Angels & Assholes for September 29, 2017

Hi, mature adults and fellow political malcontents of advanced age!

Last week, an apparent first-time Barker’s View reader took serious offense on social media with the fact I commonly use the phrase “Hi, Kids!” as a facetious salutation when opening Angels & Assholes each week.

The gentleman took issue with the fact I placed the word “kids” near the descriptor “asshole” – which he felt would be offensive to young and impressionable children who, when they aren’t playing with Lego blocks, search out and analyze obscure political opinion blogs to pass the time between naps.

Look, I would never subject a child to profane language – and I just naturally assumed that no one under the age of 40 actually reads these weird screeds.

Perhaps the individual was more upset by something I wrote about a prominent politician than the A&A lead-in and decided to throw a jab at me?

It’s happened before.

Earlier this week, I heard from several folks that a local elected official was extremely unhappy with an opinion I recently expressed on this forum.

I’d be lying if I told you I don’t take sinister pleasure in offending the delicate sensibilities of stuffed-shirt blowhards, the “Rich & Powerful,” and any other self-important pompous ass who can’t read an alternative opinion blog without tongue planted firmly in cheek.

So, if you’re a “mover-and-shaker” who finds themselves mentioned in Barker’s View – take it for what it is – one little man’s goofy opinion.

Enjoy the fact you’re still relevant to local current events – then, have a laugh and consider the source.

So, let this serve as some strange parental warning.

If you are an elected or appointed member of the Volusia County “Ruling Class” – or are easily offended by the occasional adult phrase – better stick to the mainstream, cookie-cutter pablum produced by our politically correct and socially acceptable “news and opinion” outlets.

Or, join us here each week and prepare to be butt-hurt.

Praemonitus, praemunitus, right?

Well, 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:

Asshole:          Volusia County School Board

When I was a young cop, I worked with an officer who was constantly crying the blues over his personal finances – or lack thereof.

He would hover over me as I ate lunch from a brown paper bag, lamenting how nice it must be to have a sandwich – so, I would inevitably split mine with him.  Even then, he would act like I was J. L. Gotrocks because I commanded the incredible wealth and privilege to bring a bologna sandwich and pudding cup.

It wasn’t long before I was packing his lunch as well.

It was like working with the gloomy, anhedonic stuffed donkey Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

Yet, he always had a new car, nice things and took his family on vacations – something that was well out of my meager budget at the time.

The Volusia County School Board reminds me a lot of that guy.

On Tuesday, the district approved an $847-million operating budget – yet the mood in Deland is downright funereal.

Even with that astronomical spending plan, the district still plans to take some $1.6-million from savings to make ends meet.

This is due, in part, to our state’s goofy funding formula that is unfairly based upon a “district cost differential” – a cost-of-living adjustment for each county – and partly because our elected and appointed officials can’t seem to live within their means, regardless of how much hard cash we hand them.

In the next few years, is it really going to take a billion-dollars to run a county school district?

With a declining enrollment and an out-of-control spending problem, it’s high time the Volusia County School Board comes to terms with the fact that residents are strapped with across-the-board tax increases.

As a result, we have no tolerance for waste – like the construction of Taj Mahal facilities and more perks for overpaid administrators.

During austere times, district officials should focus their limited dollars where they are needed most – in the classroom.  Let’s ensure that our teachers are adequately equipped and compensated, and that existing schools and infrastructure are well maintained.

In my view, it’s time Volusia County voters begin to take a close look at the stagnation and lack of strategic vision in Deland.

Our current School Board has all the enthusiasm of wallpaper paste.

It’s time to stop whining and begin the difficult process of adapting to the new reality of creativity, frugality and fiscal responsibility.

You know what I always say – “If you can’t do it for $800-million, you can’t do it.”

 Angel:             Daytona Beach News-Journal

 Last Sunday, News-Journal Editor Pat Rice asked the simple, but seemingly impossible question:

What to do about Main Street? 

If you ask local “economic development” types, the future of Main Street is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.  Coming up with an answer to the myriad issues plaguing Daytona’s beleaguered beachside is like being asked to solve some projective algebraic conjecture or cipher a Millennium Prize Problem in your head.

Or is it?

In April, the newspaper ran an extraordinary five-part series researched and penned by the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Kean.  The “Tarnished Jewel” series examined how – despite the expenditure of more than $100-million in public funds over the past thirty-years – the Main Street redevelopment area remains a fetid shithole with little hope for positive change.

Perhaps the News-Journal has already exposed the nut of the problem.

The six sides to this hellish hexagon – crime, homelessness, dilapidation, corruption, ineptitude and the horrible cycle of blight – have conspired to crushed any spark of revitalization for decades.

Also, most smart people recognize that appearance counts, and by any metric, large swaths of the beachside have fallen into abject squalor.

In my view, those who have staked their homestead on the beachside should be the focus.

Why not incentivize the reclamation of blighted residential properties and down-at-the-heels rentals – you know, the same way here today, gone tomorrow commercial interests have received public redevelopment assistance for years?

And I’m not talking about some goofy façade grant to polish a turd – I’m talking about real inducements for folks willing to live beachside and build a sense of community.

Let’s direct our limited “redevelopment funds” on, well, redevelopment – supporting the contributions of those who make a substantial investment in the revitalization of challenged neighborhoods.

We can start with a liberal application of some good old-fashioned elbow grease on Main Street.

The cost of a pressure washer, some attractive streetscaping/resurfacing and a municipal requirement that owners of vacant store fronts put some effort into uniformly staging their property in a more attractive fashion, just might stimulate a feeling that “something is happening here.”

Despite government’s insistence, not every workable solution has to be stratospherically expensive.

Unfortunately, none of this is possible with the same old-same old at City Hall.

It’s time to put the current “economic development” dullards – those who pursue the same tired and ineffectual “strategies” – over-and-over again, while expecting a different result – out to pasture and replace them with enthusiastic new blood and new ideas for the future.

I’ll just bet you have some good ideas, too.

On Tuesday, October 3, the Daytona Beach News-Journal will host a town hall meeting at the Ocean Center, 101 North Atlantic Avenue, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

According to the newspaper, citizens attending will be encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas with members of the Volusia County Beachside Redevelopment Committee.

Go give them a piece of your mind.  Can’t hurt, right?

Asshole:          Governor Rick Scott

Earlier this week, Slick Rick Scott announced the abrupt exodus of Bryan Koon, the head of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.  I found it interesting that Koon would depart in the middle of our state’s recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma for “an opportunity in the private sector.”

Let’s face it, Mr. Koon’s term was not without controversy – and the fact the DEM failed to file FEMA appeals on behalf of beleaguered local governments going back to Hurricane Hermine (and beyond) is difficult to digest.

When you add to that the series of challenges that remain unaddressed from Hurricane Matthew – not to mention the still lingering effects of Irma – and you get the idea that there are serious problems at DEM.

It’s going to take some strong leadership to turn that ship around.

That’s why I found it downright disturbing that Scott is replacing Koon with Mr. Wes Maul, a 29-year-old former University of Florida law student and gubernatorial campaign aide with less than one year’s experience in emergency management.

In fact, prior to joining Scott’s office, Maul’s most significant private sector experience was serving as a “delivery associate” for Mattress Town of Gainesville.

The art and science of emergency management is not something one learns from a book.

It requires years of practical experience, training exercises, serving in positions of increasing responsibility during actual events, and building a solid reputation for competency under stress while mastering the myriad administrative, logistical and operational aspects of a very dynamic, multi-faceted profession.

It also requires a leader with proven skills that engender the trust of policymakers and the public.

Despite his shortcomings, in my view, Mr. Koon – a former naval officer and chief of emergency response for Walmart prior to his appointment – was treated shabbily by the Governor.

For instance, his weird March 2015 appearance before a Senate committee, during which he was prohibited by Scott from uttering the term “climate change,” left him looking like a buffoon.

Also, Director Koon was not allowed to speak directly to the media during emergency preparation and response operations as Governor Scott strategically became the voice of Hurricane Irma prep and you get the idea that the Department’s problems might not be all internal.

Perhaps Maul can put the hard lessons learned during his tenure at Mattress Town to work on the intractable problem of debris removal contracts?

I hope so.

This fetid pile of leaves and rubble actively decaying in my side yard is getting old. . .

Is it possible that a state as vulnerable as ours could find an experienced hand to oversee one of the most important functions our government performs?

I mean, is that too much to ask?

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season ends November 30th.

Angel:             Amy Pyle – Daytona Beach District 3 Candidate

It warms my crusty old heart to know that there are still good people willing to stand for public office.

Folks that see a need and do their level best to meet it.

Earlier this week, the fearless Amy Pyle – a pioneering resident who is, in many ways, personally responsible for the resurgence of credible efforts to revitalize our long-neglected beachside – has officially thrown her hat in the ring as a candidate for the Daytona Beach City Commission’s District 3 seat.

In addition to her service on various civic boards and committees, Amy has worked tirelessly with a devoted group of citizens to find workable, sustainable (and inexpensive) solutions to the difficult problems facing her community.

And she has put her money where her mouth is.

Amy has made her home in the heart of a very challenged area – one she believes has promise – and may well serve as the epicenter of the beachside renaissance.

That demonstrates a true personal commitment to public service that I find refreshing.

Let’s face it, you can have all the town hall meetings, committees and studies you want – but at the end of the day – it will require visionary people with a fresh perspective and a willingness to roll up their sleeves for the long haul to bring substantive change.

In my view, Ms. Pyle exemplifies the traits and qualities of a true servant-leader.

The foundation of Amy’s campaign is simple – putting neighborhoods first.  According to her website, Amy’s focus is working hard for clean, well-lighted streets and more:

“I will do everything in my power to squeeze slumlords from our neighborhoods and clean up blighted properties by encouraging a review of Code Enforcement procedures.  It’s time for our neighborhoods to come first.”  

Please visit for more information – or to donate to this important campaign.

Asshole:          City of Daytona Beach

The hits just keep on coming.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, shopkeepers, specialty boutiques and restaurants in Downtown Daytona have been hanging-on by their fingernails.


From homeless encampments to destructive flooding, the beleaguered shopping and entertainment area along Beach Street can’t seem to catch a break.

Like many struggling “downtown” areas, the merchants who have staked their claim on the riverfront rely heavily on special events and area-specific festivals to draw customers.

Now, some business owners are rightly furious that the City of Daytona Beach has arbitrarily denied a permit to reschedule the annual Wine & Food Walk that was previously cancelled due to Irma.

The reason:  City officials have partnered with a promoter to host a food truck event on Main Street this weekend – complete with a “beer garden” – and they don’t want the competition.

None of this makes sense – and don’t hold your breath waiting for answers.

It is what it is.

According to the promoter, while the city isn’t paying to bring the event to town – it is providing in-kind services, such as police protection and waste management, “as well as electric power and portable restrooms.” 

In addition, the News-Journal reported that the City of Daytona Beach is also operating the beer garden.

Say wha…?

According to organizer Liz Otts of the Orlando-based Food Truck Crazy, Inc., “It’s similar to a grant, although we’re not calling it a grant,” she said.  She declined to discuss details regarding the event’s costs and financing and who gets the profits, except to say, “the city gets a portion. … It’s not public knowledge and it shouldn’t be public knowledge. We’re a private company.”

 Well, Liz, it’s not a “grant” at all.  Your “co-sponsor” is a public entity – using our tax dollars to assist with a for-profit event.

So, the public has every right to know.

Don’t like it?  Then start carrying your own water.

Eventually, a city spokesperson admitted that the citizens of Daytona Beach ponied up the $6,250 required for the permit – a fee that would normally be paid by Food Truck Crazy, Inc.

But a lot of unanswered questions remain.

For instance, considering that the majority of year-round Main Street businesses are, well, bars – why in the hell would the municipality engage in beer sales when the event is, ostensibly, to draw people to area merchants?

According to the News-Journal, Helen Riger, the city’s director of cultural and community services, blamed the whole snafu on the City Commission – explaining that they were “looking for ways to help Main Street” (and, apparently, screw-over downtown merchants in the process.)

“The way it works is that the city is co-sponsoring the event with Food Truck Crazy.  We’re not paying them.  She (Otts) is responsible for the food trucks, stage, entertainment and a portion of the advertising.  Money raised at the beer garden will go to help support the (nonprofit) Peabody Foundation.” 

Well, that’s not completely true, Helen.

In my view, while the City of Daytona Beach may not be “paying” for the event – it is damn sure covering every conceivable overhead cost – leaving nothing but pure profit for the “organizer.”

It looks like the city is also using its considerable power like some governmental Mafioso to crush any competition as well.

“You want a permit?  Screw you.  You’re not getting one.  Why?  Because we said so, that’s why.”

In most forward-thinking communities, multiple events can be held in a simultaneous, even complementary way.

When government stays in its lane and serves as an impartial service provider – allowing the natural competition of the marketplace to decide winners-and-losers – or just give variety – citizens are given the freedom to choose multiple entertainment options which provides participating merchants a larger circulation of potential customers.

Unfortunately for us – and the long-suffering businesses of ‘Downtown Daytona’ – the rules are different here.

I encourage everyone to visit Beach Street merchants this evening from 5:00pm to 10:00pm for a rally featuring live music, sidewalk sales and other fun activities to bring focus – and customers – to our hard-hit downtown.

Quote of the Week:

 “If our local governments had instead entered into contracts with local companies, would the piles of tree limbs, discarded lumber, etc., already be smaller — if not gone?”

Sara Jones, Port Orange, making perfect sense in a recent letter to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, lamenting the fact that large, out-of-town contracted debris haulers have failed to live up to their obligations to county and local governments in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

I agree with Ms. Jones.

Outdated and obstructionist FEMA reimbursement rules which roadblock local options are holding up progress, and limiting the ability of local companies to assist in the aftermath of natural disasters.

That’s all for me!  Have a great weekend!






On Volusia: The Politics of Self-Promotion

It’s no secret that we have a strange system of government here in Volusia County – part plutocracy, governed by a small group of uber-rich and incredibly influential people who trade in local political candidates like commodities brokers – and part authoritarian dictatorship, overseen by a mendacious front man, wholly controlled and deftly manipulated by these same wealthy insiders.

Whatever it is, our county government bears no resemblance to a representative democracy.

In most local elections, our choices for public office are quickly whittled down to the lesser of two evils by those who stand to benefit most.

For instance, the 2016 District 4 County Council race became the most expensive single contest in Volusia’s history with more than $503,000 going to two of the most mediocre candidates to ever crawl out of the local political swamp – Al Smith, and the eventual winner, Heather Post.

To say that Councilwoman Post’s short term in office has had some “challenges” is an understatement.

But she has shown real promise as well.

As a freshman politician who emerged from the ether to claim the District 4 seat, Ms. Post has been quickly indoctrinated in the ways of Volusia’s entrenched autocratic system, wherein the appointed County Manager controls all aspects of governance – to include the flow of public funds – totally insulated from the scrutiny of our elected officials and closely guarded by the very oligarchs seeking a return on their campaign investment.

Yet, Ms. Post has – time and again – made waves when she challenged this status quo, always with the mantra that she represents the interests of the people who elected her – not the whims of the County’s bureaucratic machinery.

I think that shows a true willingness to serve – and the courage to challenge the system.

In each case, the veteran politicians sitting with her on the dais of power – those who long ago accepted their role as a mere cog in a much larger and well-greased wheel – have attempted to publicly browbeat Ms. Post into conformity.

At last week’s County Council meeting, Ms. Post voiced her frustration over Jim Dinneen’s lack of timely information-sharing during the response to Hurricane Irma – and she was rightly taken to the woodshed.

Look, many of you aren’t going to agree with my take on this one – but I’m going to say it anyway.

In my view, like any greenhorn elected official during a time of crisis, Heather Post wanted desperately to transcend the policy role she was elected to and “help” with the administration and operations during the response and immediate recovery to Hurricane Irma.

But that’s not the way it works.

Apparently, County Manager Dinneen had little patience for Ms. Post’s request to remain “in the loop” at the Emergency Operations Center and there was a flashpoint – during which Post threw something of a tantrum, which, as I understand it, was a bit over the top and had the potential to disrupt the flow of important work.

To his credit, Mr. Dinneen simply walked away from it.

According to Ms. Post, the County Manager intentionally kept her in the dark – and even ordered senior staff to refuse her direct requests for information – and there is no doubt in my mind that’s how it happened.

These folks were busy doing their jobs – coordinating emergency response and recovery operations – while dealing with a multi-faceted crisis under stress.

Look, I’m no fan of Jim Dinneen – in fact, I abhor everything he stands for and represents in government.  In my view, Mr. Dinneen has little, if any, respect for the democratic process, our much-heralded “County Charter,” or the needs and wants of the citizens of Volusia County.

And I certainly don’t trust anything he says.

As our very popular Sheriff Mike Chitwood – another fresh set of eyes who has seen the monocracy in Deland up close and personal – explained, “Jim Dinneen is a lying sack of shit” “Either he has Alzheimer’s disease, or he’s a pathological liar.” 

Jim Dinneen
County Manager Jim Dinneen

Clearly, there was a confrontational dynamic at play as Irma’s fierce winds scoured and flooded Volusia County.

But, for good or for ill, Mr. Dinneen was solely responsible for managing and directing all operational aspects of our county government’s response to a serious and unfolding natural disaster – and while carrying out those duties, he was required to “deal” with an inexperienced elected official with her warface on – a new councilmember desperately seeking to see and be seen during the midst of a crisis – as she clearly overstepped her role and assumed some goofy fact-finding posture at the EOC.

Trust me.  I’ve been there, done that and still have what’s left of the t-shirt.

Politicians on Parade is a vignette that has played out during every disaster in every jurisdiction since Noah loaded the ark – it’s understandable, and can be effectively managed with patience and diplomacy.

After all, Ms. Post is new to the position and she comes from a first responder background.

I believe she sincerely wanted to help her constituents in a hands-on way.  She also tried hard to push timely storm-related information out on social media – and I’m sure that came from her innate sense of service.

I respect that.

But, if the information is accurate, the way she went about it during the event was wrong – and her weird policy of dodging a Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter’s questions and making counter-accusations about the newspapers motives doesn’t add credibility to her case.

Look, like any good politician, Councilwoman Post is a shameless self-promoter.

Her post-storm travels with the Volusia County Fire Chief (who must have drawn the short straw in the Department Head meeting), frequent Facebook reminders that she was on a “Conference call with Governor Rick Scott,” countless contrived selfies and clearly staged photographs of Councilwoman Post – clad cap-a-pie in military fatigue pants, black t-shirt and camouflage cap, hands-on-hips, looking for all the world like some deranged Generalissimo – are truly cringeworthy.

Whether posing for a picture while feeding Gatorade to an elderly shut-in – or skipping her actual duties in the Council Chambers to attend a photo-op with Slick Rick Scott – Heather Post was, literally, everywhere – before, during and after the incident.

Just ask her.

Let’s face it – it’s one thing to do a good turn for your constituents, it’s quite another to get your picture on the front page of the Ormond Beach Observer doing it, eh?

It’s all part of the game.  Politicians at all levels of government simply must tout their accomplishments – I assure you no one else is going to do it for them – and it’s important that their constituents know that they are active and involved in the community.

But timing is everything.

Ms. Post should understand that an elected official using an unfolding disaster as the backdrop for a personal marketing campaign is not without political risk.

Some view self-promotion as a critical leadership skill – others as a distasteful character flaw – and, despite our best efforts, public opinion is not always kind – especially when John Q is sitting in a sweltering house, sweating his ass off with no power.

Councilwoman Post has embarrassed her fellow elected officials – who kept clear of the fray and allowed the professionals to do their jobs – and I doubt her hyper-sensitive colleagues on the dais will soon forget Post’s grandstanding.

The only positive I can find in this sordid mess is the fact we got one of those interminable lectures so eloquently, and theatrically, delivered by Councilwoman Deb Denys.

I love those.

During the contentious post-storm council meeting, the always irascible Denys ripped into Ms. Post like a Pitbull on a pork chop:

“To try and make this hurricane event about one council member in a clash with the manager is not the right time.  To roll out a thundercloud before we even get to the point of debris removal and mosquito control and some really serious issues, because it’s your issue … I’m sorry,” Denys said. “We do not get involved in day-to-day operations.”

She’s right.  Ms. Post should stay in her lane.

But Heather Post isn’t the only one at fault here.

In incidents like this there is always a glimpse of something deeper – a peek behind Oz’s velvet curtain – a momentary perspective that exposes the genesis of the issue.

And it is infinitely more substantive than a silly spat between two ego-maniacal tin-pot government officials with situational delusions of grandeur.

Perhaps it’s time those in a position to effect positive change (namely us, the voters) take a hard look at this convoluted protection racket which permits the county’s chief executive to operate with a complete lack of accountability or oversight, strategically withhold information from policymakers, manipulate the process and effectively relegate the people’s elected representatives to the role of neutered marionettes – an elected body of no real purpose beyond rubber-stamping the edicts handed down from on high.


(Photo Credit:  Photo provided to the Ormond Beach Observer by Heather Post. . .)










Angels & Assholes for September 22, 2017

Hi, Kids!

Because I scribble a political opinion blog, well-meaning people naturally assume I have a Grand Plan to run for high office.

I don’t.

I like to remind people that my hypocrisy knows no bounds – and suggest that, if elected, who’s to say I wouldn’t be worse than those who represent us now?

Hell, I like spending other folk’s money, being fawned over by the Rich & Powerful, having nice things and treated like inbred royalty by speculative property developers and their lawyers.

Who doesn’t?

Unfortunately, I’ve got more skeletons in my closet than a haunted house – and at my core, I’m a complainer, not a ‘doer.’  This inherent laziness limits my political involvement to petty sniping at those in power from my obscure little corner of the interwebz.

Yet, well-meaning people continue to ask, “What are your political ambitions, Barker?

Nothing cemented my commitment to the old Shermanesque pledge “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve” like the events of last week.  Catastrophes like Irma expose both the incredible efficiency – and base limitations – of our government, and We, The People, have every right to point out those public faults to our elected officials.

And demand answers.

After all, we pretty much let those we elect to represent our interests do whatever they want the rest of the time, but when the shit hits the fan (literally) – we want our government officials to do that voodoo that they do so well – things we cannot do for ourselves –  like ensuring clean water, managing public shelter operations, holding public utilities accountable, informative mass communications and providing effective emergency services.

Given the fact that some 80% of Duke Energy customers on the west side were without electrical service after the storm – along with tens of thousands of FP&L consumers on the east side – I’ll just bet the telephones and email accounts of our elected officials at all levels of government got quite a workout this week.  As well they should.

This is 2017 – not 1817 – and its high time ‘we’ begin the process of hardening our state’s public utilities.

Every time our residential power fails because of a compromised patchwork system consisting of aging creosote poles and exposed lines – or we receive yet another boil water alert – one gets the impression we are living in some backwater Banana Republic.  Err, wait a minute. . .

In my view, these are the important issues our elected representatives have an ethical responsibility to address.

Hoping for the best” ain’t working anymore.

Our patience has limitations – and the grim knowledge that we will all be living like Pedro Menendez and his band of trembling St. Augustine settlers after every strong blow – without power, potable water or mosquito control – cannot continue.

But even a congenital cretin like me knows there are boundaries.

I understood that there would be plenty of time to spew my discontent with all-things government when people were reasonably whole and back on their proverbial feet again.

It was in that spirit that I decided it best to hold-off on publishing Angels & Assholes last week.

To me, the “too soon” factor was heavy on my mind (given the fact my daughter and son-in-law were still bivouacked in my living room last Friday, waiting on the power trucks to arrive at their Ormond Beach home.)

As I waited until a more ‘appropriate’ time, I was surprised by how many loyal readers reached out to ask when A&A would make its return to Barker’s View.

I was also encouraged that so many people messaged their personal suggestions for the column.

I like that.

While reading your good notes, I came to the realization that in times of crisis people need normalcy and a sense of stability – and for some – Angels & Assholes provides that continuity, the idea that if Barker is still bitching, we’re going to be ‘okay’ – and perhaps a goofy opinion blog can provide a brief diversion from our all too difficult reality.

So, if it’s important to you – it’s important to me.

If you have a gripe you need to get off your chest – or just want to extend an ‘atta-boy/girl’ to a worthy person or organization – please drop me a note.  I’ll take a critical look and do my best to get it out there.

Might be fun.

At any rate – I hope you and your family fared well.  Mine did – and for that I feel eternally blessed.

Well, 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 long week that was:

Asshole:           Mayor Harry Jennings and the Daytona Beach Shores City Council

Just when I was juggling my popcorn and beer, finding a seat, and getting settled in for the much-ballyhooed Battle Royale – ready to root for the small community of Daytona Beach Shores in their David & Goliath cage match with Volusia County, a nasty heel who has forced its will on the municipalities for the past decade – Shores Mayor Harry Jennings takes the weird tack of throwing in the towel before the fight even starts.

What gives?

Last month, I took Shores Commissioner Richard Bryan to task for playing the politics of appeasement. He was the lone dissenting vote against an ordinance which strengthened the City’s comprehensive plan by blocking construction of parking lots east of State Road A-1-A.

According to reports, Mr. Bryan thought it was possible to “work something out” with Volusia County and find a “win-win.”


Now, Mayor Harry “No Comment” Jennings has reached out to Volusia in a letter to our doddering Council Chairman Ed Kelley, suggesting public negotiations in lieu of a legal fight.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know exactly what Mayor Jennings is thinking – because he makes a habit of putting off inquisitive reporters whenever the heat is on.

Normally, I would agree that attempting to work things out and avoiding expensive legal wrangling is in the best interest of all concerned.  After all, I’ve always subscribed to the hoary maxim, “He who goes to the law takes a wolf by the ears” – a dark arena where no one really “wins” – except, of course, the attorneys involved.

Apparently, some members of the Shores City Council have a weird view of what it means to “negotiate” with Volusia County.

Their current convoluted position for solving the issues include the municipality taking over maintenance of Frank Rendon Park, putting up parking meters to further discourage beachgoers, and – perhaps most frightening – the complete removal of beach driving in Daytona Beach Shores.

You read that right.

Now, maybe Harry’s letter is just some slick lawyering by the Shores – correspondence that can later be displayed as evidence of the city’s willingness to compromise. Either that, or Mayor Jennings is telegraphing to Chairman Kelley that the two sides aren’t that far apart – especially when it comes to snuffing out our heritage of beach driving once and for all.

In a stunning bait-and-switch, Chairman Kelley recently announced that Volusia County should make it “standard operating procedure” to remove beach driving from the strand once any county-owned off-beach lot is opened.  Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Eddie explained, “Where you have beachfront lots, I think that driving should be eliminated from those areas.”

“I think that should be standard operating procedure. If you provide parking, then you make them traffic-free zones. Otherwise, the 200 or 300 people are going to have no beach to use.”


So much for Ed’s firm campaign promise to preserve beach driving – and to support provisions of the County Charter which protect beach access and use as a “public trust.”


Ed ran on a platform of maintaining a balance between beach driving and “off beach parking” to “accommodate all who enjoy our beaches.”

Considering that Mr. Kelley crowed, ad nauseum, about his efforts to keep “beach ramps” open (you know, those things cars use to access the beach?) – many of us rubes were left with the unmistakable impression that Ed supported our signature tradition of beach driving while augmenting access with off-beach parking to accommodate times of closure or overcrowding.

No.  It’s now clear he wants it engraved in stone that our beaches will be closed to driving – forever – once a few parking spaces are opened on A-1-A.

Since when did Volusia County ever function under anything remotely resembling a “standard operating procedure”?

In my view, it looks like some in Daytona Beach Shores are angling for a private beach for denizens of the Condo Canyon – something I’m sure they will find Volusia County more than willing to accommodate.

Angel:              Governor Rick Scott

Look, I almost never do this. You know, confer “Angel” status on Governor Rick Scott.

But let’s face it – he almost never objects to payouts and inflated bonuses for Florida’s over-funded tourism and “economic development” agencies either.

In what I suspect is capitulation for getting the budget he wanted – earlier this month, Governor Scott made a big deal out of rejecting the perennial bonuses and “rewards” paid to employees of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida – those twin bleeding hemorrhoids representing the worst of government waste and corporate welfare.

Of course, members of Enterprise Florida’s executive committee began wringing their fat little hands and openly worrying that, without bonuses – which amounted to some $448,662 split 57 ways last October – that the agency may experience an “exodus of experience.”

My ass.

Trust me.  If you’re fortunate enough to land a make-work job at either Enterprise Florida or Visit Florida – you aren’t going anywhere.

You couldn’t pull these ticks off the hog with a D-9 dozer.

It’s high-time Governor Scott took a strong stand against the waste and exorbitant spending by these grossly over-funded and under scrutinized agencies – and reign in the perks and bonuses we generously hand the political insiders and hangers-on that populate them.

I also thought Governor Scott did a wonderful job communicating to the people of Florida in the lead-up to Hurricane Irma.

He never wavered from the important message of personal safety over personal property – and worked extremely hard to organize and stage all available resources to ensure what has, overall, been an effective and efficient response.

Good job, sir.

Angel:              Flagler Sheriff Rick Staley & State Attorney R. J. Larizza  

 Family members are beating and murdering each other at record rates here on the Fun Coast – in fact, domestic violence has become an epidemic in Volusia and Flagler Counties.

Earlier this year, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staley formed a task force to examine the myriad issues behind this growing trend and form actionable recommendations for reducing the social toll.

In addition, State Attorney R. J. Larizza is taking an active role in saving lives through aggressive prosecution, effective intervention and public education.

I have a working theory.  It’s not too popular with the ruling class, but I think it has validity:

Most residents of Volusia and Flagler Counties live in a pressure cooker – low-paying service jobs, a lack of access to higher education or technical training, an artificial economy with many living below the poverty line in rental hell – caught in the Catch 22 marked by the inability to come up with first, last and security deposit – and, most of all, no real hope that things are going to improve.

Nothing good comes from instability and fear – and we have our fair share of both.

At the other end of the spectrum, those who have savings and what passes for a “good” job, are feeling the same sense of hopelessness.

After all, everything is relative.  Someone making $250,000 a year can overextend and find themselves living paycheck-to-paycheck, just like someone making $250 a week.

The “rich” see adult children boomerang, suffer the effects of alcoholism, drug addiction and untreated mental illness, and then there is the ever-present need to meet a sizable monthly nut.

But it’s not all economic.

Some people are just mean-spirited control freaks – assholes who resort to their fists and bluster to maintain a sense of dominance.

Regardless of the root cause, domestic violence and its widespread fallout are out-of-control.

Unfortunately, for years Volusia County has also experienced a disproportional per capita suicide rate – something no one seems to want to talk about.

Perhaps there are similar contributing factors present in both issues?

Kudos to Sheriff Staley and State Attorney R. J. Larizza for taking the lead on finding workable solutions to stop the bloodshed and bring this deadly problem under control.

Asshole:           Inconsiderate Post-Storm “Disaster Tourists”

 It’s true.  Catastrophes bring out the best – and the worst – in all of us.

Hurricane Irma brought unprecedented storm surge to low-lying areas throughout Volusia and Flagler Counties resulting in massive flooding and wind damage to homes and businesses.

Inexplicably, almost immediately upon cessation of the storm’s high winds, some people found it necessary to fire-up their toys and race four-wheelers, large trucks and other “fun” vehicles – some pulling surfboards and other personal watercraft – through flooded roadways, pushing the foul water even deeper into already inundated properties.

It serves no logical purpose, other than providing a momentary diversion for the inconsiderate pricks who enjoy frolicking in fetid sewerage, fertilizer runoff, animal waste and filth – you know, those who never stop to think how their wake will affect others.

A loyal Barker’s View reader said it best:

“May I suggest as assholes the ones who came to my neighborhood (Orange Island by the Main Street Bridge) to take selfies/Instagram/FB posts on Monday who saw my wife and I dragging waterlogged stuff out of our house and NOT 1 OF THEM offered to help, worst were the assholes in pickup trucks who plowed over the cones so they could race up our streets swamping our houses again after drying out.  There’s a special place in hell for them. . .”

 My own post-Irma brush with stupidity came when I happened to get behind a large pickup truck pulling an even larger camper through waterlogged streets in Ormond Beach.

When it was clear the driver was unable to negotiate the large piles of vegetation, standing water and debris partially blocking the street, I overheard him explain to an exasperated resident that he was “sightseeing.”

Who does that?

I suspect if he would have pulled down a sagging wire, or caused additional stress to area homeowners – that rubbernecking shitheel might have seen more than he bargained for. . . at least when the swelling went down.

In my view, there truly is a special place in hell for people who take advantage of bad situations and exploit calamities for their own enjoyment or financial advantage.

We, the long-suffering citizens of Florida, have been through a few of these things now.

The unwritten rules of negotiating the physical and psychological aftermath of a strong hurricane should be formalized in everyone’s mind.

If you don’t need to be there – don’t go.

Keep your hands to yourself.

Digging through someone else’s water-damaged worldly belongings at the curb, then hauling off their precious possessions in the name of “scrapping” is disrespectful – and wrong.  It’s worse if you leave a mess.

Respect the limited privacy of others.  (Who wants a picture of a friggin’ debris pile, anyway? “Oh, remember this?  That was the maple that went down in the Johnson’s front yard during Fay.  Ahh, memories. . .”)    

Cleaning up your neighbor’s lawn is considered good karma.

Walking through downed power lines is instant karma.

If you have electrical power and your neighbor doesn’t – offer them a cool place to relax, do laundry, recharge their devices and store perishables – it’s the right thing to do.

Remember:  Help ever, hurt never.

Angel:              Pickleballer Seeks Global Dominance – One Court at a Time

 I don’t even know which category to put this one in.

Increasingly, members of the Barker’s View tribe are sending in suggestions for Angels & Assholes.

I dig that idea.

Here’s one from a smart reader regarding Daytona’s Great Pickleball Controversy of 2017:

“This could be a first – an angel being an asshole.” 

 “Cathy Stansbury does a wonderful job promoting a sport called pickleball, which is growing as a participatory sport nationwide.  The area has several nice courts to play and many tournaments have been hosted there. 

 Nice stuff, but the pickleballers went a bit too far by wanting to take over the City Island Tennis Center for what she thinks would make the area a pickleball magnet, which doesn’t sound too tasty. 

She claims the courts aren’t utilized fully by the tennis folk.  Okay, here’s the deal – the courts are home to the tennis teams at Bethune-Cookman University.  I reached out to their media contact and here’s some of the spiel.  Back in the day, Bethune-Cookman used to have courts on campus – once the Wimbledon champion Althea Gibson played a tournament there, but those are long gone.

 When the program was relaunched a few years ago, the best option has been to use City Island, and since then, students from literally around the world have played a high level of tennis against top-notch competition (Iowa State, George Washington, Charleston and Fordham are on this year’s schedule) who do utilize our hotels, restaurants and bus to our outlet malls when they come to play the Wildcats. 

 Now, I could go into a whole bunch of inside tennis stuff about courts being NCAA compliant, but since I like to make things as simple as possible: The pickleballers already have enough places to play and they want to kick Bethune-Cookman out of their home court so they can have ANOTHER one?  Sorry, Cathy, that’s not a good – wait for it – dill.  You’d be putting Bethune-Cookman in a – wait for it – pickle.  There’s room for everybody.”

 Now, stop gherkin us around, you court-grabbing pickleballers. . .

 Asshole:           County of Volusia

 Like many of you, I’m still digesting the dynamics of the recent shit-storm between Councilwoman Heather Post and County Manager Jim Dinneen over internal information sharing during Hurricane Irma.  But it clearly goes deeper than that – and there are aspects to this story that deserve to be analyzed and compared.

I’ll have more in coming days.

 In my view, for an organization that has more “spokespersons” than any government entity twice its size – once again, Volusia County came up short in effectively communicating with its constituents before, during and after the storm.

Trust me.  This is not the fault of the Media Relations and Public Affairs Division.

There are times when we want – when we need – to hear from our elected leaders.

You know, like in the direct aftermath of a natural disaster?

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t hear peep from County Chair Ed Kelley – or any of our other illustrious elected officials who occupy the big chairs in Deland – except for District Four Councilwoman Heather Post.

To her credit, Ms. Post was active and involved during the response and recovery – something that has apparently upset the status quo – and she continues to push timely information to her constituents via social media.

The one consistent criticism I have heard from locals and businesses (even long-time county employees) was the distinct lack of substantive information coming from county officials – which resulted in unchecked rumors and wild speculation that added to the confusion.

A good example is the growing outrage over the decision to segregate homeless persons at county-run emergency shelters.

Look, I agree that we need to do a better job of serving this vulnerable community – and the proposed First Step shelter is a good way forward.

However, I also think that law enforcement was right to consolidate those without proper identification, obvious substance abuse issues, intravenous drug users, predatory criminals and worse at a common location where they could remain safe – but not bunked-down next to families with young children and the defenseless elderly.

You may disagree – but I’m not sure its good public policy to turn a neighborhood shelter into a Mad Max Thunderdome simply to soothe the delicate sensibilities of a few ambulatory street drunks.

I’m not making light of this.

Some people we lump into the “homeless” category have special needs – issues made worse by stress and uncertainty – and busing them from pillar-to-post doesn’t help.

Frankly, if dealing with this difficult issue isn’t clearly spelled out in Volusia County’s emergency management protocol – it should be.

Now, there’s a Standard Operating Procedure Ed Kelley should take a good look at.

Also, while I realize county government has little control over this, I’m also interested to find out why Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light could pinpoint outages to the exact house number – yet, we couldn’t get more than vague guesses from them as to when service would be restored?

Long-term decisions are impossible when your power may pop on anytime in the next 20-minutes or the next two-weeks.

These miscommunications were exacerbated by a mid-week mass boil water alert that was, apparently, erroneously transmitted by some anonymous state bureaucrat.

The announcement resulted in head-shaking by local public utilities officials who were caught completely flatfooted – and a collective (Aw, “insert preferred expletive”) from already stressed-out water customers.

It was the last thing anyone needed.

Quote of the Week:

 “We will put together a committee and it will be from the Westside.  That’s a commitment.”

 New Smyrna Mayor Jim Hathaway, as quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, trotting out the tried-and-true “form a committee” time-buying non-response to the serious concerns of residents and faith-based organizations in the wake of City Manager Pam Brangaccio’s abhorrent personal and professional behavior in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

The over-the-top apology by the News-Journal aside, what Ms. Brangaccio did was patently wrong – and would have resulted in the immediate termination of a lower-level employee who engaged in similar conduct.

Anywhere but government, Brangaccio would have been launched like a Saturn 5 for her gross insolence toward taxpayers and the less fortunate, and everyone knows it.

Rather than stepping up to the plate and leading the charge to discipline a haughty chief executive with a rogue ego and a sensitivity to mental exhaustion – Mayor Hathaway wants to form a do-nothing committee – something called a “neighborhood commission.”

Oh, and a “community barbeque” to salve things over. . .  You know, to show the populace that their City Manager isn’t really the supercilious crone they saw on the video when she’s had her rest.

(I don’t make this shit up, folks.)

In other words, Brangaccio isn’t going anywhere.

It’s called leadership, Mr. Hathaway.

Look it up in your ICMA Mayor’s Handbook.

Mayor Hathaway should understand that the problem is not on the Westside.  It’s inside City Hall – an insidious arrogance of power that is rapidly alienating his constituents – and the solution is clear.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

And remember – Shop Downtown Daytona!  They need our help.  Desperately.








Defending the Indefensible in New Smyrna

There is an adage that says people can forgive what they can see themselves doing.  After all, we’re all human beings – subject to the same faults and foibles.

God knows I have my share.

Conversely, people cannot forgive that which is patently reprehensible.

For those who have been living on the dark side of the moon for the past decade, we live in an era where the very idea of privacy is as antiquated as the buggy whip.

In fact, literally everyone you meet on the street has the capability at hand to capture you and your environment on video – the good, the bad and the ugly of daily interactions – and then broadcast our every action or omission to the masses via social media.

How you are perceived by those anonymous masses will touch your life forever.

In many ways, cellphone video has become the Great Equalizer – especially when it comes to the people’s interaction with their government.  In police work, every officer worth his or her salt knows that their every word and move will be openly recorded by bystanders and posted on YouTube for later criticism.

In fact, it’s a key reason why the use of body-worn cameras has become so popular with law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.  Rather than capture evidence of misconduct – 9 times out of 10, these devices record mitigating evidence that confirms the officer’s version of events and exonerates them from false allegations.

Cameras don’t lie.

But they capture only one perspective in a three-dimensional environment, and we can never be sure of the exact context – you know, what happened just before or immediately after the camera was activated is known only to the participants.

That’s why I had second thoughts about opining on the growing uproar surrounding a 17-second video of New Smyrna City Manager Pam Brangaccio acting like an arrogant asshole in the hours following Hurricane Irma.

I just chalked it up as one of those, “it is what it is” unfortunate encounters during what was a stressful time for everyone.

Then, I read the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s article on the subject – which included Commissioner Judy Reiker’s defense of the indefensible – and I’m sure my reaction was much the same as yours.

This wasn’t an isolated incident at all.

This is clearly indicative of an organizational culture.

For those who have been experiencing 16th Century Florida without power for the past week – or occupied bringing your lives and livelihoods back to normal – here’s what went down:

Following the storm, Rev. Jeffrey Dove, the prominent pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, sought permission from the City of New Smyrna for several area congregations to hold a community luncheon at the Babe James Center last Tuesday.

Initially, he was granted consent from Leisure Services Director Nancy Maddox.

Hours later, the Reverend Dove received a text message from an unidentified telephone number rescinding authorization for the meal.  It was later determined that City Manager Brangaccio had summarily commandeered the Babe James Center to host a lunch for city maintenance employees.

Confused as to why feeding public employees took precedence over, well – the public – Rev. Dove arrived at the community center and found Ms. Brangaccio – arms crossed/smirk fixed – standing in the doorway.

The Rev. Dove rightly took exception to the fact that residents were being denied access to cool air conditioning and a hot meal at a community center, to which Brangaccio replied – “It’s not the pastor’s center.  It’s my center” – to which Rev. Dove appropriately responded – “It’s the peoples center.  It ain’t your center.”  

 To make matters worse, when an off-camera voice reminds the City Manager that he pays taxes – Ms. Brangaccio openly challenges the resident with, “Sir, I don’t think you pay taxes.”

When those words escaped her mouth, Ms. Brangaccio exposed the operational values of the city’s administration that many would have preferred to keep hidden away.  It was, perhaps, the crudest, most brusque and openly humiliating public exchange I have ever witnessed between a municipal manager and an irate constituent.

(Notice I prefaced that with the word “public.”)

As news of the exchange between Dove and Brangaccio went “viral” – the City Manager wrote a memorandum (just ahead of a city commission meeting) apologizing for her “responses that were inappropriate,” blaming her boorish conduct on physical exhaustion after “38-hours” in the city’s emergency operations center.”


According to Brangaccio’s lukewarm mea culpa, her intent was to “provide a hot meal for 50 city maintenance employees.” 

During Wednesday’s commission meeting, Brangaccio gave a half-hearted attempt to make self-depreciating fun when she told the elected officials, “You all know I stepped in it pretty well around noontime Tuesday.  I’m quite the viral sensation – and not in a good way.”

Then – apparently not content to just have it on her shoes – Brangaccio got down on the floor and wallowed in it by offering the galactically stupid excuse that she “didn’t know she was being taped.”

 In other words, “if I had known a record was being made, I would never have exposed the real me – the super-arrogant asshole that denies homeless persons a hot meal, questions the motives of taxpaying citizens – and takes over community centers to put the needs of public employees in front of those who pay the bills.”

Look, I served in municipal government for over three-decades.  The City of New Smyrna has any number of non-public locations within the infrastructure of government that could have comfortably hosted 50 maintenance employees – especially after the Babe James Center had been reserved by faith-based organizations to feed exhausted residents and the homeless population.

I guess what added insult to injury was the fact that in the immediate aftermath – with hundreds of signatures on a petition to remove Brangaccio from office still wet on the paper, and hundreds more still legitimately offended by her treatment of those less fortunate – Commissioner Judy Reiker takes the low-road in defending the City Manager’s self-described “inappropriate” conduct in an open public meeting.

“To post something like that on social media, I feel, is unforgivable, particularly from someone who is a Christian and a pastor, because to ruin someone’s reputation that way is an abomination.”

Really?  An abomination?

Were you stuck in the head by flying debris, Judy?

For the record, Ms. Reiker, your painfully arrogant City Manager – the city’s chief executive – publicly berates a prominent pastor and several residents – to include a passel of homeless persons just looking for a hot meal – and the fact her disgusting conduct was captured for posterity and posted for her constituents to see her true colors is an “abomination”?

You cannot be serious?

Note to Commissioner Reiker:  Resign.

Take Brangaccio by the hand and just leave the building by the nearest side-door.

You have – in one colossally absurd statement – exposed yourself as a clueless asshole.  You just identified as part of the problem – and I guarantee the citizens of New Smyrna will make you part of the solution at the polls.

In my view, public apologies by influential public officials should come from the heart – not be watered-down with the stench of excuses and lame explanations – or ignorantly supported by elected officials who are supposed to hold the appointed powerful accountable.

The mark of a leader is how he or she conducts themselves in the heat of the fray, and Pam Brangaccio proved she just doesn’t measure up.

It’s easy to show strong leadership in fair winds and sunshine – it’s quite another to demonstrate strength of character, honor and compassion when the chips are down – in the immediate aftermath of a maelstrom that has affected everyone in your community – when you are mentally and physically exhausted.

That is when the true nature of the person – and their organization – is exposed.





Hurricane Irma: Of Mice and Men

There are a lot of things that divide us here on the Fun Coast.  Sometimes, Volusia County takes on the appearance of a weird caste system.

But Mother Nature is the great equalizer.

She doesn’t care who or what we are.

The awesome power of her magnificently efficient systems and natural processes serve the earth – not us – yet our very survival depends upon them.

We have merely learned to adapt through highly developed symbiotic relationships, based on a well-evolved sense of self-preservation and species-proliferation.

Periodically, nature reminds us in the most extraordinary way that there are some things our “advanced” intellect simply cannot control.

Even though we’ve developed sophisticated insurance and financial systems that allow us to build our homes and sources of income where we probably shouldn’t – and to rebuild and replace them when we are invariably caught out – the power of nature can be difficult to comprehend when we’re face-to-face with it.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma – a Category 5 monster with ferocious winds in excess of 180-mph and torrential rains – is bearing down on the State of Florida.

At this stage, neither man nor beast is safe, and we are all actively preparing to support and sustain ourselves in the increasing likelihood that Irma pays us an unwelcome visit early next week.

Mice and men are actively preparing to ‘hunker down,’ or get the hell out of Dodge, equally vulnerable to the fury of this massive whirling buzz-saw.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods that have left much of southeast Texas underwater – with its heartbreaking scenes of the very young, and the very old, who suffer the consequences of these catastrophes the most – raging fires in the west, and now the most powerful storm ever recorded roaring across the Atlantic Ocean – I’ve heard some ask why God would allow this suffering and trepidation.

The answer is – I don’t know.

What I do know is that we strange little creatures – odd sentient beings that have harnessed many natural powers, developed complex civilizations, split the atom and even transported ourselves to other planets – still need the essential elements, seasonal changes and temperate air to survive.

Look, I’m not an overly religious sort, but even a sinner like me can see that a power greater than all of us has developed a wonderful natural order – systems and patterns that constantly supply us with the fundamentals necessary to sustain and propagate life on Earth – despite our strange desire to kill one another with mindless efficiency and pollute our only environment like a foul bird shitting repeatedly in its own nest.

Meteorologists tell us that hurricanes are the earth’s air conditioner.  They very capably transport warm air from the mid-latitudes to the colder polar regions.

They also serve to move warmth from the lower-levels of the atmosphere vertically; conducting solar heat from the surface to the top of the troposphere, thus mixing the atmosphere and ensuring a temperate balance and climate.

This natural quest for global horizontal and vertical thermal equilibrium requires a powerful force to transport all that latent heat produced by the Sun – and that is the exact purpose of these monster storms.

We just happen to get in the way sometimes.

According to scientists, hurricanes also oxygenate seawater, help replenish barrier islands and deposit a huge amount of quantifiable energy into other parts of the globe.

While we can measure it, the purpose of this energy exchange isn’t fully understood.

I suspect it has something to do with Mother Nature’s constant search for balance.

During my law enforcement career, I was witness to natures wrath on several occasions– including Hurricane Andrew, numerous tropical storms, the “Florida Fire Storms,” the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and our local historic flooding of 2009.

I received advanced training from FEMA, attended the National Emergency Management Training Center at Emmitsburg, Maryland, and received the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation.

But no matter how much you study, experience and learn about the process, best practices and protection measures, I have always stood in utter awe at the incredible power and seemingly cruel efficiency of these extreme weather systems – and their ability to bring out the best, and worst, in all of us.

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, I was a young patrol sergeant who was sent to Miami-Dade County to supervise a group of experienced law enforcement officers in support of recovery efforts.

We were billeted on the beautiful campus of Barry University in Miami Shores, where the Dominican nuns took outstanding care of their increasingly scruffy and grumpy charges.

My unit was assigned to the challenged Liberty City area of northern Dade County, working 6pm-to-6am conducting preventive patrols and loosely enforcing the countywide curfew that had been put into effect to limit looting in the more heavily affected areas to the south.

I saw the best of humanity.  I also saw the depth of man’s inhumanity as well.

Over the time we were there, people from all over the country contributed tons of food, water, clothing and other materials.  It happens following every disaster, and managing the literal flood of supplies is a science unto itself.

In fact, there was such an overwhelming flow of consumables and donated items that we were quickly running out of space at the police substation where we were based.

My partner, a crusty old Metro-Dade sergeant who had been assigned to a desk in the Criminal Investigations Division after being shot and seriously wounded in the line of duty, quickly organized our two-man effort to feed and support the large homeless population in our area of operations.

We quickly emptied a closet – an entire storage room – that was stacked full of donated pizzas – loading them into the trunk of our tattered Dodge Diplomat patrol car and set up an impromptu feeding station at a Florida East-Coast Railroad freight yard.

We did this night-after-night, sustaining the dazed, confused, mentally ill and down-on-their-luck alcoholics and addicts – the walking wounded, the people of the night, some wearing little more than rags.

We also fed people from the neighborhood, some who had exhausted their preparedness supplies or had been displaced by damage to their homes and had no where else to go.

There were no social or economic separation – we were all just people trying hard to help one another survive during extraordinary circumstances.

We simply embraced the challenge and did our best to keep smiling.

Some of our fellow officers laughed at us – and my commanding officer with Metro-Dade warned that I would be required to take these “lumpers” home with me if I kept feeding them – but we kept on supplying what we had until a more organized and sustainable support system was up and running.

We did this in between calls-for-service – handling everything from homicides, suicides, sexual batteries and domestic fights.  The good, the bad and the ugly of everyday policing in what the Miami Herald later described as a “War Zone.”

I learned that under the worst of conditions – when you’re tired, scared, wet and hungry – when you finally break the mental and social barriers and realize that we are all in this together – that the inherent goodness of men and women shines brightest.

As we prepare for what may well be the catastrophic impact of the most powerful storm in recorded history – let’s take this unique opportunity to show compassion and kindness, to help our neighbors and the less fortunate prepare, and, if necessary, to get safely out of harm’s way.

I have seen the incredible power and resilience of the human spirit under difficult circumstances – and I am very proud to see the incredible way our community is responding to this collective threat.

Look, I complain a lot about politics – but trust me – our local, county and state government officials, and first responders at all levels, are extremely experienced and incredibly well-equipped to deal with the planning, response and recovery phases of this emergency.

Let’s quibble over our differences later.  Now is the time for unity – and generosity.

Please continue to follow the directives of our local and state emergency management officials – and, most of all – please help one another.

And keep smiling.  It helps more than you realize.

May God bless and keep each of you safe as we face the unknown together.



On Volusia: “Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

There was a time in this country when a person’s worth was measured by their ability to stand on his or her own two feet – to pay their own way in the world.  In another era, successful men and women took personal pride in the fact that with wealth came independence – the American tradition of self-reliance.

My father taught me that these were admirable traits, and that with hard work came self-sufficiency, and a sense of contribution to the collective good.

In some places, successful corporations generously give back to the community where they do business, often in the form of parks, recreational facilities, public swimming pools, greenspace, ballparks and other common amenities.

This sharing and corporate giving costs billionaire businesses and industry relatively little, but demonstrates in a most profound way a tangible appreciation for their employees and neighbors.

Then, there’s Volusia County – a place where nothing is as it seems.

Here, those self-reliant people and generous businesses are called “suckers.”

This weekend, I opened the Daytona Beach News-Journal and was immediately struck by a gigantic front page headline announcing, “INSURANCE GIANT PLANS 10-STORY DOWNTOWN HQ.”

I’m sure you must have seen it – the entire Sunday edition of the paper was devoted to it.

You know the drill, “Daytona finally lands the “Big One!”  Whoop-Whoop!

Happy Days are here again.  Again.

My immediate reaction was absolute delight – kudos to Brown & Brown, I thought – what a perfect addition to Daytona’s constantly struggling downtown.  A place so strapped that a criminal courts complex is viewed as an “up-scale” improvement.

Finally, something substantial to replace those horrific, weed-strewn car lot foundations that have sat like an open wound on the landscape for years.

Then, in small letters at the top of the page, I read the dubious, but obligatory, assurance “600 new jobs coming to Daytona Beach.”

 That’s when my heart sank.  (Or maybe it was just agita, I don’t really know.)

In typical fashion, whenever the right last names propose a local project – be it an Embry-Riddle money grab with the promise of “high paying” research & development jobs – or the promise of part-time retail work at a cheap outlet mall on the frontage road – We, the People, will invariably be asked to slop the government trough with our hard-earned tax dollars and pay for critical infrastructure, provide tax abatement’s, cash handouts and other “economic incentives” to see the private development to fruition.

And the return on our collective investment is always touted as the ambiguous – and never adequately verified – promise of “jobs.” 

You know, “. . .for our kids.”

 I shook my weary head, chuckled to myself, and thought – I’ll just bet this is another “Game Changer.”

‘Cause it has all the earmarks of a good, old-fashioned Volusia County “Game Changer.”

Then, it virtually jumped off the page at me:

“It’s absolutely one of the biggest things that’s happened to downtown Daytona Beach in the 13 years I’ve been here, and probably longer than that,” said City Manager Jim Chisholm.

“It’s a game changer for the downtown area.”

 (Wait.  I thought the $260-million-dollar Taj Mahal that will be our next courthouse was the game changer?  Or was that a “huge deal”?  Oh, screw it – who can keep track. . .)

Of course, J. Hyatt weighed in while holding court in front of an exclusive “invite-only” crowd and quipped, . . .when companies and their leaders achieve some success they reflexively think they have to go where “people are cool and suave.”  We think the people of Daytona Beach and Volusia County are cool and suave,” he said to laughter and more applause.”

No, he doesn’t.

Mr. Brown thinks the people of Daytona Beach and Volusia County are hapless dupes and rubes.

Because we are.

(What, no laughter and applause?)

He also knows that he has a sizable majority of sitting Volusia County politicians, at all levels of government, comfortably ensconced in his hip pocket.

Why?  Because he bought and paid for them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, that’s why.

(I wonder if this is why so much cash was injected in local races during the 2016 campaign?  Hummm. . .)

That’s the reason Mr. Brown’s perverse joke is so devilishly funny – and frightening – all at the same time.

Even our “High Panjandrum of Political Power” King Mori Hosseini weighed in, noting that Volusia County is “a loser county,” but he assures us that we’ll all be considered “progressive” when J. Hyatt’s riverfront edifice is complete.

I found Mr. Hosseini’s quote interesting, given the fact that no one – and I mean no one – has wielded more personal or political power in Volusia County.

No individual or entity has been granted more unfettered trips to the public tit – for roads, infrastructure, the half-price sale of public land to his private university, etc. – or commanded the allegiance of influential politicians and appointed officials – real players who could have changed the economic face and direction of Volusia County on a mere nod from the King at any time he saw fit.

We’re losers, alright.

According to the brass tacks of the News-Journal’s gushing announcement – while there has been no “specific ask” yet – it is increasingly clear that Brown & Brown will be putting the arm on you, me and our neighbors for “help” with costs associated with the buildings “new water, sewer and storm water systems.”

I’ll just bet that’s not all.

Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm also confirmed that, “more than $1-million in property tax abatement over 10-years has been in discussion.”  And unlike you or me, Brown & Brown may be given “a pass” on paying taxes on any increased value their building would create.

“. . .talks with the county have included ideas involving impact fees, tax abatement and ECHO funds, which are targeted for environmental, cultural, historic and outdoors projects.”

Our ECHO funds are in play?  For a private development?

Say what?

Unfortunately, County Manager Jim Dinneen said “tax abatement” is “off the table.”

I say “unfortunately,” because Jim Dinneen is a congenital liar with an almost physical aversion to the truth.  That means Brown & Brown is virtually assured to receive tax abatement’s – and anything else they damn well want.

That’s in addition to the massive money dump Brown & Brown receives on the regular in the form of Volusia County employee insurance premiums. . .

“We’ve been working with them behind the scenes on an incentive package,” he said.  Dinneen said county financial help could prove to be a great investment for taxpayers.

I’ll bet you have.

Too bad Mr. Dinneen’s “confidentiality agreement” – you know, something he pulled out of his ass to avoid those pesky public records laws – prohibits him from answering the hard questions about the proposed transfer of public funds and services to a private entity.

And, as usual, our doddering County Chair Ed Kelley is enjoying nawny-nawny time, comfortably asleep at the wheel – while our other elected officials on the County Council receive their collective marching orders.

Time to give back to a man who has given them so much.  Literally.

Sad really.

Given the ugly fact Volusia County perennially falls below the state average in virtually every substantive category – wages, household income, poverty, schools, infrastructure, etc. – everything, it seems, except blight and crime – (We lead the way in those important categories) along with the deplorable physical condition of wide swaths of the community that serve as blight and crime incubators – and I seriously wonder how these people sleep at night?

Look, it’s a nice new building, situated in an area that could really use a nice new building.

But everyone who is anyone in this suffering dump should understand that you lost all credibility with the “game changers” and “catalyst” projects years ago.

Pouring hundreds-of-millions of tax dollars into Big Fish sporting goods stores, panacea hotels, goofy mega-gas stations and outlet stores isn’t going to substantially change our quality of life in the Halifax area – or stimulate our decomposing economy – and they goddamned well know it.

And I assure you that no one will even mention – let alone confirm – what became of the promised “600 high-paying jobs” when J. Hyatt’s monument is ultimately complete.

When our self-serving ‘movers & shakers’ get serious about fundamentally changing our artificial economy, one based upon massive injections of public funds, private looting and giveaway “economic development incentives,” and begin cleaning up the abject blight, corruption and dilapidation that prohibits real economic development – and the real jobs that come with it –  then I’ll join our “rich and powerful” in their wild celebration of the next big thing.

As Mr. Brown said, “Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

I’ll just bet he’s right.



Angels & Assholes for September 1, 2017

Hi, kids!

Wow!  It’s Friday once again – September 1st – time 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.

It’s been quite a week here at Barker’s View.

Thanks to you, our blogsite put up some record numbers during the month of August, capped by an Honorable Mention this week in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

For a wippy opinion blogger, that’s like being called up to the Big Leagues.

As always, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to read my weird take on the issues of the day – I sincerely appreciate the effort – and your always thought-provoking comments on the site and social media.

Sharing opinions, getting to know each other, and opening our minds to differing points-of-view.  The pessimist in me says, “It can’t help” – but the hopelessly lost romantic in me says, “It can’t hurt.”

I think that’s what it’s all about.

Now, let’s take a closer look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:          Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau

As the sketchy analysis and petty bickering over attendance estimates for July’s Shriners International Imperial Session continues, it is increasingly clear that the event didn’t draw the originally anticipated 15,000 to 20,000 visitors – or even the more realistic 10,000 revelers of later estimates.

Look, I’m an opinionated blowhole – not a convention and tourism guru, or even a highly paid hospitality marketing analyst – but I’m officially joining the growing number of local realists who estimate the total attendance at more like 4,000.

And that’s okay.

Let’s chalk it up to a good start.  You know, the “We’re gonna build on the momentum!” thing.

I happen to agree with the Daytona Beach News-Journal – the numbers being provided by the CVB and its hired mouthpiece, Mid-Florida Marketing, just don’t add up.

In my view, what the CVB should understand is that nothing – and I mean nothing – has worse “optics” than a tourisim official trying to convince people that an event met expectations, when it is clear to everyone that it didn’t.

With some $400,000 in public incentives and in-kind services over the transom, it looks like you and I – the taxpayers who so often foot the bill for the “Grand Plans” of others in our community – spent about a $1,000.00 for every Shriner that rolled into town.

And I’m okay with that.

You must start somewhere, and, frankly, this plan was visionary.

I poked fun at the local ‘movers and shakers’ who took personal credit for the Shriner’s convention, but the fact is, they should be proud of what was accomplished.

This endeavor – expensive as it was –  broke our standard, self-defeating mold and said, “We can do better.  We don’t have to accept the status quo.” 

But defending hazy occupancy and attendance numbers, laying blame, and trying to paint the Shriners Imperial Session as something it was not will cost the CVB much more than money.

Good leaders, like good marketing experts, know that when you lose trust and credibility – you’re doomed.

When the public suspects they are being hoodwinked by a quasi-governmental agency attempting to spin an alternative narrative, they won’t buy it, and that will have serious consequences when they attempt to sell us on future “mega-conventions” – or anything else.

Angel:             The City of Holly Hill

I always equate the City of Holly Hill to the late, great stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield:

“It can’t get no respect.” 

 Earlier this week, the city closed on the sale of the infinitely beautiful “The Market” – a historic complex of coquina rock construction that has served our community well since the late 1930’s, when it was built by the Works Project Administration as a farm-to-market stand.

According to reports, the property was purchased by local Jon Xynidis of Xcel Wealth Management, a Seabreeze High School graduate and former standout defensive back at the University of Florida.

Old-time Halifax area residents have known the building as a courthouse, back before we needed Waldorf-Astoria-like facilities (Too soon?), the place you went to get your driver’s license, and later, the Public Defender’s office.

Most of all, it was part of the fabric of our area.

Nearly a decade ago, the building suffered serious damage during heavy flooding, and – in typical style – Volusia County officials simply allowed the building (located in a quaint residential neighborhood) to sit stagnate, growing an internal patina of thick mold and mildew, inexplicably content to sit idle while another public asset rotted into the ground.

Several years ago, the City of Holly Hill acquired the property from Volusia County for $30,000 and spent nearly $1.5-million in remediation and renovation to save the historic structure.

In addition, flood-damaged furniture that was abandoned by the County was cleaned, polished and put to good use at City Hall.

I know, I served as Interim City Manager at the time of purchase – but not the renovation.

Ultimately, a new city manager was hired and I happily returned to my duties in the police department.  At the time, I didn’t agree with every expenditure related to the project – but I understood the comprehensive vision for the property.

City leaders went to great care to ensure that period fixtures and architectural designs remained true to the original construction – and the main section of the facility was outfitted with restaurant-quality equipment and ventilation, and is now home to the highly successful Chucherias Hondurenas restaurant – which ranks among the best fine dining experiences in the Daytona Beach area.

Originally planned as an up-scale community meeting and wedding facility, the purpose changed to commercial office space to capture a more stable revenue stream.

The project essentially took an abandoned, dilapidated blight generator and applied CRA funds to transform it into one of the most exceptional venues anywhere in Volusia County.

If you haven’t seen the courtyard – with its century-old oaks and glimmering tealights illuminating a delightful walk and water feature – then you are missing out on something special right here in our own backyard.

As County Manager Jim Dinneen might say, “It’s second-to-none.”

Rather than congratulate the community for trying to build economic momentum through long-term investment, the News-Journal’s business writer, Clayton Park – who can artfully knit a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when the right last names are involved with any public/private project – began by opining that the city took a “$900,000” loss on the deal.


Have you ever heard Mr. Park salivate over some corporate shill’s description of an oversized gas station on the frontage road – or dutifully coo about the career highlights of some stuffed-shirt blowhard from the CEO Business Alliance?

I have.

Yet, when a small local community and business owner invest strategically to develop a solid commercial anchor-point for future redevelopment, Clayton drops a deuce in their proverbial punchbowl.

In my view, it was a cheap-shot that served no legitimate purpose, other than to accentuate the negative.

That’s my job, not his.

Unfortunately, “The Hill” can’t catch a break – even when they get it right.

Not all expenditures have an immediate return on investment.  Sometimes the true profits are taken over time, and an astute business writer like Mr. Park knows that.

The fact is, the City of Holly Hill knew in advance that this wasn’t a speculative real estate deal.

In my view, city leaders spent their limited redevelopment dollars as intended –  to restore a blighted historic building with solid bones, a community landmark that fell victim to Volusia County’s abject neglect – and in doing so, they developed a beautiful jewel which will serve as a strong commercial incubator in the lower part of this lovely, but challenged, community.

An investment that will now pay dividends – and taxes – for years to come.

Angel:             Beachside Redevelopment Committee

 Earlier this year, the Volusia County Council established a committee charged with examining workable solutions to the scourge of neglect and dilapidation that has left large swaths of Daytona’s beachside a virtual no-mans-land and has hampered legitimate economic development for decades.

The cumulative effect has been stagnation, and the evaporation of millions of dollars in redevelopment funds, with little, if anything, to show for it.

Look, I was hyper-critical of both the make-up of the committee – and the county-imposed limitations on what elements of the issue were open for discussion.

My view hasn’t changed – and, when all is said and done, I suspect the powers-that-be will ignore the group’s recommendations.

I’m weird that way – I still predict future performance by examining past performance.

However, the committee has taken a very thoughtful, in-depth look at the important factors that have brought us to this dark place in our community’s history – and it has all the right people reading from the same page – and talking substantive progress.

As a result, important people in the region are beginning to ask important questions – like, “Are there viable alternatives to our special-event driven economy – and how can these seasonal influxes enhance a more stable year-round marketplace?” 

In my view, for the first time in a long time, these discussions represent real advances – and my hat is off to Tony Grippa and the members of his committee for thinking strategically to develop a vision for the future.

I just hope our elected officials are willing to put aside their back-door alliances and self-serving biases when the group’s actionable suggestions are presented early next year.

 A recent editorial in the News-Journal questioned if it’s time for a “character change” in the Daytona Beach Resort Area.

In my view, the answer is obvious – we simply cannot continue down the same dreadful path and expect measurable improvement in our quality of life, or the “visitor experience” for those we spend to attract.

It’s now, or never.

Quote of the Week

“There is no mistake here, ladies and gentlemen. It’s called a scheme.”

Assistant United States Attorney Embry Kidd, speaking in open court, describing the continuing course of criminal conduct that ultimately convicted former Daytona Beach City Commissioner and State Representative Dwayne Taylor on nine counts of wire fraud for misuse of campaign funds.  Taylor faces up to 20-years in federal prison on each count when he is sentenced in November.

Have a great weekend, y’all.