Daytona Beach: The Thrill is Gone

What comes to mind when you think of the Daytona Beach Boardwalk?

For most locals, there are as many good memories as there are bad impressions.

As children, my sister and I would go to the Joyland and Mardi Gras arcades whenever our grandparents came for a visit.  We would play some Skee Ball, swim by the pier, have epic miniature golf tournaments on the roof and watch the saltwater taffy being made.

When I became a police detective, my partner and I would go to the Boardwalk a couple times each week for lunch.  He had a thing for those foot-long corn dogs with mustard.

One time we solved a wandering daughter case after spotting the missing juvenile loitering beachside (I remember the three of us driving back to the police station to reunite the girl with her worried parents, all of us munching on giant cornbread-covered hot dogs. . .)

I have fond teenage memories of taking dates to the Boardwalk, riding the gondolas, then walking along with the loud ringing bells of the pinball machines singing out; surrounded by the aroma of hot pizza and the crash of the bumper cars (remember the pop of sparks flying off the electrified ceiling as the cars whizzed around the greasy metal floor?)

There was a unique feel and a great salty smell to the beach back then, a thrilling sense of something fun.

I don’t get that feeling when I go to the beach now.  Too many signs, too many rules, and too many unfriendly people who enforce them from ugly fiberglass kiosks where money-for-access is exchanged.

Today, you can visit the same arcades and gift shops – now, just a little more down-at-the-heels.

You can even play a loud game of Skee Ball on the exact same machines your grandparents enjoyed.


Nothing has changed – except the omnipresent sense that our once venerated Boardwalk has become a blighted eyesore with all the elements necessary to kill a tourist economy.

The reason?  Well, pick your poison.

There are many contributing factors and players – all facilitated by a miserable lack of strategic vision – and elected officials who for the past thirty-years have simply ignored the most important economic engine to ever bless a resort community.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported on the convoluted lawsuit between an investment consortium of local insiders and the Paspalakis family that has allowed a key section of the area to stagnate.

The take-away:  Nothing positive is going to happen on the Boardwalk anytime soon.

As the News-Journal’s Mark Lane noted in his excellent piece on this decades-old legal mess, the lawsuit is over property that belonged to the Paspalakis family for ages but was part of a city condemnation action in 2003.

Tragically, the Paspalakis’ have been fighting the city’s condemnation since sometime in the 1980’s.

Naturally, this sordid battle has all the usual suspects that have preyed upon Daytona Beach for years:

Greedy investors, strategic bankruptcies, family monopolies, unscrupulous developers – to include convicted grifter, Bill Geary, of Ocean Walk Shoppes fame who is finishing a stint in federal prison – promises of pie-in-the-sky panacea hotels and tony shopping areas, a stubborn inability to reasonably negotiate with the best interests of the community in mind, government overreach and interference, insider maneuvering, piss poor planning, no leadership, etc., etc.

Whether we want to admit it or not, what we are collectively hearing over the roar of the surf is the sad death knell of one of America’s great tourist destinations.

The dirty little secret that most lawyers won’t tell you is that courts rarely settle anything to everyone’s liking – only reasonable people finding amicable solutions can do that.

But it requires that people care enough about the thing they are fighting over not to kill it in the process.

Like that ancient taffy-pulling machine at Zeno’s sweet shop, the wheels of justice will continue their slow churn – and the powers-that-be will keep their noses firmly planted in the backsides of their uber-wealthy handlers – while we, the long-suffering residents of the Halifax area, stand helpless as forces out of our control once again determine our collective destiny.

Keep this in mind the next time one of our elected officials tells you how great we have it here on the “Fun Coast.”

National Affairs: Jill Stein is an Idiot

Let’s face it, when you live in Volusia County, there’s plenty of material – political and otherwise – to keep your average opinion blogger busy for years.

That’s one reason I like to keep things local here on Barker’s View – never a dull moment.

But sometimes a situation arises on the national front that simply cannot be ignored.

Take, for example, the curious case of Dr. Jill Stein, the utterly failed “Green Party” presidential candidate, opportunistic Castro apologist, and full-time squirrel turd.

She’s had quite a week trying to eke her way back to some trace of political relevance.

While most of us were gathering around the Thanksgiving table, Stein and her following of brain-dead progressives – who remain utterly terrified by the prospect that thinking adults are finally taking charge – pushed a half-baked plan to force recounts in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Her evidence?  Something Stein calls, “statistical anomalies.”

A strange hogwash of dubious voter fraud and foreign intrigue, with no basis in fact, that even the “prominent computer scientists and election lawyers” she originally cited as supporting the measure are running from like scalded dogs.

Just like her loopy domestic policies, Stein wants everyone else to pay for her sour grapes.

Stein’s weird GoFundMe-style effort first asked donors for $2.5 million to fund the recount – but that paltry sum was quickly revised upward when Stein explained that amount only covered “filing fees.”

One would have thought that this obvious bait-and-switch would scare most away from this scam, but not our overwrought friends on the left.  No, when Stein arbitrarily hiked the price to $4.5 million they (read: Clinton supporters) compulsively responded like good little lemmings.  Naturally, leftist demagogue George Soros is in the mix as well.

Now, Stein has upped the target goal to $7 million.  Hey, why not?

I guess Thomas Tusser was right with his whole “fool and his money” thing. . .

After rightfully conceding, it now appears the rotting skeletal remains of the Clinton campaign has miraculously reanimated to give tacit support to Stein’s cockamamie attempt to clean her conscience after handing Donald Trump, well, Michigan and Wisconsin, during the general election.

