On Volusia: Reporting Truth – Demanding Transparency

As time passes, it is increasingly evident that my mind is less limber and the more “set in my ways” I become.

There are few wild ups-and-downs now – I’ve risen to my last occasion, responded to my last emergency – no more tense stand-offs or life-altering decisions – and, despite my best efforts, it appears the rocking chair has finally caught up to me.

Life is more predictable now.

When I speak with friends who are still out there, making it happen in business and government, I realize, on the third anniversary of my retirement, how little I have in common with them anymore.

I don’t have much to add to the conversation, beyond commiserating about the common experience of weather, taxes, and the rising cost of life – and I have no relevance in current affairs.

Look, I’m not complaining – I’m the luckiest man in the world – and I never take for granted that I was fortunate to earn a pension that most of my peers will never enjoy.

I worked in a high-stress/high-risk occupation for over three decades.

It doesn’t matter where you serve in law enforcement – big cities or rural expanses – the job remains essentially the same, and the toll it exacts on your mind and body pays difficult dividends later in life – so I don’t feel guilty in the least when my monthly check arrives.

Increasingly, many people I know labor with the thought that they may never be financially capable of full retirement – a disturbing sign of our times that I fear speaks more to the breakdown of what was once called the “American Dream” than their individual success or failure.

I try to salve over their disappointment with a joke that retirement is great – for about six-weeks.

Which is true.  More or less.

Most days I read, reflect and write – often from the vantage point of my porch with the lubrication of good whiskey.  You can do that when your only responsibility is your own amusement.

The result are these brooding opinions on the news of the day.

I realize my views hold no more weight that anyone else’s, and I determined a long time ago that nothing I write will fundamentally change the way “things are.”

But, as I’ve said before, Barker’s View provides a very important outlet for my delusions and frustrations – and the fact that so many of you take time out of your busy day to read my screeds, and thoughtfully consider the opinions presented, is incredibly humbling – and heartening.

I am in your debt for indulging me.

Regular readers of these essays on life and politics in the Halifax area have, most probably, come to the logical conclusion that I am likely clinically insane – and it’s clear that I long ago abandoned the vanity of caring what “Very Important People” think of me.

In short, I’m pissed.  And if you’re reading this – I suspect you are too.

The fact is, those “uber-wealthy” power brokers I crow about – who manipulate Volusia County government like demented children screwing around with a Tinker Toy set – don’t pay my mortgage, they don’t cover my sizable grocery bill – and they don’t control my thoughts.

I am inspired by the number of people who reach out to me with words of encouragement – readers who don’t necessarily agree with everything I write – but who understand the importance of an alternative opinion in a political environment controlled by a few influential insiders who stand to gain from the ‘wheeler-dealer’ exploitation of the democratic process.

Obviously, I’m not a journalist – and I’m often taken to task on social media for the vulgarity of my writing, the liberal use of expletives and invectives, and my often lose grip on the “facts” (if there is such a thing in 2017 Volusia County).

This is purely an opinion blog – no more, no less – and should never be mistaken for fact-based reporting.

However, most people I know understand the significance of money – especially as it relates to their personal finances and our artificial economy – and they are thirsty for information on how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent – and why.

They need truths, and they are beginning to demand transparency.

We must rely on our local press for “hard news” – not goofy opinion bloggers like me – and we trust them to investigate the issues and speak truth to power on matters of regional importance.

Clearly, the Daytona Beach News-Journal is awakening to the fact that their readership is curious about the machinations of their government, and the influence of a small clique of “rich and powerful” string-pullers, which has resulted in the obscene waste of hundreds of millions in redevelopment dollars, giveaways, “incentives,” and the spoils of abject greed – and their relationship to the never-ending cycle of blight and dilapidation in Daytona Beach.

In my view, the News-Journal, through its recent investigative journalism, may well have found a way to remain relevant and regain its significance in our long-suffering community.

I believe the recent series exposing the challenges of our beachside, “Tarnished Jewel” – and Sunday’s very informative piece by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, “Vacant Vision,” which superbly detailed the astonishing lack of fiscal responsibility in the City’s purchase of property with CRA funds at prices far above appraised value – are invaluable.

As one real estate professional put it, these deals have been “colossally awful,” and they deserve to be exposed for what they are.

Look, I can scream about the complete lack of strategic vision, and rage, ad nauseum, about the unequal playing field and misdirection of tax dollars that has hampered legitimate economic development in Volusia County for years.

And no one in a position to shape change gives a damn.

They just get mad at me – not the shit-storm of inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption I keep pointing out like a bad Lassie episode.  Timmy has fallen in the well alright, and if somebody doesn’t do something soon – I’m afraid he, and the rest of us rubes, are doomed to life in a deep, dark hole.

However, when our newspaper of record takes these important issues to task, and reports the facts and figures to an interested circulation that have been kept in the dark, lied to, and subjugated by politicians and appointed officials who repeatedly tell them one thing – then act another way – it lends credence to their latent suspicions and generates interest in finding lasting solutions to the myriad problems here on the Fun Coast.

Like rats running from the light – sunshine truly is the best disinfectant.

In an environment where a cabal of extremely wealthy individuals control most aspects of our lives and livelihoods – the power of an independent local press – staffed by journalists who are free of the yoke of political and financial pressure, with the professional courage to fight suppression and present the unvarnished truth – can finally, and fundamentally, change this bastardized oligarchy and restore promise, confidence and hope to Volusia County.

In fact, I think it is the only thing that can.

Many thanks to Editor Pat Rice and the intrepid writers and staff of the Daytona Beach News-Journal for your recent reportage on the collective challenges we face – and for your courage to confront the status quo in the face of powerful opposition to change.

Keep up the good work.


Angels & Assholes for April 28, 2017

Hey, Kids!

It’s time once again for Uncle Mark to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my view, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way during the week that was.

Now, let’s see who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – this week:

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

Rather than hold firm to their fiduciary responsibility to the ones who elected them to high office, members of the Volusia County School Board are preparing to rubber-stamp a plan by district bureaucrats to bond some $135-million to fund a laundry list of capital needs.

Why?  So they can push projects – quicker.

Somehow, the school district has allowed a backlog of 65 major facilities projects – and 400 maintenance issues – to languish.

I get it – you want to build some new schools and you’ve allowed existing ones to fall into disrepair.

But do we really need years of crippling debt to accomplish that?

In Volusia County government, the idea of fiscal responsibility is abhorred by every facet of the bloated bureaucracy.  With an annual budget topping $840-million – along with some $40-million in annual sales tax revenue – you get the idea that our school district simply cannot live within its means.

The option of pay-as-you-go – you know, like you and I do – is out of the question.

Naturally, the district’s senior staff is recommending paralytic debt over common-sense solutions – and the elected body is quick to agree – a scenario which has become Volusia County’s modus operandi.

I wonder who stands to benefit. . .?

Asshole           Senate President Joe Negron & the Florida Senate

When House Speaker Richard Corcoran took office, he promised to reign in the Wild West atmosphere in Tallahassee and bring far-reaching ethics reform to the state capitol.

Unfortunately, all hopes for bringing substantive change were squashed this week when the Florida Senate revealed it had “zero interest” in bolstering the states laughable ethics process.

The Florida legislature is comprised of 160 members (120 in the House and 40 in the Senate) who are worked over by a virtual army of some 2000 bloodsucking lobbyists – many of them former legislators.

Mr. Corcoran’s much needed reforms would have changed the current ban on lobbying by House members from two-years to six after they leave – along with common sense efforts, like prohibiting lobbyists from texting elected officials during committee meetings or floor sessions.  (Really?) 

Nope.  Not in Florida.  The rules are different here.

Senate President Joe Negron assured Floridian’s this week that the Senate “Is very committed to the highest ethical standards, and we believe that the ethics rules we have in place should be enforced.”

I agree.

But given our dismal history of open graft – and a current administration that will go down as perhaps the most corrupt in the history of the state (and that’s saying something) – would it hurt to reinforce efforts to preserve the integrity of state government and protect the public’s trust in our elected officials?

Again, I wonder who stands to benefit. . .?

Angel              Chief Spike Capri and the Daytona Beach Police Department

Bridging the gap between the police and those they serve is a difficult task – even more so in challenged neighborhoods and diverse communities who can feel helplessly caught in the middle of street criminals and aggressive law enforcement efforts.

My hat is off to the Daytona Beach Police Department, under the excellent leadership of Chief Spike Capri, for his outstanding community outreach programs.

In my view, events such as the recent “Paint a Rock with a Cop” program – or the up-coming “Daytona 100” three-mile bicycle ride for children between the ages of 8 and 12, complete with fun festivities at Dickerson Center – demonstrate the department’s commitment to partnering with the community and making all of us part of the solution.

It seems like every week brings a new and innovative program to the table – simple solutions that don’t cost anything but an officers time, dedication and creativity.

As an old crime prevention officer – I’m also glad to see proven community relations tools like “McGruff the Crime Dog” back in the fight.

Positive interaction and communication breaks down barriers – and that pays long-term dividends for every segment of the community.

Congratulations and many thanks to Chief Capri and the officers and staff of the DBPD for their outstanding efforts.

Asshole           County Manager Jim Dinneen

Look, I could equally fault the entire Volusia County Council – after all, they’re ultimately responsible – but we all know who runs the ship here on the Fun Coast, and Little Jimmy is their point man.

I recently read in the Daytona Beach News-Journal where we – you and I – paid $1.8 million for a 100-space parking lot immediately adjacent to the horribly failed Desert Inn/Westin project at 880 North Atlantic Avenue.

Way back in 2014, when this turd sandwich was being cobbled together, I specifically recall that the developer – Summit Hospitality Management Group – would be required to provide parking as a requirement and off-set for the removal of cars from the strand behind the hotel.

In a June 2014 article in the News-Journal, Jeffrey Cassady, wrote:

“Dinneen hadn’t yet received a formal proposal from Summit when he spoke to The News-Journal but said company officials had mentioned allowing public parking at lots it owns near the Desert Inn in exchange for the removal of beach parking and driving behind the hotel.”

Now, the News-Journal is reporting that a 2015 deal with the developer only required that they sell space for parking to the county.

So, in keeping with Mr. Dinneen’s horrific negotiating skills – We, The People – paid nearly $2-million dollars for the parcel, and we are led to believe that this represents a “discount” from what Summit paid to acquire it.

The original deal required that the lot provide at least 27 spaces to cover the spots lost by the removal of beach driving – but in keeping with their “bigger is always better” fiscal policy – County officials decided to build more than 100 parking spaces at an additional cost of $774,635.

They think it will be an easier sell when they ultimately reach their goal and remove beach driving everywhere.

Trust me – it won’t.

According to Summit’s Marketing Director, Jim Dinneen, “It puts them in very close proximity to where (cars) will come off the beach once the hotel is complete and open.  It made more sense for us to get a larger lot. The bigger lot makes it a lot better.”

 (Excuse me.  Who, exactly, is responsible for formulating official communications coming from the County’s administration?  My God – this is the level of yammering, incoherent public comment we get from a county manager making $340,000+ in annual salary and benefits?)

What happened to demanding concessions from speculative developers for the incredible privilege of shitting on our long heritage of beach driving and destroying the last, best draw for residents and tourists alike?

Hummmm.  I wonder who stands to benefit. . .?

Fuck it.  We’re just along for the ride.

Asshole           “Hotelier” Abbas Abdulhussein & Summit Hospitality

Recently, Mr. Abbas Abdulhussein opined that a car-free beach behind the Desert Inn project was necessary if “we” want to, “attract the right demographic of customer for the level of investment.” 

My ass.

According to Abdulhussein, “If you look around the state, other destinations, like Clearwater, all of these destinations have much higher rates than we do,” he said, not needing to point out that none of the other destinations have driving on the beach. “You have to ask yourself: What’s the reasoning for that?”

Well, let’s see. . .

How about the fact that Clearwater Beach doesn’t have the look and feel of a War Zone – with abject blight and dilapidation everywhere you look, a county government that closely resembles a Third World junta, and a population that has become numb to the Turkish Bazar political corruption that fuels the wealth of an elite few?

Look, Abbas – you got what you wanted – so, with all due respect – shut the fuck up.

Frankly, the long-suffering residents of the Halifax Area are sick and tired of being lectured by speculative developers – and billionaires with a chip in the game.

My advice is to stick to what you know best – and hope against hope that Hard Rock corporate smiles favorably on your request to transform that perverted haunted house – a property, like Volusia Avenue and 11th Street, that will be forever known to locals as the “Desert Inn” – into a goofy theme hotel.

Just don’t expect those of us who gave up so much to ensure your success to take it lying down.

Quote of the Week:

“I truly, truly hate to go into debt.  But I depend on our finance department. I value their judgment, and they are the ones who will guide us in that respect. They will give us the pros and the cons. We will do what we have to do to make our district successful.”

–Volusia School Board Vice-Chairwoman Linda Cuthbert publicly insulating herself from the political fallout of bonding some $135-million dollars for district capital projects and strapping residents with crushing debt for years to come.

Have a great weekend, folks!

On Volusia: The ‘Vision Thing’

I recently read a report that concluded 1 in 5 adults “aren’t confident” that they possess the skills to boil an egg or change a light bulb.

Last year, I saw an interesting survey that claimed a segment of the population believes the moon is made of green cheese – and members of the Flat Earth Society give credence to the writings of author Samuel Rowbotham, and promote the notion that we live on a flat plane – not a spherical globe.

And, here on the Fun Coast there is a small, but influential, group who are firmly convinced – despite all empirical evidence to the contrary – that removing cars from our beach, and using our areas unique heritage as a bargaining chip with speculative developers, will result in a mythical panacea project that will stimulate our economy and cure years of neglect in our core tourist area.

Look, it’s not a lack of intelligence – I know folks with a Ph.D behind their name who lack the common sense to pour piss out of a boot – and I have seen stratospherically successful automobile dealers, home builders and billionaire insurance brokers who continue to meddle in state and local government affairs – even when the calamitous effects of their lack of strategic vision line the streets of our beachside and main entrance corridors.

In our democratic system of governance, We, The People, elect our neighbors – the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker – to represent our best interests, set public policy, and serve as good stewards of our communal tax dollars.

In many locations, a city or county manager is given the authority and responsibility to administrate the day-to-day operations of government – and enact the elected bodies policies and guidance.

When done properly, the council/manager form of government serves to remove political pressure from operations, and ensures a symbiotic relationship with constituents – a system where the governed have a voice in the process – and collective input into the amenities, lifestyle, look and feel of their community.

Although a largely emblematic gesture, in some areas the government’s organizational chart lists “Citizens” at the pinnacle of the hierarchy to remind those we elect to positions of great power who they work for.

Not in Volusia County.  Not even symbolically.

Here, we have devolved into a weird oligarchy – a system where power resides in the hands of a small group of extremely wealthy individuals whose control spreads to every aspect of our lives and livelihoods.

Over time, a tainted scheme has emerged that puts incredible weight on the flow of public money to private interests – with a clear return on investment for those elite insiders with a chip in the game.

How did this happen?

These insiders took control of our system of governance the old-fashioned way – they bought it.

During the conversion, most of us took little notice – we stood idle while the powers-that-be infused massive campaign contributions into the election cycle, then used the small-minded politicians they purchased to grant themselves massive tax breaks, incentives, infrastructure improvements, cash infusions and basically used the public coffers as their private piggy bank.

We stayed out of it, because – for the most part – they left us and our basic public amenities alone.

They even threw us a bone occasionally.

Most of us worked the seasonal jobs and filled the occupations available to us in Volusia’s depressed, service-oriented economy – cops, firemen, nurses, hospitality support, retail, etc. – for far less than those same trades paid in South Florida and elsewhere.

And we watched while a few manipulated government to control their own environment and amassed staggering wealth in an area that was not conducive for entrepreneurial success.  Hell, even nationally recognized chain restaurants have a life expectancy of about eighteen-months in the Halifax area.

The trade-off was a casual lifestyle where, even when money was tight, you could drive your family down to the sea and spend a fun and inexpensive day cruising and playing in the sand.

After neglecting and destroying the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” arguably one of the most recognizable economic engines in the world, through avaricious stupidity – the net result was some $120 million in redevelopment funds squandered over 30-years and a festering shithole to show for it.

Then they came for our beach.

With rampant blight and dilapidation everywhere you look on the beachside – it is their last bargaining chip.

As increasingly large swaths of the Halifax area crumble into a hell-broth of decrepitude – the elite members of the “Rich and Powerful” continue to gorge at the public trough while ignoring the obvious.

They know if they keep the sheeple hungry, oppressed and paying the bills – they can control us, and repeatedly implement their demonstrably failed vision.

They bank on our collective apathy.

