Students or Victims? Why Lowering the Bar is a bad idea.

On Tuesday evening the Volusia County School Board missed the mark.  Again.  Twice.

After a months-long brouhaha over the issue of student uniforms, the Board can collectively feel better about themselves after issuing a toothless edict that is more a dress code for an Appleby’s server than a school uniform policy.

And in doing so they have over-complicated an issue that could have benefited from a more surgically precise antidote.

Now, I don’t have a dog in the fight (or a kid in public school, for that matter) but I do know something about this issue.  I was educated in parochial schools where uniforms are de rigueur and help reinforce the homogeneous and conformist nature of private education.  In fact, I wore a uniform each year in elementary school (which included a tie) and was required to wear a blazer and necktie during my first year of high school.  (As a result, I can most often be found in a “preppy” pink oxford cloth shirt, shorts that look like they were constructed of upholstery fabric, and the ubiquitous Sperry Top-Siders. . . tassel knots and white soles only, please.)

My strange “Kmart meets Murray’s Toggery Shop” style aside, I’m none the worse for the experience, and most of my classmates are now relatively successful and well-adjusted adults who don’t appear to have suffered from the lack of individuality and “self-expression” in dress that some feel is all-important to the academic and social development of elementary school students.

Under the new policy, beginning next year students will be required to wear: “A white-knit polo-style or Oxford-style shirt; a principal may designate up to two additional colors.  A wide-range of bottoms. Navy blue, black or tan-colored pants, shorts, capris, skirts, skorts or jumpers, and blue or black denim.  If you’re an elementary or middle school student, you must wear closed-toe shoes. High school students can also wear sandals.  Fastened belt if there are belt loops.”

Our friends at Mirriam-Webster define “Uniform” as “Not varying or changing: staying the same at all times, in all places, or for all parts or members.”

In my opinion, if you are going to implement dress standardization then go all in or don’t go at all.

Under this ambiguous new policy, our teachers and school administrators are now forced into the unenviable role of fashion police – a weird combination of Joan Rivers and Jaime Escalante – tasked with both forming impressionable young minds while determining if Johnny’s shirt meets the definition of “Oxford-style” (button down or loose collar points?) or if Sally’s ‘skorts’ are uniform tan or offending ocher?

Not to mention the fact that our intrepid leaders forgot to add a penalty provision to their sartorial statute, which never works out well, regardless of what’s being regulated.

There are many benefits to a uniform policy – just as there are many arguments why legislating personal dress is a bad idea.  Given the fact that many modern public schools look more like a prison yard than a place of education and self-discovery, perhaps a forced “sameness” would have been a step in the right direction, however; I’m not sure what happened at Tuesday’s School Board meeting serves either side of the argument.

In a far less contentious (but incredibly telling) move, the School Board also voted to abandon the long-standing “pass to play” academic requirements for student athletes.

I have a problem with that.

Unbeknownst to me – but in keeping with a nation-wide trend of “dumbing-down” the process – Volusia was the last remaining county in the State of Florida to hold students who participate in organized sports accountable for maintaining passing grades.  Really?

I’m just spit-balling here, but could it be that we put too much emphasis on high school athletics and less on the important business of educating and developing functional, skilled and contributing members of society?

Competitive sports are important, I get that.  But is the education of our children still the primary mission?

When did raising the bar become a bad idea?

Unfortunately, it appears that Volusia County is simply following a disturbing “if everyone wins, no one loses” philosophy that dominates all levels of our educational system.

In her excellent Op/Ed addressing the trend, Washington Post columnist Catharine Rampell discusses the results of a recent report on grade inflation compiled by former Duke University professor Stuart Rojstaczer, and Furman professor Chris Healy.

According to Ms. Rampell:

“Analyzing 70 years of transcript records from more than 400 schools, the researchers found that the share of A grades has tripled, from just 15 percent of grades in 1940 to 45 percent in 2013. At private schools, A’s account for nearly a majority of grades awarded.”

“These findings raise questions not only about whether the United States has been watering down its educational standards — and hampering the ability of students to compete in the global marketplace in the process. They also lend credence to the perception that campuses leave their students coddled, pampered and unchallenged, awarding them trophies just for showing up.”

