On Volusia: Has Chairman Ed Kelley lost his marbles?

Regular readers of this forum know that I frequently use over-the-top descriptors and goofy analogies to embroider the issue or characters that I’m opining about.

I think it’s funny – but the reality is it exposes the limitations of my writing skills and intellect.

For instance, I have a growing suspicion that our elected officials on the Volusia County Council are little more than pawns – hapless dupes – who serve as visible figureheads in a bastardized system that is wholly controlled by uber-wealthy power brokers who finance political campaigns through personal and corporate contributions in exchange for free rein access and influence.

I call this group – loosely consisting of J. Hyatt Brown, Mori Hossieni and Lesa France-Kennedy – the “High Panjandrums of Political Power.” 

In turn, the county’s true civic and political agenda is set, in toto, by these politically connected ‘investors,’ and their embedded business associates, through our hopelessly co-opted County Manager, Jim Dinneen.

I call this ‘complete bullshit’ – and counter to the democratic principles our nation was founded upon.

Increasingly, evidence suggests that our elected officials have become so detached from the actual process of our oligarchical system of governance – so marginalized and out-of-touch with the machinations of the county manager and his handlers – that they simply wander about like children lost in the woods.

They give great weight and import to issues like seabirds shitting on a private veranda – or the number of chicken coops permitted on residential lots, and make critical decisions regarding which way the door on beachfront Port-o-lets will face – you know, issues they truly have control over.

In the meantime, Mr. Dinneen ramrods the true agenda through his patented use of “public policy by ambush” tactics – a strategy that involves setting the stage well in advance of a “Grand Reveal” – a left-field sneak attack where he orchestrates the announcement of important issues without prior public notice and completely off the advertised meeting agenda.

You may remember the recent surprise announcement regarding the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock change where Mr. Dinneen was caught on an open microphone giving our doddering fool of a Council Chairman, Ed Kelley, strict orders regarding how, when and where the great off-the-agenda revelation would occur during an open public meeting?

I do.

Then, just two-weeks ago, Mr. Dinneen threw yet another secret surprise party when he abruptly announced his “lofty vision” of putting a five-story courthouse and four-story county office complex near the S. James Foxman Justice Center in downtown Daytona.

Without prior notice – or even a placeholder spot on the Council’s public agenda – we learned that the massive public development, situated in the very heart of Daytona Beach, would consolidate operations of the current City Island Annex, the New Smyrna Beach courthouse and the county administration center.

In his typical style, Mr. Dinneen enlisted the assistance of several circuit court judges and court administrators to lend credibility – then pulled out snippets of a $248,000, yet-to-be-released, needs study by a Deland-based consultant – and alternated flashlight-under-the-chin scary stories with “game changer” and “icing on the cake” speculative economic development statements.

Oh, did I forget that he also explained that this done-deal project would cost Volusia County taxpayers, their children and grandchildren an estimated $195,000,000 to $260,000,00 over the next 30 to 40 years?

Because he did.

In the end, our elected officials were left swooning over Dinneen’s Taj Mahal courthouse – the most expensive project ever undertaken in Volusia County, Florida.

In fact, Councilman “Sleepy” Pat Patterson all but soiled himself on the dais – gushing over the economic impact a courthouse complex will have on the quaint shops and mixed-use vision in Downtown Daytona.

He even had the balls to credit the “new” Deland courthouse as the catalyst for all good things in that community – virtually ignoring the hard work of citizens, entrepreneurs and city officials that recently earned national recognition as the best Main Street in America.

In turn, Mr. Dinneen and Chairman Kelley sat down with the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board to flesh out the details of Little Jimmy’s “Grand Plan.”

Really, their picture was in the paper doing it.

According to the News-Journal’s article, “New courthouse, other plans, could transform downtown Daytona Beach,” the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Kean wrote:

“Despite a hefty price tag expected to top out at $195 million-$260 million, so far the project has received widespread support from County Council members, court system officials, law enforcement employees and Daytona Beach city government leaders.”

 Yep.  Everyone who is anyone was giddy.

