John Tipton is a candidate for Palm Coast City Council, District 4. The District 2 seat is also up. Steve Nobile resigned his District 4 seat in May, and incumbent Heidi Shipley decided not to run for re-election.
The District 4 race has drawn three candidates: Eddie Branquinho, Corinne Hermle and John Tipton IV. According to the city charter, that means they must compete in the Aug. 28 primary. If one of them gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then that candidate is the elected council member. If none of the three manages to cross the 50 percent threshold, then the top two vote-getters will go on to a run-off in the Nov. 6 general election.
When three seats were up two years ago, the council’s majority turned over, with two new council members and a new mayor elected. This year’s election will complete the council’s entire turn-over, as two new members are certain to be elected, though “new” may be a relative term in the District 2 race: the two candidates for the District 2 seat are Jack Howell and Jon Netts, who as former council member and mayor has served on the council more than any other official since the city’s birth in 1999. Netts was first elected in 2001 and served until 2016, when he was term-limited out of the mayor’s seat. Howell has once run for Flagler County sheriff before but has not won an election. All three other candidates for council are newcomers to politics.
Since the District 2 seat has drawn just two candidates, they will compete only in the Nov. 8 election.
This is a non-partisan, at-large 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 the District 4 seat, even though the district winner ostensibly represents that particular district.
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
- Amendment 1
- Public service tax
- How to spend $500,000
- Arts funding
- Council dynamics
- Council report card
- Jim Landon
- Manager search
Place and Date of Birth: Pittsburgh, Penn., Oct. 23, 1970.
Current job: Business Consultant.
Party Affiliation: Democrat.
Flagler County Commission
Greg Hansen (Rep., Dist. 2)
Dennis McDonald (Ind., Dist. 2)
Joe Mullins (Rep., Dist. 4)
Jane Gentile-Youd (Ind., Dist. 4)
Flagler School Board
Janet McDonald (Dist. 2)
John Fischer (Dist. 2)
The Candidates on ESE
Palm Coast City Council
Jon Netts (Dist. 2)
Jack Howell(Dist. 2)
Eddie Branquinho (Dist. 4)
John Tipton IV (Dist. 4)
Street Lights-Lighting on Belle Terre Blvd. (continued from recent additions along Belle Terre Pkwy.), Old Kings Rd. South of Palm Coast Pkwy. in particular (continued from recent additions along Lakeview Blvd.), along Seminole Woods Blvd. I also want to ensure that we have adequate lighting at all of our bus stops and intersections. My understanding is that the city currently pays an estimated $700,000 a year to provide some 2,700 plus street lights throughout the city. That cost will obviously increase as we continue to add more; so we will have to ensure that this remains a budget priority. This is a safety issue which I see as directly connected to our quality of life; and therefore should be of utmost importance.
Attracting one or more additional institutions of higher learning/campus to town. Whether it be a vocational technical institution, a traditional 4 year campus, a 2 year school, etc., I feel that this has multiple benefits to our community. 1.) This would offer students that graduate from our high schools the opportunity to remain here in the community once they’ve graduated instead of leaving to go to continue their education elsewhere. 2.) Having college students in town boosts the local economy as they continue to live, shop, work, recreate, etc locally. 3.) According to a study that I read from the Brookings Institution, some 68 percent of students that graduate from two-year colleges remain in the area where they attended, while that number is at 42 percent for those who attend four-year colleges. 4.) I also feel that this will help to attract larger employers offering higher wage career oriented jobs. This shows employers that we’re doing our part to provide them with an educated, diverse, trained, motivated, competitive labor pool from which to choose to build their business. I’ve been told that we’ve missed out on employers locating here because of our relatively small labor pool. I feel that by having an additional local institution of higher learning teaching, training, and preparing students for future career opportunities accomplishes the goal of not only potentially adding to that labor pool, but also the quality of it while fueling new opportunities.
I want to see more development of Town Center. I feel that every city has a heart and that’s what downtown represents. I also feel that given its location and zoning, it can be ideal for diverse housing including town houses, affordable multi-family, and mixed-use units as well as commercial properties. With transportation limitations for people that don’t drive themselves and no public transportation system for them to rely on, being able to afford to live downtown potentially within walking distance of work, dining, and entertainment, is an attractive proposition for such residents. I reviewed the initial plans laid out for Town Center and I’d like to see that revived. I’ve been told by sources that I consider to be reliable that the primary reason for Town Center not being developed is economic. Developers have shied away from building there since the Great Recession of 2007-08. With our national economy growing, my desire is to see Town Center prepared for the opportunities that economic growth provides in order for us to start to see more development there.
1.) Stormwater system (drainage/backed up swales)
2.) Relationship w/ Flagler County (fights over water, impact fees…partners don’t threaten to take partners to court while claiming to work together)
3.) Assuring citizens that they’re working to represent THEM and not some hidden agenda.
