Interview with Mr. Matthew Falconer–Orange County Mayoral Candidate
Conducted by: West Orlando News
Date: March 10th 2010
WONO: Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about Matt Falconer?
Matthew Falconer: My name is Matthew Falconer and I am a candidate for Orange County Mayor. I am a small business owner, I have been married to my wife, Cheri for 20 years, and we have two teenage children Michael and Chrystie. I got into politics because I believe that our policy of taxing, spending, and increasing debt is harmful to the future of our economy and of our nation.
WONO: Could you please tell us a little bit more about what prompted you to run for Mayor of Orange County? What led to that decision?
Matthew Falconer: I have written two books on how to deliver government services more efficiently. In my books I’ve stated why a high level of government spending is harmful to our country. Everybody that I talk to agrees with me and said we need somebody in an elected official capacity to implement those reforms, and set that new direction. So, I decided to run for office to change the direction of our high tax, high spending government ways.
WONO: The unemployment rate in Orange County last December stood at a high 11.8 percent. I know you have elaborated an Orange County Economic Recovery Plan. Talk a bit about how you see jobs being created in Orange County?
Matthew Falconer: Almost 80 percent of all jobs are created by small business. My Economic Recovery Plan will create a healthy small business environment by lowering taxes, giving consumers more disposable income to spend in our small business economy, and by attracting capital from outside of Florida to buy up our housing stock in Florida, and put contractors back to work. It is the exact opposite of what my opponents have done over the last eight years.
WONO: In 2008, you founded the Orange County Tax Payer Review Board. You believe that through the consolidation of services, over $1 billion might be saved annually. Could you elaborate on how precisely the savings would be realized?
Matthew Falconer: My entire book is 235 pages on how we can reduce waste in government, and lower taxes, while at the same time improving services. We need to get rid of the turf wars between local and county governments and between the different agencies, and eliminate the duplication and waste that everybody knows exists in government. The $1 billion is potential savings and I don’t believe that anyone can get all those things accomplished. If we lower taxes by the $1 billion dollars that money would go, instead of to government, into the small business economy, like small restaurants, nail salons and movie theaters. It would in itself improve the economy in Orange County, probably more than anything that we can do.
WONO: What role do you see for the private sector in getting the economy moving again in Orange County? What is needed to enable the private sector to flourish?
Matthew Falconer: In my Economic Recovery Plan, I think that the private sector is everything. Government does not create jobs. It creates debt and taxes. The private sector needs to have a healthier business environment–lower taxes, lower fees, and reduced income taxes. Just to remind you where we actually were in 2003, Florida had the number one economy in the United States and today we are number 47. In that time frame, we have doubled government spending, doubled impact fees, and we basically killed the golden goose. We need to go back to a healthy business environment like we had in the early 2000s.
WONO: I know that lack of transparency in government is a major concern of yours and you would like the Orange County Charter amended. How do you see transparency and accountability being attained?
Matthew Falconer: Well, I proposed the Orange County Taxpayer Protection Amendment. This would require voter approval of all non-core service expenditures over $50 million. This way, if somebody wants to build a sports arena for a billionaire, the tax payers will have to approve it. This will protect the taxpayer from special interests. I think in terms of transparency, I’d like to make Orange County the most transparent government in the United States. I’d like to put all of my e-mails online for people to read. I’d like put every budget, every contract online. Transparency will create a healthier, more effective government. We need to protect taxpayers from the special interests that have dominated our local government for decades.
WONO: According to your web site, government workers in Orlando make exactly double the annual wage of the taxpayers who support them. You believe that this is unfair, and unsustainable. How would you go about making this more equitable?
Matthew Falconer: That is a City of Orlando statistic. In Orange County, I have proposed that workers that make less than $70,000 have no change in their pay raises. Workers making $70,000 to $100,000 will see a wage freeze, and workers who make over $100,000 will see a 10 percent pay cut, including my own, as Orange County Mayor. I think that the term wage parity is important because, government workers should not get paid more for the same job than the taxpayers who support them. This also goes to benefits as well. The health and retirement benefits for the government workers are much greater than the private sector. In Orange County, the average person makes $38,000 per year, and some of the benefits of some of the government workers exceed the annual wage of the average Orange County taxpayer.
