On Volusia: Crushing Dissent in Deltona

I’m touched by the kindness of my readers.

The fact that someone takes the time to seek out and read an alternative opinion blog tells me they are active and engaged in the affairs of our community – thoughtful, inquisitive citizens who consider all sides of an issue before forming views on the important issues of the day.

When I started this experiment, I could not have imagined that just three years on thousands of people from across the globe would read Barker’s View each month – and I am incredibly moved when someone reaches out to compliment my writing style, or say that my goofy take on things made them laugh.

I often say that I don’t write well – but I write a lot – and I am reminded of that fact every time I read the work of an author or journalist I admire.

Because I don’t have a formal education, I’ve become a good mimic of writers, poets, playwrights, reporters and columnists that move my emotions because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – altering perspectives and challenging the reader’s views in a way that brings positive change – or provides, as Conrad said, “That glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”

A colleague asked me the other day, “Why do you do this?”

He pointed out that my often-provocative essays have changed how some very important people view me in the community – in fact, many in a position of power really don’t like what I have to say about the machinations of government – or the sources and origins of the money that greases the wheels.

That’s okay.

Trust me – there are a few very influential insiders in Volusia County who benefit, personally and financially, from this bizarre system that consolidates power in weird Star Chambers like the shadowy CEO Business Alliance, comprised of incredibly successful millionaires and billionaires – many of whom have received tens-of-millions in government subsidies, handouts and contracts.

I get it.

But who will call bullshit?

Who works to expose the inner-workings, the sausage-making and backroom intrigues, collusion and maneuvers?

The answer to my friend’s question is at once simple, yet extremely complex:

I write my opinions on the injustices, the ineptitude and inherent corruption of this oligarchical system we find ourselves mired in because I desperately want positive change – I want people to know that we don’t have to accept this blight, dilapidation and neglect that is the natural byproduct of a “pay to play” hierarchy, where the needs of a wealthy few always outweigh those of the silent majority who are expected to pay the bills and remain silent – or else.

I want what we all want – even those who despise everything I stand for.

Believe me, I’m no more courageous or intelligent than the next person – in fact, most of what I see in the shadows of government I don’t understand at all – I simply want my sweet granddaughter and future generations in the Halifax area to live in a place that offers them a level playing field.

A place where achievement is based upon a willingness to work hard at work worth doing.

Where her ability to succeed isn’t dependent upon the color of her skin, or the size of her bank account, or measured by how many politicians she may or may not have in her back pocket.

I want her to live in an environment with clean water to drink, and fresh air to breathe – a place where every tree isn’t felled to make way for another convenience store or half-empty strip center – where greenspace and natural areas are valued as much as mega-developments and ‘theme’ communities with 8’ lot lines and a sickeningly contrived ‘lifestyle.’

And I want her to have the ability to control her destiny – and that of the community in which she lives – through an inclusive, participatory government based upon our hallowed democratic principles – a system which actively listens to the thoughts, opinions and diverse views of its constituency and weighs the needs and wants of the lessor among us with the same vigor and importance given to those of the ‘Rich & Powerful.’

I also want her to have the ability to speak out on issues of civic concern without facing the intimidation and fear of those elected and appointed to represent our interests on the dais of power.

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage everyone to read the intrepid reporter Katie Kustura’s excellent exposé in today’s News-Journal, “Deltona complains of woman’s recording,” which details the despicable bullying tactics of Deltona City Manager Jane Shang, and that cowardly troupe of compromised flunkies on the City Commission, who have knowingly and intentionally misused the full might of Volusia County law enforcement to silence a vociferous critic.

It’s shocking.

It tells the story of Brandy White, a concerned citizen and activist who has worked tirelessly to expose the dysfunction and ineptitude of the Shang administration.  In April, Ms. White went to City Hall to obtain the results of a public records request regarding the city’s controversial civic center.

To document the encounter with public officials, White recorded her interaction with Deltona Finance Director Tracy Hooper in a public area of the building.

In turn, Shang – apparently with the full knowledge and acquiescence of the elected officials – directed Hooper to provide a sworn complaint to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office alleging intentional interception of oral communications.

When this serious felony charge had the desired effect of silencing Ms. White – in May, City Manager Shang used the same appalling tactic against another critic – Patricia Gibson – when she rightfully pointed out state licensing issues with a caterer hired by the City of Deltona.

If you’re not moved to seething rage – perhaps you need to rethink what’s at stake here.

You really want to know why I write this goddamned blog? 

It’s to bring attention to shit like this – a wholly dysfunctional and completely corrupted “government” run amok – public officials (in the loosest sense of the term) who set upon outspoken critics like a pack of rabid wolves and crush dissent under the iron boot of an incestuous system intent on preserving the status quo regardless of who or what they have to destroy in the process.

Fuck that.

It’s high time Governor Rick Scott, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney turn their focus to the likes of Jane Shang and those elected officials who have abused their constituents, flagrantly violated both the letter and spirit of our sacred open records law and blatantly misused the omnipotent power of the law to secure an advantage over the citizens they ostensibly exist to serve.

It’s wrong, dammit – and this cannot stand.

Angels & Assholes for July 27, 2018

Hi, Kids!

I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I’m enjoying mine.

Look, I’m not a huge fan of the heat, humidity and violent thunderstorms that have blanketed us these past few weeks, but as Floridians, it comes with the territory I suppose.

Nothing to do during these languid Dog Days but flop near the water with a cold beverage in your favorite Tiki tumbler and wait it out until October when our weather returns to whatever passes for “normal” here in the subtropics.

I suppose we all have our favorite season, and while some like it hot, fall is the time I enjoy most.

With a short pilgrimage to western North Carolina or East Tennessee, you can enjoy the foliage, wear something northerners call a ‘sweater,’ (it’s like a long-sleeved woolen thing) and get a taste of what it’s like to live in a place that actually has four distinct seasons.

Oddly, I also enjoy that weird autumnal Festival of the Macabre known as All Hallows’ Eve – a night for trick-or-treat, when adults dress up in goofy costumes, get wildly drunk at orgiastic parties in tony neighborhoods and live out their French Maid or Pillaging Pirate fantasies without the judgement that would be common the other 364 days of the year (you know who you are. . .)

Speaking of Halloween, I recently stumbled upon a real bonus for our friends at the Daytona Area Convention and Visitors Bureau – something that just might give them an opportunity to redeem themselves after spending $400,000+ (not counting in-kind services) to lure the much-ballyhooed back-to-back Shriner’s Mega-Conventions – another less-than-spectacular “game changer” which ultimately attracted less folks than a quilting bee. . .

So, here’s my plan:

On Wednesday, our friends at Universal Studios Orlando issued a press release announcing a cool new promotion for this year’s Halloween Horror Nights, which begins on September 14th and runs through November 3rd this year.

“Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces will revolve around a dilapidated carnival full of decayed rides and games.  Along the way, guests will encounter guard dogs, a grotesque tunnel of love and armed carnies, according to Universal.”

I immediately thought, “Hot Damn!  Our ship has finally come it!”

I mean, we’ve got one of those very same “attractions” right here on the Fun Coast!

It’s called the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and it has all the spooky features and creepy inhabitants that Universal’s creative team has worked months and spent lavishly to recreate!

Here, you be the judge.

Take a look at the photographs below, and see if you can determine which one depicts a rusty graveyard of dilapidated carnival rides, ghoulish zombies and armed carnies (I’m not even going to describe the “grotesque tunnel of love”) – and which is a carefully conceived and artfully constructed special event which draws tens-of-thousands of Halloween revelers to the Universal theme park each year:

BW2carnival graveyard







You’re welcome CVB!  This one’s on me – Gratis!

I’m just surprised our highly compensated Myrtle Beach Marketing Maharishis at The Brandon Agency didn’t jump all over this?  Because the eerie similarities between the two went through me like a double-dose of Dulcolax. . .

Never let it be said that Barker the Bitcher doesn’t bring real solutions to the table, dammit!

(Will someone please let the Halifax Civic League know I’m available to accept the J. Saxon Lloyd Distinguished Community Service Award this year?  Thanks. . .)

Now, let’s see if our ‘go-getters’ down at the Daytona Beach Economic Development office will seize this real opportunity to turn our frown upside-down and throw up some turnstiles around this “Haunted Hellhole” and turn it into a potential goldmine for city coffers this fall!

Trust me.  This thing has legs.

Like Mr. Kurtz,  I understand horror in the Conradian sense – and if our Boardwalk is going to scare the living shit out of tourists with the very real possibility of being maimed by a rickety roller coaster, or having their skull gnawed on by a cannibal wino behind the Bandshell – why not capitalize on our seedy reputation while its in vogue and make bank, right?


How about we 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 Council

 I recently read an interesting article in Psychology Today that discussed the basic human emotion of shame (look, I’m too cheap for therapy, so reading PT and self-diagnosing is the next best thing, okay?):

“Embarrassment is a painful but important emotional state. Most researchers believe that its purpose is to make us feel bad about our social or personal mistakes so that we don’t repeat them, and its physiological side effects—like blushing, sweating, or stammering—may signal to others that we recognize our error and are not cold-hearted or oblivious.”

 Cold-hearted and oblivious.  Sound familiar?

When I read headlines like, “Volusia votes to hold line on taxes,” I often wonder if politicians are born without that cranny of the primitive brain that produces the emotion of humiliation – or if it is simply cauterized by the rush of overweening hubris once they are elected to high office?

After playing fast and loose with public funds since taking their seats, this latest iteration of our County Council now has the gall, in an election year, to act out this tired Kabuki on the dais – totally straight-faced – telling us all what courageous public servants they are for adopting the roll-back rate.

With a $768 million-dollar budget and a half-billion in the bank – in one of the most abominably overtaxed counties in the State of Florida – they act like they’re doing us a favor?


Look, during a 31-year career in law enforcement I developed a pretty strong stomach, but I physically gagged as our elected officials preened and crowed about what brave “risk takers” and watchful stewards of our treasury they are – even as they prepared us for a massive buggering in 2020 with horror stories about the “motherload of all tax increases.”

If it wasn’t all so blatantly choreographed, it would have been mildly entertaining.

For instance, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson was quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “If we have another storm, we will have a real problem,” said Councilman Pat Patterson, noting the recent two hurricanes drained $30 million from the county’s coffers, most of which still hasn’t been reimbursed. “We will have to roll the dice here and see how much risk we are going to take. I’m in favor of (no tax increase for residents) but I guess I’m a bit of a risk-taker.”

My ass.

While “Sleepy” Pat may fancy himself a wildcatting “risk taker,” in my view, he comes off as a narcoleptic political retread who has done everything in his power to protect the status quo in that bloated bureaucracy in DeLand – including destroying the personal and professional reputation of whistleblowers who tried in vain to point out real problems to those we elected to solve them – while blatantly stealing our century-old heritage of beach driving and demonstrating just how ineffectual he is when it comes to important issues like impact fees, transportation, corporate welfare, etc., etc.

The fact is, Mr. Patterson, and those other dullards we elected to represent our interests, have sat idle while our public infrastructure crumbled, dozed insensibly as our former County Manager secretly manipulated public policy and openly lied to their constituents, then voted in lockstep to ensure every whim of their political benefactors was met regardless of cost or appearance.

In many ways, Councilman Patterson represents all that’s wrong with this slimy oligarchy that passes for county governance.

Of course, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys literally got in on the “act” – tut-tutting at the weak knees of her worried colleagues and showing that special brand of strong, determined leadership we only glimpse at election time – as she droned on about our “strong fiscal position” and calmed the trembling masses by assuring us she is “100 percent confident that we can protect our citizens,”  in the event of a disaster with currently available funds.

Did anyone really think they were going to do anything other than roll-back?

Hell no.  Because lowering taxes is anathema to a system that needs an increasing number of tax dollars like a parasitic insect needs the blood of its host.

My God.  How frigging stupid do they think we are?

Why is it that every election cycle politicians throughout Volusia County turn into a bad community theater troupe – poorly portraying the role of engaged public officials after years of completely ignoring We, The People, as they exclusively serve those special interests with the ability to ‘pay to play.’

Jesus.  It’s painful to watch.

I’m embarrassed for them.

As the “silly season” heats up, we’re about to be inundated with similar fantastic fairy tales embossed on glossy mailers telling us all how good we have it under our current crop of incumbents – many of whom are personally and demonstrably responsible for this civic death spiral we find ourselves in.

The fact is, the likes of “Sleepy” Pat, the painfully egotistical Deb Denys and our doddering fool of a County Chair, Old Ed Kelley, have irreparably ruined the public’s trust in their government – and that, gentle readers, is inexcusable.

So, the next time you hear one of these giddy assholes spouting off about how bright our future is thanks to their ‘bold, visionary leadership and experience’ – even as you drive by one hocked-out shithole of blight and dilapidation after another – or when you are told how wonderful it will be to drink our own recycled sewerage passed off as potable water – and are forced to sit desperately stranded in stand-still traffic thanks to unchecked and unplanned western sprawl – remember who is responsible for this quagmire in the first place.

