Here we are on the cusp of the big Shriners International mega-convention at the Ocean Center and things in and around our core tourist areas are looking up!
If you haven’t driven down Atlantic Avenue in the last week I encourage you to have a look-see at what a fresh coat of paint and a few pallets of sod can do for the overall aesthetic of the place.
Look, you and I both know it’s a thin veneer – a façade, really – and that if history repeats as it is wont to do, we will plunge right back into the squalor, blight and destitution that we experience when we don’t have guests over.
But what the hell – enjoy it while it lasts, right?
For now, just sit back and appreciate all the self-important accolades by and for everyone who has a personal need to take individual credit for the convention.
I mean, everyone who is anyone is writing their version of history in the pages of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – recounting old memories of meetings gone by, and hyper-inflating their contributions and “leadership” in tales that get taller with each telling.
But what the hell – what good is a mega-convention if you can’t attach your name to it?
Plus, I enjoy poking fun at these blowhards. (It’s why people hate me. It’s why I hate me. . .)
Frankly, I don’t give a damn whose idea it was – after all the yammering, political posturing and money spent – let’s just be glad the Shriners are arriving – en masse – with their fezzes at a jaunty tilt and their clown cars and motorcycle squads polished and ready for the big parade.
The organization does tremendous work through the famous Shriners Hospitals for Children – charitable work that has earned Shriners International a Four Star (97%) rating for accountability and transparency.
Good work, gentlemen.
Let’s wish the nobles well as they enjoy what we all hope will be a great week on the “World’s Most Famous Beach.”
Now, it’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical 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:
Asshole: The County of Volusia
There are certain pivot points where we get an opportunity to see just how bloated and out-of-control County Manager Jim Dinneen’s shit-train of an administration truly is.
Several recent high-profile screw-ups on the beach introduced us to numerous directors, deputy directors, supervisors, consultants, contractors, and a host of other high-paid chieftains and hangers-on who make up this sprawling bureaucracy that has grown like a malignant wart fed on tax dollars.
For instance, last week’s no-parking debacle behind the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project bought us a lecture by Beach Safety Director Ray Manchester – then Mr. Dinneen deflected blame on something called the “Coastal Division,” which, according to Volusia County, is responsible for “managing, maintaining and improving coastal parks, beach access and coastal recreational facilities for the quality-of-life benefit of residents and visitors.”
We were also introduced to the culprit responsible for the parking cone issue, Jessica Winterwerp, the Director of the Coastal Division – who, by-the-by, reports to a completely different Director than Director Manchester.
Director Winterwerp has been busy of late trying to figure out how to speed things up at beach access kiosks after Council Chairman Ed Kelley had to wait a few minutes for the common peons ahead of him to settle their bill, listen to the litany of rules, roll their windows down and turn on their lights, before driving onto the strand.
How many overlapping layers does it take to manage a public beach? I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.
But perhaps it explains why it costs $10 bucks to get on the beach. . .
Now, we learn that Volusia County will reach down and dictate the manner and means by which beach concessionaires can earn their livelihood and feed their families in the future.
In typical fashion, the county is raising fees, enacting onerous regulations, and doing everything in their considerable power to price the independent operator out of the business.
That includes the asinine requirement that everything from hot dog carts to ice cream trucks be painted a homogenized white.
Well, our tyrannical elected and appointed officials couch this gross overreach, and open suppression of the free market, in the tired promise that they’re doing it all in our best interest.
In her latest contribution to any issue of the day – something we can expect week-in-and-week-out until the 2018 election – the always self-important Councilwoman Deb Denys commented, “This is a discussion council has to (have). However, I do know part of the goal is to bring the vendors up to a better quality visually. We want a better product.”
No, you don’t. You want more money, Deb.
You want to continue propagating ridiculous rules, regulations, fees, “do this, don’t do that” decrees, erecting more signage, and doing anything possible to make the “beach experience” so burdensome on families and visitors that we simply give up and allow you to exploit what’s left as cheap incentives for speculative developers.
Why won’t you simply admit it? I, for one, would respect you if you did.
I encourage everyone who cares about the future of our beach to take a minute and join Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere grassroots beach advocacy group.
If you are fed up with overpaid county bureaucrats telling you and your family what you can and cannot do on your public beach – or believe that our heritage of beach driving deserves protection from the arbitrary whims of the uber-rich – please visit http://www.sonsofthebeach.org and sign-up.
Maybe even toss a few bucks to your new civic organization to help with legal fees and other programs to protect our most important economic engine.
