I’d like to welcome those of you joining our little program in progress. . .
It’s been quite a week for Barker’s View.
In the past few days, folks have visited the site in droves, thousands of new visitors have come from near and far to read these world-weary views on Volusia County politics.
That’s probably a bad thing for those of us who live, work and play here on the Fun Coast.
Look, I rarely write about all the ‘feel-good’ fun stuff happening in Volusia County.
I’m not an optimist. I’m a brooding asshole.
It’s just how God made me. And I am convinced he put me here, in this strange time and place, for a reason.
You want the canned ‘happy-happy!’ from some corporate marketing department touting the benefits of a brand-immersive old folk’s home with a cool “Caribbean Soul” vibe – or piffle on the incredible “synergy” created by a tax-supported, cookie-cutter sporting goods store – you’re in the wrong corner of the interwebz.
If you are reading Barker’s View, that means the wheel as come off the cart at some level of government – and you know that I’ll be sitting here in my boxer shorts, hunched over the keyboard, stirring the pot, goring sacred oxen and kicking the politicos while their down.
Someone’s got to do it.
Besides, my hypocrisy knows no bounds – and I’ve got the time.
It’s a goofy opinion blog. Don’t like it? Don’t read it.
I think most regular readers of this forum are smart enough to figure out that if you want an erudite, scholarly examination of the local issues by professional journalists and political analysts, you read the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Orlando Sentinel, or any of the mainstream media serving the Central Florida market.
Regardless of the outlet, it tends to all be riffs on the same theme. A delicate tightrope act over the dangerous chasm between the truth and the almighty advertising dollar.
But, if you have a hankering for an alternative point-of-view – a itch for the rambling thoughts of a bearded weirdo who watches the mind-numbing machinations of government, filters the intrigues through a gin-soaked mind, and puts his twisted opinions down with a heavy-measure of hyperbole, sarcasm, and cynical embroidery – I’m your guy.
Pull up a chair, pour yourself three-fingers of good bourbon (it’s in the cabinet, above the bar), light-up a Marlboro and make yourself at home.
Consider this your “safe space.”
A profane, often irreverent salon where we can sit together and take an unvarnished look at the inner-workings of local government with a jaundiced eye – and perhaps expose the whores, pimps, book-lickers, fixers and rich political insiders that grease the wheels and work the system to their advantage in the boardrooms, council chambers and back alleys of Volusia County.
What brought all our new readers to the site?
Well, earlier this week we learned that Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen, a sneaky bastard with a penchant for making sure our hard-earned tax dollars make it into the right people’s hands – pulled a fast one on our elected officials.
While you and I – and, it appears, the bulk of the Volusia County Council – were being lulled into a catatonic state by the incessant hype of what passes for ‘progress’ in the Halifax area – Little Jimmy was working up a nearly $1-million-dollar purchase of some paved-over land fronting Main Street in the heart of Daytona Beach’s “Entertainment Zone” redevelopment area.
To make a very strange story short, it appears Mr. Dinneen strategically failed to let the City of Daytona Beach in his plan – or tell his bosses on the county council the full truth – including the fact that municipal zoning regulations prohibit a parking lot on the land, which is exactly the excuse Dinneen used to ramrod the purchase in the first place.
In the aftermath, our elected officials, especially our new Chairman Ed Kelley, and Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, both former city officials who ran on platforms touting their ability to mend fences with Volusia County’s 16 municipalities – constituencies that have been kicked around like a cur dog by Dinneen and his staff – were left looking for all the world like a gaggle of out-of-touch dupes.
Because they are.
Look, I’m not smart enough to figure out the A-B-C’s of this highly suspicious land deal – partly because guys like Jim Dinneen make sure you never quite connect A to C. He’s bright enough to know that exposing the identities of the shadow players isn’t good for his long-term viability as a first-class fixer.
And make no mistake, Little Jimmy stands firmly at the nexus of public funds and private interests – a cheap bagman with the situational ethics of a broke-back snake who loathes everything you and I hold dear.
In my view, Jim Dinneen is like the kid in school who gets good grades but nobody ever sees him study. A guy with no particular skills – other than a weird knack for getting elected officials to follow him down mysterious paths – and the impudence to collect his stratospheric salary and benefits package with a straight face.
In most public or private organizations, you only embarrass your bosses on the front page of the local newspaper once – then, your sorry ass is taken to the woodshed where you receive the Bastinado treatment by your humiliated victims before being tossed into the street to face your deepest fears, and enemies, alone.
But not in Volusia County.
This is like a Shadow Government where nothing is as it seems.
Except, our eyes are beginning to adjust to the darkness.
Little Jimmy is smart enough to know the importance of protecting his interests, and those of his handlers, from the petty whims and quirks of the elected officials – those scarecrows in cheap suits who sit on the dais and fritter away under the almost quaint notion that they are in control of something important.
Self-important dimwits, too stupid to understand that they don’t know what they don’t know – while Jim Dinneen consolidates power through the careful control of information.
When things go sideways – like they most certainly did last week – Mr. Dinneen cloaks himself in the political muscle of the real power brokers. The uber-wealthy insiders who directly benefit from the dangerous combination of Dinneen’s preternatural lack of professional integrity and his direct access to the public checkbook.
That’s Little Jimmy’s “safe space.”
Any elected official in Volusia County worth his or her salt knows that you cross the wrong people in this town at your own risk.
After all, they didn’t shovel hundreds of thousands of dollars into a local election without knowing the exact return on investment – and Jimmy is their little man behind the curtain who keeps the money flowing.
So, don’t expect Ed Kelley – or any of the others we elected to represent our interests – to hold Mr. Dinneen accountable for his sins in this dubious land deal – or anything else.
Our once proud politicians are scared shitless. And they should be.
They know which side their political bread is buttered on – and so does Jim Dinneen.
Photo Credit: The West Volusia Beacon