WONO: Florida is moving ahead with high speed rail, and Sun-Rail seems closer to becoming a reality. Some argue that ultimately the cost to maintain SunRail will fall on Orange County taxpayers. Recently, Mayor Crotty said that SunRail and high speed Rail ought to be connected. There is talk now of an elevated system to connect the two. How do you see all of this? Are you a supporter of mass transit?
Matthew Falconer: I am a supporter of mass transit, but not ground-based rail systems. I think SunRail was the one technically approved by the Florida legislature in December. I was in Tallahassee asking my state legislator to take the money that would have gone to SunRail and put it towards education, to prevent cuts that are going to happen in 2010. This is becoming apparent as Orange County is considering the layoff 1,600 teachers. We can’t afford ground-based rail systems, education, and public safety at the same time. I am against commuter rail, known as SunRail, because of the consequences of the billion-and-a half dollar spending program. The Department of Transportation has said it. SunRail will cost local tax payers $1.5 billion over the next 20 years. Now, high speed rail, I am completely against because it’s a square peg in a round a hole. Nobody is going to pay for high speed rail that will cost $200 for a round trip to Tampa for a family of four, when you can drive there for $12, the cost of gas. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Every single dollar of that project will increase our national debt, which I am against because we are mortgaging our children’s future. I think we cannot afford both ground-based rails systems, we don’t have the money for them, and they both force massive cuts in education and public safety.
WONO: Orange County has a problem of homelessness and along with Osceola and Seminole counties over 3,000 people are chronically homeless. How would you deal with the problem of homelessness in Orange County?
Matthew Falconer: Just like the City of Orlando, I am an advocate for the No Camping Ordinance in Orange County to prevent homeless people from sleeping in the backyards, or in the woods behind our children’s homes. Orlando’s ordinance has basically pushed the homeless into Orange County and into our streets. We need to level the playing field in terms of laws that protect our children from homeless people. Beyond that, I think my Economic Recovery Plan will strengthen our economy and take some of those homeless people off the streets and put them back to work.
WONO: Mr. Falconer, it is no secret that crimes, shootings, robberies and murder is a major problem in Orange County and there are lots of guns on the street. What is the root cause of this crime and how would you go about tackling this? Does law enforcement have the capacity to deal with this problem?
Matthew Falconer: The real root of this crime is desperation and lack of hope. I think that crime increases in hard economic times and decreases in good economic times. If people have good jobs they are less likely to commit a crime. I think that the economic policies of all my opponents have increased the suffering and the crime in Orange County, because it’s hurt our economy. My plan for the Orange County Sheriff is to require a certain level of service. This would entail more patrol cars in each shift and in each district in Orange County. It would force the sheriff to administrate in certain ways, with more presence on the streets. But again, a healthy economy is the best social program and it is also the best crime fighting tool.
WONO: Does the population have the necessary skills to take up those jobs that you talk about?
Matthew Falconer: Yes, absolutely. Our people are well equipped. American people are the most versatile, hardest working people in the world. We just don’t have the opportunity because of the policies that have forced small businesses to close by the thousands. American people are well equipped to get employment and to get training by employers. We just need a healthy business environment to make that happen.
WONO: Orange County has been putting much emphasis on a green environment for quite some time. How do you assess the progress that has been made? I know that you are concerned about limited water resources. How would you go about protecting and conserving these resources?
Matthew Falconer: I think that our technology is going to solve our environmental problems. I think there are billions of dollars being poured into research and development of new technology in a free market place that will bring those technologies into the market and into our homes, in time. I don’t think that government needs to force that technology too prematurely because, it may end up with less than desired results. So, I think that a free market place, technology, and innovations will bring items to market and will help our environment in the long run.
WONO: Almost one in every 10 residential properties in Orange County is in foreclosure. Can anything be done to stem the tide of foreclosures and how do you see the foreclosure crisis playing out?
