One Daytona: Does it ever end?

Yeah, I know.

The fabulous One Daytona, with its “symbiotic” relationship with the “all new” Daytona International Speedway, is a great place to watch an overpriced movie from a Barcalounger – and we’ve become so starved for culture in the Halifax area that a P. F. Chang’s is now considered exotic dining.

But when is enough, enough? 

Last week, an old friend and one of our preeminent political analysts, Mike Scudiero, sent me a disturbing photograph of a placard near the point-of-sale at a One Daytona establishment announcing something called an “Enhanced Amenity Fee.”

“Notice of EAF – All retail purchases at One Daytona are subject to an Enhanced Amenity Fee (EAF).”

“The EAF is an additional one percent added to the total amount due before sales tax.”

“The EAF will not exceed $350 for any applicable purchase.”

“The EAF will be reinvested to continually enhance the center, including its public space, mobile technology, entertainment options and public art program.”

“Thank you for your patronage of One Daytona.”

My ass.

“ACHTUNG!  You hapless piss ants – It’s not enough that we extracted $40-million dollars in public funds, tax abatement, infrastructure improvements and other “incentives” from you star-crossed fools to reduce our financial exposure and enhance our languishing motorsports business – now, we are going to wring an additional 1% from your skinny little wallet every fucking time you dare to shop here!”

Oh, you don’t want to support our entertainment options and public art program?

Tough shit.  Not an option.

You want to patronize the shopping center you rubes subsidized?  Pay-up at the register, asshole.

When does a “public/private” partnership turn into a usurious victimization – a parasitic exsanguination of the very people who were previously tapped to fund a private project with their hard-earned tax dollars?

As I understand it, the One Daytona Community Development District – the governing body which manages “community development services in the area” –  does not have the authority to levy an additional sales tax – but the board can charge dubious “assessments” which are tied to properties within the District’s boundaries.

Look, you can call this turd whatever you want – but this sales-related “fee” is nothing more than a money-grubbing tax by any other name.

My God, when will we ever finish paying for this thing?

I consider myself relatively well-informed on current local issues – but I’ll be dipped if I saw or heard any formal announcement relative to the implementation of this “EAF.”

The positive – if there is one – is that payment of this tax is purely and exclusively voluntary!

You can simply choose not to shop at One Daytona.

I, for one, will never patronize a One Daytona business so long as this usurious assessment is involuntarily shackled to purchases – and I will encourage everyone within my sphere of influence to do the same.

Not that it will make a difference – it won’t – after all, One Daytona is the “next big thing” and everyone wants to rub up against it.

But in my view – Screw these greedy bastards.

My money spends anywhere, and yours does too.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

On Daytona: Rock & Roll and Pink Flamingos

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!”

–Robert Burns, “To a Louse”

The very next line of ol’ Rabbie’s poem has been translated as, “It would save us from many mistakes and foolish thoughts.”

Sometimes to truly understand the character of a place it takes an outsiders unvarnished view of things to bring honest perspective.  After all, no one wants to acknowledge their own faults and foibles – admit weakness or willingly expose shortcomings – and our vanity and pretensions rarely allow us to see our own imperfections.

But others can.

I recently read an excellent piece by Jim Abbott writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal touting the almost ready for prime-time Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock property.

The piece entitled “Daytona Gets Its Groove” received a prominent spot on the front page of Sunday’s paper, and rolled out the soundtrack for the languishing project – 90-minutes of music selected by Hard Rock International’s music and memorabilia historian, Jeff Nolan.

The playlist – described as a mix of “vintage surf to sophisticated ultra lounge music” – has been released on Spotify as “Daytona Getaway!”

Given the Halifax areas rich contributions to the music industry and culture of the 60’s and 70’s – from The Nightcrawlers, Allman Brothers and the incomparable Floyd Miles – to our outstanding current crop of musician/songwriters such as Rueben Morgan and bluesman Mark Hodgson – I’m surprised Hard Rock corporate failed to solicit local input, and in doing so, missed a great opportunity to build community support for a property that really needs local buy-in.

Whatever.  Not my job.

Given the fact that many residents are still sore over the Volusia County Council’s retroactive legislation which pushed back their promise to remove beach driving from the strand behind the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock – a deadline of February 28, 2018 that is rapidly approaching – one would think Hard Rock International would want all the local goodwill they can muster.

What I found most telling was Mr. Nolan’s unique thoughts on his impressions of the Daytona Beach Resort Area.  Speaking in the News-Journal, Nolan said, “Daytona Beach is such an unusual place.  There’s a little bit of a John Waters-y vibe here.” 

He quickly recovered by adding, “. . .which is one of its big strengths.”     

Indeed.

For the uninitiated, John Waters is an eccentric film director, screenwriter, author and journalist who has elevated bad taste to an art form.

He is known as The Sultan of Sleaze, The People’s Pervert, The Baron of Bad Taste and the Pope of Trash among other monikers that even a degenerate like me finds too distasteful for print.

To fully understand Mr. Nolan’s spot-on analogy, it helps to have a basic perspective of John Waters’ absurdist view of the world around him.

In his cult classic Pink Flamingos, Waters cast the late drag queen Divine as ‘Babs Johnson,’ an on-the-run criminal who is dubbed by a tabloid “The filthiest person alive.”  Babs lives in a trailer park with her ne’er-do-well son, Crackers, and their “traveling” companion, Cotton.

Ultimately, Divine is harassed by the Marbles, a couple of low-life crooks who run a black market “adoption clinic” and are openly envious of her title.

The film progresses with what one critic described as, “…every kind of cruelty, obscenity and freak show behavior you can imagine, notoriously including unsimulated coprophagy and chickens killed during sex.”

However, there was one pivotal scene in the film that perfectly correlates with Mr. Nolan’s weird assessment of our hometown.

During one take, Divine holds a kangaroo court after having charged the Marbles with, “first-degree stupidity” and “assholism.”

Suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well in the movie – but does anyone else see the glaring connection between the offenses charged and our own elected and appointed officials in Volusia County?

Let’s face it, if First-Degree Stupidity and Assholism were truly crimes against the community, I know a few on the dais of power that would be thrown in the mythical Bud Light Pit of Misery for a long time to come. . .

Dilly Dilly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for January 12, 2018

Hi, Kids!

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:             Root Family Foundation

A grateful “Thank You” to the Halifax area’s first family of compassionate philanthropy for their recent donation of $10,000 toward progress of the First Step Shelter project.  The Root family is a long-time supporter of good causes, to include innovative woman’s and children’s health initiatives in Volusia County.

