The famous entertainer Danny Thomas was fond of saying, “There are two kinds of people in this world: Givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.”
But I’m not sure anyone is finding sleep easy to come by these days.
Last month, before an invitation-only crowd of Halifax area “movers & shakers,” J. Hyatt Brown announced that his mega-insurance company, Brown & Brown – a Daytona Beach institution for over 80-years – would build a massive, 10-story headquarters complex in Downtown Daytona.
According to Mr. Brown, the plan includes the creation of 600 new jobs.
The over-enthusiastic applause and forced laughter of J. Hyatt’s boot-licking sycophants had barely quieted before the project was hailed as yet another “game changer” by senior Daytona Beach officials – another panacea solution just dripping with possibility – and the habitual promise that a mere brick and mortar edifice can cure years of blight, neglect, abject corruption and dilapidation citywide.
At the time of the announcement, Dr. Kent Sharples – a second-chance toady with a dubious professional history and the financial management skills of a broke-back snake, who serves as president of the CEO Business Alliance, a local star chamber of the “rich & powerful” (which includes J. Hyatt Brown) – said in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “It’s the biggest and best thing that’s happened since General Electric in terms of the number of jobs created, salary and impact on our community.”
As evidence of how civically bankrupt the Halifax area has become, everyone who is anyone was absolutely giddy over the prospect of a new office building – openly soiling themselves over more pie-in-the-sky promises from another local billionaire who has made a cottage industry out of reducing our local political campaigns to a cheap livestock auction – while carrying massive government insurance premiums out of Deland in wheelbarrows.
The announcement, and subsequent media coverage, was a virtual orgy of positivity.
In typical fashion, our local “leadership” once again wallowed in all their onanistic, self-congratulatory glory – while the rest of us (those who ultimately pay the bills) immediately recognized that J. Hyatt would soon be seeking a return on his political investments.
At the time, like some demented Swami, I presciently explained to anyone who would listen:
“. . .whenever the right last names propose a local project – be it an Embry-Riddle money grab with the promise of “high paying” research and development jobs – or the promise of part-time retail work at a cheap outlet mall on the frontage road – We, The People, will invariably be asked to pay for critical infrastructure, provide tax abatements, cash handouts and other “economic incentives” to see the private development to fruition.”
“And the return on our collective investment is always touted as the ambiguous – and never adequately verified – promise of “jobs.” You know, “. . .for our kids.”
Damn if I wasn’t right.
This morning, the hapless taxpayers in the City of Daytona Beach, Volusia County and the State of Florida awoke to the frontpage news that in exchange for “600 jobs” and a new building on Beach Street – we will be on the hook for some $15.5 million dollars – representing over half of the estimated construction and overhead costs for the proposed Brown & Brown headquarters.
Tonight, Daytona Beach city commissioners will put serious looks on their faces and pretend to have thoughtful discussions about whether their constituents should provide a company – which reported $1.76 billion in revenues last year – with nearly $6-million in tax abatement incentives and infrastructure improvements.
Then, on Thursday, our elected marionettes on the Volusia County Council will, once again, insult our collective intelligence and convincingly act as though their decision isn’t a foregone conclusion – as they yammer about whether they will provide their campaign benefactor and political overseer with an obscene $4.5-million for infrastructure – and $900,000 to ensure that the company qualifies for state tax credits worth another $4.5 million.
What do you think our elected representatives will do?
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, that doddering fool – the clueless asshole with the ethical instincts of a tree-stump that we call a County Chairman, Ed Kelley – clearly telegraphed, “I can’t think of a better use for economic development funds at this point. At first blush, I’d say I’ll be very supportive of it. It couldn’t have hit at a better time since it will also help the beachside (?)”
With every man, woman and child in the Halifax area attending standing room only town hall meetings, speaking out at committee meetings, and talking neighbor-to-neighbor over the back fence about how in the hell we are ever going to turn the tide of blight and neglect that has strangled huge swaths of our beachside – and left our core tourist areas looking like a Third World shit-hole – our County Chairman can’t think of a better use of millions in public economic development funds than handing them to a local billionaire for an office complex?
Add to that County Manager Jim Dinneen’s frothing bullshit that somehow Brown & Brown would uproot eight decades of continuous operations in Daytona Beach and move to Atlanta if we refuse this gross corporate welfare grab, and you get the idea that the deal is sealed.
Screw public input.
Screw our true economic and redevelopment needs.
Screw an open and honest discussion of the wholesale giveaway of public funds to an uber-wealthy private interest.
Mr. Brown has come a-callin’ – and he wants a return on his investment. All $15.5-million of it. Now.
And his ethically challenged chattel sitting smugly on the dais of power know exactly what they must do.
Like I previously said, given the shameful fact that our elected and appointed officials piss our money away on billionaire bailouts and corporate welfare while Volusia County perennially falls below the state average in virtually every substantive category – wages, household income, poverty, schools, infrastructure, etc. – add to that the fact that we are among the highest taxed counties in the State of Florida – coupled with the deplorable conditions of many residential and commercial areas that serve as festering crime and blight incubators – and I seriously wonder how these assholes sleep at night.
The fix is in. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
Givers and takers, indeed.