Volusia Politics: Ed Kelley thinks you’re a fool

I have made no secret of the fact that I support Greg Gimbert for Volusia County Chair.

You may have a different opinion, and that’s okay.

With four relatively well-known people running – three of which are active area politicians – folks are bound to have differing opinions and that’s what makes a horse race.

We can still be friends.

After all, Greg and I aren’t married – or even dating.

I support his candidacy because his views on the serious issues facing Volusia County are closely aligned with my own.  I strongly believe that he will represent the best interests of the people – especially on issues related to our beach – not just the personal wants and whims of the donor class.

Some will dismiss this post as a shameless endorsement, and perhaps on one level it is.  But as most regular readers of this forum know, when I catch a whiff of bullshit in the system I feel the need to call it.

Yesterday, many potential Volusia County voters took to social media to rail against a deceptive flyer they received in the mail from the campaign of Ed Kelley.  The very craftily worded circular featured Ed’s smiling visage with the headline, “Why Ed Kelley Cares.”

On the back, were the words, “Because you do!”


These slick, professionally produced mail-outs were addressed to “Beach Supporter” (or current resident), and were clearly intended to leave the recipient with the impression that Ed Kelley supports beach driving.

At first glance, the top bullet point notes:

“As Ormond Beach Mayor and City Commissioner, I have been fighting to keep ramps open and access for all.”




Smart people understand that when politicians use the term “access” when addressing beach driving, what they mean is the ability to schlep your belongings – and herd your children – to the shoreline from an “off-beach parking area” designated by your government and paid for with your tax dollars.

I am also interested in knowing exactly which battles Ed fought in when it came to keeping “ramps open”?

In addition to making the bold statement that he supports the provisions of the County Charter (which, given recent events, is even more frightening), Ed notes that, “We should maintain a balance of beach driving and off-beach parking to accommodate all who enjoy our beaches.”

Wow.  What a courageous and decisive stand.

On the back of the flysheet were three historical photographs of the beach – including one of Andy Romano Beachfront Park in Ormond Beach.

I found that an interesting choice.

In 2013, Mayor Ed Kelley showed everyone where he truly stands on beach driving – and most important – how he uses double-speak, slight-of-hand and outright lies as a means of accomplishing political objectives.

For instance, in February 2013, in the weeks leading up to the opening of Romano Park, the Ormond Beach City Commission, under the leadership of Ed Kelley, came up with a cockamamie scheme to obtain a traffic-free zone on the beach behind the park citing safety concerns.

Whenever a politician wants to radically change or eliminate your rights, the direct tactic usually involves taking the moral high ground of “children’s safety.”

The Nanny State always knows what’s best for you – especially when it comes to the safety of your children.

Regardless of the issue – whenever you capture the “we’re doing this to protect the children” position – well, what’s left to argue?

Mayor Kelley would have us believe that only a fool would dispute that our historical right to drive on the beach – which for over one hundred years has been a virtual birthright of Volusia County residents – could possibly trump the safety of “Our kids.”

Never mind the fact that, somewhere along the line, both Ed – and the Ormond Beach City Commission – abandoned the whole “parental supervision and personal responsibility” imperative in favor of simply eliminating vehicles from the beach.

Done.  Gone.

In a 2013 Daytona Beach News-Journal article entitled, “Ormond hopes to shutdown traffic at new beachfront park,” Mayor Kelley is quoted as saying, “It’s no-brainer.  It just makes all the sense in the world.”

Then, using his patented Edgar Bergen-like ability to speak convincingly out of both sides of his mouth, Mayor Kelley explains, “Personally, I’m not against driving on the beach,” he said. “But this way children and adults would not have to worry about cars.”

Way to cover all your bases there, Ed.

You might remember that, at the time, parking was prohibited in front of Daytona Beach’s SunSplash Park – but traffic was still permitted to transit the area.  Of course, this was in those halcyon days before Jason Davis and Josh Wagner turned-tail and helped closed huge swaths of driving areas as a means of giving speculative developers the marketing tool of a private beach.

In a February 19, 2013, letter to Volusia County Chairman Jason Davis and County Manager Jim Dinneen, Mayor Kelley – and the other members of the Ormond Beach City Commission – announced the following:

“From the beginning conceptual stages of the Ormond Beach’s (sic) Andy Romano Beachfront Park it has always been an extremely high priority for Ormond Beach residents and the City Commission to have a traffic-free beach in front of the park.  It is the expectation of our residents that we do everything in our power to ensure that the traffic-free beach becomes a reality for families of all ages.  As the completion of the park draws nearer, the park’s traffic-free beach has become a major topic of discussion with citizens of Ormond Beach, who are also residents of Volusia County.” 

Despite being a grammatical nightmare, Mayor Kelley’s correspondence would have County officials believe that the majority of Ormond Beach residents were in favor of a traffic-free beach.

Extremely high priority?  When?

This statement is not just disingenuous – it’s an outright falsehood.

I’ve been a resident of Ormond Beach for over 50-years.  I grew up here, went to school here, and many of my friends and family live and work in the community.  No one – not one – of the people I spoke with on the topic supported removing beach driving at Romano Park – or anywhere else.

In fact, the opinion of my friends, family and neighbors was just the opposite – and everyone knew that this move was orchestrated to set a dangerous precedent for what would come next.

But, hey – don’t take my word for it.

In a 2015 survey commissioned by the Daytona Beach News-Journal and Stetson University, the overwhelming majority of Volusia County residents vehemently objected to creating traffic-free zones for the now defunct Hard Rock project and the lingering Desert Inn/Westin conversion.

In fact, the issue of beach driving was so polarizing that many felt eliminating the time-honored practice had the potential to irreparably damage the core character of our communities.

In perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime event, majorities were found in both east and west Volusia – constituencies who rarely see eye-to-eye on anything.

We have long known that Ed Kelley supports the “economic development” argument for stopping beach driving – a stance obviously in direct contradiction to the will of the people.

In the News-Journal’s comprehensive article on the poll, Deborah Goldring, an associate professor in the marketing department of Stetson University’s School of Business Administration, pointed out that more than half of those surveyed disagreed with the statement that eliminating driving would “help spur development in Daytona’s core beachside district” while less than one-third agreed with that statement.

“This is (was) one of the major selling points of the ordinance.  However, respondents didn’t really see it that way,” Goldring said, “The economic development argument seemed to fall flat.”

The article also reported that nearly two-thirds of respondents said ending beach driving would be “inconvenient to beach visitors,” while more than 55 percent felt getting rid of vehicles would not make the beach more “family friendly” and that the removal would lead to fewer visitors.

In Goldring’s professional opinion, the results of the poll clearly demonstrate that the vast majority of area residents are “very much opposed to restricted beach driving.”

Now, I seriously doubt that the pulse of Volusia County residents was much different in February 2013 – or 1913 for that matter – and Ed Kelley damn well knew it.

The fact is, Ed Kelley is under the mistaken impression he can satisfy the competing interests of both developers, and the will of the people, by simply adhering to his wishy-washy “balance” argument.

It’s classic political fence-straddling.

In my view, by styling himself as someone willing to compromise on the most polarizing issue facing Volusia County – often called the “third rail of Volusia County politics” – Kelley doesn’t appear as a moderate (or even indecisive) he simply comes off as a coward.

And perhaps more disturbing, for a potential county chairman, Ed Kelley is certainly not his own man.

Interestingly, Ed’s political puppeteers – you know, the ones spending tens of thousands of dollars to finance his run for the county chair – are also on record supporting removing cars from our beach.

Following the infamous May 2015 vote by the Volusia County Council enacting ordinances which all but ensured private beaches for speculative developers, prolific Kelley donor J. Hyatt Brown let everyone know exactly where he stands on the issue – and it has nothing to do with your right to access the beach.

Mr. Brown and the other members of the Volusia Triumvirate have made it perfectly clear that their political opinions – and their personal and professional ambitions – are more valuable than yours.

After all, they paid for them.

If you think for one minute that the reason these insiders are stuffing cash hand-over-fist into Ed Kelley’s campaign war chest has anything to do with looking out for your interests – on beach driving or anything else – you better damn will think again.

Again, please don’t take my word for it.

A quick review of Ed Kelley’s campaign finance reports to-date will show at a glance just how much money J. Hyatt, International Speedway Corporation, and Mori Hosseini – and the many corporate entities and employees under their direct control – have contributed.

Trust me – it’s mindboggling.

As I’ve said before – under Volusia’s Benevolent Dictatorship – we, the people, no longer have standing in much of anything – except, of course, when it comes to footing the bill.

Our current elected officials have given millions of dollars in tax incentives, infrastructure improvements, private beaches and other inducements to corporations and speculative developers and they damn sure don’t want anything – or anyone – derailing the public gravy train.

The only option available to an electorate that has been disenfranchised, marginalized and subjugated is the power of the ballot box.