In a recent article addressing the School Board’s action, Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt quotes Board Member Dr. John Hill (a product of Volusia County Schools and practicing medical doctor) as opining, “It’s frustrating to student athletes.  The entire team suffers when one student can’t meet our standards.  It’s time to remove it.”

I don’t give a Tinker’s damn if it frustrates student athletes or not, Dr. Hill.

It’s called reality, and at the end of the day, nobody cares how far you threw a football, how fast you ran a footrace, or your prowess on the soccer pitch.  What matters is whether or not you are adequately prepared for the gut wrenching realities of earning a living and establishing your contribution potential in an increasingly competitive world.

In real life the entire team, business, government, department, agency, etc., suffers when one member either can’t or won’t meet accepted institutional standards of conduct and performance.  Societal progress requires that those responsible for upholding these standards correct or remove the offending member, rather than simply reduce or eliminate organizational canons and professional values.  The accommodation of substandard performance is corrosive – in schools and in society.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this School Board is doing.

It is high time the Volusia County School Board understands that their sworn responsibilities begin and end with establishing quality public policy that provides our children with the best education possible.

Their duty is to uphold strong educational standards that make our next generation competitive in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics – those core competencies that will provide our students with opportunities in an increasingly difficult local, national and international job market.

In my view, the School Board can best achieve these important goals by emphasizing academic excellence above extra-curricular activities, despite the braying of high school coaches, “student athletes”, and their short-sighted parents.

 

 

 

“No one loves the messenger who brings bad news”

Volusia County uses public funds to purchase “off beach parking” while simultaneously increasing tolls, removing beach access points and establishing traffic-free zones, and now County Manager Jim Dinneen suggests charging residents and visitors for parking (up to $20 per day) at those very off-beach lots and public parks!

The hits just keep on coming.

Smart people have suggested that this is just one more move in a slow but steady push by Volusia County to discourage public use of our beach with an endgame of luxury condominiums and private beach clubs.  Others believe it is merely a classic money grab by a bloated bureaucracy that has lost touch with the core values of the constituency it serves. I happen to think its a combination of both.

Regardless of the political strategy at play, there is one question I can’t answer:

Why would the County Manager even consider suggesting metered parking in public lots given the raging controversy that has come to define Volusia County government’s involvement with anything related to the beach during an election year?

Fact is, I haven’t heard any good news out of the County Manager’s office in months.

During a recent meeting of the Volusia City Manager’s Association the cities were (for once) completely united and in full lockstep agreement that no one wants to push for the 1% sales tax increase for transportation funding in 2016.

A no brainer.  Just bad timing – and a bad idea.

This is the way things are supposed to work during an election year – it’s cotton candy clouds and big rock candy mountains – not tax increases and “take your medicine.”  We’re used to fancy accolades, tales of even fancier accomplishments, and big plans for our collective future being the resounding and near constant message from our old friends in public office.

During the quadrennial ass-smooch an amazing transformation takes place during which the elitists we voted into office (and who won’t return your email for the next four years) suddenly become one of us again!  They hug our necks, grip our hands, slap our backs, refer to us as “neighbor” and actually make us feel – well – like an important part of the process.  Enjoy it while it lasts. . .

But this year seems different to me.  Rather than spread the feel-good message of hope that has defined election cycles since this patch of east Florida pine scrub was founded, all we have heard from Jim Dinneen and Company is graphic descriptions of missteps, management blunders, dubious expenditures and half-baked suggestions for how the County Council can spend even more.

Something’s not right here.

Trust me, Machiavellian campaign strategies and dirty tricks are common in Volusia County politics.  Let’s face it, elections are a contact sport where the stakes are high and the only sin is losing.  However, the unspoken rule has always held that appointed government officials and staff civil servants stay out of the fray – serving the elective body and implementing its public policy with equal dedication and enthusiasm – regardless of who may fill the seats on the dais.

Now I don’t mean to sound conspiratorial here – but could there be a coordinated push by the Triumvirate (Brown, France, Hosseini) and others to use Little Jimmy Dinneen as a tool to further compromise an already weakened County Chairman Jason Davis and ensure an Ed Kelley walk-in?

