Wow! It’s Friday once again!
As we enter the last exciting weekend of Bike Week 2018 (Wait, can I say the “B-W” word? Or will the Chamber of Commerce threaten to sue me for trademark infringement like they’ve done to so many small local businesses this week?) I thought we might have some fun and play a little game I like to call, “What the Hell?”
As always, our friends at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Beachside Redevelopment Committee and Regional Chamber of Commerce are welcome to join in the Wide. Open. Fun!
For those who haven’t played with us before, the rules are simple – study the photograph below and take a wild-ass guess if the scene depicted is in: A. Colony Liaquat, Karachi B. The Dharavi slum, Mumbai or C. The Daytona Beach Resort Area:
If you picked the county-owned property at A-1-A and Cardinal Drive in Ormond Beach’s core tourist area – give yourself a Gold Star!
Yep! This weeping chancre on the buttock of The Birthplace of Speed is wholly owned by us – you and me, the good citizens of Volusia County – even as the elected and appointed officials we pay handsomely to manage the property allow it to rot in place, dragging down our property values and discouraging visitors from ever returning to the Fun Coast!
Thanks for playing along!
For those who mistook the picture for a slit-trench latrine in Orangi Town – Sorry, close but no cigar. . .
There’s always next week!
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 see who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Asshole: County of Volusia
You may have noticed that County Manager Jim Dinneen, and our elected marionettes on the Dais of Power in DeLand, occupy a perennial place on this hyper-opinionated Shit List each week.
Because of their pomposity and haughty condescension toward the municipalities – and their constituents – in matters large and small.
Let me give you a recent example.
In early 2016, the County of Volusia and the City of DeLand – which is arguably the most progressive, well-managed community in the region – entered negotiations to swap a municipal annex currently being rented for $50,000 annually by the county, for the former Volusia County jail, a decrepit, now valueless county-owned building which occupies prime real estate on West New York Avenue near America’s best downtown.
One of the pinch points at the time came when County Manager Jim Dinneen had the petty gall to demand a promise from city officials that the “property would be used for development.”
According to a February 2017 article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mr. Dinneen arrogantly tut-tutted, “We don’t want to swap property and for them to turn it into a park,” he said. “We are really interested in creating jobs. We want to know what kind of economic development plan they have.”
Hey, Jimmy – step outside your friggin’ office.
That’s what kind of an “economic development” plan DeLand has – in fact, it was recently named “America’s Main Street.”
What an insufferable ninny. . .
In my view, the only thing Jim Dinneen has “invested in” is his own self-interests and those of the wealthy insiders who provide him political protection. Unless it involves handing millions in public funds to his political handlers to benefit private projects, Little Jimmy is clueless when it comes to the mechanics of actual “economic development” initiatives.
Rather than provide basic preventive maintenance – even to the building’s visibly shabby exterior – in typical fashion, Mr. Dinneen simply allowed it to decompose.
As a result, our building has become a worthless environmental disaster which will ultimately cost the City of DeLand some $200,000 to demolish and haul off.
You read that right.
Ultimately, it’s money well-spent.
Dinneen is sitting on a turd of his own creation – another publicly-owned building gone to seed on his watch – while demanding “promises” from the City of DeLand before they can fill the ugly “doughnut hole” of squalor that’s been holding up progress for decades?
Wow. That takes sand.
In keeping with their commitment to ‘get it right,’ DeLand officials enlisted the help of a regional architectural and engineering firm to create a vision for how the property can best enhance the quaint dining and entertainment district on Georgia Avenue and beyond.
Now, the city is asking stakeholders – the citizens of DeLand – to suggest private investors and developers who would be willing to partner on the project.
(Can you recall the last time Volusia County asked our opinion on anything?)
The fact is, Jim Dinneen and his highly-paid administration didn’t have a clue what to do with the “Old Jail” – and those dullards we elected to represent our interests were even less inspired.
If they cared a whit about public resource management, “jobs,” or a viable economic development plan, the building wouldn’t have been allowed to deteriorate into what the editor of DeLand’s hometown newspaper, The Beacon, called a “trash-strewn ghetto.”
Unbelievable? Not really.
We’ve come to expect it.
Now that he’s standing for reelection, perhaps it’s time the citizens of West Volusia ask their elected representative – “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – exactly when he plans to get his head out of his ass and start representing their interests?
It’s the “vision” thing, folks. You either have it, or you don’t.
Angel: Palm Coast Councilwoman Heidi Shipley
Regular readers of this goofy forum frequently suggest various newsmakers for inclusion in this weekly column – and, because Barker’s View is a staunch supporter of the democratic process – I take these recommendations to heart.
This week, a few intrepid members of the BV tribe formally nominated Palm Coast Councilwoman Heidi Shipley for “Angel” status following her highly-publicized – and totally appropriate – dress down of City Manager Jim “Short-Timer” Landon, at the March 6 City Council meeting.