Then, do the right thing and vote your conscience.

Angel:             Votran Driver Paul Okumu

Last Friday evening, the driver of a Votran bus courageously intervened to stop the sexual assault of a female passenger in Ponce Inlet.

You don’t see that much anymore – someone standing tall and putting all they have, and all they will ever have, on the line to help a total stranger.

Just before 7:00pm, the suspect, identified in reports as Michael Lemuel Speaks, 34, of Deltona pulled down his pants and underwear and began menacing the unidentified female victim as the bus traveled on South Atlantic Avenue in Ponce Inlet.

Most frightening, during the attack Speaks was armed with a knife – and was later found to have a handful of condoms in his pants pocket.

Without hesitation, and obviously little thought for his personal safety, Driver Paul Okumu, 26, of Port Orange guided the bus to a stop and physically confronted the armed degenerate in a valiant attempt to protect his passenger from harm.

During the confrontation, the suspect grabbed Mr. Okumu by the throat.  The ensuing struggle sent both men into a side window shattering the glass.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ponce Inlet Police Chief Frank Fabrizio hailed Okumu for the hero he is, “The Votran bus driver did a great job,” he said – adding that Speaks was “real uncooperative” – and threatened officers, spit at them, and attempted to kick out the window of a patrol car.


Following his arrest, police confirmed that Speaks is a habitual offender who has been booked into jail no less than 35 times in the past eleven years.

Barker’s View offers a hearty tip o’ the hat to Mr. Paul Okumu – one tough bus driver – for his incredible courage and intrepidity in stopping a violent felon in the act of committing a heinous sex crime and ensuring that our criminal justice system gets one more opportunity to get it right and remove this dangerous piece of human excrement from our community.

Asshole:          Volusia County School Board

I wrote about this earlier in the week, but it bears repeating.

The author Joseph Heller wrote in his novel Catch 22: “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.”

While the County of Volusia has developed quite a reputation for accepting mediocrity as public policy – I’m not sure the safety and security of our schools is the place for what we have come to accept as ‘business as usual’ in DeLand.

As many loyal readers of this forum know, I was recently passed over for a position as a School Guardian – a state mandated security program which will place a hybrid of armed civilians and law enforcement officers on every school campus in the state.

According to district officials it was my own damn fault.

Although they received my resume and application, somehow my name didn’t appear on “the list” of qualified applicants that were called to serve.

Like the Amazing Kreskin, somehow, I knew instinctively that was going to happen before I applied. . .

But the experience piqued my interest in the mysterious inner-workings of this enigma who spends nearly $900 million of our hard-earned tax dollars each year ostensibly educating our children.

After four public records requests to district officials, I was finally able to review the qualifications of those who have been appointed to oversee this sensitive program – and I found that two of the three couldn’t qualify for the position they are charged with managing.

In my view, the credibility of this program is paramount to achieving the internal and external buy-in that will be required for success, so I asked for the names and qualifications of those appointed by Superintendent Tom Russell to provide for the safety and security of our precious children.

On July 16th, I received the following information from Greg Aiken, the district’s Chief Operating Officer, which read, in part:

“I have 22.5 years of military experience and 15 years in the School District where 14 of those years has been building and managing the safety and security program for the district.  I am a certified FEMA and TEEX Adjunct Instructor  for the past 10 years teaching all facets of emergency management all over the US.  

I am right now working with the current classes of school guardians to bring that program up and running by August 13th.  Mr. Craig Pender was appointed by the board to take over the day-to-day responsibilities of the Safety and Security program and comes to the department with school-based emergency management experience.  That position is a level 9.  Ms. Rosalyn Velasquez-Morales, has FBI experience and has been working the safety and security program for over a year now.  She is a level 6.

We have identified three (3) employees that will have the duties as the School Safety Specialist to ensure we have back-ups when the others are on vacation or out sick.  Mr. Pender is the primary with Rosalyn and myself as the back-ups.”

When I finally received the public records, I discovered that Mr. Pender – our brand-new school security expert – began his career 1994 as a Band Director at Southwestern Middle School – and most recently served as an ESE supervisor and Assistant Principle at University High School in Orange City.

However, he does have one very important credential – Mr. Pender is married to the School Districts Chief Human Resources Officer.

Now that’s an impressive career track for a middle-manager – but, in my view, without the required military or law enforcement experience – it doesn’t qualify Mr. Pender to assume the massive, almost unprecedented, responsibility for physically securing and providing close personal protection for 63,000 children and an untold number of teachers, staff and visitors.

Oh, remember Ms. Rosalyn Velasquez-Morales?  The one with the highly touted “FBI experience”?

Well, come to find out, she served as an “administrative secretary” in the FBI’s New York Field Office. . .

Again, Ms. Velasquez-Morales has an impressive career trajectory, I’m just not sure her secretarial duties at the FBI equate to the terribly important job she is being paid to perform.

Now, I don’t know shit about playing the clarinet in a marching band – but I know a little about what it takes to lead, supervise, motivate and administrate a group of armed professionals – brave men and women who are asked to go in harm’s way and provide a vitally important service.

I sincerely hope Mr. Akin, Mr. Pender and Ms. Valasquez-Morales are prepared, certified and capable of assuming this enormous responsibility.  If not, perhaps they have the collective personal and professional ethics to reconsider this “fake it till you make it” approach to school security administration – because it’s crystal clear Superintendent Russell didn’t think this through.

You know what pisses me off even more?

When someone in a position of high authority –  who receives public funds to serve in the public interest – blows smoke up my ass and tries to convince me that someone charged with overseeing the dynamic and gravely important mission of supervising armed security officers in elementary schools is painted as having federal law enforcement experience when they don’t.

Ms. Valasquez-Morales didn’t claim to have “FBI experience” – her boss claimed she did.

But why?

To appease my curiosity – or to bolster the credibility of a program that desperately needs it?

Regardless, in my view, a senior official misrepresenting Ms. Valasquez-Morales’ tenuous law enforcement credentials as a means of salving over my very real concerns about the leadership of the Guardian program is disingenuous at best – and borders on a bald-faced lie.

And that, gentle readers, causes me to question if there is more about this program, or other aspects of this festering bureaucracy, that are being obscured with double-talk?

Asshole:          Hard Rock Daytona

 There’s an old idiom that holds true time and again:  A picture is worth a thousand words. 

Hard Rock July 18

This is the public face of the “Four Star” property our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County sacrificed 410 linear feet of our unique heritage of beach driving to bring to our most important natural amenity and regional economic engine: The World’s Most Famous Beach. 

Remind me again exactly how a dismal scene like this “enhances the visitor experience”?

Now that the cocktail parties and fireworks are over, don’t ever tell me that Summit Hospitality – or anyone on the dais of power in DeLand – gives two-shits about us ever again. . .

Quote of the Week:

“I’ve been hammering away at this since I was elected.  They deserve to be paid better. One second, they’re sitting there dealing with someone who has a cat up a tree and the next second they’re dealing with someone who is delivering a baby or someone who is suicidal. They are a vital cog in what we do. What they do is a high-risk, high-pressure job. It really is.”

–Sheriff Michael Chitwood, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia County sheriff pushes raises for ‘underpaid, undervalued 9-1-1 dispatchers,” July 23, 2018

In my view, it’s high time these unsung heroes were compensated with a living wage for the incredibly important work they do to ensure our safety and security 24-hours a day.

And Another Thing!

After a stellar 25-year career with the Daytona Beach Police Department, Lieutenant Jake Mays is honorably retiring from public service after having been accepted to the Florida A&M University College of Law!

During his long career serving the citizens of Daytona Beach, Lt. Mays served in operations, administration, field training and evaluation, code enforcement and as a detective in both narcotics and general investigations.

In addition, his military service includes work as a K-9 handler with the United States Air Force Security Police from 1989 to 1993 – and mutual aid support in explosives detection for the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Navy and other law enforcement agencies.

It does my beat-up old heart good to see a former colleague bring a wonderfully fulfilling career to an honorable and successful close while he’s still young and healthy enough to contribute and enjoy another adventure.

We can be eternally grateful that men and women of Lt. May’s character and professionalism serve us so faithfully each and every day as members of the Daytona Beach Police Department.

We’re glad you passed our way, Jake.

Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement – and best of luck in your future law career!

That’s all for me, kids!

As always, thanks for taking the time to visit Barker’s View – please come back and sit a spell when you have the time.

Barker’s View will be on hiatus next week as we travel back to our Nations Capital for a few days – I’ll be posting some Best of Barker’s View in the meantime.

Have a great weekend everyone!






On Volusia: Fake it, till you make it

The author Joseph Heller wrote in his novel Catch 22: “Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.”

Sound familiar. . .?

I have a working theory that somewhere along the way Volusia County government services surrendered, en masse, to the forces of mediocrity.

When the people you serve stop expecting anything of substance from you – and your elected “leadership” embrace averageness and poor performance as public policy – then underachievement and shoddy standards become engrained in the culture of the organization.

Let’s face it, it’s easier that way.

During the height of the debacle at our Medical Examiner’s Office – a critical public service that provides professional medicolegal services to the judicial system – our elected officials, supported by the chairman of the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission, repeatedly told us that the loss of professional accreditation was no big deal – just a piece of useless paper hanging on the wall. . .

And when it came time to uphold the performance standards and “five star” amenities required by ordinance at the Hard Rock Daytona before the theft of our heritage of beach driving – we watched helplessly as Volusia County government accepted a building still very much under construction, with a slapdash façade for a seawall and visibly unfinished facilities as having met the exacting standards of their own law.

Now, the Volusia County School District wants concerned parents to believe the state’s school grading program is a waste of time – because “we don’t define ourselves by grades” (you know, the same system every student in the district is judged by?)

After receiving it’s third “D” mark in a row, parents of students at Palm Terrace Elementary in Daytona Beach were notified last week they have until Thursday to notify the district if they wish to move their children to a better performing school.

In keeping with their patented “hope as public policy” approach – school officials are banking that not many will opt to accept the state mandated transfer option.

According to Saralee Morrissey, the director of planning for the Volusia County School District, “People feel pretty strongly about their elementary school and take a school grade with a grain of salt.” 


Because it’s a pretty big deal to parents I talk to.

Look, it’s just as easy to blame poorly performing schools on teachers as it is to blame law enforcement for crime.  The fact is, neither have a direct impact on the causative factors – those engrained community and districtwide issues that have led to these seemingly intractable problems.

But rather than listen to our hardworking teachers – those who are actually in the classroom molding children – when they complain of increasing workloads and decreased planning time, the destabilizing effect of arbitrarily changing school start times and early release days without consulting parents, or even the basic need for an elementary reading and math textbook – their pleas fall on deaf ears, dismissed by an arrogant top down decision-making process and asinine internal policies that have seen 17 schools drop one or more letter grades this school year.

Now we are learning of a plan unilaterally developed by district staff that would use $1.5 million in state funding to hire 16 new district employees and create four mental health “response and intervention teams” with money approved earlier this year by Florida legislators to increase school security following the atrocity at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The problem is – their “plan” was created with zero input from the five community partners that currently provide mental health services to our schools – including Halifax Health – who has been completely ignored – even purposely shunned – by district officials as they all but rolled-over for Florida Hospital.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The Halifax Health Board of Commissioners sent a letter to the district stating the Florida Hospital deal and the plan for the mental health services “appear to have been developed in isolation, without meaningful input from already invested community organizations.”

I find that disturbing and you should too.

As many loyal readers of this forum know, I was recently passed over for a position as a School Guardian – a state mandated security program which will place a hybrid of armed civilians and law enforcement officers on every school campus in the state.

According to the school district – it was my own damn fault.  Who knows?

But it piqued my interest in the mysterious inner-workings of this enigma who spends hundreds-of-millions in tax dollars each year educating our children.

After four public records requests to district officials, I was finally able to review the qualifications of those who have been appointed to oversee the incredibly sensitive Guardian program – and I found that two of the three couldn’t qualify for the position they are charged with managing.

In my view, the credibility of this program is paramount to achieving the internal and external buy-in that will be required for success, so I asked for the names and qualifications of those appointed by Superintendent Tom Russell to provide for the safety and security of our precious children.

On July 16th, I received the following information from Greg Aiken, the district’s Chief Operating Officer, which read, in part:

“I have 22.5 years of military experience and 15 years in the School District where 14 of those years has been building and managing the safety and security program for the district.  I am a certified FEMA and TEEX Adjunct Instructor  for the past 10 years teaching all facets of emergency management all over the US.  

I am right now working with the current classes of school guardians to bring that program up and running by August 13th.  Mr. Craig Pender was appointed by the board to take over the day-to-day responsibilities of the Safety and Security program and comes to the department with school-based emergency management experience.  That position is a level 9.  Ms. Rosalyn Velasquez-Morales, has FBI experience and has been working the safety and security program for over a years now.  She is a level 6.

