“What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate. . .”

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. . .”

–Strother Martin as “The Captain,” Cool Hand Luke, 1967

My wife Patti and I have been together for many years – more than half our lives (or so it seems) – and we still have trouble communicating on a basic level.   

In fact, we have been together so long that we mostly make ourselves understood through a series of grunts, body language interpretation, or crude proto-cuneiform notes that only we can decipher – a weird marital telepathy that I get right about 40% of the time.

Just yesterday I was explaining some abstract concept to her about my plans to go to the grocery store – and she looked at me like I was speaking some obscure Běifānghuà dialect, an ancient Sinitic language not heard by human ears since the Great Yuan dynasty – and, without breaking her blank expression, said:

“What the hell are you talking about?”  

I leaned in and clearly enunciated each syllable: “I-am-going-to-Publix-do-you-need-anything?” 

And, through our impenetrable uncommunicative fog, my wife and I finally connected!

On this singular issue, for one brief moment, we actually understood each other – as it turns out, we needed milk. . .

In Volusia County, we have experienced a collective feeling of alienation – an almost mass miscommunication that has left many feeling unacknowledged on the important issues of the day. 

When I sit on a barstool and talk local politics with the taxpayer sitting next to me or discuss mutual concerns with my neighbors on the street, most tell me that the malignant sprawl west of I-95 in the City of Daytona Beach is the single greatest threat to our quality of life.

A close second is their collective anxiety over the horrible mismanagement of our beach by a detached bureaucratic apparatus that has left our hard-to-access and overregulated strand looking like a haunted forest of wooden poles, plastic stakes, and do-this-don’t-do-that signage – all while our disconnected ‘powers that be’ continue to tell themselves that the price of a day at the beach is still within reach in a place where 40% of households do not earn enough to consistently cover basic living expenses. 

40 percent.    

When you add a growing sense in our neighborhoods that the individual has no real say in the civic direction of the Halifax area and beyond – a perception that the needs of families and the contributions of their struggling small businesses are ignored – there is a growing perception of marginalization as we watch those with influence openly access public funds to underwrite private profit motives and downplay those simple quality of life issues which are important to us. 

When Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower ran for office against an entrenched insider who everyone who is anyone just knew was a shoo-in – he did something unheard of in local politics and took the time to listen to his neighbors – not while sipping chardonnay at flashy fundraisers sponsored by uber-wealthy powerbrokers, but at bar-b-ques, small gatherings in living rooms, and in those places where real people live, learn, work and play – and his campaign took on a grassroots importance – a feeling that he was interested in those issues the “average citizen” (read: you and I) find important in our daily lives.

It is almost like We, The Little People, and those we elect to represent our interests on the dais of power are on two different frequencies – a ‘bad connection’ that has left us unable to communicate on any substantive level. 

It is part of why I abhor the overformal pageantry of things like the State of the County Address – where our elected Monarchy get dressed in their finery, luncheon among their “Rich & Powerful” benefactors, and spend a couple of hours talking down to their long-suffering constituents through stilted video productions leaving no legitimate way of sharing ideas, exchanging information, expressing our feelings, and gaining mutual understanding.

To add insult, what passes for ‘Public Participation’ in government meetings throughout Volusia County has taken on an insulting sense of unwanted formality – where our elected officials limit their audience to three-minutes and give off a palpable vibe they would rather be anywhere else than listening to the yakety-yak of concerned residents who took the time out of their day to be heard. 

In my view, it is this fundamental lack of effective communication that has resulted in much of the dysfunction and distrust that has hampered substantive progress for far too long.

On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal ran a frontpage feature by business writer Clayton Park entitled: “Fears of Volusia overdevelopment: Surge in new homes, commercial projects raises concerns over green space, water resources.” 

It was clear that both sides of the very contentious issue of overdevelopment are speaking two different languages – distinct mindsets where one side sees the benefits of greenspace, protecting our sensitive ecology, and ensuring a safe supply of potable water for future generations – while those in the development and real estate industry never saw a virgin forest (or golf course, cemetery, etc.) that they didn’t at least subliminally consider how many homesites they could shoehorn onto it at the cheapest possible price.

For instance, while Chairman Brower was concerned about the “floodgates” opening on new home construction, apartment projects and commercial development throughout Volusia County – the effects of which we can already see, feel, and experience with our own senses – Carl Lentz, a former Daytona Beach City Commissioner and current managing director of SVN Alliance Commercial Real Estate Advisors, who, according to Mr. Park’s report, have brokered many of the land sales along the Boomtown Boulevard area of LPGA, would have us believe:

“The LPGA area was planned for this kind of growth,” he (Lentz) said. “People are getting sticker shock at seeing it all at once as opposed to gradually. Had it been gradual growth over the years people wouldn’t be complaining about it.”

Whose fault is that? 

There is a reason the word “planning” typically comes before “development” – and given the pressure on our already overburdened transportation infrastructure and aquifer recharge areas – anticipating issues and preparing for them is something Mr. Lentz and his fellow elected officials had no apparent interest in when they served as rubberstamps for aggressive developers. 

It appears like this breakdown is an almost strategic ignorance – saying one thing while knowing full well the destructive possibilities of the monster you have created.  

Regardless, it is not “sticker shock” – because we had no say in the sale – rather, it is a well-founded fear among existing residents that we have permitted too much, too soon – and the adverse effects are beginning to show themselves areawide. 

Perhaps now it is becoming clear why we were placed in this dangerous predicament in the first place, eh?

The more disturbing question is how deep into our municipal and county government processes does this strategic ignorance go – this intentional failure to communicate

An entrenched system where ignorance serves as a productive asset and allows those in positions of power to plausibly deny culpability in the aftermath of this looming crisis.

Points to ponder while you are sitting in gridlocked traffic on Granada Boulevard this week. . .

Archangels: Police Memorial Day 2021

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which that date falls as National Police Week. 

This national day of remembrance honors law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Law enforcement nationwide is well-worthy of our admiration and enduring respect as they go in harm’s way to protect your family and mine.

Last year, 306 law enforcement officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the United States.

So far, 125 have paid the ultimate sacrifice in 2021.

To all those serving or who have served – thank you for holding the line.

We stand alone together.

_______________________________

From my earliest memories, law enforcement officers have always been my heroes.

They still are.

Today marks National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day 2021.

A time for reflection on the incredible contributions of the men and women who so courageously serve and protect us all – and an opportunity to honor those brave souls who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

In what is proving to be a particularly deadly period in our history for line of duty deaths, it is important that we remember those officers who, as Lincoln said, gave “The last full measure of devotion.”

It is also fitting that we take this opportunity to consider the greater question of the role of the police in a free and open society – and the importance of citizen support for their indispensable work in preserving our way of life in America.

The great privilege of my life was the opportunity to serve in law enforcement with some of the most dedicated and talented public servants I have ever known.

For thirty-one years I had the distinct honor of standing with strong men and women who hold a thin blue line between order and chaos, between good and evil, between you and I and the predatory criminals who prey on that which we love most.

In my long career, I learned something about law enforcement officers and what these extraordinary people are made of.  I have always thought that any contribution I made was just a function of the job at hand, but I am extremely proud just to have been associated with people I consider true American heroes.

Brevard County Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. was one of them.

In early 1986, I was a young officer with the Holly Hill Police Department assigned to the Uniformed Patrol Division.

At that time, I had been on the job for about three years (in other words, I had just learned how to write a traffic ticket the same way twice) and I was working the “Midnight shift” – 11:00pm to 7:00am – answering calls for service from an old Dodge Aspen patrol car with a single blue light on the roof, and a Motorola “Mocom” radio, equipped with a green light to let you know it was on and a red light to let you know it was transmitting when you keyed the microphone.

A quaint antique by today’s standards.

Today, a patrol vehicle’s interior looks more like the flight deck of the Space Shuttle, with mobile data units, stolen vehicle trackers, tag readers, electronic citation systems, digital video cameras and multi-channel 800MHz radios.

It is amazing how advances in technology transformed policing during my career.

One night I arrived at the police department for briefing, got a cup of coffee from Dispatch, and took my seat at the long wooden table where officers gathered before and after each tour to pass-on important and not-so-important information, listen to the sergeant give duty assignments, gossip, tell wholly inappropriate jokes, or bitch and moan about, well, everything.

(One of the first things you learn as a police chief is that cops complain – that’s how they “deal” with the horrific and unnatural things the job brings them in contact with.  It’s when they stop complaining that you have a problem on your hands.)

That night my sergeant introduced me to the “FNG,” a “f—g new guy,” sitting by himself at the end of the desk.

He was a short, stocky blond with big 80’s-style aviator glasses who thrust out his hand and eagerly introduced himself with a big grin and a heavy Western New York accent, “Howyadoin’, I’m Bob!”

At the time, many police departments didn’t have the formal field training and evaluation programs of today, and most in-service training was conducted by senior officers teaching their juniors the ropes through experiential learning and anecdotal information.

That night I was assigned to show our newest officer the city limits and get him familiar with the streets, point out the hot spots, and generally indoctrinate him on how to survive the physical and political hazards of small-town Florida.

If you’ve ever shared the confines of a patrol unit for hours-on-end with another officer then you know how fast, and how strong, a bond develops between partners in a business where you put your life in another person’s hands and promise to do the same for them.

Robert Nicol, Jr. was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, in 1948.

He was a former deputy with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office in Canandaigua, New York, a small community in the Finger Lakes region.

Escaping the aftermath of a messy divorce, Bob fled New York as a newly minted single-father with three young children – two boys and a girl – and his mom in tow.

Settling in Holly Hill, Bob soon applied to the police department and was hired almost immediately by Chief Pat Finn, who was extremely impressed by Bob’s military background and his previous law enforcement experience.

During four-years in the U.S. Army, Bob served proudly in some of the fiercest fighting in Vietnam and was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat, the Bronze Star for valor and the Army Commendation Medal for his extraordinary service to our nation.

Bob Nicol was an American hero before he ever pinned on a badge.

Although twelve-years my senior, he had an energetic personality, contagious laugh and a great sense of humor that impressed me right away.  We quickly became friends, and since Bob didn’t know many people here, he and I spent a lot of time together talking, drinking, and inhabiting the bars and nightclubs of Daytona Beach.

When we weren’t working, you could find us perched at Club Mocambo, the Beachcomber, Silver Bucket, Full House or any of a dozen other illustrious local night spots, quite stylish in our leather Member’s Only jackets.

Unlike me, Bob was an affable, good-looking guy who always had a way with the ladies – and I benefited more times than I care to admit just from my association with him.

The stories and escapades are legendary, but perhaps better left for a different forum. . .

I learned a lot from Bob – personally and professionally.

He was a great father to his two young sons and beautiful daughter – and he doted on his mother, a brash Scot who spoke with a thick brogue and frequently made Shortbread cookies that I miss to this day.

Most of all, Bob was a damn good cop – smart, dedicated, and tenacious.

It didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself in the local law enforcement community and, in May 1987, he was offered a sworn position as a deputy with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

It was a great professional development opportunity, and the job offered more money to support his children.

We discussed the pros and cons, and late one shift Bob and I met door-to-door in our patrol cars in some parking lot near Ridgewood Avenue.  He told me he was going to take the job.  I congratulated him, we shook hands, then immediately began making plans to facilitate his move to Port St. John.

Bob and I remained great friends, even though our schedules and the hour-drive between us put a dent in our nightlife.

Probably for the best.

It was not long before Bob proved himself a true asset to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.  He was respected and well-liked by everyone who knew him.

He was a cops-cop, and the epitome of who you wanted stepping out of a police car in a dark alley when you really needed help.

At approximately 4:00am on Saturday, September 19, 1987, Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. was on patrol on U.S. 1, just south of State Road 405, when he made a “routine” (if there is such a thing) traffic stop.

During the encounter, Bob arrested the driver, Scott Roberts, 21, on traffic-related charges.

Further investigation found that one of the five passengers in the vehicle, later identified as Jeffrey Mason, a 24-year-old landscaper living in Orlando, was in possession of less than 20-grams of marijuana.

