As I wrote earlier this week, the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s two-part Pockmarked Paradise series was an exceptional look at perhaps the most intractable issue of our generation: The complete economic and social stagnation of our once vibrant beachside.
But did it go far enough?
Our local newspaper of record has many internal and external challenges – but there is no denying that the crew over on Sixth Street excels at in-depth investigative reporting.
Anchored by the remarkable journalistic talents of Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, the News-Journal’s Tarnished Jewel series was benchmark reporting and served to expose the waste and perpetual ineffectiveness inherent in redevelopment efforts on our beleaguered beachside.
That outstanding exposé was the impetus for several SRO town hall meetings and other public awareness efforts which ultimately resulted in the Beachside Redevelopment Committee.
The piece moved us. It angered us. And it stirred many to grassroots action and political involvement.
Unfortunately, what it didn’t do is jettison those bureaucratic lumps with direct responsibility for fostering and managing desperately needed revitalization efforts – people who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – yet continue to fail miserably in this important role.
We keep the same senior redevelopment staff, perennial politicians and administrative hacks and blowholes – all while expecting a different result.
Now, Ms. Zaffiro-Kean has hit it out of the park with the hard-hitting series, Pockmarked Paradise – a grim look at the economic and social impact of hundreds of vacant and dilapidated properties along the spine of our core tourist areas from Ormond Beach to the Shores.
These deep dives into the continuous cycle of blight on the beachside have left many of us wondering how the same people can remain at the controls of a rudderless redevelopment apparatus – a process designed exclusively to funnel huge sums of public funds to political insiders – while our main draw in a tourist economy continues to openly rot.
After reading the first installment, I took a swipe at our ‘movers & shakers’ who contributed their comments and opinions on “what to do” about the situation we find ourselves in.
My frustration results from the fact that many of these individuals have been in positions of public and private power for years – literally sitting in ivory towers looking down as this steaming squalor permeated once vibrant neighborhoods – and looked away as over $100-million in redevelopment funds was squandered or evaporated.
In reading Pockmarked Paradise, we saw terms like, “First and foremost,” “We need to,” “Got to be a solution,” “We’re trying to make it a family-oriented place,” “You’ve got to get it going,” “I think that things are turning around,” “Some people are scared to come,” etc. – phrases that were followed by general suggestions and observations with no cohesive plan for progress.
Add to that the complete disconnect between area politicians – each with near identical problems, but obviously no collaborative effort to address these common issues – and you begin to see the core issue more clearly.
In short, I thought it was a great two-part series, and I sincerely hope it serves as an ignition point for positive change.
However, in my view, Pockmarked Paradise still missed the mark on what I believe is the ultimate contributing factor for the obstructionism and lack of vision on our afflicted beachside.
A recent editorial in the News-Journal, “Stop spinning wheels on A-1-A,” served as Cliffs Notes on the Pockmarked Paradise series for our powers-that-be who still cannot read critically, form an independent opinion, or think for themselves:
What’s needed now is “Leadership.”
In my view, there can be no strong political leadership in our oligarchical system, where a few uber-wealthy insiders consolidate incredible power through massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates for public office, then use that influence as leverage to control everything from redevelopment to infrastructure projects to the local marketplace – even the elimination of our heritage of beach driving.
I believe this represents the crux of the issue that no one – especially not the Daytona Beach News-Journal – wants to talk about.
So long as our government processes are openly manipulated by a handful of powerful political insiders – whose common trait is a voracious appetite for public funds to fuel private projects – nothing, and I mean nothing, will substantively change on the Fun Coast.
One thought on “On Volusia: Neutered Leadership – The Crisis on the Beachside”
“Neutered Leadership” is spot-on – as usual. Unfortunately, it’s like politics everywhere, the rich & powerful get to elect who they want, the elected officials do what the rich & powerful want & the citizens suffer. Sounds like Washington DC & Everytown, USA. I first moved down here in 1991 to Ormond Beach & I totally hate what has happened to the area – it just gets worse and worse with every year that passes. It’s so sad. I used to be proud to say I lived in OB, now I’m prouder to say I grew up in NYC or I used to live in Ridgefield, CT! That’s saying something! I have Rheumatoid Arthritis – diagnosed in my 20’s I’ve been suffering for 30 years & that’s why I’m still in Flori-duh. I can’t get over our mayor & cc – I haven’t been to DB for a meeting – I did go to Holly Hill for a hearing on my daughter’s neighbor to help out with a problem and that’s the only other time I’ve been at another City’s hearing on anything & they operate pretty much the same way. More people need to get involved with their local government. WE NEED TO GO TO THE POLLS IN NOVEMBER AND VOTE THE IDIOTS OUT! You, my dear sir, have a large following & while perhaps a few may be from other countries (chuckle) I’m sure most are in Volusia County & they need to get out and vote! I know I vote every time there’s something on my ballot, but many people only go when the governor’s or president’s term is up – we need to get to the polls more often than that – can you do something on that? I know you have mentioned in one of your articles that we need to vote the piles of crap we have in our offices out, but we need to do something ASAP. CANDO2 is having a meeting at the Ormond Library Thursday March 8th @ 5:30 pm – just a short meeting as we have to get out of the library early – Jeff Boyle &/or Julie Sipes knows more than I do – this is specifically for Ormond; however, I think much of the info will apply to all of us on the Fun Coast and anyone can obtain info to use where they live.