Let’s face it – Atlantic Avenue is littered with the dry bones of developers, management companies, and “investment” consortiums who were vigorously backed by our elected officials and their wealthy overseers as the “Next big thing.”

Then, when these speculators invariably landed on the ash heap of crippling greed and mismanagement, then fled town – our power brokers simply refused to accept the fact that their grand ideas, new “friends” and “business partners” were colossal frauds and failures.

Even though our elected officials and their wealthy handlers continue to square-up and get kicked in the crotch – time, after time, after time – they never seem to grasp the universally accepted truth that insanity is doing the same thing, over-and-over, while expecting a different result.

I don’t get it.  Ostensibly brilliant business people who are firmly convinced that a garish theme hotel will fundamentally alter the axis of the earth and shower us bumpkins with prosperity?

And all it costs us – you know, the folks who pay the bills – is direct access to our most precious natural resource.  Schlepping our children and beach gear across four-lanes of A-1-A so a few denizens of resort hotels can enjoy the amenity of a private beach?

All so the right people can. . .  Oh, fuck it.  I sound like a broken record.

Folks, this is the same county government that is strapping our school system with massive debt, throwing millions of our hard-earned tax dollars at ravenous special interests, selling off our publicly owned lands for pennies on the dollar, and purchasing “parking lots” and other parcels for hundreds of thousands over their appraised value.

The same troop of finger-puppets who stay in a constant state of open combat with the very municipalities where the majority of their constituents live.

In my view, this grotesque lack of vision – a bastardized view of economic growth based upon a government perspective molded by the behind-the-scenes maneuvers of those who stand to benefit most – will perpetuate even greater stagnation, squandering of public resources, and the waste of precious time.

At the end of the day, this isn’t about a Hard Rock hotel – it’s about our future economic viability and a lifestyle that brought most of us here in the first place.

If this essay sounds redundant, it is.

But to remain silent is to acquiesce – and I refuse to do that.

I hope you won’t either.




On Volusia: Heartbreak Hotel

A good “economic development” department wears a variety of hats.

Part theater, part huckster, part sales professional – the very reason for their existence is to lure new business and industry to their state, county or municipality, increase the tax base and provide job opportunities for their constituents.

Some even take the form of weird “public/private partnerships” – which normally serve to facilitate the transmission of public funds to private interests.

Unfortunately, how government goes about stimulating it’s strange view of economic growth can be hard to watch.

For instance, Volusia County is quickly moving away from providing quality public and regulatory services to the people.  Instead, they increasingly see themselves as “business partners” with speculative developers, private universities, retailers and others who stand and fall based upon their access to the public trough and sympathetic politicians.

In my view, in their quest to create an artificial economy, our ‘movers and shakers’ now wrap anything and everything – from private development, to infrastructure, to open money grabs – in the “economic development” flag.

It’s as though the very designation somehow anoints the project with oil and shields it from public criticism or questions.

Add to that the exclusive clubs – shadowy secret societies, such as the Volusia County CEO Business Alliance – which, in my opinion, provide a clubby atmosphere for the uber-wealthy to stroke each other’s sizable egos, supply cushy jobs for exposed connivers, and serve as an iron buffer between politicians and those pesky rules and regulations, like Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Tally it all up and you get the feeling that perhaps there is something far more self-serving at play.

Look, I’m not talking about the Chamber of Commerce set – they tend to be more like a big goofy puppy – just happy to be here, and they’re happy you’re here too – and most municipal “economic development” directorates are just variations on that same silly theme.  They mean no harm – and just want to promote the community in the best light possible.

My focus is on the big money, the motives of the “rich and powerful” as the News-Journal recently described them, who are increasingly telegraphing their true intent and wielding incredible influence over the process.

This sinister undercurrent was never more evident than during last week’s utterly bizarre County Council meeting, wherein our elected officials voted unanimously to amend a 2015 ordinance that placed specific performance standards on Summit Hospitality Management Group – the developer of the miserably failed Desert Inn/Westin project.

Despite what we were told during the developer’s very eloquent presentation, as most of us understood it, if certain specific metrics were not met by May 7, 2017 – to include that a “4 Star” Westin be open for business on that date – then beach driving would remain on the strand behind the hotel.

We get it. Issues conspired to delay the project, you couldn’t hammer out a deal with Westin, and you have decided to launch as a Hard Rock instead.  Great.

No big deal – you lost the private beach – now you can go forward with any damn flag you want, in any time frame you want – and everyone hopes you are wildly successful.  Go-man-go.

Unfortunately, in Volusia County it’s never that cut-and-dried – and the power brokers aren’t ready to admit that – once again – they hitched their anti-beach driving wagon to another loser.

On April 5th, one day before county manager Jim Dinneen staged his foolish “Grand Reveal” during an off-agenda ambush before the Volusia County Council – both Dinneen and Kelley surreptitiously sat down, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the developer and his attorney to actively promote the project before the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board.

Before hearing the first shred of testimony, analyzing a statement of need, seeking public input, or confirming that Hard Rock corporate was on-board. . .

Then, the following day, Dinneen and his handmaiden Kelley, orchestrated this weird surprise party during a duly-noticed public meeting – performing their best “this just in” breaking news ruse – and allowed Summit’s Abbas Abdulhussein to unveil the magical metamorphosis from Westin to Hard Rock.

The announcement was met with the wild applause, gyrations, screams and jubilation of our elected officials.

My question is – which master is our elected and appointed representatives serving?

Who, exactly, do Kelley and Dinneen work for? 

It damn sure isn’t their long-suffering constituents.

The problem is – unlike those dupes we elected to look after our interests – not all of us yokels are that easily impressed by shiny baubles or rock-n-roll themed heartbreak hotels.

No.  Many of us are more interested in preserving our heritage of beach driving and maintaining access to our most precious natural resource – and all-important economic engine – for everyone, not just members of the gilded leisure class or here today, gone tomorrow speculative developers.

As if this cheap scam wasn’t a foregone conclusion – to ensure that their hired hands were crystal clear on how they should vote – several members of The Halifax Area Illuminati, those enlightened deities of the exclusive CEO Business Alliance – were conspicuously present in the gallery.

When their High Panjandrum – the illustrious J. Hyatt Brown – rose in front of his chattel on the dais and told them collectively what their opinion would be – you could almost feel our elected officials symbolically clamoring to touch the hem of his high-dollar business suit and kiss the master’s ring.

And just like that – the developer du jour received all that he demanded and more.

I could almost hear the rotting corpse of Bray & Gillespie Management, LLC enjoying a raspy chuckle from its moldy grave.

Rather than live up to their firm promise to the people that beach driving would remain if clear standards were not met, our elected officials unanimously rolled-over and voted to extend the hotel’s completion date into 2018 – and accepted that the hotel would open as a Hard Rock – even when presented with clear evidence that the developer is nowhere close to a contract with the brand.

My God.  When did these people lose the common human emotion of shame?

I hope that you will join me in questioning the motives, and undue influence, of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – in my view, a mandarinate of extremely wealthy insiders who apparently control the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides here in the Halifax area.

A mysterious clique led by the unfortunate Dr. D. Kent Sharples.

Yeah, that Dr. D. Kent Sharples.

The same stooge who single-handedly pissed away at least $1.4 million in Daytona State College funds on the steaming turd that was the American Music Festival – then landed a curious make-work gig as “President” of the CEO Alliance – in my view, to keep his mouth shut about the other flim-flam artists and rubes with recognizable names who were just as complicit in the fleecing.

That guy.

Call me old fashioned, but when the people we elect on the promise that they will serve and protect our civic interests transmogrify into cheap lobbyists and sycophantic bootlickers – I get nervous.

And you should to.

I could be wrong, but I thought the only person who works directly for the CEO Business Alliance is Little Jimmy Dinneen?  Now, Chairman Ed Kelley, has proven that he is an active pawn in a much bigger game – and he is playing his role as the doddering fool with a slack-jawed expression extremely well.

In my view, Ed Kelley and Jim Dinneen should not have been within a country mile of the meeting with Summit Hospitality and the News-Journal (or anyone else) before hearing the input of their constituents.

I believe it smacks of collusion – and the open corruption of the public hearing process – and best telegraphs that the self-serving whims of the well-connected will trump the actual needs and wants of the people of Volusia County every time.


Photo Credit:  Daytona Beach News-Journal


Angels & Assholes for April 21, 2017

Hey, Kids!

It’s time once again for Uncle Mark to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my view, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way during the week that was.

