“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.


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