Volusia Politics: Trust me. It’s a Big Deal.

You know, I often say that I look like an elephant and I have a memory like one.

Well, I specifically remember that the cornerstone of Council Chairman Ed Kelley’s campaign platform was a recurring pledge to restore the county’s fractured and festering relationships with the cities.

In fact, ol’ Ed sounded like a broken record – incessantly touting his 15-years of municipal service as the reason he was the best man to mend fences and salve over years of abuse and hard feelings.

During the long, hot summer that was the 2016 campaign season, Chairman Kelley was asked by the Daytona Beach News-Journal to describe the “biggest issue facing the county and what you will do to solve it?”

Ed’s response: We must work to mend the real disconnect between the county and our cities. Without that, the majority of our citizens and businesses can’t move forward. I will be able to provide the necessary leadership to accomplish this and will make sure all of our concerns and ideas are heard.

Bullshit.

Now, the evidence suggests Ed was so full of hot air he could have levitated – just another cheap bait-and-switch artist telling us all what we wanted to hear.

Interestingly, in his rambling mea culpa after telling weary constituents that the tony Tanger Outlets needs more luxury car parking spaces – not public transportation, the Right Reverend Fred Lowry told us, “I campaigned on trying to bring the east side and west side together.”  

Really?

Perhaps worse, while running for office, freshman Councilwoman Billie Wheeler droned on, ad nauseum, touting her ability to “build relationships” with Volusia County’s 16 municipalities through her experience as past president of that do-nothing fraternity known as the Volusia League of Cities.

Yet, We, The People, bought into these ugly lies – hook, line and sinker.

Now, the truth has been exposed – and it’s business as usual when it comes to Volusia County government taking the cities lunch money.

In an outstanding piece by News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt entitled, “Daytona questions Volusia’s Main Street land deal,” this morning we learned some rather chilling facts about how the more things change in Deland – the more they stay the same.

Last week, the Volusia County Council voted 6-1 to spend nearly $1-million dollars of our hard-earned tax money to purchase a parcel near Main Street in Daytona Beach, ostensibly for extra parking lots for the Ocean Center and Main Street special events – something Dinneen yammered would generate some $50,000 in annual revenue.

Little Jimmy explained with a straight face that the incredibly expensive land deal was more of an “opportunity” than a “need” (after pulling his twisted Edgar Bergen routine and talking out of his ass to explain how we are pitifully broke when it comes to funding public transportation needs.)

Strange.

Regardless, the majority of the council – with Deb Deny’s as the lone nay – gobbled-up Little Jimmy’s blatant disregard for the truth like the good little drones they are and voted to buy the land for well above the average of two private appraisals (expensive market studies which you and I paid for – and they ignored).

The whole deal was weird from the start.

There was no pressing need – or even desire – to purchase the vacant lot, certainly not at the exorbitant price of $970,000.  It just kind of popped up and – Wham, Bam – we were pissing cash money.

(What happened to the “No more Spending – Go to Zero” plan we were all led to believe would be the panacea for reducing taxes and staunching the arterial bleed of public funds?) 

Why in the world would we want a stagnant parking lot fronting the potentially prime real estate of Main Street once the area is brought back from the dead?

Now, we know the rest of the story.

It appears in the hasty run-up to the purchase, Volusia County conveniently neglected one thing – the courtesy of letting the City of Daytona Beach in on their plan.

Although you wouldn’t know it, it appears Daytona Beach actually had a plan for putting a hotel – or some other tax-generating commerce – on the site as part of the long-neglected orphan known as the “Entertainment Zone (E-Zone) planning tool.”

According to the News-Journal, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm was unaware of the county’s plan until the very morning of the council’s vote to approve the land purchase.

Yep.  (Whatever.)

To hear Chisholm tell it, Little Jimmy didn’t let the cat out of the bag until the very last minute.

Although Mr. Chisholm didn’t see a problem with the plan at first blush – he apparently had a cup of coffee, came to his senses, and called Dinneen back around 10:00am that morning to report that parking lots aren’t allowed on the Main Street frontage.

Say wha?

You mean, our elected officials just voted to spend nearly $1-million for a frigging parking lot, only to find out you can’t put a parking lot there?

Unfortunately, by the time Chisholm got his shit together and called Little Jimmy back – the deal was done.

Or was it?

In his own inimitable way, Dinneen reported, “There was no reason to think there was an issue.  It’s only after we did that that (Chisholm) has come forward.  He later added, “There’s no obligation to call (Chisholm) at all.”

But even after learning that Daytona Beach was rightly questioning the county’s plan, Dinneen didn’t say peep to the County Council – just sat on his ass while our elected officials took a vote that would ultimately make them look like the detached, out-of-the-loop jackasses they truly are.

Seems Jimmy was waiting for “more information.”  No big deal.

My ass.

Now, it appears the only one who doesn’t have a problem with Jim Dinneen’s failure to communicate is Sleepy Pat Patterson, who remarked in his most mean-spirited way, “It makes you wonder what’s going on in the background with the city.” He huffed.  “They should have come to us.”

What abject arrogance.

Sounds like the burglar blaming the victim.

No, Sleepy, you really should have reached out to them.

In his best attempt to recover from the fact he was caught flat-footed, Chairman Kelley “Ah, Shucked” his way through Dinneen’s surprise party with a confidence inspiring, “I assumed the county would have done its due diligence and talked to the city.”

 Really?  You assumed? 

 So much for the whole “leadership-thing” we were promised.

Thanks for nothing.

And Billie Wheeler claims she was “led to believe” that the city was on-board.

Wake up, Billie.  This isn’t some goofy League of Cities coffee klatch.  Not everyone in county government is your friend – or has the best interests of your constituents at heart.

That’s what we pay you for, remember?

As far as I’m concerned, Ed, Fred and Billie can stick their empty campaign promises to rebuild relationships where the sun don’t shine.  We’ve heard it all before.

These aren’t leaders – they’re clueless chumps.  Hapless rubes of Jim Dinneen and his pack of entrenched insiders.

With all due respect – pull your collective heads out of your ass.

I still haven’t figured out which “friend” is standing in the shadows of this colossally expensive deal with Friend’s Bank of New Smyrna Beach – but you can bet your ass it’s someone we’re familiar with.

In my experience, nothing happens by accident when $1 million dollars is on the table.

Look, Ed Kelley, Fred Lowry, and Billie Wheeler – and the others –  know full-well that this isn’t the first time the county has faced withering criticism for buying-up prime real estate and taking it off the tax rolls of struggling municipalities, just because they can.

When does this bumbling Circus of the Absurd end?

Now, our elected officials – the people in which we have placed our sacred trust – have been left hanging, painfully exposed like a troop of jabbering, out-of-touch fools by the calculated maneuvers of the County Manager and his staff of co-conspirators.

If the County Council doesn’t fire Jim Dinneen now, they can never use the “We had our thumb in our ass and didn’t know any better” excuse again.

My God.  Is this the best we can do?

 

 

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