Best of Barker’s View – On Volusia: Unintended Consequences

There lived an old farmer who had worked on his fields for many, many years.  One day, his horse bolted away.  His neighbors dropped in to commiserate with him.  “What awful luck,” they tut-tutted sympathetically, to which the farmer only replied, “We’ll see.”

 Next morning, to everyone’s surprise, the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How amazing is that!” they exclaimed in excitement. The old man replied, “We’ll see.”

 A day later, the farmer’s son tried to mount one of the wild horses.  He was thrown on the ground and broke his leg.  Once more, the neighbors came by to express their sympathies for this stroke of bad luck.  “We’ll see,” said the farmer politely.

 The next day, the village had some visitors – military officers who had come with the purpose of drafting young men into the army.  They passed over the farmer’s son, thanks to his broken leg. The neighbors patted the farmer on his back – how lucky he was to not have his son off to war!

 “We’ll see,” was all that the farmer said.

–Old Buddhist Parable

As a child, whenever I was troubled by something, my father would reassure me that things are rarely as good, or as bad, as we think they are.

The old man was right.

With age and experience, I try to avoid over-dramatizing the daily positives and negatives in life.

The exception to this rule is the latent machinations of government – and the interminable exaggerations of the speculative developers and resort town grifters who seek to benefit from the proliferation of tax funded ‘economic incentive’ scams and backdoor money shuffles here on the Fun Coast.

These intrigues are always more ominous than one can possibly imagine – despite the sugarcoating.

Regardless of the actual merits or potential drawbacks of any project – our “movers and shakers” sound like cheap snake oil salesmen hawking the “latest and greatest” elixir to cure years of blight and neglect.

New beachside motels are billed as the ne plus ultra – the grand panacea to all our problems.  They try to convince us that a new shopping complex will fundamentally change our lives at the molecular level, and that a proposed theme subdivision has the kinetic potential to alter the celestial orbit of the moon and stars.

Now, when this brand of sensationalized hogwash is spewed by a smiling economic development-type, or a shady developer’s shill (is there a difference?), we simply consider the source and take it for what it is.

Most of us, anyways.

The problem comes when our elected and appointed officials – you know, the people we put in positions of high power to safeguard our interests – become collectively mesmerized by the unvarnished bullshit of every huckster who creeps into town with the next/best get-rich-quick scheme.  Ostensibly smart people who get caught up in the hoopla du jour, then fan the flames of false optimism until it sweeps through the community like a cholera outbreak.

Unfortunately, our “leaders” lose precious credibility each time the “next big thing” falls flat – or makes little, if any, effective difference in solving the core issues we face.

But that doesn’t seem to faze them.

In my view, this infectious positivity about literally everything “new” is dangerous – especially when our media outlets buy-in to the hype.

It was refreshing to read Daytona Beach News-Journal Editor Pat Rice’s recent column entitled, “Wow, this one is a real ‘game changer.’    

 According to Mr. Rice, “Also in 2013, The News-Journal more than once printed stories that described the announced Hard Rock Hotel as a “game changer.” The Hard Rock fizzled. The optimism about that project among public officials when it was first announced is painful to read now.”

 “But it does lead to the only time I could find that we used “game changer” in a clever way.”

 “That occurred recently, in an excellent column by Mark Lane that was about outgoing Daytona Beach City Commissioner Pam Woods. Lane asked Woods what she had learned in her time on the commission, and she replied: “Whenever you hear somebody get up and say to you, ‘This is the project that’s going to change this town’ and ‘this is the game changer’ … Do. Not. Believe. Them.”


To their credit, the News-Journal has agreed to stop using the “game changer” cliché in future reporting on local economic development initiatives.

Not allowing their intuition to be dulled by some smart corporate marketing copy is smart thinking – and sound policy for a newspaper serving a community in transition.

I’m often accused of being an incessantly negative asshole – the glass half-empty guy – on all matters related to Volusia County government.

Guilty as charged.

You see, I’ve never forgotten that the Law of Unintended Consequences holds that almost all human pursuits will have at least one unforeseen result.

And that can make for an expensive learning process; especially when your “Powers-that-Be” like to do the same things over-and-over again.

Marketing professionals – just like shady politicians – know that optimism bias can cause the masses to underestimate risks by obscuring the warning signs.

Sound familiar?

Look, residents of Volusia County are a positive and resilient people.

We are blessed to live in one the most beautiful natural settings on earth – and we are experiencing many wonderful transformations that will ultimately bring constructive changes to our quality of life.

For instance, substantive talks on the revitalization of the east ISB gateway are underway, and we now have the right people working hard on the long-term problem of chronic homelessness.

I think we have a lot to look forward to.

But my cynicism won’t let me forget that we are also repeat victims of a system that is inherently skewed to favor the wants of a few influential political insiders who use our public coffers as a personal piggybank.

I assure you, now is not the time to let down our guard.

Trust – but verify – and hold our elected and appointed officials responsible for protecting our collective interests during this time of dynamic change.

There will be obstacles – and not everyone who shows up in an expensive suit will have our best interests at heart.

It is important to keep these things in mind, despite the best efforts of those who use smoke-and-mirrors to deflect our attention as they seek to exploit our natural places and divert local economic resources for personal gain.

I may be crazy – but I’m not delusional – and neither are you.

Given the current limitations of our transportation infrastructure, is unchecked western sprawl anchored by a 7,000-home faux-beach community (“with a ‘no worries’ tropical vibe, offering an immersive brand experience”) west of I-95 the ‘game changer’ the Canadian developer and local officials claim?

Are more shopping options on the frontage road the ‘Be-all, End-all’?

Is a multistory convention hotel the silver bullet that finally puts Daytona Beach back on the map?

We’ll see.

Volusia Politics: Sorting the wheat from the chaff

(Que the “Dragnet” theme)

On January 4, 2014, the Volusia County Council adopted an ordinance appointing Daytona Beach attorney Jon Kaney, as special counsel to investigate whether Waverley Media, LLC, had a scheme to obtain influence over county government for its business purposes by “various means,” including support of candidates for public office.

Not everyone was happy that certain members of the County Council wanted to pick the scab and throw some shade on their political opponents and elected adversaries – despite the best advise of the county attorney.

The county’s contentious inquiry seemed superfluous, as it came on the heels of an investigation into the matter by the Office of the State Attorney, which resulted in the criminal prosecution of Jim Brown, an employee of Waverley Media, on charges he intentionally violated campaign finance laws using straw donors, and excessive in-kind contributions of bus bench advertising, for select candidates for county office.

