On Ormond Beach: There’s Some Shit We Won’t Eat

Earlier this month, I used this space to vent my sense of horror that resulted from the City of Ormond Beach’s acquiescence to the near complete deforestation near the intersection of Tomoka Avenue and Granada Boulevard.

The blogpost generated interest from thousands of Barker’s View readers – many of whom felt the same gut level outrage at this environmental atrocity.

I must admit, in these situations – where our quality of life is pissed away for what passes for “progress” and “economic development” – I lose all objectivity, and I really don’t care to hear the venal excuses of real estate developers and speculative pirates whose first, last and only concern in turning greenspace into greenbacks.

Frankly, I’ve heard it all before.

So, the Daytona Beach News-Journal did the fair thing and followed up with a piece seeking the other side of the argument from Ormond Beach officials and the property developer, Paul Holub, Jr.

Perennial politician and Ormond Beach Deputy Mayor Troy Kent – who is rapidly becoming the face of this ghastly insult to the community’s collective conscience – did his best to assure us that the ugly morass of black muck where majestic, old-growth oaks once stood, “. . .does not change the beautiful character of Ormond Beach.

Bullshit, Mr. Kent.

It changes everything.

Because it has rocked our confidence in Ormond Beach government to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

In a recent piece, the News-Journal found a local business owner who came off like a whimpering pantywaist, when he praised the destruction over his irrational fear of the wildlife whose habitat has now been decimated, “A lot of times we will walk or run by that place and sometimes we will cross the street because there are critters in the forest.”


Then, just this morning, we endured a lecture by Mr. Holub, writing in the News-Journal’s Community Voices column, bolstered by a letter from Charles Lichtigman, chairman and CEO of Charles Wayne Properties, who played the role of the sagacious voice of reason.

In shameless fashion, Holub reminded us ungrateful rubes that he is actually doing us a favor – while Lichtigman pulled a tag-team move, urging us hotheaded yokels to consider “reasoned debate,” you know, now that the property has been clear cut and ground into a muddy void.

I mean, God forbid we should be discourteous to our government, or those who generously give us “decorative pavers” in exchange for century-old trees, “decorative street lights” for wildlife habitat.

“You’ll get used to it.”

Screw these greedy bastards.

There truly is some shit we won’t eat.

While Deputy Mayor Kent may be able to convince himself that another convenience store, co-located with a grocery operation directly abutting a long-established residential area won’t adversely impact the lives of his constituents – I assure you those who are forced to live with the fallout aren’t so damnably naïve.

They can’t afford to be – their very quality of life and property values hang in the balance.

In fact, I have heard from several of Mr. Kent’s incredibly angry constituents – some of whom live many blocks away from the construction site – who report their once idyllic neighborhoods are being ruined by the near-constant roar of heavy equipment as it churns the earth off Bennett Lane.

Just imagine the exponential increase in noise and ruckus when our new WaWa cranks up 24-hour operations, complete with a chicken wing drive-thru’s amplified speaker barking orders over the “beep-beep-beep” of early morning supermarket deliveries.

At least one realty sign has already sprung up across from the gash on Tomoka Avenue.

I don’t blame them – Get while the getting’s good, I say.

It’s not over.  Plans call for additional clearing on the north side of Granada Boulevard to begin soon.

Apparently, Mr. Kent is of the goofy opinion that commercial developers should be able to do whatever the hell they want on property they purchase without question – regardless of the detrimental impact to our environment – or residents who must suffer the perpetual consequences.

Of course, Mr. Holub cloaks himself in the stale reasoning that he and his investors are merely using their property in keeping with how our politicians envisioned its “highest and best” use – regardless of how appropriate or intrusive that use may be.

It seems they always factor the private profit margins – yet never consider the intrinsic cost to our collective quality of life.

The fact is, once these beautiful greenspaces and natural environmental buffers are gone, they are not coming back.  Ever.

Look, I’ve seen sitting politicians literally sit up and beg like cur dogs when big-name developers and their high-priced mouthpieces start weaving yarns about all the benefits of bringing highly intrusive developments to quiet neighborhoods, so excuse me if I don’t trust the judgement of mercenary elected officials to look out for our “highest and best” interests.

Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to the City of Ormond Beach.

Thanks to rampant, unchecked development, Florida has one of the worst environmental records in the nation.

As I’ve previously written, maybe when this entire godforsaken state becomes an uninhabitable shithole – completely devoid of potable water, greenspace or wildlife; when all the natural resources are exploited, hauled-off and sold – and every dime has been looted from the public coffers – someone will wake up.

I know it’s becoming a recurring theme, but perhaps it’s time we begin electing representatives who have a modicum of respect for our natural places – and the will of the people – when considering future development.

On Volusia: The End Justifies the Means

There is an ancient idiom which states, “The end justifies the means.”

The saying is used by those who believe a desired result is so important that any methods, even those which are morally reprehensible, may be used to achieve it.

The question “Does an important outcome excuse any wrongs committed to attain it?” is one that many of us ask ourselves in the course of daily life – especially those who have sought a position of power over their fellow citizens, have assumed the obligations of stewardship and sworn a sacred oath to support, protect and defend our Constitution and democratic principles of governance.

In my experience, this ethical conundrum becomes exponentially more difficult for elected officials, at all levels of government, when money is involved.

This question transcends honest differences of opinion.

It is a test of an individual or organizations situational ethics, rather than a passionate, fact-based conflict of ideas.

For instance, many long-time area residents happen to believe that the Halifax area’s century-old tradition of beach driving, from Sir Malcom Campbell’s Bluebird to a family day spent cruising the beach, is what makes the Daytona Beach Resort Area distinctively different from every other strand in the state of Florida.

By and large, beach driving supporters believe that progress, and the revitalization of our beleaguered core tourist areas, can be enhanced when investors and developers embrace and incorporate this unique aspect of our rich heritage.

Others, many of whom stand to personally benefit from beachside development, are on the public record stating that a traffic-free beach is the panacea for all our social and economic woes – and that the removal of beach driving represents the only viable way forward in terms of our “economic development.”

The difference being that those who have a direct financial interest in opposing beach driving are incredibly wealthy, and infinitely more politically influential, than us helot’s whose role in our bastardized economy is to fill menial service jobs and provide a ready flow of tax dollars.

In a political system that has transmogrified into an ugly oligarchy, where a few of those the Daytona Beach News-Journal describes as our “Rich & Powerful” can – through the infusion of massive amounts of cash into the campaign coffers of their hand-select candidates for local office – ultimately buy access and physically control our once democratic systems and processes.

We, The People, were simply out bid.

And it appears that not even our local judicial system – the last bastion of impartiality, where every citizen, regardless of social, political or financial standing – can expect equal treatment under the law – has remained unsullied by this adulterated political process.

Whenever grassroots beach advocacy organizations have attempted to fight back against elected and appointed government officials intent on pleasing the donor class and meeting the exacting demands of their financial benefactors – whether an attempt to allow the people a vote on issues affecting their beach, or compelling arguments that Volusia County entering into a partnership with a private entity to fund off-beach parking (the prerequisite for total removal of beach driving) is not permitted under our laws and ordinances – they have been blocked from even getting the questions before a judge.

How?  By Volusia County Attorney Dan Eckert’s despicable use of the people’s own money to file lawsuits against them questioning their standing in the issue.

In 2015, at the direction of prominent local insurance executive and political boss J. Hyatt Brown,  the Volusia County Council enacted a series of ordinances which removed beach driving from behind the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock – a languishing project built on the bones of the haunted Desert Inn property – which was once notorious as the site of horrific child sex crimes and a haven for the lowest forms of human excrement on the planet.

The beach driving ban was couched as an “inducement” for the developers, Summit Hospitality Group, to complete the infamous hotel’s renovation to exacting performance standards by a date certain.

Last April, this date was extended to February 28, 2018, by our elected officials at the request of Summit Hospitality Group – following a surprise, off-the-agenda ambush announcement by County Manager Jim Dinneen – during which we learned that Summit had decided to “terminate its agreement” with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, LLC, to open an upscale Westin Hotel.

Some nonsense about Starwood being sold to Marriott Corporation (?) as I recall.

(I suspect that Marriott – as the recognized leader in the international hospitality industry – ran from this “four-star” project like a scalded dog.)

Instead, we were told the property would be re-flagged a Hard Rock franchise, operated by Summit Hospitality.