Bob arrested him on the misdemeanor charge.

While Bob was securing Roberts in his patrol car and attempting to control the four others still inside the vehicle, Jeffrey Mason broke free and escaped custody – running across the divided highway with Deputy Nicol in close foot pursuit.

As they ran into the roadway, a vehicle traveling north swerved to avoid Mason and inadvertently struck Bob at high speed.

The force of the impact sent his body crashing into the windshield, catapulted him over the top of the moving car before throwing him to the pavement, witnesses said.

His neck was broken, and the base of his skull was crushed.

Bob was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center where he remained in Intensive Care with severe traumatic brain damage.

After a manhunt involving some thirty law enforcement officers, Jeffrey Mason was found cowering in a wooded area near S.R. 405 and taken into custody without incident.

It was later determined that he was on probation in the State of Ohio for involuntary manslaughter stemming from a 1983 traffic crash which killed the passenger in his car.

On Wednesday, September 30, 1987, my friend Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. lost his courageous battle and died from injuries sustained in the line of duty twelve days earlier.

He left behind his mother, Pat Skindzier, and three children, then 15, 8, and 5.

Brevard County Sheriff Jake Miller posthumously awarded Deputy Nicol the Medal of Valor for his actions that fateful morning – the highest honor bestowed on a law enforcement officer.

I will never forget the enormous number of law enforcement officers – all of us resplendent in our Class A dress uniforms – who gathered for his funeral with full honors at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Titusville.

I openly wept for the first time in my young career over the flag-draped coffin of a fallen brother and friend.

Later, Nicol Park on US-1 in Port St. John was named in Bob’s honor.

A fitting tribute to a hero – but a tragic waste of an incredible soul.

It is a tradition in law enforcement and the military for brothers and sisters in arms to join in remembrance of our fallen comrades on days such as this to honor their service, sacrifice, and friendship.

The name of Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. is inscribed on memorial panel 35-E: 8 at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“Remember! All who have served alongside them; we who have donned the same proud uniform, being sworn to the same faith and allegiance — We will never forget their sacrifice. Remember!”

Currently, there are some 22,611 names engraved on the granite walls of our national memorial – with each entrance to that hallowed ground adorned with powerful statuary of an adult lion protecting its cubs, symbolizing the protective role of law enforcement officers and the strength, courage and valor that are hallmarks of those who serve and protect.

The words of the Roman senator Tacitus are carved into the memorial’s cornerstone:

“In Valor There Is Hope.” 

On this Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day, I remember my friend Bob – and his great devotion and sacrifice – along with all the men and women of law enforcement who have laid down their lives so that we may live in peace.

I hope you will too.

Angels & Assholes for May 14, 2021

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           The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The Daytona Beach News-Journal did not make many friends this week among a growing segment of its subscribers who open the paper, hold their nose, and take what passes for the “news of the day” with a grain of salt. . .   

Perhaps the management of our struggling hometown newspaper cemented some long-term relationships with those it calls our “Rich & Powerful” – uber-wealthy insiders who have openly controlled Volusia County politics for decades – but a Sunday editorial oddly touted, “No, Volusia County isn’t run by the forces of darkness.  Not even close,” didn’t earn any points with those of us desperate for an unvarnished view of the issues that affect our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast. 

I am not sure who this weird piece was trying to convince – us, or the haunted conscience of the newspaper’s clearly out-of-touch editorial board? 

Because the premise demands that we suspend belief in what we see and hear with our own senses, lower our expectations for those we have elected to represent our interests, and accept what we have come to expect from our elected “leadership” in Volusia County.

In short, the editorial suggests both Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower, and his only apparent ally, Councilwoman Heather Post, should acquiesce to the forces of mediocrity – get along and go along – so they will not be a one or two vote minority on the important issues they both campaigned on.

Bullshit. 

For the record, it is called keeping promises to your constituents – an almost unheard-of concept in the Turkish bazaar of Volusia County politics.   

Anyone paying attention can see that Volusia County’s Old Guard is desperate to hold onto power – to protect the outsized influence on public policy their exorbitant campaign contributions demand – while their mouthpiece (our newspaper of record) does everything possible to support the notion of the majority’s infallibility. 

In turn, the issues that are important to Volusia County residents – such as beach access and management, the conservation of our natural places, reining in unchecked sprawl, limiting corporate welfare and kick the can politics – are scoffed at, both from the dais and in our local newspaper.    

Last Sunday’s editorial was juxtaposed with an op/ed written by the civically detached/socially connected editor Pat Rice, who lectured frustrated taxpayers on the importance of civility in public discourse, while espousing his haughty thoughts on our rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment.

Bullshit. 

Apparently, some “very important” member of the Halifax area’s oligarchical elite (aka: Mr. Rice’s social circle) has become insulted by something in this space – or an opinion expressed by a concerned citizen on the everyman’s soapbox of social media – which prompted the editor-in-chief to take us to the woodshed, and, once again, explain our “responsibilities.”

My views on our rights under the First Amendment are (naturally) mirrored by the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt v. Jerry Falwell, which reads, in part:

“The sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment is bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office or those public figures who are “intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape events in areas of concern to society at large.”

“[o]ne of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to criticize public men and measures.” Such criticism, inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate; public figures as well as public officials will be subject to “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks,” and “[T]he candidate who vaunts his spotless record and sterling integrity cannot convincingly cry ‘Foul!’ when an opponent or an industrious reporter attempts to demonstrate the contrary. . .”

Amen. 

In my view, these recent screeds by the News-Journal raise darker questions – like when will We, The Little People have someone to champion our interests? 

When will those elected officials with the strength to hold firm to their promises command the same respect as those lockstep marionettes they share the dais with? 

And when will the News-Journal stop being used as a propaganda organ to gaslight us peons into believing that the organized aggression and open hostility we see being used to protect the status quo is a figment of our collective imagination?

Perhaps the telling answer could be found just under the surface, down in the recesses of that repressed editorial conscience the News-Journal tries so hard to ignore:

“In fact, all opposition seems to be considered as a sign that the forces of darkness are aligned against the chairman. Even as we write this, we can imagine the howls of inchoate fury that will rage across social media Sunday morning. Clearly, they will say, The News-Journal is in on it.

To which we’d reply: If we are, we’re not doing a very good job. In fact, the Evil Committee of Evil To Destroy Volusia County seems to be the most inept band of scoundrels ever to plot destruction.”

Sadly, the News-Journal was right on both accounts. . .

Angel               City of Deltona

Government can be slow on the uptake. 

You know, the act of grasping a concept based upon readily available evidence – sensing a problem then taking definitive action to correct or mitigate the threat.  And once it does, the painfully slow yet massive momentum of government requires a lot of time and distance for the bureaucratic leviathan to change course. 

Residents of Volusia County have been sounding the klaxon on the dangers of overdevelopment – the civic equivalent of cramming ten pounds of manure into a five-pound bag – where residential developments are approved with little, if any, consideration of their long-term impact on our water supply, environment, the ability to process and dispose of waste, and an already overburdened transportation infrastructure.

In fact, the good citizens of Deltona have been screaming (literally) in the face of their elected representatives for years – demanding to be heard on growth management issues – and it appears City Hall is finally beginning to listen.

This week, we learned that Deltona officials are exploring the possibility of a short moratorium on residential planned unit developments while interim City Manager John Peters reviews codes and determines how best to wrest control of the process from developers and return it to the elected representatives. 

It is refreshing when government awakes to the fact that few things are impossible when you make the rules. 

Far too often, regulations are narrowly crafted to benefit special interests, all so elected officials can throw up their hands and tell constituents that the “guidelines” prevent them from acting in the community’s best interest.

For instance, real estate developers know that they can purchase a tract under one zoning classification, essentially placing a speculative (and potentially lucrative) wager – knowing odds are they can get the property rezoned – which will permit them to shoehorn hundreds of cracker boxes onto a spit of land at an enormous profit.

Whenever this ‘shoot-it-through-the-grease’ rezoning flim-flam is questioned – developers always scream “If you don’t like having the landscape clear-cut, greenspace destroyed, and dwindling water supplies further taxed – then buy the property and do what you want with it.” 

Which is refried horseshit.  And they know it.   

Eventually, those we elect to represent our interests will come to the realization that zoning changes should be more than a foregone conclusion – and that those who rape the land for profit should not automatically expect a free hand when it comes to manipulating land use regulations.

If approved, Deltona will enact a six-month moratorium on Residential Planned Unit Developments to give staff time to tweak the City’s current “overly broad” regulations and formulate new residential categories for the Commission’s review. 

In a recent article explaining the proposed zoning speedbump by the News-Journal’s intrepid Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura, Deltona City Commissioner and Champion of the People Dana McCool explained:

“We are in control of how our city develops, not developers,” McCool said. “We’re not discouraging infill development; we’re not discouraging commercial development. This is so that we can stop and look at the beautiful land that we have in Deltona and move forward in a responsible manner.”   

Residents of Daytona Beach don’t hold your breath.

Unfortunately, your elected officials never met a massive development they didn’t like – and those courageous civic activists who run for office on a platform of tapping the brakes on unchecked sprawl always seem to be outspent by those with the wherewithal to purchase a chip in the game. . . 

Angel               Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young

If it isn’t obvious, The Daytona Beach News-Journal really got my hackles up this week.   

Perhaps provoking anger in its lagging readership was the intent of this week’s weird narratives, who knows?

In my view, if we look beyond this week’s leaden headline “Naked Cowboy seeks to take back no contest plea,” we find a story of personal strength and professional courage that every resident of Daytona Beach can take immense pride in. 

In keeping with the teachings of Phineas T. Barnum, the American showman who once said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” Robert “The Naked Cowboy” Burck, was back in the news this week – apparently attempting to rescind his no contest plea to a charge of resisting arrest without violence during Bike Week 2021 – and putting the City of Daytona Beach on notice that he intends to file a lawsuit.   

Unfortunately, it appears The Daytona Beach News-Journal continues to serve as Mr. Burck’s publicity agent – even after thousands of area residents watched shocking footage from an officer’s body-worn camera which captured his abhorrent behavior following a misdemeanor panhandling violation on Main Street – which included spouting a vile racist epithet and hurling a homophobic slur at a Daytona Beach police officer.   

“Put your mask on. You must be a Joe Biden fan, right. You want higher gas prices,’ Burck said. Then Burck said ‘(f-word) (n-word) running (the country).’”

This week, the News-Journal seemed willing to give the Naked Cowboy a very wide pass – along with yet another opportunity to explain away his inexcusable behavior on their platform:

“When a News-Journal reporter suggested to him that the n-word was highly offensive, Burck said he hears it all the time among Blacks on Times Square, who he said use it in reference to him.

“I don’t remember using that word, but it wouldn’t surprise me because I talk that way with my friends. They talk with me. We’re out of control. I’m a redneck. Nothing personal. I love all people. I could (not) care less if you are Black or white.’”

Really?  The “I’m a redneck” defense? 

Wow. 

In my view, the more important story – one all but lost in the hype and fluff surrounding a larger-than-life cartoon character best known for parading around New York’s Times Square in his skivvy shorts, strumming a guitar, and posing for tourists – is the steadfast loyalty and support Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young has shown for his officers, and his community, throughout this overly dramatized incident.

To his credit, Chief Young has demonstrated an incredible level of professionalism and self-control, all while our newspaper of record ignored Burck’s ghastly behavior and deified him in repeat articles and editorials – including a despicable demand that Chief Young and Mayor Derrick Henry, both prominent African American civic leaders, issue The Naked Cowboy an official apology following his racist tirade:

“Ask Burck for forgiveness. Do the same for his wife, who had to watch her husband being manhandled and taken away, leaving her holding his broken guitar.  Make it clear that, as a city, this is not who we are.”

My God.

In their most recent coverage, the News-Journal reported:

“Told of Burck’s threat to sue the Police Department, Chief Young said in a phone interview that given all that was happening across the country, including active shooters, police reform and officer-involved shootings of unarmed people, the Naked Cowboy was not high on his list of priorities.

