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Opinion
Jason DeLorenzo
Palm Coast Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 9 years ago

DeLorenzo and Waste Pro's $500

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Jason DeLorenzo, a candidate for District 3 on the Palm Coast City Council, accepted a $500 donation to his campaign from Waste Pro. Considering Waste Pro is one company that is hoping to secure the city’s waste-hauling bid, this donation is causing some in the community to get excited and question our endorsement of DeLorenzo.

We interviewed him again this week and also discussed the matter with his opponent, Dennis Cross, who first noticed the donation.

Cross said, “Call it lack of ethics or poor judgment, but the bottom line is, he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.” He added, “Nobody ever gives someone $500 unless they expect something back.”

DeLorenzo said he accepted the donation without ever thinking of the debate on the upcoming waste-hauling contract. He should have. It doesn’t look good, and it would have been better for him to decline the donation.

If he is elected, and it does come down to a vote for or against Waste Pro, DeLorenzo could always abstain from the vote, if he feels it is appropriate and follows the appropriate procedures. So even in a worst-case scenario, we’re not talking about anything earth-shattering here.

The truth is that while Waste Pro is synonymous with “bid proposal” for many people, it’s not for DeLorenzo. He has been associated with Waste Pro for years in his capacity as a lobbyist with the Flagler Home Builders Association, of which Waste Pro is one of about 160 members.

Last month, DeLorenzo reached out to members of the association to donate to his campaign, and when a donation from Waste Pro came into his account, he accepted it.

Some would say this is clear evidence of DeLorenzo being in cahoots with Waste Pro. But if you look at the history, it’s quite the opposite.

DeLorenzo’s relationship with Waste Pro began in 2008. At that time, the City Council was considering a commercial solid-waste ordinance that would charge waste haulers, including Waste Pro, an annual registration fee and a 10% franchise fee on all business.

DeLorenzo argued that the registration fee would give a competitive advantage to the nationwide haulers, such as Waste Pro, which could handle the increase and stay in business.

The city’s actions would have benefited Waste Pro. He lobbied against those actions, even though Waste Pro was a member of the Flagler Home Builders Association. Why? Because he is not a lobbyist for Waste Pro, but for all the 160 companies in the association.

What might have been good for Waste Pro was not good for the rest of the smaller haulers who might have been put out of business because of the regulations. But even more significant was the additional franchise fee of 10%, which would be passed on to the consumers. Those consumers were businesses, many of which he was representing.

DeLorenzo knew Waste Pro representatives. He had a working relationship with them. But he did what was best for the whole and, in the end, what was best for the entire business community.

The same holds true with the current issue, the city’s residential waste-hauling contract. If DeLorenzo were in cahoots with Waste Pro, he would have been pushing the city not to take the contract out for proposals.

But he did the opposite. In fact, we printed a letter to the editor Aug. 29, in which DeLorenzo stated that the city should go out to bid. He argued that competition will drive down the cost for all involved.

Again, this does not benefit Waste Pro. It hurts the company because Waste Pro might very well lose the deal, or it will be at a lower price.

Does it look bad to receive a campaign contribution from the company at this time? Yes, it does. But in a town this small, it’s impossible to avoid everyone you know. Consider the other associations we have among elected officials: On the County Commission, Barbara Revels is a longtime member of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates. Does that mean she can’t be trusted on matters relating to the small business community?

On the City Council, Holsey Moorman is on the board of the Florida Hospital Flagler. Does that mean he can’t be trusted to vote on issues regarding the hospital?

Frank Meeker works for the St. Johns River Water Management District. Does that mean he can’t be trusted to speak objectively on lawn-watering policies or desalination?

Jon Netts tows boats on the Intracoastal Waterway. Does that mean he can’t be trusted to vote on issues relating to dredging or waterway cleanup?

Or take DeLorenzo’s opponent. Dennis Cross was a former member of the board at Grand Haven and still lives in that community. Can he not be trusted to vote objectively on anything that might benefit Grand Haven?

The fact is, these connections are inevitable in Palm Coast. Case in point: DeLorenzo’s mother-in-law works at a company that prints T-shirts. And guess whose shirts she worked on? None other than the election shirts of Dennis Cross! Is this a conspiracy? No. It’s a fact of life.

“I keep getting beat up for knowing people,” DeLorenzo said. “Just because you know someone doesn’t mean it’s going to affect your philosophy or integrity.”

Moreover, as a member of the community for many years to come, DeLorenzo has a particular interest in helping Palm Coast succeed. He admitted that one of his motivations for saying the Waste Pro contract should go out to bid was so that his personal trash bill could potentially be lowered. Sounds like his interests are in line with the rest of us.

DeLorenzo’s role with the Flagler Home Builders Association requires him to advocate for the betterment of the majority of 160 small businesses in Flagler County. Does that sound like a bad thing?

We say, what’s good for those businesses as a whole is good for Palm Coast and good for our economy. This is the perfect time to have someone on the City Council who has such a great knowledge of how government impacts small businesses.

We stand by our endorsement.

DeLorenzo for City Council.

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