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: Premier Resorts & Management
Normally, when I read another frontpage, above the fold, headline announcing the arrival of the next “game changing” resort hotel being subsidized with our tax dollars – and anointed with a traffic-free beach – I cringe.
But this week’s announcement delivered some good news for a change.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, long-time Halifax area hotelier Premier Resorts & Management are preparing to do what others could not as they work to bring a 4-Star Marriott Renaissance Hotel to Daytona’s languishing beachside.
Regular readers of this forum know what a nay-saying asshole I can be when it comes to talk of yet another tax-supported panacea hotel – projects that always involve a hefty handout from the county council – and another off-beach parking lot to accommodate the removal of even more beach driving.
And I am of the very strong opinion that the Halifax area needs to get its priorities in line – but, let’s face it, legitimate redevelopment can’t wait on area politicians to get their collective shit together.
According to the very informative article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, “The project is estimated to cost $35 million to $45 million. Premier Resorts & Management isn’t asking for any government money, and it’s not asking for the beach driving behind its hotel to be removed.”
If that proves true, this extraordinary renovation deserves our support – and admiration.
In my view, the only way to foment positive change on our festering beachside is through legitimate private investment by entrepreneurs willing to adapt to our unique environment and traditions.
Speaking in the News-Journal, Cobb Cole attorney Rob Merrell said of the project, “It blew me away. There’s nothing like it here.”
I have known Rob for many years – we grew up together when Ormond Beach was a much smaller place – and our mothers are old friends.
He is one of the kindest, most sincere gentlemen I know.
And, he’s a damn fine lawyer.
While Rob and I rarely agree on anything professionally, he remains an incredibly relevant voice on local development issues. I believe in his enthusiasm for the Renaissance project and I trust his opinion on this one.
I hope you will too.
Look, no one understands better than I how years of bait-and-switch tactics by ethically and financially bankrupt speculative developers have dashed our hopes – time-and-time-and-time again.
The cumulative effect is a healthy cynicism regarding anything billed as “progress” in our core tourist area – and a natural skepticism of the motives of our elected officials and their uber-wealthy handlers who invariably back these dubious projects.
I also believe that fundamental change is not possible until our local officials stop feeding an artificial economy with infusions of public funds for private endeavors – a practice which skews the marketplace, exposes governmental bias and discourages private investment.
In my view, when a proven local developer is willing to use his own money to renovate compromised or outdated properties and transform them into something special – that represents the very essence of revitalization and renewal.
Asshole: Volusia County Council
I wrote about this sham last weekend – but it bears repeating.
On the heels of raising daily beach access fees out of the financial reach of many Central Florida families, the Volusia County Council has once again acquiesced to the organizational greed fostered by County Manager Jim Dinneen and is set to increase fees for a variety of basic county services.
Where does it end?
Rather than work cooperatively with tourism officials to attract visitors to the languishing Boardwalk/Ocean Walk – or attend events at the Ocean Center – the County Council chooses to double parking fees for Ocean Center events.
Why? Because they can.
No definitive evidence of need required.
As one smart resident pointed out in a cogent letter to the editor of the News-Journal, “If that garage isn’t a cash cow, there’s a problem.”
In addition, our elected officials are set to substantially increase fees on everything from ballfield rental, to special events permits and use of park facilities – such as charging residents $50 per hour to use the Gemini Springs Club House in Debary.
Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, even wanted to bill us for the simple family pleasure of having a bonfire on our beach.
In that weird dipshit doublespeak, he’s become famous for, Old Ed inadvertently revealed that this nonsensical fee proposal is both unwarranted – and unnecessary.
“I’ve had bonfires in Santa Rosa Beach and they charge you $150.”
“We should leave it at zero or we should make it substantial and I don’t think I can get enough of you (council members) to come along with a $150 fee.”
(In typical fashion, Eddie’s either confused or just embellishing for effect. Bonfire permits in that area are issued by the South Walton Fire District for a fee of $50.00.)
Wait a minute? We should leave it at zero or we should make it substantial?
What in the hell is Old Ed yammering about?
I’ll just bet Little Jimmy wishes Mr. Kelley would shut-up and follow instructions.
Our Chairman’s addle-brained, out-of-touch gabbling consistently exposes the true loyalties of those we have elected to represent our interests.
Hey, Ed – we get it: The “Machine” must eat.
Our grotesquely bloated bureaucracy in DeLand – which already commands one of the highest property tax rates in the state – has developed an insatiable appetite for cash, wringing more-and-more from over-strapped taxpayers.
Then, our elected official’s lavish millions of our hard-earned dollars on billionaire corporations and other uber-wealthy leeches with built-in access to the public trough.
Inexplicably, regardless of how much money our county government demands, there remains no visible improvement to service delivery, critical infrastructure – or our quality of life.
And, God forbid, Volusia County consider cutting expenditures – or reducing the obscene salaries and lavish benefits packages currently bestowed upon those brazen greed-hogs in senior management.
Just more spending, more debt, more over-the-top giveaways and colossally expensive Taj Mahal-like projects designed for the convenience of government – not those it exists to serve.
Angel: New Candidates for Volusia County Council
This week an intrepid, long-time resident stood tall, surrounded by family, on the front steps of the old Volusia County Courthouse and announced his bold candidacy for the District 1 council seat.
In my view, we desperately need good people like Jeff Brower on the dais of power in DeLand.
Jeff is a hometown guy who represents the values that were once respected traits in those standing for public office – and, he has a deep appreciation for our unique heritage and traditions.
He joins an impressive group which includes DeLand-area realtor Barbara Girtman, and retired United States Army Chief Warrant Officer and Stetson graduate student Eddie Molina, in the race for the District 1 seat.
I’ll stop short of “endorsing” anyone.
It’s too early for all that, and besides, who cares what I think.
In my view, it’s infinitely more important for the individual voter to take a hard look at the status quo, weigh the strengths of each candidate, and make an informed decision.
I encourage everyone to check out each candidate’s media pages, read everything you can about their unique backgrounds and positions. Or, better yet, seek out each candidate and speak to them personally.
Tell them your concerns, explain what is important to you, and challenge their diverse opinions on the issues of the day.
I think you will find that there are quality candidates in each of the council races – good people who want to challenge what has become the norm and return a voice to the citizens of Volusia County.
We desperately need committed residents like Jeff, Barbara and Eddie to step forward and participate in this important process – solid citizens who aren’t financially beholden to the special interests that have controlled our lives and livelihoods for far too long.
In my view, incumbent “Sleepy” Pat Patterson is an arrogant foul ball – a perennial politician who is so deeply ingrained in this bastardized oligarchy that the wants and needs of his constituents no longer remotely factor into the decision-making process.
Under Mr. Patterson’s “representation,” We, The People have become a piddling afterthought – a nuisance impediment between the power brokers and the public trough.
Let’s change that in 2018.
Here’s a huge Barker’s View “Thank You” to all those who have the courage stand up for the long-suffering residents of Volusia County.
Angel: Stetson University
Recent news out of Tallahassee found that Volusia’s venerated Stetson University is the only local private school that wasn’t tapped for a public handout in Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget.
Look, I get it.
Daytona State College is a publicly funded, community-based school that offers great technical training opportunities for local kids – and the evidence is increasingly clear that Bethune-Cookman University has been fleeced by a combination of greed and mismanagement, and they desperately need a cash infusion as they work hard to right the ship.
But why would the State of Florida throw $3-million taxpayer dollars at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University?
Like everything else on the ERAU campus – from the Taj Mahal administration building to a two-hole privy – the recipient of public funds is named after some rich guy.
(Why is that?)
In this case, the “Gaetz Aerospace Institute” – a dual-enrollment STEM program for high school students – is named in “honor” of former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, a retired Niceville Republican who co-founded hospice giant VITAS Healthcare Corp.
The fact is, with a published net worth topping $25-million, Mr. Gaetz could fund the entire program singlehandedly.
And since it bears his name, he damn well should.
Perhaps the powers that be at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University should take a lesson from Stetson – and other private institutions of higher learning who are committed to institutional self-sufficiency – and stop dragging on the public teat.
In my view, that requires strategic vision – and a willingness to embrace transparency and accountability – things that are sorely lacking in ERAU’s current leadership.
Asshole: City of DeBary
Well, the long saga that became known far and wide as the “Debacle in DeBary” came to a rather unceremonious close this week when the 5th District Court of Appeal found that citizens who stand for public office somehow relinquish their First Amendment rights.
It’s not the first ruling this court has made that I haven’t agreed with – but perhaps its time this sordid mess came to an end.
Citizens of Central Florida will not soon forget this ugly period in a small town’s history when a conspiracy of dunces cobbled together some dubious “charter violations” – held a Kangaroo Court wherein the elected officials served as judge, jury and executioner – then terminated the City’s duly elected mayor, Clint Johnson, simply because they didn’t like what he had to say.
Because he embarrassed them – and challenged their arrogance with his outspoken style.
My gut reaction to the news was to place a public records request for all invoices and expenses related to the city’s prosecution of Johnson, and the defense of their actions, by internal and external lawyers – but then I thought, “Why bother.”
The good citizens of DeBary should be able to estimate how much this godawful fiasco has ultimately cost them in public funds and time – and if they don’t seek accountability – then it’s their own damn fault.
I’ll just bet law firms all over old Winter Park are crying into their Boll & Branch pillowcases now that this perpetual cash cow has finally hit its knees.
In my view, the only “positive” to emerge from this tiny town shitstorm is that certain elected and appointed officials have been publicly exposed for the scumbags they truly are – and, ultimately, the 102-acres of sensitive wetlands that certain developers were salivating over are now protected from exploitation in perpetuity.
Those self-serving lumps at City Hall may have won their goofy battle with Clint Johnson – but at what cost?
At the end of the day, the city’s coffers have been looted – the citizens sacred vote means nothing – and the town’s civic reputation will remain irretrievably tarnished for the next hundred years.
Congratulations on the big win.
Now, if we could just get closure on what the News-Journal calls “unresolved allegations” of gross sexual harassment against City Manager Ron McLemore, the stench of which has lingered over his career like a dry turd since he slithered out of the City of Daytona Beach. . .
Good luck, DeBary.
Angel: Coach Jason Beverlin, B-CU Athletics
The Barker’s View Sports Department is sad to report that Coach Jason Beverlin has announced his departure after nearly six-years at the helm of Bethune-Cookman’s Wildcat Baseball.
During his successful tenure, Coach Beverlin led the Wildcat’s to four MEAC tournament titles – and he leaves as the only coach in school history to compete for an NCAA Regional Championship.
Perhaps more important, Coach Beverlin is a man of high character who once challenged his young players with the incredibly motivating question, “If today was your last day playing baseball, how would you want to remember it?”
I would encourage everyone to think deeply about Coach Beverlin’s powerful question in terms of your own career and personal pursuits.
Kind of puts some extra pep in your step, eh?
According to reports, Mr. Beverlin has accepted a recruiting position with the MLB Toronto Blue Jays organization.
His leadership will be missed.
Quote of the Week:
“I don’t care what the local people are saying. The people in Daytona Beach aren’t the ones buying hotel rooms. What matters is that the public (in other parts of the state and country) likes it.”
–Bob Davis, president and CEO of something called the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal regarding the Halifax Area Advertising Authority’s $200,000 “Wide Open Fun” debacle.
Of course he doesn’t.
In my view, Mr. Davis very succinctly summed up the collective feelings of our self-absorbed elected and appointed officials in DeLand: None of them give a tinker’s damn what We, The People think.
The thoughts and opinions of those who make a life on the Fun Coast never cross their minds, and our input is neither solicited, nor wanted.
The HAAA, and every other redundant tourist and visitor’s bureau in Volusia County who feed greedily on bed taxes, had one job.
Now they have one job and an expensive fiasco.
And it’s their own damn fault.
Pissing away bed tax revenues like it’s found money – as evidenced by the HAAA green-lighting a ridiculous three-word tag from an out-of-state ad agency commanding $200,000+ for the effort on top of a retainer of over $44,000 a month – is patently wrong.
And colossally stupid.
Independent social media surveys, newspaper editorials, letters to the editor and the word-on-the-street unanimously agree that – regardless of what a small sampling of people in Orlando, Miami and Atlanta might think – “Wide Open Fun” is an asinine catchphrase for a beach community, especially given the clear innuendo to a time in our history many potential visitors can’t seem to forget.
Yet, in typical fashion, rather than admit that this building debacle could have been handled differently – the various visitors bureaus circle the wagons and hold firm to the belief that when it comes to marketing Volusia County – the concerns of area residents don’t matter.
Well, that’s it for me.
Believe it or not, the Christmas Season is here!
If you want to experience a pure slice of Americana and kickstart this most wonderful time of the year, may I suggest tonight’s City of Holly Hill Tree Lighting Ceremony beginning at 6:00pm.
Held annually on the front steps of historic Holly Hill City Hall, this year’s festivities include a very special appearance by Miss Florida Teen USA 2017 Victoria DiSorbo!
Victoria will be available for autographs, and her new children’s book, “Julie’s Adventure with Cystic Fibrosis” will be available for purchase. All proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
I have it on very good authority that Santa Claus will make his grand entrance as well!
I hope you’ll join me for an evening of Christmas carols and true hometown entertainment.
It’s a great holiday tradition.
Then, on Saturday, the 58th Annual Holly Hill Christmas Parade rolls along the traditional Ridgewood Avenue route (15th Street south to 10th Street) beginning at 10:00am!
Hope to see you there!