Now, let’s see who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – this week:

Asshole:          Sen. Frank Artiles (R-Miami-Dade)  

The architect of important legislation that may have ultimately returned constitutional sovereignty to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, despite the open obstruction of County insiders and lobbyists, has lost all credibility – and rightly so.

Last month, we learned that Sen. Frank Artiles, a state legislator from Miami-Dade, has become a frequent flyer on aircraft owned by lobbyists of Florida Power & Light – including a February junket to the Daytona 500 and Disney’s Epcot theme park for something called the “Drinking around the world showcase.”   

Then, on Monday night – during an after-hours session at Tallahassee’s exclusive, members-only Governor’s Club – Artiles directed racial, and particularly offensive gender-specific epithets, toward Sen. Audrey Gibson.

When Sen. Perry Thurston intervened, Artiles continued his rant, blaming “six n_____” for allowing Republican Sen. Joe Negron’s rise to power.

When the Florida Legislative Black Caucus appropriately called for Artiles head – he attempted to mitigate blame by claiming he grew up in a racially diverse community where, We share each other’s customs, cultures and vernacular.”

 No, ya don’t, Senator.

For a politician who showed so much promise, Frank Artiles should know when it’s time to take his leave.

Resign, you scumbag.

Asshole:          The DeBary City Council

Last year, I began a series of frustrated posts under the header, “The Debacle in DeBary” – an apt descriptor, I thought, for perhaps one of the most blatant examples of political stupidity and unchecked hubris ever foisted upon an unsuspecting small town.

This Greek tragedy has everything – greed, abject corruption, incompetence, betrayal and ineptitude – which ultimately culminated in four nitwits – elected officials who abandoned their responsibilities to their constituents, ignored our democratic principles, and confederated with a compromised city manager to oust the city’s duly-elected Mayor on trumped-up “charter violations.” 

Now, the DeBary City Council – with three new council members in place – inexplicably voted this week to retain Ron McLemore as interim city manager.

In my view, McLemore is a contemptuous dirtbag who openly lied to the council during his job interview when he attempted to mitigate serious, and still unresolved, sexual harassment charges stemming from his employment with the City of Daytona Beach.

While McLemore is high in the running for “Asshole of the Year” – this week, the award goes to the DeBary City Council for approving a convoluted agreement which, among other atrocities, allows McLemore to spend just three days a week in the office while continuing his annual salary, equivalent to $130,000.


Ignoring the fact that it was upper echelon employees who got them in this ugly and on-going shit-storm in the first place, the DeBary City Council apparently relied on the fawning accolades of their department heads – the very same senior staff members who orchestrated the Gemini Springs disaster, testified in the city’s kangaroo court to jettison the mayor, and sat idle while a developer churned ecologically sensitive wetlands into primordial ooze with absolutely no accountability – when they sealed the deal with McLemore.

With an on-going criminal investigation, at least two federal lawsuits by former employees, crippling and compounding legal fees, and a vicious court fight with duly-elected Mayor Clint Johnson, the City of DeBary needs a strong, stable and effective executive to lead them toward the light.

Not an overpaid, part-time shit-heel with a proven track record of deception and creepy personal habits in the workplace.

How tragic.  How utterly tragic.

Angel:             The Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial Board

As regular readers know, I don’t often agree with the opinions of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – but when they get it right – they deserve our accolades and appreciation.

On the heels of Eileen Zaffiro-Kean’s praiseworthy exposé on the trials and tribulations of Daytona’s blighted beachside, in my view, the newspaper hit it out of the park with the recent op/ed, “No more surprises for County Council.”

As I stated earlier this week, county manager Jim Dinneen’s outrageous conduct, and his continuing efforts to keep our elected officials in the dark on important policy matters, has left council members looking like a troop of out-of-touch clodhoppers with a cognitive disorder.

This cannot continue.

It is one thing for Mr. Dinneen to continue hammering away at beach driving, ramrodding the whims of his uber-wealthy handlers, and feathering the nests of every speculative developer and political insider in town.

It is quite another when he blatantly lies to our elected officials, thrusts blame for his political pratfalls on hapless department heads and mysterious “computer glitches,” while keeping everyone guessing about his motives.

These behind-the-scenes machinations erode public confidence in their government – and that simply cannot be tolerated.

It is time that our elected officials find the moral backbone and strength of character to terminate Jim Dinneen’s deplorable services and restore public trust in the county manager’s office.

It’s important.

Asshole:          County Council Chairman Ed Kelley

Earlier this week, the Volusia County Council resurrected the ostentatious practice of packing the Ocean Center with local politicians, their respective camarillas, and various hangers-on, for a “free lunch” and tall tales about how wonderful we have it here on the Fun Coast.

And County Chair Ed Kelley didn’t disappoint the faithful.

The extravagant $20,000 to $30,000 soiree – apparently paid for by some of the biggest recipients of the County’s bountiful largesse – was long on feel-good pap and fluff – and short on the realities of our collective situation.

From Votran to homelessness to blight and dilapidation to beach access to Jim Dinneen’s cockamamie cycle of bloopers and political gaffes, I’m afraid there is very little we can take pride in – and recycling tired “achievements” like JetBlue and in-progress FDOT projects doesn’t inspire confidence.

Let’s hope our “new” County Council can find a way to pull their collective head out of their backside and use this embarrassing period in our history to full advantage, change perspective, and work to find real solutions to the serious economic and social problems facing Volusia County.

Yeah, right.

Asshole:          Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys

During what is being described by the News-Journal as “tense talk” on the First Step Shelter proposal by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, Councilwoman Deb Denys came unhinged.


Without warning or provocation, Denys viciously attacked Mayor Henry from the dais – launching into a personal assault and making a bizarre claim that Mr. Henry threatened a homeless sit-in at this summer’s Shriner’s Convention at the Ocean Center if she didn’t acquiesce to his demands for a compassionate solution to the homeless crisis.

Trust me.  It was weird.

Councilwoman Denys went into great detail about how she physically threw Mayor Henry out of her office – then bounced him from the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center – before running breathless to a county attorney who was loitering in the hallway to tattle.


Clearly, Ms. Denys used this important presentation as a prime opportunity to disrupt proceedings, focus attention on herself, and misconstrue the Mayor’s warnings as a means of nasty political posturing.

In my view, Councilwoman Denys’ highly disrespectful display represents the very nadir of political arrogance – and perfectly exemplifies the depth of dysfunction that has irreparably damaged the county’s relationship with the municipalities.

Angels:            Sons of the Beach

Kudos to Paul Zimmerman, David Lee Davis, Ken Strickland, Linda Bourquin-McIntyre and other members of the Sons of the Beach for their eloquent and very passionate defense of our heritage of beach driving at this week’s County Council meeting.

Speaking on the issue of Summit Hospitality Groups failed efforts to open a “4 Star” Westin Hotel on the site of that haunted house formerly known as the Desert Inn, the members of Daytona’s premier beach advocacy group worked diligently to convince our elected officials that radical changes suggested by the developer violate the provisions of a 2015 ordinance which set in law that beach driving would not be removed from the strand behind the project if specific performance metrics were not met.

They weren’t.  But when did that mean anything here on the Fun Coast?

The intrepid Linda Bourquin-McIntyre dropped a MOAB when she announced that, in fact, Summit Hospitality does not have a contract with Hard Rock – merely a cheap ‘letter of intent’ from the brand.

Of course, it was a fait accompli when Mr. J. Hyatt Brown ominously rose before his hired hands on the dais and gave them their marching orders.  Strange how just the physical appearance of one of our High Panjandrums of Political Power at a council meeting seems to settle issues very quickly. . .

I’ll have more on this debacle next week – but please join me in commending the extraordinary efforts of Sons of the Beach.

Better yet, make a financial donation to assist with legal fees and other expenses related to the on-going fight to preserve beach driving in Volusia County.

Asshole:          Volusia County Councilman “Sleepy” Pat Patterson

How dare “Sleepy” Pat chastise that doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, for allowing long-suffering Volusia County residents to express their appreciation by applause for movement on the issue of chronic homelessness?

During Thursday’s County Council meeting – following an encore performance of the Theatre of the Absurd – Chairman Kelley brought the First Step Shelter presentation to a close – prompting members of the audience to clap and show their collective gratitude that the matter would (finally) be negotiated by city and county officials.

In turn, Councilman Patterson openly ripped Mr. Kelley’s knickers – growling, “Your job as a chair is to make sure there is proper decorum in here when it comes to the audience.”

