JUST THE FACTS
Just The Facts
Vigorous debate over policy, priorities, actions and the approach to governing is a healthy part of our electoral system. However, there simply is no place in our political process for misrepresenting facts to the voters through lies, purposeful distortion or hypocrisy. Sadly, it has become necessary to correct the record on a great many misrepresentations being perpetuated by one of my opponents in this race. The best disinfectant for this type of political misconduct is truth – Just The Facts!
Issue 1: Let the People Vote
My opponent has repeatedly criticized me for the County Council’s decision to put a proposed half-cent infrastructure sales tax on the ballot in 2019, hypocritically asserting that makes me pro-tax.
Just The Facts: The decision to place the sales tax on the ballot was made at the request of our 16 cities. Because Volusia is a Charter County, the Charter is the governing jurisdiction requiring the county to place the request on the ballot for a countywide referendum. I took no action to influence the outcome of the sales tax referendum either way. I simply agreed that the voters should be allowed to decide the matter, as the cities had requested we do. Ironically, this is exactly the same position that my opponent is now taking regarding the ECHO and Volusia Forever tax referendum – let the people vote. Click here to listen to my opponent stating this position during a candidates forum on July 22, 2020 hosted by Citizens for Ormond Beach. Simply put, this is political hypocrisy!
Issue 2: Forensic Audit
One of my opponents has repeatedly said that if elected, his number one priority will be to order a forensic audit of all of the County’s spending over the last several years.
Just The Facts: The County already has an internal auditor to ensure fiscal openness, transparency and accountability. But an outside, forensic audit is something completely different – and much, much more expensive. What this opponent doesn’t seem to understand is that a forensic audit is usually employed to drill down into one specific area of concern because it’s such a highly-detailed and complex look into every financial transaction. To do that for an entire County budget over several years would be an unbelievably expensive and labor-intensive task. Any financial expert will tell you that the cost of such an undertaking would be around $5 million or more. How on one hand will you cut the entire budget 5% and then spend more than $5 million?
Issue 3: The Budget
Click here to hear one of my opponents calling for a 5%, across-the-board cut in the County budget. It’s a popular sound bite and political applause line from someone who has never had to balance a government budget with the public’s service needs. So let’s look at the real facts.
Just The Facts:
If he’s talking about the entire operating budget, a 5% reduction would require $40 million in cuts. In just the General Fund alone, a 5% reduction would require $13 million in cuts. The reality is that public protection accounts for 72% of the General Fund. So an across-the-board cut would mean reckless and irresponsible reductions in public safety services provided by the sheriff’s office, fire services, ambulance service, beach safety, animal services, corrections and emergency management. Given that public safety is the number one priority, I don’t think anyone wants to reduce the level of those critical services. So if you exclude public protection from your cuts, then you would need to reduce the remainder of the General Fund by nearly 20% -- and that means drastic cuts or even total elimination of things like parks, road maintenance and community services. I believe the county budget is conservative and fiscally responsible and provides for the essential services that our residents need and want. In my time on the Council, I don’t recall any citizen requesting less service. Any candidate proposing an across-the-board budget cut has a responsibility to tell the voters exactly how they would do it and what programs and services would be on the chopping block. I’m not saying that the budget can’t be reduced. In fact, the proposed overall operating budget for the next fiscal year is a $3.7 million reduction from the current adopted operating budget. But this was done in a smart and strategic way that minimizes the impact. An indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cut such as what one of my opponents has suggested isn’t good fiscal policy and it also isn’t leadership. It’s just sound bite politics.
Issue 4: Taxes
During a June 23, 2020 appearance on the Marc Bernier radio program, one of my opponents said that the county’s taxes go up every year and he predicted that they’ll go up again next year. Here’s his direct quote: “Where I’m coming from is anticipating a tax increase. I haven’t heard anybody propose that, but I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve seen that that’s what happens every year.”
Just The Facts: Wrong on both counts. The county controls 10 tax funds. Next year, the tax rates for 9 of those 10 funds are being completely rolled back. For taxpayers, the net result will be a reduction in taxes levied by county government. To get the historical perspective on the county’s general fund, our main countywide, tax-supported fund, click here to view a bar chart. It shows that the current general fund tax rate is actually lower than it was 7 years ago. Those are the facts.
Issue 5: The Commercial Space Industry Opportunity Overlay
Earlier this year, the County Council adopted a plan to streamline the review process to entice certain projects that would bring in high-paying jobs related to the aviation and aerospace industry supply chain. Called the Commercial Space Industry Opportunity Overlay, it includes a map identifying certain targeted areas of the county that would be subject to the plan. One of my opponents suggested that this plan would open up wide swaths of the county to fast-track development.
Just The Facts: Click here to view the map. As you can clearly see from the purple splotches, the map designates just 11,735 acres for targeting of aerospace-related industry under the plan – less than 2% of the county’s total land mass. This is a well thought out plan with strict environmental safeguards and is good for our local economy and good for job growth prospects – something Volusia County desperately needs!
Issue 6: Volusia ECHO
Without providing one shred of proof, one of my opponents has claimed on multiple occasions that the Volusia ECHO program is being used as a political slush fund. Click here to hear him say it during the July 22, 2020 candidates forum hosted by Citizens for Ormond Beach.
Just The Facts: Volusia County voters approved ECHO in 2000 by nearly 60%. This highly-regarded program has immeasurably improved our quality of life by helping to build and expand environmental, cultural, historical and outdoor recreational facilities throughout Volusia County. Click here to view a list of projects funded by the ECHO program. Every single one of them has had a legitimate public purpose and has added to the environmental, cultural, historical and recreational assets that we all enjoy here in Volusia County. Calling ECHO a political slush fund for a cheap political sound bite is offensive to everyone who has worked so hard to make the program so popular, successful and well-regarded. My opponent owes everyone whose had any involvement with ECHO an apology, and you can click here to hear me reply to my opponent’s offensive and unfounded comments.
Issue 7: Volusia Forever