Angels & Assholes for March 23, 2018

Hi, Kids!

Thanks for joining me once again as we end our week with a bumpy hayride through this sandy political wilderness we call home here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

I thought we might have some Wide. Open. Fun. with a quick round of a little game I like to call, “What the Hell?”

For those who haven’t played with us before, the rules are relatively simple – study the photograph below and take a wild-ass guess if the scene depicted is:  A. The desolate surface of the Comet Kohoutek, B. A criminal logging camp in the deforested Amazon basin, or C. Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach?

granada 1

Take your time. . .

If you recognized the environmental abattoir at Granada Boulevard and Tomoka Avenue – a muddy moonscape where developers have churned old-growth forest into a barren wasteland to make way for a brand new WaWa – give yourself a Gold Star!

Now that our powers-that-be have approved residential and commercial developments spanning the entire spine of east Volusia County – and continue to relax environmental protections allowing speculative developers to pave over sensitive lands (what the State of Florida callously calls “unavoidable wetland impacts”) by purchasing credits in a help-here-hurt-there “mitigation bank” scheme – you’ll be seeing more of this wholesale destruction as our limited greenspace is turned into green dollars for all the right last names.

Thanks for playing along!

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:          Volusia County Council

Fear can make people do funny things.

When politicians find themselves on the wrong side a thorny issue – such as attempting to force a dubious sales tax increase down the throats of a constituency who just watched in frozen horror as those same politicians gifted nearly $15.5 million in public funds to a billionaire insurance intermediary to subsidize a new office building – they get nervous.

And they should.

In a representative democracy, there should be a political cost for squandering public funds and acting contrary to the needs, wants and rights of the electorate.

So, they begin looking for insulation from the voter backlash they know is coming.

Now that our elected officials in each of Volusia’s 16 municipalities have followed the edict of those self-serving quadrillionaire’s over at the CEO Business Alliance and resolved to support the county’s half-cent money grab – the majority of our elected marionettes on the County Council are demanding that the cities grovel before the Dais of Power in DeLand and formally beg the Monarchs to put the initiative on the ballot this fall.

Say what?

During a recent meeting, the incomparably arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys said, “I don’t think it’s asking too much to ask those entities who have skin in the game to appear before the council and make the request as a unified group.  Without a unified approach – we do not send a unified message.  I’m expecting to see a full chamber – I won’t do it without everybody.” 

My ass you won’t.

Trust me, nothing – and I mean nothing – could keep this tax increase from being sent to the voters in November.

I know it.  You know it.  And Deb knows it.

Let the record show that I, for one – as a long-suffering, tax-strapped resident of Volusia County – openly Double-Dog-Dare Deb Denys to make good on her promise to vote “No” on the half-cent sales tax increase if the cities refuse to crawl before her, and the other bought-and-paid-for tools she shares the dais with, in some bizarre display of “unity.”

Just when you thought these supercilious, morally bankrupt assholes couldn’t sink any lower – they reach whale turd depths by demanding that a representative from each municipality bow their heads and parade before them, hat in hand, like the slavish vassals they have become, to demonstrate lock-step support for further shackling every resident and visitor of the third highest taxed county in Florida.

I also find it troubling that South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarborough – the longest serving manager in Volusia County – who coordinated this tax sham with the other municipalities –  acquiesced to this bullshit and agreed to debase his city council, and the residents of his community, by supporting this repugnant pageant of fealty to Volusia County?

According to Mr. Yarborough, while he does not believe an envoy from every city needs to prostrate themselves before their Emperors – he does think it important that the county council know there is “solidarity” among the cities.

Wait?  Isn’t that what the resolutions were for?

Perhaps Joe got caught off-guard by the brazenness of the demand – or maybe he doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to speak truth to power – but Mr. Yarborough missed a golden opportunity to put county council members on notice that the municipalities don’t intend to curtsy and beg.

As a former municipal mayor, even our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, found this one difficult to swallow – murmuring that he didn’t see the need for a cringingly long boot-licking session where city officials will be required to bow their heads, kneel and beseech, “Please raise the sales tax on every man, woman and child in my community!  I beg you my liege!   

According to Old Ed, “. . .to tell them if they don’t show up and beg us to put it on (the ballot), we aren’t going to put it on — I think that’s just a little overboard.”

More than that – it’s a damnable lie.