The fact is, under the council/manager form of government, most charters extend awesome powers to the manager – to include the autonomous ability to hire, fire, promote and (to a degree) establish pay and benefit packages for senior staff not covered by collective bargaining agreements.
In theory, this system protects government operations from petty politics, while allowing the people oversight through their elected officials, whose only real operational responsibility is to hire and fire the manager.
However, in this case, Mr. Landon has – as an obvious political survival strategy – announced that he will retire from public service next year.
As a veteran of the internecine political wars that Palm Coast is famous for, if Mr. Landon didn’t realize that telegraphing his departure would be fraught with unintended consequences – like having his every move scrutinized by critics as he makes his way toward the door – well, he should have.
Recently, Mr. Landon moved to appoint an underling to the lofty role of Assistant City Manager – then, unilaterally gifted his new second a $15,216 pay increase – apparently without mentioning any of it to the people’s elected representatives.
As the meeting wound down, Landon made a brief mention of the internal promotion – yet failed to report the enormity of the accompanying pay raise, something that took more than one sitting council member by surprise.
For a few brief months, I served as a municipal manager – the worst time of my career (I still have a permanent limp) – and I quickly learned that the one unforgivable sin for a public administrator is allowing the elected officials to walk into a public meeting without the facts as you know them.
All of the facts.
This “shoot it through the grease” method of informing the council of an important internal transfer took Councilwoman Shipley by surprise – and she let Mr. Landon know exactly how she felt about it.
That shit might work in a bastardized oligarchy like Volusia County, but it appears Palm Coast is slightly more sophisticated when it comes to fiscal responsibility – and administrative accountability.
In defense of her constituents, Ms. Shipley made a motion to curtail any further large-scale pay increases without council approval. Naturally, Mr. Landon got his hackles up, calling Ms. Shipley’s challenge to his divine authority “offensive.”
Regardless of intent, perhaps Mr. Landon should understand that, as a lame duck manager with one foot out the door and the other on the proverbial ‘Nanner peel, some skeptics might misinterpret his generous personnel action as feathering the nest of a friend in his waning days – something the City Council has an ethical and fiduciary responsibility to prevent.
In my view, we need more elected officials like Heidi Shipley, good people who aren’t afraid to speak truth to power – throw some sharp elbows when necessary – and demonstrate the political courage to stand up for the best interests of their constituents and community.
Angel: Volusia Bureau of Investigation
Kudos to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and member agencies of VBI for their outstanding efforts in dismantling a regional heroin trafficking organization operating in West Volusia and beyond.
According to reports, earlier this week, simultaneous search warrants were served on target locations in Deltona, Debary and in the Orlando area, raids which resulted in the seizure of 3.3 pounds of heroin having a street value of more than $150,000, along with cash derived from the sale of this deadly substance.
This represents important work by many dedicated officers and agents, men and women who work aggressively behind the scenes in the shadows of a very dangerous underworld to keep our community safe from the scourge of illicit drugs.
Congratulations to Sheriff Mike Chitwood and the Volusia Bureau of Investigation for their good work in bringing these despicable bastards to justice.
Asshole: Daytona Beach City Commission
I mentioned this a few days ago, but it bears repeating.
As Bike Week 2018 ends, we will begin the long goodbye for a special event that has, in many ways, come to define the Daytona Beach Resort Area as much as beach driving or NASCAR.
For some 77-years, Daytona Bike Week, the nation’s premiere motorcycle rally, has brought millions of visitors to the Halifax area – many returning year-after-year to enjoy the unique festivities each spring.
I’ll be honest, it’s never been my “thing” – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a motorcycle – but its popularity in years past was a boon to local restaurants, bars, hoteliers and small businesses throughout the region.
There’s no doubt the event has developed a large footprint, and sometimes the interface of loud pipes and normally quiet neighborhoods becomes a friction point, but, by and large, I think most locals have come to accept the event for what it is, secure in the knowledge that come Sunday afternoon it will be like it never even happened.
Other smart people have argued for years that Main Street cannot undergo the transformation we have all been hoping for unless and until the rally is moved from its traditional epicenter on the beachside.
Progressive communities like DeLand seem capable of hosting a variety of arts, entertainment and special events throughout the year – right in the heart of a very vibrant and walkable commercial corridor – a place with many attributes (and storefronts) like those found on Main Street.
Unfortunately, I happen to believe that the entire core tourist area of our beachside is a tempest of competing interests – marked by entrenched property owners with a profit motive – a few of which possess the financial and political clout to keep any substantive change to the lucrative status quo in check.
I think the impressive members of Volusia’s Beachside Redevelopment Committee are still coming to grips with just how pig-headed some of these factions can be.
