Ed and Fred: Volusia’s Perennial Politicians

I always felt that Winston Churchill’s famous insight, “It’s a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations” was sound advice for a simpleton like me.

There is much to be learned from the musings of the great thinkers, and their quotes and anecdotes have helped shape my mind and sharpened my ability to think critically about the issues of the day.

For instance, I frequently use Albert Einstein’s famous thoughts on the definition of insanity as a metaphor for Volusia County politics.

I mean, we seem to do the same things – and elect the same people – over and over again, each time expecting a different result or a better outcome than last time.   It’s fitting, don’t you think?

And if it isn’t the exact politician that we recycle from seat-to-seat, we certainly tend to elect those who have been hand-selected and liberally financed by the same wealthy insiders who control just about everything here on the “Fun Coast.”

Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley’s run for County Council Chair is a prime example.

Mayor Kelley wants us to believe that he’s the guy to “bring us together again.”  I’ve seen Fast Eddie at work, and trust me, he’s a whole different guy when things don’t go his way.

The fact is, Ed Kelley is a past master of using the power of government, selective legislation and the City Attorney’s Office like a club to enforce his narrow view of what’s good for the rest of us.

Sound familiar?

For example, let’s take the two-year war between the City of Ormond Beach and the now defunct “Cheaters” – a tawdry bikini club that was located on north U.S.-1 in unincorporated Volusia – or the City’s push to restrict seasonal motorcycle-related businesses and eliminate itinerant vendors during Bike Week and Biketoberfest in the same general area.

(All that money the City spent running Cheaters out of town really cleaned up that area, huh?  Have you driven by the southeast quadrant of the I-95/U.S.-1 interchange lately?  As always, don’t take my word for it.  Take a ride and see for yourself how all that tax-funded time, resources and effort benefited the public interest in the long run. . .)

In a 2014 piece by then Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Chris Graham, Mayor Kelley explained in no uncertain terms that he knows what’s best for us – and the U.S.-1 commercial corridor:

“We don’t need a string of motorcycle washes with girls in bikinis,” Mayor Kelley said.  “I don’t think that benefits anyone.  If anything we’ll have the businesses open year-round.  We don’t want to create a deserted Main Street.”

I believe Ed throws out the notion of fairness when he agrees to grandfather relatively new biker-themed businesses because they fit his view of what’s right and “wholesome.”  But he has no qualms about using the full might of government to force small established businesses out of the marketplace when they don’t conform to his arbitrary view.

In my view, that’s mean-spirited and counter to the basic idea of equal representation.

After reviewing Mayor Kelley’s campaign contribution reports, it’s clear where Ed’s true allegiances lie – and it isn’t with you and me.

People like J. Hyatt Brown and Mori Hosseini are highly successful businessmen for one reason only – they don’t spend a dollar without knowing exactly what the return on that investment will be.  It’s called a cost/benefit analysis – a metric used to determine the strengths, weaknesses, and potential gains on investment relative to cost.

In this case, the Big Three are making massive campaign contributions to the Kelley campaign for one reason only – to purchase access and political influence.  In return, they know that their personal and professional interests will outweigh those of John Q. Public every time.

As you prepare to cast your ballot this summer, ask yourself this:  Why would Brown, Hosseini and a handful of other uber-wealthy power brokers spend tens of thousands of dollars – both individually and through their various business entities – to support Ed Kelley for elective office?

What do you think they consider an appropriate return on that investment?

In other news, I read where perpetual politician and Ormond Beach dentist Fred Costello recently won the straw poll of Congressional candidates at the Volusia County Republican Party’s Hob Nob held – fittingly – at the taxpayer renovated Daytona International Speedway.

In Costello’s typical over-the-top ebullience, he gushed to the assembled followers of Republican Chairman-for-Life Tony Ledbetter that he is “flipped-out excited!” about the prospect of serving in Congress.

Excuse me if I don’t share your enthusiasm, Fred.  I’m more of a “What have you done for me lately” guy. . .and your record speaks for itself.

