Daytona Beach: A Tale of Two Cities

They call it a dichotomy.  I think.

The word defines a stark division or contrast between two things that are opposed or entirely different.

The partition of a whole into sets, something split and completely dissimilar.

When you point out a dichotomy, you draw an unmistakable distinction between two things.

This vocabulary lesson begins our look at the two markedly different communities that comprise Daytona Beach.

I was reminded of this polarity while perusing the News-Journal on Sunday.

In Clayton Parks’ “Word on the Street” column, we were once again treated to a feel-good hype piece fanning the pandemonium surrounding pre-sale information requests for Latitude Margaritaville – the proposed 6,900 to 8,000-unit development by Canadian developer Minto Communities in affiliation with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings.

According to a Minto representative, some 70,000 Parrotheads have registered to receive marketing material on the highly-touted “active adult” escapist community – where, beginning in the “low $200’s” – you can claim your own slice of paradise in the palmettos and pine scrub west of I-95 and “…escape to an island-inspired life as you grow older, but not up.”

Everyone who is anyone in the Halifax area is absolutely giddy over Latitudes.

When our local Big Wheels aren’t taking personal credit for the project – they are breathlessly ballyhooing it as the renaissance – a virtual rebirth of the Daytona Beach Resort Area.

After all, when you factor in the new “Buc-ee’s” – advertised as a “destination” mega gas station/convenience store – 120 fuel pumps anchoring a gargantuan “travel convenience center,” a mysterious, yet-to-be-named “specialty grocer,” and a surfeit of restaurants and retail on the frontage road just east of our sparkly new Tanger Outlet – you get the idea that Daytona’s sandy Phoenix is on the rise.

According to Minto’s overexcited Senior Vice President Bill Bullock, “How could you not be ecstatic?  On both the east and west of the interstate you’ve got incredible things happening – and they’re all complementary uses – it’s putting Daytona back on the map!”

 Hell, yeah.  Ecstatic.

Then, I turned the page.

It was like listening to “Happy Days Are Here Again!” dissolve into that old Depression-era dirge, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

In the Editorial section was an enlightening piece entitled, “End the Eyesore on the Boardwalk.”

As regular readers of these tedious screeds know, I recently took a short walkabout through the ruins of Daytona’s Boardwalk – and what I saw brought me to uncontrolled anger.

If you haven’t visited our core tourist draw in a while, please have a look and form your own conclusions:

In my view, the Boardwalk – a dystopian wasteland of rust and rot, populated by sleepwalking homeless, and anchored on both ends by down-at-the-heels penny arcades – represents the grim consequence of multi-layered political corruption, gross mismanagement of public funds and resources, and wanton neglect by greedy property owners who consistently put profits over progress.

How does the dilapidation that is the true face of Daytona Beach comport with Minto’s purpose-built, artificial paradise with “Palm trees swaying to an ocean breeze” and “Everyday feels like an escape” feel? 

It doesn’t.  It can’t.

Trust me, the people who stand to profit most wish that people like me would stop making the obvious comparison in public.

Blemishes are meant to be covered – not openly discussed – especially when they transmogrify into gruesome tumors.

As the big money moves west, so does the focus and attention of our movers-and-shakers – you know, the Chamber of Commerce set, our goofy elected officials and their friends in high places, like the CEO Business Alliance, etc.

Like victims of a contagious pandemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, our elected and appointed officials – and those who make their living grubbing from government coffers – will conveniently forget the fetid mess on what remains of the beachside as developers start churning ecologically sensitive land west of the Interstate into the “Next big thing.”

No one wants to be left behind.

To our ‘economic development’ types, the festering carcass of the beachside represents an old, ugly and intractable problem, an embarrassing shrine to human greed and government ineptitude – a turnip squeezed dry – a grotesque thing no longer worth the effort and expense of saving.

Conversely, Latitudes Margaritaville represents Progress.  Fun.  Opportunity.  Money.

Two sides of the same coin – abject blight and dilapidation contrasting with the excitement and promise of what will be.

The baggage of the past vs. the potential of future progress.

And there is an unmistakable sense of potential in the air.

A smart friend recently calculated the estimated impact fees generated by Minto’s 6,900 new home starts at more than $52-million.

And we’re going to need every red cent of it.

Given the fact that the Margaritaville development will ultimately represent an influx of some 14,000+ aging Parrotheads – that represents a serious impact on our existing roads, streets, water, sewer, health and public safety systems.

And that doesn’t include the future effects of proposed residential developments stretching along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton (a planned community with a maximum development potential of 23,100 “dwelling units”) to the Flagler County line.

However, governments penchant for giving impact fee “credits” and “caps” for influential projects and developers – while pushing tax increases for transportation infrastructure – reminds me that we should be closely monitoring how much of the burden Minto ultimately shoulders.

Why the paranoia, Mark?

Do you really think Minto Communities won’t pay its own way?

What’s wrong with you?  Get with it!  It’s time to welcome the new and shit on the old!

We were told we should be ecstatic! 

Why are you bringing us down, you party-pooping asshole?    

Because experience tells me that whenever our elected officials begin buying into the over-the-top flimflam and faux-hysteria generated by some high-paid corporate shill – anything is possible.

History tells us that these shallow minded, politically motivated hacks will grasp at anything presented as “progress – regardless of how disconnected from the core issues it may be – or how it ultimately effects the lives and livelihoods of their long-suffering constituents.

Over the past 25-years, many traditional “downtown” areas in depressed communities around the country have made a comeback using the walkable urbanism concept, focusing on safe streetscapes with a complex mix of retail, specialty restaurants, housing, arts and entertainment.

Sadly, many distressed residential areas – such as Daytona’s beachside – haven’t fared as well.

Across the nation some cities have determined certain neighborhoods aren’t worth saving.

Timid redevelopment departments – often with the back-handed consent of elected officials – turn-tail and walk away from the incredibly time consuming and expensive proposition of reclaim, renovate, renew and revitalize in favor of simply starting fresh in another part of town.

Sound familiar?

As our friends at Minto construct a simulated “beach community” – something we had and lost – I hope those who care will continue fighting the false optimism and marketing slight-of-hand designed to divert attention and blunt our instincts.

Let’s demand that our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government stay focused on the hard work at hand – and remember the importance of reviving our core tourist area to the ultimate health and success of the region.

Never Forgotten: The Men of Spike Team Asp

In late March 1968, United States Army Sergeant First Class George “Ron” Brown of Holly Hill, Florida, Sergeant Alan Boyer of Missoula, Montana, and Sergeant Greg Huston of Shelby County, Ohio, along with six indigenous personnel – collectively known as “Spike Team Asp” – conducted a top secret intelligence operation behind enemy lines approximately 12-miles northeast of Tchepone, Laos.


Assigned to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam/Studies and Observation Group (MACV/SOG) this team of elite Special Forces soldiers was tasked with setting wire-tapping equipment along the labyrinthine Ho Chi Minh trail system, the main north-south supply line for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.

The men had been covertly inserted into the area after launching from Nakon Phanom, Thailand aboard a CH-3 from the Air Force’s 20th Helicopter Squadron call sign “Pony Express.”

At approximately 11:00am on the morning of March 28, the team reported that they were in contact with an enemy force and requested an immediate emergency extraction from the area.

A “Pony Express” helicopter arrived in the area a short time later and quickly located the team on the ground.  Due to thick canopy jungle and rough terrain the pilot was unable to land and a rope ladder was dropped from the open doorway of the aircraft to the men below.  Five of the six indigenous troops climbed the ladder and were safely taken into the helicopter.

As the sixth was going up, Sergeant Boyer was seen beginning his ascent at the bottom rung of the ladder.

Just as Boyer started climbing, one of the rope’s mounting brackets either broke free or was cut away by heavy enemy ground fire.  Personnel on the helicopter reported observing the indigenous soldier and Sgt. Boyer falling to the ground.

greg huston
Sgt. Greg Huston

According to Sgt. Dave Mayberry, who served as the chase medic on the extraction helicopter, the Green Berets were still very much alive and heroically returning fire and defending their position.  When Sgt. Mayberry turned to treat one of the wounded he lost sight of the men on the ground.

Brown, Huston and Boyer were never seen again.

Numerous air assets were diverted to the area and a rescue team was assembled, but the mission was called off later that afternoon when there were no further communications from the men.

On April 1, 1968, Special Forces Sergeant Chuck Feller, along with several indigenous soldiers, launched on a mission to locate the lost men of Spike Team Asp.  After just six hours on the ground, Sgt. Feller and his team came into direct contact with the enemy and called for an emergency extraction.

Again, a rope ladder had to be dropped and one of the indigenous soldiers was forced to dangle from the rungs as the helicopter returned to the airbase in Thailand.

Sgt. Feller later reported that his search found no evidence of Spike Team Asp.

In January 2000, a team from the former Joint POW/MIA Accounting Office conducted extensive excavations of the Laotian countryside near where Spike Team Asp was last seen.

During the latter part of the war, the Ho Chi Minh trail was heavily bombed leaving the earth deeply cratered and much of the topography completely different than it had been in 1968, making search and recovery efforts extremely difficult.

However, the archaeological excavation uncovered several personal artifacts attributable to U.S. military personnel, to include a metal boot insert and several uniform buttons.

In addition, a single human tooth was recovered at the site.

The tooth was later linked to Ron Brown through dental x-rays at the Department of Defense Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

In May 2003, Ron Brown’s daughter, Ronda Brown-Pitts, was notified by the Army that her father’s remains had been found in Laos.  Unfortunately, dental records provided to her showed that her father’s tooth had a filling – and the tooth recovered did not.

She demanded a DNA test but it was refused based on the Army’s policy of “body desecration.” A DNA test would have destroyed “all of the remains.”

In 2006, a casket containing the remains of Master Sergeant George “Ron” Brown was delivered to his daughter and later interred with full military honors in Dayton, Texas.

For many years I have worn a POW/MIA bracelet bearing Ron’s name.

When I was a young boy growing up during the Vietnam era, these bracelets were a fairly common sight but not so much anymore.  In the 1970’s many school children wore the bracelet as a means of ensuring that the POW/MIA issue remained a priority until they all came home.

I received mine after making a donation to a veteran’s support organization.

For those whose adopted POW didn’t come home, the bracelet holder became the guardian of a hero’s life story – the keeper of the eternal memory of one man’s sacrifice.

The silver band became both a personal memorial, and a public reminder, that there are some debts of gratitude that cannot be repaid.

This extremely small token of remembrance has allowed me the honor of learning about Ron’s military career and his incredible heroism.  It has given me the opportunity to speak with his friends and family, and to meet and correspond with some of the men he served with on Okinawa and in Vietnam.

He was a husband, a father, a former member of the U.S. Army Parachute Team “The Golden Knights,” and a professional soldier of incredible skill and dedication.

Even though Ron’s “remains” have been repatriated, I still wear his bracelet as a personal remembrance of one man’s sacrifice to the high cost of freedom.

And I always will.

Incredibly, the story of Spike Team Asp continues to unfold some 49-years later.

Al Boyer
Sgt. Alan Boyer

On March 7, 2016, one day before what would have been Sergeant Alan Boyer’s 70th birthday, United States Army officials notified his sister in Leesburg, Florida, that a single bone fragment had been located by the Defense Department POW/MIA Accounting Office.

The bone shard was apparently purchased by a Laotian activist from Lao nationals described as “remains dealers,” and later positively identified through mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Sergeant Alan Boyer was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on June 22, 2016.

Currently, there are 1,611 Americans who remain missing after the Vietnam War.  Overall, there are 82,547 missing personnel from past conflicts, including World War II, Korea and Iraq.

On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us remember the extraordinary service and heroic sacrifice of men like Ron Brown, Al Boyer and Greg Huston, and that of their families.

Never forgotten.


Angels & Assholes for May 27, 2017

An adage says there are two types of people in the world – doers and complainers.

I tend to agree.

Regular readers of this forum know that I am a classic faultfinder.

You know, always bitching about the way things are, comparing current situations to times gone by, and, like Roosevelt said, criticizing those in the arena, pointing out where the strongman stumbled or the doer of deeds could have done them better, quicker, more efficiently.

That guy.

I am fortunate to have friends who are not afraid to call me out and set me straight when I get too far afield.

We all need that in our lives – one or two very close friends with the wisdom to recognize our faults and foibles – and the courage to give us a helpful shove back on the track of righteousness.

If you don’t have that in your life, I suggest you start cultivating those relationships.

You can’t make old friends – and they are invaluable to a happy and healthy life.

It was recently pointed out to me by someone I trust emphatically that this blog tends to be long on grouchy complaints and short on proposing actual solutions to the myriad problems here on the Fun Coast.

He surmised that pointing out problems without a corresponding solution is just whining.

Perhaps he’s right.

I’ve thought a lot about that in recent days, and my self-centered arrogance has led me to the conclusion that there is merit in bringing difficult issues to light – then providing a contrasting opinion that challenges the status quo and looks beyond the official spin – even if I don’t have all the answers.

Hey, it’s not much – but it makes me feel relevant.

This reflection reminded me that there really are people in our community who see a problem and work hard to make a true difference.

The doers.

People like Amy Pyle, Linda Smilely and members of Citizens for Responsible Development, Mike Denis and the South Atlantic Neighborhood Association, the intrepid Paul Zimmerman and Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere beach advocacy effort.

The list of people working for change is long – and more names are being added each week.

Residents of the Halifax area who have had it up to here with government inefficiency, the quid pro quo corruption of our local campaign finance system and the proliferation of malignant blight and corruption.

