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.”

Really?

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.

158.

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.

Please?

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!

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for October 13, 2017

  1. I hope Mark that God gives you the grace, longevity and patience to teach your new grandaughter that the pen is truly mightier than the sword, because you are just the man to do it. Congratulations to you and your family!

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  2. Hey Mark. I hear where you’re coming from on the Beach toll issue. If it weren’t for watching the outright trash that comes over from the other central Florida counties many a Saturday at my old friend Paulie Politis’ gift shop in recent years, I might agree with you. I’ve just seen too many derelicts and degenerates come over to live it up on the Redneck Riviera with hardly a dollar to their name. Raising the daily fee to $20 should have virtually no impact on us local suckers that pay to keep the beach running (either because we don’t go or just by the $25 resident pass), or the many tourists actually staying on the beach who park at their hotel, or those that have already flown in. I know you have the famously-jaundiced eye towards stuff like this when government raises fees, but this one might actually be helpful. Not all tourists are created equal. Some bring nothing to the table and anyone from a neighboring county that chooses not to come here because of the extra $10 it would cost them to park on the beach is probably not someone we want coming over here to Honky Tonk it up on our shores anyway. Again, I lived it and watched that many times. It ain’t a pretty sight.

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  3. Thank you for sharing your joyous occasion. You truly captured what so many of us as first time grandparents feel. Congratulations to you and your family. I am a faithful follower of your writings about my beautiful birth city. As a native , I long for those times when we did have a say and we were not bullied into submission by the greed of an influential few. I look forward to your blog, it gives me hope for my children and my children’s children , to want to stay, live, work and thrive here. Keep it up.

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