Angels & Assholes for May 31, 2018

Hi, kids!

We’re a day early!

Sorry to spring it on you – but like the song says – everybody needs a little time away, and I’m travelling to the beautiful North Carolina Piedmont this morning – with a whoop-whoop stop on River Street in Savannah, Georgia – just to recharge the batteries.

Thanks for understanding!

What a week it’s been here on Florida’s Fun Coast, huh?

Before we get this hayride underway, I thought we might lighten things up with a round of the Halifax areas favorite pastime – a little game I like to call “What the Hell?”

 As always, I would like to cordially invite our friends at the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Lodging and Hospitality Association of Volusia County and all our loyal fans over at the Regional Chamber of Commerce to play along!

Come on!  It’ll be Wide.  Open.  Fun!

 The rules are simple – study the photograph below and take a wild-ass guess if the scene depicted is:

A. Soviet-era panelki in some Eastern Bloc shithole?

B. The last days of a gang-encrusted mid-rise in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project?

C. The first thing visitors to the World’s Most Famous Beach see when they hit the sand from the ISB beach ramp?

panelik 2

(Que the Jeopardy theme. . .)

Times up!

If you picked the hocked-out shell of another former resort hotel turned mold farm on Volusia’s premiere stretch of traffic-free beach, give yourself a Gold Star!

Wait?

Where is the “Happy days are here again, again!” prosperity they promised us would follow if we simply acquiesced to the desires of the “Rich & Powerful” and gave up our century-old heritage of beach driving?

For just $20.00 per day, you too can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a once grand strand of sand fronted by a long-suffering, down-at-the-heels beach community that’s slowly succumbed to the triple-whammy of blight, bureaucratic negligence and lack of strategic vision by those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests.

A shabby place where a select few wealthy insiders lavish hundreds of thousands of dollars on the political campaigns of more-of-the-same candidates who repay them with millions in public economic development funds and incentives while visitors – the one’s we spend millions to attract – are subjected to nightmares like this in our core tourist area.

If the Lodging and Hospitality Association want to know why they can no longer attract customers on Memorial Day weekend – trust me – it had nothing to do with the weather, or the “weak line-up” at the Country 500 hootenanny.

Listen up:  THE PRODUCT IS BECOMING REFRIED SHIT.

Despite what we are told by Evelyn Fine and the other marketing maharishis who are paid handsomely to tell our redundant marketing folks what they want to hear – the place is going to seed right in front of our eyes. 

 Look, I wasn’t a member of the Beachside Redevelopment Braintrust – but instead of throwing one red cent away on more surveys and out-of-state marketing companies to lure people to this deteriorating stoolstack – just maybe our tourism officials should pull their collective heads out of their keisters and take a walkabout – you know, see the place as others see us.

Won’t cost a dime.

Then – after they’ve pissed themselves from sheer guilt – perhaps our resident “experts” will realize that the core problem is that “the product” is being irreparably damaged – the “draw” is fading – and if they continue down this path of throwing Chanel No. 5 on a hog while trying to convince themselves “It ain’t as Barker the Bitcher makes it out to be, is it?” then there won’t be much left to market in a few short years.

In my view, all the round-a-bouts, pretty pavers and happy talk in the world won’t stop the inevitable – only a coordinated strategic plan which encourages entrepreneurial investment without giving away the unique amenities that make us a “destination” can do that.

But what do I know?  

Enjoy your day at the beach, kids!  (Pull forward and pay at the kiosk, please.)

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 look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:          Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen

During a long career in municipal government, I learned a few things about crisis management.

In every pursuit, “things” happen, some we bring on ourselves, others are unexpected – be it a single incident that causes widespread outrage or a series of blunders that cumulatively build – its how an organization’s leadership team respond in the early hours of the crisis that either builds public confidence or results in utter chaos.

Sound crisis management begins with establishing strong service-based values and a commitment to transparency before trouble breaks.  It’s the organizational culture that ultimately allows a company or public entity to weather a calamity and protect their reputation.

In my experience, the role of a government administrator or department head is much like a circus performer who juggles chainsaws in the center ring – all eyes are on you, and mistakes can have spectacular results.

For the past few weeks, the headlines have been filled with a series of issues in Volusia County government – from the eleventh-hour removal of the much ballyhooed half-cent sales tax referendum, revelations of internal dysfunction by Sheriff Mike Chitwood, the debacle at the Medical Examiner’s Office, the near total collapse of our ambulance service and now reports of unresolved sexual harassment issues in the Beach Safety Department – suffice it to say, it hasn’t been a good month for County Manager Jim Dinneen.

Regardless of the circumstances, once an organization under fire gets behind the curve – or attempts to deflect blame with counter-accusations and denials – suspicion builds, and the public begins to rightfully question the veracity of its leadership.

Nothing builds more ill will, or negative press, than a lack of transparency and honesty.

Of course, most important, it pays to ensure that your company or government organization is reasonably well-managed in the first place – and that essential services are being provided in the most effective and efficient means possible.

That’s called oversight.

Any good manager understands that despite your best efforts, sometimes you just have to take it on the chin, accept responsibility, take ownership of your mistakes and work hard to correct the underlying problems while supporting your subordinates and constituents.

A good leader should also know when to take his or her leave.

People respect that.

The aftermath of these myriad issues in Volusia County is a horrific example of executive ineptitude and incompetence run wild – a gross exposure of the failures of leadership and organizational misfocus that has haunted the Dinneen administration and cost our county government the respect and trust of its constituents.

Then, our elected officials – the very people charged with providing politically accountable oversight of the all-powerful County Manager – immediately go on the defensive in some bizarre lycanthropic transformation, ripping the throat out of anyone who dares blow the whistle on the abject negligence that continues to jeopardize essential services.

In a clearly orchestrated campaign to discredit Sheriff Chitwood, Dr. Sara Zydowicz – and anyone else who questions the motivations of an administration that has clearly come off the rails – our besieged ‘powers that be’ trot out a few washed-up political hacks who expend clouds of hot air defending the omnipotent Volusia County Charter – always protecting the status quo that consolidates absolute power in the hands of an unelected manager with no oversight or accountability – and ensures all the right last names have unobstructed access to the public trough.

Meanwhile, they fail to recognize that those of us who pay the bills are getting damn sick and tired of being lied to, and treated like an afterthought, by those we elect and appoint to represent our interests.

As I said earlier this week, I’m often asked why I “hate” Jim Dinneen – a natural assumption based upon my frequent screeds taking him to task for the seemingly endless parade of management catastrophes that dominate the news these days.

The fact is, I don’t hate Mr. Dinneen – I’ve never met the man.

Only a small-minded bigot hates someone they don’t know or understand; however, I intensely dislike his cheapjack means to an end and manipulation of our system of governance and public funds to meet the private profit motives of political insiders.

I understand Mr. Dinneen’s methods all too well.

In our representative democracy, the only thing standing in the way of a city or county manager transmogrifying into a tyrannical despot is the elected body – policymakers charged with the direct oversight of an extremely powerful individual.

Unfortunately, the bought-and-paid-for chattel that passes for elected representatives on the dais of power in DeLand have compromised themselves by coming down on the wrong side of a crisis of enormous proportions – and in doing so, have painted themselves into a very narrow corner.

For instance, no rational person with two brain synapses still firing believes that the “independent” audit of the ME function, as orchestrated by Mr. Dinneen, is going to produce any credible findings to support Dr. Zydowicz’ scathing allegations to the state regulatory commission which oversees medical examiners in Florida.

We know that because earlier this week, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, announced in the Daytona Beach News-Journal his eerily clairvoyant premonition that the outside assessment of the medical examiner’s office will exonerate Volusia County, further discredit Dr. Z, and serve as a terrifying example of how whistleblowers are dealt no quarter in Volusia County government.

Then, on Wednesday the News-Journal ran a startling revelation that the Volusia County Beach Safety Department failed to properly investigate a credible allegation of gross sexual misconduct – a male employee who sent an explicit photograph of his genitals to a female coworker – citing the fact the victim didn’t want an inquiry.

Say what?  I don’t make this shit up, folks.

The accusations also include the use of disgusting homophobic slurs and obvious bias in the workplace by the same offender – claims that we’re told are now under investigation by beach safety officials.

Is it just me, or did Volusia County have at least a moral obligation to ensure that other employees were adequately protected from similar conduct by this employee – and that their constituents, you know, us poor saps who pay the bills – were protected from potential liability?

I mean, let’s face it, Volusia County Beach Safety doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to sexual harassment, exploitation and discrimination.

In fact, it’s abominable.

And you don’t have to be a highly compensated beach management administrator to know there should have been a higher standard of scrutiny, supervision and management oversight in the aftermath of the previous scandals.

The protection and morale of their officers and staff should be paramount.

But it isn’t.

My God. 

I’m fond of the adage that most people can forgive what they can see themselves doing.  How long would a person last in your business or workplace who sent a picture of his junk to a married female coworker?

I’m asking.  Because we didn’t tolerate that shit where I worked.

Now, I can’t wait to see how long it takes the three stooges – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson and Old Ed Kelley – to find a way to smear and marginalize the victims of these gross violations of county human resource policies and the tenets of basic human dignity – all while protecting Mr. Dinneen’s backside.

I’ve said it repeatedly – a good leader knows when its time to take his or her leave – and even a bad leader should see the handwriting on the wall.

I have it on good authority – from at least two independent sources – that our beleaguered County Manager’s days at the helm of this foundering ship of fools we call Volusia County government are coming to a close.

While I’m not sure what form his departure will take – or even if what I’m hearing is true – I think we can all agree that the fat lady has sung herself hoarse.

Frankly, the problems are getting too big, and too numerous, to ignore.

How much longer are the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County going to be subjected to this shitstorm?

Only our elected officials on the Volusia County Council can answer that question.

Angel:             Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte

If you need your hope and confidence in government restored – know that there are true professionals serving in positions of great responsibility in countless communities throughout our state and nation – none better that Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Joe as a dear friend and esteemed colleague for over twenty-years now.

Last week, the Volusia League of Cities had the good sense to honor Mr. Forte as their “Executive of the Year” – a fitting tribute to a man who embodies the attributes of a true servant-leader –  always putting the needs of those he serves at the forefront of everything he does.

Joe Forte began his extraordinary career in the City of Holly Hill in 1990 as a Driver/Engineer in the Fire Department before being appointed Fire Chief in 1995.  Mid-career, he was appointed Acting City Manager, and later City Manager, a position he held until 2007 when he became Deputy County Manager in Seminole County, Florida.

Like most law enforcement officers, during my professional life I was, as Joseph Conrad once said, “difficult to lead, but easy to inspire.”  Joe Forte inspired me – and I would follow him anywhere.

That is the highest compliment I can pay – and it is well-deserved.

In the best decision ever made by sitting political body, in September 2014, the Holly Hill City Commission rehired Mr. Forte as City Manager.

My only regret in a 31-year career in public service is that I retired too soon, never having had the opportunity to serve under this outstanding leader again.

The apt citation accompanying this prestigious award said, “Joe provides solutions and cost-savings on a daily basis to the elected officials and the citizens.  He is always looking for what is best for the citizens of Holly Hill and its employees.”

“Today, the city is now in the best financial state it has ever been in.  This is directly attributed to many policies he set forward.”

 Joe Forte leads from the heart.

Smart, quick-witted and determined, he is the embodiment of personal integrity, and he demonstrates the best qualities of his important profession is everything he does.

I am incredibly proud of Joe’s outstanding accomplishment – and the citizens of Holly Hill are fortunate to have him leading their beautiful community into a very bright future.

Angel:             Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza, 3658 Nova Road, Port Orange, Florida

Last week, the officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department – under the extraordinary leadership of Chief Craig Capri – had the solemn duty of laying one of their own to rest.

And they did it with incredible grace, dignity and respect in the highest traditions of the police service.

Officer Thomas Coulter, a young recruit who realized his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer, died after falling ill during a training exercise at DBPD headquarters.

Following his funeral with full honors, members of the agency contacted Giuseppe’s Pizza and ordered food for approximately 40 members of the Coulter family.

After placing the order, the agency received a call advising that the owner of Giuseppe’s would be donating the full order as a token of his appreciation and condolences.

It is my honor to confer this well-deserved Angel Status on the owners and staff of Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza for their outstanding contribution to the family of a fallen officer – and their respect for law enforcement officers everywhere.

This act of kindness is the essence of community spirit, and I hope the next time your family is in the mood for pizza – you’ll consider Giuseppe’s!

Quote of the Week:

 “An organization the size of county government — with more than 3,400 employees — shouldn’t operate on a good-ol’-boy backroom basis.  All complaints — even those that come from someone other than the reported victim — should be addressed swiftly, formally and independently, with an eye toward curbing behavior and ensuring a safe workplace for everyone.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial, “Don’t stall on harassment,” May 29, 2018

The News-Journal is right.

Volusia County lacks a clear process for addressing serious complaints of employee misconduct.

In my view, the result of this maladministration of even basic personnel protocols fosters a culture of dysfunction that will ultimately lead to deteriorating morale, employee distrust of a system that inherently promotes the perception of a double-standard – and potential liability to taxpayers.

In an organization of over 3,000 employees who provide vital services to our communities, this cavalier dismissal of serious complaints of official misconduct is counter to the values and culture citizens expect in their government (seriously, this kind of conduct wouldn’t be acceptable in a New Orleans whorehouse).

It’s time Volusia County government receives that enema Sheriff Chitwood keeps telling us about.

A political high colonic to give a top-to-bottom purge of these creeps who accept public funds and benefits to provide effective service delivery – yet abdicate their sworn responsibilities in virtually every functional area.

Go ahead – try and point to one department in Volusia County government that’s hitting on all cylinders?

In fact, the only function that works first-time, every-time – with the reliability of a Swiss watch – is the transfer of public funds to political insiders in the form of tens-of-millions in “economic incentives,” tax abatement’s and infrastructure improvements.

Terrible.

And Another Thing!

 In the past, I’ve been hypercritical County Councilwoman Heather Post.

She deserved every bit of it. . .

After all, our elected officials have sat on their collective thumbs while everything from our emergency medical services to county-owned real estate crumbles into a void of negligence and ineptitude.

And nobody on the dais of power seemed to give a tinker’s damn.

However, I have recently seen a distinct change in Ms. Post’s enthusiasm and approach to representing the good folks here in District 4 with competence and transparency.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage everyone to visit Ms. Post’s social media page on Facebook and watch her most recent shocking video reports – one on the mounting controversy at the medical examiner’s office – the other providing details on how critical information is doled out sparingly like dollops of rotten porridge to a hungry waif, rather than willingly pushed to sitting public officials with a true need-to-know by the Dinneen administration.

Clearly, it’s a control technique – and Ms. Post appears to have finally come to that sobering realization after months of being beaten into submission and forced into a self-imposed silence by her “colleagues” who long ago learned to get along and go along.

Good work, Councilwoman Post – I admire your efforts!

That’s all for me, folks!

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: The End of an Era? Let’s hope so

Hi, kids!  Yosemite Sam here!

The roughest, toughest, rootinest, tootinest, poot-pootinest, blogger whatever packed a pencil!

I opine on those lily-livered, bow-legged varmints who inhabit the halls of power – the idgit galoots who we elect and appoint to positions of high power – them flea-bitten scalawags who invariably serve the special interests of rich and powerful insiders – then forget all about us sufferin’ suckers who pay those rascally bills!

This week, I got a kick out of Daytona Beach News-Journal editorialist Scott Kent’s admonition to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood that his frequent harsh criticisms of County Manager Jim Dinneen are “unprofessional and unbecoming of an elected official.”

“Chitwood should leave that Yosemite Sam stuff to the bloggers.”

 I don’t know.  Why should I have all the fun?

I’m kidding.

The fact is – I can only pontificate on the news-of-the-day – the dribs and drabs of information that slowly seep out of county government in canned press releases, carefully orchestrated soundbites or from what passes for public communication from our elected officials.

Besides, I like Sheriff Chitwood’s brash, no-holds-barred style.

He calls it like he sees it – and his pointed criticism of an entrenched system originates from the first fresh set of eyes to see the internal machinations of a decade-old administration that seems more focused on managing the county council than the administrative and operational aspects of a large, bloated and unwieldy bureaucracy.

I’m often asked why I “hate” Jim Dinneen – a natural assumption based upon my frequent screeds taking him to task for the disaster du jour – the seemingly endless gaffes, mistakes, howlers and good Old Fashioned, five-alarm fuck-ups that dominate the news these days.

The fact is, I don’t hate Mr. Dinneen – I’ve never met the man.

Only a small-minded bigot hates someone they don’t know or understand; however, I intensely dislike his cheapjack means to an end and manipulation of our system of governance to meet the private profit motives of political insiders.

Trust me, I understand Mr. Dinneen’s methods all too well.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating at this pivotal moment in our county’s history:

During a period of my long career in municipal government I served, for a time, as acting city manager.  Once, while dealing with a crisis, I placed a telephone call to Mr. Dinneen to request assistance from the County’s Road & Bridge Department.

It wasn’t a big deal – I needed to borrow some specialty barricades until we could purchase our own – and Volusia County had a warehouse full of them right down the street from my office.

Mr. Dinneen refused to speak to me.

I don’t know why – but he wouldn’t take my call.

I tried twice, then took the hint.

Perhaps its my law enforcement background – where we help one another regardless of jurisdiction, provide mutual aid and operational support to ensure the mission is accomplished – realizing the importance of cooperation in this mosaic of sixteen municipalities where crime and emergencies don’t recognize jurisdictional borders – but Dinneen’s refusal to assist really rubbed me wrong.

And it told me a lot about the man, his management style and his relationship with the municipalities.

Someone recently opined on social media that the primary role of a city/county manager is to serve as a scapegoat for the elected officials.

I disagree.

It’s an incredibly important role in the life of a community – and when things go bad – real damage can result.

During my career, I saw – and have been an active part of – some manically dysfunctional administrations.  I’m talking historic incompetence, palace intrigue, Machiavellian subterfuge, personal vendettas, unethical conduct and rabid small town political infighting – a real hell-broth of fear and dysfunction.

All of it brought by the incompetence and ineptitude of a few appointed managers.

In a Council/Manager form of government, the manager is given extraordinary powers over every aspect of government services.  For instance, the executive has complete autonomy to hire and fire employees, set internal policies, personally direct the operations of all departments, agencies and services of the government and administrate all financial processes and budget recommendations.

We, The People, elect the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker to serve on a council or commission – similar to a corporate board of directors – who appoint a manager with ostensibly strong managerial and organizational skills to run the day-to-day operations of the government, make policy determinations, approve budget allocations and serve the legislative function.

Most do a fine job – and some do an exceptional job – serving multiple masters while bringing economic and civic progress to their communities.

The system also insulates career civil servants – the professionals who provide government services to the community – from the often politically motivated nature of elected officials who are normally prohibited by charter from directing or interfering with operations.

That’s important.

Perhaps the one aspect of the system that gives the manager ultimate power is the fact that he or she personally controls the flow of information to the members of the elected body.

That can be dangerous.

Florida’s open government laws specifically prohibit two or more elected officials from discussing matters coming before the collective body in private.  As a result, the only conduit they have to the “real story” – the nuts and bolts of the issues – is through individual meetings with the manager.

While elected officials do have some leeway to conduct independent fact-finding – some charters, and transparent managers, allow commissioners to speak with department heads – but most rely solely on what they are told by the manager.

As a result, many times the legislative process dissolves into little more than a rubber-stamp of the manager’s prerogative.

In our representative democracy, the only thing standing in the way of a government executive transmogrifying into a tyrannical despot is the elected body – politically accountable policymakers charged with the direct oversight of an extremely powerful individual.

It’s a tough gig – on both sides – and requires a balance of power that is influenced by many factors.

In Volusia County, a big factor is the enormous sums of cash which are infused into local political campaigns by those special interests seeking continued access to the public trough.

Look, I poke fun at them a lot – but the fact is, local and county elected officials have a tough job serving as the face of our government.

The motivations and drive to hold oneself out for public office are as varied as the people who participate in the process – a desire for community service, civic involvement, a need to change the status quo, the real ability to make a positive impact, patriotism – and the less noble reasons of power, prestige, personal and professional benefit and outsized ego.

They are our insurance agent, realtor, dentist and clergy, farmer, school teachers and retirees, business owners and attorneys – folks from all walks of life, experience and backgrounds.

They take the late-night phone calls about trash collection, patiently listen to citizen complaints, explain the labyrinth of government processes, set budgets, hear zoning disputes, sit on boards and committees, listen to mind-numbing presentations, raise funds and awareness, endure relentless lobbying and persuasion from “power brokers” and competing interests, field personal insults and inquiries, and attend myriad ribbon cuttings, chamber events and rubber chicken civic functions.

All while being beaten up for their every misstep by wise-asses like me.

In most cases, they serve in the public interest – but a few succumb to the temptation of power and become everything they hated when their political journey began.

Others are simply weak-minded or unprepared for the reality of politics – and are quickly taken into the maw of the “system” – a machine that feeds greedily on tax dollars and rejects creativity or individual thought in favor of homogenized conformity and allegiance to the shadowy, behind-the-scenes shot-callers who use the public purse for personal enrichment.

As a result, many who stand for public office quickly realize it is simply easier to go along, and get along.

I have it on good authority – from at least two independent sources – that our beleaguered County Manager’s days at the helm of Volusia County government are coming to a close.

While I’m not sure what form his departure will take – or even if what I am hearing is correct – I think we can all agree that the time has come for Mr. Dinneen to go.

From District 4 County Councilwoman Heather Post’s videotaped disclosures on social media describing the ugly internal issues, lack of transparency and pathological information control measures currently in place – to Sheriff Chitwood’s scathing critique of Mr. Dinneen’s micromanagement and untruthfulness – the problems are getting too big, and too numerous, to ignore.

Even the Daytona Beach News-Journal is calling for change.

I encourage our elected officials on the dais of power in DeLand to muster the personal and political courage to show Jim Dinneen the door – sooner rather than later.

It is time to restore honesty and transparency in a government that has come off the rails – and lost the trust and confidence of those it exists to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Forgotten: The Men of Spike Team Asp

In late March 1968, United States Army Sergeant First Class George “Ron” Brown of Holly Hill, Florida, Sergeant Alan Boyer of Missoula, Montana, and Sergeant Greg Huston of Shelby County, Ohio, along with six indigenous personnel – collectively known as “Spike Team Asp” – conducted a top-secret intelligence operation behind enemy lines approximately 12-miles northeast of Tchepone, Laos.

tchepone

Assigned to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam/Studies and Observation Group (MACV/SOG) this team of elite Special Forces soldiers was tasked with setting Air Force wire-tapping equipment and sensors along the labyrinthine Ho Chi Minh trail system, the main north-south supply line for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.

The men had been covertly inserted into the area after launching from Nakon Phanom, Thailand aboard a CH-3 from the Air Force’s 20th Helicopter Squadron call sign “Pony Express.”

More than 25 special forces soldiers and many indigenous troops had already been killed or gone missing in our deadly secret war in Laos.

At approximately 11:00am on the morning of March 28, the team reported that they were in contact with an enemy force and requested an immediate emergency extraction from the area.

A helicopter arrived in the area a short time later and quickly located the team on the ground.

Due to thick canopy jungle and rough terrain the pilot was unable to land so a rope ladder was dropped from the open doorway of the aircraft to the men below.  Five of the six indigenous troops climbed the ladder and were safely taken into the helicopter.

As the sixth was going up, Sergeant Boyer was seen beginning his ascent at the bottom rung of the ladder.

Al Boyer
Alan Boyer

Just as Boyer started climbing, one of the rope’s mounting brackets either broke free or was cut away by heavy enemy ground fire.  Personnel on the helicopter reported observing the indigenous soldier and Sgt. Boyer falling to the ground.

According to reports, Sgt. Dave Mayberry, who served as the chase medic on the extraction helicopter, observed the Green Berets still very much alive and heroically returning fire and defending their position.

When Sgt. Mayberry turned to treat one of the wounded he lost sight of the men on the ground.

Brown, Huston and Boyer were never seen again.