As far as how I intend to convince the council to change course; if elected, as a member of Council I don’t feel that it’s my (or any other member’s) place to convince them to do anything other than to do what they see is best from their vantage point on behalf of our constituents. The City Council is not elected as a group. While Council has to work as a body to represent the people of Palm coast, voters elect us individually in order to represent them in an independent manner as Florida law requires. That said, I intend to take what I feel to be a common sense approach to governing while maintaining a focus on what I feel is best for our city both now and into the future. I will also appeal to my fellow Council members to serve doing the same should I feel the need to do so and expect the same of them where I’m concerned. We won’t always agree and we shouldn’t. I expect lively debate, while showing respect for my fellow Council members and their approach to what they may feel is best for our city. I am a believer that disparate views result in lively debate which in turn can result in the best decisions being made on behalf of our residents, businesses, and visitors. We won’t always get it “right”, but democracy requires us to work until we do…at least in the eyes of those that we serve.
You don’t feel it’s your role to convince your fellow-council members to do anything than what they see fit from their vantage point. But the mark of a good member of any board member is not so much the lone wolf as the ability to win consensus from fellow board members: your ideas may be excellent, but what’s the use if you can’t convince your colleagues to go along? The past two years were an excellent example, with two board members perpetually in dissent and unable to win a majority, whatever their ideas’ merits (some of which are yours). Besides: isn’t your candidacy an attempt to convince voters to vote for you? So understanding the individuality of board members and the value of debate (which tends to be this council’s weaker point), how will you be building consensus?
I agree with you. The “lone wolf” approach is never a good one to take serving on any board. I’ve never conducted myself in that manner and won’t start now. I’ve always been the ultimate team player. As a salesperson and sales manager, I’ve had to focus on my own results while also being responsible for the results of my team based on the training, development, and leadership that I provided. Throughout my life, I’ve been asked to serve in leadership positions partly because of my ability to communicate my message and vision (as well as on behalf of others when requested to do so), take into account ideas of others that may be different than my own, while working together to accomplish a common goal based on a shared agenda. This is what City Council does and can serve as a recipe for consensus building. I intend to count on that experience and skill set while serving on the Council if elected.
I believe that if there’s anything to convince my fellow (were I to be elected) Council members to do is to look to build consensus as well. The trick as I see it is to balance taking positions that you believe in, debate so as to defend them as best as you can without disagreeing just for the sake of being disagreeable, while showing mutual respect for the individual views and positions that we as colleagues may have and our right to do what we feel is best from our individual perspective. I’ll admit that it can be a tricky balancing act. My intention is to foster an environment where we as a Council use the Parliamentary process to utilize respectful debate to push the best ideas forward and thus move the city forward in a way that’s consistent with our Comprehensive and Strategic planning. I intend to conduct myself in a way that will attempt to build consensus (especially when we disagree) trusting that we as Council members want what’s best for the City and will be willing to compromise in order to move the City forward.
I’ve observed the dynamics of the interactions of the latest council (excluding Councilman Lyon) as it relates to the voting patterns. I won’t speak to any of that other than to say that I respect the Democratic process. To me, respect for that process compels me to ensure that in order for me to take any position, that I’ve done my due diligence so that I’m confident that I’m doing the “right thing” on behalf of our constituents. When negotiating, you always want to do so from a level of superior knowledge and strength. If I want to convince anyone of anything I must first know what I’m talking about and be aware of any potential counter argument and be prepared to defend my positions by participating in healthy respectful debate (speaking AND listening). I feel that from this standpoint, I’m as likely to convince others to go along with my position as I reasonably can expect to get. That’s how the Parliamentary process upon which our Council is based is structured and my intention is to use that process and consensus building as I stated earlier to encourage my colleagues to give my ideas a fair hearing and I theirs.
Each City Council member represents the same city and I believe wants what they believe is best for it. Council will not always agree nor should it. At the end of the day City Council answers to the same boss…the voters. They also all use the democratic process (i.e. majority rules) as their guide in order to make decisions on behalf of our city. So I intend to espouse positions based both on what I believe best represents and reflects the needs and wishes of our citizens as well as from feedback that I get from said citizens as I serve them and their interests. If I feel that whatever position that I’m taking has the support of the majority of our citizens and will be beneficial to us as a city, then I’ll appeal to my colleagues to support it from that standpoint.
My view is that it’s the responsibility of elected officials to make every effort to assure its constituents that they’re making decisions based on what they voted them in office to do…represent them and their interests. The ultimate power lies with the voters and ultimately I expect them (voters) to resolve any inability of Council to simultaneously build consensus among ourselves, represent their interests (i.e. the community’s) while helping our city to grow, improve the quality of life, and live up to its fullest potential by voting such people out of office that either can’t and/or won’t and by voting in office those that can and will.
3. Voters this fall are likely to approve Amendment 1, an expansion of the homestead exemption to up to $75,000. All local governments except schools will see shortfalls. First, do you support the additional exemption? Please explain your answer. Second, how will you make up the lost revenue?
