Angels & Assholes of 2018

Happy New Year, kids!

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 year that was:

Wow.  It’s hard to believe we’ve made another trip around the sun together!

As the ball drops on another year, I want you to know how much I’ve enjoyed the ride – pointing out the winners and losers – pontificating on the good, the bad and the ugly of our weird life and times here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

I really wish I had something deep and profound to pass on as we reach the end of 2018, some kernel of wisdom or pearl of insight shucked from my weary mind that would shine a bright light on our path as we walk collectively toward whatever challenges and opportunities lay ahead.

But I don’t.

Frankly, I’m just as dumb, perplexed and frustrated as I was this time last year. . .

The curmudgeon in me says nothing much has changed – and that if I called in all the wagers I’ve made through the past year with those infernal optimists and wide-eyed rubes who were firmly convinced that the Halifax area is/was poised on the very precipice of “great things” based exclusively on the unchecked growth raging in the pine scrub to our west – well, I’d be a rich man.

Don’t take my word for it – look around.

Do you notice any measurable difference in the deplorable condition of much of the East ISB “gateway” – or any positive change to that dystopian wasteland that is the Daytona Beach Boardwalk?

Do you notice one damn thing that was accomplished by the infamous Beachside Redevelopment Committee?  That political insulation consortium of our “best and brightest” formed in the direct aftermath of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s scathing exposé on our beachside which lost some $677  million is assessed value since 2008?

I don’t.  But it doesn’t stop with the blight, dilapidation and rot which is consuming many of our core tourist areas from Ormond-by-the-Sea south.

For instance, can anyone remember way back in December 2017, when anyone and everyone who passes for Volusia County “Dignitaries” gathered in their finery on a barren parcel of public land off U.S. 92 and patted each other on the back for breaking years of jurisdictional in-fighting and gross stagnation on the corrosive problem of chronic homelessness as they “broke ground” on the First Step Shelter?

It was hailed as a “Historic Day” in Volusia County.

It was the pageantry of politics in all its swaggering splendor – something so positive – yet so far off – that every elected official in the region could take credit for it without actually having done anything substantive in the process.

There was high praise for what was billed as a “Herculean endeavor” to bring our homeless assistance center to life – along with hubristic talk of political “legacies” – as our ‘powers that be’ preened for pictures wielding goofy golden shovels to turn the earth in a symbolic “groundbreaking” ceremony.

Now, over one-year later, that same parcel sits equally barren – except for what we are told is the “site prep” work – ostensibly completed (for dubious reasons) by someone other than the actual contractor. . .

And what was once the greatest social achievement of our time – is now an orphan of failure and skyrocketing costs – maligned as a bottomless money pit, even as hordes of homeless mendicants beg on all four quadrants of virtually every major intersection from Ormond Beach to Edgewater and doze under the Main Street Pier.

Oh, I forgot,  we may not have gotten the First Step shelter out of the ground – but our “leaders” were able to cobble together a cozy insider deal that will allow a prolific private contractor to make a fortune selling public dirt to speculative developers that are busy turning what’s left of our wetlands into tony “theme” subdivisions of wood frame cracker boxes along the spine of east Volusia from Farmton to the Flagler County line.

Yet, we are still no closer to providing actual services to the throngs homeless than we were this time last year – and I would venture to guess that not one mile of new transportation infrastructure has been laid outside the immediate needs of Mosaic or Margaritaville. . .

Here’s some more “strategic vision” to look forward to in 2019:

Earlier this year, the shit show that was former County Manager Jim Dinneen’s reign of abject incompetence ended when he fled the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building with a sack full of severance cash – unfortunately, the “system” remains firmly entrenched – with the same uber-wealthy political insiders deftly wielding almost omnipotent influence over our elected and appointed officials.

Then, when there is any reasonable attempt to change the status quo, they trot out their weaponized County Attorney, Dan “Cujo” Eckert, who has built a cottage industry suing his own constituents with their tax dollars. . .

Now, with our “new” Volusia County Council set to take the helm in early January – and a nationwide search for a professional County Manager ongoing – long-suffering residents of this salty piece of land we call home were looking forward to the “fresh starts and new beginnings” that a new year, and new administration, promises.

Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed earlier this week as we collectively opened The Daytona Beach News-Journal and gazed forlornly on reporter Dustin Wyatt’s front page/above the fold essay entitled “Volusia faces 2019 transitions” and we came to the sobering realization that we can expect more of the same in the long year ahead. . .

In keeping with their patented strategy of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, certain sitting members of the Volusia County Council let all of us (and any prospective candidate) know that they have no interest in bringing a fresh set of eyes (or an outsiders perspective) to bear on the entrenched problems and influential parasites that have stalked the halls of Volusia County government like malevolent lycanthropes for years.

According to the article, “The majority of the returning council members said in recent interviews that they’ve encouraged interim Manager George Recktenwald to put his name in for the position.

“I’m hoping that he (Recktenwald) will be in the running,” Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said. “His leadership has been a breath of fresh air. He’s been so open, and employees feel like they are being heard.”

