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:
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.”
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.
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.
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!