It's all about the money
All candidates are now qualified for the 2022 Ormond Beach city election, and Mayor Bill Partington continues to amass an enormous war chest of campaign contributions. Through July 1, the mayor’s campaign contributions total $48,475, with the election still three-and-a-half months away.
He will probably exceed his 2020 election total when he banked more than $60,000. Breaking down that money. six contributors who had received waivers, incentives and over $2 million in downtown Community Redevelopment Act grants donated a total of $10,100. Thirteen developers, corporations and consultants doing business with the city wrote checks for $22,350. Three out of town companies added $3,000 — what’s that about? Six statewide political action committees based in Tallahassee contributed $6,000. Why is Tallahassee sending campaign money to a candidate in Ormond Beach? Local PACs chipped in $1,150. The categories noted above totaled $42,600 of his total $60,000 contributions. That’s a lot of special interest money for a candidate in a local election.
This year’s 2022 total to date of $48,475 includes only one Tallahassee PAC at $1,000. Five downtown CRA recipients contributed $8,250. Seven developers, corporations and consultants doing business with the city donated $19,750. A pair of political consultants added $150, former and current City Commissioners and their family members totaled $500, and citizen advisory board members and family another $1,250. Of the current mayor’s 2022 total to date, $29,650 is from developers and special interests. That money will buy a lot of big signs on Granada.
Hefty contributions from corporations and special interests proved a decisive factor in the incumbent’s victory in the 2020 mayoral race. Unknown is whether the campaign donations were thanks for past favors, down payments on future favors, or both.
Businesses, corporations and special interests continue to influence local public policies, city government decisions and election outcomes. The current mayor’s 19-year voting record has been consistently pro-development, pro-business, and pro-contributor, sacrificing the city’s environment, green space, and historic character — for unbridled growth and over-development.
To sum things up, this election year will be more of the same — heavy-duty money support for the incumbent from developers and those companies and individuals whose future income is derived from favorable decisions by our existing mayor. It is time for all the voters in this city to act. Are you tired of: 1) seeing our green spaces disappear to clear-cutting; 2) improper re-zoning and placement of commercial business near residential property; and 3) the unjustified high-density zoning of new residential projects adjacent to already existing low-density developments. If so, again, this November is the voters’ time to act.
Editor's note: Bill Partington was given a chance to respond in 200 words or less. His response is as follows:
I’m proud to have the continued support of the Ormond Beach Community. I care about my hometown and it takes hard teamwork to provide some of the lowest tax and utility rates in Volusia County, limited growth (approximately 1% per year), and strong support for our great employees.
It’s a record I am proud of, but with inflation, elections cost more than ever — which forces my colleagues and I to fundraise. You need look no further than the U.S. Senate race in Florida where Marco Rubio and Val Demings have raised a combined $72 million for their campaigns.
As shown in 2018 and 2020, the majority of residents seem pleased with the low, slow growth policies I have worked so hard on. We have reduced every recent development proposal by as much as 30% of the original proposals. And we’ve carefully managed the budget, which keeps taxes low, something always important. Lastly, I’m proud that we created a dedicate millage for first responder vehicles and equipment, which demonstrates our commitment to public safety and protecting our city’s heroes.
I am proud to seek reelection this year to continue providing residents with the leadership needed to keep these initiatives moving.
Questions: Ormond Sale of Water and Sewer Services to Avalon Park
Ormond Beach has already agreed to sell water and sewer services to the Avalon Park mega-development in Daytona Beach, according to a report in the July 18 News-Journal, and confirmed by developer Beat Kahli. The site plan shows an extension of Hand Avenue westward over I-95 and the Tomoka River to connect with the mega-community. Estimated cost: $50 million.
When did the city formally make the Avalon Park service decision? Was there a public hearing and a commission vote? Where can we find the cost-benefit analysis for this agreement?
Providing water service would require our city to petition the St. Johns River Water Management District to raise our Consumptive Use Permit from 7 million gallons a day to 11 million gallons a day. The proposed deal would sell Ormond water at wholesale price through a single connection, with Daytona Beach responsible for infrastructure and metering of Avalon Park homes. Is this why Ormond Beach funded $2.38 million for a second raw water main along State Road 40 west of I-95?
On Jan. 18, the City Commission approved a contract for preliminary engineering design for a second sewer plant on the western boundary of our city. At that meeting, Public Works Director Shawn Finley acknowledged that 50-60% of the need for the second sewer plant is driven by potential service to the planned Avalon Park development in Daytona Beach, now reported at 10,000 homes and 200,000 square feet of commercial space.
