Call it a gift or call it a curse, but my one “Superpower” is the ability to smell political bullshit from a mile away.
And, boy howdy, did I ever get a whiff of the “Deland Doodychute” this week.
It’s like a weird, highly developed sixth sense that allows me to read a news article, or listen to the prattle of a pompous politician or conniving appointed official – analyze a quote or the turn of a phrase – and know immediately when we’re being lied to.
I’m like one of those precognitive Cassadega soothsayers when it comes to visioning the machinations of self-serving assholes who manipulate our system of governance for personal or professional gain.
Earlier this week, Dustin Wyatt penned an excellent piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal which cast a brief light on the shadowy backroom maneuvers surrounding a mysterious plan concocted by County Manager Jim Dinneen to expand the Boardwalk nearly a mile north.
Ultimately, the Boardwalk extension would push what currently passes as our down-at-the-heels “entertainment area” all the way to University Boulevard – which conveniently makes it another publicly funded amenity for the languishing Desert Inn/Weston/Hard Rock project that you and I have already invested so heavily in.
What I find interesting is that no one – including the County Council – has heard peep about the project in over a year.
At least that’s what we’re being told.
Last October, our outgoing council approved the expenditure of $94,506 of our hard-earned tax dollars for a “feasibility study” – essentially a very expensive custom-tailored political insulation report that will justify what comes next – and help limber up the estimated $12 to $23-million dollars required to build the extension.
According to Little Jimmy, the first phase of the study will be presented to those animated marionettes we elected to public office, “soon.” That means not one damn minute before Mr. Dinneen is good and ready.
Trust me. You can double those figures and still won’t come close to what this project will ultimately cost us.
Even though Volusia County is quietly socking away millions of our dollars – to include earmarking an estimated $14-million in ECHO funds (you know, those “grant funds” we approved for environmental restoration and outdoor recreation projects?) – to pay for Mr. Dinneen’s folly, something he claims to have envisioned during a “lightbulb moment that opened up the window of opportunity.”
Unfortunately for us, that “lightbulb” was so dim it didn’t begin to cast light on this sketchy deal – and that’s the way our powers-that-be like it.
In my view, Jim Dinneen hasn’t had an original thought in a decade – he does what he is told to do, when he is told to do it – and our elected officials simply follow his lead. That’s the way our “system” works, and you can bet the uber-wealthy insiders and string pullers who control this bastardized oligarchy already have our money divvied and spent.
Why am I convinced this Boardwalk expansion will be a reality?
Because all the right people are saying it won’t happen.
“Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”
According to Donna de Peyster, Volusia’s chief financial officer, “We haven’t even birthed the baby yet.”
Our doddering fool of a Council Chair Ed Kelley poo-pooed the whole idea as just too darn hard, (I think?) “Personally, I think it could be a great addition, but I feel there are probably too many moving parts to become a reality. My time will be dedicated to accomplishing what is already in the works.”
And Vice Chair Deb Denys is openly admitting she’s completely clueless, “Genuinely, no one is talking about it. Whatever is happening, if it’s happening, is not being communicated.”
Clearly, Ms. Denys multi-use non-statement could be superimposed on just about any plan or project undertaken by Volusia County government in recent memory – from the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock debacle, to the $200+ million-dollar courthouse proposal – no one “communicates” anything.
No one talks, explains or debates.
There is no open competition of ideas – no public input or honest discussion of alternatives.
Our policymaker’s requests for information are ignored or significantly delayed, journalists are routed by a platoon of quibbling “spokespersons,” and the County Manager’s Office continues to operate like some civic “Skunk Works” where public policy is crafted and implemented in utter secrecy.
We learn of important projects – horribly expensive, over-the-top expenditures or plans to pile on crippling debt – and plots to whittle away our heritage of beach driving as an “economic incentive” for speculative developers – during over-scripted, off the agenda surprise announcements deftly delivered by Jim Dinneen.
Apparently, our elected officials were unaware that when they recently approved a combined $854,360,692 budget – some $2,386,111 of our hard-earned tax dollars were earmarked for something labeled, “Boardwalk Development.”
Either that, or they are just openly lying to us – which isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
In my view, that capital projects line item simply must be a set-aside for the proposed extension – because I can assure you, there hasn’t been any substantive improvement, “development” or investment in the Daytona Beach Boardwalk in decades.
Don’t take my word for it. Go down there and take a walk around.
Regardless, Mr. Dinneen will tell you – and our elected officials – what he wants you to know, when he wants you to know it. Perhaps the “Grand Reveal” will be strategically timed to coincide with the findings of the “Beachside Redevelopment Committee” in January?
Perhaps it won’t.
Until then, get comfortable with the darkness – and a steady diet of bullshit.