It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Angel City of Holly Hill
“I’m so disappointed with the city of Daytona Beach,” Hawes said. “The city has spent millions and millions of dollars on all kinds of crap, and they stonewalled us.”
—Robert Hawes, President, The Veterans Museum and Educational Center, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Downtown Daytona war museum finds new home at DAV in Holly Hill,” Sunday, September 20, 2020
It is a tale of two cities.
One, a quaint riverside community that is enjoying a vibrant renaissance while retaining some of the last vestiges of the affordable “Old Florida” lifestyle.
The City of Holly Hill – the “City with a Heart” – with its canopied streets, parks, outdoor recreation opportunities and traditional neighborhoods – has what other innovative communities are spending heavily to recreate:
A true civic identity and firm connection to its rich local history.
The other, a world-famous beach destination that, rather than capitalize on the greatest natural amenity on earth, remains a rudderless scow, unable to embrace those unique qualities and seaside character that set it apart – beyond the drudgery of recurring special events – that are quickly losing favor with long-suffering residents and proving unsustainable for local businesses.
As a result, the City of Daytona Beach has sold its very soul to a handful of self-serving real estate developers and wealthy insiders with a profit motive, who have stacked the political deck and proven, time and again, that their “vision” for the rest of us doesn’t extend far beyond the bottom line of their own bloated bank accounts.
Many do not realize that the Halifax area has an interesting military history – including hosting a Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps facility in the wartime 1940’s, where some 22,000 women received training – along with Naval Air Station Daytona Beach, where aviators and aircrew received advanced flight training utilizing outlying naval airfields at New Smyrna, Spruce Creek, Ormond Beach and Flagler County.
For the past several years, a group of committed local veterans have attempted to find a permanent home for an extensive collection of rare militaria, working diligently to convince the City of Daytona Beach to save the City Island Recreation Center – a unique part of our communities wartime history built in 1943 – a historic gem, now located on the new Veterans Memorial Bridge causeway, that has fallen victim to strategic rot – another taxpayer-owned public asset allowed to decay into oblivion by an almost criminal lack of maintenance, repair, and upkeep.
In the opinion of many, the recreation center would have made the perfect home for The Veterans Museum and Educational Center.
Unfortunately, it is quickly becoming evident that city officials are intent on destroying the World War II era structure in the name of what passes for “progress” here – a fate that became apparent last year when City Commissioner Rob Gilliland callously announced at a public meeting, “It is absolutely not a priority for me to spend $1 million” on the recreation center. The likelihood of that (building) surviving is not good.”
And, so it goes. . .
For the past several years, The Veterans Museum and Educational Center’s vast collection has been kept in a space above a shop on Beach Street while its curators searched for a place of honor at the Daytona Beach “International” Airport or a suitable municipal building.
Unfortunately, both options fell through.
According to reports, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry threw the group some proceeds from a local golf tournament – but it wasn’t enough to make a lasting difference.
Things looked grim for these veterans committed to preserving an important part of our history. . .
Now, the museum has joined forces with the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 84 at 605 8th Street in Holly Hill – a long-time veterans service center that will serve as an appropriate space for this wonderfully eclectic assemblage of our nation’s historical military artifacts – in a community that both honors and values military veterans and their courageous service to our great nation.
After receiving the cold shoulder from the City of Daytona Beach – who made it evident early on that officials couldn’t care less about the museum and what it represents – curators found a warm welcome waiting in Holly Hill.
According to an excellent piece by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Robert Hawes, president of The Veterans Museum and Educational Center, said:
“Hawes said he received a much different reaction from Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte.
“He said he was humbled we would move into Holly Hill, and he said the city will do everything it can to help,” Hawes said. “What a difference.”
Forte said he was very impressed when he toured the current museum site on Beach Street.
“It was just awe inspiring,” said Forte, whose father was a Korean War veteran. “It almost gives you the chills when you see what they have.”
Forte said having the museum in Holly Hill will add to the city’s cultural offerings, and the city will promote the facility on its Facebook page. Holly Hill doesn’t have the money to help out financially now, but might be able to send funds in the future, Forte said.
“We are very excited to have them here,” the city manager said.”
Wow. What a difference indeed!
According to reports, the museum should open at the DAV facility in early November.
In my view, Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte is one of our area’s sharpest thinkers – a true leader who looks at the concept of community holistically – placing equal importance on each part of the complex civic equation.
Clearly, Mr. Forte saw relocating the veteran’s museum as a no-brainer – a way to help a worthy organization in need – while contributing to the community’s cultural and artistic life.
In my experience, Mr. Forte understands the importance of working cooperatively with a committed group of elected officials and residents to develop the city both economically and culturally – with a strong focus on citizen inclusiveness and wellness – which has brought to life innovative projects like the Pictona at Holly Hill sports complex and a variety of beautiful riverside parks and community amenities.
In my view, this is a shining example of why the City of Holly Hill is the perfect – and most welcoming – location to relocate or start a business.
If you would like to assist The Veterans Museum and Educational Center as it makes the move to its new home, a GoFundMe account has been established here: https://tinyurl.com/y54x9azq .
Asshole Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
The “Do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy at ERAU reached its nadir this week when ten tuition paying students were unceremoniously suspended for the duration of the fall semester for failing to meet the school’s stringent coronavirus precautions at off-campus parties.
You read that right.
In a shirking release announcing the excessive disciplinary action last Friday, the University had the unmitigated gall to exclaim, “Doing the right thing requires accountability.”
If that is true, perhaps Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler should take a long, introspective look at his two-faces in the mirror – then do the honorable thing and resign. . .
As some of you may remember, in an excellent article in the student newspaper, The Avion, entitled, “Double-Standards: Controversy arises as Embry-Riddle hold first external event,” we learned that in late August our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mortenza “Mori” Hossieni, as the exalted Chairman of the Board of both ERAU and the University of Florida (?), hosted an elegant soiree at the 177,000 square foot aeronautical athenaeum which bears his name – the Mori Hossieni Student Union.
As telling photographs from the ill-timed evening depicted, the on-campus event was held without any adherence to accepted COVID-19 protocols – no face coverings, no social distancing, not even the common decency of recognized senior leadership setting a personal example for students and staff that the rules apply equally – or they apply to no one.
Frankly, the UF event transcended a reckless disregard for on-campus public health regulations, as it jeopardized Embry-Riddles sacrosanct safety culture, something that is omnipotent in the aviation and aerospace engineering community.
In turn, the student body and alumni were so incensed by the hypocritical arrogance displayed by Chairman Hossieni and his guests that some demonstrated on campus, while others took to social media to express their shock and anger.
I guess suspending ten of their fellow classmates clearly illustrates what can happen to one’s academic career when you piss-off the Big Guy, eh?
In his pompous, tone-deaf explanation for ruining the scholastic lives of ten students, President Butler totally ignored the dung-covered elephant in the room, and reinforced the clear double-standard that exists on ERAU campuses when he cravenly tutted:
“Navigating the Covid-19 pandemic will be this generation’s Great Depression. When you look back on this time in your life, you will want to look back with pride, knowing that you faced a daunting challenge head-on. You will want to tell your future employers and your children that you made tough personal sacrifices to serve your country. To everyone in the Embry-Riddle family who has been selflessly doing the right things – thank you. Your strength of character and patriotism will serve you well throughout your lives.”
How will you look back on this ethical dilemma, Dr. Butler?
In my view, this cowardly retribution for typical off-campus behavior sets a shining example of how the arrogance of power allows some to abdicate responsibility for their own actions while ensuring lock-step conformity by those they lord over.
Get used to it, kids.
Perhaps this abuse will serve as a better lesson than any professor could teach on how those who demand obedience to the rules – while totally ignoring them in their personal and professional lives – quickly lead once quality organizations into moral bankruptcy and ethical ruin.
