Angels & Assholes for October 26, 2018

Hi, kids!

Everyone has a story to tell.

I use this space to spin yarns and pontificate on the news and issues that affect our lives here on Florida’s Fun Coast.  I’ve got an opinion on just about everything – and I’m not shy about sharing them.

The problem is – the people whose opinions matter – those we elect to high office and grant the authority to fundamentally change our dismal trajectory, establish sound public policies, serve as good stewards of our hard-earned tax dollars and formulate a comprehensive plan for our collective future seem mute when it comes to a strategic vision.

Why is that?

Especially during an election year when we expect incumbents and newcomers alike to explain how their unique brand of leadership will benefit us and display their roadmap for improving our lives and livelihoods?

Because most don’t have one.  That’s why.

That may sound like a blanket indictment of our local political field – because it is.

But all is not gloom and doom.

In fact, we are fortunate to have a very active election cycle with a variety of inspiring challengers to the status quo in virtually every race in Volusia County – and my hat’s off to anyone with the intestinal fortitude to actually get down in the trenches and hold themselves out for public office.

It takes a special breed to participate in that process and I certainly don’t have the moxie.

Besides, everyone knows I’m more of a complainer than a ‘doer.’

That said – with a very few exceptions – I’m not hearing many candidates set a clear direction forward.

Especially not from incumbents, political retreads who have had the last four-to-eight-years to bring substantive change and have squandered the opportunity on lock-step conformity to the “system” and a perverse fealty to the almighty campaign contribution – rather than formulating goals and setting a strategy for meeting them.

Trust me.  I’ve been waiting.

If leadership truly is the ability to set a vision then guide individuals, governments and communities to a better place – then where are we going?

Perhaps most important – how are we going to get there? 

Where is the “Grand Plan” being put forth by our entrenched politicians – or their challengers, for that matter?

With a few precious days left before election day, if you are a candidate for public office, I encourage you to do everything possible to differentiate your thoughts, views and ideas from those of your opponent.

Tell us why we should follow you down the path to a better, brighter place.

If you are a newcomer to politics, that shouldn’t be difficult to do – especially in County Council races populated by horribly compromised, do-nothing incumbents like the always arrogant Deb Denys, or our own Rip Van Winkle of local politics, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson.

It’s easy for candidates to agree on the problems – it’s not like any of us can ignore them.

In fact, the blight, stagnation and economic challenges are up close and personal issues for most Volusia County residents.

Some local candidates, like Daytona Beach Zone 1 City Commissioner Ruth Trager, who is seeking a second four-year term, recently said in the News-Journal that she wants to see “clean well-lit streets, activities for all ages, good sufficient infrastructure and roads, and good-paying jobs for our residents.” Trager’s wish list also includes “easy public access to our beach, no off-shore oil drilling, no panhandling and no sleeping in public places after First Step Shelter is built.”

Really?

I’ll bet she likes ice cream, too.

Because I like all the things Aunty Ruth likes, and I really enjoy ice cream – but, just like me – she doesn’t have a clue how to get us there (at least none that I’ve heard her clearly explain in the past four years. . .)

Fortunately, some candidates have built their campaigns on a true strategic vision for our future – good people like Daytona Beach’s Amy Pyle – who has detailed incredibly innovative plans for improving neighborhoods, saving our history, fostering true economic development and enhancing the quality of life for her future constituents.

Pyle’s Zone 3 challenger, Quanita May, recently said, “In four years I would like to be remembered as the commissioner who involved herself in the fabric of the community, the person who created solutions to existing and new problems.”

I have no idea what that means. . .  Do you?

I have also been impressed by those who are challenging the status quo in the Ormond Beach and New Smyrna Beach City Commission races – places where unchecked growth has devastated greenspace and  galvanized grassroots efforts to force their elected officials to consider quality of life for all over the abject greed of a few.

