They say the more things change, the more they stay the same.
For instance, historians tell us that during a scorching week way back in July 64 A.D., a huge fire ravaged Rome. Some 70 percent of the city was gutted and over half the population was left homeless.
It was, by all accounts, a disaster of epic proportion.
Depending upon who you believe, Nero, the fifth Emperor of Rome – who’s reign was marked by lavish personal luxuries and tyrannical, self-centered, rule – either started the fire for his own sinister motives, or he was the hero who quickly organized fire control measures and humanitarian relief efforts to assist the thousands whose homes and businesses were destroyed.
Regardless, as with most of Roman history, this episode didn’t end well for Emperor Nero.
He became so unpopular and distrusted that a few years later he was declared an enemy of the state and committed suicide by thrusting a dagger through his own throat.
Because I have been psychologically programmed through near constant negative reinforcement, I instinctively distrust most politicians. As a result, I tend to believe the popular fable that has Nero arrogantly entertaining himself by playing a fiddle (a “lyre” to be historically correct) while the conflagration consumed the city.
Yet, old Nero lives on in infamy – his entire time in power remembered for one colossal screw-up.
In fact, the tale has become so popular that the phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” has come to exemplify politicians who focus on trivial matters while neglecting significantly more serious threats.
I was reminded of this allegory last week while reading the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s interesting article, “Mushroom Motorhomes? Volusia chair pushes to loosen law against plugging in RVs.”
In short, our own Mad Hatter, Volusia County Council Chairman Jason Davis, recently proposed that the full council make changes to the current ordinance prohibiting owners of recreational vehicles from connecting to water, sewer, or electricity – or generally using the vehicle for residential purposes – except in a designated RV park.
Well, because one improbable interpretation of the ordinance might adversely affect Mr. Davis.
Oh, and his brother.
Everyone – and I mean everyone – realizes that the intent of the ordinance is to prohibit your neighbor’s Uncle Eddie from parking his mint green 1972 Condor II in the driveway, dumping the “shitter” in the storm drain, and generally establishing homestead.
Besides, it’s a non-issue. According to the News-Journal, at best, code enforcement fields about 20 complaints a year countywide – all for people living in motorhomes outside designated parks.
My point is – who gives a damn?
I write, ad nauseum, about the cancerous blight and dysfunction that threatens the vitality and progress of our core economic drivers; I bitch incessantly about critical issues, such as homelessness, crime, environmental debacles and unchecked spending, problems that are virtually ignored – or simply kicked down the road while the corrosive effects are allowed to fester – openly and publicly – for everyone to see and feel.
All while we wait for our elected officials to act. To do something. Anything.
We wait, dumbstruck, while ostensibly bright people look to the sky, waiting breathlessly for the next great silver bullet – that one real estate developer that will lead us out of this troubled place like a great visionary Pharaoh of Progress.
We wait, as our public infrastructure is left to crumble.
We wait, as our water supply dwindles, and more recharge areas are destroyed by development.
We wait, as our beach is pushed further and further out of reach – physically and financially – with exorbitant entrance fees for families and visitors in vehicles.
We wait, as our disastrous county manager, Jim Dinneen, lectures that we can no longer afford transportation infrastructure while he openly carts $300,000 in taxpayer dollars out of the county coffers each year in obscene compensation for his dedicated service to a few political insiders and influence peddlers.
We wait, while our county council literally gives away tens of millions in public funds to private special interests, as homeless people are physically pushed onto a vacant lot with two water spigots and a portable toilet.
We wait, while Mr. Davis has the audacity to waste precious time and resources modifying an RV ordinance so he and his brother can periodically vent their musty play toys. . .
I could go on – but I won’t.
Like me, you live it every day – I’m preaching to the choir.
After all, this isn’t the first time Mr. Davis has gone off the reservation.
Anyone remember his fateful trip to Washington for what the rest of the council thought was a simple request for transportation funds?
Instead, out-of-the-blue, he went to the Capitol and concocted his own kooky plan to have SunRail make a sharp right turn north of DeBary, then follow State Road 472 and across I-4 – where another station would be constructed – then along I-4 to the Volusia County Fairgrounds – where yet another station would be built – then northeast, across I-95, finally terminating at a third station at the Daytona Beach International Airport?
Hell, at the end of the day, he can’t even get a few miles of track to connect the City of Deland.
How about his ridiculous request that the full council vote to support his strange get-rich-quick scheme du jour which would have him and a friend clean-up the Mosquito Lagoon with something he called, “Reef Balls”?
Oh, there was that time he submitted “suggestions” to the Charter Review Committee which would not only permit the county chair to submit tie-breaking votes in private – but would also provide Mr. Davis with a 67% percent pay raise, bringing his annual salary to some $85,000.00.
Well, I do.
One might think that in the waning moments of his ill-fated reign, Mr. Davis might at least attempt to leave things slightly better than he found them – to make some effort in the public interest.
You know, the whole “legacy” thing?
Something other than being forever remembered as a double-crossing, ineffectual cartoon character in a goofy bush hat and ill-fitting suit who presided over perhaps the most embarrassing chapter in Volusia County history.
Please don’t think for one minute that the heir apparent, Ed Kelley, is any better.
He’s worse – by a long shot.
If you don’t believe that Ed Kelley will use the full might and treasure of government to serve his own interests – and those of his friends – look no further than his rule in the City of Ormond Beach.
The difference is – Jason Davis is congenitally stupid.
Ed Kelley is something else altogether.
He’s a mean-spirited perennial politician who is wholly bought and paid for by the same wealthy insiders that have controlled this county like a private fiefdom for years.
Stupidity you can educate – unchecked ambition and political aggression is something completely different.
Be aware of that when making your own Sophie’s Choice this November.
How does Chairman Davis’ effort to change the RV ordinance benefit you and I?
What it does is underscore the fact that the County of Volusia continues to treat it’s constituents like mushrooms:
They keep us in the dark and feed us bullshit.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal