council’s discretion. Many counties and cities around the state partially or fully levy one or both the taxes. Palm Coast considered imposing a 6 percent electric franchise fee and a 2 percent public service tax in 2012, but reversed course in the face of strong public opposition, even though the two new taxes were intended to replace the existing stormwater fee. Either of the new taxes, proponents argue, would diversify the city’s revenue stream. Either could be used to generate revenue that would otherwise have to be generated by property taxes, though the public service tax and the franchise fee are regressive in comparison. Where do you stand on either new tax becoming part of Palm Coast’s taxing structure?
There is no question that diversification of revenue sources benefits a local government when there is a sharp downturn in taxable value as happened in the not too distant past. Reduced property values result in reduced property taxes. Unfortunately, there is no corresponding reduction in the demand for services. Under such a situation local governments are forced to reduce budget spending by eliminating services, reducing the level of services, or postponing planned capital spending. During the recession, Palm Coast did all three. Of course, with a recession, residential and business incomes suffer reductions, so paying a franchise fee that does not show a corresponding reduction becomes a burden on the taxpayer. The real benefit to a franchise fee is the redistribution of financial burden among all taxpayers, residential and commercial. It has been argued by some that a utility franchise fee is “business unfriendly.” This is not a real issue since virtually every city nearby charges one or more such franchise fees. I have never been a big fan of franchise fees as the provider locks you in for years and limits you from offering different ways to provide the same exact service. With technology advancing so quickly, I would not be in favor of locking us into a lengthy contract. The bottom line is that we need to make sure we are not putting additional burdens on our residents.
The only way I would even consider looking at such a franchise fee would be if it eliminates or drastically reduces the existing fee. In the case of the storm water fee, Palm Coast is fortunate that we have not experienced massive flooding of homes and businesses, but to maintain this record we need to continue to make significant improvements to our storm water system. The current funding model — part storm water and part property taxes — is not equitable. The difficulty is that a “fee” must have a rational nexus to a value received. Palm Coast struggled with creating such a fee-based system and found the results unworkable. As with everything, I would have to look carefully and closely at the details before agreeing to any franchise fee now or in the future.
Nick Klufas in the District 3 race has turned Palm Coast’s FiberNet broadband service into a holy grail of potential new revenue, if it were expanded to residential customers. Do you buy his argument? And should Palm Coast be so actively undercutting private industry in the field?
I do believe Nick’s argument. He works in the technology industry and is well versed on the subject matter. Any time the City has the opportunity to bring in a significant revenue stream to help alleviate the burden on our taxpayers — who in our community pay for the lion’s share of our services — I am excited about that. Another opportunity this offers is closing out the dead zones in cellular service and our communications systems for first responders and residents.
What about unfairly undercutting private industry with a government service that obviously would benefit from inherent subsidies?
It is imperative that we resolve the absence of communications capabilities within our City, not only for residents’ safety but also for our first responders. I do not have Nick’s plan but support the concept if it resolves some of the critical issues that I have identified.
5. Explain who provides ambulance and fire services in the city. Evaluate the quality of that service, including your assessment of the adequacy of fire stations and EMS, and what you would change, if anything, about it. If your proposed changes cost money, how would you pay for them?
In order to better understand the relationship of the Palm Coast Fire Department and Flagler County Fire Service, one has to understand the history of Palm Coast. Following the 1998 wildfires, the most devastating fires in our County’s history, the citizens of the Palm Coast Service District demanded reform, thus incorporating the City of Palm Coast. Residents of the Palm Coast Service District demanded local control of government and additional services the County was unable to provide.
The Palm Coast Fire Department is the best resource to provide fire services in the City of Palm Coast. There are five fire stations strategically located throughout the City in order to provide fast response to a call for help. These firehouses are located along our busiest corridors in Palm Coast. Flagler County provides primary fire protection services for the unincorporated areas of Flagler County (Hammock, Espanola, St. John’s Park). They also provide primary fire protection to the Seminole Woods and SR100 corridor in the City of Palm Coast via the Airport. Flagler County also provides ambulance transportation for Flagler County Emergency Services. Flagler County has a total of seven ambulances staffed daily; their ambulances are housed at two Palm Coast fire stations, Flagler Beach Fire Department, and the four remaining ambulances are at the Airport, Hammock Beach, Espanola, and St John’s Park.
The current model set in Flagler County is a tiered response. In certain areas of Palm Coast, the first arriving unit is a fire engine; in some areas the fire engine responds at the same time as the ambulance. The ultimate goal is the continuum of patient care. I will use my home as an example: If I have a heart attack and call 9-1-1, the first arriving emergency vehicle to my home is a fire engine from the Palm Harbor fire station. They can arrive, treat my condition and pass the care off to the ambulance when they arrive. Most likely the ambulance will be coming from the Clubhouse Drive fire station. This is called teamwork; cooperative, not competitive effort. The current system warrants that firemen also be paramedics. This is a great standard, since I or whoever else calls for help, will be treated with a high standard of care. I believe the current system works and provides the citizens of Palm Coast the benefit of having dually trained firefighter-paramedics on fire engines strategically located throughout the City to provide initial care in a timely fashion. As call volume increases and the demand for services places our resources at capacity, there will be required changes. If the resources being taxed or delayed are from our community partner, Flagler County, it is their responsibility to adapt and improve. The most recent conversations between County and City have been the addition of ambulance service within the City. Palm Coast represents 80 percent of the population and approximately 70 percent of call volume for ambulance services. I think it would be beneficial for the residents of Palm Coast to have an additional ambulance within the City limits. There are several methods to provide this service:
- Flagler County relocates an ambulance
- Flagler County staffs an additional ambulance
- Palm Coast staffs an ambulance
- Palm Coast and Flagler County share cost for additional ambulance
The cost for an additional ambulance is almost a million dollars, which includes equipment and personnel cost for 6 employees (minimum staffing of 2 employees per shift, 3 respective shifts). Revenue recovery for this program is available through grants such as the Federal S.A.F.E.R. (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) Grants, State of Florida EMS grants, insurance billing for ambulance service and funding solutions through financial review. Either way, the conversation should never compromise the integrity of public safety and health. Rather, who has the best available resources to provide the service. There is no room for politics and personalities in the way of public safety. This is a matter of doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. If there is a community need for the service, then someone needs to provide the service. As Mayor, I in good conscience could not idly stand by and allow public safety to become compromised as it was during the 1998 wildfires, when we are offering solutions to a problem.
6. Palm Coast and the county have a sniping, at times competitive, at times antagonistic relationship, as if between fiefs. To what extent are the two elected bodies responsible? To what extent are the two government’s managers responsible? How will you help foster a less medieval relationship?
When I first ran for County Commission in 2006, the County and City were fighting over the issue of water. It was a matter I addressed during that campaign. After the election, the conflicts were resolved through intergovernmental meetings between the City, County, and municipalities where roles were identified, issues of mutual interest addressed, and collaborative partnerships formed, resulting in eventual resolution of the issue.
I have zero tolerance for continual infighting between governments and their staffs when it comes to vital services to our community. Such behavior is non-productive and solves nothing. I have a record as a consensus-builder and for bridging the divide. I will employ those same skills as Mayor.
It’s a decisive answer, but it sidestep a key part–the one part where you have more knowledge than any candidate for city council: County Administrator Craig Coffey–whom you once tried to fire–was your employee for six years, and you’ve had frequent dealings with City Manager Jim Landon then and since. You are ideally positioned to tell us to what extent you think the two managers are responsible for the abrasive nature of the relationship between the two governments.
