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Palm Coast Thursday, May 13, 2021 5 months ago

To make choices, the City Council needs options

The intimidation by a few residents at May 4's city meeting was despicable. It also distracted many from a discussion of the choice to spend $5 million on the tennis center.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

I sat in the very back of the Palm Coast City Council chambers on the night of May 4 as a few men took out their frustrations by shouting at other residents, refusing to follow the rules of procedure, and even challenging others to a fight, ostensibly about their views on the future of the tennis center. 

It was an awful atmosphere — the opposite of “community.”

To Mayor Milissa Holland and the law enforcement officers who help keep the peace, I want to say thank you for your efforts and your bravery. I, too, condemn such acts of public intimidation.

Unfortunately, one thing has been lost in all the discussion I have heard about that meeting, and that is the vote on the tennis center itself. I believe it's worth revisiting the vote to emphasize this principle: To make choices, we need options.

Setting aside the few men who crossed the line, there were at least a half dozen people who also said they did not support the expansion of the tennis center. Some proposed other ways to spend the city’s $5 million, such as building a skate park.

City Council agenda items are always, as City Manager Matt Morton pointed out to me during a phone interview on May 6, binary: You vote yes on an item, or you vote no.

That is true, and it is also true that the tennis center was workshopped and discussed in strategic action plan meetings in recent months. The city also held citywide meetings to gauge interest. Morton said staff visited multiple tennis centers around the state to learn best practices. I applaud their efforts, and, moreover, I have no doubt that, as with other city amenities, the expanded tennis center will be magnificent.

But when City Councilman Ed Danko proposed delaying the vote on May 4 so that the City Council could take a good look at the 20 other parks and recreation projects that could have qualified for that $5 million, it was hard for me to find any good reason to disagree with him.

By building the tennis center, it’s not like the city is appeasing the tennis crowd at the expense of all others. Those who opposed the tennis center expansion should be reminded that the city has invested in many other amenities recently, including the splash pad at Holland Park and the four new ball fields at Indian Trails Sports Complex.

But the next time the city has money to spend on parks and recreation, I would feel better about the process if we understand better what else the money could buy. 

To make choices, we need options.

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office had to keep the peace at the May 4 City Council meeting. Photo by Brian McMillan

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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