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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020 1 week ago

10 letters: Follow the campaign contributions, Hand Avenue extension project should be abandoned

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Residents voice support for challengers and incumbents alike. Also, readers comment on our publisher's candidate endorsements.
by: Guest Writer

Money for police station should be used to bolster department instead

Dear Editor: 

It is inexcusable that we have a leaking roof in our police station. That doesn’t mean that we need to spend an estimated $35 million on a new 73,000 square foot facility, located on the very edge of city limits. I want to support our wonderful police officers and our world class chief, I personally believe that $35 million dollars would be better spent on more personnel and better equipment.

The concern I have is why they want to move the police station, because of fear of flooding during a hurricane. I looked into this concern using UF’s storm surge estimator and found that it would take a direct hit of a category 4 hurricane for the police station to have 3 inches of flooding, in fact according to FEMA, the police station isn’t in a flood zone, in the 140-year recorded history of the city the land has not flooded. Two of our current city commissioners have publicly acknowledged that commercial redevelopment is a motivating factor for moving the station.

When I reviewed the 2019 meeting notes they spent $30,000 to have a study completed to determine a new location for the police station. I also saw their estimates for a new roof, new air condition and found these estimates to be outrageous. I ask myself are they getting bids for these estimates? In the meantime, the roof is still leaking 2 years later, inexcusable.

Ken Smith

Candidate for City Commission Zone 2

Follow the money

Dear Editor:

Website examination of candidate campaign reports in the four Ormond Beach city commission races through Sept. 18: The mayor and the other three incumbents report over $135,000 in donations, most of it from developers, corporations and political action committees.

The four challengers, Rob Bridger, Tim Grigsby, Ken Smith, and David Romeo report a combined total of over $28,000 from retirees, individuals and their own bank accounts. No money from developers, corporations, or PACs.

The four incumbents received $2,000 each from downtown redeveloper Bill Jones; $1,000 each from Foundation Risk Partners in Destin; $1,000 each from A.L. Rosenbaum LLC; and $1000 each from Lewis Heaster's BHL Inc. Three incumbent commissioners received $1,000 each from the Living Life with Purpose PAC out of Tallahassee; $500 each from Waste Pro, the city’s solid waste contractor and $500 each from the Florida Realtors PAC.

Local developers backed the four incumbents with varying amounts: Paul Holub, total $7,350 from six subsidiary companies; Charles Lichtigman, Granada Plaza Group, total $4,850; and Vanacore corporations, total $5,500. A Mori Hosseini company and P&S Paving gave $1,000 each to one candidate. M. Ghyabi, a paid Ormond Beach consultant, and her attorney husband gave $1,000 each to the mayor.

On the expenditure side, two incumbents paid $2,500 total to an Ormond Beach political strategist who is an appointed member of the city planning board while serving as a paid spokesman-representative for the PBA police union. These same two incumbents made generous payments to family members to distribute campaign signs. The bulk of incumbent expenditures were for multiple glossy campaign mailers.

The mailers feature family photos and portray incumbents as environmental champions preserving greenspace, water supply, and the Loop, while protecting us from COVID-19 and natural disasters. They falsely guarantee high quality of life through smart growth, planned development and low property taxes.

Rob Bridger, Tim Grigsby, Ken Smith, and David Romeo, free of corporate influence, each sent a single mailer, challenging the incumbent claims and offering the fresh ideas reported in Observer candidate comparisons. Rob is retired, Ken owns a small business, and Tim and David are employed by local companies. Honorable and courageous, they face a tough fight going up against the business-as-usual status quorum in an election system controlled by money. A system only voters can change.

Mary Anne Andrew

Ormond Beach 

Editor's note: The Ormond Beach City Commissioners were each given a chance to respond to this letter in 50 words or less. Only two responded by the deadline. 