Yes. I support this. Florida’s homestead exemption was first implemented in 1934 as citizens grew increasingly concerned with losing their homes during the Great Depression due to non payment of their taxes. Home ownership has always been a hallmark of belonging to the middle class in our country. I grew up “middle class” in 1970’s and 80’s America. My father had a professional career and my mother was able to focus on being home for my brother and I (she did work at times but didn’t HAVE to). That scenario escapes far too many of us in today’s America. We live in a time where the rich are getting richer while the ranks of the poor (especially “working class” poor) are steadily increasing. Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not one that believes in punishing prosperity. I am one who believes in helping people that need a helping hand when the need arises and one is in a position to do so. I support the increase in the homestead exemption because I feel that this is one way to help middle class households. While this will benefit homeowners across the economic spectrum, I feel that the middle class and “working class poor” will benefit most.
As far as making up the shortfall; I’m on record as stating that I want to ensure that our current tax dollars are being utilized in as an efficient & optimal a manner as possible before asking for another dime from taxpayers. In addition to that I’m not comfortable with seeing government getting bigger (and in our case administrative employees earning more on average than those in the private sector) while our middle class is shrinking. Therefore, I plan to look for efficiencies in spending and operations (i.e. fiscal discipline) to fund this shortfall. I don’t expect this to be easy, but if economic conditions are requiring households to do more with less then I feel government should be tasked to do the same. My position is rooted in my belief that middle class homeowners and the working class poor need some relief.
No, this will not “benefit homeowners across the economic spectrum.” The way the exemption is structured actually favors homeowners at the higher end of the scale, and actually shifts the tax burden to those you would consider middle class. The additional $25,000 exemption, in other words, does not kick except for home values between $100,000 and $125,000. In essence, there’s a hole between values that are between $50,000 and $100,000: those homeowners will get no additional exemption. Is that fair? Do richer homeowners need an additional exemption more than poorer homeowners do at a time when the middle class is shrinking? Knowing that, do you still support Amendment 1? You see no need to make-up shortfalls other than by tightening the city budget. Controlling government budgets has been a favorite mantra since the days of Ronald Reagan, especially on the campaign trail, only for Reaganite rhetorician to then give us the same usual spending. Can you cite one example–just one–that would yield, say, $500,000 in savings in the city’s budget (keeping in mind that you told us above there needs to be more spending on street lights)?
While I don’t like the regressive nature of the tax exemption as it’s structured, I do support the financial relief that Amendment 1 will provide for those that will qualify. I would like to see such relief for property owners in that $50,000 to $100,000 range as you stated, but that’s not for the City to decide as I’m sure you know.
As it relates to finding $500,000 in budget cuts: I want to preface my reply by saying that two “laws” come to mind when I get asked this question. As a candidate for public office, Law 1.) One doesn’t know what one doesn’t know and Law 2.) The law of Unintended consequences.
So, with that as a backdrop, I’ll say that the first place that I’d look would be at the approximately $1.7 million that the City has budgeted for the White View Parkway project. While I agree that improvements are needed on this road, I don’t know that this project needs to be done this way at this time for the budgeted amount.
I understand that hypothetical answers like this are easier said than done and agree with your assessment as it relates to politicians campaigning on cutting spending only to increase it once in office. However, I fault unscrupulous politicians that will say anything to get elected and those that insist that candidates take positions when campaigning that they are likely to feel compelled to change once they’re governing primarily due to the reality of both “laws” that I previously mentioned once one has transitioned from candidate to office holder.
I want it on record that I acknowledge that it’s one thing to be a candidate running for public office (where one can pretty much promise anything) and another to actually being a public office holder where decisions actually “count”…actually impact people’s lives! My promise to our residents and administrative staff: I vow to always consider how my decisions could impact each of you and your families before I make them and to make decisions based on what I feel best represents our commonly shared goal…to improve the quality of life here in our City.
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?
In a general sense, before I can advocate/vote for something to be enacted it must 1.) make sense (i.e. needed/affordable and in our purview) according to plan, 2.) be transparent to taxpayers procedurally (nothing hidden), 3.) be clearly explainable to taxpayers. As it relates to levying taxes/fees in general and these two mentioned in your question in particular, I first want to ensure that we’re currently utilizing revenues in as efficient a manner as possible, that our budget is consistent with providing the services that taxpayers NEED as the priority, and that we are “living within our means” before we ask taxpayers for another dime. I feel that we should not levy any additional taxes/fees until or unless we can make an argument to our taxpayers that the above conditions are met, are required in order to improve the quality of life of our city and will be of benefit to us as a city both now and into the future.
Although diversification of the city’s revenue stream is a positive in my mind, as it potentially spreads the tax burden (potentially not relying as much on property tax revenue, which can rise and fall based on property value market conditions), I agree with the view that the public service tax and franchise fee mentioned in your question are relatively regressive when compared to property taxes. Taking that into account combined with the county’s average annual wage hovering around the low 30’s, I feel that this tax/fee would put an undue burden on taxpayers and would negate any positives gained through revenue diversification. I say no to this at this juncture.
