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?

 

 

Volusia Politics: Legislating our every annoyance

Just when you think things on Volusia County beaches can’t get worse. . .

Enter a few self-absorbed residents of the Condo Canyons of Daytona Beach Shores – the Halifax areas own “Heaven’s Waiting Room” – where even folks who sleep and rise in beachfront luxury can find something to bitch about.

I’ve lived in the Halifax area for over 50-years now, and some of my fondest memories are of going to the beach with my grandfather and a day-old loaf of bread.

We would toss small pieces to seagulls and little shorebirds, then laugh and marvel at their aerobatics as they dodged and darted, snatching the crumbs in flight.  I always tried to give my allotment to the timid ones who waited patently out of the fray – only to have some aggressive bastard swoop in and grab it from him.

It was fun.

If you’ve never taken a child to the beach and fed the seagulls, I suggest you do it soon.

While you still can.

As a friend of mine recently pointed out, most bad public policy begins with a “condo owner’s complaint.”

In this case, a few beach-goers who enjoy passing the time feeding birds have found themselves crossways with some condominium owners in Daytona Beach Shores.

According to the condo dwellers, this quaint activity results in the birds swarming their pool deck, perching on railings, wading in the pool – and, like birds are wont to do – shitting anywhere, and on anything, they damn well feel like.  (Kind of like birds do whether someone feeds them or not.)

And the denizens of Condo Valley want it stopped.  Now.

To take their point to the nth, the offended homeowners have enlisted a “national consortium of bird scientists” to help make their case.

According to an article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, some ninny from something called the American Ornithologist Council, claims that feeding bread scraps to shorebirds is harmful to their health – turning our feathered friends into “junk food addicts” – and depriving them of nutrients, etc.

Look, I’m no Washington-based ornithologist – but do you have any idea the kind of things these birds stuff themselves on at the Volusia County landfill?

Whoa.

Once you’ve seen what they can do to a dirty disposable diaper, you might find that a few Merita Butter Bread heels might be the least of their problems. . .

In typical fashion, our freshman County Councilwoman, Billie Wheeler – a resident of Daytona Beach Shores – has immediately knee-jerked in favor of new signs, laws and regulations.

I mean, if a handful of bored retirees in some high-rise condominium are bothered by birds-being-birds on their veranda – then the only reasonable solution is to ban every man, woman and child who lives or vacations here from bringing a bag of bread and feeding birds on all 47-miles of Volusia County beaches.

Of course, Ms. Wheeler claims she isn’t referring to a child or a family who drop the occasional chip or crumb.  Hell, that would be “unreasonable.”

My condolences to any beach police officer who must sort that one out:

“I saw the Wonder Bread bag, sir.  It was in plain view – don’t make me get a search warrant.”

“That’s not my bread, officer.  Aunt Betty brought it for sandwiches, honest – my kid only dropped a chip, he didn’t know any better.  Actually, the bird was the aggressor.”  

“Was the Taser really necessary – the boy’s six?” 

“Shut your mouth, son.  If I wasn’t in uniform, I’d split your skull with the butt of this revolver quicker than you can say ‘police brutality.’  Today it’s white bread, tomorrow a leftover Cheddar Bay biscuit – the next thing you know these poor gulls are hooked, selling themselves for Cheez-it crackers up by the Ocean Deck.  You sick bird-feeding bastards are all alike.”

I agree with my friend, Paul Zimmerman – a long-time beach advocate who has worked tirelessly in the public interest for reasonable and inclusive beach policies.

“I would say no to any more rules on the beach, I don’t know why they would remove feeding — just one more activity in which some residents and taxpayers find enjoyment.”

He’s right you know.

It’s high time our elected representatives understand that we don’t need a new law or regulation every time someone gets uncomfortable.  And we damn sure don’t need another sign anywhere near the beach.

The strand is so polluted with signage the natural beauty of the shoreline no longer exists.

Signs and sandwich boards announcing the rules are the first thing a beach-goer encounters when he or she pays their $10-bucks at the toll kiosk – and it doesn’t get any better once you’re down on the sand.

Is it possible that, for once, our elected and appointed officials could just keep it simple – perhaps ask the bird feeders to move a few hundred yards – and tell the condo owners to lighten up a bit?

