Angels & Assholes for June 9, 2017

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.

Real 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.” 

My ass.

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.

Decisively.

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!

 

On Volusia: The Blame Game

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.

Nothing.

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.

Bullshit.

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.

For anything.

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.)

 

 

On Volusia: Turning a Blind Eye to Reality

When my nephew was a toddler, he was a bright child but afflicted with an odd habit of covering his eyes with both hands whenever something frightened him.

Regardless of circumstance – be it perceived physical danger or a scary movie – the boy would calmly block it all out by firmly clasping his fingers over his face.

He didn’t have a normal fight-or-flight response.

It was some weird, atavistic self-protective instinct that said, “If I can’t see it, it can’t hurt me.”

Fortunately, he’s older now and has outgrown the peculiar practice.

I wish others would.

For many years, what passes for political leadership in Volusia County has suffered from a debilitating form of what psychiatrists call the “Pollyanna Syndrome” – a tendency for people in power to focus on pleasant items more accurately than unpleasant ones.

They take the worry out of serious problems – make them softer and rounder – by simply refusing to admit that they exist at all.

In doing so, politicians develop a subconscious bias for unchecked optimism that sooths their fragile egos through constant self-reinforcement and ostentatious displays – such as the gaudy “State of the County” address.

With repetition, it blunts their logical instincts to recognize difficult problems and seek solutions.

Trust me.  Messengers bearing bad news tend to have short life spans in most government organizations.  They are shunned like a Jonah – and if your views don’t comport with the “everything is beautiful, in its own way” groupthink – you’d better keep them to yourself.

It also helps when the local media stops pointing out our collective warts and blemishes.

Anyone looking for a crystal example of this most vexing local problem of our time need look no further than a telling letter to the editor in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Accentuate Positive in Daily News.”

The piece was submitted by a Mr. Morgan Gilreath of Deland, Florida.

Now, I don’t know for certain if the author is our former Volusia County Property Appraiser – but I suspect he is.

And I don’t come to that conclusion by name recognition alone.

It is because the idea of intentionally ignoring uncomfortable realities –  and deliberately trying to curtain off the malignant issues that are destroying our quality of life and systematically churning large segments of the Halifax area into a mosaic of dystopian badlands – is textbook Volusia County government.

In Mr. Gilreath’s view, “Appearances do matter.  So does the way our community is presented to people visiting or looking for a home.” 

 He went on to list several newsworthy headlines that appeared in the News-Journal’s “Local” section on June 1.

These reports include a mother who viciously scalded her child, a woman convicted of drowning a puppy admitting to a probation violation, and the leader of a Palm Coast street gang appealing his life sentence.

In other words – a small, but vivid, cross-sample of “real life” here on the Fun Coast.

According to Gilreath, “Gotta tell ya, these don’t describe where I live. We have great communities throughout Volusia County with lots of wonderful people involved in fun and life-enriching events day in and day out. I didn’t see much of that in the Local section June 1.” 

Hey, Morgan – wake up and smell the coffee.

Those stories, and hundreds like them, empirically describe where the rest of us live.

In my view, the idea of intentionally concealing the myriad issues that face us is the height of dishonesty – and self-deception.

And it disrespects our intelligence.

The fact is, many areas of Volusia County are quickly reaching rock bottom – and to simply ignore – or worse, purposely conceal by omission – the cancerous effects of blight, violent crime, homelessness, dilapidation and the resulting despair as a means of building a false narrative for potential visitors and home buyers borders on criminal fraud.

Despite the deeply ingrained instincts of certain current and former Volusia County politicians – ignorance of the problem is not the answer.

In my view, the very idea of encouraging the Daytona Beach News-Journal to only report on a make-believe world of “wonderful people engaged in fun and life-enriching events” as a means of creating a faux-appearance speaks volumes.

It is this same shameless mindset that drove local tourism officials to abandon any semblance of ethical boundaries when they openly encouraged some 10,000 members of Shriners International to descend on Daytona Beach for their 2017 Imperial Session next month – knowing full-well what the poor rubes will discover once they arrive.

Don’t take my word for it.

In an enlightening April 2017 piece by the News-Journal’s Elieen Zaffiro-Kean, our main gateway to Daytona’s infamous beachside – East International Speedway Boulevard – was aptly described as, “…an apocalyptic version of its former self.

“Empty buildings held up by cracked bricks sit like ghosts along the busy thoroughfare between the Halifax River and Atlantic Ocean. Buildings with broken windows and missing roof shingles seamlessly blend in with the other beaten-down structures. Underground, fuel from old gas stations is seeping between properties.”

 Need more? I encourage everyone to pretend you’re a Shriner and take a stroll through the ruins of the Boardwalk – then make your own assessment of whether you would return to the “Daytona Beach Resort Area.”

My God.

Look, I’m not a marketing expert – but I do know the exponential impact of negative word-of-mouth from 10,000 victims of a bait-and-switch scheme on future tourism.  And, when the backlash hits, our various and redundant convention and visitors’ bureaus will ultimately have no one to blame but themselves.  (Our red-faced politicians will make certain of that.)

They say the first step in resolving a problem is admitting you have one – and the truth hurts.

But giving in to the feel-good strategy of ignoring the obvious in hopes it will go away is a slippery slope.

I realize that I can be chronically negative and hyper-critical – and I suspect things look different from the posh riverfront homes of the rich and powerful – or an idyllic West Volusia neighborhood.

But pretending our area is not suffering mightily – or attempting to camouflage the evils – is not conducive to positive change.

The blind optimism of Mr. Gilreath aside, the Halifax area continues to endure the catastrophic effects of concentrated poverty, widespread crime and victimization, a dearth of political leadership and vision, abject greed, corrosive neglect, and a crippling oligarchical system of governance that protects and enriches a few powerful barons while completely ignoring the needs of average citizens who are expected to pay the bills and remain silent.

I’m not making this up to hurt someone’s feelings.  Look around.

Mr. Gilreath believes that “…accentuating the positive helps lead those reading to positive thoughts and actions.

Do we really solve these entrenched issues by resorting to the hollow vanity of painting ourselves in a positive light?

Really?

In my view, it is high-time that our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government awake to the sobering realization that we no longer have the luxury of ignoring this devastating cycle.

Now is the time for blunt honesty – and bold, decisive action.

We must face our demons head-on, with eyes wide open, and anything less represents the nadir of political cowardice and dooms us all to more of the same.

I believe we do ourselves a terrible disservice when we attempt to create a Utopian concept of life that simply does not exist, while ignoring the ugly realities we communally face.

 

Angels & Assholes for June 2, 2017

From the patently obvious file:  I know nothing about professional journalism – or the newspaper business, for that matter.

I’m essentially a retired schmendrick with too much time on my hands, but I know good reporting, and I appreciate its motivating influence on civic progress.

And, I have an opinion about everything. . .

In recent months, I’ve become a real cheerleader for the Daytona Beach News-Journal – our local newspaper of record, who, like an aging grand dame, keeps changing her appearance hoping to draw the attention of youthful suitors.

In my view, the caliber of recent investigative reporting, community meetings, and enlightening multi-part series have shown what our old gal on Sixth Street is capable of when she really tries – but these near constant micro-changes must stop while we still have something worth opening in the morning.

Frankly, the people I talk with are losing interest.  Fast.

I don’t know about you, but I could give a Tinker’s damn about the France mansion.

And how much more of the big “Country 500” – an overpriced package show at Daytona International Speedway – must we endure?

Not to mention every time someone farts in the Minto Communities corporate office, Clayton Park is there to report on the beauty of its resonance.

Earlier this week, editorialist Scott Kent announced that our letters to the editor will be limited to 250-words, preferably less, in keeping with the new “aesthetically pleasing” layout – while what passes for the “Local” section continues to compress into a single sheet brief.

Frankly, I don’t give a fig about how visually appealing a newspaper is, or isn’t.  The NJ’s first metamorphosis was okay – now, it’s just gilding the lily.

When it comes to consuming the news, I’ll take quality of content over appearance every time.

For instance, on Sunday – and again on Monday – readers were greeted with lengthy pap and fluff on the Country 500 hoedown.

Front page, above the fold.

Then, on Wednesday, we were presented with essentially a giant real estate advertisement announcing that the late Betty Jane France’s 17,000 square foot home, and all her worldly belongings, are being hawked to the highest bidder.