5. Every time a developer proposes an apartment complex in Palm Coast, rebellion breaks out from neighboring residents. Yet the city has a need for affordable housing. How do you propose to diversify Palm Coast’s housing options? By what criteria would you approve or reject apartment complexes? Would you approve raising the density and height of multi-family, or apartment, structures in select areas of the city zoned for the purpose?
This is a hot button issue and I know that regardless of my stance it will likely cost me votes. But this position requires difficult decisions to be made…decisions that are going to result in someone not being in agreement with you. My approach to governing will be primarily based on my vision for the city as it relates to what I deem to be necessary in order to make that vision a reality. That said, I feel that housing diversity can be accomplished with vision, effective planning efficient execution transparent communication, diligence & consistency in keeping citizens informed at every step of the process.
The average rent in Palm Coast currently exceeds $1,000/month. When my family taught me how to manage my money they taught me that your rent/mortgage should be no more than 1/3 of your take home pay. Using that formula that would mean the average annual take home amount would need to be at $46,000 plus. Our average salary (before taxes) in Flagler County is at the lower $30’s. That tells me what I need to know: housing diversity is an absolute must if we are to survive as a city. I f the cost of housing continues to rise, people will be forced to relocate (if they can afford to move here in the first place). Rest assured they will tell anyone willing to listen that Palm Coast is not an affordable place to live, which will discourage others from moving here, thus stymying growth and development.
I propose to diversify housing in our city by appealing to those with a desire to live in an affordable, vibrant, dynamic community..one that as it grows and develops, does so in a way that is not haphazard & random, but is based on sound planning and execution. Housing diversity is obviously a major component of that.
My criteria for approval or denial of apartment complexes will generally be based on what I feel is best for the city and its future that I vow to protect. For me, this is a growth issue. With any growth comes pain and I imagine that this will be no different. The “pain” in this case will be in the form of the uncertainty that comes with change. However, I feel that this can be mitigated by following our comprehensive and strategic planning upon which our zoning is based and making sensible adjustments as we deem them to be necessary along the way. I will also base my criteria on the overall impact that an apartment complex will have on the neighborhood in which it will be placed and the community as a whole.
Since I view housing diversity as directly related to our financial future, which I in turn relate to our very existence as a city, my criteria will be based on whether I feel that an apartment complex will help to secure our financial future and is consistent with our planning and zoning.
As it relates to approving height and density requirements goes; I’d be very careful about this because it could lead to unintended consequences such as traffic congestion burdening our utility, and environmental concerns just to name a few. However, to the degree that approving such changes coincides with the growth and development of our city and is not likely to cause undue harm, I’d be willing to at least consider it and move forward, but again, I feel that we must be very careful and diligent because you can’t “put the genie back in the bottle”. But we have to diversify our housing if we are to survive as a city. That’s my take on it anyway.
Your answer reminds us of Bill Clinton’s famous “it depends what your definition of ‘is’ is,” though you gave us a good idea why in your opening statement. You seem to want to have it both ways. So we still don’t have a clear idea about where you stand on apartment complexes and height limits, since much of what you said is in line with what any council member would say: that apartment complexes may comply with zoning requirements is not the challenge. Do you have issues with apartment complexes? Do you believe, as their opponents often claim, that they bring down property values, that they’re hubs of crime and “undesirables” (a favorite code word for minorities)? And do you believe the comprehensive pl;an is too restrictive on height limits specifically in areas zoned for apartment complexes?
Ha ha!! Bill Clinton and the “is is thing,” huh? Okay…here we go!! Let me be clear: I see apartment complexes as but one part of much needed housing diversity as a whole. However, I feel that the marketplace should determine how much housing should actually cost. I’m not a fan of tax payer subsidized price controls nor am la fan of “if you build it they will come”. I view that as gambling with other people’s money. The term “affordable housing” has a negative connotation for many people; so it’s a non-starter for them. However, I look at it as a local economic indicator. That is to say that affordable housing simply means housing prices that reflect the local job market…that is wages available in a given area (in this case Palm Coast). According to the City’s comprehensive plan, some 60 percent of Palm Coast households qualify for needing affordable housing options available to them (affordability based on monthly expenses such as rent, mortgage, insurance, taxes, and utilities not exceeding 30 percent of a household’s gross annual income). So…the market is already here…at least on the demand side; but we are failing miserably on the supply side and I don’t see how this can be sustained if we don’t address it. So building it and hoping they will come is of no concern because the numbers tell us that the need is already here!!
As it relates to apartment complexes bringing down property values and breeding crime: One thing I’ll say is we already have apartment complexes in our city currently. I’m not aware of any disproportionate amount of crime being reported at these locations relative to the rest of the city. Also, I feel that nothing brings down property values and breeds residential crime like vacant houses. Given this scenario, affordable and
diversified housing options will actually lead to lower crime opportunities, which in turn has a potentially positive impact on property values.
