Rather than posting a Big Five this week, I’d like to talk about what’s happened over the past 10 days here in Flagler County.
Covering a different story, I attended the Palm Coast City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 and was stunned. I began my career as a journalist covering government – nearly every single city council, county commission and school board meeting for almost two years starting in 2010, before transitioning to community, business and real estate stories.
I’ve covered some contentious issues. The Stormwater issue. Uniforms in school. The building of Palm Coast City Hall. Mobile vendors in Flagler Beach. Throughout it all, every single issue, no matter how challenging, the people and elected officials acted with decorum. With respect.
Sitting through the first few minutes of public comments in the Palm Coast meeting, I was horrified. Not only did two residents end up storming out after addressing their separate issues with the council, the council members began arguing among themselves, cutting each other off, talking to each other like children who were touching each other’s side of the sofa.
After covering the assignment I left, but the next day saw the video of what transpired afterwards toward the end of the meeting. And it was even worse.
This council appears to be close to the point of no return. Is it truly as fractured as it seems to be? The only thing they didn’t do on Tuesday night was get up and throw their shoes at each other.
As I watched Bill Reischmann sit between two of the council members, all I could think was why in the hell is this guy still doing it? The city can’t possibly be paying him enough money to sit through this.
Why Does This Matter?
The past week has been especially embarrassing for our community. From the council meeting and subsequent headlines to the investigation into allegations about another member of the council (whose name is spelled differently in the report, which in and of itself gives me pause), it’s been a circus, and not the fun kind.
But what really happens is one of two things. Palm Coast voters either tune it out because they’re sick of it and don’t bother to vote, or they get hyper involved and suddenly conspiracy theories run rampant, good, solid civil servants get thrown under the bus, and people get mean.
But in the long run, we all lose.
The negative headlines that offer momentary reward as click bait and an evening of gossip last long after the election is over. Google, like your parents, never forgets, and when site selectors research our county or city guess what pops up? When a high wage company in the supply chain for the Space Coast with an aerospace project or a light manufacturing company is looking at locations with plenty of real estate and high quality of life for their employees, guess what hits the top of the page in the search engine?
And then residents wonder why we can’t attract high paying jobs to the area.
Because we support elected officials who thrive on drama and making a name for themselves, it comes at the expense of the rest of us and our children.
These are our children who we hope will land those medium and high wage jobs with the companies that come here because they’ve heard good things about Flagler County and Palm Coast. These are our children we hope will see the value in the community we’ve built and advocated for that created a solid foundation for their formative years. These are our children we hope will see the positive examples set by people who have made good choices for our city and county’s future, and one day step into these leadership roles themselves.
Do I believe any of these candidates are perfect? Not by a long shot. But I know there are some that will do better than what’s happening right now. That will be contributors to the success of my community, our community. That will put a plus in the column instead of a minus. Do we need people to be held accountable for the past? Of course. Do we need transparency in City Hall? Now more than ever. Do we need to make good choices in the next two election cycles? Like our city depends on it.
Please go vote.
Not sure yet? There are two forums this week:
Leads Into the Future: Tuesday, July 13th at 9 AM. Location: Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Palm Coast
NAACP/SURJ: Thursday, July 15th at 6 PM. Location: George Washington Carver Center, Bunnell