I still believe that if enough like-minded citizens hold firm to the basic belief that we can control our destiny by electing strong, ethical, and visionary members of our community to high public office, we can once again balance political power and restore transparency, fairness and the spirit of democracy in Volusia County government.

You want to know why Ed Kelley cares?  Because someone paid him to.

Of course, that’s just my opinion – I could be wrong. . .




The Debacle in DeBary: Please get it right. Please?

In recent weeks I’ve squawked – ad nauseum – about the importance of the city manager position to ensuring a stable, effective and responsive municipal government.

Unfortunately, it appears that the DeBary city council – a group that could damn sure use some stability in their lives – appears intent on mucking up the selection “process” (whatever it is) for their new manager once again.

To get a better understanding of just how this group thinks and works, I watched the proceedings of last week’s special council meeting.  Wow.

Trust me, it was an eye-opener.

For instance, the hostility between Mayor Clint Johnson and Councilwoman Lita Handy-Peters was palpable.

To the Mayor’s credit – he kept his emotions in check.

I can’t say the same for Councilwoman Handy-Peters.

During a discussion on whether or not the council wanted to formalize their stated intent to abandon development of the disputed 102 acres of conservation lands by resolution, Handy-Peters launched into a loopy, paper-waving tantrum (aimed squarely at the Mayor) that caused me to question her grip.

Frankly, for a minute there she looked like the unhinged Baby Jane Hudson screeching at sister Blanche.


It appears to me Ms. Handy-Peters has snapped under the pressure of growing public scrutiny.

During her bizarre hissy, the Councilwoman kept wailing that she “never voted on anything!” (taking a very Nixonian tone) and only looked at “pretty pictures” of the proposed transit-oriented development – while wildly grasping for reassurance from the clueless and clearly uncomfortable Growth Management Director, Matt Boerger.

(Hey Lita, someone approved the taxpayer funds that purchased those “pretty pictures” from Littlejohn ($75,000+?), and if I’m not mistaken, didn’t the council vote to approve the TOD draft Master Plan in February?  But that’s for another day, eh?)

Clearly, this is an administration bent on self-destruction – or at least re-writing history – and while I recognize the psychological and organizational factors at play, for the life of me I can’t figure out how five ostensibly bright and civic-minded people could paint themselves into such a knotty position.

I suspect it has a lot to do with the quality of the people they surround themselves with.  Poor choices usually stem from bad information.

In my view, the council’s horrific collective experience over the past several months should double their resolve to “get it right” when selecting DeBary’s next City Manager.

I doubt this particular elected body will face a more important decision during their current term.

Obviously, strategic decision-making isn’t their long suit, so allow me to proffer the benefit of some hard-learned lessons that just might help:

I’ve seen – and been an active part of – some manically dysfunctional public administrations. I’m talking historic incompetence, palace intrigue, Machiavellian subterfuge, personal agendas, unethical conduct and small town political infighting that makes the issues in the Middle East look like a schoolyard skirmish – a real hell-broth of good old-fashioned hatred, fear and discontent.

The net result was that the people’s business went unaddressed and the administration of government (such as it was) was reduced to feckless cliques and shameless opportunists.  Staff morale was lower than whale turds, and smart people were busy looking for a new gig –  like rats throwing themselves off a burning garbage scow.

Sound familiar?

In my experience, the evaluation and selection process for essential governmental personnel – especially the city manager – is crucial to the overall health of any community.  Given the enormity of the power and influence afforded to the manager by charter, the position will naturally set the tone and tenor of the entire organization.

The city manager’s job is a hard dollar, even on a good day.

Rarely is so much personal responsibility and unchecked authority bestowed on one individual in the relatively close confines of a small municipal government.

Any career civil servant will tell you that nothing – and I mean nothing – destroys organizational effectiveness and public confidence quicker than an unethical chief executive.  And the unfortunate reality is that there are a lot of them out there – “managers in transition,” wandering the countryside with a bloated résumé and one good suit, stalking their next victim.

As the spineless Dan Parrott proved – when an unscrupulous city manager flees or is fired – it becomes a very expensive and time-consuming dilemma to sort out.  Especially for a small community desperately in need of strong leadership.

But with so much on the line, how can the council ensure the best choice for their constituents?

The short answer is – they can’t.

But smart elected officials can stack the odds in their favor.

Many communities utilize the services of a professional headhunter who, for a hefty fee, will assemble curricula vitae on a few presumably qualified candidates for review.  Absent the limited political insulation they provide; in my experience, these recruiters don’t really offer any real benefit.

In my view, a well-constructed job announcement placed in professional journals and city/county management associations can have equally beneficial results.  I also believe that keeping the process in-house gives staff an important personal investment in the process.

Many executive search firms carry the same baggage from Job-to-job, putting up perennially unsuccessful candidates until someone bites.  After all, their sales inventory is essentially people looking for work, and just like a fruit monger, they’re going to have a few rotten peaches in the barrel from time-to-time.

Other communities have employed the services of retired city managers – ubiquitously known as “range riders” – who help navigate the process of selecting and hiring the right chief executive.

Best I can tell, it appears the City of DeBary has taken a strange, two-pronged approach to filling their very real need for an experienced leader.

First, they want to appoint an interim manager who, for reasons I don’t fully understand, cannot be considered for the full-time position.  If they are looking for a short-term hatchet man to terminate city employees with dirty hands, I get it.  If not, why limit your options?

Next, a search will be conducted by a contracted executive recruiter for the interim manager’s permanent replacement.

Seems redundant – and ham-fisted – to me.

For all their talk about remaining transparent and faithful to the “process,” it doesn’t appear to me that the city council has any procedure in place at all.

For example, at last week’s special meeting the council voted to bring one candidate (out of the seven who applied) forward to interview for the interim position.


The council’s preliminary choice appears to be Ronald McLemore, a veteran hand who most recently worked as the city manager of Cocoa Beach.  Before that, Mr. McLemore served as deputy city manager of operations for the City of Daytona Beach from 2009 to 2015.  He was also city manager of Winter Springs from 1996 to 2009.

During discussions on Wednesday evening, Ms. Handy-Peters was howling from the dais about the people’s demand for “transparency! Transparency! Transparency!”  I agree with her – if the City of DeBary needs anything right now it’s openness and honesty.

I’m just not sure how interviewing a single candidate accomplishes that?

In my view, the council should bring forward several top candidates for a public Q&A, perhaps an informal meet-and-greet with citizens at a neutral location in the community, coupled with meetings between the candidates, trusted department heads and key personnel from the city’s outside service providers.

It will be these staff members who have the greatest day-to-day interaction with the new manager, and they certainly have a vested interest in ascertaining the candidate’s management style and leadership qualities.

Once this process has reduced the qualified pool to two or three, the council should commission a thorough background investigation – preferably through an independent outside agency.

After all, a person’s past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.

This investigation should include an evaluation of open-source information, such as newspaper, internet and media reports of the candidate’s past service, interviews with former employers (including elected officials, peers, union representatives and subordinates), a review of personnel files and disciplinary reports,  personal and professional reference checks, verification of academic and professional credentials, a review of credit reports, criminal history, previous civil suits, audit reports, and a thorough comparative analysis of the individual’s résumé against the information discovered independently during the inquiry.

Several years ago, the City of Coral Gables, after an exhaustive and very expensive search, lost their newly appointed chief executive – who came complete with a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and a bachelor’s in business administration from Florida International University – after it was discovered he had child abuse charges, 14 tax liens, three suspended driver’s licenses and numerous personal bankruptcies in his background.

By having the good, the bad and the ugly of each candidate available for review, the elected officials have the benefit of forming specific questions, probing areas of concern, and getting a solid overview of the applicant’s experience, reputation and management philosophy.

It also ensures that each member of the council receives the same quantity, and quality, of data about each candidate.  That’s important.

From personal experience, I can tell you that this independent evaluation process – when done properly – is invaluable.  In my view, any potential city manager worth his or her salt will welcome a thorough vetting of their contribution potential – and their growth areas.

Also, under Florida’s public records laws, much of the background report will be open and available to members of the community, adding an important layer of clarity and openness to the process.

I have also found that informal public receptions (held outside City Hall) provide a chance for citizens and staff to personally interact with the candidates in a comfortable social setting.  This gives both decision-makers, and the community, a good opportunity to get to know the finalists’ individual personalities, sense of humor, and temperament.

In many cases, the candidates will introduce their husbands, wives or significant others at these relaxed gatherings.  After all, they will be a big part of the community as well.

In my view, the idea of selecting your most important asset based on a cursory interview with one candidate just doesn’t make sense.

Given the current atmosphere, the City of DeBary is going to have a hard time attracting quality applicants – and I suspect they will get more than their share of damaged goods applying for the permanent job.

After all, most qualified folks with options won’t be beating down the door to associate themselves with this grotesque disaster.

Why not take the time to do it right?

Regardless of how thorough the process, nothing can absolutely ensure a successful fit.  I get it.

But it helps.

Trust me, I have worked for city managers with advanced degrees who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel – and I have worked for managers with little, if any, formal education who I would walk through fire with.