Interesting, at the previous meeting – when the developer and Jim Dinneen ambushed us with the grand reveal that Summit Hospitality would be seeking a franchise change on the languishing Desert Inn/Weston project to a Hard Rock – the council chambers fell apart with applause, cheers, catcalls, excited incontinence and over-the-top ebullience.

Without a peep from Pat Patterson asking that “proper decorum” be observed.

Fucking hypocrite.

Quote of the Week:

“This deal represents a substantial leap forward (for Daytona Beach), and we need to take advantage of this.”

 –J. Hyatt Brown, speaking before the Volusia County Council moments before our elected officials gave the developer everything he wanted – and then some.

Have a great weekend, folks!



On Volusia: There’s no such thing as a free lunch, Ed. . .

It’s no secret.

Local politicians are famous for blowing smoke up our collective ass – sugar-coating the myriad issues that continue to hamper substantive progress – and ignoring, even obstructing, common sense solutions to entrenched problems.

We’ve come to accept it.  Like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus – it’s a grand tradition here on the Fun Coast.

Yesterday, Volusia County officials resurrected the formal “State of the County” address – an annual soiree once again held at the all-but-shuttered Ocean Center – where anyone who is anyone gathers for a “free lunch” – and sits quietly while our county chairman spins wacky fantasy yarns about how good we have it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it.  I had to wash my hair.

During the administration of former Chairman Jason Davis, the practice of holding a grandiose function was halted in favor of a more subdued event in the council chambers.

It was perhaps the only bright idea Mr. Davis ever had.

But not Ed Kelley.  If you’re going to bring attention to your missteps and blemishes – go big or go home.

After all, why bother to stand for high office if you can’t engage in periodic ostentatious displays of political fallacy and tax-funded celebrations of your own self-importance?

Initially, we were told that the party was being financed by some of the biggest recipients of the county’s largesse – Brown & Brown, ICI Homes, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (which has become a legal dependent of the citizens of Volusia County) to name a few.

In addition, 16 municipalities – that’s right, your city and mine – ponied-up $250 each to help pay for Ed’s big day – yet, county officials looked us in the eye, with a straight face, and yammered that absolutely no tax dollars were wasted in the production of this flamboyantly stupid insult to our collective intelligence.

Now, do you think city officials went in their own pocket for the $250?  Me neither.

I realize it’s a relatively small amount.  Just don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

In my view, it’s bad public policy for Volusia officials to accept what amounts to an open gratuity from businesses which will invariably receive county contracts, “economic development” funds, half-price on public land sales, infrastructure improvements, tax incentives and just good old timey cash payouts from public coffers.

Is Brown & Brown getting out of the government insurance business – or the campaign finance game?

Has ERAU finally decided to stand on its own two-feet, build an endowment, and stop begging money from Volusia County and every tin-pot politician who owes Mori Hossieni a political favor?  (Trust me.  That list is long and distinguished.)

If not, it smacks of something more than a civic donation.

Yes, I’m almost sure I remember some pesky provision of any and every public ethics code ever conceived that says – when public entities accept funds from private organizations – it undermines the legitimacy of government.

But since when has anyone confused Volusia County with legitimate government, eh?

In his goofy sales pitch to the assembled members of the Ruling Class, Chairman Kelley crowed:

“This room is full of excitement.  Positive excitement.”  (Lest it be confused with outright panic.)

“With the energy that’s in here, all of you just better hold on and watch because we are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Central Florida corridor.”

 It’s official.  Ed Kelley is delusional.

Look, it’s one thing to whip the Chamber of Commerce crowd into a frenzy of optimism with a free lunch and a flashy video – the rest of us, out here in the trenches, aren’t so easily convinced.

We’re “holding on” alright.  Barely.

Just don’t expect us to accept rehashed horseshit as the latest, greatest, accomplishment of County government.

During the 2016 “State of the County” good-time lecture, former Chairman Jason Davis puffed out his chest and squawked:

“As the County Council waited at the airport for the first JetBlue plane to land, I was struck by the excitement and energy in the room. Almost 500 people took time from their busy day to celebrate this milestone, waving signs and greeting each arriving passenger with cheers.  At that moment, I thought, “Now this is what ‘turning the corner’ looks like!”

 Yep – after putting up $2.3 million in public incentives, including $400,000 in advertising, revenue guarantees, and demands that local businesses purchase tickets from the airline – we got daily service to New York City.

So that’s what “turning the corner” looks like?

Hey, Ed – word to the wise – when you’re hosting a ‘Dog and Pony show’ it’s best to bring in some fresh livestock.

Sadly, at yesterday’s celebration, Chairman Kelley once again trotted out that exhausted, swaybacked old nag that is the JetBlue experience.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Highlights the county shared include:  The arrival of daily JetBlue flights at the Daytona Beach International Airport.”

My ass.

Let’s agree on one thing – an “accomplishment” can only be counted in the “Look what we did with your money!” column for three (3) years. Then, it is no longer an “accomplishment” – it’s a dry turd.

In Volusia County, at that point a perceived “achievement” has usually transitioned to a cautionary tale any way.

In addition, Ed took credit for cash infusions to the “Micaplex” research facility, the opening of Tanger Outlet (yawn – frontage road outlet malls are so “last year”), “efforts during and after Hurricane Matthew” (?), and FDOT’s construction of the Orange Avenue bridge.

Hell, the only thing Big Ed didn’t take credit for was the Trader Joe’s distribution center, Mr. Ford’s horseless carriage and the advent of penicillin.

In my view, the only pure public triumph on the list was the county’s $3.5 million underwriting of Halifax Urban Ministries to operate the Hope Place shelter for homeless teens and families.

And let’s face it, even that feat was more a testament to the persistence and clout of Mrs. Forough Hossieni than it was to the political and moral strength of our elected officials.

I could sit here at Barker’s View HQ and rehash a laundry list of why our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County should hide their heads in shame – rather than participate in extravagant merrymaking – but I’m trying to keep my morning Gray Goose Bloody Mary down.

From Votran to homelessness to beach access to Jim Dinneen’s cockamamie cycle of bloopers, fuck-ups and political pratfalls – gaffs that have left our elected officials looking like out-of-touch hayseeds with a cognitive disorder – I’m afraid there is very little we can take pride in here on the Fun Coast.

I hope that our “new” County Council will use this embarrassing period in our history to their (and our) advantage, change tack, and work collectively to find real solutions to the serious economic and social problems facing our communities.

In my view, the process of progress begins with launching Little Jimmy Dinneen like a Saturn 5.

With luck – and hard work – at next year’s over-the-top rendezvous of politicians and hangers-on, perhaps Mr. Kelley can list some real achievements – true progress in areas of homelessness, blight, dilapidation, and authentic economic development.

Now that the party’s over – let’s get to work.


On Volusia: Sorry. I don’t buy it.

Way back in January, Barker’s View formally welcomed Daytona Beach Shores to the not so exclusive club of municipalities who have had their lunch money stolen by their elected and appointed representatives in Volusia County government.

Since 2013, county officials have spent a whopping $12.1 million of our money on seven beachside properties for “off-beach” parking.  During the spending spree, two oceanfront lots were purchased in Daytona Beach Shores for $2.95 million and $1.4 million respectively.

Unfortunately, officials in the Shores were banking on using their limited supply of beachfront property for additional vertical growth to support the communities tax base.

It appeared that a showdown was looming.

And rightly so.

As I’ve said, the quaint notion of municipalities controlling their own destiny through self-governance might work elsewhere, but not in Volusia County.

Don’t like it?  Tough shit.

Apparently, rather than fight the leviathan in court, tiny Daytona Beach Shores thought they could “negotiate” what amounts to an appeasement agreement with county officials.

According to a revealing article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Oops!  Agenda item to remove beach driving a mistake,” reporter Dustin Wyatt wrote:

“The city sought a compromise. They essentially told the county: Fine, build your parking lots, but do 12 things for us in the future. One stated the county couldn’t buy any more oceanfront land for parking. Another put a limit on building heights. Another took away beach driving.”

 Damn.  I guess they haven’t learned that you can’t “negotiate” with a bully.

Did Shores officials really seek to remove beach driving in exchange for a half-portion of expected metered parking revenues?

Could it be that the city’s elected officials sold out their residents, and the rest of us, for a slice of the pie?

Or were Shores officials simply acquiescing to a slick move by county staff (read: Jim Dinneen) to remove beach driving as part of a mutually beneficial “joint planning agreement” – a backdoor way for the Shores to limit further county aggression, mollify a few condo owners and give the county the traffic-free beach they’ve wanted for a decade?

Trust me.  We will never know exactly what happened.

