I have a confession to make.
Try as I might, I’ve never been able to decipher the deeper meaning of poems.
Filthy limericks I get – poetry, not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the fluidity and musical rhythm of reading a good poets work – but I’m just too damn dense to understand the nuances and fine distinction required to make sense of things.
I simply lack the mental dexterity, I suppose. It’s like mathematics – anything north of simple division and I’m lost.
But when it comes to regional news – ‘current events’ – I consider myself as well-informed as the next guy.
Like many of you, I read the newspapers, watch what passes for national news on television, and try my best to make sense of the ponderings of local editorialists. But, much like an idiot savant (absent the ‘savant’ part), I have a weird aptitude for figuring out the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of politicians, and the money behind them.
Or maybe it comes from witnessing the same comedic farce over-and-over again.
After all, I know most of the players, and over thirty-years of flailing away in the bureaucratic trenches gives me a unique perspective on the inner-workings of things – the rest I just make up.
In short, most of the time I feel confident about my understanding of local politics.
Then, like trying to interpret the collective works of T. S. Eliot, the state of local affairs conspires and I suddenly discover that I really don’t know anything at all.
Take the recent dust-up between Sheriff Mike Chitwood and County Manager Jim Dinneen.
Earlier this month, during an interview on local radio, Sheriff Chitwood took umbrage with provisions of the county charter which require that he approach the County Council, hat in hand, and seek permission for Sheriff’s Office expenditures.
In turn, he went public with a story that Jim Dinneen attempted to have him fired in 2010, when he served as chief of police for the City of Daytona Beach.
Incredibly, Dinneen unequivocally denied the sheriff’s allegations.
Later, Sheriff Chitwood told us that he and Mr. Dinneen recently sat down together and are actively working to mend their relationship.
Again, Dinneen told us the meeting Sheriff Chitwood described never happened. . .
Wow. Now that’s news.
When the chief executive of county government is openly calling the highest law enforcement officer in Volusia County a bald-faced liar, that is cause for concern. After all, if one of these two titans of government are brazenly lying to the public – well, we’ve got bigger problems than I thought.
No wiggle room. Dinneen called Chitwood a liar – and that is a “Yuge Deal,” in the parlance of our times.
And, by all accounts, the Daytona Beach News-Journal thought it was important, too.
For a minute, anyway.
In an excellent article by reporter Dustin Wyatt, we learned “The sheriff said he confronted Dinneen about the past and present earlier this week. But Dinneen said that conversation never happened.”
“He didn’t sit me down and explain anything to me,” Dinneen said. “That is not true.”
But Chitwood described to The News-Journal things he said in a meeting with Dinneen.
“I told him about the past and he said if this is going to work, we have to work together,” Chitwood said.
“I had to let him know that I’m not going to sit in the sandbox and play nicely with everybody. I’m gonna do what’s best for my deputies.”
Said Dinneen: “I would never allow anyone to lecture me like that. He never said those words to me ever, I would have taken offense to it.”
Holy shit. Houston, we have a problem.
Then, on a recent bright Tuesday afternoon, while sipping a cold brew from DeBary’s own Central 28 Beer Company and skimming social media, I came upon a professionally produced video depicting a staged chance meeting between Sheriff Chitwood and Jim Dinneen in the quadrangle of the County administration building in Deland.
I leaned in closer, took a long swallow, and eagerly awaited the dramatic moment when the sheriff would haul-off and punch Little Jimmy right in the pie hole for besmirching his character and calling him a degenerate liar in the newspaper.
Right before my eyes, the Clash of the Titans dissolved into a mincing love-fest as the two previous rivals – resplendent in running shirts prominently emblazoned with J. Hyatt’s “Brown-n-Brown” logo, and the International Speedway’s corporate emblem – clasped hands and partnered for a footrace called the “Daytona Half Marathon.”
“Wait!” I thought, “Aren’t we smack dab in the middle of a good old fashioned political brouhaha? An ego-maniacal ‘This county isn’t big enough for the both of us’ Battle Royale? A burgeoning charter crisis that spawned no end of editorial yammering from local media and became the ‘sujet brûlant’ whenever neighbors met on the street?”
Yes, I’m almost sure I remember that.
Whenever I’m tragically confused (which encompasses most of my waking hours) I called my old friend, Big John – Volusia’s social conscience and learned sage on all things politics – and asked, well, what the hell just happened?
According to Big, the brewing tempest between the sheriff and county manager was salved-over when J. Hyatt Brown – one of our High Potentates of political power – simply called Jim Dinneen and told him to drop it.
Just like that, the whole sordid mess just withered up and dropped off the vine.
“Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”
And never mind that little man behind the curtain.
If Big said it, I believe it – and you should too.
Because that is the way things work here.
Is our High Sheriff a liar?
Is our County Manager a fraud? (Yes, he is, but that’s for another day.)
We will never know, because I doubt any hard news outlet in the region would allow one of their reporters to touch it with a 10-foot pole.
And that’s a shame.
So, we are left to analyze what little evidence we have and draw our own conclusions on the veracity of these two important political figures – one a proven public servant, the other a political hack with the situational ethics of a brokeback snake.
I have my thoughts. How about you?