Then, We, the People, started asking difficult questions – like how is it our elected officials spent three public meetings discussing suburban chicken coops, and just 38-minutes explaining away a $200+ million-dollar expenditure? – and the “widespread support” started to dry up faster than seagull shit on a hot pool deck.

Earlier this week, Dustin Wyatt, wrote an excellent piece in the News-Journal, focusing on citizens’ concerns about the consolidation of court services, lack of substantive public input – or even the courtesy of a heads-up – in the lead-up to Little Jimmy’s announcement.

Things that rubbed the always cantankerous (and up for re-election) Vice Chair Deb Denys the wrong way:

While it’s not yet final, it would be the most expensive county project ever, and Vice Chair Deb Denys thinks it’s problematic how quickly the idea traveled from the hands of a third-party architect to a full-fledged plan for the future, without ever hearing from taxpayers.”

“I’m really struggling with some of the process here, and I can’t justify it,” she said Thursday. “We’ve had more discussions on backyard chickens than we have a $200 million courthouse,” which she expects will be even more expensive by the time it breaks ground.”

“It all moved so fast that some residents feel kept in the dark and are questioning the value of public input.”


In turn, I took the County Council to task for looking like a passel of out-of-touch dementia victims who were apparently caught as flatfooted by Dinneen’s announcement as the rest of us were.

If so, that’s some scary stuff.

Well, my worst fears were confirmed by a late-evening social media post by Chairman Ed Kelley in response to a very smart, and very civically engaged, citizen’s critique of the uber-weird lead-up:

“No public debate, no notice on the agenda, yet a 200-million-dollar plan was approved to move forward on a new courthouse facility in Daytona. Sketch”

Well, Ed Kelley came unhinged – I mean batshit, multi-exclamation point, furious – over the nerve and temerity of a taxpayer who actually questioned the machinations of his government.

Inexplicably, Chairman Kelley responded:

“Public hearings before any approved plans!!!!!  This has been discussed for almost a decade!!!! Not sure who keeps making up a $200,000,000 number!!!!”

Look, I don’t make this shit up.  Mr. Kelley really is that addle-brained.

Folks, that was the actual, verbatim response from your County Council Chair to a citizen’s criticism.

For the record, Chairman Kelley, the matter has not been discussed for “over a decade” – the only “discussion” I recall was a circa 2016 PowerPoint presentation of 10-year Capital-Improvement projects suggesting $1-million be set aside for “City Island Courthouse Improvements” – which included safety/security issues, acoustical and configuration of courtrooms, ADA accessibly issues and emergency backup power.


Remember that?

I do.

And everyone agrees we need a new courthouse.

What I don’t remember is the decades-long discussions of the urgent need for a $260+ million dollar consolidated mega-facility.

As far as who suggested the $200,000,000-dollar figure you screamed about – it was your County Manager – Little Jimmy Dinneen.

In fact, it was emblazoned on the front page of the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“The changes are expected to be financed with a $120 million bond issue, costing the county $6.5 million annually on debt service that’s anticipated to take 30 to 40 years to pay off. In all, taxpayers are expected to be on the hook for between $195 million and $260 million, officials said.”

So, Mr. Kelley, before you go off like a deranged banshee on thoughtful citizens who are trying to get their heads around the most expensive project in the history of Volusia County – one that garnered exactly 38-minutes of open discussion – you might try reading the newspaper.

Look, I know you can read, Ed – I’ve seen your lips moving.

In my view, the exalted Chairman of the Volusia County Council might consider educating himself on the important issues of the day before spouting-off like a clueless asshole on social media.

It’s unbecoming – and undermines the people’s confidence.





Angels & Assholes for August 4, 2017

Hi, Kids!

Tomorrow afternoon I will join with a few close friends in the watering holes of New Smyrna Beach as we hoist a few adult beverages, rage against the dying of the light, and toast my 57th trip around the sun.

My God.  Where does the time go? 

The older I get the less range of extreme emotions I feel – intense anger, happiness, etc.  Researchers have found that the ability of “older adults” to give up on goals that are no longer attainable can help them avoid symptoms of depression over time.

Trust me.  No one embraces diminishing personal expectations like I do.

I dunno – I just don’t get overly excited or deeply depressed anymore – not much “moves” me the way it once did when I was a passionate young man, full of piss and vinegar.  With age comes acceptance, and ultimately a change in perspective, I suppose – besides, my beat-up old heart doesn’t like surprises anymore.

But I must tell you, friends – this week was different.

Sometime in the past few days, the “total views” meter – a kind of statistical odometer which digitally records the number of times good folks like you access and read Barker’s View blogposts – rolled past 100,000 views!

You guys have made this opinionated old drunkard very happy – and I’ve spent much of the last week telling anyone who will listen about this important milestone.

As of this moment, deep thinkers like you – folks who truly care about the issues facing our community and beyond – have viewed Barker’s View posts 101,640 times since this little social experiment in alternative opinion blogging began 20-months ago.

In turn, readership has expanded to some 88 countries around the globe!

With so much going on in the world, why people in Guyana, Senegal, Bahrain or Bangladesh care a whit about my goofy thoughts on the political machinations of Little Jimmy Dinneen, or the in’s-n-out’s of the war on beach driving in Volusia County, is beyond me – but we welcome them to the party with open arms!

Wow.  That’s humbling – and incredibly satisfying.

I also want to thank our local oracle of all-things government – Big John – for allowing me two-hours of valuable radio airtime the second Monday of each month on his popular show, GovStuff Live!, to pontificate on civic matters big and small.

So today, and every day, it is my honor to grant ‘Angel Status’ on each of you – the loyal and fearless readers of Barker’s View.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read and ponder my weird thoughts on the news and newsmakers of the day here on the Fun Coast – and for supporting our inalienable right of free speech and critical self-expression.

Whenever I get the opportunity to meet Barker’s View readers and discuss important issues, you have been incredibly warm, bright and accepting (if not critical of the colorful language) and the feedback and creative suggestions you bring help make this space something unique – a forum for furthering the debate of entrenched civic and social issues facing our community.

Thank you for your kindness – and your continued support.

It means more to me than you know.

To those very important, rich & powerful people that I routinely take to the woodshed, thank you for accepting the often-withering critique with a thoughtful spirit and good humor.

We may not always agree, but I sincerely appreciate the occasional “off the record” discussions with certain critical decision-makers and “big shots” – conversations that always enlighten my sometimes-rigid point of view.  You know who you are.

And, to those arrogant few elected and appointed officials (and the power brokers who control them) who look at public service as a personal enrichment scheme, and, worse yet, refuse to accept constructive criticism from their constituents – tough shit.  My readers and I aren’t going anywhere.

Read, learn, grow.

Thanks again, y’all.

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

Asshole:          County Manager Jim Dinneen & Volusia County Council

 Wow.  Our elected officials in DeLand are a little slow on the uptake.

Guess they should have listened when Sheriff Mike Chitwood said Jim Dinneen is a “lying sack of shit.”

Now, they have only themselves to blame.

Once again, Vice Chairman Deb Denys, and those other visibly addled dupes who sit at the dais with her, are giving their best faux-astonishment performance over Jim Dinneen’s recent bombshell that he and his friends have decided we’re getting a $200+ million-dollar courthouse and county office building in Downtown Daytona.

They can’t be that dumb, right?

Yep.  Last fall, an innocuous item labeled “judiciary space analysis” appeared on the consent agenda and was approved without question.

Now, without any public notice – or even buried placement on the County Council’s agenda – last week Little Jimmy pulled his best “surprise reveal” since we collectively received the dry suppository that was the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock news when he announced he was (apparently single-handedly) undertaking the most expensive project in the history of Volusia County on the strength of a DeLand-based consultant’s report.

You and me?  Well, we’re just supposed to accept Dinneen’s “explanations” – pay the bills – and keep our traps shut.  (Not that we were provided an opportunity to provide input on the issue anyway.  That would have spoiled Little Jimmy’s surprise.)

Then, doing his patented Edger Bergen impression, our doddering fool of a Council Chairman, Ed Kelley – who told us all that he would no longer accept ambush-style, off-the-agenda shenanigans by fellow officials and staff – now says, from the other side of his mouth, “I don’t have a problem with this one.”

Why the hell not? 

Because it didn’t require a vote.


Hey, Ed – just for the record – most presentations and other items that don’t require formal action by the council routinely appear on the agenda – and you damn well know it.

The fact is, given the gravity of this news – the public should have received notice.

Look, it’s one thing for you to serve as an active apologist for Dinneen’s “policy by ambush” style as he continues to work with his handlers behind the council’s back – and you can keep kissing the collective ass of the High Panjandrums of Political Power until the cows come home, for all I care.

But if you want to stop looking like a lame passel of out-of-touch dementia victims every time Jimmy and his buddies have a big announcement to spring on your unsuspecting constituents – then you’ll get a handle on the problem and mount an effort to fire Jim Dinneen now.

Regardless, stop lying to us in the morning paper.  It’s unbecoming – and old.

And stop making asinine excuses – the tail continues to wag the dog – and everyone but our elected officials seem to recognize it.

Angel:             Ormond Beach City Manager Joyce Shanahan

I have been a resident of Ormond Beach since 1963.  My family settled in one of the first houses built on North Halifax Drive when the road was little more than a fire trail, and our backyard was essentially an expanse of sea oat covered dunes all the way to A-1-A.

Although I was born in East Tennessee, Ormond Beach is home and always will be.

In my view, City Manager Joyce Shanahan is one of the unsung heroes of the Halifax area.

Eschewing the braggadocio of many public managers, Shanahan works diligently and quietly to retain and enhance the best of our community while keeping ever increasing costs in check.

Perhaps most important, the few times I’ve called Ms. Shanahan for help, she was accessible, professional and simply took care of the problem.  As far as I’m concerned, that responsiveness is what separates good managers from the rest.

On Saturday, Ms. Shanahan will once again make herself available to residents when she hosts “Walking with the Manager” – a two-mile stroll through various areas of our beautiful community that provides citizens an opportunity to share comments and suggestions.

This week, the walk begins at 8:00am, starting and ending at Fire Station 91, 364 South Atlantic Avenue, and will include Ormond Beach Fire Chief Bob Mandarino.

Call 386-676-3315 for more details.

Also, if you are a resident of Ormond Beach and aren’t receiving Ms. Shanahan’s weekly review and staff report – you’re doing it wrong.  This highly informative newsletter comes out each Friday and is chockfull of information important to the life and health of our community.

It’s called transparency and open government in action – and it’s incredibly refreshing.

In short, Ms. Shanahan sets an excellent example of solid, community-based management – and her hard work is paying dividends for citizens of one of the most livable cities in Volusia County.

Asshole:          Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom

Look, I don’t think Mr. Newsom is an asshole – hell, I don’t even know the man – and Golden Lion in Flagler Beach is one of my favorite places in the whole world.  But, in this column, it’s one or the other.

In my view, he has done wonderful work building an effective and efficient team – while preserving that true Old Florida feel that other communities are spending to recreate –  despite some weird small-town politics.

But enough with the perennial job hunt, Larry.

In-or-out, dude.

It seems that every time a city or county manager gig opens in the State of Florida, Larry Newsom is first in que – teeth polished and shoes shined – to submit his impressive resumé.

Jackson County.

Port St. Lucie.

Bunnell.  (Hey, the rumors swirled.)

Florida Transportation Secretary.

Putnam County.

What gives? 

Then, when he becomes a contender and his name is made public, Newsome is left looking at his shoes while explaining to the city’s confused elected officials (and his worried employees) that he’s just “testing his continued marketability.”

 Say what? 

 The Daytona Beach News-Journal now has a standing headline: “Newsome Not Leaving!”

It’s no secret that Mr. Newsom wants access to the Florida Retirement System so he can make changes to a pension plan he joined while serving in Escambia County – something he could easily accomplish with even a short stint with a government entity who participates in FRS.

I get that – it’s important to his family’s financial future.

But one would think there would be a way for Mr. Newsome to maximize his FRS benefits – or salary package – without threatening to jump ship every 15-minutes.

At least one Flagler Beach resident has suggested the city explore the possibility of entering the Florida Retirement System, something that would prove beneficial to Mr. Newsome and other municipal employees in the long-term.

I agree.

Either join FRS or pay the man what he’s worth.  Mr. Newsome is a proven hand that makes substantially less than some other municipal managers in the regional market.

The problem is – who wants to invest in a guy who’s checking his “marketability” all the time?

In my view, it’s a shame that City Manager Newsome’s good work in responsibly and creatively stewarding one of Florida’s premiere beach communities is overshadowed by the constant job search that keeps residents, employees and city officials guessing.

Asshole:          Daytona’s “Sugardaddy” – Richard Basaraba

Kudos to the Volusia County Beach Safety officers who identified and issued a trespass warning to Richard “Sugardaddy” Basaraba, 73, effectively keeping him away from our beaches for the next six-months after his disturbing encounter with a teenage girl.

Apparently, Basaraba was ambling along the shoreline wearing an uber-creepy “Sugardaddy seeking his Sugarbaby” t-shirt and aggressively passing-out similarly embossed brochures to female beach-goers – all while holding up a “bra pad” (I don’t even know what that is), ogling their breasts for size, and making super-weird comments.

Yeah.  That’s what I thought, too.

Last weekend, Basaraba approached a 16-year old Oviedo girl and her two 18-year old friends, then handed them a card containing the picture of some old perv with a young girl sitting on his lap, along with the line, “Ask me about your monthly allowance.”

According to an interview with the creep in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Basaraba said, “I engaged (the younger girl) before I knew she was 16 because of her bust size. I did make the mistake of saying, ‘You’re the cutest one here. Call me when you’re 18.”

Yeah.  That’s what I thought, too.

Before some irate father could rip Mr. Basaraba’s nuts off and turn his teeth into so many Chicklets – the 16-year old’s mother quickly reported the highly suspicious encounter to a Beach Safety officer.

Fortunately, they took care of the rest without incident.

Now, Basaraba contends it was all one big misunderstanding.  I guess a bright red t-shirt and professionally produced pamphlets can mislead the casual observer as to your actual intent. . .

Regardless of Sugardaddy’s true goal – shit like this we don’t need.

In my view, it harkens back to a time when the former Desert Inn was the epicenter of child sexual abuse – a house of horrors where the lives of so many were tragically destroyed – and Daytona Beach became known as the place you don’t let your kids go to the Boardwalk alone.

With Sheriff Chitwood and other area law enforcement agencies working hard to purge our public parks of serial masturbators and open sex offenders – my hat’s off to the Volusia County Beach Safety Department for getting this turd off our beach.

Keep up the good work – and be vigilant – there are plenty more “Sugardaddies” out there who don’t advertise their true objectives so obviously.

 Angel:             Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri

 The societal lot of a police officer has often been described as, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” 

But sometimes, law enforcement officers go out of their way to just look bad – I know, I’ve made my share of mistakes, and suffered the embarrassment and consequences.

A more accurate truism holds that if one officer acts like an asshole – it tarnishes the reputation and standing of the rest – so the chief of police does his or her level best to set and enforce proper standards of professional conduct – and disciplines those who fail to live up to the high ethical and moral benchmarks society expects.

Trust me.  It’s a full-time job.

Back in June, body-worn camera footage of a verbal confrontation between two uniformed officers – one of whom had been stopped for speeding in her personal vehicle on the way to work by the other – was released to the media, and the usual shit-storm of public outrage and demands for personal destruction ensued.

The offending officer’s arrogance and stupidity in leaving the scene before being released by the investigating officer was just that – stupid and rude – yet some called for “picketing” the Daytona Beach Police Department, demanding that the officer be summarily terminated, prosecuted or worse.

Recently, a long-time local defense attorney opined in the Daytona Beach News-Journal that the officer’s conduct rose to the level of fleeing and eluding – a felony crime – “which routinely gets prosecuted and jail time.

It fell to Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri to sort the wheat from the chaff and issue appropriate and constructive discipline.

Earlier this week, he rightly handed down a disciplinary suspension – representing the effective loss of hundreds of dollars in pay and benefits – and leaving a dark blemish on the officer’s record and future opportunities.

I support Chief Capri’s assessment, and his decision to render corrective action designed to change behavior – rather than destroy a young life and career – for a momentary lapse in good judgment, courtesy and professional bearing on a deserted side street at 5 o’clock in the morning.

The fact is, this was not a case of fleeing and eluding – the offending officer stopped, was properly identified by her co-worker, made a shitty remark – then abruptly left the scene, punctuating her “screw you” attitude with a hubristic chirp of the tires.

In turn, the officer who initiated the stop appropriately reported the offending officers abysmal conduct to his sergeant – who took the matter up the chain-of-command for investigation and resolution.

At the end of the day, Chief Capri properly identified what was stupid, disrespectful and over-the-top behavior by a uniformed officer during an exchange between co-workers – one of whom was actively investigating a traffic violation.

The job of a police chief is a difficult one, and tough disciplinary issues often come down to the gray area of what is necessary, and what is possible.

In my view, Chief Capri acted in the best interests of the community and the agency in properly applying appropriate sanctions to ensure this never happens again.

Rather than go down the rabbit hole of attempting to appease the visceral reaction a snippet of video invariably has on criminal defense attorneys and diehard critics of law enforcement – Chief Capri sent an effective message to his subordinates – and the citizens he serves – that this type of arrogance and disrespect will not be tolerated in his command.

Good job, Chief.

Quote of the Week:

“I’m really struggling with some of the process here, and I can’t justify it.  We’ve had more discussions on backyard chickens than we have a $200 million courthouse.” 

Vice Chair Deb Denys, quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, preaching to the choir about how County Manager Jim Dinneen continues to press the true, behind-the-scenes, agenda – while pandering to the massive egos and gross stupidity of our feckless elected officials.

Thanks for nothing, Deb!

That’s it for me!

Have a great weekend!

On Florida: “A gosh lot of money?” Goshdamn right it is. . .

What do citizens of DeBary and every other Florida taxpayer have in common?

We’re all being deftly screwed by “outside attorneys” and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

A recent audit by the Associated Press found that between 2011 and 2017, the State of Florida spent more than $237 million of our precious tax dollars on private lawyers to defend the Scott administrations agenda.

That doesn’t include the nearly $16 million the state has been ordered to reimburse opposing attorney fees – bringing the total amount of public funds paid to private law firms to some $253 million in just six-years.

According to Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, “A quarter of a billion dollars is a gosh lot of money.”

Goshdamn right it is.

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that much of the money used to pay outside legal fees goes unaccounted for in the normal budget process – and no one in state government is closely monitoring billable hours or scrutinizing the massive invoices for services rendered.

You read that right – no one in state government keeps track of overall spending for outside legal services.

Governor Scott – a reptilian attorney by training who made a billion-gagillion-fafillion-shabadabalo-shabadamillion-shabaling-shabalomillion dollars overseeing the largest Medicare fraud in United States history – sees absolutely no problem using our money to pay select private law firms to defend losing policy and political battles – to include the convoluted and mega-expensive water-rights war with the State of Georgia.

That decades-old dispute is being litigated by our advocates at Latham & Watkins at a cost of $825.00 per hour for its best and brightest.  In total, Florida has paid more than $41 million in the past 18-months for that case alone.

You do believe they are looking out for us, right?

$41 million. 

Unfortunately, many of Attorney General Pam Bondi’s corps of over 450 lawyers currently on the state payroll are busy with the important work of defending Scott’s cockamamie policies and litigating the constitutionality of the often asinine laws and regulations passed by our illustrious state lawmakers – like the coming legal fight over the legislature’s ham-handed botch of the medicinal marijuana roll out.


I agree with House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s assessment – “We’re getting gouged.”

If that’s what they call public sodomy in Tallahassee these days.

Then, yeah, we’re getting “gouged” alright.