As regular readers of these goofy screeds know, I tend to brood on the darker issues facing us here on Florida’s Fun Coast.
I’m the glass half-empty guy – the infernal pessimist – always staring balefully at the distasteful realities – and increasing divide – of our collective experience in Volusia County; always irrationally suspicious of the optimistic merry-making by our power structure that constantly seeks to assure us that Happy Days are Here Again.
That makes Barker’s View generally, and its author specifically, a burr under the saddle of our established “system” – and an unremitting irritant to those who stand to profit from it.
Good. Because that’s the goal.
When I meet readers of this forum, they are invariably gracious and encourage me to continue this experiment in alternative opinion – because what they see with their own eyes does not always comport with what they are told by their elected and appointed officials.
Or our local media outlets.
It appears the Daytona Beach News-Journal has developed an almost schizophrenic malady, wherein our newspaper of record is forced to alternately feature “rah-rah feel-good” stories which desperately try to convince the masses that relocating thousands of aging Parrotheads to an artificial utopia on the outskirts of a challenged municipality without the benefit of transportation infrastructure or adequate services is “progress” – while also acknowledging the abysmal state of local wages, poverty, blight and malignant hopelessness.
We open our daily paper and read fairy tale fables spouted by straight-faced, highly paid public employees who tell us that the temporary relocation of carnival midway rides is the panacea for decades of crushing neglect and dilapidation on the scar that is our Boardwalk (been down there lately?) – or that the westward migration away from the stain of our decrepit beachside is somehow best for the collective future of Daytona Beach.
For instance, on Friday, the News-Journal published yet another puff-piece entitled, “Parrothead Paradise,” which included a front-page photograph of Bill Bullock, Senior Vice-President for Minto Communities (the developer du jour), with hands raised in over-the-top exuberance – like he was babbling in tongues and rebuking the devil of economic stagnation at one of those backwoods tent crusades.
The article went on to feature sanguine quotes by local “movers and shakers,” and descriptions of cute signage, such as, “If Life Gives You Limes, Make Margaritas!”
The fluff included upbeat ditty’s like, “Latitude Margaritaville also heavily promotes the advantages of living in Daytona Beach,” “Of all the places to retire, we believe Daytona Beach is at the top,” “a phenomenal success.”
Our own newly crowned Great and Powerful Oracle, John Albright, CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka, said, “With Latitude Margaritaville, I think they hit a gusher!”
They did hit a gusher – unfortunately, I suspect it’s coming from our over-stressed aquifer – our singular source of drinking water – as the development is taking place right on top of sensitive recharge areas.
I think Sir Albright was referring to the gazillions of dollars Minto Communities will make on homes that will be built at a reported rate of one per day. . .
Seriously, “We expect to build 300-plan homes in Year One,” said Bullock, adding, “That’s basically a home a day.”
(Wow. I’m just spit-balling here, but what kind of quality can Frank and Lola Parrothead expect for their $230,000 to $340,000 at that pace of construction? Just asking. . .)
Then, on Sunday, we read a heartbreaking exposé in the News-Journal disclosing the devastating problem of severely cost-burdened residents – with Volusia and Flagler Counties having the second lowest median income for renters in Florida (15th in the nation out of 382 metropolitan statistical areas).
Contributing to the problem are historically low wages, a high number of service industry jobs and the lack of affordable housing here on the Fun Coast.
The not-so-fun quips in this article weren’t nearly as optimistic as Mr. Bullock’s assessment of things from his perch inside the recently opened Latitude at Margaritaville sales office:
“Trying to Survive.”
“Everybody’s in Debt.”
“A Complex Problem.”
“It’s always been a struggle; some people just slip through the cracks.”
Incredibly depressing, really.
But don’t fret – I’m sure tomorrow will bring a new and uplifting report on progress at an outlet mall, mega-convenience store or chain restaurant.
So keep your chin up, people.
Hey, you 16% of the population living in poverty – and the thousands more living paycheck-to-paycheck – haven’t you heard?
When life gives you limes, make margaritas!
In my view, these polar opposite news stories provide more evidence of the weird civic and social dichotomy in Volusia County – the contrast of experiences between the haves and have-nots – the increasing divide between the corporate Cheetahs who feed greedily at the public trough, and us lame Wildebeests who seemingly exist only to feed the machine.
The problem is growing, and this near constant grandstanding by corporate real estate marketing departments won’t fundamentally change the fact that our unfortunate dearth of leadership and strategic vision is taking Volusia County residents down a very dark path.