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:
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.”
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.
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.”
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!