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:
Angel: Attorney David Vukelja & Sons of the Beach
Last week saw another sad day for Volusia County.
No one was surprised when the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled against Sons of the Beach and the International Beach Club in the culmination of their latest noble stand to protect and preserve our heritage of beach driving.
But it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
Residents of Volusia County have come to understand that in beach access issues, the deck is stacked, the cards carefully marked, and the game is always dealer’s choice.
I don’t blame the 5th District – although there are unanswered questions about the way the judges were swapped out – and an unrelated controversy surrounding why Judge Eric Eisnaugle is on the bench at all (he has zero experience as a judge, has never taken a trial to a jury verdict and hardly knows what the inside of a courtroom looks like).
Regardless, appeals court judges work within the confines of narrowly crafted laws when affirming or reversing lower court rulings – laws that are often carefully legislated by politicians to consolidate power where it can best be directed and controlled.
In my view, David Vukelja did yeoman’s work.
He presented a cogent and common-sense argument challenging the Volusia County Council’s mercurial ordinances which barter away beach driving to speculative developers who agree to convoluted off-beach parking deals.
Unfortunately for us, Volusia County used public funds – and the full power of the county attorney’s office – when our elected and appointed officials sought, and received, a summary dismissal of the cases before they could ever see the light of day.
Please understand: The very people we elected to represent our interests on the dais of power did this to us – their own constituents.
I hope you will remember that the next time you belly-up to the voting booth.
In my view, when cases involving important civic issues that have wide public interest (and enormous impact on our lives) are consistently prohibited from ever making it to a courtroom – we have a crisis at hand.
When the process is insulated from judicial oversight – and We, The People can no longer petition our government for redress of grievances – we have bigger problems than beach access.
At the end of the day, these cases helped expose how Volusia County officials continue to ignore the will of the people and skew the marketplace – deciding which businesses will win, and which will lose – as they pursue a covert strategy which will ultimately seal off and privatize our beach.
As I’ve previously said, I would like for my neighbors and friends to take a moment from your busy lives and truly reflect on what the principles at the heart of these matters ultimately mean.
I believe there remains one fundamental mechanism which, if exercised broadly, will allow us to ultimately prevail over the political insiders and well-heeled donor class that seem intent on taking our lifestyle and heritage from us and handing it over to outside speculators for backdoor personal enrichment:
It is the ultimate power of the ballot box.
And it is the only thing that strikes concern in the heart of these self-serving bastards who sold their soul – and our traditions – so cheaply.
Asshole: County of Volusia
To ensure full disclosure, I want you to know that I have never enjoyed theme parks.
I just don’t care for the mega-expense, or the artificial over-the-top “experience.”
I don’t know if it’s the crowds, the endless standing in queue, the gross cost of everything from bad food to tchotchke souvenirs – or the fact that I have never liked contrived, unnatural situations – like motif restaurants or “lifestyle” communities.
I’m more of an “outdoors” guy – and I like my ecological habitats untouched.
The Volusia County Council is obviously listening to the results of yet another goofy “study” – or being swayed by the ineffectual flailing of our “Coastal Divisions” – as they race closer to destroying our singular natural draw.
This week, we learned that county officials are planning to justify the stratospheric rise in out-of-county access fees by implementing what some on the dais of power are calling a “Disney-like experience” on Volusia beaches.
No one – especially those numbskulls we elected to high office – knows exactly what the “Disney experience” entails (because ease of access and quality customer service is so far removed from our current “experience”) but they think it has something to do with adding more toll-takers, opening a few ramps and providing a discount for local college students.
Oh, and transferring trash collection responsibilities from the county’s contractor to visitors, volunteers and toll-takers on their “down-time”. . .
I mean, it’s taken County Manager Jim Dinneen a decade to finally empower his beach law enforcement department to strictly enforce littering ordinances, while the Coastal Divisions waste time sitting around the office, holding meetings to discuss handing out trash bags and fielding goofy “life-sized” characters to “brand” our beach.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal:
It’s not yet clear how much the proposed changes would cost (it never is). County Chair Ed Kelley said the county needs to look at the theme park known for Mickey Mouse as a model.
“We are going to take a Disney-like approach,” Kelley added. “We need to make this more like Disney.”
Now, Mr. Kelley wants to put even more ugly signage on the strand with “creative” sayings like, “Litter Bugs Me!” – a tired campaign that’s been used to varying effect since the 1950’s.
What is Old Ed yammering about?
You know what bugs me? The fact our dotty fool of a Council Chairman wouldn’t know excellence in customer service – or sound beach management – if it jumped up and bit him on the ass.
In related news, this week our elected officials moved to purchase eight new toll booths at a cost of nearly $74,000 (that’s $9,250 bucks for a prefab kiosk?).
Naturally, the booths are manufactured and sold by a Michigan-based company.
After all, we wouldn’t want to spend public funds locally and encourage light industry in Volusia County, right?
Hey, I’ve got a novel idea: Considering the evidence, how about Volusia County government get the hell out of the marketplace and off our beach?
Just let the natural ebb and flow of both work its magic, without the influence of political insiders, the artificial infusion of public funds or the ham-handed meddling of ethically compromised elected officials.
Yeah, right. Talk about Fantasyland. . .
Well, Volusia County Vice Chair Deb Denys finally got what she wanted – expanded bus service in New Smyrna Beach.
Yep, 22 stops along State Road 44 at a cost of “more than” $1-million dollars.
Now, let’s have a little fun – the first person to confirm more than five riders on a New Smyrna-based Votran bus will be anointed “Angel for a Day” in this space.
I hope I’m wrong. But I’m not.
Still no bus out to the big Tanger Outlet – which was subsidized with our tax dollars on the promise of “jobs” – or plans for increasing service to the rapidly growing “Boomtown Boulevard” area near LPGA and I-95 where hundreds of low-wage restaurant and convenience store workers will flock – but, hey, that’s just the way it goes.
The fact is, it shouldn’t take eighteen-months to make simple route adjustments – while serious service gaps, such as limited night and Sunday service, remain unaddressed.
In my view, with real needs already identified, routes that historically produce low ridership – like New Smyrna Beach – should not be revisited just so some blowhard politician up for reelection can crow, “Looky what I did for you!”
In a recent editorial, the Daytona Beach News-Journal opined, “. . .Volusia County residents need a transit system that meets as many of their needs as possible. That will take vigilance and forward thinking on the part of county leaders and a willingness to push McDonald Transit to keep bus service as flexible and nimble as possible to meet changing demand.”
If you haven’t noticed, “vigilance and forward thinking” isn’t exactly our elected official’s strong suit – in fact, these traits are a foreign concept that doesn’t comport with our system, where public policy decisions are routinely made by political insiders and their highly-paid facilitator, completely outside the public arena.
And if you think the County’s administration is ever going to hold a contractor – or any other cog in that rusty machine – accountable for anything, well, you’re delusional.
Angel: United States Attorney’s Office – Orlando
Wow. How the mighty have fallen.
It was announced this week that disgraced former state representative and Daytona Beach city commissioner Dwayne Taylor will be forced to forfeit some $63,000 following his conviction on nine-counts of fraud.
If he doesn’t have it – prosecutors will be looking for “substitute assets.”
It seems Representative Taylor was using his campaign account like a personal piggy bank – and that’s a no-no.
Now, it’s time to pay the piper – $63K – and up to 20-years in federal prison.
Kudos to U.S. District Judge Carlos Mendoza for sending a strong message to other Central Florida politicos that there will be consequences for violating the law – and the public trust.
Angel: Rep. Tom Leek & Justice for Ponce
Many thanks to State Representative Tom Leek, and those kind souls who joined forces in the Justice for Ponce organization, for taking up the worthy cause of abused animals and seeking to increase penalties and pet bans for those sub-humans convicted of cruelty.
The bill is named in remembrance of Ponce, a Labrador puppy that was found brutally beaten to death in the Ponce Inlet backyard of Travis Archer – who stands charged with the heinous crime.
This is just one man’s disturbed opinion – but regardless of how Mr. Archer’s case fares in our criminal justice system – my personal hope is that the remainder of his miserable life is spent in grim retrospection – contemplating in his diseased dreams, and upon waking each day – what a monstrous and truly contemptible asshole he is.
I hope the shame and disgrace of that brutal night consumes him.
I hope it runs through his depraved mind like a horror film-loop. Constantly.
I hope the blood of that innocent dog remains on his hands, no matter how hard he tries to wash it away.
That’s just my demented view – I tend to be a vengeful asshole, especially when God’s helpless creatures are tortured and killed by sadistic assholes.
Perhaps it is also time that our judicial system takes a hard look at the cockamamie “sentencing guidelines” that hamstring the process and make it difficult for truly bad people who are convicted of these and other atrocious crimes to be sent to jail.
If our legislators can’t support elevating animal cruelty to a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15-years in prison, perhaps we need new law makers?
Thank you, Rep. Leek – and Justice for Ponce.
Good work, neighbors.
Angel: Chief Craig Capri & the City of Daytona Beach
Kudos to Chief Capri and the City of Daytona Beach for their efforts in cleaning up Ridgewood Avenue and returning sanity to that incredibly challenged area.
In recent months, Chief Capri and his outstanding staff have worked cooperatively with the City’s Nuisance Abatement Board and elected officials to bring the infamous J’s Food Store at 600 North Ridgewood Avenue to heel.
The property has, for years, epitomized the “crime incubator” theory, and taken on the appearance of a Zombie Zone, a festering sore that has brought down the neighborhood and contributed to the open blight that continues to plague one of Daytona’s most heavily traveled thoroughfares.
From effective crime prevention and community relations activities, to aggressive drug enforcement initiatives, Chief Capri and his officers are working hard to make a positive difference.
And more important – they’re succeeding.
These professionals deserve our continued support – and ultimate respect – for their incredibly noble efforts.
Quote of the Week:
“They (the judges) followed the ruling in the lower court, and I think it was the right decision.”
–Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, opining on the 5th District Court of Appeals ruling which stripped We, The People of standing in any case involving beach access and driving issues.
According to our doddering dupe of a Council Chairman, Ed Kelley – the appeals court ruling was “not unexpected.”
I wish Old Ed would explain what he meant by that. But he won’t.
One, because he doesn’t understand any of it – and Two, because he doesn’t understand any of it.
Trust me. Ed Kelley continues to prove – time and again – that he’s just not that bright.
All he knows is who stands to benefit – and in Volusia County government – that’s all that matters.
I find it interesting that the outcome of this important case was a foregone conclusion in the halls of power at the Volusia County administration building.
Because a lot – and I mean A LOT – of questions remain about how power was ultimately stripped from the citizens of Volusia County and placed firmly in the lap of a cabal of elected and appointed marionettes and their uber-wealthy handlers with a profit motive.
That includes Volusia County voter’s growing suspicion over the now undeniable appearance of transactional campaign donations and the allocation of public funds – or the wholesale giveaway of our heritage of beach driving to speculative developers – all negotiated outside the public view and without substantive public input.
Very interesting, indeed.
Well, that does it for me.
I hope you will join me this weekend at the 55th Annual Halifax Art Festival on Beach Street in Downtown Daytona!
While you’re there, please take a moment to shop with local merchants – you’ll be glad you did.
Also, take the whole family to the 73rd Annual Volusia County Fair and Youth Show! The fair runs through November 12th.
Have a great weekend!