Maybe ask them to focus on the Big Picture problems of condo-living, like the ostentatious decoration on their neighbor’s door – or the grandchildren in B-23 who overstay the deed-restricted visitation limit – or those miscreants who insist on leaving their sandy flip-flops in the hallway?

Hey, Billie – just a suggestion: Not every tempest in a teapot requires the full force and might of government coercion and compulsion.

You’re not debating the findings of the DBS Beautification Review Consortium anymore.

Now, your decisions effect all of us.

Can’t we simply suggest that people use their intellectual and moral faculties to find simple resolutions to isolated issues – like birds shitting on a pool deck – before we tell a kid in Ormond-by-the-Sea that he’s going to jail – or receiving a summons – if he tosses some bread to a bird like his grandparents did?

My God.  What is this place becoming?

What are we becoming?

The Debacle in DeBary: Resign, you scumbag

Last summer, I began a series of essays venting my thoughts on the deepening shit-storm that is the City of DeBary.

After all, if you care about good government in your community – you should care about good governance everywhere.  And the mounting weirdness in DeBary really bothered me.

The genesis was a succession of articles in the Daytona Beach News-Journal penned by the intrepid investigative journalist, Dina Voyles-Pulver – in my view, one of the best and brightest reporters in the business today.

Her work in DeBary is worthy of a Pulitzer.

With the skillful stroke of her pen, Dina exposed a fetid snake pit of public corruption, political treachery, incompetence, and parasitic malfeasance that reached all the way to the helm of one of our state’s most powerful regulatory agencies.

The “Debacle in DeBary” has all the terrible elements of a crisis of leadership – and exemplifies, in microcosm, the depth to which some elected and appointed officials will stoop to serve their own self-interests.

In my view, DeBary’s disgraced former city manager, Dan Parrott – a congenitally crooked douchebag whose ham-fisted brand of revenge politics bought him an on-going criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Office of the State Attorney – is ultimately responsible.

But he didn’t orchestrate it all on his own.

Before his departure, Parrott set in motion a cheap coup d’état – backed by his co-conspirators in City Hall – which ultimately resulted in the ouster of the people’s duly-elected Mayor, Clint Johnson.

It was aggression run amok – a pure example of weaponized political power unleashed.

Mayor Johnson’s removal will long be remembered as the most atrocious disregard for our sacred democratic process ever perpetrated by a local elected body.

To add insult, DeBary’s City Attorney, Kurt Ardaman, (who, I believe, truly can wring blood out of a turnip) has, in my view, used the municipality’s coffers as a slop-trough for every cheapjack, money-grubbing lawyer in the region.

When you factor in the collusions of unscrupulous developers, half-bright ‘economic development’ types, screw worm consultants, and just good old timey bald-assed stupidity, you realize that the City of DeBary is being picked clean by every foul carrion vulture in Central Florida.

After Dan Parrott personally orchestrated his own very lucrative exit, the DeBary City Council began looking for a replacement – a manager skilled in recovering horribly dysfunctional municipal governments from an inverted flat spin – and quickly discovered that no one worth a shit wanted anything to do them.

Even the most desperate “manager in transition” wouldn’t touch DeBary with a ten-foot pole.

Smart people know that you can’t pick up a turd by the clean end.  And we should be suspicious of anyone who tries.

Enter Ronald McLemore.

In retrospect, this should have been clear as glass.

You and I both know that slimy opportunists will always find their way to the scene of the crash, if just to ransack the victims for valuables.

During this disorienting whirlwind, Ron McLemore – the former city manager of Winter Springs, with a resume that includes a six-year stint in Daytona Beach and a cup-of-coffee in Cocoa Beach – mysteriously agreed to wade into this sewer, roll-up his sleeves, and attempt to straighten out the perverse mess that is DeBary government.

There was great hope in Wild West Volusia.  Hell, even I got caught up in a feverish swoon of false optimism.

The silver-maned McLemore said all the right things.

Unfortunately, it now appears he may have lied through his teeth – and compromised himself – and what’s left of the city’s integrity – just to land a temp job.

In the run-up to his appointment as interim city manager, the council held a slapdash interview with McLemore during which he doffed his suit coat and played the role of a wisely old sage, with a touch of cornpone thrown in to close the sale.

It was just what they needed to hear.

You see, drowning people will trust just about anything that looks like a life preserver.

Almost as an afterthought, the subject of a sickening sexual harassment complaint that had been filed against McLemore shortly before his “retirement” from the City of Daytona Beach, was casually broached.

With no more concern than picking a piece of lint from his shirtsleeve, McLemore dismissed the matter out of hand – explaining to the City Council that an “investigation was done by an outside legal firm who specializes in this area, they exonerated me and all the other seven.”

Bullshit.

According to the News-Journal, the very law firm that conducted the internal investigation for the City of Daytona Beach confirmed that the allegations against McLemore were never a part of their inquiry, as he resigned prior to the initiation of the independent review.

A spokesperson for the City of Daytona Beach also confirmed that McLemore was not part of the city’s investigation.

Wow.

It now appears the allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination leveled against Mr. McLemore were never investigated – nor was he exonerated – as he very clearly told the City Council and assembled citizens.

What struck me hard was McLemore’s response to allegations that while employed as a senior executive with the City of Daytona Beach, he ordered a subordinate to perform hours of personal work on his behalf – totally unrelated to official business – while the employee was on-duty and the recipient of public funds.

His excuse, “In return for the hundreds of hours I worked nights and weekends over my six years with the city, due to being understaffed, to keep projects of huge importance to the city moving forward, I think the city could afford me a minuscule number of hours to get things done I didn’t have time to do at home as opposed to taking time off from the job to get them done.”

“When millions of dollars of investment and the well-being of thousands of people are involved, which do you prefer: performance or bureaucracy?”

So, are we to believe the allegations that he used public employees for private work are true, but excusable, due to his uber-important role – but the more sinister sexual pestering and favoritism claims are not?

My ass.

What arrogance.  What unbridled hubris.

You ego-maniacal, chiseling asshole.  Nobody owes you a damn thing.

How dare you – as a highly-paid, trusted government administrator – demean the contributions of the incredibly dedicated public servants who work long hours under difficult and dangerous circumstances – often at great personal sacrifice – without once asking anyone to “afford” them anything!

Shame on you.

Look, you want to get a haircut or run to the drug store, as a salaried employee, that’s between you and the City Manager.  In over three-decades of public service, I would be lying if I told you I never screwed-off at work, bullshitted around the water cooler, or ran a personal errand on-duty.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

But when you misuse your position of power and order subordinate public employees to violate the very rules designed to protect the public from the diversion of public resources for personal convenience or gain – in my view, you have crossed a very clear ethical line.

I believe the time has come for Ronald McLemore to resign his position of trust with the City of DeBary.

In fact, the DeBary city council should take this opportunity to conduct an exorcism at City Hall – purging every foul bird who still has the putrid taint of Dan Parrott – or the Gemini Springs Annex fraud – about them.

It is time.

As for Ron McLemore, for once demonstrate leadership (look it up in your City Manager handbook) and accept responsibility.

You have made a bad situation worse, and, in my opinion, you have lost the moral authority to lead.

The good people of DeBary deserve better.

 

 

Volusia Politics: Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.

Anyone who still believes Volusia County residents aren’t overtaxed and underrepresented need look no further than the County Council’s recent two-faced insult to the Great Lords of Karma.

Trust me.  It’s not good to piss those guys off – the All Seeing Eye, Goddess of Liberty, Justice and Opportunity, Mercy and Compassion, Truth and Wisdom, and the Lord of Peace and Devotion.

According to ancient teaching, “These Cosmic Beings, for eons, have evolved to the point wherein they are perfectly suited and fitted, by their consciousness, to be arbiters of karmic situations, and how these situations shall out-picture in the physical world.”

 Heavy Ju-Ju, baby.

The Karmic Board will turn your sorry ass into a fence post for your sins against the weak and vulnerable – just because they can.  I’ve seen them do it on foggy, moonless nights in places like backatown New Orleans, The Battery in Charleston, and in the moss-strewn alleyways of Cassadaga.

For some reason, the Divine Director has always looked on me with great favor – and protected me from all harm.  He knows that while I am a terribly flawed character – I am pure in spirit – and thirsty for the truth.

How we treat others is how we shall be treated, and I fear some will not be so fortunate when the cosmic beings start tallying the score. . .

Being reincarnated as a filthy ditch pig – or a three-legged sewer rat – is almost too much for some to comprehend.

During yesterday’s transportation workshop, county manager Jim Dinneen and what passes for our elected representatives, proclaimed that there will be no Votran bus service to the new Tanger Outlet in the foreseeable future.

However, they benevolently agreed to expand service to the Walmart on SR-44 in New Smyrna, and to areas along Howland Boulevard in Deltona.

Simply a matter of money, we’re told.

In January, the Daytona Beach News-Journal issued a spot-on editorial pointing out Volusia County’s failure to anticipate public transportation needs in the run-up to the Tanger development – and their inability to adjust routes and services when the oversight was discovered.

I guess it wasn’t an omission at all.

According to the Reverend Fred Lowey, what Tanger needs is more luxury parking spots – not transportation for the Great Unwashed. “I’ve been at Tanger before,” Fred said. “They need to have more BMW parking (instead of) bus service. This is not KMart or Walmart shoppers.”

 Hell no!  This ain’t no squalid five-and-dime!

This is the NEW DAYTONA, and Tanger is for people of high-breeding, culture and wealth – 55-and-over Parrot Heads with unlimited disposable income and a yen for a brand-immersive lifestyle – not two-bit strap hangers who want to disrupt the “Tanger experience” by busing out and putting their greasy little hands on the windows and ogling all the shiny things inside.

Screw those ham-n-eggers.  We piss on the poor – those grimy little cheap bastards in their off-the-rack Walmart trash.  They are not Tanger material.  Right, Fred?

Right.

You see, the problem – as Councilwoman Joyce Cusack pointed out in a moment of lucidity – We, The People, didn’t help build the Walmart, or anything on Howland Boulevard for that matter.

What we did is pump $2.2-million of our hard-earned tax dollars into the Tanger project with the promise of “Jobs.”

Remember that, Freddy?

Now, employees and applicants without personal transportation can’t access those jobs.

I believe it’s called bait-and-switch.  We created the jobs – but you must really want them if you don’t own a car.

Per our newest council member, Heather Post, “We haven’t had any outpouring of requests from people who want the service.”  “At some point, will we need transportation out there? I would assume yes, but right now when we are looking at reevaluating the system and we are looking at our super needs, I don’t see (Tanger) as being at the top of the list.”

 You mean, other than the News-Journal editorials, anger and frustration from employees of Tanger businesses, repeat letters to the editor, etc., etc.?

Your right, Heather.  Nobody came up and kissed the collective ass of the Great and Powerful in Deland and begged for public transportation to an outlet mall hawking overpriced seconds on the I-95 frontage road.

Our bad.

We simply expected it as a common-sense amenity for those seeking the employment opportunities the previous county council promised us would come.

For $2.2 million dollars in infrastructure support.

So, the next time you guys decide to throw millions of dollars of our money away on economic incentives cloaked in the bullshit façade of “jobs creation” – don’t be surprised if your constituents have something to say about it.

 In addition, Little Jimmy and the council approved the $970,000 purchase of property near the Ocean Center (where?  It’s that big shuttered building over on Atlantic Avenue where your kids graduated?  You know, home to the Reptile Breeders banquet and something called “Truck Fever 2017”?  Never heard of it?  I attended a Jimmy Buffett show there once – in the mid-80’s as I recall. . .).

To quote Heather Post, was the land purchase a “super need?”

No.  Not really.

According to Little Jimmy, “It’s more of an opportunity than a need.”

(Which, by the by, is the same shtick I’m going to use the next time the half-cent transportation sales tax is discussed by our nouveau riche Clampett clan in Deland.) 

Where I come from they don’t call that an opportunity – they call it speculating with someone else’s money.

It seems the County Council did what the Daytona Beach City Commission couldn’t – they grossly overpaid for a vacant lot near Main Street.

But why?

According to our own Councilwoman Billie Wheeler: “One of the reasons this is a good idea – it gives us control over what’s going on there.  It could be bought up by someone else and not be advantageous to the city or county.  Parking is always an issue in that area.”

She’s right.  After all, what is a government entity without control?

That property could well have been purchased by some business interest – or an entity that, I dunno, might have wanted to develop some form of commerce or industry while keeping the parcel on the tax rolls.

We wouldn’t want that now, would we?

Apparently, the county is now venturing into a property management gig as well by renting out these massively expensive public parcels during special events – something Little Jimmy told the council will produce as much as $50,000 in annual income.

Mr. Dinneen then provided the elected members with nap mats, cookies, and warm milk; before telling the story of three little pigs who developed residential projects using differing building materials, and a giant who lived at the top of a beanstalk with a goose that laid golden eggs at the first of every fiscal year.

When did it become Volusia County government’s job to set the real estate market in and around the perennially neglected Main Street area using our tax dollars?

Am I missing something?

I suggest to anyone who owns property on the beachside to just hold on – eventually the city or the county will come along and pay you twice what it’s worth.

You know, so folks don’t have to park “up the street and around the corner” when they pack in for the next quilting bee at the Ocean Center.

 

What do DeBary and Daytona Beach have in common?

One of life’s great accomplishments is the ability to look back on a career of service – public or private – and know that you did your best, tried hard, and made a positive contribution to your industry or community.

It is the very essence of personal satisfaction and self-actualization.

One of the great privileges in my life was the honor of serving others while working with some of the most wonderful people in the world.

Now, I would be lying if I said each of my 31-years in government service was smooth sailing.

Like every career, periodically dark clouds form, honest mistakes are made, or situations conspire to make for tough times.  Sorting through these humps and bumps makes you stronger, and the sense of pride that comes from working together to find creative solutions and overcome difficulties is the best team builder I know.

During my working years, I was extremely fortunate to have some wonderful mentors enter my path who inspired me to great things – people who taught by example – and created a positive and supportive environment.

They were also very forgiving of my stupid mistakes – the best, but most expensive, form of experiential learning there is.

I have also had the displeasure of working for some of the most worthless human scum ever to insinuate themselves into the civil service.  Tyrants and confidence artists who lowered the ethical bar just by their very presence – liars, cheats and duplicitous assholes – who caused more damage and abject destruction than an iron wrecking ball.

For some reason, government service tends to attract certain types of people.

There are the overwhelming majority who dedicate themselves to a cause greater than their own self-interest and work hard to serve their constituents with fairness and compassion.

Unfortunately, there are also bureaucratic sycophants and incompetent shit-heels – flim-flam masters with a good line of bullshit – and treacherous turds who burrow into a public organization like a parasitic tick and protect their position with political favors and mercurial situational ethics.

When administrators are successful in ferreting out corrupt oddballs or malcontents with a destructive agenda – these miscreants often simply pick up and move along to another lucrative position with yet another government entity – as if nothing ever happened.

This is especially true with city and county managers – who seem to have more professional lives than a degenerate ally cat.

I have followed the disturbing allegations of gender and race-based discrimination and retaliation by the City of Daytona Beach.

Given my experience, I understand the maneuvers and mentalities at play – and in my view, City Manager Jim Chisholm has some serious problems at City Hall.

Is there an institutionalized culture of sexual harassment and racial discrimination in certain municipal departments?

I don’t know, but there are rumblings that more victims may be coming forward soon.

If half of what has been reported in the press is accurate, it is past time for a fundamental change in the organization’s leadership and values.

For instance, in 2014, Sonja Wiles – a 23-year career public servant with an exemplary record – filed credible charges of sexual harassment against former City Architect James Hanis – claims that we’re told were later sustained by an internal investigation.

Interestingly, in his resignation letter, Hanis said he was leaving after accomplishing everything he wanted to in his 10-years as city architect – apparently without ever accepting responsibility for the actions that led to his departure.

In my view, the fact that such claims were accepted by Mr. Chisholm in a formal letter of resignation – a document that remains part of the public record – speaks volumes.

In addition, Wiles also filed harassment charges against then deputy city manager – and current City of DeBary interim city manager – Ron McLemore.

According to a December 2015 article by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, disturbingly entitled, “Disgruntled employees file harassment, discrimination complaints at Daytona City Hall,” reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, wrote:

“McLemore resigned before an investigation got underway, according to city records.” 

 Like Hanis, McLemore was allowed to resign in February 2016, claiming that he planned to retire the following month anyway.

“Yawn.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Just taking up the old rocking chair a few weeks early, that’s all. . .”

After his self-described retirement, McLemore went to work for the City of Cocoa Beach – and later, the City of DeBary.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as well for Ms. Wiles.