Don’t laugh.  Have you seen Eddies campaign contribution reports?  They read like a “Who’s-Who” of the slightly moldy upper crust of Daytona Beach insiders. . . you know, the anointed ones who have lorded over Volusia County like their personal fiefdom for years and have no intention of relinquishing control.

In my view, it’s plausible.

It doesn’t take the mind of Karl Rove to understand that it’s probably not a good idea to ask your constituents for money, impose additional fees, raise taxes, suggest multi-million dollar consolidated public works facilities or engage in open warfare over no-win issues like homelessness and beach management during the election cycle.

Especially when incumbents are actively running for their political lives.

Let’s face it, Chairman Davis’ star began to fall last year when his cockamamie personal enrichment scams became too blatant for even his shameless co-conspirators to ignore – culminating in his September “suggestion” of a charter amendment which would have resulted in Mr. Davis receiving a 67% pay increase.  (Can’t make this stuff up.)

I think the money movers have decided it’s time to end the Davis sideshow – and Ed Kelley’s political ties go back decades.   Regardless of the motivation, it appears to me that the worm is beginning to turn in Volusia County government.

Buckle-up, Kids – it’s going to be an interesting summer.

 

The Cost of Incompetence

Once again County Manager Jim Dinneen has found the one issue over all others that is, “as serious as anything we’ve faced.”  Volusia County government wants to spend your money – a lot of it – and they need a really good ‘emergency du jour’ to sell it.

Sound the claxon, Jim!

Bolstered by the public hand-wringing of Volusia County Public Works Director John Anguilli and Road and Bridge Supervisor Judy Grim, Mr. Dinneen reports that our County facilities are in such utter disrepair that the structures can longer adequately serve the public’s needs.  Naturally, this has led our intrepid leaders to the foregone conclusion that a new $19-million consolidated Public Works campus is the best answer.

Really?

Sometime, somewhere in our history, someone thought it might be a good idea to strategically distribute Public Works facilities throughout the width and breadth of Volusia County.  Given the diversity of our infrastructure, our geographical susceptibility to catastrophic weather, wildfires, and other natural disasters combined with a service area of over 1,400 square miles, one might think that the decentralization of equipment and personnel makes sense.

Apparently not.

But more to the point, was anyone aware just how serious this situation has become?

In a recent article by Daytona Beach News-Journal Reporter Tony Holt, I learned for the first time that our dilapidated Public Works facilities have reached critical disrepair.  It appears the Volusia County Council was caught flat-footed by the news as well, given the fact that members recently rejected a $2.5 million staff request to purchase some 231-acres along State Road 44 for the centralized Public Works campus.

In the News-Journal report, Councilman Doug Daniels did his best to give the appearance of cognizance when he expressed concern that we might need more information than the Public Works Director’s gut instinct that consolidation is the way to go.

According to Daniels, “The public works buildings we have now may need to be replaced, but we don’t have anything that shows there would be any particular value in having a centralized location.”

Indeed.

In my view, this situation is classic Volusia County government.

Under Mr. Dinneen’s management, we allow public infrastructure to literally crumble into the ground as a means of demonstrating the need for another County-owned Taj Mahal.  Then, in this weird Twilight Zone where nothing is as it seems, we allow the very public officials responsible for creating the problem to tell us how best to correct their own gross mismanagement.

In Mr. Holt’s report, Road and Bridge Director Judy Grim reassures us that County employees continue to soldier-on despite their Third World work environment, “We don’t have anyone complain about the conditions.  We’re doers.”

Doers?  Right.  That’s the descriptor that first came to my mind. . .

Whatever it is Judy’s troops are responsible for, it obviously has nothing to do with facilities maintenance, strategic budgeting for critical infrastructure repair and replacement, or the development of governmental best practices for the distribution of Public Works assets for maximum efficiency in coastal Florida.

For most of my adult life I worked for a small municipal government in Volusia County.  Our core services were housed in a City Hall that is now some 75-years old and going strong.  How, you may ask, could a government building possibly remain serviceable for three-quarters of a century?  It’s called ‘preventive maintenance’ – much like your own home may require – and when spread over time is an economical way of ensuring your assets remain efficient and effective.

It’s also called taking pride in public service.