Regardless, we were clearly led to believe that the same standards of excellence, amenities and guest experience, including the drop-dead date for completion – as established by county ordinance – would remain a firm condition of the beach driving incentive.

The opening was announced for “late fall 2017,” then “Daytona 500 weekend,” then “March 1.”

When it became clear that Summit Hospitality would not meet the performance standards, or be remotely ready to open, by February 28th – strange things began to happen.

Inexplicably, “senior county officials” and attorneys held a closed-door meeting with Summit to determine, “what needs to be done to bring the Hard Rock Hotel into compliance.”

Something our doddering fool, and congenital liar, County Chair Ed Kelley told us wasn’t necessary.

Then, county attorney Dan Eckert began the process of clarifying what everyone assumed was the hard date for the property to be open and welcoming guests was, in fact, merely an arbitrary time frame for Summit Hospitality to receive “certification” from Hard Rock corporate that they were permitted to open under the brand.

My ass.

The real problem came when people realized – based upon their personal observation of deplorable conditions on the external seawall, photographs depicting structural integrity concerns in a subterranean parking garage and an unfinished pool deck – that no corporation worth its integrity and standing in the hospitality industry could possibly risk their reputation by certifying an incomplete renovation as meeting their exacting standards.

Yet, on Friday, that’s exactly what Hard Rock International did.

Kind of.

What Hard Rock shrewdly quibbled was that the “luxury design” of the hotel – and “upon opening” the operation of the hotel “will” – meet brand standards and service requirements.

Based upon this “kinda/sorta” premature certification from Hard Rock International – sometime today, County Manager Jim Dinneen will unilaterally decide when our heritage of beach driving will be permanently (read: forever) removed from the strand behind the hotel.

In doing so, Mr. Dinneen and our elected officials – in their wholly corrupt and underhanded attempt to meet the demands of their political puppet masters – have forever fouled our democratic system of governance and lost the trust of the public it exists to serve.

Why would ostensibly bright people – who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – compromise their personal and professional ethics and reputation in this patently obvious way?

To remove cars from 410 linear feet of our beach.  That’s why.

In the end, these soulless bastards won a shallow victory over the will of the people they are sworn to represent.

But at what cost?

I guess the Apostle Paul, in his first letter to his young disciple, Timothy, was right when he said, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. . .”

On Volusia: Bearing Witness Unto the Truth

“Please accept this letter as notice that the property at 900 N. Atlantic Avenue, is a beach side resort and full service hotel under franchise agreement with Hard Rock International.  Moreover, the luxury design of the hotel meets, and upon opening the operation of the hotel will meet, Hard Rock International’s aforementioned brand standards and franchise requirements, and comply with all operations and service requirements of Hard Rock. . .”

–Friday, February 23, 2018, letter from Hard Rock International to Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen, ostensibly fulfilling the requirement for the permanent removal of our century-old heritage of beach driving for 410-linear feet behind the hotel.

“It’s going to be great for the people of Volusia County, having that quality of hotel in our area,” said Ed Kelley, Volusia County Council chair. “I never really had a ‘What if they didn’t do it’ plan, because I really was confident that they (Summit) would do what they said they would do all along.”

–Volusia County Council Chair and Shameless Corporate Shill Ed Kelley, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Saturday, February 24, 2018

“Dinneen, meanwhile, praised the new Hard Rock as being as luxurious “as any hotel a hundred miles in any direction.  Our expectations were very high, and they went beyond that,” Dinneen said of the hotel’s developers.”

 —Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Hard Rock Daytona certified” – Saturday, February 24, 2018

The following photographs were taken at approximately 9:45am, Saturday, February 24, 2018, from the beach directly behind the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach – a “4-Star” quality resort as determined and certified by the Hard Rock International corporation.

Those who hold high office and accept public funds to serve in the public interest would have us believe that this represents the very “jewel” of Daytona Beach resort hotels – as luxurious as any hotel within a hundred miles in any direction. . .

You be the judge.


HR 1HR 2HR 7HR 8HR 3HR 11

Angels & Assholes for February 23, 2018

Hi, Kids!

It’s been an incredibly productive few weeks here at Barker’s View HQ!

In the past few days, we have garnered over 13,000 views, largely on two recent blog posts – one discussing the horrific scene of utter environmental devastation in the heart of the Granada Boulevard commercial corridor in Ormond Beach, (where the requirements for destroying majestic historic trees are obviously different for city government than they are for you and I) – and another screed explaining my frustration over Volusia County’s plan to “pull the trigger” on beach driving behind the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project on March 1st.

It appears area residents are paying very close attention to the maddening intrigues and petty maneuvering of what passes for local governance here on the Fun Coast – and they are clearly thirsty for an alternative opinion.

And that, my friends, makes our powers-that-be very nervous.

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:          Volusia County Council

 We, The People have a real problem.


What happens when our duly elected officials – at all levels of government – become so co-opted by unbridled greed and an insatiable lust for political control that they no longer remotely consider the wants, needs and opinions of those they are sworn to represent?

In Volusia County, we long ago abdicated a representative form of governance and exchanged it for some weird oligarchy, where a small group of incredibly wealthy political insiders have absolute power over our elected officials, our economy and our quality of life.

Like everything else – the root cause is money.

By using multiple LLC’s, dubious corporate entities and “political action committees” to inject enormous amounts of cash into local political campaigns, the “Rich & Powerful” have insinuated themselves into positions that allow them to manipulate our democratic systems and processes.

Some believe that our local Donor Class – by virtue of their business success, strong personalities or standing in the Halifax area’s weird economic and social caste system – are somehow more intelligent than the rest of us – that they intuitively know what’s best for the rest of us.

That’s not true.

Look, these insufferable “Big Shots” are no different than you or me – they simply have the financial means to buy direct access to the halls of power.

They control their environment by taking unfair advantage of the vanity, simplicity and hubris of spineless politicians who desperately need hard cash to fuel their egocentric compulsion to run for high office – or to remain entrenched once elected.

It’s no secret that J. Hyatt Brown – the prominent chairman of the billionaire international insurance intermediary Brown & Brown – sits at the top of the current list of those who have spread enough hard cash around to directly influence public policy by manipulating the votes of his elected chattel on the dais of power.

(Sorry, Mori – don’t get your knickers in a twist.  I know you’re still a Very Important Person, too.  It’s just that this truly is J. Hyatt’s year to shine – what with his $15.5-million in public subsidies for the new corporate headquarters and all. . .  Keep your chin up, big guy.) 

It is also clear that J. Hyatt wants our heritage and tradition of beach driving eliminated once and for all.

In my view, Mr. Brown sees vehicles on the beach as an impediment to entrepreneurial investment and development – and he has given his highly paid facilitator, County Manager Jim Dinneen – strict instructions to dangle the carrot of a traffic-free beach as a lucrative incentive for any speculative developer who comes down the sandy pike.

In 2015, after passing the initial ordinances that will ultimately remove beach driving from the strand behind the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock property, Mr. Brown stood before his hired hands in DeLand, patted their pointy heads, and said, “It is a positive step. It is one that we will never regret, and it is a step that in the future we will look back and say, ‘Good job you all.’”

I happen to believe that in keeping with J. Hyatt’s royal edict, our elected officials – through the backroom machinations of the bag man, Jim Dinneen – enlisted Summit Hospitality Group, the developer of the Hard Rock and several other area hotels – to serve as an effective tool for county government to remove beach driving from yet another strand of our beach.

Could they do it without them?  Sure.  But this method is cleaner come election time.

The problem came when Summit drug their heels on the renovation – now there is a very real possibility that they will fail to meet the exacting performance standards set by ordinance – and Hard Rock International – by February 28th.

We recently learned through a public information request by the News-Journal’s Dustin Wyatt that senior Volusia County officials and attorneys met behind closed doors with Summit Hospitality to discuss “what needs to be done to bring the Hard Rock Hotel into compliance.” 

Yet – just days ago – our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, was quoted in the News-Journal, yammering in his inimitably clueless style, “It’s not up to us to keep up with a construction project.”


Then why in the hell are senior county officials meeting privately with Hard Rock staff for what a county spokeswoman told us was an “update on construction?”

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

Old Ed Kelley really is that dumb – and he lies like a frigging rug when the truth would serve him (and us) better.

But since when has shoddy past performance been even a passing consideration when our elected officials award additional incentives to speculative developers in Volusia County?

Earlier this week, the Volusia County Council sat in open session and once again tossed reason to the wind when they unanimously approved yet another “deal” with Summit.

This time, we (you and I) will “vacate” (read: effectively giveaway) another public beach approach (which the City of Daytona Beach handed over to another developer 40-years ago) at Summit’s La Playa resort – in exchange for a cheap walkover and $300,000 cash.

There was one glimmer of hope when Councilwoman Billie Wheeler momentarily questioned whether giving publicly owned beachfront property to a private entity for peanuts was a “fair trade” – then, just moments later, she voted in lock-step with her fellow co-conspirators on the dais.

Nice work, Billie.

Even Councilwoman Heather Post, who constantly tries to convince us that she’s a maverick – yet always seems to vote as she is told – concurred with the majority.

(I guess the uber-weird Mrs. Post is desperate for the acceptance and political affection of Deb Denys and Old Ed Kelley, who make sport of regularly kicking her around on the pages of the News-Journal. . .)

In my view, the only solution to this growing problem of political treachery and mistrust is to closely follow the campaign finance reports of those who are running for public office this year – then vote in direct opposition to any candidate who accepts massive sums of cash from these oligarchs who are so desperate to retain total control.

Angel:             Public Defender Jim Purdy

Although we haven’t had much professional contact since my retirement from law enforcement, I consider Seventh Circuit Public Defender Jim Purdy a friend.

We worked together on some incredibly interesting cases during his time with the State Attorney’s Office, and I came to know him as one of the hardest working, well prepared and dedicated public servants I ever knew.

Jim Purdy cares.

He probably doesn’t know this, but I once watched him pacing contemplatively along the banks of the Halifax river – sporting his fedora – obviously in deep thought, quietly considering strategy before heading into the courtroom.

I admired that, as many prosecutors back in the day would do little more than review the facts of the case with the arresting officer in the hallway outside the courtroom minutes before the trial started.

He brought that same drive, persistence and enduring sense of fairness and professional competency to the Public Defender’s Office.  Earlier this week, Mr. Purdy announced his retirement effective at the end of his current term in 2020, completing an impressive sixteen years in public office – and decades more practicing law.

Our system of justice – and our community – is well-served by Jim Purdy, and his contributions will be sorely missed.

As you hang-up your spurs, I offer hearty congratulations, my friend.

All the best for a healthy, happy and productive retirement.

Angel:             Paul Zimmerman

Someone much wiser than I once said that you can tell you’re close to exposing something important when they start trying to marginalize you.

Recently, Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, expressed serious concerns regarding the structural integrity of the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock.

Mr. Zimmerman – a former licensed building contractor – took the time to examine the hotel’s external seawall and observed concrete spalling and gaping fractures compromising the barrier, which were apparently being covered-and-painted, rather than properly repaired.

The deficiencies reported by Zimmerman were confirmed by the Volusia Waterman’s Association, a public employee union representing members of the Volusia County Beach Safety Department, who issued a strongly worded press release this week entitled, “Hard Rock Hotel Risks Collapse While County Ignores Evidence.”  

I find that compelling, considering it comes from law enforcement officers and lifeguards who spend 24-hours a day on the beach.

In turn, Mr. Zimmerman dug deeper and obtained photographic evidence of rotting support beams which were being supplemented by screw-jacks – along with signs of flooding, crumbling concrete post supports and evidence of water intrusion – in the Hard Rock’s subterranean parking garage (which is located directly under the swimming pool deck).

When he failed to get the attention of officials charged with inspecting the construction and ensuring the public safety – Mr. Zimmerman posted the shocking pictures on social media and let the court of public opinion decide if the effort represents the quality one expects of a “4-Star” resort hotel.

Other than a select few star-crossed local realtors – who invariably lock arms with the Chamber set, put the blinders on and take personal umbrage anytime someone questions the “newest, biggest and bestest” marketing shtick here on the Fun Coast – most people were horrified by what they saw.

As I’ve previously said, I’m not handy – in fact, I intentionally avoid any attempt at home repair, and shy away from anything remotely mechanical – because I simply don’t have the aptitude for it.  (I don’t have the tools either.  I recently looked in a small tool chest in my garage and found it contains ice tongs and a Tupperware lid. . . seriously.)

However, I can look at a photograph of corrosion on a structural member and tell if it adequately supports something I want to stand under.

When questioned by the Daytona Beach News-Journal – things took a dramatic tone when Summit’s Abbas Abdulhussein began waving a letter around, claiming that the building’s “chief structural engineer” determined that the corrosion on the columns is “superficial,” and that the structure has been declared safe and sound.

Interesting.  Because it sure looked like the deterioration of the support posts went deeper than surface rust to me – and hundred of others who examined Mr. Zimmerman’s photos.

Another thing I find intriguing is that inspections on the property are being conducted by Universal Engineering Sciences of South Daytona – a company hired and paid by Summit Hospitality Group.

The prestigious engineering firm has been serving all the right last names in the Halifax area for over 30-years – to include its recent work on the “$400-million” (?) renovation of the Daytona International Speedway.

The City of Daytona Beach’s own mouthpiece, spokeswoman Susan Cerbone, assured us that the company has “conducted hundreds of inspections on the property.”

Look, I’m not doubting Ms. Cerbone’s veracity – or Universal’s findings – but how in the hell would she know what a private company may or may not have done?

I’m not making accusations – I’m asking.

You may remember that way back in those heady days when the City of Daytona Beach spent $1.4 million to gain control of the then dilapidated Main Street pier, in 2009, Universal Engineering was hired by the city to conduct an inspection of the pier’s building.

I can assure you Paul Zimmerman does.  He sat on the committee that advised the Daytona Beach city commission on the pier’s overhaul.

According to Universal’s inspection report, “It is the opinion of Universal Engineering Sciences that the main building and accessory structures are structurally sound,” the report concluded.

“The plumbing, electrical, mechanical and fire sprinkler systems are in good condition.”

Ultimately, the firm recommended about $1-million in upgrades, to include decking, plumbing and paint.

According to reports, just two-years later – city officials discovered that conditions were worse than originally thought, and the renovation turned into a money pit that ultimately cost the citizens of Daytona Beach some $4-million to complete.

At that time, Mr. Zimmerman believed his committee received bad information regarding the project, and he expressed his frustration in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Now it’s just a never-ending mountain of millions. It’s unreal,” Zimmerman said. “This has been a scandalous boondoggle from its inception.”

Now, Universal Engineering took the unusual step of attempting to publicly discredit Mr. Zimmerman in the newspaper.

According to Universal’s Volusia/Flagler branch manager, Brian Pohl (who, according to the Universal website, holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UCF) said:

“Everything has been inspected and is at or above code,” Pohl said. “The items in these pictures, they’re not even structural items. Those pedestals are being replaced, as we speak. At the same time Mr. Zimmerman was on the property illegally looking at this, those crews were on the other side of the basement replacing them. I have a photo of these being replaced.”

“My advice to Mr. Zimmerman would be to go to school for about five to seven years, then do four more years of internship and then, maybe, he could get on the project legally,” Pohl said.”

“Everything here meets and is above code. We’re confident about every bit of work that has been performed on that site.”


With so much at stake, my hope is that an independent government agency charged with inspecting construction and renovations will ultimately determine who’s right and who’s wrong.

Regardless, I’m afraid that when it comes to questions of public safety, the tired old argument – “Who are you going to believe, me, or those pictures?” – just doesn’t work.

Look, I’m not second-guessing anyone here (God knows, the hardest three years of my life was the fourth grade) but, perhaps a learned civil engineer like Mr. Pohl should know that perception is equally important to scientific interpretation when it comes to winning the public’s confidence.

In my view, arrogantly dismissing the concerns of a long-time civic leader on the pages of the News-Journal does not serve the best interests of Summit Hospitality, Hard Rock International or the citizens of Daytona Beach.

Angel:             Kevin Lowe

 In 2003, my friend Kevin Lowe was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

He was 17-years old.

Unfortunately, complications of the highly invasive surgical procedure to remove the mass resulted in total blindness.   In a few short hours, Kevin went from a precocious teenage kid – hanging at the beach, motocross racing and 4-wheeling – to utter, life-altering darkness.

Last evening, I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending the debut of a recently produced documentary entitled, “Kevin’s Story” which was screened at the historic Anderson-Price House in Ormond Beach.

The film chronicles this extraordinary young man’s indomitable spirit and exceptional transformation as he embraces both faith and family to overcome all obstacles and ultimately find a purpose-driven life.

This powerful work was produced by the amazingly talented young filmmaker, Wilson Kowaleski – a true artist and passionate advocate for positive social change – who captured the very essence of the transformative power of positivity and perseverance in Kevin’s inspirational story.

Following the film, the standing room only audience was treated to a remarkable presentation by Kevin himself – perhaps one of the most deeply motivating and personally inspiring speakers I’ve ever known.

During his emotional speech, Kevin literally captured the room with his eloquent explanation of the omnipotence of persistence – never giving up – in our individual quest to overcome adversity and find our sense of happiness and purpose.

I encourage everyone to visit www.ncuyd.com – and learn more about the Nothing Changes Until You Do movement.

Kevin, last evening reminded once again, in the most remarkable way, why you will always be such an incredibly important and motivating force in the lives of so many.

Love you, buddy.  Thanks for being you.

Quote of the Week:

“I don’t think it’s an adequate exchange for what we are giving up.”

 –Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, speaking moments before voting with the remainder of the council to handover publicly owned beachfront property to Summit Hospitality Group, on the promise of a walkover and $300k toward an off-beach parking lot (the prerequisite for total removal of beach driving in Volusia County.)

Unbelievable.  Thanks for nothing, Billie.

Have a great weekend, kids.




On Volusia: Pulling the Trigger on Beach Driving

This week, a public records request by The Daytona Beach News-Journal confirmed what many have suspected for months:

Our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County government are planning to close the beach to vehicular traffic whether their lackeys at Summit Hospitality Group meet the performance standards set by ordinance or not.

In addition, we learned the odious truth that in the recent past, “county officials, attorneys and the hotel developers” met privately to discuss “what needs to be done to bring the Hard Rock Hotel into compliance.”

However, when News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt attempted to obtain meetings notes, he was brushed aside and simply told that none exist.

That’s a big deal.

Why would recipients of public funds, senior government officials who are paid handsomely to work in the public interest, spend duty hours in a backroom meeting – held completely off the public record, with no attendees being identified, or even making notes during the clandestine confab – to discuss how to bring the Hard Rock Hotel into compliance before the February 28th council-imposed deadline?

Yet, with no notes, minutes or agenda available, a county mouthpiece can suddenly report with absolute certainty that the meeting was merely to provide officials with an “update on construction” and for the developer to assure everyone involved that they would have formal confirmation from Hard Rock corporate by the drop-dead date.

Something stinks.

I mean, is County Spokesperson Joanne Magley clairvoyant?

How can she report to us – her employer, the citizens of Volusia County – the content of a meeting where no notes were taken?

To add to the intrigue, let’s review the county’s official response to a series of photographs depicting the deplorable conditions at the Hard Rock construction site – to include critical concerns regarding the very structural integrity of the underground parking garage – that were provided to all county council members by Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach.

On February 14, 2018, Volusia County’s Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin, sent the following email to salve the concerns of Councilwoman Heather Post – the only sitting council member who bothered to respond to Mr. Zimmerman’s questions:

Good afternoon,

Mr. Dinneen requested that I contact you to clarify that the City of Daytona Beach is the permitting jurisdiction and will be responsible for the inspection of the building. 

Marja (Kolomyski) sent the concerns raised by Mr. Zimmerman to the City of Daytona Beach.  I followed-up with Jim Morris to confirm his receipt of the complaints and to confirm that they are addressing the concerns as part of their inspection process.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

So, if the City of Daytona Beach is the permitting agency – totally responsible for the compliance inspection and certification of the building – then why are Volusia County officials meeting off-the-record with the developer to discuss ways to bring the languishing project into conformity?

I mean, what business is it of ours?

Why would we would expend the incredibly expensive time of senior county staff members providing advise and counsel on the internal operational issues of Summit Hospitality?

In my view, the Volusia County Council got caught flatfooted by their new business partner – Summit Hospitality – who, even after being granted a lengthy extension in April 2017 – continued to drag their heels and waste valuable time during the construction phase.

That wasn’t the deal.  Summit was supposed to pull a quarterback sneak and give our elected officials the legal means to close yet another section of the strand to driving.

They dropped the ball.

As the clock ticked, early this month the site turned into a virtual beehive, with workers frantically rushing everything from signage, to landscaping, to critical repairs of the compromised seawall and even the swimming pool to completion in a last-ditch effort to meet the deadline – all while assuring anyone who is anyone that they will have brand certification from Hard Rock International by February 28th.

In turn, County Attorney Dan Eckert – with the full support of our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley – openly ran interference for the developer, trying in vain to convince all of us that the date certain for completion, as clearly established by ordinance, doesn’t mean squat.

Then, in perhaps the most poorly worded communication ever issued by a sitting public official, Ray Manchester, director of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue, wrote in a January 30, 2018 email to several county employees, “We’ve been asked to pull the trigger on this closure on March 1st.  Once cars come off, they will not come back so I believe telephone poles would be the best option.”     

Looks like ol’ Ray spilled the beans.

Then, in subsequent emails, we learned that our highly paid county beach officials dicked around like the entrenched government employees they are, frittering the time away deciding whether they should erect the horrendous eyesore of more telephone poles to block beach traffic from encroaching on the Hard Rock’s private beach – or if equally ugly short posts driven in the sand will do the job.    

(I’m just surprised they made a decision on their own – rather than call for a $100K study by an out-of-state consultant to solve the weighty poles or posts conundrum. . .)

The difference being, the poles require a permit to install – while those atrocious short posts can be erected anywhere on the beach at Volusia County’s whim.

“I don’t think any of us want to be in the position of installing something on the beach that requires a permit and not getting one,” said Rob Walsh, the activity manager over Volusia Forever, a voter-approved initiative to conserve, maintain and restore the natural environment for the “enjoyment and education of the public.

Being the cynical shit that I am – the fact Mr. Walsh found it necessary to remind his fellow bureaucrats to do the right thing – because those pesky beach driving advocates are watching – tells me that absent the outside oversight of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach access and advocacy group, county officials would have done whatever they damn well pleased – rules and permits be damned.

Kudos to Dustin Wyatt and the Daytona Beach News-Journal for obtaining these important internal communications and dragging them into the light of day.

In my view, this peek behind the scenes gives We, The People a horrifying glimpse at how the Dinneen administration – with the complete acquiescence of those dullards we elected to represent our interest on the dais of power – blatantly ignores their own rules and ordinances, then does whatever they want to advance the needs of their tool – a speculative developer who was clearly enlisted to assist in ramrodding their ultimate goal of removing our heritage of beach driving – permanently.


On Volusia: The Trials of Heather Post

Why is it we always find a way to make an ass out of ourselves whenever we have guests over?

On the very morning of our world-famous “Daytona 500 Day” – with all its spectacle and pageantry – and the sense of excitement that only comes from 40 rolling billboards, driven by no-name adolescent’s making left turns for 500-miles, can generate – we open the newspaper and read about the latest brouhaha between the uber-weird District 4 County Councilwoman Heather Post and her “colleagues” on the dais of power in DeLand.

How embarrassing. . .

Last Saturday morning, Councilwoman Post hosted something she self-described as “Government 101” – a “Meeting for Citizens to Engage Themselves in This Critical Process.”

Now, I have no idea what that means, but Post apparently wanted an opportunity to lecture her weary constituents on how “local city commissions and county councils work, how bills are enacted at the state level, and the process to amend the Florida Constitution.”

Didn’t hear about it?

That’s okay – apparently no one else did either.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, about eight people showed up.

Look – God bless her – at least Heather tried to educate us bumpkins on how this bastardized oligarchical kleptocracy we call governance here on the Fun Coast functions.  That’s more than most in county government have done.

For her trouble, a couple of Post’s fellow elected officials on the Volusia County Council made it clear that any attempt to break ranks – violate the ancient Code of Omerta – and engage with constituents will be met with faux outrage and an overweening sense of officious superiority that only these preening assholes can muster.

After all, the idea of communicating with citizens, opening a dialog or allowing those who pay the bills some limited input – or even insight – into the murky intrigue that passes for “the people’s business” is anathema to County Manager Jim Dinneen’s administration.

Make no mistake, Mr. Dinneen – at the physical direction of those wealthy political insiders who set public policy while feeding greedily at the public trough – personally controls everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here in Volusia County.

In my view, our County Manager is a cheap bag man – a Teflon coated facilitator – who enjoys the political protection of those who pour hundreds-of-thousands of green dollars into the campaign accounts of those cut-rate whores we elect to represent our interests – and it serves no purpose to allow taxpayers even a hint at what happens behind the curtain.

Perhaps Mrs. Post’s most egregious sin on Saturday came when she was mildly critical of Mr. Dinneen’s gross ineptitude and inability to properly manage a 2011 contract with an out-of-state information technology company that utterly failed – for seven years –  to implement a computer program for the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Seven years.

Ultimately, Jimmy’s little oversight cost you and I $117,000.

So, when Mrs. Post’s fellow elected officials were made aware of her seminar – and her public reproach of county management – in typical fashion, they circled the wagons and dramatically overreacted.

For instance, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys – whose District 3 seat is up for reelection this year – complained in the News-Journal that Post’s symposium was more of a “PR stunt than ‘Government 101.’”

Jesus.  That’s rich.

In my view, the most shameless self-promotion in recent memory came earlier this month when Deb – a demonstrable liar with a history of saying one thing to her constituents, then doing another when it comes time to vote – feigned interest in discussing impact fees for transportation infrastructure, knowing full-well what the result of that empty exercise would be.

Then, in perhaps the most egregious display of political pomposity since his autarchic suggestion that the City Island library be “relocated” and the property used for speculative development, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, took a cheap swipe:

Speaking of Mrs. Post’s meeting in the News-Journal, Old Ed said, “I had not heard that” (which is not unusual, there are a lot of things Mr. Kelley conveniently doesn’t hear about) “I think you’d want someone explaining that who’d had a little bit more than a year of experience on the council.” 

“This should have been something discussed in a council meeting.  I guess I can go host a talk show now.”

My God – only a perennial/professional small-minded local politician could have uttered such a damnably arrogant slight against a fellow sitting official.  And since when does a duly elected member of the county council need to ask permission to engage with those she represents at a community forum?

(For the record, Ed – the reason you can’t host a talk show has nothing to do with Mrs. Post’s community meeting – and everything to do with the fact you’re a scatterbrained dullard who hasn’t had an original thought since you accepted your first campaign contribution.)

Look, I don’t agree with much of anything that Heather Post says or does – she fancies herself a maverick, yet votes in lock-step with the majority of the council on any given issue, especially in matters involving the wants of developers – but we do find common ground on a couple of thoughts she expressed – “It is the people’s responsibility to ensure that we (elected officials) are doing the best job possible.  We need people to keep us accountable.”

I also agree with Mrs. Post when she states, “I’m not a politician.” 

That’s true.  She’s not a politician.

She’s an uber-weird show-boater with a ‘look-at-me’ complex – but since when has that personality quirk prohibited anyone from holding public office?

In fact, its become a prerequisite.

In my view, this on-going spit-spat between Heather Post and the rest of the council is indicative of much larger, and certainly much darker, issues in county government.

When a goofy public affairs forum, attended by a handful of civic-minded people, results in this level of official outrage and petty personal assaults by what passes for our senior elected “leadership,” in my view, it exposes the depths to which this administration will stoop to silence internal dissent, marginalize opposition and ensure that the light of day never sees the cloistered maneuverings and shadowy collusion of those political insiders who truly control our lives and livelihoods in Volusia County.


On Ormond Beach: They call it “progress”

As a life-long resident of Ormond Beach, I have a real affinity for our unique community here on the banks of the beautiful intercoastal waterway.

I grew up on North Halifax Drive when it was little more than a fire trail, went to elementary school at St. James Episcopal Church, and played in the side yard of the Casements long before it was renovated into the wonderful civic amenity it is today.

Our daughter and son-in-law were married there.

I knew Mr. MacDonald – the proprietor of the original Billy’s Tap Room – and frequently solicited his help whenever our kickball wound up on the roof of what is now the Gaslight Shops on East Granada Boulevard.  I found it fascinating that he had dime coins given to him as a boy by John D. Rockefeller in exchange for carrying one of the wealthiest men in historys golf bag to what is now Oceanside Country Club course.

I saw smoke rising in the sky from our backyard the day the Ormond Garage burned – and I have walked across the old draw bridge with my classmates as we visited Santa Claus and the talking tree each Christmas at the former City Hall.

As a child, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. aboard the personal train car of Ormond’s most philanthropic benefactor, Chapman Root – the “Silver Holly” –  complete with its multifaceted observation dome.

The car is now part of the Root Family exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Science in Daytona Beach.

My wonderful memories of life here in the “Birthplace of Speed” go on-and-on.

Those of us fortunate enough to call this place home enjoy a rich history and a wealth of outdoor recreation activities and parks, and in so many ways we’ve stayed true to our roots, balancing controlled growth along our main east-west commercial corridor while protecting natural spaces and virgin forests.

I have also been publicly appreciative of the good work of City Manager Joyce Shanahan, who has brought a high degree of stability and transparency to Ormond Beach government, restored public trust in our utilities and maintained an effective dialog with area residents.

However, times they are a changin’.

Last week, as I traveled west on Granada Boulevard, I came upon the horrific scene of utter environmental devastation taking place near the intersection of Tomoka Avenue.  A closer inspection found the wholesale destruction of hundreds of old growth specimen trees – to include dozens of ancient oaks – all felled in a gnarled morass.

granada 2

The wholesale ruin goes on for acres on both sides of Tomoka Avenue, then south on Bennet Lane, with men in heavy equipment actively churning this once pristine forest, which so appropriately buffered the heavily traveled thoroughfare from residential areas to the south, into an ugly black muck of twisted vegetation and splintered limbs.

Like many of you, I heard rumblings that a new WaWa convenience store – co-located with yet another chicken wing drive-thru, and one of those posh specialty grocers some people find so fashionable – was going up, but I really didn’t pay any attention to the when, where or why.

The development goes by the typically pretentious handle – Granada Pointe.   

Shame on me.

I know something about this beautifully tucked away area of our community.

In 1992, my wife Patti and I built our first home in the Woodgrove subdivision, a small two-story pink house which sits at the intersection of South Center Street and Tomoka Avenue.  If you look closely, you can now see it from Granada Boulevard.

If memory serves, the subdivision was built on an old farm and pasture that once took up much of central Ormond Beach.

From my up-close and personal experience, I can tell you that the area provided habitat for a variety of turtles, snakes, birds, raccoons and small mammals.

Now, nothing lives there – except those unfortunate souls who have just watched their property values settle to the bottom of the toilet.

According to a survey performed by the City of Ormond Beach, there were 34 “historic trees” on the three parcels (one located on the north side of Granada Boulevard), with 15 located on the southern parcels along Tomoka Avenue which are being prepared for “commercial development.”  Of these, four trees were said to be in “poor condition.”

The report, dated July 13, 2017, states, “All trees, including the (11) historic trees will be removed (except tree preservation areas below) from the southern parcels as the site requires up to 4’ of fill to bring the buildings, roads and parking areas to proper elevation, excavating for storm water ponds and extensive utility relocation work along Granada Boulevard.” 

Of course, to make us all feel better about ourselves for killing century old hardwoods to make way for an up-scale gas station – and the third grocery store within a half-mile of each other – the city has set aside a 10-acre “conservation area” behind the Moose Lodge.

My ass.

The Ormond Beach Planning Board unanimously approved a rezoning request for the project last July.

At the time, Paul Holub, the local real estate developer who is ramrodding the project, was quoted in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Granada Pointe was designed to minimize impact to the surrounding residential areas, with the landscape buffers, privacy walls and the design of the site’s retention pond.”

Do these speculative developers know no shame?

My God.

Perversely, they call this “progress.”

Does Mr. Holub – or our elected officials – truly believe that Woodgrove and surrounding neighborhoods won’t suffer the near constant “impact” of restaurant, retail and grocery operations – to include deliveries, amplified speakers, traffic and outdoor lighting – which will take place 24-hours a day – literally in their backyard?

And what of the inevitable flooding and run-off that results from raising the surface 4’ above current grade?  And what happens during periods of torrential rain when storm water retention ponds overflow and drain south across Tomoka Avenue?

Despite the very real concerns of area residents, last August our elected officials on the City Commission unanimously approved the project on the recommendation of city planning director Ric Goss and others.

According to Mr. Goss, those residents who are fretting that their property will flood during storms need not worry – “I think we resolved that issue.”

You think that issue has been resolved?

I hope Mr. Goss is willing to bet his job on his hunch.

Because if this project results in flooding, damage, noise and light pollution to area homes as many suspect, I, for one, will be joining the mass call for Mr. Goss – and any other bureaucrat who had anything to do with this project – to be summarily fired and run out of town on a rail.

In my view, one key problem we face in the Halifax area is a complete lack of accountability by public officials – self-described professionals who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – then quibble away the very real concerns of citizens who have invested all they have to carve out a life here whenever a developer wants to start clearing land.

When our environment is decimated, and people’s lives and livelihoods are placed at risk for the benefit of another cookie cutter commercial development, “We hope” and “I think” doesn’t cut it in my book – and its high time these well-compensated guessers are held to account when they’re wrong.

According to Mr. Holub, “As with most of the projects we have built in the last 30-plus years in Ormond Beach, in the end, once it is built and open, the community will use it and support it and accept it.”

As though we had a choice. . .

(Update:  Ormond Beach Planning Director Ric Goss retired at the end of 2017 after serving the city for more than 10-years.  The point of holding city officials accountable for their professional opinions stands.)




Angels & Assholes for February 16, 2018

Hi, Kids!

I’m back – as Charlie Daniels said, “hungover, red-eyed – dog tired, but satisfied” – from a wild week in New Orleans, where we became part of the problem in the lead up to Mardi Gras last week.

Even at my advanced age, I can still party all day at places like Boondock Saint and Circle Bar, then catch beads and throws all night – Sazerac in hand – on the uptown parade route.

But now it takes me a week to recover.


My love affair with New Orleans began over 30-years ago, and after all this time, whenever we visit, I am reminded in the most wonderful ways why she stole my heart.  For me, it remains the most unique city in the nation – 300-years of incredible beauty, rich traditions and intractable civic and social problems.

Sadly, you’re more likely to be killed by a 16-year old street thug with a gun there than perhaps anywhere else in the world – I know, my wife and friend were standing less than 100-yards from a shooting incident last Thursday night – and at least four people have been murdered in street violence since Lundi Gras.

Politicians in Louisiana have taken graft, kick-backs and corruption to a whole different level – something locals have come to accept as just another ingredient in the gumbo of life in the “Big Easy.”

As one friend of mine who owns a bar on St. Charles Avenue rhetorically put it, “What’cha gonna do, I guess?”

Yet, ‘The City that Care Forgot’ endures.

You can travel down a beautifully canopied, but trash-strewn and potholed street, reeling from the the heavy odor of decay from collapsed structures that still haven’t been cleared since the levy broke – then cross an intersection and immediately smell the fragrance of fresh cut lumber at a construction site, where an old shotgun house – or some centuries-old commercial building – is being lovingly renovated, restored and resurrected.

And it gives hope that anything is possible.

Alright, folks – 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:          Volusia County Council

I want to commend a recent editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Stacked deck on impact fees,” which provided a thoughtful analysis of our County Council’s recent dismissal of any reasonable attempt to raise impact fees to help cover the cost of increasing infrastructure demands.

A week or so back, Councilwoman Deb Denys feigned interest in the idea – if just so she can say “See, I tried to get them to do something” – during her reelection attempt.  (And I sincerely hope there is a contest.  To-date, no one has stepped up to challenge her.)

If this empty exercise did anything, it exposed the depth to which our elected officials will publicly wallow and squirm to protect the interests of their campaign contributors who pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into local races as an effective means of controlling direct access to the public teat.

In most places, when obscure LLC’s, “political action committees,” and dubious corporate entities funnel hard cash into the campaign coffers of political candidates – then the people who control those contributions receive millions of dollars in “economic incentives” as return on investment – it is investigated as quid pro quo corruption.

In Volusia County, it’s called the cost of doing business – and you don’t have to be Elliott Ness to connect the dots from certain donors to certain lucrative “incentives.”

Yet, here on the Fun Coast, it’s all perfectly legal under our bastardized campaign finance system – yet, morally and ethically dishonest to its rotten core.

I wish the News-Journal would have explored that important aspect of this equation – something everyone recognizes, but no one wants to talk about.

In my view, it is patently wrong for our elected officials to make asinine excuses and insult the intelligence of their constituents.  Clearly, they desperately want the proposed half-cent sales tax increase, because Volusia County government needs ever increasing sources of revenue like a parasitic insect needs the blood of its host.

To say that impact fees should not be part of a comprehensive discussion of how we respond to the inevitable environmental and infrastructure pressures brought by massive growth and development is not just shortsighted – it is a well-choreographed sham to transfer the cost to the citizens of Volusia County, while protecting the self-interests of those uber-wealthy few who stand to benefit.

Despite the snobbish claims of our elected and appointed officials that We, The People are too stupid to understand the process, in my view, this dismal refusal by the county council to use all available existing sources to build and maintain infrastructure is a game changer.

Let’s send a strong message to these political whores who befoul their high office with this continuing swindle that we’re not as dumb as they think we are.

How, you ask?

Just say NO to their money-grubbing half-cent sales tax increase.  That’s how.

Asshole:          Brown & Brown

Look, my take on this may sound petty – but I’m going to say it anyway – because I’m nothing if not a trifling asshole with a sideways opinion: 

Now that you and I are strategic investors in the Daytona Beach-based international insurance intermediary, Brown & Brown – I feel a fiduciary responsibility to you, my fellow unofficial board members, to keep a close eye on our new business partner – and ensure that J. Hyatt keeps his lofty promises.

You know – trust but verify.

As you may recall, residents of Daytona Beach and Volusia County recently went in our collective pocket for a $15.5 million incentive package (to “assist” a company which reported $1.88 billion in revenue last year) for construction of a new 10-story corporate headquarters complex on Beach Street.

One of the high promises made to us by Chairman J. Hyatt Brown was that, in exchange for tax dollars and other breaks, Brown & Brown would create at least 600 “new” jobs paying an average of $41,300 – a handsome improvement over our current abysmal local wage.

While you and I may have thought the promised “new” jobs would originate where the incentive money did – you know, here in Volusia County – we later learned that the required positions need only be “new to Florida.”


I guess I should have listened closer when J. Hyatt did his best Bachman-Turner Overdrive impression, screaming “B-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” to the thunderous applause of his fawning sycophants last September.

I guess the devil truly is in the details.

With 16% of Volusia County residents living at or below the poverty line, I think everyone viewed J. Hyatt’s job creation promise as a real silver lining – an alternative to the scullery work and tragic “affordable housing” cycle that has kept thousands of our neighbors living hand-to-mouth.

Last week, at the annual soiree of that oxymoron known as the “Volusia County Association for Responsible Development (?),” (which, I think, exists to throw cocktail parties that place “consultants” elbow-to-elbow with elected and appointed decision makers) J. Hyatt told a roomful of our local ‘movers & shakers’ that he plans to meet his promise of 600 new jobs well before the 2022 deadline.


However, locals shouldn’t break out the resume just yet.

Apparently – rather than organically creating 600 “new” local jobs – Brown & Brown will simply uproot two existing “profit centers,” one currently located in Detroit, the other in Boston, and transfer these 700 employees to the “new” Daytona Beach campus when its completed in 2020.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “He (Brown) declined to specify what kind of jobs the company was creating locally, but said they aren’t entry-level positions. “They’re highly complex jobs dealing with specialty lines of insurance,” he said.

 “Brown said the new trainees the company has added recently in Daytona Beach are part of the 700 jobs that are expected to be created by the relocation of the two profit centers.”

 So, why the rush to move current B&B employees to the Fun Coast?

I mean, why not take the opportunity to establish new jobs for existing area residents – you know, in keeping with the spirit of the subsidies that will be paid by existing area residents?

Well, as I understand it, if Brown & Brown meets the job/wage requirements, it stands to receive $4.5 million in performance-based “incentives” – $900,000 of that coming directly from our hard-earned local tax dollars.

Oh, and the company will also be eligible for additional giveaways to off-set construction overhead and infrastructure totaling $4.5 million from Volusia County residents – and $4.5 million from the City of Daytona Beach taxpayers.

According to our addle-brained County Chairman Ed Kelley, “Fantastic is the only word that comes to my mind.  It’s going to make us a destination for employment,” beyond service jobs, he said.”

(Really?  Because ‘bait-and-switch’ is the first thing that came to my mind. . .)

“A destination for employment?”

Where?  When?

What in God’s name is he yammering about?

I’m guessing Old Ed dozed-off, face-first, in his balsamic-drenched arugula at the VCARD gala and missed the part about “relocating” existing jobs, rather than creating “new” ones for Volusia County residents.

Because I sure as hell missed it.

Sorry Detroit.  Sorry Boston.  Your loss is our gain.

So, let’s welcome our new high-income neighbors!

You’re going to love your new digs!

My suggestion:  Buy a loft downtown, close to work, because once Margaritaville, Mosaic, Woodhaven, etc., etc. are built out, the resulting traffic congestion is going to make Boston area gridlock look like some idyllic country road. . .

And for us yokels left to underwrite the whole shebang – well, try not to be too sore over the fact we were kind of led to believe one thing – but ended up with something completely different.

Welcome to “Corporate America,” kids – The Art of the Deal.

Angel:             Chief Craig Capri & the Daytona Beach Police Department

Kudos to Chief Spike Capri who stood his ground and supported the bold actions of his officers in seizing 23 at-risk dogs – including a four-month old puppy, and seven newborns – from a Reva Street home last year.

During an unrelated investigation into a stolen car found on the property, officers discovered the animals being held in deplorable conditions, confined in small cages with contaminated water and floors covered in waste.

Several of the malnourished dogs were suffering from open, untreated puncture wounds.

Investigators also found physical evidence of dog fighting and forced breeding, to include what one veterinarian described as a “rape stand.”

Earlier this month, Judge Angela Dempsey ordered these vulnerable animals be returned to the abusive son-of-a-bitch who made their lives a living hell – ruling that officers violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights and should have obtained a warrant to search the property.

Look, I understand the exclusionary rule – God knows I’ve lost my share of evidentiary hearings – but what about the inevitable discovery exception?  I’ve been out of the business a few years, but weren’t the officers conducting a lawful investigation when the 23 dogs were observed?

I’m not second-guessing Judge Dempsey – I’m asking.

Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chief Capri was quick to point out that, under the circumstances, he would do the same thing again “in a heartbeat.”

I admire that.

In my view, Chief Capri and his officers acted in the highest traditions of the police service when they saved these tortured animals from an abusive, filthy and life-threatening situation.

When officers discovered animals in immediate danger, they conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion – and acted decisively to intervene and alleviate their acute suffering.

I find it unfortunate that, under the circumstances, there was no other legal alternative available to Judge Dempsey.

Considering there is an active investigation on-going, was there no room for continued judicial oversight – or some other means that would allow Judge Dempsey to monitor these helpless animals and protect them from continued abuse?

I mean, under current city ordinances, can a person possibly be permitted to keep 23 dogs in a single-family home?

Again, I’m asking.

In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department continues to impress – and I want to recognize the outstanding kindness and compassion of Officer Kera Cantrell, who went above and beyond the call of duty in adopting and providing a safe and loving home to “River” the weeks-old puppy who was heartlessly abandoned to the elements and certain death under the Seabreeze Bridge one cold day last month.

Kera’s a great lady – and an exceptional law enforcement officer.

We’re fortunate to have incredibly compassionate people like Officer Cantrell, under the extraordinary leadership of Chief Capri, in service to the citizens of Daytona Beach.

Thank you for your commitment, both to our community – and to those helpless creatures who cannot speak for themselves.

Angel:             First Step Shelter Board

Members of the First Step Shelter Board are publicly asking what the rest of us have been thinking for months: “What the hell’s taking so long?”

I mean, it’s a homeless shelter – not a Summit Hospitality hotel renovation, for Christ sake.

On Tuesday evening, the First Step Shelter Board met to discuss their frustrations and examine what can be done – if anything – to put some fire under the various professionals and bureaucrats whose expertise and sign-off will ultimately be necessary to break ground.

Two months ago, everyone who is anyone in Volusia County gathered in front of a staged bulldozer while golden shovels turned ceremonial dirt.  Once the flowery speeches, gushing accolades and political backslapping at the barren site were over – nothing.


Now, members of the First Step Shelter Board – that diverse group of dedicated citizens and public servants who took perhaps the most intractable local problem of our age by the reins and spearheaded a viable effort to build a permanent shelter to provide temporary housing for area homeless – have legitimate concerns about the shelter’s design and construction schedule.

As I’ve said before, the timeline proposed by the architectural firm hired by the City of Daytona Beach is outlandishly drawn-out.  Under the current protracted calendar, the shelter’s doors won’t open until sometime in late 2019 – that’s two-years beyond what many involved in the process predicted.

And that’s unacceptable.

Board members are rightly concerned that, as more time passes, would-be benefactors and corporate donors will simply lose interest – or rightfully question the project’s management and oversight.

Other well-informed citizens doubt the shelter will happen at all.

One thing that truly concerned me was an uninformed comment by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who also serves as president of the First Step Shelter Board.  According to Mayor Henry’s take on the foot-dragging, “Short of city commissioners putting pressure on staff, there’s not much more we can do.”     

First, that’s not the way it works.

Second, that’s City Manager Jim Chisholm’s job – and Mayor Henry should know that.

If the City of Daytona Beach plans to continue supervising construction of the First Step Shelter, perhaps it’s time that Mr. Chisholm turn his legendary temper and logistical skills toward those in his charge who are hamstringing this important progress – and that includes contractors who are pretending a simple homeless shelter requires the architectural and engineering design of the Shanghai Tower.

Angel:             Paul Zimmerman & Sons of the Beach

No one has done more to educate us on the on-going shitstorm that is the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock debacle than the intrepid Paul Zimmerman, president of Florida’s premiere beach access and advocacy group, Sons of the Beach.

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest that everyone examine Paul’s recent photographic expose (available on Facebook at FREE Daytona Beach) depicting the horrific conditions at our new “4-Star” Hard Rock resort hotel – the never-ending fiasco which is still actively under construction on the bones of the haunted Desert Inn on Atlantic Avenue.

As you must know, last April our elected corporate shills on the Volusia County Council orchestrated amended legislation which gave the developer of this languishing “resort” – Summit Hospitality Group – a firm date of February 28th to finish things up, or lose the generous giveaway removing beach driving from the strand behind the hotel.

As a former licensed contractor, Paul knows exactly what he’s talking about.

Look, I don’t have a clue which end of a hammer you blow in – but I can look at a picture of spalling concrete, rusted and fractured support posts, the effects of flooding and saltwater intrusion, the copious use of floor-jacks to prevent catastrophic collapse and the slapdash use of grout and plaster to cover obvious problems – and come to the opinion that, in a rush to finish, patched-over eyewash has replaced the complex structural repair and replacement one expects of a quality renovation.

My hope is that an independent regulatory agency will inspect this project – preferably before its ramrodded to completion using bubblegum and bailing wire – and take decisive steps to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

At the very least, Hard Rock International has got to be wondering exactly what they stepped in here on the sandy shores of the Fun Coast. . .

In my view, if they put the corporate brand on this very visible disaster at this stage of completion, Hard Rock stands to lose far more credibility in the global market than Summit Hospitality ever will.

Angel:             Bethune-Cookman University Athletics

The Barker’s View sports department sends hearty congratulations to B-CU Women’s Basketball on being ranked 25th in the nation on the College Insider.com Mid-Major Top 25!

Bethune-Cookman – 19-4 overall, and undefeated in Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference play – received their first-ever Division 1 national ranking after their big win over North Carolina Central Monday night.

The Lady Wildcats are now one victory away from their first 20-win regular season in over three decades.

In addition, the school announced on Tuesday that guard Angel Golden was named the MEAC Conference Player of the Week, while forward Lyndsey Edwards received special recognition as Co-Defensive Player.

Well done, ladies.

Did I mention that all these accomplishments came as B-CU’s incomparable head coach, Vanessa Blair-Lewis, is nearly 9-months pregnant?

Congratulations Coach Blair-Lewis – on all fronts.

Incidentally, her husband, Eric, is a 14-season veteran of the NBA, who officiated the Cleveland/Boston match up which was nationally televised on ABC Sports last Sunday.

There is a lot of good things going on at B-CU Sports, and we’ll have more on their continuing success later.

Suffice it to say, both the school – and our community – are very proud of these young athletes!

Quote of the Week:

“It’s nice to have the information. I think that’s good enough for me. I think letting a sleeping dog lie in this case might be the best situation.” 

–District 5 Volusia County Council member, The Very Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry, shillyshallying his weary constituents as to why the burden of funding transportation infrastructure improvements in the face of massive, unchecked growth should be placed squarely on the taxpayer – rather than the wealthy developers who stand to benefit most.

What’cha gonna do, I guess. . .

Have a great weekend, kids.

On Volusia: The Burden is Ours. Alone.

I’ve seen some poorly choreographed political theater in my day – but the recent farcical skit produced by our elected officials on the Volusia County Council is another brazen assault on our collective intelligence.

This time, their tired Kabuki involved “revisiting” impact fees.

Last week, the now up-for-reelection Councilwoman Deb Denys took center stage and delivered her lines like an aging doyenne, desperately trying to redeem her dismal history of gross disservice to her fed-up constituents.

According to Deb’s well-rehearsed script – she crowed that it might be a good idea for the council to review our stale impact fees in the face of mega-developments growing like tumors along the spine of east Volusia – projects that everyone agrees will ultimately cripple our wholly inadequate transportation infrastructure.

In doing so, her fellow actors in this Theater of the Absurd knew that allowing her the spotlight might give ol’ Deb some much-needed credibility among that segment of her constituency that still haven’t pegged her for the bald face liar she is.

Don’t take my word for it – watch the video circulating on social media taken during her last campaign when Deb passionately promised us she would never vote to remove beach driving from the strand behind the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project.

During the discussion, in a wholly orchestrated moment, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, whined like a demented grandmother that forcing developers to help alleviate the burden these gargantuan projects have on existing infrastructure might drive up the cost of homes – or prove a “hindrance” to the creation of more commercial warehouse jobs.

Yep.  Old Ed is all about “fairness” when the business interests of his buddies are at stake.

In actively poo-pooing the idea of raising impact fees, the Right Reverend Fred Lowrey suggested (with a straight face) that, “Letting a sleeping dog lie in this case might be the best situation.”

Trust me.  That narcoleptic cur known as legitimate impact fees for infrastructure improvements was euthanized 15-years ago.

But, exactly which situation are you talking about, Fast Freddie?

The one where you and your cronies approved massive residential and commercial development from Farmton to the Flagler County line without the first consideration of its detrimental, and irreversible, effects on our sensitive environment and infrastructure?

Or, is it the one in which your uber-wealthy pals at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance are figuring how to best shove a half-cent sales tax down the collective throats of your constituents to pay for the very same environmental and transportation impacts that should rightfully be borne by those who benefit most?

Speaking of sleeping dogs, our own elected Rip Van Winkle – “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – naturally agrees with his goofy colleagues.

It seems whenever the prospect of holding his campaign contributors financially accountable, Pat magically grows a social conscience and openly frets about how reasonable impact fees might price new homes out of the reach of “families.”

(If you believe Pat Patterson gives a Tinker’s damn about your family, see a doctor – now.) 

Sleepy Pat even went so far as to suggest that anyone who bases their support for the sales tax increase on how our elected officials address impact fees are comparing apples and oranges.

According to Pat, even equating the two is “getting way out of line.” 

My God.  These sycophantic slugs are all the same.

Then, yet another highly compensated junior county attorney took the stage and suggested that the formula for calculating impact fees is simply too complicated for us hapless dupes to possibly understand.


Folks, in its current form, the Volusia County Council will never – under any circumstances – ask their handlers to pay their fair share for anything.

That’s not the way it works in the Dinneen administration.

Those whom the Daytona Beach News-Journal has described as our “Rich and Powerful” do not lavish hundreds of thousands of green dollars into the campaign accounts of the anointed ones so they can be bothered with pesky impact fees.

In their world, loyalty goes one way – to the highest bidder.

Especially when these shadowy players are comfortable that they can coerce every man, woman and child in Volusia County to cover the ever-increasing burden with a shameless, money grabbing sales tax hike.

Let’s face it – these incumbent whores are bought-and-paid-for – and one need only review the current campaign finance reports of certain 2018 County Council candidates to see who is compromised – and who is not.

It’s now crystal clear – the burden is ours.  Alone.

On Volusia: Fair or Unfair?

Publishing a local newspaper in the digital age must take a Herculean effort.

I’m certainly no expert – or even an amateur journalist – just a casual observer of the local scene who sees the global pressures on traditional print media in an evolving market.

Sweeping changes in technology, the speed with which what passes for “news” is gathered and regurgitated, and the morphing social contract between those who report and those who consume, are forcing an industry-wide transformation.

Now, imagine the myriad issues inherent to publishing a daily paper in an environment wholly controlled by a select few oligarchs – an institutionalized hierarchy that controls every aspect of our lives and livelihoods through a morally corrupt campaign finance system that has co-opted our local system of governance here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Consider the ethical and journalistic pressures of reporting the news in a place where the ‘powers-that-be’ demand that local mass media serve only to legitimize the system by touting massive giveaways to insanely wealthy corporations and billionaire families – always cloaked in the promise that using our money to ensure their continued prosperity will result in more scullery jobs – or the benefits of effectively privatizing public amenities and taking away our local culture and traditions in the name of “economic development.”

These stressors were never more evident than in Editor Pat Rice’s column in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal.

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Pat’s work.  He’s a smart guy – incredibly bright and intuitive – and I truly believe he has our collective best interests at heart.

However, Pat works in a very confined space, one where the delicate balance of independently reporting and opining on the news while protecting the self-interests of those who control literally everything – including scarce advertising dollars – is razor thin.

In his piece, “Proposed sales tax no slam dunk,” Mr. Rice discussed several potential obstacles local leaders face in their desperate attempt to shove a half-cent sales tax increase down the throats of an already tax strapped constituency.

Unfortunately, in my view, Pat deftly tap-danced around the one issue that may ultimately condemn this shameless money grab – and those doing the heavy lifting for the millionaire’s who stand to benefit most – to the political ash heap of tax scams past:  Public Trust.

They simply do not have the confidence of the people they represent – and for good reason.

According to Mr. Rice, I don’t entirely agree with radio personality and former County Council member Big John’s statement in January that “the trust in Volusia County government administration is at an all-time low.” But the county administration does have an optics problem.”

Optics problem?

That’s like saying the Titanic had a slight moisture issue in the lower decks.

“It may be because Dinneen has been viewed— fairly or unfairly— as responsible for curtailing beach driving. It may be because some perceive the county — again, fairly or unfairly — as too often siding with developers.  Like last week, when a discussion about impact fees on new homes seemed scripted to ensure no increase.”

 Or, it may be because, as others in positions to know have pointed out, our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County government are duplicitous sacks of shit who continue to perpetuate a massive fraud against their constituents – one which requires a constant infusion of new funding sources to feed the private interests of political insiders – and keep this grotesque “tax and giveaway” wheel turning.

If you still believe that our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and those dullards we elected to represent our interests on the dais of power in DeLand, have any semblance of credibility – I encourage you to examine the unfolding shit-storm that is the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock debacle.

Last year, in an off the printed agenda surprise attack, County Manager Jim Dinneen personally orchestrated revised legislation that gave developers of the languishing, perpetually behind schedule, hotel project an extension on a previous ordinance that set specific performance standards – including a date certain for opening – or the ultimate incentive of removing beach driving from the strand behind the hotel would be null and void.

The deadline set by our elected officials was clear and succinct – “This ordinance shall stand repealed in the entirety if the conditions … have not been met in full by Feb. 28, 2018.”

 Well, it has become self-evident that construction on the building, and its highly touted “Rock Star” amenities, can’t possibly be completed, tested and inspected – at least to the quality standards one expects of a “Four Diamond” resort – in just 17-days.

So, the doctrine of fairness and transparency in government would naturally dictate that the incredibly controversial issue of beach driving be taken off the table per the letter and spirit of the ordinance – a move that Hard Rock International should rightfully understand and embrace.

Instead of standing by his word, Chairman Kelley and our county attorney’s office have the abject temerity to pull a slimy bait-and-switch scam on those they represent – pissing backwards and quibbling facts – working hard to convince us rubes that legally agreed upon performance standards and hard completion dates mean nothing – so long as the ultimate goal of removing our heritage of beach driving prevails.

Once and for all, these shameless hucksters have exposed themselves as the disingenuous prostitutes they are – bought-and-paid-for whores who have no qualms lying openly to their constituents whenever it serves the bottom line of their greedy masters.

“Fairly or unfairly,” the barefaced political chattel on the Volusia County Council – and their well-paid facilitator who runs interference for the whole sham – represent the most perverse and malignant form of political cowardice and quid pro quo sleaze ever foisted on an unsuspecting public.

And that, Mr. Rice, is why nothing this rabble says will ever be trusted again – and that includes the emergent need for even more sources of revenue to slake the insatiable appetite of this bloated pig of a county government and the select few it exists to benefit.