Ultimately, selecting the chief executive is an extremely difficult decision.

By getting the best possible information, through an open, honest and inclusive process, elected officials can make the best possible decision while avoiding the harsh criticism that invariably comes when constituents and stakeholders feel left out.

It is incumbent upon the DeBary City Council to get this one right.

Look, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do know that now is the time to put away the petty bickering, political theatrics, personality clashes and madcap publicity stunts and get on with the important business of selecting the community’s next leader.

Your constituents are depending on you.


(Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” 1962)



The Debacle in DeBary: Unbelievable – Now, Undeniable

“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?”

 “Hot ashes for trees?  Hot air for a cool breeze?”

 “Cold comfort for change?”

Wish you were here, Pink Floyd

On Wednesday, the DeBary City Council voted down a motion opposing development on the Gemini Springs Annex.  It would have been no more than a symbolic statement, really, but perhaps a starting point to correcting the sins of the recent past.

But no.  It seems the majority of elected officials in DeBary just want to “move on.”

I guess they do.

It’s like a hit-and-run driver trying to put as much time and distance as possible from the carnage he caused.  Don’t talk about it.  Don’t accept responsibility for it.  Just get away from it.

Unfortunately, this debacle is not something you can simply ignore, or run away from.  This is a criminal quagmire of personal, political and corporate corruption and represents the vilest instincts of elected and appointed officials laid bare.

And it has destroyed the public’s trust in their government.

Even with the white-hot spotlight of public scrutiny shining down, DeBary City Councilman Chris Carson continues to whistle past the graveyard as he insanely suggests that the City can simply “build around” the controversial 102 acres of conservation lands that were recently transferred to the County of Volusia by the St. John’s River Water Management District.

Perhaps it’s time Councilman Carson and the others come to the sobering realization that they are in real trouble here.  And so is their community.

With the exception of Mayor Clint Johnson, the City Council is under active criminal investigation by the Office of the State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and suspicion about who knew what and when is growing by the hour.

Rather than do the right thing and begin purging City Hall of the half-bright shysters who thought up and perpetrated this patently corrupt plan to surreptitiously acquire and radically develop the Gemini Springs Annex as part of a much larger “transit oriented development,” these clowns act like it’s business as usual.

They fiddle while DeBary burns.

Then, in perhaps the most unbelievable, and undeniable, act of this entire squalid affair, this week we learned that DeBary officials knew as early as April that the Henin Group – DeBary’s most prolific developer –  turned nearly 30-acres of virgin forest along the banks of Konomac Lake into a moonscape.

No permits.  No environmental impact analysis.  No relocation of endangered species.

No nothing.

They just willfully and wantonly – and I believe with a well-formed criminal intent – raped the land and left a fetid gouge of muddy wasteland behind.

Thanks to the excellent investigative journalism of Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Dinah Pulver, we know that the approximately 64-acre site is earmarked to become a residential subdivision known as Riviera Bella East; however, city and state officials say the Henin Group has not submitted final subdivision plans to the city or applied for an environmental resource permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District.

According to the News-Journal, Henin Group CFO Mike Kalin would have us believe that this is all a big “misunderstanding” – and that the developer didn’t realize a permit would be required to clear the land.

Yes, you read that right.

After being in the property development industry for over 20-years, THE HENIN GROUP DIDN’T REALIZE THEY NEEDED A PERMIT TO STRIP CLEAR 30-ACRES.

Of all the mendacious, deceitful, double-dealing shit that has been forced down the throats of the good people of DeBary, this takes the cake.  Hell, this takes the whole bakery.

Many smart people are shaking their heads – and everyone wants to know the score.

According to DeBary’s shameless “Growth Management Director” Matt Boerger, on April 13, Florida Power & Light contacted the City of DeBary to report the land clearing which resulted in silt runoff into a holding reservoir FP&L uses at its nearby power plant on the St. Johns River.

That’s April 13, 2016, boys and girls.  Two months ago.

You might remember it was early May when Dinah Pulver first broke the story on the City of DeBary’s hiring of John Miklos – the chairman of the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board and owner of Bio Tech Consulting, Inc. – to quietly ramrod the acquisition of the disputed 102-acres of the Gemini Springs Annex.

At that time, the entire city staff – including disgraced former City Manager Dan Parrott – either knew or should have known that the Henin Group had illegally scoured some 30-acres of virgin forest off the face of the earth – and no one said a word.

According to City Councilman Rick Dwyer – who, in my view, has been the only sitting elected official who has shown even a scintilla of leadership since this ugly debacle started – is quoted as saying that he isn’t “at all happy” with either Jerome Henin or city staff.

From the “painfully obvious” file, Councilman Dwyer said, “I’m upset as well that the moment we learned of this we didn’t go out and make sure there were no other activities.”

No one even left the office.

According to the intrepid Matt Boerger (you know, the guy responsible for “managing growth” for the good citizens of DeBary) when he learned of the clearing he told the developer to “get erosion control up along that dam.”

But when Henin dismissed Boerger as the ineffectual piss-ant he is and continued to churn the land into primordial ooze, Boerger got tough.

He “reminded the developer about the permit.”

Finally, in early June the City got around to issuing stop work orders.  (After the work was done, and the developer continued to give his middle finger to the lethargic directives of city officials.)

However, the order which stopped construction at a nearby Henin development was quickly rescinded when the company agreed to submit a stormwater pollution prevention plan and also to file a final subdivision plan by June 27.

Man.  Those DeBary officials are tough sons-of-guns when they have to be.

Prior to my retirement from law enforcement, my agency had responsibility for enforcing city codes and ordinances, including the issuance of tree removal permits.

If someone took down a specimen tree – such as a historic live oak –  without having first received an appropriate permit they faced tough fines and sanctions.  Including the angry scorn and ridicule of their neighbors.

One tree is a travesty – 100 trees is a “misunderstanding.”

Interestingly, in defending his company’s actions, Kalin noted that, “We didn’t ignore them. We were talking to the city,” he said. “That’s the city’s power vacuum, that nobody is talking to each other.”

I believe that.

In my view, this is a government so dysfunctional and broken that it is ripe for exploitation.

When a power vacuum exists – one in which there really is no one minding the store – shrewd developers and other unscrupulous bastards who make their very bread-and-butter off the public tit will invariably take advantage of it.

The long and short of it is this:  Those who were elected, appointed, and paid with public funds to work in the public interest simply abandoned their sworn responsibilities and let the wolves feed.

Absolutely no one stood up to lead, protect or guide a community in crisis.

No one.

We now know that Dan Parrott was a congenital liar and a shameless jack leg – a gutless bum more interested in safeguarding his own self-interests than protecting his community.  When the walls started to close in, Dan did what any craven low-life would – he ran out the back door with a sack full of taxpayer money in the form of severance and other lucrative payouts.

Only in government service do you voluntarily quit a job and receive severance?

Since when are public officials under active criminal investigation simply allowed to write the terms of their exit to their personal advantage?

Talk about a leadership vacuum.

When Jerome Henin was running wild on Fort Florida Road – Matt Boerger didn’t have the common pluck to even leave his office.  He just sat there – sternly reminding the developer of his permit obligations while the excavators and bulldozers roared.

How about Roger Van Auker?  Do you think he was going to step up to the plate and demonstrate some leadership for the citizens who pay his lucrative public salary?


Ladies and gentlemen, Roger Van Auker – DeBary’s own Transit Oriented Development Marketing Director (who was handpicked by Dan Parrott) is the former Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Henin Realty Group!

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

Now, I’m not suggesting Van Auker had an obligation here (but he did); however, I seriously question whether or not Roger ever left Henin’s employ?

How about Mayor Clint Johnson – one would think that he would have risen to the emergency, took the reins, and actually lived up to his sworn obligation to provide political leadership and aggressively defend his community.

No.  Hizzoner was preening for the media on a makeshift junk-boat that he would have us believe he was going to navigate across the open ocean.

He’s been effectively neutered anyway.

The Mayor’s goofy larking about has resulted in an iron boot placed firmly on his throat, now totally controlled by the whims of his fellow elected officials and one vote away from being cashiered.

Where I come from, in the aftermath of the wholesale destruction of environmentally sensitive property, no one – and I mean no one – would have been permitted access to this tract of land.

In my view, this is a crime scene.

Until a forensic examination of the land can be completed by law enforcement, foresters, wildlife experts and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, absolutely no one should be permitted near the area – especially not the offending developer.

The News-Journal is reporting that Governor Rick Scott’s Wildlife Conservation Commission assigned an officer to the case who was “in training” until Friday.

Apparently, this is the sense of urgency Slick Rick and the boys put on the wholesale destruction of endangered species and their habitat, virgin forest, and environmentally sensitive wetlands.

Now that Mr. Henin has improved his 30-acres on the shores of Konomoc Lake – now that he has made Riviera Bella more marketable with a “water front” component, now that the damage is done – the City of DeBary lets him destroy any physical evidence on the property by leveling it off, sowing grass seed and generally tidying things up.


