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The Knights of Columbus was decked out with goblins and ghouls as Halloween nears, but there was no trick-or-treating there on Wednesday night, when six candidates for local races took part in the first of two Flagler Votes forums.
More than 200 attendees — many of which said they already knew for whom they were voting — listened to candidates in the Supervisor of Elections, County Commission and Flagler Sheriff races answer a series of questions.
In the race for Supervisor of Elections, incumbent Kimberle Weeks and challenger Trey Corbett addressed the flurry of write-in candidates that will appear on next month’s ballot.
County Commission District 2 candidates Frank Meeker and Abby Romaine tackled questions based on the relationship between the county and the city. Meanwhile, in the District 5 race, incumbent George Hanns and challenger Herb Whitaker answered questions about economic development and unlicensed contractors.
Flagler County Sheriff Donald Fleming and challenger Jim Manfre were asked questions about red light cameras and the Sheriff’s Office contract with the city of Palm Coast.
Here are soundbites from the candidate forum:
“I do not believe it’s a fair practice. I think it’s a manipulation of the voting system, and it’s also something that’s being looked at this Legislative session to see if that can possibly be changed. No party should ever be discounted out of an election; everyone should have a voice.” — Supervisor of Elections incumbent Kimberle Weeks, on whether write-in candidates closing primaries is a legitimate and fair practice.
“The quick answer to that is, it’s state law; there’s nothing illegal that was done, and I don’t think it’s a problem for a primary to be closed for a particular party. Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. ... That’s what the primaries are for. You wouldn’t want people if you owned a football team to pick the players on the other side of the team. So I actually think that makes it fair. Now that being said, as supervisor of elections, you don’t legislate, you follow state statutes, and that is the law — although it’s a loophole.” — Supervisor of Elections candidate Trey Corbett, on whether write-in candidates closing primaries is a legitimate and fair practice.
“The perception that the city and the county don’t get along is something that you read about and hear about in the news outlets. Now, there is a stack of interlocal agreements ... where they do get along and know how to work out different plans that they can both collaborate on. As far as those issues that cause problems ... the way to do that is what I like to do in my life as a radio host and as a public policy analyst: ... Put together teams to deal with problems. And how you do that is you bring people together and you sit down and you make sure you hash out all of the issues and you have a strategic plan. And you find that sweet spot of overlapping consensus ... and how do we build it up from there? It’s very doable. We have the same goals and vision here ... ” — County Commission District 2 candidate Abby Romaine, on the perception that the city and the county disagree more than agree.
“No, growth does not pay for itself, in my view. The point is, I don’t believe growth pays for itself just because, as we‘ve already mentioned earlier, residential properties pay out so much but require so much more in services, and we’re so heavily built-out in residential, we can’t keep up.” — County Commission District 2 candidate Frank Meeker, on whether growth pays for itself.
“It’s an ongoing thing, and you can’t mess with Mother Nature, and that’s putting it nicely. The point is: It’s something that’s ongoing. ... There’s a lot of erosion taking place. ... The beach erosion is tremendous, and we have to keep up with it. ... It’s one of those situations where you just have to keep up with it and hope that Mother Nature spares us as best it can. But we can’t give up on it.” — County Commission District 5 incumbent George Hanns, on beach restoration and what role the county should play.
“I think one of the factors that the county has overlooked for many years is the airport. I think the airport is probably our richest treasure as far as economic development goes, and it should be used that way. The county owns it. ... Economic development in our community is something that is needed. It’s needed because commercial businesses should be the backbone of the tax structure in this community. ... So what I would do, though, to change, is the airport is a free trade zone. I would recommend that the county look very seriously at contacting companies that are looking at free trade zone areas and try to recruit them to come to Palm Coast and Flagler County.” — County Commission District 5 candidate Herb Whitaker, on countywide economic development efforts.
“We have streamlined it. We have not hired. The only time we’ve hired is to replace a person who has retired in the last 3.5 years. And we’ve maintained the same level of service. We’ve also given back $2.1 million to the County Commission over the last three-and-a-half to four years. This is by being prudent with watching how we spend our money, which is your money. We buy equipment and we buy material as we need it.” — Flagler County Sheriff incumbent Donald Fleming, on budget pressures and how taxpayer money can be saved while maintaining or improving upon the current levels of service.
“The fact is, right now, we have 12 deputies who are taking calls. Eight years ago when I was sheriff, we had 12 people taking calls. ... We have to get more bodies on the street. Law enforcement is about presence. We need to have deputies out patrolling roads, and it’s not just about simple patrol. It’s about a relationship that is formed between our community and law enforcement. ... If you create true community policing ... you do drive down crime. It’s obvious if you look at the statistics. The essential challenge is to get more police on the street, more of them patrolling our local neighborhoods, and creating contacts with the public with the neighborhood watches.” — Flagler County Sheriff candidate Jim Manfre, on what he believes is the single greatest challenge the Sheriff’s Office will face in the next four years.
*NOTE: Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming said during his one-minute rebuttal that there are 17 deputies and sergeants on the road at all times, not 12.
SHERIFF’S OFFICE BUDGET
Candidates for Flagler County sheriff were asked about budget pressures. How will they streamline the Sheriff’s Office and save taxpayer money while maintaining, or improving upon, current levels of service?
Challenger Jim Manfre said he has spent half his life in government and half his live in the private sector. “I’ve run businesses, I’ve run large organizations,” he said. “I will only budget those dollars that are needed for the effective utilization of law enforcement services.”
Incumbent Don Fleming said he’s given back more than $2 million to the County Commission over the last few years. Fleming said the Sheriff’s Office buys equipment as it needs it.
“I don’t think you have to worry about when you take over my budget, I don’t think you’re going to be there,” Fleming said.
The second installment of the Flagler Votes forum will take place 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Knights of Columbus, 51 Old Kings Road N.
The forum is hosted by the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates, the Flagler County Association of Realtors and the Flagler Home Builders Association.
The schedule is as follows:
5-6 p.m.: Social hour, with a cash bar and snacks
6:10-6:25 p.m.: County judges
6:30-7:05 p.m.: State House of Representatives District 24
7:10-7:50 p.m.: State Senate District 6
7:55-8:35 p.m.: U.S. House of Representatives District 6
The forum is free and open to the public. For more information, call the chamber at 437-0106 or go to www.flaglerchamber.org.
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