You are correct. I have worked with Jim Landon but not in the capacity as his boss. I believe what has been missing is an annual evaluation process, one that is transparent and discussed openly. If the Mayor and Council voice areas of strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed by the City Manager, it should come from a place collectively. It is difficult to answer to five bosses, each one with different expectations. As a Commissioner, the bar for my expectations was set high for our County Administrator. It will be the same for our City Manager. I will expect the City Manager to work collaboratively with our government partners. That expectation has to come from the Council, and I will address it from day one.
The relationship between elected officials and City employees (including the City Manager) is clearly set forth in the City Charter. Council sets policy — staff implements policy. Council hires a City Manager, City Attorney, and a City Auditing Firm. At any time, for any reason, if a majority of Council members approves, any of these can be replaced. Each year, Palm Coast elected officials undertake a strategic planning activity that spans months. This is the opportunity for any Council member to introduce for consideration any project or activity, etc. that he or she thinks will benefit our City. All it takes is two more votes to include a project or activity in the upcoming budget. Politically, it is really easy to be a fiscal conservative at budget time and then spend the rest of the year championing some project or activity perceived to be politically popular. Once the budget is adopted, it is the responsibility of the City Manager to manage existing activities, implement new projects or activities, and keep City Council apprised of progress.
Looking beyond how it’s laid out on paper, are you comfortable with the current dynamic as it plays out in weekly meetings?
I have attended many City Council workshops and meetings over the years. I remember the first council asking many questions regarding items on the agenda. It was a common practice. All you need to do is look at my time on the County Commission to know that I will prefer to ask my questions at Council meetings and that I want public input as well.
Does the current council fall short of that standard in your analysis?
In my opinion, no two councils are alike, and that will be true after the current election. There is not always a better or worse way to conduct meetings. I think our former councils always had the best interests of Palm Coast in mind every time they sat at the dais in a City Council meeting. Political issues and concerns extend from one administration to another but no two leaders handle them in the same exact way. I served for two years as Chair of the County Commission and conducted those meetings in my own style, always keeping in mind that I was doing the people’s business. I would do the same if I were conducting a City Council meeting.
8. Jon Netts’s tenure as mayor spanned half the life of the city: eight years. Ceremonial duties aside, what should the next mayor continue that Netts did best, and what approach or method should the next mayor discontinue or do differently, including parliamentary conduct during meetings? How do you hope the next mayor distinguishes himself or herself from Netts?
The first City Council set forth a vision for Palm Coast. Mayor Canfield and Mayor Netts both worked to maintain that vision for the City. We are not Jacksonville; we are not Ocala; we are something different and special. The next Mayor needs to remain true to that vision. People didn’t choose to live in Palm Coast because it is some sort of metropolis; we are not. People didn’t move here because we were rural-agrarian; again we are not. I am very respectful of our form of government and the leadership and work of our first and second mayors. The next Mayor needs to be sensitive to the needs and wants of our citizens. The next Mayor needs to foster productive discussion that leads to collaborative solutions to whatever issues and problems the Council faces in the future.
9. Evaluate City Manager Jim Landon’s performance, citing strengths and weaknesses. His total compensation package is close to a quarter of a million dollars. He is seeking a raise. Would you grant it? [Note: the question went to candidates before the council’s vote rejected the request on July 19, though the question remains valid for the new council.]
My ideal City Manager would (in no particular order):
- Be of the highest integrity
- Understand that Government must be responsible to and responsive to its citizens
- Be a consensus-builder
- Recognize the role of City Council as ultimate decision-maker
- Acknowledge and allow for Council involvement vis-a-vis citizen issues
- Be able to capture public support
- Be politically sophisticated
- Have strong negotiating skills
- Have strong evaluative skills
- Have strong social skills
- Have a “management by walking around” style
- Have a strong background in Florida government and finance
- Be able/willing to reorganize existing departmental structure as needed
- Be a trend-setter
- Be able to deal effectively with local County government
- Be able to “lead” not “push”
- Be able to “delegate” without creating a laissez faire situation
- Have strong networking skills
- Be a member of ICMA
- Not be at the end of his/her career path
To the extent that Mr. Landon measures up to these expectations, I will continue to support him for City Manager. Until my first evaluation of the City Manager, I would not be in favor of a raise.
