When I was a kid, I was a mischievous little shit. Always up to something.
That meant I caught the blame for everything – regardless of my actual guilt or innocence – and my angry accusers were usually right.
In fact, my father used to joke that he should give me a spanking before he left the house to save time when he got home.
My old man could be a tough disciplinarian – and his physical and verbal punishments for my various transgressions would be considered downright abusive by todays parenting standards.
While his discipline was never wanton or cruel, it was rigorous, and always designed to teach me that with personal freedom and responsibility comes accountability.
He was from another era – one that demanded exacting standards of conduct and a strong work ethic – and anything less was unacceptable.
But when my father knew I was in the right – or wrongfully accused – he fought like a rabid badger to support and defend me. He was a former Marine Corps officer, and standing up for that which was right and just was important to him.
I like to think he passed that trait along to his son.
As a career law enforcement officer – I always instilled in those under my command that it was just as important to prove a person innocent – as it was to find the guilty party.
Besides, blanket accusations are disheartening and wrong – regardless of the circumstances.
Earlier this week, I saw some disturbing photographs circulating on social media that were apparently taken from the Main Street Pier during the recent Memorial Day weekend. The pics showed a group of people socializing on the beach with trash of every description collecting around them at the high-water mark. It was depressing.
For some reason, the sight of so much concentrated garbage littering the ‘World’s Most Famous Beach’ reminded me of a recent episode of Comedy Central’s “Tosh.O” – a nationally syndicated television program that is wildly popular with the “young adult” key demographic.
During the show, comedian Daniel Tosh introduced an on-line video of a road rage encounter which occurred somewhere in the Halifax area:
“Welcome to Daytona Beach – a city even Floridian’s think is too trashy.”
“Where the worst of Jacksonville meets the worst of Orlando.”
“A city still covered in piss and puke from 1980’s Spring Breakers. I could go on, I grew up in the area. . .”
Wow. Even tongue-in-cheek – that’s harsh.
As I understand it, the photos posted to Facebook depicted guests of an organized event held just south of the pier, and patrons and employees of Joe’s Crab Shack clearly observed the group littering and consuming alcohol along a section of beach near the pilings.
When those with a seagulls-eye view from the deck above became concerned about the crowd’s total disregard for the environment, they called them on it – with a bullhorn – and verbal swipes and middle-fingers were exchanged before Beach Safety officers were called to intervene.
That’s when the focus naturally turned from littering and disorderly behavior – to admonishing law enforcement for “not doing more.”
In my experience – write tickets for littering and they’re condemned as Nazi Sand Troopers with nothing better to do – issue warnings, or less than a contrived number of citations, and they’re slackers.
Am I wrong?
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. (Interestingly, no one lost their life – and there were no major incidents over the record setting weekend.)
Even County Chairman Ed Kelley got in a few cheap shots.
Thus began another scrimmage in Volusia’s Blame Game – a weird local pastime where everyone is held responsible except the guilty few.
When these photographs went viral, the Daytona Beach News-Journal took notice and the individuals seen trashing the beach were loosely reported as part of an unnamed “out-of-town event.”
Wait. I missed something.
So, I read the article a second time – searching intently for the name of the event.
Rather than properly identify and focus on the specific “out-of-town” group responsible – the News-Journal reported that the concentrated debris field near the pier “offers only a snapshot” of every mile of the Volusia County coastline that weekend.
Anyone who visits the beach with any regularity will confirm that – for the most part – visitor’s pick-up after themselves, use the trash receptacles provided, and tend to leave the strand much as they found it – especially in areas where on-beach parking allows visitors to be self-contained.
Are there exceptions? Of course – especially on summer holidays when the place is packed.
But I can personally vouch that the beach doesn’t look like a fetid junkpile every weekend (that’s limited to the Boardwalk) – nor are visitors regularly moved to fighting words over instances of wholesale littering.
In my view, the unfortunate incident near the pier should be addressed for what it was – a group of people attending a privately sponsored event who acted irresponsibly in numbers too large to allow for effective police intervention.
So, why come down like everyone who enjoyed our beaches on Memorial Day weekend are all somehow equally responsible?
In Volusia County, nothing – and I mean nothing – happens on the sand without a paid permit.
Don’t believe me?
Ask the Ocean Deck – or any other established business on the beach about the height of the hurdles one must clear to host a planned event. Given this onerous permitting process, surely County officials can identify the sponsors of the event depicted in those unsettling photographs?
That said, why haven’t those responsible for promoting, managing and profiting from this “out-of-town” event been held personally responsible?
Why? Because in Volusia County it’s easier to label single issues as part of a “larger problem” – one seemingly impossible to manage given current resources. As an example, “There’s room to do better, even as the problem seems to be getting worse,” said George Recktenwald, deputy county manager.
Respectfully, Mr. Recktenwald, in this instance you are not at fault.
(I realize that after working for the accountability-averse Jim Dinneen these many years your Pavlovian response to any problem is to immediately assume guilt and take personal responsibility – that’s honorable. But honestly, George, this is clearly an isolated incident that deserves a targeted response.)
To lend credence to the “widespread problem” narrative, the News-Journal reached way back and reported that, “Two years ago, beach cleanup crews carted away 13 tons of garbage after the July 4 weekend, according to a News-Journal article. On a normal weekend during the summer, beachgoers dump between 10 and 12 tons. That’s about two full-grown elephants stacked atop each other.”
(What a Great visual…)
The article also reported that during the Memorial Day Weekend, the county collected some 29.67 tons of trash “from the sand and surf in the days that followed — that’s about 12 tons more than what’s left behind on an average four-day weekend during the summer.”
Obviously, the insinuation being that on any given weekend visitors “dump” and walk away from nearly 34,000 pounds of garbage on the shoreline – suggesting that what we saw in those awful Facebook photo’s is nothing new.
I’m not buying it.
How much of that 12-tons of trash represents properly disposed of refuse collected from receptacles provided by the county for that very purpose?
And who was the group responsible?
Ah, screw it. The one’s who should be asking these questions, won’t – and I’ve become numb to it.
For what it’s worth, if you went to the beach last weekend and left nothing but footprints in the sand – thank you.
And to those valiant souls who stepped up and cleaned up – despite the taunts of the crowd – you are my personal heroes.
If you sponsored, promoted or attended a poorly managed event near the Main Street Pier and wantonly trashed our beautiful beach endangering precious sea life and shorebirds – then shame on you.
What you did was disgusting and wrong.
Unfortunately, affixing proper blame for this and other problems we face is not a high priority for our elected and appointed officials.
In what is becoming a universal characteristic of the physical, civic and societal decomposition of large parts of the Halifax area, the true violators – the slum lords, grifters, greedy developers, neglectful property owners, inept shovel-leaners passing as public officials, and those who openly loot public funds from redevelopment initiatives, etc. – those that give real credence to Daniel Tosh’s grim narrative – are never held personally accountable.
Why do you think that is. . .
(Note: After posting, I learned that the News-Journal discovered a date discrepancy between the photographs (which were taken on Saturday) and the “event” (which occurred on Sunday). In turn, they erred on the side of caution and refrained from naming the sponsors.)