On Ormond Beach: An Arbor Day Insult

I recently read something in that driveway litter known as the Ormond Beach Observer, a local rag still tainted by the stench of political partisanship following their obvious bias for incumbent candidates in the 2018 Ormond Beach City Commission races, that shocked even my beat-up and calloused conscience:

“At the start of the city’s 2019 Arbor Day tree planting ceremony, Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington asked a group of Ormond Beach Elementary second-graders if they had ever read a book under a tree.

Some piped up with enthusiastic yeses, while others shook their heads.

“If not, you should try that,” Partington said. “Trees are so important, and the city puts a lot of importance on trees.”

Bullshit.

Come on, Mr. Mayor – you might be able to convince a few apple-cheeked second-graders that Ormond Beach gives a rat’s ass about trees, or the conservation and sustainability goals of the Arbor Day tradition – but the rest of us know better.

What the City of Ormond Beach actually cares about is meeting every need, want and whim of speculative developers as evidenced by last years environmental massacre on Granada Boulevard where some 2,061 old growth trees – including specimen hardwoods and majestic oaks – were wantonly eradicated to make way for another WaWa.

The once lush canopy that provided a natural buffer between an established residential neighborhood and the bustle of the Granada corridor – an important habitat for flora and fauna – was churned into a muddy moonscape – heartlessly sacrificed to the insatiable greed of speculative developers who won’t be satisfied until every square-inch of our dwindling greenspace and natural places have fallen under a bulldozer blade for another strip center or ghastly “theme” subdivision.

In the case of the abomination on Granada Boulevard, there was a visceral reaction to the wholesale destruction by many in the community that continues to resonate.

granda pointe 1

Apparently not satisfied with the extraordinary lengths his chattel on the dais of power went to accommodate the intrusive Granada Pointe project, commercial developer Paul Holub recently returned to the Ormond Beach Planning Board for yet another bite at the apple.

On January 10, Mr. Holub asked for an amendment to the Planned Business Development that was approved last year by the City Commission that would allow him to shoehorn a car wash into the expanding commercial space that will ultimately include a grocery store and now at least one additional business.

In addition to subjecting area residents living south of Granada Pointe to the jet-like scream of an automated car wash as a complement to the roar of delivery trucks and amplified drive-thru speakers – Holub also asked for a modification that would allow for the destruction of a 43-inch historic live oak tree on the north side of Granada Boulevard.

Jesus.  When is enough, enough? 

To their credit, the majority of the Planning Board members rejected these measures and found that a car wash does not comport with the community’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Planning Board’s recommendation will now be sent to the Ormond Beach City Commission for first reading and a public hearing.

Anyone care to wager a Donnie’s Donut how that’s going to go. . .?

Troy and the boys

In my view, if the Ormond Beach City Commission goes against the recommendation of their planning board and city planner to grant Mr. Holub’s amendments – in my mind, that will serve as prima facie evidence of just how compromised that body truly is – and should rightly result in the elimination of the city’s planning function altogether.

After all, if our elected officials on the dais of power demonstrate their lock-step conformity to the commands of their handlers by ignoring the recommendations of their advisory committee – the board will be revealed as little more than a cheap farce – and Ormond Beach residents will finally have proof that their government has been sold to the highest bidder.

Photo Credit: More Trees Less Assholes – Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for January 18, 2019

Hi, 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 week that was:

Asshole:          Deltona City Manager Jane Shang

Last year, Deltona City Manager Jane Shang engaged in a pernicious campaign to suppress political dissent and silence opponents of her administration by using the full might of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to bring felony charges against two Deltona residents who were critical of her insular style and gross mismanagement of Volusia’s second largest municipality.

In my view, her actions were cold, calculating and shocked the conscience of Deltona residents.

But it wasn’t the first time a senior bureaucrat in a local City Hall transmogrified from civil servant to tinpot dictator – considering themselves above the law – and doing whatever they damn well please.

Having spent most of my adult life in public service, I understand that government of the people, by the people and for the people will always have one weak link – people.

None of us are perfect, and so long as fallible human beings are part of the process, mistakes will be made.

So long as those are honest errors – I believe most people will forgive what they can see themselves doing – and readily accept a sincere apology and thoughtful strategy for making things right again.

But what Ms. Shang did in purposely manipulating the criminal justice system to bring dubious criminal charges against two civically active citizens – with the full acquiescence of the previous City Commission – was wrong.

Now, it appears Ms. Shang may be getting a taste of just how it feels to face the devastating prospect of defending oneself against serious felony charges.

In December, the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections did the right thing and sent allegations that Ms. Shang used Deltona City Hall as her residential address on voter registration forms in a possible violation of Florida law to the State Attorney’s Office for review.

Now, the Department of State has advised State Attorney R. J. Larizza that Ms. Shang did in fact use City Hall as her address from 2015 until December 2018 – and, perhaps more egregious, “Ms. Shang voted in the primary and general elections in the 2016 and 2018 cycles using the City Hall address.”

Damn.  That’s serious.

Florida statutes specifically prohibit persons from submitting false voter registration information – or casting a ballot in any election where they are not a qualified elector.  Anyone who willingly violates these laws is guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison or five years’ probation and a $5,000 fine.