10. Palm Coast relies on the sheriff for policing. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of that contract, and tell us what specifically you would change about it. Are some areas of Palm Coast less effectively policed than others? Do you favor an independent police department for the city, now or in the near future?
The benefit of having a contract with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is we gain the benefit of the resources of every department within the Sheriff’s Office when needed, such as investigations, victim advocate, etc. In 2004 the City hired the National Police Office to determine the startup costs for Palm Coast to start its own police department, as well as the on-going operational costs to run a police department. Both costs were in the millions of dollars with our 2004 population which was much lower than our current population.
No, I do not favor an independent police department for the City of Palm Coast now or in the near future. What I like about the contract is that any given time we can request more road patrols in an area where there is an increase in criminal activity. We can determine that through our Palm Coast Liaison who provides updated statistics to the Council and City Manager. The weakness is that, with a four-year election cycle, there are times when transitions could be less smooth than other times. To avoid this situation, I would prefer to continue to have the Palm Coast Liaison housed within the City.
11. The current council appears opposed to a civil citation program that would lessen the penalty for a first-time marijuana possession offense in many circumstances. Without Palm Coast’s approval, the county-wide effort is most likely doomed. Where do you stand on that proposal?
As a County Commissioner, one of the things I struggled with was the cost of housing inmates at the Flagler County Jail. On average, it costs taxpayers $20,000 annually per inmate. In addition, we have to provide free health care to those that are awaiting trial, awaiting to see a judge for their charges, and those incarcerated for a year for a crime they committed. Those medical costs have been astronomical to our taxpayers, which is why I suggested the creation of the Public Safety Coordinating Council, which still exists today as a way for all stakeholders in the Criminal Justice Department to come together to find solutions to these issues.
Marijuana use penalties are being relaxed or removed in many states throughout the country. Without laying out a specific policy, I would be open to discussion and collaboration with County officials and law enforcement leadership concerning this issue.
The discussions have taken place at the public safety council, a policy was developed, and it will soon be ready for the county commission’s vote, then the city’s. Its essence is simple: civil citations for first-time pot users. Do you support that proposal?
12. Code enforcement: Palm Coast is clearly the harshest enforcer among local governments, regulating such things as garbage cans in view of the street, work vans with commercial imprints on their sides parked in residential areas, and of course tall grass. The city has a fleet of enforcers, and an enforcement board that routinely levies fines on violators. Complainers to the city can remain anonymous. How comfortable are you with that regime, and what, if anything, would you change?
I believe people and businesses move to Palm Coast in part because it looks like a nice place to live. There is a sense of welcome as soon as you exit the freeway. The streets are manicured and landscaped, homes neat and tidy, signage is informational not overwhelming or annoyingly in your face. So, there certainly is a role for code enforcement. For me, it is a question of balance and I always look to collaboration and consensus building to forge a solution. I have a long track record of consensus-building among diverse interests — from developers to homeowners to state legislators and business leaders. I will bring those skills (rather than confrontation) to resolution of any code issues.
13. The Palm Harbor Golf Club and the city’s tennis club has been losing money since their inception while serving a relatively small number of club members. Should the two clubs stay open with city subsidies? If not, what’s your alternative?
Golf and tennis are key amenities that are at the very heart of what is great about Palm Coast. So are all of our parks — including soccer fields, baseball diamonds, hiking and biking trails, pickle ball courts, and the Flagler Auditorium too. All of them are “losing money” as you phrase it. I look at every one of these amenities as an asset to our community. All of them make huge contributions to the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Just a few months ago, the week-long Men’s Futures Tournament at the Palm Coast Tennis Center attracted hundreds of players from around the world, along with their coaches and families. They stayed in hotels, bought pizzas and t-shirts. The benefits to the community are economic, as well as health and exercise. Tennis and golf are at the very heart of Palm Coast’s unique identity. My father was key in creating some of Palm Coast’s beloved parks such as Bing’s Landing and Linear Park. I think he did the right thing. I am proud to continue his leadership on this issue. Should each of these parks be managed with the greatest economy and efficiency? Absolutely. There are additional revenue streams that could be considered, for example, sponsorships. Do these parks help attract growth producing businesses and future residents? I am absolutely certain they do.
