I have thoroughly enjoyed the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s exposé, “Tarnished Jewel – Daytona’s Troubled Beachside.”
In my view, Eileen Zaffiro-Kean hit this one out of the park.
It’s not often that our newspaper of record puts it all out there – the good, the bad and the ugly – and allows us yokels an opportunity to see all the players, money trails and projects in one convenient location.
In my view, the series has been incredibly refreshing – and I hope our friends down on Sixth Street understand how valuable these in-depth investigative pieces are to bringing historical perspective and quality information to these important issues.
A smart friend of mine said he thought that the News-Journal read like a bad Barker’s View post this week – and noted that if the newspaper kept up this level of journalistic oversight, and continued to shine a spotlight on these issues and others facing Volusia County, perhaps things will change.
Then – just when I was feeling good about our friends at the News-Journal – on Friday the editorial page went all goo-goo over the dubious Hard Rock announcement, apparently without any real digging into the facts beyond what they were told by Summit Hospitality Group, their attorney and County Chairman Ed Kelley.
In my view, that’s dangerous – and wholly embarrassing if it later turns out all is not as it seems.
Sometimes we trust people – hoping against hope that they will follow the rules and perform as advertised.
It’s human nature, I suppose.
We also place a lot of faith in our elected and appointed officials, confident that they will serve in our best interests and set high standards – even assist people and businesses with the resources necessary to meet those standards – then provide monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that everyone continues to toe established lines.
We also have a right to expect that when they give us their word, they mean to keep it.
We trust that when hard deadlines and performance metrics are established by force of law, that our County Council will hold firm and enforce those ordinance provisions – including preserving beach driving behind the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock – without going softheaded just because the developer du jour waves something shiny in front of their eyes.
That’s how we ensure that our collective investment is protected – and that our system of government retains the trust, respect and support of the people.
Angels & Assholes
It’s time once again for our new weekly feature where we 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 a significant way during the week that was:
Angel Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, Pat Rice and the Daytona Beach News-Journal
Wow. The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s autopsy of the festering remains of the Main Street Redevelopment Area and public exposure of the ancillary blight, greed and mismanagement was a real eye-opener.
Kudo’s to everyone on the team who worked so diligently to bring such a thoughtful – and revelatory – story to the page.
In addition, on Thursday evening, the News-Journal hosted a town hall to discuss topical issues regarding Daytona’s festering beachside. Over 230 people attended the event.
Complaint-driven Code Enforcement, hordes of homeless invading residential and vacant commercial space, the greed of slumlords and the chaos of Bike Week and other special events were all brought to the table.
Looks like our elected and appointed officials have a lot of work ahead.
Clearly, the people are fed-up – and they are not going to take it anymore.
Asshole The City of Daytona Beach Redevelopment Department
With over three-decades and $120-million in public funds passed through the goose – with literally nothing to show for it but an increasingly down-at-the-heels Ocean Walk and a perpetually “For Sale” hotel – people feel angry, disillusioned and disenfranchised.
And they are beginning to ask the difficult questions.
Unfortunately, sparks of progress, like the Streamline Hotel renovation and WC Grand neighborhood, are far too few and scattered to make any substantive difference – and the “Buy High, Sell Low” strategies, the lack of oversight and monitoring of CRA grants, the inability to account for millions in public funds that were earmarked for revitalization efforts, and a host of other sickening missteps simply cannot continue.
It’s time to hold people accountable.
In my view, it appears that those in positions of great responsibility – ostensibly smart people who receive public funds to serve in the public interest – have breached their sacred fiduciary duty to the people they represent.
The result of that malfeasance is excruciatingly visible everywhere you look on Daytona’s beachside.
It’s time for the Daytona Beach City Commission to call for an outside, independent audit of the Main Street CRA and let the chips fall where they will.
Is it possible that over $16-million dollars can simply evaporate – or is there something more sinister at play?
The people deserve better.
Angel The Marc Bernier Show – Sheriff’s Forum
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend a most interesting forum hosted by WNDB’s Marc Bernier Show at the News-Journal Center. The two-hour moderated discussion focused on Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s efforts to return constitutional sovereignty to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
County manager Jim Dinneen did not attend.
In my view, this broadcast provided an excellent opportunity for Sheriff Chitwood to cut through the obstructionist mini-moves and bullshit proffered by County Manager Jim Dinneen, County Councilman “Sleepy” Pat Patterson, and others to expose the outright misinformation that has been supported by our elected officials.
It was also enlightening to hear the unique perspectives of Sheriff Rick Staley of Flagler County – a true Constitutional sheriff – and Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard.
I’ll have more thoughts on Sheriff Chitwood’s fight to change the Volusia County charter and return autonomy to his important office next week.
Asshole The Volusia County Council
In typical fashion, during this week’s Volusia County Council meeting, County Manager Jim Dinneen came forward with yet another surprise party when he announced that developers of the long-delayed Desert Inn project would be asking for an extension of the date of completion.
To sweeten the pie, he used that old line favored by the master con artist “Wait, I’ve got something even better!”
Then we all learned that Westin was out – and Hard Rock was in (well, with a “letter of intent” anyway).
Naturally, without hearing the first shred of supporting evidence or statement of need for the extension – which would put Summit Hospitality Group nearly eight-months over the drop-dead completion date of May 7, 2017 – our hapless elected officials collectively rolled-over and pissed all over themselves in a virtual orgy of support and admiration.
It also didn’t help that Chairman Kelley was caught on an open microphone taking his marching orders from Jim Dinneen on just how the “grand reveal” would be orchestrated during the council meeting.
Poor form, really.
So is telegraphing to everyone how you plan to vote – especially within seconds of hearing the news. . .
In fact, Ed Kelley was so thunderstruck by the news that he spontaneously uttered his desire to have the County Attorney figure a way to add an open completion date to the amended ordinance, you know, so the developers don’t have to keep coming back and asking for additional extensions.
That gets embarrassing.
Whenever you’re asked why Volusia County government cannot be trusted – on anything – please pull this out of your pocket.
In Volusia, hard dates and deadlines mean nothing.
Performance guarantees mean nothing.
And most important – empty promises from our elected officials – you know, commitments to the people they represent – mean nothing.
It’s Despicable – and the worst example of bait-and-switch political chicanery in recent memory.
Quote of the Week:
“So I am on record. I’m not changing. I have the courage of my convictions. Even if I’m the one vote.”
–County Councilwoman Deb Denys expressing her unequivocal commitment to never remove cars from the beach behind the Desert Inn during an April 2015 News-Journal political forum. She now openly supports extending the developments completion date, and name change, while allowing the legislative provisions removing beach driving to stand.
I don’t make this shit up, folks!
Have a great weekend.