To: Bob Pohlmann
It is always good to hear from you. While we frequently disagreed, I have always valued your opinions. You are correct there was a degree of stagnation on the part of council over the last five to six years. Part of it was due to the economy, but a large part of the stagnation was a function of an entrenched council majority that was not open to new ideas, and a necessary and new path forward.
Over the past year, the new Council has been active in exploring new directions and establishing an updated vision for Port Orange. In the coming months, you will begin to see the fruits of these new directions. It appears that after a hiatus, Port Orange is once again rising.
Let me provide a few examples of why I believe Port Orange is rising.
The new Council has moved to expand our sports programs for our youth. You will soon see expanded offerings in competitive baseball for older youth as new regulation sized fields come on line this coming spring. Councilman Don Burnette has championed these efforts. Similarly, two new soccer fields will come in line early this coming year to increase our soccer offerings. Planning is underway for our proposed Westside Sports Complex.
The new Council has acted this year to reverse the decline in the quality of our landscaping. Councilman Bastian has taken a particularly active role in assuring that Port Orange improves its “curb appeal”. He has also been active in assuring that Port Orange facilities are adequately maintained, so never repeat the “roof” fiascos of the past. In the next couple of months, new landscaping will be in place on the north sections of Ridgewood and the East sections of Dunlawton. This will be the beginning of a broader effort to upgrade the overall landscaping of our medians and city owned landscapes.
Our relationships with our employee associations, has improved markedly. Councilman Bastian has been helpful in this regard, providing Council with a better understanding of employee needs and concerns. Councilman Bastian has also been instrumental in reestablishing the Fire Department as an independent department, the first step to returning the Fire Department to the premier department it once was. This month a new Fire Chief will be joining Port Orange.
The new shopping center on Dunlawton has brought its challenges. Traffic on Dunlawton is facing increased congestion. Councilman Kennedy has been relentless in trying to find solutions to these emerging traffic problems on Taylor and Dunlawton Avenues. His efforts to find fixes such as improving traffic light timing, and modifications of intersection, should lead to gradual improvements. Councilman Kennedy demonstrates that we need to take an activist approach to our traffic problems.
The new Council is far more active in oversight over City operations. While this sometimes may make City Council meetings more contentious, it will hopefully insure that we never again experience the misfeasance we experienced in Water Billings and Public Works operations. The new Council is also more open to public discourse. While activist input may make meetings “messy”, open meetings provide more information and a broader range of opinions resulting in better decisions.
There is much more occurring such as lower taxes, improvements in code enforcement, the beginning of the Rivewalk Park, too much to cover in a blog. These examples suggest why I believe that the stagnant period you reference is over. Come join the increasing positive dialogue as Port Orange rises from the recession malaise.
Best, Bob Ford
Hello Councilman Ford.
It is good to finally hear from a Port Orange councilman. I have been trying to open up some dialogue on a positive note for the last couple of weeks. It seems this blog has taken a negative aspect from what I am reading and I have found myself defending my opinions and my past experiences on the council. When I hear all the negativity it only sours me on politics both at the local level and the national level. Moving the city forward is what a council should be doing for its residents so thank you for informing everyone, on a positive note, exactly what the game plan is for the future.
What you have included on your list of present goals and accomplishments will improve the quality of life for everyone in Port Orange. The accomplishments of the past, coupled with what you have listed, are what the residents of Port Orange should be hearing. I guess it has been easier for some to tear down the good and dwell on the negative. Port Orange is too fine a city to be taken down by the naysayers. Of course I will now be accused of pandering but I choose to live thinking of the best. Let’s keep the dialogue positive.
However, I do have a concern about the election next year. Should another retired public safety employee be elected that would mean 3 former public safety employees from Port Orange police and fire would now sit on council. How would that affect contract negotiations? Is it a conflict of interest? Should all three recuse themselves from voting on a final contract? Who will they keep in mind, the 56,000 residents or the police and fire unions? Can they divorce themselves from that reality? I would like to hear your opinion on this possibility.
The irony of all this is that I basically support unions and pensions for public employees. Take for example the profession I am in, education. For many, many years the education profession was looked down upon as low paying. The benefits were somewhat good, pension after 30 years, health insurance, steady employment. But now educators are the target, as are the police and fire unions. Reasonable pensions should be the norm, not gold plated pensions for some and not for others. I really was not that upset about losing the last election. What was insulting to me was the Volusia Teacher Organization supporting my opponent over me with 37 years in education. When I questioned the VTO as to why that happened I was told that the Central Florida Labor Council dictated who the local union was to support. I have a fear that the Central Florida Labor Council will dictate through the local unions who their candidates should be. Is that good for the city? I would like to hear from you and/or councilman Bastian and from the next candidate from the police department how they will keep and open mind on granting gold plated pensions that their respective unions expect.