In coming weeks, the ‘movers-and-shakers’ of the Halifax area will host several gala dinners and cocktail parties, all designed to remind themselves how important they are to our collective progress here on the “Fun Coast.”
These include the annual Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce mutual admiration event, and Team Volusia’s yearly celebration of frivolously pissing away tax dollars for dubious returns.
The tables will be set just-so, and the ‘complementary’ beer and wine will flow.
As the evening progresses, well-dressed speakers with recognizable names will take the podium to congratulate each other’s achievements, drone on about all they have done for us – and, most important, tout their big plans for our communal success in the year to come.
Comments from the well-heeled dais will include terms like “Buoyed Optimism,” “Failing Forward” and “Big Wins!” and we will hear how Team Volusia is “punching way above its weight.”
Sadly, they will believe their own quaint euphemisms, even as they struggle to convince themselves that – with enough of our money – they can actually make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
In a recent article by the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Clayton Parks, it was announced that Team Volusia – one of the myriad “public/private” partnerships that serve as a conduit for funneling public dollars to private businesses – will be hosting a three-hour soiree at the elegant, and appropriately named, Mori Hosseini Center.
Mr. Parks began by reassuring us that, although the engraved invitations don’t specifically say it, members of the public are welcome to attend the $75 per plate buffet – resplendent with white bean hummus crostini and Charleston crab cakes with remoulade.
While the News-Journal may not come right out and say it, the invitations were correct.
Team Volusia neither needs, nor wants, your attendance on their big night – all they need is our money.
You see, nearly half of Team Volusia’s $1.4 million annual budget comes from you and me.
Something else they won’t tell you: Although the invitations specify ‘business attire’ – because our tax money is involved, the law classifies this gala as a public meeting.
You can wear bib overalls and a corncob pipe and they can’t exclude you.
Our friends at Team Volusia plan to use this glorious event to trot out their brand new “three-year strategic plan” – cleverly entitled, well, “Strategy for Success” – which, by the way, was cobbled together by two folks from a consulting firm out of Little Rock, Arkansas.
In keeping with their publicly-funded mission to generate economic development and build the tax base in Volusia County – Team Volusia sent $55,000 (not counting travel costs) of our money to Little Rock, Arkansas – for two people who don’t know Mason Avenue from the Port Orange Causeway.
In return, the consultants (who bill themselves as former economic development ‘practitioners’) wrote our “strategic plan.” (Team Volusia couldn’t find anyone local to bang-out a “tell ‘em what they want to hear” manifesto for fifty-five grand?)
Hell, I’m just sitting on my ass. Maybe I missed the call? Probably napping.
In my experience, strategic planning is normally performed internally as a management and team building tool.
It is very effective when all stakeholders are involved in setting common goals, evaluating current and future needs, soliciting internal and external suggestions, analyzing strengths and weaknesses in the marketplace, and developing a comprehensive focus – a road map, really – for achieving objectives over time.
When done properly, the exercise can build consensus and enthusiasm, set internal priorities, and allocate talent and resources toward achieving collective goals. Obviously, the process is most effective if the resulting blueprint is exercised and implemented by everyone as a means of focusing energy and ensuring that each element of the organization is pulling in the same direction.
However, if management simply places the binder on a bookcase in the executive suite, We, the People, who paid for it might as well have wiped our collective bum with the $55K.
You might remember that in 2013 the Volusia County Council took delivery of a $100,000 report on the future of Volusia’s tourism industry.
In the final narrative, the county’s consultant – another out-of-towner from something called the “Strategic Advisory Group” – described a meeting with Team Volusia wherein it was acknowledged that tourism is the number one industry in Volusia County.
Per the much-heralded report (which is no doubt collecting dust on county manager Jim Dinneen’s credenza), “The Team Volusia website lists “high impact” industries in the section on potential financial incentives. Tourism is not listed as one of these industries and there is no section for tourism investment.”
It still isn’t.
In fact, in nearly four-years, I haven’t seen any substantive changes to the Team Volusia website at all.
Just like Daytona Beach itself, it’s the same tired shit, rehashed in some weird exercise that involves doing the same thing over-and-over while expecting a different result.
Or maybe their web presence is just there to camouflage the fact that Team Volusia is simply another ineffectual, and overvalued, tax funded boondoggle?
I mean, we spent $100,000 hard-earned taxpayer dollars for a tourism study – not counting all we gave away in terms of beach access, incentives, and stomach acid – to lure a panacea theme hotel to the area.
Is it too much to ask that someone, anyone, on the payroll take the personal initiative to put the word “tourism” on the Team Volusia website’s business & industry priorities section?
You know, just shoehorn it between Team Volusia’s main thrusts of ‘Film Production’ and ‘Headquarters/R&D’?
(Film production? Really? I mean, a movie hasn’t been made here since the De Niro flop ‘Dirty Grandpa.’ Oh, wait, that wasn’t actually filmed here – the producers just took advantage of our seedy reputation to enhance the plot line…)
I don’t make this shit up, folks.
As I write this, my stomach churns and my chest tightens remembering the countless hours of my life spent trapped at ‘gala dinners,’ and seemingly endless breakfast meetings, listening to overdressed economic development types drone on about how wonderful things would be if we could just shovel more tax money at parasitic businesses who consistently factor our money into their bottom line.
I should have had the moral courage to stand up and shout, “Stop lying to us, you treacherous bastards!” – but that would have been considered inappropriate, given the setting and circumstances.
I would have been dismissed as a mad man – or terminal drunk – or both.
In retrospect, I can’t think of anything more appropriate.