The Debacle in DeBary: The cover-up is always worse than the crime

As naturally happens on a foul day like today, friends and family are asking, “How about those primary results?”

How about them.

While some of the races came out to my liking – for instance, I think Arthur Byrnes is a great servant-leader who puts his whole heart into serving the citizens of Holly Hill – and Bill Hall is going to be a great mayor in South Daytona – I was blindsided by the outcome of the County Chair contest.

As typically happens in Volusia County, we are now left with the awful choice between the two special interest puppets, Jason Davis and Ed Kelley.

I’ve always lived by Mae West’s maxim, “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”  The problem is, we’ve seen both of these political hacks in action before.

When all is said and done, I will vote for Jason Davis – for the simple fact that he had the guts to call out Volusia Republican Executive Committee Chairman and first class weasel, Tony Ledbetter, for his arrogance and open dishonesty in attempting to manipulate the process in favor of Ed Kelley.

I will then walk pensively into the restroom and throw-up.

The more things change, the more they stay the same in Volusia County.  We are like a weird sadomasochistic tribe who derive our collective gratification from repetitive degradation and public humiliation.

I equate the recycling of politicians in Volusia County to the same phenomena that has given rise to something called “Bro Country” (which some actually classify as “music”) and the prevalence of “safe spaces” and “free speech zones” on college campuses.  And I recently read a poll that said a certain segment of the population believe that the moon is actually made of green cheese.

I recognize it, but I’ll be damned if I understand it.

Maybe we truly have grown too dumb to think for ourselves.  Is it possible that our society has become too disinterested and self-absorbed?  Do we no longer have the inclination to educate ourselves on the issues, or the records of the candidates who will govern our lives and livelihoods?

Perhaps that’s why we are constantly victimized by unchecked political corruption and hopeless greed here in the Sunshine State.

It’s déjà vu all over again. . .

This spring I became engrossed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s outstanding effort to unmask a fishy land deal in a small backwater of West Volusia.

As I read reporter Dinah Voyles-Pulver’s Pulitzer-worthy exposé on the City of DeBary’s attempt to incorporate 102-acres of sensitive conservation lands into a proposed transit oriented development near the SunRail station, I realized that there was more to this story than just run-of-the-mill small town incompetence.

It is apparent that Ms. Pulver has actually kicked over a filthy chamber pot of massive corruption that goes all the way to the very top of a powerful state regulatory agency – the very organization we trust to protect our most precious and important natural resources.

What I euphemistically call the ‘Debacle in DeBary’ is like a weird Spanish telenovela where the main characters are brought to personal and professional ruin by moral weakness, and their inability to control their own emotions or the devious maneuverings of those they trusted most.

It is an on-going disaster drama of epic proportions, and each week an unfortunate new development peels another layer off this rotten onion.

You couldn’t find these characters if you searched the bowels of Hollywood’s central casting.

Take for instance the strange and savage tale of the ill-fated and arguably insane Mayor Clint Johnson, who was summarily executed by his fellow elected officials; or the painfully hopeless vice-mayor – Lita Handy-Peters – whose convenient memory, political clumsiness and unfortunate stupidity are rapidly conspiring to make her the very face of this catastrophe.

Or Mike Brady, Chris Carson and Rick Dwyer – the ineffectual councilmen who sit on the dais in a catatonic state, immobilized by fear and a lack of any real situational awareness – desperately looking for leadership and guidance like a drowning man grasping for a life ring that is just out of reach.

Add to this mix the likes of A. Kurt Ardaman, Esquire – DeBary’s caricature of a city attorney and registered developer’s lobbyist – who acts like a lawyer that speaks English as a second language.  He instinctively thinks in terms of how his legal advice will best benefit him and his co-conspirators – then translates that into convincing terms the hapless dupes who pay for his counsel will want to hear.

And don’t forget the sub-plot of Mr. Ardaman’s secret business relationship with John Miklos – the slimy quid pro quo grifter who neatly ramrods the special interests of his private clients past the very state regulatory agency that he oversees.

Neither history – nor the criminal justice system – will be kind to John Miklos.

The bit players and rogues in this theater of the absurd include the developer’s shill masquerading in a manufactured public position called a “Transit Oriented Development Marketing Director,” Roger Van Auker.

Only in government would you find such a title.

He was hand-selected by disgraced former city manager Dan Parrott, a contemptuous little shit who did more to damage the future and reputation of DeBary than anyone.  When he allowed Van Auker’s head in the tent, Parrott and others in a position to do something about it knew, or should have known, that Roger was a demonstrably unethical shill for mega-developer Jerome Henin and others.

That’s right – the same Jerome Henin that in one of the most perverse scenes in this bizarre soap opera openly strip-cleared some 30-acres of old growth forest without permission or permit.  Just bulldozed 100-year old trees and churned the ground into a primordial ooze right under the noses of DeBary officials who were either completely clueless – or intentionally looked the other way.

In my view, at the end of the day, Van Auker will ultimately be exposed as the chief architect of this political disaster – and he will find that people who matter will quit taking his phone calls in the very near future.

Hey, Roger – the power-haunts of old money Winter Park can be pretty lonely places once you’re outside the circle of trust.  The big boys and pretty girls on Park Avenue have no use for the weak or the dumb – and you’re becoming the poster boy for everything they hate.

If it’s any consolation – you were never a player.  Just a tool.

Last week, I filed a formal public records request with the City of DeBary seeking a copy of a non-disclosure agreement between Roger Van Auker and an “unnamed developer” whose existence has been discussed at several public meetings.

Given the fact that the TOD as originally envisioned has been effectively halted with the transfer of the Gemini Springs Annex to the County of Volusia, I was certain that the confidentiality agreement would be considered null and void at this point.


I received a missive from DeBary’s Public Records Manager, Eric Frankton, who assured me that – while there was no “secret developer” for the 102-acres (his words, not mine) – the city attorney has determined that the agreement remains exempt and I am not entitled to it under Florida’s Public Records law

Now, I don’t want to argue with Eric – he’s a very sensitive guy – but isn’t the fact that the identity of the land developer is being held confidential the textbook definition of a “secret developer”?

And what compelling public interest is possibly served by keeping a now unnecessary document exempt and out of the public eye?

According to Mr. Ardaman, we, the people, are simply supposed to take his word for it.

And why shouldn’t we?

Because this is the same Kurt Ardaman that came under fire for his participation in an October 2014 ‘secret meeting’ with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs in his role as a registered lobbyist for “developers and auto auctions.”

The same person who represented the City of DeBary during the time city hall was raided by FDLE and the Office of the State Attorney following credible allegations that Dan Parrott and other officials may have violated public records law.

The same Kurt Ardaman who is engaged in a highly suspect business relationship with John Miklos in a mysterious corporation known only as “Medjool Investments” – something he willfully and conveniently failed to disclose to his clients at the City of DeBary.

The same Kurt Ardaman who is known in Orange County political circles as a “quarterback” for his ability to approach big money campaign donors – I believe while also serving as Governor Rick Scott’s personal appointment as a trustee of the West Orange Healthcare District.

(I find it interesting that two gubernatorial appointees to separate governing boards – Ardaman and Miklos – find themselves in business together?  How ‘bout you?)

Besides, how many public offices can one man hold in this state?

The fact is, Kurt Ardaman is so personally invested in high-level politics and speculative land development in Central Florida that he has no business being within a country mile of a city attorney’s seat – yet, there he is.

Yep.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Keep moving.

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but unless we, the people, are permitted to examine documents that prove otherwise – how do we know with certainty that DeBary’s “unnamed developer” isn’t a current or former client of Mr. Ardaman?

An “investor” in Medjool Investments?

Or a commercial developer that he serves as a highly paid registered lobbyist?

How do we know it’s not a business entity that once employed Roger Van Auker?

Hell, how do we know that Ardaman isn’t in business with this “unnamed developer”?

(Do you think he would tell us if he was?)

The fact is, we don’t know.  And if the powers that be have anything to say about it – we won’t.

In Crazy Town you are expected to take the foxes word for the security of the hen house.

He sets the rules and you don’t.

In my view, Kurt Ardaman and his unscrupulous co-conspirators at the City of DeBary are doing exactly what it appears they are doing:  They are hiding evidence of their misdeeds from the public’s prying eyes through dubious exemptions and political slight-of-hand.

Vorpius de liporius octo.

I hope these shitheels understand that federal and state investigators won’t be as easy to dismiss.

I suspect Ardaman’s partners at Fishback Dominick are secretly studying their options.  After all, just how much bad publicity does a very old and very prestigious law firm need, eh?

Someone should probably tell the DeBary City Council that when the ship is sinking – and it is most definitely in peril – the prudent thing to do is instruct your goofy staff to be as open, transparent and responsive as possible.

Throw the doors and windows open, roll up your sleeves, let some air and sunlight in, and let everyone see for themselves that you have absolutely nothing to hide.

I assure you that your constituents will consider anything less as prima facie evidence of a cheap political cover-up – despite what Kurt Ardaman might lead you to believe.

But, like I said, this group isn’t that smart.

At the end of the day, these miserable wretches deserve the political fate that awaits them, and they should all be put in an iron cage, if for no other reason than to keep their special brand of squalid dumbness out of local politics.

If you still don’t think it’s important who we elect to public office, wait until the depth of the corruption is exposed and the curtain comes down on this farce in DeBary.

Then think again.


Volusia Politics: Many are called, few are chosen

Politics is not just about elections.

It can seem that way, especially now, during the final few hours before the primary when local candidates – many of whom are under real pressure for the first time in their lives – go bat-shit crazy with fear, failing self-confidence and false hubris.

Like Dr. Thompson said so eloquently, “That is the nature of professional politics.  Many are called, but few survive the nut-cutting hour…”

Next Tuesday the die will be cast and the field whittled down to the true players; the Big Dogs who are moving on to the general.  The also-rans – the fringe candidates and political dilettantes – will soon be forgotten.  Their friends and family will openly laugh and humiliate them, and their excuses will fall on deaf ears.  No one will care.