Look, I’ve spoken to a few candidates who I felt had something interesting to say, and I consider myself relatively attune to the issues – but I don’t attend “hob nobs” or what passes for “debates” – I’ve had a root canal and these orchestrated non-events sound about as much fun. . .

So, maybe our current field of politicians – old and new – are out there setting a consistent message and outlining their unique approach for delivering positive outcomes and solving the entrenched problems that have brought us to this dark place in Volusia County history.

But I’m not hearing it.

Given our current condition, it won’t take much to convince me (or the vast majority of other Volusia County residents I speak with) to vote out the political cowards responsible for miring us in this fetid bog of short-term, incredibly expensive, “game changing” quick-fixes that always seem to benefit all the right last names.

All we want is substantive change from the administrative failures, lack of trust and transparency, the entrenched bureaucratic ineptitude, inconsistent policies and stubborn insistence that there is victory in mediocrity – so long as the “system” remains intact.

I believe We, The People are desperately seeking consistent advocacy for those of us who pay the bills – just like the big money insiders enjoy – servant-leaders with a strategic vision that we can all take ownership in regardless of our social status or economic standing.

We desperately need dynamic, values-based governance that gets everyone pulling in the same direction to bring long-term, lasting solutions to the intractable challenges that have crushed our community spirit and all but destroyed a once world-famous destination.

It’s called strong, disciplined and proactive leadership – and if anyone finds it – let me know before November 6th. . .

It’s time once again to 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 School Board

I’ve seen some underhanded shit in my day, but this week’s Volusia County School Board meeting rests at the nadir of whale-dung-level revenge politics.

Just days after Volusia United Educators, the union representing our hard-working teachers, valiantly called for a “leadership change,” our elected representatives pulled an off the agenda sleight-of-hand and actually voted to extend beleaguered Superintendent Tom Russell’s contract by one year.

According to reports, Russell sat slack jawed as board member Ida Wright dropped the obviously orchestrated bombshell at the end of a typically uneventful meeting.

To their credit, Carl Persis and Dr. John Hill cast dissenting votes while wasting their time attempting to convince the haughty Chairperson Cuthbert, Ida Wright and Melody Johnson that – with just days until the general election – perhaps extending the tenure of the district’s compromised leadership is a decision best made by the people’s new representatives.

Former principal Carl Persis tried his best to talk sense to the unbridled power of the Terrible Trio who are intent on punishing union members for having the temerity to suggest a change in leadership.

Rightfully, Persis explained that the new board could have kept Russell – or voted to terminate his lucrative contract when it expires in just nine months – without exposing Volusia County taxpayers to some $70,000 in severance pay.

Now, we’re stuck with this clueless do-nothing well into 2020. . .

In a vain attempt to support Mr. Persis’ common sense approach, Dr. Hill said before the vote, “I think this is terrible timing to be discussing this, I’m sure myself and Carl will lose, but I want to make it publicly clear that I do not think this was right tonight.”

You’re not the only one who lost Tuesday night, Dr. Hill.

In my view, this travesty is a mean-spirited thumb in the eye to our long-suffering teachers who have, for years, been denied a living wage, competitive benefits, an effective curriculum and the strong leadership and support they so desperately deserve.

This provocative insult by our elected officials is exactly what it appears to be – a cheap-jack low blow designed to break the spirit of our classroom teachers and support staff who have demonstrated the courage to stand united and fight for our children’s education – and their collective future.

I’m proud to call the newly elected president of Volusia United Educators, Elizabeth Albert, my friend.

She is razor sharp, incredibly smart and dedicated to the idea that good people working hard in a common cause can change lives.

In my view, her experience in local politics and the classroom make Mrs. Albert a natural fit for this important role.

Now, will the Volusia County School Board meet her halfway?

I think we got the answer to that question on Tuesday. . .

As I’ve previously written, by any metric – Volusia County Schools are failing miserably – and this farce of a School Board can’t seem to grasp that ineffective leadership just might have something to do with that. . .

According to reports, 72% of the district’s elementary schools are ranked as C or D schools – trapped in a cycle of ‘averageness’ that is destroying the morale of our long-suffering teachers and robbing our children of the educational opportunities they deserve.

Unfortunately, Superintendent Russell’s legacy of ineptitude and mediocrity will continue to cast a long shadow.  If the Terrible Trio of Cuthbert, Wright and Johnson truly believe that Tom Russell and his “Cabinet” represent stability, leadership and a “resurgence of energy” – then they are demonstrable liars or callous fools blinded by their collective hatred of our teachers.

Under the circumstances, one might think that those we elect to represent our interests, and those of our children, might demand accountability from those responsible for improving these dismal marks and ending continuing controversies.

Not in Volusia County.

Here, we extend their contract.

Why is it we never seem to get enough of a bad thing? 

God help us.

Angel:             Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County

I’ve got to hand it to them – give credit where credit is due.

Regardless of circumstance – and despite all evidence that the Daytona Beach Resort Area is finally succumbing to the cumulative effects of decades of blight, dilapidation, economic stagnation, abject greed, political corruption, social dysfunction and a complete lack of any strategic vision by our “Rich & Powerful” – cheap money grubbers who are infinitely more interested in lining their pockets than protecting the “brand” – the long-suffering Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County always seems to find a silver lining.

This week, when it became evident that one of Volusia County’s premiere draws – Biketoberfest – failed to meet economic expectations, with average daily room rates down 20% over last year, and a clear “visual softness” in the market – our hospitality “experts” blamed the downturn on the effects of hurricanes in Panama City and the Carolinas.

Bravo.

I could not have polished this turd any better had you paid me Mid-Florida Marketing & Research money to do it!

According to the intrepid Bob Davis, president of the association, “Initially, I didn’t believe that the storms would have much impact, but now I do believe that a lot of people who come down from the Carolinas and Georgia were affected by the hurricanes and they did stay home, and rightly so, to take care of their dwellings, their families and their careers. I absolutely agree with that.”

“Initially,” I didn’t believe it either, Bob.  I still don’t.

But, hey, it beats admitting the alternative, right? 

Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along. . .

Quote of the Week:

“The thought is disgusting to me, there’s no price tag on Troy Kent. I could never, ever be bought. It’s called with capital letters, integrity.”

–Ormond Beach Deputy Mayor and Hyper-Dramatic Shitheel, Troy Kent, speaking in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Developer donations flow to incumbents in Ormond Beach growth fight,” Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Jesus.

At what point do incumbent politicians finally throw off the traces of self-respect or calling and transmogrify into everything they hated?

I’m asking, because it seems to happen with frightening frequency in local politics.

For some, it begins when they accept their first campaign contribution – others seem to lose any sense of independent thought (and common decency) the moment some uber-wealthy developer or insurance magnate strategically plants a smooch on their sizable ass and shows deference to their lofty position of political power – all while hauling “economic development incentives” off in wheelbarrows.

Earlier this week, in an incredibly insightful article by T.S. Jarmusz writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal – the extent of financial and political influence by real estate developers and the hangers-on who make a fine living churning greenspace into half-empty strip centers – in Ormond Beach City Commission races became abundantly evident.

I found it interesting that while the likes of Deputy Mayor Troy Kent – the Golden Child of big money interests – and his cronies on the dais of power crow about how impartial they are, Reporter Jarmusz was forced to comb through reams of off-line campaign finance reports as Ormond Beach remains one of only two Volusia County municipalities that refuse to electronically post campaign donation reports on the Supervisor of Election website. . .

Why is that? 

In my view, if the long-suffering citizens of Volusia County have learned anything over the years, its that the first casualty of this bastardized Oligarchy on Florida’s Fun Coast is truth and transparency.

It’s almost as if they’re saying, “If the little people want to know what special interests are controlling their government with lavish campaign contributions – let the bastards dig for it. . .”

The fact is, battle lines were drawn earlier this year when area residents literally awoke to a moonscape on Granada Boulevard – an environmental abattoir – where some 2,061 trees, including historic old-growth hardwoods, were churned into an ugly black muck to make way for what we would later learn is a fucking WaWa convenience store and a third-tier discount grocery.

The sight of wildlife fleeing the scene of this ecological insult shocked our collective conscience – and set in motion a larger discussion about how much our quality of life is worth – compared to the profit potential of wealthy developers who are intent on building something, anything, on every square inch of natural space.

Trees, wildlife habitat and natural buffers be damned – the flora and fauna of what used to be historic oak hammocks don’t rent storefronts – and they damn sure don’t make massive campaign contributions to incumbent facilitators who have become so compromised by the process they make non-sensical statements in newspapers like, “. . .there’s no price tag on Troy Kent.”

My God.

You know what disgusts me?

The fact Troy Kent, and the rest of these compromised incumbents, sold what passes for a politician’s definition of “integrity” for a fucking city commission seat.

Let that soak in for a minute – then remind me again how money isn’t a factor in Ormond Beach politics. . . 

 Folks, if you live in Ormond Beach I encourage you to vote like your quality of life depends upon it – because it does.

And Another Thing!

This week the County of Volusia began a series of dog-and-pony shows designed to prolong the process of increasing impact fees on their friends and campaign contributors in the real estate development community – a blatant stall tactic that isn’t fooling anyone.

In fact, I’m surprised anyone has attended these smoke-generating sessions at all?

In my world, once I’ve been lied to – that’s pretty much your one bite at the apple – I rarely go back for more.  I’m funny that way.

If we’ve learned one thing from this expanding debacle its that our elected officials in DeLand simply cannot be trusted to provide competent, truthful and comprehensive information on the issues of the day – because chances are high that they don’t know the full story themselves.

When our former federal lobbyist Jamie Pericola exposed what is tantamount to a shadow government operating outside any politically accountable realm of government – I stopped listening to anything our incumbent County Council members had to say.

If these dullards can’t understand the importance and necessity of increasing transportation and infrastructure fees – which haven’t been substantially addressed since 2003 – to help offset the overwhelming impact of massive growth and sprawl along the spine of East Volusia – then they are either grossly disingenuous or just plain stupid.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “. . .by not raising impact fees in 15 years, the county has lost out on revenue as growth and development swells. A consultant’s recommendation to double impact fees in most categories would bring in an extra $7 million a year for the county. If these fees were adjusted immediately following the Great Recession in 2014, the county would have pocketed an additional $35 million.”

 Instead of listening to their highly-compensated consultant and raise impact fees on their sugar daddies in the real estate development industry, the Volusia County Council (with the support of the municipalities and the CEO Business Alliance) made a very real attempt to force a half-cent sales tax down the throats of every man, woman and child – all while we lost out on an estimated $35 million in potential revenue?    

 So, yeah, I won’t be attending any of these Town Hall bullshit sessions designed to delay action on this important issue – all while the bulldozers continue to roar west of I-95.

Trust me.  These assholes know exactly what they are doing – and it has nothing to do with “educating” the public.

Besides, I’m not sure I could take two hours of the likes of “growth and resource management” director Clay Ervin telling me all the things increased impact fees can’t do. . .

That’s it for me – have a great weekend, kids!

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for October 26, 2018

  1. As much as I enjoy reading your blog, it’s also worth how much you expand my word power. I have to look up at least one each time.

    Transmogrify – To change into a different shape or form, especially one that is fantastic or bizarre.

    Indeed.

    Like

  2. Hi Mark,

    May I cut and paste your comments on Ormond Beach onto my Facebook page? My wife Kathy Maloney Johnson is running against Dwight Selby and we can use all the help we can get.

    If you prefer, I can also simply post a link to your entire article, which, as usual, is a spectacular piece of writing and insight.

    Like

  3. What the hell……they get to “adjust” our property taxes EVERY SINGLE YEAR and they leave that untouched for almost 20 years????

    Like

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