I can only imagine what the response would have been like had Milissa Holland proposed quadrupling her salary when she was mayor. The public and no doubt some of her colleagues would have torn her to shreds. She would have been called a weak, grasping, arrogant, self-serving, big-spending liberal.
Somehow none of those personal attacks were leveled at David Alfin, the sitting mayor, certainly not by his all-Republican, all-male council. Instead, we got an arch-conservative like Ed Danko who, instead of being first in line to reject this money grab, sounded like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaking hosannas to government dole. We got a data nerd like Nick Klufas throwing out all evidentiary standards, including his own living proof that young, smart professionals can get elected, parroting the absurd claim that fatter salaries are needed to attract young, smart professionals.
John Fanelli’s vote was unfortunately a foregone conclusion: this school administrator making $102,000 a year–and who won’t be eligible for the new salary by the time his brief tenure runs out–wasn’t going to cast his very first council vote against the mayor who got him appointed. But with that one vote, he disappointingly telegraphed more allegiance to Alfin than to the public. Let’s hope it wasn’t also an X-ray of his backbone.
This whole thing was shoveled through hurriedly and sloppily on baseless assumptions posing as evidence: right in line with our post-factual politics. Let’s look at the fabrications one by one.
The claim that better salaries will attract better candidates is proven wrong by our own governments. Flagler County Commissioners are paid $60,000 a year. With one exception, they are the laziest elected officials in the county, their hips the county’s busiest shooting range. The richest among them is a bigoted boor who insults colleagues and the public at will when he’s not missing his duties to take selfies out of town. School board members are paid $36,000 a year. They’re anything but lazy. But a couple of them confuse Fox news scripts with board meetings, at least when they’re not trying to file charges against the superintendent, fire the board attorney, or trespass on student protests or college testing sessions.
If you want to see good, no-drama, hard-working governance, look no further than Flagler Beach and Bunnell. Most of these commissioners work hard, do their homework, put in loads of hours on their city duties, and don’t conjure cause-and-effect fantasies between their salaries and their ability to serve. The two governments are more diverse than the council or the county commission. Most of the commissioners hold full-time jobs or more, since several own their own business. They’re also more humble, and almost grandstanding-free. They’re paid as much–or as little–as in Palm Coast: $9,600 a year. Money has zero to do with it.
Alfin’s claim that better salaries will enable candidates to finance their campaigns is shocking. First, it implies that taxpayers should fund campaigns, however indirectly. Second, with the $44,670 a year salary council members are about to vote themselves, it gives incumbents, and only incumbents, what could potentially amount to a nearly $180,000 war chest, and challengers zilch. Third, a candidate’s inability to fundraise is not taxpayers’ concerns. It’s a reflection on that candidate’s viability and connection with the community. I’m all for publicly financed campaigns. But we have none of that in state and local races, and that’s not what Alfin is talking about. His would be a one-sided gift to incumbents. Within current rules, tax dollars should in no way become campaign subsidies.
One of Alfin’s big pieces of evidence in support of better pay was the display of his calendar as mayor. It was meant to be startling. It was rather whiny instead, and missed the mark. True, there was hardly a day when he wasn’t committed to something. But lunches at the incomparable Thai by Thai with Toby Tobin, his business partner, are not city business. The listing of numerous scheduled city events like the senior games, movies in the park and Food Truck Tuesday weren’t actual commitments. Many of the entries were quick-hit appearances, phone calls or photo ops. Sure, they take time. But in the aggregate, the calendar was padded. No close analysis revealed even so much as the French 35-hour week.
The calendar revealed a graver concern. If Alfin is choosing to take on as much as he does even to the extent that he does, he’s not giving his city manager the full confidence she is owed. Denise Bevan is the city manager, not David Alfin. We do not have a strong-mayor form of government. If Alfin’s calendar points to too many commitments, he’s overstepping his role–he has no business in the administrative functions of the city–or taking on all these commitments because he likes to, not because he has to. Or because he doesn’t trust Bevan.
