By Brad West
I have been thinking a great deal on the late John Lewis’s call-to-action, especially when it comes to this local election season: “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”
In the 16 years I have lived here, I don’t recall an atmosphere and climate in this community as ugly and just downright mean as today. Elections are supposed to be about debating issues. Campaigning is competitive. I get it. But this year goes way beyond the pale. It’s been more about vicious accusations lobbed not only at candidates but also at a local company and the Palm Coast city manager.
We have candidates all throwing around allegations about how Palm Coast is “not business friendly” while waging a campaign of attacking Coastal Cloud, a local company that has provided over 70 high-paying jobs, is positioned to add even more, and adds a huge amount to the local economy. These candidates are attacking the company in an attempt to paint it as corrupt while reveling in followers who blindly cheer them on.
So is it the city that is “not business friendly” or is it our community right now, at least as reflected by that segment of business-bashing cheerleaders? Do you honestly think other businesses are not seeing that and holding off coming here? And all for what? Because that company offered to build, and did build, an expensive custom system to improve services and improve efficiencies (which always reduces costs) for free and use as an example to sell that to other communities? Yes, license fees are normal and they are pricey in that world. But just 3 employees answering phones paid, say, $30,000 each with benefits costs adds up to well over $100,000 and is less efficient and effective at delivering service to a city our size. The development costs for complex Customer Service Management and workflows is what is expensive. This company donated many hours, sacrificing many thousands of dollars in revenue. I find it highly improbable that any other community would have refused that deal and associated benefits. Yet it’s painted as corrupt? If I was them, I don’t know if I would want to keep my business here.
We call Mayor Milissa Holland corrupt and a criminal for a minor mistake? A simple Google search and/or visit to LinkedIn reveals both of her positions. Is that criminal too? Yet we disregard how public all of this was and the attention she placed on ensuring she was recused from all official business related to this development. We call it corrupt for City Manager Matt Morton and the mayor to go to a national conference and present the innovative efforts by our city? That positive exposure of our city as innovative to companies around the country helps attract business here.
Our new city manager of 16 months uprooted his life and moved thousands of miles, has dealt with turnover that is normal with change, has led staff and us through hurricanes and an unprecedented public health emergency, and turned down an annual pay increase even though his performance review warranted it. Then we have candidates who accuse him of corruption with no evidence while others applaud? One of those candidates being the one this same city manager showed kindness to by allowing him to resign and tell the story his way rather than being subjected to the embarrassment of being terminated because of his behavior as investigations show was extremely poor and unprofessional. Is that how we welcome and appreciate those going above and beyond serving our community?
And why do we do this? Apparently because former disgruntled employees who found their comfort zones disrupted and quit or were problems that needed to go away want to cause as much disruption and chaos as possible? The calls for Jim Landon to be replaced was loud and clear across this community, and this council and mayor got it done. It was obvious how deep the problems were afterwards with the fallout of staff feeling uncomfortable. Can anyone argue that City Hall was not service focused and there wasn’t an atmosphere that we served City Hall versus the other way around? Those problems weren’t just a city manager. They included the staff that the manager was shielding in the background.
So we should trust a former employee who apparently thought he was our local J. Edgar Hoover, building dossiers he could use against people while making sure to scrub any traces that led back to him? And we don’t question why that individual has stated he has documents and files? Why is a former employee in possession of what is most likely city documents and files which may or may not be public record and could include information on any one of us?
Why should we trust stories from a news outlet running a story of unsupported accusations by a candidate who two days later was confronted with the fact that he’d lied about investigations he had stated as fact? And the same day in a video broadcast admitted he lied about his so-called resignation being his decision, at least compared to the way he’d initially portrayed it. That’s not journalism. It’s tabloid level gossip writing.
Ethics complaint? That is the oldest political move in the book locally. Anyone can lodge an ethics complaint for any reason and use that submission to say: “There’s an ethics complaint and ‘investigation’.” The volume of those complaints always escalates at election time and take many months to be reviewed, assuming the complaints even get to the point of being investigated: many don’t, because the ethics commission deems them insufficient to pursue, or frivolous. Candidates and individuals do this to smear a candidate while preying on voters’ ignorance about the ethics process. It’s basically presuming guilt until proven innocent. We should applaud that? And at the same time we don’t find those individuals carrying out these seedy methods to be themselves corrupt and having questionable integrity?