Barker’s View is fortunate to have developed a loyal following of regular readers who sometime agree with my screeds – and sometimes vehemently disagree.

I think that’s what makes this page interesting, and furthers the important discussions.

I even get a few very nice notes and encouraging calls now and again, some from people in high places – folks you wouldn’t expect to be fans of this blog.

That’s humbling – and incredibly touching.

But like my friend reminded me, the true credit belongs to those bold souls who are actually down in the trenches making our community a better place, heroically fighting for lasting improvements, often in the face of incredible opposition by rich and powerful forces who benefit from the status quo.

That takes courage – and I, for one, salute everyone who gives such incredible effort and personal sacrifice to make the Halifax area a better place for all of us.

Wow!  Could a week have passed already?

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my humble opinion, either contributed to our quality of life or detracted from it in some significant way.

Let’s see who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – this week:

Angel              “Radio Mike” Johnson, The Voice of the B-CU Wildcats

Last week, we learned the sad news of the passing of Mike Johnson, former play-by-play announcer for the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats.

During his tenure at B-CU, “Radio Mike” called over 150 football and 450 basketball games. More importantly, his contributions left an indelible mark on the University – and our community.

He will be missed.

Please read Bethune-Cookman University Senior Writer Dan Ryan’s touching tribute to Mr. Johnson here:

Asshole           Reed Berger, Daytona Beach Redevelopment Director

On Wednesday, Amy Pyle posted an outstanding piece on the Daytona Beach University Facebook page, entitled: “Open Communication: Chamber Members and City Staff Walk the Beachside.”

If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do.

Ms. Pyle does an excellent job of recounting a recent walking tour of the ruins of Daytona’s beachside by Chamber and City officials, accompanied by several concerned residents.

In my view, walks and windshield assessments like this are invaluable.

Why?  Because it’s hard to quibble the facts with your constituents when the sights and smells of blight and dilapidation are staring you in the face – up close and personal.

According to Ms. Pyle:

“As I speak to City staff about these problems, I get the feeling A: They have never seen many of the issues before, even though they have stood for decades, and B: The broken-down look of the entire area almost seems acceptable to them.  I felt I had to stress, over-and-over again, why these problems are detracting for new business and creating an image of Daytona Beach that none of us can be proud of.”

Acceptable?  That chaps my ass.

Let’s be honest.  With over a decade in office, Daytona Beach Redevelopment Director Reed Berger has done absolutely nothing to change the downward spiral of large swaths of the community – to include the nightmare that has been the Main Street redevelopment area.

I, for one, am sick and tired of watching Mr. Berger stand around like a neutered dog, stroking the elected officials and agreeing with concerned residents that we have a problem – while doing absolutely nothing to correct it.

Look, I understand that the redevelopment and revitalization of a suburban wasteland takes time.

But isn’t 10-years of complete inactivity enough?

At some point, don’t responsible elected officials and municipal administrators come to the realization that perhaps the City’s Redevelopment Director should be held personally responsible for – I dunno – Redevelopment?

In my view, it took the Daytona Beach News-Journal to bring substantive attention to the deplorable condition and open corruption that doomed our beachside and core tourist areas – and I have publicly supported the City’s new code enforcement initiatives – but it is high time that those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest are held accountable.

We simply cannot move forward with the same tired ideas and lack of organizational enthusiasm embodied by the likes of Reed Berger and others whose ineptitude is on full display literally everywhere you look.

My view: Time for a change.

Asshole           County of Volusia

This week the Daytona Beach Shores City Commission made a sound defensive move in their burgeoning Battle Royale with the County of Volusia, who is intent on paving over some extremely valuable real estate east of A-1-A for beach parking.

(How else are they going to remove beach driving once and for all?)

For a small coastal community like the Shores, vertical growth represents the lifeblood of the City’s tax base – and, in my view, anything that threatens that deserves a hard fight.

The Shores City Council – in a 3-2 vote – passed an ordinance which would prohibit the development of parking lots east of State Road A-1-A – which is exactly where Volusia County wants to put “off beach” parking on property it purchased several years ago with public funds (read: our money) totaling some $4.25 million.

In April, the Volusia County Council gave a unanimous middle finger to the good citizens of Daytona Beach Shores when they nixed a request for a park and other amenities, which would have helped to salve over the loss of some $200,000 in municipal tax revenues.

Unfortunately, the Shores City Council was somewhat more divided in their response.

Vice-Mayor Peggy Rice and Councilman Richard Bryan voted against the ordinance.

While Rice expressed fears about changing the city’s land development code during negotiations with the County – Mr. Bryan still believes there is room for compromise.

Trust me.  Volusia County government is not in the habit of “negotiating” or “compromising” with anyone.

County Attorney Dan Eckert will put his boot on the citizens’ collective throat and forcibly bleed this small community for as long as it takes to put 190 parking spaces on the county’s property.

Don’t like it?  Tough shit.

The Volusia County Council is comprised of some the most openly dumb politicians ever to grace a public dais – but they are smart enough to do as they are told.

The citizens of Daytona Beach Shores should know that they are in for a long and nasty fight – and, in the end, it will get down to the ugly fact that Volusia County can, and will, outspend you.

Isn’t that the textbook definition of “justice” in 2017?

The side with the most money wins by attrition.

Remember this the next time Billie Wheeler asks for your trust.

Angel              Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly

If there was ever a law enforcement agency in need of strong, ethical and effective leadership it is the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

To say that former Sheriff Jim Manfre was a soup sandwich is an understatement – and the good men and women of the department deserved better.

Earlier this week, three FCSO detention deputies resigned following an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into allegations of sexual misconduct with an inmate of the Flagler County Jail.

I applaud Sheriff Staly’s quick action.

Following Manfre’s near constant ethical missteps and administrative blunders, some of which resulted in massive lawsuits, the agency was left with a sullied image.

And that’s unfortunate.

Sheriff Rick Staley is a veteran law enforcement officer with a difficult responsibility: Restoring the public’s trust in his office – and his deputies.

By bringing in an outside agency to investigate serious accusations of official misconduct – charges that could truly undermine the agency’s professional credibility – Sheriff Staly demonstrated that he is committed to transparency and accountability.

Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Sheriff Staly said, “I was elected to bring strong ethical practices and leadership to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.  This bad behavior tarnishes the badge and will not be tolerated under my administration.”

In my view, Sheriff Staly’s aggressive response to domestic violence, drugs, and the growing problem of violent crime in Flagler County is impressive – and he has populated the Sheriff’s Office with some of the finest, and most respected, law enforcement professionals in the region.

This includes Under Sheriff Jack Bisland, a retired FDLE agent and veteran of the Office of the State Attorney, who is perhaps the best criminal investigator I have ever known.

Kudos to Sheriff Staly as he sets a very positive tone for his new administration.

Quote of the Week:

“Why hurry to pass the ordinance now? You’re basically pouring oil on the fire.  I think some grownups need to get involved and find a solution short of court action. We can find a win-win situation.”

–Daytona Beach Shores Councilman and Hapless Victim Richard Bryan, speaking to the Daytona Beach News-Journal on why he believes it best to capitulate and compromise with a bully – rather than fight like a Mad Dog for the rights and welfare of his constituents.

Here’s one thing we can all agree upon:  Let’s join together in recognizing and honoring the enormous sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price of freedom.

Have a reflective Memorial Day Weekend, my friends.




On Volusia: The Character Question

You can tell a lot about a person by how they conduct themselves when no one else is watching.

In fact, it’s the very definition of character.

Before I tear-off on a rant here – trust me – I’m no saint.

I drink to excess, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and no one enjoys a classic dirty joke more than I do.

Sometimes I stay up late, drink whiskey, and tell tall tales with friends – and my frequent use of salty language is as notorious as my gluttonous appetite.  I’m rude, selfish and stubborn as a mule when I think I’m right – and I’m right all the time.  Just ask me.

I can be mean-spirited and judgmental, too.

Sadly, these personality traits fit my enormous ego just fine.

I’m a piece of work.  I admit it.

Last week, I read a piece by Dustin Wyatt in the Daytona Beach News-Journal regarding yet another wacky screw-up by freshmen members of the Volusia County Council – one more loopy brain-fart by Heather Post, Billie Wheeler, and our doddering Chairman Ed Kelley.

Or was it?

During last Thursday’s County Council meeting, Heather Post – who was apparently home recuperating from pneumonia – sent a series of text messages as she watched the proceedings online.

At first, Post’s messages to Kelley were rather innocuous – she didn’t grasp the concept that when the council takes a lunch break – the live-feed is interrupted briefly until the meeting resumes.

Then, while council members gave their always illuminating closing comments, Post thought it necessary to let Kelley know that she had received a report on the Veteran’s Foundation – a note that Kelley acknowledged receiving.

Then, things got more ominous.

In a clumsy text message to Billie Wheeler, Mrs. Post advised that she would not be appointing Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere advocacy group, to a beach advisory committee recently proposed by Councilwoman Deb Denys:

(“I’m not appointing Paul. Illspoint Tony.”)

Instead, Post communicated to Wheeler that she would appoint Tony Grippa – a former Vice President at Brown & Brown who left J. Hyatt’s employ during the great July 2016 exodus of the company’s top brass – and reported “brainchild” of the advisory committee.

I have no idea what involvement Mr. Grippa has with beach advocacy issues.  Maybe he’s a virtual Jacques Cousteau – I’ve just never seen him around.

Regardless, it was important that Mrs. Post distance herself from Paul Zimmerman and Sons of the Beach – and if she had to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of Florida’s Sunshine Law to do it – so be it.

The rules are different here.

To her credit, Ms. Wheeler didn’t respond to Heather Post’s text messages – and she kept Mr. Grippa as her personal appointment to the beach advisory committee.

Then, the right people started asking the hard questions.

Enter County Attorney Dan Eckert – whose entire practice has devolved into quibbling the facts, obfuscating the obvious, suing his own constituents, running interference for elected officials and serving as muscle for Little Jimmy Dineen and his cabal of shadow players.

You see, Dan tidies up the sticky messes – on our dime.

Naturally, Mr. Eckert’s immediate response to the serious allegations that Councilwoman Post engaged in blatantly illegal two-way communications regarding public business with another elected official outside an open, and in-progress, meeting did not even rise to a “technical” violation of Florida’s Sunshine Law.

Heck no!

My ass.

In what is becoming an all to frequent fallback – Mrs. Post again refused to accept responsibility for an official misstep – then went into one of her weird stream-of-consciousness, babbling excuses – like a demented child caught with their hand in the cookie jar:

“I have been out with pneumonia. I have not been able to speak or move around without coughing/choking. There was no violation of Sunshine Law,” she wrote in an email. “I am sure my constituents will be glad to hear that even in my condition, I made arrangements to view the County Council meeting live online to stay abreast of the issues of importance to Volusia County. This is a reflection of my true dedication to the job.”

Either that, or she really didn’t want to support Paul Zimmerman’s appointment to the beach advisory board after Sons of the Beach rightly supported her opponent during the 2016 election.

You see, Mrs. Post is chummy with Daytona Beach Boardwalk magnate and beach driving opponent, George Anderson.

In other words – her communications had nothing to do with a self-described “dedication to the job,” and everything to do with cheapjack politics.

You know, I’m really trying to give Heather Post the benefit of the doubt – but how much more of this dodging and gibberish are we expected to take?

Of course, Chairman Kelley demonstrated the brand of cool-headed leadership he’s become known for when he immediately accepted responsibility for the possible violation of state law, commissioned an outside inquiry into the matter to assure openness and transparency, then restored confidence in his constituents by pledging that communications of this type would never happen in the future.

Yeah, right.

“It’s no big deal. … I did nothing illegal,” Kelley confidently crowed on Thursday.

Of course you didn’t, Ed.

(Word to the wise:  You can lie to us all you want – just don’t lie to yourself.  That’s a dangerous indulgence for an elected official.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Corinne Brown.)

This serves as another prime example of the hubris and political arrogance that permeates every aspect of Volusia County government – from the top down.

The rules are for the little people.

Don’t like it?  Screw you.

Folks, there is a malignancy in our county government – a bastardized oligarchical system that serves the influential and well-connected, while dismissing the true needs of their long-suffering constituents.

And it appears nothing is off-limits.

In my view, recurring public integrity questions and transparency issues such as this highlight the “I do what I want, when I want” culture that exists whenever those appointed to high public office lose their sense of service.

And their sense of honor.

On Volusia: Destroying the “Brand”

When you look at successful businesses and organizations they all have one thing in common – they get the small things right.

All the time.

For instance, if you take a trip to any Disney property, you can tell that customer service and satisfaction has been studied down to the subliminal level – sights, sounds, color, texture, aroma, lighting, host interaction, atmosphere – all carefully crafted to ensure that each guest receives the same consistently pleasant experience.

Every time.

Flexibility is reserved for those dealing with incidents of customer dissatisfaction, accidents and service disruption.

The core standards of the brand are never compromised for any reason.

This laser focus on the comprehensive “customer experience” is true of successful restaurants, retail outlets and vacation destinations.

Trust me.  This doesn’t happen by accident.

Success is universally the result of effective professional management and oversight which ensures the impeccable standards, values and ideals associated with the destination are adhered to by every person and entity associated with the “brand” – all the time – constantly and emphatically.

Without identifiable standards, chaos ensues.

When the carefully crafted system is subjected to favoritism and undue influence – the natural result is disorder and turmoil.  Equilibrium can only be restored by harmony and balance.

The same holds true for “successful” governments.

The development of acceptable regulations – followed by fair and consistent enforcement – serves to uphold standards and enhances the quality of life and marketability of the community.

Ask yourself this question:  Does any of this resemble the “Daytona Beach Resort Area”?

Hell, does any of this resemble Volusia County government?

In my view, the Daytona Beach News-Journal has done outstanding work of late.

Their ‘Tarnished Jewel’ series documenting the historic mismanagement and colossal incompetence of our beachside Community Redevelopment Areas – negligence that saw hundreds-of-millions pissed away over 30-years – coupled with the City of Daytona Beach’s quick response to correcting these deficiencies – shows the benefits of bringing difficult issues into the sunlight.

City officials are going back and reexamining what works – and what doesn’t.

They are dusting-off and updating tired ordinances, developing innovative code enforcement strategies and giving officials the tools and support they need for success.

Most important – they are holding those responsible accountable.

Last week, the City of Daytona Beach announced that it is aggressively pursuing some $4.46-million in past due fines and fees from some 395 violators – with nearly 300 of those owing more than $10,000.

The sad reality is that each of these violations represent a dilapidated – even dangerous – structure, many of which are being used as commercial rental properties, and all of which bring down adjacent property values and erode community standards.

That effects all of us.

It’s easy to point a finger at the police department or code enforcement officials – but the reality is, the blame lies squarely at the feet of elected officials who have historically lacked the vision and foresight to set community priorities – then insist that the city’s administration direct assets to enforce and maintain those standards.

As I said earlier this week, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado is proving to be the kind of change agent we have needed in local government for far too long.  His ‘See a need and take charge’ attitude, and unique ability to build consensus on difficult issues like homelessness and code enforcement are truly impressive.

I believe that effective revitalization efforts and the power of creativity and enthusiasm can be just as contagious as cancerous blight.

The key is strong and effective management – something that is universally accepted as Problemo Numero Uno here on the Fun Coast.

For instance, for the past decade, County Manager Jim Dinneen has proven that his lock-step loyalty to deep-pocketed political insiders – coupled with the near continuous bullying of the municipalities – is counter-productive and contrary to progress.

Don’t believe me?  Take a look around.

Why are our elected officials so afraid of positive change?

When pressed, County Chairman Ed Kelley falls back to his goofy corn-pone delivery and points to worn out “accomplishments” and tax-funded private projects which continue to create and expand an artificial economy totally dependent upon the infusion of public funds.

All while our core tourist district rusts and rots into oblivion.

No vision.  No leadership.  No hope.

I challenge anyone in a position of authority to look at the condition of the Daytona Beach Boardwalk – and other areas where beach driving has been removed – and study the malignant blight that is literally destroying one of America’s great tourist destinations, right before our collective eyes.

It is time to face the hard facts that the failed ideas of those who control our collective fate – the Five Families of Volusia County who pass the same nickel around – are ruining our “brand” and diminishing our quality of life with their self-serving edicts and focus on profits over progress.

If you haven’t seen first-hand the desolation of a private beach, I suggest you visit one.

These barren places are the antithesis of a tourist destination.

And all the off-beach parking lots in the world won’t change that.

Folks, I know I can sound like a broken record – but I am convinced that by bringing attention to our deficits we can grow and become something stronger than we were before.

We simply cannot accomplish that with the failed leadership, gross mismanagement and lack of effective vision that has brought us to this tragic place.

Hell, our current administration has proven they can’t manage a portable toilet emergency on the beach – let alone access and development issues.

I guess Mori and Hyatt haven’t gotten together and given Jim direction on the matter just yet. . .

In my view, the solution to our collective problems begin and end with effective management – not exorbitantly paid posers who lack the will, creativity and vision to speak truth to power and begin the difficult process of correcting the sins of the past.


Angels & Assholes for May 20, 2017

I spent the better part of this week in South Florida – an interesting and eclectic mix of communities all sandwiched together – a mosaic bisected by U.S.-1 to the west and A-1-A to the east – each with their own unique culture and “feel.”

Sound familiar?

The big difference between here and there was the obvious emphasis on code enforcement, appropriate use of natural and civic resources and the importance of transportation/utilities infrastructure in high-population areas.

Don’t get me wrong – you can have South Florida.

Not a fan.

From the weird social contract between the “haves and have-nots,” the walled-off private beaches, and Old Money aristocracy of Palm Beach – a place that makes our uber-wealthy look like ham-and-eggers – and everyone who is anyone hide themselves and their incredible wealth behind thick shrubbery (except President Trump – he puts it right out there at Mar-a-Lago) – to the omnipresent homeless of Ft. Lauderdale – there are obvious challenges.

What I did not see on display in tourist and high-traffic areas was the open blight and dilapidation of Daytona Beach.

It’s there – you just don’t see it in places that anchor the local economy.

Areas like Las Olas Boulevard, a beautiful stand of luxury shopping and dining just outside Ft. Lauderdale’s central business district.

A leisurely stroll finds quaint boutiques, art galleries, yacht charters and chandlers, memorable restaurants – like the 70-year old “The Floridian,” where the owner holds court at a center table, greeting everyone who enters with a wide smile and warm welcome – and people dining alfresco with their pets at over three-dozen bistros and coffee shops.

Adjacent to the good vibe on Las Olas – behind the frontage – are a wide variety of funky shops like “Hole Foods,” an organic grocer where fresh coconuts are displayed next to delicious mangos and exotic tropical fruits and vegetables.

No wasted space.  No vacancy – and no panhandlers.

It was what “Downtown Daytona” could be.  Should be.

If your so inclined – take a comparative look at and

I recently heard some talk of a new trend in municipal government that privatizes all essential services, and elected and appointed officials essentially become contract managers.

Think DeBary.  (Yeah.  I know.)

Before that idea becomes the “next big thing” in Volusia County, our local powers-that-be might look at how some private water treatment and distribution companies have failed to live up to the hype.

Trust me.  It’s disturbing.

I’ll have more on this trip in coming weeks.

In my view, we can learn a lot about finding solutions to common issues by simply looking at similarly situated communities.  What works – what doesn’t.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

I wish we could, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Volusia County is under the control of some of the least visionary, openly dumb, sycophantic wooden puppets in the history of local governance.

But just maybe they could learn to be good mimics.

It is time for local officials to do as I do – openly plagiarize the good ideas and visions of others.

We are too far down the track to dawdle – let’s just steal sound revitalization strategies and proven economic development programs from other communities – and put them into play here.

Let’s accept the fact that – just maybe – after 30-years of blight, open thievery and catastrophic squalor – the failed visions of Hyatt, Mori and Lesa aren’t working out for us.

Let’s humble ourselves to the fact that we need help from those who know better.

I implore our elected officials to get outside their comfort zone – admit their own intellectual and creative limitations – and see what others are doing to build successful and sustainable economies in different parts of Florida and beyond.

People with proven results – not hucksters and speculative developers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced that what is happening here simply cannot be allowed to continue.

And time is marching on.

Alrighty Kids!

It’s time once again for Uncle Mark, your wayward traveler, to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my opinion, either contributed to our quality of life or detracted from it in some significant way.

Let’s see who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – this week:

Angel               The City of Daytona Beach Code Enforcement

Earlier this week, nearly 400 owners of blighted properties – representing the full-spectrum of slum lords, absentee land owners, and fly-by-night property managers – were put on notice that the City of Daytona Beach is coming after some $4.46 million in outstanding code enforcement fines.

According to an excellent article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the old practice of waiting until a property sells to collect overdue fines and fees is ending.  Now.

And that is a giant step in the right direction.

“People will see that we’re serious, and hopefully they’ll pay their fines and make repairs,” said City Commissioner Aaron Delgado, a strong supporter of the new effort to go after deadbeat code violators. “We won’t tolerate people who just let liens back up and do nothing.”

 Folks, Aaron Delgado impresses me more every day.

Asshole           The DeBary City Council

This week, Circuit Judge Randell Rowe handed the City of DeBary a backhanded victory in their incredibly expensive and highly embarrassing fight to reverse the democratic process, strip the citizens of their sacred vote, and justify their ham-handed coup d’état of the city’s duly elected mayor, Clint Johnson.

Following a very thoughtful process, Judge Rowe determined that seven of the eight “charter violations” brought by the council were, in fact, little more than vengeful sucker punches – dubious claims cut from whole cloth – by petty elected officials and a greedy municipal attorney who got their collective knickers in a twist over Johnson’s exposure of gross mismanagement and internal corruption on a scale that has made DeBary the poster child for bad governance everywhere.

In turn, Judge Rowe held his nose and found the final claim – that Mayor Johnson’s rant to disgraced former City Manager Dan Parrott to cancel a “ridiculous meeting” – met the dictionary definition of an order or directive.

Since the court cannot substitute its judgement for the DeBary City Council’s (nor would it want to) Judge Rowe found the text message sufficient to support a charter violation.

Note to the long-suffering citizens of DeBary:

In my opinion, when every major newspaper and media outlet in Central Florida is railing about the fecal-storm of utter dysfunction, abject greed and open corruption that has been exposed in your City Hall – the time has come to demand sweeping change.

While you still have something in the bank.


Simply handing the reigns over to a washed-up hack like Ron McLemore – a lying sack-of-shit on the run from allegations of sexual harassment and malingering on duty – does not inspire confidence – and it damn sure doesn’t come close to bringing closure and lasting resolution to this fetid mess that has marred the good name and reputation of one of Central Florida’s most beautiful communities.

You will never move forward with McLemore at the helm.

Although I don’t have a specific number, I would venture a guess that the City of DeBary has suffered mounting and crushing legal fees far north of $300,000 defending this chaos – this abomination – all because a few mealy-mouthed, small town politicians were personally embarrassed by a brash young man who tried to bring attention to institutional issues in local government.

Once again, the citizens of DeBary deserve better.

Angel              Sheriff Mike Chitwood and VCSO

Kudos to Sheriff Chitwood and his outstanding deputies and staff on the successful conclusion of “Operation Indecent Proposal” – a five-day undercover sting designed to identify and arrest online child predators.

During the operation, some 14 degenerate assholes were arrested – with another 60 currently under investigation for using a computer to lure what they thought were 13 and 14-year-old children for sex.

That’s scary.

These represent the worst-of-the-worst in our community, and my hat is off to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of the State Attorney, and all the local agencies and federal agents who worked so cooperatively to bring this human excrement to justice.

Keep going, Sheriff.  Keep going.

Asshole           The Volusia County Council

Going to war with the cities has become a hallmark of county government – something Chairman Ed Kelley told us he would put an end to if we just voted for him.

Talk about lying sacks-of-shit.

Look, I’ve learned that a leopard never changes his spots – because he can’t.

It’s in his DNA – and what you see is what you get.

The same holds true for County Manager Jim Dinneen and the elected officials he so deftly controls.

It appears the City of Daytona Beach Shores is reaping the whirlwind that comes whenever a municipality has the temerity to challenge the power and might of Volusia County.

Just like in past skirmishes, Little Jimmy is trotting out County Attorney Dan Eckert – who has made a unique cottage industry out of suing his constituents with their own money – to employ his patented bullying tactics and bring the Shores to heel.

The crime?

The Shores City Council opposed a plan by Volusia County to purchase prime oceanfront property, remove it from the tax rolls, and pave over two parking lots to ensure “beach access” (read: removal of beach driving).

Now, in some weird David and Goliath drama – Daytona Beach Shores is attempting to bring an ordinance that would prohibit new parking lots east of A-1-A.

But make no mistake, Dan Eckert and Volusia County government will do what it wants – when it wants – and there is not a hot-damn thing anyone can do about it.

So, Daytona Beach Shores – how do you like the loyalties of Councilwoman Billie Wheeler now?

Quote of the Week:

“They’ve chosen to go down this road and quite frankly it’s not doing anyone any good for them to come in and push their weight around.  They are the big and powerful county of Volusia and we are just the little tiny city of the Shores. It’s unfortunate.”

–Daytona Beach Shores City Planner and Small Town Rube Fred Hiatt, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal


On the Road: South Florida

Hey Kids!

Barker’s View is on the road in warm Ft. Lauderdale this beautiful Friday morning.

Look for a new installment of Angels & Assholes this weekend!

Also, as the city’s lawyers continue to pick over the bones,  I’ll have my take on the incredibly expensive and terribly embarrassing “Debacle in DeBary” early next week.

As always, thanks for reading!



Daytona Beach: Have $ Ready

Everyone knows the old idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Or, in my case, 1,200 words.  I get insufferably wordy.

According to Wikipedia, the phrase refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image – or that an image conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a lengthy written description.

Last week, I read an interesting article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean – with an accompanying editorial by the great raconteur, Mark Lane – reporting the demise of amusement rides from the Daytona Beach Boardwalk for the first time in some 80-years.

Both pieces were enlightening – and spurred my interest in learning more.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I visited the Boardwalk – but it had a Ferris wheel when I did.

In November, I wrote a post entitled, “The Thrill is Gone,” which discussed a decades-old lawsuit that has hampered any substantive change on the Boardwalk, and lamented the loss of a place that made so many great memories when I was a kid:

“Greedy investors, strategic bankruptcies, family monopolies, unscrupulous developers – to include convicted grifter, Bill Geary, of Ocean Walk Shoppes fame who is finishing a stint in federal prison – promises of pie-in-the-sky panacea hotels and tony shopping areas, a stubborn inability to reasonably negotiate with the best interests of the community in mind, government overreach and interference, insider maneuvering, piss-poor planning, no leadership, etc., etc.”