She was summarily terminated by Mr. Chisholm after she filed a third complaint of racial animus by a Daytona Beach city official.  An in-house human resources investigation found that Wiles “falsely and maliciously” accused the staff member leading to his resignation.

Later, an “independent” outside investigator – hired by the City of Daytona Beach – apparently marginalized Ms. Wiles and her previously sustained claims even further.

Ms. Wiles has filed suit, claiming that her termination was retaliation, and the City of Daytona Beach has denied any wrongdoing.

A judge will decide.

I am proud of Ms. Wiles for standing up for herself – and others who may be similarly situated.

Doing the right thing takes a lot of guts.

Which brings me to the matter at hand.

Last summer, during the shit-storm of political corruption and abject greed that overtook DeBary City Hall like a filthy fog – the terribly fractured city commission voted unanimously to hire Mr. McLemore as interim city manager.

As I recall, only the duly-elected Mayor, Clint Johnson, had reservations – but agreed to go-along in the interest of building “consensus.”

Well, I think Mayor Johnson would agree that strategy didn’t work out so well.

McLemore was hailed as a “clean-up man” who, unfortunately, turned out to be just another dimwitted ham-n-egger with malleable loyalties.

In the lead-up to his appointment, I thought the rather relaxed Q-&-A between McLemore and the commission, although sloppy in form, was rather cathartic for an elected body wracked by brutal dysfunction, criminal investigations, and the unholy collusions of disgraced former city manager Dan Parrott and others in positions of trust.

Then, things got muddy.

When asked directly by DeBary officials to explain the allegations of sexual harassment during his tenure with Daytona Beach, McLemore told the rubes on the city commission that he had been ‘exonerated’ by an investigation – then, in my view, re-offended by stating publicly, “I was very disappointed,” he said of the issue. “It hurt because I really tried to help this person…. That’s probably all I can say right now other than the fact that we went through the process, the allegations were looked at in detail by a third-party investigation.”

 More recently, McLemore stated publicly in the News-Journal that Ms. Wiles’ claims are “unconscionable lies” – crowing that he is “deeply saddened by the degree of erroneous and inaccurate claims in the allegations.”

I suspect Ms. Wiles might have something to say about that.

In my mind, the question remains, did Ron McLemore actively participate in Daytona Beach’s “investigation” of Ms. Wile’s complaints following his resignation?

Was he, in fact, personally ‘exonerated’ of the charges as he claims?

And what, if any, substantive background investigation was performed by the City of DeBary prior to McLemore’s employment to the community’s most powerful office?

After all, DeBary has more high-end lawyers on the payroll than most Fortune 500 companies – did at least one of them think to dig into candidate McLemore’s history and qualifications – you know, actually explore these rather serious formal allegations that came almost immediately before his “retirement” – or did they just accept his homespun answers at face value?

Good questions, huh?

In my view, the citizens of Daytona Beach – and the City of DeBary – deserve answers.

They also deserve better.

Volusia: Let them drink Margaritas!

Normally, government plods along at the speed of an anesthetized ground sloth.

Even simple matters can take months, even years.

The very process itself is geared in an excruciatingly self-serving way, allowing adequate time for each layer of the bureaucracy to justify its existence.

For instance, the good people of Volusia County have been anxiously awaiting a compassionate solution to the problem of chronic homelessness for years – and despite some optimistic chatter – I can assure you that the ‘powers-that-be’ are nowhere near a resolution.

When a citizen takes matters into his or her own hands, skirts the myriad rules, or refuses to enter the meatgrinder of the permitting process – say, in the interest of completing a simple home improvement project in this lifetime – the sleeping bear awakes and the full might of government comes down like a bloody sledgehammer.

We, The People, have come to accept this administrative snail’s pace as the norm – and simply avoid interacting with our government whenever possible.

Dealing with officialdom, at any level, is like doing business with a massive, supernaturally obstinate, low-level clerk at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles – Driver’s License Division.

You know, that mulish crone with the string wart on her eyelid that just keeps repeating in a low monotone, over-and-over-and-over, the reasons why you cannot renew, change address, replace a lost license, etc., etc. – all while offering no solutions, or even hope?

Ring a bell?

The one exception to this prehistoric crawl is when the right people stand to make a quick dollar.

