You know the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”? Here’s a little diddy from two-years ago. Interesting. . .
Looks like the Hard Rock Hotel – you know, the project that was billed as a panacea for every problem facing Volusia County from beachside blight to head lice – has been “put on hold” for the foreseeable future.
Seems those pesky Sons of the Beach and Let Volusia Vote radicals may have all but spoiled it with their lawsuits and roadblocks to happiness and prosperity.
You remember the Hard Rock, right? The magic potion guaranteed to revitalize Daytona Beach and save us from ourselves?
Just last year our friends at Toronto-based Bayshore Capital, Inc. promised that if we just gave up our heritage of beach driving, in turn we would receive 375,000 square feet of tempered steel and sex appeal; a sweet, sweet release from all our burdens in the form of a monolithic miracle of jobs, oiled-up pretty people in private cabanas, and luxury condos for the rest of us.
Bayshore’s hired mouthpiece, Glen Storch, warned us (like Oliver Douglas preaching to the residents of Hooterville) that if we balked at giving the Hard Rock what amounts to a private beach then our cure-all would be snatched away and we would be left to rot like poisoned rats in this hellish cesspool of economic affliction and violent street crime we pathetically call “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”
Our benevolent dictators – the uber-rich puppet masters who actually run what passes for “government” in Volusia County – immediately directed their hired hands on the County Council to give Bayshore what they wanted.
“Damn the needs and wants of those dupes and fools that put you in office – we know what’s best for them, and by God we own you. You knew the deal when you sold your soul to J. Hyatt, Mori and ISC, and you WILL use the legislative process to our advantage. . .”
How must our ill-fated Chairman Jason Davis – the “Common Joe” with “everyday common sense” who ran on a populist platform to reform the very culture of County government – have felt when he realized that he had been bought and sold?
How must it have felt the exact minute Davis became everything he hated?
And how did you feel?
What was your reaction the moment you realized that your elected officials were no more than hapless dupes willing to sell your rights, heritage and lifestyle to yet another speculative developer?
Remember how you felt when Councilman Josh Wagner folded in a steaming pile of cowardice and corruption – changing his allegiance and voting for the very ordinances that would give Bayshore and others a traffic-free beach – in a cheap bait-and-switch gut-punch to his blindsided constituents?
Or when Judge Sandra Upchurch let us all know that in Volusia County the citizens right to petition their government to preserve a century-old historic use of our beach is “facially unconstitutional in its entirety.”
In many ways, the shock and anger of it brought out the very best in us – and fundamentally changed the way we view the political process.
Thousands of us went out and signed petitions started by a courageous few who realized that without a grassroots effort to fundamentally challenge the open thuggery of County government we were all doomed.
Many of us aligned with Sons of the Beach, Let Volusia Vote and other coalitions of concerned and civic-minded allies working tirelessly to let our elected officials and the wealthy power brokers know that there is some shit we plebeian’s won’t eat.
We supported the fine and courageous work of attorneys David Vukelja and Dennis Bayer as they continue to fight like rabid badgers for the fundamental right of citizens to petition their government for the redress of grievances.
And perhaps more importantly, we have learned the hard lesson that the very institutions we once trusted, the people we elected and appointed to serve our interests, have been corrupted and co-opted by greedy little bastards who have no qualm about using public resources, tax dollars and the judicial system as weapons against their own constituents.
As I write this a three-judge panel at the Fifth District Court of Appeal is hearing an appeal filed by Let Volusia Vote challenging Judge Upchurch’s finding. If LVV prevails, people might still enjoy the fundamental right to have decisions on matters related to our beach ratified by the electorate: You know – you and me – that whole, government of the people, by the people and for the people thing that at one time was so popular in this country?
Here’s hoping that the Fifth District Court of Appeal does the right thing – for the right reasons – and reaffirms the fundamental right of citizens to effectively control political might and power when it is wielded counter to the will and needs of the people.
If not, I’m afraid we are doomed to have the fate of our beach, our heritage, and our lifestyle decided for us by cheap thieves and money-mad political grifters using a broken system to their own self-advantage.