Meh.

I understand there is dramatic interest in watching a life of great wealth and privilege being sold to the tune of an auctioneer’s rhythmic chant, but how in the hell does that touch my life in any appreciable way?

Front page?

Clearly, my interests may differ from yours – and the lifestyles of Daytona’s rich and famous may well draw fans in some gated communities north of Ormond Beach – but the rest of us ham-n-eggers down here in the trenches need more substance.

I hope that once the Daytona Beach News-Journal finishes putting on its make-up and settles on an outfit it will get back to the hard work at hand.

In my view, the momentum started by the ‘Tarnished Jewel’ series has resulted in incredibly positive happenings at City Hall – a real movement with grassroots support that may well serve as the impetus for the revitalization of our beachside and core tourist areas.

At the recent beachside town hall, editor Pat Rice assured us that the News-Journal’s in-depth reporting on the serious issues we collectively face will continue.

With so much happening – positive and negative – in the Halifax area, we desperately need a free and inquisitive press to throw back the curtains of power, report the facts, and provide residents with a comprehensive overview of the who, what, when, where, why and how here on the Fun Coast.

Note to Mr. Rice: Turn the Big Dogs out and let them eat.

I’ll just bet pro journalists like Dinah Pulver, Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, Dustin Wyatt and Patricio Balona are chomping at the bit to report the news – real news.

There are enough jacklegs like me bitching and opining about the news of the day.  We’re a dime-a-dozen, feeding off current events like a pack of those ugly buzzards you see taking a dead armadillo back into the food chain on the side of State Road 40.

What we really need is independent investigative journalism with a laser focus on exposing the inner-workings of our weird oligarchical power structure that has resulted in the destruction of one of America’s most famous tourist destinations and crippled our natural economy.

It is refreshing to see the Daytona Beach News-Journal finally holding public entities and politicians accountable – and reporting the good, the bad and the ugly about a rigged system that has put profits above progress and compromised the public trust for the benefit of special interests.

As I’ve said before, given the enormous response to recent local coverage, I believe it is possible for the News-Journal to remain both relevant and profitable without these redundant costume changes.

Just my two-cents.

It’s time once again for Uncle Marky 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 – this week:

Angel              Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri

Chief Craig Capri is an impressive guy.

Since his appointment earlier this year, he has worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the citizens it serves.

That’s important.

In doing so, he is opening non-traditional lines of communication and fundamentally changing the way Daytona Beach residents view, and interact, with their police department.

In a recent article in the News-Journal, Chief Capri spoke of the importance of sincere outreach to changing perspectives on both sides of the badge, “People can talk community policing, but unless you practice it and live it, it’s not something you can just turn on and off, it’s got to be a culture,” Capri said.

From literacy programs to fun activities, like bicycle rides and fishing tournaments, the Daytona Beach Police Department is doing it right.

And the agency is getting its important message out to the community like never before.

The fine men and women of DBPD are building important bridges and developing a sense of mutual respect and trust with young people.  And the department’s increased presence on social media has modernized the way police and the community interact.

Most important, Craig Capri is the genuine article – someone who leads from the heart – and he’s clearly in it for all the right reasons.

Please join me in supporting Chief Capri’s outstanding efforts to build a stronger, more cohesive community – good work which brings hope to the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Asshole           Beachcombers Wellness Center & Orange City

You know, Beachcombers Wellness and Orange City aren’t really assholes – the company administrates inpatient drug treatment centers to meet a serious need in Florida, and Orange City is a quaint community in West Volusia.  Both are just trying to get by.

I get it.

Recently, the owners of Beachcomber Wellness decided it would be right to locate an adult treatment facility in the Alling House Bed and Breakfast – which just happens to be in Orange City’s beautiful Historic District.  Naturally, residents came out in force to explain to their elected officials that there is probably a better place for a drug rehab center.

And they’re right.

But, in Beachcomber’s defense, you’re telling me that Orange City officials couldn’t work with the company to find a more suitable location for this in-demand service?

Volusia County has a real need for quality drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation facilities.

Abuse and addiction has touched nearly every family I know, and it’s a problem that isn’t going away on its own.