Please understand, these recounts will not change the outcome in any of these states – and Clinton would need a clean sweep in all three to succeed.

Jill Stein knows it.  And so, does Hillary Clinton.

As I understand it – and I’m not sure that I do – the actual purpose of this bogus “recount” effort is much more sinister than ferreting out any “statistical anomalies” or malicious Russian hacking schemes.

It’s about fueling the maniacal “Not my President” sect, adding credence to the paid protesters wreaking havoc in our streets, cooing over the pouting snowflakes in places like Hampshire College, and weakening domestic and international confidence in our nations democratic system.

At the end of the day, it’s about undermining Donald J. Trump.

If Stein and Company demand a hand-count of the ballots cast – and she’s filed suit in Wisconsin to do just that – the time required may surpass the last day for certifying the official tally and directing Electoral College voters in these states.

If the Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania recounts all miss the deadline (or Stein’s legal challenges prevail) Trump will stand at 260 electoral votes, with Clinton at 231.

Neither would have the 270 votes required to officially win the election.

Should this happen, the matter would go before the United States Congress.  In that case, the House – casting one vote per state – would elect Donald Trump, and the Senate would select Mike Pence.

So, if the results are the same, why bother?

Why fan the hopes of those Mensa members still hoping-against-hope that Hillary has a chance to reverse the space/time continuum?

Because, if successful in hamstringing the system, Democrats and the various kooky fringe parties could then use the unusual process to further delegitimize a Trump presidency by insinuating that he was merely appointed by members of the majority Republican party – not the electorate.

In my view, intentionally obstructing our electoral process at this stage for stupid partisan posturing is patently un-American and contrary to our democratic principles.

It also doesn’t play well with Democrats who are just beginning the autopsy to determine exactly what led to their repudiation at the polls.  Even President Obama has expressed his displeasure as he works to ensure an orderly transition.

But when has any of that mattered to self-aggrandizing shitheels like Jill Stein?

Interestingly, for months before the election, Hillary Clinton and her supporters crowed ad nauseum about Trump’s “anti-democratic” refusal to confirm if he would accept his highly anticipated defeat with graciousness and simply go away.


These simpering bedwetters viciously railed against Donald Trump when he raised the possibility of Democratic voter fraud and system rigging.  They held him out as a “danger to democracy,” all while smirking with unbridled hubris, assured by their friends in the media that they had the election in the bag.

Then the unthinkable happened.

American voters in the fly-over states ignored the paid statisticians – and defied the babbling bubbleheads of a dishonest corporate media establishment gone berserk.

And they demanded change.

Real change.

Now, it appears Hillary and her Useful Idiot Jill Stein aren’t capable of accepting reality.

Not that they ever were.

Look, I’ve tried hard to be sympathetic to my left-leaning friends – it was a tough loss, I get it – and I hope they would afford me the same courtesy if the situation were reversed.

(They wouldn’t.  I’ve been dumped like a hot rock by “friends” on social media – and called a racist, misogynist, and homophobe – simply because of my choice in a presidential election.)

I thought that once they work through the stages of grief, most would find some level of acceptance (as I did during two consecutive Obama administrations) and let the healing begin.

Given the over-the-top gnashing of teeth and rending of garments that continues to play out on social media, college campuses, and during public “protests” around the nation, imagine what would have happened if Trump had in fact lost the election – then demanded an eleventh-hour recount under dubious circumstances which jeopardized the canonization of Hillary Clinton?

Anarchy.  Guaranteed.

The fact is, it’s time for the Democratic party, their humiliated media pollsters, and the skinny-jean wearing hyper-sensitive factions of the delusional socialist left to accept the fact that Donald J. Trump is our President-elect – and nothing is going to change that.

It is high time we look to the future, and leave egomaniacal stooges like Dr. Jill Stein on the ash heap of history where she so rightly belongs.






ERAU: If you’re not first, you’re last

Now that you and I (the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County) are Patrons of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, I keep waiting on my invitation to our induction into the prestigious Jack L. Hunt Society in grateful recognition of our generous endowment of $1.5 million in public funds.

Maybe we can even get our name on something?  Hell, everyone else does.

“Eagles Nest: The Rubes of Volusia County Student Restroom Complex”

Hey.  Fair is fair – and shitting in their own nest seems to be the university administrations recent stock in trade.

As an honored ERAU benefactor, I’m paying close attention to our endowment.

I’m weird that way – when someone takes my money because they know what’s best for me, I tend to keep an eye on them – you know:  Trust, but verify.

So far, I’m not happy.

At a gala held earlier this month at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, aerospace giant Lockheed Martin awarded a $5 million-dollar contract to Florida A&M University.

Under the terms of the agreement, FAMU students and faculty members will work closely with Lockheed Martin engineers to develop components and systems for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle designed for long-term human deep space exploration.

Unfortunately, as NASA reaches for the asteroids, Mars and beyond – ERAU remains grounded.

In an excellent article by the Orlando Sentinel’s Gabrielle Russon, FAMU engineering professor Okenwa Okoli said, “We hope to assist with developing future materials and structures, as well as optimizing manufacturing procedures for the Orion program, especially those that will serve a dual purpose here on Earth.”

It’s called being on the cutting edge of developing the most technologically advanced aircraft and space vehicles ever envisioned.

In addition, this partnership assists FAMU in developing graduates with skills in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines that will form the workforce necessary to take the United States back to space.

In my view, FAMU’s win is a tough loss for our own Harvard of the Sky.

