Like Elizabethan England’s cultural and sprightly rebirth after the dour despotism of Henry VIII and his diminutive Edward, there’s been a spring in the step of the Palm Coast City Council since it fired City Manager Jim Landon last fall. Mayor Milissa Holland, who lined up the firing squad, reflected that renewed energy and–yes, joy–in the State of the City address she was to deliver this afternoon at the Palm Coast Community Center, in the presence of a man who actually uses the word “joy” in the context of city business and government minutiae quite frequently: Landon successor Matt Morton.
Holland was certain to introduce Morton to the crowd. Less surprisingly, she does not mention Landon’s firing, either, the state of the city being in a more exulting mood. But the subtext is clear enough, if not overtly so with Morton’s presence: it’s not just a new day in Palm Coast. The 21st century appears, finally, to have begun. (See the full text of the State of the City here.)
“Close your eyes and visualize,” Holland says in her State of the City: “sleek offices abuzz with software engineers and small-batch manufacturing entrepreneurs overlooking the lake at Central Park; young professionals and retired neighbors sharing coffee in the sun on the patio next door; medical researchers testing advancements in knee replacement surgery, just a mile down the road; and high school students participating in a hack-a-thon in partnership with a top university. This hack-a-thon will bring together programmers, technologists, and others to our downtown to collaborate and develop a technology solution to solve a problem in an intense and exciting event.”
Unlike last year, when the State of the City was cast in the context of a money-making lunch catered by the Palm Coast Observer, with the non-eating plebes allowed in back of the room as if in bleachers. The manner of the event raised a few questions and eyebrows. “Last year we learned a lot,” Palm Coast Observer Publisher John Walsh said this morning on WNZF, “there was the community input, dialogue throughout, and what we realized was, yes, the message from the city of Palm Coast on its State of the City address is open to the public.” It was open then. But this time there’s no lunch, though $35 tickets and sponsorships were still sold for an invitation-only event after the address and choice seating during the address.
After acknowledging the “partnership” with the Observer, Holland starts the address by visualizing herself visualizing the pictures around her office, the view outside (still rather barren now, but so full of possibilities, some of them breaking ground as she spoke), then takes her audience on a tour of recent achievements, toggling between accomplishments and what’s to come while focusing on a recurring theme: connections.
Some of those connections are physical: the 130 miles of pathways and bicycle lanes, shared experiences made concrete through such places as the renovated Holland Park, among the city’s dozen parks, and the Community Center on Palm Coast Parkway (“In the past year we offered more than 1,300 activities and had 822 reservations for weddings, birthday parties and family reunions”). Some are more conceptual.
Holland highlights several items from the city’s annual progress report, a copy of which was to be provided to those who attend, including the opening of the city’s second sewer plant and expansion of reclaimed, or recycled, water capacity, and the just-completed installation of 42 streetlights on Lakeview Parkway at the north end of the city, where 16-year-old Matanzas High School student Michelle Taylor was killed and a friend severely injured as they walked along the then-sidewalkless and dark road two years ago. The string of lights is part of a newly adopted master plan to add more lights to city streets. The state Department of Transportation also approved funding for the first phase of Old Kings Road North’s widening, from Palm Coast Parkway to Matanzas High, a project that will begin next year.
Holland also touches on stormwater projects and public safety. “82 percent of our residents surveyed said they feel safe in their neighborhoods and rate our law enforcement services as excellent or good,” Holland says. “I have worked closely with Sheriff Staly over the past two years and have been incredibly impressed by his commitment to our citizens and to his efforts to decrease crime and to improve safety.”
Holland then turns to some of her favorite themes: the city’s new direction as a “smart city,” with Town Center as innovation’s epicenter and the city’s FiberNet, the broadband network, as the connector fanning out across the city to high-tech businesses and local governments. “But it has the potential for so much more – especially as we recruit high-tech businesses to Palm Coast that need this kind of technology. Eventually we hope to bring FiberNet to residences as we all become more wired and need more and more high-speed connections.”
