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Doug Courtney: The AskFlagler Mayoral Interview

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Interview Criteria

  • The object of the interview is not to grill the candidate, nor to give them softballs. Ideally, in their answers the candidates provide to voters a useful insight into their ideology, their priorities, and their knowledgeability and preparedness for the office of Mayor.
  • These questions are sent to each declared candidate in the Palm Coast mayoral race. Each candidate receives the same exact questions, with the exception of the two allotted personal questions, tailored to each candidate specifically.
  • The only edits made are for spelling, formatting and basic grammar (i.e., ‘their’ when it should be ‘there’). Censorship of profanity may also be applied if it were applicable. Otherwise, answers are presented in their full form as the candidate provides them.
  • Answers are subject to fact-checking if they contain information that’s blatantly misleading or untrue (misrepresenting factually verifiable information, misquoting a statistic, etc). Clarifications will be added underneath the candidate’s answer if applicable. The answers will still be presented as given even if a fact-check or clarification is needed.
  • Candidates may be sent follow-up questions if their initial answers don’t directly address the original question, or if their answer naturally opens the door to other questions.
  • Answers will be published promptly after being submitted by the candidates, provided time to properly format and edit as outlined in the third bullet point.
  • Original questions will be presented in bold text. Candidates’ answers will be presented “in quotations and italics”. Followup questions will be presented in bold and italics.

Candidate Details

  • Place and date of birth: Bowling Green Ohio, June 24, 1954
  • Political party: Democrat
  • Current occupation: Almost Retired. Research and Development

Other Candidates’ Interviews

Candidate Interview:

-On May 4th, the Palm Coast City Council voted 3-2 to approve a new regional racquet center at an estimated cost of approximately $5.4 million. In the buildup to, and the time since the vote, there has been a great deal of public debate regarding the merits of such a project. How would you have voted if you were mayor at the time? With two council members on each side of the issue, do you plan on revisiting the project acting as a deciding vote if elected to office?

“Revisiting the project would be dependent on the extent of the involvement in this expansion by all parties. Private businesses must rely on decisions made by City Council. Investments in personnel, raw materials, and site preparation are made based on Council’s decision. To revisit after the contracts are signed and the obligations created would not only do injury to the parties involved in the project. But such an action would open Palm Coast to costly and expensive litigation. As mayor I would have questioned the merits of the project. My understanding is this investment is just Phase 1. A much larger investment is expected in the near future. If my understanding is correct, how much more should we invest in a racquet center expansion? This feels more and more like public financing of a private enterprise. It seems similar, but on a smaller scale, to Tampa building a new major league stadium for the Rays.

“I don’t feel public money should be used to fund such a project unless the public themselves deem it to be. If the public is willing to tax themselves for such a project, then so be it. We can then set up an oversight committee, review monies spent, and determine policies and procedures for use. I don’t disagree with the expansion, but at some point [the] Council has to believe a simple vote in council chambers is beyond their mandate for use of citizens funds. In this instance it seems we are spending quite a lot of city funds for the use by a fraction of our citizenry and the belief of future grandeur. It is not out of the purview of council to seek regional status in projects. Such projects project our standing, strength and work toward greater regional influence. But our citizens are first. Their needs met first. We are elected to serve them.”

-Describe the state of infrastructure in Palm Coast. Are there areas in the city you’ve identified as being in need of improvement? If so, how would you prioritize which areas you’d like to address, and what should be the source of funds for such improvements?

“Maintenance of infrastructure is an ongoing and required part of any city government. It is what we are elected to do. Get the garbage picked up, the roads fixed and bridges repaired. There is always a need for improvement. Palm Coast and its Public Works Department does a solid job of keeping up with this maintenance. But I would like to see a better emphasis on the older streets repaving. A stronger and more timely repaving program for the city as a whole. I would wish the new city manager to review the maintenance schedule for swales especially in the older sections. It isn’t that we have necessarily been neglecting repairs, but with the expansion we need to step it up. While building new, we have to maintain what we have. Once we have determined what and how much we need to step up these efforts. We can address how we can provide funding. Hopefully, some new and innovative ways that don’t add to the tax rate.”

-Whether it’s relevant or not, candidates’ views on national politics have played a role in discourse at the local level since the start of 2020’s election cycle. What role, if any, should your views on national politics play in how voters perceive you?

“None. Many may want to interject national politics into the local arena to engender incendiary rhetoric and polarization of the community. But such efforts are wasteful and time consuming. I am not naive as to the desire for many to label everyone and everything. Many just for personal or even party gain. However, backed up sewers, garbage rotting in piles on the street, pot holes, and lack of air conditioning are not partisan. I find citizens just want to live quietly in the city they reside. They don’t care what party or tribe picks up the garbage, cleans the sewers, fixes the pot holes or turns on the air conditioning. They just want it done.”

-In your mind, what is the most pressing issue facing residents of Palm Coast today? If elected to office, what are your plans to address that issue?

“Most pressing is the hiring of the city manager. It is probably the most important issue city council must complete outside of a city budget. We are a city manager form of government. Who we hire will determine the tone and tenor of the city and its administration. Diversity in the workplace, safety of the citizens, administration/citizen interactions will all be effected strongly by who we hire to be city manager. My plans to address the issue is to work with council to find the best candidate for this position and ensure they are hired.”

-The Palm Coast government has begun taking residents’ opinions on whether or not to allow ONE commercial vehicle (passenger car, panel van, pickup truck or similar, in the words of the survey) with advertising markings to park in a residential driveway. If the matter came to a council vote, what would be your stance on the issue?