We have identified three (3) employees that will have the duties as the School Safety Specialist to ensure we have back-ups when the others are on vacation or out sick.  Mr. Pender is the primary with Rosalyn and myself as the back-ups.”

When I finally received the public records that I requested earlier this week, I found that Mr. Pender – our brand-new school security expert – began his career as a Band Director at Southwestern Middle School, and most recently served as an ESE supervisor and Assistant Principle at University High School in Orange City.

He may not have the military or law enforcement experience necessary to serve as a Guardian – or a Florida School Security Specialist certification – but he does have one very important credential – Mr. Pender is married to the School Districts Chief Human Resources Officer. . .

(I don’t make this shit up, folks.)

Now that’s an impressive career track for a middle-manager – but, in my view, without the statutorily required experience – it doesn’t qualify Mr. Pender to assume the massive, almost unprecedented responsibility for physically securing and providing close personal protection for 63,000 children and an untold number of teachers, staff and visitors.

Oh, remember Ms. Rosalyn Velasquez-Morales?

The one with the highly regarded “FBI experience” – well, come to find out, she served as an “administrative secretary” in the FBI’s New York Field Office. . .

Again, Ms. Velasquez-Morales has an impressive career trajectory, I’m just not sure her secretarial duties equate to the incredibly important job she is being paid to perform.

Now, I don’t know shit about playing the clarinet in a marching band – and even less about providing secretarial services – but I know a little about what it takes to lead, supervise, motivate and administrate a group of armed professionals, men and women who are asked to go in harms way and provide a vitally important service.

I sincerely hope Mr. Akin, Mr. Pender and Ms. Valasquez-Morales are prepared, certified and capable of assuming this enormous responsibility to our precious children.  If not, perhaps they have the collective personal and professional ethics to reconsider this “fake it till you make it” approach to school security administration – because it’s crystal clear Superintendent Russell didn’t think this through.


You know what pisses me off?

When someone in a position of high authority –  who receives public funds to serve in the public interest – blows smoke up my ass and tries to convince me that someone charged with overseeing the dynamic and gravely important mission of supervising armed security officers in elementary schools is painted as having federal law enforcement experience – which could have meant anything from the person who inventories paper supplies to a Hostage Rescue Team operator – when they don’t.

To someone that actually has received advanced training at the FBI National Academy – and has actually worked criminal cases in the field alongside FBI agents – misrepresenting Ms. Valasquez-Morales’ law enforcement credentials is disingenuous – and borders on a bald-faced lie.

And that, gentle readers, causes me to question if there is more about this program, or other aspects of this bloated bureaucracy, that are being obscured with double-talk?

When you add the inability of our School Board to live within their massive $900 million budget – the largest of any government entity in Volusia County – a proposed tax increase, and the fact our elected officials voted just last night to limit our ability to speak to them on issues of public concern from a paltry four-minutes to just three-minutes, and one gets the disturbing impression we have real trouble on our hands.

The more I scratch the surface at Volusia County Schools, it becomes increasingly apparent that Superintendent Tom Russell, his senior administrators and our elected officials have lost touch with their core mission – and at least some have no qualms whatsoever about quibbling the facts when their motives are questioned.

That is unacceptable.

It is time our impressionable children learn that mediocrity is not a virtue to be admired.




On Volusia: A Balancing Act

Eastern philosophy teaches that all things in nature seek harmony – the Yin and Yang – a theory that is at once elemental, yet extremely complex, and encompasses everything in the universe.

Essentially, this concept of duality suggests that all things are interdependent, and even forces that are totally different and seemingly opposite can be complementary in the natural world – light/dark, fire/water, good/evil – progress/stagnation.

Even at the molecular level, life seeks equilibrium.

An atom – the fundamental building block of all matter – seeks the powerful balance of positive and negative charges – and anyone who has kept an aquarium knows the delicate, symbiotic relationships at play where one organisms poison becomes another’s sustenance.

This sense of stability is vitally necessary in politics as well.

In fact, very bad things happen when one faction becomes so powerful that it dominates all others.

For instance, consider how the scales would tip if a small group of extremely wealthy individuals chain-ganged political contributions to hand-select candidates for public office – infusing unnatural sums of money into local elections to provide an extreme, almost insurmountable advantage to a specific candidate.

Imagine the undue – even subliminal – level of influence that would give the Donor Class?

Or the destabilizing effect on citizens who see and experience one thing – yet are led to believe something totally opposite to their physical perceptions – and the havoc that would ensue if unchecked growth were permitted without first considering strategic infrastructure needs and service impacts of tens of thousands of new residents.

I was recently taken to task by a well-meaning friend who is worried that the opinions expressed in Barker’s View may have a detrimental impact on attracting the ‘best-of-the-best’ in our nascent search for a new county manager.

The thought being that any candidate who searches for “Volusia County” on the web will invariably be drawn to one or more of my outrageous ramblings on what condition our condition is in here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

I get it.

However, in my view, it is essential to have an alternative view to this lopsided, Pollyannaish smokescreen by those who seek to remain in power – a weird Fantasyland resplendent with cotton candy clouds and Big Rock Candy Mountains – and front page, above the fold headlines like, “New for Beachside: Optimism” give a disturbingly wrong impression to anyone who skims our newspaper of record.

As a realist, I believe the long-suffering denizens of Volusia County need to have the fictional party line buffered by the unvarnished truth – the good and bad, the positives and negatives – fact-based information and opinion to counter the ‘feel-good’ yarns that sugarcoat the obvious in a thin crust of false sanguinity.

Last week our ‘movers and shakers’ got together (once again) to stroke each other’s sizable egos and reaffirm to one another that things couldn’t possibly be as bad as they seem.

At a meeting organized by the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, the same tired people hashed over the same tired problems – you know, the perennial issues they have been painfully incapable of solving for decades – while they desperately attempt to convince us we should give them one more chance to try.

My ass.

A recent analysis by the News-Journal found that our horribly compromised beachside has lost $677 million in assessed value since 2008 – with scores of vacant and dilapidated properties growing like malignant tumors along the spine of A-1-A as it winds it way through our core tourist district.

So, rather than take definitive action to solve the problems that have hampered entrepreneurial investment, like-types continue to gather in elegant rooms and crow about what a great opportunity exists in an area that’s been left for dead by the smart money moving west – while the always giddy County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler gushes with enthusiasm about the non-starters proposed in the watered-down eyewash that was the Beachside Redevelopment Committee’s recommendations.

It’s mindboggling that they think we’re that dumb.

But they do.

Gentle readers, that sound you hear over the roar of the surf is the death rattle of a once vibrant tourist destination that has been allowed to wither on the vine – and now the “brand” that was once the World’s Most Famous Beach is being irreparably damaged.

With over $100-million in beachside CRA funds over the transom – it was good while it lasted for a few well-heeled insiders – but smart money follows the crowd – and it is clear that our ‘powers-that-be’ have turned their collective attention to the west.

But just maybe things aren’t as good as they seem out on Boomtown Boulevard either?

Now, we are “just being told” that our city, county and state officials don’t have a clue how to fix a patently obvious two-lane traffic bottleneck on LPGA Boulevard that (we are being led to believe) caught our elected officials and growth management “experts” by surprise – and more disturbing – that there is no money available to correct the problem, even if they wanted to.

My God.  This simply cannot be true, can it?

In a recent exposé in the News-Journal regarding the effect of exponential growth west of I-95 – and the almost criminal lack of infrastructure planning during the permitting process – our “leadership” claims they only recently realized the residents of thousands of new homes currently under construction on LPGA Boulevard will be caught in a pinch-point at the wholly inadequate Tomoka River bridge.

As Prince John Albright – CEO of the good old boy investment club over at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company, who sold the hundreds of acres of sensitive pine scrub that is now being churned into “theme” communities – recently said (straight-faced) at a public forum on growth:

“It’s crazy.  It caught everyone flat-footed.” 


Folks, that’s the tip of the iceberg.

It is physically impossible to think that our government and private sector leaders could be that manifestly stupid – that greed-crazed – that they would press forward with these massive development plans knowing well it would gridlock everything from Ormond Beach to New Smyrna – then come back and tout their “strong, steady, experienced leadership” horseshit as they grovel for one more bite at this rotten apple.

Yet, that is what’s happening.

And they will use the western sprawl as an example of what they have ‘accomplished.’

As the election cycle heats up, we’re about to be inundated with fantastic fairy tales of how good we have it under our current crop of incumbents – many of whom are personally and demonstrably responsible for this civic death spiral we find ourselves in.

We will hear the likes of “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – a perpetual retread who has become so ineffectual that watching him spin his tired old wheels on important issues like SunRail and impact fees has become something of a pitiful pastime here in Volusia County.

Yet, he will audaciously tell us bald-faced lies about his “strong, steady leadership” and that “Experience = Results.”

Or the spurious yowling of County Council incumbent Deb Denys – whose campaign slogan, “An experienced leader who puts you first” is so patently wrong – so grossly mendacious – that  it supernaturally suspends reality.

Trust me.  Ms. Denys hasn’t “put you first” since she accepted her first campaign contribution.

The fact is, the likes of “Sleepy” Pat, the always arrogant Deb Denys and our doddering fool of a County Chair, Old Ed Kelley, have done more to ensure that the wants of the wealthy special interests are met – while completely ignoring the current and future needs of their constituents – that it will take decades to recover from this horrific reign of incompetence.

So, the next time you hear one of these giddy assholes spouting off about how great we all have it here – how bright our future is thanks to their ‘visionary leadership and experience’ – even as you drive by one hocked-out shithole of blight and dilapidation after another – when you are told how wonderful it will be to consume our own sewerage passed off as potable water – or you are forced to sit hopelessly stranded in stand-still traffic – consider who benefits most when the harmonic balance of truth and lies is repeatedly disturbed.

Consider what happens when we put our faith and trust in a system that has become so disconnected from our collective needs that it seemingly exists to perpetuate the status quo – and purposely mistakes mediocrity for “success” – so long as the right last names get an adequate return on investment.

If you are as shocked by these recurring revelations of base ineptitude and lack of strategic vision as I am, then please let your voice be heard – loud and clear – at the ballot box.

I fear it is our last, best hope for change.


Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal




Angels & Assholes for July 20, 2018

Hi, Kids!

Earlier this week I posted a little ditty about my horribly failed attempt to seek employment as a “School Guardian” – a state mandated security program which will place armed civilians in elementary schools throughout the Volusia County School District.

Well, as the Dude said, “New shit has come to light, man.”

Don’t ask me how, but at the end of the day, I just knew it was going to be my fault.

I just didn’t know how it was going to be my fault.

After being among the first to submit a resume to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in May – I received two very informative telephone calls confirming my qualifications for the Guardian position – and was directed to complete the School District’s on-line application.

I then received a personal email from Sheriff Mike Chitwood which confirmed, “I will forward (the resume) to the School Board” – and I proceeded to complete the on-line application.   

On June 16th I received electronic confirmation that my application had been received by the District.

Now, I’m told my name never appeared on “the list.”

According to a district official, “The notice you received was that the application was complete as you submitted it and modified it on June 19th.  I do not know why your name was not on the list except that you didn’t click the button to apply for positions.”

 Welcome to the Twilight Zone. . .   

I’m going to accept this bureaucratic loop-talk for what it is and chalk-up the whole weird experience as “my fault” – because I’m absolutely certain that no publicly-funded government entity would stoop to denying our precious children, teachers and staff the benefit of four decades of advanced training and hard-earned experience out of some malicious attempt to retaliate against my frequent biting criticism of the machinations of Volusia County government.

Or because “the button” wasn’t clicked.

Because that would be morally and ethically wrong – if not demonstrably negligent, right?


But I still want answers.  The stakes are too high.

This vitally important program is the underfunded brainchild of our state legislature – who, while facing withering pressure in the aftermath of the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, opted for a mandate that hires, trains and deploys a hybrid of armed civilians and sworn law enforcement officers to every school in the State of Florida.

Among the myriad issues hamstringing this imperative is the fact our School Board can’t seem to figure out how to adequately fund the program – leaving them groveling to Volusia County – and now the municipalities – for spare change like those ubiquitous wandering mendicants at any major intersection in the Halifax area.

mandate mendicant

Despite massive reserve funds, the Volusia County Council paid tacit lip service and threw a paltry $500K at the problem – and Deltona, which hosts some nine school campuses, isn’t chipping in a dime.

(Why is it that all the right last names can automatically demand any amount of tax dollars they need to underwrite a private project with a profit motive – yet, when it comes to protecting that which we hold most dear – our elected officials cry poor-mouth?) 

Oh, well – that’s another question, for another day. . .

As I continue to wait for the results of my third public records request for the job description, posting and qualifications of our new, statutorily mandated, School Security Specialist – a vitally essential position that will oversee the training, inspection and supervision of those brave souls who answered the call to protect our schools – more questions arise about the administration of the program – and the selection process used by district officials to staff this important role.

