Interview with Matthew Falconer, Candidate for Orange County Mayor
Conducted by: West Orlando News
Date: July 23, 2010
WONO: Mr. Falconer, we will get to the constitutional challenge a little later, but first, Mayor Crotty in his final ‘State of Orange County address’ said that Orange County remains strong, despite the worse economic recession since the Great Depression. With the unemployment rate above 11.1 percent, record foreclosures, declining revenues including tourism receipts and the negative impact of the oil spill, how would you rate the state of Orange County?
Matthew Falconer: Economically, I would rate the state of Orange County an “F”. I think that our economy is failing despite the fact that we are the world tourism epicenter. I can’t imagine having Disney, Universal and Sea World and an unemployment rate of 11.4 percent. So, a lot of people are looking at that as a sign we are in a double-dip recession. It means we have been in recession for about three years and now unemployment rate is increasing. This means we are not on the road to recovery, rather we are on the way back down into a hole.
I think our economy is in very bad shape. I think real unemployment is closer to 20 percent and I really think a large part is due to the failed policies of my opponents, who happen to be all incumbents and career politicians.
WONO: A just-released report from the Department of Education, found about 35 percent of Florida students who graduated in 2009 have no college plans and that’s well above the national average of 30 percent. Central Florida is targeting higher paying jobs, which assumes a higher-educated population. Do you see a problem here and if so, how is this resolved?
Matthew Falconer: I don’t think that the government should plan the economy. Central Florida is targeting higher-paying jobs but, those jobs are typically filled by imported people–people from other places. We need to focus on getting jobs for people, creating an environment so people can live and be employed where they live. We don’t need to hire somebody from Boston to come down here to fill higher paying jobs. We want jobs for people that live and pay taxes in Central Florida and the only way to do that is by creating a healthy business environment, which we don’t have right now. Basically, taxes have become so high that the consumer has no disposable income and small businesses have been starved of revenue. Government can support job creation by lowering taxes, giving consumers more disposable income and in turn, small business will have more income and be able to hire more people. That’s the only way we can create jobs, otherwise we are just picking winners and losers and government is not very good at doing that.
WONO: Innovation Way East, which would have seen the construction of thousands of homes, shops and offices and would have generated thousands of jobs and stimulated growth in the area was recently voted down by the Board of Orange County. Did the Board make the right call?
Matthew Falconer: I came out against Innovation Way East because I think the residential density is too great for that rural area. I am not against development. I am not against progress and jobs. But, when you put 4,500 homes in an area that is rural with no schools, no road infrastructure, it is going to create problems for people that live there. I don’t buy the jobs argument; there is going to be no homes built in Orange County in the next three years. We have many, many homes on the market today with 10,000-a-year being foreclosed. We have a glut of homes. So, I really think that project application had more to do with the timing of hometown democracy, than the jobs that might have been created.
WONO: There is a Pine Hills Redevelopment Task Force working on a plan to revitalize that area. Commissioner Moore-Russell has said that once complete, she will take the plan back to the Board of Orange County to seek funding. As Mayor, could Pine Hills count on your active support for its redevelopment and would you be prepared to designate funding for its implementation?
Matthew Falconer: Yes, absolutely and positively. I did an event in Pine Hills where I said that, all their tax dollars are going to Downtown Orlando to build arenas, sports pavilions and corporate welfare projects for big companies. Pine Hills has been neglected for decades and so too have places like Bithlo, Christmas and Zellwood in East Orange County. All of our taxes basically go to Downtown Orlando. That is not fair. We need to make sure that everyone in Orange County has an opportunity to get a good education, good jobs and a high quality of life.
WONO: Minorities– African Americans and Hispanics–comprise nearly 50% of the population in Orange County. As Mayor of Orange County, how would your office reach out to this diverse group who has often complained of being left out and taken for granted?
