“Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of regular government.”
— Jeremy Bentham
It is no secret that Florida’s government agencies have a serious spending problem.
We know it. And they know it. So why try to hide it?
History tells us that no good comes when unsupervised government employees – and their friends – are permitted unfettered access to the public trough.
Take, for instance, the news out of Tallahassee last week when something called “Visit Florida” – yet another tax funded marketing agency which received some $78-million in public funds last year alone – attempted to cover their tracks with a disturbing new trend.
It seems Visit Florida administrators placed a “confidentiality clause” in a contract with the artist Pit Bull – an agreement that paid the performer $1-million in our tax dollars for a series of goofy activities promoting Florida beaches and hotels.
A lawsuit filed by Florida lawmakers found that the ‘proprietary information’ contained in the confidentiality agreement was no more than a breakdown of prices for services performed by the entertainer.
It also found that there were no performance metrics to measure our potential return on investment.
On Friday, another tax-funded private/public state agency – Space Florida – reaffirmed a $1-million-dollar line of credit for an unnamed company operating under the mysterious visage, “Project Ice.”
Typical of agencies in the Scott administration, a recent audit of Space Florida found a need for additional “accountability and efficiency” – and called for further review of the agency’s “unique funding mechanisms.”
The cover-up is always worse than the crime.
This summer, I filed a formal public records request with the City of DeBary seeking a copy of a non-disclosure agreement between Roger Van Auker and an “unnamed developer” whose existence has been discussed in hushed tones at several public meetings.
Given the fact that the city’s ‘transit oriented development’ as originally envisioned has been effectively halted with the transfer of the Gemini Springs Annex to the County of Volusia, I was certain that the confidentiality agreement would be considered null and void at this point.
I received a missive from DeBary’s Public Records Manager, Eric Frankton, who assured me that – while there was no “secret developer” for the disputed 102-acres (his words, not mine) – the city attorney determined that the agreement remains exempt and I am not entitled to it under Florida’s Public Records law.
Now, I didn’t want argue with Eric – he’s a very sensitive guy – but isn’t the fact that the identity of the land developer is being held confidential the textbook definition of a “secret developer”?
My simple request was followed-up by yet another legal opinion, from yet another DeBary contract attorney, who went into detail regarding why I wouldn’t be receiving the information requested under Florida’s open records law.
Who knows what that cost the good citizens of DeBary.
(And people wonder why the city’s corpse is being picked clean by these vultures?)
At the end of the day, this level of concealment and skulduggery told me all I needed to know:
The City of DeBary is doing business with someone they don’t want you to know about. Just pay the bills and shut the fuck up, little man.
They think it keeps us from connecting the dots – but ultimately, it best exposes these shitheels for what they truly are.
Last Thursday, before our new elected representatives could be seated, the Volusia County Council took the first steps to develop a 300-acre parcel of public property at Daytona International Airport – a project that will ultimately cost us tens-of-millions to again benefit a few well-positioned insiders.
Apparently, all we need to start our latest panacea project is a county-funded $400,000 engineering study.
Oh, and $10-million for construction.
To that end, last week the county council requested state funds, putting the development costs on its legislative priorities list for 2017.
In a recent article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned that this incredible urgency to spend, spend, spend comes from the county’s continuing exuberance over the “imminent arrival” of Embry-Riddle’s research park – the Micaplex – which, to-date, has limited commitments from a handful of incestuous local companies who have absolutely no connection whatsoever to the aerospace industry.
According to Mr. Karl, “There’s momentum, there have already been businesses interested in that property.”
“We’ve had two confidential prospects this year alone.”
Here we go.
In typical fashion, County Manager Jim Dinneen began prepping us with all the subtlety of the night before a colonoscopy with his usual over-the-top enthusiasm for gifting public money to private interests with a profit motive.
“It’s the kind of jobs the state is looking for,” Dinneen said. “We are talking high-tech jobs.”
Not just jobs. High-tech jobs.
He added, “If you’re late to the party, there ain’t no party.”
I’m not sure what that means. But I suspect our tax dollars will be the only thing that ultimately gets invited to Little Jimmy’s soiree.
If history has taught me anything, it’s this:
When government tries to rush something past the taxpayer – with dubious claims of ‘jobs’ and ‘strike while the iron is hot’ urgency – we are about to get screwed.
In this new era of state and local government secrecy, you are expected to take the foxes word for the security of the hen house.
Again, Jim Dinneen sets the rules – and our elected officials roll over and piss on themselves like a nervous cur.
Hold on, kids – 2017 is shaping up to be quite a year.