“Whether we want to admit it or not, what we are collectively hearing over the roar of the surf is the sad death knell of one of America’s great tourist destinations.” 

Last week, a very smart friend and I decided to take in the sights and sounds of the boardwalk and see for ourselves exactly what the demise of these amusements portend for our core tourist draw.

After navigating the two left turns required to get onto Ocean Avenue from A-1-A, I drove slowly north toward the southern façade of the Daytona Hilton, past the 20-foot diving girl who has graced the old Stamie’s Swimwear Shop for at least a half-century, waiting for grey-bearded men with backpacks to cross the street.

To the left was a paid parking lot entirely littered with a collage of handmade signs warning potential customers what they cannot do – “No Reentry,” “No Cards Accepted,” “No U-Turns,” “No RV’s, Semi’s or Trailers,” “Cash Only,” “$10.”

The sign that caught my eye – the one which serves as a fitting metaphor for the sordid bait-and-switch scheme that is Daytona’s tourist trade – was a hand-scrawled: “Have $ Ready.”


I found a public parking space and fed the meter just outside the entrance to the Joyland Amusement Center – an arcade that hasn’t seen any significant renovation in decades.  Walking through the dimly lit passageway and down the stairwell is like entering a weird time machine, where the sounds and smells evoke memories of a time long ago.

Frankly, I was glad to see that the live dancing chicken had been removed.  When I was a kid, for a dime, a tired rooster trapped in a small painted case would dance and peck out a tune on a little piano until the music stopped and a feed pellet rewarded his performance.

One gets the distinct feeling that Joyland is either a once Grand Dame now indignity waiting to die by the sea, or – it is what it is – a long-neglected coin-operated business holding on by its fingernails until the lawyers stop their money-grubbing arguments, appeals and motions –  or the “next big thing” hits the strand.

As we exited onto the wide colonnade of the Boardwalk, I was struck by the fresh sea breeze and the initial impression of just how physically deserted it all felt.  Except for a few ambulatory homeless – and a smattering of young families eating pizza and corn dogs alfresco – the strand was vacant.  Dead.

On a glorious spring afternoon.

Walking south, we took in the expanse of what had been the Boardwalk Amusement Center – where once a great Ferris wheel stood, Go-Kart’s zoomed, and various whirligigs, roller coasters, bumper cars and kiddie rides brought a true sense of fun and excitement.

Now, the place looks like a wasteland – a twisted mess of steel girders, rusting ride cars, dilapidated ticket booths emblazoned with a tax levy notice, and an eerie go-kart track that looks like it was abandoned in place.

Because it was.

A place that once brought so much joy and excitement to vacationing families and locals alike – now quietly rotting into a trash strewn lot.

At the risk of sounding hyper-dramatic, I was moved by what I saw.

A mix of sadness and anger, accompanied by the nagging question – “How could this be allowed to happen?”

 I took a few pictures to document the state of things.  Then, we moved along.

As we reached the Mardi Gras Fun Center – an aging arcade very similar in feel to the Joyland – I noticed two 20-somethings fist-bumping a guy perched on a bar stool near the front entrance.

Having spent the better part of my law enforcement career investigating drug trafficking, I got the distinct feeling from the snippets of conversation I overheard that something was up.

As we walked to the south terminus of the boardwalk then east near Zeno’s Sweet Shop, the pair fell in close behind us – one jabbering into a cellphone as we stepped over urine stains and what appeared to be a bloody miasma of dried vomitus on the sidewalk.

Gripping the handgun in my front pocket, I overheard the gist of the conversation two-steps behind us.

The pair were working the logistics of a street-level, parking lot drug hand-off.

My friend looked at me with a trace of fear in her eyes and we stepped away toward Ocean Avenue and the safety of our parked car.  As we passed the sign pollution of the private parking lot, I quickly snapped a few more photographs of the trash, broken fencing, and twisted steel that greets visitors.

When we reached our vehicle, I was angry.

On Friday – rather than post my usual ramblings about life and politics in the Halifax area – I simply posted the pictures I took – a silent exhibition of the cancerous results of the cycle of greed, blight and utter dilapidation that is slowly killing the beachside.

How tragic.

In a few weeks, some 20,000 Shriner’s will arrive.

They are coming at the invitation of the City of Daytona Beach and the County of Volusia.

They have a right to expect the beauty and splendor portrayed in a slick Danica Patrick ad – and the upscale experience they were sold by the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, and the bevy of tourism hucksters who continue to lure unsuspecting visitors to an area that is neither ready to receive them – nor equipped to entertain them.

Just Have $ Ready – and screw your convention/vacation experience on what was once the World’s Most Famous Beach.

We know you won’t be back – and nobody who scrounges a fast buck cares.

In my view, this represents the epitome of an unconscionable bait-and-switch ruse – and our elected officials deserve the fall-out that will inevitably ensue.       


Angels & Assholes for May 12, 2017

Hey kids!

Wow!  It’s been quite a week!

It’s not often that Daytona Beach makes international news, but the tempest surrounding U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University brought 15-minutes of fame to the Fun Coast.

I watched the speech live online.

It wasn’t the best graduation speech I’ve ever heard – but it certainly wasn’t the worst – and it hit all the proper notes.

And, in my view, her delivery was entirely sincere.

During her remarks, Mrs. DeVos challenged the students to a life of service, courage and grace, congratulated their significant accomplishments, and even touched on the controversy surrounding her appearance by discussing the importance of listening to diverse points of view.

Her address was marked with angry shouts and taunts – and most of the graduating class appeared to turn their backs in protest – something I found disappointing, especially given the fact her remarks were so unaffectedly laudatory of both the university and the students themselves, despite the chaos and disruption.

Regardless of your opinion on the issue – perhaps you will agree that Dr. Jackson’s invitation, Mrs. DeVos’ genuine effort, and the dissentious reaction of the students – demonstrated extraordinary courage all around, and – I hope – advanced the cause of free speech and the importance of civil protest.

If that sounds like I’m straddling the fence, you’re right.  Perhaps it speaks to the fact that First Amendment protections extend to all of us – equally – regardless of your point-of-view on this and other important issues.

That’s the very foundation of a free and open society.

However, in the aftermath, I agree with the assessment of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – the Jackson/Petrock response to the controversy was ham-handed (at best) and didn’t do themselves, the administration, or the students of B-CU any favors.

While the demonstration against Mrs. DeVos was not unanimous among the Class of 2017, it was significant, and to suggest the protest was limited to 20 students is ludicrous.

I hope Mrs. DeVos’ exposure to the heritage and important role of Bethune-Cookman University will inspire her, and serve as the impetus for increased federal funding and other opportunities for this venerable institution that has changed the lives of so many.