Both current members and candidates for our council aren’t “politicians” in the strict sense of the term, they are our neighbors. They are members of our community. The council positions come with far less power than most think, and pay around $9,000 a year. The mayor’s position pays around $12,000 a year. Those positions can be demanding and subject those individuals to a lot of exposure, a lot of it negative. Yet they have stepped up to want to serve in what is oftentimes a thankless position. We should applaud them for stepping up.
But if you are running, shouldn’t you at least do it with some sense of decency for your community and your neighbors? Should candidates question each other’s decisions and actions? Absolutely. There are decisions they will be involved in that can, and will, affect our lives and future. But falsely accusing a competitor, or anyone, of corruption and being a criminal is vile. That type of McCarthyist behavior shouldn’t be applauded. It should be denounced. And it speaks volumes of the character and integrity of the ones flinging those accusations around. Imagine if that was you or your family member. No wonder more good candidates don’t step up.
So I am saying something. I am doing something. I am sure there will be ridicule. There will be accusations about made up stories of my motivations to write this. I do not claim to be perfect by any means, but I cannot stand by idle, watching this junk. Most importantly I hope voters stop and really ask themselves if this is who we are now as a community, if this is what we want to be as a community. And I hope some are motivated to stand up and speak out for our community against this ugliness.
Brad West, a Palm Coast resident, is a social media marketing professional.
Norma Friel says
I was dismayed to read this article about our Mayor and City Manager. The art of politics has become lies and slinging of mud. The opposing candidates should be campaigning on what their plans are for Palm Coast. Palm Coast is experiencing tremendous growth and it will require a great of work from our Mayor, City Council and City Manager.
Hmmm… Kinda like the left in the national elections. All they have is “Orange Man Bad”. Must defeat Trump. No direction, no solutions, just hypocrisy.
Matthew Hauck says
Thank you for offering another perspective on this! Coastal Cloud helped the city, there was no motive other than trying to do good work for a community they love and be recognized for it.
I applaude Brad West’s comments regarding the smears directed at Mayor Hollands exemplory service in behalf of our community. Our times are full of name calling, bullying, and general bad behavior toward lots of people originating from the president on down. This is WRONG. This is not who we are or should be. In this country we are and should be better than this. BUT IT IS UP TO EACH ONE OF US TO STOP IT. Thank you.
If one becomes a public figure, they also invite scrutiny from the public. There is nothing wrong to criticize someone’s performance if it is less then expected. Many people in Palm Coast are very unhappy with the current mayors performance. They should absolutely be able to voice their discontent. The candidates are the voice of the people.
Percy's mother says
Dear Wondering . . .
Voicing one’s discontent is one thing.
Slander and libel are two different things.
Alan Lowe. Danko. Mullins. Schottey. Dennis McDonald. These characters have been involved in blatant slander and libel.
Mullins has been posting extremely vile caricatures. Lowe and Schottey have been engaged in slander and libel. Dennis McDonald has been pulling the strings behind the scenes.
After the election fallout, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some major lawsuits filed against all the slime balls noted above.
“Candidates are the voice of the people”? I tend to disagree. A candidate is sharing ideas to attract voters. Like any pitch you would think the ideas align and resonate with a good majority of voters. A candidate using a campaign as a means to mainly carry out mudsling or a vehicle for revenge should be suspect in my opinion. I tend to wonder if they will actually carryout the duties fairly if elected or use the position to attack and inevitably do harm to the community. I never leave my voice up to another especially a candidate.
FPC granny says
I must say I have on occasion disagreed with FlaglerLive on some political view points. BUT this was outstanding reporting! I have already casted my mail in vote. I did vote for Mayor Holland! After she sinched the deal for MedNex it was a no brainer for me who was looking out for the Palm Coast community and who could bring our community forward!! YES!! That is Mayor Holland!! I am proud to say she got my vote!!