“If this is all we have to talk about is the Naked Cowboy I think we are doing pretty good,” Young said.”

The perfect response.

And I wholeheartedly agree – Is this all the News-Journal has to talk about?

Something you will not read on the pages of the News-Journal is that the Halifax area enjoys an incredible level of civic stability – free from the destructive civil disobedience and violent turmoil that has reduced many cities across the nation to smoking rubble – due in no small part to professionals like Chief Young and Sheriff Mike Chitwood who have worked diligently to build a foundation of trust in this wonderfully diverse community.     

That is not an easy task – nor something that happens by accident.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Chief Young throughout his stellar career, and I have always been impressed by his unflinching professional bearing and quiet self-assurance, important leadership qualities that inspire confidence in his officers, staff, subordinates, and constituents. 

During this National Police Week – a time when we honor the commitment and sacrifice of our local law enforcement officers – the Daytona Beach Police Department’s ongoing commitment to community service is something we can all take pride in.

Chief Jakari Young and his dedicated officers have earned our support and admiration.   

As for the sordid case of The Naked Cowboy, in my view, it is high time our newspaper of record stops this horribly lopsided narrative and places blame where it rightfully belongs. 

Quote of the Week

“Volusia Chair Jeff Brower was quoted as saying in NJ (News-Journal) 5-9, in response to HB337 “we can’t keep up maintenance of our existing roads ….. must (sp?) less come up with money for new ones.”  What happened to his plan B to find the $750,000,000 that the 1/2 cent sales tax would have provided?”

–Former Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley, writing in the Facebook political forum Volusia Politics, Monday, May 10, 2021

In my experience, it is unusual for a former elected official to openly criticize his or her successor – especially one that has been in office less than six-months.

In our democratic system, we elect one county chair at a time – and most predecessors, whether they mercifully retire from public life like Mr. Kelley, or are voted out of office – have the class to allow the current elected leadership the space to govern, solve problems (read: clean up the messes created or ignored by the previous administration) and set priorities for their term. 

It is an unwritten rule of the elective service that respects the continuity of the process and upholds the dignity of the office – but Ed Kelley’s always opportunistic oeuvre was based upon his ability to take direction from his political benefactors – and it appears absolutely nothing has changed in his new life as a political nobody. . .

Regardless, Old Ed clawed his way off the political ash heap this week and took to social media, using the above-quoted grammatical nightmare to harangue Chairman Jeff Brower – who is trying desperately to hold firm to his campaign promises in the face of withering criticism from those sullen powermongers, who (despite what The Daytona Beach News-Journal would have us believe) are actively attempting to marginalize Mr. Brower and force him into lockstep conformity with the status quo.    

I will not attempt to defend Chairman Brower. 

In my view, he does an excellent job of defining his bright path forward in his brilliant response to this tired political hack: 

“Ed Kelley sorry you don’t understand the concept. You took the county on the wrong path. I will not continue your sprint to insolvency, I am taking us on a new course to endure whatever comes our way as we strengthen our tax base. Job Creation and Economic growth are the result of a healthy local economy NOT a substitute for it. We chase jobs and growth at any cost. That’s a Ponzi scheme whose time ran out.

Now we will build a county that attracts good business and residents so we can pick and choose the kind of innovative businesses we want instead of bribing a few with nothing to show but more calls to raise taxes.

You think we can raise taxes yearly to build more infrastructure to continue to build more developments to continue to create more sewage and pump water out of the ground faster than it can recharge and by magic it all just ends up well. It doesn’t, it ends in insolvency. We can’t maintain what we have now, build more huge developments, maintain them, and keep repeating the cycle and expect that it will ever pay for itself.

Plan B started with the voters who said stop doing the things that got us into trouble in the first place. That’s who I listened to and will continue to serve. I don’t know who you served or if you really can’t see the path you set us on has led to trouble, but your perennial push for tax increases exposes that truth. Please keep talking, it reminds people of how much work there is to do.

Bravo, Chairman Brower.  Bravo!

And Another Thing!

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which that day falls as National Police Week.

Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week pays special recognition to those valiant souls who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.

From my earliest memories, law enforcement officers have always been my heroes.

They still are.

Tomorrow marks National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day 2021.

A time for reflection on the incredible contributions of the men and women who so courageously serve and protect us all – and an opportunity to honor those brave souls who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

In what is proving to be a particularly deadly period in our history for line of duty deaths, it is important that we remember those officers who, as Lincoln said, gave “The last full measure of devotion.”

It is also fitting that we take this opportunity to consider the greater question of the role of the police in a free and open society – and the importance of citizen support for their indispensable work in preserving our way of life in America.

The great privilege of my life was the opportunity to serve in law enforcement with some of the most dedicated and talented public servants I have ever known.

For thirty-one years I had the distinct honor of standing with strong men and women who hold a thin blue line between order and chaos, between good and evil, between you and I and the predatory criminals who prey on that which we love most.

In my long career, I learned something about law enforcement officers and what these extraordinary people are made of – and I have always considered any small contribution I made was merely a function of the job at hand – but I am extremely proud just to have been associated with people I consider true American heroes.

Please take some time to quietly reflect on their contributions and sacrifices this weekend.

In the words of Roman senator and historian Tacitus, “In valor there is hope.”

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

Leaders Eat Last

. . . before it is an honor, leadership is trust; Before it is a call to glory, Leadership is a call to service.

. . . before all else, forever, and always, leadership is a willingness to serve.

—Father Edson Wood, OSA, Cadet Catholic Chaplain

Invocation at Assumption of Command by BG Curtis Scaparrotti, Commandant of Cadets, U.S. Military Academy

August 11, 2004

I don’t know much about the art and science of “management.” 

During my professional life I was privileged to attend some of the foremost executive development courses in the nation.  But the tools and concepts of leadership taught in the sterile environment of a classroom can remain abstract concepts until the moment the student comes bad-breath to bad-breath with another living, breathing human being they are tasked with inspiring, encouraging, and motivating to achieve a specific goal. 

I am not an educated man – but I am a highly accomplished mimic – and what I know of exceptional leadership skills comes from watching those I admire then impersonating those positive traits.

It is not as simple as it sounds.   

Leadership takes many forms depending upon the needs of the team or organization – a dynamic, ever-evolving process that requires those in leadership roles to deftly shift between various “styles” to cope with changing circumstances and personalities. 

Those leadership styles have been “defined” by experts – visionary, autocratic, hands-off, transformational, transactional, bureaucratic, etc. – but at the end of the day, it all comes down to being a decent person who cares about those who perform the critical service delivery to their customers or constituents.

In my experience, the qualities of a true leader are best exemplified by those who simply care about the wellbeing of those they are responsible for and work hard to see that the needs of their subordinates and organization take precedence over their own self-interests.

Every time.  All the time.  

Once that idea takes hold in an organization, leadership becomes a common responsibility from top to bottom, and “taking care of your people” becomes synonymous with mission success. 

I was reminded of the importance of setting a strong example when I opened The Daytona Beach News-Journal this morning and saw the shocking headline, “Schools chief getting $10,000 bonus: Volusia’s Fritz rewarded for strategic-plan effort.”

In the accompanying article by education reporter Cassidy Alexander, we learned that a little-known codicil to Superintendent Scott Fritz’ employment agreement with the taxpayers of Volusia County provides for a $10,000 annual spiff if he merely accomplishes the job that he was hired to do. . . 

According to Ms. Alexander’s excellent reportage:

“It’s performance-based pay for creating a strategic plan, which provides a road map of sorts for the district and includes how to measure its progress in different areas. The board’s attorney Ted Doran explained that the board gave Fritz one goal to meet by Aug. 15, 2020: Create a strategic plan that has measurable, attainable, smart goals with key performance indicators.”

“If he did it, he is entitled to (performance pay),” Doran said. The superintendent’s contract requires the district to set aside the funding for performance pay each year. The board unanimously approved the bonus.”

As a dear friend of mine who has spent years in a senior leadership position with a multi-national corporation said: “That’s nuts. . .”

He’s right.

Look, I am not a leadership expert or management analyst – but I can read – and a cursory review of the Volusia County Schools job description for the Superintendent lists the top two performance responsibilities and essential functions as:

Provide innovative and visionary leadership.

Conduct strategic planning processes and build strong consensus in support of district goals.

Did our elected representatives on the School Board – or their attorney – not bother to have a glance at Fritz’ basic job requirements before lavishing ten large on a chief executive already commanding over $205,000 annually in a district where teacher salaries rank in the bottom third when compared with other districts in the state? 

I can assure you teachers union president Elizabeth Albert understands that building and sustaining a winning team begins with the concept that “Leaders Eat Last” – waiting until their subordinates have received their sustenance, forgoing their own comfort and enrichment until junior members of the organization are made whole.

It is the fundamental principle of servant leadership.

“What I’m asking for is equity,” Albert said. “I’m asking for something for the people who carried the load this year … Every single employee in this district — from FMTs to school bus drivers to cafeteria workers, paras, office specialists, teachers, principals, everybody — they deserve it.”

Amen.

Shockingly, at the end of the News-Journals informative article, we learned that “The creation of the strategic plan was a nine-month process and was facilitated by an outside group called DeliverEd.”

Excuse me?

Wait, not only did Superintendent Fritz receive a bonus for a strategic plan he was obligated to complete by the basic requirements of his position – but the plan itself was “facilitated” by an outside consultant? 

I’m asking, because that sounds awfully close to the ragged edge between “delegating” and using your employer’s money (read: the taxpayers of Volusia County) to hire someone to do your job. . . 

So, what exactly did we get for our $10,000 – what groundbreaking strategic “roadmap” did Dr. Fritz, our consultant, and his highly paid “Cabinet” produce that will fundamentally change the abject dysfunction, stagnation, and mediocrity in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand?

What can students, staff, and teachers expect in terms of the promised “measurable, attainable, smart goals with key performance indicators”?

Well, here is the final product of our district’s brain trust: 

“Engage all students in high levels of learning every day.

Recruit, retain and develop high-quality staff.

Provide a safe, healthy and supportive environment.

Ensure resources and operational processes are strategically aligned.

Strengthen communication and community engagement. It also includes a new vision statement: “Create life-long learners prepared for an ever-changing global society.”

Really?

My God.

Good luck, kids.  You’re going to need it. . .

A Sign of the Times?

Most professional journalists describe bloggers as worthless losers who live in their mother’s basement – socially inept nudniks shoveling Cheetos into their crumb-coated mouth – while angrily trolling the interwebz, conjuring dark myths about government.    

Before mom tells them to wash-up for supper, that is.    

Speaking from experience, the life is not nearly that glamorous. . .   

A recent statistic by those who make their living keeping track of these things says there are currently some 152 million blogs on the internet – with a new one coming online every 0.5 seconds. 

Damn.  That’s a lot of fat-assed couch ‘taters with internet access and a chip on their shoulder, eh? 

Or is it a clear indicator that people are beginning to pull their heads out of the sand and they don’t like what they see – desperate to be heard – and tired of being force-fed the pap and fluff that passes for “news” currently being churned out by mega-media conglomerates?  

For instance, in recent weeks, the Gannett owned Daytona Beach News-Journal has spent more space decrying social inequity in the marijuana industry and indulging in other far left handwringing than reporting hard local news – virtually ignoring the pressing issues that affect our lives – while the civically detached/socially connected editor lectures us with “We’re the oracle of responsible journalism, folks – ignore those uncivil cretins trying to draw an audience on social media.”

Add to that editorials that try to convince Volusia County residents that politically powerful insiders, big money interests who have openly controlled Volusia County for decades, are not locked in a no-holds-barred power struggle with our new Chairman Jeff Brower, despite all evidence to the contrary.

In his standing Sunday space, News-Journal Editor Pat Rice wrote, “We have a responsibility to cover the news about all segments of the communities we cover. We have a responsibility to be civil on our opinion pages, even when we have a strong point of view to share.”

Perhaps Mr. Rice should re-read that statement – tack it to his office wall – and understand the importance of not insulting our intelligence week-in-and-week-out as he attempts to run interference for what his newspaper has described as Volusia’s “Rich & Powerful.”