To show how much respect Ed Kelley commands from his fellow elected officials, term-limited Councilwoman Joyce Cusack coldly told the addled old bugger to stay in his lane, and “pick his battles.” 

I’m sure Chairman Kelley promptly stuck his thumb in his mouth and did as he was told.

My hope is that our municipal officials will search around the dusty corners of their various City Hall’s and find what’s left of their dignity – then reject this garish display of sycophantic groveling before their masters in DeLand.

In the past few days I have spoken with several elected officials from cities around Volusia County, each of whom find the Volusia County Council’s directive ordering them to sit-up and beg like a cur dog whimpering for a table scrap to be wholly inappropriate – and disrespectful to the citizens of the independently incorporated communities they serve.

My hope is that on the appointed day, not one elected or appointed municipal official appears before the county council – sending a unified message that under no circumstances will they kiss the collective ass of those arrogant shitheads sitting smugly on the Dais of Power in DeLand.

Asshole:          Hard Rock International

Maybe you read my little ditty about this earlier in the week, maybe you didn’t – but effective next month, Hard Rock International will shutter its corporate headquarters in Orlando – a move marked by the layoffs of nearly 200 central Florida employees.

According to a statement issued in September, “Hard Rock International . . . will move staff headquarters from Orlando to South Florida, joining forces with ownership, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and The Seminole Gaming organization.  The opportunity to combine the world-class talent of all three companies will create an even more powerful organization.” 

At the time, insiders reported that the real reason for the move is that Hard Rock intends to focus almost exclusively on the gaming side of the house, now that casino operations dominate.

Who knows.

Eventually, even a dull-normal rube like me understands that when it comes to corporate press releases and brand marketing in what passes for the “hospitality” industry – rarely is the truth considered or incorporated into the “spin” sold to the public.

They’re kind of like Volusia County government in that regard.

For instance, last month, when Hard Rock International was scrambling to certify their languishing Daytona franchise in time to secure the county-offered “incentive” of the complete removal of our heritage of beach driving behind the hotel, the company quibbled that the property, “…will meet Hard Rock International’s aforementioned brand standards and franchise requirements…”

Then, they pencil-whipped the legally required guarantee – and Volusia County officials accepted it – even though everyone could see the on-going construction, substandard condition of the external seawall, crumbling support posts and a forest of jack-stands in the parking garage.

Now, anecdotal reports are that the hotel is using nearly half of our “public” parking lot south of the property for employees and valet service – completely defeating the stated purpose of replacing vehicular access with “off-beach” parking – thus securing the semi-private strand we all knew was coming.

(Can’t say I blame them, I wouldn’t want to park in that rickety subterranean garage either. . .)

Within days a phalanx of ugly wooden utility poles will be driven into the sand behind the Hard Rock and adorned with officious signage notifying beach-goers of the traffic-free beach.

Once that happens, the pernicious pact between Summit Hospitality, Hard Rock International and their elected corporate shills will be complete.

We, The People, lost.  Get used to it.

If it’s any consolation, we never had a chance anyway.

When the rules are written, interpreted and enforced by the same corrupt system that ignores the needs and wants of taxpaying residents in favor of the speculative developer du jour – or the selfish whims of powerful political insiders – the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Angel:             City of Daytona Beach

Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission for finally getting off their collective ass and expanding areas in which tattoo artists can set up shop – to include appropriate locations on our beleaguered beachside, a place in desperate need of new businesses and revitalization.

Only Ruth “Grandma” Trager voted to oppose the move.

In my view, this represents a progressive move by Daytona Beach officials – one that I hope will encourage entrepreneurial investment in places like North Ridgewood Avenue and the comatose Main Street Redevelopment Area.

In my experience, when bureaucrats step out of the way of commerce and permit the marketplace to naturally function as it was designed, incredible things can happen.

Government intrusion, regulation and the “public/private partnerships” (Read: Cronyism) that pick winners and losers through the infusion of public funds into private endeavors only serves to create an artificial economy, totally dependent on handouts and exorbitant fees/taxes to survive long-term.

As I’ve previously written, tattoo parlors have come a long way – with many artists transforming empty commercial spaces into beautifully appointed establishments serving a diverse client base.

In other business, this week the mayor and city commissioners discussed civic priorities – an exercise in utter futility that many local governments engage in each spring.