Alfin’s claim that the $175,000 annual hit to the budget that the salary increases represent won’t affect either the budget or taxes raises questions about his math, and his fairness. Of course it’ll affect taxes. Maybe not next year or the year after that. Reserves are a wonderful veil to the eventual reckoning. But that $175,000 a year is $1.75 million over the next 10 years. That cumulative effect will exact a toll. As for fairness: that same annual amount, if it’s so readily available (as Alfin claims), could be split across the board to city employees, netting a $400 raise per employee–those same employees on whom the council lavishes praise meeting after meeting, in words, we now know, as cheap and as hollow as their math. Are council members really worth that much more than city staffers? Councilmen’s 4-1 answer Tuesday was the insulting answer.
Finally, the mayor at the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting explained how items brought before the council are workshopped first, then voted on at business meetings. The salary ordinance was never workshopped. He sprang it on the council at the end of a meeting in late evening on March 1, had the attorney draft the ordinance, and sprang it again Tuesday with cursory, entirely specious and as we just noted baseless comments from his colleagues. Maybe that’s how the private sector works. (Not maybe: it is.) It’s not how representative government works.
In an extensive text exchange he and I had on salaries this week Alfin made the fair point that for all the respect owed past council members, they built “a community skewed by retirement and age which is not financially sustainable for the future,” so we “really need to think differently to govern success[fully] for the future.” No dispute here. But I fail to see the connection with stratospheric salaries. Curious how Holland, who who toggled commitments at the bedside of a critically ill child, a full-time job and her mayoral duties never once mentioned council salaries, and in fact beat back an attempt to raise them in 2018, as did Bob Cuff, a lawyer whose practice was suffering because of his council commitments. As did Klufas, for that matter. None of them were catering to a retirement community in their tenures on the council, but to a redirection of Palm Coast from a soulless, centerless road to extinction (as Russell Baker once referred to all of Florida) to something more like an actual city.
A raise for council members was due. A raise this size, by far larger than the salary of any elected municipal official in a city of this size anywhere in Florida, was not. It’s not as if Alfin didn’t have a range of options. A few years ago, after then-Council member Steven Nobile was laughed out of the room for suggesting exactly the kind of raise Alfin is, fellow-Council member Heidi Shipley made the most sensible proposal to date: give council members health benefits and peg council salaries to half the value of household incomes in the city. At the time that would have been around $23,000 a year.
Alan Peterson, the former council member who actually made the motion to approve the current council salaries back in 2007, gave Alfin another way out: go for a more modest salary increase pegged to inflation. He also suggested amending the charter to require any council salary increase of more than a certain size to require voter approval. Someone may have also suggested that any increase should not kick in until two elections from now, ensuring that no sitting council member would benefit from the self-serving ploy before facing voters. As it is, Alfin and Danko are literally voting themselves a 365 and 307 percent raise, respectively, since the raises kick in after the next election, regardless who is on the ballot.
There’s still time for a more reasonable proposal before the ordinance’s second reading later this month. Oddly enough, I think it would require someone like Danko to make that proposal, Alfin seeming so dogmatic on the issue. It would be more in line with Danko’s fiscal hard line, his past votes (remember the tennis center?), his more recent mellowing (fingers crossed), and, presumably, his next campaign. Failing that, I hope this is not an indication of a more arbitrary, uncompromising and hubristic David Alfin ahead, rather than what had begun as one of the better mayorships in the city’s history.
Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.
Agreed 1000% this is ridiculous they should never have been allowed to vote themselves a raise it should’ve been put to the voters of this county that kind of raise is astronomical and ridiculous! I have lived here for 33 years and never seen such corruption!!!
You are spot on. I used to work for ITT which founded Palm Coast. Long past time to take out the trash. Recall them all. Except Branquino who voted against this travesty.
Bob J says
they all need to go
Yes they need to be fired
It’s a simple fix, never vote for these people again.
The Council has one last chance to redeem themselves with a modification to the second reading.
Folks that spoke at the meeting said “you should get an increase but be reasonable.”
It’s not good business here in Palm Coast!
Vincent A. Liguori says
To: Flagler Live- Thank You! A truly excellent article. Let’s hope it generates common sense amongst council members.
Pissed in PC says
Let’s not put common sense and council members in the same sentence please. The only one is Branquino and he’s not running for re-election next time around. We need to raise a fuss at the next meeting. Mass up with our signs outside cause we all won’t fit inside and make it known we won’t tolerate self serving frauds.
Mike Martin says
Excellent work Pierre. Thank you for exposing the specious reasoning of Alfin and company.
In Tuesday evening’s meeting I challenged the Council to make themselves ineligible for this salary increase, since their main argument is that it is necessary to attract “more and better qualified candidates”, to prove that greed was not motivating their decision. Of course they ignored ignored me. I am currently circulating a Petition Form to amend the City Charter to require the compensation for Mayor and Council to be set by referendum (the voters approving or rejecting), instead of the current system of Ordinance (only voted on by the Council. The City has given me the ridiculously short deadline of May 7th at Noon, to submit 7,000+ signatures. If you would like to help by signing a Petition Form please email me at [email protected] and I will email you the Petition. I have also created a group on the NextDoor app called “Take Back Palm Coast”: https//nextdoor.com/g/2ot4baxrx. I am also working on creating another Petition to force reconsideration of this raise ordinance, which will require the Council to either reject the ordinance, change it, and if they do neither, they MUST place the Ordinance on the November ballot and let us citizens of Palm Coast vote it up or down. Please join me in this fight. Together we CAN do this!
Mike Martin says
Sorry, I mistyped my email. It is [email protected].
C. J. says
Want to respond, but your email address looks misspelled, please check and fix hyperlink.
Mike Martin says
I can’t get back in the message.
We have corrected the email address in the previous comment.
Alfin is a salesman so he just sold himself to the City of Palm Coast to give him a very sizable salary and not on the job a year yet. If this gets approved the City of PC can charge it in their budget and not out of taxpayers accounts. The taxpayers in Palm Coast need to be able to vote for any such off the charts pay increase as this. Sounds like a real con job.
I agree 100%.
Well, the math on it works out to a $ 175K increase with Palm Coast at a moving 121+K population. That’s $ 1.45 more per resident. If there were some way of charging that per residence by occupancy, Singles would pay $ 1.45 more in their taxes per year. Couples with no children would pay $2.90 and you get the picture. If one were to exempt those under 18 yo, that’s supposedly 16.6% of the population, 83.4% of the adults or roughly 100,914 as a population 18+. Would there be a Senior discount like the Homestead exemption that would apply, or for being handicapped ? Anyway the math on adults 18+ works out to $ 1.73/year and decimal places, under $ 3.50/year for adults. For a month, $ 1.73 becomes $ .1445 (cents) per adult per month. For 15 cents a month it doesn’t seem like much. Wonder how many homes there are, because I have to believe the increase will be based upon appraisal value of a residential dwelling. For the apartments, that would be collected & charged based upon adult aged or even total occupancy ?
In light of the increases, everyone came out of the pandemic raising prices on those that got a token hourly wage increase. It is what it is ? I get it though, the interim Mayor immediately traveled to Spain in 2021, then we got the Alfin. Somehow an additional $ 175K seems like a bargain in comparison to a $ 5.6 million Splash Pad or the millions for Pickleball Courts just South of Royal Palms Parkway & Belle Terre in the woods and swamp lands, even moldy & shady Sheriff’s Office real estate deals. If it’s unspent money in the budgets or allocations, there won’t be any increase in taxes. We probably wouldn’t feel or know the differences. The waste/garbage collection those folks work pretty hard for that increase, especially when Flagler County & Palm Coast specifically are growing towards increases in resources for trucks & the personnel to operate & collect the waste of the county 2x per week.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Chutzpa continues to have new meanings. Real public servants don’t mind spending their personal time and money to lobby for their desires to make our world a better place to live. How about all the citizen ‘volunteer’ boards – they don’t get a damn dime ( in salary that is although I wonder if some enjoy ‘under the table ‘ treats ).
