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Palm Coast Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 3 years ago

LETTERS: Is the city manager position too powerful? — and other Charter questions

After 15 years, has it been long enough? Or would it be a waste of time?

City manager position has too much power  

Dear Editor:

Charter: A document which declares that a city, town, school, or corporation has been established or a written instrument that creates and defines the franchises of a city, educational institution, or corporation.

Review: An act of carefully looking at or examining the quality or condition of something or someone: examination or inspection.

The renewed study of material previously studied:  an exercise facilitating such study

The City Council was designed to be a much weaker player than the city manager. By electing them at large, it assures that you had to support the largest voter base, not your district. This just serves to weaken a district’s influence.

That is how Merriam Webster defined those two words, and I see no reason for such words to cause fear or create hysteria. However, apparently when word the word “charter” is uttered with the word “review,” at least in Palm Coast, it is enough to cause panic in the streets. It has the local media misquoting things said at the meetings and using it as an opportunity to demonize anyone they oppose. Why?

If any of them had actually reported what was brought up at the meetings, you might know that there were some good reasons to review our Charter, some benign, some not so benign.

Given their reaction and the deliberate absence of any reporting on those reasons speaks volumes. I know that for the local media, quoting the mayor saying the Charter is good seems to pass for critical thinking on this issue; however, that’s not good enough for me. The language outlining the requirements for a review is ambiguous enough to warrant a review (benign). But I think what has them truly frightened is that the current population might gain an understanding of how the city was set up at its inception (not so benign). Even with the lack of critical thinking in our local media, the facts would get out, and the mayor couldn’t find an inconvenient time to hold that meeting without a huge crowd.

Our Charter was set up to concentrate power in one office, the city manager’s, an unelected position. So if you wanted anything, you just have to get the manager to get behind it, and it’s done.

This has sent Palm Coast spiraling through a series of sugar daddies that have used this office to direct our growth — not the citizens. For proof, all you need is to look at the failures listed by Mr. Ligouri at one of these meetings. Of course, you will have to look for them in a transcript of the meeting because no media ever investigated them.

Maybe the media should look at the past sugar daddies like Centex, Bobby Ginn and Palm Coast Holdings and report on how that’s working out for the taxpayers. Did the city’s development follow the actual plan or the whims of the sugar daddy?

Our city’s desire to be New York City overnight has them swinging for the fences with every deal, instead of building a lead with base hits. Remember the silly video Mayor Netts made to get the sugar daddy of them all, Google?

Maybe if they just wanted to be Palm Coast and not NYC, Discount Tires wouldn’t have ripped up the building they started, and someone here would have a job that didn’t ask if you want fries with that.

And what did the mayor and city manager say about that? They have no idea why they left. Really? Let’s put aside the popular belief that they got fed up with being nickel-and-dimed to death like their neighbor, Panera Bread, when they built here and accept that excuse. How dysfunctional are we, as a city, that no one knows why a company not only doesn’t want to locate here, but erases any trace of the building they started?

If you read the Charter, it gives an extremely vague description of the manager’s duties. There are virtually no limits on how he can execute a directive given him by the council.

The Charter actually excludes a council member from getting involved with manager’s staff for reasons beyond one of information only.

The city staff owes its existence to the city manager and not the people of the city and certainly not to a council that changes with each election. They come and go, but the manager, like a roach after a nuclear holocaust, lives on. It’s no wonder that every City Hall study presented showed it was the only practical option. Does anyone think that a city staffer would have put anything on the manager’s desk that stated otherwise? 

By contrast, the council was designed to be a much weaker player in the city. By electing them at large, it assured in the beginning that you had to support the largest voter base, not your district. This just serves to weaken a district’s influence.

You can’t put all the blame on the people involved. With the flawed system outlined above, even the best personnel you could find will be beaten down or corrupted by it.

Maybe we can get away from the never-ending love affair with public-private partnerships that have led to all of our sugar daddies. These never work out, and one only has to look at history when an Italian guy (not Steven Nobile) took them to their logical conclusion. His name was Mussolini, the king of public-private partnerships.

Having the city surrender its responsibility to the winner it picks will never work.

Having the city surrender its responsibility to the winner it picks will never work. We are way overdue to revise the Charter and our governance. It’s time to have city staff that answers to a more representative city government. And an elected City Council that is responsible for its direction and execution.

Our city staff is an incredible collection of some very talented people, and I would rather have them all contributing to this city without the filter of a city manager whose meetings are kept secret. How about we have the citizens here decide what Palm Coast will be for a change?

Gene Bergin
Palm Coast

Why stop at the city Charter? All laws should be reviewed — everywhere

Dear Editor:

Intrigued by the recent spate of articles concerning City Councilman Steven Nobile’s call for a review of the city Charter, I did a search of the city’s website and read the Charter up to the section pertaining to land measurements. It was all I could take and gave up.

My search did not satisfy my curiosity as to Councilman Nobile’s motivation in instigating this review; until today I have not heard an explanation from him. I did learn, however, in reading that he is opposed to the methodology used to determine the approval of contracts, specifically to the city’s attorneys. There is also an apparent conflict with the city manager.

Several letters to The Observer’s editor from Councilman Nobile’s supporters raise the issue of what is wrong with reviewing the existing Charter. The short answer: none. But why stop at the Charter?

Count me on the side of Jefferson, who wanted to have the Constitution and all enacted laws up for revision every 20 years.

Why not include every law and regulation in the books, including those at the state and federal levels, as well as the U.S. Constitution? On this subject, count me on the side of Jefferson, who wanted to have the Constitution and all enacted laws up for revision every 20 years. Imagine: Lawyers and judges wouldn’t have to go into these intellectual contortions to prove the epistemology of their positions. People will regain their trust in our government, and its functioning, and subsequently curtail to a large extent the alienation of the electorate on all sides. Every generation will feel more empowered and have a greater say in determining their future and that of their country. So, ladies and gentlemen, deal me in.

William Moya
Palm Coast

Don't have a review just for the sake of having a review

Dear Editor:

Proponents of a Palm Coast Charter review have some good arguments. I don't have a philosophical argument against a Charter review if it was justified, but I oppose a review just to have a review.

If there was an obvious problem with the Charter, identify that problem, then open it up and fix the problem. If, however, it is just a review because the language of the law allows (not requires) it, in my view that's a "fishing expedition," and I believe it may lead to a Pandora's Box. It may become something that, once opened, and given all of the differences of opinion in this city, we may not be able to achieve any kind of consensus to stuff it back into the box. 

I don't want the city to fall victim to rancor. You can make the argument to let the voters decide, but since most voters don't vote, this creates the risk that a small subset of determined citizens.

I've heard from a bunch of citizens with all manner of complaints about the city, including a recent letter referencing the construction of the new City Hall. I've heard issues with red light cameras, landscaping, road repair, building construction, code enforcement, parks and recreation, etc.

Nothing I've heard rises to the level of a Charter review, with the exception of the city manager's position, the City Council's makeup and other potentially virulent partisan political issues.

In my mind, I don't want the city to fall victim to that level of rancor. You can make the argument to let the voters decide, but since most voters don't vote, this creates the risk that a small subset of determined citizens — yes, like the Tea Party, the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly and the Democratic Party (bit of humor here) — or any other small group of motivated people can impose their minority views on the majority.

Don't believe me? See the gerrymandered Florida House and the 40-member Freedom Caucus in the national House of Representatives. I fear this "tyranny of the few" could lead to a severely stressed and divided city. A whimsical Charter review is not worth the risk.

Now, as far as City Councilman Steven Nobile is concerned, he was elected to office as a Tea Party candidate and Tea Partyers are his constituency. The Tea Party is a group that seems to hate all forms of government, big and small, and who wish to dismantle all government functions that protect our citizens from  the Tea Party.

As a councilman, he has the right and the duty to propose city-wise actions. But I, as do all citizens, have the right to directly criticize his statements, policies and motives given his connection to, in my opinion, a radical and divisive group.

There's that pesky First Amendment again.

That's in the job description of an elected official, and he knew it when he ran for office. Nothing "personal" about any of this.

Mike Cocchiola
Palm Coast

If you have a problem with the city manager, talk to him; no need for Charter review

Dear Editor:

After reading this past week's letter, it seems to me that we have lost sight of the real issues at the heart of the Charter review controversy.

Would the review results be binding? Who would conduct the review? Does Mr. Nobile get to appoint the reviewers? What is the goal of the review? Are there specific sections of the Charter that are no longer valid or applicable? What would the review cost the taxpayers? Who gets to decide what changes should be made? Do we get to vote on any changes?

Do we really want the council members involved in the day-to-day functioning of the staff?

Mr. Nobile is responsible for the unease his request has created. He has not been able to adequately explain who is asking for the review. Most people I talk to have little idea of what the Charter is, what provisions are contained in it or why it needs to be changed. The idea that the average citizen is asking him to do a review is hard to believe.

If the council has issues with the city manager, surely they have other means of addressing that. Is it about having more direct input on how city staff operates? Do we really want the council members involved in the day-to-day functioning of the staff?

Is Mr. Nobile really responding to the citizens, or to the wishes of a local, political organization he is affiliated with and who so readily wrote in his defense? Members of this group were instrumental in summarily disenfranchising two long-standing Republican groups who dared to disagree with them. Is it any wonder his motive for a review has been greeted with distrust?

In closing, I also have to question what Mr. Nobile's contributions to the community have been beyond running a gun store.

Edith Campins
Palm Coast

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