On Volusia: “We’re Number Seven!”

Some might disagree, but I’ve always considered myself reasonably “tuned-in” to local current events, and sensitive to the shifting winds of life here on the Fun Coast.

Hey, it’s not rocket surgery – I just read the paper and bitch.

What else do I have to do?

Having made a life in the Daytona Beach Resort Area for over 55-years, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly – and you don’t need a study from Harvard University to get the idea that things are increasingly “challenged” here.

That’s why I was surprised by the recent announcement in U. S. News & World Report – a “recognized leader” in rating everything from colleges to cars – that Daytona Beach ranked #7 on their “Best Places to Retire list.”


Obviously, our beleaguered Chamber of Commerce-types seized the news like a famished rat on a moldy piece of cheddar.

After all, they haven’t had much to feel good about for, oh, the last 30 years.

Then, our local “movers & shakers” got on board – patting each other on the back, beaming with pride, and performing their best “We’re Number Seven!” rah-rah routine for the always easy to please Clayton Park, business writer for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

According to reports, the U. S. News & World Report listing was based on an analysis of housing affordability, retiree taxes, quality of health care and overall happiness of each area’s residents.”

Generally, I take these “best of” lists with a grain of salt.

When I served as a Chief of Police, I always downplayed the importance of crime statistics and our community’s per capita ratings – given the fact that law enforcement has very little influence on the civic issues (local economy, social disorganization, etc.) that contribute to crime, blight and dilapidation – it just didn’t pay to get excited about it.

I tried not to fret when rates were high – or take undue credit when reported crime dropped – and simply focused on ensuring that my department was operating as effectively and efficiently as possible while developing strategic crime prevention and enforcement programs to address emerging threats.

In government, it is generally best to be responsive to the needs of your constituents, control what you can, and not beat your chest when the very next “study” might have a whole different outcome.

For instance, last year, CBS Money Watch listed Daytona Beach as the 3rd Worst Real Estate Market in the United States (Buffalo was #1) – and the online site Homesnacks ranked us 6th in their “10 Worst Places to Live in Florida.”

(See why it’s never good to cherry-pick statistical lists?)

In addition, the international travel website Smart Travel Tips ranked Daytona Beach #3 on the “10 Worst Neighborhoods in Florida” list – with Roadsnacks placing us in the #1 slot for the “10 Most Ghetto Cities in Florida” (I don’t know what that means, but it can’t be good. . .)

In 2016, Bankrate.com – a trusted source of financial planning information – listed Daytona Beach among the worst places to retire in the nation – 144 out of 194 – with a “cultural vitality” rating of “poor.”

Considering the Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported that our area’s median income for renters, and the availability of affordable housing, are among the worst in Florida (15th in the nation) – and our property taxes are the second highest in the state, with residents packing town hall meetings to voice their frustrations over abject blight and economic stagnation – I wonder if whoever researched these statistics bothered to visit Volusia County – or read the local newspaper for that matter.

In this week’s Volusia/Flagler Business Report’s “The Buzz” column, Clayton reminded us of the #7 ranking – and tapped the always over-enthusiastic Wild Bill Bullock, Senior Vice President at Minto Communities for comment.

Wild Bill linked the news to a recent Bloomberg article which described Minto’s “Latitudes at Margaritaville” as “the future of retirement.”   (God, I hope not. . .)

Trust me.  Our doddering fool of a county chairman, Ed Kelley, will dutifully parrot these dubious accolades during his next “State of the County” address – and the U.S. News & World Report listing will be distributed like confetti at every rubber chicken banquet and “economic development” gala in town for the next decade.

Mind you, Old Ed won’t understand the statistical analysis, or how these debatable rankings were arrived at (no one else does either), but he will regurgitate the “We’re Number Seven!” chant for the benefit of our “movers & shakers” who have towed the party line and kept their head comfortably in their collective ass for decades.

It’s a big part of why we’re in this condition, but nobody who should seems to care – even as the social crevasse dividing us continues to grow.

Depending upon who you talk to, life on the Fun Coast is either the best – or the worst.

How’s things by you?

On Volusia: The Dark Path Ahead

As regular readers of these goofy screeds know, I tend to brood on the darker issues facing us here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

I’m the glass half-empty guy – the infernal pessimist – always staring balefully at the distasteful realities – and increasing divide – of our collective experience in Volusia County; always irrationally suspicious of the optimistic merry-making by our power structure that constantly seeks to assure us that Happy Days are Here Again.


That makes Barker’s View generally, and its author specifically, a burr under the saddle of our established “system” – and an unremitting irritant to those who stand to profit from it.

Good.  Because that’s the goal.

When I meet readers of this forum, they are invariably gracious and encourage me to continue this experiment in alternative opinion – because what they see with their own eyes does not always comport with what they are told by their elected and appointed officials.

Or our local media outlets.

It appears the Daytona Beach News-Journal has developed an almost schizophrenic malady, wherein our newspaper of record is forced to alternately feature “rah-rah feel-good” stories which desperately try to convince the masses that relocating thousands of aging Parrotheads to an artificial utopia on the outskirts of a challenged municipality without the benefit of transportation infrastructure or adequate services is “progress” – while also acknowledging the abysmal state of local wages, poverty, blight and malignant hopelessness.

We open our daily paper and read fairy tale fables spouted by straight-faced, highly paid public employees who tell us that the temporary relocation of carnival midway rides is the panacea for decades of crushing neglect and dilapidation on the scar that is our Boardwalk (been down there lately?) – or that the westward migration away from the stain of our decrepit beachside is somehow best for the collective future of Daytona Beach.

For instance, on Friday, the News-Journal published yet another puff-piece entitled, “Parrothead Paradise,” which included a front-page photograph of Bill Bullock, Senior Vice-President for Minto Communities (the developer du jour), with hands raised in over-the-top exuberance – like he was babbling in tongues and rebuking the devil of economic stagnation at one of those backwoods tent crusades.

The article went on to feature sanguine quotes by local “movers and shakers,” and descriptions of cute signage, such as, “If Life Gives You Limes, Make Margaritas!”

The fluff included upbeat ditty’s like, “Latitude Margaritaville also heavily promotes the advantages of living in Daytona Beach,” “Of all the places to retire, we believe Daytona Beach is at the top,” “a phenomenal success.”

Our own newly crowned Great and Powerful Oracle, John Albright, CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka, said, “With Latitude Margaritaville, I think they hit a gusher!” 

He’s right.

They did hit a gusher – unfortunately, I suspect it’s coming from our over-stressed aquifer – our singular source of drinking water – as the development is taking place right on top of sensitive recharge areas.

I think Sir Albright was referring to the gazillions of dollars Minto Communities will make on homes that will be built at a reported rate of one per day. . .

Seriously, “We expect to build 300-plan homes in Year One,” said Bullock, adding, “That’s basically a home a day.”

(Wow.  I’m just spit-balling here, but what kind of quality can Frank and Lola Parrothead expect for their $230,000 to $340,000 at that pace of construction?  Just asking. . .)

Then, on Sunday, we read a heartbreaking exposé in the News-Journal disclosing the devastating problem of severely cost-burdened residents – with Volusia and Flagler Counties having the second lowest median income for renters in Florida (15th in the nation out of 382 metropolitan statistical areas).

Contributing to the problem are historically low wages, a high number of service industry jobs and the lack of affordable housing here on the Fun Coast.

The not-so-fun quips in this article weren’t nearly as optimistic as Mr. Bullock’s assessment of things from his perch inside the recently opened Latitude at Margaritaville sales office:

“Trying to Survive.”

 “Everybody’s in Debt.”

 “A Complex Problem.”

 “It’s always been a struggle; some people just slip through the cracks.”

Incredibly depressing, really.

But don’t fret – I’m sure tomorrow will bring a new and uplifting report on progress at an outlet mall, mega-convenience store or chain restaurant.

So keep your chin up, people.

Hey, you 16% of the population living in poverty – and the thousands more living paycheck-to-paycheck – haven’t you heard?

When life gives you limes, make margaritas!

In my view, these polar opposite news stories provide more evidence of the weird civic and social dichotomy in Volusia County – the contrast of experiences between the haves and have-nots – the increasing divide between the corporate Cheetahs who feed greedily at the public trough, and us lame Wildebeests who seemingly exist only to feed the machine.

The problem is growing, and this near constant grandstanding by corporate real estate marketing departments won’t fundamentally change the fact that our unfortunate dearth of leadership and strategic vision is taking Volusia County residents down a very dark path.







Angels & Assholes for October 27, 2017

Hi, Kids!

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:          John Miklos & Governor Rick Scott  

Earlier this month, the St. John’s River Water Management District – Florida’s powerful regulatory agency charged with protecting our aquifer (read: drinking water) – levied a $200,000 fine on an Orlando parking lot operator.

Seems the owner of the lot cleared two-acres of land without proper permits (sound familiar Debary?), and paved over an environmentally sensitive area.

It took some 12-years of litigation to get it done, but the SJRWMD persevered and held the offending business to account.

Awesome, right?

Finally, a Central Florida environmental offender brought to “justice.”

Not so fast.

Now, the same parking lot operator is back before the SJRWMD requesting permission to destroy 30-additional acres of wetlands – and by all accounts, the district is ready to permit it.


I mean, what changed?

The land is either environmentally sensitive and in need of conservation or it isn’t?


Well, it appears the business has finally come to its senses and hired Orlando-based Bio-Tech Consulting – which happens to be owned by Governor Rick Scott’s hand-selected chairman of the St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board – Long John Miklos.

That’s right.

The Chairman of the SJRWMD is still making money off private interests coming before the very public regulatory agency he oversees.

As the Orlando Sentinel recently opined, “I think that, in a state with more than 20 million people, we should be able to find someone to run the agency who doesn’t make money dealing with it.”

Now, there’s something the Constitution Revision Commission should consider. . .

Yeah, right.

This is Florida.  The rules are different here.

Angel:             David Vukelja, Esq. 

Thank you, sir.

This week, I watched the intrepid David Vukelja’s outstanding oral argument before the 5th District Court of Appeal in the matters of Sons of the Beach and International Beach Club vs. County of Volusia.

The proceedings might as well have been titled “Us vs. Them” – because that is exactly what it is.

Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach advocacy, and the International Beach Club have fought valiantly to protect our heritage of beach driving – even as our appointed and elected officials continue to barter away large swaths of the strand to private developers – and use the power and resources of the County Attorney’s Office to batter and bash We, The People into submission.

Mr. Vukelja’s very cogent argument, supported by well-researched case law, was artfully presented – and he provided persuasive answers to the staccato of legal questions posed by the three-judge panel.

Again, our highly compensated County Attorney, Dan Eckert, stammered and hawed through his presentation like Jed Clampett trying to order soup in a French restaurant.

In my view, Dan’s not a very good presenter – however, he has no problem using the full might and treasury of county government to legally crush the will of his own constituents – and that is exactly what our elected officials have directed.

Apparently, Mr. Eckert’s ability to ignore political motivations and follow superior orders more than makes up for his abysmal courtroom skills.

Look, the judges of the 5th District have a difficult task before them, and they must work within the confines of the law.

Unfortunately, laws are made by politicians who don’t always represent the best interests of their constituents – and sometimes they construct legislation outside the limits of the charter, or the constitution, as a means of protecting power.

There are many legal questions surrounding these important issues – and the way this case was abruptly dismissed by the courts – that demand answers.

I hope the 5th District allows this matter to proceed.

Regardless of the appellate court’s ruling – the fight to preserve the people’s right to beach access and limit government overreach must continue.

Aside from the artificial infusion of cash by wealthy political insiders, we still have the essential framework of a democratic process that allows one person, one vote.

I believe that if enough like-minded citizens hold firm to the basic belief that we can control our destiny by electing strong, ethical and visionary members of our community to high public office, we can once again balance political power and restore transparency, fairness and the spirit of fair play in Volusia County government.

Asshole:          County of Volusia

Much of what I go on about in this space is done tongue in cheek – a goofy attempt to embroider my cockeyed opinions on the important issues of the day with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

This piece isn’t one of those.

Last week, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company agreed to pay Volusia County some $85,000 in replacement costs for a dump truck that was destroyed in a 2014 crash that took the life of a young mother and her newborn baby.

The family of those lost also received compensation from both Volusia County and Goodyear – small comfort for a tragedy of such magnitude.

The investigation of this unspeakable tragedy by the Florida Highway Patrol and independent traffic accident reconstruction experts were typically contradictory.

Some investigators found that Volusia County violated safety protocols – something county officials denied – then county attorneys deflected blame on a defective tire and the whole ugly mess dissolved into civil litigation.

Whatever.  Nothing can bring back that precious mother and baby.

In my view, now that this heartbreaking affair has been legally settled by all parties, perhaps our elected officials should demand an outside, independent audit of all county maintenance and repair operations?

An internal review and a policy change or two just won’t cut it.

It is common for progressive, transparent public and private organizations to conduct an impartial safety review of both administrative and operational practices following an unthinkable tragedy.

It just makes sense.

And it should not stop there.

Given the very public and on-going interpersonal and professional conflicts between County Manager Jim Dinneen and Sheriff Chitwood, and Councilwoman Heather Post, and the councils constituents, and the municipalities, and . . . (you get the picture), perhaps those we have elected to represent our interests should commission a thorough independent management audit of the entire senior administration?

It will never happen, but it’s past time for a top-to-bottom review of the County Manager’s office.

Every resident of Volusia County is intimately familiar with Volusia County’s obscenely lax approach to preventive maintenance, or even basic upkeep, of publicly owned facilities – and the non-stop series of bloopers, missteps, political gaffes and “public policy by ambush” that has left our elected officials looking like out-of-touch buffoons – is corrosive and erodes the public’s trust in county government.

If you want a prime example of what passes for property management in county government, take a pass by the “proposed” off-beach parking lot at the west corner of Cardinal Drive and SR A-1-A in Ormond Beach.

It is deplorable.

A boarded up, weed-strewn eyesore that is actively contributing to the proliferation of blight in the center of the city’s main tourist corridor – and immediately adjacent to a long-suffering residential area.

Or, how about the deplorable condition of the former Hurst Elementary School?

A property previously owned by Volusia County that was recently sold/transferred/given (I dunno) to Halifax Urban Ministries for development of the Hope Place homeless shelter?

My God.  Have you driven by that mess recently?

I have.  And it appears the worst fears of area residents are already coming true.

HUM hurst

Roofing material blowing in the wind, twisted chain-link fencing, unsecured doors and a general appearance of dilapidation, etc.

Did the county just wash its hands of the former school once it was transferred to HUM?

Is the soul-crushing blight that area residents said would bring down property values and destroy their neighborhood coming true before Hope Place has even opened its doors?

For that matter, are renovations to Mrs. Forough Hosseini’s signature assistance center for homeless families and children being completed by two guys on weekends?

 What gives? 

 In my view, it’s gross negligence.

As usual, more questions than answers.

Look, nothing takes the wind out of blowhards like me quite like an independent management audit.

Perhaps the study will find that Mr. Dinneen is the best thing since sliced bread – or perhaps it will expose a dysfunctional autocracy which actively subverts the will and needs of its constituents as it consolidates power in a small cabal of wealthy political insiders?

I think we deserve answers.

Angel:             Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly

I’ve said this before – Sheriff Rick Staly is a breath of fresh air in Flagler County.

Through innovative programs and a personal commitment to strong law enforcement and community improvement initiatives, Sheriff Staly is setting the example for modern problem-oriented policing.

Last week, we learned that judges in Flagler County will now have the option of ordering domestic violence offenders to attend in-county battery intervention courses.

This important new resource is a direct result of suggestions brought by Sheriff Staly’s Domestic Violence Task Force – good ideas which include adding a domestic violence investigator and seeking more effective ways to serve the vulnerable victims of this deadly epidemic.

The 29-week program will be offered at the Flagler County Emergency Operations Center – and will be paid for by the offender.

In addition, Flagler Undersheriff Jack Bisland – one of the singularly finest law enforcement officers I’ve ever known – has suggested a unique monitoring program for repeat and violent offenders.

Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Undersheriff Bisland said, “Offenders get power from the anonymity of these offenses.  It happens behind closed doors and they hide behind the secrecy – one persona publicly, and behind closed doors they act differently.  The more people know about that behavior, the more power it takes from that offender.” 

He’s right.

Kudos to Sheriff Staly and his outstanding team of caring professionals who are working hard to open the right doors and develop inventive solutions to this difficult problem.

Asshole:          Brown & Brown

 “On behalf of our teammates across the country and around the world, those of us that work every day out of 220 South Ridgewood Ave. and call Daytona Beach home want to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to the city of Daytona Beach and Volusia County for their votes in support of the future.”

 –J. Powell Brown, CEO of Brown & Brown, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices column last week.

What are we, chopped liver? 

In perhaps the most self-serving, backhanded “thank you” note ever inflicted upon a still sore community, Powell Brown (and, I assume, his corporate communications division) openly snubbed taxpayers while fawning over his paid minions – our elected officials – in Daytona Beach and Volusia County who bestowed a collective $15-million in publicly funded incentives for construction of the company’s new corporate headquarters.

I’m not sure that Mr. Brown fully understands (or cares) how angry and bitter a large segment of the local population remains over this carefully orchestrated giveaway.

The problem with being “Rich & Powerful” is that no one wants to tell you the truth.

I do.

Trust me, Mr. Brown, you are not doing your hired chattel on the dais of power any favors by openly praising this reverse Robin Hood maneuver – a scheme that culminated in a vote that made it rain public funds on your privately held billion-dollar insurance conglomerate in an environment where a sizeable segment of the population is really suffering.

I thought you should know.

Something else you should know – in my view, if your company fails to make good on its trusted promise of a $237-million-dollar annual economic impact to the Halifax area, your family name will be mud in this town – and your hand-selected elected officials who facilitated this cash-grab will have a very difficult time returning to the halls of power come election time.

We are counting on you.

Quote of the Week:

 “It’s not that we aren’t trying, you just can’t snap your fingers and make it happen.”

 —Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley, as quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, speaking condescendingly to his long-suffering constituents who simply questioned the length of time required for repairs to existing beach walkovers over one-year after Hurricane Matthew

Geez.  Why so defensive, Ed?

Whenever We, The People, have the temerity to question the machinations of County Manager Jim Dinneen and our elected marionettes on the dais of power, they get their knickers in a twist.

“You have to get permits. You can’t just go in and rebuild the walkovers,” County Chair Ed Kelley said. “We had to get reassured from FEMA that we’d get reimbursed. I know everyone wants everything done at once, but we can’t just put it back up the next day.”

 Whoa.  Easy, man.

 Look, we understand that rebuilding public amenities is infinitely more difficult and time-consuming than, say, giving away millions in public funds to a billionaire insurance conglomerate (an extraordinary feat that took just 35-working days from the date of the public announcement) but should it take a year to replace some walkovers?

And why three contractors?  You’re saying FEMA’s on-board with that? 

 Just asking. . .

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being lectured by these doddering, out-of-the-loop meatballs we elected; these sycophantic lumps who parrot only what they are told by Little Jimmy Dinneen.

Because that’s all they know.

In my view, the defensiveness and open condescension by those who ostensibly work in the public interest is a mere smokescreen for their bizarre move to hire multiple contractors at a cost of $1.3 million taxpayer dollars – something county officials claim will speed-up the repairs.

Something doesn’t smell right.

For instance, when questioned by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Coastal Divisions Director Jessica Winterwerp, “. . .said she didn’t know how the cost of hiring one contractor to fix the remaining 21 walkovers would compare with the coast of three. (?) “But I can tell you it definitely would have taken longer,” she said.”

Wait a minute.

The Coastal Divisions Director – the highly-compensated senior administration official responsible for all beach-related operations – cannot tell us the simple net difference in price between hiring one contractor or three?


Is it possible that the entire senior staff, and our elected officials, are completely out of the loop?

You bet it is.

But don’t take my word for it.

The next time our cantankerous County Chair, Ed Kelley – or any of those other arrogant gasbags in DeLand – spout off regarding things they haven’t a clue about – call them on it.

For instance, ask Old Ed to explain the permitting process.  Ask him to discuss his direct understanding of the “complexities” of an issue that has resulted in beach access disruptions for over a year.

Trust me.  You’ll be sadly surprised.

That’s all for me – but before I go, I want to tell you about a cool event this weekend:

The First Annual Mid-Town Barbecue Championship hosted by the City of Daytona Beach!

The event will be held at Daisy Stocking Park, 550 3rd Avenue, from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Best of all – Admission is free!  Sounds like fun!

Have a great weekend!


On Volusia: Never Apologize, Never Explain

The 19th century Oxford scholar Benjamin Jowett is credited with the adage, “Never apologize, never explain.”

He supposedly added, “Get it over with and let them howl.”

There was a lot of howling in Volusia County last week when the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County Council expeditiously authorized the expenditure of some $15-million of our hard-earned tax dollars to cover a mega-insurance conglomerate’s overhead and infrastructure costs associated with their new $30-million office complex in Downtown Daytona.

It was quick, precise and expertly choreographed.

A fait accompli.

In Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, J. Powell Brown, CEO of Brown & Brown, took the opportunity to openly thank our elected city and county officials for their votes authorizing the incentives – yet completely ignored those of us who will ultimately sacrifice to pay for them.

In my view, Mr. Brown would have been better off sending a private note to his corporate chattel – or maybe just bestowing a surreptitious wink outside council chambers – because his glaring omission in failing to recognize where the millions in public largesse will originate is infuriating to a growing segment of us long-suffering plow mules who exist solely to generate the funding.

During his gushing “attaboy” to his hired-hands on the dais of power, Mr. Brown assured us unsophisticated naïfs that their votes came, “. . .not from a feeling of gratitude for past contributions, but from conviction about the benefits we will bring to the community for generations to come.”

Well.  I feel better, how about you?

We desperately needed to hear what was in the hearts of those we elected to high public office when they voted unanimously to give multi-millions in tax-funded incentives to a company with annual revenues of more than $1.7 billion dollars – because every shred of evidence suggests that the Browns – personally and through their many intermediary companies – have infused tens-of-thousands of dollars into local political campaigns for the sole purpose of influencing outcomes.

In his piece, Mr. Brown took credit for his family’s business having helped “shape” our community.

Given the widespread visibility of the serious issues facing us here on the Fun Coast, I’m not sure that’s something to be proud of.

But he’s right.

Corporate welfare for a privileged few, abject personal and corporate greed and quid pro quo “economic development” schemes that have seen hundreds-of-millions evaporate into thin air have helped turn the Halifax area into a mire of squalor and blight that has reduced a once premier tourist destination into a washed-up dump – and resulted in some 16% of our population living in poverty.

We suffer the highest taxes and lowest wages anywhere.

We stand in slack-jawed disbelief while those our local newspaper calls the “Rich & Powerful” exploit environmentally sensitive lands, receive cash giveaways, lobby for the half-price sale of public land to private interests, enjoy dubious “agriculture” property tax exemptions, obtain obscene tax abatement’s and infrastructure improvements – all while permitting and encouraging massive residential and commercial development without any strategic planning or forethought beyond raising the sales tax.

So, please don’t blow smoke up our collective ass about your publicly traded, billion-dollar conglomerates “steadfast commitment to be a good corporate citizen.”

Apparently, Brown & Brown’s 75-year “commitment” to Daytona Beach is as superficially thin as a one-dollar bill.

According to Mr. Brown, “The insightful leaders at the Daytona Beach City Commission and Volusia County Council did an excellent job of showcasing both Daytona Beach’s strengths and opportunities in the face of strong competition.”

How telling.  We were in a contest.

Apparently, Brown & Brown’s true loyalty to the Halifax area is a simple matter of dollars and cents.

The suggestion being that had our elected officials questioned the expenditure – or failed to meet the Brown’s corporate demands (I know, laughable, right?) then J. Hyatt and company would have packed up and moved to Atlanta – or some other place that offered a better prize package than Daytona Beach – and left us hapless rubes squatting in this fetid mess they helped “shape.” 

Mr. Brown, I’m certainly no corporate communications expert, but in my view – never apologize, never explain.

And never sell past the close.

Publicly congratulating your own performance – and that of your hired marionettes – is poor form.  Especially after pocketing $15-million of our hard-earned tax dollars by winning some weird public/private game of chicken.

Here’s another venerable adage I’m openly fond of:

Communities get the leaders they deserve.


Photo Credit:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Angels & Assholes for October 20, 2017

Hey, Kids!

This week, Barker’s View traveled to the beautiful City of Thomasville – a town of 18,000 people in rural Southwest Georgia that could serve as a civic template for “how to get it right.”

The quaint City of Roses is home to over 100 former plantations, old-fashioned brick streets, a bustling downtown and picturesque Victorian homes.  The town is surrounded by miles of cotton waiting to be harvested, leaving the early fall landscape looking like fields of snow.

Last year, Thomasville was recognized as the second best historic small town in the nation.

This incredibly beautiful region is known as the Wingshooting capital of the world, where each fall hunters in expensive tweed jackets and Orvis khakis hunt wild Bobwhite quail the way it has been done for a hundred years – with mule-drawn carts and frisky birddogs in the serenity of centuries-old wiregrass and pine scrub.

I traveled with three lifelong friends – all brothers (them literally, me figuratively) – that have been my best friends for over 50-years.  We stayed at the historic Alexander House, a beautiful old home built in 1930 and carefully restored with modern amenities.

The elegant home – which has one of the best contemporary libraries I’ve ever encountered (I spent evenings with good whiskey and a great posthumous Pat Conroy collection, “A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life”) – was incredibly relaxing and inviting, with the antiquated charm only a wonderfully creaky hardwood floor can bring.

It was a quintessential guys getaway, full of locker-room talk and inappropriate jokes.

Relaxing, indeed.

After the wonderful week I’ve had, I didn’t want to revisit this revulsion – you know, the disgusting story of a multi-billion-dollar international insurance conglomerate putting the arm on an economically and socially depressed community – but the story is so compelling, so disturbing to so many, that it just won’t go away.

On Wednesday, the very day the Daytona Beach City Commission was set to approve $5.5 million in publicly funded incentives for construction of Brown & Brown’s 10-story headquarters, the News-Journal seemed to rub salt in the wound of every taxpayer in Volusia County when they announced that third-quarter profits show the company on track to surpass last year’s record setting $1.76-billion in revenue.

Turn the page, and we learned from Daytona Beach City Commissioner Rob Gilliland, and our doddering fool of a County Council Chair, Ed Kelley, that folks should stop worrying about the $15-million dollars of public funds and incentives being funneled to a private interest because, “We were going to improve the infrastructure next year anyway.” 

 My ass.

How dumb do they think we are?    