As far as the city’s zoning requirements: In policy 126.96.36.199 of the City’s 2035 Comprehensive plan it states that the City shall provide “expedited plan review, and permitting, and density bonuses” to developers as a way to entice them to build multi-family units in appropriate areas. While it doesn’t mention “relaxed zoning” regulations specifically, I interpret this aspect of the plan as indicating that flexibility as it relates to regulatory enforcement as a priority in the spirit of development. I don’t believe anyone wants to be difficult just for the sake of being so. Everyone has a job to do and a role to play. I acknowledge and respect that. Also, elected officials and the administrative staff are uniquely tasked with balancing development of our city with various other concerns (protecting our environment/natural resources, property values as it relates to zoning, safety, and traffic just to name a few), so we must be careful and plan wisely. That said, my feeling is that everything is on the table (height restrictions too), but not in a way that does not take into account the overall impact that we could encounter as a City before we put a shovel in the dirt.
To summarize: I feel that housing diversity is something that contributes to making a city a city…ours included. Apartment complexes are but one aspect. We also must provide special needs housing options for our elderly and physically challenged residents as well. But as adamant as I am about the need for housing diversity I am equally adamant about proper planning, execution, transparent communication, and consistent follow up with concerned citizens. I do want it both ways. In fact, I insist!!
I believe that the primary purpose of government is designed to provide services on behalf of its constituents and to provide assistance to its most vulnerable. I’d propose to have this money placed into a fund designed to assist residents with paying for potable and wastewater services provided by our utility in order to provide them with some financial relief. Our water utility provides us with that much needed resource in a reliable fashion (i.e. water comes through the faucet when you turn it on and it doesn’t make you sick or worse when you drink it). However, our water service is unaffordable for many of our residents. We have seniors in our community on fixed income that are already financially stretched by having to decide whether to pay for their groceries, or prescription drugs or their water to drink them with. For many that work locally, due to a lack of more economic diversity and opportunity all too often they’re squeezed economically. As I consider current local economic conditions (e.g. recent uptick in locally unemployment rate, upcoming shuttering of Sea Ray Boats) I’m concerned about the affordability of our water and the impact that it will have on our community. Until or unless we provide more economic opportunity that will enable us to spread the cost of our water utility I believe it’s incumbent upon us as a City to provide assistance to residents that qualify for such due to no fault of their own. I would propose to provide such assistance until local economic conditions/opportunities improve based on standards that Council would set (some sort of means testing). I do not intend for this to be or to become an “entitlement” program. This would only be designed for temporary relief for qualified households until either it’s deemed to no longer be required due to improved economic conditions (i.e. enable for cost to be spread across more users, thus allowing for more affordable pricing) or until the money runs out; at which time Council would decide that this would still be funded or not through the same or other sources and/or resources. I understand that we have to provide our utility service at a certain price point in order to provide a quality product in a reliable professional manner, but I don’t believe that it should ever be cost prohibitive. I also believe that using this $500,000 to provide financial relief would benefit our most important resource…our residents.
7. At around $30,000 a year, the city’s support of the arts is extremely stingy. Some governments, Volusia County among them, dedicate a small, proportional fraction of tax revenue and public spaces to programs often referred to as Art in Public Places. Would you support such a dedicated tax?
Yes. I would support this tax as proposed. Based on my experience, one thing that attracts and keeps people connected to a city is a thriving Cultural Arts District. I’ve met with representatives of the Palm Coast Arts Foundation. They shared their vision with me and I’m excited to be an advocate for what they do and the value that I believe they offer.
Section 3 (3) of The Palm Coast City Charter clearly states that the general duties of Council shall be to SET policy and the general duties of the City Manager is to CARRY OUT policy. In a Council-Manager type of government, the Council controls policy and the Manager is responsible for executing it in accordance with the administration that s(he) oversees.
I intend to meet regularly with the City Manager to ensure a proper working relationship is developed between us to avoid any miscommunication, misunderstanding, or confusion as it relates to my expectations of him/her and theirs of me. I intend to work with my fellow Council members to always ensure that the dynamic between Council and the Manager is in accordance with our interpretation of the Charter and to immediately address what I/we deem to be any deviation thereof. I intend to use my authority granted to me by the voters of Palm Coast to hold the City Manager accountable for his/her actions and results in accordance with the City Charter when necessary. Lastly, I intend to stay in constant contact with the community and to make myself available to the administration to ensure that their expectations and needs are met (if not exceeded) and to act as a go between both on their behalf as well as that of the Manager and administration.
Your remarks about being “available to the administration” and being a “go-between” raises the sort of red flags that likely have Jim Landon apoplectic, not entirely without reason: are you suggesting that you’d somehow also be representing the administration and concerning yourself with its inner workings? Is that part of a council member’s mandate?