Matthew Falconer: I don’t know if the government can stem the tide of foreclosure because, people cannot afford houses and mortgages, if they don’t have jobs. The one thing the government can do is create a healthy business environment, create jobs so that people can afford to buy houses. A lot of people are actually voting with their feet. They are leaving Central Florida to go to places with more opportunity because of the failed policies of my opponents. My Orange County Economic Recovery Plan will result in the sale of thousands of vacant homes to out-of-state home buyers. And that will also put roofers, carpenters, and contractors back to work.
WONO: A final question Mr. Falconer, how is your mayoral campaign going, and will we be seeing Orange County Mayor Matt Falconer come November?
Matthew Falconer: I fully expect to win. We have an army of volunteers, not special interest, not paid people, but an army of tax payers who are tired of government serving special interests. We knock on 500 to 1,000 doors every Saturday. All my opponents voted to spend taxpayers money recklessly. In 2010, incumbents are going to get voted out in great measure and finally, finally, Orange County is going to see a candidate who will put taxpayers over special interests.
WONO: Thank you, Mr. Falconer.
Matthew Falconer: Thank you, too.
More About Matthew Falconer
Matthew Falconer has been a resident of Orange County for fifteen years, but he has lifetime ties to the State of Florida. Thirty years ago, he moved to Florida for the first time to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona. In 1983 he was graduated from Embry-Riddle with degrees in Aeronautical Science and Business Management. His years at Embry-Riddle also began his lifelong love affair with flying airplanes – something he continues to this day. “I didn’t know it at the time, but the discipline I acquired by becoming a commercial pilot was really the foundation of my career and the success I was able to achieve later in life,” says Matthew.
After leaving Embry Riddle, Matthew started his own business in the Northeast near his family – as a real estate broker and then as a property developer. It was there that he met his wife of 19 years – Cheri. Matthew’s second experience living in Florida was in 1989, when he moved to Lee County to help his parents build their retirement home. “I have always been grateful that I was able to help my parents live their own part of the American dream – by putting some of the skills I had learned to work in helping build their retirement home. I saw how important it is for people to realize the promise of a lifetime of hard work. But I also learned how difficult it can be to navigate the waters of local government. It was my first experience with local government in Florida,” he said. Matt’s parents lived in their ‘dream house’ for the next 17 years.
Like many people in Florida, Matthew moved his young family to the Orlando area in the 1990s to pursue a dream of building his own business. That business, Falcon Development, built and currently manages 17 commercial properties – most of which are in Central Florida. “Through Falcon Development, I interact on a daily basis with over 130 small businesses – in Central Florida. I have seen firsthand how fast and how far their costs have gone up in recent years because of the fees and taxes that have been created to keep up with government spending. And I have seen their frustration and fear that they just won’t be able to keep their own dreams alive,” he said.
Today, Matthew lives with his wife and two children in unincorporated Orange County in Waterford Pointe. His son Michael, age 18, recently graduated Edgewater High School’s magnet program and will attend the University of Central Florida in the fall of ’09. His daughter Chrystie, age 14, attends the Foundation Academy in Winter Garden.
As a member of his community, Matthew is a former Trustee for St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, and has been a member of the Rotary and the League of Women Voters. He served on the Orange County Public Schools Transportation Task Force. He is currently on the Board of Directors for National Semi-Trailer Corporation (NST), the third largest trailer leasing company in the nation.
In 2008, Matthew founded the Orange Country Taxpayer Review Board, in response to soaring taxes and fees that he felt were damaging the local economy. In the last year, more than 30 volunteers on the Review Board studied all 14 governments in Orange County and in a report issued in 2009, recommended over $1 billion in annual savings that could be realized through consolidation of government services and other measures.
“I moved to Florida in 1995 to pursue the American Dream. And while I’ve worked hard to get where I am, I feel lucky to be in the position that I am today. I have raised my family here and I do not want to see them leave Florida to find opportunity in other States, like many young people are doing now. We need to correct the policy mistakes made in the past ten years to ensure a bright economic future for Florida,” said Matthew.
Contact Matthew Falconer
4201 Vineland Road, Suite I-4
Orlando, Florida 32811
Web Site: matthewfalconer.com
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