Whatever.

For me, after spending a lifetime clawing my way to middle-management in a small local government bureaucracy – then hanging on by my shredded fingernails for over three-decades – the process of writing these weekly screeds is cathartic. 

A creative means of purging my own conscience after years of silent conformity – bearing witness to the sausage being made from the inside out – watching the good, the bad, and the ugly of the mosaic of municipalities that make up the Halifax area – and experiencing the buffoonery of Volusia County government, who, for years, has deftly refined the role of the oafish ogre that far outgrew its britches.   

I observe, read, and digest the machinations of area governments, then use the hindsight of my experience to bring a different perspective on the magician’s slight-of-hand – something I hope stirs a larger discussion of the myriad issues we collectively face.    

While Volusia County is my traditional stomping ground – pound-for-pound – those elected and appointed dullards in DeLand cannot hold a candle to the consistent political absurdity in Flagler County. 

Considering we share the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area with Flagler County – geographic areas linked by social and economic factors – I like to keep a jaded eye on Palm Coast, our horribly conflicted and often belligerent stepsister to the north.

To say that Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton’s tenure at the helm of this behemoth has been an ongoing travesty is an understatement – marked by ugly internecine warfare, a constant churn in senior administrative positions, and recurring headlines alluding to a mysterious conflict of interest by Mayor Mellissa Holland and her weird triangular relationship with her employer, Coastal Cloud, and the City of Palm Coast. 

In fact, things have grown so contentious that Mr. Morton recently contracted armed guards to patrol Palm Coast City Hall in a disturbing display of unbridled power that has further alienated citizens from their government. 

After months of angry dissent from a faction of citizens who are clearly fed up with the dysfunction and lack of transparency in Holland’s administration, last week’s Palm Coast City Council meeting saw a tense moment when a lowly taxpayer had the temerity to enter the Royal Chamber and approach the Grand Loge to ask his duly elected mayor a question about the expenditure of public funds related to a $5.7 million expansion of the city’s tennis center. 

The citizen’s trespass resulted in Mayor Holland shrieking from the dais, “No sir! Absolutely Not! No! We are not doing this!” and “…I’m not getting scared in the middle of a council meeting. I’m not!”

Jesus. 

The citizen, later identified in The Daytona Beach News-Journal as Mark Phillips – a member of something called the Flagler Liberty Coalition – claimed he was simply confused and thought the meeting had adjourned:

“It just looked to me like the meeting was over,” Phillips said. “And I saw the mayor was still sitting up there, so I approached to ask her a question and she immediately screamed. And I stepped back immediately, not realizing why she was screaming.”   

Ultimately, a Flagler sheriff’s deputy intervened, Phillips was removed from the proceedings and issued a trespass warning at the request of Mr. Morton, presumably preventing Phillips from entering public facilities or meetings of the Palm Coast City Council.   

That’s one way to stop uncomfortable questions from those pesky constituents, I suppose. . .

The News-Journal report states the meeting also included some other angry speakers who Holland, or the City Attorney, tried to shut down when the ‘powers that be’ felt these unruly subjects of the realm were insulting an exalted council member.

Apparently, Mr. Phillips’ ill-timed attempt to speak with his mayor is being viewed by some as an escalation of the scorching rhetoric between the Palm Coast City Council and those they are sworn to serve. 

In a recent editorial in the must-read FlaglerLive.com, the incomparable Pierre Tristam writing in “The Live Column” sees a more ominous warning in the recent turmoil:

“What happened on Tuesday at the Palm Coast City Council is indefensible and dangerous. But it’s nothing new. We’ve simply not been paying attention to a perilous degradation of public discourse and behavior. We’re no longer witnessing just fiery opposition, which is the DNA of any vibrant democracy. The opposition is now routinely aggressive, threatening, irresponsible. The gap between that and violence is vanishing.”

In my view, the dissent in Palm Coast is not unique to the local political landscape – and represents the natural reaction of citizens in a representative democracy when they feel marginalized and ignored by those they have elected to serve their civic interests and steward their hard-earned tax dollars – and when our newspaper of record (who should be keeping the public informed, but isn’t) overrides our collective reality and repeatedly tries to convince us we are seeing things. 

We have seen similar discord in places like Deltona – where elected officials routinely ignore the fervent pleas of their constituents, going so far as to stand idle while appointed city officials have used the full-might of law enforcement to silence its own citizens who dared raise their heads and speak out. 

And in the City of Daytona Beach – where officials mandate that the live feed be shut off from the government access broadcast whenever taxpayers rise to address their elected officials during what passes for public participation – a clear attempt to silence the growing voices who are demanding a say in the trajectory of their community.   

Trust me – there is escalating aggression on both sides of the dais in local governments throughout Volusia and Flagler counties – and it is a clear sign of the building frustration in taxpayers who are sick and tired of being disregarded – told their perceptions and ideas are wrong – and gaslighted into believing the dysfunction they see with their own eyes is a mirage.

Angels & Assholes for May 7, 2021

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               Governor Ron DeSantis

It is time. 

On Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis did what many local governments did not have the political will to accomplish and stopped the madness of never-ending local States of Emergency – now pointless declarations that have become meaningless to the public they were designed to protect. 

Like clockwork, each bimonthly meeting of a municipal or county elected body typically ends with the mindless passage of the umpteenth “State of Local Emergency.”

In Volusia County, the first emergency declaration was passed in March 2020, and gave extraordinary powers to County Manager George Recktenwald and then Chair Ed Kelley to make unilateral decisions in the early days of the public health emergency.

Let’s just say our tried-and-true emergency management protocols failed to work as planned.

In fact, the wheel came off the proverbial cart when some Volusia County Council members felt their contributions were being overshadowed – resulting in contradictory social media statements and stilted press conferences – punctuated by frenetic manifestos by some elected officials demanding the immediate closure of all parks, beaches, recreation facilities, etc. – and calling for “shutting down businesses completely for two-weeks. . .”

In Daytona Beach, there was wild talk about fencing off the beach – a ridiculous curfew was set in place by the dictatorial Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry – along with outdoor “mask mandates,” business closures, event cancellations, and other draconian control measures employed under the almost Monarchical powers granted by the emergency declaration.

The passage of similar emergency declarations spread across Volusia County in follow-the-leader style – no one wanting to be left out of the FEMA funding cycle – or open to criticism for perceived inaction. 

My ass.

The fact is it would be unthinkable for a politician to let a good crisis go to waste without an opportunity to grandstand – an operational certainty during any emergency – which resulted in spit-spats and finger pointing as “colleagues” began calling each other out for failing to act with sufficient “we’re-scared-out-of-our-wits-and-you-should-be-too!” overreach.

Unfortunately, these emergency declarations are now a hollow exercise – no one cares anymore – except those number crunchers in the bowels of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building who shovel the enormous influx of federal “CARES Act” funds into the gaping maw of this outsized bureaucracy.

This week marked the 60th extension of Volusia County’s State of Local Emergency.

Of course, the news that Governor DeSantis finally put an end to this hodge-podge of abusive emergency powers really ticked-off The Daytona Beach News-Journal, because anything that signals the beginning of the end of this macabre shit show – a national nervous breakdown fueled by the incessant hype and fearmongering of the media, contradictory information from our federal and state public health services, and the oppressive measures that forced many small businesses into extinction – is bad for the newspaper business. 

In Tuesday’s op/ed damningly entitled, “Florida guts local control,” (later updated to the panic-stricken headline, “DeSantis seizes control over state’s COVID response, says emergency is over. Lord help us.”) the editorial board wrings its trembling hands, using frightening terms like “not out of the woods yet” – while raising the specter of “vaccine-resistant variants” – anything to reinforce the preferred narrative this crisis will never really be “over.” 

The fact is, Governor DeSantis sees his constituents as personally responsible adults rather than the slavish subjects we have become – and he rightfully removed this repressive yoke from the necks of citizens and businesses – who know how to protect themselves and their families, follow commonsense guidelines and proper hygiene practices, and stop the spread of a virus without massive government intrusion into every aspect of their lives and livelihoods.

With some 9-million Floridians having received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, the Governor’s message was refreshing:

“My message is: the vaccines protect you. Get vaccinated and then live your life as if you’re protected. You don’t have to chafe under restrictions infinitum.”

Now that reason is making its triumphant return – with Florida’s capitol building opening today – it is high time for all counties and municipalities to stop the asinine prohibition on We, The People attending public meetings in person – a self-serving diktat that requires citizens be sequestered away from their representatives.

Frankly, if any public official is too cowardly to do the peoples business in the presence of those who elected them, then they owe a duty to the community to resign their position immediately and make way for those with the courage and conviction to serve.

Thank you, Governor DeSantis.  Enough is enough. 

Asshole           Volusia County Council

Many thanks to everyone on both sides of the contentious short-term rental Battle Royale who sent me notes and emails this week, but as I have said before, I don’t have a dog in this brutal fight.

The fact is, I do not own investment property (all my moneys tied up in what chartered accountants call “liabilities”) – and while there are traditional rental properties located in my neighborhood, they are well-maintained, effectively managed, and conform to existing regulations. 

That said, I have a consumers view of this controversial issue because my family and friends use short-term rentals whenever we travel – a concept that seems to work exceptionally well everywhere in the world except Volusia County – and most reasonable people can see that one size does not fit all when it comes to regulating this incredibly popular industry in a resort area historically reliant on tourism. 

After weeks of hard-fought lobbying, it appears a group of determined residents from Bethune Beach – a small unincorporated community on the barrier island south of New Smyrna Beach – who have vehemently opposed any change to Volusia County’s short-term rental prohibition left the bloody field victorious on Tuesday.

At times, the debate was hard to watch as the Bethune Beach delegation told horror stories of irresponsible renters invading their quiet neighborhood, open house parties, parking nightmares – even instances of public urination – complete with a video depicting a compilation of vacation atrocities homeowners have endured, an unflattering production Councilman Ben Johnson seemed overly interested in making public. . .  

Short-term rental owners argue that a small contingent of residents from Bethune Beach cannot speak for the thousands of other homeowners in Volusia County who may support allowing vacation rentals in their neighborhoods, something proponents see as vital to the success of our hospitality industry. 

My fellow masochists and I who regularly attend (or tune in via live feed) to that théâtre de l’absurde that is Volusia County Council meetings know that, shortly after taking the gavel in January, Chairman Jeff Brower sought to sort out the lingering issue of short-term rentals countywide – a tattered political football that has been kicked down the playing field for far too long.

In February, when it appeared short-term rental owners had the high ground, council members approved an initial moratorium on enforcement of the county’s ordinance as the issue moved through the legislature – only to reverse themselves weeks later after receiving backlash from the very vocal contingent of Bethune Beach homeowners.

The clash dissolved into profane exchanges from the gallery, credible allegations of intimidation, and horribly divisive infighting that has irreparably marred the image of this quaint beachside community.   

In a commonsense move, the council considered an ad-hoc citizen advisory committee to bring back recommendations on this thorny impasse – one that is clearly not going away anytime soon – and several concerned residents and property owners representing both sides of the issue were appointed to serve.      

Unfortunately, in their infinite procrastination on politically sensitive issues, the Florida Legislature ran out the clock on further preempting the ability of local government to regulate short-term rentals (long-term ordinances such as Volusia’s were grandfathered in 2011) during this year’s session that ended last week. 

So, on Tuesday – just when I was beginning to enjoy munching popcorn while watching rich people fight over First World problems – Councilman Ben Johnson had clearly heard enough and made a swift motion to eliminate the citizen advisory committee before it ever got started (after all, nothing good can come from two factions discussing their differences and finding workable solutions, right?) and asked that the issue be brought back at their very next meeting for an up-or-down vote on maintaining the current ordinance prohibiting rentals of less than 30-days.

In turn, Chairman Brower cast the lone vote against disbanding the advisory committee, saying he saw benefit in promoting a dialogue.

I did too.

In my experience, rarely does anything of substance happen that fast in Volusia County government as evidenced by the council’s recent decision to push even the whisper of beach tolls and alternative revenue sources until after the budget takes effect in October. . .   

