Daytona Beach: Separating the Political Elite

Someone needs to say what everyone else is thinking.

The City of Daytona Beach is grossly overreacting to potential threats against the elected elite by installing magnetometers, ballistic glass and other physical barriers to separate commissioners from those they serve.

They claim the measures are still under consideration; however, the metal detectors have been purchased and the staff trained on their use.

Trust me.  Daytona Beach City Hall is about to go on lock-down.

Have there been specific threats?  No.

Acts of violence?  An imminent public safety concern during public meetings?  No.

Has there been growing public sentiment, meeting-after-meeting, that the city’s administration and elected officials are acting contrary to the will of their constituents?

Vocal evidence that citizens are awakening to the fact that the city is effectively ruled by a few self-serving politicians and their uber-wealthy campaign financiers?

Absolutely.

Look, there are reasonable and effective solutions to the difficult issue of securing public meetings.  Effective measures that provide sensible levels of protection, while respecting the all-important democratic elements of access and free speech.

Nobody wants to make security decisions in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy – I understand that.

Most government agencies have had contingency plans in place for years – and if the City of Daytona Beach doesn’t – why the hell not?

Perhaps an unobtrusive solution isn’t the motive here?

Perhaps the city commission has heard enough of our angry cries for change and would prefer to make it so onerous to enter and petition our government for redress of grievances that we simply give up and go away?

As usual, there are more questions than answers.

According to Commissioner Rob Gilliland, “It has never been as angry as it has been with a small group of people who have made very negative comments,” he said.

People are weird that way, Rob.  They feel like they’re getting the shaft, and the next thing you know, they go all “negative comment” on your ass.

Why is it that government officials never seem to understand that when they have an angry mob berating them from the podium, perhaps it’s time to listen and change tack?  

 These wild-eyed villagers with the metaphorical flaming pitchforks are their constituents – you know, the mass of unwashed citizens who took the time to listen to the campaign rhetoric and cast their vote – an act consecrated in the blood of those who fought for our freedom.

These are the very people who participated in our nation’s most sacred process, and elevated the elected members from the rank of common citizen to high office.

Our one request?  Put the collective needs of the community above your own, and serve honorably in the public interest.  

 Is that too much to ask?  Apparently.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Daytona Beach city commissioners are mere handmaidens of City Manager Jim Chisholm’s dysfunctional administration.  In the complete absence of leadership from Mayor Derrick Henry – or anyone else on the commission – the bumbling starts, stops and missteps are too frequent, and too similar, for smart people to not make the connection that the tail is wagging the dog.

Take the on-going public social punishment of our homeless population by city administrators.

Let’s face it, the city’s strategy to remove last winter’s homeless encampment from the county administration building on Beach Street ultimately took the form of a bizarre game of musical chairs.

We watched as the destitute were shuffled from the relative security of the Salvation Army, to subsidized rooms in Ridgewood Avenue motels, to social and religious support organization.

Finally, when the music stopped, those unfortunate souls who were left without a viable chair were unceremoniously dumped on a vacant piece of public land near Clyde Morris Boulevard and the Bellevue Extension.

(You know, right across the street from the property the Volusia County Council just sold to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for half – that’s right, half – it’s appraised value.  But I digress. . . or do I?)

The amenities:  A water spigot and two portable toilets.

The caveat:  The homeless are permitted to use the “safe zone” only between sunset and sunrise.

Now, from his warm office in a locked-down high-security area of Daytona Beach City Hall, City Attorney Bob Jagger put his feet up on his desk and handed down the edict that persons using the “safe zone” are not permitted to erect tents – you know, primitive shelter from the elements.

When area homeless advocate Mike Pastore began collecting funds for military-style tents and enlisting other support groups to assist with basic services at the city-designated safe zone, the city attorney’s office put aside their important work writing lucrative real estate contracts which would have us paying $826,000 for parcels worth a fraction of that, and launched into action, citing dubious liability concerns and ordinances prohibiting camping in public ‘parks.’

Hell, even Daytona’s “Community Relations Manager” (?) L. Ronald Durham originally gave the go-ahead – as any compassionate public official would – then did his best crawfish routine following a “brief meeting” with Mr. Chisholm.

How humiliating must that have been for someone who is quickly becoming the face of the homeless problem in Daytona Beach?

I guess Rev. Durham exceeded the limits of his authority.  Whatever that is.

But L. Ron quickly got on-board – once he was told what his official position on the matter would be – and explained to the community that, “We do not want to encourage a tent city.”

I guess an annual salary of $75,000 in public funds – plus full government employee benefits – will engender that kind of flexibility.

Even the hapless Mayor Henry weighed in, saying tents were “not the direction I’d like to head in as a city.”

Whatever that means.

Exactly what direction would you like to see the city take, Mr. Mayor?

Trust me.  The citizens of Daytona Beach would love to know what your plans are – because, I can assure you, another term of utter stagnation is unacceptable.

When you add the tragic mishandling of the homeless issue to the myriad other problems facing the long-suffering citizens of this community, you get a better understanding of why people are outraged by the ineffective bureaucracy that has become Daytona Beach government.

Instead of listening to the very real concerns of their constituents, Mr. Chisholm and company play games – turning off the video feed during public participation and marginalizing citizen concerns as self-aggrandizing rants.

Perhaps the most illuminating comment on the matter came from the great legal mind of City Attorney Jagger, who said, while he’s not aware of any security threat which would require the use of metal detectors, in his view the city is “fully within its rights to put up the machines.”

“Entry is still voluntary,” he said.  “People can choose not to enter.”

Still think the political elite want your participation in their government?

4 thoughts on “Daytona Beach: Separating the Political Elite

  1. Please don’t get me started again on the creation of the $75,000 year position for Durham. How old is he 70 something ? And it seems he has no empowerment either.

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  2. If you have the intestinal fortitude to express your beliefs, and voice your concerns, they will label you. There is only a small amount of people that wired strong enough to do voice.

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