A Rock and a Hard Place

In turbulent times, we see the good, the bad and the ugly in people.

We also see the best and worst in the processes, procedures and systems we use to manage emergencies and reduce the impact of a crisis on our community.

While I’m not an expert, during my working life – through a combination of training, exercises and actual disaster response experience – I earned the Florida Professional Emergency Manager credential from the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association.

The practice taught me that emergency management is both art and skill.

I also learned that all communities are vulnerable to a variety of threats – the effects of which can be mitigated when the functions, resources and capabilities of government are effectively coordinated through an organized management plan.

As in most things, preparation is the key to success – and I’m not seeing that locally.

Considering that:

  1. We have an active emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Volusia County’s response has had all the coordination of a Chinese Fire Drill.

It has become increasingly apparent that our senior levels of Volusia County government haven’t adequately trained or prepared to respond to this growing emergency – and they appear to have no plan for effectively managing the event.

In fact, Sheriff Michael Chitwood is the only senior elected official in Volusia County government who has demonstrated strong leadership and provided his constituents with the hard information they need to protect themselves and their families – and his support of small businesses has been incredibly uplifting.

A lot of what I write about is my own nonsensical criticisms of the various political missteps, gaffes and foul-ups inherent to our system of governance – where well-meaning people try hard to get it right – but often fall short due to a cumbersome bureaucracy.

But this is different.

Just as I have a great propensity for hyper-criticism of government and institutions – I also have an equally deep capacity for acceptance and forgiveness of mistakes (because I’ve made so many of my own – personally and professionally.)

It is why I have always tried to live my life in a way – both in law enforcement and aviation – that requires self-reliance and the development of fundamental skills that help me get it right when the chips are down.

That doesn’t happen by chance – and because of my personal limitations – it requires that I put in more effort than others.

Perceiving and reacting to threats comes from constant training, learning and practice so that it becomes possible to react almost instinctively to mitigate risk – otherwise, the results can be catastrophic.

A wise old flight instructor taught me the following mantra which has served me well, both in flying and in life:

“In a negative situation I will do the best I can.  If that fails, I will try again.  I cannot change destiny, but I may be able to affect it in some positive way.”

Clearly, County Manager George Recktenwald is caught between a rock and hard place – torn between seven strong personalities on the dais of power and the 540,000 individual opinions that make up Volusia County.

But the fact remains, during this declared emergency, the decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods are his alone – hopefully made with the best information and advice possible – a process made infinitely more difficult by the politically motivated meddling we’ve seen in recent weeks.

In my view, while Volusia County government’s response to this crisis has been anything but unified – there is still time to get it right.

Let’s hope this week’s Volusia County Council meeting can be used to restore order and set a comprehensive path forward.

That requires that our elected officials respect Mr. Recktenwald’s authority and responsibilities under the emergency declaration – stop their toxic attempts to influence public policy from the sidelines – and support his efforts to protect the citizens of Volusia County while respecting the balance between civil liberties and those actions required to stop the spread of this microbial monster.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

Beach is Open, Beach is Out – Run in Circles, Scream and Shout!

Perhaps the most important principle of crisis management is an effective public information plan – a strategy that allows local government to gather, verify, coordinate and disseminate accurate, accessible, and reliable status updates and briefings to keep constituents informed.

Does that sound anything close to what we’ve experienced in Volusia County during the coronavirus “response”?

Let’s take a brief look back, shall we:

In the early days of Volusia’s effort to establish reasonable public policy that kept a balance between personal freedoms and social distancing requirements, the Volusia Watermen’s Association – the collective bargaining unit of Volusia County’s Beach Safety Department – issued a panicked open letter to the Volusia County Council vehemently demanding the complete closure of our beach after “tirelessly and privately pressuring the County to do the right thing, but they have refused to act appropriately.”

The letter concluded with a shameful threat that, “If a single Beach Safety employee gets sick while you continue to fail to act, we will all know who to blame.”

This politically charged ultimatum was delivered to the Volusia County Council by a steward of the Teamsters Union – an act which, in my view, crossed the line as career civil servants played an outrageous game of political chicken with duly elected officials during an emergency.

That’s not how our system works.  Nor should it.

This wasn’t a union working for political change – or fighting for wages and benefits – it was ugly, and gave the appearance that our Beach Safety officers had lost their nerve in the face of a crisis – and many of my neighbors have told me they will never look at the agency the same way again.

That’s called a loss of public confidence.

Naturally, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post used the opportunity to break ranks (during an emergency declaration) and lobby on behalf of the Volusia Watermen’s Association – which she prominently lists on her social media page as having “unanimously endorsed” her political campaign – issuing a weird manifesto demanding that county leadership direct the closure of all “parks, beach accesses and recreational facilities.”

In addition, Ms. Post “urged” that the municipalities respond by “…shutting down businesses completely for the two-week duration.”

What followed was an unrelenting series of “executive orders” spewing from Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, changing by the hour, each slowly tightening the noose and further limiting our constitutionally protected civil liberties, while Councilwoman Post and her “colleague” Councilwoman Deb Denys, continued to spew blurbs on social media commenting on everything from airport screening procedures to beach closures and burn bans with little background or context – leaving their confused constituents with more questions than answers.

Not to be ignored, Daytona Beach’s Lord Protector Mayor Derrick “Henny-Penny” Henry unrelentingly fanned the flames by running in metaphorical circles, demanding that the last hours of Bike Week be shut down by Royal Edict, clamoring for the complete closure of our beach and monarchically discussing which businesses in our community are “essential” and which are not, as he fought for a curfew to even further restrict lawful movement and commerce.

(Why is it government officials always list which businesses are “essential,” but never provide us a record of those they have deemed “non-essential”?  Just curious. . .)

Add to that the uncertainty and misinformation surrounding screening procedures at Daytona “International” Airport – the “who did what, and when” in closing the gaping hole in our coronavirus defenses by enforcing yet another of Governor DeSantis’ disjointed orders which requires a mandatory 14-day quarantine of anyone traveling to Florida from high incidence areas – with no way to enforce it.

As a result of this Carnival of the Absurd, Volusia County’s official public information strategy now looks more like a frenzied clown act than a public education campaign – bits, pieces, speculation, manifestos and politically motivated diatribes come at us from all directions, at all hours, leaving constituents horribly confused – and increasingly frightened.

Then, on Thursday evening, everything changed when the DeSantis Lockdown took effect – a weird “do this, don’t do that” edict which our government benevolently calls “Safer at Home.”

Late that afternoon, County Manager George Recktenwald announced at a weird press conference that he was unilaterally closing all 47-miles of Volusia County beaches effective 12:01am Friday morning.

I say “unilaterally,” because that is what he was previously authorized to do.

But when the natural public backlash that comes with having something so intimately intertwined with our local culture and economy totally shuttered with little notice or explanation hit – Councilwoman Billie Wheeler announced in a post entitled “The True Story” that she strongly opposed “totally closing the beach.”

In turn, Ms. Wheeler’s stance was echoed by Councilwoman Deb Denys on Friday evening when she stated on social media, “I have just sent an official request to the County Manager and County Attorney to “…open the beach and follow Cocoa Beach’s Ordinance, to be effective immediately.”

What followed was public outcry and speculation that, perhaps, the beach could be partially reopened to walking, fishing, jogging, surfing, swimming, etc. – activities that comport with the DeSantis Lockdown’s recreation provisions – essentially anything that doesn’t involve sitting down, relaxing and enjoying the beach.

I happen to agree.

The beaches should be open to responsible use – but whenever I voice that opinion, it prompts backlash from the other side of the issue who always invoke the “public safety” argument that paints anyone opposed as a socially irresponsible asshole.

Whatever.

Like Ms. Post’s earlier demand to close the beaches, I’m not sure the public requests made by Wheeler and Denys conform to the Volusia County Council’s agreement to allow County Manager Recktenwald to make emergency management decisions either – but these are the times in which we find ourselves. . .

On Thursday, Volusia County issued a press release which stated, unequivocally, “Volusia County Beaches Closed” – then, 48-hours later, we learned through various unofficial sources that County Manager Recktenwald had apparently come to his senses and reopened the beach – or did he?

The county’s public information apparatus issued a convoluted release with the contradictory language that, while the beach remains closed, something called the “Fifth Directive of Emergency Measures” (?) “relaxes” the prohibition of certain exercise-related activities on the beach.

It gave the impression that Councilwoman Denys – who is actively running for County Chair – had won the day – and once again resulted in more questions than answers – allowing jogging, but not sitting, fishing but no “loitering,” etc., etc.

Then, I read a news article containing an official statement from a Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue mouthpiece that, during the initial hours of the first coastal blockade, officers issued some 120 warnings to hapless beach goers – including one citation to a recalcitrant skateboarder who reportedly became “belligerent” when told his otherwise lawful activity was now a criminal offense – before announcing that, when it came to throwing people off a public beach, “It was heartbreaking for us, too.”

Wait a minute.

Didn’t the Beach Patrol’s union demand at the point of a political spear that our beaches be closed immediately or else? 

Then, when the County Manager caved to the pressure and actually closed their jurisdiction to all public access – the work of enforcing the order they insisted on is “heartbreaking”?

My ass.

But I guess it’s never too soon to start rehabilitating your image, eh?

Mixed messages, indeed.

In my view, when the COVID-19 threat has passed, and we return to whatever the “new normal” will be – we need to have a critical discussion about single-point information management, consistency of message and Volusia County’s ability to provide essential communications to residents in an age where elected officials feel free to circumvent the responsible leadership and compromise the public’s trust in whatever incident management system has been established, simply to get their name in the paper during an election cycle.

Because what has happened over the past two-weeks bears no semblance to a coordinated response – and we simply cannot allow this hodgepodge process to become the new reality.