Connections not just with broadband, but with improved cell service in the city (three new towers going up this year, after a nine-year hiatus), with a new citizen portal built by Holland’s own employer, Coastal Cloud, and donated to the city (there was to be a live demonstration), more automation within city offices, more innovation in Town Center. “Innovation Districts are a fusion of business incubators, hospitals, schools and universities and high-tech companies,” she says. “These creative firms and workers crave proximity so that ideas and knowledge can be transferred quickly and seamlessly. They are highly wired and share space supported by coffee shops and restaurants, public parks, clean industry, nearby housing and retail shops. Innovation Districts have the unique potential to spur productive and inclusive economic development. They provide a strong foundation for the creation and expansion of firms and jobs by helping companies, entrepreneurs and investors co-invent and co-produce new discoveries for the market.”
All of which led the city to be named a finalist in the 2019 North American Smart Cities Readiness Challenge, “competing against other forward thinking communities, such as Dallas, Baltimore, and San Diego, to help Palm Coast turn our smart city vision into reality.”
At the top and bottom of her address Holland devotes several lines to thanking partners and “stakeholders,” from businesses to private investors to schools to the arts community to political leadership in Tallahassee. Notably, county government is not included among the recipients of plaudits, or even mentioned beyond the acknowledgment of sitting officials at the top of the speech: perhaps in the sequel. “Please stay tuned, as I am sure many exciting developments are to come in 2019 and beyond,” Holland says at the end of her 3,900-word address, finishing with Mortonesque flourish: “We are One Palm Coast.”
William Moya says
I’m all for ideas and dreams. However I live in the “C” section (by the way with more poetic names for our neighborhoods other than the alphabet) I only get one bar in my cell and ipad, we live surrounded by swells, we maneuver through two way street while competing with a multitude of users, dogs, students, cyclists, joggers, and those adventurous, daring couples who love to go for walks. Other than that life is great.
Make Palm Coast a true “smart” city and synchronize our traffic lights. Currently, our traffic lights have us stopping at every intersection. One turns green and the next one immediately turns red.
WILLIAM J NELSON says
So: Yet another photo op. Just WHAT has been accomplished for WE, the citizens???? Some very “dumb”
ideas (Whiteview single laneing, ) pumping more money into the PALM HARBOR ” Golf Course(bye the way, a self funded project) according to the original documents!!! Is there ANY official who is looking out after
ME, THE CITIZEN/ TAXPAYER ???????????????
John Brady says
Our Mayor did not mention that the City is in debt to the tune of close to 200 million dollars and keeps on spending on wants instead of needs. Recently as reported here, 3 members of City Council voted for an expenditure of 5.6 million dollars to improve 2 city parks while they have recognized that working conditions are dangerous at the public works facility.
The City is also going ahead with what will be there own Sheriff’s Operation Center mess which is the restricting a current two lanes of Whiteview to one lane at a cost of 1.8 million dollars. Five years from now when it is realized that the roadway needs to be two lanes and the citizens have to pay for the revisions, we should remember why. I would suggest remembering why in November 2020.
@ Frank – You are 100% correct. I thought I was the only one that thought the traffic lights in Palm Coast were off! You can go to any other city and their traffic lights are NOT like Palm Coast. Who was the brain child traffic engineer who synchronize the the traffic lights? DOT?
Yes John you are so right all these millions wasted in the wrong projects. The one destroying beautiful White View Parkway (based on never sent emails request by residents and probably just to benefit an approved development) from 4 to 2 lanes in a growing city. Outsourcing jobs by hiring a city manager from the northwest as far as she could go, a man that only managed for 3 years an only 8,000 residents small city versus Palm Coast with 80,000 . A manager with two bankruptcies in his young life. Now we are forced to pay also for his pricey moving expenses. Yes with have in this council these young people that do things “My Way”, or the highway obviously, but they just don’t say it.
Even in the last council meeting residents speaking complained about the council vote 3 to 2 does not resolve their priority issues and instead waste millions in what is not safety, blight, healthy environment and help to resolve homelessness that affect us all.The mayor was confronted with not responding to letters sent to her by residents. That takes a lot of honest courage from disappointed residents in person to address a Mayor that is wasting our hard earned taxes in consultants to create a better “Citizen Engagement Platform” and when the community attend council meetings whether their 3 minutes pleas or letters are ignored or their expression of frustration or joy receive the Mayor’s gable. This is why after an approval voted opposing what a large group of residents wanted was received with a massive walk out. The litany of Broadband, IT and other issues jargon will increase with Manager Morton now. “”Keep them ignorant and conquer them”. Yes “We Are One (Disappointed) Palm Coast”.
