They just don’t get it.
With the abrupt departure of beleaguered former County Manager Jim Dinneen, the same challenges remain – but with fresh opportunities for changing the culture and focus of Volusia County government.
Unfortunately, seizing breaks and developing a strategic vision isn’t the Volusia County Council’s forte.
Now that our preening elected representatives in DeLand have purged their spleen in a fit of political pique and exposed their vile hatred for anyone who challenges the status quo of an entrenched power structure – a political protection racket that showers select candidates with hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions in exchange for four-years of lockstep conformity and complete fealty to the Donor Class – they are pointing the finger of blame at their long-suffering constituents.
Did anyone expect anything different?
Despite the weak-minded denials of our doddering fool of a County Chairman, Ed Kelley – a perennial politician who hasn’t had an original thought since he accepted his first campaign contribution – it is clear to anyone paying attention that the majority of Volusia County Council members have developed a virulent case of psychological projection, a political defense mechanism that allows them to abdicate responsibility and attribute all the problems in their sole span of control to the “malarkey” of naysaying constituents.
It appears – with the exception of current political punching bag, Heather Post – council members have convinced themselves that the dismal political climate we find ourselves in is the result of angry social media posts and attempts by Sheriff Mike Chitwood to expose the broken and corrupt nature of this horrible system he inherited following the last election.
Look, you can’t have it both ways.
Our elected officials need to understand that you can completely ignore the needs, wants and concerns of your constituents, shut them out of the process, ignore their input and surprise them with off-the-agenda stunts designed to ramrod sketchy public policies and conceal murky intentions, then funnel millions in public funds to the private profit motives of a few powerful political insiders – but when the light of day finally exposes the machinations of this oligarchical system – you cannot simply blame the victim.
Those dullards we elected to represent our interests on the dais of power would have us believe that if we continue to speak out and call attention to this farcical system we have suffered under – a bastardized process that has thwarted any substantive progress in Volusia County for years – then the continued exercise of our First Amendment rights will chase away any “good” county manager candidates, leaving us to select from the “Barney Fifes” of the current executive class.
No, despite what they would have us believe – this one is on them – not us.
For months, We, The People have been forced to stand by and witness this ugly exclusionary process play out – a constituency left totally voiceless, stymied by an internally controlled information black market – repeatedly and openly lied to, then told we were too stupid to appreciate the issues facing us in a weird form of political gaslighting.
In fact, if you look at the classic techniques used by tormentors to psychologically abuse and control their victims you might find some eerie similarities to our current situation:
Withholding: Pretending not to understand or refusing to listen, “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “Your trying to confuse me.”
Countering: Changing the subject or questioning the victim’s thoughts and opinions, “Is that another one of your crazy ideas?” or “You’re imagining things.”
Trivializing: Making the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”
Forgetting/Denial: Pretending to have forgotten the facts of what actually happened or denying promises made. “I never said that!” or “It’s all in your head. You’re just ginning up stuff.”
It’s textbook. And it’s wrong.
Fortunately, smart people with the insider knowledge and understanding of the how, what, when and why the wheel came off our collective cart at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center are beginning to echo the concerns of Sheriff Chitwood, Councilwoman Post and others with the guts to defend us from this abusive relationship that has ruined the public’s trust in their government.
In Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, former County Councilman Doug Daniels both confirmed our worst fears – and provided a cogent way forward as we collectively struggle to right the ship in the aftermath of one of the most disastrous periods in our history.
“Will Dinneen’s departure usher in an era of good government? No.”
“The county’s power structure and its poorly drafted, antiquated charter will remain. When there are only a handful of big-money donors funding political campaigns, miracles will be in short supply, particularly now that the rich have come to display their power not by building public monuments, but by raiding taxpayer funds. We cannot change that, but we can change the charter to provide for an open, transparent government. We can watch them do it.”
Mr. Daniels rightly suggests that Volusia’s sacrosanct charter should be changed to ensure accountability, transparency and fiscal integrity through an independent internal auditor reporting directly to the council – and the people.
He also suggested that we replace this hodgepodge system of management by crisis with a 20-year strategic vision for Volusia County.
I couldn’t agree more.
He further suggests reorganizing the charter to provide a strong elected chairman, with a salary similar to circuit court judges – someone with the “real power” to effectively represent the interests of Volusia County in regional issues, like SunRail.
“With such reforms, you still might not like what the county government does, but at least you would know what it is doing. With an elected chairman, we would have someone who could represent us here and on a bigger stage, and someone we could hold accountable.”
In my view, change is on the breeze.
With a good crop of outstanding new candidates for public office working hard to gain our trust – and our vote – hope springs anew this election cycle.
Clearly, the big money candidates are getting nervous, and they should be.
The political pendulum is beginning its slow arc, hopefully returning power where it rightfully belongs – to We, The People, from which all political legitimacy originates.
So be loud.
And let our ‘powers that be’ know exactly how you feel at the ballot box.
We will not be told to shut up and sit-down by the likes of Old Ed Kelley, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson or any other self-serving politician who has clearly lost the moral authority to lead.