At the end of the day, it was a wonderful commencement exercise and a beautiful program – the B-CU Concert Chorale and accompanying soloist, the incomparable Alysha Hinton, were simply angelic.

And that’s a fact we can all agree on.

Now, I hope we can all move forward, secure in the knowledge that – regardless of our political perspective – there really is more that unites us than divides us.  (I hope.  That old adage appears to be getting more threadbare and tenuous everyday.)

Now, it’s time once again for Uncle Marky to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my opinion, either contributed to our quality of life or detracted from it in some significant way.

Let’s see who tried to do something for us – or simply tried to “do” us – this week:

Angel              South Atlantic Neighborhood Association

Kudos to those intrepid members of the South Atlantic Neighborhood Association who took the message to the masses last weekend to protest the cycle of blight in Daytona’s core beachside.

It is truly heartening to see grassroots organizations like SANA take such a public stand against dilapidation, squatters, slum lords, trash, debris and years of government neglect.

Residents have had enough.

Informational demonstrations and old fashioned curbside protests help bring attention to perhaps the most bewildering issue on the Fun Coast.

Fortunately, the Daytona Beach City Commission has begun the process of strengthening code enforcement efforts – including revisiting stale ordinances and processes that have allowed “zombie” properties to proliferate in neighborhoods throughout the area.

And some notorious offenders are finally being brought to the bar of justice.

On June 12th at 4:00pm, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado will join Barker’s View on GovStuff Live with Big John on WELE-1380am to discuss on-going efforts to improve code enforcement and address other issues facing the Halifax area.

In my view, the best way to cure stagnation is to agitate and stir things up, and it appears groups like SANA are, “Mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.”

It’s high time our red-faced elected and appointed officials partner with their constituents to find effective solutions to these difficult problems.

Inaction is no longer the accepted response.

It is time to begin the important process of changing the foul image of Daytona Beach and improve the quality of life for everyone – even if it takes publicly humiliating every elected official in town.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

Once again, district officials have announced the annual shuffle of school principals – across town and across the county.

For reasons I don’t completely understand, (although I assume it is viewed as a means of improving poorly performing schools) the district engages in this perpetual leadership churn every year.

As a result, students and faculty are left feeling unsettled with no sense of continuity or stability.

Why would one build strong connections with school leadership knowing that he or she won’t be around next year?

A principal’s role in modern education is extremely diverse, and it requires passion, creativity and loyalty – and the ability to build quality partnerships.  For instance, there are numerous advisory committees, volunteer programs, and other external support functions that require strong relationships with members of the community.

I attended a private parochial school where I had the same headmaster throughout my primary education.  As a result, he knew me and my family, and we knew him.

And, we knew his standards and expectations for conduct and success.  These benchmarks were unwavering – and strictly enforced.

It wasn’t one way this year, that way the next.

A 2015 study by the School Leaders Network found that, nationally, one quarter of new principals leave their school each year.  That number climbs to fifty percent by year three – and retention rates are even worse in difficult-to-lead schools and high poverty areas.

Adding to the local roil is a decision by the district to change its “staffing formula” and eliminate 134 “teaching units” to meet anticipated revenue shortfalls.  In my view, this is a time for Volusia County schools to demonstrate stability – not the upheaval that invariably follows a shift in top leadership.

Maybe I’m the asshole.  (Hey, now.  You don’t have to be so quick to agree. . .)

Perhaps local principals enjoy the constant turnover and lack of institutional roots inherent to these annual hopscotch transfers – but I doubt it.

Angel               Volusia Rape Crisis Center

The history of services for victims of sexual violence in Volusia County is abysmal.

In 2014, our Rape Crisis Center – then operated by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Volusia and Flagler – lost its certification amid claims of a “hostile community environment” and staffing shortages.

As usual, the underlying cause was money and gross mismanagement.

The Children’s Advocacy Center was an unadulterated mess.  Unfortunately, it was the victims who suffered.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, nurses specially trained in collecting evidence and providing treatment to rape victims responded to 133 incidents in 2016 – that’s 11 per month.

So far, crisis center nurses have handled 54 reports since the beginning of this year.

That’s a problem, folks.

But things are turning around.  Under the direction of Stewart-Marchman-Act, with an energetic executive director and improved focus on service delivery, the Rape Crisis Center is actively providing an invaluable service to Volusia County.

I hope you will join me in supporting the efforts of Volusia’s Rape Crisis Center, and their community partners, who are working hard to bring compassionate care to victim’s during a very stressful and vulnerable time.

According to reports, the center has a current need for sports bras and sweatpants for victims. To provide clothing donations or gift cards to stores like Target or Wal-Mart for specific needs, items can be sent or dropped off at the center located at 311 N. Orange St., New Smyrna Beach.

Please help if you can.

Asshole           Former Congresswoman/Convicted Felon Corrine Brown

After a tumultuous 25-year career in Congress, former Volusia/Flagler Representative Corrine Brown has been found guilty on multiple charges, to include tax evasion, fraud, and lying on congressional financial disclosure forms related to a bogus charity that served as Ms. Brown’s personal slush fund.

According to evidence presented at her federal trial in Jacksonville, Ms. Brown’s Virginia-based education foundation One Door brought in some $800,000 between 2012 and 2016 – yet paid out just one scholarship for $1,200 to an individual in Florida.

Following the verdict, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said in a statement, “Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown violated the public trust, the honor of her position, and the integrity of the American system of government when she abused one of the most powerful positions in the nation for her own personal gain.”

Wow.  Sounds eerily familiar to some other Florida politicians I know. . .

Asshole           Visit Florida & Governor Rick Scott

In response to a recent exposé in the Naples Daily News outing the expenditure of $2.8 million in taxpayer money for a goofy fishing show, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said, “Every time we look deeper into the spending at VISIT FLORIDA, new waste and abuse is uncovered.”

The 2012 deal also allowed the producer of the show to pocket all of the advertising and sponsorship revenue – to include a $175,000 boat from a sponsor of the show.

That’s a level playing field? 

When the State of Florida uses public funds to cover the overhead of producing a television show – it puts the producers of non-subsidized content at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace.

And, in my view, that is the problem with “public/private partnerships” like Visit Florida and Governor Rick Scott’s other corporate welfare conduit, Enterprise Florida.

We need transparency.  We need accountability.  We need to get government out of the marketplace.

Not more boondoggles.

It’s time Governor Scott and the leadership of Visit Florida stop the faux-panic and hand-wringing and come to the realization that Floridian’s are sick and tired of funneling their hard-earned tax dollars to private interests.

As the Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell so aptly put it, “Tourism enterprises are still free to advertise as much as they want. They just have to use their own money … the way virtually every other business in the world already does.

Hear, hear.

Quote of the Week

“One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree.  And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully.  Let’s choose to hear each other out.” 

–United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, speaking at the commencement exercise of Bethune-Cookman University’s Class of 2017