When I was training for the FAA commercial pilot certificate – after a particularly good landing, or a well-performed maneuver – I would often take a moment to point out to my long-suffering flight instructor just how good I thought I was.
In my opinion, Chuck Yeager couldn’t have done it better.
Whenever I felt the need to toast an accomplishment, my instructor, in his own quiet and completely unflappable way, would remind me: “A good pilot never congratulates his own performance.”
Cautious pilots constantly monitor and mitigate potential risks during all phases of flight.
There is simply no room for hubris, self-importance or foolish pride.
It was one of the best lessons my flight instructor taught me – and anytime I fly, I try hard to live up to his high standards of humble professionalism and good airmanship.
A good pilot is always learning – from his or her own mistakes, and from those of others.
While being self-assured is an important trait in a good aviator, cocksure overconfidence can lead to devastating results for an arrogant pilot and his unfortunate passengers.
I suspect that holds true for other professions as well.
Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen is a man of extremes.
One of life’s lessons that I have come to embrace is that things are rarely as good, or as bad, as we think they are.
I don’t believe Mr. Dinneen subscribes to that theory.
Perhaps Jim simply has the worst communications skills in the known history of governmental management – or maybe he truly is the “tell ‘em what they want to hear” shyster I’ve always believed him to be.
Regardless, under the circumstances, he might want to tone down his patented “This is the best/worst thing I’ve ever seen” shtick.
There is a definite Boy Who Cried Wolf component to Mr. Dinneen’s public pronouncements that cannot be ignored. And in the aftermath of a major natural disaster, residents who are still reeling from the devastating results prefer facts – not wild emotional speculation and self-congratulatory tut-tutting from their elected and appointed “leaders.”
It’s simply too soon.
The fact is, many people in Volusia County suffered devastating personal and professional losses during Hurricane Matthew – homes destroyed or seriously damaged, businesses lost or disrupted – and many of our neighbors have mounting expenses that will never be fully recoverable.
I would hazard a guess that the majority who have filed storm-related claims have yet to see an adjuster – let alone a settlement offer from their insurance company.
Several motels and restaurants in the Halifax area have announced closings – some for months – to allow for restoration. This means that employees have been laid-off or had their hours cut back.
The trickle-down effect is grim – especially for families trying to survive in a service economy.
Most of us still have massive piles of rotting tree debris, yard trash, and splintered fencing ringing our homes like huge beaver dams; and anyone who believes that these festering corridors of rubble don’t pose a significant public safety hazard haven’t tried to navigate local streets, walk to school, or maneuver in or out of a driveway.
Add to that the fact FEMA just approved Volusia residents for individual and household assistance – two-weeks post incident – and you get the idea that it’s going to be awhile before we collectively get back to what passes for ‘normal’ on the Fun Coast.
I guess that’s why I’m sick and tired of hearing local emergency managers – people who know better – drone on about how we “dodged a bullet” on this one.
It can always be worse. I get it.
But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that we are dealing with the significant aftereffects of a major hurricane.
In my view, marginalizing this experience is patently irresponsible.
This offensive brow-mopping by public officials does nothing to alleviate the fears and financial realities of folks with an oak tree still sitting in their living room.
Frankly, I could give a damn about their ‘what could have been’ doomsday scenarios.
How about we focus on the here and now – work the reality of our common situation – and stop using goofy metaphors to describe how fortunate we all are that the beachside isn’t a moonscape.
For instance, Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge recently weighed in with, “We got lucky. We didn’t dodge a bullet, we dodged a cannonball.”
What exactly does that statement add to the discussion? Or the recovery efforts?
More importantly, with some 38 homes destroyed, thousands of structures seriously damaged, and power just being restored in some areas, why is our feckless Volusia County Council stopping to congratulate their own performance?
As former Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Ryan – the hard-charging former Marine Corps officer who, in 2004, led our county through three Presidential disaster declarations, would say in these situations – “Now is not the time to let our packs hit the ground.”
Clearly, Director Ryan was an extraordinary leader – and his insight and inspiration was sorely missed this time around.
Using his ‘best/worst’ spiel to full effect, Jim Dinneen recently told local media outlets that the County’s response to Hurricane Matthew was, “The best effort he’s ever seen in his career.”
Really? The best he’s ever seen?
Normally, once response and recovery operations are complete, governmental and private agencies involved in managing an emergency will conduct what’s known as a “hotwash” – essentially a candid and open review of the good, the bad, and the ugly – a thorough self-critique that tells all levels of the organization what went well, and what can be improved upon.
I have direct personal knowledge that the County’s first responders did an outstanding job before, during and after the storm.
They performed their duties under difficult and dangerous conditions with a true commitment and personal dedication, and all citizens of Volusia County can be exceptionally proud of their Sheriff’s deputies, public protection officers, emergency management staff, EMS personnel and the team at VCSO Communications.
However, many things about the Dinneen administration’s emergency response efforts were less than “the best I’ve ever seen” – starting with the timely dissemination of public information to frightened residents – and important preparedness measures that were lacking.
For instance, by any measure, the confusion and delay caused by “voluntary” and “mandatory” evacuation orders were counterproductive.
Although Monday Morning Quarterbacking is kind of my ‘thing’ – given the gravity of what we all experienced, it serves no good purpose to point out the obvious to those who lived it.
Now, like clockwork, on Thursday our county’s elected and appointed officials took their first opportunity to slap each other on the back and tell themselves just how awesome they are.
County Chair Jason Davis gives the response an “A+” – while that sniveling sycophant Councilman Josh Wagner all but gushed over Jim Dinneen while elevating him to superhero status.
The pomposity of these big-headed shitgibbons never ceases to amaze me.
Although our county officials may be satisfied – I sense a growing public cynicism with every whiff of decomposing vegetation.
I’ve got a novel idea for our elected public servants in Deland: Let’s focus on telling the truth, setting realistic goals, and effectively communicating strategic recovery plans to residents.
And most important – let’s use all available resources to help those who were most affected.
Trust me – there will be plenty of time for over-the-top accolades and awards for every politician on the dais. But for the moment, how about we stick to the task at hand?
At the end of the day, Volusia government should evaluate ongoing recovery efforts based upon established performance metrics and use the positives and negatives to increase our understanding of what works, and what doesn’t, in a vulnerable coastal county.
This is best accomplished by officials with the capacity to humble themselves to the important and difficult process of becoming better – not by the self-satisfied blathering and systemic arrogance exemplified by Jim Dinneen and his finger-puppets on the county council.