In addition, for over a decade, NASA’s Ames Research Center has cultivated strategic partnerships with academic, non-profit, and aerospace industry leaders to work cooperatively on innovative projects in support of NASA’s future space exploration goals.

Current academic partnerships include, Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley/Santa Clara University, Singularity University and Taksha University.

ERAU?  Not so much.

However, in August, Embry-Riddle announced something called it’s “Nexus Partners” in the university’s new John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex.

Boeing?  Lockheed Martin?  General Electric?  Harris Corporation?  Raytheon?


While the global aerospace industry is busy collaborating with other schools, Embry-Riddle’s new partners include a virtual “who’s who” of local political insiders and perennial power brokers:

International Speedway Corporation, Cobb Cole, FireSpring Fund, James Moore & Company, Vann Data Services, DuvaSawko and venVelo.

I guess if NASA ever needs a good real estate attorney – or help sending out a doctor’s bill – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the place to be. . .

While ERAU publicly wallows in administrative dysfunction, aerospace and defense industry leaders are taking note and partnering with other colleges and universities around the world to develop the next generation of engineers, researchers and tech workers.

ERAU students should take note: These important partnerships provide your future competitors with the opportunity to work collaboratively with leaders in critical industries, and acquire the all-important “real world” experience that will make a difference on their résumé.

Unfortunately, for the high-flying Eagles of ERAU, the outlook is grim.

For months, the university has been dogged by a cockamamie search for a new president – along with cries for help from disenfranchised students, alumni and faculty members as they peel the onion of mismanagement and dubious spending by the university’s board of trustees.

For instance, student government representatives going back 15-years have issued an open letter denouncing the actions of the board of trustees – especially the Machiavellian mucking about of Chairman Mori Hosseini – while expressing their collective concern for the future of ERAU.

Then, the faculty senate issued a vote of no confidence against the board – an unprecedented censure representing the most powerful statement of disapproval available to the long-suffering professors and associates.

I’m just speculating here, but when you add to that allegations that Mr. Hosseini has done business with the very university he oversees – “business” which netted his Intervest Construction some $1.5 million dollars – you get the queasy feeling that the intrigues of the Big Man on Campus may not be as benevolent as he would like us to believe.

Given the fact that those who matter – the students, alumni and faculty – have tried in vain to pull back the very heavy curtain on Mori’s dictatorship, last month I called for an independent review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the independent agency that accredits ERAU.

Per SACS principles, colleges and universities that seek accreditation are required to make “reasonable and responsible decisions consistent with the spirit of integrity in all matters.”

I think an argument can be made that the ERAU leadership has failed to live up to those simple standards of fair dealing.

There is a reason these research contracts and partnerships are consistently being awarded to other schools – and it has nothing to do with the caliber of ERAU’s students, faculty or curriculum.

In my view, it is time for a fundamental change in the make-up and focus of ERAU’s board of trustees.  Clearly, the need for increased faculty/student oversight of the direction and stewardship of the university is critical.

And as us uneducated bumpkins say, “time’s a-wastin”

So long as the university remains deeply embroiled in these ugly controversies – and aggressively controlled by one man who casts a very large shadow – I fear these vital government and industry collaborations will continue to go elsewhere.

That is a dangerous proposition for a private school that prides itself as the leader in aviation and aerospace education in an increasingly competitive marketplace.










Happy Thanksgiving from Barker’s View!

What an incredible year it has been for Barker’s View!

When I started this opinion blog in January, I could not have imagined that it would garner 43,775 views from nearly 30,000 (29,707 as of this writing) visitors, literally from around the world.

I am incredibly grateful to all of you for making that happen.

I have always believed that there is room for an alternative point-of-view in Volusia County.  An opinion beyond the government soundbites and spin – a blogsite that holds those in positions of high responsibility accountable.

Something that lets them know we’re watching.

I’m delusional enough to believe that we are beginning to make a difference – and those in a position to affect change are taking notice.

All thanks to your loyal readership.

Writing Barker’s View has been incredibly cathartic.  It has given me a purpose, much-needed social interaction, and the process continues to keep my mind limber.

At the end of the day, I’m still just a guy in my boxer shorts with too much time on my hands bashing about on the Internet – but your response to the writing, acceptance of my personal flaws, and friendship has been a true blessing in my life.

The best part of this experiment, for me, is hearing your feedback, discussing differing opinions and arguing the fine points.

Sometimes you agree with me – other times, you vehemently disagree.  But we can remain friends and perhaps gain a better perspective on the important issues of the day through the civil debate of ideas.

I can’t think of anything more purely American than that.

Most of all, I have enjoyed meeting some of you, grabbing a beer or lunch with Barker’s View readers, and discussing the issues that are important to you.

We might even plan an informal get-together sometime soon – I’ll buy the keg.

Gratefully, some of the power brokers, politicians and appointed officials I skewer on this site reach out periodically and tell me how much they enjoy reading the blog – even when I take them to task.  Please know that I appreciate your emails, texts and calls.

Thanks for keeping me honest – and confirming my suspicions from time-to-time.

In 2017, I hope to expand the site to include a weekly podcast – and just for fun – I’ve got some Barker’s View swag coming, like this cool new bumper sticker that will immediately improve the appearance of any car or truck to which it is affixed:


On this Thanksgiving 2016, please accept my sincere thanks and deep appreciation for your loyalty, friendship, and for taking time out of your busy day to read, think and form an opinion on the critical issues and news-makers of the day.

It’s important.

May God bless each of you and your families, and especially our men and women in uniform at home and abroad – our military and first responders – who go into harm’s way to protect us every day.

From the Barker Family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving!