In my view, the Root family sets the premiere example of generosity and exceptional community service.

Angel:             Concerned Constituents Committee for B-CU

Last year, it became painfully evident that one of America’s most venerated historically black colleges had been systematically fleeced by a combination of greed and mismanagement.

At that time, concerned alumni began to speak out in increasing numbers to defend the honor – and future – of their alma mater.

When the news broke, I opined that an important first step to returning sanity and solvency to Bethune-Cookman University required jettisoning Board of Trustee’s Chairman Joe Petrock – and anyone else in a top leadership position who stood in the way of a top-to-bottom rehabilitation of the university’s management, administrative and financial practices – to include an investigation of the acts and omissions of those who are charged with overseeing these important processes.

When evidence of financial and administrative mismanagement began to seep out, a courageous former president of B-CU’s National Alumni Association had the personal courage to live up to his ethical and fiduciary responsibilities as a trustee and question the fiscal mischief that has left the struggling school with millions in operating losses, a declining endowment and mired in a fishy student dormitory scheme that may ultimately cost some $306 million over time.

Now, a brave coalition of concerned alumni have come together to demand accountability, transparency – and the ouster of twelve B-CU board members.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Trust is lost,” and a major shakeup in leadership is in order, said Sumner Hutcheson III, a 1972 B-CU alumnus, former B-CU vice president for Development, and now Co-Chair of the Concerned Constituents Committee for B-CU, which is advocating for the resignations and board reform.”

Look, it’s easy to point blame at former B-CU President Edison O. Jackson – and he deserves the criticism.  However, Dr. Jackson worked for the Board of Trustees – the university’s governing body who set the institutions strategic direction – including financial and academic policies.

There is strength in numbers, especially when battling entrenched forces within the cloistered confines of academia, and I commend the brave leadership and members of the Concerned Constituents Committee for B-CU as they search for the truth – and demand accountability.

 Angel:             Big John

It has been my pleasure to call Big John – who I consider the political conscience of Volusia County – a friend for over 30-years now.

As regular readers of this forum know, Barker’s View enjoys a monthly two-hour show on GovStuff Live! – Big’s very successful “educational, informational, inspirational” local public affairs radio forum.

In my view, Big John is the preeminent commentator on regional politics, with an incredible depth of institutional knowledge, wealth of insider contacts and a loyal following of “19 listeners” who serve as sharp-toothed watchdogs in the halls of political power.

While many of our local “movers & shakers” are afraid to join him in open debate on the radio – it is refreshing to note that I have never once heard Big treat an in-studio guest in a rude or inhospitable manner.  In fact, he is almost personally protective of those who join him to discuss the important issues – whether he agrees with them or not.

His ability to stick his thumb squarely in the eye of those pompous politicians who seek to feather their nests (and those of their uber-wealthy handlers) and explain serious governmental issues with a unique sense of humor – brings these lofty topics, and egos, down to earth where they can be examined and understood.

In my view, Big’s greatest asset is his ability to never take himself too seriously, and he certainly expects the same of others – especially those in influential positions.

If you are seeking a greater knowledge of the civic issues facing us here on Florida’s Fun Coast, I encourage you to tune in to GovStuff Live! Weekdays beginning at 4:00pm – 1380am – or online at GovStuff.org (listen live button).

You’ll be glad you did.

 Asshole:          Volusia County Council

 You know, I don’t really care when the Volusia County Council meets – or if they meet at all.

In my view, Gideon Tucker was right, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” 

I would add, “No taxpayer’s money is safe when that cabal of addle-brained buffoons meet in DeLand.”

 But I wish our doddering fool of a Council Chair, Ed Kelley, would stop crying the blues over how overworked he is.

“It makes for a real, real long day,” Kelley said. “And then we have events on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I need a break. People expect us to be at every event that happens.”

 Boo-friggin’-Hoo.

“A break”?  My ass.

According to Old Ed, the traditional Thursday morning meetings are just too onerous for our elected officials, and, after all – Ed was inconvenienced once when he was forced to skip a Volusia Manufacturers Association meeting to do the people’s business – you know, like he was elected to do? 

(We all know what happens when Eddie’s oversized sense of superiority gets inconvenienced.  The last time, it cost us a massive increase in beach access fees to $20.00 per day.)

This move will also give the uber-weird Heather Post an opportunity to “see-and-be-seen” at any meeting of the Florida Association of Counties without her pesky duties in Volusia getting in the way of self-promotion.

More important, God forbid the gang miss a bi-monthly klatch of the Volusia League of Cities – a farcical do-nothing organization designed to reinforce the overweening sense of self-importance of our local elected officials by conferring ridiculous “awards” and public ass-smooching’s.

In my view, the true reward for public service is the sacred privilege of serving your community in a position of high responsibility and trust.  The honor of dedicating your time and talents to something higher than one’s own self-interests.

The prize is found in hard work, protecting public confidence in our democratic system, never straying from our core values and abiding by the highest ethical standards – always focused on providing fair and responsive local governance.

That is the very nature – and gift – of selfless, purpose driven public service.

If you want to move the meeting day – do it.

Just stop whining to your constituents about how tough you have it.

If any of these shameless connivers on the dais of power – who prove time-and-again that their true allegiance is to their own egotism and the wants of their wealthy campaign benefactors – need a “break,” perhaps its time they resign their lofty position and make way for someone with the physical stamina and strength of courage to represent the good citizens of Volusia County.

Angel:             Flagler County Sheriff’s Office

Hearty congratulations to Sheriff Rick Staly on his agency’s recent acquisition of a $161,542 grant from the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Well deserved!

Last year, Sheriff Staly formed an impressive working group focused on developing innovative strategies to stem the rising tide of family violence in Flagler County.  In my view, the Sheriff’s aggressive, community-based approach is an excellent example of local intervention and inventive problem solving.

The grant funds will be used to add an investigator and crime analysis, both dedicated to domestic violence cases, and to assist with community outreach and in-service training needs.

In my view, Sheriff Staly and his team of professionals are demonstrating the true potential of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office – and returning credibility and public trust to this great law enforcement agency.

Asshole:          Volusia County Elected Officials Round Table

On Monday, We, The People were treated to the Grand Reveal of a privately funded study designed to gauge public support for the proposed one-cent sales tax increase – a shameless government money grab we are told will be used for transportation infrastructure improvements.

The survey – a process which involved less than one percent of Volusia County’s registered voters – was conducted by Clearview Research, a company that recently helped Palm Beach County pass a one-cent sales tax.

According to Clearview’s study, if the measure were placed on the ballot later this year, a half-cent tax increase would overwhelmingly pass.

