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:
When Reuters reported earlier this week on an unfortunate leak from investment bank Goldman Sachs that the France family is exploring the sale of NASCAR, it sent shockwaves through the industry – and the company’s headquarters on ISB.
But it didn’t amount to a fart in a whirlwind here at Barker’s View HQ.
I just don’t care.
NASCAR lost me a few years ago – just like it lost thousands of other fans and lucrative sponsors – thanks to continuing mismanagement, a string of weird rule changes like “stage racing” or the goofy “playoff” format and cartoon-like television color commentators who make the “sport” unwatchable.
Add to that the loss of any driver with a real personality and, frankly, its become boring.
A monotonous drone – punctuated with the occasional staged fistfight between 20-something no-names in a feeble attempt to link today’s showbiz dreck with yesterday’s bare-knuckle motor sport.
Hell, a few weeks ago at Bristol the drama centered on some kid who inadvertently locked himself in the bathroom of his luxury motor home (?). Rather than focus on the technical aspects of the sport during a lengthy rain delay, the telecast dissolved into a bad sitcom skit.
Boogity, boogity, boogity. . .
What I do care about are those who work for NASCAR and its various subsidiaries here in Daytona Beach, friends and neighbors who rely on both the France family’s stewardship – and the viability of the sport – for their livelihood.
In my view, the company’s response to the Goldman Sachs premature revelation was a ham-handed mess.
What should have been a seamless, focused and personal internal communication presented by Lesa France Kennedy to salve the concerns of employees, sponsors, contractors and teams – a unified message explaining the family’s intentions – dissolved into nervous speculation, both in the racing world and the halls of the International Motorsports Center.
A recent memorandum to employees from NASCAR President Brent Dewar obtained by the Associated Press said little more than the France family, “…remains dedicated to the long-term growth of our sport.”
Say what? I like ice cream too, but what about the hundreds of local jobs if the place sells?
In turn, the front page of Wednesday’s News-Journal announced, “NASCAR speculation rampant.”
Not good. Trust me.
Conjecture, instability and gossip is never positive for an organization – especially businesses as dependent on the whims of one quirky family as NASCAR and ISC are.
Let’s face facts – like most family-businesses – stock car racing was never the same after the first and second generations passed.
The wheel came off the cart, so to speak, and now once solid sponsorship’s and loyal fans are fleeing like rats leaving a burning ship.
Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the France family was, “. . .being criticized by drivers and team owners, who fear the Frances are incapable of reversing the fade in fan interest and retreat by sponsors.”
This is coming from inside the tent, folks.
While siblings Brian and Lesa France Kennedy won’t disclose ownership details, sources told the WSJ that NASCAR chair and CEO Brian France “sold his entire stake in the company more than a decade ago.”
However, France claimed he “still holds equity in the family-owned company.”
Perhaps that’s part of the problem?
This murky power division – and even weirder behavior by Brian France (to include his bizarre performance at last years NASCAR Champions Banquet when he handed a box containing the 2017 Cup Series ring to Martin Truex, Jr. – then turned and walked away, without a handshake or even eye contact with the champion) garnered wild disapproval from both inside and outside the sport.
Fans and industry media referred to Mr. France’s conduct as “classless, awkward and rude.”
Much like his management of the sport.
I happen to agree with a recent editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal – which has been a long-time, staunch supporter of the France Dynasty – entitled “Winds of change at NASCAR,” which opined that “NASCAR is going to have to change, regardless of who owns it.”
This rumored sale may well be the end of an era – but it could also mark the renaissance of a rejuvenated international sports and entertainment business – real energy that returns asses to seats, sponsors to teams, and stability to Halifax area families who rely on a vibrant and successful brand.
Asshole: Summit Hospitality Group & Volusia County Politicos
I wrote about this last week, but it bears repeating.
Last Tuesday, 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 you sea turtles and nesting shorebirds. It’s not all about you.
When are those selfish little bastards going to understand – this is no longer a wildlife habitat – it’s a marketing tool?