Clearly, there are some serious backdoor politics at play by Volusia’s Old Guard – who seem terribly resistant to finding outside-the-box solutions to long-term problems – or allowing 21st Century practices to gain so much as a toehold in this civic, social, and economic backwater. . . 

For owners of short-term rentals, the handwriting is on the wall, and they are calling on their supporters to mount a full-court press at the May 18 Volusia County Council meeting.

I am sure Bethune Beach residents are planning the same.    

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is going to be interesting to watch.    

In my view, the Volusia County Council should have allowed the citizen advisory committee to go forward as a mechanism to vent frustrations and allow for meaningful discussion, a forum that may have allowed residents and STR property owners to find a sliver of common ground.

Or perhaps the whole shebang would have dissolved into a no-holds-barred cage match for the ages, who knows?   

My hope is that Bethune Beach residents and vacation property owners can put this dreadful chapter behind them and find a way to come together, mend fences, and heal old wounds.    

In my experience, few things are worse than protracted neighborhood disputes – because you cannot escape them – and the long-term consequences of these vicious feuds which pit neighbor-against-neighbor can quickly destroy everyone’s quality of life, even in an idyllic setting like Bethune Beach.    

Quote of the Week

“Despite Ormond MainStreet asking for a six-month grace period to explore ways to restore the 1976 structure, and both Salty Church and Congregation B’nai Torah expressing interest in the building, the (Ormond Beach) commission voted 3-2 at its meeting on Tuesday, May 4, to tear down the building and construct a new shell parking lot for 59 vehicles. Mayor Bill Partington and Commissioner Dwight Selby voted against, wishing instead to pursue avenues to save the building.

Selby said that way, they could see if, as a community, they could reimagine what the property could be used as.

“We’ve deprived local citizens with the opportunity to come forward with a potentially really great plan,” he said.”

–Reporter Jarleen Almenas, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Ormond Beach City Commission votes 3-2 to demolish church property,” Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Wait. What happened? 

We had a plan, right? 

Am I the only one who remembers the much-ballyhooed “community center” for large-scale public/private events – that singular civic benefit that formed the rationale for the City’s nearly $800,000 purchase of the historic, yet horribly dilapidated, Ormond Beach Riverside Church?   

Come on, now.  You don’t recall the incessant chatter about all the wonderful “possibilities” for this “must-have” property at Ormond Beach City Commission meetings – the high-brow tut-tutting over the “strategic importance” of the purchase – and the civic imperative of “hearing from residents” regarding the scope and direction of the project?

No?

Just me?

Okay – but you simply must remember “The Great Cross Bruhaha of 2019” – when a concerned resident of Ormond Beach – backed by those professional victims at the “Freedom from Religion Foundation” and “American Humanist Association” – threw a good old-fashioned church-and-state shit-fit, demanding that the cross we inherited with the public purchase come down immediately?

Whatever. . .

I suppose Commissioner Dwight Selby can take comfort in the knowledge his constituents are getting used to being “deprived of opportunities” – such as the assurance our children and grandchildren will enjoy clean drinking water, experience the joy of undisturbed natural places, or the opportunity to get from point A to B without sitting in gridlocked traffic on Granada Boulevard. 

You may remember that way back in 2018, Commissioner Selby was the first to propose that the citizens of Ormond Beach purchase the church and adjacent parking lot for the promised “civic center.”

We were told it was a once in a lifetime opportunity – otherwise it may have, God forbid, gone on the tax rolls. 

According to a News-Journal report from the day, Mr. Selby feared that:

“If we hadn’t bought this, somebody could’ve walked into City Hall, got a building permit and built a house on that lot,” Selby said. “I’m certain that we would’ve looked back at this moment sometime in the not-too-distant future and said, ‘Oh my gosh. How did we let that slip through our fingers?’”

OMG, indeed.    

Never mind the fact City officials knew at the time of purchase that every roof on the campus leaked like a sieve, mold was present in a classroom building, and there was evidence of deadly asbestos and lead paint throughout – but certainly nothing that throwing between $2.8 million to $3.3 million of the taxpayer’s dollars could not mediate. 

So, despite the weak protestations of Mayor Bill Partington and Mr. Selby, the existing buildings will now be demolished and hauled off.

Instead, Ormond Beach residents are getting a $729,000 parking lot.

Asphalt?  No, crushed shell. . .

Enjoy your beautiful new community amenity, folks. 

You paid for it.

And Another Thing!

Last month, late into a very disturbing evening, I stared blankly at the government access channel on my television as the majority of Deltona City Commissioners heartlessly ignored the fervent pleas of their constituents and voted to approve a zoning request which paved the way (literally) for a wholly inappropriate housing development on 110-acres of environmentally sensitive land near bucolic Osteen.

It was cruel and difficult to watch as the hopes and dreams of ‘the little people’ were shattered in favor of some speculative developer’s every want and whim. . .    

After hearing citizens speak passionately about their love of the rural life – and describe the inherent value of the woodlands, pastures, and unspoiled wildlife habit to future generations – only Commissioners Loren King, Dana McCool and David Sosa stood with their constituents and worked to preserve this threatened piece of Old Florida.

In my view, it was a damnable travesty – something I hope Deltona voters will long remember at the ballot box. 

Fortunately, it appears a group of concerned citizens in Deltona is not going to take the wholesale destruction of this pastoral setting lying down. 

This week, a GoFundMe page was established under the banner Save Enterprise-Osteen Road –Keep it Rural!

As I understand it, the group is raising money to mount a legal challenge to what they accurately describe as a “gateway” development along Enterprise-Osteen Road, a nationally recognized Scenic Byway which forms a portion of the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor:

“Five hours of testimony from the public emphasizing multiple reasons why this was not a sound decision appeared to be totally disregarded by the commission when they voted 4 – 3 to approve a plan which will replace Volusia County zoning, which would allow 34 homes, with a plan to place 189 homes on a parcel that is 55% within the 100 year floodplain, is surrounded by Conservation property, agricultural lands, large lot residential properties, and a lake.

This decision by the Deltona City Commission has left the residents with no option but to seek legal recourse as they work to defend this well know scenic byway, their rural lifestyle, and the safety of the traveling public.”

In my experience, fighting City Hall can be a daunting undertaking.

Mounting a grassroots legal challenge against the full might of government and the uber-wealthy developers it serves is a herculean task – an expensive, insanely frustrating, and time-consuming process that often ends with a ruling that the citizens who pay the bills and suffer in silence “have no standing” in the matter at hand.

I don’t know a lot about the “Concerned Citizens” behind this effort – and my hope is they will give us more of the who, what, when, where, and how of this project in the near future – but the effort to save Enterprise-Osteen Road from the threat of Deltona sprawl is deserving of your help.

To learn more about how you can contribute to the defense of the endangered scenic byway, please go to https://tinyurl.com/2rbtzfjz

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for April 30, 2021

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               Volusia Stateswoman Ann McFall

There are few in the political arena that I truly admire.    

Many current and former elected officials have disappointed me – not because we disagreed politically, that comes with the territory – but because they sold their soul to the forces of mediocrity in a self-serving desire to maintain the perquisites of office while the needs of their constituents languished.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, everyone agrees Ann McFall transcended the fetid quagmire of Volusia County politics and built a solid reputation as a true servant of the people – a stateswoman in the finest tradition – one of those intrepid few who give their all to better the lives and livelihoods of those they have sworn an oath to represent. 

Serving others without fear or favoritism and dedicated to the principle that all political power is derived from the people. 

A rare breed.

Clearly, Ms. McFall’s curriculum vitae of extraordinary accomplishments needs no introduction and her service chairing both the Volusia County School Board and the County Council is sui generis.   

According to a report in the West Volusia Beacon, “McFall began her career in public service as a member of the Deltona Municipal Services District Advisory Board, an appointed panel established by the Volusia County government to make recommendations on policies and improvements for the sprawling community before its incorporation as a city.”

The longtime Deltona resident began her elective service in 1986 as a member of the Volusia County School Board – including service as board chair – before being defeated for re-election in 1994. 

Then, in 1996, Ms. McFall sought the District 5 seat on the Volusia County Council, ultimately serving eight years.

In 2004, Ms. McFall was elected Volusia County Supervisor of Elections and she remained in that demanding role until 2016.

Perhaps most impressive, regardless of position, Ms. McFall was universally respected by political friends and foes alike – as those who see public service as an avenue to help others, rather than a stage for self-aggrandizement, always are. 

She was one tough cookie. 

In the “old days,” there used to be more than the few left today who were servant-leaders in the classic sense, who not only led and inspired others by personal example but excelled at their elective responsibilities as well. 

You never find these standouts anywhere near the political fishing camps that have reduced Volusia County governance to a farcical opéra bouffe – “public servants” in gilded title only – too cowardly to take the high road or earn the trust and confidence of their constituents regardless of political cost. 

I truly admired Ann McFall and her commitment to service-above-self – a good life’s mission now complete.    

Her incredible intellect and strength of character will long serve as a shining example to future generations of aspiring public servants what true moral and ethical courage look like – and what it can accomplish to the betterment of all.   

Ann McFall passed away at AdventHealth Hospice in Orange City this week. 

She was 68 years old.

No one better embodied the qualities of selfless political stewardship. 

She will be missed.   

Angel               Chief Mike Walker, Lake Helen Police Department

Through my long association with the FBI National Academy Associates – in my view, the most exclusive law enforcement fraternal organization in the world – I established an unlikely friendship with The Honourable Bill Blair, former Chief of the Toronto Police Service and current Member of Parliament who serves as Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.

Several years ago, during an FBINAA conference in Toronto, Bill and I had the opportunity to sit in a quiet corner over a cold Molson Canadian and discuss the challenges of administering a police force of nearly 8,000 sworn and civilian personnel. 

It was then I learned how little relative difference there was from my experience leading a department of 30 dedicated officers and staff in Holly Hill – with the exception that I did not have a massive command staff to sort the wheat from the chaff before the hard, sometimes life-altering, decisions needed to be made.

It takes a steady hand and a ‘jack of all trades’ mentality, adaptive leadership skills, the ability to manage often scarce resources, adopting modern policing principles while holding firm to the best traditions of small-town life, a broad institutional knowledge of the community, and a grassroots connection to those you serve. 

When done right, policing a quaint, close-knit community is one of the most personally rewarding experiences in the profession. 

I was reminded of the unique advantages (and disadvantages) faced by small town police administrators when I learned of the pending retirement of long-serving Lake Helen Chief Mike Walker – one of the best to ever pin on a badge.   

Mike comes from a distinguished line of career law enforcement officers. 

I had the honor of serving under Mike’s late father, Larry Walker, who retired as Holly Hill’s police chief.  His brother, Mark Walker, retired from the Ormond Beach Police Department before embarking on a stellar career with the Ponce Inlet Police Department.  Another brother, Jimmy Crimmins, also retired from the Ormond Beach Police Department. 

Chief Walker began his service to the citizens of Lake Helen – “The Gem of Florida” – in 1989 after a year with the Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety.  He was appointed Chief of Police in 2011 following the retirement of former Chief Keith Chester. 

During his long and honorable career, Chief Walker set the gold standard for community-oriented policing – always humble and engaged with an ever-present smile and quick wit, willing to do whatever it took, no job too big or too small, to ensure the safety of his beautiful community. 

In my experience, small town chiefs do not seek this multifaceted job for the money or benefits that often-itinerant major cities chiefs command – they do it out of an abundance of love for their neighbors – a mutual affection that forms the very essence of what it means to truly serve and protect.    

For over 30-years, Chief Walker policed the City of Lake Helen with courage, dedication, and professionalism – a legacy of service that elevated his agency and earned the respect of his officers, colleagues, and constituents. 

Mike Walker is one of the good guys – and his contributions to the local law enforcement community will be sorely missed. 

Kudos and congratulations to Chief Walker on his honorable – and well deserved – retirement from a lifetime of quality public service.

Well done, my friend!

