On Volusia: Signs and Wonders

Throughout our history, fundamental change in public policy and the evolution of creative social solutions, germinates in grassroots advocacy and the right of citizens to petition their government for redress of grievances.

From the momentous events of the civil rights movement – to relatively insignificant local issues – positive change always begins life as a few pissed-off people joining together in someone’s living room, church social hall or a public space to discuss their collective fury over a social injustice or the town council’s inactivity and neglect of an important issue.

Hell, the very foundation of our nation was born of revolt and revolution.

In 2017, rage is still the motivating factor for significant political change.

Don’t believe me?

Attend your Congressman’s next town hall meeting – or attempt to take-in a political speech on any college campus in the nation – and I think you’ll come around.  Angry shouts, provocative taunts and violent “protests” involving mask-wearing vandals are the new norm in America.

Add to that global external forces that want to annihilate us and crush our way of life, and you find we really are living in historically interesting times.

Don’t get me wrong – agitation and challenging the status quo is a good thing, especially in an environment where our elected officials, at all levels of government, are mere handmaidens of a shadowy oligarchy.

Given the current obstreperous nature of dissent in the United States, it is refreshing to see local advocates engaging in positive demonstrations and openly voicing their views on the pressing issues of the day.

For instance, in my view, Florida’s premier beach advocacy group, Sons of the Beach, has demonstrated the leadership, consistency and perseverance necessary to protect and maintain our heritage of beach driving and access for Volusia County residents.

This was never more obvious than last week’s revelation that a bill working its way through the state legislature contained language that could have been disastrous for our tourist-based economy, and our way of life, by weakening customary use doctrines resulting in the potential privatization of our beaches.

To my mind, the fact that this controversial measure passed unanimously in the House tends to expose the depth of special interest influence in Tallahassee.  And the strategic silence and inaction by County Manager Jim Dinneen and the Volusia County Council perfectly telegraphs their true intentions on beach access issues.

During the initial confusion, Sons of the Beach provided a clear explanation of the potential problems with the legislation, and offered sound encouragement to stand firm and never quit trying.

In my view, that is the epitome of community advocacy and demonstrates the strength of citizen activism when the forces of power and greed are howling at the door.

In addition, Sons of the Beach have used the court system as it was intended – to provide an impartial arbiter of the facts who can apply the law to civil disagreements, to ensure citizen input in the process – and to hold our government officials accountable.

Unfortunately, over time, our elected officials have legislatively stacked the deck to the point that taxpayers – you know, the ones who pay the bills – have no standing in important issues affecting their lives and livelihoods, especially as it relates to beach policy.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing County Attorney Dan Eckert crow about the “ultimate power” of the county council over us impecunious peons in all matters beach-related.

In my view, Dan’s near-constant focus on using the courts to protect the supremacy of a self-serving “system” – over the will of the people – speaks volumes about the Dinneen administrations true loyalties.

Trust me.  This vantage point on the maneuverings of county government would not be possible without the incredible efforts of Sons of the Beach.

I was also very impressed by 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 proud public stand against dilapidation, squatters, slum lords, trash, debris and years of government neglect.

Residents have had enough.  And it’s beginning to show.

These public demonstrations and curbside protests bring the frustrations of residents to the forefront – and put elected officials on notice that their constituents are “Mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”

In my view, thoughtful public awareness campaigns like SANA’s are critical to bringing positive and lasting change.  In fact, last week the Daytona Beach City Commission – in response to recent newspaper coverage and citizen outcry – began the process of reviewing and strengthening outdated ordinances and bolstering code enforcement procedures – measures that could spark the resurrection of the beachside.

Regular readers of this forum know that I have little, if any, faith in the near-constant drone of our elected and appointed officials telling us all how great we have it here on the Fun Coast.  In that theme, on Friday, cheerleaders for Volusia County “economic development” agencies touted their progress during a meeting at Daytona “International” Airport.

We’re told that tourism is on the rise, unemployment is at historic lows, and area new car and truck sales rose to new heights – along with new home starts – and real estate brokers are apparently lighting cigars with hundred-dollar-bills.

We were also led to believe that a report by the Milken Institute lists the “Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach” metro area as the most improved local economy in the United States.

Interesting.  (I wonder if anyone from the institute visited the Fun Coast – or just relied on the artificial injection of millions of dollars in “economic incentives” from local governments to private interests as a measurement of progress?)

You remember the Milken Institute, right?

The California-based think tank founded by Michael “The Junk Bond King” Milken – formerly of Drexel Burnham Lambert – who went to federal prison and paid hundreds-of-millions in fines and restitution for securities fraud and financial crimes against investors?

He’s a convicted racketeer whose unchecked greed set the pace for other thieves in the bad old days.  Now, he’s reinvented himself – both in business and philanthropy.

Mr. Milken is the reason we still look down our noses at all bankers.  Even their family members keep them at arm’s length and know the only truly safe investment is in a shoe box under the bed. . .

I also took notice of Ms. Jane Glover’s excellent Community Voices piece in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, calling for increased county oversight and regulation of blighted rental properties in Ormond-by-the-Sea.

Perhaps we are beginning to see a renaissance here on the Fun Coast.

The signs are encouraging, anyway.

Not because those who stand to profit tell us so – but because citizens are beginning to throw off the traces of apathy and political oppression to rail and kick against the blight, dilapidation and corruption that have hampered substantive growth and real economic development for decades.

Just don’t expect government to take this challenge to the status quo quietly.

In my view, the rebirth of our community begins with grassroots organizations forcing the important process of changing the foul image of the Halifax area and improving the quality of life for everyone – even if it takes waving posters on the curb and publicly humiliating every elected official in Volusia County.

So, take a minute to drop a note of encouragement to these resolute citizens and organizations – maybe even provide some financial support to keep them in the fight, if possible – and let them know how much we appreciate their hard work on our behalf.

Thanks for reading.  And have a great week, kids.


Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal



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