Brown later plead to the charges and provided substantial assistance in the State’s investigation.

He received probation for his crimes and later died.

Following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jim Sotolongo and Ramara Garrett – as owners of both Waverley Media, and an associated real estate business – along with certain subordinates, were identified as having participated in a massive mortgage fraud scheme which resulted in Sotolongo being convicted and sentenced to eight-years in federal prison.

The State Attorney’s investigation determined, “Sotolongo and his subordinates inserted themselves within our community and within many formal and informal political, banking and real estate groups.  They established and used media companies, real estate companies, bus bench advertising companies, real estate companies, real estate title companies and others to circumvent Florida Elections Laws.  While Mr. Sotolongo and subordinates “puffed and stuffed” their way through elections there is no credible evidence that any candidates were knowing participants in the unlawful contributions scam.”

 Although more wide-ranging in scope, Mr. Kaney’s administrative investigation also failed to develop substantial evidence that any candidate was directly aware of the illegality of Waverley’s cash and in-kind contributions.

(What?  I was clearing my throat.  Geez.)

Clearly, Mr. Kaney’s inquiry did not sit well with everyone, especially those members of the Volusia County Council – and former unsuccessful candidates – who were identified as having received support from Waverley Media.

And the idea that the County Council extended subpoena power to Mr. Kaney really rankled the feathers of a few who adamantly did not wish to provide sworn testimony about what they knew, and when.  Especially when the scope of the investigation appears literally wide-open to the investigator’s own interpretation.

In my experience, allegations of perjury in an official proceeding can have some rather ugly complications – especially if you make your living in the law – or from an elected seat on a government dais.

I’m not a lawyer, but I find its best to avoid raising your hand and swearing an oath whenever possible.  Trust me.

Regardless, a judge later found that the council’s deligation of subpoena power crossed the line.

At the end of the day, Kaney’s investigation appeared to give everyone what they wanted – the right people were either sufficiently humiliated, or exonerated, depending upon the political motivations of the players involved.

For instance, it was rumored that former County Councilman Josh Wagner was “directing” the nefarious Waverley contributions to preferred candidates as a means of gaining a majority voting bloc.

Now, rumors and insinuation are clearly not credible evidence – but, depending upon your motive, they can make for some damn good reading – and political finger-pointing.

In his final report, Mr. Kaney wrote:

“…in their interviews with me, four council members expressed the opinion that Mr. Wagner was the person who decided which candidates received Waverley’s support.  Pat Patterson stated, “The rumor I kept getting, and I really – it’s all secondhand, was that Josh Wagner was the one directing it. . . .I had always heard that he had a very friendly relationship with Jim Sotolongo, Ramera Garrett and Jim Brown.”  Doug Daniels expressed the belief that Wagner was in charge of Waverley’s in-kind contributions.  “Back during the 2013 campaign, the un-kept secret was that – you know, you could get bus benches for free, or very nearly free, and that the gatekeeper to that was Josh.”

 “As did others on the Council, Pat Northey testified that Wagner was rumored to be the person who decided where Waverley’s support was applied, but she is unsure how she came across this information.  “The rumor was Josh Wagner was the ringleader of it all.  That Josh was the guy that kept the list.  That there was a list, and approved list, of people who would get free advertising, and Josh was the one who determined who that was.”

Mr. Wagner – a lawyer himself –  only copped to making “suggestions” to Sotolongo and Garrett as to which candidate they should support – and Mr. Kaney rightly concluded that “…the evidence is not sufficient to establish that it is more likely than not that Wagner determined who would receive this support.”

But the damage was done.

 You get the idea.

In the end, the Kaney root-around did what neither the State Attorney’s Office – or the FBI’s – investigations were designed to do.  It provided a public airing of the rumor and political innuendo that was hanging in the air like a foul stench.

And – depending upon who you ask – it had all the earmarks of a good old timey political payback.

It was some pretty good political theater, too.  I encourage you to read it here, after all, you paid for it:

Let’s face it, even if you didn’t have direct knowledge of the source of cash contributions to your campaign – or how those benches with your smiling visage sprouted out of the ground – it’s just, well, embarrassing to have to say so publicly.  Right?

Was it fair?  I don’t know.

Was it necessary?  Probably.

Did it accomplish anything?  Hell no.

Now, it appears turnabout is fair play.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported that former council chair candidate (and current School Board attorney) Ted Doran has served notice on Volusia County – and several current and former elected officials – that he, and former Chairman Jason Davis, among others, plan to sue their collective eyeballs out.

For what?  I’m still not sure – something about “privacy” and the council’s refusal to take the good advice of their attorney, Dan Eckert, who recommended against this cockamamie inquiry in the first place.

One thing I’m pretty certain of:  You can bet your bippy when all is said and done, a whole lot of our hard-earned tax dollars will be pissed away to various attorneys, settlements, judgments, etc.

And absolutely nothing will change.

In my view, what would become known as the “Waverley matter” gave Volusia voters a fleeting glimpse into the true character of certain elected officials – and the shadowy world of local campaign financing, where hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in contributions – often originating from the same uber-wealthy political insiders using their corporations, associates and subsidiaries – has become the accepted norm.

In my view, the difference is, Jim Sotolongo was a degenerate thief – a perverse career criminal who intentionally ignored the rules and played our local “movers and shakers” like a fine fiddle.  The others – the power brokers and influential manipulators of a terribly flawed system – know the law, and how to play on the ragged edge of campaign finance laws where the real influence resides.

The methods may differ.  But the ends remain the same.

Stay tuned.  This one’s going to get interesting. . .

Daytona Beach: Truth or Consequences

Selling newspapers is a hard dollar.

The media at the local, regional and national levels have taken it on the nose recently – and it looks like they have finally met their match in President Donald Trump.

Love him or hate him, despite withering criticism of his every move, and increasingly dubious reporting – something he refers to as “fake news” – Mr. Trump continues to prove that he is the best counter-puncher in the ring.

And his recent “press conference heard ‘round the world” proved that he can hold his own against all comers.

It looks like our “mainstream media” – the 24-hour talking heads on the big three-letter networks (frankly, MSNBC lost all credibility years ago) and certain old timey print media types are having a collective nervous breakdown.

It seems the bully is now being bullied by the new guy in the sandbox.

Is all this healthy for the most powerful nation in the world?  I don’t know, but it sure is fun to watch.