Once again a situation erupts that exposes the depth of dysfunction in County government and begs the obvious question: “When is it appropriate to hold public officials accountable”?

In the Dinneen administration the answer is never.

In government, as in most progressive private organizations, accountability exists when a responsible individual, and the services they provide, are subject to horizontal oversight.  This occurs when the responsible party is required to provide articulable justification for their actions, expenditures, and the performance of their subordinate staff.  A practice especially important for government officials at the executive level whose decisions can have wide-ranging and very expensive implications.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Mr. Dinneen is incapable of holding his senior staff responsible for their continuing pattern of gross mismanagement – a serious problem that has been the hallmark of his tenure – rather than demand accountability, our elected officials continue to praise Dinneen’s performance, and reinforce his behavior in the form of salary and benefit increases that have reached the point of ridiculousness.

Now, in some insane twist of reality, Mr. Dinneen would have us believe that his staff’s inability to properly manage and maintain their department’s facilities constitutes an emergency requiring a $19 million solution?

Perhaps more preposterous, we should expect that these same bumbling officials will somehow ensure that the new facilities are properly maintained?  Really?  REALLY?

The only bright spot in this latest farce is that Council members took a positive step in rejecting a dubious multi million dollar expenditure proposed by Mr. Dinneen and his incompetent toady’s in the Public Works Department.

I guess some things are just too blatant to ignore.

You want to know what’s truly the most serious issue Volusia County residents face? It’s the staggering level of incompetence, government waste and resource mismanagement during Mr. Dinneen’s administration – and a continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allows this atrocious course of conduct to continue.

That’s a problem that needs our attention this election season.

The Definition of Insanity

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome.  Sound familiar?

In late 2013, then Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jeff Hentz fled the building after just twenty-one months on the job citing a “toxic” political environment and just steps ahead of his annual performance evaluation.

You need a playbook to understand the hierarchy, but the CVB (as I understand it) is the action arm of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, a governmental board tasked with the oversight and earmarking of bed tax funds, ostensibly for the promotion of the Daytona Beach area as a nice place folks from other parts of country might want to drop some disposable income.  (You remember – these are the same “hospitality experts” who brought us the “Seize the Daytona” campaign.)

During the waning days of his tenure at the CVB the Daytona Beach News-Journal obtained a series of emails between Director Hentz and his colleagues around the country – many of which amounted to a blueprint for how to screw-off on the public dime – others of which shed an interesting light on the intrigues and maneuvering of County government.

For instance, in a February 2014 response to an email from a South Florida property developer Hentz wrote, “It was quite surprising the level of politics that exists here and the push to go back to the old ways.”

“Someone you should talk to that has vision is Josh Wagner – County Commissioner,” Hentz said later in the exchange, adding in another response, “Let’s keep Daytona in our prayers.”

Indeed.

In a note to a tourism official in California, Hentz admitted, “I was spending more than 85 percent of my time on (politics) and only 20 percent on marketing.”

Obviously the strain of throwing massive quantities of Chanel No. 5 on the hog was taking its toll on Jeffrey’s mental health.  When you begin pointing to Josh Wagner as a visionary – it’s time for some R & R – along with a heavy dose of antipsychotic medication.

You might also remember that Hentz’ final months were marked by skirmishes with Volusia County Council member Doug Daniels – whose wife Angela just happens to serve as the Sales and Marketing Director for the all but shuttered Ocean Center.  (Is the place still open?  Even after an $80+ million Ocean Center makeover we still drive to St. Augustine Amphitheater, a venue operated by St. Johns County that regularly produces quality entertainment featuring national acts under what amounts to a large canvas tent with stadium seats.  Sounds strange doesn’t it – a government service that actually delivers what its funded to do?  I know, Weird.  Right?)

All things equal, I think Hentz’ death knell sounded the minute he balked at Mrs. Daniels demand that $1.5 million in ad authority funds (out of a $6 million total budget) be allocated to her marketing department at the Ocean Center.

According to News-Journal reporter Jeff Cassidy’s expose, “In an April 10, 2013 email to an official at an executive search firm, Hentz made a reference to Daniels. “Just the issue of the County Council Rep pushing to move $1.5 million from my budget to his wife’s budget at the Ocean Center is enough to ‘launch’ a made-for-TV reality series right??”