It seems the city abruptly abandoned the plan in February by unanimous vote of the council.

In a January memorandum to Jim Dinneen, Shores city manager Michael Booker wrote, “In my judgment, that (parking facilities) is just not a prudent way to spend far too scarce public tax dollars when our citizens need enhanced government services and the construction of beneficial public infrastructure.”

Magically, Booker’s email – and the attached joint agreement removing beach driving – showed up on the Volusia County Council agenda for Thursday, April 20th.

Just as mysteriously, the document was taken down last Friday – and Little Jimmy is working overtime to obfuscate, and pin blame on Clay Ervin, Volusia County’s unfortunate director of growth and resource management – who, we’re told, just feels terrible about his colossal fuck up.

Sorry.  I’m not buying it.

Interestingly, when reached for comment by the News-Journal, Daytona Beach Shores Mayor Harry Jennings refused to answer questions about the joint agreement – or explain the city’s stance on beach driving.

This steaming turd wrapped as larval public policy stinks, kids.  Bad.

When local elected officials refuse to answer legitimate questions from the working press – especially regarding the highly contentious issue of beach driving – they are no longer representing the people who gave their trust, and sacred vote, to elevate them to high office:

They are cowards protecting their own ass – and political interests.

If Mayor Jennings needed more time to prepare a cogent public comment then he should have said so.

Add to that the conflicting public statements of Shores council members and you get the peculiar feeling that everyone involved got caught with their pants around their ankles, even members of the illustrious Volusia County Council had that slack-jawed look of awkward bafflement – again.

According to Chairman Ed Kelley and Councilwoman Deb Denys, the county council was taken completely by surprise – conveniently unaware of the agreement with Daytona Beach Shores until they saw it online – just like the rest of us unsophisticated bumpkins standing outside the circle.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time our elected officials have been left lumping about like a disorganized pack of out-of-touch dullards by the mini-moves and cheap, behind-the-scenes hustles of Little Jimmy Dinneen.

Once again – confusion rules the day.

Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t leadership – this is a freaking mess.

Look, even if we take Mr. Dinneen’s word for it (I don’t, but let’s go to Fantasy World for a moment) and accept his empty assurances that the corpse of a squashed joint planning agreement with Daytona Beach Shores inexplicably appeared on the county council’s public agenda by accident – this latest ham-handed blunder underscores the depth of dysfunction, mismanagement and lack of effective internal and external communication in county government.

Frankly, responsibility for this ongoing – almost weekly – shit-train of bloopers and gaffes can now be laid squarely on the shoulders of our elected officials.

Why?  Because they continue to tolerate it.

Clearly, Ed Kelley, our doddering fool of a county chair, has demonstrated – time and again – that he lacks the political clout and strength of character to take the reins, show some leadership, and work to right this ship of fools.

It’s like watching Captain Queeg lose it on the bridge of the USS Caine – week in and week out.

Just ugly.  And the difficult questions continue to mount.

According to Deb Denys, “We are not removing any more cars from the beach, and to see that as a request was shocking.  Why was the council put in this position?”

Why?  Because your County Manager is working off a completely different script, Deb.  That’s why.

Stop acting like an ignorant waif – its unbecoming an official of your high position.

Everyone knows that Jim Dinneen enjoys the protection of the uber-wealthy power brokers who rely on him to ramrod their personal agendas and ensure the money flows in all the right directions.

That’s fine – we’ve come to accept that level of perversion here on the Fun Coast – and everyone knows where J. Hyatt Brown and his confederates fall on the issue of beach driving.

They want the tradition eliminated – now – by the most efficient means possible.

Money rules, and the resident’s quaint notion of enjoying our beach, or even having substantive input on its future, has been trumped by the insiders view of “economic development incentives.”

Our beach will soon be privatized and sold as an amenity for the privileged few.

The taxpayer?  Well, you can feed the meter and walk.

We get it.

However, every time our elected officials are openly caught flat-footed – seemingly thunderstruck by the latest machinations of Jim Dinneen – our collective confidence in county government is scoured away.

On Thursday, the “new” Volusia County Council will demonstrate just where their loyalties lie when they vote to amend the 2015 ordinance which set specific performance standards for the beleaguered Desert Inn, Westin, Hard Rock, etc. project.

Those we elected to represent our interests will turn their backs on us, and renege on a firm promise that beach driving would remain on the beach behind the Desert Inn if these exact metrics were not met by May 7, 2017.

When you combine this open chicanery with the behind-the-scenes plotting – perfectly exposed by the publishing of the Shores agreement, the purchase of over $12 million in off-beach parking, and the pending Desert Inn debacle – it becomes crystal clear that our heritage of beach driving is doomed.

At the very least, these staggering blunders prove that Jim Dinneen is either preternaturally dumb – or he has been horribly corrupted by an out-of-control plutocratic system where the wants of wealthy political insiders always outweigh the basic needs and desires of the governed.

Regardless, we deserve better.

Jim Dinneen must go.


Photo Credit:  Daytona Beach News-Journal



Angels & Assholes for April 14, 2017

If you grew up in the Halifax area during the 60’s and 70’s you will certainly remember listening to Top 40 Pop on WMFJ – “The Boss of the Beach” – where the DJ’s took your telephone requests and periodically chanted, “The hits just keep ooooon coming!”

Wow.  How many hours did I spend hunched over an old rotary phone, desperately trying to be “caller number six” and win two tickets to the matinee at the Bellair Plaza Cinema (“All seats 75-cents!”)?

The tinny sound of The Boss blaring from a transistor radio was as omnipresent as the warm smell of Coppertone and thick salt air anywhere on the beach.

I was reminded of this during the week that was – the hits truly do just keep on coming here on the Fun Coast.

And I don’t mean ‘Wooly Bully’ by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

Earlier this week Barker’s View examined the curious education of freshman Councilwoman Heather Post and her painful, and very public, indoctrination into the lockstep conformity of Volusia County government.

I was speaking to a local politician the other day, and he did his best to convince me that Ms. Post will find her own way – assuring me that she will begin to exert the independence and creativity that we were all promised during a very contentious campaign.

In addition, Barker’s View was taken to task on social media for referring to Councilwoman Billie Wheeler as “hapless.”

A friend and political ally of Ms. Wheeler felt that I was being much too harsh in my assessment of her performance to-date – and took the time to comfort me, betting that Wheeler will soon break out of her shell and exhibit the leadership and strength of personality that we saw during her service in Daytona Beach Shores.


I’m waiting. . .

On both accounts.

So far, all I’ve seen from Heather Post is some desperately awkward cowering – like the brutal “Don’t hit me anymore, Boss” scene from Cool Hand Luke – as she takes a near continuous flogging from Chairman Ed Kelley, the vicious Deb Denys and “Sleepy” Pat Patterson, for her latest unforgivable transgression – like supporting efforts to end the tragedy of chronic homelessness – or attempting to educate herself on legislation effecting Volusia County in Tallahassee.

The Very Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry even got in on the action – announcing that he was “flabbergasted” that anyone would consider voting to fund operating costs to provide the less fortunate, the sick, and the wayward with basic sustenance and shelter from the elements.

No, apparently the Most Reverend Fast Freddy would rather see hordes of drunk, drugged and addled vagrants moping, sleeping, loitering and relieving themselves openly in our core commercial and tourist areas.

Look, unlike the Right Reverend Dr. Lowry, I certainly don’t have a “Ph.D in New Testament Theology” from something called the “Trinity Theological Seminary” – heck, I’m lucky to have a “HSD” from Seabreeze High School – and I haven’t been to church in so long I’m afraid to go back for fear of catastrophic structural failure of the building.

But, during my early parochial school education, I distinctly remember someone saying:

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Yes, I’m almost sure I remember that.

I guess Dr. Fred was absent the day they taught pastoral care and compassion at Trinity Theological Seminary. . .

Fortunately, Freddy – and his fellow elected officials – will have a great opportunity to redeem themselves on April 20th when the Volusia County Council will receive a presentation on efforts by the City of Daytona Beach and the First Step Shelter board to find a compassionate solution to the countywide issue of homelessness.

Let’s hope that our elected officials have the wisdom and foresight to drop the obstructionist, small-minded policies of county manager Jim Dinneen – and for once work collaboratively in the best interest of all of us – by voting to approve county funding for both construction and operating costs associated with the proposed come-as-you-are homeless shelter.

In addition, next Thursday our elected and appointed officials will make good on their threat to approve both a franchise change, and extension of the completion date, on the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock, etc. project.

But since when did things like performance guarantees, hard deadlines, or even adherence to functional standards mean a frigging thing in Volusia County?

No, here on the Fun Coast you simply hire the right law firm, throw some money around and get the blessing from the right insider, wave something shiny in the face of those dullards we elected, and you’re golden.

Do what you want – the rules are different here – and the bagman, Little Jimmy, makes everything happen.

Make no mistake – they are coming for beach driving, folks.

Don’t take my word for it, just watch the Volusia County Council meeting (Item #4) next Thursday and see for yourself how your representatives don’t give a trembling shit about your interests.

Better yet – join Son’s of the Beach, attend the meeting, and tell them how you really feel.

Angels & Assholes

Hey, Kids!

It’s time once again for Uncle Mark to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my view, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way during the week that was:

Angel              Mr. Mori Hossieni & ICI Homes

Kudos to our own Mr. Mori Hossieni, and his great team at ICI Homes, for immediately terminating the employment of that low-rent piece of shit, Travis Archer – the sub-human scum who beat a nine-month-old Labrador puppy to death in Ponce Inlet last weekend.

Not much bothers me when it comes to mans-inhumanity-to-man – I’ve seen just about everything in 31-years in law enforcement – but I cannot stomach cruelty to animals in any form.  The innocence, dependence and unconditional love of dogs and pets makes the torture or physical abuse of these helpless creatures especially heinous to me.

During my career, I was taught how to kill people with incredibly efficiency.  I was also taught how to control my emotions, learned restraint in the face of provocation, and I have extraordinary respect for the sanctity of life.

However, I’m afraid if someone ever intentionally hurt one of my animals, well, I might lose all self-discipline.

God help me.

For those who haven’t yet, I encourage everyone in the Barker’s View tribe to join the “Justice for Ponce” memorial site on Facebook – and please follow the prosecution of Travis Archer as our system slowly works toward justice.

We should all demand a long and painful incarceration for this scumbag.

Angel              The New Smyrna Beach City Commission

On Tuesday, the New Smyrna Beach City Commission voted to join Volusia County and several other cities in passing an ordinance making possession of less than 20-grams of marijuana a city ordinance violation.

In my view, allowing New Smyrna Beach police officers the professional discretion to arrest – or issue a $103.00 ordinance citation – goes a long way to removing non-violent offenders from the jail population while respecting the public’s changing sentiment regarding the decriminalization and medicinal use of cannabis.

Look, I’m not a pot smoker – never have been – but in my view ordinances like this simply make sense.  After all, how long can we continue to the do the same thing, while expecting a different result, before we realize that the “War on Drugs” is a dismal, and incredibly expensive, failure.

Angel              David Vukelja – Special Magistrate, City of Daytona Beach

This week, Daytona Beach Code Enforcement Special Magistrate and local attorney David Vukelja sent a strong message when he issued accruing $250.00 per day fines against GEA Investments – in my view, a long-term slumlord whose properties continue to contribute to blight and dilapidation on the beachside.

In 2011, GEA Investments received some $90,000.00 in façade grants from the ill-fated Main Street Community Redevelopment Area to improve a dozen rental properties – many of which still look like something from the Zombie Apocalypse.

Through his good work – and tough stance – Mr. Vukelja is supporting the long-suffering residents of Daytona’s beachside, and demonstrating that the voices of those most effected by years of blight and neglect are finally being heard at City Hall.

Asshole           The Volusia County School Board

My God.  With a current $847 million-dollar annual operating budget – bolstered by sales tax revenues estimated at $43 million annually – I, for one, am sick and tired of school district officials crying the perpetual blues about funding for capital projects.

Let this constant poor-mouthing be a prime example of exactly what we can expect when municipal and county officials beat us into submission and finally obtain the long-awaited half-penny sales tax for infrastructure improvements.

In Volusia County government, enough is never enough.

This bloated bureaucracy feeds on tax dollars like a black-legged tick.  It just holds tight to its host, sucking like a bastard until you’re literally exsanguinated.

My suggestion is that Volusia County – in all its various forms and functions – learn to live within its means and properly manage available resources before begging like an insatiable hobo for more, more, more money.

Quote of the Week:

“You should remember that we had an extra day last year in February for leap year,”

“Also, we still had a lot of properties closed because of the storm damage— the (Daytona Beach) Regency, the Holiday Inn (Express & Suites) Daytona Beach Shores and others. If we’d had those in stock, we would’ve been up. Any little pimple makes a big mark.”

 –Mr. Bob Davis, president of the Lodging and Hospitality Association discussing the disturbing drop in occupancy and bed taxes in February 2016 in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

No mention of NASCAR’s slow death-spiral as a possible contributing factor. . .

Have a wonderful Easter and Passover everyone!







On Volusia: Questions and Answers

You know what I always say?

If you can’t do it for $847 million, you can’t do it.

Anyone who needs a remedial class in the inefficient inner-workings of Volusia County government – in all its multiple forms and functions – need look no further than our long-suffering school district.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Volusia County School Board recently heard some scary stories from district officials regarding the back-log of infrastructure projects, some of which have been languishing on the ‘ol “to-do” list for over a decade.


In 2001, and again in 2014, the district pushed for and received a voter approved half-cent sales tax to fund specific infrastructure projects and new school construction.

According to the News-Journal, “The next round of the tax, which began in January, is expected to bring in more than $480 million over 15-years and will help improve technology, build new schools, improve sports facilities and more.”    

That’s the cherry on top of a current annual operating budget of some $847 million dollars.

Now, we learn that district officials have bonded some $40 million this year – and anticipate taking loans over $100 million next year – essentially borrowing money, with interest, to meet “critical capital projects.”

These bonds come at a time when the half-penny sales tax is expected to generate some $40 million annually, well more than the school districts initial expectations.

What gives?

It looks to me like the Volusia County School Board is taking cues from the Daytona Beach Main Street CRA – load yourself up with so much paralytic debt that any additional revenue simply covers principal and interest payments on the sins of the past.

It takes the thought and finesse out of it, I guess.

Why is it no one in county government can live within their means? 

We’re told by school officials that – because the district must snack on sales tax funds monthly – rather than receiving one lump sum to gorge on – it lacks the “up-front” cash to move forward with even routine maintenance projects, like repairing and replacing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units.


You know, I’m not an expert in education administration and finance – hell, the toughest three years of my life was the 8th grade – but I have a goofy opinion on everything (obviously) and that includes the manner and means by which our school district specifically – and county government generally – manages its voracious appetite for tax dollars.

Barker’s View HQ is located a stone’s throw from the now razed and renovated Ormond Beach Middle School – so close that when the wind is right, the peace and dignity of my early afternoon cocktail hour(s) is interrupted by the squeals and screams emanating from the PE field.

During the renovation, I got a first-hand view of just how our school district spends huge money on construction projects – thousands of square feet of individual bricks over reinforced cinderblock – two stories – with supporting infrastructure, furnishings, parking and athletic amenities.

Oddly, the school is built like a brick shithouse (literally), yet it isn’t listed as an evacuation shelter?

In my view, district administrators might consider multi-use options and co-located neighborhood amenities when spending millions of public funds building and renovating these gigantic facilities.

Just a thought.

The other bee in my Easter bonnet is that, occasionally, every light in the building burns all night long – lighting up the campus like some glowing Taj Mahal – on others, only a few interior security lights can be seen.

(Yes.  I realize I sound like your father.) 

Look, I don’t want to nit-pick – but if this happens at every school and county-owned building in Volusia County – that adds up.

Besides, it’s poor optics when you’re beseeching taxpayers like a tattered roadside bindlestiff to pony up good money after bad to cover the cost of building, heating, cooling, furnishing and lighting these massive single-use monuments to government inefficiency.

For years, we’ve heard how Volusia gets screwed to the wall by a convoluted state funding formula – a wacky scheme based on the price of goods and average salaries.

It’s a difficult situation that our state representatives never seem to have the political influence to make right.

In a very informative January 2016 article by Dustin Wyatt, writing for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, entitled: “Push to narrow Volusia school funding gap faces uphill slog,” we learned:

“The formula was introduced in 1973, but it was a 2004 amendment adding a wage index as a way of equalizing school funding around the state that really hurt Volusia. The change was based on a University of Florida study and recognition that more than 80 percent of the typical school district budget is spent on employees’ salaries and benefits. The economists who did the study included wage comparisons, saying people “willingly work for less” in low-cost areas with “amenities” such as beaches and cultural activities.”