For instance, I continue to receive weird anecdotal information that the gentleman recently appointed by the School Board (without any external solicitation or competitive process) with direct responsibility for the Guardian program is a former Assistant Principal who lacks even the basic qualifications or certifications to serve as a Guardian – which requires military or law enforcement experience – let alone lead this incredibly sensitive security program.

Apparently, he did have one very special qualification – he’s married to the School District’s Senior Personnel Director. . .

You read that right.

In my view, it’s nepotistic bullshit like that could seriously damage the credibility of this crucial security program in the minds of those who are being asked to fund it through this bizarre double taxation scheme that taps municipal governments for cash.

More questions. . .

And why has it now taken 18-days to fulfill my relatively simple public records request – when others received similar information with a single phone call?

Look, I realize this is sour grapes on my part – I got passed over for reasons that remain murky – no big deal.  But the more I dig into the machinations of our elected members of the School Board and those who work for them – the more I get the feeling I didn’t want to serve under those people anyway.

For instance, I recently became aware that 54% of new teachers hired failed to return to the classroom in the 2017-18 school year – and that 59% of our schools are rated C or D, including 72% of our elementary schools.   


Folks, we’ve got bigger issues than my brittle feelings at risk here – this is our children’s education we’re talking about – and accepting mediocrity is now a disease infecting every facet of county government.

You can bet your bippy I’ll have much more on these disturbing issues and more at Volusia County Schools in coming weeks.

Stay tuned.

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

 Angel:             Judge Belle B. Schumann

 If you are searching for a shining example of a true servant-leader – someone who rolls up their sleeves and goes to work every day with a burning desire to improve the lives of their neighbors and make our systems of justice and governance serve everyone equally – then look no further than Volusia County Judge Belle Schumann.

Last week, Judge Schumann’s extraordinary efforts were recognized with the Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence. 

This prestigious honor is presented annually to one county judge and one circuit judge in the state who have proven themselves “an innovative leader on the bench and in the administration of justice.”

Judge Schumann is most decidedly an inventive and visionary leader.

Since being appointed to the bench in 2005, she founded the Volusia County DUI court and the SAVE docket, a pioneering initiative which provides alternative sentencing for homeless and indigent defendants – moving these cases away from the revolving door of incarceration in favor of the effective application of community service and treatment.

In addition, Judge Schumann chaired the Seventh Judicial Circuit’s Professionalism Committee and established a seminar for professionalism for area lawyers and doctors – and she has been a major force behind the establishment of a new homeless shelter in Daytona Beach.

She’s a damn fine judge as well – serving the citizens of Volusia County from the bench with fairness, firmness and compassion.

In my view, Judge Schumann exemplifies the strength of character, visionary leadership and dedication to fundamentally improving our community that one expects of a jurist committed to service in the public interest.

Congratulations, Judge Schumann!

We’re glad you passed our way.

 Asshole:          Deltona City Manager Jane Shang

In late 2016, the utter dysfunction that is the City of Deltona popped up on the Barker’s View radar – let’s face it, it was pretty hard to ignore – and things have only gotten worse.

In a post entitled, “Deltona: Welcome to 1984,” I described a grim situation wherein then Commissioner Brian Soukup made the unfortunate mistake of publicly questioning the motivations of City Manager Jane Shang – in my view, a flaky foul ball who seems to draw sustenance from drama and chaos – when she approved a highly unusual mid-service payout of some $93,000 in unused leave as part of a firefighter’s internal promotion.

To his credit, Commissioner Soukup took issue with the questionable expenditure and publicly stated he believed Shang lied to him by omission when he made inquiry into the highly unusual and incredibly expensive benefit on behalf of his skeptical constituents.

Mr. Soukup’s remarks were met with suspiciously sharp rebukes from Mayor John Masiarczyk and Commissioner Chris Nabicht (a former Deltona deputy fire chief who was forced to retire after a departmental “reorganization” in the wake of sexual harassment complaints – and allegations he would stop by a female subordinate’s office to “pass gas” – which Nabicht denied) both of whom thought Soukup’s comments somehow insulted the delicate sensibilities of the Deltona fire union.

During the ensuing brouhaha, Nabicht barked, “You’re out of line, Soukup.”

Oddly enough, two-years on, Nabicht is still defending the always controversial Shang and the frightful shitstorm that seems to follow her like a dark thundercloud of discord and confusion.

Ultimately, Commissioner Soukup did the only thing an honest public servant can and resigned his elected post:

“I can no longer be part of an elected body that, in principal and in practice, continues to create and operate in a culture of injustice and unethical and possibly illegal practices. It is a culture that absolutely refuses to respect, to include and to serve in the best interest of its residents. And worse, it is a culture that willingly condones and covers up unethical practices. It is clear that Deltona is being run by special interests and highly paid consultants, concerned only with lining their own pockets. I won’t be complicit in that!”

 That should have been a warning to the Deltona City Commission – but it wasn’t.

Now, things in Volusia County’s largest municipality have gone from bad to worse.

In May, the intrepid Deltona activist Patricia Gibson went to Deltona’s new conference facility, “The Center,” and paid to attend a Mother’s Day brunch.  During her visit, Ms. Gibson had reason to question whether the catering company hired with public funds to serve food at the event was in possession of the proper state licensing.

Despite the presence of high-ranking city officials, Ms. Gibson was apparently the only one present who seemed to care about the licensing issue – and she documented her interaction with city officials and employees with her cellphone video camera.

On May 18th, a state inspection resulted in four violations which have since been corrected.

For her trouble in looking out for the health and safety of Deltona residents, on May 24th a Volusia County sheriff’s deputy arrived at Gibson’s home and formally trespassed her from The Center, a public amenity paid for with tax dollars.


Because Deltona’s ‘powers that be’ don’t like Ms. Gibson very much.

You see, she frequently calls bullshit on a system that has operated more like an extortion racket than a municipal government – denying citizens and elected officials access to information, imposing onerous fees, using the code enforcement process like a cudgel, block voting on important issues, marginalizing those who are critical of the majority and repeatedly demonstrating open hostility toward constituents who speak critically of Deltona government – and it’s wholly dysfunctional water utility.

Now, it appears Ms. Shang has stooped to a new low – using the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office as her private Tonton Macoute to silence her most ardent critic.

After Ms. Gibson left the venue, Shang reported to the responding sheriff’s deputy that  Gibson was, “actually going up to people at their tables and putting her camera in their face while they were eating and asking them questions about The Center.”

I find that misuse of governmental power disturbing, and you should too.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, six city officials, employees and volunteers associated with the brunch wrote statements asserting that customers complained about Gibson filming them at the event.

“Deltona Commissioner Chris Nabicht wrote on May 21 he had asked Shang at the brunch to contact law enforcement and that he had heard other patrons complaining about Gibson and saying they didn’t want to be captured on video. 

“I requested that she have a deputy respond as I felt that Ms. Gibson was creating a disturbance and an uninviting atmosphere, by videoing staff and patrons in an unofficial capacity,” he wrote. “Her behavior was ruining my dining experience that myself and my friends and family had paid for.”

(Really?  Because it was the thought of Commissioner Nabicht crudely farting in a public office space that ‘ruined my dining experience’ this morning. . .)

Interestingly, “City officials say they don’t have any statements from customers regarding the presence of Gibson, who also paid to attend the brunch.”


The brewing problem for Shang and Nabicht is – when the News-Journal reviewed Gibson’s raw footage, there was absolutely no evidence that she disturbed anyone other than already perturbed city officials – which materially corroborates Gibson’s assertion that she didn’t harass anyone.

Ultimately, the trespass warning issued by the City of Deltona against Ms. Gibson was rescinded.

It should never have been issued in the first place.

And this isn’t the first time Shang and Company have used this despicable tactic.

Earlier this year, Deltona citizen advocate Brandy White was charged with a felony ostensibly for recording a city employee in a public area of City Hall after being denied a public records request.

That charge is under review by prosecutors.

Perhaps most frightening, after Monday’s meeting adjourned, Commissioner Anita Bradford took the opportunity to personally apologize to Ms. Gibson – then admitted she didn’t speak up for a constituent who was wrongfully accused of a crime and sent through the ringer by the full might of government “because of my own fear of retaliation.”

Given the circumstances, that’s a legitimate fear.

Commissioner Bradford followed up with, “The right thing to do would’ve been to ask the governor to do an investigation.”

It’s still the right thing to do.

It’s also time Sheriff Mike Chitwood stop taking Ms. Shang’s phone calls, because this crank is about to get herself – and the community she micromanages with an iron hand – in very big trouble.

To his continuing personal and professional shame, “Nabicht said he thinks Shang is doing a good job for the city,” and “sometimes folks are going to be unhappy about things.”

You’re out of line, Commissioner – the time to make nice-nice has come and gone – and even a casual observer can see how Shang operates.

As I’ve said before,  concerned taxpayers have an obligation to question the motivations of an elected body – and an out-of-control city administration – that would stifle the free and open discussion of civic issues, engage in the misrepresentation, manipulation and controlled distribution of critical information, and demonstrate such a complete disregard for citizen concerns and input.

In my view, this gross misapplication of law enforcement deserves to be fully investigated.

Frankly, this is the behavior of a barbarous dictatorship – not a representative democracy – and it should have the full and undivided attention of any agency charged with enforcing public ethics and upholding the citizens trust in our system of justice.

In my view, Chris Nabicht – and any other city official who participated or stood idle while this gross injustice was perpetrated by City Manager Shang – should do the honorable thing and publicly admit that they bore false witness against a vocal community activist, then maliciously turned the law into a dull weapon to pound Ms. Gibson into submission, simply because they are tired of her criticism.

Then they should have the common human decency to resign and take Jane Shang with them.

It is imperative that the Deltona City Commission immediately terminate Shang’s reign of intimidation and order an independent investigation into the improprieties and unethical practices detailed by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s reporting – and the experience of private citizens who have felt the wrath personally.

Anyone who cares about good governance in their own hometown should care about good governance everywhere, and this necrotic situation in the City of Deltona – a wholly dysfunctional and terribly expensive Carnival of the Absurd that has destroyed the public’s faith in their government – simply cannot continue.

Angel:             Hyatt and CiCi Brown

Look, no one has been more openly critical of J. Hyatt Brown’s manipulation of Volusia County government through the infusion of massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates for local offices as a means of ensuring his personal and professional interests.

But it is equally important to give credit when credit is due.

It was recently announced that Mr. and Mrs. Brown have pledged some $15 million of their own money to return Riverfront Park in Downtrodden Downtown Daytona to its former glory.

That’s a good thing.

Anyone who grew up in the Halifax area has fond memories of shopping downtown during it’s heyday – when a just reward for good behavior was a trip to Dunn Brothers toy department – and the park was a beautiful place to run and play, before whatever happened, happened.

While it remains hard for me to overlook the $15.5 million public investment in the private headquarters of J. Hyatt’s billion-dollar insurance intermediary, Brown & Brown – if in fact the Brown’s are personally investing in the rebirth of this important and highly visible amenity – then I support their efforts wholeheartedly.

Look, I realize that all the same last names will be involved in the private “foundation” that will ultimately govern and oversee perpetual maintenance of the public space – this is still Daytona Beach – and that level of ‘old money’ control comes with the territory.

Because of that, I think it is important that we, the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County, take a healthy ‘wait-and-see’ approach to promises made (after all, our “trust issues” are hard-earned); however, in my view, this is the kind of civically healthy partnership and entrepreneurial investment that can ultimately turn the tide of blight and dilapidation that has brought many areas of our once beautiful community to its knees – and continues to threaten our quality of life and future economic viability.

Because it damn sure isn’t going to get fixed otherwise. . .

Maybe it’s just my suspicious nature, but somehow, I know this is going to come back and bite me in the ass.

In my broken heart I know there is some underlying self-serving component to this unusual philanthropy that I’m too stupid to figure out just yet – because there are too many of the usual suspects in the mix, from Consolidated Tomoka to sitting City Commissioners, for my comfort.

But sometimes, when your back is against the wall, hope is all you’ve got – and on its face, this sounds like a big step forward for an area that’s been hanging on by its fingernails.

Hearty kudos to J. Hyatt and CiCi Brown for seeing a real need in their own backyard and opening their substantial pocketbook to restore this tarnished gem as a centerpiece for the renaissance of our downtown.

Asshole:         City of Daytona Beach Shores  

 What is it with local government these days?

Some small town elected officials increasingly favor the idea that if the majority disagrees with the thoughts and opinions of an individual member – they simply cobble together a Kangaroo Kourt, take a vote, and overturn the will of the electorate.

When these cheap coup d’états become the norm, why have popular elections in the first place?

I mean, why not just get a few ‘Rich & Powerful’ people together in the same room and let them decide who will represent us on the dais of power?

Oh, Wait. . . I forgotSorry.

