If you are a resident of Volusia County, you know things are ‘different’ here.
I’m talking Alternate Universe different.
Like many of you, I have the perspective of growing up in the Halifax area. I know what it was like before the Volusia Mall came to town, when we shopped ‘Downtown,’ and if you were good a trip to Dunn Brother’s Toys made for a very special day.
If you still call the county administration building on Beach Street “Sears,” you know what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to our community.
Like an aging beauty who was famous and popular once upon a time, now Daytona Beach suffers the indignity of neglect, even abuse. Her once dapper and playful persona ravaged by withering blight born of greed.
Truth be told, the same can be said for many areas of Volusia County.
Those who pay the bills – the long-suffering taxpayers – are looked upon by what passes for “leadership” with utter disdain. We are routinely lied to and ignored by our elected and appointed officials – and bullied by the big money donor class who consider our opinions a mere impediment to their bought-and-paid for place at the public trough.
The cancerous scourge of violent crime, drugs, homelessness and dilapidation have left scars on our once vibrant beachside – a place where those who invest in residential properties are looked upon by a weary populace like intrepid homesteaders in the Old West – gambling that their determination, sweat equity, and personal resiliency will somehow overcome the barren and hostile environment all around them.
All while our elected and appointed officials pompously point to a handful of development projects – all of which have been subsidized with public funds – as a means of showing off their ‘vision’ and commitment to revitalization.
Deep in their hearts they know – and we know – that so many of them are compromised bullshit artists – hacks who have lost the capacity for shame and have sold their soul, and their vote, to the latest speculative developer, resort-town grifter or old money power broker willing to throw down a Black American Express for appetizers, watery cocktails, and an ego stroke.
Don’t try to understand it.
It’s a closed system, and the powers that be don’t need or want your input – just pay the damned bills and shut the fuck up.
Know your role.
Occasionally we catch a glimpse of the greasy mechanism – the inner workings of what passes for governance in Volusia County and Daytona Beach – two isolated and dysfunctional entities who get on like Baby Jane and Blanche Hudson.
This week we had a fleeting opportunity to look behind the curtain when the Daytona Beach City Commission issued their annual performance evaluation of City Manager Jim Chisholm.
Now, please don’t labor under the mistaken impression that this is an independent outside management audit – or even an objective review of Chisholm’s actual work product. It is merely the best guess of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker who have been elected to high office with low expectations – and accept regurgitated “information” from Chisholm like baby birds in some foul nest.
Through the years, Mr. Chisholm has received grades ranging from D’s to high B’s – this year, he scored a solid “B” – or as his most complimentary assessor, Commissioner Ruth Trager, puts it:
“A pretty good job.”
What does “pretty good” performance get you in the City of Daytona Beach?
$275,000.00 annually, that’s what.
If we’re on the topic, let’s look at the curious case of Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen – arguably the slimiest organism in the primordial ooze that is our local political scene.
Unlike Jim Chisholm – who, in my view, is simply incapable of addressing the festering problems of a community in crisis – Dinneen is a mean-spirited asshole with a God complex who basically serves as a bagman for uber-wealthy insiders who use our tax dollars like a private piggybank.
Now, both Chisholm and Dinneen will take full credit for throwing Chanel No. 5 on the hog that is One Daytona, Tanger Outlet and the never-ending renovation of a couple of squalid beachside motels – all projects that you and I paid for.
They will squawk-on about private/public partnerships (read: gambling with our money) with local movers-and-shakers, and frighten us with ominous hand-wringing gibberish over dubious problems when they need more of our money.
Never mind the horror show that is Dinneen’s personnel management practices, the arrogant thuggery and open suppression of legitimate pay increases for sheriff’s deputies and others on the front line providing core services to the citizens.
Oh, and just ignore the steady tax increases needed to feed his elephantine budget.
So, what does an unscrupulous fraud like Jim Dinneen command in this rickety economic environment?
Around $325,000.00 (including benefits) annually.
You read that right.
I’ll save you the cha-chi comparisons (no I won’t), like the fact Dinneen hauls in more than the Mayor of New York City, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or the manager of Duval County – you know, a little burg north of us called ‘Jacksonville.’
Little Jimmy is also within a few thousand dollars of the Orange County administrator – who oversees the Orlando Metro area – with a permanent population of over one million people.
In fact, Mr. Dinneen is consistently ranked among the highest paid county executives in the State of Florida.
Because he shamelessly does the bidding of our benevolent dictators and ensures that their path to the public teat is unobstructed.
A cheap fixer – a conduit.
If the extent of Jim Dinneen’s mismanagement, lack of strategic vision, and contemptuous disregard of the true needs of the public he serves were ever brought to light, this little shyster would be thrown in stocks and given the Bastinado treatment on the steps of the old Volusia County Courthouse.