On Volusia: The Price of Trust

Earlier today, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, posted a quote from Albert Einstein on his social media page:

“Stay away from negative people they have a problem for every solution” So True.”

Mr. Kelley, you’re no Einstein – trust me.

Two-years ago, when Barker’s View was in its infancy, I wrote one of my patently “negative” pieces entitled “The Cost of Incompetence,” a little ditty about Volusia County government’s complete lack of preventive maintenance on county-owned properties on both sides of the Palmetto Curtain – even when a parcel becomes a “blight generator” for surrounding areas.

“Under Mr. Dinneen’s management, we allow public infrastructure to literally crumble into the ground as a means of demonstrating the need for another county-owned Taj Mahal.  Then, in this weird Twilight Zone where nothing is as it seems, we allow the very public officials responsible for creating the problem to tell us how best to correct their own mismanagement.”

I’m not alone in that assessment.

Last week, the esteemed Daytona Beach News-Journal columnist Mark Lane wrote an excellent opinion piece highlighting the recent Pockmarked Paradise series, a comprehensive overview of glaring blight and vacancies on A-1-A.

In his insightful article, Mr. Lane observed, “. . .It’s just down the road from the dead shopping center that Volusia County says it will turn into off-beach parking. The county bought it three years ago and has been letting it sit around ever since.”

“You’d think the county would at least spring for a sign that said, “coming soon!” But no. It hasn’t even summoned the initiative to lie to us. It’s content to be the bad neighbor who doesn’t care what his property looks like.”

As usual, the News-Journal’s harsh critique was met by cricket chirps from Mr. Dinneen’s office – with highly paid county mouthpieces robotically repeating the in-house spin: “Big Things – Soon Come.”

After all, Mr. Dinneen is not required to respond to the reasonable questions of a free press – or anyone else.

So long as J. Hyatt Brown and others control the campaign purse strings, then Mr. Dinneen will remain unburdened by any reasonable oversight, accountability or administrative controls – and if he believes that expediting the removal of beach driving requires turning the most important commercial intersection in the core tourist area of the City of Ormond Beach into an off-the-tax-roll parking lot – so be it.

That shit-hole former shopping center will sit just as it is until Little Jimmy is damn good and ready to pave it over – not a minute sooner – and there is nothing you, me or the Daytona Beach News-Journal can do about it.

Where I part company with Mr. Lane’s view is, in my opinion, Mr. Dinneen is perfectly willing and able to lie like a cheap rug to his constituents – and our elected officials – whenever a blatant falsehood serves his purpose or those of our uber-wealthy political insiders.

Don’t take my word for it.

Sheriff Chitwood was right.  He’s a “lying sack of shit.”

In fact, I believe Mr. Dinneen is a pathological liar with a compulsion to fabricate situational responses on the fly – a strategy that has ultimately cost our county government the people’s trust.

For instance, in 2016, the City of DeLand – perhaps the most progressive, well-managed community in the region – entered talks with Volusia County to swap city-owned property currently being rented by the county, in exchange for the “Old Jail” – a vacant eyesore taking up prime real estate on West New York Avenue near the heart of America’s best downtown.

At the time, DeLand’s hometown newspaper, The Beacon, approached county officials and inquired about a tour of the shuttered building to assist in their reporting on the proposed swap.

The newspaper’s request was rejected out-of-hand by our omnipotent County Manager, who claimed the jail facility was “unsafe.”

In a May 2016 editorial, The Beacon expressed concern about Dinneen’s autonomous denial:

“Unsafe?” we wondered. Myriad questions abounded. We knew it was ugly, we suspected there might be some rogue birds and spiders, but unsafe to walk through?” 

“Once we got past asking ourselves what could be unsafe enough about the building to disallow a reporter — fully covered under The Beacon’s workers’ comp insurance — from taking a quick peek inside, we began to question why this public asset would be allowed to atrophy for long enough to pose such a hazard.”

The paper’s editor went on to rightfully explain that the building, and everything inside it, is owned by the taxpayers of Volusia County – and they deserved a look at how the space is being maintained.

Some seven-months later, in December 2016, the building suddenly became “safe” again, when DeLand city officials and surrounding property owners were finally permitted access to the interior of the building and their observations were grim.

In fact, I’m told by those “in the know” that the building looks exactly as one would expect after a decade under Mr. Dinneen’s “preventive maintenance” schedule.

Make no mistake – Volusia County government does what it wants, when it wants.

If that means allowing a former jail facility to become a weeping chancre on DeLand’s efforts to revitalize their downtown – or completely ignoring a county-owned former shopping center as it physically rots in plain view, destroying surrounding property values and dragging down an entire community – then that is exactly what will happen.

And the growing laundry list of examples is far too long to recite on this glorious Sunday morning.

As I’ve written before, it is this staggering level of ineptitude, government waste and lack of resource management under the Dinneen administration – and the continued political shelter by big money political insiders with a permanent post at the public trough – that has created an almost institutionalized lack of oversight by our elected officials that allows this atrocious course of conduct to continue.

Another quote by Albert Einstein that I’m particularly fond of states, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

In my view, Mr. Kelley and his fellow elected marionettes on the Dais of Power in DeLand should understand: Losing the public’s trust is the true cost of incompetence.

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