Wheeler said the search process needs to run its course as planned, but “at the end of the road, I’d love nothing more than to have George as our manager.”

Look, I don’t have anything against George Recktenwald.  In the aftermath of the Dinneen debacle – he’s been as close to a “breath of fresh air” as anyone who clawed their way to middle-management in local government and held on with their fingernails can bring. . .

However, in my view, Mr. Recktenwald does not represent the radical cure for the metastatic disease that continues to consume tax dollars like a jet-fueled incinerator while steadily chipping away at our public amenities and natural places to sate the greed of speculative developers and others who make their living at the nexus of public funds and private interests.

This became painfully obvious to me just weeks ago when we saw Mr. Recktenwald trot out the tried-and-true Volusia County strategy of sidestepping responsibility by laying the blame on the municipalities.

Following a dispute with the City of Daytona Beach over a very real public safety concern at the scene of a massive hotel and convention center currently under construction by Russian developer Alexey Lysich’s Protogroup – an issue that has blocked public beach access for months – Mr. Recktenwald told a whopper when he snowed-over the concerns of the now cooing Councilwoman Billie Wheeler.

Unlike the highly polished Jim Dinneen – who long-ago mastered the fine art of lying blatantly, with extreme confidence, when answering the inconvenient questions of the people’s representatives – George handled Billie’s softball questions with all the finesse of a punch-drunk Mountain McClintock. . .

According to Recktenwald, “The city, which we have partnered on for many projects, I don’t think has been much of a partner in this case here.  This is the first time in my 21 years (with the county) I’ve ever encountered that another government didn’t support us or work with us.”

Bullshit.

Volusia County has been at war with the municipalities for over a decade – in fact, I cannot recall one “partnership” – from the issue of homelessness, to shitting on the citizens of Ormond Beach by allowing a haunted shopping center to literally rot in the center of their core tourist area, to the expensive debacle in Daytona Beach Shores – that didn’t dissolve into a quagmire of lawsuits, angry rhetoric and open political bullying.

Can you?

According to our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley,“…keeping Recktenwald on as leader makes sense because the county is already in the midst of a major transition that could be difficult for a new manager unfamiliar with the county’s unique government structure.”

 (And by “unique government structure” I assume Old Ed means a bastardized oligarchy where elected officials are bought and sold like chattel at a livestock auction and quid pro quo corruption is openly practiced by anyone with the financial wherewithal to pay-to-play?)

In typical fashion, after spending thousands in taxpayer money on a headhunting firm to scour the countryside for the best and brightest chief executive we can afford to oversee this monstrous bureaucracy – with its bloated $770 million budget – and thousands of ineffectual moving parts – the Three Stooges comprised of Ed Kelley, Billie Wheeler and the always arrogant Deb Denys – decide it’s somehow wise to tip their hand and discourage any legitimate candidate from participating in a now compromised process that already appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Jesus.  Does it ever end?

The only thing I can promise you in the New Year is that I’ll be here – watching and waiting – providing you, the loyal members of the Barker’s View Tribe, with my jaded perspective and skewed perspective on the news and newsmakers of the day.

As always, I appreciate your taking the time to read – and your friendship.

That’s all for me – here’s wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

2018 Asshole of the Year:

For all the obvious and perennial reasons, the Volusia County Council have been named Asshole of the Year for 2018 by the author, editor, chief cook and bottle-washer of Barker’s View!

I recently had a good conversation with Volusia County Councilman-elect Ben Johnson – a long-time law enforcement colleague who skillfully won the at-large seat earlier this year.  During the call, I explained my continuing concerns about the “business as usual” strategy that has resulted in a lack of transparency and the loss of public trust in county government.

We also discussed the sense of possibility that presents whenever the players change – and I have promised others that I will keep an open mind.

Mr. Johnson assured me that he will serve with honor and integrity, and make funding and policy decisions in the best interests of all citizens.  Given his years of service to the citizens of Volusia County, I have no reason to doubt his sincerity – and I have every confidence he will do just that.

Don’t expect Ben Johnson, or incoming District 1 Councilwoman Barbara Girtman, to be change agents.  However, in my view, they will bring a much-needed sense of stability, character and respect to a body that desperately needs it.

Time will tell.

2018 Archangel of the Year:

After careful consideration, and several rounds of fine Tennessee sipping whiskey, I have selected those intrepid souls from Florida’s premiere beach access advocacy – Sons of the Beach – as our Barker’s View Archangel for 2018!

Since 1984, Sons of the Beach has been fighting hard to preserve our tradition of beach driving and the unique access it provides Volusia County residents and visitors.

Trust me – it’s not easy to challenge a well-established power structure with the ability to influence public policy through massive campaign donations and financial relationships with hand-picked political candidates.

But there is strength in numbers – especially when it comes to effecting political change – and I encourage everyone to join Sons of the Beach in 2019.  We need these courageous civic activists now, more than ever.

Learn more at www.sonsofthebeach.org

To everyone who appeared in Angels and Assholes this year, wear it with pride!

Your presence on these pages means that, regardless of status, you are relevant and important to the larger conversation on the issues and opportunities facing all of us.