“When the commercial vehicle rules were created the concept of people working from home was a unique concept. After the pandemic, it is not a concept. It is a reality. We, as a city, have to accept that result. But we don’t have to accept dump trucks in the driveway and 18-wheeler cabs in the swales. I find it ludicrous that my neighbor has to go out and put a tarp over his van each night just because he drives it home. The tarp is uglier than the van and sign. We can make an ordinance that controls both. My stance would be we do both.”

-There’s been some discussion lately on what exactly the role of a Council member should be (Palm Coast’s Mayor is one of five votes on the City Council). Some would assert that a Council member should act as a direct representation of public consensus, while others view the seat as one in which the people have trusted them to make their own independent judgments. Which view is more representative of how you’d make decisions in Council votes?

“We are a representative form of government. That’s what we have chosen. We expect our representatives to do the research and find out the information on the topics being brought to the city for resolution. We expect them to use their judgement to make a decision on our behalf to resolve those issues. As defined by Edmund Burke, ‘a representative owes people not only their industry, but their judgement. And the representative betrays them if the representative sacrifices their judgement to the people’s opinion.’ Any representative would want to directly represent the public consensus. Where possible we should. But if the public opinion, through lack of information or judgement, should harm the public itself we should expect and demand the representative use their judgement.”

-Two roads in Palm Coast are currently drawing ire from some residents: Cimmaron Drive and Slow Way. Former City Manager Matt Morton and former Mayor Milissa Holland both attested that the city is working with FDOT to brainstorm an approach to deal with Cimmaron, while Slow Way hasn’t been the subject of particularly much deliberation in recent meetings. Complaints on both roads have largely centered around excessive traffic and safety concerns for pedestrians, cyclists, and children at play. Has the city been effective in its approach to issues on these two (considerably different) roads? How would you hope to proceed on addressing citizens’ concerns if elected to office?

“These issues are a direct result of early planning initiatives exacerbated by later developments. We have a lot of those in Palm Coast. Many more beyond Cimmaron and Slow Way are destined to be brought before council. I would like to see a proactive approach, instead of a wait and hope approach. We know there are a lot of ‘connector’ roads in Palm Coast without sidewalks, berms, pedestrian rights of way. I would like to see [the] council direct that these roads be identified and a plan initiated to begin resolving the problems now. Resolving these two roads and Florida Park Drive is not the end of the discussion. We need a long term plan. We may as well get to it.”

-Palm Coast’s Municipal Code last saw an update to impact fees in October of 2004. Do you think the fees are due for an increase, to potentially increase revenue for the city? (Note: Palm Coast’s Regional Racquet Center was paid for primarily through revenue from impact fees)

“Fees always need a review. Some are too high. Some are not high enough. Some are now regulated by the state legislature. Anything 17 years old is probably due for a review. Does it mean we need an increase? We won’t know until the review is done.”

-On May 18th the Council convened for the first time after former Mayor Milissa Holland tendered her resignation. Among other things, one order of business was to replace Eddie Branquinho as Vice Mayor, as he’d immediately ascended to acting Mayor when Holland resigned. The motion to appoint Council member Nick Klufas to the position failed 2-2, with members Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa voting against. Klufas will, however, carry power comparable to that of the Vice Mayor by merit of being the Council’s most tenured member. Did the Council get the decision right in ultimately not appointing Klufas to Vice Mayor? How important is it that the Vice Mayor seat remains occupied?

“The decision is done. Right or wrong depends on the ongoing outcome. The process that left the seat in limbo is what needs review. When council is fully reconstituted it, or the charter review committee, should review succession decisions so we don’t have the issue in future councils.”

PERSONAL QUESTIONS:

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-How frequently have you watched or attended City Council meetings in the last year? Additionally, are there any other specific steps you’ve taken to stay up to date on current issues in the City? 

“What? The news media is not keeping up with City Council happenings? Are you saying I cannot rely on your reporting? Seriously I don’t know how may council meetings I have attended in the last year. I do not keep a total. I do, in addition to attending council meetings, read council documents of which I am interested, have discussions with affected city personnel, and read news articles.”

-In a social media post expanding upon your candidacy, you asked the question “When are we going to actually acknowledge that we have the majority of the senior citizens in our county and begin to provide the services they need?”. What specific steps can the City of Palm Coast take to be more accommodating to its senior citizens? 

“Create a senior citizens center, not a room adjunct and used on occasion in the community center. But a real senior center and senior services department. One that addresses elder day care, meals on wheels, social interactions, disability support and elder health. When the Council on Aging dissolved the County took over the functions. They have dedicated personnel and they do try. But their services are often decentralized. Unless you know where to look it is difficult to find. Palm Coast has been allowing the county to lead in this effort content to avoid the responsibility and cost passing the baton in any discussion to county government. But it is Palm Coast’s problem. They are our citizens. We need to step up.”


The special election for Palm Coast Mayor will be held on July 27th at the following locations:

  • Flagler County Supervisor of Elections Office – Government Services Building, 1769 E. Moody Boulevard, Building 2, Suite 101, Bunnell, Florida, 32110
  • Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Parkway NE, Palm Coast, Florida, 32137
  • Flagler County Library, 2500 Palm Coast Parkway NW, Palm Coast, Florida, 32137

Early voting will take place from July 17th to July 24th, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The candidates are Democrats Doug Courtney and Cornelia Downing Manfre, along with Republicans David Alfin, Kathy Austrino, Carol “Mother Elizabeth” Bacha, and Alan Lowe. Check back on AskFlagler for interviews with other candidates as well as the most comprehensive election coverage in Palm Coast.

Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

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