As I’ve said before, I have a great deal of respect for our local media outlets, especially the Daytona Beach News-Journal and all those who work extremely hard to put it out.

That doesn’t mean I agree with their editorial views.

It seems that Gatehouse Media never met a local “economic incentive” it didn’t like – and they continue to run interference for the powers-that-be, providing cover and concealment while our elected and appointed officials spend our money to create an artificial marketplace.

In my view, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Trust me.  In Volusia County, when no one is looking over the shoulders of government, anything is possible.

Being ‘pro-growth’ is one thing, but it’s patently disingenuous when a media outlet fails to report all sides of incredibly important civic issues – like the synergistic impacts of rushed massive development and open corporate welfare – which, when combined in a service economy, can have catastrophic effects beyond the individual parts.

Instead of looking out for our collective interests, it appears the News-Journal has fallen victim to the revenue trap – serving as a propaganda machine for speculative developers and those in government who feed the machine – rather than maintaining journalistic objectivity and a healthy suspicion of those in positions of power.

There now, is everyone over on Sixth Street sick and tired being harangued by some uneducated retired cop with absolutely no understanding of professional journalism – or the realities of wringing a profit out of a print newspaper in today’s environment?

I thought so.  It stings when people who know nothing about your industry or profession make sport of it – or grind a negative until it paints everyone with the same brush.

I do it all the time.  Spouting off about things I know nothing about is kind of my “deal.”

Look, let me get to the bee in my bonnet – in this morning’s editorial, “Fallout continues from former deputy,” once again the News-Journal’s editorial staff decided to wag their bony finger and lecture local law enforcement about the importance of following the rules.

It seems that every slow news day finds News-Journal editors trotting out the terrible case of disgraced former Volusia County Deputy John Braman – who resigned after video evidence found him stealing cash from criminal suspects – then using it to sanctimoniously bash cops, as though everyone who ever swore the oath is somehow guilty by association.

As I’ve said before, John Braman is an aberration – a law enforcement officer suspected of heinous felony crimes – and I can assure you that Braman, and all he represents, is despised by every good cop who pins on the badge and goes in harm’s way to protect and serve.

No one hates a bad cop more than a good cop – and I join my brothers and sisters in blue in standing behind Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s decision to send Braman’s tarnished badge to the smelter.

So why does the News-Journal insist on this over-the-top upbraiding of local law enforcement?

“Let that be a reminder to other law enforcement officers that their performances don’t just reflect on their jobs, but also on their profession and the system of justice they are sworn to uphold.  Actions can have sweeping consequences.”   


The vast majority of law enforcement officers are dedicated professionals who perform a difficult and dangerous job with little recognition, and for far less than they deserve – and the News-Journal knows this.

With so much happening in the Halifax Area – good and bad – I find it difficult to understand why the newspaper continues this weird lashing out at local law enforcement?

Did someone over there get a traffic ticket?

Or is it some half-baked smokescreen to deflect our attention from the real news of the day?

Frankly, when I must turn to the Wall Street Journal to learn that all is not well in the House of France – one of our areas largest employers and a private enterprise that claims to bring over $1-billion dollars to the regional economy annually – well, that raises my concerns.

When the biggest catastrophe in sports history is occurring right in our own backyard (literally), one might think we would learn about it from our local news media.


No, our newspaper of record is too busy lecturing cops on the importance of professional ethics. . .


In an incredibly insightful article in yesterday’s WSJ, we learned that NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France apparently sold off his grubstake in the family-owned billion dollar motorsports dynasty over 10-years ago – and, apparently, he couldn’t care less about the future of the sport.

In addition, the internal dysfunction and lack of a unified leadership structure at the very top of NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation, threatens to derail perhaps the only thing left that gives our struggling community a sense of identity and relevance.

Look, I could give two-shits about the internal bickering of a couple of uber-rich kids who are actively driving their grandfather’s once-lucrative business into the retaining wall of history.

That’s a story as old as time.

What concerns me is that those of us who live and eke out a living in Volusia County had to hear about this impending community disaster from the Wall Street Journal.

To coin a phrase, “Let that be a reminder to the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board that their performance doesn’t just reflect on their jobs, but also on their profession, and the ideals that true journalistic integrity demands.” 

How about a ‘heads-up’ next time?

Inaction truly can have sweeping consequences.




Volusia Politics: “Reinventing” the Fun Coast. Again.

One of my few hobbies – outside of bitching and moaning over local politics – is keeping tropical fish.

I enjoy the peace and satisfaction of watching saltwater creatures thrive in an environment of my own creation.

Perhaps it’s a manifestation of my God complex?  Or maybe it’s the only thing in my world I can control anymore – who knows?

When you take a glass box, mix just the right amount of salt and water, then stimulate the life-giving biological cycle, you begin an ethical – and symbiotic – relationship with a host of interdependent organisms.

Once you have created your new eco-system, it is a simple – but expensive – matter of regular feeding, and periodically cleaning out opportunistic organisms that want to multiply in the absence of natural predators.

Fail to support the system, and your self-created biosphere will go haywire.  Fast.

While I enjoy fish tanks, I never cared for zoos – places that confine wild animals in weird, man-made “habitats” that attempt to create a tableau of what the creature would look like in the wild.

They never quite get it right, and what you end up with is a frustrated old elephant pacing his gilded cage – while a tired zookeeper sweeps away his copious excrement.

I justify the unnatural confinement of an aquarium with the knowledge that most tropical fish sold commercially are farm raised.  These little creatures have never known anything but cradle-to-grave care, and they wouldn’t last a minute in the “real world” of the open ocean where competition and survival of the fittest rules the day.

Sounds a lot like what our movers-and-shakers in Volusia County are working hard to build, eh?

An artificial marketplace that will require external care and feeding until it dies.

I’ve said before, I hate to be the proverbial Turd in the Punch Bowl of Progress – the lumpen asshole who stands on the sidelines and heckles the ‘doers and dreamers’.

It’s just my way.

You see, I’ve seen too much and I remember everything.

I’m just cynical enough to take offense when someone uses my hard-earned money to create a non-natural economy – a pretty façade – then act like they’re doing me a favor.

It’s like Daytona International Speedway removing grandstands they can no longer fill, and replacing them with painted seats that give the appearance they’re full of fans.

A colorful illusion.