Qui Bono? says
If mednex is an accomplishment, what was accomplished? The school will not pay property taxes. Employees hired will be in the dozens, and these will likely not be locals. Students from this community and the surrounding will attend classes but will leave with their degrees for greener pastures. It’s an accomplishment, but of what value?
April Rust says
Dear Brad, thank you for sharing your perspective. I am encouraged that there are others in the community who see the impact Coastal Cloud has had on our community. I was born and raised in Ormond Beach and spent many weekends in Flagler County growing up (not to mention many nights at sports games against FPC – go crabs). I didn’t plan to return to the area because of lack of industry, but when I heard about Coastal Cloud, I applied for a position. Tim and Sara Hale, co-founders and managing partners, hired me even though I had zero experience in the technology industry. 2.5 years later I have just bought my first home in Ormond Beach, largely due to having a career in our industry and the opportunity I was given to be part of the Coastal Cloud team. I enjoy a fulfilling job with great coworkers and a salary 3x Flagler County median income. The life Coastal Cloud has given me to explore my interests, provide for myself, be close to my family in Ormond Beach and Palm Coast, and take time to give back to the community (I am a Rotarian and United Way volunteer) would be hard to come by at any other employer in this area. Thank you Coastal Cloud!
Michael Hunt says
The article brings up many valid points. Very well articulated.
Thank YOU! I am pleased to see that someone has finally stepped up and called out these lowdown unethical lowlifes who think they can slander people and lie about people and then get away with it. It’s been going on for years upon years stating back in the Obama administration. He and his administration had gotten away with the same behavior for many years so people across this country are now doing the same and getting away with it. Personally I think that those that are on the receiving end should start suing these people for millions similar to the high school boy from Kentucky who is now receiving millions from CNN with more to come. I hope he becomes a billionaire one day for all of the anguish and grief that he and his family have been put through.
Eva Mowry says
That is absolute nonsense. Unbelievable. Stick to the local story! The division we are fighting in this country has ALL exploded during the current administration.
E. Hoffa says
Why has Palm Coast leaders become an UGLY SWAMP? Will good people come forward? This election looks like a war between DemoKKKrat and RINOS!
Thank you Brad for sharing this perspective. It has been bothersome that at every level of government candidates now choose to tear down the opposing candidate in order to rise up. In this instance they are tearing down the City Manager, a Local Business, and the sitting Mayor. No community can thrive under leadership that cannot stand on their own merit, debate the real daily issues that our community faces, and is relying on the citizens buying into the inflammatory language without digging in any further prior to casting their vote or sharing an opinion on these matters. This is a challenging time for every single person in this community. The burden of responsibility for so many people during such a pivotal time has not been taken lightly and our community is responding and making it through this together. Let us not forget that we are all human and require maybe just a touch more grace, empathy, compassion, and collaboration-not negativity, fear mongering, and hate for one another. I encourage all to do their personal research, trust but verify, question how our community has made it through this vs. others as you talk with friends/family around the country. Just look at the real estate sales to know- people are flooding in and racing out of areas that they feel were not managed as well. These are all just people at the end of the day who are doing their very best to serve our community and help it thrive. The intent was to help the community have a technology platform for communication. Enter COVID-19…thank goodness we had a technology platform to help with communication. The cost if we had to build it in panic mode and those resources stretched too thin nationally would have been exorbitant. It is all about perspective and there is enough negativity. I do not want that in my candidate. I would never hire someone that tried to get a job that way so I will note vote for one either.
Thank you Laura, for a cogent comment. It is truly heartening to hear someone appreciate good government, instead of take it for granted. Palm Coast has a terrific technology platform thanks to a partnership between the city and Coastal Cloud.
CB from PC says
There are a couple basic issues with the Mayor Holland-Coastal Cloud relationship which still have not been publicly answered.
Mayor Holland has yet to state how much the “free” Palm Coast Connect software, developed by her employer, Coastal Cloud, is costing the taxpayers in User Administration/Maintenance fees.
It was stated Mayor Holland job duties with Coastal Cloud involved developing new business. It is customary practice in this sales and marketing role that there is a commission structure.
Mayor Holland has yet to state whether she received, or did not receive financial bonus compensation for her part in Coastal Cloud developing Palm Coast Connect
for the city of Palm Coast.
