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: City of Deltona
Last April, Deltona City Commissioner Brian Soukup abruptly resigned his post citing, among other issues, the “continued unprofessional actions of City Manager Jane Shang.” His specific allegations included frequent misrepresentations and the manipulation of information critical to the decision-making process.
In February, Chris O’Donnell, the city’s events manager, bolted out the door just ahead of a complete mental breakdown. He also named tensions with Shang, and the wholly dysfunctional atmosphere she has created in City Hall, along with “hostile conditions” generated by elected officials seeking his termination.
Now, the exodus continues as Commissioner Christopher Alcantara has announced he plans to leave municipal service as well.
According to reports, Alcantara cited family issues, a new job – and some obscure biblical reference to building his house on rock (?) – for his decision to leave before the end of his first term in elective office.
Look, I’m not sure what any of that means, but I think the issues go far deeper than that.
Of course, Alcantara’s deliberations regarding his departure were met with the usual divisive jibs and jabs from Mayor John Masiarczyk, a petulant crank who has shown the leadership skills of a dry turd while his painfully inept City Manager runs roughshod over citizens, employees and processes.
It can’t get much worse.
As a result, Mr. Masiarczyk now officially presides over the most disastrously ineffectual local government in Volusia County.
Earlier this week, Deltona resident and intrepid civic activist, Dana McCool – after weeks of attempting to beg help from Deltona Water, her elected officials and city management to resolve a simple billing dispute that left her with a nearly $500.00 water bill – took the unusual step of paying the city in pennies.
She toted them right through the front door in a wagon.
I admire that. It takes chutzpah to fight City Hall.
Ms. McCool’s peaceful – yet highly effective – protest caught the attention of media outlets, leaving the City of Deltona with yet another embarrassing blackeye.
For months, Deltona residents have consistently asked pointed questions of their elected representatives, seeking answers on everything from the city’s often murky financial practices to the repetitive instances of gross mismanagement by Jane Shang – only to be met with silence, or ridiculous measures designed to quash dissent and limit public involvement.
As an example of how far afield things have gotten, in 2016, the city even proposed an ill-fated “civility ordinance” – an asinine suppressive measure designed to stifle free speech and neuter certain elected officials who were critical of staff – not seen since Mao Zedong’s Double Ten Directive.
My God. When does this utter dysfunction end?
In my view, it is past time for Jane Shang to resign and peddle her unique brand of disruptive incompetence, and almost pathological internal secrecy, somewhere that enjoys perpetual drama, dysphoria and administrative turmoil.
It is patently obvious that the conflict-ridden Deltona City Commission – under the abysmal “leadership” of Mayor Masiarczyk – lacks the political courage to terminate Ms. Shang’s reign and return stability and transparency to a community that desperately needs both.
Given the gross political cowardice of their mayor and elected officials, perhaps it’s time concerned Deltona residents begin organizing a strong grassroots effort to fundamentally change the way they are governed.
That process begins by electing representatives with the courage, vision and perseverance to stand up for what is right – then remain in the trenches and fight for the best interests of their constituents – and the future of Deltona.
Best of luck in future endeavors, Mr. Alcantara. We hardly knew ye. . .
Angel: Flagler Sheriff Rick Staley
Look, it’s no secret – I’m a big fan of Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staley.
In an age where Florida’s elected sheriffs engage in a good-natured, if not slightly annoying, competition vying for the dubious title of “Toughest Lawman in the Land,” a contest where not even our own tough-talking Sheriff Mike Chitwood can’t hold a candle to Polk County’s inimitable Grady Judd – who looks like a bespectacled CPA with the swagger of John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn – Sheriff Staley stands above the fray as a committed law enforcement professional.
In my view, Rick Staley does a good job avoiding the grandstanding while using his unique high-profile position to bring awareness to the important work of his agency – and the problems that he is clearly committed to solving.
For instance, his recent visionary work to curb the epidemic of domestic violence in Flagler County was an outstanding example of community leadership in action.
Now, Sheriff Staley and his talented deputies and staff have launched an innovative new initiative to stop the revolving door of victimization – arrest – incarceration – repeat.
The project is called STRIDE – Skills, Transitional Support, Respect, Integrity, Direction and Employment – which provides life-skills training for non-violent inmates of the Flagler County Jail who are scheduled for release into the community.
As I understand it, STRIDE focuses on the most predominant issues which lead to recidivism – addiction, homelessness and unemployment.
What I like most about the program is how Sheriff Staley has enlisted existing community resources – such as the Volusia Literacy Council and the Volusia/Flagler Coalition for the Homeless – to bring their extraordinary talents and experience to bear on one of the most perplexing problems facing our justice system.
Kudos to Sheriff Rick Staley and his staff for this ground-breaking effort to help inmates help themselves.
Asshole: Ormond Beach City Commission
This week, I used a powerful line from the controversial poet, E. E. Cummings, work, “i sing of Olaf glad and big” – a poem about a principled man, a conscientious objector, who gives up his life and good name for his belief’s:
“There’s some shit we won’t eat.”
The vulgarity resonated with many readers still reeling from the City of Ormond Beach’s acquiescence to an even worse obscenity – the complete destruction of majestic old-growth trees and the natural environmental buffer near the intersection of Tomoka Avenue and Granada Boulevard in exchange for a WaWa.
You read that right – another “convenience” store.
Frankly, I think Cumming’s line should become a rallying cry for the long-suffering residents of Volusia County who are forced to stand by and bear silent witness as our elected officials approve the wholesale destruction of natural places from Farmton to the Flagler County line, making way for massive “theme” subdivisions, and accompanying strip centers, all built atop our fragile recharge areas and wetlands.
