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