I’ve taken some heat since I started this little social experiment.
People “in the know” who toil in the Halls of Power and boardrooms throughout Volusia County tell me of the comments, the tantrums, and the strange angst that these goofy opinion pieces bring to some of Volusia’s “Rich and Powerful.”
Friends tell me of the side-ways glances and open hostility that can come from merely mentioning the fact they read Barker’s View – or, God forbid, agree with some of these weird screeds – others change the topic or refuse to mention the blog at all.
Some have “unfriended” me altogether.
That’s to be expected, I guess, and after 31-years in law enforcement I’ve grown some hard bark – not easily offended. Truth be told, I like the feud that naturally results from confronting an entrenched power structure when their wrong.
There was a time when the competition of ideas and a free, transparent debate of the issues of the day was the foundation upon which sound public policy was built. Not anymore.
Now, our guiding principles of governance are most often formulated by those who can pay-to-play.
The premise of an alternative opinion forum is that not everyone will agree on every issue.
As the author, my role is to float a notion – generally something that affects all of us – and allow you, the reader, to think critically, independently analyze the information, consider the point-of-view, form your own unique assessment and further the discussion.
People and organizations that agree on everything tend to be more of a dull mutual admiration society, a government agency controlled by a megalomaniac shitheel who suppresses dissenting opinions as a matter of internal policy, or the CEO Business Alliance of Volusia County.
I believe that the beauty – and relevance – of Barker’s View is that it remains one of the few outlets on the Fun Coast where we can discuss and debate the issues of the day, agree to disagree, and remain friends and neighbors.
What I find unfortunate, although not unexpected, is how those in positions of power and influence will invariably attempt to marginalize and silence opposing viewpoints as an effective means of protecting the status quo.
The oligarchical system that passes for governance in Volusia County – to include the various fraternities and societies where power goes to be among like-types – requires that communications be limited to trusted parties.
Any public statement must focus exclusively on the positive – accentuating only that which lends credence to the optimistic smokescreen that helps keep those of us who pay the bills in the dark – even as the stark reality of our collective situation festers around us.
It’s why our elected officials on the Volusia County Council are so often exposed as uninformed churls – figureheads who are fed a steady diet of bullshit and indoctrinated in the imperative of towing the official line, eschewing even the appearance of independence, and – above all else – always facilitating the wants of those influential powerbrokers who hold the paper on their political lives.
Trust me – I sincerely appreciate your comments and dialog on social media and off-line – even when that criticism is pointed, harsh and personal. I subscribe to the maxim that he who seeks the truth should give no mercy – and expect none.
For the record, my working theory is that if you are one of the ‘movers-and-shakers’ or ‘high panjandrums of political power’ I bitch about who put self-enrichment above the civic needs of your constituents and I call you a mendacious asshole – I just naturally assume you feel the same about me.
There now. That’s something we can all agree on!
I recently read the incredibly interesting – and telling – piece in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, penned by the outstanding tag team of Seth Robbins and Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, aptly entitled – “The Project is Real.”
Anyone who has driven down A-1-A recently has seen the gash in the sand that we are told will be the foundation of the towering twin-spires of the Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums – a $185 million beachfront monstrosity that is being constructed by Russian developer Alexey Lysich’s Protogroup.
The ground has been cleared and the pilings driven into place – the foundation of this spectacular new addition is ready to go – and everything is in place.
Except the financing.
In typical Halifax area style, the public has been given a glimpse of some extraordinarily beautiful architectural renderings – complete with pixilated little cars and happy shadow people frolicking about – and our hopes have been buoyed by some preliminary construction activity at the site and a parking garage.
Unfortunately, Protogroup has yet to secure the cash necessary to see the project out of the ground. It’s admirable that Lysich and family have dropped some serious personal coin on the project – but, frankly, we’ve heard it all before.
You may remember that chilly night back in January 2014 when, as the News-Journal described the scene, “200 local power brokers sipping cocktails and gazing into glass cases that held Jim Morrison’s jacket and Duane Allman’s guitar gathered to celebrate the kickoff of condo sales for the planned Hard Rock Hotel and Cafe on the oceanfront.”
I sure do.
Anyone who was anyone was urinating all over themselves in a fit of excited incontinence over the latest, greatest “panacea project” that was going to save all of us from this festering blight and neglect that is destroying our quality of life and hampering any real economic development.
To ensure the project, J. Hyatt Brown let his hired hands on the Volusia County Council know just how much he supported the removal of beach driving from the strand behind the “Hard Rock” as an incentive for the development (take a guess how they voted?).
Then, just two-years later, we were all being dressed-down on the front page of the paper by a dejected Henry Wolfond – the Canadian developer who blamed his abject failure on everything except his twisted business model of charging Palm Beach condo and hotel prices in a Hooterville market.
Now, former Mayor Glenn Ritchey – who apparently negotiated the project with the Russians way back when – is once again firing up the Allstar Goodtime Band and playing a rosy tune for all of us skeptical rubes who can’t seem to recognize a good thing when we see it:
“We’re riding the crest of a wave of good things in our community,” Ritchey said. “Just seeing (construction) cranes creates an air of positivity.”
Hell yeah, Glenn! I can feel it deep down in my loins!
Excitement is in the air again! Again.
Unfortunately, the recent News-Journal piece also exposed some potentially uncomfortable information that was found during a review of the “Panama Papers” – leaked documents that contain personal financial information regarding the offshore bank accounts of uber-wealthy individuals and public officials from around the globe.
Although offshore business entities and banking is legal where permitted – from the “who’d a thunk it” file – some shell corporations and offshore accounts are used for fraud, tax evasion, and the avoidance of international sanctions.
Really. I’m not making that up.
Apparently – according to the Panama Papers – a guy by the name of Alexey Lysich of St. Petersburg, Russia is associated with an offshore bank account in the Seychelles.
In his defense, Lysich told the News-Journal he – “doesn’t think its him” – and assured us all that neither he, nor his family, has any connection to the Russian government.
After all, “Money is money” Lysich said.
He’s right. It is.
But – call me crazy – I just like to know the origin and security of it before I get overly excited about the “next big thing” on the long-suffering beachside.
Look, I wish Mr. Lysich well – and I hope his mega-project does everything for Daytona Beach that Mayor Ritchey promises it will – but we’ve been fooled before – and I’m not sure we can afford another boondoggle on the beach.