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Palm Coast Thursday, Jul. 28, 2022 1 week ago

FIVE LETTERS: On multifamily housing, local candidates and school grades

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by: Guest Writer

Incumbents should be replaced

Dear Editor:

I don’t like to paint with a broad brush, but I think it’s time we did. The antics of Joe Mullins, along with the city's superfluous pay raise (making it harder for average citizen to run for office) have opened my eyes.

The County Commission, City Council and the School Board all have a strong stench of "We know what's best, so just sit down and shut up." It needs to end.

Now is the time to demonstrate who is really in charge. Get out and vote! Not just vote, but vote for new blood!

The system works best if elected officials serve for a limited time, then get out, let some else have a turn. If they don’t, work out replace them. It isn’t perfect, but it keeps corruption, entitlement and privilege at bay.

Darell Lambert

Palm Coast

 

What do school grades really mean?

Dear Editor:

I read with amazement the article “Grades Released: How Did Your School Do?” in the July 14 issue of the Observer

It provided results of the Flagler County schools that might make you think, "Boy our kids are getting a great education." Not so fast. According to the Flagler County School Board Strategic Plan for the school years 2021-2002 through  2023-2024, only 56% of students in Flagler County are currently performing at grade level in English/language arts, and only 57% are at grade level in math. 

Given these results, how can any school be rated C, B,  or especially A? Public schools are intended to educate children and prepare them for success in the real world. When over 40% of our student population is NOT performing at grade level in English/language arts and math, I believe they are not even close to that mission!

According to the Florida Department of Education’s own website, School Grades Calculation Guide 2021-2022, academics don’t seem to be the primary focus of our schools. Instead, these are the criteria that are evaluated:. 

  • Achievement
  • Learning gains 
  • Graduation 
  • Acceleration success
  • Maintaining a focus on students who need the most support

While these are all good things to review, how about are our kids learning what they need to learn to leave these schools with the skills needed to survive in life?

And if the criteria isn’t troubling enough, they grade on a curve! This is how they determine the letter grade (A, B, C, D, F):

School grading percentages:

  • A = 62% of points or greater
  • B = 54% to 61% of points
  • C = 41% to 53% of points 
  • D = 32% to 40% of points 
  • F = 31% of points or less

So, don’t be so excited if your child’s school is rated A, B, C. Instead. dig in and see what your children are really learning in school! Determine where your children are relative to the almost 50% of students here in Flagler County who aren’t even performing at grade level. 

Maybe then the United States could improve its rating among all the countries in the world and move up from middle of the pack. (U.S. academic achievement lags that of many other countries | Pew Research Center).

Kathy Robison

Palm Coast

 

City should have kept Waste Pro

Dear Editor:

I think it stinks that the Palm Coast City Council cancelled its contract with Waste Pro.

It is hypocritical for the town to encourage "buy local and support local business" and not renew Waste Pro's contract, a company in Bunnell. 

Waste Pro provides excellent service, and did an amazing job during the pandemic. Sanitation workers became essential workers during this challenging time in the world, and is this how the town treats Waste Pro in return.  

To add insult to injury, Councilman John Fanelli states, "I can't understand why Waste Pro didn't come in significantly lower." Waste Pro did come in lower, and was asking for a livable wage.  

What should have been significantly lower is the raise the City Council gave themselves.

It is sad to me that here is another instance when an essential worker have become sacrificial.

If any Waste Pro employees are reading this, I thank you for your service, especially during the pandemic. If it were not for you, Palm Coast would have literally been in a real mess. I saw you doing your jobs during the worst weather and conditions. I strongly disagree that Waste Pro was not given a renewed contract.

Mary Kiernan-Tighe

Palm Coast 

 

Palm Coast has prepared for growth

It is obvious that new development and building taking place here in Palm Coast is uncomfortable to many, and especially those who are newer. Most moved from areas, including myself 18 years ago, that grew either slowly or not much at all.

But here is not there, and that which motivated others and myself to come here are similar things that are continuing to motivate many, many, many others to move here.

At the same time, it is obvious that local City Council candidates are not understanding growth and development, either in campaign statements or in the first City Council candidate forum. There were many inaccuracies by Mr. Alan Lowe on various items, but I will stick with development and growth here.

Growth is not new here, and is not going away. In our 18 years here, the City of Palm Coast’s population has grown from around 65,000 to nearing 100,000 today. Likewise, growth is happening everywhere in Florida, and will continue to. It is driven not only from the tailend of one of the biggest generations retiring, but also from the economic development here in education and healthcare, the emergence of remote work and workers motivated by lower costs of living and no income tax, and companies moving here due to lower costs. 

We constantly hear about “infrastructure” concerns and “getting that in place first.” We have the infrastructure: It’s been planned for, and it’s being improved and maintained all of the time.