Angels & Assholes for April 3, 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           County of Volusia & FDOT

There’s an old saying “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

In Volusia County, perhaps that adage is better stated – “We knew what we had, we just never expected it to be stolen from us.”  

Earlier this week, gripped by acute cabin fever and the corona-paranoia that comes from the media’s non-stop, around-the-clock flogging of this pandemic, I took a leisurely drive around The Loop – one of the true jewels of east Central Florida – which covers the circuit from the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach to High Bridge near the Flagler County line.

As I drove north on A-1-A, I noticed that certain sections of most off-beach parking areas had florescent traffic cones and barrier tape blocking spaces, effectively prohibiting residents and visitors full use of the public lots – limiting the opportunity to park and enjoy the relatively unspoiled beaches of the North Peninsula.

I’m told the parking restrictions were designed to enforce social distancing requirements before the DeSantis Lockdown, and Volusia County’s knee-jerk reaction, by regulating the number of people who could access the beach on overcrowded weekends – but this was noontime on a Monday – yet, the tape and cones (and at least one Beach Patrol vehicle) were still in place, dutifully protecting us from ourselves.

“But I helped pay for that parking space with my hard-earned tax dollars. . .”

“Tough shit, you subservient villein.  This is an “emergency,” asshole – we control your life now.”

Whatever.

In my experience, when it comes to Volusia County Beach Management, sometimes things get done in a timely manner, and sometimes they don’t – or, maybe some high-level staffer thought, “Screw it.  We just have to put the tape back-up next weekend anyway, leave it, the sheeple will get used to it eventually.”

Regardless, I chalked up the weekday parking snafu to typical bureaucratic inefficiency and kept driving. . .

As I approached ICI Homes’ new seaside development, Verona, in beautiful Ormond-by-the-Sea, I saw the Florida Department of Transportation’s handiwork in the form of a physical blockade to beach access disguised as a “sand fence” – a godawful series of treated wooden posts with slat fencing attached, ostensibly designed to reestablish the natural dune-line as a protective barrier for the adjacent roadway.

Continuing north, I was met with a large sign announcing, “State Prisoners Working,” just before encountering a scene out of Cool Hand Luke – a clutch of inmates in faded prison uniforms  actively driving even more wooden poles into another stretch of sand that had been leveled by a small excavator – equipment which was now parked on top of the very vegetation nature uses to anchor the dunes.

I noticed that no one on the jobsite was practicing anything resembling social distancing – I guess those mandates only apply to us little people who are expected to keep quiet and do what we are told. . .

Question:

Are the state prisoners augmenting the paid workforce of the contractor who won the bid to erect the fencing? 

I’m asking.  Because, if so, that’s a pretty sweet deal for someone. . .

Then, perhaps most disturbing, as I approached the North Peninsula State Park, I noticed another line of gaudy traffic cones completely blocking the beachside parking area – this time due to the statewide closure of all state parks in response to the coronavirus.

And it hurt my heart.

If we hadn’t been told differently by FDOT representatives after-the-fact – I would swear this ugly, intermittent wooden barrier has been strategically placed to block parking at traditional beach access points on the North Peninsula.

I’ve been going to the beach at the far reaches of the North Peninsula for over fifty-years.

It holds a very special place in my life – a place of refuge from the world, a place to think and watch the ocean, a place to enjoy the golden coquina sands that make that section of beach so unique – and it is where I’ve directed my remains be scattered when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil.

That is, if we can find a parking space. . .

Angel               The Daytona Beach News-Journal

I have a soft spot in my heart for our local newspaper of record.

I know many of you no longer read The Daytona Beach News-Journal – and some that do often take exception to their editorial content – but the fact remains, these are hard times, and I was taught to leave no one behind in a crisis.

Besides, it’s easy to kick those people and institutions we disagree with when their down – I do it all the time – but the character of our community demands we help preserve our foundational elements.

To say the News-Journal has taken it on the chin of late is an understatement, and I fear for the long-term viability of our newspaper in the aftermath of this global financial downturn that has small local businesses and multinational corporations alike fighting for their lives.

Let’s face it – the handwriting is on the wall – and the News-Journal is trying hard to adapt.

It’s difficult not to notice the subtle daily changes to what was once ‘our paper’ as it slowly transitions to what increasingly looks like a homogenized regional USA Today – as those intrepid local journalists who earned our trust and brought such institutional knowledge, flair and hometown feeling to the news are moved to other assignments – or moved-along altogether. . .

This week, we learned that publishing giant Gannett, which owns The Daytona Beach News-Journal, has instituted severe measures to further reduce costs, including immediate furloughs in newsrooms across the nation, as it struggles to find ways to survive the current economic pressures.

That hurts – and our thoughts and prayers are with News-Journal employees who will be affected by these cuts.

I was moved by the irrepressible Mark Lane’s recent Footnote column, “This is no time for April foolery,” a plaintive look at the importance of local journalism to the life of our community and an introspective take on the efforts a newspaper goes through to ‘get it right.’

Look, I’m the first to admit that the News-Journal can be its own worst enemy – I’ve often questioned its objectivity when it comes to reporting the machinations of our local “Rich and Powerful” oligarchs – and many have been critical of their wall-to-wall coverage of the darkest aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, on balance, our newspaper has served us well through good times and bad.

Look, no one is more hypercritical of our local public and private institutions than I am.

Hell, sniping from the sidelines is my stock in trade.

My sincere hope is you will help support the last vestiges of local journalism by subscribing, reading, and, when possible, advertising with The Daytona Beach News-Journal during these dark and difficult times.

We don’t have to agree with each other – I believe a healthy diversity of opinion strengthens the fabric of our community – but it is vitally important that our local newspaper survives this crisis.

These are our neighbors and they deserve our help.

Asshole           Florida’s Broken Unemployment System

Extraordinary circumstances often expose the atrocious inefficiencies and bureaucratic bottlenecks that exemplify the ossified status quo at all levels of government.

Just a few weeks ago, I doubt anyone could have predicted the overnight statewide closure of small businesses which left thousands of service-industry workers unemployed – many of whom will rely on our state’s meager unemployment benefits to feed their families.

The fact is, we pay government bureaucrats to do just that – predict and plan for the worst-case scenario!

So, what happens when they don’t?

In Florida, unemployment benefits are administrated by the Department of Economic Opportunity – yes, that Department of Economic Opportunity – under the direction of Ken Lawson, a former Marine Corps officer and federal prosecutor who has enjoyed a diverse and profitable career in state government under Rick Scott and now Governor Ron DeSantis.

In December, DeSantis moved Mr. Lawson from his cushy job as president of VISIT Florida to his current role as director of the multifunctional DEO, which, in addition to processing workforce unemployment benefits, is also responsible for Florida’s corporate welfare and “community development” initiatives.

Trust me – the abject failure of DEO to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers, who, through no fault of their own, find themselves financially ruined and worried about feeding their children in the immediate future – will far eclipse the agency’s past sins, like the $1-million Pit Bull debacle, the toxic spending at CareerSouce Tampa, etc., etc., etc.

In my view, as a former military officer, it is time Director Lawson accept personal responsibility for this colossal disaster – one that has left some applicants waiting over two-weeks just to access the online system, while others are left guessing if their application was accepted at all – and resign his position so someone, anyone, who knows what they’re doing can take the wheel.

My God.

I mean, imagine the shock of attempting to access these life sustaining benefits, only to find that Florida’s unemployment system is so horribly broken you can’t even log-in to the website, let alone get your phone call answered?

According to an eye-opening editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Fix Florida’s jobless benefit,” we learned that our state is “…one of only a few states that cuts off benefits after 12 weeks (most states allow 26) even for people who are demonstrably trying very hard to find work. And benefits are capped at only $275 a week – a number that hasn’t increased in two decades.”

In addition, many are coming to the disturbing realization that state regulations create an intentional roadblock to “casual, tourism-based” employees seeking to claim benefits – even as hundreds of traditionally low wage hospitality workers in Volusia County and beyond are being furloughed.

Now, we are being told the DEO will also be responsible for coordinating workers benefits under the federal stimulus package. . .

That’s wrong.

In my view, once we’re on the other side of this crisis, it is time we begin holding our state legislators politically accountable for determining how Florida’s unemployment system could become so mind-bogglingly inept – so terribly unfair – as struggling Florida workers find themselves essentially blocked from accessing their rightful benefits by this dreadfully faulty system.

Quote of the Week

“DeSantis and local officials can’t go back and make more timely decisions, but they can make it clear to Floridians: This is real. Follow these orders, or the restrictions will only get tougher.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial Board’s Our View column, “Right call on shutdown,” Thursday, April 2, 2020

Have we reached bottom yet?

I’m not talking about the number of people effected by the COVID-19 outbreak – I am referring to the non-stop assault on our civil liberties and basic freedoms – something our newspaper of record should be scrutinizing, not celebrating.

Is tightening the noose on law-abiding citizens who have followed the recommendations of the CDC and tried diligently to inform themselves, assist in “flattening the curve” and stop the spread of the coronavirus the new American Way?

Achtung!  Follow the orders or the restrictions will only get tougher!  

My God.

What are we becoming?

And Another Thing!

 Earlier this week – before Governor Ron DeSantis put us all in solitary confinement with little consideration for our collective sense of personal and community responsibility, or any thought for the millions in our state who voluntarily self-isolated and closely followed the recommendations of the CDC – the Daytona Beach City Commission met in “special session” to implement a nonsensical 10:00pm to 5:00am curfew to further sequester their constituents.

Now, given the sweeping nature of the DeSantis Lockdown, that curfew has been logically lifted.

But the intent is what matters to me.