With feelings still raw, on Wednesday, Granada Pointe developer Mr. Paul Holub, Jr., added insult to injury by lecturing us in the News-Journal’s Community Voices column.
With impeccable timing, Holub’s screed was backed up by a syrupy letter to the editor from Charles Lichtigman, chairman and CEO of mega-developer Charles Wayne Properties, who played the role of the sagacious voice of reason.
As those caught on the wrong side of public opinion often do, Holub reminded us ungrateful rubes that he is doing us a favor – while Lichtigman pulled a pincer 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 give us “decorative pavers” in trade for century-old oaks, “decorative street lights” for wildlife habitat.
Apparently, Deputy Mayor 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.
But what happens when mercenary politicians use their legislative power to change reasonable planning and zoning regulations to accommodate the appetites of developers?
In my view, that is exactly what happened in the case of Granada Pointe, as there is no way to justify dropping a 24-hour gas station/convenience store/grocery/fast food drive thru on the periphery of a long-established residential area.
It simply defies reason.
In fact, it is inconceivable that ostensibly smart public officials could not have envisioned the clamor and din their constituents will be forced to endure to accommodate this perverted example of “progress.”
Look, I may be an uneducated dunce, but even I understand the gravitational physics of raising the earth under the commercial development some 4-feet above the current grade of surrounding residential properties.
I hope I’m wrong.
As previously said, I’ve seen sitting politicians literally sit up and beg like cur dogs when big-name developers and their high-price mouthpieces start weaving yarns about all the benefits of bringing intrusive developments to quiet neighborhoods, so excuse me if I don’t trust the judgement of unprincipled elected officials to look out for our “highest and best” interests.
Notwithstanding Mr. Holub’s self-serving assurance that we’ll all “get used to it” – in my view, this project is simply wrong for the location – an area predominantly comprised of quiet office space.
But what do I know?
I sound like a broken record, but I believe the only way to return sanity to this out-of-control system is to begin electing representatives who have a modicum of respect for our natural places – and the will of the people – when considering future development.
Asshole: County Manager Jim Dinneen
After accepting the premature “certification” from Hard Rock International – a document which clearly served to pencil-whip the very specific performance standards set by county ordinance so that the ultimate amenity of a pseudo-private beach would be granted for the strand behind the hotel – our craven County Manager, Jim Dinneen, warned that he alone would determine the time and date our customary tradition of beach driving would be shutdown. Forever.
I suppose – like everything else he does – Mr. Dinneen will launch his unilateral decree in a surprise ambush. Most likely, being the compromised coward that he is, Dinneen will order the closure be implemented under cover of darkness, using the element of surprise to remove any possibility for peaceful protest or citizen dissent.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but I suspect we will simply awake one morning and find ugly wooden poles driven into the sand – and yet more sign pollution officiously telling us the beach is closed to vehicular traffic.
What a damnable shame.
In Volusia County We, The People, are looked upon by our ruling class – and the uber-wealthy political insiders who own their very souls – as a caste of subservient piss ants who exist to fill the menial service jobs created by an economy which consists of the same five people passing the same nickel around (Read: The current roster of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance) and dutifully pay the exorbitant taxes that feed the machine.
Our needs, wants and traditions mean shit in an atmosphere where the likes of J. Hyatt Brown or Mori Hosseini can shape public policy by their mere physical presence in council chambers.
The debacle that is the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project exemplifies how willingly our elected and appointed officials in county government will prostrate themselves, abandoning any sense of ethics, morals or common decency, to please their “Rich & Powerful” masters.
My hope is that, in the end, those horrific pilings blocking the strand will serve as a grim monument – a perpetual reminder – that in the Kingdom of Jim Dinneen, abject greed is the only ethic – and the end will always justify the means.
I’m told by those in the know that the Hard Rock officially “opened” at 3:00pm yesterday.
Good times are here again. Again.
Quote of the Week:
“Beach-driving supporters howled at the Hard Rock’s future tense: the hotel “upon opening” “will” meet the standards. But did anyone really think corporate would allow its new Daytona Beach franchisee to fail inspection this close to completion?”
–The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Editorial “Hard Rock is official,” Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The answer is, yes.
The long-suffering residents of Volusia County had an absolute right to expect that Hard Rock International – and our elected and appointed officials who ramrodded this project to effectively privatize more of the strand and eliminate our century-old heritage of beach driving – would act with honor, transparency and a basic respect for our system of laws and ordinances.
I mean, don’t We, The People have an honest expectation that those we elect to represent our interests will keep their word?
I hope our elected officials realize that the Hard Rock debacle came with a political cost.
In my view, the despicable way this theft of beach access was perpetrated has exposed Little Jimmy and the Volusia County Council as grimy cheese-stealing rats who returned to the wheel once too often.
Citizens from all walks of life – many who support beach driving, and many who don’t – have come to the shocking realization that our elected and appointed officials, people who accept public funds to serve in the public interest, are brazen corporate shills who turned a blind eye when this visibly incomplete project was “certified” as having met the high metrics of the “4-star” resort we were promised.
In the aftermath, many lost respect for the Hard Rock brand when they blatantly compromised their reputation by issuing a quasi-certification and quibbling the specific performance standards contained in the ordinance like mealy-mouthed screwworms.
Then, our newspaper of record has the sand to try and convince us that the end justifies these morally reprehensible means, “The bottom line is that taking cars off a 400-foot stretch of sand is a worthwhile trade to get rid of the old Desert Inn.”
We accept that the fix was in from the start – just please don’t tell us that any part of this shitstorm of political treachery and deceit is a worthwhile trade for the public’s trust in their government.
Have a great weekend, kids.