I have some history with Fred Costello when he was Mayor of Ormond Beach.

Many years ago, my wife Patti had good cause to bring several serious issues facing our community to the attention of the Ormond Beach City Commission.  Not surprisingly, in the long run, then Mayor Costello didn’t do any of the things he said he would to correct the problems, and I seriously think Fred thought she would simply accept his inaction, kiss his ring, and go quietly.

He was wrong.

Although I have lived in the City of Ormond Beach for over fifty years, at the time I worked for a neighboring municipal government.  As a government employee, one of the first things you give up is your First Amendment right to voice your opinion on governmental issues.  After all, it never works out well when you speak ill of your boss – or your boss’s friends – and in Volusia County politics, those “friends” can have very long tentacles.

However, Patti didn’t labor under the same constraints and like me she has an opinion on just about everything.

When it became clear that Fred was actively working to support, or at least downplay, the very management and oversight issues she warned him about, Patti took it upon herself to take the Ormond Beach City Commission to school on the consequences of ignoring the will and opinions of their constituents.

Never underestimate the power of a smart, articulate woman who can speak eloquently on matters of community concern.

In addition to her persuasive speeches, Patti got her point out via Op/Ed pieces in local media – and even did a few on-camera interviews for regional network affiliates – relentlessly horsewhipping the Costello administration for every misstep and blunder.

The more she dug, the more issues she uncovered.  To include serious problems with the City’s drinking water system and irregularities in the maintenance and management of our public utilities that resulted in complaints to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Needless to say, the near constant harassment of this pestering woman didn’t sit well with Fred Costello, or then Commissioner Ed Kelley.  Her persistence clearly overstepped their myopic view of public participation and citizen involvement in the political process – you know, the whole right of citizens to petition their government for redress of grievances, thing?

Their opinion was, and is, don’t make waves or expose problems that could in anyway jeopardize our future political aspirations – keep it under the rug.  Out of sight, out of mind – even if the issue is ultimately damaging for the community.

So we watched as Fred transitioned from his polished public persona of the hyper-friendly, over-eager, neighbor/servant to this weird autocratic despot intent on subverting the process to silence this wretch and her followers who kept pointing out blemishes and tarnishing Ormond Beach’s blue-blooded reputation as Volusia’s premier affluent community.

Under Fred’s “leadership,” the Commission did everything in its power to limit citizen involvement – including requiring request forms for those wishing to address their elected officials and limiting presentations to five minutes – even going so far as to move public participation to the end of the meeting altogether, ensuring that speakers would be forced to wait until late in the evening after most audience members had left the chambers.

It was a cheap, ham-handed political move that ultimately backfired and publicly exposed Fred and Ed for the small-minded, angry little churls they truly are.

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget Fred’s almost maniacal support of speculative developers who made a real run at turning Ormond’s beachside into the concrete canyons of South Beach – a political and financial nightmare that required a citizen-forced referendum to stop.

In addition, I won’t soon forget his tacit approval of development on the scenic “Loop,” or his support of the ill-conceived Ormond Crossings project, a massive residential and commercial development that would have crushed our existing infrastructure and municipal services resulting in an even greater tax burden for current residents.

I also think it’s rich that Costello’s campaign platform includes eliminating the EPA.  This from the guy who actually believes heavy aerospace manufacturing and launch facilities can be co-located with sensitive wetlands and estuaries at Shiloh in a way that “protects the environment.”

Rep. Costello actually made this statement knowing full well that NASA’s own environmental impact study showed that further development in the area would contribute to the “continuing cumulative impairment” of the Indian River Lagoon system.

On this point, Fred is either a liar or completely out of touch with reality – neither one a personality trait I want in our next congressman.

Despite the straw poll endorsement of Ledbetter and his Merry Band of Hob Nobbers, I hope thoughtful and engaged citizens will think twice before voting for Ed or Fred, Volusia’s perennial politicians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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