If you haven’t perused Eileen Zaffiro-Kean’s outstanding exposé in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Pockmarked Paradise” – then put down the pudding pop, go somewhere quiet, and read it. Now.
(Find it here: http://gatehousenews.com/a1a/home/site/news-journalonline.com )
In my view, this high-level investigative reporting is what the New-Journal does best.
I only wish they would do more of it.
Frankly, we’ve all had our fill of the incessant marketing of the still incomplete Desert Inn/Hard Rock Hotel – or glittery hype surrounding those zero-lot-line cookie cutters out at Margaritaville that we finally got a disappointing look at last week.
Like peeling the layers from a rotten onion, journalistic inquiries like Pockmarked Paradise and Tarnished Jewel, ask important questions that beget another, and eventually the pieces of a very difficult jigsaw puzzle begin to fall into place, allowing us a clear picture of the intractable issues facing the Halifax area and beyond.
And, in my weird view, these articles are beginning to point the finger at the usual suspects.
Look, I’m not some weird clairvoyant – some mystical soothsayer with the power to anticipate the future on this sandy spit of land we call home.
My vision is no better or worse than yours, and I certainly don’t have the answers to the enigma that is the decaying remnants of our beachside.
Like many of you, I’ve lived in the Halifax area all my life, and I’ve experienced first-hand the “good times” that made the Daytona Beach Resort Area a premiere tourist destination – and the slow death spiral that has brought us to this dismal place the Chamber of Commerce set would rather we not talk about in polite company.
In their informative depiction, the News-Journal accurately described our daily sights and sounds, “Empty buildings bleed out rust and rotting wood. Vacant storefront windows are haphazardly covered with crumpled brown paper, plywood and faded bed sheets with tacky prints.”
In addition, the online version of the article includes an interactive map showing a phalanx of red dots stretching from Ormond Beach to the Shores, each denoting a vacant or dilapidated property. These spots give the appearance of malignant tumors spreading along the spine of the beachside.
In fact, that’s what they are.
According to the News-Journal, there are some 213 blighted or empty commercial and residential properties on the beachside – the majority along A-1-A – the state road which borders the Atlantic Ocean and comprises our core tourist area.
Not surprisingly, that number has increased over a similarly grim inventory taken by News-Journal staff six-years ago.
Why wouldn’t things have gotten worse?
I mean, have our powers-that-be done anything substantive to slow the progress of the underlying disease – or do they repeatedly revert to the same disastrous strategy of hoping-against-hope that the developer du jour (with enough economic incentives) will build a panacea hotel – a great cure all that will salve the crushing economic and social problems that have dogged the Halifax area for decades?
When smart people ask me why the Daytona Beach area seems physically incapable of progress on what should be the most desirable stretch of real estate in Florida, I do my best Yogi Berra impression and respond:
“Things never change here, because they always stay the same.”
I’m not being sarcastic – it’s the truth.
One thing I readily noticed in Pockmarked Paradise is that the same people, with the same consistent lack of vision, ideas, or workable solutions, still occupy the same “leadership” positions in our community.
The same questionable characters, still lining their pockets and spewing bullshit, pontificating on things they don’t have a clue about. (Don’t believe me? Take a gander at a transcript of any Volusia County Council Meeting. . .)
Because if they had a shred of collective vision, we wouldn’t be in this abominable quagmire.
These same real estate “experts” and perennial politicians provide the same tired answers when asked pointed questions about what we’re going to do about this economic free fall that has turned much of our beachside into a fetid hole of abject squalor and dilapidation.
The first installment of the series gave us a few tepid responses and opinions from everyone who is anyone, except Reed Berger – the City of Daytona Beach’s economic development director – the one person who is paid to give a shit but doesn’t – who couldn’t be bothered to respond to the News-Journal’s request for an interview.
(When, oh lord, is City Manager Jim Chisholm going to recognize this ineffectual non-starter for what he is and fire his ass before more time and money passes over the transom?)
I find it interesting (and infinitely depressing) that during the recent “awards season” – that time of the year when the same “Rich & Powerful” political insiders whose ravenous greed is, in my view, ultimately responsible for our regional stagnation – throw lavish galas and give each other accolades commemorating their ability to take credit for the work of others – or, in some cases, just because it’s their turn for undeserved recognition.
For instance, last week the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce gave local insurance executive J. Hyatt Brown the “highly coveted” (?) “Enterprise Award” – I assume for his ability to strong-arm $15.5-million in public funds from his hand-selected and generously financed chattel on the dais of power.
And don’t get me started on our ‘movers and shakers’ outrageous self-congratulations for the “tremendous progress” they’ve made in efforts to “revitalize” the East ISB “gateway” – which is still the same blighted shithole it was last year. And the year before that.
(I’ll bet you a doughnut it is in the same deplorable condition next year, when the annual round of awards are handed out to all the right last names. . .)
I encourage everyone to carefully study this important series in the Daytona Beach News-Journal and develop your own conclusions.
After all, as a resident of Volusia County, your views and opinions are just as valid as the pseudo-experts, especially when it comes to the who, what, when, where and why of the crippling economic paralysis and sense of hopelessness that – despite the glowing rah-rah speeches and cheery outlook of self-serving real estate marketing types – continues to threaten our quality of life here on the “Fun Coast.”