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:
For the record, I have been virtually bedridden since Thanksgiving with the most virulent and debilitating of all known maladies:
The dreaded “Man Cold.”
Perhaps the worst in recorded medical history. Whoa.
Today’s feeble installment of Angels & Assholes represents my courageous ‘best effort’ at the nexus of this relentless and incapacitating illness and my pathological need to point out where the doer of deeds could have done them better or condescendingly say, “See, I told you so…”
Despite my weakened state, through Herculean effort, I was somehow able to lift my groggy head, turn a jaundiced and bloodshot eye toward the newsmakers of the day, and bring you my goofy take on the myriad issues we face here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.
I share my suffering – and ultimate triumph over adversity – in hopes my extraordinary civic sacrifice in the face of acute discomfort (cough) won’t be lost on the exalted nomination committees for the prestigious J. Hyatt Brown Enterprise Award, the Glenn Ritchey Leadership Award, the J. Saxon Lloyd Distinguished Community Service Award, or the (insert Halifax area ‘mover & shaker’ here) Lifetime Achievement Award as things firm up for the annual rubber-chicken banquet season just around the corner!
Look, this fever has me teetering on the edge of lucidity and hallucination, but I’ve got a feeling this is the year, tribe!
And, yes, I am an insufferable asshole when I’m under-the-weather.
Just ask my long-suffering wife. . .
In all seriousness, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reached out this week to wish Patti and I well as we recuperate from ‘whatever’s going around‘ – and thanks for all the great suggestions for beating it.
Trust me – we’ve got all the antibiotics, steroids, ointments, and unguents known to medical science working in our favor.
Thank you for your kindness.
It’s cold and flu season out there, kids – avoid it if you can – and take care of yourselves and each other!
Asshole Volusia County Corporate Welfare Wonks
‘Tis the Season of Giving and Joy. . .
No one should be happier as this foul year draws to a close than those real estate developers, e-commerce giants, and parasitic insiders who were showered with “economic incentives” this year – tax breaks, infrastructure, land giveaways, and other spiffs – by local governments and that continuing corporate welfare shim-sham over at Team Volusia.
These public/private “partnerships” (which always use public funds to further private interests) have become so commonplace in Volusia County that handouts have become the rule rather than the exception.
Back in January, the Daytona Beach City Commission voted 4-3 in the blind to approve a land-use change for property owned by those heavy-hitters over at Daytona International Speedway – then promptly opted to gift Amazon – the largest e-commerce company in the known universe – with $4 million in tax incentives over five-years for the privilege of locating a “robotic fulfillment center” at the lucrative corner of I-95 and Interstate 4.
To make the wholesale waste of public funds more palatable, economic development shills always attach the political insulation phrase “performance based” to these extraordinary advantages to give the appearance of accountability.
For instance, Amazon has agreed to create 1,000 warehouse jobs paying just $15.00 an hour by 2028.
No one I speak with is quite sure where those workers will live, because an annual pittance of $31,200 is well south of what is required to put even a rudimentary roof over one’s head (forget buying a home) on the Fun Coast – let alone afford groceries, gas, insurance, and the myriad other expenses required to survive – and everyone is nervous about the impact of heavy truck traffic on the quality of life for residents along Beville Road and beyond.
But no one who should seems to care.
Damn the “unknowns” and mysterious cryptograms that hide these projects from the public (and our elected officials) – so long as the public teat remains patent for speculative developers and those with a chip in this expensive game.
Last year, the City of Daytona Beach gifted Tampa-based real estate developer Framework Group a $7.5 million property tax break on a planned 300-unit “luxury” apartment and parking complex in downtrodden Downtown Daytona.
Last month, in an informative article by Charles Guarria writing in Volusia Hometown News, we learned the Framework Group was recently gifted a parcel of publicly owned property valued at $310,000 in the horribly neglected Midtown neighborhood – coupled with a decade-long tax break not to exceed $655,000 over the life of the “agreement” – to facilitate construction of a 62-unit apartment complex.
Framework Group will designate 24-units as “affordable rental units,” defined as “…monthly rent that doesn’t exceed 30% of a low-income or moderate-income household’s annual gross income.”
No word where the other 976 Amazonian warehouse drones will reside on their much-heralded $15 bucks an hour. . .
Then, last week, we learned in a puffy press release issued by Team Volusia that an out-of-town developer has purchased an 83-acre site on Parktowne Boulevard in Edgewater in hopes of bringing a piece of the commercial Space Race to the Fun Coast.
According to a report by business editor Clayton Park in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“Team Volusia played a role in persuading Onicx Group to develop the Space Coast Industrial Park in Volusia County. “We introduced the developers to the site in Volusia County,” said Team Volusia CEO Keith Norden whose group works to recruit companies to expand and/or relocate to the county.
Onicx, under the name Parktowne Industrial LLC, paid $4.15 million to acquire the 83-acre wooded site on June 23, according to Volusia County property records. The seller was an entity called Edgewater Industrial Park LLC, which included Mike Panaggio, the founder of DME Holdings in Daytona Beach.”
Yeah. I know.
Some people just have an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, I guess?
Now, Edgewater officials are telegraphing incentives out of one side of their mouth – while touting how infinitely desirable the speculative industrial park will be to aerospace manufacturers looking to locate their enterprise to Southeast Volusia.
(You know, as opposed to any of the vacant warehouse and commercial space literally in the shadow of the launch complex in Brevard County. . .)
“Edgewater City Manager Glenn Irby said the Space Coast Industrial Park “is a huge deal” for his city. “We look forward to working with them (Onicx and Aries Capital) to make their future as bright as possible.”
On the current Ye Olde Parktowne Industrial Center’s website, the generous City of Edgewater spells it out for potential tenants:
“Volusia County Department of Economic Development, assists the City in gathering resources as needed for incoming qualified businesses; incentives or financial resources may be available for qualified projects…”
Like Daytona Beach, who gifted $4 million to Amazon – and Deltona, who handed over $2.5 million – it seems the Edgewater is now falling in line with Team Volusia’s patented corporate welfare scheme that easily attracts the low-hanging fruit of industrial warehouses.
Here in the land of mediocrity, where innovation and ingenuity have been replaced with lockstep conformity to the wants and whims of extremely wealthy insiders, it seems our local “economic development” brain trust is merely following the lead of other government entities across the nation.
According to Washington D.C.-based watchdog Good Jobs First, a nonprofit which exposes wasteful subsidies, Amazon has now squeezed $5.1 Billion in “…state and local economic development subsidy deals given to Amazon.com, Inc. for its warehouses, data centers, and film productions, and to its subsidiaries such as Whole Foods Market, Zappos and Audible.”
According to the Good Jobs First database, $43,239,475 of that came from Florida counties and municipalities.
(Read more for yourself here: www.goodjobsfirst.org )
While some half-bright local elected officials continue to tout the benefits of gifting the e-commerce behemoth millions in tax incentives to locate warehouses at the most desirable distribution hub in Florida (what else are they going to do now?) – over the busy Black Friday shopping period, thousands of Amazon employees around the globe staged walkouts to protest low pay and abysmal working conditions.
In some places, smart people analyze drumbeats and industry volatility then negotiate from an educated position before gifting concessions – but not here.
In my view, it is time for a reversal of this “give away other people’s money till it hurts” mentality that has our elected representatives gifting our hard-earned tax dollars, incentives, and infrastructure to private entities – rather than leverage our areas strategic worth and demand reasonable corporate concessions before allowing intrusive development in areas with direct and affordable access to the whole of Central Florida and beyond.
It is time we cut off the firehose of public funds and expensive spiffs that underwrite the for-profit projects of speculative developers, billionaires, and wealthy corporations who dictate demands behind confidentiality agreements while gorging greedily as government continues to skew the playing field by picking winners and losers in the marketplace.
Angel Town Council of Pierson, Florida
Primum non nocere – “First, do no harm.”
This honorable dictum is said to come from the ancient Hippocratic Oath which says medical practitioners should avoid doing anything to bring physical or moral injury to their patients.
I’m not sure if charitable organizations adhere to a similar ethical maxim.
But they should.
Food Brings Hope, a nonprofit founded by Forough Hosseini, is dedicated to giving every child the opportunity to succeed by removing the stress of “food insecurity” while providing literacy and afterschool programs for some 1,700 underprivileged students in Volusia and Flagler County Schools.
Since 2007, Food Brings Hope has brought much-needed social services, safe housing, and sustenance to those less fortunate throughout Volusia County in partnership with public, private, and corporate entities.
In my view, it is truly God’s work – and an excellent conduit for Volusia County’s most successful corporations and philanthropists to assist the hundreds of homeless and underserved families in area communities.
Recently, an unfortunate bruhaha erupted in the rural northwest Volusia community of Pierson, when Food Brings Hope attempted to lease space at the Town Center, a vacant school now owned by the struggling township, after the charity outgrew its current space at Mission San Jose Church.
Look, I am a huge fan of Food Brings Hope and other privately funded service agencies that fill the growing void between the haves and have-nots in Volusia County.
I am also a proponent of small government.