The supposed revenue they keep touting from the fiber optic network is composed primarily of reimbursements from the feds schools and libraries e-rate program. Money that would come to the district anyway, with or without the city owned fiber. They’re claiming profits from your taxpayer money!
Only another year and a half before we vote again and end the silly, stupid nonsense that has been constantly recurring in Palm Coast City Hall for the past two years!
FiberNEt, FiberNet, FiberNet…….. I still have not seen the exact plan other than what was online that Magellan is trying to sell the city. I received some budget information but its all mixed with the rest of the city IT cost so no one would know what cost are towards the FiberNet project.
Why do they have to be so sneaky about things in this city. I say we change the rule that residents vote on any spend over one million dollars. Let the city put together their capital spend and anything over 1 million, gets voted on by all. We vote every year anyway. Put it on the ballot. City counsel can’t handle it on their own.
Remember when we voted on NO new city hall. They just changed the price to what they needed to even though in the end it was over.
Post the financial plan for FiberNet. The budgeted spend over this year and going forward. Post the revenue budget for this year and following years. This way we can hold someone to it.
Now they want to add staff, at higher wage level, to spearhead a project that has no financial plan to it.
The Fibernet “plan”, and that word doesn’t really apply with this report, is located here: http://docs.palmcoastgov.com/fibernet/broadband-business-plan.pdf
The Fibernet is/was a super smart idea for the city and government services, which includes the schools. What chaps my hide is how the politicians keep pushing this narrative of how its supposed to help local businesses. The local government is attempting to tell private enterprise how great it is, and attempting to convince them they should be paying twice as much as the other local providers such as ATT and Spectrum, who perform better than any government.
The advertised “revenue” from the Fibernet isn’t revenue at all, but rather redirected state and federal reimbursements, along with savings versus using other carriers directly. Actual, real revenue from businesses on the Fibernet is less than $2,000 a month, and even that is not getting collected in its entirety.
This “plan”, coordinated and written by an out of state consultency, is nothing more than a sales pitch to be the management group of the Fibernet as a whole. The owner of the consultency group is the former city IT Director. Take that for what it is.
Stretchem, I have been a resident for almost 20 years. Was here when the past IT director pushed this through back when. That goal was never met then. Luckily the city was able to convince the schools and other city infrastructure on it.
The new plan is done, again, by the same person who did the original. This time with his hands out for big money for his company. The vision is just that, a vision. Its the old, build it and they will come. I don’t understand why the city is getting into this space. I don’t see why Klufus continues to push the city into this space with out finite revenue models and specific goals from start to finish. The model in the Magellan plan doesn’t prove out the cost end to end. Pricing to consumers/business doesn’t justify the city spend
My business today has multiple fiber feeds from multiple carriers. Services connecting me to multiple central offices and or access points (cable prov). I have access to any services these major carriers offer today and all at excellent rates. Plus these are multi-billion dollar companies that that have the infrastructure in place, or will build out to your location. Plus their thousands of employees that support it.
The city is ready to spend our money on an issues that doesn’t exist. They need to spend that money to resolve the problems that do exist. Lets not dig deeper into a financial hole with this nonsense. Holland and Klufus will be soon gone and then we are stuck with this problem.
I wish Flagler Live would take a deep dive into this issue and provide their view of this.
I agree with the issue on traffic lights. We have massive moveable parking lots. It should be advertised that Palm Coast has a lot of free parking. Make sure your gas tank is full because you will use up a lot while you’re parked.
Heading North says
Open comment to the citizens of Palm Coast:
Having lived for many years in Palm Coast before, I can only say one thing.
Beware of the smoke being blow up your skirts people!!!!
In the last Tuesday council workshop meeting of 4/9, Flukas insisted in getting his paws into almost half million of our capital projects to hire two IT engineers now and move the city utility data center from utility drive to the city hall that will cost unpredictable millions and interruption of services. Councilmen Branquinho and Cuff opposed this use of our capital projects to increase city personnel payroll x 2 as is not included in our current budget. I know that Flukas and Holland tried to rush this plan approval now in the absence of Councilman Howell that would have oppose it as well maxing the 3 to 2, No vote.
I would like to know what the city utility original and current boss Richard Adams thinks about this negligent move.