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 www.amypyle.com 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.

Literally.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for September 29, 2017

  1. Great article as always Mr Barker. I wonder why Heather Post was not selected as an asshole for her self promotion antics that you so eloquently wrote about earlier in the week.

    Like

  2. Mark – I am über-honored to achieve the coveted “Angel” status, and I really appreciate the plug! I’m not going to say anything smarmy or political here to butter you up – I know you, and your readers are smarter than that. So I’ll just say “See you around the neighborhood!” PS do you play scrabble?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s