Is this why Ormond Beach water and sewer rates increased significantly in 2021, with an identical rate increase to be added on as of Oct. 1?
Years ago, when a court allowed Daytona Beach to annex on our side of the service boundary line, the judge said Ormond could retain the right (but had no obligation) to provide water and sewer to the annexed territory.
Mayor Partington, why no transparency or opportunity for citizen input on a decision that will enable massive development on our city's border? How will Ormond Beach ever recover the capital costs of providing these essential services to Daytona Beach? Why enable adjacent over-development in a city that broke our interlocal agreement with a problematic annexation we challenged in court? Why burden our taxpayers with a second sewer plant to serve Avalon Park?
When will our citizens be given a full accounting of how this decision was made and how it benefits Ormond Beach?
Tax rate is going down
I was disheartened to read the front-page headline on July 21, “City’s Tax Rate Is Going Up”, which I believe was greatly misleading to Ormond Beach residents. For one, the millage rate did not go up, and a correction by this newspaper has already indicated that. But beyond that, it was pointed out that the city is not going to the rollback rate this year, which using a technical definition provided in an arcane law, requires that such a decision be labeled a “tax increase."
The reality is the rate is going down – from 3.7610 to 3.5587, which will result in a lower tax bill than almost every resident paid last year, even when our increase in property values is factored in. This is great news. The fact that the Ormond Beach City Commissioners can continue to provide world-class services and keep our city safe, clean, and affordable at the same time should be universally celebrated. Sadly, it will not, because the demagogues that plague our community will find new and inventive ways to complain about a tax rate which ranks second-lowest of all Volusia cities.
In 1963, the Legislature passed a law requiring cities to publicly-shame themselves if they did not go to rollback each year. Apparently, the drafters of this law failed to envision inflation and $5 gallons of gas. Instead they chose to hold local governments to an impossible standard, one that neither the state nor federal government lives by. To compare apples to apples, does anyone reading this consider it a tax “increase” when you get a pay raise and then pay a portion of that to Uncle Same every April 15? When the purchase price of items go up and the 6.5% sales tax we send to Tallahassee results in a higher dollar amount paid, should we then also consider that a tax “increase”? Words matter, and unfortunately some very outdated words paint an unflattering picture of what really occurs in our beautiful city. I will look forward to paying less in city property taxes this November while also taking comfort in knowing our commissioners will have passed a budget raising only enough funds to meet our city’s needs the way we expect. If only other cities and governing bodies could be as fiscally-prudent as this one.
Now in the primary campaign season for Ormond Beach City Commission and Volusia County Council candidates, my thoughts turn to what makes trusted public officials. Retired Lt. Col. Pete Kilmer, a retired ethics professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, identified four fundamental characteristics of trusted military leaders: honesty, reliability, competence and compassion. I believe these exact characteristics should apply to political officials.
First, honesty – the foundation of trust. Second, reliability. While honesty is saying what you do, reliability is doing what you say. Third, competence is having
the ability and knowledge to do what is required. Fourth, compassion is understanding and supporting those you represent.
I recall recent failures of our politicians related to these good leadership traits. Regarding dishonesty, last year the City Commission failed us by unilaterally choosing to demolish the historic Union Church for a parking lot without allowing our public input on the disposition of the church or determining the best use of the property, which it promised to do. The public outcry was heard far and wide.
Next, unreliability. For more than a decade, the County Council failed to appropriately increase developer impact fees, thus incentivizing mushrooming development without adequately funding related infrastructure improvements. In 2019, not having collected justified additional developer impact fee revenue, the council took no accountability and tried to help pay for infrastructure projects by pushing through a half-cent sales tax increase. An irate public opposed resoundingly.
Lastly, incompetence. Several years ago when the city advertised bids for fluoridating the drinking water supply, a commissioner made the nonsensical statement, “We should never, ever, be consuming arsenic, and for us to be putting it in the water supply … is unacceptable.” Rather than unnecessarily scaring people, if he had consulted the city’s water treatment manager, he would know that any minimal amount of arsenic which may be present in the fluoridation chemical applied to our water supply is simply undetectable, and therefore poses no risk to our consumers. If arsenic were a threat to our drinking water, then the city residents could be ill or dead. We must reject incompetence and rely on facts.
We each have the responsibility to examine candidates carefully. Google them. Email them. Ask questions like: How can we be sure you will set aside your personal views when making decisions that will impact our community? And that you will do your due diligence on issues? Also, who are your largest special interest donors who may expect favoritism? Get answers before you vote.
Jerry A. Valcik