“Above all, don’t lie to yourself…”

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

–Fyodor Dostoevsky

A good magician has the ability to help us suspend reality through the use of practiced legerdemain, sleight-of-hand, and the use of misdirection – clever deceptions and convincing lies that allow the audience to suspend disbelief – to actually believe that the magician has produced a lovely bouquet of flowers from a silk handkerchief.

We, the uninitiated rubes, look on from our seats – full of skepticism and smug intellect, our heightened senses all focused on figuring out the mechanics of the “trick” to foil the magicians surprise – but we never do.

Perhaps it is because, subconsciously, we want to believe the alternate reality created by the showman’s wholly contrived narrative.

In 1817, the author and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge introduced the term “suspension of belief,” suggesting that if “…a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.”

It is that interruption of logic and critical thinking that allows us to enjoy works of fiction and horror movies – and permits polished politicians to pull the wool over our eyes time-and-time again – as we seek to protect ourselves by accepting their deceptive narrative of “what will be” over the harsh realities of the present.

This suspension of disbelief also allows civic atrocities like East International Speedway Boulevard, the stagnation of our core tourist area, the maladministration of our beach, malignant sprawl, and debacles like the never-ending saga of the Tom Staed Veteran’s Memorial Bridge to occur with such frightening frequency.

We want to believe that what our senior elected “leadership” tells us is true!

We need to have faith in our democratic institutions – the concept of fairness, equality, and inclusion in governance.

This concept is never more evident than during a local election cycle, when we stand in awe – jaws agape – as perennial politicians spin yarns that we know are bald-faced lies, carefully crafted soundbites and persuasive fables designed to sway our sacred vote – even as we see the destructive results of their previous reign with our own eyes.

The slash-and-burn clear-cutting to make way for another abominable strip center, the roar of the bulldozers as thousands of acres of our sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitat is churned into a black muck to accommodate tens-of-thousands of zero lot line wood frame cracker boxes in the next “theme” community, or another sinkhole gives way as our freshwater aquifer is depleted – all while our transportation and utilities infrastructure continues to crumble under the pressure.

For instance, last week, during The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s virtual “debate” between candidates for Volusia County Chair, the wholly compromised incumbent Councilwoman Deb Denys, did her level best to convince voters that – despite all evidence to the contrary – she has the “leadership skills needed” to get us out of the quagmire she helped create.

Bullshit.

In the News-Journal’s candidate bio, Dishonest Deb listed her “profession” as “County Councilwoman,” and suggested that her top three priorities – after eight long years on the County Council – remain “Jobs and the economy, water protection and funding of the community’s infrastructure needs.”

Only in the mystical world of local politics would a sitting elected official ask for another bite at the apple after being granted eight years to make a substantive difference – yet failed miserably to establish trust, acknowledge the needs and wants of constituents, improve our artificial economy, or protect the quality of our limited water supply – even as the once crystal clear DeLeon Springs looks like the Ganges this morning due to silt intrusion from sinkholes which crater the ground as our aquifer is sucked dry.

Despite her “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about” shoulder shrugs, Ms. Denys knows in her heart that during a previous election cycle she billed herself as a champion of beach driving – openly vowing never to close any additional sections of our beach to public driving and access.

She lied.

When the chips were down, Dishonest Deb turned-tail and viciously stabbed her supporters in the back by doing the bidding of her political benefactors and voting to gift Hard Rock Daytona a traffic-free beach. . .

In turn, We, The Little People, explained in a clear, united voice that our abysmal lack of trust in Volusia County government was the primary factor in the sound defeat of their incredibly expensive half-cent sales tax initiative last year.

Unfortunately, Dishonest Deb ignored our collective voice – instead, she continues to tout the importance of allowing Volusia County to get even deeper under the influence of that mysterious Star Chamber of self-serving millionaires at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – or encouraging even more corporate welfare projects through that do-nothing world travel club over at Team Volusia.

According to a quote in the News-Journal, “I’ve never seen such a strong sense of who Volusia County is and who we are,” said Denys. “The leaders working together with the CEO Alliance and Team Volusia and our cities and getting through this COVID pandemic. Volusia County is strong. We know who we are.”

My ass.

We know who we are?

We are a damnably depressed artificial economy – with a per capita income south of $30,000, and a median household income of just $46,700 – leaving 29% of Volusia County households considered “Asset limited, Income constrained, Employed” – with 14% of households living in poverty and an increasing scarcity of affordable housing.

We have the worst managed beach of any coastal county in Florida – a strand that has become an ugly forest of poisoned pressure treated posts, plastic parking stakes, “do this/don’t do that” signage and traffic barriers that have destroyed the natural beauty of our most precious natural amenity.

We’ve proven beyond any doubt that our ‘powers that be’ have no qualms about approving the wholesale destruction of our natural places from Farmton to the Flagler County line – and, for years, our Volusia County Council knowingly looked the other way as the very same developers who fund their political campaigns were granted discounted impact fees until the sham was exposed.

Our elected and appointed officials continue to demonstrate an almost personal hatred of public involvement in local government – attempting to even further suppress our ability to prostrate ourselves before the Monarchical elites and beg for their mercy and benevolence – even as they openly kiss the sizable asses of their political overseers who use our tax dollars like a private piggy bank in tax abatement, infrastructure improvements and “economic development” incentives.

We are a cautionary tale among the real economic players in the region.

Yeah.  We know who we are, alright. . .and Dishonest Deb is clearly living in a fantasy world of her own making.

That is what the arrogance of power allows – the ability to lie to oneself with utter confidence and a sense of infallibility.

In my view, it’s time for voters to recognize Ms. Denys’ disastrous history of protecting the status quo – as her uber-wealthy political benefactors demand – and once and for all get us out of this sluggish, ill-inspired, and visionless quagmire that continues to make Volusia County the laughingstock of Central Florida.

 

 

Angels & Assholes for July 31, 2020

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               Sheriff Michael Chitwood

 I mentioned this in a widely read blog-post earlier this week, but it bears repeating.

In my view, campaign finance reform is the most pressing issue facing Volusia County – because, if done right, it can make elective public service more accessible, less about which influential individuals and industries can skew the playing field, and more about citizens having substantive input in their government.

Trust me.  Even the mention of changing the status quo makes our ‘Rich & Powerful’ extremely uncomfortable.

I have no doubt Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post knew the personal and political ramifications when she made the motion to put a charter amendment on the November ballot that would limit the auction house bidding for influence and ensure reasonable fairness for all candidates – ensuring that our elections are no longer bought and paid for by wealthy insiders.

And it was no surprise to anyone paying attention that News-Journal editor Pat Rice would support his many prominent friends by painting Ms. Post’s suggestion as sour grapes in Sunday’s newspaper – pointing out that Councilwoman Post didn’t kick when she was the recipient of similar largesse in 2016 – a race that saw an obscene amount of money showered on both Post, and her opponent.

Then, someone Mr. Rice’s own size stepped into the ring. . .

On Sunday, Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood boldly wrote a social media post taking Mr. Rice to task for his attack on Heather Post – and decrying the fact that politically active companies linked to mega-donor Mori Hossieni are currently accepting federal funds under the Paycheck Protection Program, all while making large cash donations to Dishonest Deb Denys and other local political campaigns.

Sheriff Chitwood said, in part:

“With so many businesses really struggling to pay the bills, it just doesn’t sit right with me that so much federal aid is given to someone who can afford to spend thousands on politicians.

That Payroll Protection Program wasn’t intended to keep politicians on their donors’ payroll.

These County Council members on the ballot are going to be deciding the future of development in Volusia County.

Does it sit right with you that they are so heavily funded by the biggest developer around?

Does it sit right with the News-Journal, or are they too cozy with Mori Hosseini’s establishment to call it out?

Almost 20% of Deb Denys’ campaign money is from Mori Hosseini. Same for Barbara Bonnarigo as she tries to unseat Heather Post. Hosseini is also throwing multiple donations at Billie Wheeler, totaling about 13 percent of her campaign account.

We know money in politics is a problem, but the solution is in our hands, as voters.

I’m looking for candidates who will serve the PEOPLE of Volusia County, not the Politically Savvy.”

According to a subsequent post by Sheriff Chitwood – after he had the temerity to challenge the way things are – he was reminded by Pat Rice that he accepted some $8,000 from Mr. Hossieni and company during his 2016 campaign.

In his own inimitable style, Sheriff Chitwood responded, “That is absolutely true, and had I known then what I know now, I would have sent it straight back. Instead, I have repaid him ever since by calling out the pay-to-play political system he runs in Volusia County.”

Good for you, Sheriff!

Clearly, Mr. Rice was fighting outside his weight class.

And it is equally clear that Sheriff Chitwood will not be bullied – or compromised – by anyone.

Then, earlier this week, Ms. Post responded to the News-Journal’s criticism in a letter to the editor entitled, “For constituents,” which read, in part:

“This election is much different, as noted in Pat’s column. Why is that? Typically, a popular incumbent enjoys a fundraising advantage over challengers.

The difference is that those large donors from my last campaign have discovered that I serve only my constituents and what is best for the residents of Volusia County, regardless of who donated to my campaign.

The difference is that several of my fellow council members are openly hostile to my expectations of transparency and service. The difference is that no one owns me. My obligation is to those who elected me.

Not only are many of those large donors and power-broker elected officials now supporting the challenger, they actively recruited her to run against me, in order to assure that they will have a more pliable “friend” sitting in the council chambers for them.

The people of Volusia County deserve representatives who serve them, who listen to their concerns, and vote to protect and support our residents.

I am proud to be that representative.”

Well said.  And painfully accurate. . .

Perhaps it’s time that Mr. Rice, and his chums in the Halifax areas social and civic elite, understand that those of us here in the ‘Real World’ have had our fill of mercenary politicians and those who seek to profit from massive investments in local political campaigns.

Welcome to the change Volusia County residents so richly deserve.

Angel               Mindy McLarnan, Ormond Beach

I have a soft spot in my heart (some would say on my head as well) for those who take a bold stand – who speak up when others won’t – and fight to preserve those things that enhance our quality of life.

I don’t know Ormond Beach resident Mindy McLarnan, we’ve never met, but I recall back in 2015 when she spoke out in a letter to the editor of the News-Journal regarding the ill-thought slaughter of nearly 300 black bears during a weekend “hunt” authorized by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission – a state sponsored means of “managing” the bear population.

Now, I don’t have a problem with hunting – as a young man, I enjoyed getting out in the woods with friends on deer and dove hunts – a rich tradition that responsibly manages and conserves wildlife.

But the idea of paving over black bear habitat to make way for another damnable strip center, wood frame apartment complex or theme housing development, then destroying bears who have become desensitized to the trappings of human beings, wild animals with nowhere to go, didn’t seem sporting to me.

In fact, it was wrong – and, in my view, epitomized the arrogance of those who don’t give two-shits about preserving our natural places and sensitive ecosystems – choosing instead to profit from destroying habitat, then killing off what annoys them.

Now, Ms. McLarnan has established a petition on Change.org expressing “…major concerns about the impact of the proposed high-density Tymber Creek Apartments located at the northwest of the intersection of West Granada Boulevard and Tymber Creek Road.”

As you may have heard, with many Halifax area residents worried about the horrific impacts of the proposed Avalon Park Daytona – a development that will see some 10,000 homes and over one-million square feet of commercial space – a city-within-a-city – on the city’s southwest doorstep – now, Daytona Beach developer The Jaffe Corporation, in cooperation with an out-of-state mega-builder, seeks to put a 300 unit “multifamily” apartment complex on Tymber Creek Road just north of State Road 40.

You read that right.

The developers are seeking to annex land that is not already incorporated into the city, and a land use/zoning amendment from commercial and rural agriculture to a “planned residential development.”

In addition, Ms. McLarnan’s petition seeks to educate Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington and his merry band of pro-development shills on the City Commission about the multifaceted impacts this proposed development will have on established residential areas – and the debilitating effects of increased traffic – which will exponentially compound with the advent of Avalon Park.

If you care about the quality of life of existing Ormond Beach residents, I encourage you to sign Ms. McLarnan’s petition at  https://tinyurl.com/y6rvlpp9 – then attend next weeks “neighborhood meeting” at Coquina Presbyterian Church, 2085 West Granada Boulevard, Ormond Beach on Thursday, August 6, 2020, beginning at 6:00pm.

