Incumbent Flagler Beach City Commissioner Eric Cooley is running for re-election to a third term. He is challenged by Bob Cunningham III. Patti King is now the Mayor-elect of Flagler Beach, as no other candidates filed to run against her.
This is the first in a series of interviews conducted with Cooley, Cunningham, and King. The City Commission election is March 19th.
- 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 office.
- These questions are sent to each declared candidate in the Flagler Beach city elections. Each candidate receives the same exact questions.
- 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.
1. In your opinion, have the City Commission and city staff done an adequate job ensuring the construction of the Compass Hotel has minimal negative impact on residents and businesses? Why or why not?
“Overall, I believe that while the impact has been noticeable it has been manageable. The construction partners have been great to work with and respond to the cities concerns quickly and positively. However, we as a city have a obligation to keep this issue at the forefront and I discuss this with the City Manager every week in our meetings.
“Unfortunately the previous City Manager made a agreement with the construction team of the hotel to do some road and parking closures that were never brought in front of Commission for discussion. In my opinion, this was not the best approach and as a consequence of that, a policy was put in place by our new City Manager that all extended road closures are to be brought before commission for discussion.
“Since then, Commission has directed city staff to have PSAs posted on social media about parking updates, staff to distribute flyers to all business in the general area to help education of all parking availability, additional signage placed in roads, and road markings added for safety. In my opinion we as a city are still falling short in the execution of both the above tactics and also keeping the issue as a priority to be tracked weekly.”
2. The Flagler Beach city government will be subsidizing up to $30,000 in operating costs for First Friday. What do you think about the city’s increased financial commitment to the monthly event?
“This concept evolved from a discussion where some Commissioners and staff wanted to do away with vendors altogether and make the event just ‘music in the park’. This however, goes against the very foundation of why First Friday started. The purpose of First Friday is supposed to be a support mechanism for the downtown business district. If the event was to evolve into just a ‘music in the park’ event, the city would have had $30,000 in associated production costs over the year with no incoming funds due to zero vendors.
“So with that, I brought forward a concept that merchants be allowed to be there for free. rationale: This is a critical time to support our local business sector with the hotel, beach, and pier project happening. This is NOT the time to change a event that was originally designed for business support and block business out. That argument won approval and much of the subsidy will be offset by other vendors not from Flagler Beach paying the fees and will make the event more affordable for the city plus keep the original intent in place of supporting our local businesses.”
3. With the information you know now, provide your evaluation of three key city leaders: City Manager Dale Martin, Police Chief Matt Doughney, and Fire Chief Bobby Pace. If you have any criticisms, explain why.
“There are only two staff that report to the Commission – the City Manager and the City Attorney. The Police Chief and Fire Chief report to the City Manager, not Commission. It would be out of place to for me to publicly evaluate or criticize Police Chief or Fire Chief and their jobs in my capacity of Commissioner. That is the job of the City Manager.
“City Manager – Dale is off to a great start. He has done remarkably well establishing positive relations with both the staff and public. His approach is a great fit for this particular city. He responds well to direction. Being new can be a challenge and requires patience from all sides. Getting everything back on track takes time and I believe he is on track vs time in position. One criticism I have shared often with Dale is while he has many great ideas, I would like to see all the blocking and tackling of city operations put back on track before we pursue other large initiatives.
“We have obligations to the taxpayers to deliver everything that was budgeted for this year and to ensure we address and/or maintain quality of life issues around the city promptly. I feel we are behind in this area and not getting issues tackled as fast as I would like to see. However, the caveat is he does have a lot to address all at once being new in position so lets give him time to get settled because he has the skill set and intangibles to be a great City Manager and asset to our city.”
4. Multiple large construction projects that are either underway now or slated for the near future are likely to affect the city’s roadways. In the event a major storm impacts Flagler Beach while one or more major roads are closed, what can the city do to help ensure a safe and speedy evacuation?
“Flagler Beach fortunately has a small population and a grid road system which makes for multiple exit points and very dynamic traffic patterns. Hurricanes move slow and evacuations are called far in advance. I see no potential issues with road closures affecting traffic flow from a safety aspect.”
5. Describe your vision for the role the City of Flagler Beach plays in maintaining the environment within city limits. Are there any new initiatives you’d like to see considered?
“Flagler Beach fortunately is at the forefront of environmental issues. It is part of our culture as a city. It is stated in our vision and our citizens are passionate about the environment. We lead the state in recycling and are a model for many municipalities. We have monthly beach cleanups with the Flagler Beach All Stars and our citizens take great pride in city cleanliness.
“A initiative I would like to see would be more enforcement of littering and steeper penalties. There are many municipalities that have taken very successful, multifaceted approaches to addressing this increasing issue and have had great results. We need to study them and implement tactics in the coming years. I think it is worth investing in these programs and getting ahead of this increasing problem.”
6. How do you see the current population growth that’s going on in Palm Coast affecting Flagler Beach in the long term? What should Flagler Beach do to prepare for the residency boom of a city that often claims access to Flagler Beach as one of its key amenities?
“This exact concern is why I proposed to begin the multi-municipality meetings that are currently happening. It is critical that Flagler Beach has proactive conversations with our neighbor municipalities about issues we face as a city and how their growth will be affecting this particular city. For one, we simply do not have the physical space nor desire to turn this city into a giant beach parking lot for the surrounding area. The concept of adding parking lots everywhere and packing people in will degrade our taxpayers quality of life.
“There is huge stretches of underutilized coastline that we jointly need to plan on making usable for citizens in the future because once we as a city are full – that’s it. There is no desire to push our city’s carrying capacity past what is safe or practical for our citizens. It is imperative that we work with the other municipalities to have a plan in place for the future population coming into county to access the beach while protecting our own taxpayers and interests and this meeting we started is working to address that.”
7. Public outreach is a constant and evolving priority for the City of Flagler Beach. What’s your evaluation of the city’s effectiveness at communicating with residents? Do you have any ideas to improve the process?
“My evaluation of the city’s effectiveness at communicating with residents is poor at best. This has been a ongoing and frustrating concern voiced by myself and other elected thru multiple City Managers and budget cycles. We have discussed and even budgeted some items such as newsletters, a more robust updated and usable city website, social media outside of the Police Department Facebook page and on all platforms, a Public Information Officer, a project tracker citizens can utilize to see progress of ongoing initiatives, and a online properly working complaint/concern tracker. All of these initiatives have yet to see fruition much to my disappointment.
“One of the ways to improve this shortcoming, is we just hired a City Manager who excels in this area. This was a critical talking point during the hiring process. I also plan to pursue accountability on budgeted items as well. These are commitments that were made to the taxpayers and it is mandatory that the items are completed as planned.”