Interestingly, even as the News-Journal’s published Letters to the Editor swayed overwhelmingly negative on the Brown & Brown giveaway – not one sitting politician (City or County) raised so much as an eyebrow – let alone question the notion of a county with 16% of the population living in poverty giving billionaires millions of our hard-earned tax dollars for a new corporate office building.

Trust me – public sentiment is no better on the street.

But, in the end, it didn’t matter to those who matter – the ones we elect to represent our interests on the dais of power.  Late this week both Daytona Beach, and the County of Volusia, gave Brown & Brown exactly what they asked for.  Unanimously.

The people I talk to – many lifelong residents of the Halifax area, homeowners with long-established families and business interests who have watched the slow deterioration – are telling me this latest corporate money grab may be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

And the pendulum is beginning to swing.

It appears that We, The People, are beginning to realize that these gross displays of political power by a clique of white-haired old rich guys who are used to gorging themselves at the public tit whenever it serves their personal and professional pursuits, don’t necessarily benefit our larger civic interests.

In my view, the recent surprise announcement that we are strapping every man, woman and child in Volusia County with bonds totaling $260+ million-dollars to fund a Taj Mahal courthouse/county office building, followed quickly by the Grand Reveal of the Brown & Brown giveaway and the opportune closing of the County Administration building, are all strategically related.

I also happen to believe the City Island library has a life expectancy of a few short months.

Why?  Because County staff says the opposite.

Add to that the mysterious rumblings of an ECHO funded “Boardwalk Extension” – a dubious project proposed by County Manager Jim Dinneen – that is actively being budgeted, but not openly discussed, and you get the idea decisions are being made behind our back.

It is becoming increasingly clear to the masses that those the News-Journal refers to as the “Rich & Powerful” are secretly planning a future that continues to benefit a few uber-wealthy insiders and to hell with the needs and wants of those who pay the bills.

I hope I’m wrong.  But I’m not.

The common denominator in these hyper-expensive projects is that public input – you know, the thoughts and opinions of the taxpayers who pay for them – are neither solicited nor wanted.

The very thought that piss ants like you or I could add something substantive to the discussion is anathema to this bastardized system that isn’t subject to any external force beyond the whims of the donor class.

Trust me, these seemingly symbiotic public/private ventures that appear to pop out of nowhere have been carefully orchestrated well in advance by people with all the right last names and a chip in the game.

If the rumblings of my readers and neighbors are correct, things are about to get increasingly interesting for incumbent politicians in local government offices.

I hope city and county political candidates are taking notes.

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:

Angel:             Jen & Bobby Ellis – Victory Tattoos

Increasingly, loyal readers of Barker’s View are submitting suggestions for Angels & Assholes each week – and I appreciate both the interest and the thoughtful submissions.

That was the case this week when a reader suggested Jen and Bobby Ellis for Angel status.

The Ellis’ are the intrepid entrepreneurs who have been attempting to do what well-meaning citizens and gasbag politicians have been yammering about for months: Actually open a new, up-scale, year-round business on Main Street.

I have followed the very expensive and time-consuming battle the Ellis’ have fought at City Hall to get their proposed Victory Tattoo shop and museum before the City Commission.

Even after watching the hordes of catatonic homeless shuffle by their proposed venue – and considering the personal financial implications of turning a long-neglected storefront built in 1920 into a vibrant business – the Ellis’ bravely pushed forward and began the onerous process of starting a new business in the City of Daytona Beach.

They paid the $2,700.00 entry fee to play the game – attended required meetings with bureaucrats – and championed their desire to bring life to the festering hole that is much of Main Street before the city’s Beachside Redevelopment Board, Planning Board, etc., etc.

On Wednesday evening, the Daytona Beach City Commission gave final approval (finally) for Victory Tattoo to open on Main Street.

In June, The Nines Parlor – a beautiful new shop owned and operated by the award-winning tattoo artist Jeff Henry – opened in a bustling strip center on Beville Road.  The shop represents the first “tattoo parlor” in Daytona Beach in decades – and appointments with this incredibly talented young artist are booked weeks in advance.

That shows how strong the market is.

I have no doubt that Victory Tattoo will have similar success – and bring a breath of fresh air to the decaying confines of Main Street.

When entrepreneurs with the guts and wherewithal to open pioneering businesses among the blight and dilapidation of the beachside step up to the plate – one would expect city officials to bend over backwards and work cooperatively to make it happen.

Look, I understand that small business owners don’t carry the clout to demand $15-million-dollars in public funds from multiple government sources – and see the check written within two-weeks – but It shouldn’t take over six-months for a new enterprise to open its doors, especially in a foundering community redevelopment area.

City and County officials should be working hard to keep existing businesses as well.

The ugly story behind the departure of SCCY Industries LLC – one of the fastest growing firearms manufacturers in the United States – from a 21,000-square foot facility in Daytona Beach is something that seemed to fall through the cracks.

I guess nobody cared.

Earlier this year, SCCY began the process of pulling up stakes and moving lock, stock and barrel (literally) to Blount County in East Tennessee, where the former Daytona Beach company plans to construct a $22.5-million, 150,000 square foot campus which will ultimately employ some 350 people in high-tech manufacturing and administrative jobs.

That could/should have been us, y’all.

As an incentive for moving to Tennessee, SCCY was offered a relatively paltry $1.7-million rebate on the purchase of the land to cover the cost of utilities and transportation infrastructure.

Other options included a two-year tax abatement – that would begin only when a certificate of occupancy was issued – or a training grant that would provide $1,600 per new employee, capped at $400,000.

Oh, well.  Easy come, easy go.

After all, we’ve got high-paying light industrial and manufacturing jobs just beating down our door to relocate here in Volusia County, right?

(Barker, you ungrateful bastard.  Can’t you find warehouse work at Trader Joe’s, and shut the hell up. . .?)

Since it appears no one at City Hall is interested in replacing the city’s tired, fusty and ineffective redevelopment apparatus, perhaps substantive changes to the myriad hoops and hurdles that impede new business starts in our festering core tourist area is something our rescuers on the Beachside Redevelopment Committee could suggest come January?

Don’t hold out hope.  I certainly won’t.

Asshole:          County of Volusia

If I hear one more time how our elected officials – under the tutelage and direction of Little Jimmy Dinneen and his handlers – are increasing fees, taxes and exploiting any other source of revenue to “improve my life” – I’m going to vomit.

Recently, the Volusia County Council raised the daily beach access fee for out-of-town guests (Read: tourists) from $10 to $20 per day – the second 100% increase in two-years.

This exorbitant daily charge will generate even more revenue to feed the bloated, completely inefficient and irretrievably broken bureaucratic contrivance that claims to “manage” Volusia’s shoreline.

Apparently, our resident “Clairvoyant of Rubbish,” County Manager Jim Dinneen, has figured out a way to determine where beach trash originates (I’m not sure if he smells it, or holds it to his forehead like Carnac the Magnificent, but somehow, he makes the determination that this Solo cup came from Orlando and this used napkin from South Daytona.  Weird.)

“The trash is different now, and I’ll be honest with you, we do not believe we are getting it locally. It’s from people coming from out of town.”

What a stiff-necked dipshit!

Honestly – where does he come up with this crap?

With a huge communications staff on the payroll, that’s the best artifice they can come up with to sell a rate increase?


So, per Mr. Dinneen’s preternatural talent for sorting the geographical origin of garbage – he’s determined that putting the arm on Central Florida families to cover the cost of clean-up is only right and fair.


As anyone who’s paying attention can tell – this is simply another Volusia County money grab – more pelf to squander – more power over the people who have no choice.

And, for the record, I’m getting a little tired of the News-Journal headlines screaming, “Volusia County sets records for beach driving permits!”    

What the hell else are we going to do?

Is there some hidden alternative to not paying for the privilege if a resident or tourist wants to drive on the beach?

I know!  How about we start by refusing to vote for any incumbent politician on the Volusia County Council!

Or any other bald face liar who refuses to honestly and fairly state his or her unequivocal commitment to the preservation of our heritage of beach driving – or their support for fundamental changes to this monstrously incompetent system masquerading as beach management?

Just a thought.

Angel:             Sheriff Mike Chitwood & Chief Craig Capri

 Earlier this week, Barker’s View was taken to task by “someone” on social media (using a pseudonym) who anonymously questioned why I hadn’t included the three local scumbags posing as law enforcement officers who tarnished the good reputations of hundreds of hardworking cops by soliciting sexual favors from criminal suspects and drug court participants.

He’s right.  Local law enforcement didn’t have a very good week.

The person who criticized me was later (apparently) exposed on social media as a prominent local politician – a gentleman whose anonymity I will respect.

I respect everyone’s opinion equally, because I invariably learn something new – and even if I “don’t know who you are” I can still enjoy your take on the issues.

That’s the beauty of this forum.

It is a salon for the open debate and discussion of topical issues facing us on the Fun Coast.

No holds barred.

But when you jump into the fray – expect to scrap.

Truth be told – having served over thirty-years in law enforcement, the very idea of those in a position of public trust conducting themselves in this abhorrent manner is repugnant to every good cop I know.