Just some of the improvements in my 18 years here, which was just four years into incorporation: Belle Terre was widened from two lanes and pathways added, over 100 miles of pathways added throughout the city, Palm Coast Parkway was widened, Matanzas Woods Parkway then was a deadend and now has an overpass and connection to I-95 as well as connecting to Palm Harbor Parkway, Old Kings Road access from U.S. 1 is no longer a dirt road, three schools have been added, about 200 street lights have lit up major corridors, drainage improvements have taken place, a new Community Center built, City Hall built, and much, much more. Today, those projects continue, with about 60 capital projects planned and/or taking place each year. 

I understand being concerned about development that could negatively impact individual property investment and even whole neighborhoods. I built on a golf course that closed three years after moving in. I have seen a large parcel in my neighborhood almost become home to a multistory condo complex behind residential homes. And I have gone through the process of that former golf course being diced up for development and potential impacts to many many owners.

Through all of that, I made sure to get educated about development, zoning guidelines, to not just speculate, and to know what I can do to speak up when things are wrong. And I have, on many occasions. What I have learned through all of this is that this city has put protections in place with smart platting of parcels years ago, zoning guidelines that protect green space and the environment, and continued planning for known growth. And we have the public processes in place to double- and triple-check plans for development. This community is not, and never has, been flying blind. 

So when we hear candidates saying things like we need to have “smart growth” or “managed growth,” what are they actually saying? We already have those, as mentioned above. Are they suggesting they will be able to deny a developer the right to build on their property with a plan that is within the guidelines set forth by the city? No, they can not. If they do, they will simply end up in lawsuit after lawsuit, wasting hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars. Shouldn’t we be electing people who are sensible enough to keep that from happening? And if they are touting that “conservative” moniker, isn’t that about rights and small government? 

One candidate, Theresa Carli Pontieri, stated, “So in City Council, specifically, its job is to make sure that they're approving those types of projects when we know we're going to get certain commercial businesses or public services headed our way,” as if the City Council can pick and choose housing development proposals based upon type at any given point in time? No, again, they can not without infringing upon the rights of property owners.

She also mentioned a “plan” for development when knowing about businesses coming five to six years out. There are two problems with that notion. No. 1, the city often doesn’t know that far in advance; even if it does, those companies typically do not want that news disclosed very far in advance; and, No. 2, the city does not instruct developers when, where and what to build.

What I thought was wonderful was Sims Jones’ statement that, “I like to say that there is a difference between affordable housing and low-income housing, because too many people interchange those two terminologies.” That is so true. We need diverse housing options. Not everyone wants to own a 10,000-square-foot-lot home with the maintenance that goes along with it. Not everyone wants to rent a house. We need competition in both the owner and rental markets, because that drives cost down, and we need to reject these stereotypical statements of higher crime and “density” with diverse housing options. Diversity of housing options and quality of life are big attractions for businesses to want to choose Palm Coast. 

Bottom line is to avoid speculation. Get educated. Be skeptical of any candidate telling you they are going to control growth or that we need a plan. We have a plan and we have the controls. Those saying those things are simply displaying their ignorance and desire to get educated. Visit the city’s website, because every development project is on there, every capital project current and upcoming, the city plans, and the budget at-a-glance and in detail.

It’s all there at your fingertips. No candidate needs to wait to get into office to get access to any of that information. Use that information to challenge them.

Brad M. West

Palm Coast

 

Bird of Paradise Drive should be top priority

Dear Editor:

Please excuse my tardiness in responding to the referenced article; circumstances did not allow a more timely communique. After reviewing your “sidewalks map” printed in June 16 issue, I only see ONE “confluence” of all three criteria (orange, green, and blue) for urgency: the prospective Bird of Paradise Drive project. 

My child starts attending Indian Trails Middle School as a 6th grader on Aug. 10. He is too close to take the bus, and it is too far to walk. But he could certainly “bike” to school if it was safe to do so.  

Right now, there are so many breaks in the sidewalk that it’s virtually impossible for me to have a sense of security for my son to make this 1 ½ mile trek to school. Drivers in the morning get cranked up on coffee before rushing out to go to work. Few drivers actually stop at stop signs in the area, and cutting corners without their full attention is much too common. 

The children, meanwhile, are the innocent bicycle-commuters, just wanting to get to school without a dangerous incident.  

Please keep our children safe. This improvement should be the very first sidewalk project to be approved, and it should be implemented with all due haste. I imagine that there are hundreds of children that could use Bird of Paradise Drive to commute to school both walking and on bicycles — if it was only safe to do so. 

I URGE the immediate approval for this project, and pray that it's implemented without bureaucratic red tape tying it up for years while it passes between various planning boards. Thank you!

Marc Stevenson

Palm Coast 

 

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