Today starts my 58th trip around the sun.
I’d like to lay some visionary insight on you, tell you that I’m smarter for the experience and sagely prognosticate about our collective situation here on Florida’s Fun Coast like some sapient Hosea for this weird time and place – a Prophet of Doom and Restoration.
But I can’t.
To be honest, I’m just as dumb as I was yesterday – a prime example that age does not define wisdom.
However, I am firmly convinced that I possess an ancient karmic soul with many lives behind me and many more to come. This time around, it appears that exposing these shits and charlatans who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – then do the exact opposite – is my spiritual dharma and sacred cosmic mission.
Through the millennia, my preternatural ability to smell political bullshit and spot a cheese stealing rat like a gazehound seems to only get better – sharper, more focused and well-defined – and the longer I wait and watch, the clearer the three-dimensional political landscape becomes.
Trust me – that isn’t an easy feat, and it takes a practiced eye, especially during an election year.
This weekend, the intrepid reporter Dustin Wyatt – with the assistance of Dinah Voyles Pulver, truly one of the finest journalists working today – published an excellent exposé entitled, “Developers, builders fork over big money” – a remarkable piece that shines a very bright light on what I believe is the preeminent issue facing Volusia County.
After all, I’ve written about it, ad nauseum, for the past three years.
It’s the scourge of ‘pay-to-play’ politics that has turned our representative democracy into a bastardized oligarchy where a few well-heeled political insiders have found an effective means of subverting the electoral process, and subjugating the will of the people, through the infusion of massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates for local offices.
Clearly, our current election cycle is no exception. (Did any sentient being think it would be?)
The News-Journal’s analysis found that, “Of the $423,729 reported to the supervisor of elections office through July 6, not including contributions made by the candidates themselves, $1 of every $5 has come from a developer or someone in the construction or building industry. . .”
I just hope no one out there believes this is a new phenomenon here in Volusia County – or that the problem is limited to the real estate development industry.
Following the 2016 Volusia County Council District 4 election – perhaps the worst display of auction house politics in recent memory – the News-Journal identified the largest contributors in that ugly race as, “George Anderson, developer of the Ocean Walk and a real estate investor; J. Hyatt Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of Brown & Brown Inc.; homebuilder Mori Hosseini, chairman and CEO of ICI Homes; Theresa Doan, whose beachside properties and investments include three Main Street bars; businesses affiliated with International Speedway Corp. and its president, John Saunders; and companies affiliated with Consolidated-Tomoka, a land holding company.”
In fact, these High Panjandrums of Political Power gave $281,950 (out of total contributions of $503,000) through some 67 different corporate entities, “…many of them showing little to connect them back to their owners besides a mailing address.”
Perhaps what I find most disturbing is that our “Rich & Powerful” – and their obsequious, bought-and-paid-for chattel on the dais of power – would insult our intelligence and attempt to salve our very real fears of quid pro quo corruption by telling us all – with a straight face – that money doesn’t buy influence and access.
According to the colossally arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys, “I have never been told how to vote by any of my contributors. Not ever.”
Surely, they can’t believe we’re that stupid?
Or worse, actually believe their own gibberish, right?
As I’ve previously written, when you consider the shit train of favorable rulings, millions in “economic incentives,” infrastructure support, tax abatement, multi-year extensions on “temporary” projects, unchecked growth, overlooked environmental atrocities, half-price public land sales to private interests, astronomically low impact fees, corporate giveaways and an atmosphere where the mere presence of these power players at a public meeting ensures an outcome favorable to their personal or professional interests – you understand how our system of county governance has become a shameless plutocratic oligarchy populated by political pimps and whores.
No more, no less.
While these uber-wealthy power brokers may not directly manipulate the figurative rods and strings that animate their elected fantoccini with formal requests, the money and empty accolades they lavish ensure that the selfish needs of those with the ability to control the outcome of elections are consistently met and properly camouflaged by the affectations of government.
They don’t have to ask – the money demands fealty to the process.
And, in my view, anyone who tells you differently – or crows about their corporate “fiduciary duty to make sure we stay involved in this leadership” is a self-serving shit and a damnable liar.
According to King Mori of the Exalted House of Hosseini – whose unbridled political power and vast financial influence extends to literally every nook and cranny of local, state and federal politics – “You can call every one of the council members and ask them if Mori has ever called and asked for a favor,” Hosseini said. “None of them will tell you that I have. … I believe the leaders we have are doing a great job altogether and collectively. They make a big difference in the future of our community.”
Don’t take my word for it, look around.
Wade through the widespread civic stagnation, the creeping blight, dilapidation and overwhelming sense of hopelessness on our diseased beachside – or attempt to do business in this artificial economy where corporate welfare eliminates risks for millionaires and billionaires while small businesses continue to wither, collapse and die.
Or try and earn a living wage as a member of the slavish pool of cheap labor that serves the needs of a rotting hospitality industry – in a place where intractable problems are ignored as the smart money moves west, where taps in the sprawling “lifestyle communities” currently being built on our sensitive recharge areas will soon spew recycled sewerage, and the rest of us hapless dupes struggle under one of the highest tax rates and lowest per capita incomes in the State of Florida – then tell me again how the “leaders we have are doing a great job altogether and collectively.”
Folks, I don’t mind the illusion painted by our ‘powers that be’ – or even watching rich people openly play to the overweening vanity of dimwitted politicians – after all, lying boldly and fueling false hope is all part of modern politics – and the distorted delusion of prosperity and “leadership” espoused by our elected officials and their political benefactors is infinitely more appealing than our current reality.
Just stop blowing smoke up our ass and causing my neighbors and I to doubt our own instincts.
In my view, it is a dangerous proposition – one that threatens the very foundation of our sacred system of governance – when political hubris, bolstered by massive sums of special interest money, results in small-minded politicians believing their own lies.
4 thoughts on “On Volusia: An Expensive Illusion”
New Smyrna Beach and Volusia County have sold their souls for $. Most of Volusia County
and especially NSB is permanently destroyed and overdeveloped. All wild animal habitats have
been gouged out by two foreign countries….all the way to Spruce Creek from the south.
No more panthers, bears, deer, wild turkeys, prehistoric fish in rare cypress ponds….all gouged out!!
$ talks. Our entire nation has sold its soul for $ and now we breathe the fallout particles and
soon nuclear fallout….bad politics and international relations!!!
Anonymous contributor by 60 year resident of NSB. Goodbye NSB!!!
Please vote in the NSB election. There are clearly candidates being funded by the big money machine, developers, PAC’s and lawyers….and others who will represent the citizens, work hard, believe in government transparency AND accountability to those who pay the bills, the citizen taxpayer. NSB government for sale needs to end now. There is still something to save and fight for in NSB Johann.
Wow, I used to hold Ben Johnson in high regard. But all the big movers and shakers are throwing a lot of money at him.
Because he’s an idiot.