The incumbents have served us well

I am pleased to recommend the following candidates in this year’s City of Ormond Beach:

Bill Partington – Mayor
Dwight Selby – Commissioner Zone 1
Troy Kent – Commissioner Zone 2
Rob Littleton – Commissioner Zone 4

All are incumbents and they have done an outstanding job in leading the city in recent years. They have served us well and deserve to be returned to office alongside Commissioner Susan Persis who was unopposed. As a fifty year resident, I think the quality of life here has never been better and the future never looked more promising.

All have opponents who, in my opinion, share a pessimistic and unwelcoming no-growth attitude which is antithetical to free-markets and the opportunity, prosperity, liberty, and most of all, respect for property rights which flows therefrom. Their opponents want to re-adopt a bevy of onerous and subjective environmental and land development regulations which the city rightly did away with some years ago. They also want to reinstate a number of useless feel-
good advisory boards which do nothing but squander staff time and gum up the decision making process. Their opponents reject out-of-hand any discussion of a Hand Avenue – I-95 flyover before the full impact of the Avalon Park Daytona project has been determined and funding options evaluated. The same misguided attitudes and policies their opponents want to re-impose are the reasons much of the land south along Clyde Morris Boulevard and Williamson Boulevard, and the land west of I-95 south of State Road 40 (where Avalon Park will be developed) was annexed into the city of Daytona Beach and not Ormond Beach. And, it’s the reason we have a police station on one of the most valuable commercial parcels in our blossoming downtown area. Ormond Beach has seen this horror movie before: Nightmare on South Beach Street, and we don’t need an encore with different actors.

Investment capital is the lifeblood of a prosperous free-market economy and it flows to where it is both welcomed and well-treated. Our current mayor and commissioners understand this and it is obvious their opponents do not.

Ron Nowviskie

Ormond Beach

Editor's note: The Ormond Beach City Commission candidates challenging the incumbents were each given a chance to respond to this letter in 50 words or less. Only three responded by the deadline. 

Teacher doesn't need to apologize

Dear Editor:

In regards to the “Backpack Apology Sought” article in the Oct. 8 Ormond Beach Observer: Kudos to the gym teacher for doing what was
right. No apologies are needed unless it is from the mother of the student trying to start controversy. Anyone questioning “all lives matter” in any form, whether it be verbal or written, truly have to be racist. I can’t imagine what would happen if a student came in with a back pack saying “white or yellow lives matter!" 

The truth is that all lives do matter and most people do not look at the world in black, white or yellow. You are what you are and very good people are on all
sides. There is only a few that want to keep the controversy going.

The sad thing is that the education system seems to like the controversy and is promoting it. It has to end in the school systems and at home.

Please... Lets everyone get along and the world will be a much better
place.

Terry York

Ormond Beach

Taking the bait

The city of Ormond Beach just approved a $47,000 design for a new bait house expected to cost another $865,000. Zone 2 Commissioner Kent called it a “once in a generation opportunity.”

Citizens have asked for a new medical emergency center on the beachside to replace the hospital on A1A that was abandoned, then razed by Advent. Property crime in the city is at an all-time high with unfilled vacancies in the Police Department. Infrastructure leaks have become an epidemic while the city allocates millions in resources to buy Medjool palm trees, a church, a floating boat dock, a relocated police station, and now a bigger and better bait shop next to the floating boat dock.

Mayor Partington stated he would like to get input on conceptual plans for the new facility from the public, Ormond MainStreet, and the past Downtown Steering Committee. As he did in the 2018 election, Granada Pier Bait and Tackle owner-operator Ike Leary has already given his input: 2020 campaign contributions of $500 each to Mayor Partington and Commissioner Kent and $250 each to Commissioners Dwight Selby and Rob Littleton.  

Michael Young

Ormond Beach

Letter writer got it right

In last week’s edition of the Observer Lori Bennett was right on!

If you didn’t read it please do. If you did, read it again and remember this as you go to the polls in November.

And that goes for the County Council also.  Let’s start fresh all the way around.

Sylvia Meincke

Ormond Beach

Abandon Hand Avenue extension project

The proposed Hand Avenue Extension would bridge eight lanes of I-95 and require another bridge over the Tomoka River, a Florida Outstanding Waterway with environmentally protected buffers. This idea was first proposed more than two decades ago and still enjoys unanimous support from Ormond Beach city Commissioners, despite its removal from the county road priority list. The estimated price tag, now at $50 million, continues to rise.

