Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
It’s true – the more things change, the more they stay the same here on Florida’s “Fun Coast.”
Earlier this month, in a retrospective on the year that was, I wrote that Volusia’s half-cent sales tax issue would soon be resurrecting itself – like some macabre ghoul crawling out of a misty cemetery where government money-grabs go to die – right after the elections had been decided.
After all, no one wants to run a heated political campaign while lashed to the ball-and-chain of rising taxes, eh?
Like clockwork, now that our anointed monarchs have been enthroned, county and city officials are once again trotting out the sales tax increase as the magic potion for our crumbling ‘transportation infrastructure.’
Yep. According to Jim Dinneen and Company – we’re going broke when it comes to road funds (not executive salaries, thank God) and its past time for you and me to pay up.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, County Engineer Jerry Brinton put a “real-world” spin on the problem for all us yokels:
“Think of it like this: You’re an employee who has never gotten a raise, while rent, the cost of goods and utility bills continue to increase. Meanwhile, appliances start to break (roads or bridges) and family members (the taxpayers) keep asking for stuff.”
“Your kids want those new sneakers,” Brinton said. “What do you do?”
Hey, Jerry? With all due respect – shut the fuck up.
Your condescending bullshit is not what the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County need right now. Okay?
The County Engineer’s half-baked analogy would work – I suppose – if the individual referenced wasn’t spending someone else’s money like a drunk methamphetamine addict on a crack cocaine binge.
(Quick question – who is responsible for managing media communications for county department heads? Anyone? I guess in an organization that abhors responsibility as much as it does accountability, well, anything goes.)
Interestingly, our own Master of Diplomacy and imminently self-important doyen, County Council Member Deb Deny’s, used the occasion to once again deflect blame while openly bashing the cities, “I think the public will buy in once their elected leaders have a clear vision,” Denys said, something that’s been lacking in the past. “There has been no clear vision.”
This from one of the “visionaries” who just voted for outrageous salary increases for Jim Dinneen (who, with benefits, is currently shoveling over $350,000 of our tax dollars out the door annually – even as our transportation infrastructure apparently crumbles around us?) and County Attorney Dan Eckert – who spent most of last year suing you and me, you know, his constituents. . .
At a recent “roundtable discussion” between Volusia’s municipal officials, Deland Mayor Bob Apgar, normally someone who shows leadership and good judgment in these matters, suggested forming a “committee” – with a seat for every city – you know, sort of like the meeting they were all sitting at (?) – that will come up with a plan the “public would be willing to vote for.”
The committee, of course, will be comprised of non-political types with very familiar names who will naturally suggest some scary potential funding sources and chilling doomsday scenarios – then settle on recommending the half-cent tax increase, like they are throwing us a collective bone.
On the bright side – the “committee members” will fade the political heat for our elected officials – so, ultimately, no one is answerable!
As if by magic, an additional $43 million dollars of our hard-earned money will transfer from our bank accounts to government coffers annually – while our elected and appointed officials continue to piss good money after bad.
Food for thought: What will the next emergency be?
In a January 2016 Barker’s View piece on this very issue entitled “Cui Bono?” I asked the malignant question on everyone’s mind:
“The Volusia County Council’s inability to sell the half-cent sales tax initiative last summer is indicative of a larger problem. In my view, our elected officials are missing the key element of any successful marketing strategy – or tax proposal: Trust.
Oblivious to the fact that they have lost basic credibility, County officials are once again staging their tired Kabuki, dramatically performed with equal parts apocalyptic prophecy, name calling, and threats against the municipalities, all designed to wring additional dollars from a tax-weary constituency.
Given the number of grassroots efforts seeking accountability, it is increasingly clear to everyone but County officials that they no longer have the consent of the governed.
I believe the seeds of this institutional distrust germinate in the county manager’s office.
In my view, Jim Dinneen’s mismanagement of this and other important public policy issues best exemplify all that’s wrong with county government. Team Dinneen wants higher taxes, because they need higher taxes – and spending cuts, the reduction of exorbitant executive salaries, or curbing insider handouts are inconceivable.
A bureaucracy – especially one as bloated as this – requires tax dollars like a parasitic insect needs the blood of its host.
It’s very life depends upon it.
Public confidence in county government has been slowly eroded by the steady flow of missteps, bullying and legislative sleight-of-hand that invariable benefits a privileged few while laying the financial burden squarely on the back of Volusia County residents.
As a result, we no longer assume council decisions serve the common good.
Now, we instinctively ask ourselves the darker question, “who benefits?”
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury who decides the fate of this insane money enema – the case is clear:
In my view, common sense – hell, common decency – demands that We, the People, not permit one more penny of our hard-earned money be sent to Deland unless and until our current elected and appointed officials stop the life-draining hemorrhaging of public funds in the form of ridiculous salaries, “economic incentives,” half-price land sales, open cash giveaways, and back-handed corporate welfare checks to Forbes-listed billionaires and multi-millionaire land developers.
Look, if Volusia can’t do it for $850+ million annually – in a county where most municipalities provide their own core services – they can’t do it. Period.
The fact is, Mayor Apgar and the rest of these lily-livered municipal officials damn well know that it is high-time they stand up to county government’s insane arrogance – and hyper-spending – to demand accountability, reallocation, collaboration, and respect.
Enough is enough.