According to the wildlife commissions spokesman, City officials are scheduled to do another site visit and report their findings back to the FWC.

How convenient.

Do you really think the City of DeBary is going to find ANY evidence of wrongdoing?  I’ll bet you a donut they don’t find a single Gopher tortoise or eagles nest within a mile of that mess.

If this isn’t the very textbook definition of governmental malfeasance and misfeasance – at multiple levels – I don’t know what is.

And where in the hell is the federal government?

Folks, if this “Debacle in DeBary” hasn’t exposed anything else – it has splayed wide open the complete ineptitude, incompetence and even open complicity of certain government regulatory agencies.

One would think with as much publicity as the out-of-control chaos in DeBary has garnered in recent weeks, the Governor would have personally ensured that FWC and any living remnants of the former Department of Environmental Protection (if there are any) would be dispatched immediately to investigate.

Not in an administration where greed-heads and habitual environmental criminals reign supreme, and anyone who questions their motives are marginalized and considered a hindrance to “progress.”

Who do we complain to?  The St. Johns River Water Management District?

How about John Miklos?

How can good people stand idle?

How can those we pay to protect us and our natural resources abdicate their sworn responsibility?







Volusia County: Influence, Power and Access

“It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.”

The War Prayer, Mark Twain

When I was a kid back in the 1970’s every evening my family would gather around the old Zenith and watch legends like Chet Huntley, Frank McGee and Walter Cronkite report the news and opine on the latest shenanigans from Washington.

I would sit in the family room on the freshly raked shag carpet (remember raking your carpet?) and split my attention between the black-and-white images on the set and the maniacal ravings of my father, an ultra-conservative former Marine Corps officer, who would sit in the same spot on the couch each night – still wearing his suit and tie – drinking Dewar’s scotch and railing at the news of the day.

In fact, these nightly sessions formed my earliest geo-political views and gave my dad and I a life-long bonding point – for instance, we both hated George McGovern, and for most of 1972 I was convinced my family was moving to Mexico City if Nixon lost the White House.

No matter what else was going on in our lives, after dinner we sat down together to watch, discuss and interpret the nightly news.  Invariably, our conversation would turn to the issues of the day, and my father would use images from the broadcast to underscore why, for instance, I would never wear bell-bottom pants, or all the reasons why the United Nations was the greatest force for evil in the world.

There was a little comic relief too.

Remember when we used to elect colorful characters to high office in this country – then follow the lawn dart trajectory of their political careers like a bad soap opera?

Guys like Arkansas Congressman Wilbur Mills and his infamous tryst with stripper Fanne Foxe, or Jim Traficant of Ohio, whose horsehair toupee looked something like a rabid raccoon coiled precipitously on his head.

Those were the days.

You knew the bastards were crooked to their very core, but there was an entertainment value there that could not be ignored.  Hell, when Traficant was released from federal prison in 2009, over 1,200 people turned out to welcome him home – complete with a lavish banquet featuring an Elvis impersonator.

Over 30,500 Ohioans voted for him – as a convicted felon – in his 2010 Congressional race.

Or how about that randy South Carolina Congressman John Jenrette, husband of Playboy model Rita Jenrette, who made up the Washington “power couple” who allegedly had a late night romp – in flagrante delicto – right there on the Capitol steps?


One of the best of these lovable scoundrels was Michael “Ozzie” Myers, an oafish Pennsylvania Democrat who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976.

When he wasn’t fist fighting in Washington-area bars, Ozzie was busy gorging himself on cash bribes from fancy Arab sheikhs (who just happened to be undercover FBI agents engaged in a public corruption sting known as “Abscam.”)

During the federal investigation, agents captured a grainy videotape of Congressman Myers making the ill-advised but infinitely true statement, “Money talks in this business and bullshit walks.”


Now, no one ever accused me of being the sharpest knife in the drawer – I’m dull-normal at best, most likely “feeble minded” on the Stanford-Binet scale – so I have to read and research everything I can find on a given topic before forming even a semi-educated opinion.

But when someone tells me “money talks” – I get that.  Clear as fine Swarovski crystal, baby.

Especially when it comes to the political process.

From the earliest days, I suspect our Founding Fathers knew in their hearts that our democratic system – one in which the majority elects a select few to represent their interests – was ripe for exploitation and corruption.

I’m sure, like us, they hoped for the best but expected the worst.

As our system of governance matured, it became increasingly apparent that the people get what they deserve in terms of the quality and integrity of their elected representatives.

In 1877, President James Garfield wrote:

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress.  If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.  If it be intelligent, brave and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.  If the next centennial does not find us a great nation, it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.

At some point, the “one person, one vote” concept just didn’t fit the bill for a small but well-heeled segment of our society.  The wealthy needed a way to insert cash and “in kind” services into the political process as a means of securing influence and access to the halls of power.

After all, most politicians won’t accept an open-handed bribe – but when it comes to campaign contributions – well, that’s just a perfectly legal portal for civic-minded folks interested in good government to do the right thing.

Nothing wrong with that – the cost of doing business.  Right?


Hell, it’s become a rite of passage in this country.  You remember the first presidential candidate you ever voted for – and the first dollar you ever contributed to a political campaign.

In my view, our campaign finance system has become the front door of quid pro quo public corruption, and most power brokers and influence peddlers don’t even bother to hide their involvement anymore.

In a system that is utterly corrupt, the working theory has always been that its best to do as others do – anything else would only draw attention, and who needs that, eh?

The process for financing political campaigns at all levels transcends party or ideology, and any attempt at reform is doomed from the start – usually by the very elected officials who rely on huge sums of money for their political survival.

It’s like asking a hungry pig to cut off his own slop spigot – not likely.

In Volusia County politics, the practice of purchasing governmental influence, power and access has become so ingrained in our process that it is rarely even discussed anymore.  We just accept it, knowing full-well that each election cycle the same oligarchy will carefully hand select the make-up of our county council, city commissions, school board, etc.

Now, money doesn’t necessarily ensure the outcome of elections – sometimes candidates get whipped who outspend their rivals – but that’s a rarity.

Big money stacks the deck in favor of certain candidates and it fundamentally skews the playing field.  You have to pay to play, and the massive campaign accounts of some local candidates are simply mind-boggling.

We have already seen several viable and very qualified candidates drop out of important local races citing “personal reasons.”  I suspect these exits have more to do with the candidate’s fear of not attracting sufficient resources in an environment where a powerful few give obscene amounts of cash to their anointed ones.

For instance, County Council candidate Al Smith has collected close to $40,000; Carl Persis, candidate for the Volusia County School Board, has amassed over $92,000 and County Chair candidate Ed Kelley has almost $74,000.  In fact, several county candidates have over $100,000 in the bank.

One candidate, Lisa Lewis, who is running for the rather innocuous Supervisor of Elections post, collected $10,000 in one day from various corporate entities, all listed at the same Beville Road address of Mori Hosseini’s ICI Homes and Intervest Construction.

And that’s the common thread.

When you review the individual campaign finance reports, you find that the bulk of these contributions originate from the same individuals – or corporate entities controlled by them.

Now, who am I to tell you – or J. Hyatt Brown – that you shouldn’t donate your hard earned money to the candidate of your choice.  After all, local elections are all about supporting friends and neighbors who stand up to serve, and that’s a noble endeavor.  Like you, I will continue to provide financial support to candidates who I feel best represent my interests.

There are issues that are important to me – beach access, crime, quality public amenities, growth management, the protection and conservation of our natural resources – and if a candidate is like-minded, then they get my financial support, and my vote.

However, there is a point where I draw the line.

A few hundred bucks to the good of the cause is one thing – ten thousand dollars to a single county council candidate is something completely different.  When campaign contributions become more about ensuring commercial self-interests – rather than financing healthy, issues-based political races – the process becomes dysfunctional.

Look, I may be a nut-job, but I’m not naive.

Modern political campaigns cost money – it is essential to getting the candidate’s message out.  There are the ubiquitous yard signs to purchase, media advertisements, t-shirts, bumper stickers, brochures and meet & greets.  These cost money – and those who have the largest war chests have the ability to simply out pace their opponents on the campaign trail.  Especially late in the game.

In my view, the infusion of big money – and I mean big money – into individual local campaigns by a few exclusive insiders who have proven time-and-again that their motivations are purely self-serving is wrong.  It tips the balance in favor of a select few extremely wealthy corporate interests in an environment where the average per capita annual income is around $24,000.

The net-net of these large investments to ensure the outcome of local races is the very foundation of the “benevolent dictatorship” I keep belching about.

As I’ve said before, people like J. Hyatt Brown, Lesa France-Kennedy, and Mori Hosseini are highly successful for one reason only – they don’t spend a dollar without knowing exactly what the return on that investment will be.

These are extraordinarily smart and savvy businessmen and women who are extremely adroit at building – and keeping – personal wealth.  You don’t need an MBA to understand that you don’t last long in business throwing good money after bad.

I don’t know about you, but when I spend money, I expect something in return.

In this case, the local donor class make massive campaign contributions with the full knowledge that their personal, civic and professional interests will outweigh those of John Q. Public each and every time.

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

The 1976 United States Supreme Court decision, Buckley v. Valeo, defined the standard for quid pro quo corruption as, “The reality and appearance of improper influence stemming from the dependence of candidates on large campaign contributions.”

In an effort to more narrowly define that language, in the 2014 landmark ruling by the court in McCutcheon v. FEC, which essentially eliminated aggregate limits on campaign spending, corruption was redefined as “a contribution to a particular candidate in exchange for his agreeing to do a particular act within his official duties.”

Is what we experience in Volusia County quid pro quo bribery – dollars for political favors?

I don’t know.

I certainly hope not.

What I do know is that whenever deeply ingrained political insiders consistently infuse huge sums of cash into the coffers of pre-selected candidates, it undermines the fundamental right of the average citizen to participate in the political process in any meaningful way.

After all, our democratic system is based on the very concept of equality.

I also know that when these very same powerful insiders appear – individually or en masse – in the Volusia County Council Chambers, invariably – and I mean 100% of the time – the issue, project or development they support is handed to them on a gilded platter.

Now, I may be crazy, but I’m not a fool.  And neither are you.

As you prepare to cast your ballot this summer, ask yourself this: Why would a few uber-wealthy power brokers spend a small fortune to support select candidates for local elective office?


Because maybe old Ozzie was right.  Ultimately, in the business of politics, money talks.


Volusia County: Putting the Benevolent back in Dictatorship

Regardless of how you feel about the Hope Place homeless assistance center at the former Hurst Elementary School, the recent maneuvering of Volusia County government underscores the way things get done in our benevolent dictatorship.

I happen to believe that transitional housing for struggling families and at-risk teens is a true community need, especially considering that the Volusia County School Board has classified over 2,000 students as “homeless.”

I also believe that if anyone other than county government were funding the project, the $3.5 million set aside for renovation of the abandoned school facilities could build one heck of a stand-alone shelter just about anywhere.  Regardless, it’s clearly a good thing for our community.

That’s right.  I can support Hope Place with all the smug self-righteousness I want.

The fact is, it doesn’t affect me in the least.

I write this while sitting comfortably in my Ormond Beach home, safe in the knowledge that these poor souls won’t be sheltered within 10-miles of my backyard – and trust me – they won’t even share the same universe with homes in Plantation Bay.

It’s one of the great benefits the affluent with a social conscious enjoy – they can make decisions for others without ever once getting their hands dirty – or compromising their own property values.

I first learned of this plan back in December when the Daytona Beach News-Journal did a story on Halifax Urban Ministries, a faith-based non-profit that has been engaged in homeless support services in Daytona Beach for many years, and Forough Hossieni – the wife of ICI CEO and uber-rich power broker Mori Hossieni – having selected the former Hurst campus as the ideal site for Hope Place.

Now, I’m just rambling here – but it took the County of Volusia four long years from the time the St. John’s River Water Management District transferred the environmentally sensitive Gemini Springs Annex just to formally accept the property.  The fact is, had the City of DeBary’s attempt to exploit the land for private development not been exposed – I’m not sure the County would have ever gotten around to actually receiving the conservation lands.

It literally just sat there.  For four years.

But in just six short months County government identifies the Hurst Elementary site as a suitable location for a homeless assistance center.  It purchases the property from the School Board (with the structures valued at $1.3 million alone) for the bargain basement price of $200,000, negotiates a land transfer and operations contract with Halifax Urban Ministries, allocates $3.5 million for renovations, overrides the recommendation of the Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission and unanimously votes to approve the project.

That’s a lot of moving parts.

Guess when it comes to “doing the right thing” County Manager Jim Dinneen can really get the job done, huh. . .

It’s amazing to me how quickly the marionettes in Volusia County government can move when the right people are working the strings.

Ah, but all was not smooth sailing.

Old Isaac Newton taught us that, “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction” and the laws of physics can’t be fooled.  When people feel that something is being rammed down their throats – trust me – there is going to be a reaction.

In May, citizens in the Derbyshire area came out en masse to voice their fierce opposition to the plan to establish the Hope Place campus in their neighborhood.

You’ve heard of the classic pejorative “NIMBY”?  Well, Hope Place is literally in their backyard.

From fear of crime and aggressive vagrants infiltrating their already challenged neighborhood –  to questions about how the shelter will ultimately effect property values and what impact the facility will have on their quality-of-life – the citizens very passionately made their case before the Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission.

The Commission, which serves as an advisory board to the Volusia County Council on planning and zoning issues, actually listened to the very real concerns of persons living in the area and voted 4-2 against changing the zoning of the Hurst Elementary property from single family residential to public use.

The zoning change was necessary for the project to move forward.

At the time, Halifax Urban Ministries Executive Director Mark Geallis was quoted in the News-Journal as saying that he had no idea there was such anger over the proposed shelter:

“I was shocked and very saddened that people did not seem to want to listen and consider the community as a whole.”

That seems disingenuous to me.

Perhaps what Rev. Geallis failed to grasp is the fact that when people feel put upon by powerful forces the first thing they want to do is explain their position, discuss their fears, and communicate their thoughts and reasoning.

When people feel disenfranchised they actually want to speak and be heard.  They want someone, anyone, to listen to their concerns and alleviate their anxiety.  They want others to care about their side of the equation.

While I know this sounds like a quaint concept – people actually want to believe that their elected and appointed officials will take their opinions into consideration before making a decision that will have a very real impact on their lives and livelihoods.

What they don’t want is to be lectured on how “shocked and saddened” those who stand to benefit from their sacrifice are.  And it’s hard to consider the “community as a whole” when you’re the one with a hostel for the destitute in your backyard.

(And you can throw as much Chanel No. 5 on that hog as you want – for good or for ill – it’s still a homeless shelter.)

Like most decisions that are made by the Volusia County Council – Hope Place was a foregone conclusion before it was ever placed on the public agenda – and our council members neither want or need your input.

In fact, they consider actually communicating with those most affected by their decisions to be a hindrance to the process.

They know what’s best – so sit down and shut up, you ignorant naif.

All you know, or need to know, is that Mr. and Mrs. Hossieni think this would be a good idea – and if your neighborhood is irreparably impacted, then suck it up for the good of the “community as a whole.”

Stop being a selfish asshole.

If you balk or actually become an obstruction to the “plan” – the powers-that-be will marginalize you with righteous indignation and that oh-so haughty air of self-important superiority.  How dare you stand in opposition to the Common Good.

Then they will get in their Range Rovers and drive back to places like Plantation Bay and Breakaway Trails where the gate always closes behind them.

Now, it’s one thing for the influential few to have a good idea for the rest of us – but in order to actually implement “the vision” they need their elected handmaidens to actually get things done.

After all, they are not spending their money – they’re spending yours.

(Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are sizable endowments and corporate donations in the mix.  There are naming rights at stake here. . .)

That the residents of Derbyshire – as taxpayers and citizens of the County of Volusia – had the out-and-out cheek to even question the outcome of this predetermined “decision” came as quite a surprise to County Chair Jason “I didn’t run for the money” Davis:

“It’s a done deal.”

 “Contracts are sitting on desks.  The wheels are in motion.”

County Councilman Doug Daniels was even more to the point:

“You don’t have to be a political genius” to figure out that this will pass unanimously.

“This is going to pass.  Get used to it,” Daniels said.

Indeed.  Get used to it. . .

Chairman Davis told the News-Journal that constituents have called “begging” him to block the project with his vote.  But Davis pompously advised that he has been “shooting back a question about where they were when decisions were being made earlier this year.”

You mean back in May, Chairman Davis?   When residents were climbing the walls and marching with flaming pitchforks at the Planning and Land Development Commission meeting?

Or when the citizens of Derbyshire were developing petitions, holding neighborhood meetings, wearing shirts emblazoned “NO 2 HOPE PLACE,” speaking to the media, screaming from the rooftops, attending planning sessions, and distributing fliers to anyone and everyone in the area?

Where were they?

Chairman Davis, are you actually insinuating that ANYTHING these good folks could have said or done would have changed the outcome of last Thursday’s vote one iota?  Really?

How stupid do you think we are?

Listen up you half-bright, self-important shitheel – you know, and I know, that this decision was cinched the exact second the Hossieni’s insinuated themselves into the process, and the fix was in when the council chambers were stacked to the rafters with the movers-and-shakers of Volusia County’s ruling class.

Stop insulting us with your damnable condescension, Mr. Davis.  You’re not that smart – we know it, and you know it.

Your foul term is rapidly coming to a close – and your reign of incompetence will be long remembered as the worst, most ineffectual period in the history of Volusia County.

You’ve been an abject embarrassment to yourself and those who trusted you.  Unemployment is tough when you suddenly have no friends and no visible means of support.  Enjoy.

Hell, even Doug Daniels had the common decency to drop out of the race and slink away in a fit of shame and self-loathing.

As usual, when all was said and done, Volusia County took a good thing and sullied it with their patented “my way or the highway” approach to non-participatory governance.

Now, the County would have us believe that they will include deed restrictions in the land transfer to Halifax Urban Ministries as a means of limiting and controlling activities on the property.

They have also assured everyone that the Sheriff’s Office will make near constant patrols of the grounds and aggressively deal with any issues that arise.  Trust me when I say that Derbyshire has suffered from crime and the fear of victimization for a long, long time.  I seriously doubt a homeless assistance center is going to alleviate that.

And even if the facility does have the potential to improve issues in the area, the problem is – no one believes the County’s half-baked promises anymore.

We have been lied to so frequently and so blatantly by that little screw-worm Jim Dinneen and our elected officials that we no longer possess the capacity to take anything they say seriously.

In fact, we begin to question ourselves.

The citizens of Volusia County have, over time, developed an institutional distrust of County government, and our elected officials seem oblivious to the fact that they have lost even a shred of credibility with their constituents.  The only ones who seem to care at all are the power brokers who bought and paid for them – like teamsters looking after their mules.

Sad, really.

Now, all you do-gooders can go back to your ivory towers and slap each other on the back – maybe even erect a few monuments to your own self-importance (after all, what good is doing good if you can’t put your name on it, eh?)

At the risk of sounding like the paranoid asshole I am, I still ask myself – Qui Bono?

Who benefits?

The homeless?  Down-and-out families?  Unsheltered teens?  Or does someone else have their eye on a slice of this $4.5-million-dollar pie?

Time will tell, I suppose.

At the end of the day – the good people of Derbyshire will take one for the team – and the “community as a whole” owes them a sincere debt of gratitude.

You fought the good fight against the rich and powerful who felt they held the moral high ground.

Perhaps they did.

But you took a stand for what you felt was right for your families and just maybe there is some small victory in that.

If it’s any consolation, you never had a choice anyway.  Get used to it.

The wheels were already in motion.



(Photo Credit: Daytona Beach News-Journal)










The Debacle in DeBary – Start Firing People, Dammit

For the past week I’ve been enjoying the beauty of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.  Although my family has lived in the Halifax Area for over 50 years, I was born in Tennessee and spent many summers there with my maternal grandparents.

It is a magical place.

I’ve always considered the Holston Valley a second home, and when the world goes crazy – as it certainly did last week – the mountains have become a wonderful escape and a place to clear what’s left of my mind and restore my broken spirit.

One of the great benefits of travel is the opportunity to see and contrast places different from your base.

It not only expands your “horizons,” as they say, it gives you the opportunity to do a little comparative analysis of how cities and regions differ from your own in terms of how folks live, work and play.

The community where my family keeps a small home plays host to a variety of heavy industry and significant regional employers, to include Eastman Chemical Company – a global specialty chemical manufacturer that employs some 6,800 people; Welmont Health Systems with 6,225 people on staff; Holston Medical Group which employs 5,300; BAE Systems, a facility manufacturing high-grade explosive compounds and ammunition for the military, which employs another 525.

In addition, the city is also home to Domtar, which produces 426,000 tons of xerographic paper each year with an estimated regional financial impact of over $1 billion dollars.

The net-net of this is low unemployment, low taxes, low utility bills, incredible educational opportunities, an expanding housing market and world-class recreation.

Why?  Because it is important to large regional employers that they have the ability to attract the best-of-the-best.

They do that by offering exceptional community amenities and opportunities – such as quality schools, exceptional health and medical services, upscale restaurants and shopping, outdoor recreation and upmarket housing.

And in a city some 52,000 I saw exactly two people that I would classify as “homeless.”

By giving back to the community, corporations make it a more attractive place for current and potential employees and service industries.  It’s the definition of a “win-win” proposition for well-managed communities.

Now, I’m not saying upper east Tennessee is utopia, or that having heavy manufacturing facilities in your backyard is everyone’s idea of quality living; however, I am saying that this is a prime example of a region that has learned to overcome the environmental and quality of life concerns that come with an industry-based economy.

In other words, visionary people played the hand they were dealt – and a strong, vibrant community is flourishing as a result.

Another thing I found refreshing was the stability of the local government – which I consider a prime litmus test of any community that wishes to attract and keep strong commercial investment (read: employers).

After all, no one wants to make an investment in a region where the powers that be can’t seem to get it together.  And week-in and week-out, Volusia County reads like a bad nightmare of governmental corruption, greed, influence peddling and just good old fashioned incompetence.

When you travel, you see places that you can point to and say “they got it right” – and there are a few examples of that here.  In my view, Deland and New Smyrna Beach are a two great local examples.

These communities have accomplished great things and held on to their unique identities despite the best efforts of Volusia County government to do everything possible to destroy public confidence and throw a monkey wrench in the economic engine that fuels our region.

As I’ve said repeatedly, in my view, the Debacle in DeBary best exemplifies everything that is wrong with local governance in Volusia County.

For example, last week the St. John’s River Water Management District’s Governing Board voted unanimously (with Chairman John Miklos recusing himself) to transfer the sensitive Gemini Springs Annex to the County of Volusia.

One would have thought that this would signal the beginning of the end of this sordid mess, but apparently not.

It seems the City of DeBary just won’t take no for an answer.

In perhaps the worst conceived move since city officials conspired with John Miklos to obtain sensitive wetlands for a transit-oriented development, on Wednesday the city council voted to modify its plans and continue pushing for a portion of the conservation lands to store and treat storm water runoff from their proposed transit-oriented development.

This move comes on the heels of perhaps one of the most controversial periods in the history of the City of DeBary – a time when we, the people, first saw the inner-workings of a small local government who lost its moral compass laid bare.

It’s like taking a look behind the scenes of a commercial slaughterhouse – it gives you a completely different perspective on those nice white, cellophane covered packs of T-bones in the supermarket meat case.

It’s something you simply can’t “unsee” – and we will never again look at our local governments the same way again.

Smart people would have used the SJRWMD ruling as a way of beginning the healing process – as a demarcation point from criminal insanity to the restoration of the public trust.

But nobody ever accused the DeBary City Council of being smart.

Note to Mayor Johnson and the DeBary City Council:  IT’S OVER.

After all that has transpired, why is that so hard to grasp?

These people are like recalcitrant children who, having been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, continue to try – ad nauseam – to get more goodies by simply wearing down their parents with repetitive and increasingly more ludicrous arguments.

In a Daytona Beach News-Journal article detailing the City’s pathological incoherence, Roger Van Auker, DeBary’s marketing director for the transit-oriented development district is quoted as saying:

“If the city could get “40 or 50 acres for green area and open space, I think that would be a win-win.”

 Are you serious?  Do you really expect anyone with the ability for cognitive thought to believe ANYTHING associated with this abomination could still be considered a “win-win,” Roger?

Hey, Mayor and Councilmembers, don’t you understand that Van Auker is a shill for an “unnamed” developer?

Can’t you grasp the fact that you are under criminal investigation because Van Auker and other staff members – working in concert with former City Manager Dan Parrott – breached the public trust and attempted to backdoor this horribly conceived and blatantly corrupt development behind the backs of you and your constituents?

Do you realize that through your acts and omissions you have ruined the good name of your community and destroyed your personal and professional reputations?

Dammit!  Are you that frigging stupid – or did the stars align in some perverse way to bring this many viciously corrupt politicians together in the same time and place?

It’s okay to admit that you are dumb.

It is a sign of personal growth to confess that you are an unwitting dupe; a hapless rube who has been hoodwinked by a cabal of cheap grifter’s with a slimy agenda.

In most situations ignorance is no excuse, but in this case, the elected and appointed officials of the City of DeBary are either painfully dimwitted – or shameless co-conspirators in the worst executed plot to exploit sensitive wetlands since Ponce de Leon washed up on a north Florida beach.

It just doesn’t seem to end.

In a ham-handed attempt to save what’s left of his foul career, on Wednesday DeBary’s Growth Management Director Matt Boerger continued to insanely flail and grasp – like a man drowning in swamp muck – as he offered increasingly absurd suggestions for keeping the ill-conceived development project on track.

Mr. Boerger – you have been exposed.  Please, Stop.  You are embarrassing yourself and the community who trusted you.  Do the decent thing and resign.  Crawl into whatever hole in the earth humiliated growth management directors use for shelter when they have been revealed as common sneak-thieves.

Now is the time for the DeBary City Council to do the honorable thing and fire Roger Van Auker, David Hamstra, and Kurt Ardaman – immediately.

And consider this a good start.

Begin the Purge.  Flush this foul commode while you still have the opportunity.

The fact of the matter is that the City of DeBary will never regain the confidence of its residents and business community unless and until these disgraced and patently corrupt individuals are expelled from City Hall.

Frankly, in my view, the fact that City Attorney Kurt Ardaman concealed his active business relationship with SJRWMD Chairman John Miklos should be grounds for disbarment.  At the least, he has exposed himself as an unethical scumbag who gives the legal community a bad name.

Ultimately, the Office of the State Attorney – and eventually the U.S. Department of Justice – will determine the facts and seek criminal accountability.

In the meantime, the elected officials of the City of DeBary need to demonstrate effective leadership by immediately terminating the public employment of any staff member who formulated, perpetrated or participated in this horrific fraud on the citizens of this good community.

At the very least, get their grimy snouts out of the public trough.

Now is the time to act, dammit.

Rest in Peace, Antonio Brown

My daughter and son-in-law lost a dear friend in the atrocity in Orlando and my heart hurts for them tonight.

While I did not know Antonio personally, I do know his brother James (also a career Army officer).

This horror – this abomination – strengthens my resolve to protect my loved ones in the face of radical Islamic terrorism – or any son-of-a-bitch who dares to raise his hand in anger to hurt or kill me or mine.

I beg of all my friends to refuse to fall victim to anyone – for any reason – be it ideology or criminal intent.

Think deeply about your decision – and if you refuse to be a victim – then purchase a weapon and train, train and train to be the hardest person anyone ever tried to kill.

May God take and keep Antonio in his loving embrace.

And may God have mercy on the soul of any bastard from hell who considers harming me or mine.

Rest in Peace my brother. Rest in peace.

In God’s name I pray that we increase our collective resolve and defeat these motherless bastards now before more innocent lives are lost.

God Bless Orlando

I am angered and horrified beyond words this evening. Our nation once again came under direct attack by radical Islam and I do not have the words to describe my seething rage.

This war is now being fought by law enforcement on the very soil of our homeland, and I urge my brothers and sisters to be both vigilant and ruthless in your aggression in preparing for and responding to these cowardly attacks.

Train, train, train and train until your aggression is instinctive and your aim is true. Most important, NEVER be without the life saving tool of your trade.

It’s no longer if, it’s when.

If you are a civilian, I urge you to purchase a weapon and receive the best training possible. Obtain a concealed carry permit and learn the tactics and skills necessary to save your life and your loved ones should the unthinkable happen. (If you need a referral, please contact me.)

It’s important.

We live in a dangerous world – and as of 2:02am this morning – we live in a combat zone in the Global War on Terror.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the first responders who acted in the finest traditions of the police service.

May God bless you all. And may God bless Orlando.

Volusia Politics: The Ties that Bind and Divide Us

When I was a kid they used to play horror movies on Saturday nights at the old Number 1 Drive-In theater in South Daytona.  They were the worst of the worst – poorly produced splatter films with names like “Blood Feast” and “Gore Girls” that drew you in with ingenious marketing strategies such as, “Absolutely no one will be seated during the last five minutes of this film!”

They weren’t so much frightening as they were revolting – the more nauseating the better.

Teenaged girls would squeal and snuggle close to their boyfriends, while us younger kids covered our eyes and peeked out through spaces in our fingers at the macabre scenes of violence and gore on that grainy big screen, all of us knowing full-well we wouldn’t sleep for a week.

You don’t see those movies anymore.  I guess the public has come to the conclusion that everyday life in 2016 will produce much more gut-churning terror on any given day than any low-budget spleen-eating necrophiliac can muster.

Besides, any adult found bringing impressionable children to those films today would be labeled and hauled-off to an insane asylum by the authorities.

Invariably, our ride home from the drive-in would involve speculative discussions of how the filmmakers delivered the on-screen special effects, “I heard they use chicken blood or something, and that looked like calf’s liver to me,” as a means of reinforcing that what we had witnessed was “just a movie.”

Sort of like during election years when we drag out that tired old saw, “There is more that unites us than divides us.”

I suppose it’s something of a feel-good salve for the blood sport of modern politics, where candidates – especially at the federal level – essentially engage month-after-month in publicly and mechanically disemboweling their opponents on the national stage.

You know, the old – “At the end of the day, we’re all one people” maxim – which is somehow intended to let us know that the horror we’ve just witnessed for the past year is somehow “okay.”

“We are all human beings here.  We’re not cannibals for Christ sake!  At the end of the day, we’re all one people.  Right?”


This morning I read an excellent piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal by Tony Jarmusz, “Beach driving divides Volusia County chair candidates.”

In describing his take-away from yesterday’s Tiger Bay Club debate, Mr. Jarmusz writes:

“Gathered Thursday for the first time in a public forum, founder and chairman of Let Volusia Vote Greg Gimbert and Orange City Mayor Tom Laputka voiced die-hard support of protecting beach driving rights. Incumbent Jason Davis and Ormond Beach Mayor Ed Kelley were more open to economic development on Volusia’s shores, even if it curtailed some driving.

While I agree with Tony’s take, I feel the differences separating these candidates go far, far deeper than beach driving.

Now, I have made no secret of the fact that I wholeheartedly support Greg Gimbert’s candidacy for Volusia County chair.  While I don’t know Tom Laputka from Adam’s housecat, I do know that Greg embodies the character, energy and visionary leadership that we need working for us in Deland.

In my view, the fact that Jason “I didn’t run for the money” Davis has the shameless gall to ask Volusia County voters to even consider a second term is, in my mind, lunacy – real deep-seated psychological stuff.

There is a pathology that afflicts certain people that makes them believe in their own mind that they have something to say.  I should know – I’ve suffered from it for years, but I just pass the symptoms off as my own guttural arrogance. . .

In Chairman Davis’ case, he has schlepped through the worst term of elective service in the history of Volusia County government – and trust me – that’s a hard won accomplishment considering some of the winners we’ve elected to county office.

Jason Davis’ political faults and foibles are legendary – and to rehash them here just seems redundant.  Suffice it to say that he started his political career as an “every man” who emerged from the grassroots to claim high office from a passel of insiders – then slowly transformed into everything he hated.

About the same time that he started wearing that weird Akubra hat, speaking in ridiculous soundbites and standing in rank support of Jim Dinneen’s mean-spirited leadership style, he lost most folks.

We realized he wasn’t who – or what – he said he was.

To no one’s surprise he supported the county’s efforts to give even more of our beachfront to speculative developers and did whatever it took to quash the Let Volusia Vote referendum denying citizen’s involvement in the future of their beach.

Including suing his own constituents.

The rich and powerful insiders privately considered him a rube and a buffoon who could be controlled by his ego, while the rest of us just stood by in utter disbelief that our Hobson’s choice ignored our interests and joined lock-step with Dinneen’s cockeyed “vision” of what’s best for us.

In fact, his only original thoughts were those hare-brained, get-rich-quick schemes he concocted at the expense of the rest of us.

Remember the great “Reef Balls” suggestion for cleaning-up Mosquito Lagoon?

How about Jason’s one-man-band act in Washington when he went behind everyone’s back and used the county’s lobbying firm to set up meetings with DeSantis, Mica, Nelson and Rubio to discuss his plan to extend Sunrail service to Deland?

(To their credit, the politicians in Washington dodged Davis like the plague and he was whipped like a snake when he returned home.)

And who can forget when he thought we would believe that unnamed “citizens” suggested he receive a $34,000 pay raise and be given the ability to render tie-breaking votes in private?

As I recall, the News-Journal reported that most of his fellow elected officials laughed maniacally in his face, while others called it a blatant attempt at “kingdom building.”

Regardless, this half-bright has had his bite at the apple.  His abysmal lack of leadership and consistently clueless reaction to the serious issues facing Volusia County tells you all you need to know about Mr. Davis’ prospects for a second term.

As regular readers of this forum know, I have written extensively on my thoughts on Ed Kelley, the perennial Ormond Beach politician who, in my view, is a hardcore shill for big time developers.

Unless you’ve paid for the privilege, Ed really doesn’t care what you think – because he doesn’t have to.

You don’t have enough money or sway to matter.

If I give him credit for anything – Ed tells you where he stands right up front.  If elected, Ed Kelley will sell your beach to the highest bidder so fast you’ll never even know what happened.  If he has proven anything, Ed will not hesitate to use the full force and power of government to the advantage of his influential friends and campaign contributors whenever, and wherever, there is a buck to be made.

And he does not give a damn if you like it or not.

In my view, the County Chair race is perhaps the most important local contest of the season.

While I don’t know Mr. Laputka, in my view, Greg Gimbert’s qualifications are clear.  Through his advocacy, Greg has proven that he cares about the citizens of Volusia County – not just the political powerbrokers who think nothing of dumping thousands of dollars in personal and corporate donations to buy easy access and influence.

I have seen his strong, collaborative leadership and unique ability to build consensus from differing viewpoints.  Perhaps most important, I have been impressed by his deep sense of civic pride and personal commitment to the highest ideals of the public service.

When Greg Gimbert tells you something – you can believe it.

