Angels & Assholes for August 25, 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 look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

 Angel:             City of Daytona Beach Shores

Anyone remember the old Charles Atlas advertisement in the back of comic books, “The insult that made a man out of ‘Mac’”? 

It depicted a little guy and his girlfriend sitting on a beach towel while the strongman kicked sand in their face.  Given the bully’s size and strength, there was little Mac could do about it.

Sound familiar?

Earlier this week, the City of Daytona Beach Shores sent a clear message to Volusia County:

You’re not going to kick us around anymore.

In a 4-1 vote, the Shores City Commission strengthened their comprehensive plan by specifically prohibiting parking lots east of State Road A-1-A.  The full effect of the new ordinance sets the stage for a legal confrontation between the small municipality and the County of Volusia – who planned to build two beachfront parking lots on land the Shores would prefer become part of their geographically limited tax base.

Cities can be weird that way.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, Volusia County has developed a frightening reputation as the biggest bully in the sandbox – pushing the cities around, arbitrarily removing or reducing services (remember your neighborhood library?), forcing its will on residents of incorporated areas and actively suing its own constituents (with their own money) to effectively remove the public’s standing and input in beach driving and access issues.

The lone dissenting voice was Shores Commissioner Richard Bryan – who, inexplicably, still believes the community can “work something out” with their aggressor and find a “win-win.”

My ass.

Eventually, even Commissioner Caspar Milquetoast must understand that you simply cannot bargain with an aggressive tyrant who has proven he will fight you – tooth-and-nail – to get his way.

Especially when these parking lots are a prerequisite to the county’s ultimate goal of eliminating beach driving.

In Volusia County, concessions in the face of belligerence is perceived as weakness – not compromise – and it emboldens the likes of County Manager Jim Dinneen and his well-paid muscle, County Attorney Dan Eckert.

In their world, the county’s omnipotent power will always supersede the right of municipalities to local governance and self-determination.

The next step in this convoluted (and very expensive) process calls for a public “conflict resolution” meeting between Dinneen and Shores City Manager Michael Booker.

Anyone want to bet how that soiree will turn out?

Asshole:          City of Daytona Beach

 In the aftermath of the barbarism in Charlottesville, I went on social media and posted my personal thoughts on the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces – and the asinine calls from some radical elements to desecrate the graves of Confederate soldiers and war dead.

In my view, the rancor over Civil War statuary is a modern problem spurred by the relative few in the strange post-election “Antifa” movement – a loose knit group of self-described anti-fascists – who act a whole lot like fascists – and a relative few “neo-Nazi” white supremacist turds and bedsheet wearing douchebags on the extreme right.

Both groups have discovered the value of media coverage, which reaches its zenith whenever a few dozen militant weirdos clash in a public park – preferably under the guise of “protecting” or “protesting” a monument, incident or other contrived cause célèbre.

How do I know this?

Because in all my years – including sixteen-years of the Clinton and Obama presidencies – I never once saw these historical pieces set-upon by bat-wielding kooks in black hoods.

Not once.

In my view, this entire ruckus has been carefully crafted in these uncertain times to fit the narrative of rightfully marginalized elements of our society who are desperate to gain some smidge of relevance in the chaos that passes for national discourse.

These groups – on both sides of the spectrum – are base opportunists, and they feed during times of instability.

I am blessed with an incredibly diverse family.

Our son-in-law is African American and a promising young law enforcement officer, my infinitely talented Hispanic godson is a popular DJ and up-and-coming Hip-Hop recording artist, and my dear little niece is mixed – as my precious granddaughter will be when she makes her grand entrance to this big ‘ol goofy world in early October.

My ex-wife is Dominican of African heritage – and during our time together we experienced the ugliness of racial intolerance first-hand – mainly from bigoted assholes who liked to make fun of things their limited minds couldn’t possible understand.

My great-grandfather’s-father – Harrison “Brewster” Crockett – a farmer from Lee County, Virginia, served in the 25th Regiment of the Virginia Cavalry, and my great-great uncle, Stephen Barker, served in the Union Army as a member of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery.