While I realize that some elected officials crow about “smaller government” during election time – then do everything possible to expand their bloated bureaucracy once elevated to high office – a nimble, responsive, and politically accountable stewardship of public funds and essential services should be the goal.
If our local system of governance is to have a positive impact our lives and livelihoods – I believe those we elect and appoint to administrate it have an obligation to listen to those who pay the bills.
In November, already strapped Pierson residents filled their council chamber and balked at the proposed lease, which would have Food Brings Hope renting the space for $1 annually for ten-years – with the townsfolk responsible for monthly utilities and insurance bills – in a community of 1,500 with a per capita income of just $20,000 and 35% of children living in poverty. . .
To their credit, the Pierson Town Council listened to their concerned constituents and voted unanimously to turn down the request.
In an excellent article by Mark Harper in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Vice Mayor Robert Greenlund was quoted:
“I want you all to understand everybody on this council would not do anything to harm anybody in our community, especially. And we would do everything we can to help them, but I think you’re just asking a little too much for this small community simply because we don’t have the tax base,” he said.”
But the incredibly powerful House of Hosseini is not accustomed to being told “No” in Volusia County – especially not by a group of yokels in some rural bump-in-the-road on Highway 17. . .
According to the News-Journal’s report:
“Nika Hosseini, an attorney representing FBH, said the organization might consider leaving Pierson without cooperation from the town.
“If the town would like Food Brings Hope to route every call that we get from your residents to the town itself, we’re happy to do that,” she said. “… If you don’t want these services, we will allocate the quarter of a million dollars to other jurisdictions that are actively asking for them.”
To that, some residents in the room applauded, with one responding: “Good, good.”
In my lifelong experience working in a “small town” municipal government, civic issues are often amplified, and nothing moves the villagers to obstinate rage – complete with torches and pitchforks – quicker than threats and intimidation from haughty out-of-town lawyers and self-righteous do-gooders.
I don’t care who you are – small town folks do not take kindly to perceived bullying.
As these things often go, now members of the Pierson Town Council are pointing fingers at each other, questioning the origin of the FBH lease, and asking ‘who knew what, and when.’
Look, it’s one thing to fill a very real need in a challenged community like Pierson – it is quite another to become a burden on limited public resources while touting your virtuous deeds to those who simply cannot afford to help.
Interestingly, The Daytona Beach News-Journal is also running a series during the holidays devoted to the excellent work of Food Brings Hope and how their programs are changing lives in our community.
In soliciting donations for FBH through its series entitled “Stories of Hope,” the News-Journal reported, “Overhead is covered by the Hosseini Family Foundation, so 100% of donations go directly to the programs and families.”
So, what’s different in Pierson?
In my view, this squabble over recurring costs associated with FBH’s lease of space in Pierson’s Town Center – and the charity’s aggressive response to the community’s reluctance to assume an unknown monthly debt for the next decade is off-putting – and takes away from the organizations important mission and accomplishments.
My hope is that during this season of giving – those successful entities who have been given so much, by so many, in Volusia County – can find a way to assist the Hosseini Family Foundation to underwrite Food Brings Hope in Pierson by covering the necessary utilities, insurance, and logistical requirements that will allow the charity’s good work to continue in a place that desperately needs it.
Angel Halifax Humane Society and Bissell Pet Foundation
Once again, the Halifax Humane Society will partner with the BISSELL Pet Foundation to offer low-cost pet adoptions through its “Empty the Shelters — Holiday Hope” event now through December 11!
Thanks to the generous support of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, HHS will offer $15.00 adoptions for cats and $25.00 adoptions for dogs.
According to the foundation, “BISSELL Pet Foundation exists to support animal welfare organizations and provide resources to underserved communities. This includes helping to reduce the number of animals in shelters and rescues through pet adoption, spay/neuter programs, vaccinations, microchipping, and crisis and disaster response.”
The Halifax Humane Society has been serving the needs of Halifax area animals since 1937 as a full-service “open-door” animal shelter that helps over 30,000 animals annually.
I encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation to assist the many wonderful programs and education initiatives sponsored by the Halifax Humane Society.
To learn how you can help, please visit www.halifaxhumanesociety.org
Quote of the Week
“Instead of waiting until after the Nov. 8 general election, and letting their successors choose a caretaker manager, the lame-duck Deltona City Commission — on election eve — entered into an agreement with James Chisholm, former city manager of Daytona Beach, to run the city government for at least six months.
In fact, with a 4-3 vote, the commission rejected a motion to let the incoming reconstituted City Commission decide whether to hire Chisholm or someone else to handle Deltona’s day-to-day governance.
Chisholm has been at work in Deltona for more than a month. In a special meeting called Oct. 12 to interview 14 applicants for interim city manager, Chisholm was the first to be interviewed and the top choice of the field of prospects for the temporary position. He worked for more than three weeks without a contract. When the agreement came up for public discussion, critics strongly complained Chisholm was being overcompensated. Nevertheless, the City Commission ratified the contract with a 4-3 vote.”
–Reporter Al Everson, writing in the West Volusia Beacon, “Despite some flak, Deltona under new management,” Monday, November 28, 2022
“I’ll take things that make you go, hummmm for $200, Alex. . .”
And Another Thing!
I wrote about this earlier in the week, but it bears repeating.
Hell, it bears screaming from the rooftops. . .
On Wednesday evening, a “spirited” group of approximately 80 concerned residents attended what I am told was a raucous “developer initiated” meeting as neighbors stood together to oppose a monolithic 29-story, 267-unit condominium project “…planned on 500 ft of direct oceanfront in the heart of Daytona Beach” by Orlando area developer Gelcorp Industries.
To expand the project’s ominous footprint even more, a “sales office” is planned west of North Atlantic Avenue at the intersection of Brookline Avenue.
Now, it appears the developer – and Daytona Beach officials – are scrambling to get ahead of this brewing opposition.
While I was not able to attend the meeting, I have been to these code mandated dog-and-pony shows before – where a land use attorney earns his or her fees fading the heat for the (insert latest obnoxious development here) from concerned “owners and occupants of nearby lands.”
Based upon citizen concerns, I understand the developer has determined another meeting will be required to answer the mounting questions surrounding the project and will consider “changes to the plan” before making formal application to the City of Daytona Beach.
But make no mistake, the wheels are turning. . .
According to an excellent article by business editor Clayton Park writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“Susan Cerbone, a spokeswoman for the city, wrote in an email that Gelcorp as of Thursday had yet to submit a formal application for the project. “They came into City Hall to meet with staff for a ‘pre-application’ meeting to discuss development standards,” she wrote.”
In other words, ‘Nothing to see here, folks. Keep moving. . .”
Conversely, former Daytona Beach City Commissioner Carl Lentz IV, who serves as managing partner of SVN Alliance Commercial Real Estate Advisors, and represented Gelcorp in its purchase of the former Beachcomber property, said:
“They (Gelcorp) have been working with the city on conceptual plans,” said Lentz of the proposed Daytona Beach Oceanfront Condominiums project. “They’re excited about it.”
That competing ‘spin’ is why people no longer trust anything coming out of government offices. . .
In turn, Realtor Lentz sent subliminal reassurance to his current and former colleagues in the public and private sector:
“He (Lentz) said he was not surprised that people at the neighborhood meeting raised concerns about the project. “Inevitably, there will be a minority of the public who will object. That’s because they oppose change.”
That’s what our pro-development “movers & shakers” say when We, The Little People take notice and make them nervous. . .
Keep doing what you are doing, folks.
While these “developer initiated” meetings rarely change the trajectory of things short-term – the vocal pushback on Wednesday evening has clearly shifted the official narrative.
It is heartening that so many concerned citizens turned out in force to protect what remains of our most precious natural resource and collective quality of life.
But this fight (and others) is just beginning.
For instance, there is another oceanfront high-rise condominium proposed south of Silver Beach – 300 units, 28 stories, and 295 feet tall – which is much closer to approval than the Gelcorp project.
Like FDOT Secretary John Tyler recently reminded Flagler County officials concerned about beach erosion on A-1-A, “Doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different outcome, is the textbook example of insanity.”
In my view, that wisdom holds true for how, when, where, and if we develop east of the Coastal Construction Control line.
Frankly, the mere thought of foisting more, more, more development east of A-1-A on shell-shocked residents is a cruel madness that only greed-crazed speculative developers and compromised politicians are capable of. . .
Now, citizens are rightly suggesting that government begin the process of obtaining remaining vacant beachfront properties, “rewilding” the dunes, and turning what remains of these undeveloped parcels into a “living shoreline,” natures protective barrier to erosion.
With several high-rise structures teetering on our unstable shoreline – and new beachfront development quickly working its way through the pipeline – the time has come for our elected officials to put their bickering and bitchery aside and work cooperatively to enact a reasonable moratorium on development east of the Coastal Construction Control Line until a viable erosion control program can be studied and implemented before the next “500-year storm” pays us a visit next year – or next month. . .
Unfortunately, that requires a degree of foresight and political courage that is sorely lacking in Volusia County.
And the clock is ticking.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!