Numerous air assets were diverted to the area and a rescue team was assembled, but the mission was called off later that afternoon when there were no further communications from the men.

On April 1, 1968, Special Forces Sergeant Chuck Feller, along with several indigenous soldiers, launched on a mission to locate the lost men of Spike Team Asp.  After just six hours on the ground, Sgt. Feller and his team came into direct contact with the enemy and called for an emergency extraction.

Ron 3
Ron Brown

Again, a rope ladder had to be dropped and one of the indigenous soldiers was forced to dangle from the rungs as the helicopter returned to the airbase in Thailand.  Sgt. Feller later reported that his search found no evidence of Spike Team Asp.

Interestingly, after Al Boyer went missing in action, his best friend since childhood, Doug Hagen, was attending North Dakota State University when he heard the news.  He decided he needed to find out what happened to his friend, and enlisted in the Army, ultimately joining the 5th Special Forces Group, just as Al had done.

On August 7, 1971, 1st Lieutenant Doug Hagen was killed during heavy fighting while leading a reconnaissance team – RT Kansas – on a secret mission deep within enemy controlled territory.

For his heroism, Doug received the Medal of Honor, the United States highest decoration for valor.  He was the last United States Army soldier to earn the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam war.

In January 2000, a team from the former Joint POW/MIA Accounting Office conducted extensive excavations of the Laotian countryside near where Spike Team Asp was last seen.

During the latter part of the war, the Ho Chi Minh trail was heavily bombed leaving the earth deeply cratered and much of the topography completely different than it had been in 1968, making search and recovery efforts extremely difficult.

However, the archaeological excavation uncovered several personal artifacts attributable to U.S. military personnel, to include a metal boot insert and several uniform buttons.

In addition, a single human tooth was recovered at the site.

The tooth was later linked to Ron Brown through dental x-rays at the Department of Defense Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

In May 2003, Sergeant Brown’s daughter, Ronda Brown-Pitts, was notified by the Army that her father’s remains had been found in Laos.  Unfortunately, dental records provided to her showed that her father’s tooth had a filling – and the tooth recovered did not.

Due to the confusion, Ronda demanded a DNA test, but it was refused based on the Army’s policy of “body desecration.” A DNA test would have destroyed “all of the remains.”

In 2006, a casket containing the remains of Master Sergeant George “Ron” Brown was delivered to his daughter and later interred with full military honors in Dayton, Texas.

Many years ago, I received a POW/MIA bracelet bearing Ron’s name.

When I was a young boy growing up during the Vietnam era, these bracelets were a fairly common sight, but not so much anymore.  In the 1970’s many school children wore the bracelet as a means of ensuring that the POW/MIA issue remained a priority until they all came home.

For those whose adopted POW didn’t come home, the bracelet holder became the keeper of the eternal memory of one man’s sacrifice.

The silver band has become both a personal memorial, and a public reminder, that there are some debts of gratitude that cannot be repaid.

This small token has allowed me to learn about Ron’s military career and his incredible heroism; and I have had the honor of speaking with his friends and family, and to meet and correspond with some of the men he served with on Okinawa and in Vietnam.

He was a husband, a father, a former member of the U.S. Army Parachute Team “The Golden Knights,” and a professional soldier of incredible skill and dedication.

Even though Ron’s “remains” have been repatriated, I still wear his bracelet as a personal remembrance of one man’s sacrifice to the high cost of freedom – and in memory of Greg Huston, who remains missing.

Incredibly, the story of Spike Team Asp continues.

 

 

greg huston
Greg Huston

On March 7, 2016, one day before what would have been Sergeant Alan Boyer’s 70th birthday, United States Army and DOD officials presented his sister in Leesburg, Florida, with Alan’s military decorations, to include the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

During the visit, Judi Boyer Bouchard was notified that a single leg bone fragment had been located by the Defense Department POW/MIA Accounting Office.  The bone shard was apparently purchased by a Laotian activist from Lao nationals described as “remains dealers,” and later positively identified through mitochondrial DNA analysis.

On June 22, 2016, Sergeant Alan Boyer was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 28.

He was laid to rest just 15-feet from his best friend, Doug Hagen.

hagen
Doug Hagen

Currently, there are 1,598 Americans who remain missing after the Vietnam War.

Overall, there are more than 82,000 missing personnel from past conflicts, including World War II, Korea, the Cold War and the Middle East.

On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us remember the extraordinary service of men like Ron Brown, Al Boyer and Greg Huston and Doug Hagen – and all those brave souls who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great nation.

Never forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: Time for Decisive Leadership (Don’t hold your breath. . .)

There is an undeniable crisis in Volusia County government.

This week we got a remarkable glimpse at how our elected and appointed officials in the halls of power in DeLand react when that dysfunction is revealed – and it exposed the fact that self-preservation and political insulation are institutional instincts in an organizational culture that puts protection of the “system” over the needs of constituents every time.

Look, no person or group is perfect.

So long as the faults and frailties of human beings are part of a process – there will always be the possibility of legitimate error.

But there is a difference between an honest mistake and negligence in the often-difficult work of providing essential government services.  In my experience, the people who pay for those services will often forgive things they can see themselves doing.

What they will never accept is abdication of responsibility and deflection of accountability by public officials who are paid handsomely to exhibit those important attributes of leadership.

When the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on the abrupt resignation of Dr. Sara Zydowicz – the District 7 Medical Examiner who had been in office for just one-month before she resigned and penned a scathing critique of the substandard facilities and inadequate staffing she endured to the state regulatory committee which oversees this important service to the citizens of Florida – the Dinneen administration immediately began circling the wagons.

Within hours of the revelation, a virulent siege mindset spread like wildfire through the halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.  That happens in an organization that has had any creativity, elasticity or independent thought micromanaged out of it by an all-powerful autocrat.

Initially, Deputy County Manager George Recktenwald was selected to become the point man for a burgeoning scandal which sent shock-waves through a community.

In a weird performance that I have described as the most embarrassing digitally recorded interview of a sitting public official ever recorded – Mr. Recktenwald came off like a prototypical bureaucrat trying valiantly to save his own ass while protecting those above his paygrade who are ultimately responsible for the debacle.

This ugly custom will become known in government circles as being “Recktenwalded” – the practice of a senior manager being shoved between a rock and a hard place – sacrificed on the altar of public opinion – while County Manager Jim Dinneen sequestered himself behind closed doors with a coterie of like-types, all getting their sordid stories together while figuring a means to marginalize the messenger.

It happens so frequently these days that one can almost anticipate the process.

First, the news of yet another colossal gaffe is met by vehement denials by our elected officials on the Volusia County Council – lumps who have once again been caught red-faced – totally blindsided by the County Manager’s disaster du jour – followed closely by counter-accusations from county mouthpieces and middle-management.

Then, with the stench of lies heavy on the breeze – Mr. Dinneen conjures blatant falsehoods and uses political sleight-of-hand in a crass and cowardly attempt to discredit the whistleblower and sidestep personal culpability.

This charade is reprehensible – and must be utterly embarrassing for politically vulnerable council members – yet, they permit the same vignette to play out time-and-again.

It’s also getting tiresome.

Now, with the undeniable facts of the deplorable conditions at the Medical Examiner’s Office laid bare – those who were elected to represent our interests once again show their true colors, deny any direct knowledge of the issues leading to the crisis and seem to have a clairvoyant premonition of the findings of an “independent” outside auditor who was hand-selected by Mr. Dinneen.

How stupid do these hapless assholes think we are? 

In the most bald-faced scam since, oh, last week, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and the patently compromised Jim Dinneen, would have us believe that a cursory review by Pasco County medical examiner, John Thogmartin – which apparently consisted of a walk-through of the morgue last Friday – will refute Dr. Z’s allegations and result in a glowing review of the county’s forensic services.

“I don’t think it’s dangerous or that it’s mismanaged,” said Dinneen, adding that he’d never heard any complaints from the doctor. “I want the third-party person to see realistically where we are and if there’s anything we are lacking, I will make sure it gets done.”

Of course, Kelley agreed with his boss – looking for all the world like a panting little lapdog desperately protecting his master.

“It won’t be anywhere close to what she wrote,” Kelley predicted. “Let’s just wait and see what the inspection says.”

How in the hell do these two buffoons know in advance what the result of Dr. Thogmartin’s audit will produce?

Unless. . .

Screw it.

Every thinking person knows that the fox simply cannot select and oversee an inspection of the henhouse – not if there is to be a modicum of credibility in the process – and God knows we could really use some transparency right now.

To add insult to injury, the third stooge – our own elected Rip Van Winkle, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – took the opportunity to marginalize Dr. Zydowicz (the only soul in this sordid mess who had the personal and professional ethics to report this abject negligence to outside authority) saying that her complaint “damaged the county’s image.”

Note to Sleepy Pat:  What remains of the “county’s image” couldn’t be marred more deeply with a 10-pound shit-hammer.

Inexplicably, Sleepy went on to exclaim in the newspaper, “I haven’t heard a single word or complaint about this until this story,” said Patterson, referring to a News-Journal report about the letter last week. “This whole thing boggles my mind because I haven’t heard any complaints. I think Dr. Z has tarnished us because of the way she handled this.” He also called The News-Journal’s story about the letter “bull—-.”

I’ll tell you what’s bullshit – sitting public officials vainly attempting to convince We, The People – the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County – that they didn’t know as early as 2015 when the ME lost professional accreditation that there were serious problems at the morgue, or 2017, when News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt wrote an eye-opening exposé which described the odor of decomposition wafting down an interior corridor, among other “challenges.”

Besides, “boggling” Sleepy Pat’s mind isn’t that difficult. . .

These lying sacks of shit should be ashamed of themselves – besmirching the reputation of a dedicated professional with the best interests of her constituents and subordinates at heart – as they work overtime to save their own sorry asses.

Reprehensible.

These craven assholes disgust me – and every truth-seeking resident of Volusia County who are sick and tired of being openly lied to by this bought-and-paid-for rabble.

In the News-Journal’s spot-on editorial, “No excuses on ME office,” the newspaper opined:

“Over the past three years, has nobody complained to a council member about the facility, and no one followed through? Chair Ed Kelley told Wyatt, “It was explained to me that (the morgue) wasn’t that bad.” He acknowledges that he did not request a tour of the facility to confirm that.”

“Perhaps the council has been putting too much faith in official sources.”

Perhaps?

Gentle readers, when elected officials lose faith and confidence in their chief executive to administrate the essential services of our government – they are duty-bound to protect their constituents from further ineptitude and embarrassment.

That’s how the system – our venerated “home rule charter” form of government – is supposed to work.

No more excuses, cover-ups and tail-wagging-the-dog.

Jim Dinneen has once again been publicly exposed as an overpaid foul ball who deftly manages the County Council – but fails miserably in his sworn duties to effectively and efficiently oversee the important administrative and operational aspects of Volusia County government.

It is time for our elected representatives to act decisively – to once and for all demonstrate strong leadership – and jettison this weak link for the good of the herd.

It is past time for Little Jimmy to make his exit.

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for May 25, 2018

Hi, kids!

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 look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:              Former DeBary City Manager Dan Parrott

During the long, hot summer of 2016, I wrote a series of opinion essays on the political maelstrom that wracked the City of DeBary.

People still ask me why I expended so much stomach acid on the small west Volusia town, and I explain that if you care about good government in your community – you should care about good governance everywhere.

I live in God’s Country – Ormond Beach – but what happened in DeBary really bothered me.

The genesis was a progression of articles in the Daytona Beach News-Journal – penned by the intrepid investigative journalist Dina Voyles-Pulver – in my view, one of the best reporters in the business today – regarding the City of DeBary’s surreptitious attempt to slip a mixed-use development into the environmentally sensitive Gemini Springs Annex.

Her work on what I later termed the “Debacle in DeBary” is worthy of a Pulitzer.

At the time, I wrote, “With the skillful stroke of her pen, Dina exposed a fetid snake pit of public corruption, political treachery, incompetence, and parasitic malfeasance that reached all the way to the helm of one of our state’s most powerful regulatory agencies.”

 It’s true.

At the time, DeBary hired Bio-Tech Consulting, an environmental consultancy owned by our old friend Long John Miklos, the powerful chairman of the St. Johns Water Management District, which both owned the land and controlled the permitting process required for the proposed transit-oriented development.

Interestingly, Miklos and DeBary City Attorney Kurt Ardaman were listed as officers in a corporation registered with the state called Medjool Investments.

That’s right – the city attorney and the shapeshifting chairman/lobbyist John Miklos – were in business together!

Apparently, Mr. Ardaman conveniently forgot to mention this fact to his clients – the citizens and elected officials of DeBary – and that began a very tumultuous period in Tiny Town.

It was ugly.  Really.

Born of an archetypal crisis of leadership – and abject greed – this fiasco exemplified the depth to which some elected and appointed officials will stoop to serve their own self-interests.

DeBary’s disgraced former city manager, Dan Parrott – in my view, a congenitally crooked douchebag whose brand of ham-fisted revenge politics and open misogyny ultimately cost two good women their careers and the duly elected mayor his seat on the council – is ultimately responsible for this civic disaster.

He also cost the good citizens of DeBary a ton of money.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s enough blame to go around in DeBary City Hall.

Anyone who cares can read all about it in the Barker’s View archives.  In my view, the posts serve as a cruel primer on the ultimate consequences of avarice and political hubris run amok.

One filthy segment of the saga ended this week when the taxpayers of DeBary (through their insurance premiums) paid for the sins of Dan Parrott by compensating former Assistant City Manager Kassandra Blissett some $250,000 to settle a federal gender discrimination suit.

In my view, that wasn’t nearly enough.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Kassandra since her first job in municipal government.

In my experience, she is a consummate professional – bright, articulate, with a style and sense of humor that endeared her to staff, elected officials and the citizens she served.

Unfortunately, when Parrott took the helm of DeBary government, Ms. Blissett’s career trajectory arced like a lawn dart.

According to her March 2015 complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, female staff members were “subjected to ongoing, pervasive and offensive remarks and discriminatory actions on account of her gender” by Mr. Parrott.

An amended complaint alleged Parrott called Blissett and then city clerk, Stacey Tebo, “bitches,” and sullied Kassandra’s reputation by referring to her as “the county whore.” 

It is also alleged that he refused to properly investigate a complaint of harassment and discrimination filed by another female employee.

In addition, the complaint accused Parrott of making other despicable comments in the workplace, opining that “women don’t think clearly because they are too emotional” and that there was “too much estrogen” on staff.

What a scumbag.

As a result, Ms. Blissett was unable to find a suitable position locally, and now serves a government in Maryland.

Of course, neither Parrott, nor the City of DeBary, admitted wrongdoing in the settlement.

A similar federal lawsuit filed by Ms. Tebo has yet to be settled.

Ultimately, Dan Parrott fled City Hall with a sack full of severance cash like the diseased rat he is – but not before he and the City Attorney cobbled together some dubious “charter violations” against the community’s chief critic, and duly elected mayor, Clint Johnson.

The charges essentially involved a series of goofy tweets and opinionated social media posts Mayor Johnson made voicing his frustration with an increasingly out-of-control municipal government.

Once everything was in place, a Kangaroo Court was convened and the will of the people – the sacred vote of DeBary residents – was arbitrarily overturned by the city’s four remaining thin-skinned, mean-spirited elected officials in the most blatant act of political vengeance ever witnessed in the history of local governance.

They were embarrassed.  They didn’t like him.  So, they took Mayor Johnson out with extreme prejudice.

A circuit court judge later sided with DeBary officials on just one of the eight accusations used to oust a sitting elected official.  To his credit – Mayor Johnson chose to move on with his life and spare his former constituents further expense and turmoil.

Ultimately, most of the officials who were responsible for this screwy turmoil left public office, criminal investigations were concluded without charges and things seemed to quiet, or at least move out of public view, something those who wandered off into the festering quagmire of the Gemini Springs Annex deal consider some weird victory.

Whatever.

But when I read an article that harkens back to that bizarre time and place, I can’t help but feel that the true victims of this classic example of all that’s wrong with small town politics – the long-suffering citizens of DeBary – have been left holding the bag.

Angel:             Former Volusia Medical Examiner Dr. Sara Zydowicz

 Oh, we got trouble, right here in River City!

 That’s with a capital “T”! – That rhymes with “Triple P”! – and that stands for “Piss Poor Performance!” 

 My apologies to Meredith Willson – Broadway musicals are not my strength – but a recent piece in our newspaper of record exposing disastrous problems in the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s Office is indicative of much larger troubles in County Manager Jim Dinneen’s administration.

In a recent article by the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Dustin Wyatt entitled, “Medical Examiner: Volusia facility ‘potentially dangerous’” we learned the true reason why Dr. Sara Zydowicz recently fled Volusia County like a scalded dog after just one-month on the job:

She could no longer jeopardize her professional reputation – or physical safety – working in a critically understaffed and substandard shithole that no longer serves the needs of the citizens of Volusia County.

Citing a litany of serious discrepancies, to include overcrowding, a backlog of incomplete autopsy reports, and an office that has been physically and financially neglected “to the point that daily work is at times not possible and the risk of critical error is uncomfortably high,” Dr. Z did the only thing a licensed professional could and resigned.      

To her credit, she also had the personal fortitude and professional ethics to report these deplorable conditions to the state regulatory commission that oversees medical examiners and their critical work in service to the citizens of Florida.

I respect Dr. Z’s courage.

Given the sensitive and essential nature of the service, these allegations are more than just another government gaffe.  In my view, this level of arrant negligence and gross malfeasance by Mr. Dinneen and his administration should be a crime.

Look, everyone knew that there were serious problems at the medical examiner’s office – in fact, our ‘powers that be’ have been promising a new $13-million facility for years – assuaging growing concerns with the repeated refrain, “It’s on the five-year plan.”

So, how can Mr. Dinneen now sit back with that arrogant look on his face and deflect responsibility with the mendacious explanation he didn’t receive “one complaint, not one formal complaint” regarding problems at the morgue?

My God. 

For the record, Mr. Dinneen knew the severity of the situation when the office lost its professional accreditation in 2015 due to numerous violations of accepted standards and what on-site assessors described as a “way substandard facility.”

Then, just last summer, the News-Journal printed a scathing article entitled, “Volusia medical examiner’s office struggles to keep up with the dead,” wherein reporter Dustin Wyatt described the odor of decomposing bodies wafting down an interior corridor, among other “challenges.”

Despite these glaring warnings – in August 2017 – the Volusia County Council voted without discussion to continue providing forensic services to Seminole County, with the full-knowledge the office was incapable of keeping up with Volusia’s burgeoning demand.

Interestingly, at that time, Dinneen was well-aware of the issues, because he told the newspaper that when the new facility is built, “we need to size it for the flow based on both counties.”

Now do you see why Sheriff Chitwood called the County Manager a “lying sack of shit”?

In perhaps the most uncomfortable recorded interview ever captured on digital video, Deputy County Manager George Recktenwald looked like an odd-toed ungulate trapped on an ice sheet – peevishly hemming, hawing, slipping and slopping his way through a botched damage control monolog which was later cruelly posted on the News-Journal’s webpage.

Sadly, as in most calamitous scandals in Volusia County government, Mr. Recktenwald became the latest staff casualty – his credibility sacrificed by his cowardly boss as he became the face of this latest/greatest debacle – all while Dinneen apparently cowers under his expensive desk in the fetal position, refusing to answer questions until he can get his stories straight.

Trust me, George Recktenwald’s ability to swallow his dignity whole will become legendary in local government circles – handed down through generations of bureaucrats like some ancient Babylonian cautionary tale.

In my view, what Mr. Recktenwald did is reprehensible, and he should be ashamed for trying to defend Mr. Dinneen’s outrageous negligence while marginalizing Dr. Zydowicz for blowing the whistle on the deplorable conditions she and others were forced to endure.

That’s unconscionable.

By any metric, Mr. Dinneen deserted his ethical and fiduciary responsibility to properly fund and maintain this essential government service – then he bald-faced lied about it.

If this important work cannot be conducted due to inadequate staffing, equipment and facilities – things clearly under Mr. Dinneen’s control – it can deny victims of homicide the justice they deserve – and complicate all-important manner and cause of death determinations in post-mortem examinations.

Unfortunately, the causative factors in county government go much deeper.

How many times must we open our morning newspaper to the headline “Council members surprised” before someone, anyone, on the dais of power gets off their ass and acts to stop this embarrassment?

In a dubious response to a reporter’s question, the always arrogant County Councilwoman Deb Denys took the opportunity to attack Dr. Z’s difficult decision – and credibility – rather than place blame where it belongs.

“Everyone is aware of the situation,” Denys said, (except Mr. Dinneen?) “including Dr. Z. What’s most surprising is that she circumvented the county and went directly to the state. We never heard complaints from her before this.”

Where else would she go, Ms. Denys?

Should she have brought her concerns to you neutered lapdogs on the Volusia County Council?

That’s laughable.

The last time District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post – a duly elected public representative – dared speak out against Mr. Dinneen, she was brutally humiliated and publicly discredited by her own colleagues during an open meeting.

Then, obviously realizing that her clumsy remark exposed how serious internal problems are covered up as a matter of policy – Ms. Denys attempted to recover with the absurd notion that she would “…support having an outside party come in and look at the morgue’s operations.”    

How stupid does Deb Deny’s think we are? 

And what good does it do to bring in an outside auditor if you’re going to leave the same shit-for-brains in charge of an operation that they allowed to deteriorate to the point of “danger” in the first place?

Besides, the National Association of Medical Examiners already told you all that’s wrong when they pulled your accreditation in 2015!

(Note to Deb Denys: The problem with lying for a living is you have to remember the lies you told previously to keep the chain of deceit intact – it’s like spinning plates – otherwise, assholes like me dredge them up and throw them in your face like a rotten meringue pie.  Every.  Damn.  Time.)

According to the News-Journal’s report, “County Chair Ed Kelley said that he’s not asked for a tour of the office but believes county management would have moved the construction project up on the priority list if they had been made aware that conditions were as dire as Zydowicz described.”

“It’s been on the list for years. Should it have been replaced sooner? Maybe,” he said. “It was explained to me that (the morgue) wasn’t that bad.

Maybe?

Clearly, our doddering fool of a County Chair is physically incapable of independently gathering information and forming an original thought.  He prefers the plausible deniability of buying Mr. Dinneen’s fairytale stories – then feigning ignorance.

When Old Ed and his fellow elected officials invariably get caught red-faced with their knickers around their knees – publicly mortified by the latest debacle – Mr. Kelley shrugs his shoulders, gives us that slack jawed expression, then deadpans in his patented cornpone, “Ahh don’t know nuttin’.” 

These assholes know no shame.

If history repeats, good people like Dr. Z will take their professional services elsewhere – the “system” will circle the wagons around this dry turd of a county manager – and come this fall, our elected dullards on the county council will, like clockwork, give Mr. Dinneen yet another undeserved pay raise.

In the Kingdom of Jim Dinneen – We, The People, are the losers.

Victims of violent, traumatic or unattended death deserve to have their stories told; they deserve to have their remains treated with dignity; their friends and families deserve answers in a timely manner – and our justice system deserves competent forensic services.

As citizens of one of the highest taxed counties in Florida, Volusia residents are worthy of better.

We should not be forced to accept this gross mismanagement and administrative incompetence from a foul ball commanding over $300,000 in public salary and benefits.

The time has come for Mr. Dinneen to go.

Angel:             Bethune-Cookman Athletics

 From the Barker’s View Sports Desk – it was a busy week for B-CU Wildcat Baseball and Softball as they played host to both MEAC tournaments – events which brought 12 collegiate teams and conference staff to town.

Despite a lingering rain, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s ground crew kept the field in great shape, allowing the baseball tourney to progress as scheduled.

After surviving four straight elimination games – and giving a monumental effort in the title matchup –  unfortunately, our Wildcats were bested in a disappointing 12-9 loss to North Carolina A&T who were crowned MEAC Champions 2018.

In a post-game interview, B-CU head coach Barrett Shaft told the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

  “I told them, life is going to be like that, it’s going to hit you in the face a couple times. What they learned this season about driving through adversity, it’s going to be with them the rest of their lives.”

 “I learned a lot about their character and they’re going to go on to be great men.”

 It’s refreshing to hear a collegiate coach say that.  After all, isn’t that what organized athletics is all about?

Congratulations, Wildcats!  Stay strong!

Asshole:          Former Palm Coast City Manager Richard Kelton

Did anyone else belch bile after reading former Palm Coast City Manager Richard Kelton’s defense of what passes for Volusia County’s charter government in Wednesday’s News-Journal?

Just me?  Okay.

Frankly, I’m tired of being lectured by washed-up political hacks on the merits of a county charter that places extraordinary power in the hands of one little man – completely devoid of outside oversight, transparency or political accountability.

That shit might have worked in the Land of Oz – but it has no place in a representative democracy.

The fact is, our current system bears no resemblance to the noble idea of self-government the citizens had in mind when the charter was adopted in 1968.

The preamble states:

“We the people of Volusia County, State of Florida, in order to create a more responsible and efficient local government, do in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida, ordain and establish as our charter and form of government this charter of Volusia County, Florida.”

Tell me one thing remotely responsible or efficient about our current situation?

I’m asking.

Those who support this bastardized oligarchy crow that our duly elected sheriff should learn to live within a demonstrably corrupt system – because that’s what he bargained for when he stood for election.

Look, Mike Chitwood is a good cop – but I’ll bet even he couldn’t have deduced just how bad things were in county government from the outside looking in.

In discussing Sheriff Chitwood’s attempt to remove his office from the bondage of Mr. Dinneen’s shady micromanagement, Mr. Kelton opined:

The Volusia County Charter has been reviewed five times by appointed Charter Review Commissions. The first review was in 1975-76, with additional reviews every 10 years since. Amendments proposed by the review commission go directly to the ballot without any action by the County Council. Although the issue has been raised during each charter review, no commission has seen any reason to place an amendment regarding the elected department head status on the ballot. The system works, and works well; don’t break it.”

Bullshit.

What he fails to mention is that the charter is not reviewed by citizens who are forced to live with the fallout – but by politically appointed insiders, former politicians and development attorneys with marching orders and uber-wealthy power brokers – some of whom directly benefit from massive government incentives – who do their level-best to protect the status quo.

I understand Mr. Kelton’s instinct to defend a fellow manager under siege.

After all, Kelton has been a member of the Florida City and County Management Association for nearly a half-century – an organization that has dissolved into little more than a paid fraternity which always seems to protect its weakest link – regardless of the damage it does to the profession.

Look, I get it.  But please stop blowing smoke up the ass of long-suffering Volusia County residents who have experienced for themselves the downside of a home rule charter form that has clearly gone off the rails.

In my view, given our current circumstances, we desperately need an independent Constitutional Sheriff in Volusia County.

Mr. Kelton, our “system” isn’t just broken – it looks like it was struck by a locomotive hauling wet manure.

A real stinking mess.

I encourage everyone to vote “YES” on Amendment 10.

Quote of the Week:

“The other Community Voice by County Manager Jim Dinneen, with comments regarding the medical examiner quitting, were a perfect example from our government and the powers that be. He stated that during her tenure there were positive comments and no complaints. She worked in that position for one month!”

–Bill Inklebarger, Port Orange, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor, “Volusia is due for change,” May 23, 2018.

Kudos to Mr. Inklebarger and others who have demonstrated the courage to shine a light on the blatant falsehoods and ineptitude of County Manager Jim Dinneen.

Based upon what we now know about Dr. Zydowicz’ abrupt departure – clearly her one-month tenure at the helm of what remains of our Medical Examiner’s Office wasn’t all “positive comments and no complaints” as Mr. Dinneen would have us believe.

Look, anyone with a base IQ score above that of a piss-ant or Ed Kelley (sorry piss-ants. . .) can see what’s happening here, right?

The categorical imperative of government service is that an executive official must never lie to his or her constituents – especially in a crude attempt to dodge individual accountability – because it destroys the public’s sacred trust in this important institution.

In fact, a main tenet of the Code of Ethics for government professionals requires that a manager:

Demonstrate by word and action the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity in all public, professional, and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the trust and respect of the elected and appointed officials, employees, and the public.”

In my view, this latest exposure brings to light the pressing need for fundamental change in our administrative and political leadership in Volusia County.  This debacle is wholly unacceptable – and the solution is now firmly in the hands of the people’s elected representatives.

Their duty to protect us from this ineptitude and restore confidence can no longer be denied.

And Another Thing!

Earlier this week, Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere beach advocacy – put Volusia County officials on notice that when it comes to conservation rules and environmental regulations, they apply to everyone.

Even the “Rich & Powerful.”

At issue was the recent “invitation only” soiree held by Summit Hospitality to say “thank you” to local politicians who gave away our century-old heritage of beach driving so the Hard Rock Hotel could market a semi-private beach.

During the party, our ‘movers and shakers’ stood around sipping cocktails, slapping backs and looking on as a pyrotechnic contractor set up, and later detonated, a spectacular array of professional-grade fireworks directly on the beach – in the conservation zone – on the first evening of the 2018 sea turtle nesting season. . .

A member of the SOB’s incredible legal team, attorney Dennis Bayer, recently let County Manager Jim Dinneen know there is some shit we won’t eat:

“The complaint focuses on recent activities by the developers of Hard Rock Café.  I believe that you and members of the County Council are actually witnesses to one of the violations.  Attached is a copy of the permit issued by Volusia County for a special event to the Hard Rock Hotel.  The permit specifically states that all events and parking must take place outside of the Conservation Zone.  This point is emphasized in several portions of the permit as “protection of the beach ecosystem is a priority of Volusia County…”.  In direct contradiction to the express terms of the permit, the Applicant was allowed to drive and park vehicles in the CZ, and, perhaps more significantly, launch an extensive array of fireworks from well within the CZ. Please see the attached photographs.”

In addition, Mr. Bayer’s complaint incorporates the phalanx of horrific poisoned poles which were driven into the sand as a blockade to beach driving along 410’ of the strand behind the Hard Luck.

Preliminary testing on samples taken from the pressure treated wood pilings show they contain “high levels” of Chromated Copper Arsenate – an extremely hazardous substance which has been banned by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for use in public recreation areas due to exposure concerns.

(Shouldn’t someone at Beach Management have known that before they fouled a public beach with chromium, copper and arsenic?  Whatever. . .)

The SOB’s are asking that Volusia County immediately remove these poisoned posts and replace them with a safe alternative.

Thank you for your vigilance – Sons of the Beach!

We need you now, more than ever!

That’s all for me, folks!

Have a great weekend!

On Volusia: The Time Has Come – Jim Dinneen Must Go

It’s rare that I put out two blog posts on the same day – but I’m mad as hell – and you should be too.

Now, the evidence in undeniable.

For months, I’ve railed about the ugly fact that County Manager Jim Dinneen has utterly failed in his duty to maintain public assets, ensure essential services and provide sound and ethical stewardship of our hard-earned tax dollars.

The anecdotal and physical evidence of my claims are too long to mention – but if you need a quick reminder, I encourage you to take a drive by the dilapidated county-owned shopping center at Cardinal Avenue and A-1-A in the heart of Ormond Beach’s tourist district.

It’s a godforsaken heap – an off-the-tax-roll blight incubator – sitting smack-dab at the nexus of a residential neighborhood and a once scenic roadway traveled by thousands of visitors – who we spent handsomely to attract to our area.

The deplorable condition of public buildings and assets that have been allowed to become mold food on Dinneen’s watch are legendary – just ask anyone who owns adjacent property (or the City of DeLand, who put up with that noxious dump known as the “Old Jail” for years until they were able to find a workable solution to demolish it and make way for actual progress in the best downtown in America.)

Ignoring preventive maintenance and allowing brick-and-mortar buildings to decline and melt into irreparable condition so he can ask for money to build a Taj Mahal replacement facility has been Mr. Dinneen’s modus operandi for over a decade.

In my view, a crumbling abandoned jail – or an overgrown dumping ground for beach signage –  is one thing, but when one of the most highly compensated county executives in the state knowingly permits a sensitive and essential public service like the Medical Examiner’s Office to wither on the budgetary vine – ignoring requested improvements, crucial equipment and staffing requests to the point the office loses its professional accreditation – and ultimately deteriorates to the point county employees are at physical risk – borders on official misconduct.

In my view, if that’s not criminal malfeasance – it damned well should be.

In a recent article by the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Dustin Wyatt entitled, “Medical Examiner: Volusia facility ‘potentially dangerous’” we learned the true reason why Dr. Sara Zydowicz fled Volusia County like a scalded dog after just one-month on the job:

She could no longer jeopardize her professional reputation – or physical safety – working in a critically understaffed and substandard shithole that no longer serves the needs of the citizens of Volusia County. 

 Rather than sweep this fetid mess under the rug, to her credit, Dr. Z had the personal fortitude and professional ethics to report these deplorable conditions to the state regulatory commission that oversees medical examiners and their critical work in service to the citizens of Florida.

According to the News-Journal, “Since Volusia County is one of only a few charter counties in the state — the rest have medical examiners that are appointed by the governor, not hired by a county manager — the county has to formally request aid from the state to right the ship.”

Now do you understand why our duly elected Sheriff Mike Chitwood wants out from under the charter-imposed yoke of this incompetent little shitbird?

Inexplicably, Mr. Dinneen didn’t bother to solicit input from Sheriff Chitwood, the chief law enforcement officer in Volusia County – or the State Attorney’s Office – when he hired Dr. Z, something the chairman of the medical examiners commission described as “unheard of.”

Sadly, Deputy County Manager George Recktenwald was forced to become the unfortunate face this latest/greatest debacle – valiantly attempting to lean into the building shitstorm and take it square on the chin for his cowardly boss, who to this writing refused to even return a News-Journal reporters telephone call.

Frankly, George Recktenwald should be given a medal – then he should be fired for not having the guts to stand up, speak truth to power, and publicly expose this craven little bastard for the incompetent hack he truly is.

During his tenure, Jim Dinneen has facilitated the wholesale giveaway of tens-of-millions of dollars in public funds couched as “economic development incentives,” orchestrated the discounted sale of public land to private interests, pissed away our heritage of beach access to appease the overweening greed of speculative developers, concocted patent falsehoods about the pressing need for new, astronomically priced courthouses, public works facilities and other county buildings – even as those he is currently responsible for maintaining literally rot into the ground.

If this staggering bureaucratic ineptitude and gross mismanagement doesn’t send a chill up your spine, let me tell you something that will:

When made aware of this incredibly serious situation by the News-Journal, at least one of our elected dullards on the Volusia County Council – who all are now personally and politically responsible for what happens next – had the temerity to question why Dr. Zydowicz went outside county government to report this emergency to the proper state regulatory agency.

You read that right.

According to the News-Journal, when questioned about this startling revelation, County Councilwoman Deb Denys said, “Everyone is aware of the situation, including Dr. Z. What’s most surprising is that she circumvented the county and went directly to the state. We never heard complaints for (sic) her before this.”

Deb Denys is a damnable liar.

Hell, anyone who pays even marginal attention has heard the horror stories for years – that’s why the ‘powers that be’ have been promising a new “$13-million” replacement facility for years.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why Deb Denys has absolutely no business serving as an elective official on the Dais of Power in DeLand – and showcases that the complete abdication of any reasonable accountability has become an institutionalized protocol in the executive suites of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.

To prove my long-held belief that our doddering fool of a County Chairman, Ed Kelley, only understands what Mr. Dinneen feeds to him with a rubber spoon, Old Ed responded to the news like the perennially uninformed dunce he is, “It was explained to me that (the office) wasn’t that bad.”

Who explained it to you, Ed?  And why did you ask the question in the first place?

And how in all that’s holy would a dipshit like you know what constitutes “that bad” in a forensic science environment?

Trust me – Ed Kelley can’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel – let alone determine the competency and protocols required of a very active medical examiners office.

That tells me something must have piqued Old Ed’s blunted interest – caused him to ask Little Jimmy, “So, how’s everything over at the morgue?” – I mean, that’s not exactly a question that forms out of light chit-chat over a taxpayer-funded lunch at the Roundtable of Elected Officials meeting, right?

Was it the fact that over 200 autopsy reports are sitting incomplete because of inadequate staffing?

Or the gruesome scene of dead bodies – you know, the loved ones of Volusia County residents – stacking up like cord-wood or languishing in hospitals due to lack of available space?

Perhaps it had something to do with Mr. Dinneen’s administration utterly refusing to provide the medical examiner with requested budget information, respond to funding requests or so much as hire temporary employees during an all-out crisis – like someone to answer the fucking phone?

 My God!  What in the hell is going on over there?

 This is, quite simply, over-the-top – even by Volusia County government standards.

Now, our elected officials on the Volusia County Council are left in the untenable position of actually having to hold Mr. Dinneen personally accountable for his acts and omissions – his abject failure of leadership – and his pathological inability to accept responsibility for anything, all while pocketing hundreds of thousands in salary and benefits.

The political ramifications are clear – the time has come, Mr. Dinneen must go.

Now.

If our elected representatives don’t take swift and decisive action to protect their constituents from this base ineptitude and restore honor and competency to the county managers office – I can assure you the voters will demonstrate to incumbent county council members the concept of political accountability come November.

 

 

 

On Volusia: Where Good Ideas go to Die

There is plenty of skepticism to go around these days when talk turns to “progress” in Volusia County.

After all, doubt and uncertainty are the natural precipitate of lies.

When those people and institutions we trust tell us things that are counter to what we actually experience – suspicion results.

Then cynicism takes hold.

In a duplicitous attempt to deflect attention from the very real problems we face here on Florida’s Fun Coast, many of those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests – and more specifically, those officials and organizations with a parasitic reliance on public funds – soft-soap us with misleading, often grandiose tales of “game changing” projects – always painting a rosy picture with dubious statistics and studies which bear no resemblance to ambient conditions.

They craft a narrative to fit the “Big Idea du jour” – regardless of how nonsensical that stratagem may seem to those of us dependent upon Volusia’s struggling artificial economy for our livelihoods.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal – which perilously walks a frayed tightrope across the deep divide between feel-good corporate marketing pap and our ghastly reality – recently presented the enigmatic conundrum, “Tourism Tax Mystery.”

The piece, written by the talented Jim Abbott, asked the simple question, “If Bike Week roared, why were bed taxes down in March?”

By all accounts, Bike Week 2018 drew hundreds of thousands to Volusia County – the best turnout in years by some estimates – yet, the Halifax Area Advertising Authority reported that bed tax collections in Daytona Beach were down some 3.4 percent in March, compared to the same period one year ago.

Interestingly, the report confirmed “…that decline was in sharp contrast to collections that jumped 14 percent for the same period in West Volusia County, and 10 percent in Southeast Volusia, an area that includes New Smyrna Beach.”

The local drop was also counter to regional collections which were up a whopping 9 to 18 percent.

What passes for our “tourism leaders” – folks who are totally dependent upon bed taxes for their very existence – naturally fawn optimistically, claiming that while “average daily rates” were down, occupancy was up by 6 percent in March.

That means motels dropped their prices in an attempt to put heads in beds.

They also rely on some weird voodoo ritual to estimate annual visitor counts – a ‘methodology’ used since the 1970’s (?) that takes actual occupancy data and survey results, then doubles the actual figures to account for “overnight visitors who might be staying with relatives, in privately owned condos or homes or other accommodations.”

Say what?

Whatever.

Most smart business people, in other words, anyone operating an enterprise in the “real world” – understand that, over time, markets change.  And they use hard numbers and trustworthy statistical information to their advantage when anticipating future trends.

Clearly, in east Volusia and beyond, the growing popularity of short-term rentals and other “nontraditional” accommodations offered by “peer-to-peer” sharing sites, such as Airbnb, have reduced bed tax collections.

In fact, officials report that revenues received from these nontraditional sources made up approximately 20 percent of the county’s total collections.

According to resident mystic Evelyn Fine, president of Mid-Florida Marketing & Research – who has been telling county tourism officials what they want to hear for years – short-term rentals often charge lower rates than traditional hotels, which naturally results in less tourism taxes.

Look, I’m no expert, but the market patterns reported by the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau and legitimate tourism analysts tells me that visitors to Daytona Beach aren’t interested in luxuriant “Five Star” resort accommodations at $300+ per night.

I mean, you don’t have to have an advanced degree from the Mori Hosseini School of Hospitality Management to cypher that one, right?

So, what do our economic development guru’s and elected officials in Volusia County do?

They aggressively court and “incentivize” speculative developers intent on building extravagant theme hotels and multi-story luxury condominiums ranging to more than $1.4 million (in a market where the median sales price of a condo was around $207,000 last month).

They seem intent on flooding the beachside with upscale accommodations in a market that has proven it can’t support a Bojangles Chicken n’ Biscuits – even if it is counter to every prediction of the hospitality and tourism industry.

How these speculative developers spend their investor’s money is no real concern of mine – but when our local governments buy in to risky countertrends – I take notice.

Especially in a place where good ideas go to die.

Everyone understands the economic consequences when supply exceeds demand.

If the Great Recession taught us anything, it is that when a dominant segment of the economy – like real estate or tourism – crashes and burns, it can have devastating implications for dependent industries as well.

Unfortunately, our ‘powers that be’ never learn from the mistakes of the past.

That’s a perilous combination.

Consider the lukewarm recommendations of the much-heralded Beachside Redevelopment Committee – a last ditch effort which gathered our best and brightest minds, met monthly for over a year, frittered over the causative effects of blight, carefully tiptoed around the political minefield of beach access and management issues, listened intently as economic development blowhards fogged the room with their noxious fumes, took public comment and then carefully considered options.

For a while, this remarkable group seemed like they were getting to the core of the problem(s) – our newspaper of record stimulated public awareness by publishing a grim inventory of abandoned and delipidated properties on A-1-A – and many long-suffering residents pinned our last/best hope on the BRC’s good work to rescue us from this tailspin.

Then, inexplicably, just as they reached the finish line, the committee allowed a mid-level county bureaucrat to cobble together a halfhearted report under their impressive names which said, well, nothing.

Essentially, the committee concluded that the City of Daytona Beach needs to get its act together and enforce its codes and ordinances.

Of course, the final list of “recommendations” had a lot more “governmentese,” sugary fluff to fill the voids and deflect any real accountability – little more than hot air, really.

When our cowardly elected officials on the Volusia County Council (you know, the ones who commissioned this think tank in the first place?) received the committee’s final report, they shuffled their feet nervously and essentially agreed to “support” the City of Daytona Beach – whenever it gets around to cleaning up its own steaming stoolstack. . .

So much for that whole “collective vision thing,” huh?   

At the end of the day, we need to face the fact that government isn’t going to redevelop our beleaguered beachside.

That’s not the role of public agencies – or public funds.

But neither is hamstringing private revitalization efforts with a ‘make-work’ labyrinth of codes, rules and boards – roadblocks that can add months and thousands of dollars to a new business start or property renovation.

Rather than setting a unified vision and establishing a streamlined redevelopment process which strips onerous regulations and cuts red tape – then create a one-stop shop to assist entrepreneurs and developers in taking beachside projects and small business proposals from the planning stage through ribbon-cutting with the least number of bureaucratic barriers – our entrenched power structure ignores the obvious.

My fervent hope was that the redevelopment committee would recommend a multi-disciplinary Office of Beachside Redevelopment (for lack of a more creative title) which would construct a clearly delineated path to success for beachside improvements by creating an efficient, rationalized and simplified process that levels the playing field for everyone – not just the privileged few – and emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurial investment.

A process that doesn’t include the wholesale government giveaway of those public amenities and traditions that make the Daytona Beach Resort Area different from every other coastal destination in Florida.

Despite what we are being told, the revival of core areas of the beachside – and the planned overhaul of the East ISB gateway (which currently looks more like the gates of hell than the entrance to a vacation destination) is still many months, if not years, away as the inflexible administrative and funding process grinds slowly on.

While patience and preparation may be virtues – bureaucratic paralysis and overreach are not.

In my view, government can best spur beachside revitalization by simply creating a clean, safe and inviting environment – setting an aerodynamic approval process – then getting the hell out of the way and let the free market work as intended.

 

 

 

On Volusia: Sheriff Chitwood is Right

Love him or hate him, Sheriff Mike Chitwood tells it like he sees it.

For the first time in decades, the citizens of Volusia County have a fresh set of eyes inside the tattered carnival tent that passes for governance here on Florida’s beleaguered Fun Coast – and Sheriff Chitwood’s frequent reports of his observations of the dark side do not paint a pretty picture of this dictatorial oligarchy that continues to hamper substantive progress and ensure that the Donor Class has unfettered access to the public teat.

Frankly, Sheriff Chitwood’s column in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “County Manager has too much power, too little accountability” reads more like a Barker’s View Angels & Assholes rant than a community voices piece – but, damn if he didn’t get the point across.

The Sheriff’s incredibly insightful article began with perhaps the most chilling revelation I’ve ever heard from a sitting elected official.

According to Sheriff Chitwood, One of the first greetings I got when I was elected as your sheriff was a warning from our County Manager Jim Dinneen. The message was play nice or my time as sheriff would be brief.”

In most places, the shocking nature of that frightening disclosure by the county’s chief law enforcement executive would go through the organization – and the community – like an ice water enema.

But not here.

In Volusia County, we have come to accept this level of gross institutional corruption as ‘business as usual’ – a system where the County Manager, with the political insulation afforded by a few uber-wealthy campaign contributors, feels comfortable threatening the tenure and independence of an elected official, and subverting the will of the electorate, should the Sheriff fail to acquiesce and play nice in the Kingdom of Jim Dinneen.

Scary stuff.   

The News-Journal recently reported that the county’s medical examiner, Dr. Sara Zydowicz, resigned her position after just one month.

Although Sheriff Chitwood stopped short of discussing the ME’s reasoning for fleeing Volusia County government, he clearly felt compelled to expose the fact that the medical examiner’s office – a service of vital importance to our criminal justice system and community – has been subject to “years of neglect by our county manager.”

Sound familiar?

For months I’ve been harping on Mr. Dinneen’s complete lack of public asset management – allowing county buildings to strategically rot into the ground as a means of demonstrating the need for a Taj Mahal replacement facility – all while contributing to blight and dilapidation in the very neighborhoods and commercial areas many governments and entrepreneurs are working hard to escape.

When our elected Sheriff makes the bold public statement, Those in power will do anything to maintain their stranglehold” perhaps it’s time we listen?

Clearly, Sheriff Chitwood’s statement is bolstered by the undeniable fact that a few local political insiders are willing to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into county council races – then reap a return on that investment in the form of massive economic development incentives, tax abatement, infrastructure enhancements and other direct paybacks which use public funds to increase private profits.

The evidence that our system of county governance has been hijacked is not just compelling, it has become our collective reality.

This bastardized system that consolidates power in the hands of a demonstrably unscrupulous individual with malleable ethics and a preternatural ability to dodge accountability has replaced any semblance of a representative democracy where our elected and appointed officials are responsible to their constituency.

In my view, Sheriff Chitwood’s op/ed deserves our undivided attention.

As I have written before, Mr. Dinneen is perfectly willing to lie like a cheap rug whenever a blatant falsehood serves his purpose or those of his political handlers.  In fact, I believe – as Sheriff Chitwood has previously said – that Mr. Dinneen is a pathological liar with a compulsion to fabricate situational responses on the fly – a strategy that has ultimately cost county government the trust of the people it exists to serve.

In most successful public and private organizations, positions of high responsibility have a corresponding level of accountability that balances power with oversight.

The very concept requires that people in positions of high power be ultimately held answerable for their actions 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 public officials and institutions lose the trust and consent of the people, we have a right and responsibility through 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.

That includes our current crop of cowardly politicians on the dais of power in DeLand who continue to turn a deaf ear each time Sheriff Chitwood sounds the klaxon – exposing the level of Mr. Dinneen’s abject incompetence that has brought us to this dangerously low period in Volusia County’s history.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

Angels & Assholes for May 18, 2018

Hi, kids!

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 look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel:             Brownie the Town Dog & The City of Daytona Beach

During a period of my career on ‘The Hill,’ we had a community mascot of sorts – his name was “Sludge” – a medium-sized black dog of undetermined breed or origin – who lived his life quite comfortably inside the Public Works compound on Alta Drive.

He had run of the place.

City employees would take up a collection for food and veterinary care, give Sludge a scratch behind the ear from time-to-time, and everyone generally looked out for his happiness and welfare.

Sludge lived to a ripe old age and is buried near the Water Treatment plant.

But a municipal canine companion even more famous than Sludge was “Brownie the Town Dog of Daytona Beach” – who is described as “Florida’s most historic – and beloved – dog.”

Brownie

According to local legend, Brownie was a stray who called downtown Beach Street home until his death in 1954.

He lived in a custom dog house, dined on steak and ice cream – and even had his own account at Florida Bank & Trust.

Although he had no owner, Brownie was loved by the entire community.

According to his obituary in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Brownie was an estimated 20 years old when he peacefully “died in his sleep at Dr. Benjamin Rawls animal hospital.”

According to the newspaper, the owner of a local package store looked after Brownie during World War II – and drivers from Daytona Cab Company took care of him in his later years – building his dog house, and, when the time came, his custom casket.

Believe it or not, Brownie’s grave – which is located in downtown Daytona’s Riverfront Park at the corner of Orange Avenue and Beach Street – is listed as one of the most visited dog memorials in the world.

On Wednesday, May 30th at 6:00pm, the City of Daytona Beach will hold a ceremony to formally dedicate the beautiful new statuary and memorial plaza at Brownie’s gravesite.  Refreshments will be served and souvenir bottled water (featuring a picture of the Brownie statue) will be available.

Best of all – dogs are welcome to attend.  In fact, there will be a doggie parade from the site to nearby Jackie Robinson Ballpark led by McGruff the Crime Dog!

I must admit – I love quirky stuff like this.  It builds a sense of community and brings us together as neighbors as we remember and celebrate times-gone-by.

I encourage everyone to come out for this wonderful event.

Please find more information at www.browniethetowndog.org

Asshole:          Volusia County Government

As a Barker’s View reader, I naturally assume you are what political scientists call a “high-information” voter – an individual who takes the time to examine alternative opinions, analyze all available information, then form your own independent views on the issues of the day.

Trust me when I say, it is increasingly difficult to stay well-informed in the “low transparency” environment of Volusia County government.

In a recent piece by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned that our ‘powers that be’ failed to consider a very expensive unintended consequence of their hasty decision:

“The last-minute decision to delay putting a sales tax increase on the ballot this year could cost Volusia County voters as much as $1 million.”

Then, just days later, election officials walked back the “one-million” number and we were told the proposed special election will “only” cost us $791,297 – or $550,000 for a mail-out ballot option.

Why in hell are we discussing a special election before the core issues that brought us to this point have even been discussed – let alone settled?    

The unfortunate face of this debacle, South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarborough, is quoted as saying, “The plan is to put this back on the ballot next year.  Nobody wants to (lose) the money, but I think the importance of the issue justifies the cost.”

What plan?  There’s a plan? 

Where are these “plans” being discussed – and who’s making the decisions for the rest of us?

I’m asking.

Because insinuating that a plan exists would tend to indicate a “collective vision” – and let’s just say, Volusia County isn’t exactly known for the whole “vision thing. . .”

Rather than consider options, attempt to rebuild trust and confidence or communicate with those of us who will ultimately foot the bill, our elected officials on the Dais of Power in Deland march boldly forward like the Frankensteinian lummoxes they are – stuck on stupid – publicly discussing bringing the sales tax initiative before voters next year before addressing impact fees or taking the first step to ensure mega-developers pay their fair share.

What gives?

If Old Ed and the Funky Bunch think we’re going to accept a superficial increase in impact fees glossed over with some cheap sleight-of-hand by real estate developers – they need to think again.

Hell, they need to think period.

They just don’t get it.

People are pissed – they are beyond tired of being lied to and having their hard-earned tax dollars frittered away by craven politicians bent on protecting the bottom line of their benefactors in the real estate development community.

Long-time Daytona Beach resident and community activist, Linda Smiley, spoke truth to power when she told the haughty Roundtable of Elected Officials, “To hear you want to spend extra money to have a special election really sticks in the craw with residents.”

You bet it does, Linda.  Like a bone in the throat.

In addition, astute Port Orange resident Michael Arminio – who serves as a member of that community’s Planning Board – said in the News-Journal, “Asking us to pay for a special election is not only fiscally irresponsible, but a slap in the face.”

I would add that watching the abject incompetence of highly paid public officials as they screw the pooch and repeatedly bungle one of the most important public policy decisions of our time feels less like a slap to the face and more like a left hook to the noggin.  It’s painful.

Everyone knows the pitfalls of making decisions in a vacuum – forming conclusions or making judgement calls with little outside information, or worse, in the isolation of a system convinced of its own infallibility – yet it happens with astonishing frequency in county government.

The fact is, Volusia County Council meetings have dissolved into little more than staged theater – a weird Kabuki scripted well in advance by our scheming county manager – with each elected and appointed official playing his or her role to the letter, never wavering from the well-orchestrated libretto.

In my view, this is a manifestation of a government that considers citizen input and oversight anathema to the closet manipulation of public policy to benefit a special interest while avoiding public outcry and controversy.

In short – and in truth – our elected officials simply do not have the balls to ask their mega-campaign donors to pay their fair share for unchecked growth.

Yet, they have no problem asking every man, woman, child and visitor in Volusia County to pay through the nose in increased sales tax?

If that sounds like a double-standard – one for the “Rich & Powerful” and one for us slugs who pay the bills – that’s because it is.

Needless to say, this base political cowardice leaves little room for independent thought – or, God forbid – honesty, clarity and openness from our elected officials.

So, the cycle continues to perpetuate itself – using public funds to ensure massive private profits, providing political insulation for inside facilitators, ensuring that campaign contributors have unfettered access to the public tit and discouraging citizen engagement in their government.

Frankly, this never-ending shitstorm of political foul-ups is getting old, and terribly expensive – and our elected officials seem completely incapable of explaining why they allow it to happen.

With so many pressing matters threatening our quality of life here on Florida’s Fun Coast – crumbling infrastructure, blight, dilapidation, homelessness, hopelessness, low wages, underpaid and underappreciated teachers, school security costs, a dwindling water supply, unchecked western sprawl, etcetera, etcetera – pissing away $800,000 on a special election is a damnable waste of already scarce assets.

Frankly, it’s an abomination.

In my view, even mentioning the topic of a special election before addressing the central issues of impact fees and public trust in government is another colossal gaffe – a complete lack of message management and strategic focus by out-of-touch county officials ambling around in a toxic environment that continues to plague progress and has (fortunately) doomed this shameless money grab once and for all.

They have no one to blame but themselves.

Angel:             Candidate Peggy Belflower, NSB Zone 1

I want to thank Peggy Belflower, candidate for the New Smyrna Beach Zone 1 City Commission seat, for linking Barker’s View on her campaign website.

Belflower (2)

Clearly, the lady has good taste.

Now, I don’t know Ms. Belflower personally, but it is apparent she has the best interests of the citizens of New Smyrna Beach at heart when it comes to the rampant development and westward sprawl that is threatening the character and quality of life for residents of one of Florida’s last beach communities.

So, she found the courage to stand for high office and challenge the status quo.

Her platform is simple:

“…As a private citizen, I also have a deep understanding of government through decades of activism, serving on governmental agencies and working with citizens, environmental groups and business.  I stay actively engaged with the City Commission and City Government and I, like many in NSB, do not personally feel represented by the majority that dominate the City Commission.  Truly, “enough is enough” with politics as usual and the good old boy system it represents.  We can do better.”

I like that.

Anyone who can say they have an “understanding of government” stands head-and-shoulders above the current crop of politicians – who clearly don’t have a flippin’ clue what governance of the people, by the people and for the people even looks like.

Please see more of what Ms. Belflower has to say at www.peggybelflower.com

Asshole:          Volusia County Council

Way back in January 2017, Barker’s View formally welcomed the citizens of Daytona Beach Shores to the not-so-exclusive club of municipalities who have had their lunch money stolen by our elected and appointed representatives in Volusia County government.

Since 2013, county officials have spent a whopping $12.1 million of our money on seven beachside properties ostensibly for “off-beach” parking – the precursor to the complete removal of our century-old heritage of beach driving.

During this wild spending spree, County Manager Jim Dinneen slithered into Daytona Beach Shores, and without so much as a phone call to city officials, purchased two premier oceanfront lots for $2.95 million and $1.4 million respectively.

As one would expect, officials in the Shores were banking on using their limited supply of beachfront property for additional vertical growth to support the communities tax base – in fact, that strategy was memorialized in their comprehensive plan.

The forced removal of this valuable land from the tax rolls will ultimately cost citizens in the landlocked community some $200,000 in annual revenue.

As I’ve said, the quaint notion of municipalities controlling their own destiny through self-determination and local governance might work elsewhere, but not in Volusia County.

Don’t like it?  Tough shit.

When Daytona Beach Shores balked at this aggressive form of buggery, Mr. Dinneen unleashed his weaponized county attorney’s office like a rabid Doberman – with orders to do whatever it takes to exert Volusia County’s omnipotence – and crush the small municipality’s will by exsanguinating them with legal bills until they scream, “No Mas!” 

If you haven’t noticed, this intimidating strategy of putting County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert’s iron boot on the throat of anyone, including grassroots citizen advocates, who dare question the supremacy of the Monarchy – then suing citizens collective eyeballs out with their own money – is Jim Dinneen’s modus operandi when it comes to settling “disputes” with recalcitrant municipalities.

After months of back-and-forth, Shores officials sat down with Volusia County during a court ordered confab in March and hammered out a reluctant deal that would allow Volusia County to build a parking lot east of A-1-A.

Or so they thought.

Inexplicably, during the May 1 Volusia County Council meeting, our elected officials voted 6-1 – with former Shores commissioner and current County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler dissenting – to bring in an outside mediator to referee the apparently still simmering dispute.

Say what?

In typical fashion – just like when the property was surreptitiously acquired in the first place – no one in Volusia County government bothered to notify the City of Daytona Beach Shores of its intentions before the vote, something Eckert termed “an oversight on his part.”

My ass.

The very incisive Shores City Manager, Michael Booker, explained to his City Commission, “This is a powerplay by the county against the city that has nothing to do with these two properties.  It’s about (the county) doing what they want to do come hell or high water against every city in Volusia County.”

Spot on, sir.

And that, gentle readers, is the most perceptive summation of Volusia County government’s dysfunctional relationship with the mosaic of municipalities ever uttered.

Following the county’s arbitration vote, Shores Attorney Lonnie Groot exclaimed, “This is the first time I’ve (heard) this and I’m astounded.  It’s almost like they are looking for a fight instead of getting together and resolving this.”

That’s because when it comes to Volusia County asserting its sense of absolute dominance over duly incorporated municipalities, its belligerence knows no bounds.

While the Shores is clearly concerned about spending scarce tax dollars to defend its interests against the leviathan – the Dinneen administration is not incumbered by that same sense of ethical and fiscal responsibility.

Frankly, Little Jimmy and those dupes on the county council don’t give two-shits what these hostile lawsuits ultimately cost you and me – so long as the Devine Right of the Realm – which is apparently subject to no earthly authority beyond the whims of a few uber-wealthy campaign contributors – reigns supreme in the Kingdom of Volusia County.

Asshole:          Volusia County Beach Safety Department

The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported on the growing concerns of the Volusia Waterman’s Association – a union representing Volusia County Beach Safety Officers – regarding why the county has apparently failed to address credible claims that a current officer sent “sexually explicit photographs” of himself to a female coworker – then made crude comments about the LBGTQ community which also resulted in official complaints to county administrators.

According to a press release issued by the union on May 8th, in August 2015, a female beach safety specialist reported to her supervisor that a male employee sent “unsolicited photographs of his genitals” to her cell phone.

Apparently, these allegations were sent up the chain of command nearly three years ago.

The News-Journal reports that, more recently, there have been additional complaints about the same employee’s conduct – including a formal claim to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that he has made homophobic comments in the workplace.

Reports indicate that when the employee discovered that a fellow officer was displaying a “gay pride” flag outside his home – he made disparaging remarks about that person’s sexual orientation to other officers and coworkers.

Worse, the victim reports he was told by his tormentor if he complained to anyone about the ugly slurs, he wouldn’t back him up on calls.

That’s dangerous – and possibly criminal.

Chilling.

Based on the fact that an EEOC complaint has been filed – and recent media coverage – obviously county administrators are all well aware of these allegations.

So, what is county leadership doing to investigate these serious accusations of gross misconduct, or protect their subordinates – and our tax dollars – from further exposure and harassment?

Apparently not much.

Given the fact Volusia County government has failed to respond to lawful public records requests by the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Volusia Waterman’s Association – it looks like the county’s tried and true “duck and cover” strategy of avoiding outside oversight and public scrutiny has been fully activated.

To say that the Volusia County Beach Safety Department has had its share of sexually-charged scandals is an understatement – for a while, the place looked like Caligula’s lair – culminating in the arrest and conviction of Robert “Beautiful Bobby” Tameris on charges he had sex with two 16-year old girls – along with rampant allegations of similar despicable conduct by other employees.

At the time, a federal lawsuit was filed against Volusia County for condoning a culture of sexual abuse and depravity;” however, the suit was ultimately dismissed in the county’s favor.

Now, the union contends that “…due to the sensitive nature of sexual harassment complaints, and due to the Beach Safety division’s touted “new image” as an agency transformed since the Robert Tameris scandal, with new leadership, a new name, new uniforms, and new vehicles, that the county wished to avoid making this incident a matter of public record.  Thus, the incident was apparently never investigated by Internal Affairs.” 

Look, I’ve reviewed a few of the documents related to this matter, and in my opinion, this has all the earmarks of a serious problem for county administrators.

It also serves to confirm the suspicions of many who believe Volusia County’s lack of candor and transparency has become institutionalized, an ingrained policy of deception to limit public awareness of serious internal problems, dodge responsibility and protect unsound methods.

Fortunately, that pattern is not universal to all Volusia County agencies – especially those under the command of elected department heads.

For instance, the News-Journal reported this week on the results of an internal investigation conducted by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office which sustained a pattern of gross sexual harassment and hostile workplace allegations brought by female employees against a former supervisor in the agency’s evidence section.

Perhaps that level of operational and administrative candidness is a result of Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s effective efforts to publicly expose County Manager Jim Dinneen as a ‘lying sack of shit’ and extricate himself – and his department – from Mr. Dinneen’s pathological political manipulation and micromanagement.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that any smart leader in the public or private sector should embrace the tried and true maxim:

The cover-up is always worse than the crime. 

The ash heap of history is littered with ostensibly intelligent people who turned manageable problems into outrageous scandals in a terribly misguided attempt to save face or protect themselves and their organization from public embarrassment.

Look, I’m an incendiary and highly emotional asshole, I recognize that – but in this case, I’m going to do something I almost never do and reserve judgement until all the facts are known.

Why?

Because the gravity of this situation and its potential fallout will have long-term career ramifications for any sitting county administrator who failed to act in the best interests of their department, and their constituents, up to and including the one with ultimate responsibility – County Manager Jim Dinneen.

To coin a line from Hill Street Blues, perhaps the greatest, most accurate police procedural ever filmed:

If the union’s suspicions are remotely true, senior administrators in every county department who failed to take swift action to protect their employees from this repulsive behavior should look at their watches – because it’s not everyone who knows the exact second their career ended.

Quote of the Week:

“Poor fiscal management was the reason one elected and one former elected county official told me off record last week, it is time for the Manager to go. “The level of incompetence has become stratospheric.”

–Marc Bernier, host of The Marc Bernier Show on WNDB, in a May 13th Twitter post regarding apparent chinks in County Manager Jim Dinneen’s seemingly impenetrable political armor.

Stratospheric.  Good word.

Could it be that Little Jimmy is finally losing his vice-like grip on Volusia County government?

In my experience, you don’t screw-up a potential $45-million annual revenue source in the form of a local option sales tax initiative without career ramifications – and if Mr. Dinneen thinks those elected dolts on the dais of power are going to fade the political heat alone – well, he’s sadly mistaken.

The Volusia County Council doesn’t control much – but they have absolute power over the fate of the County Manager.  Perhaps a few of our elected officials are getting tired of being publicly humiliated by this overcompensated foul ball?

As the great football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

 Perhaps Mr. Dinneen should print this quote and tape it to his rear-view mirror.

And Another Thing!

 Sons of the Beach president Paul Zimmerman has announced that a rain date has been established for the peaceful protest of the theft of beach driving behind the Hard Rock Hotel set for this Sunday, May 20th, from 9am to 4pm.

According to Paul, the protest will be held this Sunday, weather permitting – but if it is raining, please plan to come next Saturday instead.

Also, tomorrow the Daytona Beach Police Department will host the Second Annual Fishing Derby for youth 16 years of age and under.

The tournament will be held from 10am to 1pm on the bank of beautiful Lake Valor at the Daytona Beach Police Department, 129 Valor Boulevard.

Please bring your own pole and tackle – bait and refreshments will be provided.

For more information and to RSVP, please call 386-671-5102.

What a fun community event bringing cops and kids together!

Have a great weekend, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of Barker’s View – Volusia Politics: So, it’s our fault?

This angry screed was first published in August 2016.  

Back when I was still full of hope and optimism. . .

Imagine my chagrin when I opened the Daytona Beach News-Journal and found that our old friend Henry Wolfond, CEO of Bayshore Capital, Inc. has returned to our sandy shores with dollars signs once again dancing in his head.  

Call me a ‘once bitten, twice shy’ kind of guy.  

We’ve heard Mr. Wolfond’s pie-in-the-sky bullshit before – and suffered his tongue-lashing when his big plans hit the skids and sent him scurrying back to Canada.

In my jaded view, this alternative opinion to the fawning of our sycophantic ‘powers that be’ is just as relevant today as it was in 2016.  Enjoy.

_______________________

My God.

If I receive another arrogant lecture from a speculative developer scolding me and my neighbors because they can’t build an overpriced high-rise theme hotel, and carry our money out of town in trucks, I’m going to vomit.

The coverage by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, and other local media outlets, of the shamefaced Henry Wolfond, CEO of Bayshore Capital, Inc., and his failure to sprout the phantom “Hard Rock” hotel/condo/cafe from the sand dunes – a project that Wolfond promised was going to be the magic panacea to protect us hapless rubes from ourselves and cure every ill facing Daytona Beach from economic blight to head lice – has consumed more newsprint than the Hindenburg disaster.

Three months ago I wrote:

“Just last year our friends at Toronto-based Bayshore Capital, Inc. promised that if we just gave up our heritage of beach driving, in turn we would receive 375,000 square feet of tempered steel and sex appeal; a sweet, sweet release from all our burdens in the form of a monolithic miracle of jobs, oiled-up pretty people in private cabanas, and luxury condos for the rest of us.

 Bayshore’s hired mouthpiece, Glen Storch, warned us (Like Oliver Douglas preaching to the residents of Hooterville) that if we balked at giving the Hard Rock what amounts to a private beach then our cure-all would be snatched away and we would be left to rot like poisoned rats in this hellish cesspool of economic affliction and violent street crime we pathetically call “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”

 Our benevolent dictators – the uber-rich puppet masters who actually run what passes for “government” in Volusia County – immediately directed their hired hands on the County Council to give Bayshore what they wanted.”

 And they damn sure did.

Gave them everything they wanted and more.   

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of these people – these speculative greedheads – preaching to us about how badly we fucked-up – openly whining about how our “obstructionism” cost us the opportunity to have nice things.

Everyone who is anyone got into the act.

According to the News-Journal, “…former Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey was at the front of the line to buy a condo. Ritchey, president and CEO of one of the nation’s most successful automobile sales operations, has become a friend of Wolfond since the Hard Rock land was purchased five years ago, and he also became passionate about seeing it come to life.”

Really?

Note to Mr. Ritchey:  Henry Wolfond is not your friend.  He was currying favor for his project– you know it, and we know it.

The fact that he contributed heavily to the monument to your own self-importance that was erected at the Bandshell – and in doing so got the Bayshore brand on the brass bootlicker plaque – does not make him your friend.

It makes him a common whore.

Look, Glenn, we’re not buying a cheap used car here.  You don’t have to put the ether to us.

The citizens of Volusia County are big boys and girls who have been screwed so many times by real estate developers, carpet-bagging thieves and outright pirates that we walk with a collective limp.

We get it.

So just stop.

And the fact that J. Hyatt Brown gave Wolfond $5,000 as a show “deposit” on a luxury condominium that he knew was never coming out of the ground is just laughable.

Hyatt Brown spent more than that on his last city commissioner – so don’t think for a minute we bought into this bullshit simply because Mr. Brown – or one of his cronies – threw a little money around.  We’ve come to expect it.

As usual, now the power brokers and the failed developer du jour stand together and point their fucking fingers in our face like a demented Ebeneezer Scrooge and blame We, The People for shitting on yet another cure-all.

They stand as one and arrogantly lecture us on how our temerity in questioning the developer’s right to a private beach in return for 60 parking spaces and a weak promise ruined everything.

I’m sick of it.

Trust me.  If Wolfond – or any other developer in the free world – thought that they could make a buck off this place they would do it in a heartbeat.  The fact is, Bayshore was commanding Palm Beach prices in a place that can’t even support a decent chain restaurant.

I mean, does anyone do their homework anymore?

You don’t need a market study to understand the citizens of Volusia County are so beat down and deprived that a new Wa-Wa makes us feel all haughty and up-scale.

If we had the money back that we’ve given to International Speedway Corporation, Consolidated Tomoka, the “E-Zone” mess, and the countless speculative developers and “friends of friends” that have come down the sandy pike, we could revitalize the entire “Fun Coast” overnight.

These hypocritical shitheels refuse to admit that it is their fault.  Not ours.

The fact that smart people don’t want to invest money in a place that has been falling apart right before our eyes for the past 20-years has nothing to do with beach driving or high-rise hotels.

The reason no one wants to throw good money after bad down this festering cesspool is that they have watched the skimming by special interests and influential insiders, and the abject corruption inherent to the process that has made Volusia County look like a fucking Banana Republic.

These big dollar financiers that kept Wolfond and his dubious project at arms-length know they have a better chance of squeezing out a profit in downtown Port Au Prince than on Atlantic Avenue.

Don’t preach to me about “uncertainty and delay” over beach driving lawsuits.

Our elected officials – and their wealthy puppeteers – have created an environment that is so unstable and flagrantly criminal that no one north of Bunnell or south of Mims wants anything to do with us.

We’ve become the wet turd in Central Florida’s front yard that nobody wants to step in.

Like working in a sewer, eventually you just become immune to the stench and waste floating all around you; and locals have been duped so many times we have just become accepting of it.

We really don’t know any other way.

As an example, rather than realize that he is a huge part of the problem and benevolently resign his post – County Manager Jim Dinneen appears in the newspaper coverage yapping in the background about a mysterious Boardwalk expansion like the whippy little shit he is.

Focus, Jim.  We’re not talking Ferris wheels and Tilt-a-Carts here.  Big boy time, Mr. County Manager.

Unbelievable.

At the end of the day, the proposed Hard Rock project accomplished what it was designed to do.

It closed yet another approach and set the stage for the removal of even more beach driving space.  The ordinances that were passed on the back of this project – and the “Westin” (which it appears is being renovated by two guys on the weekends) – was the goal of our benevolent dictators from the beginning.

And at the end of the day, they got what they wanted.

Screw this ridiculous smokescreen.

We saw this coming all along, and the takeaway has nothing to do with high-rise condo’s or even beach driving.

We have confirmed the valuable lesson that the very institutions we once trusted – the people we elect and appoint to represent our interests – have been corrupted and co-opted by greedy bastards who have no qualm about using public resources, tax dollars and the judicial system as weapons against their own constituents to line their pockets and those of their “friends.”

And when they fail.  It’s our fault.

Please remember that at the polls.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal