On Daytona: The more things change, the more they stay the same…

I’m often asked by regular readers of this forum, “Hey Mark, why is it that nothing ever changes in the Halifax area?” 

Since I have an opinion on literally everything, I do my best to camouflage the fact that I don’t have a flipping clue when it comes to active solutions to the myriad issues we face here on Florida’s fabled “Fun Coast.”

As I’ve reported before, I’m more of a complainer than a doer.

But I don’t want my blatant ignorance to show either.  That’s considered poor form for an opinion blogger.

 So, in my practiced way, I lean back and pensively massage my beard like some wise old sage contemplating the meaning of life, tap the eraser of my Blackwing Palomino on the desk, stare contemplatively into space, then lean in close, like I am about to impart some ancient secret, before offering my best Yogi Berra-like answer sotto voce:

“Things never change here, because they always stay the same.”

Invariably, smart people call me a fool and storm off in a huff, like some country rube who just got fleeced at a backwoods carnival – as I chase after them screaming, (in my best Jack Nicholson impression), “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

 It’s true, you know, nothing changes here because our core machinery – the system – and those with direct control of the money that fuels it – has remained effectively locked-down and stagnant for decades.

The internal structure of this long-term scheme is easy to discern, because their time-tested strategic ignorance of the obvious as an effective modus operandi is evident in everything they do or say – regardless of the issue or circumstance.

In the aftermath of the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s scathing exposé, “Tarnished Jewel,” which pointed out years of waste, blight and abject corruption on Daytona’s beachside, our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County formed the Beachside Redevelopment Committee, an ad hoc group charged with developing workable solutions to the festering shithole that is our core tourist area.

As is their way, members of the County Council ham-handedly selected and appointed all the right last names – and even (begrudgingly, right Ms. Post?) gave long-time beach advocates, Paul Zimmerman and Dave LaMotte a seat at the big-people’s table.

Then, at the first introductory meeting, former insurance executive and current Committee Chairman, Tony Grippa, immediately put Zimmerman and LaMotte in their place by admonishing that the group’s mandate required they “steer away from beach issues.”

As the News-Journal described the exchange, “Part of the discussion Monday night got into a tug-of-war between those on the committee who thought beach access needs to be part of their discussions, and those who reminded them that their marching orders from the County Council were to steer away from beach issues.”

Specifically, Grippa announced, “Beach management is not within the purview of the committee.  Certain issues have kept the community from developing.  Let’s start with things that can bring the community together.” 

So there.  Sit down and shut the hell up, you beach-bums.  You’re among Very Important People here – so, act the part, get along and go along, okay?  (Grippa didn’t say that, I just thought it summed up my opinion of the exchange – and because I’m a cynical asshole.)

Any rational person (if there is such a thing anymore) was left with the unmistakable impression that the committee’s focus was on blight and dilapidation in that no-mans-land west of State Road A-1-A.

And while the group is comprised of movers-and-shakers from Ormond Beach to Daytona Beach Shores, everyone knows the concentration is “redevelopment” of the fetid squalor that encompasses many areas between Atlantic Avenue and the Halifax river.

And, for a while anyway, it appeared things were moving along smoothly for Mr. Grippa’s blue-ribbon committee.

All the right people were heard from – even Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm appeared before them and sketched out an overview of previous efforts, although I’m not sure he ever fully explained how $120-million in redevelopment funds seemingly evaporated with little, if anything, to show for it.

Then – at the August 21st meeting – “The System” injected its will and telegraphed the true ulterior motivation of our politically influential power brokers into the mix.

And just like that, the Beachside Redevelopment Committee lost all credibility.

During the meeting, the committee heard a report from Evelyn Fine – owner of Fine Research and Marketing – AKA Mid-Florida Marketing – the company that has been telling the Halifax Area Advertising Authority what it wants to hear for decades.

For $54,000.00 annually.

In what we all knew in our hearts was coming, Ms. Fine started by explaining the reason folks don’t want to vacation here is because of some “lingering stigma” associated with Spring Break – an event that has been dead and buried since the early 1990’s.

Then, Evelyn dropped the inevitable on the committee:

“There’s this big disconnect between people who come here and are very satisfied, and are comfortable with the cars on the beach because they’ve learned to accommodate it and learned to live with it, versus those people that have no vision of how their children and cars can coexist on a beach,” Fine said. “And that’s very real — same thing with spring break.”

Well, there you have it.  Ta-Da!

The HAAA, the Daytona Regional Chamber, the Convention and Visitors Bureau – and any other entity wholly influenced by county politics – and those who control it, i.e., J. Hyatt Brown, Mori Hossieni and Lesa France-Kennedy – interjected their goals into the process by condemning beach driving as the boogeyman who has thwarted progress and redevelopment for the past 100-years.

Bullshit.

In my view, Evelyn Fine is a shill – an overpaid mouthpiece for the outmoded and wholly ineffective groups that pass for “tourist” and “visitors” efforts in Volusia County.  Their collective order is to blame beach driving for anything and everything – while ignoring the festering neglect and filth that is eating Daytona Beach like a malignant cancer.

Why?  Because that’s what our “Rich & Powerful” want.  That’s why.

Frankly, Mr. Grippa should have shut that sideshow down, asked Ms. Fine to leave the building, and reiterated the committee’s mandate to “steer away” from beach issues.

But he didn’t.

You may remember that way back in 2011, the Volusia County Council commissioned a $100,000 tourism study conducted by the Strategic Advisory Group of Duluth, Georgia.  The net-net of that expensive report found that the current condition of the “tourism product,” notably the beachside of Daytona Beach, was a serious impediment to attracting visitors.

That includes the condition of hotels, storefronts in high-volume areas, a lack of attractive streetscapes in key locations – and widespread concern from stakeholders that “…there is no “plan” for who is leading the effort and how these challenges can be improved.” 

“Without resources – leadership and economic – the overall tourism experience in Volusia County will decline.  An overall collaborative strategy is needed.”

Unfortunately, little, if any, of the recommendations made in the SAG study were implemented, a waste of effort – and money – that no doubt collects dust on County Manager Jim Dinneen’s credenza.

In a nutshell, despite the machinations of Ms. Fine and her programmers, members of Mr. Grippa’s committee should embrace the notion that no one wants to vacation in filth, crime and shabbiness – and our heritage of beach driving is the only thing that makes us unique in the marketplace.

Photo Credit:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “On Daytona: The more things change, the more they stay the same…

  1. Its very sad thst the area is in such a downward spiral you can go from 40 in Ormond Beach to Dunn Lawton on A1A and there’s as many buildings closed as there is open the crime the drugs to homelessness it’s just incredible and it’s actually disgusting I wish somebody would step up and make Daytona and Ormond in South Daytona what it should be and it should be a tourist hotspot

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  2. I’m with you Mark. Here is a letter I sent to the editor. It has yet to run, but you never know.

    Marketing Daytona Is A Mixed Bag

    I moved to the area a little over a year ago. In that time I have read the Journal daily about the trials and tribulations of Daytona. It’s been an interesting journey. As someone who knows a little about marketing I could not help but notice the mixed messages Daytona releases out into the world. Daytona “The world’s most famous beach,” known for the ability to drive on the beach, gives special interests (certain hotels) the ability to prevent driving on “their” portion of the beach, and continues to entertain the idea of repealing beach driving altogether. Stop it. Beach driving is a draw, and this talk just confuses the very people that support the area.

    Now, racing is great and the racing crowd has been great over the years, but its waning. Besides, Daytona wants to be known for more then just “the world center of racing” but they give huge tax breaks to the richest business in town, namely the speedway. Just think what the estimated $45 million dollars in tax breaks could have done for the beachside and improving the blighted ISB corridor leading to the beach, which everyone says is an eyesore and the “first thing people see when they come to Daytona.”
    Then they hire Danica Patrick, a race car driver to do advertising spots. (she sits in a chair, by a pool, on the river, and uses racing analogies in her spiel) instead of using that money to promote the family friendly beaches. Hint: If you want to promote family friendly beaches (and I think that is the way to go) then create a campaign that features families on the beach, not Danica near a pool on the river, and what families can do in Daytona Beach. Because if you get Mom’s and Dad’s and school age kids trusting in your message then they will come back over the years again and again. Not to mention, tell their neighbors.

    Bikers are the next big thing. They come in twice a year and then they are gone. Main street opens up a few times a year and then sleeps. What a waste.

    To sum up, Daytona Beach presents a mixed message that is lost on even the people that live and spend money here year round. In order to present an effective campaign there needs to be a consistent, unambigious message, that has messaging, visuals, and intent supporting each other. Reading between the lines I think the powers that be want to create a family friendly beach town that has the potential to fill hotels year round (even though none of the advertising i’ve seen represent that). Start by using money to clean up the best thing going, which is the beach and the roads leading to it. People outside of Daytona still think of it as a beach town, but it’s fading fast as the population ages and those 80’s and 90’s former spring breakers age out. Capitalize on that eqity. Use the $8 million Halifax marketing budget and any other money available (build new ego boosting government buildings later) to spruce up the joint. Because you only have one chance to make a good impression and right now the people that do come here arn’t seeing a whole lot to come back to. But they could.

    Alan Blythe

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  3. I highly doubt Evelyn Fine’s abilities as a collector and analyst of marketing data. The science of that profession has greatly improved and obviously passed her by years ago. It is imperative that any forward looking agency/organization begin looking for a more competent company to do this sort of collection and analysis.

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    1. Peter, I asked the very same question and here was the reply

      Good morning, Gus!

      We had three respondents (Downs & St. Germain Research, Mid-Florida Marketing & Research, and HCP Associates,) and all were vetted. Local knowledge of – and history with — the destination was discussed and considered beneficial.

      HAAA Board member John Betros made a motion to begin contract negotiations with Mid-Florida Marketing and Research. Member Jim Berkley seconded the motion. Motion passed 10-0.

      Let me know if you need anything else? Thanks!

      LCB

      Lori Campbell Baker
      Executive Director
      Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
      126 E. Orange Ave., Daytona Beach, FL 32114
      (386) 255.0415 x 120

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      1. Believe it or not, I do not work in that particular industry, nor have a horse in the race other than desiring to see Daytona Beach evolve as a destination more culturally rounded, diverse and eclectic. My comment reflected a layman’s (though one who watches these proceedings very. closely) perspective.

        LCB is another one who has been pumping the same well for years and mostly comes up dry.

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