On the very day our elected officials fumbled their highly touted half-cent sales tax increase – a day which even casual observers marked as a low point in Volusia County government ineptitude – these dirty jokes that pass themselves off as “county leaders” boogied down with their campaign donors, political benefactors and very important handlers.
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 weird “smashing of the guitars” ceremony 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. . .)
On Friday, our reptilian 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 – I assume for all the “high-paying jobs” the hotel created – by praising scullery workers for “making the place look spotless (?)”
Once again, our starry eyed ‘movers and shakers’ dissolved into a mutual admiration society – polishing Abbas’s apple, and heaping glowing tributes on one another like the self-absorbed shitheels they are – 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 and economic hopelessness.
We even got another fawning puff piece from the News-Journal’s Clayton Park (his umpteenth Hard Rock tribute for the week) with the usual quotes from tourism mavens and other community big shots – all of whom apparently fail to see the pitfalls of building multiple “four star” resorts that will stand as islands in a shitty cesspool of blight – with their only draw an increasingly walled-off beach.
You know, that whole cart before the horse thing?
Marketing a place with no attractions beyond a down-at-the-heels boardwalk – a grubby ghetto of trash-strewn lots, rusting midway rides, omnipresent homeless – and a haunting physical appearance so depressing most people go out of their way to avoid it.
No tourism infrastructure, quality restaurants or upscale shopping on the beachside.
No collective vision or local “identity.”
No civic pride – and no money to buy any with.
Look, I’m no expert – but I’ve lived in the Halifax area for over a half century – so, suffice it to say – I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go. However, I don’t think anyone has ever seen this level of base arrogance (or ignorance) by our elected officials in failing to recognize the sacrifice of their constituents.
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 Hard Rock 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.
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 host a semi-private beach for the pretty people.
Thank you, my fellow denizens of Volusia County, for not rioting as our power brokers ensured every whim of the developer during the years this project languished – even when it meant thumbing their nose at 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.
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.
Angel: Bethune-Cookman University
To say that B-CU needs some good news is an understatement.
However, the resiliency and determination of Bethune-Cookman students to succeed despite obstacles simply cannot be overstated.
Last week, the university announced that the student-run label, HBCU Records, is releasing B-CU’s first album in more than 20-years.
“Hold Fast to Dreams” features Bethune-Cookman’s incomparable Concert Chorale.
The recording was produced in cooperation with the university’s Mike Curb Music Business, Entertainment & Sports Institute, pairing students with gifted music industry professionals in all aspects of the recording, mastering and promotion of the album.
Proceeds will go to help cover travel expenses for the Concert Chorale.
The album featuring eleven songs can be downloaded for $15.00 at iTunes or Spotify.
In addition, Bethune-Cookman is hosting this years MEAC baseball and softball tournaments.
In an incredible turn of events, Mrs. Clara Graham, widow of B-CU alum and former Negro League player Doc Graham, who played with baseball great Jackie Robinson, will present each player in both tournaments with a copy of Robinson’s biography.
The softball tournament runs through tomorrow at the Ormond Beach Sports Complex, with baseball starting Wednesday at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Sliwa Stadium.
Good news indeed.
Asshole: New Smyrna Beach City Commission
The iconic Sunshine State columnist Carl Hiaasen said on the topic of out-of-control growth, “Construction for the sake of construction. That’s basically the same mechanism as a cancer cell. . .”
Never truer than during this abominable growth spurt that is threatening our very way of life in Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line. But when is enough, enough?
When will We, The People finally have a voice in our collective destiny?
In my experience, there comes a time in everyone’s life when they must decide what is worth defending. When it becomes necessary to take a firm stand – sometimes on principle alone – to stop an injustice or protect our freedoms and those things we hold dear?
Earlier this week, the New Smyrna Beach City Commission once again ignored the serious concerns of their constituents and approved yet another round of massive development west of Interstate 95.
The 4-1 vote gave the go-ahead for an additional 475 residential lots and retail space to be built on 543 acres – the “cramming 10-pounds of manure into a 5-pound sack” urban planning strategy that Mayor Jim Hathaway describes as “smart growth.”
To add insult, the Commission also approved a 253 unit apartment complex near SR-44 on a 3-2 vote.
It’s like they’re working from the book, “Murdering the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg: How to kill a quaint beach community in three easy steps.”
During the meeting, the only voice for the people was Commissioner Jason McGuirk, who wisely recommended a four-month moratorium on growth and development near State Road 44.
His suggestion fell on deaf ears. . .
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mayor Hathaway explained that – while he supports “slowing growth long-term” (he has a funny way of showing it) – “But those (developments) that are already in the pipeline, those that are already approved. Those that have already gone through every site review, planning board, recommendation to come to the City Commission, now at the 11th hour, we say, ‘Let’s pull the plug on this project?’
That’s exactly what you say, Mr. Mayor.
Better in the 11th hour than never – after all, massive growth is like toothpaste, you can’t put it back in the tube.
Rather than showing solidarity with his constituents, Hizzoner stooped to spinning scary yarns –raising the specter of lawsuits and higher taxes – sounding exactly like developer’s advocate attorney Glenn Storch.
Instead of listening to the input of outraged residents who are trying their best to say, ‘enough is enough’ – voicing their growing fears of flooding, wetlands encroachment, school capacity, gridlock, infrastructure inadequacies, etc. – cowardly New Smyrna officials refuse to stand in solidarity with their constituents and announce with a strong voice:
“Our quality of life is worth defending. What makes us unique is worth defending. The will of our citizens and taxpayers is worth defending.”
No. They acquiesce.
They give in.
They flippantly disregard the recommendations of their own advisory boards.
In an August 2016 blog entitled “You’re a victim, get used to it” – one of the most important and widely read pieces in the history of Barker’s View – I wrote, “Maybe when this entire godforsaken state becomes an uninhabitable shithole – completely devoid of potable water, greenspace or wildlife; when all the natural resources are exploited, hauled off and sold, and every last dime has been looted – someone will wake up.”
Sound familiar, New Smyrna?
It should – because it is quickly becoming your reality.
Angel: City of Holly Hill & Second Harvest Food Bank
Look, I realize that this is the second week in a row I’ve acknowledged my favorite place in the whole world with Angel status – but, once again, it’s well-deserved.
Last week, community volunteers distributed some 31,000 pounds of food to 248 less fortunate families at Holly Hill School.
Volunteers from the Holly Hill Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office – working shoulder-to-shoulder with various faith-based organizations, schools and businesses – helped direct traffic, organize “Provision Packs” and load them into recipient’s cars.
During my long career at the City of Holly Hill, one of the things I took the most pride in was how our close-knit community came together in times of need – it was an ‘all for one, one for all’ feeling that, without fail, supported those in crisis, fed the hungry and ensured everyone’s collective well-being.
For instance, the self-described “Redneck Chainsaw Crew” – a group of long-time local tradesmen who go out into neighborhoods following hurricanes to assist fellow residents with heavy debris clean-up, clearing trees and doing the heavy lifting to support anyone who needs an extra hand.
Now, I can almost guarantee you none of these angels with dirty hands will ever win the Herbert M. Davidson Award for Outstanding Community Service – but they damn well should.
I count these beautiful souls among my personal heroes.
When our code enforcement officers discover homes occupied by the elderly or infirm in disrepair, police officers – to include Chief Stephen Aldrich – bring their mowers in and cut grass, repair trim and provide a much-needed coat of paint on their own time to bring the property into compliance.
They aren’t ordered to do it – it’s certainly not in their “job description” – they simply see a need and step up to help.
Tell me another city that does that with regularity?
I hope others do – but I see that commitment to service above self in action on The Hill.
In addition, for many years City of Holly Hill employees were recognized for collecting the most food for Second Harvest Food Bank of any governmental entity in Volusia County.
I’ve seen police officers, firefighters, mechanics, city yards workers, clerks, administrators, planers and other dedicated civil servants give till it hurt – and then some – to nourish our community.
God Bless Second Harvest Food Bank – and all the volunteers who gathered together to help those in real need.
Your efforts epitomize the very spirit of the “City with a Heart.”
Angel: Chief Stephan Dembinsky
Hearty congratulations to Chief Stephan Dembinsky for providing outstanding leadership to the City of Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety – and the greater law enforcement community – for the past twenty-years!
A wonderful milestone in a career full of high achievement!
Serving in a role so vitally important to the safety and welfare of a community for two-decades is no small feat – and Chief Dembinsky has proven his commitment, diplomacy and dedication to the citizens of Daytona Beach Shores in exemplary fashion.
In addition to his service to the community – “Ski” as he is affectionately known to his friends and colleagues – has done remarkable work in the larger arena of the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Association and the Florida Police Chief’s Association – promoting values-based policing and fostering professionalism in all he does.
Thank you for the outstanding leadership you have shown these many years – and for the personal help, good advice and unwavering support you extended during my career.
We’re glad you passed our way.
Here’s to many more years serving, protecting and ensuring the welfare of Daytona Beach Shores and beyond!
Quote of the Week:
“I did listen to what the people were saying. I went out there and did some investigation and I don’t see the concerns that they were having.”
–New Smyrna City Commissioner and amateur Paranormal Sleuth Charles “Randy” Hartman, attempting to salve resident’s fears of increased traffic, crime, storm water retention and other adverse impacts from the recently approved Beacon Luxury Apartment complex with his clairvoyant power to see into the future.
You want to hear something else Commissioner Hartman told his constituents during the last election cycle?
“I will do everything I can as a city commissioner to support, encourage and sustain the charm and beauty of New Smyrna Beach.”
I didn’t make that shit up – it’s still on Mr. Hartman’s website.
Now, I’m just spit-balling here, Commish – but I think what the citizens of your fair city are concerned about is the impact of traffic, crime and flooding on their quality of life after the 253 unit complex has been built and occupied.
While I, and everyone concerned about unchecked development in Volusia County, appreciate the fact that Detective Hartman donned his deerstalker, lit the calabash pipe, and took a drive down 44 with Scooby in the Mystery Machine to investigate his citizen’s concerns – the point he apparently missed is that his constituents want to preserve the “charm and beauty” of New Smyrna Beach now – not learn to live with the godforsaken mess after-the-fact.
You see, despite what that soothsaying development attorney tells you – it is impossible to foresee the impact a specific development will have on the surrounding area (and the greater community) until it is built and occupied – then, its too late.
You can guess, but I assure you neither Inv. Hartman – nor Glenn Storch – have a crystal ball.
Planners can use complicated density formulas to determine a development’s intensity and influence on the surrounding area, zoning attorney’s can use fancy-footwork and an engaging smile to convince you of all the benefits of a given project and traffic engineers can factor volume counts and analyze historical data to form a recommendation – but until the land is leveled, concrete and steel erected and area residents come nose-to-nose with over 500 new Walmart shoppers and their vehicles on already clogged area roadways – no one knows for sure.
When you consider the cumulative impact of the massive residential and commercial projects currently under construction – We, The People are concerned that our quality of life countywide is being destroyed to satiate the abject greed of speculative developers and a few real estate interests.
Why is it so difficult for our elected officials to understand that we want this Wild West atmosphere of unbridled growth and sprawl brought under control?
Here’s something you should investigate, Mr. Hartman: The re-election prospects for mealy-mouth politicians who tell their constituents one thing during the campaign – then vote differently once they assume office.
And Another Thing!
When I count the many blessings in my life, the one constant “Angel” above all the rest remains my long-suffering wife, Patti.
This week I want to end on a personal note by wishing her a most Happy Birthday – and sincerely thanking her for the many ways she enhances my life every day.
I am a terribly flawed human being – but she is not.
She cares when I don’t.
She provides the center of stability for our family.
And – by her example – she inspires me to try my best to be a better man today than I was yesterday.
There is a line from a long-forgotten poem that says:
“She stands always at my side,
No matter what comes our way.
She comforts me with steadfast love
Each and every day.”
Happy Birthday, honey. I love you.
Have a great weekend, y’all!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there – both human and fur baby! Enjoy your special day!