Once again, Lord Protector Derrick “Henny-Penny” Henry demanded even more closures – openly contemplating which businesses are “essential” and which are not – in essence, waving his monarchical hand over those enterprises which will be permitted to survive, and those that will be sacrificed on the alter of government overreach.

In my view, this senseless restriction of lawful movement represented a slap in the face to the vast majority of Daytona Beach residents who are dutifully following proper protocols and acting in the best interest of their families and community.

Now, it’s a moot point.

Under political pressure to “do something,” His Excellency Governor Ron DeSantis caved and extended his cleverly disguised lockdown, benevolently known as “Safer at Home,” from high incidence areas in South Florida to the entire state – ordering that anyone not engaged in activities the government has deemed “essential” remain inside their homes.

Now, as of 12:01am this morning, County Manager George Recktenwald has ordered the complete closure of our expansive 47-miles of public beach.

Why?

“…because the county does not want to send an inconsistent message about social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

See, it has nothing to do with the concept of “public health” – or even enforcing the Governor’s stay at home order – and everything to do with how Volusia County’s “message” is received.

And, by any metric, their “unified” message has been an abject mess since this crisis began.

That’s called “criticism mitigation” and it is cowardly.

And speaking of people afraid to do the job they were hired for – will the complete closure of the beach mean that the 54 sworn law enforcement officers of the Beach Safety Department (who’s union vehemently demanded their jurisdiction be fenced off two-weeks ago in a politically threatening open letter to the County Council) be deployed to augment our courageous deputies and police officers throughout the county to support the coronavirus response – or merely sent home to hide until the bogyman leaves?

Just curious.

Because I, for one taxpayer, damn sure don’t want to pay a full complement of beach patrol personnel when they have absolutely nothing to do for the next 30-days or longer.

I’m weird that way.

For many of our elected and appointed officials turned Nanny-State hand-wringers, it wasn’t enough that 99% of citizens were guided by personal responsibility and sense of community to stay home, self-isolate and adopt commonsense measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Because trusting their constituents to do the right thing, for the right reasons, doesn’t get their name in the paper.

Instead, they came to believe it is imperative that government bureaucrats must tell us what to do and when to do it, to control our movements, to insinuate themselves into our homes and businesses and demand submission to their increasingly restrictive edicts and orders without question – or face fines and imprisonment – because it is in our “best interest.”

Stop thinking for yourselves.

That is now being done for you in some obscure state office in Tallahassee – and no one wants your input anyway.

For our friends and neighbors who have demanded, ad nauseam, that our local and state bureaucracies “do something to protect us from ourselves,” well, you finally got your wish.

Sleep well – your government is in complete control now.

Just make sure your ‘travel papers’ are in order.

Bullshit.

Most thinking people understand the horrible severity of this crisis and are voluntarily willing to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and those most vulnerable – and consider these excessively harsh measures to be an insult to their intelligence and constitutionally protected civil liberties.

Because they are.

In my view, since Mayor Henry has no problem putting his boot on the throat of small businesses – placing hundreds more area residents on the unemployment line – perhaps he should be willing to show some true leadership and donate his mayoral salary – estimated at $27,500 annually, plus a “weekly expense allowance” of $246.00 (about what an unemployed worker will receive in weekly benefits, that is, if they can log on to the system) along with an $18.23 per week cell phone allowance – official perquisites worth somewhere north of $40,000 annually – to a local service industry relief effort.

You know, let Hizzoner put some actual skin in the game – show some solidarity with his subjects – instead of simply issuing Royal Proclamations from on-high that will have an astronomically detrimental impact on struggling families – and our regional economy – long after the threat of coronavirus is quelled.

Don’t hold your breath. . .

Unprecedented times, indeed.

That’s all for me – be well, friends.

 

 

On Volusia: The first casualty

“…their presence, without quarantine, is a significant public health problem and a risk to the rest of us in this area.  This is a problem requiring various agencies: the hospitals, the Volusia County Health Department, and the various city police forces and the sheriff’s department to implement the governor’s standing order.  If it is not implemented or enforced, it has no effect and exposes our population to increasing and unnecessary risk.”

–Dr. Hal Kushner, Daytona Beach, American hero and Senior Member of the Volusia County Medical Society, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Is Volusia County Under Invasion?” Sunday, March 29, 2019

Something doesn’t smell right to me.

Last Friday, the News-Journal reported that no provisions had been made to screen and educate passengers arriving at Daytona Beach “International” Airport as required by an executive order issued by Governor Ron DeSantis on March 23, which requires anyone arriving in Florida from high incidence areas to self-quarantine for 14-days.

In his very informative article, “Officials: No screenings at local airports,” reporter Clayton Park wrote, “At this time, no one is being screened,” said Daytona Beach International Airport spokeswoman Joanne Magley. That would be up to the Department of Health. They’re the ones coordinating the efforts.”

It was bureaucratic finger pointing at its worst – and shocking to many who thought airport executives were asleep at the wheel during an unprecedented threat.

Because they were. . .

In response, Dr. Hal Kushner, writing on behalf of the Volusia County Medical Society, issued a persuasive plea in Sunday’s News-Journal asking officials to close the gaping hole in our local coronavirus defenses at Daytona International Airport.

Not to let a good opportunity go to waste, on Monday, I penned a little ditty calling attention to the fact that – despite Governor DeSantis’ executive order of March 23 – Volusia County’s leadership had yet to institute even cursory passenger vetting and education measures for persons arriving in our area.

Because that’s what we were told by the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who, on Sunday afternoon, shared official information on social media advising “The county has been informed by the state that it is phasing in this screening process first at major airports.”

And, “DAB has not been notified yet when screening will begin here.”

Not to be outdone, on Monday morning, District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post echoed Ms. Denys information on phased screening – then took her “colleagues” to the woodshed:

“Not taking action now because it’s not mandated, “there’s nothing to see here” or for fear that the monies won’t be reimbursed by the state or federal government is not responsible and not acceptable. I have expressed this to the County Manager and staff. If you agree, please email my colleagues on the County Council and let them know.”

Then, in an article published by the News-Journal on Wednesday, we were essentially told by Volusia County’s senior mouthpiece, Kevin Captain, that the Councilwomen were apparently full of shit – and, in fact, screening procedures were in place on Sunday?

Wow.

Were Denys and Post openly lying to us – or just out of the loop?

According to Captain, during a press conference on Friday, Governor DeSantis mentioned the need for small airports to step up, and “County leadership took that as permission to take a proactive approach rather than wait for implementation by the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Transportation.”

Really?

In addition, the always effervescent Captain foolishly claimed that Dr. Kushner’s letter in Sunday’s News-Journal, “was not a factor in the decision to start screening at the airport.”

Bullshit.

In truth, late Wednesday we learned that the “screening” being conducted by county officials at DAB consists of asking arriving passengers to complete a form listing their travel, then sign a statement documenting they understand the Governor’s order.

These “forms” are then filed with the Florida Department of Health.

Oh, participation is voluntary. . .

My ass.

Look, I realize spinning horseshit into cotton candy is Mr. Captain’s bread-and-butter, but he should know that attempting to protect the vanity of a few tinpot assholes who got caught behind the curve is what they call a “career limiter” in his business.

That said, to insinuate that the universally respected Dr. Hal Kushner and the Volusia County Medical Society’s urgent warning wasn’t a factor in establishing screening procedures at DAB defies reason.

In my view, this latest debacle exposes the importance of having a single point of official information during times of crisis – and the imperative that elected officials respect the emergency response system and suppress their natural instinct to grandstand.

These people couldn’t organize a one car parade – now, they are running our lives.

You will notice in coming days that politicians and the media are using terms like “we’re on a war footing now,” or “we are at war with an unseen enemy,” – emotional tropes designed to exploit our natural patriotism and make us feel we’re part of a pitched battle against microbial forces who are mounting an intelligent offensive to kill us all – sensationalism that will allow our ‘powers that be’ extraordinary latitude with our liberties and freedoms as they work to “win the war.”

Just remember the old adage, “The first casualty of war is the truth.”

 

Time is of the Essence

I’ve tried my best to keep my pie-hole shut and refrain from criticizing those who are actually in the arena, working hard to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, then I read something so asinine – so outrageous – that it prompts a visceral reaction that I simply cannot suppress.

Case in point – earlier this week, the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who is actively running for County Chair during what is fast becoming the weirdest election cycle in memory – attempted to explain on Facebook why passengers arriving at Daytona “International” Airport are still not being screened for flu-like symptoms or formally advised of our Governor’s precautionary order.

Last Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order which requires screening, isolation and quarantine of persons arriving in Florida from any area with “substantial community spread,” specifically including the New York/Tri-State area.

On Friday, that order was expanded to include persons travelling from the State of Louisiana – and “checkpoints” have been established on all major interstate highways – essentially to let those from hard-hit areas know that they are required to self-quarantine for 14-days – or face the potential of 60-days in jail.

Implementation of the Governor’s directive is apparently the responsibility of the Florida Department of Health.

Good luck enforcing that, Governor DeSantis – but, as an awareness, identification and intervention measure, in my view, it’s damn good public policy.

According to Councilwoman Denys, in the eight days since the executive order was put in place, the FDOH has been “phasing in” screening procedures – beginning with “major airports” – while non-vetted passengers continue to flood into the state through smaller airports from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as residents flee the outbreak in major metropolitan areas to vacation homes, condominiums and family in the Sunshine State.

Apparently, Daytona International Airport is still waiting for an engraved invitation from FDOH before taking even cursory actions to protect Volusia County residents from what is essentially a daily injection of potential coronavirus carriers.

I have been hypercritical of those elected officials who have called for the closure of Volusia County beaches and recreation areas based upon the fact that, with proper social distancing and spacing requirements, there appears little chance of contracting COVID-19 on the wide expanse of the beach.

In my view, people need the escape – the ability to get outdoors in a responsible manner – and enjoy the incredibly positive physical and psychological affects of fresh air and sunshine.

But this is different.  And dangerous.

Look, you don’t have to be an epidemiologist to understand the danger of open transmission routes from high incidence areas to those, like Volusia County, who, so far, have been spared exponential infection rates.

And stopping direct flights from the Tri-State is clearly ineffective as most arrive here from hubs in Atlanta and Charlotte.

Now, Governor DeSantis’ order doesn’t prohibit travel – it places commonsense restrictions on those who insinuate themselves into our neighborhoods, shop among us for necessities, use condominium common areas and place further burden on the local availability of goods and services – by directing that they self-isolate, just like the rest of us, for the good of the community.

On Sunday, Dr. Hal Kushner, a national hero and senior member of the Volusia County Medical Society, explained:

“…their presence, without quarantine, is a significant public health problem and a risk to the rest of us in this area.  This is a problem requiring various agencies: the hospitals, the Volusia County Health Department, and the various city police forces and the sheriff’s department to implement the governor’s standing order.  If it is not implemented or enforced, it has no effect and exposes our population to increasing and unnecessary risk.”

In addition, Dr. Kushner, speaking on behalf of the Volusia Medical Society, offered the groups support to local governments, public health officials and law enforcement to help implement Governor DeSantis’ executive order.

In my view, Dr. Kushner – and the intrepid members of the Medical Society – should be commended for offering to help protect our community – and for sounding the klaxon on the clear and present danger of this open point of exposure.

Now, it is time for County Manager George Recktenwald and County Chair Ed Kelley to act in the spirit of the county’s emergency declaration and close this gaping hole in our local defenses and stop waiting for the Florida Department of Health to get off their ass and give them permission to protect Volusia County residents.

Time is of the essence.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

 

 

 

When we dwell together. . .

“Due to the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic. . .”

The signs are everywhere, and you can end the horrible notice in hundreds of ways:

“. . .we will be closed until further notice.”

“. . .mom’s birthday celebration has been postponed.”

“. . .all service personnel will be furloughed.”

The news is grim, with headlines screaming about the exponential spread of this microbial enemy that has upended life as we know it, a 24-hour news cycle that continues to focus solely on the devastation – coverage that is quickly approaching a saturation point – the “information overload” stage when we become effectively numb to the constant flow of data and statistics that mark the rapid march of a pandemic.

Some of us are able to compartmentalize the gruesome reality of this disease, aware of the unseen danger, but determined to remain positive – while others seem consumed by it – frightened, isolated and gripped by a sense of foreboding that is clearly taking its toll mentally and physically.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people who have been infected with COVID-19 have experienced moderate symptoms and recover in due time with little complications.

However, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions remain at great risk.

That is why we are seeing a nationwide effort to self-isolate and observe social distancing when we venture out for necessities – at least most of us are – unprecedented measures that have required incredible sacrifice and have cost many of our friends, family and neighbors their livelihoods.

And, somehow, life goes on. . .

It’s beginning to feel and sound like spring – temperatures and humidity are beginning to rise; birds are chirping, and my seasonal allergies are marking the season of rebirth – a time of hope, optimism and renewal.

Only this year we must consciously suppress our natural desire to come together, join in groups with family and friends to enjoy our Florida weather, as we remain sequestered in our homes.

During this time, many have taken to social media to stay connected to friends and family in the absence of that all-important physical connection – relationships we will never underestimate again.

And the proliferation of Facebook messages, the sharing of memes, jokes and funny videos show the almost universal need to exercise our sense of humor as an effective coping mechanism during these trying times.

We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and the other milestones of life from our phone or a keyboard – sending well-wishes and congratulations sans the accompanying hug or handshake – and without the traditions and ceremonies that bind us.

It’s enough to depress even the strongest among us.

But, if you look closely, you will find strength, brightness and positivity all around us – things we can connect with as a community – qualities that are exemplified by individuals that have demonstrated incredible leadership and bolstered public confidence in so many unique ways.

For instance, Sheriff Michael Chitwood has spent the last few evenings delivering food for area restaurants – bringing attention to the plight of family owned businesses while keeping spirits high – while letting us know we’re all in this together.

In Daytona Beach, Chief Craig Capri – who has been a consistent voice of calm during turbulent times – performed a similar service for businesses in his community.

Or the incredibly uplifting scene of Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via leading a small parade of cars, complete with the United Brethren in Christ band performing on a flatbed trailer, through the neighborhoods of his community, bringing a smile and much-needed break in the monotony to appreciative residents.

Then, there are the many – both businesses and private citizens – who have found productive ways of helping by making hand sanitizer, sewing masks, packing lunches for children and distributing food to those who can’t afford basic sustenance.

I was particularly taken by County Manager George Recktenwald’s transparency in publicly discussing the emergency decision-making process as various departments and divisions work cooperatively to share information, coordinate with internal and external partners, weather the storm of criticism and develop public policy that, so far, has found a good balance between self-isolation and our ability to enjoy the physical and psychological benefits of our beach and outdoor recreation areas.

And I am consistently touched by the outpouring of support by what are essentially complete strangers – people who I have never personally met – that have reached out to offer their thoughts on this blog site, give a pat on the back, voice a criticism, thoughtfully discuss a local issue or just check to make sure that my family and I are doing okay during these uncertain times.

We are, thank you.

In my view, that speaks volumes to the inherent goodness that remains.

“Due to the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic. . .”

We rediscovered the many wonderful values that bind our community.

We were reminded of how vitally important our physical connection to family and friends truly is, especially during times of crisis.

We marveled at the extraordinary bravery of our first responders and medical professionals on the front line of this crisis.

We learned what it means to put petty differences aside, to think about the needs of others and truly come together as a community, as a state, as a nation to best a common foe and protect our most vulnerable through collective sacrifice.

We saw the best of us.

We found our inner strength.

Our faith was restored.

Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum

 

Angels & Assholes for March 27, 2020

Howdy my fellow shut-ins!

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.

Well, it’s been a slow week here in the Fun Coast’s Complaint Department.

Not much for me to whine about of late – at least not on the political, civic or social fronts – as our news cycle remains consumed by the “All Coronavirus/All the time” sensationalism that, in my view, continues to do more harm than good as our seclusion drives a sense of social claustrophobia and uncertainty.

My hope is our local newspaper, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, will reconsider its choice of words during this trying time.

For instance, screaming headlines, like – “Coronavirus: 785% increase in cases; two in Volusia, one in Flagler; still no stay-at-home orders” – don’t really paint an accurate picture of our current situation, at least according to our local hospital medical directors, and simply stoke the fears of readers who are helpless to do anything beyond enduring endless isolation or getting lost in the Byzantine maze of trying to sign up for unemployment benefits.

Who knew that improvised toilet tissue and interminable boredom were the only effective antidote to COVID-19?

Meanwhile, I pass the rosy hours here at Barker’s View HQ – reading, brooding and contemplating ever-changing events – trying desperately to limit my intake of what passes for “news” (difficult for a confirmed info-junkie).

I’m also dodging a constant barrage of Facebook Messenger videos – everything from home remedies for the coronavirus to a Brahma bull knitting a sweater to cartoonish morality plays about “hoarding” – weird vignettes which are literally pouring into my phone – Ding! Ding! Ding! – at all hours of the day from cloistered “friends” (my 84-year old mother at the head of the list) whose boredom-fueled need to share has clearly reached the wacky stage.

That’s okay – if it helps you pass the time with a sense of purpose – keep sending them.

But if you forward anything prefaced with “Let’s keep this going!” (that means you, mom) just know the one meme that would have saved the world died a quick death with me. . . sorry.

In reality, my days under this godawful self-quarantine aren’t much different than any other day in retirement – and those of you who are champing at the bit to retire from contributing jobs to a life of leisure should use this Groundhog Day experience as a precursor of what’s to come when your just reward arrives.

A little advice:

Be careful what you wish for. . .and stay gainfully employed as long as you can.

I hope you and your family are staying healthy and busy, keeping spirits bright and finding a way to occupy your time in productive ways that bring you closer – that’s important.

Please don’t forget to check on your elderly or vulnerable neighbors and make sure they are doing well during these frightful times – and if you don’t have anyone at home and feel lonely or depressed  – feel free to reach out to me.

You’re not alone.

Plus, I’m a damn good pen pal.

To that end, earlier in the week, I mentioned the possibility of organizing a Barker’s View “Meeting of the Minds” when this microbial monster is bested, and we are all able to join together as a tribe.

I’m happy to report the response was overwhelmingly positive.

So, I’m committed to doing just that once our current crisis is over.

We’ll find a willing locally owned establishment where we can all come together, enjoy the beverage of our choice and celebrate our new-found freedom in high style!

I’ll look forward to it.  I hope you will too.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole           Daytona Beach City Commission

On Tuesday, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and the City Commission did the right thing in courageously approving a wide-ranging relief package which will assist residents and businesses who have been financially devastated by government-imposed coronavirus prevention measures.

The program will see the city temporarily absorbing a portion of residents’ utility bills, setting aside building permit fees, suspending commercial rent at city-owned properties and other economic benefits.

The programmatic costs are being covered by the municipality’s reserve fund.

In my view, this outstanding humanitarian effort will assist many shattered families who lost their livelihoods almost instantaneously following unprecedented closures and restrictions, and help the many small businesses who are literally holding on by their fingernails.

Unfortunately, the elected officials couldn’t leave it at that.

Because it’s not enough to give your suffering constituents something of value during a time a crisis – the deal is not complete until you take something of value from them in return.

During the special session, Mayor Henry continued his foolish crusade to shut down Volusia County beaches and further contribute to the sense of civic confinement and building frustration as residents enter the second week of having their lives turned upside down by state and local officials who continue to use our sacred Constitution as toilet paper as supplies of Charmin run low in the Ivory Tower of Power. . .

According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal,  with little understanding of how the coronavirus is transmitted – or apparent care for the financial devastation that these cockamamie local ordinances and “emergency declarations” are having on our economy and residents – the majority of the Daytona Beach City Commission voted “…to send a resolution to the county urging that the beach be legally fenced off.”

Bullshit!

Look, I know I sound like a broken record – and I’ve been harangued by many on the importance of social distancing, even self-isolation, to “flattening the curve” – I get it.

But the prevention protocols of the Centers for Disease Control haven’t changed one iota since this crisis began – and Governor Ron DeSantis has continued to push for individual responsibility and commonsense local control while keeping beaches and recreation areas open to the public.

In my view, and that of recognized experts, there appears to be little threat to those who visit the wide expanse of an open beach while maintaining group restrictions and proper intervals – much less exposure than when residents venture out to forage for food at increasingly crowded grocery stores or obtain life sustaining drugs at pharmacies – yet, politicians seem to understand the intrinsic political value in allowing their constituents access to food and water.

At least for now. . .

Regardless, Mayor Henry continues to demand that county officials completely shut down access to the physical and psychological benefits of sunshine, warmth and fresh air.

Now, even Commissioner Aaron Delgado – who I consider the most stable of the bunch – has picked up the torch (after Mayor Henry failed to convince anyone of note outside City Hall to take him seriously) and is now “leading the charge” to erect a fence between citizens and their publicly owned beach.

Mind-boggling.

In keeping with this sweeping hysteria that is consuming local elected officials, beginning today, the City of New Smyrna Beach has closed boat ramps in that community, further sequestering residents and shutting them off from the relative isolation of the open water.

Really?  Boat ramps?

In my view, in perhaps the most horrific example of the malignant political arrogance that will mark the nadir of this crisis locally, Daytona Beach Commissioner Quanita May pontificated that  closing Volusia County beaches would “…send out the message that people can’t use Volusia County’s beaches to dodge the restrictions put in place to fight the virus.”

Even as she admitted that – every day – she walks on the beach, mornings and evenings. . .

So much for practicing the draconian measures that you so haughtily demand for the rest of us, eh?

If Commissioner May has her way – not even the relative peace of a day at the beach will allow us subjects of the realm to escape the iron boot of this ‘well intentioned’ tyranny.    

Now, that truly is “appalling.”

Infuriatingly, the rules will always remain different for those who make them – the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on the dais of power – who transmogrify into all-powerful martinets, undermining core civil liberties to “protect us from ourselves” as they continue to cobble together “public health laws” seemingly out of thin air.

Frankly, I’ve been impressed with County Manager George Recktenwald and County Chair Ed Kelley’s efforts to weather the storm of criticism and keep our beaches open.

In my view, it is time Florida counties and municipalities follow the leadership and authority of Governor DeSantis and stop this willy-nilly enactment of local lockdowns, shelter-in-place mandates, “stay-at-home” orders, and arbitrary business closures – the “let’s do something for the sake of doing something” legislation that is shitting on the constitutionally protected civil liberties and basic freedoms of their constituents.

During this crisis, local officials have constantly lectured that the reason we cannot simply be governed by CDC suggestions and commonsense recommendations is because We, The People aren’t “taking this seriously enough,” or we can’t be trusted to do the right thing to protect ourselves and our families if we are given access to the knowledge we need to make a decision.

I don’t know what this is, but we are no longer living in a participatory democracy.

Perhaps our benevolent nannies in local elected and appointed positions should remember that they derive power from usthe will of the people – and we won’t soon forget this overreach at the ballot box –  when those we elected to represent our interest treated us as subjects, not citizens – and enforced obedience through irresponsible fear-mongering and oppressive decrees.

Angel               Sheriff Mike Chitwood and the Volusia Deputies Association

Our brave first responders face myriad dangers while serving and protecting our communities – and the traditions and nature of their essential services require that they suit up, show up, and hold the line regardless of the threat.

I’ve said this before, the response at all levels of government has appeared choppy – policies enacted at a 9:00am press conference are no longer relevant at 5:00pm – and it appears our elected leadership has yet to break the seal on their jurisdictions comprehensive emergency management plans.

Yet, our first responders have never wavered.

It appears our political leadership has chosen to engage in what appears to be a game of seat-of-the-pants one-upmanship – making life-altering decisions on the fly – closing businesses, shutting down public recreation areas, limiting movements, and, in some areas of the country, locking down entire cities without a thought to due process or even a good explanation.

Clearly, our leadership gave little thought or planning to the management of potential pandemics – a point made clear by the glaring lapses in executive policies that should go into effect immediately upon an emergency declaration.

Last week, Sheriff Michael Chitwood publicly supported a push by the Volusia County Deputies Association requesting that Governor DeSantis issue an executive order directing that any first responder in the state who contracts COVID-19 would be presumed to have been infected by the virus while on-duty.

In addition, the measure would require that any period of hospitalization, quarantine or self-isolation be paid as on-duty time – rather than deducted from the public safety officials sick, vacation or personal leave time – terming the period of incapacitation as “emergency hazard health duty.” 

I agree wholeheartedly.

In my view, this legal presumption should be extended to cover healthcare professionals who work in public hospitals, testing sites and infection control areas, who, like first responders, do not have the option of standing down or protecting themselves and their families from infection as they perform their vital work in service to our community.

In my view, this commonsense directive should have taken effect throughout the state immediately upon activation of any pandemic emergency declaration – and any authorization should be retroactive to cover those courageous first responders who have contracted COVID-19 since this crisis began.

As Sheriff Chitwood said, it is not a matter of if a first responder will be infected – but when.

Frightening.

Kudos to Sheriff Chitwood and the Volusia Deputies Association for supporting this important measure to protect all first responders as they boldly hold the line during these unprecedented times.

Angel               Halifax Area Hospitality Industry  

No one takes more perverse pleasure in holding the leadership of our local tourism, convention and hospitality apparatus accountable for their various missteps as they haplessly flail for a way to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that has become their “brand” than I do.

But this isn’t a gaffe over some goofy marketing slogan.

These are desperate times.

Earlier this week, in a disturbing piece entitled, “Hotels begin cutting staff,” News-Journal reporter Jim Abbott explored the devastating affects of the coronavirus on Halifax Area hospitality workers as resort properties face single-digit occupancy rates.

For instance, at the Shores Resort & Spa, 90 employees have been furloughed – representing 85% of the workforce – as other area hoteliers prepare to close their doors indefinitely.

Despite what our ‘powers that be’ would have us believe – Volusia County remains a challenged, service-based economy – with some 43% of area households not earning enough to consistently cover basic living expenses – placing many residents at serious risk for financial ruin, even  homelessness.

When you add the thousands of our neighbors who have been laid off from their jobs at area bars, restaurants and other face-to-face businesses in the past week, it is depressing to consider how many families are being bankrupted by this crisis.

In my view, this extraordinary period of rapid unemployment underscores the imperative that our do-nothing “economic development” shills at Team Volusia (who, inexplicably, still refuse to recognize tourism and hospitality as a “key industry” in our area) get off their collective ass and recruit a diverse range of employers offering more than storeroom jobs and scut work.

It is time we demand that those who accept public funds to market the Halifax Area start living up to their hollow promise of “high paying jobs” and allow our desperate workforce innovative opportunities to prosper in this new reality.

We live in strange times – where the cure may well be worse than the disease – and the citizens of the Halifax Area and beyond face the possibility of being “saved” by draconian measures – so they can live in the grip of abject poverty not seen since the Great Depression.

As time runs out for many local businesses, perhaps we should demand our local and state elected officials take immediate and direct action to save our economic lives with equal enthusiasm?

For now, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are experiencing the ruinous effects of these dubious government-imposed measures that seemingly pick which industry wins – and which loose – and have put thousands of our neighbors on the unemployment line.

Please give generously to area service-industry relief organizations.

Angel               Samuel “Rip” Collins

The Barker’s View sports desk has learned of the passing of Samuel “Rip” Collins, a former Bethune-Cookman Wildcat football great who went on to a legendary local coaching career, at the age of 104.

Coach Collins’ positive influence on our community went far beyond the playing field.

He was a true hero.

The following is excerpted from a most fitting tribute by Bethune-Cookman University Athletics:

Samuel Collins came to Bethune-Cookman in the 1940s on a football scholarship when the program was then a two-year school.

He then transferred to Clark in Atlanta, before being drafted into the U.S. Army.

Upon being honorably discharged, Collins returned to Bethune-Cookman and received a bachelor’s degree in 1947, the last year founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune served as President.

Dr. Bethune personally conferred his degree.

After graduation, Collins accepted a teaching position at Hutto High School in Bainbridge, Georgia. His next move landed him in DeFuniak Springs at Tivoli, whose athletic program thrived under his leadership, as he started a football program that enjoyed success against schools twice or three times larger.

Returning to Volusia County, Collins was the first football coach at Campbell Junior High School and also coached at Campbell Senior High.

He would later become the first baseball coach at Spruce Creek High School.

Along with Sallie Shelton-Culver — another Bethune-Cookman alum – Collins was one of the first African American teachers at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School before the school’s legally mandated integration in 1969.

Instead of coaching football, he was originally assigned tennis – a sport he never participated in but learned and developed into a winning program.

In 1985, he was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

He married his college sweetheart, Ollye Eichelberger, in March 1942.  The couple remained married 77 years later.

They had three children, Samuel III (deceased), Thaddeus and Sonya. He was a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Rest in Peace, Coach.

Quote of the Week

“Consider this: 3,068,000 Floridians (moms, dads, etc.) are employed in Florida’s tourism, hospitality, restaurants, retail trade and affiliated trade and wholesale businesses. That’s 34% of all jobs, the largest segment of employment in the state.”

“These are the businesses that typically have the least amount of financial wherewithal to withstand a shock like this. These businesses need immediate assistance — not two weeks from now. They need it now!”

–Matt Walsh and Joel Schleicher, Ormond Beach Observer Opinion Section, “Gov. DeSantis, we need economic hope,” Monday, March 23, 2020

And Another Thing!

Here’s an urgent message from Gloria Max, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties – and one of the true angels in our community:

“The Jerry Doliner Food Bank of the Jewish Federation has wonderful volunteers and we have seen a huge increase of people coming for food.

Somehow, we have been able to keep up with our supply of food, but it is costing us a lot more. We are asking the public to donate funds so we can continue to assist our needy clients, regardless of race or religion. Even small donations add up. One hundred percent of all donations go for food, as our administration absorbs all costs. We at the Federation have never seen anything like this and we have been giving out food for over 30-years.

Please help us assist those who are vulnerable.”

To contribute, please mail checks to the Jerry Doliner Food Bank, 470 Andalusia Avenue, Ormond Beach, Florida 32174.

Please, help if you can – many in our community need it now, more than ever.

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

Now, I’m going back to feverishly nursing from this bottle of Tito’s and staring catatonically at the television as Pete Weber bowls against Walter Ray Williams, Jr. in the Barbasol World Championship from Lubbock circa 2016. . .

Keep your chin up, folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Expression in a Time of Crisis

In Sunday’s edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal the headline reassured us, “Humanity will prevail.” 

Will it?

Will our basic sense of humanity really pass the coronavirus test?

I have no doubt our species will survive COVID-19 and prevail as the highest life-form on the planet as we ultimately find the right chemical compound to kill it – and a vaccine to ensure it stays dead.

But what will our nation – our sense of society and community – look like on the other side of this crisis?

I recently posted on social media what I thought was an interesting question about the preventive curtailment of certain basic American freedoms – like our right to association, to engage in otherwise lawful conduct, to operate a business and engage in commerce without government intrusion.

The countermeasures adopted by all levels of government are unprecedented, and have caused some to contemplate if our civil liberties are a myth – applicable only until the next ‘emergency declaration’ gives federal and state elected officials (and their amateur counterparts in local governments) the authority to confine our movements, close our businesses and shutdown public beaches and recreation areas.

Not by providing sound information and suggestions – but through draconian mandates, measures which seem to change hourly in some interstate gubernatorial one-upmanship – backed by the force of law.

Your thoughts may (and should) differ from mine – and that’s okay.

Regardless of my personal opinions, I am following the rules and practicing the prevention suggestions of the Centers for Disease Control, as I hope everyone else is.

When the first comments appeared on my post, I immediately regretted the decision to ask a philosophic question as the responses turned partisan, ugly and angry.

I watched in horror as my Facebook “friends,” i.e., people I am connected with on the social media platform but have never met in person – began openly attacking actual friends of mine, i.e., people with whom I have actually shared life experiences and developed a personal relationship.

It made me uncomfortable.

Then, as things digressed, members from all categories of my “friends” branched off into internecine skirmishes – arguing presidential politics, hurling invectives and pointing fingers of blame.

In one exchange, I was shocked when a self-described healthcare professional told her over-agitated political antagonist out there in the ether that she would still save his life if he were infected by the virus (rather than let him die over his political opinion?) as through that has become an option in this country. . .

As I watched the conflagration build, I contemplated simply taking the post down with the click of a button – but since we can’t switch these issues off “in real life,” and will ultimately need to have a national conversation on these important questions – I let the post stand.

Then, this weekend I published an essay here on Barker’s View entitled, “A step too far?” wherein I questioned Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post’s call for the complete closure of beaches, recreation areas and businesses – even after she agreed to relegate emergency executive authority to County Manager George Recktenwald and County Chair Ed Kelley.

In my view, Ms. Post broke emergency management protocols when she publicly lobbied in an open letter – effectively violating the agreement to allow Recktenwald and Kelley to make these important decisions – while upending the single source of public information policy that seeks to avoid confusion during a crisis.

I didn’t agree with her – and I said so.

That made other people uncomfortable.

The piece sparked a massive response from Barker’s View readers, with many engaging me on social media and privately, either supporting my opinion, voicing their own views or vehemently protecting Councilwoman Post from what some felt was an “attack” as she tried to educate her constituents on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Some lashed out at the source, accusing me of breaking ranks with those trying to end the status quo in Volusia County – or allowing my views on beach access and driving to outweigh the public good – while others took the opportunity to tell me how “disappointed” in me they are.

However, in my view, had I failed to call attention to this important issue, or show favoritism, it would have been disingenuous, and I would have felt less of myself (if that’s possible.)

The fact is, I normally support Ms. Post – especially in her attempts to bring a fact-based alternative opinion to the lockstep conformity of county government – and I happen to know she has the hard bark of a now veteran politician which allows her to take criticism in the spirit in which it is given.

But the shear number of people who accessed and read the blog post – then took the time to share their views with me – proved once again how fragmented we are in Volusia County and beyond – yet, how willing we are to voice our opinions – even during a time of national crisis.

Believe it or not, I try not to take politics too seriously – it’s not something I fixate on – and my opinions on the issues tend to come from my own knee-jerk reaction, rather than an in-depth analysis.

Now that we’re all cooped up in our homes – trying hard to do the right thing and prevent the spread of this microbial monster that is actively destroying our economy and threatening the lives and livelihoods of our family, friends and neighbors – I find my thoughts turning more insular, more brooding and dark.

But, is what we’re seeing really the best of our national values at play?

While contemplating the meaning of all this, I got depressed thinking, ‘How can we claim to “all be in this together,” if we remain tribalized by local, state  and  national politics – republicans vs. democrats, liberals vs. conservatives, the haves and have nots – locked in an ideological war for the soul of a nation, a pitched battle that seemingly knows no boundaries or circumstance where hatred isn’t an appropriate initial response.

After contemplating the issue for a moment, I realized that what I was witnessing is the very essence of a free and open society.

In fact, there is nothing more typically American than arguing the issues, exercising our right to free speech and expression, vocalizing our fears, airing our concerns and staunchly defending our views and values through raucous debate – and the fact one participant in a pitched argument would remind their opponent that they will still care for them – regardless of how different their views may be – speaks volumes about our underlying sense of unity.

Our political and personal opinions on the issues of the day remain as individual as our fingerprints – and our willingness to share and defend them is refreshing.

That reinforces my faith in our local and national values.

Humanity will prevail.

Perhaps when this crisis has passed, it will be time to have a good old-fashioned Barker’s View “Meeting of the Minds,” at a locally owned establishment where we can join together with the beverage of our choice, put a face to a name – once again shake hands – and embrace each other and those things that unite us.

Let me know what you think.

A step too far?

Since taking office three years ago, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post has been a walking political contradiction – a self-described maverick who bucks the entrenched “system,” seemingly going against the grain on controversial issues – yet routinely votes in lockstep conformity with her “colleagues” on the dais of power, especially in development and beach access issues.

Like many, I have a soft spot for Ms. Post – she can be friendly, attentive, accessible to most constituents (who agree with her position) and fiercely inquisitive when exploring the issues – and she’s not afraid to throw a sharp elbow or two during her frequent spats with our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair Ed Kelley.

Conversely, she can also be insular, accusatory, politically paranoid and shamelessly self-promoting – going to great lengths to avoid speaking to the working press – choosing instead to couch her message behind a social media presence only she can control.

To say Ms. Post has a high opinion of herself is an understatement – but that sense of self-confidence has served her well through the turbulent times – and I have supported her efforts to bring an alternative opinion to difficult issues.

I have also taken her to task when warranted.

Last year, in a piece entitled “The trials of Heather Post,” I aptly described the Councilwoman as an “uber-weird show-boater with a ‘look at me’ complex” – because that’s what she is.

But since when has that personality quirk prohibited anyone from holding public office?

Unfortunately, preening and posturing has become a prerequisite – a common trait found in politicians everywhere – but there is an appropriate time and place for playing to the crowd.

This isn’t it.

During an emergency, when we really need our public officials to demonstrate strong leadership, build public confidence and calm the fears of worried constituents – political opportunism becomes glaringly apparent to anyone paying attention.

Earlier this week, “From the office of Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post” (wherever that is) came a fustian manifesto in which Ms. Post explains, ad nauseam, her concerns over the spread of the coronavirus – while making sure to mention that she has personally spoken to the “White House Coronavirus Task Force” (Really? The District 4 Councilwoman from Hooterville, Florida called the White House?) – and lectured us about “mixed messages” – before demanding the immediate closure of all parks, beaches, recreation facilities – and “shutting down businesses completely for the two-week duration.”

Say what?  

Now, anyone paying attention can see that Ms. Post’s panicked reaction was an overblown and undisguised attempt to prop up the threatening screed previously issued by her political supporters at the Volusia Waterman’s Association – the union representing beach safety employees – who are apparently operating in an almost neurotic state of anxiety – and have called for the complete closure of our beaches.

In my view, Post’s official declaration went a step too far.

Why?

Because Ms. Post’s fear-mongering came from a sitting elected official who, just this week, agreed that all emergency management decisions would be made by the Dream Team of County Manager George Recktenwald and Chairman Kelley for the duration of the threat.

Despite this agreed upon protocol, Ms. Post simply could not sit still – because it would be unthinkable for her to let a good crisis go to waste without an opportunity to grandstand.

So, she hyper-dramatically blames her fellow elected officials for not doing enough – for failing to ACT with sufficient overreach to meet the growing crisis. . .  

Unlike her “colleagues” – with the exception of the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys who saw fit to join Kelley and Recktenwald at a stilted after-hours “press conference” to announce the asinine closure of beach ramps (?) – Ms. Post broke established policy and used her office to call for draconian countermeasures which would further crush small business, destroy our local economy and limit the public’s access to safe outdoor recreation opportunities.

Look, given Ms. Post’s history of overstepping procedural boundaries during hurricanes and previous emergencies, insinuating herself into photo opportunities and generally ignoring the concept of single source public information practices – her rambling diatribe is nothing new, or unexpected. . .

That doesn’t make it right.

In my view, once emergency management operations are established, the rules apply to everyone equally – or they apply to no one.

I suspect that in coming hours or days Ms. Post will get her fervent wish to see the beach closed, and even more businesses shuttered, as Governor Ron DeSantis continues his ever-changing “death by a thousand cuts” crisis response.

Then Ms. Post can take the credit she so desperately seeks.

Whatever.

Given Ms. Post’s prior law enforcement experience, she should understand the importance of a unified message – instead, Post acts like she’s playing a role in some science fiction movie.

In my view, Councilwoman Post should understand that true crisis leadership means stepping back, allowing emergency management protocols to function properly, and refrain from muddying the waters with frightening, ill-timed screeds that exacerbate the expanding financial crisis, fan the flames of panic and further unravel our civic fabric during these unprecedented times.

Anything less truly is “reckless and irresponsible.”

 

Angels & Assholes for March 20, 2020

Hey, 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.

As most loyal readers of these screeds have figured out – I’m something of a nonconformist.

I don’t like being told what to do – or how to do it – especially when its my government dictating what I will or won’t do – usurping my right to make informed decisions for myself and my family while issuing what is essentially a death sentence for many small local businesses who are actively laying off our friends and neighbors following a government-imposed shutdown of commerce in response to the coronavirus.

As I write this, my heart bleeds for friends and neighbors who are actively losing their livelihoods and shuttering their businesses as we engage in this national panic to do something, anything, to protect the masses from the virus.

In over thirty years in public service, I learned that people will comply with subjective orders and mandates only so long as they can see the public benefit.

Once they suspect that draconian measures have crossed into the realm of the ridiculous or feel base politics are at play – they will question the strategy – and we will begin seeing civil disobedience if/when citizens perceive an infringement on their constitutionally protected rights and freedoms.

That’s frightening.

The process begins when citizens feel they are slowly being turned into subjects – manipulated by fear and financially ruined by capricious restrictions that seem to change hourly – and appear to favor one business or industry over another in the name of “the public good.”

When government overreach – regardless of the threat – inhibits our ability to make informed decisions for ourselves and our family, free-thinking citizens of a constitutional republic will begin to push back from what they perceive as oppression – regardless if it’s in our collective “best interest” or not.

My sincere hope is that our elected and appointed ‘powers that be’ at all levels of government understand that there are natural limitations to this “preventative” intrusion in our lives and livelihoods – and no one benefits when law abiding citizens are forced into a corner because our elected officials “know what’s best for us.”

We understand the benefits of “social distancing,” frequent hand washing, staying home if we’re sick, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, keeping kids out of school and taking logical precautions to protect ourselves – just like we do every flu season.

And we understand that the coronavirus represents an unprecedented threat.

But why not take enforcement action on those groups and individuals who violate crisis response regulations, rather than continue to adopt widespread and increasingly harsh mandates that affect everyone?

In my view, citizens in a free society don’t understand impulsive and seemingly random decisions to ensure lockstep conformity with other government entities – or nonsensical measures like closing vehicular beach access – or the wholesale destruction of our local economy with a mishmash of restrictions that insult our intelligence and suppress our civil liberties – simply because some officious government entity believes we cannot make prudent decisions for ourselves.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel               Volusia County Council

Asshole           The Nanny State of Volusia County

We live in strange times.

Made stranger by the fact this would have been the second time in as many weeks I counted the Volusia County Council in the Angel column.

On Tuesday, for the first time in a long time, I felt our elected officials demonstrated true leadership in carefully considering emergency mitigation efforts in response to the coronavirus – even in the face of withering criticism – when they decided on reasonable measures to protect public beach access while recognizing the needs of threatened small businesses.

Then – like always – our elected and appointed officials pulled defeat from the jaws of victory by succumbing to their natural need to overreact.

I wrote the following missive earlier this week, congratulating our elected officials on what, at the time, was a measured response in keeping Volusia County beaches open.

Then, late yesterday afternoon, they turned tail and saw fit to close beach approaches and eliminate beach driving as visitors and residents seek refuge from the claustrophobia of social isolation by getting outdoors and enjoying our beach.

Here’s my original – clearly premature – thoughts:

As the Volusia County Council sat for their regular meeting, Governor Ron DeSantis was in Tallahassee actively shutting down bars and drastically curtailing restaurant operations for the next 30-days – before closing all public schools in Florida until at least April 15 – giving the impression he is simply pulling new measures out of his ass every two-hours in an apparent race to one-up New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the State of California for the most draconian response. . .

To ensure efficient command and control, the council gave County Manager George Recktenwald and (frighteningly) our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair Ed Kelley, wide-ranging authority to make unilateral decisions to expedite crisis management decisions (and shield vulnerable council members who are running for reelection from potential criticism) during the emergency declaration. 

When talk turned to protecting Volusia County residents during these uncertain times, I watched our elected officials engage in a thoughtful, contemplative and controlled discussion – which included a presentation by Volusia County public health officials – who provided a peek into the byzantine world of our state and local system, which, once this panic is over, is in desperate need of a complete overhaul – especially in terms of reporting and public information protocols.    

Don’t get me wrong, there were the usual spits and spats between Chairman Kelley and the overly inquisitive Councilwoman Heather Post – and a few cringeworthy moments as some of our elected officials provided their weird thoughts and freewheeling commentary on the issues  – but, for the most part, I was impressed with their ability to work cooperatively when it counts.

And these important decisions were not without controversy. 

Earlier this week, the Volusia Watermen’s Association – a labor union of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters which represents Beach Safety and Ocean Rescue employees – issued a damning open letter to council members accusing them of putting lives at risk by not closing our public beaches, and spewing hyper-dramatic horseshit like, “Every day you wait to act, the virus spreads. . .”

Even though public health officials continue to report no community acquired cases of the virus in Volusia County.

The screed culminated in the rather self-absorbed line, “…if a single Beach Safety employee get sick while you continue to fail to act, we will all know who to blame.”

Bullshit.  

I found it unconscionable that Beach Safety officers, men and women who have sworn to serve and protect, even at risk to their own personal safety, would put their name to this mewling tripe – ignoring the sacred traditions of their service – while seeking the complete closure of their jurisdiction at the first sign of a crisis?

And since when do career civil servants’ issue not-so-veiled political threats to duly elected officials? 

I’m pretty sure that’s not the way our system works. . .

Throughout Volusia County and beyond, the brave men and women of law enforcement, the fire service, emergency medical personnel and dedicated healthcare professionals continue to boldly hold the line – honoring their sacred oath without the convenience of barricading off their entire area of responsibility – putting themselves in harm’s way, instilling public confidence, protecting their neighbors and serving the needs of anxious communities – despite the very real personal hazards they face. 

By their very presence, these public servants bring a sense of calm assurance to frightened residents. 

In my view, anything less is unacceptable – and irresponsible.

If beach safety personnel don’t feel they can stand their post – then they can resign – and retreat to the relative safety of their homes. 

Ultimately, the Volusia County Council took reasonable steps, in concurrence with Governor DeSantis’ mandates, to keep our beaches open and accessible while limiting groups to ten or less with “social distancing” spacing requirements. 

Given the safety provided by the wide expanse of our beaches – which allows people to easily maintain spacing – coupled with the intrinsic physical and psychological benefits of getting outdoors in the sunshine and enjoying the warm breeze – it was the right thing to do. 

Thanks, and kudos to the Volusia County Council – and all of our county staffers, emergency management personnel and first responders on these commonsense crisis response and mitigation efforts.   

Yeah, right.

For reasons that have yet to be fully explained, yesterday afternoon County Manager George Recktenwald announced that beginning Friday, vehicular beach access ramps will be closed in New Smyrna Beach – and, on Saturday, the ban will extend to include all Volusia County beaches.

Bullshit.

Welcome to the Recktenwald/Kelley Emergency Junta – where your beach-going habits are monitored by drones and “Beach Safety officers” (who have proven they would rather be anywhere else) while disabled persons, families with special needs and those of us who support beach management with our hard-earned tax dollars are forced to park wherever we can find a spot and dodge dangerous traffic lanes to access our beach.

Why not enforce the law on groups and individuals who refuse to comply with separation regulations – rather than inconvenience Volusia County beach goers with a driving ban?

As always, these reflexive actions create even more questions and anxiety.

Is this ridiculous mandate only for this Saturday and Sunday – or will the driving ban be extended as the weather warms and residents want to access their beach? 

Well, that’s apparently going to be ‘reevaluated’ by county officials who have proven, time and again, they couldn’t pour piss out of boot with the instructions on the heel.

At a stilted “press conference” last evening – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys tried her level best to demonstrate some semblance of “leadership” to bolster credibility for her run for County Chair – yet, typically, she came off looking like the mealy-mouthed, flip-flopping, responsibility dodging coward she’s become known for.

During a crisis, we expect strong, focused leadership – and this is what we get?

How sad. . .

