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.


One thought on “On Volusia: Reporting Truth – Demanding Transparency

  1. Can you imagine the stuff we still don’t know about. The well hidden deals and corruption that is there but some how is kept hidden.
    That keeps me reading you’re stuff. Hoping one day to read a Pandora’s box of ugliness I know is there waiting to be exposed and hope upon hope it finally brings down these careless and self indulgent idiots.


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