Barker’s View has been on the road again this week!
This time, travels took us to the interesting and completely unique master-planned community known as “The Villages.”
Located in Sumpter County, just outside of Leesburg, The Villages comprise a sprawling, all-inclusive retirement development that gave me a vatic glimpse at what “Latitudes Margaritaville” will ultimately mean for east Volusia County.
With zero-lot-line homes at various price points anchored by kind-a-cool theme shopping areas, each hosting unique restaurants, retail, professional offices and entertainment venues – all of which surround over 630 holes of golf – it became apparent to me that the nearly 160,000 residents need never leave the grounds to enjoy a full and happy life.
The one amenity that stands out to even a casual observer is the compulsive focus on the grounds and landscaping. The pristine common areas and prominent greenspaces are manicured around-the-clock by an army of groundskeepers which give the entire community an almost Disneyesque feel.
Look, it’s not my cup of tea, but I can tell you that there are significant civic lessons to be learned from that cloistered environment – such as the importance of attention to detail, sense of community, pride in appearance, and the role of planning, infrastructure and maintenance to quality of life.
If you’ve never been to The Villages, I encourage you to take the drive.
Last week, I (once again) succeeded in pissing off some Very Important People in the Halifax area.
Only this time, some folks on both sides of the “beach issue” joined hands and collectively kicked me in the keister for my open skepticism of the “do-good” potential of the much-ballyhooed Volusia County “Beachside Redevelopment Task Force.”
Even the Daytona Beach News-Journal took time to reassure everyone that the same “rich and powerful” – many of whom have physically controlled the economy and direction of our community for the past 30-years – have now somehow abandoned their failed strategy of supporting a grand “panacea project” in favor of identifying and funneling government grant money to an even wider selection of speculative developers – or earth-moving innovations like “pedestrian safety” or improving communications between the cities. . .
I have a lot of respect for the incredibly good work of my friend, Paul Zimmerman, and others on the committee who have been on the cutting edge of beach advocacy for many years.
I just wonder if they have hitched their wagon to the right team?
Despite the many empty assurances that this committee is the catalyst for all good things, I’ll be damned if any long-term resident of the Halifax area should get their hopes up over the dubious promises of yet another Blue-Ribbon committee populated by the same political appointees representing the same entities with a profit motive.
People who make their living doing business with government.
Real estate brokers.
Family and friends of the uber-wealthy power brokers that call the shots in Volusia County politics – interconnected factions that have a proven interest in removing our heritage of beach driving in favor of even more speculative development.
I know, I know – it’s not about beach access and management.
Clearly, those important aspects of our lives have already been decided by those who truly matter in the oligarchy that is Volusia County government.
Interestingly, members of the redevelopment committee have complained that residents haven’t turned out, en masse, to sit in the bleachers, eat popcorn, and watch them tut-tut over questionable studies and listen to the likes of Daytona Beach Redevelopment Director Reed Berger.
(Hey, you want a recommendation? How about suggesting that Reed Berger – and any other “economic development” type who accepted public funds, then stood around with their thumb in their ass while the place deteriorated into a festering hole, be immediately terminated, pilloried on the front steps of City Hall, then put on a Greyhound bus?)
Let’s be honest, in the aftermath of the public embarrassment that was the News-Journal’s “Tarnished Jewel” series – an exposé which exposed the abject blight, greed, dilapidation and complete ineptitude of area redevelopment officials – citizens came out to voice their decades of pent-up frustration and demand substantive change to the rotten status quo.
Anyone remember the News-Journal’s “Beachside Town Hall”?
Instead of hearing the shared exasperation of residents, demanding accountability, and forcing current assets to do their damn jobs – our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County handed us a political insulation committee comprised of all the right last names.
Trust me. The long-suffering taxpayers of Daytona’s beachside and elsewhere realize exactly what this group represents – and their silence is deafening.
In my view, given the recurring lessons of history, we have a right – and an obligation – to be skeptical of this process.
Well-meaning or not, the harsh condemnation of wary residents (by people who identify themselves as “community advocates”) on social media is unwarranted.
Say what you want about me – I could give a shit. But don’t denigrate the very real concerns of long-suffering beachside residents.
That’s divisive – and wrong.
Look, we’ve seen this all before – and if you think it’s somehow helpful to marginalize the motives and concerns of taxpayers because they don’t attend bullshit meetings – or simply lay back and trust some of the very people who have tried to openly screw them in the past – you should consider the source of our growing cynicism.
Screw it. I’m wrong – you’re right.
Let’s all give peace a chance.
But a year from now – when the VIP recommendations of Mr. Grippa’s committee have been put on the dusty shelf next to the master plans, economic development studies, and the myriad other “feel good” political insulation measures sitting on Jim Dinneen’s bookshelf – proposals that have been ignored time-after-time-after-time – please don’t come back and ask for the confidence of those of us who held the line against more smoke, mirrors and eyewash.