Guess the poor guy didn’t understand how things work around here, huh?  What Jeff failed to realize is that in Volusia County all pigs are equal.  But some are more equal than others. . .

Ultimately, Hentz’ decided that the $135,000 in annual salary (plus a $20,000 annual performance bonus) just didn’t cover the aggravation and he pulled up stakes.  For his trouble Volusia County awarded him a severance package totaling $51,000.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he deserved every penny.  I mean, launching an on-the-clock job search, gossiping about local politics and openly bitching about your elected and appointed bosses on a public email server can be exhausting.  But denying a County Council member’s wife her place at the public trough is career suicide.

So, after the “Great Hentz Debacle of 2014” one would assume that our leadership at HAAA, the CVB, and our elected officials would have learned a valuable (if not expensive) lesson in the importance of hiring the “right fit” to serve as their Executive Director.

We might rightfully assume that the need for close oversight and strict accountability would be foremost in their minds – lest we have an embarrassing repeat of the mismanagement, infighting and resulting public humiliation that overshadowed Mr. Hentz’ tenure – and the two executive directors before him, I might add.

You would be wrong.

Enter Herr Tom Caradonio – veteran convention and tourism executive, alleged Holocaust denier and apparent homophobe.  Perfect.

After being hired by the HAAA in May 2014, Caradonio carried the CVB flag for about twenty-one months before announcing his retirement in mid-February.  Initially, we were led to believe that Caradonio was honorably (and voluntarily) sailing off into the azure Florida sunset following an outstanding 44-year career in the tourism industry.

In fact, that’s exactly how the CVB sold Caradonio’s departure.  (And why not, they’re experts at polishing a turd.)

In announcing Caradonio’s retirement earlier this year, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported, “Hoteliers and tourism leaders praised Caradonio for providing steady leadership, but also expressed regret that he wouldn’t remain in the post longer.”

Then – as often happens here on the “Fun Coast” – the other slightly down at the heel shoe dropped.

It seems that Mr. Caradonio’s conduct at work was something straight out of a Saturday Night Live skit – not to mention flagrantly bullying, wholly inappropriate and, frankly, strange.

As for oversight, this behavior apparently went on from as far back as August 2014 to as recently as November 2015.

(I have attached a copy of the heavily redacted investigative report compiled by Volusia County Personnel Services for your review.  It’s not the Tailhook Report – but it damn sure is not the conduct one would expect of a management professional – or a gentleman.)

What’s most important – at least in the context of this blog – is that despite Caradonio’s egregious continuing course of conduct and documented history of outrageous anti-Semitic and homophobic statements while in the paid employ of a tax supported agency, Volusia County still feels compelled to give him a parting gift of $15,450!

 Now, in most professional organizations in the private sector heads would roll as a consequence of holding those who knew, or should have known, about this abhorrent behavior accountable.  Internal policies and personnel reporting protocols would have been audited and adjusted to ensure that staff members were not forced to suffer a hostile work environment at the hands of a self-described “Goomba” whose frequent use of the pejorative “gay boy” in addressing a male subordinate should have earned him a punch in the mouth – and a trip to an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission tribunal.

Unfortunately like most issues on the “Responsibility/Accountability” spectrum, I guess the concept of actually learning from mistakes and correcting tack is foreign to the Halifax Area Advertising Authority and our elected and appointment leaders in Volusia County government.

In my view, the continuing debacle at the HAAA and CVB are indicative of much larger problems.  Yet we continue to pay our patently ineffectual County Manager $300,000 annually in salary and benefits for exactly zero in beneficial return, we continue to elect incompetent individuals whose personal loyalty doesn’t extend beyond their own pocketbook (and that of their greedhead cronies) – and perhaps worst of all – like fools we expect something to change.

I sound like a broken record.

It’s the very definition of insanity.

http://www.news-journalonline.com/assets/pdf/DN3122238.PDF

Rewriting History on the “Fun Coast”

Anyone else catch this today?

TURNING VOLUSIA COUNTY RED

I was amused by the Volusia Democratic Party’s whining in the Feb. 29 story by Mark Harper, “House, Senate seats open; where are the Democrats?” Of course, an article describing the positive story of how the Volusia Republican Party has emerged would be more appreciated by me. I helped make that happen. No whining, just hard work.