He died at the Battle of the Crater and is buried under a simple marble stone at the Poplar Grove National Cemetery at Petersburg, Virginia.

Destroying my Grandfather Crockett’s U.S. Government-supplied Confederate grave marker can’t erase my family’s past – or change the history of this nation – anymore than it could make me love my family more than I do.  He was from a different era – but his lineage beats in the heart of those I love and hold dear.

His granddaughter, my grandmother, was the most loving and accepting person I have ever known.  She taught me that character – not race or status – is most important, and she abhorred prejudice or injustice in any form.

I bore arms for my country, like my father before me, with malice towards none but our country’s enemies.

In other words, the Barker’s are just like any typical American family.

People can do what they will – but leave me and mine alone.

We know love, accept our past, and nothing can change the devotion and commitment we feel toward our nation’s future – or our family’s love.

Last week – literally under cover of darkness – and without any open discussion or public input, the City of Daytona Beach found it necessary to preemptively scour all vestiges of the Civil War from public spaces.

Like me, I’ll bet you didn’t know there were any Confederate monuments in Daytona Beach until the News-Journal found it necessary to dig through every nook, cranny and long-forgotten graveyard in the tri-county region to ensure our area wasn’t left out of the controversy.

Hell, they even did a front page, above the fold, full-spread on a monument in the City of Palatka.

Palatka.

We are told the local markers will be cleaned and moved to a “more fitting” venue – like the dusty backroom of a museum.  There the plaques will receive the same attention and significance they had when they sat virtually unnoticed in Riverfront Park – absolutely none.

Now that we have erased these historical markers from the local landscape, perhaps we will have more room for yet another monument commemorating the self-importance of some stuffed-shirt politician or local blowhard?

Now there’s something we should all find offensive.

Angel:             The Sun and Moon

Kudos to those familiar celestial bodies who joined forces to put on one heck of a show for a wide swath of North America this week.

For the first time in a long time, people from all walks of life, all ethnicities and political persuasions came together in awe as we collectively gazed toward the heavens to witness a total eclipse of the sun.

Somehow nature knew – as she always does – that we weird little creatures that inhabit earth needed a diversion from the ugly divisiveness, violence, hatred and base inhumanity that passes for political discourse in this terrible Summer of ‘17.

For a couple of hours, we all focused on something larger than ourselves – and our petty self-interests – and were reminded in the most extraordinary way how insignificant, yet infinitely interrelated, we all are in the vastness of the cosmos.

However, not everyone was permitted to take-in this incredible natural phenomenon first-hand.

My nine-year-old niece, Genesis, attends elementary school in upper-east Tennessee – a place where education is left to the municipalities – not the county or state.

Every student in the community was provided a pair of solar eclipse glasses, proper parental releases were obtained and plans were set in place to ensure that each child had the opportunity to view and participate in this uber-historic event.

The city’s schools partnered with local businesses to obtain the protective glasses, and dismissals were delayed by 15-minutes to ensure optimum viewing and transportation safety.

Following the event, Genesis excitedly called and gushed about what an awesome sight the eclipse was – something she will never forget.  I won’t either – it was cool.

Unfortunately, Volusia County School students weren’t so fortunate.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a seventh-grade science teacher, Jaclyn Dukette, of Creekside Middle in Port Orange went into her own pocket to purchase 30-pairs of solar eclipse glasses for her students.

What a wonderful act of kindness by a teacher obviously devoted to her profession – and her student’s education.

Then, in their infinite stupidity, district officials refused to permit Ms. Dukette – or anyone else under their control – to view the eclipse with their students outdoors, directing that they watch the event unfold on television.

Really?

That’s like listening to a Mardi Gras parade on the radio – there’s a lot missing in the translation.

Obviously, Ms. Dukette, and other dedicated teachers like her, were “brokenhearted” and “saddened” that their students were denied this matchless chance to experience “real time science,” all because some risk averse paper-pushers in Deland thought it better to deny every child in Volusia County Schools this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Apparently, the district’s irrational fear was that the children in their charge would collectively gawp at the fiery orb in the sky until their retinas resembled crispy pork rinds in some weird eclipse-induced psychosis conjured by the Sun God Ra.