In that case, I suggest you keep your hair, limbs and loose clothing away from the machinery, folks – don your protective suit before assisting others – because your government apparatus is about to spool up like a GE 90 jet turbofan and “make things happen.”

For instance, in less than a month, the City of Daytona Beach sold its long-term interest in the Ladies Professional Golf Association courses to their good friends at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company for the bargain price of $2.2 million – with some kickbacks to the City thrown in to make it seem like we’re getting a deal.

Within days, Consolidated Tomoka announced the sale of 1,581 acres west of I-95 to Canadian developer Minto Communities – who almost immediately revealed their “strategic partnership” with Jimmy Buffett’s own Margaritaville Holdings:

“Margaritaville and Minto noted that the location of their Latitude Margaritaville, Daytona Beach, at LPGA Blvd. and I-95, was ideal as a destination that offers access to the area’s world-famous beaches; championship golf at LPGA International Golf Club; Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach International Airport; the new One Daytona entertainment, dining and shopping destination; and much more.”

 Bing, Bang, Boom.

Did any elected or appointed official ask what you, as a taxpayer and concerned constituent, might think of paving over our environmentally sensitive recharge areas for a proposed 7,000-unit residential development with a commercial component west of I-95?

Did anyone attend those public hearings and informational meetings where the environmental and infrastructure impacts of the largest residential development in the history of Volusia County were discussed?

I didn’t think so. . .

Guess you were like me – too busy picking over pretty pictures of ISB roundabouts and “dog bones,” and gushing about the incredible “synergy” of the new Bass Pro Shop, huh?

In the meantime, the Big Boy’s took good care of us:

“Hey, you fucking rube’s, here’s what we’re doing – the decisions have been made for you and your money has changed hands.  Johnny Albright says it’s a “winning combination” and the News-Journal agrees.  So, guess what?  Nobody needs or wants your bullshit input.  Go shopping, you brain-dead yokels.  Can’t you see important people are doing business over here?”

Apparently, things are happening so fast at the epicenter of the western sprawl – I-95 and LPGA Boulevard – that everyone at Volusia County, and the Florida Department of Transportation, were caught with their proverbial thumb in their ass:  No one bothered to plan for public transportation service – and everyone is paralyzed by abject ignorance over whether injecting thousands of 55-and-over Parrothead’s onto already taxed surface and arterial roads, “might impact transportation through the northwest end of Daytona Beach.”   

 Hummm.  Wait!  Do you think this might result in congestion?  What to do?

I know!  Let’s hire an out-of-state consultant to determine our future local infrastructure needs!

Hell yeah!  Throw money at it, dammit!

Almost inconceivably, we recently learned that FDOT has selected California-based (you read that right) Parsons Group to conduct a phased study – projected to take well over a year – with an “estimated” $2.2-million-dollar price tag – which will be used to engineer an “ultimate” plan for the LPGA interchange.

A second phase will “address traffic spillback onto I-95, improve interchange operations, reduce congestion and increase safety at the study interchange through a 20-year design horizon.”

(“Design horizon.”  I love that shit.  How technical.  How typically governmental.)

$2.2 million.  We’re talking one interchange here.  Really?

According to Michael Johnson, Parsons Group President, “This project will be a win for residents and visitors alike.”

 Of course it’s a “Win,” Mike – we’re champions here on the Fun Coast!

Just ask our county manager, Little Jimmy Dinneen – or any of the high-paid shills from the half-dozen or so tax-funded ‘economic development’ or ‘advertising authorities’ here in Volusia County – we’re winning so often these days it’s hard to keep up with it all!

Now, I’m no Left Coast traffic expert (although I did try and get from West Hollywood to Long Beach via the 110 once, whoa) but I’m guessing – just spit balling – that with massive development looming like an ominous shelf cloud we might expect some additional pressure on our long-neglected transportation infrastructure.

How’s by you?

What do you think our local streets and roadways will look like when every proposed development from Brevard to Flagler finally builds out?

Ever feel like the collective needs of current residents are an afterthought?

Me too.

Fuck it.  As Marie Antoinette might have said,  Let them drink Margaritas!

Now, return to your lives – you winners – safe in the knowledge that those who control our destiny know what’s best for us.

And if they can’t figure it out – it’s nothing a couple million dollars of our money can’t sort through with a phased study to two.

I don’t know about you, Champ, but I need a drink. . .