 “The model has helped some counties, like Broward, gain up to $425 million in funding since its inception, while Volusia County has been the biggest loser — $120 million in the hole. Flagler County has lost $27 million.”

So that’s why we willingly scrounge for dirt-level take-home pay here on the Fun Coast?

The cultural activities. . .

Damn.  Who knew?

I just thought it was because we long-ago became a place of “haves-and-have-nots” – a down-at-the-heels beach community with a rapidly disappearing middle-class.

A beleaguered tribe of service workers trapped in an artificial economy where the winners and losers are hand-selected by uber-wealthy political insiders, you know, the five or six people in Volusia County who pass the same nickel around?

One would think that our school officials would find a way to cut the fat at the top of the organization – pay our teachers a competitive wage – and use the hundreds-of-millions in public funds and sales tax revenues earmarked for education to full effect – in the classroom, where it matters.

Regardless of how much money we inject into the process, and despite all the standardization and testing, we are still graduating a large percentage of children without basic life skills – or the ability to think critically or communicate effectively.

They are victims of a terribly ineffective – and inefficient – system.

If money is truly the issue, then let’s ask the difficult questions – right size the organization and determine our actual needs – but something tells me it’s not as simple as that.

At the very least, let’s turn our highly-paid Tallahassee lobbyist loose on the formulaic funding conundrum.

Trust me, there are very few things a fist-full of hundreds can’t take care of in those hallowed halls of our state capitol.

I don’t have the answers.

If I did, I would be up to my ears in the public trough myself.

But I think the solution starts by properly managing the resources at hand – before begging for more.





Volusia Politics: Do as I say, not as I do

Following a contentious election season, I always wonder what happened to those independent, creative thinkers who made so many wonderful promises during their campaigns?

Remember them?

Those brash and bold candidates who separated themselves from the pack with their imaginative solutions to the problems and issues of the day?

In our system of local governance, representatives are elected to high office by their fellow citizens to exercise legitimate authority and provide effective leadership in furtherance of the community’s collective needs.

In my view, quality local government is marked by oversight, accountability, an individual – and institutional – respect for the rules, efficient stewardship of resources and effective collaboration with the governed.

It ensures that political and economic goals are based on consensus – which requires that all available information and views be heard and weighed equally during the decision-making process.

During this process, our individual representatives can bring their unique perspectives and innovative ideas to the table – concepts that are often developed by experiential learning – like, serving on various boards, interacting with experts and constituents, volunteering their time and talents to organizations and working to find solutions, seeing what works – and what doesn’t.

In fact, getting outside the opaque bubble of government administration buildings is truly the only way for an elected official to gain an educated understanding of difficult situations.

Trust me.  It’s easy to tell the difference between the politician who got down in the dirt and experienced the nuts-and-bolts of an issue from those who merely took the city/county manager’s word for it.

Unfortunately, in Volusia County, the “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy of the system molds and confines our elected officials into a homogenized clique – and there is no place for individuality or creative thinking.

A prime example of this is the on-going reeducation of freshman District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post.

It’s like watching the victim of a Khmer Rouge indoctrination camp, where individuality, creativity and independence are quickly eradicated with undiluted hostility.

Slowly, but surely, newly elected officials are beaten until they submit and become instruments of the elite – lockstep followers of the regime – lest they be publicly humiliated by senior members of the council who have no use for fresh eyes.

For Ms. Post, her programming began when she had the impudence to attend meetings and discussions with Daytona Beach officials and others working hard to find a compassionate solution to chronic homelessness in the Halifax area.

Apparently, Ms. Post was so eager to assist that she was – either voluntarily, or involuntarily – appointed to the First Step Shelter’s board of directors – an eclectic group which includes elected and appointed government officials, business leaders and private citizens.

In my view, it was refreshing to see a sitting county official become so personally involved with this entrenched local problem – a humanitarian crisis that has hampered legitimate economic development and contributed to the widespread blight and dilapidation for decades.

But in Volusia County government, no good deed goes unpunished.

When the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on Post’s involvement with the issue, during an open county council meeting, Chairman Ed Kelley joined Council members Deb Denys, Billie Wheeler and “Sleepy” Pat Patterson in taking Post to the woodshed where they publicly flogged her like a recalcitrant child.

“If people think you’re (serving on a board) as a county council member, that’s bad policy,” Kelley said. “(Post) doesn’t understand politics.”

 I guess not.

Unfortunately, Ms. Post lacked the courage of her convictions and began to unravel like a cheap ball of yarn when called on the carpet by her cowardly “colleagues.”

Then, in an unusual turn of events, on March 27, Ms. Post, Councilwoman Joyce Cusack and the hapless Billie Wheeler told a crowd of 1,500 at the FAITH Action Assembly that they would vote in favor of Volusia County appropriating $4-million for a homeless shelter – which included funds for both construction and operating costs.

The “operating costs” aspect was the shocker, as that has always been the bugaboo for the county council.

In fact, during the April 6th County Council meeting, The Very Reverend Fred Lowry virtually radiated pastoral care and concern for those less fortunate when he turned the lash on Cusack, Post and Wheeler for speaking out-of-school at the FAITH assembly.

“I was flabbergasted that some are going to allocate funds for operating costs, which is totally contrary to the position this county has taken up to this point,” Lowry said. “I thought we were crystal on that.”

It got uglier when Rev. Lowry told a bizarre story to a News-Journal reporter that the promises of support were causing cities – specifically Deltona – to reconsider their financial commitment to the homeless solution.

Unfortunately, the Right Reverend’s statement was exposed as complete and utter bullshit.

In a weird double-step, Fast Freddy suddenly succumbed to convenient amnesia when questioned about who, exactly, he was referring to.

You know what flabbergasts me?  Elected officials who make shit up when the truth would serve them – and us – better.

It’s high time our county council comes to the collective realization that they have lost all credibility on the important issue of homelessness – and their resolute obstructionism and pandering to the mean-spirited policies of county manager Jim Dinneen have doomed them to the backseat.

Then, in another obstinate act of individuality, Ms. Post took a quick trip to Tallahassee – spending less than $1,000 to educate herself on pending legislation effecting Volusia County.

According to the News-Journal, “The three-day jaunt cost the county $766.02, which included two nights at the Governors Inn, gas mileage and six meals, records show.

Once again, Ms. Post was set upon by her fellow elected officials and openly chastised from the dais by Ed Kelley and Deb Denys for not coming before the full council – hat in hand – and asking permission from the elected body and Jim Dinneen if she could travel on county business.

Pretty please? 

It was also reported that Post isn’t the only one who’s been traveling on the public dime.

It seems Councilwoman Denys recently traveled to Washington D.C. with Daytona Beach International Airport Director Rick Karl to attend the annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation conference – an excursion which cost taxpayers a collective $5,192.83 in airfare, hotel and 14 meals.

The publicly funded junket was billed as an opportunity for county officials to meet with aerospace industry giants to attract prospects to the research park at Embry-Riddle.

Unfortunately, Ms. Denys permission slip from the council apparently got lost in the shuffle.

My ass.

To my knowledge, Ms. Denys doesn’t work for Embry-Riddle – at least not directly anyway.

So why in the hell are you and I paying for her lobbying efforts on their behalf?

Perhaps the worst example of this weird double-standard hypocrisy by our county council came during Jim Dinneen’s terribly staged “grand reveal” that Summit Hospitality Group was changing the flag of the languishing Desert Inn/Westin project to a Hard Rock – and requesting a nearly eight-month extension of the hard completion date.

In the ensuing orgy of adulation, fawning and cooing over the Hard Rock unveiling – Chairman Kelley, Deb Denys and the others openly and ebulliently voiced their overwhelming support – with Little Jimmy assuring the assembled council members that, based upon all he has seen, he will be wholeheartedly recommending the name change and extension request.

As if by magic, the alternative legislation changing the original ordinance, which provided a hard deadline for completion – along with other specific performance metrics – will be placed on the very next council agenda.

All this incredible support – before anyone has heard the first shred of testimony, statement of need, or even a valid reason for changing from a promised “4-star” Westin to a Hard Rock honky-tonk.

That’s mighty quick work for an elected body not known for its efficiency.

Unless the right people ask for expediency.

Isn’t this talking-out-of-school exactly what The Very Reverend Fred Lowry ripped Ms. Post a new asshole over?

Is there a double-standard or “unwritten protocol” for showing overweening support for every private development that will remove driving from our beach, while withholding encouragement for funding a homeless solution in the public interest?

You bet your sweet bippy there is. . .