Alliances will shift overnight and things will take a decidedly serious turn as campaigns gear up for the big dance in November.

Last Sunday I took a leisurely drive down to the local library to “early vote.”

The most direct route from our home takes me along the west bank of the beautiful Halifax river; and as I drove along enjoying the view on a late summer morning, I smoked an American Spirit Black and contemplated the fact that what I was about to accomplish is the culmination of what passes for our political process in 2016.

As I turned the corner to the Ormond Beach regional library, I saw that the parking area was virtually awash in campaign signs, each blending into the other to form a kaleidoscope of bright colors and shapes that encircled the entire lot like an impenetrable blockade.

So many signs in such tight confines that the individual messages became meaningless.

I slowed and navigated the phalanx of cheap nylon tents and lawn chairs occupied by perspiring candidates and their supporters, each wearing campaign t-shirts like battledress, sucking on water bottles, and staking out territory at what must be the ragged edge of the solicitation restrictions.

I assume they were acting out of some desperate belief that their very proximity to the door could sway a vote or two.

While it wasn’t utter chaos – given the strong emotions of the election cycle, it had all the elements for things to turn sour quickly.

I thought how ironic it was that for the past six-months the various candidates have groveled at our feet, spent tens of thousands of dollars, and all but publicly defiled themselves for our vote – only to impede that very process at the actual point of sale.

Honestly, I’ve seen polling place wars before – but last weekend many early voting locations around Volusia County looked like an actual skirmish encampment.

I have to admit; it was somewhat overwhelming – even claustrophobic.

Most of you don’t know this, but I have lived with social anxiety and obsessive/compulsive disorder since I was very young.

No kidding.  It can be debilitating, too.

For me, it takes several forms – mental and physical rituals dictate how I turn off lights and appliances, how food is prepared and served (buffet? Not happening), the copious use of hand sanitizer – even certain colors can be problematic (for instance, any shade of orange is a no-no in our house).

Weird?  You bet.

But to my knowledge there is no single accepted theory on why it occurs – and even less consensus on the efficacy of the limited treatment options available.

Many highly successful people have suffered with OCD, to include, Beethoven, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Howard Hughes – and celebrities, such as Howie Mandel, Harrison Ford, Justin Timberlake and Leonardo DiCaprio.

It’s quite a distinguished list, actually.  So, I feel like I’m in good company.

In most situations, I function with reasonable normalcy (I know some may debate that) and I have held positions of high responsibility most of my adult life.  In fact, I think the disorder actually made me a better police officer, given the close attention to detail, intense focus and perseverance required of a good investigator.

This condition can manifest itself in odd ways.  For instance, I can speak comfortably, even intelligently, in front of very large groups of people – yet a small dinner party or brief social interaction can result in near paralysis.

Because of my social phobia, don’t expect me to answer the phone on certain days, join a committee, run for political office – or even respond to a knock at the door.  And now that I’m retired – although I can’t do everything I want to do – I never have to do anything I don’t want to do.

Just know it’s not you.  It’s me.

I don’t take medication or participate in cognitive therapies, but when things get debilitating I have time-tested coping mechanisms that allow me to deal with acute OC flare ups with relative ease.

For example, I have a real aversion to crowds and the thought of standing in queue at my assigned polling place on election day would be extremely uncomfortable.

So, I simply avoid that situation.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t vote if the space were too crowded and I have considered casting my ballot by mail in the future to avoid these issues.

Perhaps these sensitivities are why I took such close notice of the situation in the parking lot last weekend, but I suspect I’m not alone.

I understand from social media posts and media accounts that things were worse at other locations.  Reports of petty bickering and nasty taunts between campaign operatives – and in some cases, voters – resulting in angry confrontations, etc.

Just what folks want to see on their way to the polls, eh?

It really engenders confidence in a candidate when you see his or her operatives squabbling, squawking and strutting around the parking lot like an unhinged Kelso rooster.

Speaking of unbalanced electioneers, I was particularly impressed when I read accounts of the abhorrent conduct of the Republican’s own Chairman-for-Life Tony Ledbetter.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, when voters began arriving at the City Island polling location last weekend they found tents, chairs and campaign signs completely blocking parking spaces which, as common sense would dictate, had been reserved for the voting public and patrons of the library.

This annoying impediment to the electoral process was met with calls to the City of Daytona Beach’s code enforcement division who responded to investigate.  After looking things over, the code officer explained the applicable ordinance – and requested voluntarily compliance from representatives of the various campaigns – rather than write citations.

We’re told everyone complied with the rules – except Chairman Ledbetter.

After all, past practice tells us that Tony feels the rules only apply to the little people.

Although Ledbetter refused to comment to the News-Journal on his latest obstructionist grandstanding; when he was caught doing the same damn thing in 2014, he denigrated officers as “nut jobs” and rationalized his conduct as, “It’s free speech.  Get used to it.”

I happen to know that this isn’t the first time Tony has attempted to intimidate code enforcement officers with his “Do you know who I am?” condescending horseshit.

And he knows exactly what I’m talking about.

What an asshole.  What a complete asshole.

In my view, it is simply inconceivable that a giddy little creep like like Tony Ledbetter is habitually permitted to openly embarrass and defame the reputation of tens of thousands of area Republicans as he rules their local executive committee like a feudal lord.

No rules, no integrity – and no restrictions on his perception of power, ethics or honor.

Look, I understand that I have serious issues.  But I can assure you that my ability to recognize and reject bullshit is just as sharp and nimble as it ever was.

Take my word for it.  It’s time for Tony Ledbetter to resign.

Now, get out there and run the gauntlet on Saturday – cast your vote and make a difference.  It’s important.

Have a great weekend, kids.


The Debacle in DeBary: The Overthrow of Clint Johnson – Who really lost?

During my long career in municipal government I once worked for a city manager who told me I was “incendiary” based upon the tone of certain professional correspondence.  The manager suggested that I “sleep on it” before sending emails that others might interpret as angry or confrontational.

I responded that I was passionate about my service, and if others were somehow put off by that, then perhaps they should stop whining to the manager about the content of my in-house missives and focus on the important work at hand.

(This same manager later called me a Son-of-a-Bitch to my face when I refused to go along with a goofy scheme to cover-up wrongdoing.  Ultimately, the individual was cashiered out and has failed to prosper since.  Something I remain rather proud of.)

“Incendiary” and “charismatic” are how they describe people in government who make bureaucrats nervous by asking the right questions or having sharp elbows – you know, not playing well with others.

During my service, I worked with some incredibly brilliant and passionate minds – both elected and appointed.  I have also worked with, and for, some of the most preternatural scumbags, losers and base scoundrels that ever darkened a public office.

By and large, government prefers conformists.

Common bootlickers who are comfortable following in lockstep with like-minded people and banal hall walkers with malleable situational ethics generally fit the mold.

For most of my career, my sound advice for upward mobility and organizational tranquility in public service was, “Let no ass go un-kissed.”  The motto certainly served me well, and became a daily reminder for everything from proper telephone etiquette to personal interactions with citizens.

Last evening what I affectionately refer to as the “Debacle in DeBary” reached its nadir with the summary execution of Mayor Clint Johnson by his fellow elected officials on dubious charges that he violated certain provisions the city’s charter.

If there is one bright spot (there isn’t, but let’s pretend there is), the convoluted and incredibly expensive process used by the bureaucracy to protect itself from the Mayor’s tough questions and red hot criticism exposed some very disturbing facets of what passes for governance in the City of DeBary.

After several fits, starts, and postponements, last night DeBary city officials convened their long-awaited “forfeiture hearing,” a weird kangaroo court designed in whole and in part to ignore the will of the voters and publicly extract Mayor Johnson from his seat on the council like a rotten molar.

The genesis of this cheap coup d’etat began months before when the now disgraced former city manager, Dan Parrott – I suspect in a panicky attempt to conceal his crimes and those of his hand-picked toadies – grasped at straws and came up with the ill-fated idea of twisting a few of the Mayor’s more opinionated tweets and Facebook posts – along with a text message or two – into self-described “charter violations.”

High crimes that were hyped beyond any cruelty ever perpetrated by the Marquis de Sade.

To do this, he enlisted the city’s public records manager, Eric Frankton (the kind of guy you can just look at and tell that he’s a mess of a human being – pitiful, really), and the congenitally corrupt developer’s shill parading as an “economic development director,” Roger Van Auker.

It was Frankton and Van Auker’s job to squirt tears and paint themselves as pseudo-victims, then whine like hyper-sensitive little girls about how the Mayor “directed” Eric to move a box – or threatened the pair’s make-work city jobs by actually pointing out their habitual missteps and open treachery.

They played their supporting roles well last night.  Hell, I choked-up a little listening to how they were brutalized by a “tweet.”  I wanted to put my arm around them and walk them to their car.  Sad.

I just hope they know that when the dust settles, Frankton will be considered a pariah – and following his indictment, Van Auker will be lucky to find work selling toxic swampland on the outskirts of Clewiston.

I suspect Parrott also had some help from the unfortunate city attorney, Kurt Ardaman, who has made so many expensive and blatantly stupid mistakes in his representation of the City of DeBary that he should be sued for quackery and stripped of his “law degree” that he obviously pulled out of the bottom of some sticky Cracker Jack box.

Let’s face it, Ardaman is a hapless half-bright who has cobbled out a career telling local elected rubes exactly what they want to hear.  I also suspect many well-connected attorneys in the local legal community recognize that his career is rapidly becoming a cautionary tale.

Because it is.

If there is any justice, when all is said and done, Kurt Ardaman will end up defending street perverts out of the trunk of his car in the parking lot of the Orange County Courthouse.