Look, I’m no statistician – but not one person has told me they support a sales tax increase (except Big John, who supports the measure with clearly identified projects).

Not one.

Clearly, our powers-that-be aren’t completely convinced it’s a home run, either.

According to the Clearview study, “The half-cent option, while a little closer than we would like, can pass but will require a disciplined, well-funded, and well-executed campaign plus strong and nearly universal support from the local governments through the county,” the report states. “This effort begins in a good (but not great) place with excellent messages. If a disciplined well-executed campaign is launched, there is a clear path to victory.”

That’s some scary shit – and gives us a behind the scenes peek at what happens when private interests drive public policy.

Sounds like something out of a Pol Pot manifesto, doesn’t it?

You will get your mind right.

You will ensure a clear path to victory for Little Jimmy’s autocratic regime.

According to the Florida Department of Revenue, a half-penny sales tax increase would generate an estimated $45 million – half of which would go to county government, with the rest split among Volusia’s 16 municipalities.

That’s a lot of cheese.

In my view, past performance is the only true predictor of future behavior.

Volusia County has the third highest tax rate in the state of Florida.  Our gasoline tax has been maxed out and our elected officials have gifted millions of our hard-earned tax dollars for the private projects of billionaires, built infrastructure to benefit wealthy political insiders and continue to give exorbitant salary and benefits packages to the pimps who lurk under the dim streetlight at the corner of public funds and private interests.

What part of that would indicate our elected officials in DeLand are interested in fiscal responsibility?

Why do you think the millionaire members of Volusia’s CEO Business Alliance are so determined to see this tax increase become a reality?

Now there is a move afoot in Tallahassee which would permit tourist-development (“bed”) tax dollars to be used for “infrastructure” projects.  I wondered how long it would take for them to worm their way into that Pot o’ Gold. . .

When is enough, enough?

Screw these piggish greedheads – and their “well-executed” campaign to wring even more tax dollars from an already strapped constituency.

It’s time Volusia County government learned to live within its means – and that process begins at the ballot box.

 Quote of the Week:

 “The trust in Volusia County government administration is at an all-time low.”

–Big John, former county council member and radio personality, speaking the unvarnished truth at the Grand Reveal of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance funded survey to measure public support for a sales tax increase.

Have a great weekend, friends.

On Volusia: The “Re-Education” of Volusia Voters

On Monday, We, The People who ultimately pay the bills, were treated to the Grand Reveal of a privately funded study designed to measure public support for the proposed one-cent sales tax increase – a shameless government money grab we are told will be the panacea for our growing transportation infrastructure crisis.

For weeks, the mysterious survey of just 600 Volusia County voters – paid for by the Camera stellata known as the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – has been kept under wraps, hidden by the report’s strategic exemption from Florida’s public records law.

This privately funded analysis – a process which involved less that one percent of Volusia County’s registered voters – was conducted by Clearview Research, a company that just happened to help Palm Beach County pass a one-cent sales tax in 2016.

Of course, their Volusia County study found that, if the measure were placed on the ballot later this year, a half-cent tax increase would overwhelmingly pass by a 54-39 margin.

Wow.

Look, I’m no expert in statistical polling – but considering that not one person in my sphere of influence has said they support a sales tax increase (except for Big John, who supports the measure with clearly identified projects) I find the results of the study interesting.

Really.  Not one person I’ve spoken to supports it.  Friends, family, loyal readers – or the guy holding up the bar stool next to mine.

I’m thinking our powers-that-be aren’t completely convinced, either – because we are about to participate in an intensive “re-education program.”

According to the Clearview report, as quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The half-cent option, while a little closer than we would like, can pass but will require a disciplined, well-funded, and well-executed campaign plus strong and nearly universal support from the local governments through the county,” the report states. “This effort begins in a good (but not great) place with excellent messages. If a disciplined well-executed campaign is launched, there is a clear path to victory.”

Sounds like something out of a Pol Pot manifesto.

You will be re-educated.

You will get your mind right.

You will vote as instructed by your leaders.

You will ensure a clear path to victory for Little Jimmy’s autocratic regime.

According to the Florida Department of Revenue, a half-penny sales tax increase would generate an estimated $45 million annually – half of which would go to county government, with the rest split among Volusia’s 16 municipalities.

That’s a lot of cheese.

I tend to judge people, government administrations and dogs by past performance.  It is the only true predictive indicator of future behavior.

Let’s face it, Volusia County has the third highest tax rate in the state of Florida.  Our gasoline tax has been maxed out and our elected officials have proven – time and again – that they have no qualms about handing millions of our hard-earned tax dollars to fund the private projects of billionaires, building infrastructure to benefit wealthy political insiders and paying exorbitant salary and benefits packages to the pimps who control the nexus of public funds and private interests.

I have my own suspicions, but why do you think the millionaire members of Volusia’s CEO Business Alliance are so determined to see this tax increase become a reality?

Screw these piggish money grubbers – and their “well-executed” campaign to wring even more tax dollars from an already strapped constituency.

These people should be ashamed of themselves.

It’s time Volusia County government learned to live within its means.

That process begins at the ballot box.

 

Photo Credit:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Blowing the Whistle at our Harvard of the Sky

Hello, folks, my name is Barker and I opine on the news and newsmakers that affect our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

I don’t report the news – I complain about it – a dilettante editorialist, totally unqualified, but with a fire in the belly to discuss our uncomfortable realities and perhaps help right the wrongs.

Fact is, I have a solid 8th grade education.

My High School years are a cloud of barleycorn and bad decisions, and my lack of higher learning has haunted me all my life.

It’s why I hold those with advanced degrees in such high regard.

I have always felt distinctly less than my peers who took the time to earn a college education, and that sense of academic inferiority was never more evident than during my years as a law enforcement executive.

In fact, it is one of the very few things I would change if I had it all to do over again.

Imagine what a thrill it was for this uneducated rube when, as Volusia County taxpayers, we became unofficial members of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Jack R. Hunt Society in recognition of our October 2016 endowment of some $1.5 million dollars.

Add to that the $1 million we gifted to venture capital firm FireSpring to help fund struggling start-ups at ERAU’s MicaPlex research park – that massive glass and steel monument to University Trustee Mori Hosseini’s unfettered access to federal, state and local tax dollars.

Given our collective financial commitment, I believe the citizens of Volusia County have a vested public interest in the continued success of Embry-Riddle as our nation’s premiere aerospace education and research university, an important regional employer and a valued member of our community.

Last week, I was made aware of a disturbing internal situation at Embry-Riddle so utterly shocking that I took a long step back and contemplated the serious ramifications of this information to the institution’s academic reputation.