Your father is incredibly proud of you – and so am I.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

Most times, the selection process for the dubious weekly “honor” of Angel or Asshole is a no-brainer – an act or omission by a newsmaker that cries out for special recognition. 

This week was no different. 

I really wanted to recognize the Volusia County School Board this week for leaning toward a policy change which would make masking optional for the coming school year. 

In my view, following a year of choppy, sometimes contradictory diktats from this perennially flummoxed elected body, it struck a commonsense compromise – encouraging students, staff, and visitors to follow current CDC guidelines while on district property without demanding obedience with draconian mandates.

Look, I don’t want to give these elected dullards too much credit for doing the right thing, because it didn’t hurt that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued a directive earlier this month urging school districts to amend their policies for the 2021-22 school year to make masks optional. . .

Considering that some parents have started to revolt, stating that their children will not be wearing masks at school in the fall regardless of the board’s decision; the policy shift marked a return to center after studies demonstrated that sweeping mask mandates had little impact on the presence of COVID-19 in schools.  

According to an informative article by education reporter Cassidy Alexander writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The discussion at the workshop echoed other recent discussions the board has had on the subject, but overall board members are in favor of making the mask policy optional — with the understanding that the state of the coronavirus pandemic may change in the future.”

It was the right thing to do and certainly “Angel” worthy, right?  

Unfortunately, my high spirits were drowned like a sewer rat when I read a depressing piece in the Ormond Beach Observer entitled, “Former Volusia County Schools employee’s lawsuit over whistleblower retaliation remains ongoing,” a sordid tale of a courageous mid-career whistleblower, Alex Kennedy, the former assistant director of applications and infrastructure, who was callously ‘cancelled’ by district Big Wigs in May 2020 after 13-years of service to Volusia County Schools.

His crime?

He shined a bright light on serious irregularities in the implementation of a horribly overbudget and behind schedule financial software program that, as of 2018, has cost taxpayers over $2 million in change orders.  

His sentence?

The exalted ‘powers that be’ ensconced in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand – those who should care about the financial oversight of our tax dollars but don’t – coldheartedly waved their retaliatory wand and simply “eliminated his position.”

According to the Observer’s report, “Kennedy said that he knew early on the software implementation would run over-budget and that staff would have a lot of difficulty with it, and continuously advised his district superiors of this until his termination.”

“It’s just shameful when you have someone like myself saying, ‘This is going to cost you millions and millions dollars more than you expect,” Kennedy said. “Why would you do this?’ And then they don’t renew my contract.”

My God.

To his credit, in August 2020, Mr. Kennedy filed a lawsuit against the Volusia County School Board citing claims of unlawful retaliation – which means you and I are now paying for a vigorous legal defense of the very elected and appointed stooges who refused to listen when a dedicated employee sounded the alarm. . .  

Whatever.

To add insult, in November 2020, the School Board approved an “investigative report” cobbled together by GrayRobinson, the massive one-stop-shop for Florida bureaucracies in need of everything from lobbying services to legal defense and “government affairs services” – which just happens to be the same GrayRobinson that is representing the district against Kennedy’s lawsuit.

You read that right. . . 

Of course, the “investigation” conducted by their own attorney exonerated the school board of “waste, fraud or financial mismanagement,” effectively casting shade on Mr. Kennedy’s very credible allegations – allowing our barefaced elected representatives to hold up their manure-smeared hands and shamelessly claim they are clean.

“Nothing to see here, folks – keep moving. . .”

For now, Mr. Kennedy’s lawsuit continues its circuitous path through the courts – an incredibly expensive process on top of what this debacle has already cost us – but one we all hope exposes the machinations of this grossly vindictive system that sends a clear message of the horrible fate that awaits any district employee who even considers reporting misconduct. 

“My concern is my case gets dismissed or it doesn’t go further, and it continues to enable them to do this to other people,” Kennedy said. “That’s the big thing.”

An easy choice, indeed. . . 

Quote of the Week

“After listening to Volusia Council Member Danny Robins’ four-or-five page, obviously pre-planned attack aimed at county Chair Jeff Brower and backed up by Council Member Ben Johnson, I have to say Robins’ assertion that Brower was pandering to his constituents was right and if any of your constituents would like for Robins to have something brought to the whole council, I’m sure Brower would be more than glad to accommodate you.

Robins held up five or six folders of items for staff to deal with well, that’s their job, and not all those items were from Brower. Robins wanting consensus from the whole council is wrong.

Having a 7-0 vote on all items is not how government should work, especially if the 7-0 vote only goes the way Robins wants it.

The items Robins was ranting about mostly centered around the beach and the loop. These issues have been around for a long time and finally we have a chairman not afraid to bring these items forward and deal with them.

I did not need to write this to defend Brower. He did very well on his own responding to Robins and Johnson.

If Robins wants the council to work together in the future, what he did was not helpful.”

–David LaMotte, Ormond Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “An unwarranted attack,” Monday, April 26, 2021

And Another Thing!

The best thing I can say about Tuesday’s State of the County Address is that Chairman Jeff Brower said all the right things. 

Maybe that’s enough.  For now, anyway. . .  

As loyal readers of these screeds know, I am not a fan of these stilted, overproduced, and ostentatious displays of political exhibitionism – a “free lunch” for area politicians, their hangers-on, and a few concerned citizens who dutifully stand watch to assure things do not get too far afield – all paid for by government contractors, corporations, and individuals who make their living on the public dole.

But, true to form, I washed down a strong antiemetic with a shot of Seagram’s V.O. and watched the annual Bacchanalia of Bullshit from the comfort of Barker’s View HQ.  

In a departure from years past, given that lunch was covered by the overflow of funds remaining from last year – Chairman Brower asked wealthy corporate donors to contribute to Second Harvest Food Bank – and the festivities began with the presentation of one of those jumbo prop checks for $27,000 to help needy families in Volusia County. 

I felt good about that. 

Of course, the production also included the obligatory feel good “messages” from each elected official who flogged Volusia’s dubious “accomplishments,” “initiatives,” and “priorities.” 

Given the fact Volusia County has some of the most breathtaking natural vistas anywhere in the world, I found it strange that the council members were filmed emerging from the ethereal shadows of what appeared to be a haunted art gallery – a weird subliminal message to fool our subconscious into believing these dullards are capable of moving from the darkness of stagnation into the light of civic progress, ultimately filling the screen with a big head close-up of each politician – a visual effect I found, well, creepy. . . 

There was a lot said about the County’s nothing-short-of-heroic (just ask them) COVID-19 response – something about a three-legged dog – and a few senior staff members working hard to pat themselves on the back for one thing or another. 

Typical self-congratulatory bureaucratic fare. 

In all honesty, in a fit of narcoleptic boredom, I may have lost consciousness somewhere between Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan’s debatable description of the county’s reopening as “…thoughtful, measured, and strategic” and Community Service Director Dona Butler’s melodramatic monologue, “Resilience is no longer just a vague term or abstract concept.  It represents hope and strength. It’s a way of life and our roadmap to continued recovery.”

Yaaawwwn, sorry!  Where was I, dammit?

Trust me.  Like everyone else in County government – Ms. Butler knows that the “road to recovery” is paved with our greenbacks flowing freely from Washington in this damn-the-consequences tsunami of cash being lavished on local governments – “essentials” who didn’t miss a paycheck or see a day of financial hardship during the “shutdown.”

“Hope and strength,” my ass. . . 

In my view, this piss-poor federal policy that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be paying for is dangerous – and any empty talk of “resilience” is cold comfort to the small business owners who gave up the ghost at the tyrannical hands of their own local governments

When Chairman Brower finally had a moment to connect with his audience, he set an incredibly positive tone, and reminded his detractors, “Each (county chair) had their own style and approach to the job and so too will I. Yeah, it might be different from what we’ve had in the past, but I believe that’s why voters elected me.”

Damn right it is.

“Can we set the rancor aside?  Can we not look in each other’s eyes on a local level and say, ‘We have many things we all agree on’? Let’s work on those things.  Let’s truly make Volusia County the best place in Florida to live, to work, to play, and to do business.”

To his great credit, Chairman Brower spoke passionately of the importance of accountability – and reaffirmed his commitment to a government of the people where citizen input is both encouraged and respected – and he bravely set a vision for transformative growth, planned in a responsible and controlled manner, that protects our sensitive environment and preserves our dwindling greenspace. 

In my view, Mr. Brower went out of his way to be inclusive – playing all the right political notes by inviting the remainder of the Volusia County Council onto the stage (twice) for recognition – and I felt his remarks were both conciliatory and unifying. 

Time will tell if his message of “setting the rancor aside” was received by those not-so-mysterious forces who seem intent on winding up their marionettes on the dais of power with orders to attack Chairman Brower in a desperate attempt to maintain control (read: access to the public teat).   

In my view, Mr. Brower spoke from a position of true power – an iron fist (represented by the tens-of-thousands of voters who elevated him on a promise of effective change) in a silk glove of compromise and conciliation – and everyone in the room knew it.   

How was Chairman Brower’s message received by those stalwarts of the status quo he shares the dais with?

Or those saboteurs of the Old Guard who still pompously promenade through the gilded Halls of Power in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building?

Again, time will tell.  

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

Illegitimi non carborundum

For those keeping score, today we mark yet another small victory over COVID-19 as the Volusia County Council resurrects the ostentatious practice of packing the Ocean Center with local politicians, their respective camarillas, and various hangers-on, for a “free lunch” – complete with tall tales about “accomplishments” and how wonderful we have it here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

It is the one day each year (outside the dreaded campaign season) when our elected officials come down from their gilded perch in the Ivory Tower of Power and rub shoulders with us rabble who pay the bills – slapping each other on the back and fawning over their political benefactors in an ostentatious display of public bootlicking that reminds all of us where the true power resides. . . 

In a departure from past years, when the soiree was funded by government contractors and other corporations and individuals who make their living on the public dole, we’re told there were enough private “donations” left over from last year to support today’s Bacchanalia of Bullshit.

My hope is that our “new” County Chairman Jeff Brower – a straight shooter who is working hard to stay true to his word despite withering opposition – will tell it like it is, rather than spin a fantasy yarn like his predecessors were so famous for.

As our ‘powers that be’ gather to be recognized, my mind drifts to the state of local politics – and a simmering undercurrent of organized treachery and deceit that has all the earmarks of a cheap coup d’état in the making – something that Chairman Brower should not dismiss going forward. 

For instance: 

A delegation of old fogeys from the Republican Executive Committee of Volusia County attended the Volusia County Council meeting last week to parsimoniously spurn the idea of spending ECHO funds (which uses a fraction of our property taxes to preserve and protect environmental, cultural, historical, and outdoor recreational amenities) for the purchase of 39-acres of, well, historically significant and environmentally sensitive land adjacent to Ormond’s scenic loop. 

In my view, their presence in the chamber had nothing to do with the expenditure of ECHO funds, and everything to do with an on-going concerted effort by the Old Guard to force Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower into the round hole of lockstep conformity – one that assures the development of public policy will remain the exclusive domain of a few uber-wealthy insiders with the wherewithal to pay-to-play. 

In Volusia County politics, regardless of party or political views, once We, The People elect someone we feel will best represent our interests, the ‘powers that be’ – who have crafted an oligarchical “government” in their own craven image – begin the process of forcing fealty to the “system.” 

Although Chairman Brower is a staunch republican and self-described “constitutionalist,” he boldly ran on a platform of returning government to the people of Volusia County – a notion that was rejected by both the Democratic party apparatus (who tried their best to torpedo Brower by insinuating a no-name third candidate) – and the fusty Republican hierarchy, who remained loyal to the conformism and conventionality represented by former Chair Ed Kelly, and his heir apparent, the now washed-up Councilwoman Deb Denys.

Then, on Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal ran a Your Turn op/ed by guest columnist Tom Coriale – who also happens to be the Vice Chairman of the Republican Executive Committee of Volusia County – entitled, “Loop vote: Politics as usual,” which began: 

“OK, I get it. Politicians make promises. Our county chair campaigned that the ECHO and Volusia Forever funds would be transparent, follow the requirements and wouldn’t be used any longer as a slush fund. So, here we are and ECHO is being used to buy land to appease special interests for no-growth and land conservation.”