The Ormond Beach mayor and City Commissioners have touted the Hand Avenue Extension as necessary to relieve additional traffic gridlock on Granada Boulevard when 10,000 planned homes (Avalon Park) are built west of I-95. (Keep in mind, many Ormond residents already use Hand Avenue as an alternative to Granada Blvd.) The commission’s theory is highly questionable in that most eastbound traffic using the proposed extension will likely turn
left on Williamson, Clyde Morris, or Nova, still ending up on Granada Boulevard, as there is no bridge to the beach on Hand Avenue. Additionally, east of Nova Road, Hand Avenue turns into a residential road with a 25-mph speed limit. Right now, most Daytona residents living west of I-95 use LPGA as their main east-west artery. The Hand Avenue Extension will make access to Granada easier for those residents, present and future.

A more likely rationale for the Hand Avenue extension is the opportunity to accelerate commercial and residential development of lands west of I-95, and to enhance the marketability of those properties.

The Ormond Beach city commission needs to abandon the charade of Hand Avenue traffic relief and embrace more practical traffic solutions for West Granada, where the commission continues to approve new commercial development.

Mike McLarnan

Ormond Beach

Fact-checking mailers

Dear Editor,

Glossy mailers from developer-financed incumbents keep filling mailboxes with misleading information. Claims made on radio talk shows and in public forums have also raised eyebrows.

Mayor Bill Partington: 17 years in office

Claim: “Spearheaded creation of Ormond Beach Environmental Discovery Center.”

Fact: The Discovery Center was the brainchild of a former commissioner, the late Joyce Ebbets. A half-mile directly north of the Discovery Center, development waivers obliterated 23 acres of environment on a migratory bird flyway, clearcutting a forest for a Wawa and carwash.

Claim: “…conserving our greenspaces and celebrating our environmental heritage.”

Fact: Voted to weaken our wetland and development rules, abolished the citizen environmental advisory board and development review board, denied citizen request for a tree advisory board.

Claim: “…provisions in place to protect our residents and community from any health threat…”

Fact: Failed to mandate masks in public against universal recommendations from medical science. Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, DeLand, Palm Coast, other cities mandated masks.

Zone 1 Commissioner Dwight Selby: 4 years in office

Claim: “Has led the charge to keep city spending in check…Fought to save you every penny”

Fact: Voted to buy a church for $780,000, a boat dock for $1.3 million, 105 Medjool palm trees at $5,000 each; advocates $50 million Hand Ave. extension over I-95 and Tomoka River.

Claim: “fighting to convert aging, hazardous septic tanks, reducing north peninsula dependence”

Fact: North peninsula is in county jurisdiction. The conversion was rejected by both county and city residents. No leadership to convert 800 septic tanks still functioning in Ormond Beach.

Zone 2 Commissioner Troy Kent: 17 years in office

Claim: “Hand Avenue extension will relieve traffic on Granada Boulevard.”

Fact: $50 million overpass at I-95 will actually funnel more traffic onto Granada.

Claim: “Proud of the job I’ve done decreasing taxes during a pandemic.”

Fact: Going to rollback saved only $14 or less for most homeowners. In election year, tax reduction significant only for wealthy, high-priced homes and large commercial properties. Revenue shortfalls from pandemic estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Zone 4 Commissioner Rob Littleton: 4 years in office

Claim: “Police officers and firefighters important to maintaining a safe and healthy community.”

Fact: Failed to support a mask mandate to protect first responders and other essential workers.

Claim: “Police station should be moved out of flood zone to free up commercial real estate.”

Fact: The police station, 20 years old, on land that has never flooded, reduces traffic.

Judith Ronci

Ormond Beach

Editor's note: The Ormond Beach City Commissioners were each given a chance to respond to this letter in 50 words or less. Only two responded by the deadline. 

