So, it’s our fault?
If I receive another arrogant lecture from a speculative developer scolding me and my neighbors because he can’t build an overpriced, high-rise theme hotel without copious amounts of tax dollars in the financing scheme – and a private beach – well, I’m going to vomit.
In August, we were collectively subjected to the whining and finger-pointing of the shamefaced Henry Wolfond, CEO of Bayshore Capital, who crowed, ad nauseum, over his failure to sprout the much-anticipated “Hard Rock Daytona” from the sand dunes.
The project was billed as the magic panacea to cure all the ills of east Volusia – and when it failed – the crash consumed more newsprint than the Hindenburg disaster.
The Overthrow of Mayor Clint Johnson
In August, what I affectionately refer to as the “Debacle in DeBary” reached its nadir with the summary execution of the duly elected mayor, Clint Johnson, by his fellow elected officials on dubious charges that he violated certain provisions of the city’s charter.
If there was one bright spot (there wasn’t, but let’s pretend), the convoluted and incredibly expensive process used by the bureaucracy to protect itself from Mr. Johnson’s tough questions and red hot criticism exposed some very disturbing facets of what passes for governance in the City of DeBary.
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 toady’s in City Hall – grasped at straws and came up with the idea of twisting a few of the Mayor’s more opinionated social media posts – coupled with a text message or two – into self-described “charter violations.”
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
What happened in DeBary is a travesty, and it will be talked about and analyzed far beyond the limits of this small town for years to come.
In the end, it will serve as a shining example of what happens when vengeful, small-minded politicians are left to their own dreadful devices.
We haven’t heard the last of this one, folks.
Given Volusia County’s history of financially supporting speculative developers, private universities, retail outlets, various “business incubators,” and countless marketing and tourism boards – not to mention Forbes-listed billionaires – why wouldn’t our area be on the radar of every CEO seeking a corporate welfare check?
When you consider the tens of millions in tax dollars that have been diverted to private concerns in Volusia County – then search in vain for the public gain in core areas, such as East ISB, Midtown, the “E-Zone,” Main Street, etc. – one begins to ask the question, “Where is our return on investment?”
When you factor in the cash infusions, property tax abatement, tax increment financing, infrastructure, and innumerable other “economic incentives,” one can see how this artificial feeding of certain insider corporate interests can alter the natural balance of the regional marketplace.
In September, we asked the logical question – why do we do the same thing over-and-over while expecting a different result?
Because the right people are getting rich, that’s why.
Hurricane Matthew – The Best We’ve Ever Seen
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, those big-headed shitgibbons on the Volusia County Council wasted no time in slapping each other’s back and congratulating their own performance.
As they tell it, we “dodged a bullet” – thanks to their smart planning and incredible leadership.
Using his patented “best/worst” spiel to full effect, county manager Jim Dinneen was quick to tell the media that the County’s response to the storm was, “The best effort he’s ever seen in his career.”
Now, I have personal knowledge that Volusia County’s first responders did an outstanding job before, during and after the event. However, many things about the Dinneen administration’s emergency response efforts were sorely lacking – starting with the timely dissemination of public information.
Little Jimmy might want to tone down his ‘best/worst” shtick.
There is a definite ‘Boy who Cried Wolf’ component to Mr. Dinneen’s public pronouncements that cannot be ignored. In the aftermath of this natural disaster, we learned that residents prefer facts – not wild emotional speculation and self-aggrandizing tut-tutting from their elected and appointed officials.
A Call for Outside Intervention
In October, Barker’s View discussed the deepening divide at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – and Volusia County residents became members of the prestigious “Jack L. Hunt Society” of million-dollar benefactors – when the Volusia County Council made good on a demand by Mori Hosseini and ERAU Interim President Karen Holbrook for $1.5 million in our tax dollars.
