If anyone still believes our elected representatives on the Volusia County Council have anything but utter distain for you and me – their long-suffering constituents – you should watch the council comments section at the bitter end of their June 16th public meeting.
Over the top.
It was like watching the outbreak of some virulently contagious form of emotional dysregulation disorder wash over the chamber.
Following a meeting which saw County Manager Jim Dinneen pull off his latest escape – with the political dexterity and deft manipulation of Harry Houdini – Mr. Dinneen clearly orchestrated a maneuver whereby he “asked” to vacate the contractual obligation of a six-month transition period – allowing him to saunter out of the building with a groaning wheelbarrow full of greenbacks on his way to his next “gig.”
The rest of us? Well, we’re left holding the bag. . .
Get used to it – it’s not the first time a sketchy city/county manager slipped the noose and beat for the hills with a sack full of cash – and it won’t be the last.
In fact – lucrative severance packages are this mercenary professions stock-in-trade – and Jim Dinneen has already forgotten the name “Volusia County.”
You see, getting sentimentally attached to the rubes you fleece just muddies the water in his business.
But what happened next on the dais was truly disturbing – like watching some goofy community theater troupe botching an extemporaneous performance of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Look, I’ve been around the block a few times – but rarely have I seen this brand of overacted melodrama – it was Pomposity on Parade – marked by the hyper-emotional venting of our thin-skinned politicians during what transformed from a slightly uncomfortable public meeting into the exorcism segment of the Rite of Beatification for Saint James Dinneen.
It was an extraordinary example of a shamefully self-indulgent political pity party – a juvenile overreaction by a camarilla of self-centered egomaniacs acting out – and it was painful to watch.
At the risk of sounding cruel – open weeping, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth by those in a position of leadership mourning the loss of an appointed official with a long history of five-alarm fuck-ups – especially one who commanded over $300,000 in salary and benefits – doesn’t engender confidence.
Seriously, to see Old Ed weeping like a lachrymose grandmother over the death of an entrenched power structure doesn’t inspire confidence in his leadership – or emotional stability.
In fact, it makes me question how these hyper-sensitive blowhards would react during an actual crisis?
From Billie Wheeler’s angry indictment of citizens exercising their sacred First Amendment right to voice political dissension on social media – to “Sleepy” Pat Patterson using his one fleeting moment of lucidity to call Sheriff Mike Chitwood “the most unprofessional” he’d ever seen – to our doddering fool of a County Chair questioning the veracity of the grieving mother of a dead child who desperately tried to call attention to the serious issues at the Medical Examiner’s Office – it was repugnant.
Then the always arrogant Deb Denys spewed the stunner, “If anyone here thinks the next manager is going to walk on water, I need to launch you on the next rocket out of here!”
Hey, Deb – no one expects an omnibenevolent, supernatural deity in flowing robes at the helm – just a hardworking chief executive with the smarts and professional ethics to conduct the people’s business in a fair, transparent, inclusive and efficient manner that builds consensus and shows respect for the sanctity of the democratic process – and our hard-earned tax dollars.
Is that too much to ask?
More troubling was that the incessant rambling and fawning from the dais incorporated a complete rewrite of history by weak-minded politicians with an obvious selective memory.
After tidying up the Dineen ugliness – a performance that was clearly choreographed in advance – our “leadership” used their open discussion period, not to communicate and calm the fears of a worried constituency, but instead, they used it as another opportunity to horsewhip Councilwoman Heather Post – up to and including openly accusing her of ‘cyber-bullying’ and suggesting her condemnation of Mr. Dinneen’s maladministration was criminal.
I have a personal rule – I never feel sorry for someone making over $250,000 a year. It’s just not worth the emotional capital – and besides, I don’t think Little Jimmy is too worried about where his next meal is coming from.
And I certainly never feel sorry for politicians who stand for election – do and say everything and anything to win elevation to a position of power and influence – then feign that their feelings get bruised like a ripe peach whenever those pesky citizens who voted for them question why they refuse to represent their interests.
We’re not talking about some hayseed caucus in Hooterville here – these people are in the Big League now – and they have a sworn responsibility to steward hundred-of-millions of taxpayer dollars, ensure the quality of essential government services to some 500,000 people and provide oversight to a massive bureaucracy with a lot of moving parts.
No one expects them to get it right all the time – but what we will not tolerate is open corruption, abject mismanagement and the stench of lies.
Regardless, dry-up the waterworks and grow some bark.
As Harry S. Truman was fond of saying, “If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.”
In my view, any politician worth his or her salt should understand that We, The People have a right and a responsibility to petition our government for the redress of grievances – and when our voices are ignored, and our concerns dismissed as they have been for months, then there will be calls for change.
We have stood helplessly and witnessed a slow erosion of trust and public confidence in Volusia County government.
Institutions and processes we once thought were inviolate have been compromised by uber-wealthy opportunists who routinely access public funds for private profit motives with the full acquiescence – and encouragement – of those we elected to represent our interests.
Then, when mechanisms put in place by our supposedly sacrosanct Home Rule Charter to provide oversight and accountability of a county manager with overwhelming, almost autonomous power, are disabled or ignored – we have a right to be concerned – and to voice our frustration by the most expedient means possible.
Councilwoman Billie Wheeler should understand that thanks to social media, citizens now have the opportunity to identify others who are similarly situated – with the same values, fears and concerns – then join together to exchange ideas and discuss their collective vision for the future.
Those of us who use social media are neither always right, nor always wrong, but it is clear that technology is changing the way people take their news, form opinions and view their government.
Frankly, we’re a group of taxpayers that have collectively realized we’re all mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.
As elected officials, the Volusia County Council should understand this growing frustration and embrace the real-time political thermometer that social media represents to savvy politicians – then use it to their advantage, and ours, as Heather Post has done.
Our own elected Rip Van Winkle “Sleepy” Pat Patterson wearily lamented from the dais today that friends often ask him “What’s changed?” – why is everyone so mean-spirited these days?
The answer is, everything has changed – and nothing has changed.
Just a different ass in the same leather wing-back chair – with the same controlling factors at play.
Unfortunately, those awkward dullards on the dais of power cannot seem to grasp that issues and opinions now move at the speed of the internet – and cheapjack political sleight-of-hand like we saw today no longer fools anyone.
Frankly, today marked the end of a sad chapter in a book full of political mistakes, malfeasance, power-plays and tin-pot tyrants that have plagued the Fun Coast since our inception – and so long as Mr. Dinneen vacates our public administration building by close of business Friday – we can all rest comfortably knowing he’ll soon be someone else’s problem.
Unfortunately, the sins of Jim Dinneen were merely a symptom of a much deeper, much darker issue in Volusia County government.
It is time to fundamentally change this foul oligarchical system by electing servant-leaders who place service above self – and the needs and wants of their constituents above the private profit motives of the few.
That change begins at the ballot box.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal