Angels & Assholes for May 5, 2017

Hey, Kids!

It’s been an interesting week on the Fun Coast!

From the Daytona Beach City Commission having substantive talks on blight reduction and adding sharp arrows to their code enforcement quiver – to the Volusia County Council agreeing to partially fund operating costs for several homeless shelters – it looks a lot like progress.

Now, let’s 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.

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

Angel               Town of Ponce Inlet, Florida

In the aftermath of the unspeakable – the small town of Ponce Inlet has pulled together to honor the life of a 9-month old Labrador puppy who was beaten to death by the sub-human piece of excrement, Travis Archer, earlier this month.

The town is in the planning stages for a permanent memorial for “Ponce the Dog” – a bronze monument with a plaque expressing compassion for all animals subjected to abuse.

It is heartening to know that in times of outrage people can come together and constructively work through anger and grief in such a remarkably thoughtful way.

I congratulate my friend, Town Manager Jeaneen Witt, the members of the town council, the police department, and the fine citizens of Ponce Inlet for your extraordinary compassion and care in the face of such appalling cruelty.

Well done.

Angel              Mr. L. Gale Lemerand & Ms. Gloria Max

Congratulations to entrepreneur and philanthropist Gale Lemerand as the 2017 recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award presented by the State Elks Association.

In addition, Ms. Gloria Max was similarly honored for her work as Executive Director of the Jewish Federation – which provides school supplies and backpacks to underprivileged children.  Ms. Max also helps operate the Jerry Doliner Food Bank, which serves some 24,000 people in need annually.

By any measure, Mr. Lemerand is one of the “uber-wealthy” set I’m always railing about, the difference being, he has set about making the world a better place starting right here in the Halifax Area.

I happen to know of several instances where Mr. Lemerand stepped in, anonymously, to provide financial and moral support to several worthy causes – he wasn’t asked to help, he simply saw a need and did what he could.

In my view, our area needs more like Gale Lemerand – successful people with hearts as big as their bank accounts who use their substantial resources and talents for the betterment of our community, and our lives.

Angel              Jeep Beach 2017

With little fanfare and, to my knowledge, absolutely zero expenditure of public funds, last weekend the Mid-Florida Jeep Club once again produced one of the largest public events for Jeep enthusiasts in the United States, right here in Volusia County.

In addition to all-things-Jeep, the event provides support for area charities, to include WORC, Volusia/Flagler Boys and Girls Club, Hope Reins, Childhood Cancer Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank, Halifax Urban Ministries, Project Linus, Pawsabilities – and many more.

A tip of the hat to all the Jeepers and industry vendors who visited the Halifax area to enjoy and promote our heritage of beach driving.  Rarely does Volusia County enjoy a special event that stimulates the local economy without a corresponding drain on government services.

I appreciate Mid-Florida Jeep Club’s outstanding support of area charities – and the economic boost their presence provides.

Asshole           Ken Lawson, President and CEO – Visit Florida

Last week, the head of Visit Florida – the rightfully doomed money pit which ostensibly exists to promote Florida tourism – cranked up the scary stories, telling anyone and everyone who would listen of the horrors that will befall the state if the legislature fails to throw good money after bad.

Our reptilian Governor, Rick Scott, has made funding this farce – to the tune of $85-million-dollars – a top priority of his administration.  So far, sanity has prevailed and the legislature has pared that exorbitant number to a more acceptable – but still over-the-top – $25-million.

Now, Slick Rick is on a whirlwind “Fighting to Squander Florida’s Future” tour of the state to drum up support for Visit Florida, and his premiere corporate welfare project, Enterprise Florida.

Lawson, who claims he is “fighting for his organization” (and his lucrative six-figure salary) claims that merely questioning funding for Visit Florida puts us at a disadvantage to other destinations.

Trust me.  As long as we enjoy temperatures in the 90’s in early spring – with hundreds of miles of white sand and internationally famous theme parks to entertain the kids – they will come.

In droves.

Don’t get me wrong.  They won’t come here (more than once, anyway) – after all, most families don’t want to vacation in abject squalor – but I’m confident other areas of our state will continue to enjoy brisk tourism – without government assistance.

I honestly don’t think we’re in danger of losing the Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi markets to Dubai – even if they do have a Hard Rock. . .

And we damn sure don’t need another bloated bureaucracy pissing away our hard-earned tax dollars on goofy boondoggles, lame advertising campaigns and ridiculous bonuses for administrators and employees of another one of Rick Scott’s infamous “public/private partnerships.”

Does it ever end?

Asshole           Rep. David Santiago (R-Deltona)

As a key member of Volusia County’s delegation to the State House of Representatives, Deltona’s David Santiago continues to disappoint.  If it were just his clumsy maneuvering on behalf of his wealthy campaign contributors, that would be one thing.

This week, in addition to his strategic silence on the proposed law which may well limit direct access to areas of our beach – Mr. Santiago joined Volusia representatives Patrick Henry and Paul Renner in voting to eviscerate the long-standing provisions of Florida’s open meetings law.

Only Rep. Tom Leek stood firm in support of our right to know.

Had Santiago and his co-conspirators been successful, your city commissioners – including the ethically challenged members of the County Council – would have been permitted to meet privately in pairs to discuss potential actions, so long as no policy or voting decisions were made.   

 Yeah, right.

(Anyone else laugh out loud when they read that?  Just me?  Okay.)

In my view, David Santiago represents all that’s wrong in Tallahassee – and Volusia County.

His willingness to weaken public protections against wheeler-dealer politics fits hand-in-glove with his cowardly kowtowing to every whim and want of the Donor Class.  Clearly, Mr. Santiago is skulking his way toward higher office.

I hope Volusia County voters remember who he works for at the ballot box.

Asshole           County Manager Jim Dinneen & the Volusia County Council

In the waning days of Florida’s legislative session, Volusia County residents were stunned to learn of a proposed Bill which could potentially limit access to Volusia County beaches.

And, if you believe our elected and appointed officials in county government, they were caught flatfooted as well.

At least that’s what their collective silence would tend to indicate.

Just three days before the vote, County Attorney Dan Eckert finally got off his ass and sent an email to the county council describing the bill as “troubling” – and something that would “restrict county regulation” over the beach.

You remember Dan.  He’s the guy who spent last summer suing us with our own money to prevent direct citizen involvement in beach driving and access issues?  That guy.

Hell, even the bill’s bewildered sponsor openly questioned why – if Volusia had a problem with the potential consequences of the law – she had to hear about it from a reporter.

Not a phone call?  Not an email?  Not a shoulder-massage from our highly-paid lobbying firm?


Anyone who believes this strategic muteness and inaction is anything but a way to backdoor the death of beach driving and privatize large sections of the strand is delusional.

Late word from respected sources – such as beach advocate Paul Zimmerman – claim that lobbyists alerted Volusia County officials of the potential ramifications of the bill weeks ago.

The response was utter silence.

Ladies and gentlemen, I may well be the biggest asshole you know – but whether you agree with me or not – this is the depth to which our elected officials will go to shit on the wants and needs of their long-suffering constituents – and they could care less if you or your family ever see a public beach again.

No Trespassing.

As a wise reader pointed out this week, “They (Volusia County) had one thing going for them.  The beach.  And they found a way to fuck that up too.”

How tragic.

Angel              Sheriff Michael Chitwood & VCSO

On Thursday, Sheriff Chitwood commissioned an agency-wide use-of-force review by the Washington D.C. based Police Executive Research Forum – a think tank he has been closely associated with.

The study is expected to cost $92,000.

When a law enforcement agency changes command, a top-to-bottom review of policies, procedures and cultures within the department is an important element of positive change and transparency.  I commend the Sheriff for his efforts.

However, I have not always agreed with the suggestions of PERF, whose guidance in the wake of high-profile police shootings has been described by street cops around the nation as “ridiculous.”

I agree.

In 2016, PERF produced a “30 Guiding Principles on Use of Force” paper – which spoke of the importance of “sanctity of life” and “de-escalation” training for law enforcement officers.  Both admirable goals.

Unfortunately – the same principles haven’t yet been adopted by the growing coalition of violent criminals who are murdering law enforcement officers at alarming rates.

The fact is, the clear majority of law enforcement officers practice de-escalation and tactical communications techniques every shift – especially when dealing with criminal suspects – and studies show that a very small percentage of face-to-face contacts result in the use of force.

And the sanctity of human life has always been the cornerstone of values-based policing.

To suggest differently is wrong.

In my view, many of PERF’s suggestions appear to be politically correct appeasement – and have little relevance on the mean streets of America in 2017.  For instance, I found it interesting that nowhere in its “guiding principles” did PERF place emphasis on officer safety and survival.

The Volusia County Deputies Association is right to be skeptical.

I believe Sheriff Chitwood is a man of his word, and I trust when he says that this study is designed to bring forward the best policies and procedures to protect our deputies and the community.

However, given the expense and on-going criticism by law enforcement officers, I question if PERF is the right choice.

Quote of the Week

“This scares me.  From what I understand, it would almost privatize areas of the beach and I’m totally against that. Any time you threaten the rights of citizens to the beach, that’s a problem.”

–County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler as quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, apparently overwrought with faux-panic over proposed legislation that could remove beach driving once and for all.  This on the heels of her vote to grant concessions to the languishing Desert Inn/Westin project, which all but assures a traffic-free beach behind the infamous hotel.

I don’t make this shit up, folks!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Have a great weekend.


One thought on “Angels & Assholes for May 5, 2017

  1. And a happy ‘Battle of Puebla’ day to you Mark.

    Keep up the good fight. The roaches do not like to be exposed to bright light.


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