The “forfeiture hearing” had just the right amount of drama and humor to make it interesting.  Even Interim City Manager Ron McLemore got into the act when he was sworn and questioned by Johnson’s attorney Doug Daniels.

Under direct examination, McLemore went on one of those “I like to hear myself talk” pattering rants touting his 40 years in city management, and his belief that the city charter gave him super powers to ignore Florida law and close the hearing to the public over weird and never quite explained “security concerns.”

Ol’ Ron might have squeaked out a long career in city government – but in DeBary, he exposed himself as a five-alarm fuck-up when it comes to basic decision-making.

If I were Mr. McLemore, I’d hang-up this post-retirement dabbling and take up the rocking chair.

The giddy bastard has lost his chops and apparently nobody who cares about him has the common human decency to let him know.

Perhaps he’s still rattled by those sexual harassment allegations in Daytona.  Who knows?

And who cares.

He’s become a godforsaken embarrassment to the profession – and by meddling in bullshit small town politics, rather than staying above the fray and providing much needed leadership – he no longer has the moral authority to serve the citizens of DeBary.  And in his heart-of-hearts, he knows it.

Otherwise, the hearing was exactly what I expected it would be.

A formality.

An annoying prerequisite to bouncing Mayor Johnson out on his ass.

Look, I’m not going to dissect this turd – most of you reading this either attended the meeting or watched it on the WKMG live feed.

And I’m not here to defend Clint Johnson, either.

He remains his own worst enemy and I continue to question his mental stability and basic understanding of the limits of decorum – or the benefits of strong leadership and consensus building over self-indulgent grandstanding.

In my view, “tweeting” during your own removal hearing is just poor form.

But I feel it is important to point out that what happened last night – this horrifically expensive sham that was perpetrated against the citizens of DeBary – was an affront to everything our representative democracy stands for and all that it was founded upon.

At the end of the day, Clint Johnson – love him or hate him – is a duly elected representative of the people of the City of DeBary, and in my view, the will of the people is omnipotent.

Florida law has specific provisions for the formal removal of an elected municipal official.

The statute sets out an intentionally onerous and precise process that requires the collection of verifiable signatures on a specifically crafted petition, which both names the official and explains the reasons supporting a recall election.

It also provides for due process and judicial review; and the setting of a special election by the chief judge of the judicial circuit in which the recall petition is filed.

By state statute, an elected official may be removed from office for one of the following narrowly defined reasons:



Neglect of Duty



Permanent inability to perform official duties

Conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude

The statute says nothing about railroading an elected official out-of-office because he hurt the feelings of a couple of mid-level, do-nothing bureaucrats – or pointed out the painful incompetence of his council.

Nowhere is it written – other than the flimsy provisions of the DeBary City Charter –  that a group of four thin-skinned council members can simply hold a “quasi-judicial” hearing on trumped-up “charges” and summarily ax a sitting Mayor simply because their sensitive egos were bruised or they were embarrassed by the exposure of a shady land deal.

This shit happens in communist Cuba – not DeBary.

And not in the United States of America.

Mark my words – this isn’t over.  Not by a long-shot.

What comes next is going to change the fundamental political landscape of the City of DeBary forever.  Eventually, once the lawsuits are settled and the criminal indictments are prosecuted – the taxpayer is going to be left with massive bills, legal fees, judgments and a shit reputation as an unstable backwater that will cripple any real progress in the community for years.

It’s unfortunate, but necessary, given what has been allowed to happen here.

I believe that our sacred war dead stand as silent sentinels to the highest ideals of our democracy, our freedom from oppression, and our fundamental rights afforded by the United States Constitution that they swore to preserve, protect and defend.

What must they be thinking?

Over-dramatic?  Hardly.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

What happened here is a travesty, and it will be talked about and analyzed far beyond the limits this tiny town for years to come.  In the end, it will serve as a shrine to what happens when vengeful, small-minded politicians are left to their own dreadful devices.

More later.


The Debacle in DeBary: Revenge Politics Rule the Day

I have a suspicion that most people are only interested in government during an election year – or when the wheel comes off the cart.   Once the whole “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” of the election cycle wanes, government is about as interesting to most people as watching paint dry.

I also suspect that those who govern us – the politicians we elect every two or four years – know this, and use it to their full advantage.

Let’s face it, attending a local government meeting is like getting a root canal – most people only find themselves in the seat when it’s absolutely necessary to their immediate health and welfare.

In my experience, the gallery of a typical municipal meeting is populated by a handful of political gadflies, disinterested staff members, and one or two bored real estate attorneys catching up on paperwork while waiting to speak on behalf of a client.

Most agendas are pretty benign stuff to sit through after the uproar of the election season –  clamor that always seems to settle into more of the same despite the fiery campaign rhetoric promising “change.”

Things generally move too slow to generate much real interest.

I think Max Weber said it best in his 1919 lecture, Politik als Beruf, when he described politics as the “slow boring of hard boards.”

When done well, the process of municipal governance is symbiotic – functioning as a deliberative and collaborative arrangement that results in both organizational stability and quality services at affordable prices.  But like most interdependent systems, when things are mismanaged – or the written or unwritten rules are ignored – the entire structure of government comes apart like a bad flywheel.

That’s when things get interesting.

If there is a strong city manager in place, the ship can often be righted and the wild oscillations of discord stopped through effective leadership, the constructive input of concerned citizens, or even force of personality.

But in the absence of a steady hand, it can quickly become a rudderless vessel looking for a place to sink.

It also helps to have lucid, smart and functional adults occupying key roles – elected officials who have the instinctive ability to collectively put the needs of the community ahead of their own self-interests.

Unfortunately, the City of DeBary has neither.

As often happens in weakly led organizations, cliques and factions can also form in government.

When one member of the elected body sets themselves apart and openly criticizes their colleagues, or critiques the system, the others naturally feel threatened and unjustly ridiculed.  That’s human nature, and you don’t need a PhD in organizational management to understand the systemic problems it can create.

At issue for the citizens of DeBary is that their mayor, Clint Johnson – a self-described contrarian who bucks the system like a Brahma bull on acid – went completely off the reservation and began brazenly mocking and deriding his fellow council members, political detractors and city administrators – texting, tweeting and posting on social media like a deranged teenaged girl.

In the process, he pissed off a lot of people – for good and for ill.

Perhaps Mayor Johnson accomplished what he set out to do.

Sometimes shaking up the process from the inside out and stimulating good old fashioned upheaval in tired and ineffective systems can be a good thing.  Especially in situations where utter corruption and gross mismanagement are running rampant – and that was certainly the case in DeBary City Hall.

But when the ceremonial head of the municipality wages personal attacks on his colleagues and staffers – then stands behind the free speech provisions of the First Amendment – he must expect an equal and opposite reaction from his contemporaries on the dais, in the halls of power, and from the community at large.

Besides, the Mayor’s conduct was self-indulgent and beneath the dignity of his high office.  He has some weird situational ethics – but no one can argue that he’s doing the job as he sees it.  Right or wrong.

Clint Johnson should be ashamed of his strange conduct – and, truth be told – I think he is.

Unfortunately, the patently corrupt and insufferably incompetent former city manager, Dan Parrott, fell victim to the herd mentality that the remainder of the council used as a weird coping mechanism to protect themselves – and their egos – from the Gemini Springs media onslaught and Mayor Johnson’s incessant clowning.

In what I’m sure he thought was his last, best opportunity, Parrott trotted out the DeBary City Charter and began cobbling together a laundry list of “violations” – cut from whole cloth – which he would ultimately use to neuter Mayor Johnson and appease the bloodlust of those on the council that had been likewise humiliated.

These ridiculous “charges” are the most convoluted mishmash of overblown and nonsensical bullshit that I – or anyone in my sphere – have ever seen.  And when it comes to small town politics, I’ve seen some supernaturally strange things.  Trust me.

To make matters worse, the klutzy city attorney, Kurt Ardaman, put on his lawyerin’ cap (the one with the propeller on top) and rubber stamped Parrott’s silly allegations – and a few more they concocted before the hearing – like the good little sycophantically inept brownnoser he is.

But before Parrott could take his revenge, he was exposed as a congenitally greedy shit-toad and run out of town with a poke chockfull of taxpayer money under his arm.

Of course, Parrott’s departure didn’t discourage the council members from wielding his goofy indictment like a club.  For months they have used it to keep Clint Johnson treed until they can stage a kangaroo court – one where they serve as judge, jury and executioner – to publicly shame then jettison his ass.

All this despite the fact Mayor Johnson was duly elected by majority vote of the citizens of DeBary – just like they were.

And that’s what separates a representative democracy from a Wednesday night popularity contest at a sorority house.

Men and women have fought and died to protect and preserve our inalienable right to cast our sacred vote in the most effective democratic process in the history of the world.  In fact, our military is forward deployed in harm’s way right now doing just that.

And no one – not Dan Parrott, Kurt Ardaman, Ron McLemore or the feckless DeBary City Council – have the right to reverse the will of the people on dubious accusations incubated in the heat of political animus and grown from paranoid bickering.

Ignoring the will of the electorate is not being true to the vocation of politics.  That’s a lynch mob.

Another thing ol’ Max Weber said way back in 1919 that I believe still holds a kernel of wisdom for today’s elected officials:

“(Politics) requires passion as well as perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms – that man would not have achieved the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that, a man must be a leader, and more than a leader, he must be a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that resolve of heart which can brave even the failing of all hopes. This is necessary right now, otherwise we shall fail to attain that which it is possible to achieve today. Only he who is certain not to destroy himself in the process should hear the call of politics; he must endure even though he finds the world too stupid or too petty for that which he would offer. In the face of that he must have the resolve to say ‘and yet,’—for only then does he hear the ‘call’ of politics.”

 And yet:

There is still time for the DeBary City Council to act like statesmen, restore trust, and achieve great things for the constituents they serve.