Those who seek to lead on important civic matters would do well to realize that the public’s trust is fragile – and all concerns should be held valid until proven otherwise.
Again, I hope I’m wrong.
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 have a look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Angel: Chief Craig Capri and the Daytona Beach Police Department
Nothing – and I mean nothing – contributes to the degradation of the soul of a community like the illicit drug trade.
In addition to the human toll, the cycle of addiction and supply is a natural crime generator, spawning theft, prostitution, exploitation and the neighborhood curse of nuisance offenses which slowly destroy our quality of life.
This morning residents awoke to the news that the Daytona Beach Police Department – with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement agencies – took 53 active drug dealers off our streets in a sweeping operation known as “Kickoff Return 2017.”
The City of Daytona Beach has many challenges – but our community also has a lot of positive assets working hard to solve entrenched problems and turn the tide.
In my view, through his decisive leadership Chief Craig Capri is proving his mettle – and his unwavering commitment to the highest ideals of community-oriented policing.
My heartfelt congratulations and sincere thanks to Chief Capri and the hardworking officers and agents for the difficult and dangerous work which resulted in this substantial success.
Angel: Mr. Arthur Ray Brinson
I admire a man who seeks the truth and fights honorably in the cause of protecting those things our society holds dear – truth, honestly, transparency – and strives to preserve our collective trust in those who are elected and appointed to high positions of oversight and responsibility.
The interesting case of former Bethune-Cookman University Trustee Arthur Brinson has all the dramatic intrigue of a good whistle-blower novel, and his struggle has exposed the tragic dysfunction that results when power corrupts absolutely.
Earlier this week, we learned that Circuit Judge Christopher France will allow Mr. Brinson’s legal action – a lawsuit alleging that BC-U wrongfully terminated his service on the Board of Trustees – to move through the courts.
You see, Mr. Brinson, the former president of Bethune-Cookman’s National Alumni Association, had the personal courage to live up to his ethical and fiduciary responsibilities as a trustee and question the weird financial machinations that left the school with an $18-million operating loss, a declining endowment, and horribly mired in a dormitory financing scheme that may ultimately cost some $300-million over time.
Things are about to get interesting, now that Mr. Brinson’s attorney can depose all the right people.
In my view, the time has come for Interim President Hubert Grimes to throw open the shades and welcome the disinfecting qualities of sunlight and fresh air into Bethune-Cookman.
An important first step is jettisoning Chairman Joe Petrock – and inviting a top-to-bottom audit of the university’s management, administrative and financial practices – to include an investigation of the acts and omissions of those who are charged with overseeing those processes.
Asshole: County Manager Jim Dinneen and the Volusia County Council
You don’t need a Cassadaga crystal ball to foretell future big money projects in Volusia County – just follow the expensive breadcrumbs left by the consultant reports, expert opinions and political insulation “studies” that our elected and appointed officials frequently commission while we’re focused on other things – like residential chicken coops, beach traffic cones and derelict parking lots.
For instance, last fall the County Council spent $248,000 of our money for an outside study of Volusia County court facilities. Last week, the real reason for this expensive confirmation of things we already knew became crystal clear.
In my experience, no less than a dozen current employees of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office have the education and practical expertise to conduct an in-depth survey of courthouse security processes and produce actionable recommendations.
These security issues have been well-known to court administrators for decades.
In addition, I’m relatively certain that prisoner transport and court security protocols are regularly reviewed as part of VCSO’s incredibly expensive state and national law enforcement accreditation process.
But when County Manager Jim Dinneen is preparing to roll-out a monstrous, five-story, $260-million, “best-of-the-best” courthouse and county office facility in “Downtown Daytona,” he knows the importance of elaborate stage dressing and expensive lighting effects to enhancing the melodrama.
And that includes the implied credibility of a pricy “expert” opinion.
With a quarter-million-dollar outside needs assessment in his pocket – and the pre-arranged acquiescence, or active support, of his handlers – last week Dinneen strategically overshadowed our looming property tax increase with the bombshell that he plans to put us, our children, and our grandchildren in massive debt for the next 30-years.
For a really nice courthouse.
In typical form, rather than let the judges and courthouse administrators concerns speak for themselves, Little Jimmy still finds it necessary to conjure his best flashlight-under-the-chin scary stories, “You have people who are suicidal, homicidal coming through these doors!” – then touts the project as the best “economic development” scheme in the history of east Volusia County.
“This will have more of an impact on Beach Street than anything else we can do from an economic development standpoint,” Dinneen said. “This is the icing on the cake.”
Wow! Another ‘game changer’? Icing on the cake?
What a congenital bullshitter.
With Dinneen’s personal assurance that this Taj Mahal courthouse strategy is the only way to go – everyone got into the collective swoon that occurs whenever the government money tit is exposed for the coming binge.