Answering these questions will either put everything to rest, or open up a whole new situation.
This has nothing to do with McCarthyism, as these are reasonable questions, especially given the fact that the Mayor’s non-city employer is doing business with the city.
Tim Hale says
These have been answered in the past, but ignored since it does not fit the false ‘corruption’ narrative. I am happy to answer again:
1) Palm Coast Connect costs – there are typically 2 components of these costs: (a) initial build/configuration/testing/user training which is often completed by a 3rd party ‘systems integrator’ such as Coastal Cloud. Coastal Cloud did that work PRO BONO ($0) for the City of Palm Coast under the approved “Innovation Partnership Agreement’ signed by Jim Landon in Sept 2018. Coastal agreed to do this for free to build a ‘case study’ in Palm Coast that could be marketed to other cities across the US. If successful, those other projects would enable Coastal to create more jobs in Palm Coast. It was a private/public partnership agreement focused on technology job creation in Palm Coast. Similar projects in other cities such as Cary, NC, Lexington, KY and Nashville, TN cost over $1M in systems integration fees. (b) software platform license fees / user licenses & admin – these are recurring costs for the software platform including all infrastructure (software, hardware, data storage, disaster recovery, security monitoring, performance monitoring, etc). Jim Landon negotiated this license with Salesforce.com (the software platform that Palm Coast Connect runs on) and it costs ~100k/year. Remember that Palm Coast Connect is NOT simply ‘the app’ that citizens see, it is that app but also an entire Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (that runs the Customer Service department & the phone system integration), the Workflow Mgmt system that routes all work orders to the various City departments and the Field Service system that is used to dispatch city field personnel fulfilling citizen requests.
2) Milissa Holland is NOT on any ‘commission’ structure at Coastal Cloud. She is a salaried employee with no commission program. Coastal Cloud does not pay any commissions to any employee. Milissa Holland received ZERO financial bonus compensation for anything to do with Palm Coast Connect.
I trust this will put ‘everything to rest’, CB? Thank you for question.
Tim Hale says
I believe these have been publicly answered several times, but they do not seem to get much coverage since it does not fit the false ‘corruption’ narrative. I am happy to answer them here:
1) Cost of the Palm Coast Connect software platform? – there are 2 cost elements to IT projects such as this:
(a) the labor services of a ‘systems integrator’ (such as Coastal) who builds a customized solution for a client. Their services typically involve requirements gathering, system design, system build & test, user training and production deployment. The cost of this element was provided by Coastal to the CoPC on a PRO BONO (free) basis. The reason Coastal agreed to this (since it seems absurd at the surface – ‘why would they work for free??’) was because the intent was to work with the CoPC to create a “case study” of using a modern technology platform to improve the way citizens can engage with their city. A new way that is far more transparent, accountable & measurable than the clunky, old, dinosaur software that city & county governments typically use. If that was successful, we would market that solution to other cities across the country, and if it sold elsewhere, we would great MORE JOBS in Palm Coast to serve those cities. (this is the exact model that Tyler Technologies uses to sell their software to cities..but all their jobs are created in Plano, TX…. not Palm Coast). Remember that Palm Coast Connect is not ‘just an app’ (although that is what is most visible to citizens) – it is an entire software platform that includes: a mobile ‘self service’ app for citizens, a call center (CRM) system that tracks all citizen requests and integrates with the phone system, a workflow management system that digitally routes all citizen requests the appropriate departments across the city and a field workforce/dispatch system that digitally assigns and routes service technicians in the field. It is a very robust system that has resulted in much more flexibility and efficiency within the city. It also has analytics built in to measure each type of citizen request & how long they take to be resolved. None of this level of capability used to exist with the old CoPC systems. Many cities & counties across the country are implementing such systems. For example, you can look at Cary, NC or Lexington, KY or Nashville, TN for comparisons. Each of them spent over $1M in systems integrator fees to get their systems up & running. But the ‘business case’ is worth it because of the improvements in service & efficiency. And in the Palm Coast Connect, Coastal did that work PRO BONO. You can verify this in the “Innovation Partnership Agreement” that Jim Landon initiated & signed with Coastal in Sept 2018.
