Angels & Assholes for August 11, 2017

Hi, Kids!

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 peak at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel:             City of Flagler Beach

Last week I took Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom to the woodshed for his near-constant job hunt that, in my jaded view, sent the wrong message to the city council, his worried employees and an increasingly confused public.

Mr. Newsom needs access to the Florida Retirement System to make improvements to a pension plan he entered during his service in Escambia County.  Flagler Beach does not currently participate in the state system.

In lieu of Newsom leaving simply for pension enhancements, I suggested that the City of Flagler Beach consider joining FRS – or paying Mr. Newsom what he’s worth.  I realize some of you will disagree, but I happen to believe City Manager Newsom is deserving of a regionally competitive wage.

In my view, he has done outstanding work stewarding the quaint beachside community through some rocky financial times – and his efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew are admirable.

Besides, under Mr. Newsom’s leadership the community has kept that Old Florida feel that simply cannot be artificially recreated.

Once lost, it’s gone – and the well-planned Latitudes at Margaritaville won’t come close.

During a budget workshop earlier this week, Flagler Beach city commissioners agreed to offer Mr. Newsom a 30% pay increase – appropriate for a proven hand with the institutional knowledge and vision required for success in a small town – and more in line with his peers.

Like the proven leader that he is, Mr. Newsom’s first concern was for his staff, noting that his team deserved a raise as well.  I admire that.

Look, I don’t presume to believe that anything I wrote in this forum made a difference with Flagler Beach decision-makers – but I hope it helped bring awareness.  Ultimately, the city’s tax rate will determine the extent of Mr. Newsom’s pay and benefit increases, but suffice it to say, things are trending in the right direction.

Now, let’s hope Mr. Newsom will give up on his almost compulsive pursuit of outside job offers.  Setting other communities up, just so he can turn them down – while causing instability in Flagler Beach – seems like a big waste of time.

Asshole:          Jack Aberman & GEA Seaside Investments, Inc.

Here we go again.  Same old shit again.

Earlier this week, slum lord Jack Aberman was given extra time by the City of Daytona Beach to correct the myriad problems and negligence that have fingered him as a key vector for the abject blight and dilapidation on the beachside and beyond.

On Tuesday, Special Magistrate David Vukelja heard testimony from city officials that confirmed Aberman is actively working toward compliance.  In turn, Mr. Vukelja demonstrated the patience of Job and extended the deadline for the institution of $1,000 per day fines by one month.

That ruling didn’t sit well with some residents, who have lived with Mr. Aberman’s stall tactics and continuing exploitation for years.

According to Iris Oswald, another unfortunate victim of Aberman’s GEA Seaside Investments, she has been living in virtual squalor at 311 North Hollywood Avenue – along with termites, faulty wiring, no hot water – and no air conditioning.

Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Nothing’s been done,” Oswald told Vukelja. “I don’t know what’s so special about this man. I don’t know why he’s allowed to do this for years.”

 I don’t either, Iris – and that is the question that continues to haunt beachside residents, even as the same redevelopment officials occupy the same city offices – accepting public funds for what should be service in the public interest.

I happen to know that Mr. Vukelja is a man of his word – and he is serious about the revitalization of our long-suffering beachside.  But he cannot do it alone.

The fact is, he can only adjudicate that which is legally brought before him.

Developing viable cases is the job of code enforcement officials and the city attorney.

Look for Mr. Vukelja to take definitive action to expedite compliance on cases pending before him to bring relief to Mr. Aberman’s victims – and restore hope in the good citizens who have suffered the continuing consequences of this company’s strategic neglect.

Angel:             City of Palm Coast

 In keeping with the wishes of 71% of Florida’s electorate – the City of Palm Coast is actively moving to welcome medicinal marijuana dispensaries to their community.

Recently, city leaders extended a short moratorium on the shops to give planners more time to construct and approve new zoning regulations to govern the facilities.

I find that refreshing, especially considering efforts by the City of Daytona Beach, and other struggling municipalities, that have taken the short-sighted view that banning dispensaries – and rejecting the tax dollars, jobs, and convenience for citizens suffering debilitating illnesses – is somehow appropriate and in keeping with the needs of their constituents.

Like it or not, medicinal marijuana is in our future – and I suspect that will be followed by recreational use in the next decade.

In my view, Palm Coast’s acceptance of dispensaries represents a common-sense approach to meeting the needs of people with diseases like ALS, cancer, Parkinson’s, PTSD, seizure disorders and chronic debilitating pain – and acknowledges the changing views of voters, taxpayers and patients.

I urge all law enforcement administrators and city officials in Volusia County to rethink their staunch opposition to what is rapidly becoming reality.

After 31-years in law enforcement, serving on the losing end of the ‘drug war,’ I can tell you from experience that doing the same thing over-and-over again, while expecting a different result, truly is the textbook definition of insanity – and government waste.

Let’s face it – focusing on interdiction and supply reduction continues to be an abysmal, and expensive, failure.

It’s not legalization of pot – it’s common human compassion.

Why not accept the will of the voters – develop reasonable taxation to cover regulatory efforts – and permit those with critical illnesses to benefit from the therapeutic effects of cannabis?

In the City of Daytona Beach, 76% to 90% of voters overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, yet most of their elected officials still arrogantly believe they know better.

(Note to Mayor Henry and the Daytona Beach City Commission:  On issues large and small, simply look to Commissioner Aaron Delgado and follow his lead – he consistently gets it right.)   

It is anticipated that medicinal marijuana will be a billion-dollar industry in Florida by 2020.  Why some cities – especially those facing the corrosive effects of economic stagnation – continue to openly reject the opportunity these shops represent is beyond my comprehension.

In short, stop raising taxes while rejecting viable commercial enterprises that at least 7 out of every 10 residents have unequivocally stated they want.

Asshole:          Flagler County Mosquito Control District

When the executive leadership of a government entity makes a colossal blunder – invariably the purge begins at the low end of the totem pole.

Entry-level employees, some part-time, who can least afford it are summarily chopped from the books, laid off and forced to suffer a crushing family financial disaster – while those who are wholly responsible for the five-alarm fuck-up remain firmly in control – and on the public payroll.

If you haven’t heard, the Flagler County Mosquito Control District recently built a brand new $2.1 million state-of-the-art facility.  The ribbon-cutting ceremony was in all the papers.

Unfortunately, Rachel Knapp – the district’s chief financial officer – seems to have forgotten a slight tidbit of information when preparing last year’s budget:

She failed to add construction costs for the building.

Really.

A flagrant, calamitous accounting flub which was either ignored or missed by the executive director – and the board of commissioners.

Fortunately, it didn’t get past the district’s outside auditor.

This ruinous “critical budget oversight” resulted in a massive deficit due to the new facility’s construction costs and “overspending in almost all line items.”

According to Joseph Cash, the district’s executive director, “The fund balance was incorrectly stated and by the time the error was discovered the budget was overspent by $1.1-million.”

The “error” wasn’t discovered until July.

July.

With $1.1-million over the transom. . .

Now, Cash states he is implementing Draconian measures to regain control of the agency’s fiscal death spiral.

These include terminating six part-time employees and two full-time employees, limiting employee pay increases to a 3% cost of living raise while increasing employee contributions for health insurance by $250 per month, eliminating Mr. Cash’s health insurance coverage and limiting Ms. Knapp’s coverage to dependents only, along with other severe spending cuts and liquidation of public property.

Most disturbing, Mr. Cash suggests eliminating training for the helicopter pilot who flies spraying missions over both rural areas and suburban population centers. That represents a safety concern for all Flagler County residents.

In the aftermath, Cash sent emails to District Commissioners and, in his panic, apparently made a ham-handed attempt to call an emergency meeting which had all the suspicious earmarks of a violation of Florida’s Sunshine law.

That meeting has now been postponed until proper notification requirements can be met.

This catastrophic ineptitude is far more than a simple “oversight.”

In my view, it represents a Titanic failure at multiple levels of the organization, and cannot help but have a detrimental impact on service delivery – something Flagler County residents pay for and expect.

In my view, the district commissioners – you know, the people’s representatives – should act immediately to restore public confidence in this important operation by formally escorting Cash and Knapp out the brand-new front door – then begin planning for their own exit.

Time to clean house.

Angel:             Daytona Beach City Commission

I have a tattoo.

In 1979, during U.S. Army Basic Training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, my best friend and I sat down in the dirty kitchen of an old biker dude early one Sunday morning and got “inked.”  It’s a neat beach-scene on our right bicep that reminded us of home.

Memorably, one lens of our “artists” eyeglasses was shattered – and his personal hygiene, and the sterility of his antiquated equipment, were equally questionable.

Fortunately, we didn’t get Hep C as well. . .

I’ve been kicking around the idea of getting another one, a police-related “half sleeve” to commemorate my career and honor those I served with.  We’ll see.

Times have changed in the last 38-years, and public acceptance of what is now called “body art” has evolved dramatically.  In fact, it’s hard to find a “millennial,” urban “hipster,” or even a soccer mom that doesn’t sport a tattoo or two.

And there is no doubt that many “tattoo parlors” – once the dens of drunken sailors and outlaw bikers – have evolved into upscale studios with antiseptic practices and gifted practitioners who take great pride in the quality of their artistry.

As a champion of self-expression – I admire a professionally done tattoo.

Hey, do what ‘cha wanna, right?

I was glad to see that the City of Daytona Beach recently allowed tattoo establishments in all five community redevelopment areas.  Now, a long-time artist is planning to open a shop on Beach Street in Downtown Daytona.

Slowly but surely, the Daytona Beach City Commission is awaking to the fact that business as usual only results in more of the same – and there is precious little time to waste in turning this “Ship of the Damned” around before the entire Halifax area hits the rocks.

I’m not saying tattoo parlors are the final answer – but the flexibility and foresight exhibited by Daytona Beach’s elected officials is a good sign.

Quote of the Week:

 “I am appalled that our Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen makes more than the vice president of the United States, and each Volusia County Council member makes more than $42,000, yet they are offering a “take it or leave it” 3 percent raise for our already underpaid deputies.”

James Martin, Ormond Beach, Letter to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, August 8, 2017

Think about it.

And have a great weekend, friends!

 

 

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