Then, Mr. Coriale threw in an odd line, “Of course, special interest groups cannot be denied and I expect that some will rebut me and label me.” 

Part of that whole self-affected partisan paranoia that is rife on both sides of the isle, I suppose. . . 

I am assuming these formidable “special interests” Mr. Coriale is referring to are the diminutive Suzanne Schieber – an Ormond Beach grassroots environmentalist – and Natalie Pilipczak – a Port Orange High School student, who worked hard to collect over 71,000 signatures and some $26,000 in private donations to help protect a historically significant section of the Ormond Scenic Loop which was in imminent danger of falling to a developer’s bulldozer? 

The fact is, while “politicians make promises,” precious few live up to those pledges – and while the concept of standing firm to one’s word may (understandably) be a foreign concept to partisan political operatives in Volusia County – Chairman Brower is working hard to change the tradition of bait-and-switch politics we have all come to expect. 

In a strange stretch, Mr. Coriale harrumphed, “So, here we are. The ECHO funds are again being used as a slush fund. . .”

No, they aren’t.

But why waste a good opportunity to paint Chairman Brower as an irresponsible spendthrift – a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper whose only goal is to satiate rabid environmentalists with an agenda, eh?

Bullshit.  

Clearly, Chairman Brower showed the nimbleness to seize a fleeting opportunity to save a threatened section of the Old Kings Road and accompanying archeologically significant sites, while expanding a conservation buffer to protect sensitive wildlife habitat and specimen hardwoods – the very definition of Volusia ECHO’s purpose.   

And he did it in less than 90-days. . . 

In my view, that quick thinking, and ability to move rapidly to see the interests of his long-suffering constituents met in a timely fashion, has upset the stodgy Good ‘ol Boys Club who’s legendary can kicking has kept Volusia County dragging on the hind teat of Central Florida’s civic and economic growth for decades.

All while true special interests, a controlling cabal with all the right last names and the wherewithal to fund the political campaigns of their malleable marionettes, receive untold millions in corporate welfare, “economic incentives,” and perquisites all backed by public funds (read: our hard-earned tax dollars).

Something’s up, folks. . . 

Add to the mounting evidence last week’s goofy diatribe by District 3 Councilman Danny Robins – which now appears to have been a weird semaphore to commence hostilities against the Chairman – a self-aggrandizing screed that resulted in a synchronized attack from the dais – and the sudden appearance of Port Orange Councilman Chase Tramont – another Darling of the Donor Class – who threw his hat in the ring nearly two-years early for the District 2 seat now held by the lockstep loyalist Billie Wheeler – and one gets the idea this is a coordinated effort to neuter Chairman Brower and crush any opposition to the status quo. 

In my view, these treacherous machinations represent the true state of Volusia County government in 2021.

Rotting from the core and as screwed up as it ever was. . .

What does an incredibly popular elected official do when he is under direct attack by the forces of mediocrity? 

What can the Chairman of the Volusia County Council do when he finds himself equally hated (and feared) by the loyal Republican and Democratic apparatchiks who see their death grip on the public purse strings threatened by a return to an actual local government – one of the people, by the people, and for the people?

In my opinion, if he is true to those who cast their sacred vote in the fervent hope that they might have valued input in their system of governance – you live up to the promises made – damn the slings and arrows of those craven greed-heads who, up until now, have controlled everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast.

And, above all, you tell the truth.

Then, Chairman Brower can rest comfortable in the knowledge there is a tsunami of change coming in Volusia County’s 2022 elections – a quantum purge that will give these ass kissing loyalists who continue to mistake the size of one’s bank account with their civic vision something to think about as they sit on the sidelines.    

Rest easy, Chairman Brower – don’t let the bastards wear you down.    

Angels & Assholes for April 23, 2021

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              Dream Green Volusia

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

–Margaret Mead

Tuesday saw the successful culmination of a true grassroots effort to save a small, but historically significant, section of the Ormond Scenic Loop from the insult of a developer’s bulldozer – a true labor of love by local environmentalists Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Piliczak. 

And we are all better for their courageous efforts. 

To their credit, neither Suzanne nor Natalie took no for an answer – even when saying “oh well, we tried…” and walking away would have been the easy thing to do – and it was a pitched battle against the forces of ignorance to the bitter end.

So, let us give credit where credit is due.

During their campaign to save a 36-acre section of The Loop that was in imminent danger of residential development, Suzanne and Natalie collected over 71,000 signatures and some $26,000 in donations in support of their Dream Green Volusia initiative – which plastered the region with “Defend the Loop” yard signs and bumper stickers as a means of drawing attention to our fabled scenic byway.   

Along the way, Suzanne and Natalie were met with every form of political chicanery, base apathy, and opposition from some well-connected groups and elected officials who openly scoffed at their plan.

For instance, last year, Mayor Bill Partington and his pro-development shills on the Ormond Beach City Commission (who annexed the property and approved the developer’s zoning requests) did everything possible to hamstring the bold plan to purchase 76 undeveloped lots from Plantation Oaks developer Parker Mynchenberg to add to a conservation buffer. 

In November, Ormond Beach Commissioner Dwight Selby looked down his long nose and tried to take the wind out of the intrepid environmentalist’s sails when he tut-tutted that their presentation at a public meeting, “did not impress him.”

According to a November 2020 report by Abigail Mercer writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “It’s not a priority, it’s not on my radar as something that needs to get done,” Selby said. “Part of it is I’m sort of missing what the point of it is. It’s something that’s going to need a lot more grassroots work.”  

Clearly, Mr. Selby is a master of the old “put them on the political gerbil wheel and let them wear themselves out” tactic for dissuading civic involvement. . .  

Fortunately, Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower fulfilled a campaign promise to the citizens who elected him when he stood tall in support of Suzanne and Natalie’s vision for conserving The Loop. 

Working under extreme time constraints (by government standards, anyway), Chairman Brower demonstrated outstanding leadership in shepherding this difficult proposition to fruition – even as his “colleagues” on the dais of power did their level best to kick the can down the road, “look at other options,” or delay the purchase indefinitely until the whole thing was forgotten about.

On Tuesday, to draw attention to the momentous purchase of the 36-acres (which holds remnant sections of the historic Old Kings Road), unite the elected body, and honor the hard work of Dream Green Volusia and the county staff who hammered out the details – Chairman Brower appropriately placed a “Defend the Loop” bumper sticker in a prominent spot on the dais – something that resulted in a flinty swipe from the horribly meanspirited lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, who inexplicably called the sign “offensive.”

My ass.

Of course, Wheeler’s first salvo set the tone for what would change a moment of celebration for the people of Volusia County into a “Bash Brower” free-for-all when Councilman Ben Johnson made remarks that this time sensitive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, could have been handled differently – and the Right Reverend Dr. Fred Lowrey (whose only accomplishment during the meeting was successfully picking the remnants of lunch out of his teeth on the dais) arrogantly fussed that he was going to “hold his nose” and vote yes – even though he didn’t agree with the expedited process.

Bullshit.

(I don’t recall Dr. Lowrey having a similar revulsion when Volusia County government squirreled away some $9 million in tax supported Volusia ECHO dollars to fund a skeevy “boardwalk extension” in Daytona Beach – an inside project of mysterious origin and dubious benefit that never got off the ground. . .whatever.)

Ultimately, after much political posturing, moaning, and groaning to dilute Chairman Brower’s proud achievement for the people, members voted unanimously (with Councilwoman Barb Girtman absent) to approve the combination expenditure of Volusia ECHO funds, park impact fees, and private donations to cover the nearly $1 million purchase.

This arduous journey has not been easy for Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Piliczak – putting themselves out there against the slings and arrows of the forces of mediocrity – but nothing worth doing ever is.   

Thanks to their perseverance in the face of withering opposition to the simple notion that we have a moral obligation to protect wild places of historic significance – a portion of this natural treasure has been preserved for generations to come. 

Asshole           Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald

There is an old English proverb that says, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

Unless, of course, you own what passes for a “luxury” hotel in Daytona Beach that received a 410’ traffic-free beach as a cheap spiff from a wholly compromised Volusia County Council – a scheme sold on the premise of “economic development” – and dedicated to the proposition that a private beach theme is more profitable than one covered in taxpaying riff-raff from the neighborhoods.

Except, when it is more advantageous to the hotel’s bottom-line to have vehicles and vendors covering the sand, then Hard Rock Daytona simply petitions their handmaidens in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building and – abracadabra-alakazam – a “permit” is surreptitiously issued by County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald, and, like magic, vehicles return to the Hard Rock’s cordoned off beach once again.     

At least until it becomes more profitable to have the vehicles removed. . .

Bullshit.

The Hard Rock’s Jeep-themed special event on the sand drew the ire of area residents, not because they are opposed to Jeep Beach Weekend enthusiasts having fun on the beach – but because of the glaring double-standard that exists for certain people and properties – courtesies and accommodations that far exceed those of John & Jane Q. Public. 

Perhaps more disturbing, according to Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, the permitted event came as a surprise to him as well:

“No, the council did not give the Hard Rock a pass. The council was not informed. I spoke to the County Manager and Attorney about 6 PM. This was approved as allowed by a county ordinance the Manager can use at his discretion. 

County staff can approve requests from beachfront businesses for special events. They didn’t have to ask the council; they were already given that option. But they should have in my opinion, especially when they public outrage is not hard to gauge.

The County Manager agreed to inform the council in any future request. That is a step. I will review the ordinance tomorrow. An ordinance can be improved.

It was not hard to guess our local population would feel like the Hard Rock was thumbing their nose at them. Letting council know before a permit goes live would allow any council member to speak with the public factually. Many other requests would be welcomed because the business making the request had the beach closed unwillingly. The Hard Rock wanted the beach closed and a great deal of the public have resented them since.

The Hard Rock also asked for a parade through the no driving zone. The County Manager turned that down but approved the static temporary display the ordinance allows.  I can’t imagine the negative public reaction that would have resulted in.”

This isn’t the first time Hard Rock Daytona has infuriated citizens by receiving special permission to flaunt the rules – a proverbial middle-finger in the face of area residents who are required to obey the draconian “Laws of the Beach” – or else.   

For instance, many remember the debacle in May 2018 during the hotel’s debut soiree as – “…an array of local elected officials and other area leaders” – looked on like proud parents, tear-stained cheeks aglow from their complimentary cocktails, as a professional fireworks display illuminated the shoreline. . .on the first day of turtle nesting season. 

You read that right.

Is it just me, or does anyone else have the sense that Volusia County government is still very much under the influence of special interests who remain in the shadows?

Those same influential insiders who, for years, have manipulated the rods and wires through the County Manager’s office and other highly paid senior staff members with “director” or “manager” before their names? 

Time will tell.

In my view, the next time Mr. Recktenwald callously ambushes our elected officials with a hot button issue – perhaps he should be asked to ply his trade elsewhere. . . 

I realize old habits die hard – but a behind-the-scenes nod allowing vehicles and static displays on a section of our public beach that was essentially walled off against the will of the people with absolutely no notice to our elected officials or the public has a whiff of the shit about it. 

Asshole           Deltona City Commission

I wrote about the continuing debacle in Deltona earlier in the week, but it bears repeating – because if political assholery had a face – it would look exactly like the Deltona City Commission. . .

On Monday night, our deepest fears for the future of Deltona became reality as many watched late into the night while, one-after-another, area residents dutifully approached their elected officials and literally begged them to disallow zoning changes that would permit a wholly inappropriate zero-lot-line development to be crammed onto 110-acres of environmentally sensitive land near bucolic Osteen.

In fact, the procession went on for hours as nearly 50 concerned residents – augmented by some 30 emails and telephone messages – spoke passionately about the environmental, civic, social, safety, and potential flooding issues presented by shoehorning 189 cracker boxes into a rural area abutting conservation land, long-established ranchettes, and threatened wetlands.