(b) the software platform license fees (example platforms: Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, Workday) – all of these software platforms provide annual license subscriptions that provide a full set of technology infrastructure elements including: application software platform, operating system, database management system, computer servers, data storage, back-ups & disaster recovery, data security, performance monitoring, automatic upgrades several times per year. In the case of Palm Coast Connect, it is built on a platform called Salesforce.com. It is the #1 rated CRM platform in the world. The CoPC (Jim Landon) negotiated the Salesforce.com licenses and they cost ~$100k/year. Those license fees are paid to Salesforce, not Coastal Cloud. To be clear, Coastal receives zero compensation from Salesforce.
2) Did Milissa Holland receive financial bonus compensation for Palm Coast Connect? NO. You are correct, often people receive commissions for sales and marketing roles. However, Coastal Cloud does not pay any commissions to employees. Milissa Holland has never been paid a commission by Coastal…. never for anything to do with Palm Coast Connect (and since the work was done for FREE…there would be no $$ to pay a commission to anyone!!) and never for any other clients she works with.
Sorry for the long response, but I wanted to be thorough in my answer.
I hope this is responsive to your questions. If you have further ones, I am happy to answer them. My hope is this sort of factual, transparent dialog will put ‘everything to rest’ and we can move forward, together, as a community. Coastal was really hoping to create more technology jobs in this community and diversify our local economy.
CB from PC says
Palm Coast is NOT business friendly. There have been companies that tried to come here in the past and the city turned them down.
On the other hand, there are a lot of younger families here and not just senior citizens/retired people and wish the city would think of that. Some ideas of businesses they could call on are putt-putt golf, go-karts, little water park, laser tag, etc.
So “Richard”, all you got out of that very well written piece was that it’s Obama’s fault? Nothing like completely missing the point.
Katie Biancaniello says
Thank you! This election is a disgrace and those involved should be ashamed for their behavior.
Diana Lynn McLemore says
Thank you for this Brad. I agree 1,000 % with all you have written. The mud slinging is just unbelievable. Mayor Holland continues to have my vote.
Finally another point of view, but may be too late to make a difference. It way too easy to disparage the mayor and city council and way too difficult for them correct the record after the damage has been done. The mayor was tried and convicted in the press, and then offered the opportunity to prove her innocence. Sad the way our system works.
CB from PC says
There are many Conservative people who have lost jobs because of the McCarthyism weeding out occurring in Corporations, Media Platforms, Government Agencies and Education Systems.
Fact is, when these Conservatives do as John Lewis suggested, they are quickly booted out the door.
And I wonder what John Lewis would have said regarding the dual employment of the Mayor with the City and Coastal Cloud.
Kevin K says
Brad, could have not said it better myself. Thanks for actually taking the time to review the facts instead of blindly believing the false accusations.
James M. Mejuto says
I regret after weeks of searching the newspapers, there was no notice or article on the background and reason for the
slander against Mayor Holland by a dissatisfied employee. You all know who he is!
The mission of the press is to inform its readers and citizens regarding issues affecting us but its failure to do so is
I mailed my ballot too soon, thinking all was well and that descriptions of candidates were fulfilled . . . but I was wrong!
Velma McConnell says
As a newer resident of Palm Coast, I’m dismayed at the ugliness of the politics at this level. As a student of political science, I love the study of it, I love the science of it. But as much as I’ve had aspirations to follow in the steps of some great political leaders in our time and a drive to champion societal change that will truly make us a better society and country, I stepped back many years ago because of the vitriol I was seeing on the national stage and what was seeping into the state level in my home state. To see this at a local level is saddening and shows the true unraveling of our nation.
You’re attacking your own neighbors….for what?
Certainly, one side of the story…noted by the author.
How about other local small business’, IT, services that don’t have the opportunity to bid for business from the City due to ‘relationships’ within. All work should be quoted , giving everyone the right to serve Palm Coast.
All comments thus far are directed towards a local company, that should not be the case. The City has opened the ‘door’ for them to do business, they have gladly accommodated . Good for them.
The issue is prudent business practice and relationships within the City governing body. Sorry, for many reasons this is not right.
Guess the voters will decide soon.