The argument that all our parks lose money relies on the city administration’s shrewd way of mixing the apples and oranges of tax-funded city-run amenities with no club fees, open to all, with contractor-run, exclusive, clubbish amenities that charge users money and still lose it, requiring lavish taxpayer subsidies. The number of users of actual city amenities versus golf and tennis amenities is also disproportionate, with an infinitesimal minority again benefiting from the subsidies. The question is: is that model working under KemperSports? Even from the council, the answer has been a consistent No, though not enough of a No to stop doing the same thing, for lack of more responsible ideas. You are telling us that, sponsorships aside (which are unlikely realistically to come close to underwriting the monthly losses), you’d continue doing what the city has been doing for seven years. How is that fiscally responsible?
I will always value the recreational amenities that make Palm Coast unique. I will always look for ways to manage them smartly. From participation in Little League teams, birding festivals, tennis, golf and swimming, there are a variety of user fees. Golf and tennis, along with soccer fields, baseball diamonds, hiking and biking trails, and pickle ball courts, are key amenities to our community and at the very heart of what is great about Palm Coast. A top-notch golf course and tennis facility were within our boundaries even before the City was incorporated. I meet people every day that came here and stay here because of our superior recreational amenities. I am committed to offering our current and future residents — from kids to seniors — superior, diverse, well-managed recreational opportunities.
In my vision of the future of the City of Palm Coast, the closing of either the Palm Harbor Golf Club or Palm Coast Tennis Center just is not an option.
You are telling us they should stay open, but vague sponsorships aside, you are not providing us with any plan as to how they can stay open other than: business as usual.
I support recreation amenities as an important part of Palm Coast. They are essential to our vital and balanced community. Like every city function, I want to manage the recreation budget wisely. Sponsorship opportunities are just one example currently employed in places such as Linear Park trails, as well as the Tennis Center. These could be expanded. Other revenue streams also could be created or expanded to more parks and programs. These might include expansion of programs, special events, marketing packages with hotel partners or corporate partners. I will certainly look at the expense side as well. I have a track record of proven results in funding cost savings in county budgets while serving as commissioner. I would do the same as Mayor of Palm Coast.
14. The city will be expanding and modernizing its community center next year. But residents from time to time have clamored for a senior center. Do you favor building and operating a stand-alone senior center? If so, how do you propose the city should pay for it?
I am excited that the City will expand and modernize its community center next year. I have fond memories of each of my children attending summer camp there, of attending City Council meetings there when my father served our community, and of numerous government meetings and social activities I attended myself there. I see our community center as a place for residents of all ages — children to seniors — to come together for special social activities.
I have been to the senior center in St. John’s County a number of times and have visited with its Director, Cathy Brown. This center operates with a very costly annual budget and houses other governmental entities. It is an example of what can be accomplished through collaborative efforts and initiatives beyond the local level, which can provide State funds for costly local projects, as addressed in my response to the first question of this interview.
I would be 100 percent proud to be Palm Coast Mayor Holland 1.0.
Great slogan: something the cleverly pithy Jon Netts was good at, too. Now can we get a substantive answer?
I believe the voters of Palm Coast want to look at my ideas and public service experience, and compare that with my actual opponents, not past Mayors. My Flagler Live Interview provides in-depth answers to all questions posed and reflects my vision for the future of the City of Palm Coast. As I always have as an elected official, I would carefully study every issue that comes before the City Council, formulate my own opinions, and vote for what I believe is in the best interest of the residents of Palm Coast.