Speaking of ‘under the table’ is there any possibility that any of the Palm Coast Council voting in favor of their ‘public raise’ are not also engaged in under the table perks as well? The way they are destroying the beauty of Palm Coast with an infestation of storage sheds makes me wonder …Hey, I am just sharing the thoughts going through my suspicious mind…
Palm Coast resident and tax payer for almost six years. I’m so sick of this town and its good ole boys stain. We need adults present in government, please. Signed, your $15.00 an hour Publix Pharmacy Technician.
The dude says
I feel so bad for you.
Ever time we go in to Publix to pick up a prescription it seems like there’s a huge line at the pickup counter full of angry old folks arguing about prices and online coupons.
Bless you for your service.
Thank you, Dude!
Darlene L Shelley says
Truly despicable. Mayor Alfin, Nick Klufas, and Ed Danko should be ashamed of themselves. They stand before the citizens and claim they work for us, but when the community shows up enmasse to express their valid concerns, they ignore the voices of the people and do what enriches them every time! The conflict of interest is overwhelming having a realtor, who benefits from every zone change and special exception the council approves. Toby Tobin is Alfin’s business partner? No wonder he was one of only two citizens in all of Palm Coast to speak up in favor of passing special exceptions and zone changes for the 29th storage facility proposed for an Office Zoned parcel across from residential communities on dangerous Old Kings Road! This stinks of good ole boys clubs and pay to play back door deals. It is nauseating, and our health, safety, and welfare is in jeopardy at the hands of these fools who only care about the payday. Ed Branquinho had it right when he proposed an increase that makes sense. Of course that motion failed. There will be a second hearing on April 19 at 9:00 a.m., and we need to let them know, again, that they are way off base and work for us! It is public service, not a full time job!
When it comes to money, people have no shame. They will grab it anywhere they can. They will step their constituents, their neighbors, their spouses, their children, their parents, their friends, the very air they breath and water they drink. They will sell out their country for ratings. They will fall on their knees and worship green paper.
It’s actually very sad, you know. Kind of pitiful. Recall y’all, or vote them out.
R Lantinen says
Excellent observation! Sad but true
DMF in Palm Coast says
I implore the voters of Palm Coast – GOP, DEM, NPA – ALL of you – sign the petition as soon as possible and support Mike Martin and his hard work. I do not know Mr. Martin, but I immediately requested a copy of the petition(s) he is spearheading (see his full post above). Following is a copy/paste of his statement:
(Mike Martin) “I am currently circulating a Petition Form to amend the City Charter to require the compensation for Mayor and Council to be set by referendum (the voters approving or rejecting), instead of the current system of Ordinance (only voted on by the Council. The City has given me the ridiculously short deadline of May 7th at Noon, to submit 7,000+ signatures. If you would like to help by signing a Petition Form please email me at [email protected] and I will email you the Petition.” (Mike Martin)
PLEASE for the sake of what is left of this City’s sanity and integrity, contact Mr. Martin (email in the paragraph above as well as his post) and get involved before the petition deadline (May 7, noon). There are a total of six registered voters in our family and we are all signing it.
Everyone is entitled to a moderate cost of living increase, particularly for PERFORMANCE based achievements. The current Council should be lucky to take a 3% increase based on their performance. Nobody has the ethical right to vote themselves over a 300% increase, particularly for a job they took KNOWING what the stipend would be! Shame on every one of you, with the exception of Mr. Branquinho (who is to be commended for his backbone).
If you are not already registered, please do so immediately and make sure you are at the polls for the next City Council election!
Mike Martin says
I have managed to get the deadline extended back to June 15th. Thank you City Clerk Virginia Smith and Flagler Supervisor of Elections Katie Lenhart for working together to achieve this. We have more time, but it will still take all of us working together to make this happen.
DMF in Palm Coast says
Both ladies are excellent at their jobs! Flagler County is fortunate to have Kaiti as our Supervisor of Elections and she is well respected throughout the state!
I agree 100%
Morgan Monaco says
Neither one has accomplish one good thing for this city for a part time job not deserved. This is nothing less than PURE DICTATURE republican.
don miller says
the city government in Palm Coast has always been a clown show. Should have been left County.
Should have been made a town the moment they hit 10,000 citizens, not waited until 1999. Either way they’re way out of line on this robbery of the citizens.
Celia M Pugliese says
Don, county commission is even much worst! That is why we voted to incorporate and I will never regret it!
So this is not a big deal. The U.S. Congress and Florida legislature vote on their own compensation. Is there a relationship between good governance and elected officials’ pay? Who knows.
Is Palm Coast being a retirement “community” run by retirees sustainable? Not a chance. If you want better elected officials, get better voters.
Eventually Palm Coast will lose its luster. Become old and warn down. Declining into low rent housing before finally being abandoned to sea because of global warming. Same as the rest of the state.
Hopes will decline, value will fall, and the survivors will for a promised land to which to resettle. Maybe New Jersey?
Concerned Citizen says
For those investing time commenting here.
That’s great and all. But divide your time between here and those phones and emails. I do. And we need to remember this at election time.
Stay angry at these folks in office. Just don’t let it blow off. Then go “Oh they will do better next time” because they won’t. People keep voting these same clowns into office EVERY election cycle. So who is to really blame?
Remember the old saying about The definition of Insanity?
We need to start doing better with electing our representatives. Background checks and research folks. In this day and age it isn’t hard. And I’ll let you in on a secret. You don’t always have to vote with “who you know” Change can be a good thing.
“Fiscally Responsible” GOP, right…. Always smiling while they have their hands in your pockets to enrich themselves and to hell with the citizenry.
Rocket Man says
Are all the old mouth breathers still making America great again?
Will dumb it down so as you’ll perhaps understand… Want a better government? Be a better citizen. Show up. <20% voting participation is what is typically seen in any cycle.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Rocket Man hit the nail on the head
Our sad state of affairs
” I don’t get involved in politics”.. Guess you don’t care about the water you drink, the food you eat, the doctors you can see, what medicine you can buy, what books you can read, nor what you can say in public without getting arrested.
“I vote straight party line” Can anyone tell me the difference between a democrat sheriff and a republican sheriff? A democrat flooded swale and a republican flooded swale;? A democrat zoning allowing 23 acres of storage sheds in your back yard and a republican zoning allowing 23 acres of storage sheds in your back yard? But you are still gonna vote straight party line. Right?
“They are all crooks. My vote does not count”
English over German is the official language of our country by ONE SINGLE VOTE
Hitler became the leader of the 3rd Reich by ONE SINGLE VOTE,
Marie Antoinette ( poor thing) was beheaded based on ONE SINGLE VOTE.
YOUR CHOICE – sit home, vote party line or be an informed citizen and do your homework and vote for the best qualified person for the ‘non partisan’ of city and county government JOBS
I’ll say it again! Vote these people out of office!
Sign the petition for recall immediately and rescind this increase. It’s the only thing that works. Get a committee and start going door to door with the petition fast.
Throw the bums out.
The dude says
Not my circus… not my clowns.
You all voted your way into this, good luck petitioning your way out of it.
Sooner or later karma comes for us all.
James M. Mejuto says
Well . . . the Republicans love to tell how democrats will raise our taxes. Isn’t that amazing!
Palm Coast has our entire gov’t under Republican control and now we will have to pay for
quadruple increases for these lazy and ignorant Council members and its Republican mayor.
I hope our city voters will remember Republican greed and vote out those Republican scoundrels!
Please don’t tell us that you don’t have time to vote.
Why use all this talk of “Old Boy’s” this and that… call them out for what they are. I think the southern folks here might describe Alfin and all a bit differently but are trying to be polite… as a transplanted Yankee I WILL… he’s a CARPETBAGGER.
James Mejuto says
What do I think? : Well, folks, I may be from the old school but every City Council job and Mayor should be volunteer.
Citizens should take an obligation to work for the community, pro-bono.
Can we be certain that the new slate of politicians will not allow this to continue?
This violation of the peoples’ trust can only be stopped when Palm Coast decides enough is enough
and puts it all to a public vote. Of course, this is not what they want !