Thanks for being in the arena.

Retrospectives can give us unique insight on the important issues.

Let’s take a look back at who tried to save us – and who tried to screw us – during the year that was:

January 2018

Assholes

Chairman Ed Kelley and the Volusia County Council

Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees

Lake Helen City Council

Rep. Randy Fine & Sen. Jeff Brandes

Volusia County Elected Officials Round Table

Angels

Former Volusia County Medical Examiner, Dr. Marie Herrmann

Tim Curtis & L. Gale Lemerand

Volusia County Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett

Jeff Feasel, CEO, Halifax Health

Fran Gordon, Mid-Florida Housing Partnership

Political Consultant Mike Scudiero

Deland Citizens for Conservation & Responsible Growth

Root Family Foundation

Concerned Constituents Committee of Bethune-Cookman University

Big John

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office

February 2018

 Assholes

Volusia County Council

Brown & Brown

Angels

Jim Purdy, Public Defender

Paul Zimmerman

Kevin Lowe

Chief Craig Capri & Daytona Beach Police Department

Sons of the Beach

First Step Shelter Board

Bethune-Cookman University Athletics

March 2018

Assholes

County of Volusia

Geosam Capital

Volusia County Council

Hard Rock International

Daytona Beach City Commission

Volusia County Attorney’s Office

Angels

Former Senate President Don Gaetz

Volusia County Collegiate Women’s Basketball Teams

City of Daytona Beach

Sons of the Beach

Palm Coast Councilwoman Heidi Shipley

Volusia Bureau of Investigation

April 2018

Assholes

Volusia County Council

Daytona Beach City Commission

Flagler County School Board

Bethune-Cookman Board of Trustees

Angels

Daytona Blues Festival Organizers

Flagler Sheriff Rick Staley

Bellaire Community Group

Chris Noe

Governor Rick Scott

Chief Gerald Monahan, Jr.

Gus Massfeller

Daytona Beach Police Department

Jantzen Bathing Beauty

May 2018

Assholes

Former Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen

Former DeBary City Manager Dan Parrott

Former Palm Coast City Manager Richard Kelton

County of Volusia

Volusia County Beach Safety Department

NASCAR

Summit Hospitality Group

New Smyrna Beach City Commission

Angels

Peggy Belflower

Brownie the Town Dog

Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte

Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza

Dr. Sara Zydowicz

Bethune-Cookman Athletics

Chief Stephan Dembinsky

City of Holly Hill & Second Harvest Food Bank

June 2018

Assholes

Volusia County Council

Volusia County School Board

Maryam Ghyabi

John Albright

Former Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen

Daytona Beach Leisure Services

Angels

Bellaire Community Group

Pat Northey

Lyndsey Edwards

Sons of the Beach

July 2018

Assholes

Volusia County Council

Hard Rock Daytona

Volusia County School Board

Deltona City Manager Jane Shang

City of Daytona Beach Shores

Angels

Votran Driver Paul Okumu

Judge Belle B. Schumann

Hyatt & CiCi Brown

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood

WNDB’s Marc Bernier

August 2018

Assholes

Former Volusia County Councilman Art Giles

Former Volusia County Councilman Frank Bruno

Former Volusia County Councilman Josh Wagner

Former Volusia County Councilwoman Joie Alexander

Governor Rick Scott

Volusia County School Board

Former Bethune-Cookman Trustee Joe Petrock

Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees

City of Ormond Beach

Volusia County Council

Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France

Volusia County Attorney Dan Eckert

Angels

Bethune-Cookman Marching Wildcats

Taxpayers of Volusia County

Holly Hill Mayor John Penny

Holly Hill Police & Fire Departments

Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis

Citizens of Deltona

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

September 2018

Assholes

Volusia County Council

Volusia County School Board

Former Lake Helen City Manager Jason Yarborough

First Step Money Pit

“Fun Coast” Gonorrhea

Defrocked Judge Scott Dupont

Republican Chairman-for-Life Tony Ledbetter

Angels

Civic Activist Amy Pyle

First Step Shelter Board

Dr. Kelly Long, Tomoka Pines Veterinary Clinic

Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post

Bethune-Cookman University’s Lee Rhyant

Gloria Max, Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties

Director Lynn Thompson, B-CU

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office

October 2018

Assholes

Volusia County School Board

Volusia County Councilman Pat Patterson

Daytona Beach “International” Airport

Daytona Beach City Commission

Angels

Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County

Krys Fluker, Daytona Beach News-Journal

CiCi Brown

Eddie Hennessy

November 2018

Assholes

Volusia County Council

Volusia County School Board

City of Edgewater

Baffling Bullshit of “Project Palm”

Daytona Beach City Commission

Angels

Daytona Beach Police Officer Kevin Hird

Teresa Rand, Volusia-Flagler YMCA

Local Journalists

December 2018

Assholes

Volusia County Council

Angels

The Barker’s View Tribe

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes of 2018

  1. As always, enjoyed your view! Who knows…with the new year could come a new outcome for Volusia County…well one can always hope! Looking forward to the New Year reads.

    Like

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