Unlike some of his opponents Greg knows that character counts, and his impressive public service and activism has been marked by ethical leadership, accessibility, and a deep concern for the future of Volusia County.

Whenever a politician tells me that he’s in the fray out of concern for the legacy we are creating for our children, I know his heart and mind are in the right place.

It’s just one of the reasons I support Greg Gimbert’s candidacy for Volusia County chair – and why you should too.


(Photo Credit: Daytona Beach News-Journal)









Volusia County: A Complete Absence of Leadership

Only in Florida can you get up early, brew the morning coffee, and open your local newspaper to a front page piece on an eight-foot alligator walking around Lakeland dragging a human corpse in its mouth.

Unusual?  One would think.  Until you learn that last week two fishermen found another gator actively devouring a dead body in one of those open drainage canals in South Florida.

Must have been a shock for the wide-eyed tourists on Captain Jack’s Jungle Tour:

“Nothing to see here folks, happens all the time!  The cycle of life here in the subtropics – you live, you die, you’re consumed by a prehistoric apex predator in a fetid swamp west of Homestead.  Oh!  Look over there –  it’s a stork!”

Turns out, the sight of reptiles consuming human remains is not uncommon at all – just another one of those charming roadside oddities here in the Sunshine State, like Waldo’s giant rocking chair or the world’s largest chicken wing in Madeira Beach.

There are certain things that you just come to terms with when you live in Florida, like uninsured motorists and 90% humidity – and the frequent sight of drifters begging for change on the corner of most major intersections is one of them.

Anyone who lives in Central Florida – especially Volusia County – knows that we are basically a mosaic of small municipalities all living cheek-to-jowl while desperately clinging to the last vestiges of our unique identities.

Oak Hill is as different from Orange City as Edgewater is from Pierson.  Each has its own “feel” – from charming, tree-lined neighborhoods to light industrial concentrations to “Old Florida” beach towns – each community makes its own distinctive contribution to the whole.

Somehow, it works.  Not well.  But it works.

For good or ill, we tend to hang onto our civic personalities here like a Pitbull on a ham bone and the only thing we all have in common is that everybody hates the county.

If Volusia County government is involved in anything, trust me, it’s not done in a cooperative or collegial manner – and the homeless issue has been no different.  However, after much fighting and gnashing of teeth it appears there is actual movement on a long-awaited shelter to service east Volusia cities.

Mainly because the County is nowhere near it.

Unfortunately, there is clearly a trace of discontent and hard feelings lingering in the air as local leaders work through innumerable funding issues in the aftermath of the ugliness and backbiting at the start of this turbulent process.

You might remember that Daytona Beach and the Salvation Army came up with an emergency solution to the “Great Homeless Standoff of 2016” – that foul period earlier this year when normally nomadic “street people” set up a permanent encampment at the Volusia County Administration Building on Beach Street – ostensibly in response to the City of Daytona Beach’s ill-conceived plan to close bathroom facilities in a nearby park.

This stalemate with the great unwashed forced – and I mean forced – a larger discussion by leaders from the cities and county on a permanent solution to the “homeless problem.”

Naturally, those talks dissolved into a series of petty swipes and ultimatums with Volusia County setting arbitrary deadlines for Daytona Beach, Josh Wagner issuing personal insults, etc.

Initially, the county was willing to pay for the building housing the shelter, but not the day-to-day operations, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Add to that a bevy of self-serving “advocates,” parasites and other hangers-on mucking about in the debate and in the end – like peace in the Middle East – it appeared unlikely that progress on the issue would be possible in our lifetime.

Now, the City of Daytona Beach is poised to break ground on a “come as you are” homeless assistance facility on municipal land west of the city limits on U.S. 92.  In turn, the county may be asked to cover construction costs with operating expenses paid proportionally by east Volusia cities.

Now, I’m not one to give credit to the City of Daytona Beach – just take a drive around the neighborhoods and commercial corridors of the World’s Most Famous Beach and you’ll see why.

But in this case, I have to admit, they took the bull by the horns and made something happen.

However, I think the process leading to this point could have been more transparent – and this plan has been developed with little, if any, public input – just our money, not our opinion.  Typical.

(Perhaps our local governments have decided that working in the Sunshine is just too damn cumbersome, and who’s really held to account anyway?  Or maybe they’re just tired of being flogged like a rented mule every time an idea is debated – who knows?)

In the meantime, our leadership on the Volusia County Council took Daytona’s initiative as one more opportunity hurl cheap shots like beer-drunk wise-asses at a professional wrestling match.

Councilman Josh Wagner – the original King of Sleaze – recently opined in the Daytona Beach News-Journal that it is “unfortunate” that the planning process was less than open.  Nevertheless, he supports a shelter that would serve “the full homeless population.”

That is, he supports it until he changes horses in mid-stream and decides he no longer supports it.  Josh supports lots of things – then along the way he decides its more politically expedient to change his mind and screw those who supported him to the wall.

In my view, Josh Wagner is so crooked he has to screw his pants on in the morning, and he’s the only one in Volusia County who still thinks his opinion matters – it doesn’t.  This cheap, mean-spirited divisiveness has been the hallmark of his worthless political career.

Isn’t there a helpless waitress you need to have fired, Josh?

Whatever.  Just stay out of the way while the adults work the problem.

Heck, even our own cartoon character of a County Chairman, Jason “I didn’t run for the money” Davis admitted he was caught flatfooted.  While Mr. Davis is happy that “someone’s doing something,” he thinks it’s time “to be totally open and in the sunshine on this.”

That’s rich.

Jason Davis is a classless hack who’s been involved in so many backroom shenanigans and cockamamie schemes I’m surprised he can look in a mirror without breaking it.

And just when I was warming up to Doug Daniels he goes back on the shit-list for his spiteful suggestion that the shelter be placed in the old EVAC facility on Mason Avenue, rather than “out in the middle of the swamp.”

According to the News-Journal, Mr. Daniels stated, “I don’t think people will want to stay there.  If you don’t want to do something realistic, maybe you need to live with the problem.”  (For the record, the EVAC building is in Holly Hill – not Daytona Beach.)

Now, I’m one of the biggest misanthropes you know – but Doug’s remarks are insensitive even by my base standards.

Doug, I thought you quit?  I thought you found billable work in DeBary?  What gives?

Folks, it’s easy to sit in the cheap seats and lecture those who are actually in the arena doing the heavy lifting.  Trust me – I’m a master at it.  It’s how I pass my time when I’m not drinking.

The difference is that I’m a retired crackpot hunched over a computer keyboard, not an elected official actively accepting public funds with a sworn duty to provide visionary leadership and oversight for the rest of us.

At the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building it has become de rigueur to heap overweening criticism on the municipalities whenever they attempt, individually or collectively, to correct problems that rightfully should be shouldered by county government – like homelessness.

For instance, earlier this week Ormond Beach and Port Orange approved a request from the City of Daytona Beach to help fund extra beds at the Salvation Army for another 90-days.  Apparently, it was somehow determined that 22 of the 297 people who took advantage of the Ballough Road facility were former Ormond Beach residents while 18 of them last called Port Orange home.

Now, I think it’s great that the cities are finding a way to shoulder the collective burden in the complete absence of county leadership – but I’m just not sure how they determined the last permanent residence of these folks when proportioning the cost?

For the most part, the Salvation Army serves the long-term, habitually homeless – people who for one reason or another live on the street and move between zip codes and city limits like migratory birds.  Here today, there tomorrow.

Fixing a last known address for the purpose of divvying up the load sounds a bit dubious to me.  Oh, well.  If it works – it works, and you have to admit, it’s refreshing to see the cities ignoring the small stuff and focusing collectively on the big picture for a change.

It’s progress, but as usual, we’re not all on the same page – West Volusia just wants to do its own thing.

The City of Deland has announced it will be seeking county funds to improve “The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia,” a tony daytime facility which I have no doubt will one day have its own sidewalk wine bistro anchored by a Williams and Sonoma.

It’s just how they do things now.  I’m not knocking it – Deland has done it right.

Deland is hipsters with beards, tattoos and creatively douchey craft beers.  Here in The Dirty we’re working stiffs, bad chain restaurants and lukewarm Budweiser.

East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. . .


For me, the positive take-away is that municipal leaders on both sides of the county are working hard to find positive, long-term solutions to a universal problem.  While they may look at the issue from slightly different perspectives, the debate of good ideas and collaborative problem solving is a positive step for the future of Volusia County.

Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished, and I fear those who have taken a leadership role in finding solutions will have to deal with the petty-minded denigration of those piss-ants in the halls of power in Volusia County government.

It goes with the territory, I suppose.

It is just one reason why no county council incumbent currently running for re-election should even be considered – and the remainder shown the door at the first opportunity.

These haughty obstructionists – at the direction of Jim Dinneen –  have done their level best to hamper any reasonable attempt to find common ground on problems from beach access to the homeless issue – real challenges that affect all of us.

Now, let’s show them the consequences of their arrogance at the ballot box.


(Photo Credit: WESH)