Whoever said reason and common sense problem-solving ever factored into Volusia County government operations?
In an excellent piece in this morning’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, reporter Dustin Wyatt lays out the quintessential example of why Tanger Outlets need Votran bus service – then deftly steps back and exposes the base ignorance of our so-called political leadership and their open abdication of an important civic responsibility.
In the process, we get a fleeting glimpse into the continuing mismanagement and utter dysfunction that remains the very hallmark of County Manager Jim Dinneen’s tenure.
As the story goes, Mr. Wyatt introduces us to a young lady who works at a sandwich shop in the Tanger complex. She relies exclusively on public transportation. We also meet her frustrated store manager, who has taken to driving his employees to-and-from work to ensure timely continuity of operations at his establishment in the absence of bus service.
Understand, this story is not unique – the Halifax area is chock-full of strapped individuals struggling to make ends meet in a service-based economy.
The vicious cycle includes safe housing options that remain just out of reach, a lack of reliable personal transportation, child care concerns, and a precious few opportunities for steady employment that would help to alleviate the other parts of the equation.
Anytime our local government officials set their sights on corporate giveaways, the justification always involves job creation.
In my view, these retail jobs are a mere unintended consequence of throwing huge sums of public money to well-connected insiders, who now factor tax dollars into any speculative project that catches their eye.
As proof that they could care less, even when we succeed in attracting jobs, our elected and appointed officials refuse to provide even basic support services – like public transportation.
In the case of Tanger Outlets, we gifted the developers $4.5 million in public funds split between Volusia County and the City of Daytona Beach. These “economic incentives” were earmarked for infrastructure costs.
That’s right – $4.5 million dollars of our money – and not one discussion regarding the public transportation needs of this crucial east Volusia job center.
Apparently, rather than budget for additional bus service to Tanger Outlets and the nearby Trader Joe’s distribution center, Mr. Dinneen’s strategic plan was to put the arm on the City of Daytona Beach to fund the route.
I recently came into possession of some interesting internal county communications wherein Votran general manager Steve Sherrer confirms that Jim Dinneen directed him to write Daytona regarding the cost of extending bus service.
Responding to a question from an elected official as to why he would contact the City of Daytona Beach in the absence of any interlocal agreement requiring municipal transportation funding – or county council authorization – Sherrer explains:
“In June of 2015 the County Manager directed me to reach out to the city of Daytona Beach to ascertain the level of interest in having transit service at the Tanger complex. This outreach was directed as it was assumed there was a level of expectation that service would be provided. However, there was no official request for service from Tanger or the city of Daytona Beach. As you saw, the city of Daytona Beach was not interested in funding transit to the site. Nor has Tanger reached out to Votran or the County to discuss their expectation of public transportation service to their mall. The manager directed me to explore this with the city in order to see if there might be other resources available to assist in funding new service outside the general fund of the county.”
Wow. Sherrer was quick to put his boss under the bus (pun intended).
Just for the record – and at the risk of tooting the Barker’s View kazoo – this email confirms my previous assertion that this entire homegrown problem was yet another money-grab by Jim Dinneen.
Tragically, Mr. Sherrer would have us believe that Votran conducts evaluations three times each year to see if routes need to be adjusted based upon ridership. Yet, by their own admission, two rarely used stops on LPGA Boulevard still have routine service.
So close, yet so far.
Interestingly, neither Sherrer – nor anyone else at Votran – has adequately explained their initial scare tactic that adding a stop at Tanger/Trader Joe’s would cost $400,000.
However, in an internal email on the subject, Mr. Sherrer finally admits that routes could be modified to provide a “no-cost option” to serve Tanger.
Unfortunately, he also quibbles that the option would require the elimination of several high ridership locations within those routes so the buses will stay on-time – and claims that the hours of operation would not coincide with those of the outlet mall.
Let’s see – it’s possible to provide service if Daytona Beach pays for it – but absolutely impossible otherwise.
Hum. . .
Sounds like a government manager trying to cover his well-paid ass to me.
But that is standard operating procedure in the Dinneen administration – a cabal of pathological liars enabled by ineffectual elected officials and their uber-rich beneficiaries.
Look, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but something tells me that a competent public transportation official – you know, like a smart guy who is paid to serve as the general manager of Votran – could sit down and figure out how to incorporate a quick stop in an area that employs some 1,400 area residents.
Maybe not. But without even discussing the issue, how will we know?
In perhaps the best example of outgoing County Chair Jason Davis’ monumental stupidity, he said:
“The budget is already done. It isn’t going to happen until next year,” he said. “How much of a call is there for a Votran bus to go to the Tanger mall? Is there a lot of people who even want to do this? Those who are buying Polo and Louis Vuitton handbags … are those the people that need to ride the bus?”
No, dipshit. The people who work there do.
We’re gonna miss his intellect and grasp of the issues around here. . .
Perhaps the only elected official on the dais who understands the importance of transportation forecasting and transit management when considering taxpayer funded projects is Councilman Doug Daniels.
He said the county should have planned for bus service before Tanger arrived. “It’s not fair, it’s not reasonable, it makes no sense and shows a serious lack of planning.”
Unfortunately, unless our newly elected County Chair Ed Kelley and the other cartoon characters on the council are willing to terminate Dinneen’s services immediately – you can expect the same abject incompetence in 2017.