For those wishing to join the meeting virtually, please contact cathy@storchlawfirm.com or call 386-238-8383 for more information.

Kudos to Mindy McLarnan for establishing this petition – which, as of this writing, has over 500 signatories – representing concerned friends and neighbors who are committed to protecting that which makes Ormond Beach so wonderfully unique.

Asshole           Palm Coast City Commission

The hits just keep on coming. . .

Incredibly, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the rotting onion that is the City of Palm Coast keeps peeling its fetid layers – exposing the depth of dysfunction and intrigue that naturally result when those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest forget who they work for and ignore their sacred oath of office.

On the heels of allegations that City Manager Matt Morton continues to manipulate the city’s internal waste and fraud safeguards – muzzling the compliance manager, then using taxpayer funds to bring in an outside firm to apparently tell him what he wants to hear – now we learn that Morton and Mayor Milissa Holland took a partially taxpayer-funded junket to a tech conference in San Francisco last November.

Say what?

I say “partially,” because the Manager and Mayor’s hotel accommodations were covered by  Palm Coast tech consultant, Coastal Cloud – and it appears all the public servants had to do was shill for the company’s customer service software.

According to a recent editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“In a half-hour session, the two Palm Coasters presented a glowing review of the system’s functionality during the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian — with the emphasis on the Salesforce software that forms the backbone of Palm Coast Connect. That, in itself, is not all that surprising: Holland’s official job with Coastal Cloud is to convince other governments to buy similar systems.”

Damn. . . this stinks.

In my view, it is time for Palm Coast taxpayers to come to the realization that things at City Hall have come off the proverbial rail – and the highly questionable actions of senior leadership have the potential to harm one of the most important municipalities in the region.

I mean, what business or industry in their right mind would consider establishing themselves in the ethically challenged quagmire of Palm Coast, given the startling revelations that continue to pour out of Matt Bruce’ outstanding investigative reportage?

Perhaps the answers Palm Coast residents deserve begins with one posed earlier this week by the News-Journal:

“Why should Palm Coast taxpayers be burdened with costs associated with Holland doing her job, marketing Coastal Cloud’s software?”

Asshole           Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley

I must admit – I don’t watch the News-Journal’s virtual “debates.”

Frankly, that type of political theater bores me to tears – because I never learn anything that I didn’t already know.

Candidates providing canned answers to Pat Rice’s tepid questions in a stilted boardroom tells me nothing about how that person will govern – or their true motivations for entering the fray.

If a political candidate interests me, I take the opportunity to research the individuals accomplishments (and failures), read what they may have written in the past, meet with them and ask pointed questions – and if that person is an incumbent politician – I closely study their prior voting record and positions on the important issues.

Many time, just watching how a politician conducts themselves when interacting with constituents tells me all I need to know.

For instance, last evening during the News-Journal’s virtual debate between the Volusia County Chair Candidates – Jeff Brower, Deb Denys, and the also-ran vote splitter Gerard Witman – our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair Ed Kelley gave us all a parting shot of his true character.

During the exchange, a loyal Barker’s View reader pointed out to me that Chairman Kelley was actively mocking Jeff Brower – repeatedly interjecting himself into the comment section of Facebook Live debate – apparently trying desperately to divert attention from the fact his candidate, the always arrogant Deb Denys, was on the ropes most of the night.

For instance, during the debate, our highest-ranking elected official in Volusia County posted:

“Jeff (Brower) Works for the people yes he does have a lawn service”

Ladies and gentlemen, in one poorly constructed sentence, Old Ed told us everything we need to know about his true feelings on small businesses in Volusia County.

Ignoring the facts – and Mr. Brower’s exceptional background as a farmer, landscaper and permaculture expert – Ed Kelley uses a workingman’s profession as a cheap jab – a low blow – which earned the disdain of citizens who were disgusted by his crude abuse.

In turn, Daytona Beach resident and environmental activist Jenny Nazak immediately responded:

“Holy mother of God, did you actually just say these words??? Is this really how you feel about the working class and small businesses in our County? Not only is your comment shockingly disrespectful; it is also false. Jeff Brower is a farmer and also owns an eco-minded landscaping company. He is well-versed in permaculture design (a toolkit for meeting all basic human needs while IMPROVING the health of ecosystems). And he is well-versed in bioswales, living shorelines, and other natural methods for mitigating some of our biggest woes such as septic problems and drought-flood extremes.”

Perhaps the best advice for Chairman Kelley came from viewer “Carolina Bob,” who exclaimed:

Ed Kelley, pipe down, the voters are talking here. Nobody needs your BS excuses!

Amen.

Perhaps Mr. Kelley should have Bob’s cogent sentiment engraved in stone – a fitting memorial to a long-winded political career – a hack who hasn’t had an original thought since he accepted his first campaign contribution – a loyal, dim-witted lapdog for those influential insiders he mistakenly thought were his “friends.”

He will not be missed.

Quote of the Week

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you the voter but due to the potential inaccuracy of the polling system, we feel it’s in the best interest to protect the candidates by removing this poll starting effectively immediately. We are looking at other options to reopen this poll at a later date.”

–West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce, Hob Nob 2020, Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Interesting. . .

The West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce made quite a show in the lead-up to their virtual “Hob Nob 2020.”

“It’s Straw Poll time, make your voice heard, cast your vote!  Starting Monday our Poll will be open, so don’t forget to visit our website and vote for your favorite candidates! Special thanks to Simplicity Solutions for setting this up for us we really appreciate it!”

The Board of Directors and staff flogged the event on social media – offering candidates for Volusia County elective offices the opportunity to place advertisements (for a fee) on the chamber’s Facebook page and website – and encouraged everyone to cast a ballot for their favorite candidate in the WVRCC straw poll July 27 to August 14.

“Make your voice heard.  Use your vote.”

Bullshit.

Just days after opening the straw poll, it became increasingly evident that the biggest contest in Volusia County – the race for County Chair – wasn’t going the way many of our areas social and civic elite had hoped.

Clearly, Councilwoman Deb Denys – the darling of the Big Money power brokers – was falling woefully short of her challenger, Jeff “Plan B” Brower.

In fact, when the straw poll was mysteriously taken down on Wednesday, the tally was as follows:

Jeff Brower                  54%     300 votes

Deb Denys                   42%      233 votes

Gerard Witman            5%      26 votes

Of course, when things didn’t go as planned, there was suddenly a “potential inaccuracy of the polling system.”

My ass.

Which candidate(s) were the West Volusia Regional Chamber protecting?

I mean, it couldn’t possibly be that We, The Little People are sick and tired of Dishonest Deb’s lies, misdirection and flip-flops – or that those who try and eke out a living here on Florida’s Fun Coast are weary of fighting on a skewed playing field where those who pay to play win every time, right?

I encourage everyone to reach out to Jeff Brower and ask him the difficult questions – seek answers to the issues that are important to your family – and see for yourself the quantum difference between Jeff’s bright vision for our future – and the stagnation of the status quo that do-nothing perennial politicians like Dishonest Deb continue to force upon us.

This one’s important.

We simply cannot afford another impetuous dipshit like our current lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, to lead us down the road to civic perdition.

And Another Thing!  

To mask or not to mask?  Blah, blah, blah. . .

How many more pages of newsprint can be devoted to beating this dead horse?

I don’t know about you, but a few months back, the folks at the Centers for Disease Control suggested that we could slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a cloth face covering.

So, we did.  And it had nothing to do with fines and draconian enforcement measures.

Typically, the wearing of masks as a means of controlling infectious disease is reserved for those who are actually sick – because covering the mouth and nose prevents aerosolized droplets from being widely distributed – but they don’t filter out the virus.

Regardless, in this weird, topsy-turvy response, experts have directed that everyone “mask-up” because, well, there are apparently “asymptomatic” vectors lurking among us.

And the vast majority of us followed the reasoning – even though with almost 100% compliance in public indoor spaces – we are told the increasingly sketchy “numbers” continue to climb astronomically, with provocative headlines screaming “Florida shatters daily death record!”

Doesn’t make sense, right?

Yet, we wear the mask – not because we were told to do it by dictatorial assholes like Generalissimo Derrick Henry of the Despotic Duchy of Daytona Beach, a “Mayor” in title only, who has continuously used this pandemic as a shameless platform for political self-promotion – but because most people will do the right thing, for the right reasons, when given good information upon which to make a decision.

It’s very similar to local elections – where we take in all available information – then make an informed decision that will have long-term consequences on our lives and livelihoods.

Our neighbors – the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker – stand for high office, espouse their unique vision for our future, assail us with glossy mailers, canned soundbites, and upbeat voice-overs on television and radio, ostensibly to provide us with all the reasons why we should give them our sacred vote – and the opportunity to serve our interests and steward our hard-earned tax dollars.

And, like the non-stop yammering about masks – the 24/7 campaign advertisements, yard signs, “debates,” and other political white noise will ultimately reach a pitch that will have most of us tuning it all out.

In the end, with what we hope is the very best information available, some of us will enter the voting booth (or fill out a ballot at home) and take a leap of faith that we’re doing the right thing for our families, our businesses and our quality of life.

Others have become so jaded by past experience and the corrupt motivations of mercenary politicians that they simply ignore the process altogether – as local “politics” are seen as more of an annoyance than a civic obligation.

Most of the time, those we elect turn out to be little more than cheap hucksters – spewing horseshit and supporting positions that always seem to serve the economic interests of the ‘Rich & Powerful’ while ignoring the needs and wants of their constituents.

And even more of us become jaded to the process. . .

I’m asking you to keep the faith.

I hope you will take the opportunity to educate yourself on the issues, research the voting records of incumbents, speak with the candidates individually – then cast your sacred vote for those who best represent your values and vision for our future.

Participate in the process.  Get informed.  Get involved.

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

 

Requiem for a Lightweight

On Sunday afternoon, a politically astute friend called to say:

“Pat Rice just won the District 4 County Council race for Heather Post.”

That prognostication came after Mr. Rice’ recent column in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Post’s about-face on campaign contributions,” wherein he piled on with the likes of our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, the demonstrably dishonest Councilwoman Deb Denys, and the other poohbahs on the dais of power to slam Ms. Post for daring to raise the specter of campaign finance reform.

Frankly, Mr. Rice should have stayed out of the ring.

It was an unsophisticated attack.  But an attack, nonetheless.

And it demonstrated just how low the Volusia County triumvirate of Big Money donors, the malleable candidates they buy like cheap livestock through exorbitant campaign contributions, and the News-Journal – who always seems too close to the other two legs of the stool for comfort – will go to protect the status quo.

In 2016, Ms. Post, then a political newcomer, benefited from a bidding war between members of the well-heeled donor class during her race against Al Smith for the District 4 seat – a contest that saw over a half a million dollars in donations for a seat that pays some $43,000 a year.

Most telling, more than half of the $503,000 in campaign contributions to Post and Smith came from just six uber-wealthy political power brokers and corporate entities under their control.

According to research done in 2017 by former News-Journal investigative reporter Seth Robbins:

“…the largest contributions in the District 4 race came from companies and donations associated with George Anderson, developer of the Ocean Walk and a real estate investor; J. Hyatt Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of Brown & Brown Inc.; homebuilder Mori Hosseini, chairman and CEO of ICI Homes; Theresa Doan, whose beachside properties and investments include three Main Street bars; businesses affiliated with International Speedway Corp. and its president, John Saunders; and companies affiliated with Consolidated-Tomoka, a land holding company.”

Anyone care to guess why these individuals and industries would invest so heavily in a Volusia County Council seat?

Look, I haven’t always agreed with Heather Post – she voted with the majority on many issues I disagreed with – and continues to play the role of a self-promoting professional victim – something I think detracts from the many positive qualities that have endeared Ms. Post to her constituents.

I also watched as Ms. Post transitioned into a cagey politician – sometimes quibbling and arguing semantics with me on important issues – and shunning any News-Journal reporter who tried to get her take on an issue – relying instead on a canned social media presence (which she controls exclusively) to communicate with those she serves.

But, by and large, she has been her own person – holding firm to that which she felt was right – always personally accessible to her constituents and committed to helping wherever needed – even when it chafed her fellow council members.

It became apparent early in her term that Ms. Post would not be pigeonholed, or beaten into the round hole of political conformity, and her staunch resistance made her Ol Ed Kelley’s personal punching bag.