Daytona Tourism: Danica’s Side Hustle

When it comes to “selling” the Halifax area to potential visitors, the powers-that-be like to do the same thing over-and-over again, always expecting a different result.

That’s right – it’s the very definition of insanity.

In their most recent variation of the theme, the Halifax Area Advertising Authority – another tax-funded organization which duplicates the job of the Daytona Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority, and the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, etc., etc. – has hired NASCAR beauty Danica Patrick to star in a series of digital media spots encouraging folks to come visit the Cousin Eddie of Florida vacation destinations.

The marketing theme?

“Forget what you thought you knew about Daytona Beach, because no matter what you’re into, this place is totally your speed.”

 Wait a minute.  Forget what you thought you knew?

You read that right.

From the same bed-tax gobbling half-brights who brought you, “Seize the Daytona” – our new tourism hook is: “Blight?  Homelessness?  Crime?  Exorbitant beach tolls? FUGGITABOUTIT!”

Is this a bad joke?

Things are so bad that seasoned advertising executives – guys that can sell a ketchup Popsicle to a lady in white gloves – have been reduced to begging people to ignore their gut instincts. . .

“Hey, Mr. & Mrs. Middle America – just forget that time the vagrant urinated in front of the kids on the Boardwalk.  Put it out of your mind. I’m just asking here, but do you think you could also overlook the rundown crack houses, the empty storefronts and omnipresent drifters bumming cigarettes and just relax and have a good time for Christ sake?  I mean, they have a new Outlet Mall on the frontage road, what more do you want?”

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that just three years ago the Halifax Area Advertising Authority commissioned a focus group in Columbus, Ohio (our core demographic?) to study what comes to mind when people hear the words, “Daytona Beach.”

(Best Richard Dawson accent) Survey Says! – “Redneck,” “Crowded” and “Starting to fall apart.”

Apparently, our study participants recoiled in horror – like they were being forced to watch the director’s cut of “Deliverance.”

Columbus?  I spent a month there one night.  You talk about people starved for entertainment.


Look, Danica Patrick is easy to look at – and she has an exciting day job – but when it comes to selling Daytona Beach to the Midwestern masses, she’ll earn every dime of that $100,000 paycheck.

Over time, our elected and appointed officials have ignored and neglected the goose that laid the golden egg.  It took about three decades of complete inattention, but they finally killed it, and no fancy marketing campaign can revive it.

Apparently, no one on the HAAA’s over $1 million-dollar annual payroll understands that.

In typical fashion, rather than transform and revitalize the internationally attractive assets that once made us the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” we simply throw good money after bad trying in vain to promote the dregs of a once vibrant destination.

Until we have something unique and different to offer – accessible beaches, clean spaces, modern amenities, beachside shopping, restaurants and attractions, an active arts scene and inviting commercial and retail centers – we simply cannot – and should not – compete in the marketplace.


Volusia Politics: Lies and Damn Lies

The Chinese zodiac calendar tells us 2017 is the year of the Rooster – a period of righteousness, justice and logical efficiency.

Rooster years are dominated by the Fire element, and the presence of a predominant element governing the annual cycle is never seen as the best of omens.

But it marks the year in which I will no longer accept being lied to by those who are elected and appointed to represent my interests.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living outside the circle.  The one who oils the machine of local, state and federal politics with my tax dollars – only to be openly deceived by the “system.”

In 2016, the American people learned that once trusted institutions – such as our national media networks – were openly lying to us when reporting the “news” of the day.

Once venerated outlets, such as the New York Times, have admitted to “false balance” and outright lies in their coverage of this year’s election.

It turns out the elegant Gray Lady is a cheap whore, and last week the publisher promised to “rededicate” the newspaper to honest reporting in the future.  As though we are supposed to forgive and forget the biggest journalistic fraud in the history of the free world.

The sudden realization that organizations and traditions we once accepted as the truth were no more than half-baked façades raised chilling questions.  We soon learned that the political elite on both sides of the spectrum were manufacturing the record, so much so that we needed “Truth o’ Meters” to sort the wheat from the chaff – and even the “fact checkers” were wrong.

Now, we feel like victims of a carnival scam.

Let’s face it – we are rubes, screwed by sophisticated grifters who have lost any semblance of integrity and laugh in our face as they line their pockets with our hard-earned tax dollars and shit on everything we hold dear.

For instance, while collectively traumatized by the effects of a Category Three hurricane – our County Manager, Jim Dinneen, tells us that the mountains of debris lining our streets will be cleaned-up in just twenty short days.

Understand, Mr. Dinneen had no basis for his feel-good prognostication.  He just pulled it out of his ass – a quick answer to the media with a fabricated time-frame that got the people off his back for a few more weeks.

Rather than calm our fears, Little Jimmy simply exacerbated our growing frustration as his arbitrary promise came-and-went, leaving many still dealing with the stinking piles of rotting vegetation at the curb.

Last week, some twit who “manages” our county transportation system, Votran – which operates on $18.4 million in annual tax subsidies – would have us believe that it will cost $400,000 to retool a bus line to serve the recently opened Tanger Outlet shopping mall.

In an interesting Sunday op/ed by Daytona Beach News-Journal editor, Pat Rice; he questioned the figure while rightly pointing out that –  with a new apartment community located northeast of Tanger, a proposed 3,400-unit housing development to the northwest, and the 900 new employees and thousands of shoppers traveling to the mall daily – Votran might have considered some advanced planning and route analysis.

Not in Volusia County.

Here, incompetence rises like curdled cream and time-honored organizational management practices like accountability and responsibility are abhorred.