Quote of the Week
“It is a shame I was not contacted for this article, since I have championed water quality issues for the county since 2014. Improving water quality is a long-term challenge. It could take decades to restore our aquatic habitats if we don’t support a coordinated approach. Water pollution did not occur over night. Therefore, it will take a long-term, multi-pronged strategy to restore our water quality.”
–The Always Arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s letters to the Editor, “Clean water takes commitment, continuity,” Sunday, September 20, 2020
Does Deb’s shameless self-promotion ever end?
I guess News-Journal editor Pat Rice and Company better tighten up, eh?
How dare they publish an article without Dishonest Deb’s input?
Earlier this week, I wrote about the not-so-recent phenomenon of egotism in politicians – a problem that reaches epidemic proportions during the election season – when public figures are forced to advance themselves against other strong personalities – apparently by any means necessary.
But Deb’s smug admonition to a news organization takes the cake.
Hell, it takes the whole damn bakery. . .
For years, as a perennial politician, Dishonest Deb Denys has cloaked herself as an environmentalist – insinuating herself into “leadership” positions on various do-nothing political insulation committees with impressive sounding names – using the position to take advantage of photo opportunities with goofy oversize checks (for pitifully small amounts) all while our lakes, rivers, springs and the Indian River Lagoon continue to give up the ghost.
Perhaps there is a reason why News-Journal reporter Abigail Mercer did not seek comment from Dishonest Deb for her informative piece, “Officials want to educate West Volusia on septic tank pollution. It’s a daunting task.”
Maybe Ms. Mercer, like everyone else in the region, is tired of having sunshine pumped up their backside by a craven politician trying hard to disguise her abysmal record on environmental protection and almost cult-like support of unchecked sprawl?
Instead, Mercer reached out to Jeff “Plan B” Brower – Dishonest Deb’s capable opponent in the hotly contested Volusia County Chair race – for his educated thoughts on this important matter.
As everyone knows, Mr. Brower has been front and center on the septic-to-sewer debate from West Volusia, to Ormond-by-the-Sea, and Oak Hill – talking hard facts with residents, listening to their concerns, discussing solutions to nutrient pollution with environmental experts, and begging elected officials to get more information before throwing good money after bad.
“We need to take the politics out of the equation. Conversion of septic systems to sewer should not be done for the benefit of developers in order to make their projects more valuable,” Brower said. “They should also not be skipped when the infrastructure is in place … because they are not politically rewarding. Soil testing should indicate a need for change because of excess nutrients in drain fields with inadequate soils.”
He also spoke out against the current widespread use of biosolids as fertilizer – the product of wastewater treatment plants – calling instead for a high temperature commercial composting plant to handle the material produced in Volusia County.
Clearly, Jeff Brower understands the importance of obtaining all available information from stakeholders – then developing commonsense initiatives to preserve and protect our sensitive environment from the extraordinary pressures of overdevelopment – something that makes Ms. Denys – and her campaign contributors in the real estate development industry – very nervous.
In my view, that all-important “trust issue” is becoming increasingly influential this election cycle – and it is painfully clear to anyone paying attention that no one much cares what Dishonest Deb has to say about anything these days. . .
And Another Thing!
Earlier this week, I called out Daytona Beach City Commissioner Quanita May after she launched a personal attack against me during her weekly radio program – issuing a seething “recommendation” that I take my information on the machinations of the municipal government from her directly – rather than analyzing what I see and hear – then expressing my personal opinions in print.
In my view, Ms. May’s rebuke – which included an arrogant diktat that I refer to her exclusively as “Commissioner” (her “elected, official title”) – was a thinly veiled warning – a cheap threat to my sacred constitutionally protected right to free expression, one that allows citizens to challenge the might and power of government without fear of official or personal reprisal.
At least one civically active member of our area’s economic elite, Mike Panaggio, owner of the successful Daytona Beach-based DME Sports Academy and member of the First Step Shelter Board of Directors, reached out on social media, referring to me as a “discontent,” and dropping a well-intentioned challenge that I meet with Ms. May.
“Give Commissioner May the benefit of the doubt. Meet with her and then write your follow up. We will all wait to see if you meet or not. As Lao (sic) the outcome. Who knows maybe something good can come out of this after all.”