There is quite a buzz around Volusia County these days – sparked by optimistic “rah-rah” editorials from the Daytona Beach News-Journal, like a recent piece by business writer Clayton Park entitled, “Bass Pro, Buffet, Protogroup: Oh, my!” – and cheery outlooks by Team Volusia, the mysterious CEO Business Alliance, and any of the redundant tax-funded advertising and marketing groups operating across the county.

Perhaps I’m not overly impressed because these same powers-that-be have been taking credit for their version of “progress” for years.

You may recall that in the 1980’s, the City of Daytona Beach spent some $15-million dollars to bring the Marriott-Adams Mark-Hilton, etc., etc., to the much heralded “E-Zone.”

This grand hotel was to be the anchor.  The panacea to the myriad problems on the beachside.

Nothing changed.

The property went through bankruptcies and “rebranding” – yet neither the city nor the county was willing to do the heavy lifting required to fundamentally tamp down the dumpster fire of blight and crime that continues to hamstring our core tourist area.

So, in the late 1990’s, the city threw some $19-million in community redevelopment area (CRA) funds to help build the Ocean Walk Shoppes and an adjacent condo/hotel complex.

Even more bankruptcies, mismanagement and shady partnerships ensued.

Later, the city would refinance the bonds used to pay for the Hilton and Ocean Walk projects, taking on some $37.7 million in debt that will haunt us like a golem until at least 2031.

In a 2013 article in the News-Journal discussing the relatively cheap cash and tax incentives for the doomed Hard Rock project – and our latest knight in shining armor, Protogroup’s convention/hotel towers – reporter Jeffrey Cassidy wrote, “In the mid-1980s, when the city OK’d the first of the roughly $15 million that would go toward the Daytona Beach Marriott — now the Hilton — the beachside was seedy, its hotels were dated and the Boardwalk was a magnet for unsavory characters.”

 With over $30-million in debt heaped on the shoulders of Daytona Beach taxpayers – and millions more taken on by Volusia County – again, what has changed?

Now, we have a new sporting goods store and upmarket movie theater (that we helped fund to the tune of some $40-million in tax support), and the Protogroup recently held a “low-key” groundbreaking ceremony where the out-of-town construction company was announced and everyone who is anyone murmured uncomfortably through a rendition of “Happy Days are Here Again” (in pidgin Russian. . .).

I’m kidding, of course.  They’re not “Russians” – don’t you read the paper?

Then, Jimmy Buffet’s own Margaritaville dynasty announced it is a “strategic partner” of Canadian developer Minto Communities in building a pseudo-beach community west of I-95 – right on top of our sensitive water recharge areas – and with apparent disregard for our less-than-stable transportation and utilities infrastructure.

(Wonder what that cost us?)     

And don’t forget the perennial feather in the cap of local economic development-types that is “The Great JetBlue Deal” which brought nonstop service between New York City and Daytona “International” Airport.

They’ve been beating their chests about that one since at least 2013.

What no one remembers – or cares to talk about anymore – is the $2.3 million dollars in “incentives” the taxpayers of Volusia County coughed up to bribe the airline into coming here in the first place.

That package included $400,000 in public funds for an advertising campaign, and a “travel bank” of promises by members of the Regional Chamber of Commerce to purchase nearly $250,000 worth of tickets for JetBlue flights in 2016 and 2017.

It’s called a “guaranteed income” and it flies in the face of a free and open market.

Does the county spend hundreds of thousands to advertise your business?  Or provide you with an assured revenue stream every month?

Just curious.

Dr. Kent Sharples, the goofy “President” of the CEO Business Alliance (a private “economic development” consultancy run by uber-wealthy locals that serves to skirt the public records laws – and provide a lucrative payback job for Sharples who took the fall on the doomed American Music Festival), commented in the News-Journal, “In and of itself, any one of these things is marvelous, a bright shiny stone. But when you put them together, you’ve got an exciting vision of a renaissance that’s taking place in Volusia County, a community that’s reinventing itself.


 The last time Dr. Sharples got involved in “reinventing” Daytona Beach, he personally pissed through $1.4 million in public funds from Daytona State College, a debacle that openly exposed our “power brokers” for what they truly are.

With all due respect, Doc – count your blessings that you didn’t have to flee town in the trunk of Manny Bornia’s car – and shut your pie hole.

It’s “too soon,” okay?

So, while the powers-that-be slap each other on the back and blow hot smoke up our collective ass about “progress” and “synergy” – remember George Santayana’s maxim, “Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

 And historically, the artificial manipulation of the local marketplace has been a colossal failure – regardless of how enthusiastic those who stand to prosper in the short term may sound.

The newspaper’s riff on that old Wizard of Oz ditty got me to thinking – perhaps all we really need are leaders with courage, a heart, and a brain.

And to publicly expose all these greedy little men manipulating things behind the curtain.


National Affairs: How to lose friends, and influence no one

The University of Cambridge recently conducted a research study correlating the honestly of those who swear with those who use more temperate language.

The result:  The most truthful people are those who use “colorful” language when they speak.

According to Dr. David Stillwell, one of the study’s authors, “If you’re trying to follow the social norms rather than saying what you think, you are saying what people want to hear,” he said.

 “In that respect, you are not being very honest.”

 Regular readers of this forum know that I am taken to peppering these essays with a few choice words – like my father before me, it’s just how I communicate.

Offense intended.

In matters of political opinion, it is important to speak your mind – say what you mean and mean what you say.  After all, discussing how the sausage gets made in various government chambers – especially around east Central Florida – is not for the squeamish.

However, in today’s environment, ‘saying what you think’ comes with a heavy price tag.

Regardless of which side of the Trump argument you come down on, be prepared to lose some friends – real and digital – and to have your point-of-view picked apart and hurled back at you with a few incredibly personal sobriquets.

Folks, our American tradition of civil debate is dead; replaced by who can scream their brand of political invective the loudest.

As a result, I no longer debate, or even discuss, national politics on social media.

Perhaps it’s the coward’s way out – but who ever accused me of having a backbone, eh?

For the past decade (at least), the fear of offending others – the need to remain ‘politically correct’ in every way and on every occasion – dramatically shaped the way we communicated with one another.

Now, not so much.

The tone and tenor of our latest presidential election changed all that.

It’s anything goes, and political dissent and debate has become a full-contact sport.

Add to that what we now know about the depth of government spin and media bias in what passes for ‘news’ and one begins to question the veracity of literally everything that came before.

Was social honesty the victim of our previous desire for national harmony?