Time to act in the truest and highest spirit of the public service and put stupid and petty personal conflicts and political quarrels aside – begin living up to their oath of office – and stop this harmful, vengeful and counter-productive removal effort before any more damage is done.

Time to do the right thing, for the right reason – even though the alternative would bring the fleeting pleasure of vanquishing a political foe.   

 For once – act with integrity.  Act with honor.  Restore civic pride and confidence in your long-suffering community.

If you can’t do that – if you feel compelled to pursue this farcical charade – at least have the common decency to conduct this bogus hearing in compliance with Florida’s open meetings law.

Allow the citizens – the voters – their right to stare straight into the faces of these elected and appointed public officials as they perpetrate this sham against the time-honored principles of democracy, good governance and the electorate of the City of DeBary.

UPDATE:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal and other media outlets are reporting that Interim City Manager Ron McLemore has reversed course and agreed that his original memorandum limiting access to Wednesday night’s “forfeiture hearing” was wrong-headed and contrary to Florida law.

I suspect that a telephone call from the Attorney General’s Office explaining the ramifications of closing the meeting on dubious “security concerns” was a bad idea.

Now, I wonder if the AG asked Kurt Ardaman – you know, DeBary’s city attorney who keeps approving these harebrained ideas – to bring his law degree to Tallahassee so they can look at it under a light?

Just curious.



The Debacle in DeBary: No Justice, No Common Sense.

Never underestimate the creepy factor in DeBary politics.  Never.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, the Kangaroo Kourt that is Mayor Clint Johnson’s pending “forfeiture hearing” will be locked down tighter than a meeting of the National Security Council.

According to a bizarre memo published by Interim City Manager Ron McLemore, the Mayor apparently made an off-hand comment on social media parroting the old protest chanty, “No Justice, No Peace.”

Arguably an appropriate statement given the twisted circumstances Mayor Johnson finds himself in.

So – rather than accept the frustrated rallying cry of a besieged elected official for what it is – McLemore (I’m certain at the strong “suggestion” of a few council members) took a circuitous route and somehow linked the comment to the Mayor’s call for citizen gun ownership and proficiency training in the immediate aftermath of the Pulse nightclub terrorist incident.

Anyone else hear a coo-coo clock sounding when they read Ron’s memo?  Because I did.

Is there a connection between Johnson’s goofy comments and a call for violence?

No, there isn’t.

It’s just more bullshit grandstanding and asinine posturing from a city commission with a siege mentality who are bent on railroading Mayor Johnson out of office on ridiculous “charges” concocted with malice aforethought by the disgraced former city manager – and forth stooge – Dan Parrott.

I have no doubt these accusations of charter violations – ostensibly based upon a few mindless tweets and Facebook posts – were promulgated in whole or in part by the feckless City Attorney, Kurt Ardaman – who is, in my view, so congenitally crooked he screws his pants on in the morning.

Remember?  Mr. Ardaman is the same DeBary legal leech who blatantly and willfully failed to disclose his personal business relationship with the now exposed quid pro quo bandit and chairman of the all-powerful St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board, John Miklos.

Yep.  News Flash for anyone who has been living on the dark side of the moon these past few months:  The DeBary City Attorney, Kurt Ardaman, and John Miklos are business partners in a mysterious corporation known only as “Medjool Investments,” according to state records.

Now, you want something to investigate and prosecute?  The uber-peculiar Ardaman/Miklos connection is something the Florida Bar should really sink their teeth into.

I hate to modulate Mr. McLemore’s panic mongering here, but I would disagree that this harebrained quasi-judicial goat rope designed to oust the Mayor is “one of the most important events in the City’s history.”

Not even close.

I would think that state agents raiding City Hall with search warrant in hand is a pretty significant event.

(And you might remember that the only one not named in the warrant was Mayor Johnson. . .)

Further, I would argue that the criminal debacle that is the Gemini Springs Annex deal is – hands-down – the most influential happening in the short and strange history of the City of DeBary.

The depth and breadth of the open corruption and abject greed that has been so eloquently exposed by Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Dinah Voyles Pulver is so historically and systemically wrong that it will stain the reputation of the City of DeBary for a generation.

And I don’t think Ms. Pulver has even scratched the surface yet.

The only thing this loopy “forfeiture” hearing will accomplish is to pave the road to a massive and crippling lawsuit by Mayor Johnson and his attorney, Doug Daniels.  Just watching Mr. Daniels sit at the preliminary hearings with his cheetah-like grin should tell you all you need to know about his ultimate intentions.

Unfortunately, all the long-suffering citizens can do at this point is buckle-up and hold on to what’s left of their wallet as these nutty elected officials drive this ugly hayride over that long, tall legal cliff – full speed ahead, baby.

Hell, the half-bright Councilwoman Lita Handy-Peters all but telegraphed her formal intent to jettison Johnson at her earliest opportunity during some semi-public meltdown in McLemore’s temporary office – which, apparently, was overheard by everyone in the building – including Mayor Johnson.

So much for considering the evidence, deliberating the facts in the context of the violation alleged, and forming an unbiased and informed decision.

You know, that whole ‘innocent until proven guilty’ thing we’re so proud of.

Don’t be ridiculous.  They want Johnson gone and if they have to shit on the will of the electorate, so be it.

We don’t need no stinkin’ facts.

Now, no one ever accused Ms. Handy-Peter’s of being the brightest bulb.  But, unfortunately, she’s part of what passes for stability and “leadership” in the City of DeBary.

Want to bet who’s subpoenaed as Plaintiff’s Witness #1 when Mr. Daniels unlimbers the free speech provisions of something called the Constitution of the United States and sues the city’s collective eyeballs out?

Trust me. Lawyer Daniels considers Wednesday’s hearing a mere annoyance on his way to excoriating these rubes when he gets them in a legitimate courtroom.

Regular readers of this forum know that I’ve been somewhat tough on the ill-fated Mayor Johnson.  I think his contribution to this ungodly mess is regrettable and counter to the important office he was elected to by the citizens of DeBary.

His hands are not entirely clean.

But if we start reversing elections based upon petty personality conflicts and political animus – I’m not sure we would have anyone currently serving in a public office from the U.S. Senate to the Aldermen of Hooterville.

If you want to hold a hearing challenging Clint Johnson’s sanity, you might get some traction.

I’ve always felt that his cheese has slid off his cracker – but he seems to have recognized the error of his ways and has attempted to extend an olive branch on several very public occasions.

Unfortunately, no one in a position to matter seemed interested in accepting the Mayor’s penitence and seemingly sincere promise to play pretty with his colleagues in the public’s interest.

The fact is the helplessly befuddled city council want Clint Johnson gone.  And on Wednesday evening, they will ride off with the Mayor’s political scalp in their saddlebag.

I could be wrong, but I’m not.

Once the deed is done, the remaining council members will slap each other’s back, congratulate their own performance, and wallow in unbridled hubris and self-importance.  Then, they will talk enthusiastically about “moving forward” and “putting things behind us” and the glorious progress that awaits the denizens of Oz now that the wicked witch is gone.

They will almost believe their own spin, too.

But at night, when they are alone with their thoughts, they will be gripped with the crippling fear of what awaits when Mr. Daniels gets them in front of an actual judge.  That day of reckoning when Ardaman will be made to look like Hank the Talking Mule as he yammers away in a desperate attempt to explain his situational ethics and gross malfeasance to the court.

When the judge tally’s things up, Doug Daniels and his client are going to walk away with a whole bunch of taxpayer money in his elegant leather briefcase.

And there is not a damn thing the good citizens of DeBary can do about it.  The lot has been cast.

For the record: Mr. McLemore – enjoy your retirement.  I suspect this latest fiasco – evidenced by your silly memorandum citing overblown “security concerns” – is going to haunt your fledgling “consulting” career like a Golem.

You screwed up when you jumped in the fray and tried to pick this fetid turd up by the clean end, eh?

It appears to my jaundiced eye that Mr. McLemore let the Mayor’s prickling comments questioning his leadership get under his skin – and he obviously acquiesced to a piss-poor, but sensational, decision by elected officials who are so desperate for leadership that they are pissing themselves like a nervous cur.

In my view, McLemore failed this council when they needed his guidance most, and in his business, that’s inexcusable.

No, this won’t bode well for Mr. McLemore’s resume – or ultimately for the City of DeBary.

Hell, maybe Ron can use it as one of those homespun yarns at his next job interview. . .

Regardless – Thanks for nothing.

Have a great weekend, kids.










Volusia Politics: What have we become?

How do you define “Ethics”?

How do you determine the morally correct path at the intersection of honor and dishonesty?

Now, I’m not asking for a philosophical debate here, but I think it’s essential to periodically reset our moral compass, and to give serious thought to the personal, situational and organizational principles that are important to us.

You know, the process for making decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong.

Each of us are faced with these choices every day.  From little white lies to protect someone’s feelings to padding an expense account; or larger, more enduring personal and professional decisions that require true moral courage, like reporting a colleague’s misdeeds or our fidelity to a relationship or cause.

I’m probably the biggest scumbag you know.  By any measure, just a weak-minded, self-absorbed misanthrope and egotistical asshole.  Not something I’m proud of.

But I have my principles – a strong sense of right and wrong – and my hypocrisy has tight boundaries.

At least I’m willing to admit it.

Typically, when faced with a moral conundrum I tend to use a duty-based framework to find the right answer:

“What are my obligations in this situation, and what are the things I should never do?”

“Are my actions simply self-serving and intended, consciously or subconsciously, to avoid a moral duty or ethical obligation?”

Essentially, it boils down to a simple question:  Am I doing the right thing, for the right reasons?

Most of the time this analytical decision-making process works for me.  But sometimes I still fail to live up to my personal expectations.

What pisses me off is when our elected and appointed officials, and the power brokers who have bought and paid for them, conduct themselves in a manner that is so outside the lines of ethical conduct and common human decency that it calls the very moral fabric of an entire community into question.