No offense, Mr. Panaggio, but I will not be meeting privately with Commissioner May. . .
First – I do not trust her motivations. Not many of her constituents I speak with do.
Second – I do not believe she has anything remotely interesting or original to bring to the conversation, beyond what her uber-wealthy handlers tell her to say.
Finally – I initially thought she was just another clueless elected placeholder, supported by self-serving insiders who needed another marionette warming the Zone 3 seat – now, she just comes off as a nut-job with a God Complex. . .
A civically active friend of mine told me Ms. May was back at it on Wednesday, seemingly obsessed with the fact I would have the temerity to challenge her omnipotent power or opine on her performance, trashing me and this blogsite on the radio in her bizarre passive-aggressive singsong.
I don’t like bullying in any form, and Commissioner May’s self-absorbed abuse on the airwaves – where she is the de facto voice of the City of Daytona Beach – strikes many as a heavy-handed attempt by a powerful public official to force a civically involved citizen to sit-down and shut up – using her full might as an exalted “Commissioner” to marginalize the messenger and cast a chill on our right to hold government accountable.
That often happens in Halifax area politics when someone gets too close to the truth – our ‘powers that be’ find a dull-witted attack dog looking to impress and turn him or her loose.
I get it.
Rather than simply using (or rejecting) my pointed thoughts as a barometer of how others in the community might feel, she chose to provoke a public tempest in a teapot.
So, welcome to the deep end of the cesspool that is political debate in 2020, Ms. May – come on in, the water’s fine. . .
Mr. Panaggio might be surprised by the number of current and former public officials and members of our “ruling elite” that I have a friendly, productive and on-going dialog with – committed servant-leaders who don’t agree with me on anything – real policymakers and influencers with hard bark who don’t take political criticism personally – smart people who can look beyond their own narrow views and consider an alternative opinion.
I admit – I don’t have the answers. After three-decades in public service, I am not sure I ever did.
That’s okay. Not my job. . .
But it is distressingly clear that many of our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – don’t either – yet they will not admit it.
More disturbingly, they are not willing to thoughtfully analyze the problems using external input – choosing instead to salve their grandiose sense of self with hollow praise, listen to themselves ramble on the radio, or simply attack the messenger – while ensuring their political survival by doing what they think will help keep their well-heeled benefactors dragging on the public teat.
My advice for thin-skinned politicians who are easily triggered by barbed criticism – harsh as it may be – is to stay away from social media – which has become an equal opportunity soapbox for anyone wishing to voice their eclectic views and opine on the civic, social and economic issues that we collectively face without fear or filter.
And they damned sure should not be reading this blog. . .
Here is a free civics lesson for elected officials from the vantagepoint of 31-years in the fray:
Pick your battles.
If something does not directly improve the lives of your constituents, or progress the economic, social, and civic concerns of the community – let it go.
Squabbles with critics and gadflies wastes precious time, and makes you appear petty and weak-minded, unable to accept criticism and use it to your advantage.
That does not mean one must have a perfect grasp of their emotions – just don’t give in to your base instincts. It might feel good temporarily – but bickering with your detractors ultimately does nothing to further your political career.
Do not get caught up in formalities – like insisting on being called by your elective title – that just makes you appear like a vainglorious heel to supporters and cynics alike.
Respect is earned – not demanded.
Frankly, most people of real importance realize that hypercritical feebs like me are not worth their time – and they’re right. Elected officials of any significance spend themselves furthering the hopes, dreams, and needs of those they serve – and, in return – they earn the right to advance their ideas to the next level.
And, most important, listen to people, even when you disagree with their position, and embrace a diversity of thought and opinion – its both enlightening and liberating – because that is how we learn.
There. Take it or leave it.
Otherwise, Commissioner May would do well to keep ignoring those thin voices in the civic wilderness who try, time and again, to provide critical constructive input, and protect her fragile self-esteem by listening only to those with a profit motive who speak nicely when telling her exactly what they want her to hear.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!