What I meant by “being available to the administration” and “go between”, was solely through the City Manager in accordance with the City Charter. The “their” in that sentence was intended to mean the community and the administration…again the meaning of which is solely through the City Manager. Let me be clear: I have no intention on interacting with any administrative staff beyond the scope of the Charter. One of the reasons why I started off my initial reply quoting the City Charter is because that document sets forth the duties of each party (Council, City Manager, City Attorney, and staff) and the limited interactions therewith and I intend to conduct myself in accordance with the Charter. In other words, the Charter will be my guide.
I hope that what I said wouldn’t make anyone apoplectic. I don’t want that. That’s not helpful. I have the utmost respect for everyone who has served and currently serves this City, on this Council, and in this administration for the jobs that they do every day and night on our behalf. Everyone has a job to do and a role to play. If elected, I intend to play mine as I interpret it…using the Charter as my primary guide. I want and will seek to have a professional working relationship with the City Manager…one based on mutual respect and understanding of how our roles are to play out as it relates to providing the services that our citizens require of us. I don’t think he’ll get apoplectic with me.
9. Mayor Milissa Holland, Council member Nick Klufas and to a lesser extent Council member Bob Cuff were elected on promises of change and novel visions two years ago. Evaluate their performance, their successes and shortcomings, and tell us if you think they’ve lived up to their promise. What will you bring to the council that they don’t?
From what I can gather, one of the things that all 3 ran on was maintaining Palm Coast’s quality of life, natural resources, and amenities and I feel that all 3 have remained consistent in that regard. They also ran on better relations with the County. Given the current state of affairs between the two bodies, I can’t say that this has been accomplished.
Nick Klufas made Fiber-Net and improving our cell signal strength major parts of his platform. When I look at the City’s website regarding Fiber Net, it says that the goal of making Fiber-Net available to business and commercial use is to create business opportunities for private sector providers, lower the cost of telecom and broadband for local businesses, and to help attract new businesses and job opportunities to the City. While Fiber-Net has been around since before Nick was elected, I haven’t yet seen or heard of this being accomplished in our City. Cell signal coverage remains a challenge in Palm Coast. Although this is being addressed by new cell towers being erected, there still remain “dead zones” in our city that negatively impact us on many fronts. One glaring example that has an impact on our local economy is the complete lack of coverage at the Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn hotels off of SR 100. I used to travel quite a bit for my former employer. If I stayed at either of these hotels while traveling on business and couldn’t get a cell signal, I wouldn’t return because one of the purposes for me traveling for business is to be able to communicate online. The hotel becomes my temporary office location. What kind of self respecting office doesn’t have a cellular signal nowadays? Likewise, if I’m traveling for pleasure, and I can’t get a signal then I’m not likely to return to that hotel. I’d tell anyone that I know not to go there for this reason alone. This is exactly what is happening. These hotels get guests only because of their convenient location. But they often don’t get repeat business due to the lack of a cell signal. People (ownership, staff, and visitors) all complain about our area’s lack of cell signal strength. This affects their ability to order ride share services when they want to go out to eat or shop in our area or to just get to know it while they’re visiting. In other words, this one inconvenience colors their entire experience while visiting our area. I’ve already had 2 business owners tell me that they wouldn’t relocate here because of the lack of a cell signal while staying at one of these hotels. They wouldn’t send their employees here to work due to concern about lack of ability to communicate effectively with them while here. These hotels have been forced to buy signal boosters in order to try to compensate for this lack of cellular infrastructure. Consumers end up paying for this increase in cost. This leaves an unsatisfied customer/visitor that has paid for services that they can’t enjoy. This is untenable and this is just one example of how this issue impacts our area. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t blame Nick, but elected officials have to take ownership for results.
Mayor Holland also ran on her experience as a lobbyist to bring state dollars to the City and her experience as a County Commissioner to lead on the improvement of relations with the County. I’m honestly not certain if she’s accomplished getting those state dollars and if so, for what purpose, but this could just be an oversight on my part. I do know that relations with the County have not improved under her administration. Like Nick, I’m not blaming her as an individual, but she has to take ownership as any elected official for her role on this issue and the results.
With a background in sales and marketing, I negotiate for a living. As a business consultant, I’m in the business of helping others to help themselves by doing business with me…helping them to see why doing so is of mutual benefit. I’ll bring these experiences and expertise with me while serving on the Council. While I bring certain skills to the table that my individual experience has afforded me, by no means do I mean to suggest that the current Council is incompetent and I’m going to sweep in here and save the day. I am saying that I intend to use what I have to help put my hand in the pile and to do my part to bring a sense of urgency regarding bringing resolution to such matters of importance discussed above.
In conclusion: I’ve met with Councilman Cuff. I don’t believe that there’s anyone in this city with more integrity and smarts than Mr. Cuff. I trust his judgement implicitly. I’ve also met with Jim Landon. During our meeting, Mr. Landon came across as professional and congenial.
I’ve had a few brief run ins and light conversations with Nick Klufas as our paths have crossed as I’ve been campaigning. Nick comes across as a very intelligent dedicated individual and I look forward to working with him should I be elected.
