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