I have decided that I’m not going to take it anymore.

As a taxpayer, I have a right to expect that those who are elected to represent our collective interests will tell the truth on important issues facing our community.  We also have a right to expect that when elected and appointed officials tell us bullshit falsehoods – and use thinly veiled scams to siphon-off our tax dollars to private interests – that they will be held accountable for their actions like the cheap sneak thieves they are.

Is that too much to expect?


In Volusia County, we have come to understand that a few uber-wealthy political insiders control Halifax area commerce and politics through a not so sophisticated system of co-opting our elected officials with enormous campaign contributions – then take massive returns on investment in the form of tax incentives, “economic development” funds and bargain basement prices on the purchase of public lands.

Add to that the dubious “agriculture” and other tax exemptions on the vast landholdings of certain companies and individuals, the arbitrary granting of traffic-free beaches, or the gifting of unrestrained density and height allowances for projects years in advance and you begin to understand the depth of the problem.

While everyone may be equal – in Volusia County, some are more equal than others.

Rather than hold these mega-donors at arm’s length and work in the best interests of their constituents, our elected officials never miss a chance to goo-goo over their masters and prostrate themselves like the caviling sycophants they are.

Don’t take my word for it, just watch re-runs of any county council meeting visited by J. Hyatt Brown.

Recently, the High Potentate of Volusia County, Mr. Mori Hosseini, was recognized with the “2016 Outstanding Philanthropist” award by something called the Volusia/Flagler Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking this special recognition – I’m positive the Hossieni’s personal and corporate giving is infinitely more than my own.

But what about the taxpayers of Volusia County?

Where’s the gratitude and fancy luncheons?

Where’s the cooing and over-the-top fussing whenever we walk into the council chambers?

I guarantee no single group of people contribute more in corporate welfare and outright cash giveaways than the long-suffering citizens of Volusia County.

Under the current “economic development” scheme, We, the People, have financed – or at least mitigated the financial risk – on every project from Ocean Walk to One Daytona and Tanger Outlets, etc., etc.

We recently handed an untested social service agency over $5-million in taxpayer dollars and transferred public property – no questions asked – for a homeless service facility in the heart of the challenged Derbyshire neighborhood.

In September, you and I became honored members of the Jack R. Hunt Society at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University through our generous $1.5 million cash infusion – not to mention the county council’s sale of public property to ERAU – a private entity – for half the parcel’s appraised valued.


I hope you’ll join me in rejecting the dishonesty of those who accept public funds to perform a service in the public interest in the new year.

We deserve better.




Deltona Politics: Small Victories

Wow.  What a difference a day makes.

Last evening, the Deltona City Commission held a workshop to discuss the merits of an orphan “civility ordinance,” ostensibly designed to put the reins on spirited debate and shield senior officials from the embarrassment of open criticism from the dais during public meetings.

This shortsighted legislation, thinly veiled as an “anti-bullying” measure, drew fire from freedom loving Deltonians and those who support good government all over Central Florida.

I learned over a long career in municipal government that your constituents will accept a lot of baseless regulation, fee increases and tax hikes – they’ll even put up with aggressive code enforcement – for a while anyway.

What they will not tolerate is having their Constitutional rights to free speech and self-expression trampled for the convenience of the government.

A good example is legislation prohibiting display of the American flag, patriotic banners and military colors.  If you happen to be an elected or appointed public official and want some excitement in your life – propose a flag ordinance.

Unfortunately, this legislation had a more personal undertone.

In an astute observation, Commissioner Brian Soukup – whose frequent hubbubs with top officials was the obvious genesis of the proposed rule – told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “They might as well call it the Soukup ordinance.”

Love him or hate him, Commissioner Soukup is an intuitive guy.

At the end of the evening, we needed a paternity test to determine just who brought this ill-fated measure forward.

During the meeting, City Attorney Becky Vose finked on Commissioner Heidi Herzberg, claiming that she requested the ordinance – something Ms. Herzberg speed-walked away from.

According to Herzberg, she only suggested a “policy” addressing bullying.

In addition, Commissioner Mitch Honaker – who may or may not have requested a similar policy – disavowed any knowledge of the civility law.

“I am livid,” Honaker said.  “Throw that ordinance away.”


We also learned that the city attorney routinely constructs ordinances at the autonomous request of individual commissioners – a practice that drew the ire of newly elected Commissioner Christopher Alcantara.

“Personally, I think that it’s better if we as a group decided what is it that we want as far as ordinances to give you direction.”

 Smart guy.

Is it possible that Mr. Alcantara is the only one in Deltona City Hall who understands how the council/manager form of government works?

Despite the obvious, Vose continued to champion her work, arguing that she could, “very easily defend it in court.”  Now, I don’t know how long Ms. Vose has served in municipal government, but when your boat is sinking, I’ve found it’s best not to keep drilling holes in the hull to let the water out.

That’s how people get fired.

The city attorney’s unofficial role is to serve as the “fixer,” to accept responsibility, protect commissioners from their own idiotic treachery, and move things off the front page of the newspaper as quickly as possible.

Don’t take my word for it – Ms. Vose should ask her colleague, Kurt Ardaman, over in DeBary – he’s a past-master at justifying the asinine moves of elected officials while simultaneously feathering his own nest.

Ms. Vose could learn something from him – and get rich in the process.

Regardless, this was an extremely weird issue that has left many smart people shaking their heads.

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but is it possible that something else is at work behind the scenes in Deltona politics?

Following yesterday’s blog, I received a social media post from a member of the Deltona Fire Fighter’s Union, who took exception with the $93,000.00 I quoted for the unusual mid-service buyout received by a recently promoted deputy fire chief.