These lofty goals include opening the First Step shelter (yawn – excuse me), some semblance of code enforcement to combat the abject blight and squalor that continues to eat away at the very social and economic fabric of the beachside and finally doing something with East ISB (again, excuse me, I just shot coffee out of my nose, weird), and a few other ambitious objectives that I can’t recall right now. . .

Time will tell.

But I’ll bet anyone of reasonably sane mind a Donnie’s doughnut that the East ISB “gateway” will be in the exact same deplorable condition on March 24, 2019 as it is today.

Any takers?

Chicken.

Angel:             Sons of the Beach

I think many would be surprised by the diversity of views held by the people with whom I regularly correspond, or sit down with over a beer, to discuss the issues of the day.

Some are considered arch enemies of beach driving – even a few staunch advocates for rapid growth and development – many with viewpoints diametrically opposed to my own on subjects ranging from campaign finance to beach access and the abysmal state of Volusia County government.

Invariably, during our discussions we find many points where we vehemently disagree, but often we discover that there are other areas where we are of like mind – such as, we all want a better life for our children, our love for the many wonderful attributes of the Halifax area, or even shared personal and recreational interests that transcend the adversarial nature of politics.

In my view, we share the same space and environment, and it is important that we come together as neighbors and learn from one another – regardless of beliefs, opinions or affiliations.

As a member of the Barker’s View tribe, you already know that our century-old heritage of beach driving in Volusia County is under attack by speculative developers, entrenched political insiders and the elected representatives they control.

Within days, another 410 linear feet of the strand behind the Hard Rock Daytona will be closed to vehicular access.

Forever.

Since 1984, Sons of the Beach has been Florida’s premiere beach access advocacy, fighting hard to preserve our tradition of driving on the strand and the unique access it provides Volusia County residents and visitors.

Trust me – it’s not easy to stand nose-to-nose with a well-established power structure with the ability to influence public policy through financial relationships with hand-picked political candidates.

But there is a strange magic in numbers – especially when it comes to fighting for political change.

Are you a member of Sons of the Beach?

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to go to www.sonsofthebeach.org and sign up – its free (although donations are accepted through the website).  Once you’ve done that, simply print your membership card and know that your participation is helping to preserve beach access for generations to come.

It’s important.  Now, more than ever.

I’m asking everyone who reads Barker’s View – whether you agree with my goofy screeds or not – to please join me this Sunday, March 25th, for the Sons of the Beach Fundraiser at Crabby Joe’s Deck and Grill, 3701 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach Shores – on the Sunglow Pier.

It will be great to meet everyone and enjoy a cold beverage together at one of the most scenic locations in the Halifax area.

Most important, it provides an opportunity to be with some nice, civic-minded people with a true passion for preserving our most precious natural amenity.

The event will be held from 1:00pm to 4:00pm and will feature live music by Jeff and the Sons of the Beach Band, legal updates on pending legislation and SOB suits and planning information on the upcoming Hard Rock protest challenging Volusia County’s giveaway of our tradition of beach driving behind the hotel.

While you’re there, please participate in raffles for awesome door prizes, the 50/50 drawing and grab a new SOB T-shirt and other cool swag just in time for summer!

All proceeds go to support the Sons of the Beach Legal Team as they work hard to protect OUR RIGHT to beach access in Volusia County.

I look forward to seeing everyone Sunday afternoon!

Quote of the Week:

“People tend to think that we override everyone. I think some of the council members are concerned that without that showing (of support), it looks like the council is taking on a council initiative to put this on.”  (Daytona Beach News-Journal, March 21, 2018)

–County Manager Jim Dinneen speaking to Chairman Ed Kelley in a weird attempt at reality orientation, describing to the confused Chair what others in the big room were doing – and gently explaining the meaning of the various sounds, shapes and events happening around him during the March 20th Volusia County Council meeting in DeLand.

Hey, Jimmy – where would we get the idea that Volusia County government rides roughshod over anyone and everything that gets in their way – including their own constituents? 

That’s crazy talk. . .

I’m told Mr. Dinneen was later observed placing an Easter Bunny bib around Chairman Kelley’s neck and spoon-feeding him what appeared to be a foul-smelling bowl of steaming horse manure; however, Mr. Dinneen quickly assured repulsed onlookers it was merely a healthy lunch of “political Pablum.”

And Another Thing!

A sincere Happy Birthday to The Daytona Beach News-Journal on their 135th anniversary!

Have a great weekend, kids!

Hope to see everyone at Crabby Joe’s this Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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