With me, what you see is what you get.
I have no need for posturing or pretense and tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. Regardless of position or social status, I pretty much take people at face value and hope they do the same with me.
The weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you.
If we should have the chance to meet, you will find that I can be almost syrupy in my feelings toward ideas and people that move me – an unrepentant sinner with a rigid sense of honor – and I am unabashedly passionate in my assessment of the issues that affect me, my family and our community.
Regular readers of these often-mordant screeds know that I expose a lot of myself in these posts – my thoughts, fears, innermost beliefs and personal experiences that combine to form a worldview as unique from yours as our fingerprints.
There are many theories about how the human personality forms – from inborn traits to social interaction and environmental factors. I’m certainly no sociologist, but I suspect our political leanings are probably formed in similar fashion.
In my view, it is our differences – our distinctive opinions on the issues of the day – that make our lives so interesting. Our dissimilarities allow for passionate debate, the competition of ideas and airing of grievances – all uniquely American pursuits – that strengthen communities and build civic involvement.
But what happens when local government – what should be our most accessible and responsive level of governance – turns insular and values secrecy over the open exchange of ideas and constituent input?
And why is it that we keep re-electing these unaccountable shitheels like a demented rube who repeatedly touches a hot stove – never realizing the correlation between the source and our perpetually burn’t fingers?
I found it interesting that Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who is currently standing for re-election against Michael Arminio, has suddenly turned tack and is now blaming former County Manager Jim Dinneen for single handedly creating the current atmosphere of secrecy and distrust.
In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Dinneen’s abrupt departure, Councilwoman Denys wanted him to stay on for another six months – per the terms of his lopsided contract – through yet another budget cycle.
In June, Denys said, “I think he (Dinneen ) should only stay until Oct. 1, after we set the budget, then it would be time for him to move on.”
Now that transparency and public trust has become the Number One issue in her race for yet another bite at the apple, Ms. Denys has changed her tune – claiming that the Council “stepped in” to cure the ills and relieve us of Mr. Dinneen.
In my view, Councilwoman Heather Post might have something to say about that, considering she was the only sitting member of the Volusia County Council to call for Dinneen’s termination and immediate departure.
Speaking on the issue this week in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the always arrogant Denys crowed, “You have to have complete faith and trust in your county manager. When that is gone, then it’s up to the council to step in, and the council stepped in. And now you are seeing a complete shift in Volusia County.”
I think the same holds true when citizens lose faith in their elected officials. . .
I would also like to know how Ms. Deny’s and Company “stepped in” to help their long-suffering constituents – considering she joined her ‘colleagues’ in openly berating and chastising her constituents from the dais for creating an atmosphere on social media that forced Dinneen out of office and damaged our chances for attracting an “A-lister” for the county manager position.
It was ugly. Mean-spirited. And, as usual, our fault. . .
And it was a shameful example of what happens when self-absorbed political elites don’t get exactly what they want – a petty hissy-fit at our expense – marked by vicious rhetoric and cutting personal attacks as they worked desperately to marginalize those they perceived responsible for Mr. Dinneen’s demise.
It was a shit-show of epic proportions – and something I’ll never forget.
I hope you won’t either.
At the risk of sounding cruel – racking sobs, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth by those in a position of leadership while mourning the messy departure of a grossly overpaid public executive – whose growing list of five-alarm fuck-ups became too flagrant to ignore – didn’t engender public confidence.
It still doesn’t, Ms. Denys.
I recently had an interesting discussion with a former colleague about the importance of an ‘outsiders’ view to the development and sustainability of any organization. Specifically, we were talking about how law enforcement agencies can often benefit from outside evaluations and leadership – especially following periods of controversy.
Don’t get me wrong, institutional knowledge, tradition and operational continuity play an important role – but a ‘fresh set of eyes’ following troubled times can often bring positive change – a break from the “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset that eschews any modification to the status quo.
In a representative democracy, regular elections serve that purpose in terms of breathing new life and transparency into governmental organizations that have, over time, become paralyzed by entrenched political arrogance – wholly controlled by those whose only goal is to hang on to power (and access to the public trough) at all costs.
I recently read an interesting editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Let Sun Shine,” which gave a frightening overview of the innumerable recent instances where our elected and appointed officials have allowed a “cloak of secrecy” to replace open government and transparency in the development of important public policy.
When viewed collectively, it becomes evident we’ve got a real problem here on Florida’s Fun Coast.
Trust me, concerns about government secrecy and the importance of conducting the people’s business in the light of day is nothing new.
Remember Patrick Henry, the “Give me liberty or give me death” guy?
Way back in 1788 when delegates met at the Virginia Federal Convention to ratify or reject the United States Constitution, Henry came out against it. Among other things, he didn’t care for the fact that there was nothing in our founding document prohibiting Congress from meeting in secret.
“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them,” Henry said.
He was right. Then, and now.
And so was the News-Journal when they cogently explained how this growing lack of transparency in local and county government is having a detrimental impact on our communities:
“Sooner or later, things come out. When they do, nuances of issues that could have been explored in a reasonable, reflective way become lost in a blast of angry suspicion. The blowout is never confined to a single issue. Distrust keeps building.”
When elected and appointed officials lose the confidence of those they represent – then they no longer enjoy the moral authority to lead.
Regardless of the pursuit – public or private – it is easy for an organization to lose its moral compass when the arrogance of power and the hubris of high position overtakes the idea of service over self-interest.
I don’t believe that many people enter local politics to cheat, conceal and abuse the public trust.
At least I hope they don’t. . .
I think that somewhere along the way, long-term, entrenched politicians simply succumb to the seduction of power – the trappings of high office and the social status it provides.
It’s then that many fall victim to the motivations of those with the financial wherewithal and political influence to keep them in their lofty position.
That process often comes with implied stipulations – things best kept out of the public eye.
In my view, it is time our elected and appointed officials come to the understanding that We, The People respect values-oriented public service – and we can be extremely forgiving of honest mistakes made in the best interest of improving our lives and livelihoods.
We value openness, honesty and transparency from our neighbors that we elect to represent our collective interest on the dais of power.
What we cannot – and will not – tolerate is when those we have elected to serve in the public interest stand idle while entrenched bureaucrats and uber-wealthy insiders operate what amounts to a shadow government – a bastardized oligarchy where those with the gold makes the rules.
A dark place where wealthy campaign contributors influence important public policy by their mere presence in Council chambers – while our elected officials funnel our hard-earned tax dollars to private, for-profit interests and allow politically unaccountable bureaucrats to make decisions that directly affect our quality of life without our knowledge or input.
And I, for one, will not stand idle while the likes of Deb Denys re-writes history on the pages of the News-Journal.
With election day approaching, perhaps its time we vote some new blood into office – a fresh set of eyes – and take back our system of county governance.
In my view, it’s time We, The People put the public treasure to work for all of us – not just the privileged few – while there is still something worth worrying about.