What I am most proud of is the fact that our profession proved once again that, unlike many other public and private vocations, we are still capable of holding each other accountable and ensuring that those who maliciously break the rules and sully the public trust are held responsible for their actions.

Anyone see that happening among our local elected officials?

I didn’t think so.

Trust me – these scumbags with a badge were exposed for what they are, then decisively and publicly drummed out of our sacred corps in the most expedient manner possible.

I suspect criminal charges are coming soon.

It is with incredible pride that I commend both Sheriff Chitwood and Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri for acting in the highest and best traditions of the police service in their decisive handling of these difficult cases – and their efforts to restore public trust.

Now, if our elected “powers that be” had that same level of commitment in ferreting out abject corruption and mismanagement in local government, eh?

How about they start by abolishing the quid pro quo campaign finance system that has seen millions in public funds conveyed to private interests, or simply diverted as “economic development” incentives (Read: Daytona Beach News-Journal’s “Tarnished Jewel” series)?

Or by strengthening ethics rules to limit second-chances for politicians charged with detestable personal behavior?

How about they collectively demand an end to the historic lack of personal accountability by Volusia County’s stratospherically paid administrators?

Again, just a thought.

Angel:             County of Volusia – Tag and Title/Property Appraiser’s Office


Just one week after Barker’s View whined about the closure of the County Administration Building at 250 North Beach Street – a move that threatened to inconvenience the entire Halifax area – and questioned whether the Dinneen administration had the strategic foresight to establish a continuity of operation plan to ensure essential services in the wake of a disaster – the county has restored two important offices in East Volusia.

On Monday, the Tag and Title branch will open a service center in a concourse at the Ocean Center – and the Property Appraiser’s Office has established a beachhead in the Florida Department of Health building on Holsonback Drive.


(I wonder if our own elected Nancy Drew – Councilwoman Heather Post – took up the “Strange Case of the Missing Services”?  I dunno.  But something got them off their ass in DeLand. . .)

Regardless – thank you, Mr. Dinneen, for taking pity on us long-suffering, but infinitely appreciative, naïfs.

Angel:             Central Florida Firefighters

Last Saturday, firefighters from throughout Central Florida gathered in Daytona Beach Shores to honor first responders lost during the September 11th attacks.

The firefighters – all wearing full bunker gear, boots and heavy breathing apparatus – participated in a stair climb at the Sherwin Condominiums.

Their somber climb began at the exact hour the first plane struck the north World Trade Center.

In keeping with the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Fire Service, a retired member of the New York City Fire Department was on hand to pay his respects as the firefighters began their ascent – and each carried a photograph of a firefighter who was lost.

It is important that we, as Americans, never forget the bravery and sacrifice of those first responders who lost their lives on that fateful day – and those who continue to suffer and die due to illness and injuries directly linked to their service on 9/11.

More than 150 FDNY personnel who served at the site have died in the years since 9/11 – many of which are still not classified as line-of-duty deaths.

That must change.

The heroes of 9/11 deserve our respect and admiration – and I applaud the efforts of Central Florida firefighters to honor their brethren in such a touching and meaningful way.

Quote of the Week:

“If it were up to me, I would have made it $25.”

Volusia County Council Chairman Ed Kelley, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, touting the second massive beach toll hike in as many years, which takes daily access fees for out-of-county visitors from $10 to $20 PER DAY.

In my view, Ed Kelley is a doddering fool who has proven, time and again, that he is an out of touch dullard with very little grasp of current issues – and zero compassion or understanding for his struggling constituents.

And that is unfortunate.

But he takes marching orders from his “Rich & Powerful” handlers with military precision.

In my cynical view, Old Ed knows which side his bread is buttered on – and as a perennial politician with a jones for campaign funds – he long-ago sold his very soul, and his sacred vote, to interests intent on removing our heritage of beach driving.

If that process begins with pricing a day at the beach out of the range of strapped Central Florida families – so be it.

Ed Kelley should be ashamed of himself.

That’s all for me!

Have a great Biketoberfest Weekend – and please drive carefully!








On Volusia: Go West, Pilgrims!

“All Hail the King!”

Anyone else enjoy reading about the continuing coronation of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company’s John Albright in Sunday’s paper?

It’s nice to see another local “High Panjandrum” of political power finally receive his crown.

After deftly surviving the corporate wars – and his heroic efforts to keep the “good old boy’s investment club” intact – Mr. Albright certainly deserves it.

The ascension of John Albright as our “newest and bestest” Redeemer – the latest anointed oracle – our own Brahan Seer – who will lead us all out of this fetid wasteland and deliver us from squalor by parting with some 2,500 corporately held acres for a Buffett-themed development, a mega-gas station – and a grocery warehouse for an upscale chain that believes Daytona Beach has the right demographic to sort and deliver their merchandise – but lacks the cachet for an actual store.

Happy Days are here again!  Again. . .

The undeveloped piney woods along LPGA Boulevard – much of it owned by Consolidated-Tomoka (and nearly all of it tax protected under agriculture exemptions?) – have become the epicenter of the Halifax area’s westward migration – a struggling renaissance based on the strategy of geographically moving as far away from that stinking pile of blight and dilapidation on the beachside as possible.

It’s why I feel awkwardly sorry for those well-meaning people who are so incredibly focused on “what to do” about the myriad problems we face on the beachside – the ugly gateways, fiscally and visibly depressed neighborhoods, entrenched homeless, blighted commercial corridors, overgrown lots, decrepit rental properties, vacant store fronts and cheap motels, etc., etc.

The “Big Money” – controlled exclusively by a few wealthy political insiders and corporate interests – have turned their collective attention to the west.  They know our core tourist areas have been “played out” – like a once thriving gold mine that is now so much worthless residue.

With over $100-million in beachside CRA funds over the transom – it was good while it lasted – but smart money follows the crowd.

With an 8,000 to 10,000 unit “lifestyle destination” known as “Latitudes at Margaritaville” actively being built on top of our water recharge area west of I-95 – and additional large-scale projects planned and permitted along the I-95 corridor from Brevard to Flagler – the focus (and opportunity) has shifted.

In a May 2017 Barker’s View piece entitled, “Daytona Beach: A tale of two cities,” I wrote:

“To our ‘economic development’ types, the festering carcass of the beachside represents an old, ugly and intractable problem, an embarrassing shrine to human greed and government ineptitude – a turnip squeezed dry – a grotesque thing no longer worth the effort and expense of saving.

Conversely, Latitudes Margaritaville represents Progress.  Fun.  Opportunity.  Money. 

Two sides of the same coin – abject blight and dilapidation contrasting with the excitement and promise of what will be.

The baggage of the past vs. the potential of future progress.”

It’s unfortunate.  But true.

Another thing I found ill-timed was County Manager Jim Dinneen’s efforts to drop a turd in the News-Journal’s celebratory punch bowl and turn Mr. Albright’s front page investiture into an advertisement for even higher local taxes.

“Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen said he welcomes the growth taking place along LPGA Boulevard, “as long as it is correctly designed and isn’t a burden on people.”


In my view, Little Jimmy wants to put the burden directly on every man, woman and child in Volusia County through a one-cent sales tax increase ostensibly earmarked for transportation infrastructure.

You see, our local fuel tax has been maxed-out – and our property taxes are among the highest in the state of Florida – so increasing the sales tax is among the few revenue options remaining.

Now, Mr. Dinneen is beginning the long and disturbing process of softening us up with his patented hand-wringing and scary stories that embroider the obvious.

I think most sentient beings understand that injecting thousands of relocated Parrotheads on east Volusia surface roads is going to result in a nasty traffic quagmire – not to mention the increased pressure on existing utilities, resources and services.

So, why aren’t developers – you know, those who stand to profit – required to help mitigate this looming economic and infrastructure burden?

A smart friend recently calculated the estimated impact fees generated by new home starts in Latitudes Margaritaville at more than $52-million dollars.

You see, there was a time when local governments required that new growth paid its own way.  Impact fees were designed to cover the cost of improving infrastructure, building schools and increasing transportation and utilities to meet rapidly increasing needs.

That’s a foreign concept here on the Fun Coast.

Here, We, The People, provide the developer du jour with anything and everything they need to reduce overhead costs and maximize corporate profits.  In Volusia County, we cave to the wants of speculative developers and home builders – then force things like sales tax hikes on those who can least afford it.

It’s what they call ‘economic development.”

Don’t like it?  Tough.

History tells us that our elected marionettes in Deland, and the politically motivated hacks who control the nexus of public funds and private interests, will support anything presented as “progress” – so long as the right last names are involved – regardless of how disconnected from the core issues it may be, or how it ultimately affects the lives and livelihoods of their long-suffering constituents.

Trust me.  “Progress” is coming to “Boom Town Boulevard” and points west – even if it gridlocks every street and roadway in East Volusia County.

As our powers-that-be blindly put the cart before the horse – and the News-Journal continues to wallow in the self-congratulatory bullshit espoused by the profiteers – remember, you and I will ultimately pay dearly to solve the problem.





On Volusia: To those much is given – much is expected

Now that our elected officials have ponied up an estimated $15-million-dollars in tax abatements and other “economic incentives” for construction of the much-ballyhooed Brown & Brown headquarters on Beach Street, what comes next?

The campaign finance cycle has come full-circle, and billionaire insurance executive J. Hyatt Brown will receive a healthy return on his investment in local political races.  In Florida, this “pay to play” scheme is perfectly legal and permissible by contemporary election regulations and modern standards of business ethics.

Literally, everybody’s doing it – and I can’t name a large, successful corporate entity in the region that hasn’t benefited from “economic development” handouts, infrastructure improvements and other publicly funded incentives.

Apparently, it’s not quid pro quo corruption at all.  It is the open and honest purchase of political influence at all levels of government.

In Volusia County, political candidates are trafficked like sheep at a Turkish Bazaar, bought and branded by a few uber-wealthy insiders seeking a personal and professional advantage – all perfectly legal – so who am I to complain?

Apparently, it’s how the game is played.

It is now the norm – and government assistance is routinely factored as an expected part of any private development or expansion.  Always with the promise of “high paying jobs,” you know, for “our kids.” 

When it happens, I take perverse pleasure in watching our elected marionettes shift uncomfortably in their wingback chairs as they crow, ad nauseum, about all the wonderful things that are coming for their weary constituents, once we grease the wheels of the “next big thing” proposed by their rich benefactors with millions of our hard-earned tax dollars.

“It’s a game changer on steroids!” 

 “We see tremendous opportunity!” 

It’s almost like they are trying to convince themselves its right – even as they face the dark, Faustian realization that their sacred vote has been bought and paid for in advance.

If you’re an elected official, it helps “seal the deal” if you have a fancy “study” in your pocket showing all the intrinsic benefits to your constituents – those hapless dupes who will help pay for the elegant brick and glass edifice – even if they will never be invited to set one toe inside.

At the urging of a smart friend, I read the “economic and fiscal impact study” – contracted and paid for by Brown & Brown – and conducted by the venerated economists Fishkind and Associates.

I admit it – I’m too dumb to understand much of it – and I suspect few of our elected officials on the Dais of Power (who took the time to read it) understood it either.

Unless you know the subtle nuances of “Social Accounting Matrices,” or “base-case projections” and mathematically derived “Multiplier Models” – then we’ll just have to put a serious look on our face, shake our heads approvingly, and take Fishkind’s word for it that (according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal) “our” new building will generate some $237-million in annual economic impact here on the Fun Coast. 

I hope they’re right.

We all do.

But, you know me, I’m always suspicious of convoluted private “studies” and “reports” that serve as political insulation.

Sorry.  I can’t help it.

I’m a skeptical asshole.

Look, I’m no fiscal impact expert, but this project can’t help but bring good things for Downtown Daytona.

To my weak mind, it’s a beautiful 10-story insurance office that is being constructed on the ruins of two defunct automobile dealerships – vacant lots that have sat like monuments to our areas “redevelopment” ineptitude for decades – so, it can’t help but have a positive impact on the local economy.

Even if it doesn’t, it will damn sure look better than what’s there now.

I’m just not sure with $15-million spent that my day-to-day life (or yours) will change one iota.

But that’s okay.  It’s not about us.

The only thing I ask in exchange for my pro rata share of the public handout is that Brown & Brown executives climb in the corporate limo, mix a cocktail, and take a chauffeured drive through the neighborhoods of any community in Volusia County.

I want them to see – first hand – the malignant blight and neglect that is slowly spreading throughout the Halifax area – neighborhoods that were once middle-class bastions, now pockmarked with abandoned houses, weeded lots and a palpable lack of hope – and the growing number of vacant strip centers and dilapidated commercial corridors.

I want them to know that I’m not just some angry, reactionary asshole spouting venomous “us vs. them” rhetoric.

I want them to know that to those much is given – much is expected.


In Volusia County, some 16% of the population live in poverty.

That’s not just a statistic, it represents flesh and blood – thousands of men, women and children caught in an economic Catch 22 of seasonal low-wage jobs that fuel an artificial economy, the “affordable housing” trap and crushing economic and social depression.

Our median household income trails both state and national averages, which means the “typical job” in the Halifax area pays less than almost anywhere in the nation.

It is why our non-profit service providers, food pantries, and government assistance programs are overburdened – and it is why people raise an eyebrow when the seventh largest insurance intermediary in the world – a company that reported revenues of some $1.76 billion dollars last year – asks the long-suffering citizens of Volusia County for incentives totaling nearly half the estimated construction cost for their new corporate headquarters.

So, now that the die is cast and we are all “partners” with Brown & Brown, I hope that the promises made are honored.

It’s important.

Our area urgently needs high-paying jobs that naturally stimulate a year-round economy – and perhaps this is the project that will ultimately bring stability and stop the horrific cycle of blight.

Given our level of investment, let’s collectively demand that any corporate entity who drinks greedily at the public trough be held accountable for producing the stratospheric economic and fiscal impact that their “experts” assured us would come.

If We, The People, are truly partners – then we deserve honesty and accountability from those who stand to profit from our hard-earned funds.

We need your wisdom and leadership, Mr. Brown.

We are counting on you to make good on your promises.






Angels & Assholes for October 13, 2017

Hey, kids!

I have led a charmed life.

There is very little I would change.

After all, not many are given the opportunity to pursue the career of their dreams and spend three-decades working with wonderfully dedicated people who were like brothers and sisters in a place that sincerely appreciated our efforts.  I never want to forget it.

I have a great family as well.

Anyone who knows this crazy, mixed-up bunch will tell you we’re a little flakey – but no one has more fun than us, regardless of the circumstances.

But have you ever asked yourself the question – “If I could have been anything else in life, what would it be?”

In other words, if you had not been called to your current profession – or were given the chance to work in your “dream job,” what would you choose?

For me, there are three things I’ve always wanted to “be.”

(Don’t laugh.  These are my dreams, not yours. . .)

It may sound strange, but I have always wanted to sell furniture.

Don’t ask me why, but it is a pursuit that has always intrigued me.  It is a comfortable, quiet environment with overstuffed ottomans and burnished wood tables all pleasingly staged, where the salesperson stands on a soft-toned area rug and explains the qualities of a beautiful piece before fading into the background to allow their customer to contemplate the purchase.

My working life was often loud, even violent and chaotic at times – always dynamic, with hours of boredom punctuated by moments of pure adrenaline.  I must have subliminally found the tranquility of a fine home furnishings store, a place where folks smile at each other and speak in almost hushed tones, to be the exact opposite.

Also, I have always wanted to be a “shine boy” – you know, one of those well-dressed, glib guys who staff a shoeshine stand in an airport or department store?  There is something about the art and showmanship of using various pastes, balms and creams to expertly polish leather shoes that I find most relaxing and incredibly satisfying.

(Don’t believe me?  Look up Jason Dornstar – the Best Shine in Denver – on YouTube.  His videos are more calming than transcendental meditation. . .)

My father taught me how to shine my shoes when I was a young boy – and one of my most prized possessions is my dad’s horsehair shoe brush stamped “USMC” on the well-worn wooden handle.

As a law enforcement officer, I was required to keep my footwear well-maintained, so I shined my boots and shoes every day for over 30-years.  It never got old, and gave me a quiet time to relax and reflect – and the immediate gratification of a job well done.

The other thing I have always wanted to be is a Grandfather – one as wonderful as mine were.

Nothing can replace the unconditional love and support that good grandparents bring to a child’s life. My grandparents brought a whole different level of wisdom, kindness and nonjudgmental love – and, at 57-years old, I still cherish their memory and good lessons.

I miss them terribly.

As I grew older, I wanted the opportunity to be that special person for someone else.

So, Patti and I waited patiently for that moment we would make the breathtaking transition from chrysalis to butterfly – from Mom and Dad, to Grandma and Papa. 

At 10:33pm last Thursday, life as we knew it was forever transformed in a most beautiful way when our daughter and son-in-law welcomed our first granddaughter – Savannah Sophia –  into this big old goofy world at Halifax Hospital Medical Center and we are consumed with total joy!

Our dream came true as a God-given 7-pound 3-ounce treasure.

Someone long-forgotten once said that there’s really nothing quite so sweet as tiny little baby feet.  How true is that?

Her Papa is over-the-moon.  (Can you tell?)

I haven’t cried in earnest in over 25-years, but I must admit – I wept tears of pure, unadulterated happiness – and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

The birth of a child is the living embodiment of hope, optimism and expectation – and it remains life’s greatest miracle.  I don’t know about you, but in my view, those are important things – powerful qualities this beaten and battered world needs more of.

Wow.  What a beautiful sight to behold.

The very meaning of life, all bundled up in a soft pink blanket, sleeping peacefully – and my near-constant prayers thanking God for what he has given us are consumed with the wish that this precious child know only a long and happy lifetime of pure love.

Our family is incredibly blessed – and even if I never spend a day on an Ethan Allen sales floor –my life is perfect.