Then just walk away from it.

Obviously, I’m referencing the City of Daytona Beach – and to a larger degree, the County of Volusia – and their respective failed interventions into our growing homeless problem.

I’ve written about this before.  Ad nauseum, in fact.

But it bears repeating.

This Circle of Doom began last winter when a group of street people took up residence at the county administration building in downtown Daytona Beach.  The occupation at 250 North Beach Street began when the city – in a poorly orchestrated control strategy – abruptly closed restroom facilities and removed bench seats from Manatee Island Park.

This began a no-win standoff between the homeless, their so-called “advocates,” and local/county government that played out very publicly in the media and brought hell and havoc to local small businesses who have struggled for years with the city’s half-assed policies and failed strategies for a sustainable “downtown.”

Ultimately, after irresponsible and counter-productive threats, bullying and ultimatums from the county council, Daytona Beach found a short-term solution in the Salvation Army.

This quick fix took the unwashed hoard off of Beach Street – and the front page – to the relative obscurity of an improvised shelter on nearby Ballough Road.

And just in time for Special Events Season here on the Fun Coast!

It also allowed our so-called “leaders” at the County of Volusia to simply wash their hands of the situation, abdicate their sworn responsibility, make ridiculous suggestions, and snicker as city officials flailed and skidded like pigs on sheet-ice as they legitimately struggled for a more permanent solution.

Ultimately, all good things come to an end.

When the Salvation Army was no longer an option, Daytona Beach opted for a self-styled “housing first” strategy that put some 70 homeless people in city-subsidized motel rooms on Ridgewood Avenue.  The city accepted this responsibility knowing that it would result in a weekly nut estimated between $6,000 and $16,000.

At the time, I opined that the warehousing of indigents – people who are either unwilling or incapable of contributing to their own needs – in the absence of social, medical, psychological and nutritional support is probably counter-productive.

In my view, this strategy simply exacerbates the long-term problem – while sustaining and promoting the corrosive blight inherent to Ridgewood Avenue’s fleabag motels, while doing nothing to change the core contributing factors.

But once you take on the role of caregiver – responsible for the well-being and interests of a dependent – you can’t simply wash your hands and walk away.

It doesn’t work that way.

When government insinuates itself and openly accepts responsibility for correcting entrenched social problems, we expect it to live up to its obligations.

(Note to Volusia County – doing nothing to avoid political exposure or financial responsibility is not an option either.  The sin of omission is just as wrong as abandoning a duty once accepted.)

I still think the best analogy here is the person who goes to the Halifax Humane Society and adopts a puppy – a vulnerable being whose life now relies on that individual for its shelter, nourishment and protection.

When you accept this important and honorable responsibility – you agree to live up to the moral imperative that you simply cannot abandon your defenseless pup in the elements to fend for itself simply because it is no longer financially, socially or politically convenient.

I think most would agree that abdication of one’s responsibility in that situation would be ethically and morally wrong.

I think to do such a despicable thing to a defenseless domesticated animal would mark that person as a congenitally cruel and merciless asshole, right?


I’m not a very religious guy, but something tells me we probably shouldn’t treat helpless human beings that way either.

Perhaps I’m mistaken.

Late last week, after just eleven-days in the relative security of a city-subsidized motel room, the remaining 57 homeless people were summarily evicted by their guardian – the City of Daytona Beach.

Seventeen people were sent to a housing facility on Kingston Avenue in the blight infested no-man’s-land near Ridgewood Avenue, where zombie-like creatures roam the streets and congregate, urinate, defecate, smoke dope, drink cheap beer and loiter assiduously near parasitic convenience stores and flophouses.

Five others were sent to a church in Ormond Beach, while four United States military veterans – people who took up arms and defended our way of life – were placed in the care of the Salvation Army.

The dregs – the flotsam and jetsam – were disposed of at something called a “safe zone” near Clyde Morris and the Bellevue Extension.

Turns out, the safe zone (available evenings only) is a vacant, city-owned lot with an open spigot for drinkable water and portable toilets for personal necessities.  Concerned residents who took the time to investigate found broken glass and other debris littering the lot, making the area anything but “safe” for human habitation.

To add insult to injury, the city has suggested it will look for additional “safe zone” sites around the city and “rotate” the location from time-to-time.

So don’t bother to get comfortable, folks.  I wouldn’t erect any semi-permanent quarters.

To the contrary.

When you become a living eyesore and an inconvenience for the “Big Doing’s” over at Embry-Riddle’s brand new “Micaplex,” your benevolent caretakers at the city will just up and move your ass to another “safe zone” like a human shell game.

My God.  What are we becoming?

I find it reprehensible that in 2016 a modern government entity would simply dump people they previously agreed to house in an overgrown vacant lot without food or shelter and consider it acceptable and humane public policy.

I also find it shameful that in the aftermath of a failed strategy, officials who are accepting public funds for public service would simply give up with the flippant statement, “The city needs to get out of the homeless business directly.  It needs to be done by nonprofits.”

Look, I’m no humanitarian – and I don’t have a solution.

But I recognize basic callousness and governmental incompetence when I see it, and it is time for our elected and appointed officials to treat this problem as a priority, rather than a political can kicking contest.

Trust me – I’m not shilling for the self-described “homeless advocates” either.

Most of these pseudo-experts and “faith-based do-gooders” of dubious ordination siphon their living by convincing government agencies to throw more money at the enigma of homelessness; and right now these opportunists are in a feeding frenzy as municipal budgets are finalized.

Somehow, these shameless grifters can still look at themselves in the mirror.

The one bright spot is the fact that the excuses, infighting and flagrant abdication of responsibly have exposed our elected and appointed officials – and a few parasitic “advocates” – for what they truly are, and aren’t.

The question is, how long will we accept this train wreck as effective representation?

UPDATE:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal is reporting that Volusia County Councilman Josh Wagner has proposed gifting Halifax Urban Ministries $1.5 million in public funds to operate a come-as-you-are homeless shelter at an as-yet-to-be-determined location.

Of course, County Manager Jim Dinneen thinks its a great idea.

The cash comes with a mandate to get the county off the hook on the issue of homelessness by requiring that HUM find alternative sources to make up any deficit in operating costs.

By the way, HUM’s Executive Director Mark Gaellis was caught flatfooted.

Seems he learned HUM was being considered for the tax dollars from a reporter. . .

No plan.  No bids.  No proposals.

Apparently, we’re just going to hand it to them, making a grand total of $5 million in cash and assets that HUM has received from Volusia County since Hope Place was approved.

Interesting process.

Is it who you know?  Just curious.





Volusia Politics: I guess Jim Dinneen didn’t get the memo. . .

I want to tell everyone who takes a few minutes out of their busy day to read these “missives from the dark side” just how much I appreciate your time.

As of this posting our little blog has received over 25,000 views since January!

Wow.  Who would have thought?

Much of what I write about is based upon our universal concerns – issues that are near and dear to our collective hearts here in Volusia County.  Whether you agree with my point-of-view or not, I hope you find something thought provoking in these ramblings when you visit.

Earlier this week I received some truly great advice from a few friends. These are people I respect – and when they tell me something, I listen.

One explained that my essays are too long.  He’s right.

I think it’s a residual style from having written police reports for the past three decades.

In law enforcement we have a saying, “If it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen.”  So, I tend to take a quip and transform it into a novella.  I promised to do better, but given my proven lack of self-control, I’m not holding out much hope.

Another friend echoed the thoughts of several others who have told me, “You know these people you write about hate you, right?”

I could care less.  I spent my life in a field where people actually tried to kill me.

So, if the privileged few who have run Volusia County like a private fiefdom get their pampered feelings bruised by one man’s opinion – well, that’s just hard cheese.

In order to read my twaddle one must look for it – it’s not delivered to everyone’s doorstep each morning.  And the beauty is – like a radio or television – if someone doesn’t like the content, they can just turn it off.

No need to get your knickers in a twist, really.

Frankly, I hope those who are in a position to influence change despise me so much that their burning hatred wakes them to the realization that things must change – that the political process in Volusia County can and should be more than using big money to manipulate a patently corrupt system.

I’d like to think we’re better than that.

The recurring kernel of truth I hope readers discern in my epistles is our need for strong leadership.

Will we get what we deserve?  Only this election will tell.

It’s clear to me that in Volusia County the current administration is either unwilling or incapable of recognizing that they have lost the public’s trust.  They no longer have the consent of the governed – and the cheap methods they employ to convince and control us are tired and worn.

But that doesn’t stop County Manager Jim Dinneen from trotting them out time and again; invariably when he needs more of our money.

For instance, last week we heard more hand-wringing out of Deland as our elected and appointed officials once again sounded the Klaxon on the emergency du jour.  Always a hyper-perilous, super-expensive conundrum that can only be resolved with an infusion of more tax dollars.

Once again Mr. Dinneen is prematurely rolling out the transportation infrastructure sales tax initiative – even after city officials effectively (and intelligently) tabled the matter until after the election season.

Like most requests from the cities, I guess Jim used the memo as toilet paper.

In March, area city managers suggested that further talks on the tax scheme, which would divide transportation infrastructure funds between the cities and the county, be put on hold to provide time for stakeholders to agree on a list of priorities.

You know, so citizens will know exactly what the money – estimated at $60.5 million – will be used for.

What a novel idea.

Last week the Daytona Beach News-Journal ran a piece entitled, “Pothole to Growth?  Shortage in road funds could hurt Volusia’s economic development.”  In the article, Dinneen explains the situation with his typical panic and hysterics:

“If Trader Joe’s wanted to come today, they wouldn’t be here.  Tanger probably wouldn’t have come. Economic development would not be here. Period.”

Wow.  “Period.”  Scary stuff.

Despite Jim’s fear mongering, I’m still not convinced.

