You know what time it is?
That’s right – it’s Friday Funday here at Barker’s View HQ!
Time to play our little game I like to call, “What the Hell?”
As always, our friends at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Regional Chamber of Commerce and our “Rich & Powerful” upper crust ensconced high atop their gated ivory tower over at the CEO Business Alliance are welcome to play along!
Come on, it’ll be 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: A. The Kolomoyskyi Wall separating Ukraine and Russia? B. The Joint Security Area at Panmunjom? or C. The World’s Most Famous Beach?
Take your time. . .
(Cue the final Jeopardy theme music.)
If you selected the horrific phalanx of chemically-treated utility poles that Volusia County officials jetted into the sand this week, making good on their promise to create a semi-private beach behind the Hard Rock Hotel – further ruining the natural aesthetics of OUR beach and forever removing OUR century-old tradition of beach driving from another 410 linear feet of the strand – give yourself a Gold Star!
Yep – our elected and appointed corporate shills on the dais of power in DeLand concluded the pernicious pact with their cronies at Summit Hospitality and shut down the beach on Monday, despite the fact that renovation of the notorious former Desert Inn wasn’t nearly complete on February 28th as required by ordinance.
Does ignoring the obvious unfinished construction and operational deficiencies, then accepting Hard Rock International’s quibbling “certification” that, “. . .upon opening the operation of the hotel, will meet Hard Rock International’s” brand standards, rather than confirming the legal requirement that all conditions set forth in the performance guarantee have been met, with the specific intent to ensure the special benefit of a traffic free beach for the developer, meet the statutory definition of official misconduct?
I don’t know. I’m asking.
Yet, our state’s ethics apparatus stands idle – with it’s thumb firmly planted in its ass – while the foul smell of corrupt intent wafts on the sea breeze.
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:
Angel: Don Gaetz
Former Senate president Don Gaetz, who is now a member of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, recently sponsored an amendment that would strengthen what currently passes for government “ethics” rules in Florida’s morally bankrupt Halls of Power.
If passed by voters, the new rules would bar legislators, the governor and Cabinet members from lobbying any state agency for six years after leaving office. The ban would also regulate local officials – to include a measure barring them from using their office to obtain a “disproportionate benefit” for themselves, their business, family members and friends.
My hope is that the new rules include governor appointees, public university trustees and anyone else who wheedles their way into positions of power based upon their ability to pay – or demonstrates an ethical flexibility many of our political insiders find so attractive, and lucrative.
Now, there’s a constitutional amendment we can all support!
Asshole: County of Volusia
A decade after signing agreements creating a commuter rail service – contracts which were excruciatingly short on specifics (like how we were going to pay for it over time?) and long on financial obligations for the citizens of Volusia County – our elected and appointed dullards in DeLand are scrambling to have those commitments amended before they get caught out.
Unfortunately, Volusia County officials command about as much respect from the Florida Department of Transportation and members of the SunRail Commission as they do from their own constituents.
Back in those heady days when Congressman John Mica was sitting on top of the world in Washington, and federal transportation funding for east Central Florida was almost a foregone conclusion, county officials were swooning over all the wonderful “possibilities” SunRail would bring countywide.
Damn the consequences, “We want one!”
There was big talk of ultimately connecting Daytona Beach with the Orlando International Airport, and a scheme was devised to backdoor a transportation oriented development near the Debary station – that is, until smart residents pointed out that the depot was built near the Gemini Springs annex, an environmentally sensitive wetland that is now protected in perpetuity.
Now, John Mica is out-to-pasture, plans for extending rail service to DeLand have derailed (pun intended), state and federal transportation funds have evaporated into the ether and Volusia County’s portion of the multi-million dollar bill is coming home to roost in three short years.
In my view, it’s just one reason our elected officials are falling all over themselves in a desperate attempt to ramrod the proposed half-cent sales tax increase least all their rotten eggs hatch at once, leaving them short on funds for transportation infrastructure improvements to meet rapidly increasing demands in east Volusia – on top of the SunRail nut they are contractually obligated to pay.
It’s a sticky wicket, as they say – kind of like County Manager Jim Dinneen’s pathetic lack of strategic planning has once again painted us all into the corner of a very large room.
Last week, our own elected Rip Van Winkle, County Councilman “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – our representative to the SunRail Commission – got his knickers in a twist when it became clear that he is being openly ignored and snickered at by everyone who is anyone in Florida’s transportation apparatus.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, in late January, Sleepy Pat traveled to Tallahassee to give Florida Secretary of Transportation, Mike Dew, a piece of his feeble mind – only to find out that the Secretary intentionally blew him off and was a no-show at the meeting.
Apparently, Secretary Dew had other pressing issues to deal with – like washing his hair. . .
During the “meeting,” Mr. Dew’s toadies at FDOT brushed Patterson off like the inconsequential gnat he is – telling him to take his silly-ass problems to someone who cares – like the commuter rail commission.
Still deluding himself that Volusia County is relevant to the discussion between the real players – like Orange County and the City of Orlando – Councilman Patterson whined the blues last week in the News-Journal lamenting his dyspepsia over Volusia’s inability to crawfish on the original agreements:
“I went to Tallahassee and came back unhappy and ill at the same time,” Patterson said later. He suggested sending a letter “requesting, asking, begging” that the amendments to its contract, approved by the council in February 2017, be on the agenda for the SunRail Commission’s meeting. . .”
It appears no matter how much our weaponized county attorney, Dan Eckert, huffs-n-puffs or rattles his saber – the heavy hitters in Central Florida’s mass transit scene can’t be bullied – or bothered – by this ant on the elephant’s ass.
As Committee Chair Bob Dallari put it, “It’s just not all about Volusia.”
In my view, the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County are getting yet another behind-the-curtain view of just how inept and ineffectual our compromised county government has become.
It seems to me, when it comes to strategic planning, future budget allocations and building cooperative relationships with funding and regulatory agencies – you know, the very role of an effective county administrator – Volusia County continues to fail miserably.
Consistently, We, The People, get the short shrift.
If it doesn’t involve the direct transfer of public funds to the private projects of political insiders, our elected officials and senior staff are like a rudderless ship of fools – utterly clueless to the needs of their constituents – even as they continue to rubber stamp massive growth and spending without any reasonable way to pay for it – beyond shackling every man, woman and child with an even greater tax burden.
Clearly, it’s time to put Sleepy Pat to bed.
Let him get some much needed rest from his desperate attempts to pull us all from the financial quagmire he helped create and elect a replacement who can restore a sense of mutual respect and collegiality between Volusia County and our regional transportation partners.
In the meantime, I’m just glad to see our elected and appointed officials on the dais of power in DeLand getting a touch of the maddening frustration their constituents feel every time they are forced to deal with their obstinate and indifferent county government.
Asshole: Geosam Capital U.S. & The State of Florida
In a scene that repeats itself all too often, developers are conducting something akin to slash-and-burn operations in Southeast Volusia – a dreadful process whereby forested land is clear-cut, and the resulting waste burned in large piles.
Because the State of Florida allows this dangerous and environmentally questionable practice which permits developers to turn massive tracts of land into a moonscape in a very short period of time.
Apparently, incinerating the spoils on-site is the most efficient method of clearing our quickly diminishing pine scrub, timberland and wildlife habitat to make way for even more cookie cutter homes and half-empty strip centers.
And because those corporate shills in the Halls of Power throughout the Sunshine State never seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.
To the contrary, rather than control growth, ensure that housing inventory does not exceed demand and enact strong regulations to protect our sensitive wetlands and water recharge areas, our elected and appointed officials are blinded by dollar signs dancing around their pointy heads – the potential taxes generated from a growth spurt not seen since the Great Recession – and, trust me, they intend to make hay while the sun shines.
If that requires clear cutting and burning the entire spine of east Volusia County – so be it.
On Wednesday, contractors clearing land for Geosam Capital’s “Coastal Woods” development allowed a brush pile they were burning to get away from them.
The Coastal Woods project (an oxymoronic name, given that the woods are actively being deforested) is a residential and commercial development near Pioneer Trail and Interstate 95 in New Smyrna – another “planned” community which will ultimately bring some 1,250+ homes and a “major shopping venue” as New Smyrna quickly transmogrifies from a successfully quaint seaside community into a morass of sprawl and unchecked western growth.
The resulting wildfire ultimately burned over 200 surrounding acres and closed I-95 to an estimated 40,000 vehicles, diverting commerce and travel for nearly 18-hours.
Of course, fingers were pointing in all directions as Geosam apologized to terrified residents from New Smyrna to Port Orange who were threatened by the blaze – all while reminding everyone that it was the Forest Service who issued the burn permit.
Why a government entity would issue a burn authorization on one of the windiest days of Florida’s Spring Wildfire Season is yet to be answered – but I think I know why a contractor would ignore the extremely dry conditions and set a fire anyway: Because clearing land is what Geosam paid them to do – and, after all, time is money.
I applaud the City of New Smyrna for having what Mayor Jim Hathaway described in the Daytona Beach News-Journal as a “Come to Jesus meeting” with Geosam Capital – I hope it results in positive change – but I doubt it.
In my view, once developers get their hands on a piece of property – wild horses couldn’t stop them from leveling it, filling it and building even more hideous zero lot line cracker boxes designed to wring maximum profit from the least expensive materials and construction methods possible.
It is what’s become of the American Dream in coastal Central Florida.
Welcome to Volusia County – now, get comfortable drinking your own sewerage.
Angel: Volusia County Collegiate Women’s Basketball Teams
From the Barker’s View Sports Desk – let’s take a minute to recognize the combined 85-40 record of all four local women’s college basketball teams – Stetson, Bethune-Cookman University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Daytona State College!
This season, ERAU made the NCAA Division II tournament for the first time in program history, while Bethune-Cookman’s Lady Wildcats won their third regular season MEAC title and made the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Stetson made post-season play for the 8th straight year while Daytona State College went 20-10 for the season.
Congratulations, ladies! You make us all very proud!
Quote of the Week:
“I’m not in favor of how they look at all. There is no way we are going to have a 10-foot tide. I’m not happy. I’m going to be questioning staff on the height.”
–Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, yammering in the Daytona Beach News-Journal regarding the horrific appearance of the utility poles county contractors placed to block traffic and create a semi-private beach behind the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach.
Hey, Billie – save your mealy-mouthed indignation over the height and aesthetics of this hideous barrier you voted to erect as a backhanded incentive to Summit Hospitality – while ignoring the needs and wants of your constituents and the visitors we spend mightily to attract.
No one wants to hear your faux-outrage – or more of your damnable bald-faced lies that anyone in Volusia County government will ever be held accountable for their acts and omissions.
We, The People, know better.
You are a shameless shill for corporate interests and those of your political benefactors – nothing more – and you should be ashamed of yourself.
It’s high time that you, and your fellow conniving chattel on the council, come to the sobering realization that you have forever lost the faith and trust of those you were elected to represent.
And Another Thing!
“I think the entire community is so well served by having a Hard Rock, we should be happy and supportive of having it here. . .”
Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, trying his level best to convince himself – and his astonished constituents – that eliminating our century-old heritage of beach driving from more of the strand in exchange for a goofy “theme” hotel is something we should be “happy and supportive” of.
Who needs a corporate marketing department when you have this addle-brained shithead – who accepts public funds to serve in the public interest – sitting in the county chairman’s seat openly flogging the Hard Rock brand.
Old Ed is like some pathetic victim of a perseverative disorder, maundering the same thoughts and phrases over-and-over again – all while stuck on stupid – oblivious to the true needs and wants of Volusia’s long-suffering residents.
That’s all for me.
Have a Happy Easter, everyone!