Time and again, Chairman Kelley took great delight in verbally pummeling Ms. Post – complete with his dramatic eye-rolling, deep sighs and other histrionic gestures – as Mr. Kelley obediently did as he was told and defended the status quo.

Unfortunately, Old Ed’s mean-spirited bullying transferred to many of Ms. Post’s “colleagues” on the dais of power – each of whom opportunistically landed a few blows of their own – or just willingly joined in with the dismissive shrugs and parliamentary blocking maneuvers which painted Post as an ineffectual nonconformist.

Then, during what passed for a Volusia County Council meeting earlier this month, Ms. Post had the courage to seek change to Volusia’s no-holds-barred campaign finance system which allows well-heeled political insiders to control the outcome of local elections with massive infusions of cash into the coffers of hand-select candidates.

In my view, campaign finance reform is the most pressing issue facing Volusia County – something I have been bellowing about like a wounded wildebeest for years. . .

I have no doubt Ms. Post knew the personal and political ramifications when she made the motion to put language on the November ballot that would limit the auction house spending and level the playing field for all candidates.

That is why it was no surprise to anyone paying attention that Mr. Rice would support his influential friends by painting Ms. Post’s suggestion as sour grapes – pointing out that Councilwoman Post didn’t kick when she was the recipient of similar largesse.

Then, someone Mr. Rice’s own size stepped into the ring. . .

On Sunday, Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood boldly wrote a social media post taking Mr. Rice to task for his attack on Heather Post – and decrying the fact that politically active companies linked to mega-donor Mori Hossieni are currently accepting federal funds under the Paycheck Protection Program, all while making large cash donations to Dishonest Deb Denys and other local political campaigns.

According to a subsequent post by Sheriff Chitwood – after he had the temerity to challenge the way things are – he was reminded by Pat Rice that he accepted some $8,000 from Mr. Hossieni and company during his 2016 campaign.

In his own inimitable style, Sheriff Chitwood responded, “That is absolutely true, and had I known then what I know now, I would have sent it straight back. Instead, I have repaid him ever since by calling out the pay-to-play political system he runs in Volusia County.”

Good for you, Sheriff!

Clearly, Mr. Rice was fighting outside his weight class.

And it is equally clear that Sheriff Chitwood will not be bullied – or compromised – by anyone.

Perhaps it’s time that Mr. Rice, and his chums in the Halifax areas social and civic elite, understand that those of us here in the ‘Real World’ have had our fill of mercenary politicians and those who seek to profit from massive investments in local political campaigns.

Welcome to the change Volusia County residents so richly deserve.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for July 24, 2020

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               Flagler County Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston

If you’re a regular reader of these screeds, you know that I take a dim view of most government bureaucracies – especially those here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – most of which are a direct reflection of those sloth-like, mid-career clock-watchers who pose as “senior management.”

From the haughty arrogance of Volusia County, to the self-absorbed showboating of municipal officials’ intent on keeping their names in the newspaper, the level of ineptitude and stagnation is mind boggling.

God willing, in a few short weeks, my odometer will hit the “Big 6-0” – sixty-years of age – one of those milestone birthdays where one is expected to take stock, look back, and plan for what comes next as I enter the gloaming of my life.

But my introspection and reflection were quickly interrupted by a note from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (second only to a registered letter from the IRS on the ‘Oh, shit’ scale) notifying me that my drivers license must be renewed before my birthday early next month.

The friendly reminder included two options – an online portal or in-person at a “service center” – including a list of the various papers and documents I would need to prove I am who I say I am. . .

Then, I entered the dark bureaucratic maze of FLHSMV – where, if you successfully navigate the mystifying labyrinth – a shiny new drivers license takes the place of the proverbial piece of cheese.

Of course, after diligently working through the online route, I was thrown out of the system with a terse explanation that I had already used my one “convenience renewal” – which put me on track for the “inconvenient renewal” option.

A bright red banner on the FLHSMV site warned that, due to COVID-19 precautions, access to state service centers would be limited to appointment only.  Naturally, that pinch-point in the system refused to give me an appointment – and the only telephone number provided for Volusia County offices resulted in a monotonous – and ill-omened – busy signal.

So, on the off chance someone in “the system” might have a suggestion – I called the County of Volusia – and was greeted by a disembodied voice which directed me back to the off-the-hook FLHSMV phone number. . .

I later learned through non-official sources that the Volusia County “service centers” are closed – but Volusia’s recording didn’t say that.

Welcome to the classic governmental Catch-22, baby.

I was getting anxious – more so when I saw that Governor Ron DeSantis had granted renewal extensions early in the pandemic, but that didn’t appear to be an option at the moment (at least not according to the state’s nameless/faceless web presence) – and it became readily apparent I was firmly trapped in a classic bureaucratic quagmire.

Then, just as my last vestiges of hope were being crushed by the full might of government inefficiency, a friend suggested that I call the Flagler County Tax Collectors office for help.

Ladies and gentlemen, from the moment I reached out – the staff of that wonderful, responsive, and service-oriented office went out of their way to meet my every expectation.

From the initial telephone call, Suzanne Johnston’s courteous staff assisted me with directions to their Bunnell office where I was promptly greeted by two gracious ladies who, after a quick coronavirus screening, provided directions to the service desk.

Within minutes, I was seated at a service desk being warmly greeted by the clerk – and less than fifteen minutes later – I departed with a new drivers license and a smile on my face (under my mask, of course. . .)

Not only did the clerk seamlessly process the renewal – but she went the extra mile to explain other services offered by the Tax Collectors office – and made certain that I was completely satisfied with my experience.

On her website, Ms. Johnston makes it clear that customer service is her number one priority – and I can personally attest that her office more than lives up to that promise.

Frankly, I cannot wait for an appellate court in Tallahassee (or, ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court) to force Volusia County to finally submit to the will of the people and implement the voter-approved constitutional office of Tax Collector – an elective office personally responsible to taxpayers.

Kudos to Flagler County Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston and her outstanding staff for setting the example of effective, efficient, and customer-focused service by a government agency!

Angel             Volusia Councilwoman Heather Post

I wrote about this earlier in the week.

If you didn’t cover your eyes, then peek through your fingers to watch the utter debacle that was this week’s Volusia County Council meeting – it bears repeating.

It was one for the books. . .  

In the history of Volusia County’s weird system of governance, has there ever been a sluggardly asshole more oppositional, argumentative, or openly hostile to his fellow elected officials – or constituents who seek input in their government – than our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley?

I’m asking.

Because, on Tuesday, I sat through the bulk of what passes for a Volusia County Council meeting – a continuing insult to Robert’s Rules of Order and the intelligence of taxpayers – a contrived tragicomedy that has been clearly orchestrated in advance to ensure controversial issues are voted on and approved before members of the public can have any substantive input in the decision.

For instance, the published agenda contained some sixty consent items – ten of which were added just three days before the meeting. . .

(Including an undiscussed $158,862 cost overrun by Johnson Brothers – Change Order 18 filed in March – for concrete to “fill pile voids” (?) on the still incomplete Veterans Memorial Bridge – money that I’m sure was already spent before it was shot-through-the-grease on Tuesday’s consent agenda. . .)

To her credit, Councilwoman Heather Post asked that, in the future, the consent agenda be broken into more manageable bites to allow sufficient time for our elected officials to actually review (yeah, right) what they are voting to approve.

Unfortunately, Ms. Post’s request was overshadowed by Old Ed’s mean-spirited bullying and eye-rolling assholery that added even more confusion to the “discussion” – and the meeting rolled on down the rutted trail with the usual dysfunction and inconsistency.

But it did not end there.

During her closing comments, Ms. Post brought forth very serious concerns about the accuracy of the public record – specifically as it relates to the council’s “follow-up list” – essentially a tracking mechanism for staff action taken on behalf of a council member’s request during a meeting.

In short, in May, Councilwoman Post suggested important modifications to CARES Act funding which would open up mortgage assistance to a broader range of citizens in need – a damn good idea – and one that other elected officials obviously wanted to hitch their wagon to after the fact.

So, when the May follow-up list was posted – Ms. Post found it strange that she was not listed as having suggested the change.

Instead, her name had been replaced on the list with the term “Multiple CC Members.”

When she made inquiry, Councilwoman Post was told that “…lower staff said that they were told to change it by upper staff – upper staff advised “what did I want?” – could they put “me and another council member on there?” with Post explaining that her concern was for an accurate public record – rather than taking credit for the change.

We later learned that the “other council member” was none other than Dishonest Deb Denys. . .

That earned Ms. Post a demeaning swipe from doddering Old Ed – you know, the “Champion of Decorum” – who pompously accused Post of grandstanding – even as he brazenly attempted to take the glory for the CARES Act modification – mewling that he mentioned it ten-days before during a private meeting with George Recktenwald – then accusing Post of beating him to it!

My God.    

If Post’s allegations of falsification of the public record are proven true, it is against the law – because intentional inaccuracies on insignificant documents leads to bigger frauds – and that erodes the public trust in their government.

In my view, if that is the way Volusia County government is being administered behind the scenes – with undue influence by sharp-elbowed elected officials with no qualms about ordering staff to change the public record for political purposes – then we have bigger problems than we know.

Frankly, these allegations should be investigated by outside authority.

They won’t be. . .but they should.

Then, in the waning minutes of her comments, Ms. Post had the incredible courage to do what I have never seen done in the Volusia County Council chambers – ever – and suggest meaningful campaign finance reform. 

You read that right.

During her remarks, Ms. Post boldly announced she has spoken with the county attorney’s staff regarding the possibility of adding a charter amendment to the November ballot limiting campaign contributions to ensure a fair and level playing field for all candidates – not just those “well connected” few (some of whom were sitting to her immediate right. . .)

Wow.

A palpable silence fell over the council chambers – and you could almost hear Ms. Denys’ bowels locking up as she sat high atop that mountain of campaign cash – all courtesy of Volusia County’s “movers & shakers.”

To her credit, Councilwoman Barb Girtman seconded Ms. Post’s motion to allow discussion – then spoke eloquently about her desire to open elective public office to everyone.

Then, Ms. Post’s “colleagues” masterfully turned things around – the old Volusia Switcheroo – cravenly suggesting that the current system, which has all the earmarks of a legalized quid pro quo scheme, actually ensures that incumbent candidates do not enjoy an unfair advantage.

Say what? 

Yep.  When talk turned to the single most important issue facing Volusia County politics – our elected officials fell back on the ol’ CYA Rules of Political Hackdom:

Turn the argument around, make counter-accusations, paint your opponent as a petty asshole.

Don’t take my word for it.  Look at the archived video.

At 7:09:22, you will be treated to Councilwoman Denys hemming-and-hawing her way through something that sounded a lot like Otter’s speech in Animal House – couching the debate as some patriotic “First Amendment issue.”

The only thing Deb didn’t do is lead her colleagues off the dais while humming the Star-Spangled Banner. . .

Painfully, Ms. Denys stumbled and fumbled through an essay by the Institute for Justice – a libertarian law firm which opposes even reasonable campaign finance regulations on free speech grounds – while ignoring the corrosive influence of big money on local races where individuals and industries out bid John Q. Public for the loyalty of their elected officials every damn time.

The reaction of the majority was embarrassing – a telling aperçu – which exposed the true mindset of those on the dais of power who have proven they are willing to ham-handedly slug through the mechanics of government – waiting patiently until they are needed by their uber-wealthy overseers – then used like dull tools as a means to an end.

Folks, I hate to give advice, but this abject idiocy cannot continue.

If you care about the future of Volusia County – the horrific legacy we are leaving for our children and grandchildren – then I ask that you cast your sacred vote for Jeff Brower as our next County Chair.

It is time that we stop accepting this “more of the same” philosophy that has our highest elected office serving as a common shill for big money influencers intent on maintaining the patency of the public tit – and bring commonsense, responsiveness, and the spirit of public collaboration back to Volusia County government.

Angel               County Council Candidate Barbara Bonariggo

“Wait.  How in hell can you congratulate Councilwoman Heather Post in one breath – then laud her opponent in the next, Barker?”

Look, I get it.

But sometimes a candidate for public office goes above and beyond what one expects in the no-holds-barred blood sport of politics in 2020 – like earlier this week when Ms. Post courageously called for campaign finance reform –  knowing well the personal and political ramifications she faced from influential power brokers.

That takes guts.

However, Ms. Post’s opponent – Barbara Bonariggo – did something this month that I found incredibly refreshing – and it deserves to be recognized.