Who the hell knows – it’s the Volusia County School Board, your explanation is as good as mine – but imagine how the student’s must have felt?

Here’s a cosmic riddle for the ages:  Why is it that when faced with reasonable choices – Volusia County officials invariably opt for the most absurd, ridiculous, or expensive?

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

Angel:             Mr. Bill Jones and Metra Electronics

It’s no secret that Holly Hill School is struggling mightily – a situation made worse by the Volusia County School District’s odd strategy of treating the students and faculty like second-class citizens, playing hop-scotch with top administrators and doing everything possible to create uncertainty and instability.

Look, ineptitude and institutional incompetence in Deland is one thing – the safety of children and teachers in neighborhood schools is quite another.

When classes began earlier this month, Holly Hill School administrators discovered they did not have enough internal communications radios for faculty and administrators.

In my experience, given the importance of timely information-sharing during a campus emergency, when the ability to direct evacuations and critical services is all important, this represents a serious safety violation.

With no good options from district officials – those clueless bureaucratic dullards who constantly cry poor-mouth over their inability to live within an annual budget totaling in the hundreds-of-millions or build more Taj Mahal facilities without strapping you, me, our children and grandchildren with additional crippling debt – the Holly Hill Police Department stepped up to help.

The department’s Top Brass reached out to their long-time community partner, Metra Electronics, which is headquartered in Holly Hill.

Without hesitation, Mr. Bill Jones, the incredibly successful and philanthropic owner of Metra – and the genius behind Ormond’s West Granada Boulevard renaissance – generously offered to fund the project and ensure that Holly Hill School is adequately equipped and prepared.

Now, key school personnel will have a sound network – with expanded capabilities to allow direct communications between school officials, law enforcement and first responders.

I recently used this forum to express my love for the City of Holly Hill and the beautiful people who make it such a wonderful place to live and do business – well, this proves my point.

Kudos to Mr. Jones and his outstanding team at Metra – you are the epitome of Hometown Heroes!

Angel:             Chief Craig Capri and the Daytona Beach Police Department

The tragic suicide of a 23-year old man in Daytona Beach earlier this week underscores the fact that our mental health system – at all levels – continues to fail those who need it most.

In the aftermath of what was originally reported as an officer involved shooting – Chief Craig Capri and his outstanding team of professionals responded to the emergency with transparency and professionalism.

In exceptional fashion, Chief Capri, Mayor Derrick Henry and others urged calm – and the agency countered rumor and speculation in the immediate aftermath with solid facts and reassurance.

Once again, Chief Capri and his team at the Daytona Beach Police Department have demonstrated a textbook example of how modern, community-based policing practices bolster the public’s trust in law enforcement – and open lines of communications during times of crisis and uncertainty.

In my view, law enforcement administrators across the nation can learn from Chief Capri’s example.

Quote of the Week:

“They have joined the Chamber, so they have already made a commitment to the community by investing in that. It’s certainly a destination-type business and because of the national recognition, they will be a draw for people interested in their type of establishment.” 

“It will definitely be one of the more visible additions to the area, but I think they are cognizant of being part of the community.  That’s reflected by them looking at how they can be an effective partner with the Chamber. So, I think it’s a positive.”

Nancy Keefer, President and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, yammering in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, (I think) welcoming the new “Coyote Ugly” saloon to Seabreeze Boulevard and ushering in a refreshing new era of “Honky-Tonk” – beer, racing, tits and bikes.

Apparently, the Chamber is pushing some new economic development strategy:

Seasonal, special event-driven commerce on Daytona’s beachside!

Hey, it’s not light manufacturing – or the high-tech research and development jobs we were promised – but you do get a shot of El Poko-Loko Tequila when you dance on the bar, so, we’ve got that going for us. . . (sigh)

That’s a “positive,” right?

That’s it for me – have a great weekend, kids.

 

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