In many ways, it appears we are reaping the whirlwind of our collective acquiescence.

Look, I’m not talking about the use of racial, cultural or gender based epithets or “hate speech” – language that is mala in se.

And I’m not calling out citizens on both sides of the political spectrum who, for perhaps the first time in their lives, are moved to peaceful protest and the full-throated exercise of their First Amendment rights.

(Rock on, you left-wing wingnuts and right-wing Children of John Birch!  Rock On!)

After all, political involvement and civil disobedience are the very essence of our democratic society.

What I am referring to is the minority of self-absorbed professional victims who find vague offense in literally everything, and are actively shaping the contemporary discourse for everyone through force, violence, and a simple “talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listening” dismissal of counter-arguments.

In the spirit of inclusiveness, most Americans yielded to the increasingly ridiculous demands of even the most obscure special interest, and modified the tone and tenor of our national dialog so as not to upset the delicate apple carts of a few college students, anarchists, socialist ideologues, fringe players, and literally anyone and everyone who could concoct a self-identity.

In short, we stopped communicating with sincerity and candor – least our opinion be weaponized and used to bash us over the head.

The clear majority of ‘moderate’ American’s tried very hard to play nice – to assuage the feelings of the self-absorbed set, and tiptoe around the sensitivities and weird world view of various “Movements,” and other so-called “victims” of the most socially, financially and technologically advanced society in history.

Others have used this terrible point in our history as an opportunity to fan the flames, spew their specific brand of hate, and muddy the waters by playing on the fear, confusion and divisiveness which is gripping the nation.

As someone recently said, “Who knew that Love Trumping Hate would require so many firebombs?”   

In my view, it appears we, the Silent Majority of ordinary Americans, have been ambushed – by both sides.

Caught in the crossfire of vile rhetoric and seditious bombast.

What was once considered the political periphery has transmogrified into some of the most rabid and radicalized hate mongers this country has ever experienced – and, incomprehensibly – their rhetoric is increasingly seen as “mainstream.”

Why?  Because an election didn’t go their way?  Or they simply want to crush dissenting opinions?

The fact is, I don’t have a clue.

What I do know is that the skirmish lines are drawn, and our nation has all the dry tinder necessary to fuel the flashpoint of an ideological civil war not seen since the 1960’s.

Last week I purchased a novelty t-shirt with the words, “Shut Up, Hippie!” emblazoned on the back.

Why?  Because I thought it was funny.

Because I thought other people (regardless of their politics) might see the humor and irony in a guy who looks like Jerry Garcia sporting that shirt and have a good laugh.

Because there was a time in the country when you could poke fun and have a joke – or sport a funny slogan (“Imagine Whirled Peas,” etc.) on a bumper sticker – and not risk physical attack for having a weird sense of humor.

So, I’ve opted to put the t-shirt away – succumb to the fear – and quietly mourn the death of fun.

The lunatic fringe on both sides of this perverse argument – the Social Warriors who twist and misinterpret everything, and the kooks who use this time of national discord to promote their ugly brand of hatred – appear to be winning.

There is no “middle ground” anymore.

I hate you, you owe me, and we (insert name of “social justice” movement du jour here) will burn you out, shut you down, and crush your dreams if you don’t like it.

So, I hope you understand why I refuse to engage in some inane bickering on Facebook or Twitter over Trump’s latest.

If we are connected by social media, that means you and I have something in common in this life – a community relationship, a friendship, or familial connection – and, frankly, that’s very important to me.

Trust me, no social media rant – or threat of violence – is going to change my fundamental belief that the United States of America remains the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

In my view, there will always be more that unites us as Americans than divides us – and our inalienable rights, responsibilities and freedoms are incredibly important to the future and stability of our union – and the world.

And that’s the truth.


Florida Politics: No honor among thieves

It seems nothing will stand between Governor Rick Scott and his maniacal campaign to connect the gaping snouts of the right business interests with the public trough.

After all – Slick Rick is creating “Jobs,” dammit.

And when you evoke the talisman of job creation, it absolves politicians of all sins against their constituents.

No matter how slimy the deal – how openly corrupt the misuse of public funds may be – our elected and appointed officials would have us believe the promise of ‘new jobs’ somehow polishes the turd while providing a heavy coat of political insulation.

As you may know, Scott wants to allocate an astronomical $161 million of our tax dollars for additional economic incentives and tourism funding in his proposed budget.

It’s like watching a dairy farmer hook up one of those milking machines to a cow’s teat.

Rapid.  Efficient.

It takes the work out of it, and siphons public funds out of state coffers quicker than you can say “corporate tax break.”

Earlier this week, Scott visited Flagler County to preach the gospel of corporate welfare to the faithful in the chamber of commerce set, while begging for the lives of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida – two “public/private” partnerships (that means a mechanism for transitioning public funds to private interests) – schemes that are set to be shut down like cheap confidence games by the House Careers and Competition subcommittee.

The subcommittee recently voted to approve a bill proposed by Rep. Paul Renner – who serves all of Flagler County, and portions of St. John’s and Volusia – which would defund these thieving rackets once and for all.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Renner told the committee, “…economic incentives “steal” money from core priorities that benefit all taxpayers and are wrong “because they pick winners and losers.”

Rep. Renner is spot-on.

The newspaper also pointed out that a recent study by the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability reported that contributions to Enterprise Florida from the private sector rarely exceed $2 million per year – while the state has appropriated an average of $20 million annually.

Public/Private my ass.

As for Visit Florida – the same accountability office noted that it’s nearly impossible to tell exactly what the tourism agency does for us – or to quantify the efforts of Visit Florida versus the countless other publicly funded agencies and advertising authorities marketing Florida as a vacation destination.

State accountability reports be damned – Governor Scott is asking for a mindboggling $76 million dollars for Visit Florida – and $85 million for Enterprise Florida.

My God.

Last year, we learned that Visit Florida entered a secretive deal with rapper “Pitbull” which paid the entertainer some $1 million of our hard-earned tax dollars to market Florida tourism on social media and during concerts.

In addition, equally sketchy contracts with an English soccer league and a racing interest were also kept from the public.  These multi-million dollar fiascoes resulted in the untimely departure of CEO Will Seccombe and two highly placed underlings.

Good riddance.

Look, I have a sneaking suspicion that the State of Florida – and every county “visitor’s bureau” and redundant marketing agency in the state – could shut down tomorrow and it wouldn’t have a measurable effect on tourism.

