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.