On just one day in June, Ms. Bonariggo’s campaign received $10,000 in contributions from Beat Kahli – the Orlando-based developer of the highly contentious Avalon Park Daytona – a massive city-within-a-city which will see some 10,000 homes, and over one-million square feet of commercial space, erupt like a suppurating lesion on the southwest border of Ormond Beach.

In addition to his personal $1,000 contribution – Ms. Bonariggo also received checks from nine corporations and limited liability companies all having the same mailing address as Mr. Kahli. . .

(I’m told by Dishonest Deb Denys it’s a “first amendment thing.”  Whatever.)

Given the controversial nature of the Avalon Park project – coupled with the fact hers was the only candidacy Mr. Kahli contributed to – on July 10, Ms. Bonariggo returned all $10,000 in contributions from Kahli and the entities under his control.

Every dime.

That also takes guts.

Especially from a political newcomer with little name recognition who is facing a charismatic incumbent.

Although Ms. Bonariggo is the darling of local big money donors – all the right last names who show up bearing gifts to hand-select candidates every election cycle – by returning contributions from an out-of-area developer set on contributing to the cancerous sprawl that is threatening the quality of life for Halifax area residents shows an impressive level of political sophistication – and proves (for the moment) that she will not be compromised.

Asshole           Palm Coast City Council

When I was a 22-year old kid, I worked for a wise old police chief who would help me regain situational awareness by growling, “Hey Barker, get your head out of your ass.”

I was reminded of that frequent admonition this week while reading The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s astonishing piece detailing the free flow of taxpayer dollars in severance packages, apparent hush money and exclusive buyouts for municipal managers who are fleeing City Hall in droves.

According to the excellent article by investigative reporter Matt Bruce:

“All told, 16 top-ranking staff members at City Hall have either resigned, retired or been terminated over the past two years.”

“Much of that turnover has occurred since Matt Morton took over as Palm Coast City Manager in April 2019. Under his leadership, 13 department heads and management level city employees have departed. Seven of those exits have come with severance packages totaling $151,484.”

Uh-oh.

Since July 2018, the City of Palm Coast has paid out some $430,000 in separation agreements with former department heads and senior managers.

Having spent 31-years running the gauntlet of municipal government, I can tell you that the departure of sixteen senior staff members in 24-months could seriously compromise service delivery – and should be a glaring warning to any elected official paying attention.

By any metric, Palm Coast City Hall is embroiled in a shit-storm of controversy – including suggestions of an active FBI investigation of Mayor Milissa Holland – apparently following allegations she may have misused her public office for private business dealings.

In recent weeks, the News-Journal’s investigation has uncovered the ugly internecine warfare between Mayor Holland, the city’s internal compliance officer, Jay Maher, and City Manager Morton.

According to a recent report, in May, Morton hired a Tampa-based construction law firm (?) to oversee internal misconduct investigations in the city – effectively subverting the work of Maher, who served as Palm Coast’s compliance manager for nearly two-decades until he was relieved of those duties in March.

That move alone should have been a red flag to council members who, so far, have done little more than sit on their thumbs and attempt to legitimize Morton’s oddities in the newspaper.

Look, there are questions on both sides of this issue – but I believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and the overt manipulation of the community’s “Fraud, Waste and Abuse hotline and system” by a city manager with multiple scalps already tacked to his wall has all the earmarks of a pending conflagration.

Hey, Palm Coast City Council, get your head out of your ass. . .

You can thank me later.

Quote of the Week

“With a $805.9 million budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 prepared by staff, Volusia County is proposing a millage rate of 5.45 mills, a reduction of 3% from last fiscal year’s tax rate.

The first budget hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The proposed millage rate is a “partial rollback,” meaning that while the rate is decreasing, the county will still collect more taxes compared to last fiscal year, as property values have increased from $36.6 million in 2019 to $39.8 million in 2020. The proposed millage rate of 5.45 mills means $5.45 will be collected for every $1,000 of taxable property value.”

–Jarleene Almenas, Associate Editor, Ormond Beach Observer, “Volusia County presents proposed millage rate at ‘partial rollback’, Tuesday, July 21, 2020

And Another Thing!

“Daytona’s Orange Avenue Bridge is still months away from completion” November 2019

“More than year behind schedule, Daytona bridge aims to open in March” December 2019

“Bridge opening is not too far away” January 2020

“Veterans Memorial Bridge to reopen soon” (City of Daytona Beach) February 2020

“Veterans Memorial Bridge Just Weeks from Opening” February 2020

“Daytona’s Orange Ave. bridge to open in March, Volusia officials say” February 2020

“New Daytona bridge opening delayed.  Again.” March 2020

“Veterans Memorial Bridge on Track to Open Mid to Late May” May 2020

“Daytona bridge opening delayed – yet again” May 2020

“Volusia County hopes to open new Veterans Memorial Bridge next month” June 2020

“New Daytona bridge could open in a few days” July 2020

“Merchants, residents eager for Daytona bridge to open” July 2020

“Better Late Than Never” Big John, July 2020

Pending Barker’s View headline that will perfectly sum up this concrete and steel monument to governmental ineptitude and inefficiency:

“Volusia Officials Suffer Sprains Patting Themselves, Johnson Brothers, on the Back at Elaborate Orange Avenue Bridge Ribbon Cutting Ceremony”

Date of publication remains unknown. . .   

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth About Bald-Faced Lies

The “truth” died in Volusia County a long time ago. . .

As much as I would like to throw up my hands and surrender – simply accept the dirty lies, carefully crafted misdirection and self-congratulatory horseshit of the campaign season – and finally admit that We, The People have been soundly defeated by Big Money and the forces of mediocrity – I can’t give up.

Not because I still hold naive hope of “bringing positive change” – but because too many important questions remain unanswered.

Deep-rooted mysteries that continue to have an adverse impact on our lives and livelihoods – the answers to which you will not learn at some “virtual” News-Journal debate where candidates for county office yammer through bland inquiries that explain nothing – that mean nothing.

The questions that trouble me each election cycle go deeper – like why is the always arrogant Councilwoman Dishonest Deb Denys’ campaign being financed by massive contributions from real estate developers and the insurance industry – and what do those who have invested heavily in her continued presence on the dais of power expect in return?

And why is Dishonest Deb openly misrepresenting her position on tax increases?

After serving as the point person for Volusia County’s money-grubbing push for a half-cent sales tax increase last year – during which she shamelessly terrified her constituents with scary stories of the collapse of our transportation infrastructure – screeching ominously that there was no “Plan B” – leaving the only option being taxing the eyeballs out of every man, woman and child in Volusia County.

Now, after the sales tax hike was soundly defeated during an incredibly expensive special mail-in election – Ms. Denys inexplicably attempts to reinvents herself as a fiscal conservative?

By the same reverse logic, Deb’s duplicitous, flip-flopping vote to give away even more of our beach driving would comport with her previous campaign promise to never close more of our most precious natural resource for the private benefit of developers – so that makes her an advocate for beach access?  (Remember the video tape?  I do.)

My ass.

And why – with large sections of our county being clear-cut and consumed by malignant sprawl, unchecked growth that is threatening our sensitive environment, straining our drinking water supply, and overburdening our compromised roads and utilities infrastructure – should we give Dishonest Deb yet another bite at the apple while expecting a more responsible approach in the future?

How much longer are we expected to accept these bald-faced lies?

For example, after the Volusia Deputies Association bestowed their coveted endorsement on Jeff “Plan B” Brower – Dishonest Deb posted a list of every expenditure request of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office that came before the County Council since 2013 – insinuating that her legislatively required vote somehow demonstrates her “support of law enforcement.”

Bullshit.

Ms. Deny’s shenanigans aside, the question that continues to torment me is:

In the history of Volusia County’s weird system of governance, has there ever been a sluggardly asshole more oppositional, argumentative, or openly hostile to his fellow elected officials – or constituents who seek input in their government – than our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley?

On Tuesday, I sat through the bulk of what passes for a Volusia County Council meeting – a continuing insult to Robert’s Rules of Order and the intelligence of taxpayers – a contrived tragicomedy that has been clearly orchestrated in advance to ensure that controversial issues are voted on and approved before members of the public can have any substantive input in the decision.

For instance, the published agenda contained some sixty consent items – ten of which were just added the Friday before. . .

To her credit, Councilwoman Heather Post asked that, in the future, the consent agenda be broken into more manageable bites to allow sufficient time for our elected officials to actually read (yeah, right) what they are voting to approve.

Unfortunately, Ms. Post’s request was overshadowed by Old Ed’s mean-spirited snapping and eye-rolling assholery that added even more confusion to the “discussion” – and the interminable meeting rolled on down the rutted trail with the usual dysfunction and inconsistency.

But it did not end there.

During her closing comments, Ms. Post brought forth very serious concerns about the accuracy of the public record – specifically as it relates to the council’s “follow-up list” – essentially an internal tracking mechanism for staff action taken on behalf of a council member’s request made during a meeting.

In short, during the May 12 meeting, Councilwoman Post suggested logical modifications to CARES Act funding which would open up mortgage assistance to a broader range of citizens in need – a damn good idea – and one that other elected officials obviously wanted to hitch their wagon to after the fact.

Disturbingly, when the follow-up list was posted – Ms. Post found that she was not credited with the suggestion.

Instead, her name was replaced with the term “Multiple CC Members.”

When she made inquiry, Councilwoman Post was told that “…lower staff said that they were told to change it by upper staff – upper staff advised “what did I want?” – could they put me and another council member on there?” with Post explaining that her concern was for an accurate public record – rather than demanding credit for the suggestion.

We later learned that the “other council member” was none other than Dishonest Deb Denys. . .

The follow-up list revelation earned Ms. Post a demeaning swipe from doddering Old Ed – you know, the “Champion of Decorum” – who pompously accused Post of grandstanding – even as he brazenly attempted to take the glory for the CARES Act mortgage relief change by suggesting he mentioned it ten-days before during a private meeting with George Recktenwald – then accused Post of beating him to it!

My God.    

If Post’s allegations of falsification of the public record are proven true, that’s against the law – because fudging on seemingly insignificant documents leads to bigger frauds – and the practice erodes the public’s trust in their government.

If that is the way Volusia County government is being administered behind the scenes – with undue influence by sharp-elbowed elected officials with no qualms about ordering staff to change the public record for political purposes – then we have bigger problems than we know.

Frankly, these allegations should be investigated by outside authority.

They won’t be. . .but they should.

Then, in the waning minutes of her comments, Ms. Post had the incredible courage to do what I have never seen happen in the Volusia County Council chambers – ever – and suggest meaningful campaign finance reform. 

You read that right.

During her remarks, Ms. Post boldly announced she has spoken with the county attorney’s staff regarding the possibility of adding a charter amendment to the November ballot limiting campaign contributions to ensure a fair and level playing field for all candidates – not just those “well connected” few (some of whom were sitting to her immediate right. . .)

Wow.

A palpable silence fell over the council chambers – and you could almost hear Ms. Denys’ bowels locking up as she sat high atop that mountain of campaign cash – courtesy of Volusia County’s “movers & shakers.”

To her credit, Councilwoman Barb Girtman seconded Ms. Post’s motion to allow discussion – then spoke eloquently about her desire to open elective public office to everyone.

Then, Ms. Post’s “colleagues” masterfully turned things around – the old Volusia switcheroo – cravenly suggesting that the current system, which has all the earmarks of a legalized quid pro quo scheme, actually ensures that incumbent candidates do not enjoy an unfair advantage.

Say what? 

Don’t take my word for it.  Take a look at the archived video.

At 7:09:22, you will be treated to Councilwoman Denys hemming-and-hawing her way through something that sounded a lot like Otter’s speech in Animal House – couching the debate as a patriotic “First Amendment issue.”

The only thing Deb didn’t do is lead her colleagues off the dais while humming the Star-Spangled Banner. . .

Painfully, Ms. Denys stumbled and fumbled through an essay by the Institute for Justice – a libertarian law firm which opposes even reasonable campaign finance regulations on free speech grounds – while ignoring the corrosive influence of big money on local races where individuals and industries out bid John Q. Public for the loyalty of their elected officials every damn time.

The reaction of the majority was embarrassing – a telling aperçu – which exposed the true mindset of those on the dais of power who have proven they are willing to ham-handedly slug through the mechanics of government – waiting patiently until they are needed by their uber-wealthy overseers – then used like dull tools as a means to an end.

Folks, I hate to give advice, but this abject idiocy cannot continue.

If you care about the future of Volusia County – the horrific legacy we are leaving for our children and grandchildren – then I ask that you cast your sacred vote for Jeff Brower as our next County Chair.

It is time that we stop accepting this “more of the same” philosophy that has our highest elected office serving as a common shill for big money influencers intent on maintaining the patency of the public tit – and bring commonsense, responsiveness, and the spirit of public collaboration back to Volusia County government.

The “News” of the Day. . .

I am not a journalist.

I don’t gather the facts, condense them into a cogent story, and report on the issues that effect our lives – and I certainly don’t have the refined palate for discerning which carefully crafted editorial opinions will play to the masses – because, fortunately, my daily bread doesn’t depend on my ability to sell newspapers.

At best, I’m a dilettante commentator – a dull theorist who opines on the news and newsmakers of the day.

A critic, who, as Teddy Roosevelt said, points out where the strongman stumbled, or how the doer of deeds could have done them better – an incessant blowhard with internet access and an opinion about everything.

But, at the end of the day, I get my news, and the fodder for these screeds, the same places you do – and many of my friends and neighbors are getting increasingly suspicious of the plausibly deniable lack of local news in The Daytona Beach News-Journal during this election cycle.

Oh, there’s a smattering of area stories to nibble on – but nothing of substance.

On Saturday, I opened my copy of the Palm Beach Post/Daytona Beach News-Journal and was treated to all the homogenized “news” that is fit to print in this foul year 2020 – a dreary amalgam of coronavirus coverage that positions essentially the same story over-and-over again in a slightly different light.

Repetitive front page gloom-and-doom stories about COVID-19 which continue to expose the ineptitude at all levels of government, an inconsistent tally of “new” infection numbers that even the Florida Department of Health now admits are sketchy, and more maudlin hand-wringing over reopening schools, etc., etc., etc.

When I turned to what passes for the “editorial” page, I was met with some Pam Beach Post horseshit about the Orwellian benefits of rewriting the events of the past to controlling the narrative of history, complete with quotes by some uber-woke “progressive consultant” (whatever the hell that is) advocating the removal of historical statuary and monuments because, to turn a phrase, progressives seem “Ever eager to exploit a cultural rift” in their violent push for “social change” – which is beginning to look a whole lot like anarchy to me.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can name numerous important issues that are having a detrimental impact on the lives and livelihoods of Halifax area residents – stories that deserve more than a passing glance by our newspaper of record.

Instead, The Daytona Beach News-Journal chooses to fill its pages with redundant gibberish about the importance of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing – coupled with editor Pat Rice’ ominous lecture lamenting the fact face coverings have become part of a “culture war” – a divisive battle the ownership of his newspaper has encouraged for months.

On Sunday, we learned (through a piece originating from the Minneapolis Star Tribune?) that 3M has investigated thousands of reports of N95 mask fraud and counterfeiting, were bored to tears by the impacts of coronavirus on rural Oregonians, and yawned at an editorial cartoon taking the governor of Georgia to task for banning mask mandates.

Then, we were treated to a Community Voices piece by a medical doctor that began, “…wear a mask and encourage others to do the same. Who knew that wearing a mask could become such a divisive issue,” and ended with “Please, wear a mask, wash your hands and maintain social distancing.”

Got it.  Thanks, Doc. . .

Is there anyone in the known universe who does not know the benefit of wearing a mask at this point in the pandemic?

And is there anyone who does not question why infection rates continue to soar in the face of government mask mandates and closures?

I’m asking.

Yet, with what appears (at least to me) to be near 100% mask compliance in local stores and indoor gathering places – we are still being harangued, 24/7, by media outlets flogging the importance of wearing masks – while some local politicians who are running for reelection continue to squeeze even more publicity out of unenforceable mask mandates by adding fines.

In turn, the News-Journal continues its incessant editorial push for stronger, crueler, more onerous and severe sanctions for the insignificant number of the New Monarchy’s subjects who will not be forced to cover their face by the diktat of some overwrought city council. . .

Whatever.

There was a time in this country (about four short months ago) when people could still be trusted to do the right thing, for the right reason, if they were given credible information by recognized public health experts without being beaten into submission by the tag team of nanny state proponents and the progressive media.

I hope our “local” newspaper will come to the conclusion that this obsessive-compulsive repetition will eventually cease to be persuasive – the argument, even for important public health practices, becomes weaker as people become less receptive, less critical, and simply ignore the message altogether.

Again, I’m not a newspaper editor, but perhaps its time The Daytona Beach News-Journal realizes that there are equally important stories here in our own backyard that need their journalistic attention during a local election.

Now is the time for probative questions – and a demand for hard answers – by those seeking to retain their high office.

And I don’t mean some half-ass “virtual debate” where candidates regurgitate canned answers to questions like, “What’s your favorite color?”

In my view, this laser focus on masking, and obviously redundant filler from outside USA Today affiliates, gives the impression of a strategic diversion from the core civic issues that continue to plague Volusia County governments during a time when incumbent politicians should be explaining themselves.

Angels & Assholes for July 17, 2020

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               Daytona Beach Deputy Chief Jakari Young

Daytona Beach Deputy Police Chief Jakari Young is a good man.

He is also one of the most talented and accomplished young law enforcement commanders in the nation.

Deputy Chief Young came to Daytona Beach from South Florida to attend Bethune-Cookman University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration.

In 2001, he joined the Daytona Beach Police Department as a patrol officer before becoming an investigator, later serving as a SWAT officer, then holding operational and leadership roles in virtually every area of the agency, including valuable experience as a sergeant and internal affairs investigator before earning promotion to lieutenant in 2012.

In addition, Deputy Chief Young is a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, the Southern Police Institute, and the FDLE Florida Leadership Academy.

If I may put on my tattered “former police chief” hat for a minute, during three-decades of service in law enforcement, I encountered a few men and women who were true servant-leaders in the classic sense, who not only led and inspired others by example, but excelled at their own desk as well.

And you never find these standouts feathering their own nests or currying political favor for self-promotion.

They earn the trust and confidence of others through their own merit and accomplishments.

In my view, Deputy Chief Jakari Young epitomizes these important leadership traits.

At the end of the year, Chief Craig Capri will enter retirement following a stellar career with the City of Daytona Beach – a 31-year legacy of service, in the finest traditions of the law enforcement profession, something he can be extremely proud of.

In 2017, Chief Capri recognized Deputy Chief Young’s incredible contribution potential and rightfully tapped him as second-in-command of the agency – and the pair have made a formidable team when addressing the challenges facing the community – undaunted, strong, and united.

Any honest police executive will tell you the importance of their command staff to the success of the organization – and, under Chief Capri’s exceptional leadership – the Daytona Beach Police Department has set the example as a values-oriented, community-based law enforcement agency that works hand-in-hand with residents and stakeholders.

As a result of his outstanding performance and extraordinary credentials, it has long been expected that Deputy Chief Young would naturally ascend to the helm when Chief Capri retires.

That’s why I found it unfortunate that Mayor Derrick Henry, his sister, Commissioner Dannette Henry, and Commissioner Paula Reed joined civic activists and NAACP President Cynthia Slater in diminishing Deputy Chief Young’s outstanding record of service to the citizens of Daytona Beach by introducing race into the discussion.

That’s unfortunate.

In a recent article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Daytona’s Top Cop: Who’s next?,” rather than simply support Young’s candidacy, Mayor Henry and the others appeared to be forcing lame duck City Manager Jim Chisholm’s hand – complete with Ms. Slater’s saber-rattling – and threats of legal action by Hemis Ivey, a former Midtown Redevelopment Board member.

In my view, it created a tempest that didn’t need to be.

Conversely, I also found it disingenuous when Mr. Chisholm said he, “…hadn’t even thought about how he was going to handle Capri’s departure until City Commissioner Dannette Henry asked him about it on June 16.”

Really?

“I like Jakari,” the city manager said. “I think he’s been a good police officer for us, and a good deputy chief. But I haven’t looked at him in a different light yet.”

“I haven’t even begun to evaluate if Jakari or anyone else over there is capable of doing it,” he said last week.”

In my view, it is incomprehensible that Mr. Chisholm has not yet recognized the inherent benefit and potential of a proven asset like Jakari Young with just six-months before Chief Capri departs.

Law enforcement leaders who possess Jakari’s education, experience, and achievement do not come around often – and Chisholm should be actively cultivating him for promotion – ensuring that he does not pursue other opportunities before Chief Capri’s retirement.

In my experience, there is an intrinsic value to promoting from within whenever possible – it gives credibility to the concept of “career development” – and is a true boost to the morale of an agency when officers know that with hard work, dedication and commitment to the community they can aspire to the top spot.

To his credit, Deputy Chief Young addressed the issue with incredible class on Sunday evening:

“I chose not to comment on this but after reading the article I regret that decision.  Whoever chooses to support me in becoming DBPD’s next Chief, do so based solely on my resume and years of experience.  Not the color of my skin.”

Powerful.  And a testament to the depth of Jakari Young’s character.

When I was appointed Chief of Police in the City of Holly Hill, the city manager at the time was an experienced hand and dedicated civil servant who recognized the importance of stability.

So, when my former chief left for another job – rather than drag out the process and allow the guessing game of politics to take hold – then City Manager Tim Harbuck quickly appointed me to the role as the natural internal progression.

To his credit, Mr. Harbuck told me he would not belittle my years of service by forcing me to compete against outside candidates – and he would not disrupt the department by taking applications from within.

That let me know I had his confidence – and it reinforced my commitment to the community.

No drama.  No speculation.  No discontinuity.

That’s what decisive leadership looks like.

My sincere hope is that Daytona Beach officials will recognize the importance of this accomplished resource to the future of the community – ensure stability by foregoing an expensive “national search to see what’s out there” – and give Deputy Chief Young the respect and consideration he deserves.

In my view, Mr. Chisholm should stop the corrosive conjecture and make it clear that Jakari Young will serve as the next Chief of Police for the City of Daytona Beach.

It’s the right thing to do.

As Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood so eloquently explained in a recent News-Journal Community Voices column:

“The Daytona Beach Police Department has made huge strides under the leadership of Chief Craig Capri. All of us in Volusia County owe Chief Capri our sincere appreciation for a job well done as he moves on to the next chapter in his life. While his retirement is a loss for the City of Daytona Beach, it’s also an opportunity to select another outstanding police chief who will lead the department into its next successful chapter. Jakari Young is the transformational leader to do that.”

Asshole           Volusia County School Board  

The opposite of schadenfreude – deriving pleasure from another person’s misfortune – is called fremdscham, or “vicarious embarrassment syndrome.” 

People who experience this condition tend to feel a sense of red-faced mortification over someone else’s mistakes and calamities.

Those who know me well will tell you it takes a lot to embarrass me.

I live for the thrill of offending people – an impetuous asshole who finds great humor in making others feel uncomfortable with my slovenly ways.

But there is no denying it – this week I was brought to my knees with a horrible case of sudden onset fremdscham when I learned of the latest blooper to befall Volusia County District Schools.

I was gripped to my core with stunning, toe-curling, vicarious embarrassment for the vainglorious literati of the “Superintendent’s Cabinet” who just cannot seem to get it together.

My God.  I blush just thinking about it. . .

Let’s face it, this utterly dysfunctional bureaucracy has suffered a shit-train of gaucheries – a series of Five Alarm Foul-ups that have eroded the public trust and left families, students, and staff in a near constant state of chaos and confusion – something akin to a bad slapstick comedy on loop.

Earlier this week, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on yet another colossal blunder when the much anticipated school reopening strategies were prematurely posted on the district’s official website last Friday evening – allowed to fester overnight – then abruptly removed from the site by 10:00am Saturday morning.

Whoopsie-Doodle!

The teacher’s union immediately got their knickers in a twist, justly claiming they were “blindsided” by options they had not yet discussed or signed off on.

Look, this wouldn’t be the first time Volusia County Schools dispersed important information on a Friday evening – so, many parents took the information as coming from the burning bush in DeLand.

Because it did.

I’m sure anxious nerves were salved when district mouthpiece Kelly Schulz explained to News-Journal education reporter Cassidy Alexander, “It was a flat-out, honest mistake.”

No shit, Shultz. . .

But how many of these “honest mistakes” are Volusia County taxpayers expected to endure?

More chaos.  More confusion.

Unfortunately, the district’s knee-slapping gaffes did not end there. . .

Inexplicably, on Tuesday, we learned that a weird COVID-19 “liability waiver” that had been “inadvertently” sent to some Volusia County coaches and student athletes – essentially holding the district harmless if either student or staff contracted coronavirus during an “extracurricular activity” – was recently recalled by the district’s legal counsel.

Naturally, the nature of the district’s abdication left many families concerned about the safety of kids participating in sports – and caused them to question the advisability of reopening schools at all.

As I see it, the waiver – written in that strange legal-gibberish that keeps attorneys employed – asked students and coaches to essentially sign away their rights:

“I recognize that VCS cannot limit all potential sources of COVID-19 infection.  By signing this agreement, I acknowledge that I alone have to determine the sufficiency of any safety protocols, rules or precautions that I decide to take to minimize the risks of participating in (extracurricular activities).”

Now, recently appointed general counsel Kevin Pendley claims the district has “withdrawn these requests, and does not intend to rely on the waiver in the future.”

Then why in hell were the disclaimers released in the first place?

More Chaos.  More confusion. . .

On Wednesday, the School Board met to discuss three malleable options for reopening schools in August – traditional school, virtual learning and a new option that would have students interacting with a teacher via video chat.

According to Interim Superintendent Carmen Balgobin these strategies are not “set in stone,” and, with just one month to go, the plan remains “fluid.”

During the discussion, School Board member Ruben Colon attempted to illicit advice from Volusia Department of Health Administrator Patricia Boswell, asking the logical question – based upon the best public health information available to her – is it safe to reopen schools?

Of course, Ms. Boswell, the chief of Volusia County’s public health service, shirked any professional responsibility or moral obligation when she squirmed and explained that her bosses in Tallahassee demand a level of non-commitment that borders on malfeasance:

“We’ve been advised (by state officials) that our role here is to advise what we can do to make the environment in schools as safe as possible with COVID19,” she said. “It is not to make a decision on whether or not to open a school.”

My God. . .

In my view, given the level of fear and disorientation surrounding school reopening – with pressure mounting from all sides of the equation – it is time for someone to get a grip on the internal slip-ups, mistakes and administrative faux pas that continue to erode the public trust and add to the awkwardness and uncertainty at Volusia County Schools.

Perhaps it’s time for our elected officials on the School Board to get off their ass and identify the source(s) of the problem in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand, embrace the concept of accountability and responsibility, and take definitive steps to correct the maladministration that continues to beset Volusia County Schools.

This problem did not come about yesterday – base ineptitude in the district’s senior ranks goes back years – however, reopening schools during a pandemic is an unprecedented dynamic that requires strategic thought, clarity, and decisive action.

In my view, it is time for state and federal education authorities to back-off the “emergency mandates” and political posturing then allow local school boards the space to ensure safety and find what works for their district without arbitrary start dates and external pressure.

It is also time for the Volusia County School Board to quit feeling sorry for themselves – stop the hand-wringing and “Woe is me/Weight of the World” horseshit – and start making the tough decisions their elected positions demand.

Quote of the Week

“As they attested at the (FAITH affordable housing) rally, Volusia County Council members, Heather Post, Barbara Girtman, and Billie Wheeler already know the injustice that exists with a lack of affordable housing in their districts. Councilpersons, Post, Girtman, and Wheeler already know what is required of them by confirming their commitment to call for and find funding for a $7 million per year Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Unfortunately, they do not have the power to see this through without the support of other Council Members. Thus, I ask:

Council member Fred Lowry, you already know what is required of you – what say you to creating a more just community through an Affordable Housing Trust Fund?

Council member Ben Johnson, you already know what is required of you – what say you to preventing homelessness in Volusia through an Affordable Housing Trust Fund?

Council Member Deb Denys, you already know what is required of you – what say you to reducing the cost-burden of housing to tens of thousands in Volusia through an Affordable Housing Trust Fund?”

–Reverend Kathy Tew Rickey, co-chair of FAITH (Fighting Against Injustice Toward Harmony), writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices column, Sunday, July 12, 2020.  She serves the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ormond Beach.

And Another Thing!

You can tell a lot about people by the choices they make.

Especially when the chips are down.

Typically, the decision-making strategies of individuals and organizations are governed by their “core principles,” qualities that are often defined as the fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior – a chain of reasoning that keeps some true to their moral compass when under stress – or in the hyper-competitive arena of the modern marketplace.

At one time, these principles held true in government as well, but not anymore.

Now, money controls access – and those who can pay to play are handsomely rewarded by the decisions of those elected officials they have bought and paid for through our campaign finance system.

Earlier this year, the coronavirus swept across our nation like a viral wildfire, and our ‘powers that be’ decided it best to essentially shut down our local, state, and national economy as a means to combat it – putting millions of workers on the street – and jeopardizing the viability of small businesses, many of which continue to shut their doors at an alarming rate.

During this downward spiral, in an exceptionally rare bipartisan agreement, Congress rapidly approved a $2 trillion coronavirus relief act which was signed by President Trump in late March.

Among other things, this safety net created the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll – with an assurance from the Small Business Administration that the loan would be forgiven “…if all employee retention criteria are met, and the funds are used for eligible expenses” – essentially turning the “loan” into a federal grant.

I know some local businesses who have utilized the PPP to ensure their very existence during these unprecedented times – and others who could have used the loan, but did not take advantage of it.

They didn’t want to place an increased burden on the program and potentially take away from others in our community who are relying on it to stay alive.

They felt that was the honorable thing to do.

Earlier this week, Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote an interesting article entitled, “PPP loans help area businesses through pandemic.” 

In his insightful piece, Mr. Harper explained that, during the early days of the pandemic, Florida lost some one-million jobs – and I know many more companies were left on the brink of collapse – making the PPP a true lifesaver for small businesses who are struggling to survive.

According to the report, “To get loans, businesses were required to certify they were in need of funding and couldn’t get it from another source.”

After touting the success stories of local businesses who have benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure payroll and retain employees – bartenders, waitstaff, hospitality workers, housekeepers, service industry professionals, etc. – Mr. Harper turned to the darker side of the PPP issue, something that shook me to my core:

“But some businesses associated with other powerful, elite business magnates in Daytona Beach did apply for and receive the loans. These include five businesses affiliated with Mori Hosseini, including ICI Homes Residential Holdings LLC. The businesses borrowed between $3 million and $7.7 million to help protect 354 jobs in real estate, development, golf course and property management.”

Now, I don’t care if Mr. Hosseini – or anyone else – takes advantage of a relief program to ensure continuity of operations and keep hundreds of our neighbors employed if that is the only option available – but when I see some of the very same corporate entities that are being buoyed by PPP loans handing over tens-of-thousands of dollars to the campaign accounts of hand-select candidates for public office – that rubs me wrong.

For instance, the limited liability company listed in Mr. Harper’s article – ICI Homes Residential Holdings, LLC – which, according to the report, “borrowed between $3 million and $7.7 million” in forgivable “loans” – has given thousands of dollars to candidates in county and municipal elections.

You read that right.

According to the intrepid civic activist Anne Ruby, in the City of Daytona Beach alone, Mr. Hosseini and his associated businesses are reported to have given $10,000 to incumbent candidates (as of June 26, 2020) – and Volusia County Council Chair candidate Dishonest Deb Denys has received some $10,000 from entities with the same address as Mr. Hossieni’s ICI Homes office on Beville Road in Daytona Beach.

That includes a $1,000 donation to the Denys camp from the PPP supported ICI Homes Residential Holdings, LLC. . .

I’m not condemning Mr. Hosseini for individually donating to candidates of his choice – he certainly has the right, and wherewithal, to spend his money as he sees fit.

However, I question whether it is right and fair for highly successful corporate entities under his control, like the politically active ICI Homes Residential Holdings, LLC, which is relying on millions of dollars in federal payroll protection loans – entities that were apparently required to “certify they were in need of funding and couldn’t get it from another source” – to hemorrhage thousands of dollars financially supporting political campaigns as a means of influencing the outcome of local races?

That doesn’t smell right to me.

Am I wrong?

I’m asking – because I don’t have the answer for any of it.

Perhaps anything goes in this foul year 2020, and rubes like me are just along for the ride. . .

Whatever.

Kudos to Mark Harper and The Daytona Beach News-Journal for having the courage to bring this disturbing and difficult topic to view – an issue that should shock the conscience of anyone trying to keep a small business afloat during these unprecedented times.

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

 

 

 

Cinderella and the Ugly Stepsister

It’s no secret that we live in strange times.

And when the damage is done, the virus recedes, and things turn to some semblance of “normal,” I wonder how some of our overbearing elected officials will look at themselves in the mirror. . .

Local governments that once existed to squander our tax dollars on corporate welfare projects and cater to the whims of speculative developers – the same elected officials who gamble with our water supply, pay lip-service to the poisoning of our springs, lakes and rivers then ignore our civic needs and citizen input – have now become amateur public health experts.

That happens every time the federal government spews cash like a dyspeptic goose – showering funds on state and local governments – so long as they can “show a need” and create a roil that keeps the funding cycle running round.

Yet, these same local governments who have proven, time-and-again, that they can’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel, suddenly know what’s best for the masses – and if it takes bankrupting every damn one of us to do it – so be it. . .

For example, the disparate treatment of bar owners is nothing short of state-sponsored discrimination – where the livelihoods of so many have been ruined – while others in hospitality businesses deemed “essential” by bureaucrats continue to operate successfully.

By government diktat, restaurants are arbitrarily allowed to thrive – while bars are doomed to insolvency – and, somehow, this official favoritism is considered moral, ethical, and constitutional under the law during Florida’s helter-skelter response to novel coronavirus?

Bullshit.

You don’t have to go far to find a restaurant with its adjacent bar area full of customers – ordering drinks, socializing and enjoying an evening out – while across the street, a stand-alone bar is shuttered, its owners and desperate employees contemplating how they will pay the rent, feed their children and survive in an era where their elected representatives callously pick winners and losers.

Unfortunately, under the reign of Monarchical Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry of the Duchy of Daytona Beach, its not enough to use the full-might of government to close bars – he finds the need to crush small businesses under the heel of his iron boot with draconian enforcement actions and fines for those he subjectively deems “socially irresponsible.”

As I understand it, during the height of Bike Week 2020, when Generalissimo Henry demanded the arbitrary closure of outside bars and vendors in an eleventh-hour act of flexing his muscles, the beloved Main Street Station – the hub of Main Street’s historic Bike Week festivities and Daytona’s premiere live entertainment venue – received a citation charging “No permit for outside activities.”

At that time, the intrepid Phaedra Lee, owner of Main Street Station, voiced her concern in The Daytona Beach News-Journal that the city’s action resulted in a loss of revenue.

“We are losing money,” she said. “We can open up our inside bars but it’s too high volume.”

“Lee said the permits were supposed to be pulled 9 a.m. Sunday.”

Meanwhile, to add to the confusion and misunderstanding of Henry’s edict (which may or may not have applied only to events drawing 100 participants or more?), it was Bike Week business as usual in Ormond Beach and other neighboring communities throughout the Halifax area. . .

In my view, if Mr. Henry were trying to limit the spread of COVID-19 as his commandment suggested, what kind of misdirected, power-crazed asshole would subjectively close outside activities, forcing the throngs of Bike Week attendees inside overcrowded buildings?

Now, the Main Street Station’s very existence is in jeopardy.

Tomorrow, Ms. Lee is being hauled before the Daytona Beach Special Master to answer the Bike Week permit violation – something she strongly denies – and is accumulating legal fees to defend.

That’s excessive for a small, family-owned business trying to survive these difficult times.

Adding insult to injury, Gov. Ron DeSantis closed all bars in early April – then allowed them a short ten-day window to open with safety measures in place – then shut them down yet again after many had spent thousands of dollars retrofitting their establishments, ordering product and bringing employees back.

Meanwhile, restaurants are allowed to operate while stand-alone bars starve.

It’s cruel – and patently unfair.

On the day of the largest surge in coronavirus infections anywhere – Florida allowed Disney World to open the theme park – demonstrating in the most perplexing way the complete failure at all levels of government to properly address this pandemic in a fair, impartial and effective way.

There is absolutely no coordination or uniformity to any of it.

