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.”