Note: this is one of two related articles. See: “Palm Coast Reopens Door to EV Charging Stations, But Only as Conduit to Private Business.”
Palm Coast City Council member Ed Danko verbally attacked and disparaged the city’s resiliency and sustainability officer in a public meeting on Tuesday, baselessly calling her presentation “propaganda,” questioning why she had a job, and sparring with Mayor David Alfin, who brought him under control.
It was the latest in a history of public outbursts for Danko, who has used his position to fabricate lies about a former mayor and have shouting matches with fellow council members, and who previously violated council rules to the point that the mayor threatened to have him removed from the chamber. Danko was also the subject of several complaints by employees. (Tuesday’s outburst was first reported by WNZF’s Rich Carol.)
Maeven Rogers, the chief sustainability and resiliency officer, was appearing before the council to provide an update on potentially upgrading the city’s electric vehicle charging station infrastructure from its lone station at City Hall, and to get guidance on whether and how much to charge at that station.
It was a follow-up from a June meeting where the council rejected–but did not close the door on–bidding for federal grants that could underwrite such an upgrade. All but one member of the council are loath to build EV charging stations that would compete with the private sector. That has not changed. But there is some possibility of inviting private companies to lease public land for such stations.
“I hope that you are ready this morning to be electrified by today’s discussion,” the naturally ebullient Rogers started. The presentation was data-heavy on electrification, the advantages of electric vehicles, the diminishing fossil-fuel)and particularly coal) sector in favor of cleaner energy. She spoke of the “many benefits to alternative energy and mobility,” including reduced pollution and greenhouse gases, the advantages of less reliability on volatile oil markets, the sharp growth in EV sales.
A few statistical inconsistencies and minor errors aside, the presentation was on the whole solidly documented and reflected standard research and technological developments in the field.
Danko first interrupted her about 12 minutes into her presentation when Rogers cited figures projecting a less “clear vision” of exploitable fossil fuels after 2050. “That is just absolutely absurd. That’s nothing but somebody’s propaganda,” Danko said. “We have more oil in this country than you can even imagine,” he said. (Danko was closer to propaganda than Rogers: while peak oil predictions have often faltered, the general consensus is that the point will be reached more than a decade before the middle of the century.)
“We’re net exporters,” Council member Nick Klufas said.
“We were, until Biden became president.” Danko was inaccurate: the United States again became a net exporter of oil in 2020, and has been for three years running, according to the Energy Information Administration, with imports peaking in the middle of the last Bush administration. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly transcribed Klufas saying “we’re not exporters.”)
Danko repeatedly called the presentation “absurd” and claimed he’d seen it. The mayor reminded Danko he was not a council of one: “All of the rest of us would like to see the presentation,” Alfin said.
Rogers continued. Toward the end of the presentation, Danko derisively asked Rogers if she was an electrical engineer–she is not–by way of questioning her experience with the low maintenance needs of EV stations.
“Unless they are hit with a vehicle or actually damaged by another human I don’t see a lot of our EV charging infrastructure being upkeep or cleaned or anything like that,” Rogers said. Rogers was basing her claim on eight years’ experience in the field, and the deployment of 100 EV chargers in Orlando, where she worked previously. “We have not seen any type of maintenance in that time.”
Evidence appears not to impress Danko, who was chomping at the bit by the presentation’s end.
“I have a lot of questions,” he said when she was done.
“Let me help you with that,” the mayor said.
“I don’t need your help. They’re my questions.”
Alfin wanted to provide some direction to Rogers first–leasing land to companies that might be interested in locating charging stations on public land, and possibly levying permit fees, all without interfering with private business.
Danko said the same thing about not interfering with private business, if more hectoringly so, then inexplicably lashed into Rogers herself: “I gotta be honest with you. I’m not impressed with you,” he told her. “When you came in here the first time and you said wouldn’t it be wonderful if our citizens spent their money at our local businesses rather than the gas stations. Well, I got news for you. Those gas stations are part of our local business. You just can’t blow them off like that. And that’s very, very concerning to me and the facts that you’re presenting, quite frankly, they’re just based on AOC Green New Deal, Joe Biden.”
Danko was twisting Rogers’s meaning. Just as she had on Tuesday, when she referred to spending money at Walmart as–accurately–sending money out of the community, she had said at the previous meeting: “If we provide the service for our residents, they can put money back into the local economy, not at the Shell gas station. So that’s a wonderful thing.” In other words, a gas corporation siphons money out of the community the way an actual local business does not.
But by then Alfin was trying to intervene, since Danko had directly attacked a staffer, as council members are not allowed to do by city procedures: staffers answer exclusively to the city manager.
“I think I think you’ve made your point,” Alfin told Danko.
“I’m not finished yet,” Danko yelled.
“Yes you are,” Alfin went on, telling him to address his remarks about staff to the city manager as Dank said he would speak “any way I want.”
“No, sorry, you will not,” Alfin told him.
“You do not control me,” Danko said, his voice rising further. “You’re elected, I’m elected.”
“You also need to understand the organization of the city,” Alfin said as Danko tried to speak over him. “If you have a question about the assignment, you should address it to the city manager. I will not, I will not tolerate your going after staff.”
“I don’t even know why this person has a job,” Danko said, by then repeatedly out of order.
“That’s a discussion that you can have with the city manager. And I am not going to allow your continued attack on staff.”
“Who do you think you are?” Danko went on.
“I am the mayor of this city and I control this meeting,” Alfin said, turning to Pontieri for her questions.
Danko was better behaved at the very end of the segment, when he joined the consensus for charging 18 cents a kilowatt hour, and asked for a report back in a year.
Rogers will, in fact, report back in six months, assuming she is willing to risk subjecting herself to more boorish behavior.