Look, I’ve repeatedly sided with the beachside hamlet of Daytona Beach Shores in their ongoing David and Goliath struggle with Volusia County over that bureaucratic behemoth’s clandestine purchase of prime oceanfront property shackled to dubious plans to turn some of the most valuable real estate in Florida into an ugly off-beach parking lot.

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 the city’s comprehensive plan.

I have also been hypercritical of Shores Commissioner Richard Bryan’s near constant attempts at mollycoddling and appeasement.

Last year, I wrote that Volusia County has developed a frightening reputation as the biggest bully in the sandbox – pushing the cities around, arbitrarily removing or reducing services (remember your neighborhood library?), forcing its will on residents of incorporated areas and actively suing its own constituents (with their own money) to effectively remove the public’s standing and input in beach driving and access issues.

When the Shores decided it was going to boldly fight this boorish aggression, the lone dissenting voice was Commissioner Bryan – who, inexplicably, still believed his community could “work something out” with their belligerent antagonist and find a “win-win.”

I happen to disagree – and so did Mr. Bryan’s colleagues on the Shores City Commission.

Then, last month Commissioner Bryan attended a Volusia County Council meeting and opted to rise and express his personal opinion regarding the on-going governmental pushing-and-shoving – essentially moralizing that, “In my opinion, the County Council has shown good faith in trying to get this resolved without wasting much more time and taxpayer money, and I hope that we are reasonably close to a final written agreement.” 

Don’t take my word for it – read the transcript.  Mr. Bryan repeatedly prefaced his mealy-mouthed statements with, “In my opinion.” 

In response, City Attorney Lonnie Groot whipped the rest of the elected body into a froth when he wrote a provocative letter “expressing concern that Bryan’s comments, which came without approval from the rest of the City Council, created the impression he was speaking on behalf of the city.


Then, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The City Council voted 4-1 this week to have a judge determine if Bryan crossed a line with either his appearance at the county meeting or the email. The inquiry will cost taxpayers $165 an hour.


In my view, this thuggish move to punish a sitting elected official and ensure lockstep conformity is eerily similar to the Debacle in Debary, where four thin-skinned and mean-spirited elected schoolyard bullies – in perhaps the most blatant act of political vengeance ever perpetrated in the history of local governance – spit in the face of 240-years of democratic principles and overturned the vote of the electorate in a cheapjack move to silence their duly elected, and most vocal critic, Mayor Clint Johnson.

They were embarrassed.  They didn’t like him.  So, they took the people’s choice out with extreme prejudice.

Sound familiar?

Look, like me, the Daytona Beach Shores City Commission doesn’t have to agree with Mr. Bryan’s goofy personal opinion – and his namby-pamby Neville Chamberlain act may well be counterproductive and wrong – but they have a duty and responsibility to defend his God-given right to express his views – to openly, vigorously and confidently exercise his First Amendment right to speak out and be heard on important matters of civic concern.

If Mr. Bryan wants to be a spineless asshole in the face of a Battle Royale with Volusia County – that’s between him and his constituents at election time.

From Volusia County to Debary and Deltona – now Daytona Beach Shores – the growing practice of using the full might of government – and the public treasury – to silence criticism, crush dissent and suppress the open debate of ideas under the iron boot of threats and intimidation is patently wrong.

When did it become acceptable to sacrifice our long-held democratic principles on the altar of political groupthink and conformism?

What are we becoming? 

Quote of the Week:

“The perception of our city is that our leaders hide in the shade, despise the sun and overall have a low respect for the citizens, the very people that they swore to represent.  The funny thing about perception is that it becomes reality.”

 –Deltona resident Jennifer Chasteen, The Daytona Beach News-Journal “Some seek Deltona manager’s ouster,” July 18, 2018.


And Another Thing!

 Here’s a note from the Sons of the Beach website (www.sonsofthebeach.org) on tomorrow’s Second Protest of the Theft of Our Beach behind the Hard Rock Hotel from 9:00am to 3:00pm.

If you missed the last one – now’s your opportunity to join some great, civically active friends and neighbors in a cause important to the life of our community:

“A call to arms of all SOBs and for all those folks that missed the first one here is your chance to SUPPORT BEACH DRIVING. Bring your Pop-ups, grills, umbrellas, chairs, coolers, frisbees, homemade signs, surfboards, kites, and costumes.  Let’s have some more fun and show the Hard Rock and the County Council that this beach belongs to the people and is not a private beach for the larcenous Hard Rock Hotel.  The last one was a gas… Jim Dinneen is gone but forces of evil who are trying to steal our beach and continue their failed ideas across our county remain… Let’s show them that the practice of Volusia County Council representing developers over the resident’s needs to come to an end, NOW!

Hope to see you there!

Also, this evening those intrepid souls of the grassroots citizen action coalition, Deltona Strong, will host a very important forum with State Representative David Santiago regarding the myriad issues surrounding Deltona’s water utility.

This fact-filled event will be held at The Center from 6:00pm to 8:00pm this evening.

If you live in Deltona – or feel strongly about good governance everywhere – I encourage you to attend.  For more information, please visit www.deltonastrong.org !

Have a great summer weekend, kids!









On Volusia: Sour Grapes.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

–Saint Bernard of Clairvaux c. 1150

I’m the first to admit – I have my limitations.

For instance, I have absolutely no mechanical skill, and am forever at the mercy of tradesmen –  guys with trucks and toolbelts and the manual dexterity to build things, do plumbing repairs, patch a leaky roof and change lightbulbs.

They name the price – I pay it.  What the hell else am I going to do?    

Like my father before me, I don’t know which end of a hammer you blow in.

Suffice it to say, the Barker genome lacks the “handy” chromosome – and I come from a long lineage of men who never owned a power tool beyond a cocktail blender – and wouldn’t know what to do with one if we did.

While looking for a screwdriver to tighten that thing in the back of the toilet that makes the water sputter and spurt all night (you know that thing?)  I recently discovered a small red toolbox in my garage.  It contained a Tupperware lid and a set of ice tongs – so I used a dull corkscrew I had on hand to adjust the screw.

I have always admired friends who possess the ability to troubleshoot engine problems, do a “brake job” or adjust the spark plugs in their car.

While I have a passing idea of how to change a tire, the last time I tried, I discovered that a spare tire was an option I didn’t opt for when I bought the car.  Regardless, I couldn’t have figured out how to put the jack together if I had one (have you seen one lately?  It’s like a three-dimensional folding jigsaw puzzle. . .)

So, I called the dealership and they quickly came to my rescue.

Sports?  Forget about it.

Oh, I tried out, but simply never had the strength and coordination required to play organized athletics – where the outcome of the game always hinged on the weakest link – which was usually me. . .

In her infinite kindness, my mom would invariably offer reassurance when I couldn’t hit a baseball very far, “You’re good at other things.”

She was right.

I have two highly developed skill sets – honed by decades of advanced training, practical experience and hard lessons learned – and one is the ability to protect and serve others as a law enforcement professional.

The other is a preternatural ability to smell political bullshit like a bloodhound with sonar.

Following the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, politicians at all levels of government came under incredible pressure to do something – anything – to secure our schools and protect the precious lives of children, teachers and staff who, for reasons known only to madmen, have increasingly become the targets of psychopathic misfits bent on the destruction of all we hold dear.

In turn, with little thought and absolutely no idea how to pay for it, our state legislators did what they do best – they had a kneejerk reaction to a serious problem, handed down yet another unfunded mandate to local government, then went home.

In this case, our lawmakers ordered financially strapped local school districts to hire, train and place a sworn law enforcement officer or armed civilian “School Guardian” in every school in the state – and they must do it by the start of the 2018-19 school year which begins next month.

On May 18th, Sheriff Mike Chitwood sent a “call to service” to recently retired law enforcement officers seeking volunteers for the guardian program – or to serve as sworn School Resource Deputies.

“Many of you have committed a lifetime of service to your community.  We realize asking you to return to public service now may not be what you had in mind when you retired.  But we also believe there are those of you who will feel drawn to answer the call.”

That afternoon, I was among the very first to submit my resume for consideration.

I would have thought less of myself if I had not stood up and said, “send me.”

Here’s why:

I had the opportunity to develop a unique set of skills during 31-years in the police service – skills that were paid for by the gracious community I served.

Rather than let that training go to waste, I have maintained active law enforcement certification through the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission – and have successfully completed in-service training and regular firearms qualifications since my retirement in 2014.

I may not know how to hammer a nail – but I have qualified at the expert level with small arms since my earliest days in U.S. Army basic training – and later while developing CQB skills during Military Police School at Ft. McClellan, Alabama – and at nearly 58 years old, I shoot in the top percentile of my agency.

I can still field strip and reassemble an M16A2 rifle and Remington 870.  Blindfolded.

In 1996, I was invited to attend the prestigious FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, where I graduated alongside the top one-half of one-percent of law enforcement professionals in the world.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I received advanced training and was cleared to receive sensitive criminal intelligence and threat assessments – information that I used to conduct vulnerability studies and make physical security recommendations for critical public infrastructure.

I have authored accredited policies for high liability issues, such as use of force, defensive tactics and active shooter response – then enforced those policies in practice – and I chaired the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Associations Standardized Emergency Management Protocol Committee for multi-jurisdictional incident command.

I have responded to every Florida Disaster to impact east Central Florida since 1983 – and was selected to lead a team of law enforcement officers to Dade County in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, where I helped supervised nighttime law enforcement operations in the challenged Liberty City area of northwest Miami.

In addition, I was cross designated a United States Customs Officer with the Blue Lightning Strike Force – and have personally conducted or commanded hundreds of covert narcotics and vice suppression operations.

I was a member of the State Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit under State Attorney Steven Alexander, and assigned to John Tanner’s Homicide Investigations Unit – and I am a graduate of the FEMA National Emergency Management Training Center’s professional development series – and later certified as a Professional Emergency Manager by the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association.

As Chief of Police, I developed my agency’s highly successful Honor Code, Pride in Public Service and Operation Lifeline programs focusing on values-oriented public service.

I have also received advanced training from former U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman – perhaps the foremost authority on the psychology and tactics of active shooter response in the world.

Most important to the matter at hand – I can tell you what it feels like to be shot at – what it smells and sounds like when someone fires a weapon and tries to kill you and others – and I can describe in detail what it takes to keep your composure when literally everyone around you is losing their mind.

Suffice it to say – I’m a lot of things, and I’m not a lot of things – but I’ve been around the block.

I thought – naively perhaps – that my hard-earned credentials and experience would be a good addition to the credibility of the Guardian program.

After two very pleasant telephone calls with a representative from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to confirm my qualifications, I was directed to complete an on-line application with the Volusia County School District, and, in early June, I received electronic confirmation that my application for the School Guardian Program had been accepted.

Then, I set about shining my shoes, getting a haircut and collecting my best suit from the dry cleaner as I anxiously awaited an interview that never materialized.

Days turned into weeks.

I followed reports in The Daytona Beach News-Journal which said nearly 200 people had applied for the program – and that those being considered were actively being vetted through a rigorous background process to determine suitability prior to beginning a 132-hour training program.

It slowly became apparent that I didn’t make the cut.

I didn’t measure up.

At least I hope I didn’t.

Because I would hate to think I was passed over for a job where my qualifications could help protect precious children because someone doesn’t like the fact I exercise my First Amendment right to criticize and question the machinations of my government. . .

Now, my other unique talent has kicked in – the one that allows me to sniff out the foul stench of political bullshit from a mile away – and ask the difficult questions bureaucrats would rather not answer, you know, like the petty asshole I am.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I didn’t know in my heart-of-hearts that Barker’s View – perhaps the most caustically accurate chronicle of the base ineptitude and abject corruption in Volusia County government to ever hit the web – was not going to be a consideration.

You see, most government entities support the First Amendment – right up until the very moment you exercise it.

Then, apparently, you become unemployable.

If nothing else, they missed a bold opportunity to silence their most vociferous critic.

I intimated to trusted friends that if hired by Volusia County, I was fully prepared to shut down this opinion blog as it would not be ethical to accept public funds to perform a job in the public interest – then openly criticize the government that employed me.

I’m old-fashioned that way.

Now – I’ve got all day to dig for the truth. . .

In my view, the one thing the “School Guardian” program desperately requires for success is the public’s trust – and both internal and external buy-in from those it exists to serve.

In short – it needs that credibility I mentioned.

Putting armed civilians in elementary schools is like walking on the planet Mars – it’s never been done before – and repeatedly hearing senior county officials say, “It’ll do until something better comes along” is, in my view, self-defeating and infinitely disparaging to those brave souls who answered the call.

The public’s faith and trust in the program will begin and end with it’s leadership and supervision.

To that end, on July 2nd I made a formal public records request asking for the job description and posting for the important role of School Security Specialist – a position each district is required by statute to designate.

I also asked for this individual’s resume listing his/her qualifications for this vitally important role.

After all, given the nature of the work, the morale and respect of the brave men and women who serve as guardians will depend to a great extent upon their personal confidence in those who have been appointed to lead them into harms way.

Oh, and I have asked for the salary range – you know, a cursory accounting of what you and I are paying for this “school security expert” who will ultimately be charged with the gravely important task of physically protecting our children and teachers.

As of today, I’m on my third public records request – and while I have become something of a weird Pen Pal with the school district’s Chief Operating Officer, Greg Akin – I still don’t have a clue about the qualifications and experience of those tasked with leading, supervising, inspecting and directing our School Guardians – and something tells me the district doesn’t either. . .

I’ve been told the reason for the delay is everything from the Forth of July Holiday – to multiple vacations by staff members – but in truth, I’m beginning to feel, well, put off. . .

From secret deals with Florida Hospital to controversial school mergers and non-productive negotiations with the teacher’s union and the lack of solid information on proposed school half-days, what is it with any arm of Volusia County government and transparency?

It’s like an information black hole in DeLand – but why?

Like an old friend of mine said when he heard I was passed over for a Guardian position, “I hope it’s due to incompetence and not malice.”

Me too.

Interestingly, the job posting for the School Guardian Program was re-opened by Volusia County Schools at 3:00pm yesterday. . .

Stay tuned, kids.  When I find out – you’ll find out.

To be continued. . .







Mary McNally, Requiescat in Pace

Angel:             Mary Caroline (Bulman) McNally  October 21, 1935 – June 29, 2018

My hope is that loyal readers will forgive me for this diversion from the local political front, but my heart is occupied elsewhere today.

As you read this, Patti and I are traveling to Washington, D.C. where we will gather with dear friends to celebrate the life and legacy of Mary Caroline McNally.

By any metric, Mary lived a full and incredibly interesting life – definitely not your average octogenarian.

Mary was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the seaside town of Margate, New Jersey, where she graduated magna cum laude from Holy Spirit High School in 1953.

She was one of the first recruits in the Central Intelligence Agency’s early efforts to broaden their talent base outside the Ivy League realm – and early in her career was assigned overseas to Frankfort, Germany, where she met and married a career Army officer – Brigadier General Uri S. French, in 1959.

Their marriage produced three of the most beautiful, loving and accomplished people I know – incredible individuals and the living legacies of this extraordinary woman –  Michael, Mary Catherine and Carlie.

With three precocious children in tow – this military family moved over twenty times in 20-years throughout the United States and Germany – as Mary continued her service to our great nation – all while perfecting her role as an Army officer’s wife.

As anyone who knew Mary can attest, she was at her best supporting, entertaining and guiding military spouses, organizing charitable events or hosting mid-morning coffees and elegant dinner parties – always with grace, style and poise.

After Mary and General French parted, in 1981, Mary met and fell in love with her devoted husband, Thomas McNally – and thus began an incredible 36-year love story.

Shortly after Mary and Tom were married, they moved to Bangkok, Thailand in what would be her final assignment at CIA.  She enjoyed her work immensely – and loved the shopping, cultures and culinary delights of Thailand – a place she often referred to as her “Happy Place.”

In 1990, after 30 years with the Agency, Mary retired with Tom to Daytona Beach Shores, Florida.

Here, they were blessed by the local presence of Mary’s sister, Patsy Cavanaugh, and brother John Bulman (both of whom I count among the finest human beings I have ever known) along with their large and loving families.

Mary and Tom enjoyed traveling to many continents, including multiple around-the-world cruises, and trips to visit children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, as well as extended family and friends across the globe.

She loved Broadway shows and musicals, fine dining and dancing at the Halifax River Yacht Club.

In quieter moments, it was the panoramic view of the Intercoastal and Atlantic Ocean from her beachfront home that brought Mary the most peace.

Her angelic voice, infectious smile and cackling laugh will be deeply missed.

Of all the wonderful talents bestowed upon the Bulman family – genetically passed through the generations undiluted – is the gift of friendship.  My wife and I have been blessed to count this wonderful tribe among our dearest friends for many, many years.

With her passing, I am sharply reminded that, as beautiful souls like Mary McNally pass from this world to the everlasting life their strong faith assured, they can never be replaced in the orbit of our lives.

I once read that what readies us for our own mortality is our steady exposure to loss as one ages.

First comes the passing of elders: grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles; and later the loss of contemporaries, friends, classmates, spouses – even our enemies and antagonists begin to leave us – always reminding us that death is an inevitable part of life.

But so long as happy memories remain – family gatherings, parties, quiet conversations, advise received, gifts bestowed and received, graduations and milestones, the birth of children, the funerals and mourning, good times and bad – I will always be reminded of my good fortune to have very special people in my life.

Following Mary’s passing, I was contemplating the depth and breadth of a life so well lived, and was reminded of a short poem by the author Linda Ellis entitled, “The Dash”:

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend.  He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning – to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars – the house – the cash.  What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more – and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile – remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

Beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, CIA officer, world traveler, adventurer – friend.

Quite a dash indeed.

Requiescat in pace.

May God bless and keep Mary McNally – and all of you.



On Volusia: The Demonization of Mike Chitwood

“I hold it to a sign of great prudence in men to refrain alike from threats and from the use of insulting language, for neither of these things deprives the enemy of his power, but the first puts him more on his guard, while the other intensifies his hatred of you and makes him more industrious in devising means to harm you.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli

In the game of Chess, the “Fool’s Mate” is a rarely accomplished move which allows Black to achieve checkmate in the fewest number of moves possible.

The maneuver can only be pulled off if White commits an extraordinary mistake.

Not unlike the modern blood sport of politics, Chess is a game of strategy and tactics – a contest that requires the mental agility to play both sides of the board simultaneously, while maintaining the dexterity and sense of timing to take advantage of the errors of your opponent.

Often the difference between success and failure is whether or not a politician has the situational awareness and innate ability to select their platform and political battles carefully – to instinctively know which issues to associate oneself with and which conflicts would be better fought by a surrogate, etc.

Especially when locked in a pitched battle with an incredibly popular foe.

In modern politics, it seems candidates instinctively employ the oldest technique in the world early and often in their campaign – the demonization of the enemy – a tactic with the dual effect of focusing supporters against their opposition by painting them as the personification of all that’s wrong – while portraying the candidate as a savior fighting against something mean and evil.

However, the tactic can backlash quicker than a cheap fishing reel – and result in serious consequences – as it immediately limits options and, depending upon the proportionality, can have the opposite effect by making the candidate appear petty, unfair and vindictive.

Personification and demonization works best when you can associate malevolence with one person, idea or even object (consider the gun control “debate”) then dehumanizing that person or “thing” and painting them as the embodiment of all your campaign stands against.

Last week, during a radio interview with WNDB’s Marc Bernier, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood covered a lot of ground – from his thoughts on ‘pay to play’ politics and the debilitating impact of wealthy political insiders to his clearly deteriorating relationship with former sheriff and current at-large candidate, Ben Johnson.

But it was Sheriff Chitwood’s weird retort to a backhanded slight by the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys that has led to this tempest in a teapot – with Ms. Denys supporters actively demonizing him as a foul-mouthed misogynist and charter member of the “He-Man Women Haters Club.”

During an earlier appearance with Mr. Bernier, Councilwoman Denys opined that the reason the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is having difficulty attracting quality candidates for sworn positions is because no one wants to work for Sheriff Chitwood.

Not one to absorb political slights – Sheriff Chitwood responded with a very cogent assessment of the industry-wide issue of law enforcement hiring – then went all Rick James “Super Freak” on us with the goofy observation, “All Deb Denys knows about law enforcement is the fur-lined handcuffs on her headboard.”  

 Inappropriate?  Yes.

Salacious and provocative?  Certainly.

A savage barbarism against women everywhere?  Hardly.

Yet, almost immediately, Ms. Denys’ political proxies deftly initiated the “Fool’s Mate” maneuver – complete with the shock, awe and moral outrage one normally reserves for actual atrocities – you know, like public corruption, abdication of sworn responsibilities to the people who elected you, a turncoat voting record and the wholesale giveaway of our hard-earned tax dollars and public amenities to engrained political insiders. . .

(I mean, why didn’t anyone call Governor Rick Scott and demand action when County Chair Ed Kelley, Sleepy Pat Patterson – and Deb Denys – were actively destroying the personal and professional reputations of Councilwoman Heather Post and Dr. Sara Zydowizc; two brave ladies with the courage and sense of duty to protect their constituents from years of neglect and bureaucratic ineptitude in a critical government function?)

Look, it’s not my place to defend Mike Chitwood – he’s a big boy with an enormous following of supporters who find his no-hold-barred assessment of the dismal state of county government to be refreshingly free of the political correctness and the nonsensical spin that has camouflaged some grave internal wrenches in the machinery of government for a long, long time.

Like any controversial figure, he also has his fair share of vehement detractors and critics.

But at the same time, I see a clear protectionist strategy at play in this latest contrived brouhaha, and given the high-stakes endgame this election represents – coupled with Sheriff Chitwood’s call for a federal investigation – I think it is important to examine the motivations of those who have the most to lose.

Love him or hate him, Sheriff Chitwood has become the outspoken voice of an increasingly disenfranchised majority as he works to expose the rank corruption and mismanagement in DeLand – a weird “system” fostered by an information black-market, facilitated by a former county manager with enormous, almost godlike power, and fiercely protected by an unwritten process that grants reciprocal political favors and access to those who can pay to play.

For the past decade – if not longer – Volusia County government has slowly transmogrified into an elite oligarchy – where an incredibly wealthy and well-organized donor class gorges greedily at the public tit in the form of “economic incentives,” tax abatement, infrastructure, cash giveaways, the half-price sale of public assets to private interests, ridiculously low impact fees and the manipulative control of public policy simply by their physical appearance in council chambers.

This camarilla of insiders – who I euphemistically refer to as our High Panjandrums of Political Power – represent the Old Guard, an entrenched power structure populated by influential  millionaires – even billionaires – in the insurance, real estate development and motorsports industries – who long ago learned that politics is the art of controlling your environment – and the means to that end is infusing massive amounts of money into the campaign accounts of hand-select candidates.

While completely legal under our antiquated campaign finance rules, the undeniable result is a weird form of quid pro quo corruption – the Latin phrase for “something for something” – a favor or advantage granted in return for something of value – that has changed the course of our collective history here on the Fun Coast.

I’m not going to subject you to the laundry list of giveaways, incentives and corporate welfare projects that have used our hard-earned tax dollars to mitigate private risk for all the right last names for years – you’ve heard it all before.

But suffice it to say that We, The People have stood slack-jawed while the Volusia County Council have confederated with other local officials to transfer tens-of-millions in public funds to these select private interests.


At the same time, we have watched as large areas of the Halifax area have been allowed to decompose – subjected to unchecked blight, dilapidation and a growing sense of hopelessness that has left many of us who pay attention with the unmistakable impression that no one in the Halls of Power cares enough to intervene – because, at its core, that’s not the purpose of the ‘system’ they exist to serve.

Even a casual observer can see the direct lineage of campaign contributions and incentives – and the incredible influence of a few well-connected insiders have on public policy.  Now, Sheriff Chitwood is actively calling for a federal investigation of insider politics in Volusia County.

When you connect the donor with the politician and the incentives granted – you see a direct correlation to those who are currently working overtime to demonize Sheriff Chitwood and marginalize anyone else who threatens the status quo.

Ask yourself the darker question – who benefits with Sheriff Chitwood marginalized, brought to heel or out of the way?

Who is best served when the watchdog is politically neutered?

The stakes are high – and many have a lot to lose once the dominoes begin to fall.

In my view, we are witnessing the first salvos in a battle that will ultimately decide the fate of Volusia County.

We have at hand the very real ability to wrest free from the death grip of corruption and cronyism that threatens more of the same – or we can accept the status quo and continue our slow spiral into mediocrity and stagnation.

Ultimately, it depends upon our collective ability to ignore this self-serving faux-outrage and strategic demonization – the result of a ridiculous imbroglio between a member of the entrenched power elite and a foul-mouthed whistleblower with a mandate for change – and focus our attention on making the right decisions at the ballot box this fall.














Angels & Assholes for July 6, 2018

Hi, Kids!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day!

We sure did.

Nothing brings me more joy than the sight of my sweet grand baby splashing around in her kiddie pool on a fun summer afternoon.  After 57 trips around the sun, I’ve finally figured out that’s what its all about.

Well, it’s time once again to end our busy week with a recap of the good, the bad and the ugly that impacted all of us – the long-suffering denizens of Florida’s Fabled Fun Coast!

From the increasingly suspicious antics of those street beggars over at the Volusia County School Board, to Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s over-the-top revelation that the only thing County Councilwoman Deb Deny’s knows about law enforcement is the “fur-lined handcuffs on her headboard” – it’s been a fairly interesting week that was.

Just for giggles, I thought we would kick things off with another round of our favorite pastime here at Barker’s View HQ – a little game I like to call, “What the Hell?”

I cordially invite our friends at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the St. Miklos Water Management District 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:

Mosaiac Flooding

A. A camera-ready ad for ICI Homes’ new marketing slogan – “Your trip to the lake just got shorter!”?

B. Daytona’s innovative new subdivision “Tsunami Surge” – a swamp-life themed housing complex that gives new meaning to the term “immersive lifestyle”?

C. What happens when you build a sprawling “full life” community on what was once our aquifer recharge area – a place where wetlands, pine scrub and sandy uplands formed a special habitat for wildlife and allowed groundwater to refresh our fragile source of drinking water, as God intended.

If you picked C – give yourself a Gold Star!

Last week, a loyal reader and smart observer of the serious issues we face in this era of cancerous growth sent me some shocking photographs of the Mosaic community – a 1,200+ unit monstrosity currently being built by Mori Hossieni – our High Panjandrum of Political Power and King of the Donor Class – on a large tract off LPGA Boulevard near Jimmy Buffett’s own environmental atrocity at Latitudes Daytona – that utopian Parrothead Paradise – a faux-beach community under construction virtually on top of our potable water wells.

What you see depicted in the photograph is the result of a recent summer rain shower – a typical afternoon thunderstorm –  that brought street flooding and areas of standing water pushing into yards and driveways – turning residential streets into virtual “No Wake Zones” in the middle of Mori’s “close-knit lifestyle community for the young and young at heart.”

My ass.

Look, I’m not an environmental engineer, but I spend a lot of time outdoors, and my observations find that rainwater will do its level best to find the lowest point in the topography where it will collect and stand while it slowly percolates through the sandy loam to ultimately replenish the overstressed Floridan aquifer – our sole source of drinking water and the only thing that makes this salty piece of land we call home habitable.

This is what happens when we literally ‘pave paradise and put up a parking lot’ – the unintended consequences of clear-cutting, leveling and filling wetlands, pine scrub and recharge areas in favor of 1,200 cookie cutters in the middle of another contrived “lifestyle” community.

This problem isn’t unique to Mosaic.

It is the expected result of our weird system of quid pro quo corruption that allows uber-wealthy developers to hire the chairman of the very regulatory agency that “manages” our most precious natural resource to ramrod their interests through the environmental permitting process.

You know, the same developers that have been paying ridiculously discounted impact fees – development costs meant to support infrastructure improvements that haven’t seen an increase in 15-years – while they earn credits for proportional share agreements in today’s dollars – then quash publicly-funded reports that would have exposed this scam for the open thievery it is?

To add insult to injury, when the always exuberant business reporter, Clayton Park, of the Daytona Beach News-Journal served up the ultimate softball and asked Mori why he chose to invest here – his saccharine response had me hugging the porcelain throne:

“One of the major deciding factors for us to make investments in our community,” Hosseini said, “is the progressive county and city elected and professional leaders who are proactive by keeping taxes down, actively creating jobs, and creating a better life for our citizens by protecting the environment.”    

(Dammit – I just shot a steaming mouthful of Chock-full-o’-Nuts out of my nose. . .gets me every time.) 

If anyone – and I mean anyone – can point their finger at one frigging thing that our elected officials in Volusia County have done that could be remotely considered “progressive,” a single instance where these dullards have “kept taxes down” or actively “created jobs” – please let me know.

Fact is, us long-suffering rubes learned a long time ago that there is very little – if anything – we can do to stave off unchecked development and curb the western sprawl that passes for “progress” and is actively destroying our quality of life while turning the Halifax area into a traffic-clogged hellhole of overburdened streets, overbuilt greenspace and overstressed essential services.

A place where our beachside has clearly been abandoned by the smart money for better opportunities in the pine scrub off LPGA Boulevard – and we have come to accept it, because – under the current circumstances – what the hell else are we going to do?

Just please don’t tell us any of this is the result of visionary leadership.

That’s an insult to our collective intelligence that many find hard to swallow.

If those the News-Journal describes as our “Rich & Powerful” want to openly gloat that these ugly  affronts to our natural places are the direct result of the gutting of our environmental impact regulations by their elected shills as a return on a substantial investment in the political campaigns of sitting politicians who serve their greedy masters like dull tools – then I, for one, can begrudgingly accept that.

Because it’s the truth.

But I find it iniquitous for anyone – even His Royal Highness Mori Hosseini – to use the terms “progressive” and “Volusia County” in the same sentence.

That just pisses people off.

Now, let’s 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:          County of Volusia

Can we stop this wacky charade?

I mean, am I the only one who was hoping against hope that this shifty slight-of-hand and strategic ignorance would stop once you-know-who fled the building with a sack full of cash?


For years, the Volusia County Council – by divine edict of their uber-wealthy political benefactors – have been trying desperately to rob residents of our century old heritage of beach driving.

Now, it appears our elected officials, and that band of inept mandarins that push their warped policies at Volusia County Beach Management, have found the one tried and true method that works first time, every time – they simply priced a day at the beach out of the financial reach of many struggling families in Volusia County.

Yet, we are still debating why there has been a drop in Volusia’s daily beach pass sales? 

With a day at the beach currently priced at $20.00, or $25.00 for an annual resident pass, in a county with a per capita income of $24,844 and an inordinate number of families living below the poverty level – where $20.00 can mean the difference between feeding their children, filling a prescription or keeping the lights on – the options get really limited, really quick.

Struggling families can either stay home – or attempt to find “off-beach” parking.

Why is it that whenever the choice is presented, our elected officials on the Volusia County Council always opt for the route that will most adversely effect those who can least afford it – like doubling access fees to our most important natural amenity?

Let’s face it, Volusia County’s beach management plan has taken on the appearance of a Turkish Bazaar – where everyone who is anyone seem to make money anytime the strand is gated off or turned into a private amenity.

Only We, The People are consistently shortchanged.

From spending public funds to sue their own constituents and prevent them from having a vote on beach access issues, to pissing away our long-held tradition of beach driving as an “inducement” for tacky theme hotels, arbitrarily closing beach ramps, spending millions of our tax dollars on “off-beach” lots yet never opening them, granting lucrative toll collection contracts to an out-of-state company, suggesting parking meters be installed in parking spaces paid for with public funds and generally dragging their feet on the repair and replacement of storm damaged walkovers – the Volusia County Council’s track record on beach access is abysmal – and getting worse.

In fact, many long-time residents I speak with claim that the worst decision ever made was removing control of our beaches from the municipalities in favor of a “unified policy” under county control.

I agree.

To add insult, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, who has openly opposed beach driving for years under the guise he supports “beach access” – which means he’s cool with the idea of you schlepping your children, chairs, umbrellas and coolers across four-lanes of heavy traffic from an off-beach parking area, said of the county’s “plan,” which opened a few ramps that were inexplicably closed in exchange for a 100% increase in tolls, “This makes sense.  It’s working, it’s giving people easier access when the beach is accessible.”

That’s what I love most about Chairman Kelley – he never met a tax or fee hike he didn’t like – unless, of course, that fee would adversely impact the bottom line of his cronies in the real estate development community. . .

There has been a move in Volusia County – and other local governments – that despite our incredibly high tax rate – public funded amenities, such as parks, picnic areas and our beach – should be cash generators with exorbitant access tolls, rental fees and other ancillary costs.

The result is roped-off gazebos, locked gates, inhospitable playgrounds and a beach that looks like an ugly forest of poisoned poles and rampant sign pollution with no visual appeal and a horribly uninviting feel.

Folks, we didn’t inflict this wound on ourselves – those we elected to represent our interests did – and the visitors we spend to attract are beginning to notice.

Make no mistake, the reason sales of beach passes are down more than 50% over the same period last year is a direct result of Volusia County’s cruel plan to eliminate beach driving – or price it out of the reach of many – because that is what they were directed to do by their political benefactors.

Angel:             Sheriff Michael Chitwood & WNDB’s Marc Bernier

Look, not everyone is going to agree with me on this one – and that’s okay – but if you haven’t listened to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s explosive interview with Marc Bernier on WNDB last Tuesday – you’re missing something special – and incredibly insightful.

Rarely do We, The People have the unique opportunity to hear the unvarnished truth from a sitting elected official – the chief law enforcement officer of our county – totally devoid of the stench of political correctness and refreshingly free of the canned soundbites and sideways jabbering that make many political interviews long on fluff and short on substance by design.

Say what you will about Sheriff Chitwood – I admit he can be polarizing – but I suspect we will never see him scurrying away from the glare of a news camera like a greasy sewer-roach in some slimy attempt to dodge a reporter’s hard questions on the issues of the day.

To the contrary.

Our Sheriff calls it like he sees it – and obviously doesn’t give a damn what those dullards on the dais of power in DeLand – or anyone else, for that matter – think about it.

I respect that.

In Mr. Bernier’s very cogent and wide-ranging examination of the important issues – from Volusia County’s current “cesspool” of pay-to-play politics to former County Manager Jim Dinneen’s surprise appearance as a finalist for the job in Pinellas County – Sheriff Chitwood didn’t disappoint with his bold, no-holds-barred assessment of the current dismal state of affairs in DeLand and beyond.

Some of it was shocking – especially in his description of a little-known facet of how certain power players maintain a death-grip on the political throat of certain local elected officials – and explained his inside take on the ‘pay to play’ scheme that has allowed certain uber-wealthy insiders to control public policy, enrich themselves while avoiding paying their fair share for growth and retain direct access to the public teat.

Now, Sheriff Chitwood is calling for a federal investigation.

Regular readers of this forum know that for over two-years now I have railed against the seedy manipulation of our elected officials by a handful of incredibly wealthy individuals in the insurance, real estate development and motorsports industries through the infusion of massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates for local offices as a means of controlling their personal and professional environment.

All perfectly legal under our antiquated campaign finance laws which permits individuals and corporate entities under their control – or shadow companies and LLC’s with bizarre names totally unrelated to the person or industry making the contribution – linked only by a common address.

In turn, even casual observers of Volusia’s body politic have stood dumbstruck by the blatancy of the deception as these same individuals are repeatedly granted tens-of-millions in infrastructure, tax abatement and other dubious economic development “incentives” that look for all the world like corporate cronyism and the use of public funds to hedge private risk.

According to Sheriff Chitwood, an individual in the construction trades reported to him that a building contractor working for mega-developer Mori Hosseini’s ICI Homes was allegedly told which political candidates he and his subcontractors should support if he wished to retain the contract.

In fact, Sheriff Chitwood said he offered to personally drive the contractor to the FBI field office in Daytona Beach – but was told the victim was terrified of losing his business and livelihood by coming forward.

That’s scary stuff.

In my view, if true, that represents base thuggery – the gross use of extortive threats and lucrative contracts to force the political support of subordinate private entities in order to maintain physical control of elective bodies and further the personal interests of political insiders with a profit motive.

 What part of that sounds like a healthy representative democracy to you? 

In my view, if this problem is as pervasive as many smart people think it is – consider for a moment the wide shadow cast by the umbrella of certain local entities who employ hundreds of workers, contractors and sub-contractors – and donate heavily to local political campaigns?

Then there was Sheriff Chitwood’s retort to a backhanded slight attributed to the always arrogant County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who said the reason Chitwood cannot attract candidates to fill sworn vacancies in his agency is because good people “don’t want to work for him.”

The Sheriff responded with sound facts regarding the industry-wide problem of attracting quality applicants to law enforcement throughout the state – then took a hard left to the dark side when he averred the only thing Deb Denys knows about policing is the “fur-lined handcuffs on her headboard.”

Look, I’ve used some frosty zingers on occasion to vent my frustrations on the machinations of a county government run amok – but perhaps Sheriff Chitwood could have found a better analogy.

I’m certainly no fan of Deb Denys – but the Sheriff’s corellation was, well, a little weird. . .

Now, we can all stand-by for the fusillade from our haughty elected officials and senior management in the Halls of Power in DeLand as they broadside Sheriff Chitwood for his quip.

Since when did people lose their political sense of humor?  Especially during an election year?

It always amazes me that well-meaning people will attack like a rabid dingo when some elected official utters a spicy phrase they find offensive – yet they have no problem at all with the daily moral ambiguity, routine ethical compromises and good old-fashioned base corruption that has all but crippled substantive progress in Volusia County for years.

Mark my word – there will be the usual sad-eyed head-shaking and audible sighs from our elected officials in DeLand – exasperated lectures from the dais about ‘civility’ and ‘professionalism,’ and the angry condemnation and faux-tears from Old Ed Kelley, who keeps telling us through his sobs that he doesn’t need this shit – not after his ‘Bro Country’ music star son offered to buy him a beach house in the panhandle and deliver him from this fetid shithole he helped create.

 (What an elitist asshole.  I mean, really – invoking the goofy celebrity status of your son as a means of telling us piss-ants you’re doing us a favor being here?  My God. . .)