According to the union representative – the actual amount was more like $40,000.00. . .

I stand corrected.  And now, so do you.

Look, I understand the symbiotic relationship between public employee unions and certain elected representatives – it’s both a blessing and a curse, depending upon which side of the cash flow you’re on.

Trust me – I’ve benefited from this age-old sleight-of-hand myself.

I also know the issues that will inevitably arise when an outside entity – be it a powerful union, or a manipulative political insider – has an outsized influence on the democratic process.

Is it possible that the Deltona fire union quietly pushed provisions of this “civility” ordinance as a means of providing additional protections for their leadership and employees?

Is it possible union leadership wanted to establish a binding bureaucratic process which would have required an internal “paper trail” that could be exploited and challenged at each step?

I don’t know, but time will tell if this is an underlying issue for the citizens of Deltona.

So, what have we learned from the mess?

In my view, this debacle best demonstrates that well-meaning people who propose legislation that suppress our rights to free speech, and the ability to petition our government for redress of grievances, often forget that these laws can be turned around and used as offensive weapons in the future.

We also learned that the City of Deltona has serious leadership issues that no “civility” ordinance can repair.

I am happy to report that Deltona has a core group of very bright and inquisitive citizens who are actively monitoring and analyzing the moves and machinations of their elected and appointed officials.

That’s important – and my hat is off to them for putting the brakes on this misguided legislation.



Deltona: Welcome to 1984

George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, is set in the superstate of Oceania – where under the control of the privileged elite – individualism, political dissent and alternative opinions are considered “thought crimes.”

In the novel, the ruling class use omnipresent surveillance and other malevolent means of controlling the speech, actions and even thoughts of its servile subjects.

Chief among these tactics is the Thought Police, who ensure that no one violates or challenges the government’s definition of “ideological correctness.”

In the 21st Century, this idea has taken the form of what we know as ‘political correctness’ – where words or speech are labeled as inappropriate, and subject the individual uttering them to branding, denouncement and personal ruin.

One can rightly argue that modern America is rapidly mirroring the Orwellian concepts of Big Brother, thought control, and ideological conformity.

You don’t have to look far to find evidence of it.

In recent months, the City of Deltona has challenged DeBary for the title of most dysfunctional municipality in Volusia County – which, as “The Stranger” said – put’s them high in the running for the most dysfunctional government anywhere.

Back in September, Deltona City Commissioner Brain Soukup had the temerity to question City Manager Jane Shang’s integrity following the promotion of a firefighter.  As part of that personnel action, the firefighter received an extremely unusual “one time” payout of $93,000.00 in unused leave.

Commissioner Soukup took issue with the questionable expenditure (I never saw one like it for an internal promotion in over 30-years of government service) and he believed Shang lied to him “by omission” during his inquiry into the matter.

For his trouble, Soukup’s remarks were met with sharp rebukes from Mayor John Masiarczyk and Vice Mayor Chris Nabicht – both of whom thought Soukup’s comments somehow bruised the delicate sensibilities of the Deltona fire union.


During the tempest in a teapot, Nabicht – a retired Deltona deputy fire chief – barked, “You’re out of line, Soukup.”

Out of line?  Interesting.

In most municipalities, these dust-ups are just that – they clear the air, vent frustrations, and let everyone involved know where the other stands on issues important to them.

Can this be uncomfortable for staff?  You bet it can.

Is the process important to the overall health of the organization?  You bet it is.

Now, in perhaps the most chilling move I’ve ever witnessed from a municipal government – the City of Deltona has proposed –  and constructed – something called a “Civility Ordinance.”

A law designed to control the manner and means by which the people’s elected representatives can point out the errors and omissions of senior executives, voice critical opinions on staff performance or address constituent complaints.

You read that right.  A municipal ordinance governing “civility.”

As I understand it, the idea was hatched by City Attorney Becky Vose, who drafted an ordinance addressing “workplace bullying” within the city.  During a discussion with Commissioner Heidi Herzberg, Vose apparently advised that the bullying law would also apply to the speech and conduct of elected officials acting in their official capacity.

Apparently, the dubious proposal was championed by the Mayor and Vice Mayor who hurried the draft ordinance onto a workshop agenda.

The discussion will take place this evening at Deltona City Hall.

The problem is – this isn’t an anti-bullying measure at all.

It is a direct attack on the rights and responsibilities of Deltona’s elected officials – and a roadmap for ignoring the sacred vote of residents to effectively get rid of “offending” commissioners by collusion of the majority.

Sound familiar, DeBary?  It damn well should.

The proposed law specifically prohibits:

  1. The use of disrespectful and/or devaluing language;
  1. Persistent or extended criticism in front of other persons (including coworkers, vendors, contractors or members of the public); or
  1. Behaviors, actions, conduct or language with the intent to frighten, humiliate, belittle or degrade, including criticism delivered with a raised voice, yelling and/or screaming.

The law goes on to spell out a convoluted process by which the people’s elected representatives may file written complaints “comporting with due process and free speech rights” (?) prior to addressing wrongdoing by a charter officer or city employee “in a public meeting.”

What happens should a hapless city commissioner violate the “Civility” law?


“Violations of this Article XI, including but not limited to failure to adhere to the procedures set forth in this Article, by an elected city official acting in his or her official capacity shall constitute misconduct in office, malfeasance and/or misfeasance, as applicable, and may be the basis for censure with reasonable penalties as determined by a majority vote of the City Commission.”


