We have a weird tradition here in the Halifax area.
Whenever a speculative developer completes a project which invariably involves some government handout, such as a massive influx of tax dollars in the form of “economic incentives” or “public/private partnerships” – schemes which use public funds to increase private profits – our elected and appointed officials piss all over themselves in a fit of excited incontinence, our newspaper of record fawns to the point of nausea for days on end, and the rest of us – the long-suffering taxpayers who either footed the bill or gave up a public amenity – are left feeling like chopped liver.
Happens every time the latest “game changer” comes to town.
Remember when J. Hyatt and company took millions of dollars in public incentives for the new Brown & Brown HQ – then thanked every sitting politician in the region while ignoring you and me – the ones who actually footed the bill?
I do. I’m petty like that.
This week, we – the little people – stood at the gilded barrier like grubby Dickensian urchins, looking on as our political elite rubbed elbows, enjoyed cocktails, slapped backs and were lavishly entertained by a private firework spectacular and staged concert (on the first evening of sea turtle nesting season) at an “invitation only” VIP soiree as Summit Hospitality celebrated the grand opening of its Hard Rock Daytona with the politicians who made it happen.
Screw the sea turtles and nesting shorebirds. It’s not all about them.
It’s time to celebrate Abbas’ accomplishment – and, goddammit, the ‘Rich & Powerful’ are going to party!
On the very day our elected officials were caught with their pants around their ankles on their doomed half-cent sales tax increase – a debacle which even casual observers marked as a low point in Volusia County government ineptitude – rather than hide their heads in shame, these dirty jokes that pass themselves off as “county leaders” boogied down with their campaign donors and political benefactors.
The tacky theme hotel was born of a murky financial sleight-of-hand between Volusia County government and Summit, which ultimately resulted in a three-card-monte public parking arrangement and the cheap giveaway of 410’ of beach driving and convenient access for residents and visitors.
There was a “smashing of the guitars” to christen the new franchise, and a daylong party with what passes for “dignitaries” seeing and being seen – festooned with goofy “VIP laminates” just like real rock stars.
(Apparently there weren’t any “real rock stars” in attendance at the celebration – I guess they all had to wash their hair – but a former waitress from Hard Rock London was flown in to give our wide-eyed political panjandrums a celebrity to swoon over. . .)
Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, went all gaga, crowing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “I’m excited personally, and as a resident of Volusia County, that they (Hard Rock) are here,” Kelley said. “They will be part of the catalyst for what’s going to make a difference in the Daytona Beach area.”
Heck yeah! Excited! Catalyst! Difference!
On Friday, our illustrious Governor Rick Scott showed up on the red carpet to cut the grand ribbon, press the flesh and no doubt hustle up some campaign support for his senate run this fall.
During his remarks before an array of tourism industry “leaders,” slack jawed politicians and executives from Daytona International Speedway (another recipient of millions in public funds), Slick Rick took the time to congratulate Summit Hospitality and praise hotel scullery workers for “making the place look spotless (?)”
In turn, Efrain Silva, vice president of Summit Hospitality, brown-nosed the assembled politicos, recognized the chamber of commerce set for their support and reminded everyone what a “great day” it is in Daytona Beach.
Yep. Our ‘movers and shakers’ dissolved into a mutual admiration society – heaping glowing tributes on one another like the self-absorbed shitheels they are – and openly worshiping the latest “developer du jour” for bringing us rubes what everyone who is anyone is convinced will be a panacea for decades of squalor, dilapidation and economic hopelessness.
You know what our elected and appointed officials – or their new “business partners” at Summit Hospitality – failed to do?
Not one of them said ‘Thank You’ to us.
You know, the strapped taxpayers of Volusia County – thousands of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck and struggle to feed their families on service industry wages far below the poverty line – who were stripped of our century-old heritage of beach driving to “incentivize” the Hard Luck Hotel and create a semi-private beach for hotel guests while inconveniencing, well, every one of us who pays the bills in the form of exorbitant taxes.
No extravagant “invitation only” parties.
No over-the-top, guitar smashing tributes to the public’s sacrifice to ensure their success.
Well, for what it’s worth – I, your cantankerous scribe, would like to send out a great big “Thank You!” to all my fellow residents for your incredible contribution to yet another private project that we all just know will be the cure-all for the utter economic stagnation that has plagued the Halifax area like a golem.
The project, built on the skeleton of the Desert Inn, America’s dirtiest hotel, will either be a huge success, or – if history repeats – the place will close, change hands or drop the “luxury franchise” brand in about two-years. (Anyone remember Bray & Gillespie and other speculative pirates that blew through town over the years? I do.)
Thank you, my friends and neighbors, for giving up the convenience of beach driving and ready access to our most precious natural amenity so Abbas Abdulhussein – Volusia’s newest mega-campaign donor – can use our beach as a marketing tool.
Thank you, my fellow denizens of Volusia County, for not collectively vomiting during any of the myriad examples of how our power brokers ensured every whim of the developer during the years this project languished – even when it meant ignoring both the letter and spirit of county ordinances designed to ensure performance and provide oversight.
Thank you for taking it in stride when County Manager Jim Dinneen – who commands over $300,000 annually in public funds and benefits – failed in his modest task to ensure that the ugly, arsenic-laced wooden poles that were driven into the sand as a horrific barricade to beach driving behind the hotel were the proper distance apart.
Thank you for tolerating the abject dysfunction and ineptitude that has seized what passes for county government like some hellish Vampire Squid – squeezing the life out of our sense of place and civic pride – while enriching a few uber-wealthy political insiders who believe a “Four Star” luxury resort in a Hooterville market is the answer to our problems.
I sincerely applaud each of you for our collective sacrifice in service to corporate greed – and for giving up so much, for the benefit of so few.
Your welcome, Hard Rock.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal