Angels & Assholes for June 30, 2017

When I’m wrong – I’m wrong.

I’ve obviously got an outsized ego – but even a heel like me knows that the correct and gentlemanly thing to do is admit when you make a mistake – take personal responsibility – and make things right.

Earlier this week I wrote a long-winded, melodramatic screed entitled “Because they can,” wherein I took County Manager Jim Dinneen to task and excoriated the Volusia County Council for what I perceived was a gross display of abject arrogance in placing ugly, lime-green “No Parking” traffic cones on the beach behind the new Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock county-owned-off-beach lot.

You may remember that our elected officials assured us all that we would be permitted to use that section of our beach behind the project until the hotel is complete and open for business.

Only then would our ability to drive and park on that section be taken away from us.

That was the “deal” as I understood it.

In my histrionic blogpost, I droned on, ad nauseum, (as I am wont to do) railing against the county’s latest “power play” and telling everyone who would listen that the decision to prematurely ban parking from the strand behind the still under construction Desert Inn was indicative of the council’s predilection for shamelessly breaking their promises to constituents.

I screamed that this was no more than a show of strength – a blatant bait-and-switch reversal –an open demonstration of the county’s power and influence over beach use and access.

And I said that anyone who still believes that our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County have the best interests of their constituents at heart is, well, “delusional.”

I was wrong.  And I admit it.

It wasn’t political hubris and arrogance at all.

It was GROSS INCOMPETENCE.

Yep.  Good old fashioned bureaucratic ineptitude.

So, let the record stand corrected.

According to Dustin Wyatt, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Little Jimmy Dinneen confirmed this week that he was totally unaware that a large section of the beach had been cordoned off to parking – a ban which, according to the article, had been on-going since Easter weekend.

Clueless.

That is, until Sons of the Beach President Paul Zimmerman made inquiries.

In a previous piece on this latest Bruhaha on the Beach, Beach Safety Director Ray Manchester (the latest in a long line of county employees enlisted to explain beach policy to the public) cited a 2012 County Council “service model” which gives officials the authority to arbitrarily remove cars from the beach, before lecturing us on the benefits of his new parking-free beach.

“This no-parking zone also doubles as an extension of the park and provides a car-free area where the public can set up for the day safely above the tideline and traffic lane.” 

 In the style of the classic servant-leader – Mr. Dinneen immediately deflected blame for the “mistake” on something called the “Coastal Division” (?) – then reverted to his archetypal micromanagement style by publicly blistering his employees, “When it’s on the beach, they should have gone through me specifically, but they didn’t.”

Way to accept responsibility, Skipper.  (Look it up in your County Manager Handbook).

Then, in keeping with her near-constant “look at me!” fetish fanned by the lead-up to her 2018 campaign, the always nasty Councilwoman/Vice Chair Deb Denys reverted to her previous stance and announced publicly that she now supports removal of the parking restrictions (after supporting the complete removal of beach driving behind the Desert Inn – after saying she opposed the complete removal of beach driving behind the Desert Inn – oh, whatever).

“It wasn’t really a council directive,” she said, adding that every decision regarding the beach should come from the council.”

 Wow.

Naturally, our doddering County Council Chairman Ed Kelley instinctively chimed-in, citing his unwavering support for anything and everything that removes cars from increasingly larger swaths of the beach.

Apparently speaking before Dinneen announced it was a “mistake” –  in his typical disjointed style – Ed said:

 “It seems like common sense to me (?).”

 “Cars parking there would mean limited access for people (who use the parking lot). 

Say what?

Hey, Eddie – from the painfully obvious file – the very nature of “off-beach” parking limits access for people attempting to, well, access the beach.  Get it?

I mean, what gives?  Ed Kelley is a long-time beach access advocate, right?

Yeah.  I’m almost positive he told us that.

I distinctly remember a glossy, bright red mailer that went out to all “beach supporters” under Ed’s hand during the highly contentious 2016 election cycle wherein he squawked about his commitment to beach driving and access:  https://barkersview.org/2016/06/

“Beach driving access was here long before any of us.  It must be preserved.”

“We should maintain a balance of beach driving and off-beach parking to accommodate all who enjoy our beaches.”

He then yammered on about some quaint notion of “protecting the public trust,” yada, yada, yada.

I could go on about all the times the Kelley campaign told us that Ed supported “beach access” (something we now know was a dog whistle for “more off-beach parking lots”) but I won’t – and I damn sure won’t mention Chairman Kelley’s heroic efforts to protect the public trust – because there haven’t been any.

Whatever.

Now, it appears the “mistake” will be corrected – and the historic “Ray Manchester Decree” prohibiting beach parking behind “off-beach” lots will be formalized by the full County Council.

“What I will suggest,” Dinneen said, “is sometime in the future, the council might want to consider this.  Because there is definitely logic behind it.”

No there isn’t.

Logic doesn’t factor into this convoluted shit-train that passes for “governance” in Volusia County – and it hasn’t since Jim Dinneen took the helm.

But don’t you worry, Jim – your annual pay raise and benefit increase will go off like clockwork later this year – and the rest of us, the ones who pay the bills, will simply sit back and take it.

Like always.

Hey, Deb Denys – you want to secure at least one vote?

Make a motion to fire this five-alarm fuck-up of a county manager.  Do it now.

I guarantee it will buy you the adulation and respect you so richly crave.

On that up-beat note, 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 week that was:

Angel              The City of Daytona Beach

During a recent City Commission meeting, officials took a unique, common-sense approach to eliminating one of the worst contributors to blight, crime and hopelessness on the beleaguered beachside.