Rather than establishing effective safety measures based upon CDC guidelines – then allowing business owners to open our economy and support themselves and their employees – state and local governments continue to persecute one industry while actively supporting others.

That’s wrong.

Fortunately, in Volusia County, two bar owners are boldly standing up to let Gov. DeSantis know there is some shit they won’t eat.

According to a News-Journal report:

“Gregory Trent, who owns the The Crooks Den and the Sports Den Billiards and Pub, both in South Daytona, and Patricia Miracle, who owns the Seaside Tavern in Ormond Beach, filed the lawsuit through their attorney on July 3 in Volusia County Circuit Court against DeSantis and Halsey Beshears, who is the secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.”

Good for them!

This isn’t about preventing the spread of disease – it’s about basic fairness – and the right of citizens to be free from arbitrary and capricious government decrees, openly discriminatory practices that pit neighbor against neighbor.

In my view, this is what happens when we begin trading away civil liberties for a false sense of safety.

I could be wrong.

But what’s happening to responsible bar owners isn’t right.

_____________________________________

Join Barker’s View on GovStuff Live! with Big John this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm!

Please join us locally at 1380am The Cat – or internationally on the web at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).

Our guest this afternoon will be Volusia County Judge Chris Miller!

Judge Miller was appointed to the bench in 2018. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his juris doctor from Stetson University College of Law.

Admitted to the Florida Bar in 2006, he was a prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office in the 7th Circuit and worked in several divisions, including the drug unit, the career criminal unit, and the homicide unit.

He also worked in a private law firm, litigating insurance claims, and interned for the Public Defender’s Office in the 6th Judicial Circuit while in law school. He currently presides over civil cases at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand.

Judge Miller is currently running to retain his seat in the County Judge Group 6 race.

Thanks in advance!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for July 10, 2020

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           Florida Department of Health

Confusion reigns supreme. . .

The COVID-19 pandemic has done more to expose the dysfunction and ineptitude of our local, state, and federal government than any investigative journalist or entrenched whistle blower in history.

And the optics of this ever-evolving shit show is only getting worse. . .

Many of our local elected officials have transmogrified from the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker into petty dictators – like Generalissimo Derrick “Il Duce” Henry, the Monarchical Mayor of the Duchy of Daytona Beach – who have called “special meetings” to mandate the wearing of masks.

Rather than simply supporting the innovative multi-jurisdictional public education campaign “Step Up Volusia” – Wash Up.  Back Up.  Mask Up. – several cities have staged their own theater of the absurd, meeting in melodramatic special session to, as Deltona Mayor Heidi Herzberg so oddly put it:

“This commission had to have a discussion with you the public as to what the pulse is on this.”

Whatever the hell that means. . .

She should have added, “…and we need to get our names in the newspaper doing it.”

Do these detached shitheads really think we need some city council sluggard with a nanny complex to tell us how to protect ourselves from coronavirus – or anything else?

Honestly.  The arrogance of these crowd-following political lemmings is astounding. . .

Fortunately, these troubled times have also placed a bright spotlight on those servant-leaders in our community who have gone above and beyond to provide their constituents with the information we need to educate and protect ourselves.

From the onset, Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood demonstrated exceptional leadership when he fought against the conventional ignorance of state health officials and began publishing hard data on the number of addresses being monitoring for novel coronavirus.

During the ensuing brouhaha – when state officials were accusing Sheriff Chitwood of violating patient confidentiality and other hogwash – neither the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee, or its subordinate minions in Volusia County, could provide one shred of credible evidence as to why citizens should not have access to statistical information showing the spread of the virus in their communities.

This week – during what we are told is the zenith of a statewide viral wildfire – the Florida Department of Health decided that it would no longer be releasing pertinent information on the community spread of coronavirus to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Why?  Because its “too time consuming.”

You read that right.

But it gets better. . .

In her informative article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, COVID-19 addresses cut off,” the intrepid Casmira Harrison attempted to get answers from our local public health officials:

“Asked why the Health Department stopped releasing the list of watched addresses to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Health in Volusia County spokeswoman Holly Smith did not answer.”

“Since this is a statewide directive that is not specific to Volusia County, our state office can answer this question,” Smith stated via email. “Please contact them (ESF 14) directly.”

Bullshit.

Rather than answer to the working press, the Florida Department of Health pulled a governmental Catch-22 – sending reporters, and taxpayers, into the byzantine maze of “public information offices” a labyrinth designed by hacks trained to play a round-robin game of “keep away” with information vital to the safety of our community.

Hell, I thought the collection, analysis, and timely dissemination of critical information during a pandemic was the Florida Department of Health’s raison d’etre? 

Am I wrong?

According to Sheriff Chitwood:

“From the beginning, we have all been getting limited information or conflicting information from our local, state and federal governments.”

 “I started posting numbers of locations flagged for covid in each Volusia city because I believe we all deserve access to info to make informed decisions,” said the sheriff. “Not everyone agreed w/ me. … It’s clear now that our government is so overwhelmed by this crisis, that it’s up to the people to solve it. I hope we are up to the task.”

Scary.

Our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, had to interject his always disconnected shit-eyed view of things when he querulously tut-tutted in the newspaper, “I didn’t see a real value in sharing the number (of addresses).”

“For first responders making calls, that was definitely a benefit and the way it should have been used,” said Kelley. “I didn’t think it was necessarily important to let the public know things that we didn’t necessarily have access to as a council directly.”

My God.

I don’t make this stuff up, folks. . . Ed Kelley really is that astronomically stupid.

Then – as if by magic – on Thursday afternoon, Sheriff Chitwood announced that the Florida Department of Health had mysteriously changed tack – and would resume sending flagged address data to his agency.  Wait.  What?

He calmly thanked Rep. David Santiago and Sen. Tom Wright “for stepping up to advocate for us,” and hailed the utterly confusing reversal as “…a win for all first responders and for every resident of Volusia County.”

I agree.

Even if the near overnight flip-flop of a major public policy decision by a major state agency during a major emergency declaration raises more questions than answers. . .

In my view, the damage is already done – more confusion and chaos added to the hellbroth of missteps, maladministration, and utter dysfunction that has marked our local, state, and federal response to this public health crisis.

Is this how government operates in this foul year 2020?

A state agency arbitrarily stops communicating with its constituents until Sheriff Chitwood is forced to publicly embarrass them on social media – then the local newspaper publishes a story they discovered on Facebook – exposing bureaucratic obstruction that make state legislators politically uncomfortable – and the whole sordid mess runs round for two-days until the obstinate state agency reverses itself?

Yeah.  We’re screwed. . .

Regardless, it is time for the bungling bureaucracy at the Florida Department of Health to be replaced.

In my view, when any organization that accepts public funds to serve in the public interest becomes so insular – so detached from their task and purpose – that it willingly places first responders, and the public it exists to serve, in danger – then it is time for that agency and the jackleg pseudo-experts associated with it to go away.

The fact that Governor Ron DeSantis allows these ridiculous public controversies and misunderstandings to fester is something that will define his administration for years to come – and history will not be kind.

Come on, Governor – start firing people, dammit!  Do it now.

As Sheriff Chitwood said, “With so many failures to effectively confront this crisis at so many levels of government, I really do believe individual Americans and the private sector are left to pick up the slack and get us through this pandemic.”

Despite the constant rallying cry “we’re all in this together,” at the end of the day, we truly are on our own. . .

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

SNAFU is an age-old military acronym meaning “situation normal – all f***ed up,” which aptly describes any bad situation that passes for a normal state of affairs.

If one needs a primer on the enduring dysfunction that is Volusia County Schools, look no further than the upheaval surrounding long-delayed high school graduations – ceremonies that finally kicked off yesterday.

A total of ten rites of passage will be held for area seniors in just three-days. . .

Look, given our current circumstances, I think everyone can agree that requiring face coverings for the fortunate few who will be allowed inside the Ocean Center to bear witness to their loved ones accomplishment is a good thing (just two guests per graduate – if they agree to pay $5 for parking and $3 for admittance. . .)

So why wasn’t the protective practice mandated from the beginning?

According to an informative piece by education reporter Cassidy Alexander writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, after originally announcing that masks would be optional, “The district made the switch late last week, and cited the city of Daytona Beach’s ordinance requiring face coverings in public as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.”

That’s odd.  Because the Daytona Beach ordinance specifically exempts the Ocean Center, and other county owned properties, from the mask requirement.

Is it that big a deal to simply admit you made an error in not requiring masks at a large gathering and correct the mistake without coming up with another lame excuse for the oversight?

Whatever.

Granted – it’s a small SNAFU – but a SNAFU none-the-less – and given the angst and turmoil which has surrounded the lead-up to this year’s graduations (and just about every other aspect of the learning experience in Volusia County for the last decade) one would think the logistics would have been worked out well in advance to ease the minds of families and students and lend stability to this important ritual.

Not here.

In Volusia County Schools, things remain a convoluted mess – screwed to the nth degree – always ‘up in the air’ with little, if any, substantive information coming from highly paid mouthpieces in “Community Information Services,” beyond some weird social media post, or the dribs and drabs of confusing “facts” the News-Journal can pry out of the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.

On a brighter note, rather than bring back some retired sluggo to run things while Superintendent Scott Fritz takes a short leave of absence, the School Board did the right thing this week and allowed Deputy Superintendent Carmen Balgobin to do what deputy administrators do and fill the void until the boss returns.

Originally, the board announced that it would appoint an “interim superintendent” through the end of July (?) – and I just knew that meant they planned to call some retired hack back to active duty to help pay off his or her vacation home. . .

To their credit, during a special meeting on Tuesday, the School Board unanimously voted to allow Ms. Balgobin to serve as acting superintendent through August 28.

According to a report in the News-Journal, “One of Fritz’s first acts as superintendent was to instate the role of deputy superintendent of teaching, leading and learning. Balgobin reports directly to Fritz, and was integral in establishing Volusia County’s instructional continuity plan during the pandemic.”

The News-Journal previously reported that Dr. Fritz has been diagnosed with cancer and will be taking a leave of absence to complete medical treatment.

Fortunately, our often-chaotic elected representatives on the Volusia County School Board had the presence of mind to allow Dr. Fritz’ hand-picked second in command to take the reins during this critical time as families, students and staff prepare to return to whatever the “new normal” will prove to be.

That’s going to require a deft and experienced hand on the tiller.

Good luck, Ms. Balgobin – you have your work cut out for you. . .

Angel              Volusia County Chair Candidate Jeff “Plan B” Brower

On Wednesday, I had the distinct pleasure of giving remarks at Jeff “Plan B” Brower’s West Volusia rally.

I don’t get out much, and I want to thank Mr. Brower for inviting me – and tell the many members of the Barker’s View tribe in attendance how much I appreciate their kindness and support.

It was a spirited affair – great fun – and I learned a lot about the passion Brower supporters have, both for their chosen candidate, and for returning ethical, responsive, and transparent governance to Volusia County.

His opponent, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys, is currently sitting on a pile of money in excess of $104,000 (for a county chair race?) bequeathed by wealthy political insiders who have historically swayed elections by infusing massive amounts of cash into the campaign coffers of hand-select marionettes who are a proven return on their investment.

Trust me, Dishonest Deb’s nose is so far up the backsides of her “Rich & Powerful” political benefactors they are at real risk of a punctured bowel. . .

Clearly, Jeff Brower won’t be able to outspend his opponent – but if the excitement and enthusiasm I felt Wednesday evening is any indication of the grassroots support he enjoys in neighborhoods across the width and breadth of Volusia County – I think Ol’ Deb might have her hands full.

I’m sorry, but I don’t like Dishonest Deb’s style – never have.

Her propensity for quibbling facts, flip-flopping on important issues, backroom deals, greasy backslapping politics and blatantly lying to her constituents have not garnered much respect from those of us paying attention.

During a pivotal February 2019 meeting of the Volusia County Council, our elected officials did what they were told by the CEO Business Alliance and other influential insiders and voted (with Heather Post the lone dissenter) to set an incredibly expensive special mail-in election to decide the issue of a money-grubbing half-cent sales tax increase.

That’s when Ms. Denys showed her true loyalties.

While telling a scary story round the political campfire designed to frighten voters and increase the burden on every man, woman and child in Volusia County, Deb terrified her worried constituents with a petrifying tale of failing bridges, putting critical infrastructure projects on hold (after the “explosive development” had already been approved), and mewling about the “limited amount of money” for transportation infrastructure in a county budget quickly approaching one billion dollars. . .