While residents spoke of the quiet solitude of rural life, the joy of hobby farms, their love for the scenic byway that traverses their slice of heaven, and the inherent value of the woodlands, pastures, and unspoiled wildlife habit to future generations – most of their elected officials sat on the dais of power staring back like disinterested gargoyles – seemingly only interested in hearing from the developer’s land use attorney who stood before them with a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged. . .

Following the overwhelming outpouring of opposition from area residents – and the recommendation of their own Planning Board – only Commissioners Loren King, Dana McCool and David Sosa stood with their constituents as the majority voted to sacrifice another slice of Old Florida by caving to the demands of a speculative developer.

I was proud of the courage exhibited by these three servant-leaders and their demonstrated willingness to hold firm to the principles of a representative democracy.

And, like many of you, I was nauseated by the arrogant indifference exhibited by Mayor Heidi Herzberg, Vice Mayor Anita Bradford, Commissioner Victor Ramos, and Commissioner Maritza Avila-Vazquez (who seemed more concerned that she was not being paid “overtime” for the late meeting than listening to the urgent concerns of her constituents. . .)

Whatever. 

What happened in the Deltona City Commission chambers in the early morning hours was nothing short of a foul insult to all residents of Deltona – a return to the ‘bad old days’ when gross political alienation led to disruptive protests and a complete loss of the public’s trust in their local government. 

To add insult, at the end of a very contentious meeting, Deltona’s Interim City Manager John Peters received a $2,500 pay increase after scoring a mediocre 258.5 on a 350 point evaluation with incredibly difficult metrics like “Individual Characteristics” (“Do you like ice cream, Mr. Peters?” emmmm Yes? “Me too! Two points to Mr. Peters!”) and “Professional Skills.”

Meanwhile, the citizens of Deltona received squat. . .

To quote Commissioner Loren King, “shame” on those craven shills who openly shit on the will of the people, kowtowing to the nonsensical zoning demands of a developer seemingly intent on ruining this pastoral rural setting – forever disrupting a fragile environment and sensitive wildlife habitat – all in the name of greed.   

Shame, indeed. . .

Quote of the Week!

“In 2015 Volusia County granted a no drive area to the Hard Rock Hotel under the pretense that it was going to bring economic development to the area. 

Well, we all know now that is just what it was, a pretense…..there has been NO economic development as the result of Volusia County Councils actions granting a no drive area to the Hard Rock. 

Now, as evidenced by the attached photo the county apparently has granted the Hard Rock a “special permit” to support their Jeep Beach event.  If removing beach driving promotes such an economic dynamic, why does the Hard Rock need to put the jeeps on our beach? 

Do any rules apply in Volusia County?

I assure you if I drove in that area the Volusia County Beach Patrol would swoop down on me in a minute. 

Why does Hard Rock get special treatment? 

–Civic Activist Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, as excerpted from an open letter to the Volusia County Council, Wednesday, April 21, 2021

And Another Thing!

After a career in local government that spanned over three-decades, I thought I had gazed into the dark abyss of political treachery – and seen every form of backstabbing and dirty trick known to man.

That was before I became an ardent student of Volusia County government.

Wow. 

Tuesday’s 9-hour marathon “meeting” of that august body proved that cheap political preening and over-the-top grandstanding has now become this bimonthly Kabuki theater’s raison d’être.

The “people’s business” be damned – especially when politicians can showboat and waste more time bellyaching that they don’t have time to accomplish anything. . . 

Whatever.

This week, the non-stop political demonization of Chairman Jeff Brower reached its crescendo as that group of loosely aligned stalwarts of the status quo – Johnson, Robins, Wheeler, and Lowrey – took turns publicly humiliating Mr. Brower in that weird passive-aggressive “we really want you to succeed, but…” bleat that lets everyone know they are lying through their teeth.   

Bullshit. 

In my view, things took a more ominous turn when fledgling District 3 Councilman Danny Robins used Chairman Brower’s logical attempt to set a workshop to discuss beach access fees as a launching point for a clearly rehearsed ad hominem attack – angrily reading his carefully orchestrated screed, almost as if it had been prepared in advance (?)

While most of it was lost on me, I think Mr. Robins’ tirade attempted to convince anyone still listening that his suggestions for generating revenue were great – while Mr. Brower’s “bad ideas” (and campaign promises) are a wholesale waste of the Council’s time – then hypocritically decried “bullying” while viciously doing the same to Chairman Brower.   

He took a few unprovoked swipes at Mr. Brower’s supporters as well.

That I definitely heard. . . 

As “Dictatorial Danny” madly waved his staff or’ the land and pontificated from his lofty perch, I had to take a hard second look at the live feed of the meeting to make certain the political ghost of Deb Deny’s had not resurrected from the ash heap of political has-beens – because Councilman Robins’ unhinged rant sounded eerily familiar to the tactic of “campaigning from the dais” we all came to abhor during the last election cycle. . .      

I am not sure if Councilman Robins was playing to a fusty delegation from the “Republican’s Against Virtually Everything Committee of Volusia County” who were in attendance to pooh-pooh the use of earmarked tax dollars to purchase conservation lands – or, if he has simply reached his emotional breaking point just 90-days into a two-year term?

Regardless, he succeeded in royally pissing off many of his staunch supporters – and alienated some extremely active political camps who are now mounting a strong campaign to unseat his surly ass next year. 

For the record, I like Danny Robins, and I find it unfortunate that the cheese slipped off his cracker in such a dramatic way. 

Regardless, the “angry politician” act is rarely a good look for a recently elected official in the most backward county in Central Florida – especially with an election looming next year. . .

I am not sure who Councilman Robins is taking his marching orders from – but they damn sure do not have his best interests – or budding political career – at heart. . .

How sad. 

However, earlier this week, my lagging spirits were buoyed when we got some great news on the 2022 campaign front when Councilwoman Billie Wheeler announced she would not be seeking reelection!

Woot!  Thank God for small mercies, eh?

Look, Ms. Wheeler can mewl and coo all she wants about how “at peace” she is with her decision to depart the political ring – but everyone knows the handwriting was on the wall. . .

When Chairman Brower trounced the entrenched heir apparent for the top spot last November, it signaled a quantum shift away from years of oligarchic rule, and a gradual return to true local governance – of the people, by the people, and for the people.  

In my view, the citizens of Volusia County are fed up with the stagnant status quo – staring helplessly from the sideline of a very lopsided playing field – while uber-wealthy insiders haul private profits to the bank using public funds (read: our hard-earned tax dollars) to accomplish it.

All while quality-of-life issues are openly ignored and serious public policy decisions are kicked even further down the dusty political trail. 

Unfortunately, we are now seeing Chairman Brower subjected to the same despicable gaslighting that effectively robbed District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post of her first term.

As she begins the long goodbye, I doubt Ms. Wheeler will acknowledge her role in this shameful sabotage of Chairman Brower as she continues her tag team partnership with the equally ineffectual Councilman Fred Lowrey.

Just don’t look for things to change without a fight – or a candidate who cares more about the needs of their constituents than their own craven self-interests. . .   

In a clearly choreographed move, last week Port Orange City Councilman Chase Tramont threw his hat in the ring for the District 2 spot simultaneous to Ms. Wheeler’s announcement. 

I don’t know about you, but the clubby nature of their synchronized revelations gave me pause. 

If Mr. Tramont plans to hitch his wagon to the lackluster legacy of Billie Wheeler – he might want to rethink his campaign strategy – because the voters of Volusia County have had enough of the holdover obstructionism and self-serving arrogance that Ms. Wheeler embodies. 

The fact is, I don’t know anything about Mr. Tramont, other than he appears emotionally stuck in his salad days as the BMOC – a high school basketball star who won the big game – and now fits cringeworthy sports euphemisms into media interviews:

“When I was an athlete, I wanted the ball in my hands when the game was on the line because I had prepared myself to handle those pressure situations.  So likewise, when it comes to governing, high-pressure decisions are made every single day that directly impact the well-being of my family and loved ones.”

Oh, and Mr. Tramont works for Mike Panaggio – the condescending chief apologist and self-appointed social media mouthpiece for our local donor class. . .

While it would be easy to dismiss Tramont’s service on the perpetually dysfunctional First Step Shelter Board – or question his cheesy “Somebody has to go into the lion’s den,” soundbite – I commend his willingness enter the fray and look forward to learning more about how his positions on the important issues of the day differ from Ms. Wheeler’s dull-witted take on things. . .    

Perhaps most important, I will be watching Mr. Tramont’s reaction to the recent revelations brought by former Port Orange Fire Chief Ken Fustin, who exposed serious allegations of coercion in Volusia County’s apparent attempt to extort a reduction in service fees by holding the city’s 24-hour ambulance protection hostage. . . 

I hope you will too.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y,all!

The Death of Democracy in Deltona

I am fond of saying that if you care about good governance in your own community, you should care about good governance everywhere – because in the mosaic of municipalities in Volusia County – the actions of one city will invariably affect the quality of life in others. 

Especially when the topic turns to the multifaceted problem of unchecked sprawl.

For years, there has been a gaping divide between Deltona City Commissioners and the citizens they are sworn to serve, one that many residents and observers find grimly disturbing – a real sense of mistrust fueled by the very real perception that, regardless of the issue or the intensity of their dissent – the will of the people is repeatedly suppressed by the wants of an arrogant and disconnected elected body who have seemingly nothing in common with those they represent. 

In my view, Mayor Heidi Herzberg presides over the most consistently dysfunctional group of elected dullards in this long-suffering community’s existence – a weird group who run the intellectual gamut from bright and engaged to borderline morons with a chip on their shoulder – all complicated by a secretive and organizationally unsound City Hall that has resulted in a well-founded “Us vs. Them” mentality that continues to divide and frustrate taxpayers. 

Following former City Manager Jane Shang’s reign of terror – and the election of the intrepid civic activist Dana McCool – many residents saw a glimmer of hope, a return to “normal” after public meetings dissolved into outrage, with vehement, even profane, protests as alienated citizens fought back against a tyrannical and insular “system,” one they could neither understand nor control.

On Monday night, our deepest fears for the future of Deltona became reality as many watched late into the night while, one-after-another, area residents dutifully approached their elected officials and literally begged them to disallow zoning changes that would permit a wholly inappropriate zero-lot-line development to be crammed onto 110-acres of environmentally sensitive land near bucolic Osteen.

In fact, the procession went on for hours as nearly 50 concerned residents – augmented by some 30 emails – spoke passionately about the environmental, civic, social, safety, and potential flooding issues presented by shoehorning 189 cracker boxes into a rural agricultural area abutting conservation land, ranchettes, and threatened wetlands.

While residents spoke of the quiet solitude of rural life, the joy of hobby farms, their love for the scenic byway that traverses their slice of heaven, and the inherent value of the woodlands, pastures, and unspoiled wildlife habit to future generations – most of their elected officials sat on the dais of power staring back like indifferent gargoyles – apparently only interested hearing from the developer’s land use attorney who, in typical fashion, stood before them with a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged. . .

Following the overwhelming outpouring of opposition from area residents – and the recommendation of their own Planning Board – only Commissioners Loren King, Dana McCool and David Sosa stood with their constituents as the majority voted to sacrifice another slice of Old Florida by caving to the demands of a speculative developer.

I was proud of their courage and willingness to hold firm to the principles of a representative democracy.   

After the final vote was taken – long after midnight – I found it difficult to sleep as I pondered the bigger question of what this growing political alienation means as increasing numbers of citizens feel disconnected from their local government, cravenly ignored by haughty policymakers who make irreversible decisions that will forever transform the land and the character of the community.

What happens when We, The People no longer feel we have any way to effect public policy, when the concept of civic engagement becomes meaningless, and the negative consequences on the public trust and polarization continue to erode our foundational principles? 

What happened in the Deltona City Commission chambers in the early morning hours was nothing short of absurd – like watching recalcitrant children defiantly force a jigsaw puzzle piece into the wrong space despite all evidence to the contrary.

It was ugly and patently insulting, as the needs of rural landowners and the fervent pleas of those concerned about the very future of Deltona and beyond were openly shit on by those who have forgotten where their political power originates.