In 2016, some 262-people died from drug overdoses here on the Fun Coast – and that number is expected to rise this year.

In my view, this represents a real need – and a great opportunity for our highly-touted ‘economic development’ types to work cooperatively with Beachcombers Wellness Center and other rehabilitation providers to find suitable locations to establish their businesses.

In Orange City, this isn’t a “Not in my backyard” issue – it’s a matter of appropriateness.

Like putting a homeless assistance center in the middle of an upscale yacht basin – it just doesn’t make sense in the long term.

In my view, Volusia has enough vacant space to accommodate just about any type of industry or service in numerous suitable locations throughout the county.

It simply requires effort, creativity, and a comprehensive vision for meeting current and future needs.

That’s something else we’re sorely lacking here in Volusia County.

Asshole           Deltona City Commission & City Manager Jane Shang

 Sage advice says you don’t put the cart before the horse – and you damn sure don’t launch a $9-million “Community Center” without knowing what your potential return on investment will be.

Once built, structures are like dependents.

You must cool and heat them, insure the building and its occupants, patch them up when they get damaged, provide preventive maintenance, clean, sweep, mop, dust and periodically update their interior and exterior.  They need modern furnishings and functional elements that will make them attractive to potential renters – a life-cycle that requires constant polishing, marketing and salesmanship to accomplish.

Look, everyone knows that civic centers and municipal amenities rarely, if ever, pay for themselves – you’re lucky if they break even.  But these facilities play an important role in meeting the cultural, artistic, recreation and entertainment needs of a community.

Almost inexplicably, in April, Deltona’s new Events Manager, Chris O’Donnell, estimated annual revenues from the still under construction community center at some $970,700 – far more than what similar public facilities in the area produce.

Interestingly, when you include debt on the building, that figure matches the center’s estimated expenses.

Yep.  Like any good bureaucrat, it looks like Mr. O’Donnell just pulled a number out of his ass.

All of this comes before the Deltona City Commission have finished their policy discussions –  including the question of whether the city will opt out of alcohol sales.

These are significant issues, all of which will ultimately impact Deltona’s bottom line.

In my view, it was incumbent on City Manager Jane Shang to oversee this important (and incredibly expensive) project in a professional and efficient manner.  That includes ensuring that the important decisions are brought before the elected body in a logical sequence, supported by the best information available.  That’s her job.

It appears that hasn’t happened.

This latest misstep is indicative of much larger problems in Deltona government.  It’s ugly.

In my view, nothing is going to change until Ms. Shang moves along.

You’ll want to stay tuned to this one.

Asshole           The City of Daytona Beach

Am I wrong about this?

The City of Daytona Beach has begun charging $3 for Friday night concerts at the Bandshell – and $10 for the “VIP” treatment (which includes a chair) plus “applicable fees.”

Really?

Although a series of Saturday night shows will remain free, the fact that what was quickly becoming a great source of inexpensive weekend entertainment for area residents and visitors is now becoming a paying gig for the City.

That’s disturbing to me.

Look, I get the fact that no one is entitled to “free” anything – but these shows were widely attended by local families and tourists – a real draw to our long-suffering beachside and, in my view, a positive use of public recreation funds.

It was also a shot in the arm to Friends of the Bandshell.

Trust me.  The few bucks Daytona Beach will squeak out of these Friday night shows pales in comparison to the millions-of-dollars that have been stolen and squandered in the name of generating interest in our beachside over the past 30-years.

Bringing life back to the Bandshell pays dividends across our community – why stifle actual progress with a cheap money grab?

In my view, given the deplorable conditions on the Boardwalk, anything that returns people and activities to that abject wasteland is a good investment for the future of our long-suffering core tourist area.

Quote of the Week:

 “It’s never affected the number of people coming.”

–County Manager Jim Dinneen, demonstrating the epitome of bureaucratic arrogance in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, following reports that record numbers of vehicles visited Volusia County beaches during the Memorial Day weekend, even after last year’s onerous and obscene money grab/toll increase.

“I’m right, you’re wrong.”  Hey, Jim – What else were we going to do?

What an asshole…

For the record – It now costs a family $10.00 to visit their beach.

Have a great weekend, kids!