Tim Hale says
JT – you may not be aware (since it did not get the news coverage that other ‘corruption’ narratives did), but the agreement between the CoPC and Coastal was for PRO BONO (free) IT services – Coastal, per the contract, performed their services for free – not a penny has been paid to Coastal Cloud by the City of Palm Coast.
I suppose they could have put out a bid to see what other IT companies wanted to sign up to work for free.
You can verify this by reading the “Innovation Partnership Agreement” that Jim Landon (Palm Coast city manager) initiated and signed with Coastal in Sept 2018.
Jim Landon also negotiated a separate, 3rd party (paid) contract with Salesforce.com, a San Francisco-based company for their software platform, but that was independent from Coastal. Coastal receives zero compensation for Salesforce platform licenses.
Tim Hale (Coastal Cloud)
I have already seen this act once before, the voters will decide on the definition of free.
You must think all people in this town are ‘dull’.
Trailer Bob says
Thank you for your reasonable comments on the Palm Coast political shit-show. I have been following the issue closely and found it disturbing that there seemed to be so much animosity towards elected officials and/or candidates running for office.
Perhaps some of the fuel for the fire has been the Covid situation…seems to be getting to people’s behaviors. That is somewhat understandable, but specific personal attacks in the media, have gone way past the point of competitive politics. It has become an embarrassment to Palm Coast and I do not think it is warranted from what I see in the city.
If our area is to be preserved, if the wonderful things this area provides for us is to continue, we need to quickly get rid of the cancerous spread of cruelty, hatred, and misinformation. People can only handle one virus at a time. End it.
JOHN HARRINGTON says
Iam out of state now sorry to hear all this .Us against them .Them against us. Nothing will get done this way. I had trouble following all the issues mybe because I have been out of the loop which at this point I think is good. I wish our local government could get back to serving the people. It’s simple serve others not yourself.
I agree Mr. West. Its the drama queen dream of PC at work involving every aspect pf Govt. and spreading to the residents. So I left
Paul Harrington says
Good form Brad, and thank you for reiterating a point we should all recognize, campaign is not about smearing and degrading the opposition. Maybe some of our neighbors will wake up and realize this is not the substance we want in our local, state and national leadership.
It’s time to load up the scumbags and send them packing so we can address the challenges that lie ahead.
Toby Tobin says
Great article, Brad. It mirrors my Op-Ed in last Sunday’s News-Journal related to Coastal Cloud. Because of the N-J screening criteria for Op-Eds, I kept politics out of my comments. You found the perfect platform to nail the politics as well as the abuse of Coastal Cloud. Thanks.
Just tossing it out here…. If the mayor didn’t use her position for her own personal gain, and then attempt to cover it up… Perhaps we’re not all relishing in some small town small time “social media specialist’s” opinion clearly encouraged and supported by the local online news outlet?
Smear the messenger(s), that’ll solve it. If you choose to not vote her out, then you have chosen to condone the behavior and don’t want to follow the laws of the land. Hell, just remove the emoluments clauses from all political positions – problem solved.
I’m sure Coastal Cloud’s media blitz is just “business as usual”, what with the myriad of radio and print advertising going on lately for a corporation that likely doesn’t have a single local business on the books [other than the “free” government non-contract].
Now y’all go bury your heads back in the sand and refocus your efforts on blaming Landon (or Obama) for all your woes.
Laura G. says
Excellent article that rings so true. Thanks for sharing. I think after reading it some folks are going to regret the way they voted. Mayor Holland’s interview with Flaglerlive showed she had more understanding of how government works than all the other candidates combined. I spent probably 60 hours reading and reading, searching candidates web sites and Facebook pages. I saw a great deal of disregard for social distancing and lots of maskless faces that show a lack of concern for the people living in this community. Leaders lead by setting an example. Worthy politicians make decisions through compromise to better serve as much of the community as possible. I turned in my ballot yesterday. I voted for Milissa. The only candidate for Mayor with proven experience. Talk is cheap.
Tim Hale, since your Company pays no “commissions” (you did not mention raises, promotions or other incentives) could you explain the difference between the transactions that were inacted with Erik Dunnigan in Kentucky and Milissa Holland in Palm Coast?
Very interesting findings