The facts, as I know them, are these:

Late last year, some incredibly courageous professors in Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide College of Aeronautics had reason to suspect academic misconduct by two senior administrators – then they acted to protect the university’s credibility.

These allegations include publishing research articles in predatory “pay to play” journals, self-plagiarism (passing off one’s own previous work as a new product), attempts to boost citations by citing unrelated research, and making presentations at foreign “conferences” of questionable integrity – while prominently using the ERAU affiliation to add legitimacy.

Most disturbing, the report suggests that, as members of leadership, the accused have been involved in denying tenure to faculty for what these individuals have described as insufficient research activity and/or quality of research activity.

Now, to you and me these charges might not sound like the Lindbergh case, but to academicians, those whose sacred personal and professional reputations depend upon their complete commitment to the highest ethical standards of academic and scientific integrity – even the appearance of impropriety can result in the death of a hard-earned career – and diminish the standing of the university they represent.

Because of these sensitivities, I am refraining from mentioning the names of those who stand accused by their colleagues.  Further, to my knowledge, this issue is limited to two senior administrators in the Worldwide College of Aeronautics, and does not reflect upon the dedicated professionals who prepare and present the world class curriculum that has made ERAU the most venerated institution in aerospace education.

In academia, research findings are subject to peer review, a formalized procedure whereby scholarly articles written by experts are carefully reviewed, challenged and vetted by other authorities in the field to ensure accuracy.

It is critical to the scientific process of discovery.

After all, these writings ultimately form the very body of our collective understanding.  Because researchers use and build upon the work of others – quality control is imperative to preserving the purity and accuracy of our knowledge of the world around us.

Given the importance of research publication to the reputation and career track of college professors, a disturbing industry is emerging – predatory journals of dubious quality which, for a fee, will accept and publish academic articles from just about anyone.

This includes the practice of these “pay-to-play” publishers hosting highly questionable international “conferences.”

It is widely known that these scam forums allow unscrupulous researchers to pretend that they have presented their work at an accepted international conference, or served as “keynote speaker” at an academic symposium.

While some researchers, many from developing nations, have been legitimately duped by these open access journals and predatory conferences, others in academia have repeatedly taken advantage of this unethical practice to gain a fraudulent advantage over their colleagues for promotions, tenure and career advancement.

It is the equivalent of padding one’s resume – a practice that normally results in immediate termination in places that value honesty and accountability.

I have been told by reliable sources that in November 2017, an internal investigative report detailing these specific allegations of possible research policy misconduct was submitted to the Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Dr. Michael Hickey, and Dr. John Watret, Chancellor of the Worldwide Campus and former interim president.

The investigative report contained multiple articles that were submitted to outlets which have been determined by scholars and information professionals to be predatory journals – to include presentations at highly suspect international conferences.

According to sources, the evidence in support of these allegations is known to several ERAU Worldwide faculty, including members of the Faculty Senate, who are described as “appalled and dismayed” by the investigative findings.

 (I have also independently verified to my satisfaction at least some of the substantial evidence presented.  The findings are compelling.)    

Unfortunately, despite an exhaustive inquiry by concerned faculty – some of whom are directly responsible for preserving the integrity of university research –  I am told that ERAU administrators claimed the evidence supporting the allegations was insufficient, and the accused remain in positions of high responsibility.

Apparently, the response from Chancellor Watret has been to simply tighten policies governing faculty involvement with predatory journals.

Unfortunate, indeed – and infinitely detrimental to the morale and professional reputation of faculty and students who work diligently to conduct and publish legitimate innovative research to advance science and technology in the aerospace disciplines.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen serious issues erupt at our Harvard of the Sky.

In 2016, a dozen former members of ERAU’s Student Government Association issued an open letter – accompanied by a petition containing some 1,500 signatures – questioning cronyism and conflict of interest by some sitting members of the Board of Trustees.

Then, professors voiced their displeasure over the wildly dysfunctional process for selecting the university’s next president.  In fact, the Faculty Senate took the unprecedented step of issuing a vote of no confidence against the board – the most powerful statement of disapproval available to faculty members.

At that time, I suggested the very real need for outside intervention at ERAU.

Given the still simmering tensions between faculty, students and the administration – coupled with these recent allegations of research policy violations – in my view, it is time for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges – the agency which accredits ERAU – to take a hard look at these serious issues which threaten the very foundation of this highly respected institution.

According to the SACS Principles of Accreditation:

“Integrity, essential to the purpose of higher education, functions as the basic contract defining the relationship between the Commission and each of its member and candidate institutions.  It is a relationship in which all parties agree to deal honestly and openly with their constituencies and with one another.  Without this commitment, no relationship can exist or be sustained between the Commission and its accredited and candidate institutions.”

Look, I’m not an educated man – and I pass no judgement on those who are.  The depth of my research experience is limited to examining the difference between crunchy and smooth peanut butter.

I am simply telling you what has been explained to me by credible sources with impeccable qualifications and convincing supporting evidence – information in the public interest that involves a very important regional asset and recipient of public funds.

In my view, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has an ethical obligation to the thousands of airline pilots, aeronautical engineers, and countless other alumni and students whose professional reputation and credentials depend upon the unquestioned character and integrity of the institution.

With millions of dollars in public funds invested in the success of the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex at Embry-Riddle Research Park – it is imperative to the recruitment of investors, partners and entrepreneurs that the university’s standing as the premiere aerospace research institute in the world be vigorously protected.

That requires complete transparency.

Quite simply, to preserve the public trust, the quality of the educational and research product must be above reproach.

I believe this begins with an independent review of these substantial allegations of academic dishonesty, a purge of anyone (at any level) who knowingly corrupts the system and an external review of ERAU’s malleable governance practices, which many believe are jeopardizing the university’s standing and future grant funding.

The dedicated students and faculty members engaged in legitimate research and the pursuit of academic excellence deserve better.

 

Photo Credit: ERAU

 

Angels & Assholes for January 5, 2018

Hi, kids!

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:

 Asshole:          Daytona Beach City Commission    

A common theme found in these posts is my vehement opposition to government’s open meddling in the marketplace.

In Volusia County municipalities, this takes many forms – from near instantaneous corporate welfare approval for billionaires, to asinine regulations and bureaucratic roadblocks that require entrepreneurs jump through progressive hoops, incur massive expense, and wait months to open a business.

This problem isn’t limited to Daytona Beach.

I’ve spoken to small business owners who have faced hurdles so onerous they simply gave up and invested in other areas of Central Florida – or hired lawyers to navigate the process – adding additional expense and aggravation.

