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.
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.
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. . .”