Hell, if we simply posted a daily static snippet from the Weather Channel showing 80-degree temperatures on Valentine’s Day – we would double tourism figures this month alone.

Regardless, we don’t need $100,000 spots from Danica Patrick – or goofy “Seize the Daytona” slogans to sell that.

Locally, when we clean up this squalid outhouse – people will come.  In droves.

In my view, much like our local elected officials, Scott is intent on building a pseudo-economy based upon artificial economic giveaways, subsidies and tax incentives which tip the playing field and ignore the importance of free-market competition.

It’s how the right people get paid.  With our money.

An excellent 2015 editorial in the Tampa Bay Times, entitled “Florida cannot afford Scott’s corporate welfare,” hit the sweet spot:

By all appearances, Florida is broken. It cannot afford to build new highway lanes unless it slaps tolls on them. It is looking to allow hunting in state parks, which have been told they have to pay for themselves.  Public schools struggle to pay for basic maintenance, and the University of Florida president’s highest hope is for a new boiler. The Justice Department is investigating the dangerous state prison system, and it also should investigate the shameful abuse and neglect exposed by the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in state mental hospitals. The overburdened courts scrimp by on less than 1 percent of the state budget, and children continue to die from neglect and abuse even after they are on the state’s radar.  Look in any direction, and the state’s basic infrastructure is crumbling as Scott travels in his private jet to Kentucky and New York to bribe companies with taxpayer handouts to bring jobs here.

Well said.

In my view, the base unfairness of government determining which businesses will enjoy the benefits of economic incentives and non-natural props, and which will be allowed to wither and die, is patently wrong – and counter to our values and the principles of fair play.

Never forget – Rick Scott could give two-shits about the rules.  He’s a journeyman thief, and laws and regulations are for rubes.

Still need convincing?

In 1993, a former accountant hired by Columbia/HCA, Scott’s former hospital chain, tipped the FBI that the company was preparing two sets of books – one for the federal government, the other for “internal record-keeping.”

The resulting probe resulted in Columbia/HCA paying $1.7 billion (with a “B”) in fines for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid – the largest healthcare fraud settlement in United States history.

And he had the balls to deny any involvement.

That’s how stupid the governor thinks we are.

As Slick Rick continues to ride the range, openly bullying local government leaders into supporting his outrageous budget proposals and putting the fear of higher taxes in the hearts of small business owners in places like Flagler Beach, the rest of us should openly question the role of government in the marketplace – and the sleazy motives of our reptilian Governor and his uber-rich cronies.

My instincts tell me, “Once a thief, always a thief.”

And my experience tells me there is no honor among thieves.




Florida Politics: “What you talking ’bout, Mr. Corcoran!”

Funny story:

About ten-years ago, I was travelling through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport one early afternoon, drone-walking down one of those massive concourses that connect boarding gates on my way to a conference in Long Beach, California.

Normally, as you schlep your carry-ons between arrival gate and your designated departure area – a move that invariably involves a subterranean train ride, two escalators and a half-mile hike – you pass weary business travelers, agitated children and their exasperated parents, excited holidaymakers, uniformed flight crew, service members, etc., essentially the full-spectrum of itinerant humanity all trudging along in lock-step, coming-and-going.

As I looked ahead, I noticed a hub-bub of sorts as pedestrian travelers began urgently separating – some moving left, the others dodging right – as if a massive battleship were parting the waves behind them.

Initially, I thought it was one of those annoying electric carts that beep-beep along, ploughing slowly through the masses to replenish the newsstands and fast food joints that line the corridors.

Then, trundling right down the middle of the crowded gangway came Gary Coleman.

You know, the diminutive actor who played the often-ornery Arnold on the 80’s situation comedy Diffr’ent Strokes?

One of two brothers from Harlem who were adopted by a well-to-do widower in Manhattan, whose catchphrase, “What you talking ‘bout, Willis” is still part of the popular vernacular?

Now, let me tell you, the dude was moving.

All 4’-8” inches of Mr. Coleman were stepping out with a purpose that rivaled the sight of General George Patton striding into some German-held village.  Given his size, he could have been swallowed by the crowd, or his progress stopped by fans seeking selfies – but he just rapidly advanced, pressing forward with an incredible focus.

His head was down, face fixed in a resolute stare, earbuds firmly affixed – literally bowling people out of his way as he force-marched from point A to B – carrying an oversized backpack.

He brushed past me and disappeared into the crowd as quickly as he appeared.

When I got to my gate, I took a seat and pondered my recent brush with fame.  I came to realize that in an airport this size, we are all on our own – and jet airplanes don’t wait for B-list celebrities any more than they stand-by for you and me.

I was amazed how a guy of such small physical stature cleared his way ahead with such incredible tenacity – and efficiency.  Headfirst.  Self-assured.

It was impressive.

Not so funny story:

This week, news out of Tallahassee continued to report the slow but steady stream of rats leaving Governor Rick Scott’s spooky pirate ship.

Most recently, Florida’s chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, announced he will be leaving his Cabinet post to return to Palm Beach County where he will serve as CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

In my view, Atwater’s departure has been coming for a while.

You may recall when Governor Scott singlehandedly terminated then Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey – fired him out-of-hand – without waiting for the legally mandated consent of the Cabinet – or even notifying members of his intentions.

That move went through state government like an ice water enema.

Because it was so blatantly political – and illegal.

At the start of his second term, Bailey’s dismissal confirmed that Scott could give two-shits about the rules – and exposed our state’s most important players – the Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer, and Agriculture Commissioner – as sycophantic weaklings who followed the governor’s unlawful termination of the state’s chief law enforcement official like bleating lambs.

A 2015 investigative report in the Tampa Bay Times said, “Ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement commissioner Gerald Bailey claims he resisted repeated efforts by Gov. Rick Scott and his top advisers to falsely name someone a target in a criminal case, hire political allies for state jobs and intercede in an outside investigation of a prospective Scott appointee.”

 Scary shit.

Ultimately, the three Cabinet members acknowledged that Scott’s unilateral action in the FDLE matter was sketchy – however, only Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam called for an investigation into the matter.

As often happens, the water calmed and things just, well, went away.

Then, Atwater got sideways with Scott during last year’s tense deadlock over the selection of Florida’s next insurance commissioner.

At the end of the day, I think Atwater served the citizens of Florida quite well.  He was strong on veteran’s issues, and paid more than passing political interest to consumer protection.