I believe these companies would have located here anyway.  The fact we gave these projects millions of dollars in public funds, subsidies and infrastructure improvements was simply icing on the corporate cake.

And Mr. Dinneen’s theoretical bullshit is just a smokescreen.

Seemingly oblivious to the fact that he has lost basic credibility with anyone other than his power broker puppeteers, Jim Dinneen once again stages his tired Kabuki – always skillfully performed with just the right amount of drama and apocalyptic urgency to wring additional money from an already tax weary constituency.

It seems that deliberately arousing fear and raising false alarm has become the last arrow in Jim’s quiver.

One would think that for $350,000 in annual salary and benefits Volusia County residents might expect something more in return.

I think people are beginning to understand that a bureaucracy – especially one as bloated and festering as Volusia County’s – requires tax dollars like a leech needs the blood of its host.  It’s very life depends upon it.

Let’s face it.  The county budget has swelled to approximately $850 million.  That’s serious money in a place where the center of the county is pine scrub and most of the municipalities provide their own core services.

In my view, if you can’t do it for $850 big ones – you can’t do it.

It is increasingly clear to everyone except our elected and appointed representatives that they no longer have our support and acquiescence.

We simply don’t trust them anymore.

Public confidence in county government has been slowly eroded by the steady flow of missteps, bullying, deceit and political slight-of-hand that invariably benefits a privileged few while always laying the financial burden squarely on the backs of the taxpayer.

Most telling is the fact that the very thought of reducing exorbitant executive salaries and limiting corporate giveaways in light of budget shortfalls is anathema to this administration.

That tells you all you really need to know about Mr. Dinneen’s loyalties and skills.

If our elected officials still believe the overburdened tax payer is going to blindly approve $60.5 million in additional sales tax, only to have it squandered and lavished on their corporate overseers – or pissed away by gross mismanagement – then they are delusional.

If someone hates me for pointing out that fact – good.



Volusia Politics: With age comes wisdom

To those who think they hold the cards

I send out my kind regards,

To those who love and those who care,

I’ll meet you down the road somewhere

The SteelDrivers – Heaven Sent

As I’ve told you before, I’m not an educated man.

But I am getting older – turned 56 last weekend – and with age comes wisdom, I suppose.

When you’ve got more years over the transom than off the bow, you tend to think about things differently, at least I do, and more often than not, I have a different viewpoint on issues than when I was a younger man.

It’s all perspective.

For instance, I have always appeared older than my age.  It’s the gray hair, wrinkles, and bloat I think.  When people are surprised, I just tell them, “It not the years, it’s the miles. . .”

I’m what doctor’s call a “high miler.”

While my body lacks the strength and flexibility I once had, my mind is still relatively limber and I’ve gained a little insight from living out here on the ragged fringe all these years.

Most of what I know was learned the hard way – through trial and error – and experiential learning is the most expensive education you can receive.

It’s like touching a hot stove over-and-over again – or voting for perennial politicians. Eventually, pain receptors teach your brain the relationship and you suddenly realize, “Damn, that hurts.  I don’t think I want to do that anymore.”

A sudden recognition of cause and effect.  Inexorable proof that life really is a gradual release from ignorance.

As I begin another trip around the sun, I find that I’m settling into the “crusty retired guy” phase of life quite nicely.

In that role I have a lot more time to spend with the morning newspaper.  In fact, I dissect it, section-by-section, always in the same uniformed manner, until I have explored and contemplated the news of the day and developed distinct opinions on exposés and issues from the editorial page to the funnies.

I have some fun with it too.

In my hometown paper – the Daytona Beach News-Journal – they run an on-going section on the front page of the online edition called simply, “Mugshots.”  It’s a digital “Rogue’s Gallery” that constantly up-dates with booking photographs of weary looking friends and neighbors who are visiting the County Jail.

Since I have the time, most mornings I get a second cup of joe and play a little game with myself called, “Guess the Charge.”

It’s simple, really – feel free to play along.

Just pick a mugshot and try to guess what the miscreant was charged with.  Then click your mouse and the person’s arrest record is displayed.

I’m getting pretty darn good at it, too.

For instance, I can tell the difference between a DUI and a Retail Theft just by the amount of mascara draining down the person’s face – male or female.  And a young lady with a black eye and a satisfied smile?  Gotta be an aggravated battery.

You just know she cut some abusive dirt bag in some seedy trailer park near Mondex.

Some are easier than others.

I’ve noticed that the mugshot section is increasingly populated by people with tattoo’s on their face and neck.  I always guess a crime of impulsivity or opportunity when considering these guys.

I mean – unless you’re Mike Tyson or a Maori warrior – I don’t think you actually chew over getting a facial tattoo.  That’s more something you wake-up from a three-day bender with and wonder, “What the hell?”

Rarely does one say, “Honey, I’m thinking about getting the word ‘Psycho’ over my right eyebrow but I’m torn between the proper font.  The guys at the firm are no help.  Edwardian Script or a simple Helvetica?”

There just seems to be a direct correlation between face ink and your odds of ending up as a contestant on Guess the Charge.  Profiling?  Perhaps.

At the end of the day – it all boils down to poor decision making.

I’ve yet to see an attorney or a practicing physician with “By Whatever Means Necessary” printed in bold black ink on their neck.

Mine don’t, anyway.

As a result, when I cross one of these “facial art” types on the street – I tend to give them a wide berth.  It’s a safe bet they have impulse control issues – and I have enough friends, so. . .

Poor decisions.  Go figure.

Speaking of impulse control, those drunken sailors over at the Volusia County Council seem to have found yet another pet project.

Yep, another big money give-away from our seemingly bottomless corporate welfare fund.

Is there any “successful” large-scale corporate entity in Volusia County that can stand on its own two feet without access to the public trough?

I mean, it almost seems like government handouts and tax incentives have become part of the modern corporate funding scheme of any multi-million-dollar company.

You want to expand, renovate or develop?  Go ask government for some free tax dollars under the guise that it’s economic development – an “investment in the future.”

That gets them every time.

As everyone knows, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the international leader in aerospace education and research, and we’re lucky to have them in our backyard.  It’s a private university – governed by a Board of Trustees that just happens to be chaired by our own mega-millionaire, uber-powerbroker, incredibly wealthy developer and ERAU alumnus Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini.

You know, the same Mori Hosseini that shovels money into the campaign accounts of hand-selected candidates for local elective office like coal into a runaway locomotive.

Under Mori’s leadership – which is being openly (and courageously) challenged by nearly every former student government president and graduate for the past 20-years – the university has approached Volusia County with a request for package which includes $1.5 million in public funds, the opportunity to purchase county-owned land near the campus at half-price, and other financial incentives, to include reduced lease rates and consideration on future “grants.”

Naturally, our elected “representatives” on the county council are fawning all over it.

Whenever Mr. Hosseini or another member of the local donor class ask for something, certain council members begin instinctively and reverentially prostrating themselves before the High Panjandrums and start coughing up cash like a dyspeptic dog.

You can tell the deal is sealed when council members start using terms like “transformative” and “visionary” to describe the project.

Embarrassing, really.

“We’re tired of minimum wage jobs in Volusia County!”  Is the rallying cry – jobs, always jobs.

In recent years, the Volusia County Council has literally gifted millions in tax breaks, incentives, subsidies, infrastructure, and outright cash giveaways to privileged and profitable corporate entities.  Now, we’ve been assured by ERAU officials that this investment will result in a $1.8 billion “value” in economic development opportunities, to include – you guessed it –  jobs.

Want to place a bet on how much of that “value” you and I actually see?

According to Mr. Hossieni, ERAU is “going to the next level.”

Well, go.

Just don’t ask the already overburdened Volusia County taxpayer to fund your trip.

I have no doubt Mori could fund the requested $1.5 million from the loose change in his couch cushions.  Let’s face it, to his credit, Mr. Hossieni has been incredibly successful – and he’s going to put his name on it anyway.

I guess my question is: Why does the County of Volusia have to act as a high risk hedge fund?

What happened to the days when private colleges and universities – or large corporations, for that matter – paid their own way, raising funds from alumni, endowments and other private sources to finance campus expansions and development?

Embry-Riddle is actively building a $32 million research park called “The John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex” which hopes to bring together “venture capitalists, scientists, students, faculty and engineers” for research and development projects.

Who knew the venture capitalists would be you and I?

When (not “if”) the funding request is approved by the Volusia County Council the money will move around like some weird Three-Card Monte hustle.

The $1.5 million will come out of the tentative $4 million economic development budget, while the $400,000 from the discount land sale will go back in, and approximately $18 million of the $32 million used to build the “Micaplex” originates from state funds, and keep your eye on the money card, folks, just follow the Queen of Hearts and you win big. . .

And if Mr. Mica’s name is on the building, you can bet your bippy there are some massive federal dollars in the mix as well.

According to the News-Journal’s report, “The $1.5 million ERAU is seeking from the county would be used to assist companies using the research park who need additional startup funds. Businesses would be required to stay and grow in Volusia County.”

No word yet on what happens when the companies we finance go tits up. . .

Well, at least we can take comfort in knowing that any company receiving subsidies will be required to “stay and grow” in Volusia County.  You know, the place where any business other than a Bubba’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que franchise has about a six-month life expectancy. . .

But, hey, Mori says it’s another “crown jewel” for the community – and that’s all ye know or all ye need to know.

According to Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, “This is a part of a journey we must take to ensure our children’s dreams become a reality.”

Meanwhile, back at Barker’s Sideshow of Ugly Realities, we can no longer afford to repair our roads or rebuild crumbling infrastructure, our drinking water supply is stressed to the max, our schools are struggling, we’re charging people to access the beach, stealing ECHO funds for parking lots, have yet to develop a comprehensive plan to assist our homeless population and the council just voted to approve – unanimously and without discussion – a 1.8% tax increase on a county budget that has swelled to almost $850 million dollars.