The whining is just pitiful. When the Democrats were winning nearly every Volusia election for over 40 years, there was no whining. They were in control, and taxing and spending without constraint was praised. There was Democratic Party exuberance.

Well, about 10 years ago, the Volusia Republicans began educating voters about our second-highest tax rate. Voters already recognized Volusia’s lousy economic growth and jobs. When it was presented that this was brought to them by 40 years of Democrat control, voters responded. Hundreds of volunteers worked to get voter guides identifying Republican candidates on Volusia ballots into voter hands. Campaigning to return to fiscal responsibility, economic growth and educational excellence sold the change.

So, here we are. Volusia County elected offices, after 40 years of Democrat control, are now heavily staffed and elected by Republicans. The reversal of our tax rate after 40 years of abuse may take some time, but it is underway. Our School Board is doing a superb job, regardless of the union pressure and rhetoric to return their “valued” Democratic leaders. Fiscal responsibility is not ignored in favor of “absolutely gotta have it” spending.

Now that they don’t control Volusia County, Democrats whine that campaign money, travel miles, pay and time investment just overwhelm their candidates. I think what overwhelms their candidates is losing.

And for good measure, they know Republicans are still working hard to keep Volusia County red. Now, that story would make for an interesting article.

Nancy Coriale

Daytona Beach Shores

As a Gentleman of Leisure of almost two years now my days have inexplicably taken on a very uniformed appearance, in many ways more regimented than during my working life.  My division of time and focus is all that’s really changed.

Unlike before, when time constraints and the unwritten gag order of a public position limited self-expression, I now have the opportunity to read the news of the day with a more critical eye; to weigh the thoughts and opinions of others in our community against my own jaundiced view of life and the political condition on the “Fun Coast.”

Now that I have the time, when I see something that piques my interest, or borders on the absurd, I feel compelled to respond – not because my view is any more or less valid – but because, well, I can.

This morning I read with interest the above Letter to the Editor in the Daytona Beach News-Journal penned by Nancy Coriale, a long-time political commentator and former member of the Republican Executive Committee of Volusia County.

In 2013, after many years as a loyal Republican, I changed my registration to No Party Affiliation – not so much out of a knee-jerk reaction to current events as a personal statement regarding the GOP’s adoption of the all or nothing mindset embodied by “tea party conservatives” at the national, state and local level.

For example, you might remember RECVC “Chairman for Life” Tony Ledbetter striking his best Captain Beatty pose on Fox News – smugly wagging his finger in the face of a taqiyah clad Muslim attorney as the pair squared off in the tempest in a teapot that was the “Great Volusia County Book Burning of 2013”.

It was an epic battle folks – fought almost single-handedly by Tony and his fellow “Patriots” on the Republican Executive Committee – in a valiant effort to protect All American Volusia County 10th graders from socio-political indoctrination by radical Islamic rhetoric masquerading as a Prentice Hall world history textbook.  That is until the School Board came to their senses and agreed to keep the textbook in rotation, and the media packed-up its cameras and left everyone standing in the residual mess as they rumbled after the more sensational stories of the day.

I thought Tony and the Executive Committee went back to compiling his Index Librorum Prohibitorum, exposing Commie sympathizers, and lobbying to criminalize rock-n-roll. . .

But I digress. . .

In this morning’s letter, Ms. Coriale is amused by the Democratic Party’s “whining” in a recent piece by the News-Journal’s Mark Harper regarding the problem of finding qualified – read “quality” – Democratic candidates for office.  I didn’t notice the level of “whining” that Nancy got a case of the chuckles over, but then again, I’m not that perceptive.

What I did notice was Ms. Coriale’s rewrite of recent history as she describes all the great things Republican politicians have brought to Volusia County government since breaking “40 years” of Democratic dominance – and I can’t help but ask: Nancy, are you serious?

Let’s take these one at a time:

“The whining is just pitiful. When the Democrats were winning nearly every Volusia election for over 40 years, there was no whining. They were in control, and taxing and spending without constraint was praised. There was Democratic Party exuberance.”