Maybe he just got fed up treading water in Rick Scott’s fetid swamp – or maybe he finally landed his dream job.  Who knows?

One thing is perfectly clear – It will be up to Rick Scott to appoint Atwater’s successor.  In effect giving the governor two votes in Cabinet meetings until the 2018 election.


What I find interesting is that Atwater’s resignation comes on the heels of the departures of DEP Chief Jon Steverson and Secretary of Transportation Jim Boxold.

In my view, Steverson should be wearing an orange jumpsuit for his botched handling of the Mosaic debacle – instead, he’s taking a lucrative position with a private law firm working directly for the state.

It’s called a back-handed payoff – something all too common in the Scott administration.

As you may recall, Steverson gave notice just one day after a House committee made public an amendment to an ethics bill that would ban “appointed state officers” from lobbying lawmakers for six-years after leaving government service.

Our intrepid House Speaker (and my personal hero) Richard Corcoran called it like it was:

“One day later, give or take, from the time that we noticed that committee meeting, you see an agency head who resigns who has spent $100-million of taxpayer money on legal fees go and immediately become one of the participants in that law firm that he gave millions of dollars in legal fees to,” Speaker Corcoran told reporters last week.

What you talking ‘bout, Mr. Speaker?!   Calling the scumbags out?  In Tallahassee?

That’s crazy-talk.

Of course, Mr. Steverson denied the connection, and rest assured the insinuation didn’t sit well with Rick Scott.

Are Corcoran’s reforms causing tremors in the Scott administration?

I don’t know.  But given the push-back and string of resignations – somethings up.

I hope Speaker Corcoran has the grit and determination to stick firm to his promise of cleaning up what former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarthy so aptly described as a “state of fraudsters and hucksters” and brings a sense of ethical conduct and transparency to Florida government.

It’s amazing what one man can accomplish when he simply puts his head down and tries his best.




Volusia Politics: Remember this, Rubes

Anyone ever get duped into a game of Three Card Monte?

You take the Ace of Hearts and two black queens and bend them into a tent shape.  Then the practiced hand of a street grifter flips them around a few times.  The rube bets he can find the ace.

Looks simple enough, right?

But he can’t.

See, the dealer has a shill in the audience that distracts the rube just long enough. . ., well, you get the rest.

You will never guess the right card – unless the grifter wants to build your confidence so you double-down and bet the farm – because that’s the way the scam is intended.

And it works every time.

This morning I rolled out of bed and took my daily dose of local news.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal is reporting that our friends at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University just made a very generous investment in the speculative financing game with a $1-million-dollar gift to the FireSpring Fund which provides “seed capital” for promising start-ups.

The Orlando-based fund is a weird mix of public and private money that seeks to “create an eco-system for entrepreneurs, technologists and the creative class” in Central Florida.  In my view, it’s just another corporate welfare scheme designed to teach budding tycoons that in 2017 you no longer need to stand on your own two feet – not when every local government is throwing ‘economic incentives’ at you, anyway.

I say let the “creative class” get off their ass and build a business the old-fashioned way – through the competition of goods and services in the marketplace.  See, it’s not government’s job to fund your ventures with my tax dollars – especially when my fucking roads aren’t getting paved, etc.

But I digress. . .  (Deep breath.  Calm down, Mark. . .)

Interestingly, regular readers of this forum might recall that our elected and appointed officials rolled over and peed all over themselves in the County Council chambers when Mori Hossieni and Interim ERAU President Karen Holbrook came to collect their $1.5 million dollars of our hard-earned tax dollars.

Not including the parcel of public land we simply gave away to the private university for half its assessed value.

Yep.  We sold Embry-Riddle the Volusia County maintenance facility across the street from the new Micaplex near Clyde Morris Boulevard and the Bellevue Extension for a paltry $400,000 – that’s a 50% bargain basement price from its assessed value of $800,000+ on the free market.

Anyone who still believes that county manager Jim Dinneen isn’t facilitating the greatest corporate welfare giveaway in the history of local government need look no further than this farcical financial shell game.

Through a not-so-subtle sleight of hand, Mori Hosseini requests (demands) $1.5 million-dollars ostensibly to benefit Embry-Riddle – where he sits as the powerful Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and last year was exposed has having taken $1.5 million dollars from the university in “office leases, utilities and aircraft charter services” between 2010 and 2012.

(Wait, can that be legal?  Sorry – this is Florida – the rules are different here.)

Now, months later, the apparently flush university makes a very generous cash donation of $1 million dollars to the FireSpring Fund – apparently to buy their involvement in funding potential startups at the Micaplex – a “technology center” that has so far proven to be the biggest local, state and federal tax sponge ever devised.

Of course, the other half-million covers the cost of the public land purchase – and Embry-Riddle pockets a cool $600K in immediate equity on the deal.  Which will probably go out the back door in office leases, utilities and aircraft charter services, etc. etc.  Who knows?

How neatly packaged.

And conveniently confusing.

According to the News-Journal article, “The idea to fund Fire-Spring is fairly recent and came up after ERAU secured a $1.5 million grant from the Volusia County Council, Hossieni said.”

“The county has to be commended for doing this because this is the result of it,” Hossieni said.”

“This will bring high-paying jobs to the community.”

(Remember the code word is: “Jobs.”  Always, “Jobs.”)

And besides, I’ll just bet a $1 million-dollar check buys a lot of clout in deciding which “startups” get funded – and which wither on the vine.

In my opinion, having studied Mori’s Machiavellian attempts to control virtually everything within his domain, I seriously doubt this money – having been washed through ERAU – doesn’t come with a few unwritten strings attached.

Plus, it adds a plausible buffer between the man, and the funding decision.

It’s a damnable travesty that a private university with as many internal problems as Embry-Riddle – the fiefdom of one man who casts a very large shadow – continues to permit this level of personal manipulation of government funding and endowments.

Boss Hossieni does what he wants – when he wants – and he could give two-shits about the needs, wants and opinions of those whose tuition pays the bills – the professors and staff who present the curriculum – or the taxpayers who fund the speculative investments.

Every hardworking resident of Volusia County who struggles and sacrifices to pay taxes in support of this bloated, caustic and horribly mismanaged plutocracy we call county government has skin in this weird money shuffle.

Once we were Patrons of the University – now, we find that we are just mere pawns in a massive corporate welfare scheme.

As I’ve said, ad nauseum, it is high time for the university’s oversight authority to commission an independent external review of ERAU’s governance practices – to include an investigation of Volusia County’s strange relationship with Mr. Hosseini and the wholesale giveaway of public funds.