Apparently we can’t afford core government services, but we can finance every “visionary” plan that the donor class believes would be “transformative.”

“Mark, you’re just a curmudgeonly asshole.”

“Clearly you’re not helping to make our children’s dreams a reality!  You’re just being the turd in Mr. Hossieni’s very expensive crystal punch bowl.  Why are you shitting on our CHILDREN’S DREAMS!?” 

To the contrary.

What I’m saying is that if we keep spending at current rates, our “children’s dreams” are going to be limited to what the over-taxed and underpaid little urchins can scrounge while they struggle to pay for the sins of their parents.

How far do you think a local plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, lawn service or other small business owner would get if he or she had the chutzpah to stand in front of the county council and asked for public funds to expand their service area, hire an employee or two, abate their taxes or renovate their facilities?

They would be booted out of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building on their ass to the hoots, hollers and laughter of the elected and appointed officials inside.

Frankly, it’s time the County of Volusia and the City of Daytona Beach got out of the speculative finance game and back to the business of providing their constituents with some competent core services at a price we can afford.

What a novel idea?

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of Forbes-listed billionaires begging for additional tax breaks, incentives and corporate handouts while the City of Daytona Beach is actively preparing to throw homeless people out of government subsidized motel rooms.

Just rubs me wrong.

You may remember that I’m the obstructionist shithead who thought warehousing the homeless using tax dollars might be bad public policy in the long-term.  But when you’ve committed yourself to helping and have already placed people in housing you follow through, dammit.

Why?  Because it’s the moral and ethical thing to do.  That’s why.

You don’t go to the Humane Society and agree to shelter a dog, then throw him out on the street without cover or food when it becomes financially inconvenient.

You shouldn’t do that with people either.

I’m sick and tired of hearing how spending more of our tax dollars on the latest shiny whim of the rich and powerful is going to solve our myriad social and economic issues.

Bullshit.  The examples are long and distinguished.

According to a 2013 piece in the News-Journal, from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s, “the city and county dished out more than $35 million in community redevelopment money — $50 million-plus in inflation-adjusted dollars — to help build and expand what is now the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort and the Ocean Walk retail, time-share and condo-hotel complex.”

Remember how we were force fed the same “less blight, more jobs” line when it came time to throw money – over $30 million dollars of it, as I recall – for development of the “E Zone”?

It was the same argument they used when our local “movers and shakers” stood in front of their hired handmaidens on the county council and “encouraged” economic incentives, subsidies, and more beach driving closures for the Westin and Hard Rock projects.

You remember – those high-end luxury motels that were billed as the panacea for everything that ails us here on the “Fun Coast”?

Well, I do.

(Quick question: Is the “Westin” being renovated by two guys on the weekends?)

Look, I’m sorry to be the fly in the ointment – but I just never see the outstanding return on investment that our High Potentates of Progress always promise.

I could be wrong.

Please don’t take my word for it.

Take a drive around the ‘World’s Most Famous Beach.”

Enjoy a quick tour of East International Speedway Boulevard, Main Street, or the immediate area surrounding the Boardwalk.  Stroll the neighborhoods in Mid-Town, and count the empty strip centers and vacant lots on the beachside, take in a show at the Ocean Center – wait, never mind that one (is the place still open?  I haven’t been to a concert there since Milli Vanilli broke up. . .)

My point is, where is the blight reduction and gentrification they promised?

Where are the jobs they promised our kids?

Hell, where are the “high paying” jobs they promised us?

Don’t get me wrong, there are bright spots – mostly private property owners that have had enough and invested their own money and sweat equity into cleaning up older homes and long neglected properties – but for the most part, nothing has changed.

Now, the cycle is beginning again.  In my view, good money after bad.

Word to the wise – If you do go to the beachside to have a look – do yourself a favor:  Don’t go after dark.

And don’t forget to vote.

Have a great weekend, kids!


You’re a victim. Get used to it.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Dinah Voyles Pulver has hit it out of the park yet again.

We’re lucky to have her reporting the news.

If you haven’t been following the brewing environmental mess surrounding a proposed wetlands mitigation bank in the Mosquito Lagoon near New Smyrna Beach, you need look no further than Dinah’s work in her recent piece, “Volusia County seeks answers on mitigation bank proposal.”

The “heal here, hurt there” process by which developers can purchase credits from “mitigation banks” to build on sensitive lands elsewhere is, in my view, a typical accommodation for real estate developers by an administration that uses environmental regulations for toilet paper.

In this case, if the mitigation bank is approved, former Major League Baseball player and manager Davey Johnson – who decades ago purchased the land in southeast Volusia – would be granted credits from regulatory agencies to include the St. John’s River Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

These credits are awarded based upon the number of acres of wetlands that are restored and held in a “bank” – then sold to developers and used to exploit sensitive lands in lucrative deals elsewhere.

According to the News-Journal, the formula is one credit for every acre of wetlands impacted.

Credits in Central Florida are currently selling for more than $135,000.

Who said it isn’t profitable to own swampland in Florida?

Who cares, you say?  “That environmental impact stuff is dry as a popcorn fart, Mark.  Keep it interesting, dude!”

Hold your horses, dammit.  We’re fixing to take a canoe trip to the dark side.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  If not downright disturbing.

You remember our old friend John Miklos?

The guy the City of DeBary hired to ramrod their massive transit oriented development on sensitive wetlands and conservation areas that make up the Gemini Springs Annex?

The guy who just happens to be Governor Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman of the powerful St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board?

The guy who owns Bio-Tech Consulting, Inc. – in my view, a continuing criminal enterprise whose sole purpose is to represent private clients before the very same environmental regulatory agency that he oversees?

It seems Mr. Johnson hired Mr. Miklos to represent his interests in the plan to turn some 315-acres near Webster Creek into a wetlands mitigation bank.

There’s one small problem – Johnson may not have private property rights to the submerged lands.

It seems the property in question may fall within the boundaries of the Mosquito Lagoon Aquatic Preserve –  a 4,700-acre highly sensitive ecosystem consisting of tidal marsh, swampland and submerged lands that are home to 12 federally endangered species, as well as extensive shellfish and seagrass beds.

According to the County of Volusia, at least some of the land Johnson claims is his was mapped and declared “sovereign submerged lands” by the State of Florida in the 1970’s.

From a previous brouhaha that I was professionally mixed up in involving a locally famous beached houseboat that washed up on the banks of the Halifax river during a storm – I specifically recall that Sovereign Submerged Lands are owned by the state and administered by a Board of Trustees consisting of the governor and cabinet.

It’s not a new concept either.

Way back in 1845, by Act of Congress, Florida was (perhaps, in retrospect, unwisely) admitted to the United States.  Along with statehood, Florida also acquired title to, all land lying under navigable waters within the state, up to the ordinary high water line.”

 While I’m convinced the terms “navigable” and “ordinary high water line” were thrown in just to give future attorney’s work, in short, these state-owned lands include (but, of course, are not limited to) certain “tidal lands, islands, sandbars, shallow banks, and lands waterward of the ordinary or mean high water line, beneath navigable fresh water or beneath tidally influenced waters.”

 Sounds a lot like the Webster Creek area of the Mosquito Lagoon, huh?

Well, as John Miklos might be fond of saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat – or exploit sensitive wetlands for that matter. . .”

In fact, Long John Miklos personally emailed a program manager for state lands at the Department of Environmental Protection who quickly determined that the lands Johnson claims ownership of are not, in fact, sovereign submerged lands.

Fortunately, that decision is now under review.  I guess the hypocrisy of DEP and the SRWMD only goes so far.

Now, the County of Volusia – and a whole passel of pissed off residents – have a big problem with the way this entire sordid affair is going down.

So do I.

In fact, Johnson has all but threatened that if the mitigation bank is not approved, he has the right to build condominiums, residential housing or a marina on the sensitive property.  According to the News-Journal, Johnson has no current plans to develop the lands, stating, “I do have the option, I could develop it,” he said. “I could put houses on 25 acres. But I wouldn’t do that, that’s not what’s right for it.”

Somehow, I’m not convinced – and neither is the county.

On Thursday, the Volusia County Council authorized two letters from the county attorney expressing their “questions and concerns” regarding the project – one to the Governor and Cabinet – the other to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Ann Shortelle, Miklos’ hand-selected executive director of the St. John’s River Water Management District.

Interestingly, the county attorney also noted that prospectuses on the mitigation bank project sent to the Corps of Engineers and the water district by Johnson and Miklos don’t match.

Two different documents.

Weird?  Perhaps.

But not when Miklos in involved – it’s just a little confusion, I’m sure. . .

It seems the cornerstone of Bio-Tech Consulting is their ability to create “confusion” on behalf of clients when under review by regulators.  I seem to recall that Bio-Tech once bulldozed a Bald Eagles nest on a land clearing project near Vero Beach under the guise they mistook it for an osprey.

Not much stands in ol’ John’s way when he sets his mind to accommodating developers.

Another serious issue at play is the rather rudimentary method Johnson and Bio-Tech want to employ to fill in old mosquito control ditches on the property – something called “hydro-blasting.”

Essentially, they want to use high-pressure water hoses to blast piles of spoil dirt into the canals.

According to Miklos – the indiscriminate blasting of silt and dirt contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and God knows what else, in and around sensitive estuaries, mangroves, oyster reefs, and seagrass beds is “environmentally sound.”


Some 500 Volusia County residents have signed a petition on requesting that the Corps of Engineers hold public hearings on the matter.

According to the News-Journal, the Corps has yet to decide if they will permit a public hearing or not – although they have extended the period during which you can write in to express your opinion on the project.

Folks, here’s a quick heads-up:  Government does not need or want your input.  Just pay the bills and shut the fuck up.  Got it?

How long, Oh Lord, are the good people of Florida going to be saddled with this painfully and openly corrupt sneak thief John Miklos?