Ostensibly, the money is needed to assist “struggling start-ups” at the new John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Complex – a multi-million-dollar taxpayer funded research and technology facility that will – to-date – house elements of aviation pioneers, such as, International Speedway Corporation, DuvaSawka medical billing, mega-law firm Cobb, Cole, FireSpring Fund, accountants James Moore and Company, Vann Data, and venture capital firm venVelo.
Wait. These are all established local companies with little, if any, direct connection to the aerospace industry? So why did we fund them with our tax dollars?
Where is Northrop, General Electric, or Boeing?
Apparently, these aerospace and technology giants are rapidly partnering with other colleges and research facilities that aren’t known as the personal fiefdom of Mortenza Hosseini.
Following a vote of no confidence by ERAU’s faculty senate against the Board of Trustees, as a benefactor of the prestigious university, I felt it important to roll-up my sleeves and lend a helping hand.
To that end, I called for an outside review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – the agency which accredits ERAU.
I’m still waiting. . .
Interestingly, the Halifax Area Advertising Authority – yet 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 doyen 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-bright’s who brought you, “Seize the Daytona” – our new marketing hook is: Blight? Homelessness? Crime? Exorbitant beach tolls? FUGGITABOUTIT!
Lies and Damn Lies
In November, some nit-wit who ‘manages’ our county transportation system, Votran, which operates on $18.4 million in annual tax subsidies, announced that it would cost $400,000 to retool a bus line to serve the recently opened Tanger Outlet shopping mall.
In an interesting Op/Ed, Daytona Beach News-Journal Editor Pat Rice questioned the figure while rightly pointing out that with a new apartment complex (which ultimately received a bus stop), a proposed 3,400-unit housing development to the northwest, and the 900 new employees and thousands of shoppers traveling to Tanger daily – Votran might have considered some advanced planning a route analysis.
Not in Volusia County.
Here, incompetence rises like curdled cream and time-honored organizational management practices – like accountability and responsibility – are abhorred.
How about you and I make a pact not to take it anymore?
Saying that Deltona is a community in crisis is like saying the DeBary city council has a slight problem with situational ethics.
In my view, the growing shit-storm in Deltona best demonstrates that elected officials who propose legislation and “processes” that suppress our right to free speech, hamstring our ability to petition our government for redress of grievances, and erect barriers to elected officials who try to uncover government corruption and inefficiency – seriously underestimate the intelligence of their constituents.
Deltona has serious issues. It also has some very smart watchdogs.
I am happy to report that the community has a core group of very bright, committed and inquisitive citizens – supported by Commissioners Soukup and Alcantara – who are actively monitoring and analyzing every move and sinister machination at City Hall.
My hat is off to them – and this one is going to be interesting to watch in 2017.
The Screwing you get, for the Screwing you got
We began the Christmas Season with the unsettling news that former Daytona Beach Assistant City Manager Gary Shimun is an accused whore monger with some serious character flaws.
Apparently this wasn’t the first time he attempted to screw someone over.
In the aftermath of this ugliness, a trusted Barker’s View contributor who has spoken out against racism, gender discrimination, and whistleblower retaliation by the City of Daytona Beach reported that Mr. Shimun was a principle on the personnel board that willfully denied a most deserving African-American candidate a management position with the city.
I also have it on good authority that our contributor recently received the go-ahead from the United States Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to sue the eyeballs out of the City of Daytona Beach in Federal court.
I’m told that lawsuit will be filed in January.
Trust that we will have more on this developing situation in the very near future.
Look, there’s so much more – One Daytona, Bio Tech Consulting, Enterprise Florida, the election, etc. – but you get the drift.
I recently read that the Merriam-Webster “Word of the Year” for 2016 is: “Surreal.”
This has been a very interesting year – and you can bet we’re in for more of the same in the New Year.
You can also bet that I’ll be here at Barker’s View HQ – hunched over the ‘ol computer in my boxer’s – tilting at windmills – and stirring discontent among the power brokers, political insiders, and self-important assholes who pass for “leadership” in Volusia County.
Thanks for reading. And all best wishes for a happy, healthy and most prosperous New Year!