This over-broad and patently biased pile of festering dog shit is an affront to everything free citizens of this nation believe, fight, and die for.

As someone who cares deeply about good governance and the protection of our Constitutionally protected rights to free speech, self-expression and the redress of grievances, let me set the record straight:

How dare these lily-livered, hyper-sensitive assholes attempt to legitimize their powerfully stupid and highly subjective notion of “devaluing speech” through the legislative process.

How dare they devalue our essential right to free speech and expression – especially in the context of a public meeting.

This country was founded upon the spirited debate of differing opinions and ideas.

Our basic rights – such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizures – all survived after bitter and divisive arguments between our Founding Fathers.

Leadership and good government do not take place in a vacuum.

In my view, to effectively tie the hands of the people’s elected representatives, and legislatively hamstring their sworn responsibilities to the community they serve, has a chilling effect on the process and consolidates ultimate power in the elite few who interpret things like what constitutes “devaluing” speech.

In my view, the City of Deltona clearly has deeper issues than any cockamamie “civility ordinance” can repair.  When a government reaches this level of open dysfunction, it is time for the senior staff to take their leave – voluntarily or involuntarily.

Clearly, Ms. Shang and Ms. Vose – with the acquiescence of several commissioners – are attempting to enact a prophylactic ordinance specifically designed to control the otherwise lawful conduct of the citizens elected representatives – and set the table for forcibly removing duly elected “offenders.”

This goes deeper than petty self-protection.

It represents the height of arrogance in a public official – and may well signal evidence of deeper and darker issues in Deltona City Hall.

Keep your eyes on this one, folks.






Florida: The Biggest Whorehouse in the World

“Uncertainty is the worst of all evils until the moment when reality makes us regret uncertainty.”

–Alphonse Karr

The news out of Palatka this morning has confirmed my worst fears.

As I sit here at Barker’s View HQ at 8:53am on a crisp, clear fall morning, I’ve come to realize that it’s going to take more than three-fingers of fine bourbon whiskey in my Café Bustelo to get a handle on this one.

It’s ugly, so I’ll save you the cruel humor.

Smart people are awakening to the confirmation that the Sunshine State has been seized by the scum of the earth – and our way will be dark and slippery for a long time to come.

As usual, there are more questions than answers:

How long, Oh Lord, will the good people of Florida be saddled with the utterly corrupt sneak thief, John Miklos?

How long will we suffer a Governor’s personal appointee who openly plays both sides against the center, then gives his figurative middle finger to any regulatory agency or investigative journalist with the temerity to question him?

The answer is: Who knows?

It’s official.  We live in the most corrupt state in the union.

On Tuesday, the all-powerful St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board – you know, that select group of political insiders appointed by the Governor to conserve and protect our sensitive water supply and wetlands – voted to reappoint Long John Miklos to an unprecedented fourth consecutive term as chairman.

We are doomed.  That’s all ye know, and all ye need to know.

You may recall that Mr. Miklos owns Orlando-based, Bio Tech Consultants, Inc., an environmental consultancy that has had an incredible run of success in ensuring that his clients – generally big-time developers – get what they damn well want from the very regulatory agency that he lords over.

In the Scott administration’s typical “we do what we want” approach to the myriad of shady deals and backhanded power appointments that have plagued the Governor for years, the SJRWMD board failed to even consider that Chairman-for-Life Miklos is currently the subject of investigations by both the Florida Ethics Commission – and the State Attorney’s Office.

To say that John Miklos is a one-man environmental wrecking ball is an understatement – but, in my view, it is his unbridled public corruption that sets him apart from some of Rick Scott’s other jackals with a title.

You might also remember that Long John commanded $155.00 per hour from the City of DeBary to ramrod the acquisition of 102 acres of sensitive conservation lands owned by the district that the city wanted to churn into a transit-oriented development near the SunRail station.

While working as a contract employee of DeBary, Miklos attended a meeting between city officials and representatives of the St. John’s River Water Management District while serving as the district’s board chairman.

You read that right.

In my view, that meeting best represents the predicate overt act required to prove a criminal conspiracy.

In a state where you can hire the chairman of a regulatory agency to lobby on your behalf before that same organization, anything is possible.  And trust me, that rabble at the City of DeBary knew exactly what they were doing when they got in bed with him.

But those flagrant shitheels in DeBary City Hall are far from Miklos’ only co-conspirators.

According to the excellent reporting of the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Dina Pulver, “Miklos has declared a conflict of interest before a board vote more than a dozen times in the three years since he was appointed chairman in November 2013.  But most permits aren’t reviewed by the board.  His company has been a party to at least 85 permit applications to the St. Johns district since he was named chairman.”

For the record, the number of permit applications to the St. Johns and South Florida water districts that list Bio Tech as their consultant doubled within the two-years after Miklos became head of the agency’s governing board.

If you think Governor Rick Scott gives two-shits, stop fooling yourself.

That reptilian asshole is the poster boy for the problem of quid pro quo corruption – and he has no qualms about selling his soul, or the State of Florida, to anyone who extends a buck in his direction.

In fact, the only board member to openly oppose putting the fox back in charge of the hen house was our own Maryam Ghyabi – owner of an Ormond Beach-based engineering firm and sister of the High Panjandrum of Florida politics, Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini.

Prior to the vote, Ms. Ghyabi voiced her concern that someone other than Miklos should be granted the opportunity to ascend to the leadership role.

Unfortunately, her plea went whistling over the heads of her fellow board members who immediately shit on her suggestion and voted 6-1 to reappoint Long John as chairman of the board.

Whether this public insult is enough to raise Mori’s infamous wrath is yet to be seen.