How long will he be permitted to play both sides of the fence for his personal enrichment?

It’s a valid question.

In April, I sent a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice, Middle District of Florida, asking, in effect, if Floridians still have the right to expect honest and ethical representation by appointed representatives to state regulatory boards?

I specifically cited the on-going quid pro quo corruption in DeBary as evidence of an open and pervasive pattern of dishonesty by Chairman Miklos and others.  In fact, I have always felt that the U.S. Attorney would need to present little more than Dinah Pulver’s excellent articles to a federal grand jury to all but ensure an indictment of Miklos and most of the DeBary City Council and staff.

I understand that several environmental groups from around the state filed similar complaints.

Let’s hope these widespread concerns spark some interest.

Because I think hope is all we have left.

In my view, this level of open and abject corruption has a cancerous effect on the public’s confidence and trust in the system.  Even at a casual glance, most smart people get the unmistakable impression that the playing field is anything but level – in fact, it’s so cockeyed that it will take years to fix – if ever.

In a state where you can actually hire the chairman of the regulatory agency to lobby on your behalf before that same regulatory agency – well, anything is possible.

How long before someone in an elected or appointed position of responsibility says “enough is enough.”

If you think Governor Scott gives two-shits your fooling yourself.  He’s the poster boy for the problem – a reptilian asshole with no qualms about selling you out to anyone who extends a buck in his direction.

The Governor will couch it as “economic development” – but its common thievery, and Scott damn well knows it.

He just doesn’t care – so long as he and his cronies can line their pockets and to hell with the long-term consequences.

Look no further than the devilish mess in South Florida – where filthy Lake Okeechobee run-off from huge sugar cane operations has turned estuaries of the St. Lucie and Indian rivers into a toxic guacamole of algae blooms.

(All while Governor Scott and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam indulged themselves at a private Texas hunting resort owned lock, stock and barrel by U.S. Sugar – who, by the way, also paid for their trip.)

Did I mention that the sugar industry has steered $57.8 million in direct and “in-kind” contributions to state and local politicians in Florida between 1994 and 2016?

Because they have.

Rick Scott’s political committee received $1 million in sugar contributions just last year.


Rather than clean up this growing mess the right way, if Governor Scott has his way, soon the deadly run-off will be forced south toward Florida Bay – and the Florida Keys.

(By the way, this release will be accomplished by the same U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that are still debating on whether or not to give you a public hearing on the Johnson/Miklos mitigation bank.)

My God, these greedy bastards know no shame.

And what’s more disturbing – no regulatory or law enforcement agency in a position to respond on the public’s behalf seems to give a damn.

Maybe when this entire godforsaken state becomes an uninhabitable shithole – completely devoid of potable water, greenspace or wildlife; when all the natural resources are exploited, hauled off and sold, and every last dime has been looted – someone will wake up.

But I doubt it.

In Florida, we live in an open kleptocracy where anything goes.

Greed-hogs like John Miklos blatantly steal from the public they are sworn to serve, while those in a position to do something about it stand-by with a thumb wedged firmly in their collective ass, cashing government paychecks and shiftlessly giving nothing – and I mean nothing – in return.

You’re a victim.  Get used to it.








Volusia Politics: Daytona cries “No Mas!” on Homeless Issues

The old idiom ‘coming full circle’ means returning to the original place from which one started.

From that viewpoint, I think it’s safe to say that the City of Daytona Beach’s efforts to resolve the issue of homelessness have come full circle.

As you may remember, last winter, hordes of the Great Unwashed took up permanent residency at the county administration building on Beach Street after the City of Daytona Beach closed restroom facilities and removed benches from Manatee Island Park.

It was nothing new.

The park closing was just business as usual – the furtherance of a long-term misguided strategy of doing the same thing over-and-over again and expecting different results.

The equal and opposite reaction to Daytona Beach’s public policy of institutional humiliation as a means of “controlling” the homeless population put the issue front-and-center when these unfortunates moved out of the relative obscurity of the bushes and into the public eye.

Nothing gets attention quite like 80 or 90 homeless people collectively relieving themselves on the sidewalk in front of a government building.

I don’t mean to sound shallow.  (Yes I do.  It’s just my “way.”)

As I’ve said before, this is a very difficult problem for government – I dealt with it to various effect for years – the issues are infinite and available funding is not.  When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  I get it.

But I don’t think Mr. Chisholm and the Daytona Beach City Commission has the luxury of simply throwing their hands in the air and saying, “I don’t want to be in the homeless business anymore,” then drop the issue like a hot rock, either.

As regular readers of this forum know, I have my suspicions that this godawful mess is more about who gets a place at the public trough and less about serving the needs of our homeless population.

It just seems to me that, rather than do the heavy lifting, Daytona Beach desperately wants to find someone to take the reins and make a go of a homeless shelter – and I’ll just bet they are willing to throw some serious money around to make that happen.

Just like Volusia County did, eh?

I mean, it just doesn’t make sense that after a few fits and starts at finding a viable solution to the issue, Daytona Beach simply whines, “It’s too hard” and walks away?

They just give up?

Since when is that an option for government?

“Well, folks, we’re just not smart enough to find an option – and if we can’t go big, we won’t go at all – so we’ve decided to just say ‘fuck it’ and go back to things we can control – like giving your money to developers and funding massive projects for International Speedway Corporation.”

Don’t get me wrong – my hats off to Daytona Beach for even trying – I just think it’s too early for unconditional surrender.

If you want to get into laying blame, well, there’s enough to go around.  Trust me.

Look no further than those tepid fools on the Volusia County Council who abdicated their responsibility for helping to find a cooperative and comprehensive solution months ago.

Frankly, I’ll never forget the arrogance – and ignorance – of players like Josh Wagner and Jim Dinneen – and I hope you don’t either.

During the initial dust-up, Volusia officials kept holding out – then snatching back – an offer of $4 million dollars to fund construction of the proposed 200+ bed “Safe Harbor” shelter on county-owned lands somewhere in the wilds near US-92.

Hell, Daytona was duped by the county so many times it started to look like a bad Roadrunner cartoon.

Of course, the county’s “offer” was accompanied by the usual name-calling and ultimatums as Dinneen repeatedly attempted to hold the cities hostage for long-term operating funds.

Then, in June – ignoring the anguished screams of the surrounding neighborhood – the county voted unanimously to authorize a $3.5 million expenditure to finalize the purchase and renovation of the shuttered Hurst Elementary School for a homeless assistance center ostensibly to serve “families and displaced children.”

Once the renovations are complete, the facility will be gifted to Halifax Urban Ministries.


That’s right, handed to them on a gilded plate – no bids, no performance guarantees, no oversight, no shit.

“Here’s $4.7 million in taxpayer funds and resources.  Good luck.”

Now, I don’t know anything about the Halifax Urban Ministries – or its executive director, the Rev. Mark Geallis – other than he ran some Subway sandwich shops and received his ordination and “BS Degree” from something called Maranatha Christian College over on Nova Road.

Look, don’t get your knickers in a bunch.  I’m just asking questions here.

I’m sure the mission of HUM is to do good work in the community – they always have – and I have no doubt Rev. Geallis is a great guy.  I know some of the names on HUM’s board of directors and they’re solid folks – each strongly committed to helping the less fortunate and making the Halifax area a better place.

I just thought that, perhaps, the powers that be in Volusia County government might want to take a look at all our options – you know, since a few million dollars in public funds are being spent.

Maybe they did and I’m just out-of-the-loop.  Maybe the gift is locked down tight as a drum.

But I doubt it.

What I do know is that the project was championed by Mrs. Forough Hosseini and ramrodded by Jim Dinneen.

Frankly, that’s all you need to know.

I guess now Volusia County can moonwalk back from the fray, slap each other on the back, and say, “Well, we’ve done our part.  We spent your money.  Mori’s happy.  Oh, and here’s your new “family homeless shelter.”  Suck it, Daytona – maybe next time you’ll pony-up when we tell you to.”


Now, the City of Daytona Beach has some 70 dependents housed in Ridgewood Avenue motels – at least until August 11.

What happens then is anyone’s guess – but I would be putting up some rolls of Dannert wire at the County Administration building if I were Jim Dinneen. . .

Apparently the motel option was Daytona’s last/best attempt at the “housing first” strategy preferred by the majority of non-profits, faith-based organizations and local governments who met for the big homeless summit at Daytona State College last month.

According to a recent editorial by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, last week The Guardian reported that the number of homeless people in the United States decreased by 11% between 2010 and 2015.

The decline was attributed to the shift toward “housing first” policies.

Interesting.  But wouldn’t the number of homeless naturally be reduced whenever you take people off the street and shove them in a government subsidized space – be it a fleabag motel or vacant rental properties?

According to proponents of “housing first” – it’s a win-win.

Unless you happen to be the taxpayer footing the bill.

In my view, it’s like sweeping dust under the rug, then raving about how clean the floor is.

The problem is still there – it’s just consolidated and covered for the time being.

I may be wrong (I usually am).

As I’ve previously said, in my view, putting a chronically homeless person – one who is either incapable or unwilling to support themselves – in a subsidized apartment, house, or motel room with no other resources or support (Daytona didn’t even have a plan to feed their dependents) is little more than warehousing people.

The fact is, our area desperately needs a come-as-you-are homeless shelter – and it needs one now.  I think you would agree that there are plenty of locations that could fill the need that aren’t located in the middle of a gated community or the Halifax Yacht Club’s backyard.

Unfortunately, it’s going to require some ingenuity, strategic thinking, and the ability to compromise to make it happen.

That said, I wouldn’t hold out much hope. . .

In my view, you need look no further than this complete abdication of responsibility and leadership by our elected and appointed officials when casting your vote this election season.

These lumps – at both the city and county level – have demonstrated that they simply don’t have the capacity to solve difficult problems, unless it involves throwing huge sums of money into the right hole.

They’ve got that move down pat.