You’ll be glad you did.
Angels: Citizens 4 Responsible Development
How could anyone in the Halifax Area not be totally impressed with the consistently good work of Amy Pyle, Linda Smiley, Anne Ruby, Sandy Murphy, Ken Strickland and the members of Citizens 4 Responsible Development?
Not content to stand back and accept more of the same, C4RD boldly steps into the breach and develops workable solutions to problems that have plagued Daytona’s beachside and beyond for decades.
Now, the group is pushing forward with plans to bring colorful artwork to the desolation and dreariness of Main Street.
By partnering with ArtHaus, a local artist supply dealer, C4RD members obtained a ready source of student artwork for display in the empty windows and dingy storefronts of Main Street. This simple, but highly effective project promises to bring life, charm and a true sense of community back to this historically challenged area.
Thank you C4RD – and the other grassroots organizations that are working hard for effective and lasting change.
Asshole: Lambda Legal
In some weird attempt to bring attention to themselves, Lambda Legal, the self-described “oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work,” is attempting to defend the indefensible.
Earlier this week, the organization publicly criticized Sheriff Mike Chitwood and his deputies for the arrests of 18 degenerates who were observed by law enforcement officers engaging in open sex acts in public parks throughout Volusia County.
According to Susan Sommer, Lambdas Director of Constitutional Litigation, “It’s very disturbing, the effort to publicly shame and humiliate gay men. It puts men at risk of harassment, of even vigilante behavior against them, and generally these kinds of law enforcement techniques are more draconian than any alleged transgression would warrant.”
Susan, I strongly suggest that you get out of your New York City office and see for yourself what the good people of Volusia County – gay and straight – have been dealing with for years.
During a long career in law enforcement, I both participated in and supervised hundreds of vice suppression operations. In my experience, most of these perverts aren’t gay men at all – they are warped assholes with a compulsion to anonymously seek out like-types and openly expose themselves and masturbate in public spaces and restrooms. Period.
This isn’t about developing meaningful, long-term relationships – in fact, many times words aren’t even exchanged.
It is disturbing, unsanitary and dangerous.
Unfortunately, this conduct is so widespread that I cannot think of one local jurisdiction that is not adversely affected by it – which is why I would never go to any public park – and I damn sure wouldn’t take small children to one.
And members of our community who are gay find this behavior just as offensive as any heterosexual citizen does.
The reasons why we are even having this bizarre conversation speaks volumes about how disjointed and completely out-of-touch our society has truly become in 2017. I mean, there are obviously more pressing civil rights and sexual orientation issues that organizations like Lambda Legal can focus their efforts on?
Attempting to justify open sexual conduct in public parks – places where young children go to play – is the height of irresponsibility and, in my view, irreparably damages the cause and reputation of the LGBT community by associating law abiding gay and transgender people with a criminal sex offense.
As Sheriff Chitwood said:
“What group stands up for the people that want to use the park and should not be subject to a man masturbating or a man walking up to them soliciting sex and rubbing their groin and grabbing their ass? So, their argument holds no water with me.”
It doesn’t hold water with me either, Sheriff.
Good Job, sir.
Angel: City of Daytona Beach
Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission for considering permitting food trucks to have a bigger impact on our limited local dining scene.
Anyone who has been outside the cultural wasteland of Volusia County can attest to the popularity of food trucks.
Of course, some are worried that the presence of these movable food vendors will somehow “erode the economic health” of existing brick-and-mortar restaurants – but in all honesty – I don’t see that happening in communities where food trucks have been embraced for the convenience and alternative they provide.
Look, it seems that restaurants in the Halifax area have a life expectancy of about 18-months – regardless if it’s a chain or a mom-and-pop. Sadly, they come and they go.
I recently attended a party at Ormond Brewery and had a chance to sample the delicious food produced by “Southern State of Mind” – an insanely popular food truck operated by my old friend Lee Buckner – a local family man with a phenomenal talent in the culinary arts.
Trust me – If you haven’t tried the slow smoked pulled pork, you’re doing it wrong.
In my view, food trucks add a festive atmosphere wherever they set up – and its high time the citizens of Daytona Beach have the opportunity to enjoy the eclectic offerings these unique venues provide.
Quote of the Week:
“There was not an inch of the beach not covered with garbage, it’s everybody’s cups, food, plates, alcohol, you name it. There are cigarettes, diapers, pads, tampons, needles — it’s pretty disgusting.”
Kary Ford, CFB Outdoors, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal regarding post-July 4th beach cleanup efforts