In lieu of initiating expensive, and time-consuming, foreclosure proceedings on two upside down, dilapidated crime incubators on Braddock Avenue, the City has – in exchange for a firm promise to remediate the problem – agreed to forgive some $40,000 in code enforcement liens if the slumlord responsible for the violations transfers ownership of the properties to the mortgage holder.

Look, I admit, I can be hard on City Attorney Robert Jagger – but my hat’s off to him on what is clearly a creative, cost-effective and very efficient means of cleaning up two incredibly noxious beachside properties.

Good work, sir.

Angel               Eddie Hennessey and the Streamline Hotel

 A tip o’ the hat to Mr. Eddie Hennessey for his beautiful renovation of the Streamline Hotel which held its formal grand opening earlier this week.

I like a man who has the commitment and dedication required to finish what he starts – that’s a rare commodity in the Halifax area.

No one crows about the need for substantive revitalization efforts – or the importance of stabilizing our economy with something other than an artificial infusion of “economic development” funds (read: tax dollars) more than I do, and this project fits the bill perfectly.

The Streamline is really something special.

I like the fact that this was a local effort, as well.

Despite the delays and frustrations of restoring an old building, local builders Anthony and Paul Viscomi and their crew did amazing work transforming the former “hostel” into a world-class hotel.

It took a lot of guts – and a $6-million investment – to see this project become a reality.  In my view, Mr. Hennessey, his partners, and staff can take great pride in what may well be the catalyst for the revitalization of our long-suffering beachside.

That’s something we can all take pride in.

 Asshole           NASCAR, Daytona/International Speedway Corporation

On Wednesday, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that the Forbes-listed billionaire France family – through their business entities NASCAR, Daytona International Speedway and International Speedway Corporation – ponied-up $5,000 each (complete with check presentation ceremony) for Volusia County’s first homeless assistance shelter.

Admittedly, that’s about $15,000 more than I donated.

I guess where I take the ass is that – given the tax breaks and publicly funded incentives which have been poured into the DIS facility and other France family business interests for years – just maybe I expected, more?

I know – DIS brings in thousands of visitors each year!  The facility is worth its weight in gold!

(Then why did they rip-out a quarter of their grandstands and replace them with a pixilated pattern that gives the optical illusion of paying customers?  Just curious…)

Given the fact that taxpayers will contribute over $800,000 each year towards the nearly $1-million cost of operating the facility – which remains some $200K short for the first year – perhaps those who the News-Journal describes as our “Rich and Powerful” could go in their incredibly deep pockets and give a little back.

Hey, maybe I’m the asshole – and an ungrateful one at that.

After all, no one owes anyone anything, right?

It’s just that the next time the France family – or anyone else with a personal net worth of over $1-million – comes around asking for over $40-million in public funds for another “entertainment and shopping” venue to complement their business interests, impact fee reimbursements, infrastructure improvements, or any of the other “win-win, public-private partnerships” that invariably mean public funds benefiting private interests – I, for one, will remember the paltry $5-grand they threw at perhaps the most vexing problem of our time.

Asshole           Deltona City Commission

 Rather than demand that the City Manager and staff find a workable solution to the myriad issues surrounding trash collection in Deltona – the City Commission has taken the easy – and expensive – way out:

They hired a contractor to tell them what they already know.

For a time in my life I served as an interim city manager – perhaps the worst period of my long career in municipal government.  It’s a job that requires a high-degree of creativity, the ability to multi-task, a lot of diplomacy and an institutional knowledge of the million moving parts that make up the inner-workings of a community.

One of the first things I noticed upon moving into the role was the vast number of “consultants” and “contractors” that hang on a public entity like suckerfish on a whale shark. It’s a weird symbiotic relationship – the consultant ostensibly provides expertise (and a healthy layer of political insulation) – while commanding often exorbitant fees and performance bonuses for their time.

Word to the Deltona City Commission:  The hiring of public sector consultants is a slippery slope.

I’ll just bet if you look around, you might find that a current staff member has some unique suggestions to solving the waste management issues you face.  In turn, you may save a few bucks while showing confidence in the contributions of your employees.

If not, maybe it’s time to find a new manager for your team – one that cultivates problem-solving and innovation in those receiving public funds to serve in the public interest.

Just a thought.

Asshole           Ormond Beach Rotary Club

 Look, I could give a damn if three-generations of male, well-connected and well-heeled, Ormond Beach ‘movers-and-shakers’ want to have a Sausage Fest at The Grind every Thursday night – go for it.

In fact, for a time I belonged to an all-male Ormond Beach club that will remain nameless.  I got out of the organization not because it was gender exclusive – but because it was dull and lifeless.

That club now admits women, and I’ll just bet it’s a better place for it.

Full disclosure: I was a Boy Scout, too.

According to Rotary International, the service organization focuses on several important areas, to include, promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies.

I’m not sure how much of that gets accomplished by the fella’s in the Boom-Boom Room at Kona Tiki Bar on a Thursday night.  (If you’ve ever been to Kona on a Thursday night, you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

The fact is, those wishing to serve and contribute to the betterment of their community through participation in a service organization shouldn’t have to form their own club because the existing organization is effectively closed to those who don’t meet the groups exclusive definition of who is worthy – and who is not.

That’s all I’ve got for this week!  (Is there anyone I forgot to alienate?) 

Have a great weekend, kids!

 

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