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




2 thoughts on “On Volusia: A Balancing Act

  1. Fourteen years ago the City of Debary imposed an $80 fee on our taxes to pay for the construction of a drainage system due to the flooding of some houses that were in a flood zone.

    That has grown to $172 a year now and we have built a water park, and a public safety facility while pissing money away on lawyers because of the incompetence of city employees and council members.

    Now they are proposing a $12.5 million dollar Community Center as the “final piece of the puzzle” of our becoming a city. They came it will be a place for children and adults to come and play and exercise in an air condition environment. They want to compete with LA Fitness and Planet Hollywood. (Seniors can go to them free thanks to Silver Sneakers)

    All the while, it has rained for four months now and our boat ramps are closed. Where will the water go when our first tropical storm arrives?

    How much revenue has been collected in taxes for fixing the problem and where is it being spent?


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