When you set about publishing an opinion blog, you quickly discover that not everyone you reach will agree with your views on the news and newsmakers of the day.
Nor should they.
In fact, some have strong positions that are diametrically opposed to mine – and they are quick to call, or drop me a note, and take me to task.
I like that. It keeps me reasonably honest and furthers the dialog.
That’s a positive, I think.
For instance, members of the political class, and the Chamber of Commerce set, often get their knickers in a twist over my goofy views on local governance. I’ve learned that folks whose livelihoods are somehow tethered to “the system” I rail against can have thin skin – and they make sure I hear about it in one way or another.
I get it.
After all, I worked in local government most of my adult life, a place where I mastered the art of political survival – a skill which is essentially the hypocritical ability to hold extremely malleable opinions on the issues of the day.
As I’ve said before, independent thinkers don’t last long in most government offices.
Conversely, another thing this blog has taught me is that there are many topics where residents of Volusia County find strong common ground – and there are even some bright spots in the endless inky darkness – such as Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado, who, in my view, represents the kind of new blood and fresh eyes we’ve needed around here for years.
And the Daytona Beach News-Journal has shown incredible courage through bright talents like Dustin Wyatt, Dinah Pulver, Patricio Balona and Eileen Zaffiro-Kean – journalists who have done yeoman’s work exposing the tragic effects of greed and government ineptitude countywide.
While we may have differing views on how to achieve our collective civic goals, we can all agree that people have a right to feel safe in their homes and businesses, that the abuse and neglect of those less fortunate is morally wrong, and that our beach is a communal amenity that deserves to be respected – and accessible to everyone.
The other universally accepted truth is that the Daytona Beach Resort Area has a well-deserved image problem – and it appears our tragically disfigured Boardwalk area may have taken another hit this week.
On Tuesday, the Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group – which owns the foundering Joe’s Crab Shack chain – announced it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to sell the company’s assets to a private equity firm for $50-million.
So long, Joe.
While Ignite would have us believe that Joe’s will remain open for business and committed to investing in the brands “future growth and success” – which apparently means keeping the lights on and honoring gift cards, coupons and promotions for the time being.
Trust me. If you’re holding a Joe’s Crab Shack gift card right now – I’d plan on eating some poorly prepared/overpriced seafood soon.
It’s just the latest distressing episode in the Main Street Pier’s sad saga – one that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars over time – and represents yet another kick in the teeth for stalled revitalization efforts in the city’s once promising “E-Zone.”
You may remember that way back in 2009 the City of Daytona Beach bought a pig-in-a-poke – despite the best efforts of a local citizen advisory board – when it agreed to buy back the operating lease on the pier from Diland Corporation – six decades early, during the bottom of the Great Recession – for some $1.4-million tax dollars.
After shelling out Main Street Redevelopment funds for the lease – City leaders discovered serious structural and maintenance concerns on the then 86-year old span that should have been uncovered during due diligence inspections prior to the sale.
In a 2011 exposé by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, beach advocate Paul Zimmerman – who sat on the pier advisory committee – openly blew the whistle on the quality and accuracy of information the volunteer group was provided by city officials in the lead up to the expensive takeover.
“Now it’s just a never-ending mountain of millions. It’s unreal,” Zimmerman said. “This has been a scandalous boondoggle from its inception.”
Ultimately, the City of Daytona Beach would dump nearly $6-million taxpayer dollars into the repair and renovation of the pier to make welcome it’s new business partner – Joe’s Crab Shack – which agreed to a lease/profit sharing scheme that city manager Jim Chisholm, and then Mayor Glenn Ritchey, assured us all would generate some $12-million in revenue over thirty-years.
Money, we were told, that would be used to pay back the redevelopment funds and go to “future pier and neighborhood improvements.”
Now, eight-years later, the more things change – the more they stay the same.
At the end of the day, our ‘economic development’ types ate off the Joe’s Crab Shack “accomplishment” for several years – while politicians beat their chest and touted a seafood joint as the beginning of the end of all our woes.
And all the long-suffering citizens of Daytona Beach got was another failing chain restaurant – and the threatened loss of some 200 service jobs.
Why is it that when people like Glenn Ritchey and J. Hyatt Brown use their own money for personal business purposes they invariably make millions-on-top-of-millions? Yet, when they manage our funds – the cash just seems to evaporate into the ether and all we’re left with this open squalor – and an even larger shit sandwich to eat?
I don’t get it.
Alright, kids! 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 – during the rainy week that was:
Angel: Downtown Deland
The delightful City of Deland won the nationally recognized “America’s Main Street” competition on Monday and was recognized as the best downtown out of some 242 main streets in 48 states who participated.
That’s significant – and speaks to the hard work and vision of Deland’s elected and appointed officials, residents, and the Main Street Deland Association.
Each of these important facets of this winning equation worked diligently and cooperatively to become one of the best small towns in the nation.
You know, I can be hyper-critical of government – but whenever I’m asked if any municipality in Volusia County is getting it right – I immediately point to places like Deland and New Smyrna Beach, communities that have worked extremely hard to retain the quaint, Old Florida feel that has proven so successful.
Congratulations, Deland! Well deserved.
Angel: The City of Daytona Beach
On Wednesday evening, the Daytona Beach City Commission took decisive action in unanimously approving a long-awaited deal with Volusia County government to open a 100-bed homeless shelter west of Interstate 95.