In typical fashion, Deb then put the proverbial flashlight under her chin for maximum dramatic effect, and, in her spine-chilling voice, growled,  “If it (sales tax) doesn’t pass there is no plan B. . .”

Well, guess what? 

Ol’ Dishonest Deb lied to us again.

Turns out, there is a “Plan B” after all – and his name is Jeff Brower – a gentleman farmer from DeLeon Springs who is standing tall for all we hold dear here in Volusia County!

In my view, Jeff represents The People’s Choice for County Chair, and he continues to speak out against aggressive threats to our environment from the current “growth at all costs” philosophy that is allowing speculative developers to get even richer exploiting our natural places – with a proven commitment to protecting our drinking water supply, curbing sales and property tax increases and safeguarding our God-given rights and liberties from government overreach.

In addition, Jeff has vowed to make public safety a top priority.

In recognition of his commitment, last month, Mr. Brower received the coveted endorsement of the Volusia County Deputies Association – the collective bargaining unit representing members of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department!

In a statement released by VCD President Brodie Hughes:

“Your straightforward and positive insight into our community’s needs, coupled with your willingness to remain open-minded on the issues, sets you far ahead of the other candidates.  Additionally, your history of public service along with your unwavering support for public safety, exemplifies why you are the only reasonable choice for the Volusia County Chair.”

I am proud to support Jeff Brower for Volusia County Chair, and encourage all voters to take a minute to speak with Jeff about his vision for our future and a return to basic fairness – where all citizens have equal and honest input in our government – not just the well-heeled few.

Just like the popular effort that soundly defeated his opponent’s attempt to kowtow to the CEO Business Alliance and other big money manipulators to raise the sales tax last year – let’s pull together and do it again!

It is time to send Dishonest Deb to that smoldering ash heap where perennial politicians land when their long-suffering constituents have finally had enough.

This one’s important, folks.

Vote like your quality of life depends on it. . .

Angel               The Incomparable Mr. Charlie Daniels

“It’s a long road and a little wheel and it takes a lot of turns to get there. . .”

–Charlie Daniels, 1936 – 2020

Rest in Peace. . .

Quote of the Week

“Volusia County already has one of the top two tax rates out of 67 counties in Florida combined with a very tenuous commercial tax base. We cannot afford to be complacent with these purchases (ECHO/Volusia Forever). The cost of government has not gone down but the revenue to support it certainly has. A host of small business owners would dearly love to have the rolled back option to bring in the same revenue as last year, but that is not an option for those hurt the most by a shutdown. Many of these businesses will not re-open or will open at a reduced level.

In addition, there should be some logical explanation of why we need to bond these projects which adds to the cost. If property tax millage is paying for them, why incur the extra cost to bond?

It’s time for all citizens to pay attention.”

–Ed Connor, founder of Volusia Tax Reform, “Build accountability into Volusia Forever, ECHO programs,” The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices, Saturday, July 4, 2020

And Another Thing! 

Things in the City of Palm Coast continue to deteriorate at an alarming rate – and regardless of who is ultimately right – this epic shit show simply cannot continue. . .

Late yesterday, we learned the sad news that Palm Coast’s District 2 Councilman Col. Jack D. Howell, II, USMC (Ret.), submitted his resignation citing an unfortunate recurrence of cancer.

And nothing more.

I could be wrong, but I suspect the underlying reasons behind Col. Howell’s departure run deeper than that.

Col. Howell – Palm Coast’s own version of “The Great Santini” – the tough-talking, always acerbic, combat-wounded Marine was elected to the Palm Coast City Council in 2018.

He’s an impressive guy and represents the kind of no-nonsense, values-based leadership Palm Coast desperately needs.

In addition to his military and public service, Col. Howell is President and Chief Executive Officer of Teens-In-Flight, a national aviation charity that serves teens whose parents were killed or injured in the line of active duty in the armed forces and helps at-risk youth.

Last year, after he famously referred to his colleagues on the dais of power as “four idiots,” here’s how Col. Howell was described by FlaglerLive.com:

“Palm Coast City Council member Jack Howell speaks his mind. He can be undiplomatic, coarse and brutal. That’s his trademark, a manner leavened by sincerity and a complete absence of malice: his opponents or critics find themselves embracing him even as he plunges the bayonet in their chest. Inevitably, occasionally, he goes a stab too far.”

I like Col. Howell’s style. . .and his departure from Palm Coast government is a big loss.

According to a report by News-Journal investigative reporter Matt Bruce, Howell’s “…abrupt departure comes as state and federal investigations, public records violations and rumors of public corruption swirl around City Hall regarding Mayor Milissa Holland’s relationship with her employer, Palm Coast tech firm Coastal Cloud.”

In recent weeks, the News-Journal’s ongoing exposé has uncovered the ugly internecine warfare between Mayor Milissa Holland, the city’s internal compliance officer, Jay Maher, and City Manager Matt Morton – whose answer to any allegation of misconduct is to apparently use public funds to hire someone who will effectively neuter Maher’s investigative findings and tell him what he wants to hear. . .

In addition, we now know that Mr. Maher, former city manager Jim Landon, and Michael Schottey, the city’s former communications director who is now challenging Holland for mayor, have all been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

However, according to Pierre Tristam of FlaglerLive, the allegations of misconduct and corruption are overblown – and “Schottey’s claims of a state criminal investigation have so far proved to be fabrications.”

Interesting.

In a recent “The Live” column entitled, Palm Coast Investigates Itself. The Result Is Not Impressive,”  Mr. Tristam writes, “It’s not much ado about nothing, but close. There are errors of judgment, stupid mistakes, misinterpretation–not misapplication–of law.”

Trust me.  His highly informative essay is well-worth a read.

(Please find it here: https://flaglerlive.com/155243/palm-coast-investigation/ )

In my view, the City of Palm Coast is far too important to the stability of our region to allow this dreadful distraction to continue.

When it comes to matters of government – even the appearance of corruption and impropriety by senior officials is corrosive to the public trust – and, as city manager, Mr. Morton should know that.

My hope is that some competent independent legal authority is actively investigating these allegations and can bring answers for the long-suffering citizens of Palm Coast.

Godspeed Col. Howell.  Your Old School wisdom and strong leadership will be sorely missed.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: History Repeating

“…politicians don’t beg for money; they sell a service: namely, use of government’s coercive power to achieve for interest groups what these groups cannot or will not achieve peacefully on the market. A politician seeking office gets his funds by begging no more than an accountant or an architect gets his funds by begging. Like the accountant and architect, the politician offers a quid pro quo in exchange for campaign contributions. The difference, of course, is that the quid pro quo supplied by the accountant or architect—unlike that supplied by most politicians—isn’t a promise to reduce the liberties or confiscate the wealth of innocent third parties.”

–Dr. Donald J. Boudreaux, a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  Boudreaux is also an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

They say money can’t buy happiness.

But, in Volusia County, it can buy an election for those candidates who have been hand-selected by uber-wealthy oligarchs intent on preserving the status quo, ensuring the slimy transactional politics that continue to shunt public funds to the for-profit projects of those who manipulate the process with massive campaign contributions.

Don’t take my word for it.

I encourage everyone to review campaign finance reports and see which candidates for public office in Volusia County are being groomed by big money developers, insurance executives, government contractors and others to ensure the public teat remains patent.

You can find those reports here: https://tinyurl.com/yc36vnj2

Once you identify the names – and  the corporations under their control (check the addresses) – research the direct link from those individuals and industries to the handouts, tax abatements, corporate welfare schemes, and “public/private partnerships” that use public funds to underwrite private projects for all the right last names.

I think you will be surprised by the similarities. . .

In Volusia’s County Chair race, the always arrogant perennial politician Councilwoman Deb Denys is facing off against Deleon Springs farmer Jeff “Plan B” Brower for the catbird seat.

Of course, some no-name has thrown his hat in the ring to muddy the waters – but many political prognosticators believe Jeff is poised to pull off an upset à la former Chairman Jason Davis in 2012.

I sure hope they’re right.

At last check, “Dishonest Deb” has accumulated a massive campaign war chest totaling over $104,000 (for a county chair race?) bequeathed by our wealthy overseers who have historically swayed elections by ensuring their handmaidens have the wherewithal to get their smiling visage on glossy mailers, television advertisements, and billboards – as their outspent opponents slog door-to-door in sweat soaked shoes trying desperately to make that all important physical connection with voters in a time of social distancing.

Clearly, the livestock auction that marks the start of the campaign season here on the Fun Coast is in full swing. . .

For instance, in the District 4 race, on just one day in June, political newcomer Barbara Bonarrigo – who is facing incumbent Councilwoman Heather Post – accepted some $10,000 from entities controlled by our High Panjandrum of Political Power Mori Hosseini and his ICI Homes empire.

Then, just days later, Ms. Bonarrigo hauled in $10,000 from Beat Khali, the Orlando-based developer who, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, is “proceeding full-speed ahead” with his Avalon Park Daytona – a gigantic project that will put some 10,000 new homes and over one-million square feet of commercial space adjacent to the malignant sprawl of Latitude Margaritaville and Mori’s Mosaic, near the southwest border of Ormond Beach.

Interestingly, when I went to Ms. Bonarrigo’s webpage (www.barbarabonarrigo.com) to learn more about her message, platform and vision for Volusia County – the only thing I found was a “Donate” button. . .

While Ms. Bonarrigo may not know squat about the topical issues facing Volusia County residents – she’s clearly mastered the act of wielding the political begging bowl – and, in this environment where winners and losers are picked well before a vote is ever cast, perhaps that’s enough. . .

Currently, Ms. Bonarrigo has accumulated some $60,000 from Volusia’s “Rich & Powerful” – while Ms. Post has garnered just $22,000 in contributions – most coming from individual donors contributing less than $100.00 each.

Anyone else see a pattern here?

Way back in 2017, I opined that you don’t need an MBA from Harvard Business School to understand that only rubes invest large sums of money without expecting a return.

After all, the road to the poorhouse is paved with the bones of those who failed to properly calculate ROI – Return on Investment – and, in my view, that is exactly what these colossal campaign contributions represent.

Trust me, these well-heeled insiders have not become incredibly successful by shoving money down a rabbit hole expecting a bean stalk to rise to the heavens where the Golden Goose resides.

These are extraordinarily smart and savvy businessmen and women who are very skilled at building – and keeping – personal and corporate wealth.

In short, they understand that you don’t last long in business throwing good money after bad.

Now, I don’t have J. Hyatt Brown’s money – but when I spend what little I have – I expect something in return.

I’ll just bet when Mr. Brown throws around $1,000 campaign contributions from any of the many corporate entities and limited liability companies he controls – like Zambezi LLC or Swakopmund Inc. (which, I think, in the Oshiwambo dialect means “You get what you pay for”) – he expects a return on that investment as well.

Let’s face facts:  The local donor class make massive campaign contributions with the full knowledge that their personal, civic, and professional interests will outweigh those of John Q. Public every damn time.

In the end, deferential treatment and immediate attention by their boot-licking sycophants on the dais of power is what they consider an appropriate return on money spent – and given the astronomical amount of “economic incentives” that our elected officials have showered upon this exclusive group in recent years – I would have to say they’ve done extremely well on the risk/reward scale.

Is what we experience in Volusia County quid pro quo corruption – something for something, give and take, tit for tat, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, one hand washes the other, an IOU?

I don’t know.

But it has a whiff of the shit about it – and it is painfully clear that our horribly broken campaign finance system must be overhauled if we ever hope to break this insidious cycle.

Don’t hold your breath. . .

What I do know is that when these very same powerful insiders appear – individually or en masse – in the Volusia County Council Chambers, invariably – and I mean 100% of the time – the issue, project, or development they support is obsequiously handed to them on a gilded platter – while you and I are treated like something they don’t want to step in.

Now, I may be crazy, but I’m not a fool.

And neither are you.

Why would a few influential power brokers spend a small fortune – tens-of-thousands of dollars – to support select candidates for local elective office?

Look, maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe everything is on the up-and-up – perhaps all is fair and bright here on Big Rock Candy mountain – after all, it is perfectly legal for individuals and the corporations under their control to make campaign donations to any candidate they want.

However, we – the voters of Volusia County – have the power to change this despicable and corrosive tradition at the ballot box.

If history is allowed to repeat, I fear We, The Little People, can expect (and deserve) more of the same.