City manager’s choice for E-Zone consultant draws criticism
BY JAMES HARPER
Elected officials voted unanimously to hire a consultant to help them identify people interested in investing in an E-Zone on the city’s beach side, but no motions were made or directives given to the city manager to hire a similar person for the city’s Midtown.
Both development areas have a master plan and both plans call for a project manager/coordinator position.
City Manager Jim Chisholm only found funding to pay County Councilman Doug Daniels up to $125,000 to develop the E-Zone.
The E-Zone is the name of a revitalization project for the core tourist area around the Ocean Center, Peabody Auditorium, Boardwalk and Main Street on Daytona’s beach side.
Conflict of interest?
Instead of hiring project managers for both redevelopment areas, Chisholm decided only to offer a personal services contract to Daniels, which has drawn some criticism.
Tony Ledbetter, chairman of the Volusia County Republican Party, has called on Daniels to resign from the consulting job Daytona Beach commissioners approved at their July 17 meeting.
“Mr. Daniels’ acceptance of a $125,000 consulting contract for his company, GDH Corporate Solutions, from the City of Daytona Beach at their city council meeting last week will raise the unavoidable appearance of conflict of interest on many upcoming votes the Council must take,” Ledbetter stated in a press release sent to the Daytona Times.
Ledbetter cited a Florida statute that states “a public officer or employee is prohibited from holding any employment or contract with any business entity or agency regulated by or doing business with his or her public agency.’’
“Any vote by the Council relating to the City of Daytona Beach and the several other municipalities that include beach properties, and there will be many, could be affected.
“By virtue of past experience Councilman Daniels is well-suited for the position he has contracted for with the city of Daytona Beach. But he cannot ethically or in good conscience hold both his elected Council seat and his contracted City position,” Ledbetter concluded.
Mayor weighs in
Chisholm said the process was started several months ago to hire a staff person only for the E-Zone, but he decided the applicants were not qualified for the position and it would take too much time to bring applicant up to speed considering pending projects such as construction of a Hard Rock hotel.
Though Mayor Derrick Henry didn’t ask the city manager to employ a similar consultant for Midtown, he did call on his colleagues to have the same eagerness when the time is right to attract someone to Midtown.
Before voting for Daniels, Henry said he understands the potential conflict of having an elected official from another body working for them.
“I have not spoken to one person who said you are not the right person. Either we are going to embrace the E-Zone or we are not,” Henry said to Daniels who was at the meeting.
Embraced by commissioners
City Commissioner Paula Reed, whose Zone 6 is located in the predominantly Black Midtown, also supported Daniels for the job but did not pressure city staff for a consultant for her area.
However, Reed did say she is excited about what is happening in the E-Zone and is looking forward for it happening in Midtown.
Zone 5 Commissioner Patrick Henry echoed her sentiments.
“As we embrace the E-zone, let’s not forget other areas. I’m talking about Midtown,” he remarked.
Chisholm did say the city is looking at someone to work on improvements in Midtown, but he did not go into specifics.
‘Image of impropriety’
Florida A&M University (FAMU) Professor Craig Huffman, who helped create the Midtown Master Plan, said at a city community redevelopment agency meeting in February 2012 that for the Midtown plan to be successful the same type of investments being made in the E-Zone must also be made in Midtown.
Both the E-Zone and Midtown master plans call for hotels, parks, shops and other businesses that will increase the areas’ tax bases as well as provide needed jobs.
The only difference between the two plans is their location and the ethnic makeup of their residents and business owners.
City commissioner Carl Lentz raised the issue of “image of impropriety” if they hired Daniels as a consultant for the E-Zone.
City Manager Chisholm responded to Lentz’s concerns.
“There is no conflict at this time. If there is an item that deals directly with the city project, he would not have to vote on that item. (That is) between him and the county,” he said.
Chisholm said Daniels’ qualifications include his involvement on such projects as a Hilton hotel, the Ocean Walk Shoppes and Breakers Oceanfront Park.
“We didn’t have applicants with the same degree of experience I found with Mr. Daniels,” he noted.
The Midtown plan centers around Bethune-Cookman University and runs north/south along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Fremont Avenue to George Engram Boulevard and is bordered by Ridgewood Avenue and Nova Road.
It is projected to take decades to fulfill the wish lists of both plans.
“In order for Midtown to be successful, there has to be new growth and new development and private sector investment. That is going to be the real key in the long run,” FAMU’s Huffman said.
We are at a place (where) the larger framework of (the Midtown) plan has been developed.
Hopefully it will be a blueprint to go forward for this unique historic part of the community to become a larger part of Daytona Beach and surrounding area.’’
Plans for Midtown
The city hired Huffman, along with his students and other design professionals from the university, to produce the master plan.
Goals of the Midtown plan over time include:
• Creating a “town center’’ at the intersection of International Speedway Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
• Establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as a “Main Street” (between Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard on the north and Orange Avenue on the south) with heritage exhibits, public art and a lively mix of entertainment, cultural, retail, residential and educational uses
• Expanding the Dickerson Community Center and add new recreational and aquatic facilities adjacent to the Dickerson Center
• Establishing a community garden
About $70,000 was paid to the consultants from FAMU to produce the Midtown plan.
More than $300,000 was paid to consultants to produce the E-Zone plan.