It’s like running a gauntlet, and this is happening in struggling communities that can ill afford to miss any opportunity to expand their tax base.

Last year, after an eight-month fight – which included an ordinance change – The Nines Parlor, in my view, the premiere tattoo artist in the region, was permitted to open in a strip center on Beville Road in Daytona Beach.

Since then, this highly successful shop has renovated space and hired new employees to serve an expanding customer base.  In fact, the artist’s services are in such demand that there is a waiting period for an appointment.

For other tattoo businesses the battle at City Hall continues.

For months, Robert Mansour attempted to open an upscale tattoo shop on Beach Street in Downtrodden Downtown Daytona.  He offered generous concessions, and acted in good faith to meet ridiculous bureaucratic demands.

After all the blank stares from the economic development-types, silly committee meetings and absurd game-play – at the end of the day – this strategic foot-dragging was best explained by the stupid personal opinions of City Commissioners Ruth Trager and Robert Gilliland.

According to a recent editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Trager said it wasn’t so much Mansour’s high-end operation that concerned her as it was changing the rules to allow someone else to open a tattoo shop that could be “less than desirable.”

Say what?

Let me interpret Ms. Trager’s quibbling bullshit:  She doesn’t like the idea of tattoo parlors – so nobody gets them. 

Commissioner Gilliland was less cryptic when announcing “it’s unlikely” he would support the rezoning because he doesn’t “see any public purpose or good” in it.

Trust me – there are several things Mr. Gilliland has done and said in the past that I didn’t see any public purpose or good in. . .

On Wednesday, Mr. Mansour’s battle ended when the commission made good on their threat to defeat the required zoning change.

Only Commissioners Aaron Delgado and Dannette Henry had the courage and sagacity to support the rezoning.

Note to the Daytona Beach City Commission:  Beach Street is on life support.  Consider trying something new and innovative to breathe life into your beleaguered downtown while someone still cares.   

Why are local community’s intent on killing commerce in their redevelopment areas?

In my view, there is no room for this level of bias and maladministration in the process of approving or rejecting otherwise legal and regulated commerce.

Sitting politicians should not serve as subjective executioners – deciding, based solely on their personal whims, which businesses will be permitted (even supported with public funds) to compete in the marketplace – and which will be officiously strangled out of existence.

It is the epitome of political arrogance – and a disservice to the citizens they serve.

Either the City of Daytona Beach, and other municipalities, have a fair and unbiased process leading to a business tax receipt, or they don’t; and its high time those wet mice over at the Chamber of Commerce grow some huevos and demand a level playing field for investors wishing to do business in the Halifax area.

With millions of taxpayer dollars being pissed-away on the dubious pursuit of “economic development” throughout Volusia County, perhaps it’s time these obstructionist politicians are put out to pasture – and We, The People receive a full accounting for the money spent.

Asshole:          County Chair Ed Kelley & County Manager Jim Dinneen

Just weeks ago, Ed Kelley and Jim Dinneen took their Dog and Pony Show designed to drum up support for the proposed one-cent sales tax increase to the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce’s monthly “Eggs & Issues” breakfast meeting.

Normally, these things provide an opportunity for our “movers & shakers” to listen to each other talk – but during their December get-together, our doddering fool of a County Chairman made an extraordinary announcement:  The time is right to relocate the City Island Library and free the land for commercial development.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, when asked if its time to consider moving the library, County Manager Jim Dinneen said funding “hasn’t been identified at this time.”

Not to be deterred, Chairman Kelley advised that he supports, “reallocating some funds to make it happen.”

Then, Mr. Kelley explained why he supports closing the library and handing the property over to developers:

“Now would be the time,” Kelley said. “You have a situation where the library flooded. Do we want to go down this road again? I think if the opportunity presents itself, along with everything that’s happening, with Brown & Brown and (the courthouse), to have the ability to move or relocate the library only makes sense from an economic standpoint.”

Naturally, Mr. Kelley’s bombshell resulted in a strong response from, well, anyone and everyone who cares about the future of the Halifax area.  His monstrously stupid idea resulted in a landslide of angry questions – and fueled speculation that Volusia County is planning to remove established public amenities from City Island to make way for private development.

Then, after his suggestion went over like a turd in the punch bowl, at this week’s County Council meeting, Mr. Kelley took the time to explain to us all what he didn’t say.

Reacting to the public outcry, Kelley stammered out his patented double-speak, “I never, ever once said to tear the library down, I said we should look at possibly relocating it, and if I didn’t say ‘possibly,’ that’s what I meant.”

 I’m sorry – normally I can interpret Old Ed’s yammering, but I admit – I have no frigging idea what he was trying to say.

He supports moving the library, but not tearing down the vacant, flood-damaged building?

Then, Ed just kept digging the hole:

“My statement was, ‘Yes, we should look at it,’” he said. “I think anytime there’s an opportunity to make something better, you look at it. Who would want to have a closed mind about something?”

That’s not what you said, Eddie.

I think you specifically said, “Now would be the time.”

Let’s look at the facts – Chairman Kelley told a room full of like-types that he supports reallocating funds to move the City Island Library as part of a larger plan to demolish the Courthouse Annex and turn the property over for private development.

Later, Kelley went so far as to describe the land’s potential use to a reporter, “It could be a private use that could generate jobs or provide residences, but it’s not up to me to say what should go there. … We (the council) should evaluate the situation.”

Fortunately, Mr. Dinneen was able to provide worried constituents the final say on the fate of the City Island Library – “There is no plan to move that building.”

Or did he?

Trust me – the Dinneen administration can come up with a “plan” for just about anything.

If you don’t believe me – just ask the citizens of Holly Hill how Volusia County’s library plans worked out for them.

During the meeting, Mr. Dinneen took a moment to quash “rumors” that additional county services would be removed from New Smyrna Beach.

I mean, the New Smyrna Beach courthouse was recently shuttered to force the issue of Dinneen’s $260 million-dollar Taj Mahal court/office facility on Beach Street – so the good people of southeast Volusia had every right to be concerned.

In my view, this all-to-frequent ham-handed bullshit which passes for public communication is an abomination.

The complete lack of clarity on important public policy decisions, coupled with Mr. Dinneen’s pathological secretiveness, leave constituents grasping for clues and openly hypothesizing about “what comes next.”

Add to that the complete ineptitude and out-of-touch fumbling of our dotty chairman, and you begin to see the utter dysfunction that surrounds everything this administration does – or says.

Clearly, it is time for citizens to demand our elected officials develop a legitimate method for evaluating the effectiveness and professionalism of this continuing catastrophe of a County Manager, beyond simply rubber stamping an annual pay increase.

Angel:             Editor Pat Rice and The Daytona Beach News-Journal

In my view, our local newspaper continues to impress with their renewed focus on the serious issues facing thousands of struggling families on Florida’s Fun Coast.

The News-Journal is interested in telling an important story – one that is familiar to some 104,000 families who are raising children and making a life at or below Volusia County’s dismal median household income of just $42, 240.

With real estate marketing agencies and politicians whooping it up over the uptick in “opportunities” for millionaire’s in Volusia County – I find it refreshing that our newspaper is willing to look beyond the exuberant sound bites and bullshit catchphrases to examine a grim problem with long-term social and economic implications for all of us.

Good work.

Angel:             Volusia Mall

 Like most shopping malls that came into vogue during the 1970’s, the Volusia Mall is suffering the debilitating effects of advanced age.  I still drop in from time-to-time, usually to grab a beer and sandwich at Mr. Dunderbak’s – or buy a pair of shoes at Dillard’s.

Let’s face it, the look and feel of a once vibrant shopping center sitting vacant and abandoned to the elements is incredibly depressing – psychologically and economically.  So, it’s nice to see that Volusia Mall is working hard to stay relevant in a marketplace still dominated by the big box stores.

It was announced this week that the mall’s owner – Tennessee-based CBL & Associates Properties – recently purchased the Sear’s auto center with plans to put at least two national chain restaurants on the site by year’s end.

These new additions will join Bahama Breeze, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Applebee’s, Houligan’s and several other successful establishments within a stone’s throw of the mall’s perimeter road.

Regular readers of this forum know that I’m not one to take things at face value.

No, I’m the dipshit that always takes the deeper dive, broods and considers what progress in one area might mean for folks in other parts of town.

Clearly, there is a virtual friction fire happening on International Speedway Boulevard as restaurants and retail take proximal advantage of One Daytona’s growing popularity – the shopping, dining and entertainment complex that you and I bankrolled to the tune of some $40 million in public funds for the France family – located “synergistically” across from Daytona International Speedway.

We are witnessing a weird, but not unexpected, decentralization in Daytona Beach – a fast exodus away from the stubborn issues plaguing the aging core city for the promise and prospects in the pine scrub west of town.

Professional urban planners often speak in terms of “Push forces” – things which spur movement away from undesirable conditions – and “Pull forces” – attributes which attract people and commerce to better opportunities.

If you live, work and play in the Halifax area, you don’t need to me to identify the Push/Pull influences that are actively driving residential and commercial development at our western fringe.

These factors are self-evident everywhere you look.

Look, I’m not a member of the Beachside Redevelopment Committee – but if I were – I might suggest examining area dynamics that repel and attract – and how they might be effectively managed to stimulate the revitalization of our struggling core tourist area.

Regardless, in my view, it is patently immoral for sitting politicians and so-called “redevelopment officials” to turn their collective back on the problems of blight, dilapidation and hopelessness that permeate much of coastal Volusia County as they focus efforts exclusively on points west.

While the current interest in West ISB might give Chairman Ed Kelley something to take credit for at that pompous snoozefest known as the State of the County Address, in my view, fawning over the new puppy while the broken-down old dog starves for attention is wrong.

Quote of the Week:

“Leave the beach, its vendors and City Island alone.  If we want to see something akin to a carnival, we’ll attend the County Council meetings.”

 –Mr. George Rose, South Daytona, January 3, 2018, Letter to the Editor, Daytona Beach News-Journal

Well said, sir.  Well said.

Have a great weekend, friends.

On Volusia: The Clock is Ticking. . .

Well, another year has come and gone, and the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project is still “under construction.”

You know, the “name changer” project that County Manager Jim Dinneen and our elected marionettes on the County Council assured us would be the cure for all our troubles if we just gave them more time?

Remember?

The “grand reveal” by Mr. Dinneen that the Hard Rock organization was tentatively on-board – a surprise announcement that resulted in wild swooning, loud applause and excited incontinence on the dais of power?

Then – nothing.

Crickets.

I know, a few weeks ago the hotelier’s general manager trotted out a brief photo tour of a Hard Rock room in the News-Journal, complete with garish wallpaper and tacky carpet – exposed lamp wires – a bed draped in a wrinkled sheet – and a vinyl upholstered headboard that looks more at home in a 1970’s shaggin’ wagon.

Four Star?  My ass.

Not impressed.

Look, I’m no public relations expert – but when you tip your hand on a renovation that’s been years in the making – it’s important to look your very best.

And if this truly represents the highest and best example of your much-anticipated product – good luck.

This obviously rushed “roll out” did little to salve the fears of area residents who have been waiting on the promised “four-diamond” property to magically return our beleaguered beachside from a festering slum to a “premiere destination.”

After all, every man, woman and child in Volusia County is heavily invested – and that’s what we were assured.

These giveaways are costing us our heritage of beach driving – the one public amenity that has set the Daytona Beach Resort Area apart from other tawdry tourist towns since its earliest days.

According to management, the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock is set to open in “early 2018” – possibly as soon as February 14th.

They better damn-well be burning the midnight oil.

Given the fact that we are just 56-short days from the drop-dead date for completion as set by the Volusia County Council last April – no later than February 28, 2018 – this Rube, for one, will be closely watching progress, and holding our elected officials to account, should their “panacea project” fail to meet expectations once again.

 

 

 

Welcome to 2018!

Welcome to 2018!

In the Chinese Zodiac, we are entering the Year of the Dog – a symbol of loyalty and honesty.

It is written that those born under this sign possess the best traits of human nature.  They are honest, friendly, faithful, smart, venerable and imbued with a strong sense of personal and civic responsibility.

I was not so lucky.

According to the same lunisolar calendar, I was born in the Year of the Rat, which ancient teachings tell us makes me naturally short-tempered, stubborn, inherently suspicious, even unstable at times – but my sign also instilled an almost preternatural ability to perceive political bullshit.

I’m not a big believer in these things – but, on balance, the traits cannot be denied.

Since I reached the age of self-awareness, there has been a storm in my soul – a burning hatred of bullies and power-mongers who engage in oppression, the physical, psychological or fiscal dominance of others, and those piggish bastards who use their position to take advantage of the vulnerable.

In fact, I dedicated my life to chasing the wolf away from the flock – going into dark places to ensure the predators among us were brought to justice, keeping the peace, protecting the weak and defending order and the rule of law.

