The Palm Coast Observer interviewed Charles Ericksen Jr. and incumbent Jon Netts — both Palm Coast mayor candidates. For a profile and more Q&A with Ericksen, click here. For Netts, click here.
We weren't able to fit everything in print in the Aug. 25 edition, so here is another question that could help voters see where the candidates differ:
While many residents love Palm Coast, we’ve all heard the complaint that code enforcement is too strict. Is that complaint justified? What would you do to address it?
CHARLES ERICKSEN JR.
I think there’s too much emphasis on “enforcement” in code enforcement. There is a need for it, but what it should be is more, How we can help you?
I know that people have business signs painted on the side of their trucks have been told how to counteract that. Either throw a big tarp over it, or you go to where the candidates go, and you get those magnet signs without anything on them, and you stick them on the side of your truck each day (to cover up the business sign on the truck).
I go to code enforcement meetings. The last meeting I went to there was a guy in there — this was his third time. He was now given a ticket for a violation for having writing on his truck. And out of the clear blue sky, one of the code enforcement people said, ‘Why don’t you just get some of those magnetic signs?’
The man said, ‘I never thought of it.’
They said, ‘I you had asked us, we would have told you that.’
Well, if you knew that, why didn’t you tell him that the first time? … That can cut down the number of people who come in to code enforcement, and there’s a savings right there.
A lot of people get ticketed for long grass and trash in their driveways. I went to a meeting where a single mother took 52 days to clean up the trash. (The fine was) $13,900, and she lives in a $66,000 house.
Her question, as the tears come down: “How am I going to pay that?”
The response from the chairperson: “I don’t know. You go over to the city … and work something out with them.” …
That’s absurd … Why doesn’t the city have a list of all these youth groups in town? Maybe the Boy Scouts for $50 would go over and clean out your driveway and put the stuff out for the trash …
After a person has been given all this information, I still don’t think $13,900 is a reasonable penalty.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For every complaint that I get about code enforcement being too strict, I get three, four, five, six complaints about code enforcement not acting quickly enough.
It’s a question of what do you want your community to look like?
Do you want commercial vehicles parked in driveways, or not?
That particular issue has been addressed every year that I’ve been on council. The consensus has been that, no, we don’t want that in our community. Now, if you’ve got a commercial vehicle that you want in your driveway, then yes, code enforcement is too strict and draconian.
But to maintain who we are, we need as much code enforcement, sometimes more.
Now, you can only enforce the code you enact. If residents don’t like that, you change the code, not the enforcement.
Nothing harms a neighborhood more than a run down, dilapidated home. That’s where code enforcement can and must play a role.