Now, the ball returns to the Volusia County Council’s court.
Let’s hope, for once, they do the right thing.
In my view, the City of Daytona Beach has worked diligently to find a compassionate solution to one of the most exasperating issues of our time. Homelessness, in all its forms, has added to the malignant blight and dilapidation that continues to hamper true economic development and revitalization efforts throughout the Halifax area.
I commend the City’s incredibly focused efforts – and you should too.
Also, the City’s aggressive pursuit of long-term code enforcement scofflaws through the collection of some $3-million in past due fines and fees – works hand-in-glove with the homeless solution and other promising initiatives – programs which will ultimately pay dividends for all of us.
On a personal note – I can’t begin to tell you how pleased I was to see determined action being taken by Chief Craig Capri, and others, to eliminate the J Food Store on Ridgewood Avenue.
In my opinion, the property has served as a crime incubator – a source of nuisance violations and a loitering center for every form of deviant humanity. A location which has negatively affected the surrounding neighborhood (and other local communities) for far too long.
Kudos. And thank you.
Angel: Bethune-Cookman University Diamond Cats
Wow! Bethune-Cookman athletics just keeps on impressing me – and everyone else, for that matter.
Last Sunday, Bethune-Cookman’s baseball team beat the University of Florida Gators for the first time in 32 meetings! You read that right – B-CU whipped the Number Three school in the nation.
In fact, the team won more regional games in 36-hours than in the previous 36-years!
Although the Wildcat’s ultimately lost to Florida and won’t be going to Omaha this year – in winning (and in defeat) they demonstrated incredible grit, determination and good sportsmanship – and they showed that B-CU can hold their own against much larger, nationally-ranked schools.
And, they made college baseball fun again.
As reported in HBCU Sports, “Bethune-Cookman’s wondrous run through the 2017 NCAA Gainesville Regional ended Monday with a 6-1 loss to the host University of Florida before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 2,166 and an internet thoroughly enamored by the Wildcats’ bleached beards. And calm demeanor, despite the situation. And passion. And, well, everything about the program.”
What a wonderful accomplishment for Bethune-Cookman – and for Daytona Beach.
Asshole City of Daytona Beach – Cultural Services Division
Last week, I took the City of Daytona Beach to task for what I felt was a short-sighted decision to begin charging for Friday night concerts at the Bandshell.
Given the horrific condition of the Boardwalk and nearby neighborhoods – to my mind, these heretofore “free” music events were a much-needed shot in the arm – and served as a solid impetus for getting people back into that festering No Man’s land.
Recently, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on the growing pissing match between the City’s Cultural and Community Services Division and Friends of the Bandshell.
As I take it, the City has essentially put the volunteer group on notice that if they don’t follow suit and charge for their Saturday night shows – then the groups lease could be in jeopardy.
According to Dino Paspalakis, president of Friends of the Bandshell, Helen Riger – who is well-paid to oversee what passes for “cultural events” in the artistic wasteland of Daytona Beach – gave the group a clear ultimatum, “If we don’t charge this will be our last year, and that the city’s taking over.”
In a weird stream-of-thought that could only come from the warped mind of an entrenched bureaucrat, Riger explained that, during previous seasons, the City passed a bucket and solicited donations from the crowd – with some visitors generously giving $5, even $10 contributions.
From that, Riger naturally extrapolated that charging everyone $3.00 at the door would be “more than reasonable.”
Let that be a lesson to you whenever a government entity passes the hat. It’s not to help underwrite ancillary costs associated with an event you support – it’s to gauge your willingness to pay. . .
Look, I don’t make this shit up folks.
Additionally, Riger said that there has been “minimal negative feedback” about the fees, adding that, “The mayor received one (complaint) from somebody who didn’t like it.”
Well, Ms. Riger, consider this number two – in every connotation of the phrase.
Angel: Elaine Barnicle & FREE Daytona Beach
I wanted to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday and thank you to a long-time advocate for good government and sound public policies relating to beach access – the intrepid, Elaine Barnicle.
If you’re a social media maven like me, I encourage you to check out FREE Daytona Beach on Facebook – a site that has become a salon for the discussion of beach driving and access issues.
Moreover, Elaine is often kind enough to overlook those Barker’s View posts which appear on her site that don’t necessarily comport with the beach driving mission – and I sincerely appreciate that.
Thanks to Elaine’s good work – citizens of Volusia County have an important means of expressing their opinions to a broader audience, and, more importantly, a means of learning about the myriad issues affecting beach access and good governance.
And she’s a darn nice person, too.
Thanks, Elaine – for all you do. And Happy Birthday from Barker’s View to you!
Quote of the Week:
“I told the City Commission, ‘Why are you trying to kill the goose that laid the golden egg? If the City Commission refuses to keep the contract as it is now, then it will be our last year.”
–Dino Paspalakis, President of Friends of the Bandshell, and strong-arm victim, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal on the volunteer groups refusal to be bullied into charging my family and yours for Saturday night concerts at the Bandshell.
Join Barker’s View on GovStuff Live with Big John on Monday beginning at 4:00pm. Our guest will be Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado.
Tune-in locally at 1380am – or listen online at Govstuff.org (Listen Live button).
Have a great weekend everyone!