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!

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