Matthew Falconer: Well, I think they can be joined by most taxpayers in Orange County. In general, my slogan is taxpayers first because, right now our government puts special interest groups first. For example, the government is giving arenas to billionaires, while not putting street lights and sidewalks in Pine Hills. That is just bad public policy and our priorities are wrong. I would say that each and every group shares one common bond and that is, we all rely on a healthy economy. I am going to change the policies that have been put in place for the past eight years and foster a healthy business environment, helping people get back to work. I am not going to ignore anybody. My door will be open to anybody, at anytime. That hasn’t been the case for the last 10 years.
WONO: One of the candidates running for mayor recently got the backing of key African American legislators in Orange County. What plans does your campaign have for reaching out to minorities who remain largely undecided as to whom the next Orange County Mayor should be?
Matthew Falconer: They are largely undecided because, my opponents are all incumbents and folks are struggling. Unemployment has quadrupled under their leadership. Getting endorsements from elected officials is more quid pro quo, than it is the source of true backing. I have met with every minority group. I have been to the June Tea Party celebration; met with the NAACP, and have been to the Carnival celebration with Hispanics and Latino Americans. I think, politics and elected office are about serving the will of the people and that includes every single person. As I indicated earlier, currently, our government serves special interests and that’s because this fuels the campaign accounts of politicians. Everybody, especially people from Latin America have a healthy mistrust of government and they should because, the corruption in government is as thick as the air we breathe. It’s really gotten to a point where government does not serve the people; they serve special interest.
WONO: Last Friday, you filed a lawsuit against Orange County asking that the SunRail agreement be declared unconstitutional. How do you see this playing out?
Matthew Falconer: I filed the constitutional challenge because it is unconstitutional for the current elected officials to bind the hands of future Commissions with unfunded spending programs. SunRail will cost as much as $4 billion over the next 20 years and less than half of that money is accounted for. So, what happens is, they don’t have a dedicated funding source and we are going to be forced to cut education, public safety and other social services. The government is now discussing closing healthcare clinics for the poor–the Primary Care Access Network (PCAN) clinics, which only cost $15 million a year, yet they can afford to give a billionaire a $600 million arena. Rape crisis centers are being closed—this was in the newspaper today–yet we can afford a $4 billion rail system that 99.9 percent of people aren’t going to use. I think it is a question of wrong priorities.
What’s going to happen to the SunRail lawsuit is this–the County will file a motion to dismiss on some technical grounds. They’ll lose and then we’ll go to court. I am going to make them take the stand and under oath say, why they didn’t put SunRail on the ballot.
In 2003, a commuter rail was on the ballot with mobility 20/20 when, we, the people rejected it. So, somebody decided between 2003 and now that we shouldn’t put SunRail on the ballot and essentially do an end run around the Constitution, because they thought perhaps, we wouldn’t approve it again. That is what the Constitutional challenge is about. Why did they put it on the ballot in 2003 and why did they not put it on the ballot this time? Again, an end run was done around the Constitution and so, I think, the courts will find in our favor.
WONO: Why should Orange County voters elect Matthew Falconer as the next mayor of Orange County?
Matthew Falconer: Quite simply because, I understand how our small business economy works. Government does not create jobs, small business creates jobs. My economic recovery plan will create an environment where small businesses can re-hire our unemployed work force. My plan includes, lowering taxes by reducing waste in government, rolling back impact fees, encouraging investment in our communities, and granting tax holidays so people will buy up our housing stock and small businesses would begin to grow again.
I am running against three career politicians who have been in office for a combined total of 22 years. So, if you want four more years of high taxes and high unemployment, you have three choices. But, if you want lower taxes and a healthy economy, Matthew Falconer is your best choice for Orange County Mayor.
WONO: How is your mayoral campaign going?
Matthew Falconer: It is great. It is a marathon and roller coaster. But, for a person who is new to politics, a person who is not part of the establishment and does not have special-interest-group backing, we are making a big dent in the holes and I think that we will come out on top.
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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