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Jon Netts
Palm Coast Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011 9 years ago

Netts for Palm Coast mayor


We conducted interviews with incumbent Jon Netts and challenger Charles Ericksen Jr. for our Aug. 25 edition and asked them to explain their approaches to certain Palm Coast issues. Joe Cunnane declined to participate.

Netts is Palm Coast’s elder statesman. He has been a leader in the city essentially since it was born. As a City Council member since 2001, Netts has had a hand in much of the good that has been accomplished in Palm Coast. As its mayor since 2007, Netts has established a regional reputation as an insightful leader who can simplify and understand difficult issues easily.

He deserves another term.


The conventional wisdom is that politicians, over time, begin to forget whom they represent. They begin to think they know best. They become one with the government. And they grow complacent as stewards of the people’s money.

Enter Charles Ericksen Jr., a candidate with some appealing attributes. He is a hard worker, a man with business management experience and an outsider’s perspective. Many of his ideas and suggestions have merit. And indeed, we’ll go so far as to say Netts would do well to take some of these ideas to heart.

Regarding the city’s budget, Ericksen said he will bring new ideas to the City Council, emphasizing productivity and accountability. He pointed out, for example, that the city sends utility bills to residents monthly. If the city were to shift to bi-monthly billing instead, as well as checking meters bi-monthly, it would save about $200,000 a year.

Netts, meanwhile, said: “I think that we’ve reached the point that without doing damage to the community, we’ve made the cuts that are available.”

To Netts’ credit, he has presided over big budget cuts — from $175 million last year, down to $120 million this year.

But why stop there? There is always room to improve.

Said Netts, “If you wipe out all (the smaller funds), you wouldn’t save $1 million.” But a $20,000 cut here, another there, and before you know it, to paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, you’re talking about real money. Cutting $500,000 is better than cutting nothing at all.

As Ericksen noted: “I’m disappointed in the council not challenging the recommendations (of city staff) and making sure all the necessary questions have been answered.” Indeed, it’s hard to believe that, although it is leaner than it was, the budget is as lean as it can be.

Ericksen also seeks more transparency in budgeting. Nowhere is that more evident than in the City Hall debate.

While the city can massage its budget to fund a new City Hall without issuing any debt, and therefore without taking the issue to the voters in a referendum, many residents would feel dismissed and cheated that they would not have a vote on the issue, as they did in 2005.

The city has presented plans for a new City Hall many times in the past year, and that has still not seemed to sway public opinion. Let Ericksen’s campaign be another reminder that there is still work to be done either on the plans themselves, or on public relations, or both.

Still, if anyone is up to the task of what’s ahead for Palm Coast, Netts is. He has taken a clear stance on business development in Palm Coast, saying that no additional sales tax was warranted and that the way the city can do its part is by supporting existing small businesses through the Business Assistance Center. Rather than waiting around for a consensus of 60 or more officials to lead the way, Palm Coast has quietly taken steps back to prosperity. Netts’ initial support for Prosperity 2021 set the tone for the city to take action.

And there is no disputing this: Netts is passionate about Palm Coast and keeping it the attractive, livable city that it is. He believes that, especially in a young city, it’s crucial to keep standards high. Most people are transplants to Palm Coast, and the appearance of the city was a major factor for attracting many of us here in the first place. That is why Netts is unyielding on code enforcement.

What’s more, Netts has three decades of experience in the arena of fire and ambulance services. We need him in the upcoming discussions regarding consolidation of services, and we urge him to lead the way, build consensus and make our government more efficient in that regard.

Ericksen said in our Q&A: “I would challenge the council to become more knowledgeable in how the city is run.”

Netts knows as well as anyone how the city is run. And because of his expertise, as well as his knowledge of the history of the city, he knows the dangers of overreacting to special interests.

“You want to be very careful, because if you want to address one … specific (issue), the law of unintended consequences says that you are changing the nature of your city, and that’s not what you want to do,” Netts said.

Charles Ericksen is the caliber of candidate to be encouraged to stay engaged in city affairs. Voters, meanwhile, know what they will get from Jon Netts. He has the experience. He has the vision. We urge him to combine those attributes to make Palm Coast’s government more transparent and friendlier to businesses, all the while helping Palm Coast continue to look like Palm Coast.

We believe Netts has earned a second term.

Jon Netts for Palm Coast mayor.

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