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?
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.