In 1814, the Austrian statesman Baron Johann Wessenberg said at the Congress of Vienna, “Nothing in the world is more haughty than a man of moderate capacity when once raised to power.”
Ain’t that the damn truth?
Loyal readers of these screeds know that – in politics and life – I consider myself a realist, one who trusts that past actions are the only true predictor of future performance. I also believe that “hope” is not a tactic – and all the good thoughts one can muster won’t fundamentally change the trajectory of a crisis.
It’s just one reason I don’t put much stock in the latest “Good Times are Here Again” corporate marketing schtick constantly being regurgitated on the Business page of our local newspaper for the benefit of those slaphappy Pollyanna’s over at the Regional Chamber of Commerce.
During a career spanning three-decades in law enforcement, I learned that only decisive and strategic intervention – skillfully executed – can positively change the course of a calamitous situation.
I believe the same holds true for a dysfunctional organization that has clearly lost its moral compass – and forgotten its true purpose.
In my view, we find ourselves locked in a true predicament here in Volusia County – a place of great beauty and potential, with wonderful recreational amenities and a wealth of civically active citizens committed to the betterment of their community – yet shackled to a bastardized form of local governance that no longer reflects the tenets of our democratic principles, nor works in the best interest of those it was formed to serve.
In most successful public and private organizations, positions of high responsibility have a corresponding level of accountability that balances power with oversight. An accepted precept of leadership is that responsibility can be shared, accountability cannot.
The very concept requires that people in positions of supremacy are ultimately held answerable for their actions; for that which they do – or fail to do – in the conduct of their individual or collective responsibilities.
In our democratic system of governance, the will of the people is the basis of all government authority.
When government loses the trust and consent of the people, we have a right – through the power of the electoral process – to replace elected officials who enact policies counter to the interests of their constituents with servant/leaders who will restore honor and basic fairness to the process and ensure effective management.
But what happens when We, The People, no longer have a say in the political process – or the policies and taxation that control our lives and livelihoods?
What happens when a select few incredibly wealthy individuals insinuate their personal influence deep into the inner-workings of local, state and federal governments and institutions – everything from our university system, judicial appointments and the disposition of public assets – and have the ability to command massive “economic incentives” for select private projects?
In my view, when those in positions of high responsibility – both elected and appointed – are allowed to operate without any reasonable oversight, administrative constraints or professional ethics – when mismanagement, malfeasance and irresponsibility are protected by influential interests in a self-serving effort to preserve the status quo – it calls into question the legitimacy of the government entity.
In Volusia County, we find ourselves locked in an oligarchical system which has found an effective means of subverting our sacred political process, and subjugating the will of the people, by substituting a craven little autocrat with a raging Napoleonic complex, someone who is restrained by no legitimate civic authority beyond those wealthy political abettors who control public policy through the infusion of massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates for seemingly benign local offices.
While Mr. Dinneen may not directly manipulate the figurative rods and strings that animate our elected marionettes on the dais of power – he does dress the stage, and personally directs the “L’Opera deî Pupi” the public sees – ensuring that the selfish needs of those with the ability to control the outcome of elections are consistently met and properly camouflaged by the affectations of government.
In fact, history shows that in Volusia County, the mere presence in council chambers of any one of those who the Daytona Beach News-Journal refer to as our “Rich & Powerful” – usually backed by a claque of toadies enlisted to give the appearance of faux-enthusiasm – is enough to physically direct public policy by controlling the outcome of pivotal votes by their elected chattel.
Last week, I listened to a radio interview with Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who – love him or hate him – is, in my view, the last vestige of independent thought and political courage in the squalid cesspit of quid pro quo corruption, ineptitude and strategic ignorance that is the Thomas C. Kelly Administrative Center.
During the discussion, Sheriff Chitwood intimated that when he was first elected by the people last November one of his first communications with His Royal Highness Prince Dinneen was a not-so-veiled threat that unless he “played nice in the sandbox,” he would not be re-elected.
The ominous inference being – that if he failed to go along-and-get along – the Sheriff’s path would be made dark and slippery, ending with a humiliating defeat orchestrated by bullies on the playground who understand the importance of lockstep conformity in Volusia County government.
If that statement doesn’t send a chill up your spine, nothing will.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is not democracy – and it is not a legitimate council/manager form of government, either.
It is base political repression.
In my view, the “sandbox” Little Jimmy euphemistically refers to has become a fetid litter box – a system soiled by those who shit on our governmental systems and processes as a means to a very lucrative end – and its high time we use the power of the ballot box to sift these turds out and reclaim a transparent and responsive government of the people, by the people and for the people.