In my view, our elected officials can blame it on the Centers for Disease Control all they want – but the agency’s prevention guidance hasn’t wavered – and not once have I heard anyone at CDC proclaim that driving a vehicle on a public beach – or associating in groups of less than ten in the open sunshine and fresh air – has resulted in any community acquired infections.

I suspect when the parking complaints start pouring in this weekend from outraged neighborhoods as people exercise their right to access our public beaches by parking anywhere and everywhere they can find a spot – we will see even more cockamamie restrictions in coming days.

Look, if you feel Volusia County beaches should be closed in the interest of public health, that’s fine – stay home.

We can disagree.  That’s okay.

But I happen to be of the mindset that says the risk of contracting the coronavirus while visiting the beach is minimal – as Governor DeSantis suggested in his initial decision to keep Florida beaches open – and I’m quite certain my family and I can make these decisions for ourselves.

Angel               Chief Craig Capri

In my view, Sheriff Michael Chitwood and Daytona Beach Chief of Police Craig Capri have shown outstanding leadership during this crisis – a voice of calm reason who continue to put out commonsense information that builds community confidence and salves fears.

When it comes to commonsense leadership and the development of community-based programs that work, few can match the efforts of Chief Capri.

Last year, the City of Daytona Beach took direct action to effectively eliminate the number of aggressive panhandlers that occupied literally every major intersection in the Halifax Area – a scourge that saw professional mendicants playing on the sympathy and good nature of residents – while ruining the aesthetics of our community.

In an excellent piece in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices column earlier this week, Chief Capri expertly summarized the advent of a highly effective ordinance which gave police the tools necessary to drive roadside grifters out of town and stop the proliferation of this insidious practice.

In my view, the City of Daytona Beach got it right when they recognized a community nuisance and adopted proven measures to eliminate it – a program that has paid dividends throughout east Volusia County.

Good work!

Angel               Copper Bottom Distillery

I’ve always said the City of Holly Hill represents the best of small-town Florida – where, during times of crisis and calm, residents and businesses join together to prop each other up – a real sense of community where the worst of times always brings out the best.

In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, our neighbors at Copper Bottom Distillery have begun producing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help protect from the spread of the virus – distributing it free of charge to anyone with a need and a four-ounce container.

On Wednesday, dear friends of mine who operate a small local business were concerned about protecting their employees when they found store shelves bare of commercial hand sanitizer and other cleaning products.

Upon learning of Copper Bottom’s extraordinary community service – my friend drove to the Holly Hill distillery and was quickly provided with ample supplies.

What an incredibly generous way to help during this time of fear and uncertainty.

According to reports, the distillery is asking for donations of white table sugar, xanthan gum and bottles to assist with production and distribution.

The hand cleanser is available at Copper Bottom through tomorrow during normal business hours – 12:00pm to 7:00pm – at 998 North Beach Street in Holly Hill.

I hope you will remember this good deed by a local business who saw a need and immediately took steps to meet it when this crisis has passed.

In my view, Copper Bottom produces some of the finest spirits currently in production anywhere – and their handcrafted products can be found at the distillery or your favorite local liquor purveyor.

Please join me in shopping with this wonderful family owned business and say ‘thank you’ for their dedication to protecting the health of their neighbors – and improving our collective quality of life during a difficult time.

Angel               The “Five Families of the Halifax”

On Wednesday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported the news many have been anxiously awaiting:

Bethune-Cookman University is poised to receive a $17.3 million infusion of much-needed cash when Governor Ron DeSantis approves the state budget – which includes $13 million in new funding – a financial inoculation that just might save the imperiled institution from the “edge of extinction.” 

In addition, Bethune-Cookman President Brent Chrite recently received individual $50,000 donations from some of the Halifax Area’s most important and successful business icons and philanthropists; to include, Mori Hosseini, Glenn and Connie Ritchey, Hyatt and Cici Brown and L. Gale Lemerand – along with a $55,000 check from long-time B-CU supporters Lowell and Nancy Lohman.   

According to a report by the News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, former Mayor Ritchey explained “It’s seed money from the business community.  It’s a beginning.  We want to show support for Bethune-Cookman.”

A wonderful new start, indeed.  

The article went on to provide a laundry list of state politicians who had a hand in cobbling together the funding bill – and while we appreciate their efforts – I think we all know where the credit truly belongs. . .

Despite the fact I often take him to task in this space for development and growth management issues – or for using his considerable power to control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast – I have a great deal of respect for Mori Hossieni.

I’m almost certain that he and I don’t agree on anything, but, in my view, he epitomizes the “American Dream” – the promise that with hard work and perseverance one can achieve great things in this country, and make no mistake, few people in the history of the State of Florida have attained more financial success (or raw political influence) than Mr. Hossieni.

Trust me.  Our elected state officials can slap themselves on the back all they want – but none of this happens without Mr. Hossieni’s “encouragement” at the highest levels of government.

Love it or hate it – that’s the way the game is played – and Mori Hossieni is the undisputed champion of the political playing field.

Fortunately, Mr. Hossieni, who has been a longtime advocate for higher education in our state, saw the dire circumstances that have brought Dr. Bethune’s dream – and the hopes of students and anxious alumni – to the very precipice of disaster.

When it mattered most – Mr. Hossieni rode to the rescue of an embattled institution that holds such vital importance to our community – and he did it behind the scenes, leaving the accolades for the politicians who did the heavy lifting.

I admire that. 

I believe this substantial state funding measure – coupled with the generous personal investment of those in a position to truly help – represents a real turning point in Bethune-Cookman’s long institutional nightmare.

Thank you.  Your generosity has made a difference in the lives of many.    

Let’s all take encouragement in Dr. Chrite’s assessment this week:

“I’m so excited about the future of this institution,” he said. “The issues here were caused by inept and corrupt leadership, and they can be fixed by integrity and good leadership. We’ve got the pieces in place.”

Quote of the Week

“The current outbreak is a timely reminder of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ nod, more than a hundred years ago, to sunlight’s disinfecting properties. Brandeis is thought to have been paraphrasing the British jurist James Bryce, who wrote about government transparency in his 1888 book, “The American Commonwealth.”

“Public opinion is a sort of atmosphere, fresh, keen, and full of sunlight, like that of the American cities,” he wrote, “and this sunlight kills many of those noxious germs which are hatched where politicians congregate.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal Our View column, “Sunshine, our best disinfectant,” Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Now, there’s something we can all agree on. . .

And Another Thing!

Since Colonial times, the neighborhood tavern has been a place for community members to gather, enjoy a pint, discuss and debate the news of the day, watch the game, relax with friends and celebrate the blessings of life.

I have my spot – perhaps you have a special place “where everybody knows your name.”

Earlier this week, Governor Ron DeSantis followed the lead of other states in abruptly closing bars and seriously curtailing the hours and operating conditions of restaurants in the latest measure to limit social gatherings in the face of the coronavirus.

As Newton’s third law explained, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and in our fragile service-based economy – the negative consequence of this government imposition on small businesses will result in massive layoffs, with many establishments closing their doors forever.

Seemingly unfazed by this unfolding financial disaster, earlier this week, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry – in his simpleminded crusade to stop Spring Break even if it bankrupts the rest of us – argued to further curtail the hours restaurants can sell alcohol, even as some speculate that 30-40% of area restaurants could go away in coming weeks.

In turn, rather than being a calming presence during a crisis, Mayor Henry thought it best to fan the flames of panic by calling this “the greatest threat of our lifetime.”

Really?

Whatever.

Mayor Henry’s histrionics aside – we live in a symbiotic economy – a true interdependence where pressure on one segment is felt by everyone.

Tragically, many of our neighbors are losing their jobs at an unprecedented rate, businesses are shutting the doors and feelings of fear, anger and frustration are beginning to fill the void.

Not that Mr. Henry gives two-shits – so long as those damn kids get off the beach. . .

In my view, the extent and seemingly arbitrary nature of these closures – where government decides which industries live and which small businesses die – is a conversation we are going to have in this country once this societal panic subsides.

I suspect many politicians who erred on the side of what they thought would paint them in the best light will find themselves wishing they had bet on their constituents’ courage, intelligence and ability to self-regulate their own behavior instead of issuing sweeping edicts from on high.

While we’re being told a federal stimulus package is forthcoming, the immediate reality is that many local businesses have a life expectancy of weeks – even days – and they desperately need our help.

I would like to make a sincere plea to all members of the Barker’s View tribe:

Please make a point of ordering takeout meals from area restaurants as they struggle mightily to remain open.

Let’s help keep our friends and neighbors employed during this extended closure – and consider donating to service industry relief organizations, like Foundation 37 – “Locals Helping Locals” – which was recently recommended by New Smyrna Beach Mayor Russ Owen.

(Find more information here: https://tinyurl.com/svu9p6t )

In addition, I understand the City of DeLand is actively working to provide assistance to service industry professionals who have been displaced.

Look, you and I can disagree on the goofy political issues of the day – and I admit, my views aren’t always right, or even rational now that I’ve been cooped up all week, rambling around the house on a steady diet of vodka, ice and lime – but I hope you will concur that local businesses and their employees deserve our support during these difficult and uncertain times.

Please don’t forget a generous gratuity for your servers, takeout cashiers and delivery drivers.

Tip like their lives and livelihoods depend upon it.

Because they do.

That’s all for me.  I hope everyone has a great weekend despite our current situation – remember we really are in this together!

Go to the beach.

Take a walk.

Play catch with the kids.

Sit on the porch.

Watch a movie.

Call a distant family member or friend.

Carry out a family feast from a locally owned restaurant you’ve never been to before.

Be cool.

Smile.

Take care of yourself and each other.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln during his 1859 address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society:

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.”

Keep your chin up, kids.