I understand that aggression and appetite are instincts necessary for our physical survival, but when greed subjugates and represses others through extorsion, force – even strategic litigation and political manipulation – it destroys our sense of community and crushes our collective spirit.

Nothing thrives in an environment of fear and uncertainty.

Perhaps that’s why I am suspicious of the motivations of those with a pathological need to build immense wealth, the pursuit of riches, power and possessions by trampling the basic needs of others – and I damn sure can’t grasp the concept of a local government manager commanding over $300,000 in salary and benefits.

But I see the symbiotic relationship between these two shakedowns at work in Volusia County.

Wealth and political power allow an individual or corporation to control their environment; and you don’t need an MBA from Harvard Business School to understand the concept of ROI –  Return on Investment.   

For instance, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the largest donors in the 2016 Volusia County District 4 race were identified as, “George Anderson, developer of the Ocean Walk and a real estate investor; J. Hyatt Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of Brown & Brown Inc.; homebuilder Mori Hosseini, chairman and CEO of ICI Homes; Theresa Doan, whose beachside properties and investments include three Main Street bars; businesses affiliated with International Speedway Corp. and its president, John Saunders; and companies affiliated with Consolidated-Tomoka, a land holding company.”

 In fact, these folks gave $281,950 (out of total contributions of $503,000) through some 67 different corporate entities, “…many of them showing little to connect them back to their owners besides a mailing address.” 

When you consider the shit train of favorable rulings, millions in “economic incentives,” infrastructure support, tax abatement, multi-year extensions on “temporary” projects, half-price public land sales to private interests, corporate giveaways and an atmosphere where the mere presence of these power players at a public meeting ensures an outcome favorable to their personal or professional interests – you understand how our system of county governance has become a shameless plutocratic oligarchy populated by political pimps and whores.

No more, no less.

The result is widespread civic stagnation – marked by creeping blight, dilapidation and hopelessness – and an artificial economy served by a slavish pool of cheap labor – a failed scheme which has skewed the marketplace and lead to one of the highest tax rates and lowest per capita incomes in the state of Florida.

Enough of that maudlin gibberish.

This is a New Year – a time of high expectations and the promise of “what will be.”

I happen to believe that the Halifax area has some incredibly special attributes – including a growing number of dedicated residents and policy makers who truly have our highest and best interests at heart – positive influences that could form the foundation of a bright future.

For instance, the 2018 political season is building a fire in the gut of some interesting candidates for public office – people who have a vested interest in improving our quality of life and overhauling the dysfunction and inherent unfairness of Volusia County government.

In the City of Daytona Beach – whose revitalization is key to our collective success – we have some truly smart people working on the difficult issues.

Deep thinkers like Commissioner Aaron Delgado, an incredibly bright and energetic young man who gets out of bed every morning seeking solutions and opportunities for his constituents – and political new-comers like Amy Pyle, a grassroots activist who has focused her impressive talents and intellect on the simple premise that building better neighborhoods can yield citywide change.

Add inspired public servants like Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri – a true gentleman with a healthy grasp of the problems of crime and victimization.  In my view, Chief Capri is a humble servant-leader who is bringing common sense, community-based solutions to historically intractable issues, all while building strong personal relationships with those he serves.

Consider the fresh insight of South Daytona Mayor Bill Hall – a career law enforcement officer with a record of success – who is bringing new and innovative ideas to countywide issues and serving as an important voice for his constituents.

I also believe that we are taking the first wobbly steps towards a compassionate solution to the plague of chronic homelessness and its deleterious effect on tourism and small business – and a committee representing some of our best minds is carefully constructing a path to the redevelopment of our beleaguered beachside.

And even a casual observer of the political scene can recognize the refreshing stability of governance and economic resurgence in places like Ormond Beach, Holly Hill and Port Orange – and the incredible success of the City of DeLand and New Smyrna Beach – gems which have become true destinations and serve as a blueprint for how to do it right.

Every day we see a renaissance of community engagement, citizens becoming actively involved in developing credible processes for building a bright future, informative town hall meetings, and a local newspaper that is increasingly looking beyond the corporate press releases and turning over the right rocks to find the unvarnished truth.

Community advocacy groups are growing in every area of Volusia County, and residents are becoming aware of the environmental implications of unchecked development – issues which will impact the lives of future generations.

I also sense a renewed interest in preserving our heritage of beach driving, and there are increasing questions regarding the astronomical increase in access fees which have priced a day at the beach out of the financial reach of many Central Florida families.

Folks, despite my near-constant negativity and petty scab-picking – I believe we are at the very precipice of great things in Volusia County.

True progress – not some rehashed horseshit we are force-fed by clueless windbags at orchestrated events like the State of the County Address or a stilted Team Volusia ‘mixer.’

With hard work, vigilance and a common goal, I believe we can return the World’s Most Famous Beach to a premiere tourist destination, advance our shared quality of life, and build a strong economy based upon entrepreneurial investment.

And we will do it despite our current “leadership” – not because of them.

Keep the faith, kids.

Believe.

Most important – support those candidates who, through their words and actions, demonstrate true vision and a dedication to highest traditions of the public service – and reject these tired incumbents with a dismal track record of deceit and broken promises – political hacks who perpetuate this disastrous cycle by their craven political cowardice and subservience to the system.

 

Angels & Assholes of 2017

Hi, kids!

Wow.  Time really does fly.

This weekend we welcome a new year – “full of things that have never been” as Rilke waxed – a clear demarcation between what has been, and what will be.

A time for sullen retrospection, and for celebrating the excitement of new opportunities.

If the events of the past year have proven anything, it is how desperately uninspired and insular our bastardized system of local governance has become.

The needs, wants and concerns of We, The People no longer matter.

In Volusia County, we are hopelessly entrapped in an inherently corrupt cycle – one which begins when wealthy powerbrokers infuse hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign war chests of malleable political candidates – and ends with the predictable certainty of a hefty salary increase for the pimp who facilitates access for these transactional donors.

It’s all perfectly legal under our campaign finance system – yet fundamentally wrong – and, in my view, systemically toxic to the public interest.

The massive giveaways which benefit the self-interests of these mega-donors – always cloaked as “economic development” with an accompanying promise of “jobs” – have resulted in tens of millions of our hard-earned tax dollars used to pay for infrastructure, tax abatements, cash handouts and other incentives to guarantee the private projects of local billionaires.

All while critical public infrastructure needs go unmet – and they wear us down with near-constant scaremongering designed to wring even more tax dollars from a weary constituency.

Recently, I enjoyed a thoughtful conversation with a very influential person in our community, a smart guy who happens to be a regular reader of this blog.

