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!”

Bullshit.

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.”

Fighting?

Access?

When?

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. . .

 

 

 

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