Mayor Holland..don’t know her. I’ve met her formally once and I’ve requested a meeting with her, but haven’t yet been granted one. I’m still open to having that meeting if she is.
Your detailed and thoughtful analysis of the three board members is absorbing and appreciated. Your remarks about Holland are concerning, however, because they raise a question about your version of events about that meeting you claim she has not granted you. Back in May, we acquired a string of officials emails. We did not make much of them because these occasional disagreements work themselves out without the press immediately meddling. But in this case you are explicitly claiming that Holland has not granted you a meeting, when the emails indicate that it was your decision not to meet with her. The string of emails indicates that on May 7 Holland had agreed to a meeting with you for coffee at Panera. You had agreed. The next day, you wrote her: “In light of the decision made at today’s council meeting, I no longer see any need to meet with you. I’m canceling.” (The council that day had decided the method of replacing council member Steve Nobile, who had resigned, and you specifically explained that it was about “the appointment process.”) Perhaps you had expected to be appointed? In that case, was your meeting with Holland an attempt to lobby for her vote for an early appointment? “I had assumed that you wanted to speak to me about your candidacy which I was more than willing to do,” she wrote you, again opening the door for a meeting. The manner of your exchange with Holland is as concerning as the fact that you now claim she had not granted you a meeting. Can you shed light on both?
I figured this might come up. First let me say that I’m not “taking a shot” at our Mayor. I don’t conduct myself that way. If I have something confrontational to say to or about someone I prefer to say it to their face or just not say it at all. I just want to make that clear. My reply (to put some context to it) was intended to address your question regarding my observation of Klufas, Cuff and Mayor Holland. Again, based on your reply, I felt the need to get that out there. I want to thank the Mayor for initially agreeing to meet with me to discuss my campaign as she did. She didn’t have to do that. I want to make it clear that I never meant to imply that the Mayor never agreed to meet with me because she did as the email exchange that you referenced indicates. While I don’t believe in excuses, I do believe that an explanation can oftentimes give needed perspective. When I abruptly canceled our initially scheduled meeting it was (as you picked up on) in conjunction with the announcement of the decision of the Council to appoint someone to fill the remainder of Councilman Nobile’s term. Again, I’m not attempting to look for an excuse. However, when I was informed about the Council’s decision to appoint someone to the seat, I was immediately advised to apply. It wasn’t until I placed a call later that day that I was informed that candidates couldn’t apply to be appointees…in essence the only way that I could apply, if I was going to do so, would be to end my campaign. I never wanted nor expected to be appointed. I’ve always wanted to be elected, but I was conflicted and wasn’t sure how I was going to proceed.
My reasoning for canceling our meeting at that time was threefold: First…because their (Council’s) decision to appoint someone to fill the remainder of Councilman Nobile’s term caused me to contemplate what my next move was going to be, I was contemplating shutting down the campaign–which was why we were supposed to be meeting in the first place. If there wasn’t (possibly) going to any longer be a campaign, then there would be no reason for us to meet and I didn’t want to waste her time nor mine. Because of my indecision at the time, I didn’t want my contemplation put out for public consumption. I needed to keep this to myself while I thought things through. I wasn’t prepared to discuss anything at that point. The second reason for me canceling the meeting when I did was actually for the complete opposite reason (in my mind anyway) that you referenced or asked regarding if I wanted to “lobby” the Mayor for her vote to be appointed. The answer is absolutely not!! In fact, I canceled the meeting when I did partly because I didn’t want to give her or anyone else that impression. Lastly, many of our residents feel that “shady deals” are made by politicians in general and local politicians in particular and if I was going to be considered for an appointment, the last thing that I wanted for myself or the Mayor was for us to be seen in public leading up to an appointment, again, if I were to apply; thus potentially giving off the impression that “the fix was in.” She nor I needed that; so I pulled out.
As I conclude, please allow me to repeat that I am not taking any shot at the Mayor. I’m only referencing emails because these have now been made public; which I understand. We were using her government-issued email account, which makes it public record and I have no problem with that. Otherwise, I would have recommended a different medium. However, what I was referencing in my initial reply to you was that I’ve since reached out to the Mayor twice (once on May 23rd and again on July 14th) using the same email address again requesting a meeting with her. I haven’t heard back yet; so I’ve moved on. Perhaps she’s decided to do so as well. I’m not a person that holds grudges and don’t want any held against me. So, as I stated previously, I am still open to a meeting. I hope that addressed the question’s concerns. My concern is that she and I may have gotten off on the wrong foot and I wish to make it right if that’s the case. As I stated, I’m still available when/if she is.
[Editor’s Note: a public record is not defined as such by the medium through which it has been produced: whether a public official is using a government-issued email account or a private one, any communication involving public business is a public record, even if exchanged through private email accounts, in texts through a private phone account, and so on.]