You expect me – or anyone else not in a catatonic stupor – to believe that the current Volusia County Council have reigned in taxes and cut spending?  Have you lost touch with your faculties, Nancy?  This Council spews tax dollars like a dyspeptic dog to their uber-wealthy handlers, and splays themselves to any property developer willing to throw an American Express Black down for appi-teasers at Chili’s.

“So, here we are. Volusia County elected offices, after 40 years of Democrat control, are now heavily staffed and elected by Republicans. The reversal of our tax rate after 40 years of abuse may take some time, but it is underway. Our School Board is doing a superb job, regardless of the union pressure and rhetoric to return their “valued” Democratic leaders. Fiscal responsibility is not ignored in favor of “absolutely gotta have it” spending.”

Nancy – where exactly is the evidence to suggest that a reversal of our tax rate is “underway”?  Where is the first shred of proof in support of your assertion that our School Board is anything but a monument to mismanagement?  Perhaps we can use their negotiations with the Teacher’s Union?  Or maybe the uniform debacle?  How about the continuing gut-punch that has been the privatization of janitorial services?

Pick one.

And don’t get me started on “fiscal responsibility” vs. “absolutely gotta have it” spending.  Please, dear, this County Council’s spending habits border on the pathological.

Get a grip, Nancy.

 

 

 

 

The Last Gasp of the Republican Party?

When I’m confused about an issue I tend to use the New York Times Editorial Board as my litmus test – if they’re for it, I’m not.  But as I watch the on-going public meltdown of the Republican Party’s old guard I have to admit that today’s NYT op-ed “Mitt Romney aims at Donald Trump, Hits GOP” makes a valid point – “It took the Trump-dominated Super Tuesday contests to awaken Republican leaders to the fact that the darkest elements of the party’s base, which many of them have embraced or exploited, are now threatening their party.”

However, I disagree with their assumption that the party’s problems are embodied in the rise of Donald Trump’s candidacy.

The fact is, the Republican Party’s identity crisis began years ago, and in my view, hit its nadir that cold October night in 2013 when Texas tea party freshman Ted Cruz forced a government shutdown crisis in some “all or nothing” attempt to defund Obamacare with absolutely no strategy to end it.  In doing so, he did our country a major disservice – and lit the tinder of the building conflagration that threatens to consume the Republican Party.

Three years ago I watched several hours of Mr. Cruz’s 21-hour rambling floor speech during which he goaded his Republican colleagues as cowards who lacked the strength of character to stand up to Obama’s healthcare plan.  In my view, Cruz’s argument then was just as disingenuous as his current transition from tea party firebrand to the voice of reason.

Like my father and grandfather before him, for many years I was a faithful Republican.  Let’s face it – I’m a male over fifty, retired law enforcement officer who served in the military – if I don’t fit the archetypal demographic of the Grand Old Party, who does?

I may have been loyal to a fault, but I’m not suicidal, and when it became increasingly apparent that the good ship GOP was speeding toward the rocks while the self-described “Children of the Reagan Revolution” argued the course – I jumped.  And apparently not a minute too soon.

The fact is Mr. Trump has hit a note that resonates with today’s disenfranchised moderate voter – those of us who have seen first-hand how “political correctness” and the rise of the professional victim in every segment of our society has eroded our national unity and weakened those institutions that once made the United States a beacon of freedom around the world.

Donald Trump speaks to those who form the weary backbone of a nation that have watched a once proud and reasonably unified people fragment into a mosaic of “self-identified” hyphenated American’s.  He embodies our frustration over out-of-control entitlements and government hand-outs, undecipherable tax policies, attacks on our Second Amendment and the complete lack of a strong national defense strategy in an increasingly dangerous world.  Perhaps most important – he talks like we do.  In open, unabashed and unashamed terms Trump describes our collective goal of restoring the United States to prominence in a world that desperately needs our leadership and stability.

I hope Mr. Romney and the other completely detached remnants of the Republican establishment understand that when they embraced the fringe element – the “all or nothing conservatives” who place partisanship and fabricated “ideas and principles” above diversity of opinion and the need for honest debate – they damned a once great political party, or at least its founding principles, to the ash heap of history. Continue reading “The Last Gasp of the Republican Party?”