However, when it comes to spreading the wealth with Bike Week events on Daytona’s mainland – things, they are a changin’.
In December 2017, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm sent a legally required notice to the city’s current host for Bike Week’s itinerant vendors on Beach Street, informing them that the contract will not be renewed after Biketoberfest this fall.
Then, in January, the Daytona Beach City Commission voted to terminate that agreement, which sounds the death knell for biker-related events in Downtown Daytona – something made popular by the late Bruce Rossmeyer – before small-minded officials in the City of Daytona Beach drove his enterprise out of the community, signaling the birth of the hugely successful bike events in north Ormond Beach.
Unfortunately, no one from the City of Daytona Beach had the common courtesy to tell merchants, including area motorcycle-related businesses who have invested heavily in the success of our beleaguered downtown – only to be left high-and-dry when it came time to shut the carnival down to make way for the next “bigger, better and bestest” game changer.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the long-time dealership, Indian Motorcycle of Daytona Beach – a business who receives 85% of their revenue during the 14-day biannual special event periods – was caught completely unaware of the move to eliminate the festival of vendors on Beach Street when they recently renewed a five-year lease on their downtown showroom.
Who does that to a year-round business who has struggled to maintain a presence and a viable enterprise on Beach Street?
Where’s the oversight?
Tragically, it appears our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government have all but abandoned residents and small business in a blind clamor to please their feudal lords – using even more of our limited public amenities, and precious few special events, as “incentives” on top of the millions in public funds we have already showered on totally private projects of dubious public benefit.
I mean, when is enough, enough?
With J. Hyatt Brown working overtime to “rezone” Riverfront Park and Manatee Island – a large swath of public property stretching from the south slope of the Main Street bridge to the Josie Rogers House east of Beach Street – it’s clear he has no use for a bunch of gritty bikers milling around his new headquarters, and adjoining “public/private” greenspace, twice each year (you know, the building many of those local bikers and businesses helped underwrite with their hard-earned tax dollars?)
So, like magic – the whole Beach Street special events experience just went away.
I wonder what long-suffering Beach Street merchants must be thinking now that one of the few draws to the area has been quashed to make way for the “next big thing”?
Asshole: Volusia County Attorney’s Office
I happen to be a huge fan of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorialist Mark Lane.
He brings a sideways view of the news of the day – and explains complex issues in a fun, common-sense style that I enjoy.
Unfortunately, I disagree with his recent piece, “We need to plan now for a different beach in 2031.”
Let me explain:
During a recent mediation with the City of Daytona Beach Shores over Volusia County’s hostile seizure of prime beachfront real estate – parcels which will ultimately be removed from the tax roll and converted into “off-beach” parking – Deputy County Attorney Jamie Seaman, an odd savant who always seems to know everything about anything that will further the county’s hidden agenda, announced that the clock is ticking on beach driving and access, whether us yokels like it or not.
In typical fashion, Seaman got the collective hand-wringing started when she cast doubt about the future of a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which allows beach driving under certain onerous conditions.
“I know that we have lost a substantial amount of beach, our elevation has changed, our tides are higher. I think it’s going to be a challenge … in 2030 to get that permit renewed.”
Now, Mr. Lane has added credence to the county’s latest gloom and doom beach forecast by calling for the development of alternative access and parking plans should driving be eliminated by federal edict in 2030.
Look, I realize that a dozen years is nothing in “government time,” where any public issue, other than handing over an “economic incentive” to a local millionaire, can take a decade or more to come to fruition.
Frankly, I don’t want the current County Council – or County Manager Jim Dinneen – to come anywhere near our future beach policy.
Let’s just say “planning” and “visioning” aren’t their strong suit and leave it at that, okay?
In my view, Jim Dinneen – and this current crop of bought-and-paid-for dullards occupying the Dais of Power in DeLand – have proven time-and-again that they couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.
It’s like watching a bad Three Stooges skit on continuous loop.
When you couple that with the fact our “unified beach policy” has been an absolute disaster for a decade or more, rational people come to the unmistakable realization that perhaps we should take a deep breath and gather a few more facts – beyond the chattering of a deputy county attorney pushing an agenda – before making important decisions on the future of our greatest natural amenity – choices that will alter the economic landscape of the Daytona Beach Resort Area forever.
Jesus, take the wheel. . . Please?
Seriously. Take it, dude – ’cause this ship of fools is out-of-control.
Quote of the Week:
“Let’s stop pretending the sales-tax increase will benefit all of us. The reason county officials want the tax increase is because they wasted the last one, a gasoline tax, by giving away incentives to new businesses and allowing artificially low impact fees so the developers can make bigger profits.”
–Mr. Don Miller, Port Orange, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor, “Just say no to new road tax,” March 15, 2018
Well said, Mr. Miller.
Have a great weekend, my friends.