During our discussion of the issues of the day, he half-joked that I have become the most “hated man in Volusia County” for my goofy opinions (and penchant for piercing inflated egos) in this increasingly popular public forum.

Guilty as charged.

Fortunately, I’m not alone.

Since its inception last year, Barker’s View has received an incredible 132,842 views – with 82,647 of those coming in 2017 – to include a growing international following which (oddly) includes readers in over 95 foreign countries.

(Why someone in Somalia, Nepal or Mongolia would care about Volusia County politics escapes me – but I appreciate the interest!  I laugh when I picture some nomadic yak herder crouched in a mountain pass high in the Himalayas, cussing a Fifth District Court of Appeal beach driving ruling – or bemoaning the latest “Game Changer” out of DeLand. . .)  

Not everyone agrees with these screeds, nor should they.  But, perhaps it provides a different perspective – an inspiration to seek deeper answers.

Clearly, many area residents are increasingly interested in sharing ideas and opinions (recent Daytona Beach New-Journal town hall meetings prove that) and a growing number are becoming active in civic affairs – to include the incredibly selfless act of standing for public office.

They deserve our support and encouragement.

Well, kids, 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 year that was:

Angel of the Year:      The Citizens of Volusia County

This year, Angel Status goes to everyone who has staked their claim on this sandy piece of land on Florida’s beleaguered “Fun Coast.”

Those who have formed coalitions of community activists, neighborhood watch and improvement organizations, our valiant beach advocates, environmentalists and all who support grassroots efforts to encourage responsible development, renewal and revitalization.

While blowhards like me sit back and spew hot air – these intrepid citizens are down in the trenches, working hard to fundamentally change our quality of life.

Add those increasingly few elected and appointed officials who have proven their commitment to the betterment of local communities – and our heroic first responders who courageously put their lives on the line to protect and serve – along with the unheralded civil servants in local, county and state government who contribute so much for little recognition or compensation.

Let’s also recognize the weirdos among us – the gadflies, the eccentrics, the fruitcakes – and their offbeat, but passionate, ideas.

Perhaps most important, this special recognition goes to the unsung heroes of our local economy – those brave souls imbued with an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit who risk it all to open businesses, provide essential goods and professional services, work in the hospitality industry, teach our children, report the news, manufacture products, serve our justice system, and treat the sick; the attorneys, engineers, counselors, tradesmen, restaurateurs, retail clerks, sales professionals, volunteers and philanthropists – everyone who works hard to make a life in an incredibly difficult economy – a place where asinine regulations seemingly exist to hamstring innovative private investment in an area that desperately needs it.

You stayed when others left.

You kept the faith.

You believe that with vision and hard work we can be better than before.

To all Barker’s View Angels who fight the noble fight and struggle mightily to build a better community for all of us – I salute you!

Asshole of the Year:   Jim Dinneen and the Volusia County Council  

After a nanosecond of contemplation – the hands-down, unequivocal winner of this dubious distinction goes to County Manager Jim Dinneen and those hapless marionettes he deftly manipulates on the dais of power in DeLand: The Volusia County Council.

The events of this year – such as Mr. Dinneen’s surprise announcement that he was purchasing a parking lot in the City of Daytona Beach for more than its appraised value (totally unbeknownst to City Manager Jim Chisholm) – to his astonishing revelation (and retroactive legislation) regarding the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock beach driving debacle (totally unbeknownst to area residents) – or his shocking decree that he has personally decided to lash over $200-million in debt to Volusia taxpayers, our children and grandchildren, over the next 30 to 40 years for a crushingly expensive courthouse complex (totally unbeknownst to our elected officials) – tend to indicate that our council members are mere pawns, wholly controlled by forces outside the control of voters.

Am I wrong?

Look at the dilapidated condition of key county facilities and property, the renewed push to close public amenities on City Island and hand it over to speculative developers, or the wholesale approval of massive development and westward sprawl from Farmton to the Flagler County line with absolutely no consideration of its future impact on public infrastructure.

When you consider the complete mismanagement, mistakes, gaffes, howlers, fuck-ups and Old-Fashioned off-the-agenda manipulation of information and misinformation under Mr. Dinneen’s administration – blunders that would have resulted in his immediate termination from any company controlled by a sitting member of the Volusia County CEO Business Alliance – and it becomes immediately clear that he is politically protected by those who benefit from his direct control of the public spigot – tax dollars that invariably flow into private projects and bolster our artificial economy.

Add to that the laughable political ignorance of our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, the uber-weird self-promotion of Heather Post, the bizarre gullibility of Billie Wheeler, the abject arrogance of Deb Denys and the complete social detachment of the Right Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry and “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – and you have a real witches brew of dysfunction in the halls of power in DeLand.

A place where astonishing incompetence is handsomely rewarded – even encouraged – with stratospheric salaries, exorbitant benefits and clockwork pay increases.

Absurd.

Look, warts and all, the Halifax area is my home – I spent the bulk of my life working in local government – and I built a small house and family here, like my parents before me.

Like many of you, I feel a gut-level compulsion to speak out, to call attention, to defend a way of life I have come to know and love.

And anyone who doesn’t like it can kiss my ass.

As a citizen of Volusia County, I still believe it is a fundamental duty of citizenship to remain vigilant – even fiercely skeptical – of outsized political power and murky economic forces that seem intent on shaping our future based on some mysterious plan which doesn’t need or want our input – only our money.

A self-serving blueprint shaped by wealthy insiders, and foisted on the tax-strapped masses in periodic “Grand Reveals” – always with a pre-determined outcome.

Thank you for reading – and for contemplating our shared experience.

As we close out this strange year, I want to take this opportunity to send a sincere thank you to the loyal tribe who follow this alternative opinion forum.

I am deep in debt to you for indulging my views and rants.

Your curiosity about the news and newsmakers that affect our lives and livelihoods lets our “powers that be” know someone is watching – and that oversight is a fundamental element of accountability.

But that is wisdom for another day.

Now is the time to hoist our glass and celebrate new possibilities.

Here’s hoping that 2018 brings good health, happiness and the prosperity each of you so richly deserve.

Quote of the Year:

“(Jim Dinneen) is a lying sack of shit.  I don’t want to be in the same room with that liar.”

–Hon. Michael J. Chitwood, Sheriff of Volusia County

That inspired quotation should be inscribed in bronze and prominently affixed to the main entrance of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Merry Christmas from Barker’s View

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

–Luke 2:4-14

May peace be with you and those you hold dear.

From the Barker family to yours, Merry Christmas and all best wishes for a happy, healthy and most prosperous 2018!

Mark & Patti