Hell, our local “visionaries” are already salivating over the many ways they can exploit City Island.
So, get ready to say goodbye to “The Jack” and “The Library” – because I can assure you those long-term public amenities don’t “fit” with a brand-new multi-tower condominium project.
Oddly, Councilman “Sleepy” Pat Patterson even took the weird tack of ignoring the hard work and perseverance of residents, entrepreneurs and city officials in the revitalization of Woodland Boulevard by alluding that the “new” Deland courthouse was the panacea that made everything gel.
“DeLand is the envy of a lot of cities because of what it (the courthouse) spawned. I think it will be fantastic, and I’m really glad that we are moving in this direction and I’m glad to be part of it.”
What I find interesting is that without the first public hearing – you know, an opportunity for those who pay the bills to have a voice in the most expensive undertaking in our history – or even a second professional opinion – Volusia County officials, through their Deland-based consultants, have already determined how many parking spaces will be necessary, commissioned conceptual drawings and determined 20-year staff projections.
Just shut up and pay the bills, John Q.
Still think our elected officials on the Volusia County Council give two-shits what you think?
As usual, We, The People, are just along for the very expensive ride.
In a way, you’ve got to hand it to Little Jimmy – nothing takes the sting and political criticism out of a proposed tax increase quite like the specter of $260-million+ in public debt.
Angel: Daytona Tortuga’s Baseball – Marketing Department
Despite their dismal season on the field, the Daytona Tortuga’s front office still knows how to generate interest in community baseball.
From the recent Bob Ross bobblehead promotion – complete with painting instructors in theme-wigs, t-shirts, DVD’s and a look-a-like contest – to on-going promotions like Thirsty Thursdays and fireworks extravaganzas – the Tortuga’s are putting the fun back in baseball.
Clearly, the Tortuga’s management and marketing professionals are putting careful thought into the team’s unique promotions – innovative events that continue to draw fans to our beautiful and historic ballpark.
My hat’s off to everyone in the Daytona Tortugas organization that works hard to keep the tradition of minor league baseball one of the most enjoyable family pastimes in Volusia County.
Angel: Volusia First Step Shelter Benefactors
I recently took NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation, and Daytona International Speedway to task for giving a collective $15,000 – $5-grand apiece, complete with a check presentation ceremony – to support operations of the proposed First Step homeless shelter.
After all, it’s one thing to donate money to a good cause – it’s quite another to get your name in the newspaper doing it.
My rudeness prompted some to question why I would poo-poo a sizeable corporate donation when the shelter project is staring down a $200,000 annual operating shortfall?
Maybe it’s just me, but I have a fundamental problem with the fact these same billion-dollar, Forbes listed, family-controlled enterprises recently asked for (and received) some $40-million in public funds (read: our money) for a private project specifically designed to further their business interests.
Call me an asshole, but I just thought a little ‘give-back’ might be in order.
I’m petty that way.
(Hey, Tanger? Got any spare change, mister? I seem to recall we helped you out during your time of need as well. . .)
Ah, thank God for those ‘anonymous’ donors, huh?
Gets us all off the hook, right?
Besides, I believe charity begins at home – which is why the $65.00 in disposable income I have left at the end of the month goes for a fresh handle of Tito’s and a carton of Marlboros. . .
Regardless, it is important to recognize the increasing number of area business leaders and concerned residents who are opening their hearts and pocketbooks to solving perhaps the most vexing local problem of our time.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, my fans at the CEO Business Alliance recently donated $30,000 – which was benevolently matched by Wholesale Lighting’s Rose Ann Tornatore and friends – along with a much-needed $18,340 from the FAITH organization.
In turn, the City of Ormond Beach is considering the extent of their contribution and other public and private entities are stepping up to fill the void.
In my view, that’s admirable – and demonstrates the generosity of a community that has sought a compassionate solution to homelessness in the face of political roadblocks and posturing for far too long.
Word to the wise – I wouldn’t rest until the job is completed.
In Volusia County, even “done deals” have a way of unraveling – and the First Step Shelter is far too important to the life and health of our community to see that happen.
Quote of the Week:
“No matter how good its ideas, though, there’s no point in finding solutions to improving an underperforming area if the powers that be aren’t interested in what their appointees come up with. That is expressed not with “thank yous” and pats on the head when the committee is dissolved, but with follow through — a commitment to act on the proposals.”
Daytona Beach Editorial, “Beachside panel has potential,” touting the painfully obvious to long-suffering beachside residents – or those who have been living on the dark side of the moon since 1983.
Please don’t forget that Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere beach advocacy organization – is having a fundraiser on Sunday afternoon at Sunsetters, 115 Main Street, Daytona Beach, from 12:00p to 3:00p.
Donate to the cause, pick-up some cool SOB swag, and enjoy a really good time with a great group of people who are fighting hard to preserve our heritage of beach driving.
Hope to see you there!
Have a great weekend, friends!