Or, perhaps Mr. Hosseini needs Long John’s considerable influence for an up-coming project?

Who knows.  It’s a moot point – these people always get what they pay for.

What I do know is that despite on-going criminal investigations – and blistering editorials by two influential regional newspapers – the Scott administration ignored the gamble and gave the nod that put this brazen greed-head back at the helm of Florida’s most powerful regulatory agency.

Because I’m a hopeless romantic – given the heat and exposure – I would have bet you a fistful of new hundreds that even a congenital crook like Rick Scott would have tossed his buddy out of the SJRWMD wheelhouse like a rotten mackerel.

But I was wrong.

We are living in the biggest whorehouse in the world.

Get used to feeling dirty.

Unless and until We, the People, demand that our government officials separate their personal finances from the public agencies they oversee, you can expect more of the same from Rick Scott and his cabal of treacherous scum and rip-off artists who masquerade as ‘public servants.’

The greed-hogs are fully in charge, they have seized the high ground, and their priorities are different than ours.

Aphonse Karr was right.  Reality is often more terrifying than our wildest speculations.


Volusia: If you build it – they can’t come

“No bus service planned for Tanger Outlets Mall”


This morning I read an informative piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal reporting on the County of Volusia’s shortsighted refusal to extend Votran bus service to the new Tanger Outlet Mall.

In essence – Volusia officials are money-grubbing again, and the abject arrogance expressed by the County’s top transportation official tells me County Manager Jim Dinneen is pulling the strings on this one.

Last year, the County Council voted to approve an agreement to contribute $2.25 million to the Tanger development – while Daytona Beach city commissioners approved the expenditure of an additional $2.25 million for roads, water and sewer pipes, sidewalks and other infrastructure.

The highly anticipated 39-acre, $100 million-dollar retail center is set to open later this week.

Now, county officials would have us believe that they failed to allocate funds for public transportation service to the outlet mall.

They can’t be that stupid.

Can they?

Like everything else in Volusia County, the devil is in the details.

After throwing a collective $4.5 million of our tax dollars into a private retail development we’re told that the critical element of public transportation won’t be available.

The reason?  No money.

According to Steve Sherrer, general manager of our county operated bus system, “There is currently no funding in Votran’s operating budget to support new service to the Tanger mall.”

In Volusia County’s typical over-the-top fashion –  Sherrer would have us believe that adding a short connection to an important economic driver like Tanger would cost between $300,000 to $400,000 a year – not counting the cost of vehicles.


According to Google Maps, using the North Williamson Boulevard route from the nearest Votran stop on LPGA Boulevard, the distance is approximately one-half mile.  Too far for the elderly or disabled to walk – especially on a hot summer day – but a short five-minutes by bus.

In June of last year, Sherrer sent a letter to the City of Daytona Beach asking if they would be interested in funding bus service for Tanger Outlets and the nearby Trader Joe’s distribution center.

Seem weird?  You bet it is.

In turn, Assistant City Manager Betty Goodman responded, “It is surprising that Votran’s opinion is that expense for the new service would need to be borne by the city.  As I’m sure you are aware, we do not have any budget for Votran service routes.”

Surprising indeed.

According to Sherrer, “We certainly recognize that Tanger is going to be a legitimate trip generator, but if I don’t have any money in my budget (to add Votran service to the outlet mall) how am I supposed to provide it?” he asked. “I reached out to the city but I can’t twist their arm.”

When asked by the News-Journal whether Votran has sought funding assistance from the outlet mall itself, Sherrer said, “We have not heard from Tanger, but I haven’t picked up the phone (to speak with them).”

Of course not.

Why would the general manager of our public transportation system consider “picking up the phone” and communicating with the area’s most touted retail destination in years to discuss alternatives to a problem everyone saw coming over a year ago?

I suppose it comes from the same mindset that fails to budget – or at least plan for the system flexibility necessary to address a legitimate public need.

Let me get this right: We use millions in public funds to create ‘jobs’ – then fail to provide a means of access to workers who rely on public transportation – and the shoppers who will ultimately make or break our investment.


In most competently managed and accountable organizations – Mr. Sherrer would be called on the carpet and summarily fired for his incompetence, lack of strategic planning, piss-poor budgetary oversight, and the condescending tone of his public communications on a matter of community concern.

As I’ve previously said, once again a situation erupts that exposes the depth of dysfunction in County government and begs the obvious question: “When is it appropriate to hold public officials accountable”?

In the Dinneen administration the answer is never.

In government, as in most progressive private organizations, accountability exists when a responsible individual, and the services they provide, are subject to critical oversight. This occurs when the responsible party is required to provide articulable justification for their actions, omissions, expenditures, planning, and performance.

A practice especially important for government officials at the executive level whose decisions can have wide-ranging and very expensive implications – such as the management of our public transportation system.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Mr. Dinneen is incapable of holding his senior staff responsible for their continuing pattern of gross mismanagement – a serious problem that has been the hallmark of his tenure – rather than demand accountability, our elected officials continue to praise Dinneen’s performance, and reinforce his behavior.


You want to know what is truly the most serious issue Volusia County residents face?

It is the staggering level of incompetence, government waste and resource mismanagement during Jim Dinneen’s administration – and a continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allows this atrocious malfeasance to continue.

Now, as always, Volusia County is crying poor-mouth and threatening service cuts to municipal taxpayers as a means of shirking yet another county responsibility.

Call it what it is – extortion.

You want transportation to the most heralded addition to the Halifax area’s retail scene in over 20-years?

Then pay us what we demand – or walk.