The Rebuttal

Dear Editor:

On Oct. 5, Terri Kolaska submitted a letter and was advised it would appear in the 10/8/20 edition of the Observer. Granted, the general public has no say in the matter of letters being published.  But, being told it would be printed, one would just assume...

Anyway, it did not get in print as it was "bumped" for an article by the publisher, John Walsh, whose article was posted online 2 1/2 days after Terri's letter was posted. Her letter was written and submitted to promote her choice of candidates for city and county political positions. Curiously, Mr. Walsh's article contained a similar intent, but with a completely different cast of characters. Let's examine some other oddities about Mr. Walsh's article.

1. He states that "The following endorsements...are my personal views." Not only does he state "we" four times in just the first two paragraphs, the article is entitled "Observer supports candidates... "Who is 'we'? I thought this to be "personal."

2. Bottom of second paragraph:"My views are...culmination of conversations with friends...", etc.  Terri (and I) had conversations with numerous local people also, probably not in the same social circles as Mr. Walsh's contacts. But, through Terri, our contacts deserved to have their voices heard too, in a timely manner.

3. Walsh supports the Hand Avenue Extension as does the current city commission. This will destroy Ormond Beach and the wetlands west of I-95 to Tymber Creek Road.

4. I have been informed that the challengers for the mayoral and city commission seats were never informed that the answers to the interview questions were going to be used as a comparative measure between them and the incumbents for election guide comparison — the result of short answers to questions from Mr. Walsh.

5. Walsh endorses Deb Denys for County Chair. Denys did not even respond to questions for the "Election Guide" interview.

6. Walsh's article over 500 words. Terri's 'Letter' less than 200 words. (Note: Maximum 400 words for a letter)

7. Walsh lives in Palm Coast, yet is giving advice to you folks in Ormond Beach as to whom he wants you to vote for.

Walsh is the publisher — so, I guess he can do all that.  

If you have not voted, please do so.  Refer to Terri's letter, here. All votes matter.

Ed Kolaska

Ormond Beach

John Walsh Endorses Ormond Incumbents

The Ormond Beach Observer, reporting on our city government with a high level of professionalism, is crucial to the local democratic process. During the 2018 election campaigns, publisher John Walsh earned respect with his sincere written apology for giving discounts and reserved political ad buys to incumbents and their PACS. He was cleared by the Elections Commission of any wrongful intent.

The Observer endorsed the incumbents in the 2018 election, and Mr. Walsh recently gave his personal written endorsement to the four incumbents running in 2020, explaining his decisions were rooted in his inherent support of growth for business, advertising, and jobs. He agreed with the mayor and commissioners on major issues, including the Hand Avenue extension, their partnerships with developers, and the adoption of state wetland regulations that replaced Ormond’s strong standards.

Mr. Walsh explained that he compared the Observer candidate questionnaire answers with his own and endorsed the incumbents when those views aligned. A logical methodology, but the endorsement came as a surprise to the challengers who weren’t called in for interviews and were led to believe the newspaper would not be making 2020 endorsements. When they were sent the questionnaire, challengers were not told the publisher would use their answers in deciding his
endorsements. Not that a more transparent process would have led to different candidate answers or different publisher endorsements.

Each of the six questions limited candidate answers to twenty-five words. This narrow scope allowed little context and ignored other key questions. Has the commission acted responsibly in the pandemic to protect vulnerable citizens and essential workers? Should Biketoberfest vendor permits have been granted? What is the city doing about vacant storefronts and small businesses struggling to survive outside the downtown CRA zone? Are elections fair when incumbents receive tens of thousands of special interest dollars from corporations, developers, and PACS?

Clear conflicts of interest can be found in every incumbent campaign report. The challengers, struggling to get their messages out, have refused all corporate money. Some have had to invest personal funds to pay campaign bills.

Despite the disappointing endorsements, the Observer must be commended for publishing the candidate comparisons that provided a level playing field for challengers, and for printing reader’s editorials that allow all voices to be heard.

Ormond Beach is fortunate to be served by this gem of a community newspaper.

Lori Bennett

Ormond Beach

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