I’d best describe my feelings about Jim Landon’s performance as torn. Jim Landon is extremely qualified to manage a city. He has been involved in city administration since he was very young. Jim has worked for different types of cities each with different demands and he’s been successful. That said, I believe that Jim’s vast experience, confidence, and way that he has conducted business here has resulted in many residents feeling like he and he alone is ruling the city…not managing the administrative employees responsible for operating it. One thing that the residents have told me that they don’t like in an administrator is someone that they feel comes across as manipulative and as a bully. I’ve met with Jim Landon and I can’t say that I came out of that meeting feeling that way about him. However, to the degree that “perception is 99% reality”, Jim has become a lightning rod in our city and I believe that as long as he’s in office as City Manager he won’t be seen as anything other than a manipulative bully wanting to enact his own agenda and any Council governing over him as his personal rubber stamp.
As far as his strengths and weaknesses: I’ve already mentioned his strengths: experience, expertise, articulate, smart, hard working. I don’t like the word “weaknesses”. I prefer areas for improvement: lack of consistent transparent communication with Council, lack of taking into account public view of interaction between he and Council, poor results for commercial development, lack of fostering an environment for economic diversity. Like the Council, I’m not saying Mr. Landon is solely responsible. However, I am holding him accountable for results and I expect anyone in leadership in general and Palm Coast’s leadership in particular (myself included should I be elected) to be held to the same standard.
11. The council is looking for a new manager. Evaluate the manner of the manager’s search to date, now that it is more than a year in the making, including your assessment of the current manager’s involvement in the search. Would you have been willing to pay the current manager’s severance to speed up the process? What will you look for in a new manager?
I’m none too pleased that the Council has decided to spend taxpayer dollars and over a year only to have not one potential candidate named.
I’m confused as to why they’re supposedly looking for a new City Manager and there’s no clear exit plan for the current one. If you find a great candidate, when do you tell them their start date will be?
As far as the current manager’s involvement in the search is concerned: I don’t feel that he should’ve been involved at all. I don’t know of any other circumstance (other than a dictator) in government where someone is involved with who replaces them and when. That’s up to the people…in this case, the Council and Jim Landon is not an elected official. He works FOR elected officials.
From what I can tell, Jim Landon is highly competent, but has become too much of a distraction for the Council to be looked at by its constituents as working on their behalf and not his. And I feel that this is something that he could take more care to address, but he hasn’t from my vantage point. I don’t prefer to answer hypothetical questions, however, due to what I’ve stated above, I would have been willing to pay the severance in order to speed up the process. This would have alleviated the waste of time, money, confusion, and overreach on the part of Mr. Landon…worth the money in my estimation.
What I’m looking for in a City Manager: someone who has at least 5 years experience as a city manager, someone that will respect the role of the council, confidant not arrogant, organizational skills, someone who is a coalition builder that will build consensus, able to interact with County in a productive manner, be a good negotiator, understand our local and state political landscape, knows how to skillfully delegate authority, ICMA member, an innovative thinker
12. 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 strengths of the contract lie in the fact that we as a city get access to the various departments and expertise that the Sheriff’s office provides. I also see as a strength that since we don’t “own it” we don’t have to pay for it when it gets broken. I also appreciate the fact the Sheriff does make sure that officers maintain a presence in Palm Coast although I do feel that that could improve somewhat.
Areas of concern/weaknesses: Palm Coast has budgeted $3.5 million to fund our police service. While I appreciate the services provided, I want to know specifically where this money is to be directed, whether we have any say over where it is directed/spent, and if we as a city have any ability to redirect money for police protection during a budget year based on our observation/experience that may be unique to us.
I don’t know of any area(s) of the city that are less effectively policed than others. I can tell you that I had a neighbor mention that he doesn’t see much patrolling during the day over in LL section where we live. I can’t say whether he’s right or wrong, but I’m following up with the Sheriff’s department regarding citywide patrols.
I’m not for or against an independent police department for the city. Although I don’t feel that we are ready for this now, I am open to the prospect for the future. I feel that elected officials should always be open to ways to improve upon the services provided on behalf of their constituents.
2018 Election Candidates, Flagler County
|County Commission District 2||Greg Hansen, Incumbent (Rep)||Abby Romaine (Rep)||Dennis McDonald (NPA)|
|County Commission District 4||Nate McLaughlin, Incumbent (Rep)||Joe Mullins (Rep)||Jane Gentile-Youd (NPA)|
|School Board District 1||Andy Dance, Incumbent||Unopposed|
|School Board District 2||Janet McDonald, Incumbent||John Fischer||Carl Jones|
|School Board District 4||Trevor Tucker, Incumbent||Paul Anderson|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 2||Jack Howell||Jon Netts|
|Palm Coast City Council Seat 4||Jose Eduardo Branquinho||Corinne Marie Hermle||John Tipton|
|Florida House District 24||Paul Renner, Incumbent (Rep)||Adam Morley (Dem)|
|Congressional District 6, Democratic Primary||Stephen Sevigny||Nancy Soderberg||John Upchurch|
|Congressional District 6, GOP Primary||Fred Costello||Michael Waltz||John Ward|