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:          County Manager Jim Dinneen & The County of Volusia

I wrote about this earlier in the week, but it bears repeating.

After spending some $1.3 million to remediate flood damage at the City Island Library and the nearby County Administration facility – the Volusia County Council will now be asked to decide the grim future of the multi-purpose administration building at 250 North Beach Street – the “Old Sear’s Building” as us long-time locals call it.

Pay to remediate water and mold damage – then, tear it down.

How typical.

Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, said, “Maybe they should consider not opening and just demolish it.” 

After all, it’s not about public convenience – it’s about not inconveniencing county bureaucrats.

Hell, they were whining the blues in the newspaper because someone had to share an office.

Excuse me?

Then, Council Vice-Chair Deb Denys pointed out the excruciatingly obvious, “There are a lot of crucial services there and we have to give the citizens the ability to access those services.”


Now there’s a fresh take on the situation, Deb. . .

Is it possible that our county government failed to have a continuity of operations plan in place to ensure essential services in the aftermath of a catastrophic event?

Is it possible that County Manager Jim Dinneen and his administration failed to identify alternate facilities in east Volusia that would ensure public accessibility to core governmental services?

(Now, there’s a classic “whodunit” our own elected Nancy Drew – Councilwoman Heather Post – might want to investigate.  Because you can damn sure bet the Dinneen apologists on the dais of power won’t.)

According to George Baker, our hapless “Director of Facilities” – you know, the guy charged with overseeing the strategic rot and deterioration of publicly owned buildings throughout Volusia County – offices once conveniently located at Daytona’s administrative facility have been moved to “every nook and cranny” of county buildings in New Smyrna Beach, Deland and Orange City.

I called it the “English Muffin” approach to disaster recovery – but, sadly, it’s governance by crisis.

In any private business, this level of base ineptitude – this colossal blunder – this painful lack of strategic foresight would result in the immediate termination of every senior manager responsible.

It is a gross administrative oversight, and it is unacceptable.

But not in Volusia County.

The rules are different here – and there is no accountability – at least so long as the right people keep getting what they want.

As the very bright Amy Pyle (a candidate for the Daytona Beach City Commission) pointed out on social media – in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Beach Street merchants worked and sacrificed to get cleaned-up, dried out and back in business – because they had to.

When your life and livelihood is based upon actually providing quality goods and services to the public – and competing in a fair and equitable way in the marketplace – business owners in Downtown Daytona don’t have the luxury of not reopening, or simply demolishing their location and starting over with someone else paying for it.

It’s no secret that County Manager Jim Dinneen, our County Council, and Court administrators really want a new $260 million-dollar courthouse/county office facility.

This Taj Mahal is set to be built, in part, on land currently occupied by the now shuttered Administrative Building.

The secretive way this weird mega-courthouse plan was hatched – and the dubious funding scheme that will place every man, woman and child in Volusia County in debt for years to come – hasn’t been well-received by the public.

You know, those of us who are expected to pay the bills.

So, in my view, Mr. Dinneen and his facilities managers have stooped to exploiting temporary storm damage to inconvenience us into submission.

If you withhold essential services and force taxpayers to drive from Ormond Beach to Orange City every time they need to renew their tags, invariably the masses will come around to your way of thinking.

I hope our powers-that-be realize that the political gamble is – just sometimes – the people have their fill of it, and demand substantive change in their government’s administration and processes.

Angel:             Dr. Pam Carbiener

Last year, 158 precious babies were born addicted to opioids in Volusia County.


Thanks to the heroic personal and professional efforts of long-time Volusia County obstetrician Dr. Pam Carbiener, that awful statistic is about to change for the better.

Thanks to Dr. Carbiener’s tireless work to provide prenatal detoxification and rehabilitation for mothers suffering the devastating effects of opioid addiction during pregnancy, these families can have hope that their babies will grow up to be healthy, happy and productive members of our community.

For her incredible efforts, Dr. Carbiener was recently named the Citizens for Ormond Beach’s “2017 Citizen of the Year.”  

Well deserved.

We owe a collective debt of gratitude to Dr. Carbiener and others who are working hard to stem the tide of opioid abuse and addiction – especially among expectant mothers.  I find it incredibly appropriate and heartening that her compassionate service to those who need it most is being recognized in this meaningful way.

In my view, Dr. Carbiener personifies the best traditions of the medical service – and gives all of us hope for a brighter tomorrow.

We’re lucky to have her in Volusia County.

Asshole:          Chairman Ed Kelley & The Volusia County Council (Redux)

Word to the wise:  Don’t inconvenience Ed Kelley.

It’ll cost you.

During the Easter holiday weekend, our dotty County Chairman was required to wait in traffic a few minutes at a beach access kiosk.  There were four cars ahead of him – and he claimed it took 22-minutes to get onto the sand.

I think this was an affront to a petty politician’s outsized ego, and Ed began thinking about ways in which “we” can limit “his” wait time.

Chairman Kelley came up with what he thought were “Tomorrowland” suggestions, like electronic toll scanners and automated kiosks (you know, like every Turnpike in the nation has had for, I dunno, 30-years? Real Buck Rogers shit, right?) – and, of course, increasing fees – charging $10 for out-of-town visitors (tourists, I think they’re called) to park in county-owned lots.

“We’re paying a lot of money for these parks, and we’re letting people park for free,” Mr. Kelley told the Ormond Beach Observer way back in May.

Yep.  Eddie, and our other elected marionettes, are determined to make the beach experience more efficient – if not incredibly expensive – even if it straps every beach-going family in Central Florida, ultimately making it so financially onerous for out-of-town visitors that they simply quit coming to Volusia County beaches.

So, our Beach “staff” – you know, those highly compensated administrators who can’t make an independent decision on which way the door on a Port-o-Let should face – were asked to come up with options to “generate funds to improve the beach-driving experience.”

The “most popular option” being considered calls for a 100% increase in daily beach passes for out-of-town visitors, doubling the fee from $10 to $20 PER DAY.

That represents the second massive increase in just two-years.

Chairman Kelley actually believes that asking tourists to pay more so the rest of us can enjoy amenities – like opening a few beach approaches that have been allowed to fall into utter dilapidation – is a fair deal?

The fact is, we’re not getting anything we didn’t already have.

Dinneen and company long ago arbitrarily closed certain beach ramps using dubious excuses – now, they’re doing us a favor?  

Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mr. Kelley said, “I think using the beach for driving or parking is an undervalued asset.”

I guess that’s another way of saying he wants to price cars off the beach.

Because he does.    

When is enough, enough? 

 Angel:             Mr. Scott Groth & Duvall Homes

It is my pleasure to extend Angel status – and a big Barker’s View ‘thank you’ – to another hometown hero, Mr. Scott Groth, a recently retired restaurateur who saw a need and did his best to help.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, residents of Duvall Homes – a landmark residential facility serving and empowering those with developmental disabilities in West Volusia – were left without electricity for more than a week.

Mr. Groth’s son, Jon Glenn Groth, is a resident of Duvall Homes.

To ensure that clients aren’t forced to relocate to unfamiliar surroundings in the event of a future event – Mr. Groth has donated $5,000 from his son’s foundation to assist with the purchase of diesel powered whole-house generators.

The Jon Glenn Foundation was created by Mr. Groth and his late wife to assist families in providing lifetime financial security for disabled children.  The foundation – a recognized 501 (c) (3) charitable organization – welcomes donations.

If you would like to help, please contact Mr. Scott Groth at jonglennfoundation@cfl.rr.com

Direct charitable assistance to Duvall Homes can be arranged at www.duvallhomes.org (Donate button).

Asshole:          The Volusia County School Board

Can you guys get your shit together?

I mean, just come up with a rational, fair and equitable way that senior administrators can be objectively evaluated – then get on with it.

People are counting on you – and these ham-handed missteps and administrative bloopers playing out in the newspaper do not inspire confidence – especially when you’re at the helm of an $843-million-dollar public budget.


Quote of the Week:

“Even as our city and county trudge toward a solution, it is up to our community to get out of our depression and attend events, eat, drink and be merry. Let’s demand more from ourselves by organizing our ideas. It’s time we start trusting ourselves and believing in what we can accomplish if we work together to take back our city.”

Phaedra Lee, managing partner and events planner at Main Street Station, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices column.

I like Phaedra Lee.

She’s committed to being part of the solution – and has demonstrated the leadership and enthusiasm to truly “make things happen.”  Ms. Lee is young, energetic and has her heart in the right place.

Trust me.  She represents everything we need more of here on the Fun Coast.

While I agree with much of what Ms. Lee so passionately proposed – like anyone with the actual condition can attest – “getting out” of our civic depression over the myriad issues facing Main Street is going to take more than packing up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.

We can’t “eat, drink and be merry” our way out of this mess.    

Ms. Lee’s establishment aside, the Main Street commercial corridor needs help – desperately – and asking the newspaper and others to stop the “negativity” in exposing decades of neglect and corruption is, in my view, ultimately counterproductive.