Remember this the next time one of these fucking drones we elected asks for one red cent more in taxes.

Please.  Remember this.




Volusia Politics: Smarter than the average bear

I originally posted this essay in September 2016 in response to Canadian developer Heron Group’s plan to build a luxury apartment complex in Midtown – in exchange for some $15-million in tax-funded ‘incentives’.  

Kudos to the City of Daytona Beach for standing firm and opposing this blatant corporate ripoff:

Whenever you travel to forested areas – or even in some suburban settings – you find signs that wildlife officials have posted warning, “Don’t Feed the Bears.”

When bears range beyond their increasingly limited habitat and begin foraging for food outside their normal diet – household trash, dog food, etc. – it not only increases the chances of negative interactions with humans, but also dulls their natural instincts and makes them vulnerable to harm when they lose the skill and drive to fend for themselves.

Biologists tell us that whenever we attempt to treat wild animals like house pets – to make their lives easier by “helping” them – we upset the natural balance and foster artificial habits that can be dangerous, both for the bear, and the person feeding them.

It also encourages other bears to come around looking for the same “free” food handouts.

They go from being apex predators to fat, lethargic Yogi Bear-types who have figured out a convenient way to avoid doing what is necessary to thrive and dominate in their natural environment.

The same can be said of private corporations seeking increasingly lucrative “economic development” incentives in Volusia County.

Whenever I hear of yet another “great idea” I try to view it from various perspectives.  I find that when you contemplate issues critically, like a good chess player, you often find that there are as many negative outcomes as there are positives.

I also speak to smart people and get their take.  The insight and informed opinions of others is critical.

It’s called strategic thinking, and it allows you to reason through tough problems and develop sound solutions through the debate of competing ideas.

This process is rarely, if ever, used in government.

That usually means city and county officials will invariably – almost instinctively – ignore the public interest and consider the most improbable course of action possible in any given situation – always viewed through the lens of what our influential political insiders want or need.

But one things for sure – they don’t need or want our input.  No one cares what you think.

It’s just one reason why every board of trustees or governmental advisory committee in the region is populated by the same people – or at least by those controlled by the same people.  It’s bad for business when the peasants get involved – just shut up and pay for it.

I was reminded of this when the Heron Development Group, a Canadian company whose market research apparently tells them that building a luxury apartment complex in the heart of Daytona Beach’s Midtown – a challenged neighborhood that has suffered from blight, crime, poverty and a general lack of hope for many, many years – is a great idea.

I was curious whether or not Heron’s site development folks actually visited the area, which on certain nights can take on the appearance of a war zone – gangs, shootings, drugs, apathy and chronic victimization.  I mean, did they speak to anyone who actually lives there?

Then, we learned the rest of the story.

Initial plans called for the Heron Group to build a 220-unit upscale complex on South Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard with apartments priced in the $20,000+ per year range.

Unfortunately, in addition to the $1,700 average monthly rent, the development’s finance plan also called for a $15 million cash infusion from the citizens of Daytona Beach.  Including a $3.6 million construction grant – with a promise of $613,000 up front to cover permitting expenses and the purchase of additional property.


According to City Commissioner Rob Gilliland, Heron’s request represents “the largest incentive package ever for a project in Daytona Beach.”

As the back-and-forth continued, the Heron Group finally settled on a whittled down tax abatement scheme worth $3.6 million over time.

Whether or not the project ever comes out of the ground is anyone’s guess.

In my view, Daytona’s core deserves new development – in fact, revitalization is the only thing that will ultimately change the cycle of blight and economic depression that has paralyzed the area for decades.  The residents deserve modern amenities, convenient retail outlets, casual restaurants, access to neighborhood healthcare providers, and affordable housing options that go beyond Section 8 “projects” and subsidized housing.

The City of Daytona Beach can help that process by using tax dollars for effective code enforcement and increased police/fire protection, streamlining residential improvement permitting, supporting increased home-ownership, facilitating neighborhood clean-up projects, setting performance metrics for those receiving redevelopment funds, ensuring adequate public amenities and infrastructure improvement projects that improve the feel of the area, build an identity, and foster community pride.

Is Midtown currently the best location for the highest priced luxury apartment complex in the City of Daytona Beach?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that regardless of what is ultimately built, it could very well be the catalyst for positive change.  It shouldn’t be dismissed out-of-hand.

Let’s get to the net-net:

From my perspective, the Heron Group’s audacious initial demand for $15 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for expenses most developers assume as the cost of doing business is clearly indicative of all that’s wrong with our current economic development incentives.

It’s also a dire warning of what’s to come, because it exposes how our area is perceived.

Given our regions history of financially supporting speculative developers, private universities, retail outlets, and various “business incubators” – along with Forbes-listed billionaires – why wouldn’t Volusia County be on the radar of every CEO seeking a corporate welfare check?

When you consider the tens of millions in tax dollars that have been diverted to private industry in Volusia County – then search in vain for the public gain in core areas, such as East International Speedway Boulevard, Midtown, the “E-Zone,” Main Street, etc., etc. – one begins to ask the natural question, “Where is our return on investment?”

When you factor in the cash infusions, on-going property tax abatement, tax increment financing, infrastructure improvements, and innumerable other public incentives, one can see how this artificial “feeding” of certain corporate interests can alter the natural balance of the regional marketplace.

Where are the jobs and improved quality of life they repeatedly promised would result from this perverted use of our tax dollars?

Why do we continue to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results, when the evidence clearly demonstrates that these incentives have neutral or minor fiscal impacts in the community?

Over a decade ago, a seminal study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association cast serious and demonstrable doubt on the integration of financial incentives in local economic development plans:

“It seems to us that there is a need for a radical transformation of policy ideas on how we achieve local economic growth and how we get people working. The standard justifications given for incentive policy by state and local officials, politicians, and many academics are, at best, poorly supported by the evidence.”

 If so, why is shoveling good money after bad still the very foundation of Volusia’s economic development efforts?

And most of all – Qui Bono?  Who ultimately benefits?

 I believe we deserve answers to these questions from our elected and appointed officials.

Trust me.  These speculative developers and corporate greedheads will continue to pour into Volusia County like Genghis Khan’s hordes.  Blood is in the water, and everyone wants to guzzle from the public tit while the big money flows.

Get used to it – and more important – know your role.

Your job is to feed the machine.

Nothing more, nothing less.