The odd thing is – I don’t remember the same sense of outrage by those who are making hay over Sheriff Chitwood’s salacious attempt at humor – painting him as a charter member of the “He-Man Woman Haters Club” – and starting a mini-movement to pillory him – whenever Old Ed, Sleepy Pat Patterson – and Deb Denys – were personally destroying Councilwoman Heather Post and Dr. Sara Zydowicz, in the news media and from the dais, when these brave ladies exposed mismanagement and neglect in a critical county service, then asked the tough questions during the final days of the Dinneen regime.

I mean, where was the righteous indignation when Dr. Z put her career on the line and courageously laid bare the travesty at our medical examiner’s office – and was promptly labeled a liar and openly accused of “ginning up” allegations in a well-orchestrated barrage designed to protect Jim Dinneen?

Where was the hue and cry when Mr. Dinneen angrily reminded everyone that Ms. Post was terminated from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office – squawking on the front page of the newspaper,  “I think you all forget her circumstances of why she doesn’t work here anymore” – yet failed to mention that Post filed a wrongful termination suit and received a $44,000 settlement from the county?

Where is the fury and seething rage?

 I mean, powerful people tried to openly ruin these women simply for trying to protect the public and expose wrongdoing?

Look, I get it – but this tempest in a teapot smells a whole lot like election year dramatics to me.

Trust me when I say – Deb Denys is more than capable of handling herself in a political knife fight – she has the toughness to give as good as she gets – and the political savvy to fake a foul quicker than a Hungarian soccer player taking a dive.

Now, King Hossieni’s sister – Maryam Ghyabi – is piling on, using social media to ask if Sheriff Chitwood can be “forgiven” for his transgression against Councilwoman Denys?


In my view, our ‘powers that be’ are beginning to learn that the game is not so fun when the piñata hits back – and if anyone thinks Sheriff Chitwood, a tough cop with the hard bark necessary to absorb cheap political attacks and punch back – is going to stand around and be verbally abused by the likes of this current crop of compromised chattel they better damn well think again.

Something tells me Mike isn’t going to stand by for this silly auto de fé by political confederate’s intent of vilifying one of the most popular sitting sheriffs in the state.

We live in an age where the word “civility” is used by sitting politicians as a cudgel to beat the daylights out of anyone who rises in opposition to their chicanery, all while ensuring lockstep fealty to an oligarchical system which seemingly exists to meet the profit motives of the well-connected few.

Could the Sheriff choose his words more carefully from time-to-time?  Sure.  We all could.

But Sheriff Chitwood is clearly his own man – the refreshing, independent voice that we desperately need in this foul time and place in our history – and a politician who understands that he is ultimately accountable to the voters for his strengths and weaknesses.

The fact is, it’s high-time the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County had a champion in a position of power in DeLand – someone willing to stand up for us and expose the abject corruption, gross mismanagement, wheeler-dealer backroom shenanigans and blatant cronyism that has drug us all to this grim nadir – and I believe we have found that in a flamboyant cop from Philadelphia with a foul mouth and clean conscience.

Quote of the Week:

“I am disappointed and dismayed by the recent secret negotiations that led to a contract with Florida Hospital that may or may not be in the best interests of the children attending our public schools. I question the superintendent’s motive, and why our board members didn’t table the issue until more discussion could be held.”

–Mary G. Bennett, Daytona Beach, a retired 40-year classroom veteran of Volusia County Schools, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor, Wednesday, July 3, 2018

There is growing concern that the same lack of transparency and candor that has destroyed the public’s trust in County government may now be infecting the Volusia County School Board.

Last week, we learned that after some 15-months of clandestine negotiations – district bureaucrats struck a lopsided deal which makes Florida Hospital the “exclusive student education and student wellness partner of the School Board for all purposes and on all levels.”

For a relatively paltry sum of $200K a year. . . 

In fact, this cheap marketing scheme was brought before the School Board during a “special” meeting which left at least two members – Carl Persis and Ida Wright – questioning the need for the cloak-and-dagger secrecy that gave our elected representatives just days to study the costs and benefits of this uber-weird partnership before a vote was called.

Yet, in the end, the vote was unanimous. . .

Then, School Board attorney Ted Doran attempted to dismiss our concerns by explaining that private negotiations are common in the “corporate world.”

My ass.

This “deal” smells like a rotten mackerel by moonlight.

Long-time civic activist Gwen Azama-Edwards recently wrote, Without open dialogue, and receiving only $200,000 every year from Florida Hospital, our public schools have been put at a disadvantage. Now, the right to understand and utilize all of the health care resources in the community has been shortchanged and influenced by money.” 

I agree with you, Gwen – and I have serious concerns about the direction of our schools – and the ultimate fate of our school tax dollars.

Clearly, many of you do as well.

For instance, what’s up with this creepy double-taxation scheme that has the district assuming the role of a tramp mendicant – panhandling from area municipalities to pay for the incredibly important “School Guardian” program – a rushed, state mandated security measure which will place armed civilians in elementary schools?

Or why our teachers are being denied a living wage by a district that continues to fund Taj Mahal facilities and lucrative compensation and benefits packages for those with Platinum VIP status in the “Superintendent’s Cabinet”?

Or why – in an election year – our school board representatives finally regained control of their cognitive functions and decided (on a 3-2 vote) against bonding $150 million at a cost of $50 million (something they wouldn’t have batted an eye at a year ago) in favor of a pay-as-you-go stratagem to fund facility renovation and replacement costs?

Questions, questions – always with the questions, Barker. . .

And Another Thing!

Here’s some wonderful news from the Sons of the Beach website:

“The Sons of the Beach’ Board of Directors has voted to establish a Political Action Committee to expand the SOBs ability to participate in the political process.  Currently the SOBs are a Non-Profit Corporation, as such,  the SOBs have been limited to the extent in which they can engage directly in the political process.

With the establishment of the Sons of the Beach and Friends, as a 501 C4 corporation,  the SOBs and Friends will be able to contribute financially and to endorse candidates.  The establishment of the Sons of the Beach and Friends requires careful separation of certain aspects of the relationship between the two corporations.  One of those aspects is the delineation of finances for each corporation. 

The Sons of the Beach and Friends banking structure is in the process of being established.  Soon you will be able to contribute to the SOBs and Friends. 

Your contributions will help gain independence from those special interests who for the last thirty years have enacted their failed ideas.  Those ideas have stripped a community of its freedoms and traditions all for their own selfish benefit.”

I’ve said it before – in matters of public policy there is strength in numbers.

And, with enough like-minded people investing in the future of Volusia County, We, The People can also play the campaign finance game.

I hope you will join other loyal members of the Barker’s View tribe on Saturday, July 21st for the Second Sons of the Beach protest of the theft of our beach behind the Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach.

SOB’s will join with friends and supporters on the Hard Rock’s semi-private beach between 9:00am and 3:00pm for a peaceful sit-in as we soak up some rays while letting those marionettes on the County Council know that there is some shit we won’t eat!

If you are not a member of Florida’s premiere beach access advocacy, please go to www.sonsofthebeach.org and join us today.  It’s free – and best of all – you’ll be helping a cause of vital importance to our quality of life in the Halifax area.

I can guarantee you a fun day with smart, civically engaged neighbors who are dedicated to securing beach access for future generations.

Have a great weekend, y’all!











Best of Barker’s View: The Curse of Chief Tomokie

Happy Monday, Y’all!

The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently asked local historians to solve the 150 year old mystery of where the name “Volusia” originated.

As part of their “Curious Coast” series, this morning the newspaper ran some suggestions on how we came by our unique moniker.

Last spring, I speculated on the origin of our name – and explained my goofy thoughts on the Volusia County charter debate – which appears to be as topical today as it was then – especially as we begin the process of selecting a new County Manager.


Let’s be honest.  We’re a hot mess here on the Fun Coast.

We came to be way back in December 1854, when the state legislature split Orange County, leaving 600 unfortunate souls languishing on a plot of pine scrub about the size of Rhode Island, nestled between the St. John’s River and the Atlantic Ocean.

They named us after our largest city at the time, Volusia.

Orange County went on to Disney World, theme parks and metropolitan prosperity.

They even got a Trader Joe’s.  Two of ’em.

Volusia?  Not so much.

We never quite got it together.

Hell, even the origin of our name has been in dispute since we were founded.

Some claim “Volusia” comes from an old Euchee Indian word, while others believe we were named after a British fellow, Voluz, who owned a plantation on the banks of the St. Johns.

Still others say the modern Volusia is an anglicized derivative of Veluche – the Belgian owner of a cheap roadside trading post.

Then there’s the theory that the Spanish dubbed us Volusio, after the famed Roman jurist who tutored Marcus Aurelius – or an early B-list magician – archaeologists are just not sure.

Yep.  A lot of history here on the Fun Coast.  Good and bad.

Interestingly, today marks the 60th Anniversary of the dedication of the Chief Tomokie statute in Tomoka State Park.

When I was a little kid, a big day for us was loading up in the car and having a picnic under the big oak trees surrounding the Tomokie statute.

I remember gazing up at the anatomically correct naked Indians shooting arrows at the Chief – as he stood proud, bravely pouring water on his attackers from his golden cup with spear raised high.

He was one cool dude.

Now, he looks like a broken mess – his fist raised in defiant resistance.

I think maybe the Chief took the ass at us after we ran his people off the land – then allowed his monument to fall victim to vandalism and utter disrepair.

That’s why we can’t have nice things.

Personally, I think our name derives from some ancient Timucuan curse ol’ Tomokie laid down which doomed us all to wretchedly poor county governance, spotty municipal service delivery, and a dearth of upscale grocery stores for the next thousand years.

Let’s face it, through the years people have tried just about everything to make a living here – sugar, cattle, indigo, moonshine, shipwreck salvage, rum running, speculative property development – you name it.

The dark and spooky ruins of these failed enterprises can be found everywhere you look.

If you talk to old timers, they tell stories of political graft and corruption in the “bad old days” that will curl your hair.

Seems like we have always had a weird vibe here in Volusia County.

I was recently waxing nostalgic over a 1989 article by Bo Poertner in the Orlando Sentinel under the headline, “Volusia Awash in Crime, Corruption, Power Politics – Tax Turmoil Mark Decade.”

 The lede drew me in:

“Wander for a few minutes through the 1980’s in Volusia County.”

“Slosh through the quagmire of violent crime and political corruption.  Elbow your way through power politics – upheavals over taxes, beach tolls, control of the beaches, growth management and environmental protection, protests over pornography, and demonstrations against street drugs.”

Sound familiar?

As I’ve said before – in Volusia County, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve lived here a long time – over 50-years now – and it bothers me when well-meaning folks try to re-write history as a salve for our modern problems.

Look, I have a lot of respect for Dr. Bud Fleuchaus.

He’s been pulling teeth in these parts for years – he yanked a few of mine – and he’s a nice guy, too.

Back in the day, he was a highly-respected elected official and political insider who helped draft the original charter – a document some claim brought law and order to the wild and woolly Turkish Bazar that was Volusia County government.

Last Sunday, he wrote a very cogent point-counterpoint editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal where he took Sheriff Mike Chitwood to task for his push to return constitutional sovereignty to the office.

In my view, Dr. Fleuchaus gilded the lily a bit with tales of how our time-tested charter has withstood “five Charter Review Commissions with few functional changes.”

That’s a debate for another day.

He also claimed that the great Chitwood/Dinneen blood feud, “…undermines the dignity of the Volusia County government which for 46 years has been a leader in progressive management and quality service delivery.”

 Doc, you have my unending respect – but let’s not go crazy here.

To describe what we’ve seen in Deland over the past decade as “progressive management” and “quality service delivery” is a stretch.

According to Dr. Fleuchaus, “The framers of Volusia’s charter envisioned a government that would be managed by a professional, experienced administrator under the direction of a seven-member elected council establishing all its policies.”

 That’s an admirable goal.

But what happens when the system goes haywire?

I don’t think the drafters of our charter got together in a dark room and said, “Let’s see how we can consolidate power in the hands of one person, you know, to make it easier for big money political insiders to co-opt our elected officials, manipulate county government, and control access to the public trough for a select few while alienating the will and input of the people.”

At least I hope they didn’t.

But that’s what happened over time.

I have no doubt Dr. Fleuchaus, and the other framers of our charter, could not have envision a day when uber-wealthy power brokers would infuse hundreds of thousands of dollars into county council elections, create an artificial economy by providing tax-funded incentives to businesses and entities favored by the donor class, or a time when our elected officials would circle the wagons around a demonstrably flawed and unscrupulous county manager who controls their political fate through a flawed insider campaign finance scheme.

I agree with Sheriff Chitwood’s incredibly strong statement in his response, “Simply put, the county’s charter puts way too much power and influence in the hands of one person and his deep-pocketed supporters.”

 He’s right.

 As our newly elected Sheriff also pointed out – it’s not the sheriff’s charter, and it’s not the county manager’s charter – it is the people’s charter.

In my view, it is time our elected officials realize this and return power where it rightfully belongs – with the citizens of Volusia County – and give us the opportunity to be heard on this important and terribly divisive issue.