I would also suggest that it is time we collectively demand more from our elected and appointed officials.  Allowing the same hands at City Hall to manage new redevelopment strategies and funding sources is foolish – and doomed to failure.

Exposés like the News-Journal’s “Tarnished Jewel” series – and, those of us with the best interests of the Halifax area at heart, who continue to call attention to the issues and try hard to keep the problems front and center – help retain public focus and foment creative solutions in a challenged area with incredible potential.

One thing we can all agree upon – nothing happens in a vacuum – and it’s important that everyone get out and patronize local small businesses, especially on Main Street and Downtown Daytona.

They need our help, now more than ever.

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






On Volusia: The Worst of the Worst

I’m always surprised by the depth to which County Manager Jim Dinneen’s administration will stoop to ensure that the incredibly expensive follies he personally facilitates come to fruition.

Mr. Dinneen always gets what he (or the politically influential) wants – and damn whoever suffers in the process.

I am also dumbstruck by the complete incompetence displayed by a senior public administrator commanding over $300,000 annually.

This week – after spending some $1.3 million to remediate flood damage at the City Island Library and the nearby County Administration facility – the Volusia County Council will now decide the dim future of the administration building – an important facility that holds everything from the tag office, to building permits, to veteran’s affairs, to traffic court.

You read that right – Remediate the damage.  Then, tear it down.


Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, said in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Maybe they should consider not opening and just demolish it.” 

In other words, screw you – the public can drive to New Smyrna or Deland if those hapless dupes need to do business with Volusia County government.  After all, it’s not about public convenience – it’s about not inconveniencing county bureaucrats.

Speaking as the voice of reason, Council Vice-Chair Deb Denys pointed out the painfully obvious, “There are a lot of crucial services there and we have to give the citizens the ability to access those services.”

No shit.

Only in Volusia County would that statement need to be voiced by a public official.

Is it possible that our county government failed to have a continuity of operations plan in place to ensure essential services in the aftermath of a catastrophic event?

Is it possible that County Manager Jim Dinneen and his administration failed in their basic duty to ensure governmental facilities in core population centers – like, I dunno, Daytona Beach – have alternate local sites identified in advance?

According to George Baker, our clearly challenged “Director of Facilities” – the vital services once provided at 250 North Beach Street have been moved to “every nook and cranny” of county buildings in New Smyrna Beach, Deland and Orange City.

Great plan, George. . .

Let’s call it the “English Muffin” approach to emergency response and recovery.

In any private business, this level of base ineptitude – this colossal blunder – and painful lack of strategic foresight would result in the immediate termination of every senior manager responsible for this gross oversight.

But not in Volusia County.

How long do you think these bumbling incomps would last at a “meritocracy” like Brown & Brown?

Hell, how long would they last in any responsible organization?

I’ll just bet in the backrooms of power, J. Hyatt and the boys laugh and tell Little Jimmy that he should count his lucky stars he found a niche in government – because he wouldn’t last a minute in the Real World.

This is proof the Dinneen administration could screw up a wet dream. . .

And no one cares.

Anyone want to bet that both Jim and George receive hefty pay raises before the year is out?


Hide and watch.

In Volusia County, our elected and appointed officials capitalize on disaster damage to strategically close a key service center and ensure that the proposed $260 million-dollar Taj Mahal courthouse/county office complex is brought to fruition.

They will inconvenience us into submission.

See, if you withhold essential services and force taxpayers to drive from Ormond Beach to Orange City every time they need to renew their tags, invariably the masses will come around to your way of thinking and beg for an enormously expensive facility.

Also, when developers begin swarming City Island like a pack of sharks, let’s see what ultimately becomes of our flood-damaged library.

Care to take a guess?




On Volusia: Harry Jennings was right. . .

Believe it or not, I hate coming off like a Jerk.

Regular readers of this forum know that I enjoy taking snarky jabs at our “Rich & Powerful,” the stuffed-shirt political insiders and their sycophantic toadies who know whats best for the rest of us here on Florida’s “Fun Coast.”

But let’s face it, “I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so,” is just, well, meanspirited.

Only a dyed-in-the-wool asshole would say something like that.


On Saturday, I read a well-written piece by the intrepid Dustin Wyatt in the Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Volusia amps up dispute with city” – documenting another sad chapter in the unfolding David & Goliath saga that pits the small beachside community of Daytona Beach Shores with the hulking County of Volusia.

To make a very long story short, several years ago County Manager Jim Dinneen went on a spending spree – buying up a mosaic of very expensive beach front lots from Ormond Beach to New Smyrna Beach – ostensibly to be used as “off beach parking.”

Two of those properties were located smackdab in the Shores – east of State Road A-1-A – on some prime real estate that city leaders had hoped would be vertically developed and become part of the communities geographically limited tax base.

Our elected and appointed officials on the Volusia County Council said, “Screw that – we do what we want – and we want a friggin’ parking lot to facilitate the ultimate removal of cars from our beach.  So you pipsqueaks in Tiny Town can bugger-off.” 

As I understand it, in response the Daytona Beach Shores City Commission recently passed an ordinance which, in effect, strengthened the city’s comprehensive plan and specifically prohibited parking lots on beachfront lands, allowing only development that would generate taxable revenue.

You know, that whole right of people to self-determination, local governance and the ability to delegate municipal resources to meet local needs, thing?

Well, that quaint notion might work elsewhere, but not in Volusia County.

As is their way, the Volusia County Council – at the urgent direction of the bullying tag-team of County Manager Jim Dinneen and County Attorney Dan Eckert – dramatically overreacted and filed no less than three law suits against the citizens of Daytona Beach Shores.

(Knowing full-well they were legally required to engage in public mediation and negotiation with the municipality.)

Last week, our elected officials in Deland sat in open session, flexed their muscles, and – in an interesting 4-3 vote – issued one of those “Be It Ordained” Royal edicts clarifying that all land between the beach and the “easternmost north-south roadway is included in the charter preemption of municipal regulation.”

In the lead-up to this incredibly expensive and time-consuming legal battle – completely funded by you and me – there were calls by some in Shores City Hall to compromise with their aggressor.

There was even a prematurely leaked “Joint Planning Agreement” which would, among other things, have removed beach driving in Daytona Beach Shores.

At the time, Jim Dinneen blamed an underling (as he is wont to do), then he claimed a technological glitch was responsible for the disclosure.  Shores Mayor Harry Jennings was, as usual, tight-lipped – refusing to explain the agreement to reporters, or anyone else for that matter.

I even took members of the Daytona Beach Shores commission to the woodshed for engaging in the politics of appeasement; hoping against hope that they could somehow mollify Volusia County and prevent the inevitable.

Now, it appears Mayor Jennings has finally seen the light.

“They’re dictators,” Jennings told the News-Journal.

“They feel the county trumps state law, and I disagree.”

I told you so, Harry.  There, I said it.

Our elected and appointed officials in Deland have once again exposed themselves for the bullying ogres they are.

Despite the politically strategic mewing and whimpering of our doddering County Chair, Ed Kelley, the uber-weird Heather Post and Councilwoman Billie Wheeler (who represents the interests of the citizens of Daytona Beach Shores) that the county’s ordinance was an “unnecessary jab against a city they’ve already sued” – the majority voted to drop the shit-hammer.

The Volusia County Council – through their highly-paid manager and attorney – have consistently forced their will on the long-suffering municipalities.  From the arbitrary closure of community libraries, to the arbitrary closure of large sections of our beach to driving, the gross intimidation tactics continue unabated.

Look, don’t take my word for it.

Last year, County Attorney Dan Eckert – at the direction of our elected representatives – used our own money to file a lawsuit against us – the citizens of Volusia County – challenging our standing in a grassroots effort to permit residents a say in beach access issues.

In fact, the County’s incredibly expensive and overreaching legal maneuvering is still winding its way through the courts.

At the end of the day – who benefits?

When is enough-enough?

When will the good citizens of Volusia County come to the sobering realization that the bloated bureaucratic apparatus in Deland – a monocracy commanding $800+ million of our tax dollars annually, wholly controlled by one little man and his behind-the-scenes handlers – has become too unmanageable – too self-serving?

The wholesale giveaway of millions in public funds to assist Brown & Brown – the seventh largest insurance intermediary in the world, with revenues of nearly $2-billion dollars last year – is a prime example of how our bastardized systems works.

The oligarchs who control our elected and appointed officials take what they want – when they want it – and tough shit if you don’t like it.

You have no standing.  Just ask Dan Eckert.

We, The People have ceased to matter here on the Fun Coast – we were outbid – long-ago written out of the equation by the wealthy framers of our County Charter, a document that the ruling class wield like a club when it suits their personal and professional needs.

It’s why we live among the ruins of a once thriving tourist destination – the World’s Most Famous Beach – with an artificial economy, selfishly created and deftly manipulated by greedheads with ready access to the public trough and a total disregard for anything that doesn’t enhance and improve their own self-interests.

Harry Jennings is right.  They are dictators.

Our role is to shut up and pay the bills.  They know what’s best for us.

In my view, the late author Robert Heinlein said it best, “There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”