During the Deltona commission’s December 17 meeting, Mayor Heidi Herzberg brought these serious charges forward for open discussion.  At that time, Shang characterized the matter as a mistake – claiming she did not willfully violate state elections laws.

Rightfully, in order to preserve the public trust – and in keeping with the seriousness of the potential charges facing Ms. Shang – Commissioner Anita Bradford made a motion to suspend Shang pending the outcome of the State Attorney’s investigation.

In typical fashion, the commission voted 5-2 against suspending Ms. Shang from the most powerful position in city government, I suppose preferring to allow this hyper-dramatic shit show to continue to create a distraction from the serious business of municipal administration.

Jesus.

Now, according to reports, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an active criminal investigation.

Since Shameless Shang doesn’t have the common decency to stepdown and protect her constituents, subordinates and community from further embarrassment, in my view, there is now clear and just cause for the Deltona City Commission to formally suspend Ms. Shang from office and demonstrate that the sanctity of governmental processes, fair elections and the administration of the people’s business is more important than preserving the status quo at City Hall.

Asshole:          NASCAR

Earlier this week, our own “Volusia County Royalty” – the Forbes-listed France family – used a ham-handed press release to callously announce deep layoffs across every operational and administrative division of NASCAR – including the company’s Daytona Beach headquarters.

In a sure sign that the once powerful motorsports dynasty may well be a sinking ship, a corporate mouthpiece wrote:

“As all good businesses do, NASCAR is committed to strengthening its operation to ensure that resources are aligned to strategies that grow the sport and drive our business. We have a talented team at NASCAR and we’re confident that greater focus on the opportunities to drive fan interest and strong industry partnerships will help our sport achieve long-term growth.”

 Look, NASCAR and its various subsidiaries are businesses – and sometimes difficult personnel and financial decisions are required to ensure profitability and protect the future viability of the enterprise.

I get it.

However, I am also sensitive to the fact that each of these cuts represents real people – families who no longer have the financial security of a paycheck, health insurance and other critical benefits – the loss of which represents a devastating prospect that not only affects NASCAR employees – but weighs heavy on the economies of the communities in which they live.

I don’t know who the heartless dipshit is who handles external communications for NASCAR, but perhaps the France’s should have at least mentioned the human aspect in their release, rather than focusing on their own self-interests. . .

During my professional life, I had the unfortunate experience of being caught up in a misguided effort to drastically chop the workforce at the City of Holly Hill – an action that was initiated by a former city manager who, in my view, was not only wrongheaded and grossly incompetent – but may well have been intentionally sabotaging the government’s operational effectiveness by creating a series of faux-emergencies purely for political insulation and job security.

In my experience, this person was the most callous, hurtful and personally unstable individual I ever had the misfortune of working for (and I worked for some real winners) and it would ultimately take the municipal government a decade to fully recover from the damage wrought.

During the painful and unfortunate process of separating loyal, long-term employees, my fellow department heads and I demanded that those affected by the cuts be offered re-training, job placement services and professional career counseling to mitigate the life-altering impacts of what was maliciously dubbed by that power-mad shitheel, “right sizing.”

These professional services didn’t make it any easier – but it provided hope – and much-needed assistance that helped many make the confusing transition to what came next in their lives.

According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, NASCAR employees touched by the layoffs apparently weren’t afforded that same courtesy.

“We’ve received no notice, we’ve heard nothing,” said Robin King, CEO of CareerSource Flagler Volusia, the regional workforce development agency that typically gets involved in assisting workers who are about to be laid off or are unemployed.

Tragic.  And, in my view, a disturbing insight into the organizational culture of NASCAR.

On November 8, NASCAR confirmed reports that it is bidding to acquire the remaining outstanding shares of International Speedway Corporation that the France family didn’t already own with plans to merge NASCAR and ISC into a single privately held company. . .

Asshole:          Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees

As with the NASCAR bloodletting, sometimes businesses and organizations find themselves fighting for their very survival – and the ability to make difficult decisions with care and compassion for the lives affected speaks volumes.

Today, many loyal employees of Bethune-Cookman University will be jobless or facing draconian salary cuts as the school fights for its very life in a quagmire of greed, graft, fraud and gross mismanagement.

In my view, there is ample blame to go around – starting with former President Edison O. Jackson and his cabal of journeyman thieves – and current and former board members who clearly abdicated their fiduciary responsibility, blocked intervention efforts, put their own needs and reputations above those of the university and allowed this once proud institution to drown in debt, suspicion and hopelessness.

My simple hope is that ultimately B-CU students, faculty and staff collectively sue the eyeballs out of any board member who served during Jackson’s dismal tenure – or stood idle as he and others shackled the university with a fraudulent dormitory deal that stunk like a rotten mackerel in the moonlight from its inception.

At the risk of repeating the obvious – why did ostensibly smart people like former board member Dr. Kent Sharples of the CEO Business Alliance (who is currently working overtime to shove a sales tax initiative down the throat of every man, woman and child in Volusia County) or Halifax Health’s Joe Petrock – refuse to sound the klaxon and throw the brakes on this sketchy shit before the hemorrhaging became too profuse to staunch?

Would Dr. Sharples, Mr. Petrock, or anyone else with two synapses still firing allow their own organization to enter into a deal with the potential to result in hundreds-of-millions in catastrophic liability without due diligence?

Or at least a cursory look into the background and past performance of the principles?

My God.

Now, neither interim President Hubert Grimes – or board of trustee chair Michelle Carter-Scott – had the courage to stand up, demonstrate strong leadership, and take personal responsibility for the layoffs and drastic belt-tightening measures that will be necessary to save the university.

In a letter to B-CU stakeholders, Grimes said he made the cuts at the direction of the board.

Then, Carter-Scott said that the board “. . .asked Grimes to reduce expenses but did not tell him specifically how to make the cuts.”

It appears the board and the administration are still attempting to avoid being the bad guy – pointing fingers even as the university crumbles.

How terribly sad.

Angel:             City of Holly Hill

Kudos to the City of Holly Hill for taking the best interests of their residents to heart in working hard to bring innovative sports and recreation opportunities to the community.

Recently, we learned of a bold plan to develop a state-of-the-art Pickleball complex – a very popular hybrid of tennis and paddleball – complete with a pro shop, skyboxes and a restaurant overlooking the proposed 24 courts in beautiful Hollyland Park.

This multi-million-dollar facility is projected to bring hundreds of players and spectators to the Halifax area annually.

Now, city officials have begun construction of an outdoor fitness court at the popular Sunrise Park on scenic Riverside Drive. The new facility will host some 30 exercise stations allowing visitors to complete a full-body workout in as little as seven minutes.

According to reports, the project will cost about $135,000, nearly half of which will be paid for from grant funding.

Angel:             Volusia resident Scott Markham

Sometimes a solitary voice of dissent can echo loudly – stirring others who are “mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore” to action in defense of their community and quality of life.

That was the case on Tuesday when Samsula resident Scott Markham took a courageous lone stand outside that Theater of the Absurd that was the “2019 State of the County Address” to protest the proposed half-cent sales tax increase.

While our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, droned on about how great we have it before an assembly of everyone who is anyone in Volusia County politics – rubbing shoulders with the insiders and “corporate partners” who ultimately control the campaign purse strings and decide for the rest of us who will serve in powerful elective offices countywide – Mr. Markham stood proudly outside the languishing Ocean Center holding a sign urging his fellow taxpayers to vote “NO” on the pending money grab.

As Old Ed fawned and cooed over disgraced former County Manager Jim Dinneen – who just last summer fled the Thomas C. Kelly Administration building with a sack full of severance cash following a series of gaffs, howlers, administrative oversights, “filtering” critical information to decision-makers, lapses of judgement, backroom maneuverings and good old-fashioned mismanagement of critical services that would have embarrassed our elected officials if they still possessed the human emotion of shame – Scott Markham let our ‘powers that be’ know that there is some shit we won’t eat.

I admire that – and more important – I hope his bravery in the presence of the powerful stimulates others to action as we work collectively to expose this shim-sham of a tax increase for what it is.

In my view, it is time citizens across Volusia County put the onus of improving our overstressed transportation and utilities infrastructure on those who have profited mightily from the unchecked sprawl that has brought us to this dismal place in our history.

Quote of the Week:

“Volusia County’s idea of increasing sales tax to pay for roads for the new developments is criminal. We have already paid enough, not only in terms of money but also in terms of quality of life, for the cookie-cutter sprawl developments being built along Interstate 95. Clogged traffic, loss of our precious forests and wetlands, and now we’re supposed to pay more taxes, too?”

–Jenny Nazak, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Tax plan criminal,” Wednesday, January 16, 2019

And Another Thing!

This week our High Panjandrums of Political Power joined together in the fetid wasteland that has become our core tourist area for the ridiculous pageantry of the annual State of the County Address.

I didn’t attend the soiree (when the date was originally announced, I realized, “Damn.  I wash my beard on Tuesdays!  I can’t possibly go. . .darn the luck.”) but I did watch in slack-jawed amazement all that I could stomach of the videotaped coverage on WNDB’s website at www.newsdaytonabeach.com

As the tableau of pomposity played out before the unblinking lens of the camera – I was reminded in the most stark and disturbing way of everything wrong with this bastardized Oligarchy that passes for governance on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

I watched as County Chair Ed Kelley, and our other elected and appointed officials, gathered in their finery, working the room like gadabouts while shoveling food in their mouths that was paid for by for-profit corporate entities – many of which regularly come before those very officials seeking lucrative government contracts and “economic incentive” packages paid for with millions of our hard-earned tax dollars – and I was stuck by just how horribly compromised and completely out-of-touch these assholes really are.

I watched as men and woman who form the backbone of our artificial service-based economy moved about the room, attentively serving the food and bussing the linen covered tables where politicians gathered for this yearly nonsensical waste of time.

It was difficult to watch.

After Old Ed systematically (and in no logical order) recognized the various political hacks and has-beens in attendance, the camera stoically captured a series of telling vignettes – such as disgraced former County Manager Jim Dinneen standing over Chairman Kelley, literally slapping the addled old fool on the back – while the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys schmoozed with billionaire insurance magnate and consummate political insider, J. Hyatt Brown.

All the while, Ed kept spooning that “free” food down his waddling gullet like a gluttonous fiend.

(There’s a metaphor there, I think. . .)

I watched – nauseated – as J. Hyatt ambled over to the head table and Chairman Kelley dutifully rose to his feet in obsequious deference and all but symbolically kissed the ring of the man who made him King of the Damned.

What I couldn’t bring myself to watch was Old Ed’s actual speech.

I didn’t have to.

I’d seen all I could stand of the state of Volusia County in 2019.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: A Comparative Analysis

I find the best way to study a problem is often a simple comparative analysis – such as an examination of results over time – that give us an idea of where we’ve come, and where we are going. 

Tomorrow, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, will join with his fellow political flapjacks on the dais of power – along with our ‘movers & shakers’ in local governments across Volusia County and the puppet masters who control them – to pat each other on the back and try their level best to deflect attention away from the train wreck that was 2018.

In my view, the only positive change to occur last year was when former County Manager Jim Dinneen fled the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building like a diseased rat with a sack full of severance money and apparently a new job in the commercial real estate industry. 

But what’s changed? 

In a recent Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial, we all learned that interim County Manager George Recktenwald – who was Dinneen’s second during some of the most tumultuous shit-storms in the history of Volusia County – is now “interested” in taking the job full-time – after originally assuring us he wasn’t. . . 

(Until the waters calmed, anyway.)  

So, given the fact the majority of our elected officials have already telegraphed how they plan to vote on the issue, effectively dissuading any decent candidates from throwing their hat in the ring, you can bet your bippy we’re all going to take a ride on the “Georgie Go-Round” in 2019 – because the only thing our entrenched bureaucrats, and the oligarchs who greedily feed themselves off their skewed decisions, abhor more than oversight and accountability is change to the status quo. 

Other than that – we’re swimming in the same slit trench we were this time last year – only now – our ‘powers that be’ are working overtime to shove a sales tax increase down the throat of every man, woman and child in Volusia County to clean up the mess after they strategically permitted speculative developers to build thousands of new homes and commercial developments without adequate transportation and utilities infrastructure to support  them. 

Am I wrong?   

Now, even as those we have elected and appointed to represent our highest and best interests tell us what an apocalyptic calamity we face if We, The People don’t pony up and approve their outrageous tax increase – these callous assholes have the temerity to stand before their peers and constituents to crow about all they have “accomplished” in the past year?

My ass. 

So, I thought it would be helpful to take a look at a piece I wrote this time last year immediately following the “2018 State of the County Address” and let’s take a comparative look at what has changed – and what has not – during the year that was:

On Monday, the annual political bacchanalia known as the “State of the County Address” was held at the languishing Ocean Center – a beautiful county-owned facility with a 42,000-square foot arena, and seating for over 9,000, that has been reduced from staging Elton John and Bob Dylan concerts to hosting quilting bees.

Everyone (who is anyone) dutifully gathered for this spectacle of vanity run amok – an orchestrated opportunity for our elected officials to showcase dubious “accomplishments and achievements” – slap some backs and take credit for the work of others during the past year.

According to News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt, (who relegated their coverage of the soiree to page C-1), the theme of the event was “Accelerating to new heights.”

It beats “Going to hell in a hand basket,” I suppose.

This year, just like every year, our delusional elected officials in DeLand aptly took credit for their true role in the Dinneen regime – facilitating “local financial support” (read: corporate welfare) for all the right last names – to include gifting millions of dollars in public funds to Brown & Brown, the billionaire international insurance intermediary, for a new headquarters building.

Oh, Old Ed threw in a few zingers – like claiming responsibility for a couple of public parks and nature trails – and grabbed the glory for “opening” beach ramps that were arbitrarily and inexplicably closed years ago.

(I’m not sure giving back something we already had can be considered an “accomplishment” – but here in the Twilight Zone, anything is possible.)

Of course, our High Panjandrums of Political Power took time to grovel for their handlers, and gush appreciation for their “sponsors” – comprised almost exclusively of county contractors or political insiders – who ponied-up the estimated $30,000 so our movers & shakers could enjoy a “free lunch.”

Free lunch?  Yeah, right. . .

I noticed Mr. Kelley didn’t take credit for the strategic neglect that has left county-owned facilities throughout Volusia County in a state of utter dilapidation – to include prime real estate held off municipal tax roles as potential “off beach parking” – deplorable conditions that contribute to blight in Ormond Beach and elsewhere – or the recurring gaffs and mistakes, open theft of our heritage of beach driving, off-the-agenda sleight-of-hand, tax addiction, lack of infrastructure planning, astronomical fee increases, or the pathological secrecy that shrouds everything this administration does or says.

And I’m sure Ed didn’t mention the bizarre “public policy by ambush” strategy that has become Mr. Dinneen’s modus operandi, a Machiavellian scheme that continues to seriously undermine public trust in Volusia County government

Perhaps most mindboggling was Mr. Kelley’s warm embrace of recent hard-won homeless initiatives as a county “achievement.”

My ass.

For years, Volusia County fought tooth-and-nail to obstruct any reasonable solution to the homeless problem; that is until the City of Daytona Beach, Mrs. Forough Hossieni and other local leaders took the reins and developed workable solutions to this pervasive countywide problem, one that continues to hamper real “economic development” and adds to the overall sense of hopelessness that pervades many areas of east Volusia.

Shameless.

When this snoozefest was resurrected last year, I wrote:

“Note to Chairman Kelley: The benefits of a lavish State of the County address are lost on us uncultivated rubes who gaze in amazement at the cringe-worthy state of affairs in DeLand – where our Sheriff has rightfully and openly exposed our County Manager as a “lying sack of shit” on the front page of the newspaper – and we keep rehashing corporate welfare projects and an increasingly artificial economy as “progress.”

Frankly, given our current imbroglios – it really is poor optics – either pure arrogance or utter denial.

What’s changed?

The 2019 Volusia County State of the County address by County Chair Ed Kelley and County Council Members will take place tomorrow afternoon from noon to 2:00pm at the Ocean Center, 101 N. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach.

 The event is open to the public – you’re not welcome, mind you – but by law a public meeting must be, well, open and accessible to the public.  Reservations are required and seating (for peons) is limited—RSVP by phone at 386-943-7026.

 Enjoy your “free lunch.”   

 

Join Barker’s View this afternoon on GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm as we discuss the issues facing the long-suffering denizens of Florida’s fabled Fun Coast on the fastest two-hours in radio!

Listen locally at 1380am The Cat – or internationally at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button!)

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Angels & Assholes for January 10, 2019

Hi, kids!

I hope you will indulge me, gentle readers.

One of the great blessings of making our home in the Halifax area is the many outdoor recreation opportunities available to us.  From “The World’s Most Famous Beach” to our many spring-fed lakes, rivers and lush woodlands – residents and visitors can enjoy world class fishing, golf, boating, kayaking and hiking opportunities – and the temperature this time of year is perfect for exploring all Volusia County has to offer.

I’m publishing an early abbreviated edition of Angels & Assholes – our weekly compendium of my hypercritical screeds highlighting the noble and the nefarious – to selfishly accommodate my annual fishing trip to delightful West Volusia.

For the next few days, some old friends and I will be on the hunt for the elusive Speckled Perch, making camp at the famous Highland Park Fish Camp on the beautiful Norris Dead River with access to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge – the perfect natural setting just five-minutes from bustling downtown DeLand (and Persimmon Hollow Brewery, woot!)

Look, we have our fair share of seemingly intractable issues and political problems on this salty piece of land we call home – and, in my view, it is incredibly important to remain vigilant and well-informed on the issues of the day.

It is equally important to avail oneself of all opportunities to rest and recharge – to take full advantage of the clean air, fresh water and natural places we have left – before they are exploited, slashed, burned, hauled off and turned into another godforsaken strip center or ridiculous “theme” subdivision – where speculative developers pave paradise and erect a faux-version of the ideal they destroy to satisfy an insatiable greed for more, more, more.

Thank you for understanding.

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:

Angel:             City of Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via

At the risk of sounding like the curmudgeonly old bastard that I am – I’ve known Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via since he was knee-high to a June bug.

It’s one of the great privileges of serving in a small town – you get to know people.

As friends and neighbors.

Unlike many places in Central Florida that have become hard and mean, in Holly Hill, the community shares the good times and braves the challenges together, with a hometown closeness you only find where good people truly care about one another, even when they disagree.

On Monday, Mayor Via earned his stripes when he exhibited the courage to ask the difficult question at a meeting of the exalted  “Roundtable of Elected Officials” meeting – which was planned as a well-choreographed Kabuki to demonstrate synchronized support for the languishing half-cent sales tax increase.

As our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, openly salivated over the very thought of controlling a $45 million annual revenue stream – Mr. Via threw cold water on the onanistic circle-jerk by asking his “colleagues” why they are prepared to spend an estimated $500,000 in tax dollars for a special election to decide the sales tax hike – rather than simply wait until the general election in 2020?

Sounds logical, right?

Since when did logic, reason, sound judgement and lucidity play even a walk-on role in this obscene theater of the absurd that passes for governance in Volusia County?

Money – and a lot of it – is on the table, dammit – and the “Rich & Powerful” won’t have some small-town peon questioning the methods which the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, and their hired chattel on councils and commissions throughout the Fun Coast, have carefully crafted behind-the-scenes to fleece already tax-strapped residents to pay for their weird retroactive transportation infrastructure scheme.

Since this cheap flim-flam was reanimated from its shallow grave several weeks ago – the sole focus of our ‘powers that be’ is not on what is morally, ethically and economically appropriate in an environment where speculative developers have been allowed to gorge in the pine scrub off LPGA Boulevard and beyond, while paying little if anything to mitigate the gross impact their residential and commercial sprawl will have on the quality of life of current residents outside “Boomtown Boulevard” – but on the crude mechanics of getting the damn thing past the voters.

Clearly, these greed-crazed bastards have become obsessed with how they can all but ensure passage of this tax grab by skewing the playing field ahead of this horribly expensive special election.

For having the temerity to ask the obvious question on behalf of his long-suffering constituents (and for those residents whose elected “representatives” have dissolved into catatonic marionettes) Mayor Via was lectured by Old Ed Kelley and his sycophantic co-conspirators about “leadership.”

That’s rich.

I’ve said it before – in my view, either Chairman Kelley is suffering from a weird form of cognitive dissonance that allows him to create alternative facts, ignore material evidence and blatantly lie to his constituents whenever it serves the needs of this bastardized Oligarchical system – or he’s the dumbest human being to ever hold elective office.

Perhaps more disturbing than the fact Mr. Kelley has the brains of a ventriloquist’s dummy is his deliberate cruelty in imposing a sales tax increase on those who can least afford it.

My God.

Old Ed has proven time-and-again that he confuses pandering to the powerful with strategic leadership – and in doing so – he makes an absolute fool of himself and victims of those who rely on him.

In my view, Chairman Kelley and the insiders who direct his every official move, are terrified by fresh, bright and assertive young politicians like Chris Via and District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post who, with the support of their long-suffering constituents, will ultimately challenge the status quo and return a sense of fairness and common sense to local government.

I tend to judge people, administrations and dogs by past performance.

It is the only true predictive indicator of future behavior – and we’ve been stumbling down a very dark trench for a very long time. . .

Let’s face it, Volusia has one of the highest tax rates in the state of Florida and a surfeit of toxic problems that have left wide swaths of our area awash in blight, dilapidation and hopelessness – with many struggling families living at or below the poverty line – trapped in a service-based artificial economy built on the same five people passing the same nickel around.

Our fuel tax scheme has long been maxed out and our elected officials have proven that they have no qualms about handing millions of our hard-earned tax dollars to fund the private projects of billionaires, building infrastructure to benefit wealthy political insiders while ignoring the needs of the public, and paying exorbitant salary and benefits packages to the pimps who control the nexus of public funds and private interests.

Don’t take my word for it – incredibly expensive reports by outside experts prove that various iterations of our Volusia County Council took nearly two-decades to raise impact fees on developers – several of whom are actively raping the land and throwing up wood frame cracker boxes off LPGA Boulevard even as you read this.

Why?

For starters, during our last election, developers and builders donated more hard cash to political candidates than any other industry.  According to an August 2018 study by the News-Journal, “$1 of every $5 has come from a developer or someone in the construction or building industry, The News-Journal analysis found. That’s nearly twice the next-leading industry.”

 ROI, baby – Return on Investment.

That’s why.

As the intrepid civic activist and long-time resident Linda Smiley pointed out when she spoke truth to power earlier this week:

“Daytona Beach resident Linda Smiley attended Monday’s meeting to ask officials why if the county was in no hurry to raise impact fees to bring in more road revenue there should be such a rush to approve a sales tax increase.”

“Yes, we know that we need things here, but we don’t like the way that you go about trying to get them,” she told officials.”

Linda cares enough to ask the hard questions – and smart enough to know that she’ll never get a straight answer. . .

Why do you think the millionaire members of the Star Chamber at Volusia’s CEO Business Alliance are so damned determined to see this tax increase become a reality?

I have my own suspicions.

Screw these piggish money grubbers – and their “well-executed” pernicious campaign to wring even more tax dollars from an already strapped constituency.

These people should be ashamed of themselves.

Its time Volusia County government, and the many representatives of the municipalities who are groveling at the feet of their masters, learn to live within their means as other communities do.

In my view, returning sanity to this shit storm of abject greed begins at the ballot box.

Asshole:          Deltona City Commission

“A request to rezone a vacant tract in Deltona for a new subdivision has raised fears of more traffic, flooding and the loss of animal habitat, even though city regulations already permit housing on the land.”

“This is going to develop — that’s not a question,” City Commissioner Chris Nabicht said.”

In an excellent article by Al Everson in The West Volusia Beacon entitled, “Neighbors object to plans for Deltona subdivision,” we learned that our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mori Hosseini, and his mega-development enterprise ICI Homes, has set their greedy sights on developing 131 acres between Fort Smith and Saxon Boulevards.

Despite the fact area residents have expressed grave concerns about the development’s environmental impact and raised the very real quality of life questions developers and their shills on the dais of power hate to answer (hell, even the Deltona Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to recommend that elected officials reject the proposal) you can bet your bippy that Commissioner Nabicht is right:

The picturesquely named “Hampton Oaks” abomination is going to happen whether the long-suffering citizens of Deltona like it or not – because that’s how it works here in Mori’s Kingdom.

On December 17, 2018, the City Commission tentatively approved the residential planned unit development on first reading with the final vote coming later this month.

If anyone is interested in witnessing some Tier One showmanship – I’m talking P.T. Barnum-style, World Class huckstering – avail yourself of an evening with ICI Homes President David Haas as he attempts to explain to those most effected why 228 new homes, and the nearly 600 new Walmart shoppers that will inhabit them, is good for you – and good for Deltona!

Mr. Hass will bring his traveling medicine show to Deltona City Hall, 2345 Providence Boulevard, on Tuesday, January 15 beginning at 5:30pm.

Enjoy that. I’ve heard it all before. . .

Angel:             Former Bethune-Cookman University Track Champion Summer Brown

Recently, former B-CU track and field standout, Summer Brown, received the life-altering diagnosis that what was thought to be a benign, but persistent, lump in her left leg was actually Stage 4 lymphoma.

Now, the former conference long jump and pentathlon champion is fighting her disease with incredible courage – and the full support of the Wildcat Nation.

According to a report by B-CU’s senior writer and historian, Dan Ryan:

“This whole mess has been going on for over a year. The excruciating pain in her left thigh was first thought to be a charley horse, then it was sciatica, then Iliotibial band (IT band) syndrome or even a tendon strain. Every time she was sent home.

 Two days after Christmas, Brown couldn’t even walk. Malik Lewis, another former Wildcat track star and father of their two-year old, Aycen, drove her to the ER. . .again. They did the X-rays and MRIs.

“Boom,” Brown said, actually laughing.

“I found out there’s a tumor in my leg that’s been growing this whole time,” Brown said. “Yeah, it’s crazy.”

There wasn’t time for sadness or even anger over how the heck this could have been so misdiagnosed for so long.

“We’re going around in complete 360s,” Brown said. “We didn’t have any time to dwell, we had to make decisions.”

Tuesday [January 8] was day five of chemotherapy as well as physical therapy to get more mobility back out of the leg.  Wednesday should see her going back home and beginning four months of outpatient treatment.

Even though the tumor’s been growing for a year, the cancer, normally rapid growing, has stayed localized in her leg. “Actually, a blessing,” Brown said. However, this is still a critical juncture in keeping the cancer from spreading to the kidneys and other internal organs.

While “Stage 4” sounds extremely scary, it’s an automatic designation for when the cancer has spread outside the lymphatic system and originated internally. Brown wanted to reiterate that, and that she’s in good condition.

She notes she still “has youth in her favor” and while she’s a little removed from the body that won her the long jump at the 2015 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Outdoor championship and the 2014 indoor pentathlon, she’s in good physical shape.

“I’m very positive, very high,” Brown said.”

Stay positive, Summer.  Godspeed and God Bless.

Please follow Summer’s progress at Bethune-Cookman University’s official twitter feeds @bcuathletics and @bcutrackxc for updates.

Quote of the Week:

“Increased sales taxes hurt the little guy— the people on marginal incomes who have to buy clothes for their kids to wear to school or buy gas to drive to work, or the older people who need new glasses or hearing aids. Don’t you think it’s time we started worrying about all the folks who live here and not the fantasy ones who aren’t here?”

“Whenever this is put on the ballot, I’ll vote against it.”

–Jane Glover, Ormond Beach, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “No more sales tax,” Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I like Jane Glover.

She’s smart, civically active and has an incredibly firm grasp on the issues facing us here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – and I enjoy reading her periodic editorials.  In my view, her unique insight on this crude money grab is spot-on.

In my view, it is ethically, morally and economically wrong to raise the sales tax on people suffering under one of the lowest median household incomes in Florida, while the myriad civic, social and economic issues remain completely unaddressed and our spineless elected officials maintain laser focus on this massive revenue stream.

Watching this unfold is ugly – and I suspect it will get more so before whatever passes for a special election is held.

I mean, how long will it be before the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys orders her slavish subjects on the various municipal councils and commissions to prostrate themselves before her at the dais of power in DeLand and pledge fealty to  their masters before the crumbs are distributed?

(Don’t laugh – that’s exactly what happened last time. . .)

Ms. Glover is right.  It is high time we start caring.

And Another Thing!

I couldn’t let another minute go by without formally congratulating Volusia County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert and our own Golden Boy, Interim County Manager George Recktenwald (who has a preternatural knack for surviving political shit storms and being in the right place, at the right time) on receiving their annual salary increase!

Way to go, fellas!

Yep!  Without much fanfare, that time-honored Volusia Yuletide tradition of handing out exorbitant salary and benefits hikes to the County Attorney and County Manager played out last month when – in their last official buggering of their long-suffering constituents – our former Volusia County Council heaped glowing praise and bestowed a 4% pay increase on the two senior bureaucrats.

Eckert’s new annual salary will be $227,042 – with Recktenwald pocketing $189,944.

Their bosses – our elected representatives – said they’re worth it. . .

Just when I thought District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post was beginning to “get it,”  she shocked my delicate sensibilities by telling Cujo, “We are certainly blessed to have you.”

Say what?

Perhaps Ms. Post – and her “colleagues” on the dais of power in DeLand – need a history lesson in how our weaponized County Attorney’s Office has “served” the best interests of their brutalized constituents.

And maybe Council Member Billie Wheeler – who cooed, “I trust you, Dan. … You will always give us the right advice,” should consult her neighbors in Daytona Beach Shores who are still reeling from their recent tangle with Mr. Eckert over their right to self-determination on perhaps the most expensive slice of beachfront real estate on the Fun Coast (which will soon become an “off beach” parking lot – just like Volusia County wanted.)

Dan Eckert – who works like a rabid dog when he’s suing the eyeballs out of Volusia County taxpayers with our own money, then turns into a toothless lapdog when it comes to holding speculative developers and other political insiders accountable – has built a cottage industry arguing in courtrooms throughout Volusia County and beyond how those of us who pay the bills should sit down and shut-up in matters large and small because We, The People don’t have “standing.”

In fact, it’s become his mantra – and an effective way of suppressing any opposition to the County Council’s wholesale giveaway of our beach, aggressive land-grabs inside the municipalities, and now, the provisions of Amendment 10 – which is the first real threat to the status quo that has paralyzed Volusia County for decades.

Unfortunately, when Ms. Post made a plea at the same meeting to cobble together even a cursory written evaluation process for these two incredibly powerful positions – which currently haul in a combined $417,000 in public funds before benefits annually – she was ridiculed as a fool for even suggesting that level of base oversight and accountability.

Blessed?  That’s not the adjective I would have used. . .

Have a great weekend, y’all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: An Insatiable Appetite for Taxes

The Sunday edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal had an interesting juxtaposition of news articles on the front page which, in my view, perfectly illuminated the most perplexing problem facing Florida’s fabled Fun Coast:

Our continuing crisis of leadership.

In an excellent article by reporter Cassidy Alexander, which, once again, examined  the failure to thrive syndrome that has plagued Volusia County schools for years, a comparative analysis of Florida’s A-rated districts by the News-Journal painted a grim local picture, “. . .Volusia has the lowest median household income and the second-highest percentage of students living in poverty; it has the lowest average teacher salary and the lowest level of average teacher experience; it has the highest rate of chronic absenteeism among students; and the lowest rate of residents who have at least a bachelor’s degree.”

“News” like that should shock the conscience of every sitting politician and entrenched bureaucrat in Volusia County.

But it doesn’t.

Because problem solving is no longer a priority (if it ever was), now replaced by a seemingly insatiable appetite for more tax dollars – and no matter how much we are forced to pay at the pump, point of sale or in ad valorem taxes – it will never be enough.

Immediately to the right of Ms. Alexander’s piece was a headline by the intrepid Dustin Wyatt, “Plans call for tax vote,” detailing the umpteenth attempt by our ‘powers that be’ to foist a half-cent sales tax increase on every man, woman and child in Volusia County.

As in the past, this latest money grab is being billed as a way for local governments to pay for a weird retroactive transportation infrastructure scheme where developers have been allowed to build thousands of new homes and commercial centers – then worry about how we pay for the streets, roadways and utilities infrastructure required to support tens-of-thousands of new residents after-the-fact.

In most places, where insiders with a profit motive are allowed to create an acute crisis that others are then required to pay for, there is some level of political accountability.

But not here.

In Volusia County, the political playing field is skewed by massive infusions of cash into the campaign coffers of our horribly compromised elected officials who have proven their willingness to perpetuate a pernicious cycle of legalized quid pro quo corruption and ensure that all the right last names maintain their suckling position at the public teat.

Rather than logically and patiently wait until the 2020 general election, later today, officials from Volusia County and the municipalities will gather to determine when a countywide vote will be held on the sales tax initiative.

The special election will cost taxpayers an estimated $548,000.

You read that right – $548,000.

If our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, has his way (which is to say, if those who pull Old Ed’s strings like the demented marionette he is have their druthers – and they will) we could see a special election as early as May.

And the reasoning for cramming this sales tax increase down our collective throat this spring have absolutely nothing to do with the rapid implementation of smart growth initiatives, improving public infrastructure to keep pace with development or curing the myriad quality of life issues that out-of-control sprawl naturally brings – and everything to do with the odds of success for the measure passing at the polls.

Apparently, the Camera Stellata over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – whose deep involvement in a sales tax increase speaks volumes about where at least some of the estimated $45 million in annual revenue will ultimately land – conducted a mysterious “updated” survey of a smattering of Volusia County voters with incredibly short memory’s.

According to the News-Journal, the survey was narrowly focused: “The key question was how the public would respond to the question of a tax after the county delayed taking up the question of raising impact fees on developers.”

 Ah, there’s that old impact fee shim-sham bugaboo again. . .

Not to worry, on Sunday the Big Cheese of the CEO Business Alliance, Dr. Kent Sharples – that financial wizard who brought us the American Music Festival debacle and just last summer resigned from the Board of Trustees of Bethune-Cookman University in the midst of a catastrophic crisis – assured everyone who is anyone, “The response is still positive; even more so.”

Shameless asshole.

Yep.  The gangs all back together for another bite at the apple, with Joe Yarbrough – the recently retired and now completely unaccountable South Daytona city manager – having agreed to stay on and “lead the charge” for the sales tax until the vote.

Great.

Folks, what we are witnessing here is the antithesis of leadership, strategic vision and participatory democracy.

It is the gross manipulation of our system of governance by influential insiders and their chattel on the dais of power to ensure the passage of a massively lucrative revenue stream which, like every other tax increase ever passed, will ultimately end up earmarked for anything and everything with a dubious nexus to its original intent.

The fact is – nothing has changed since this initiative went down in flames last year.

For instance, at a December Volusia County Council meeting, District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post made a legitimate plea to her “colleagues” for a comprehensive evaluation process for the omnipotent County Manager position (an individual who stands at the very intersection of public funds and private interests.)

She was all but laughed out of the room.

This small, but telling, vignette shows the utter disdain our elected “representatives” in DeLand continue to have for the concept of reasonable accountability and oversight – yet they demand more of our hard-earned money to remediate their unforgivable sin of failing to ask their incredibly wealthy political benefactors in the real estate development community to pay their fair share.

As the News-Journal recently pointed out in a cogent editorial on the problem, any politician worth his or her salt knows that if they allow things to get sufficiently bad, invariably local voters will clean up the mess when it begins to impact their quality of life.

Sound familiar?

In my view, until the Volusia County Council – and certain municipal representatives who appear in lock-step conformity on the issue of saddling their citizens with a sales tax increase – can demonstrate a real commitment to openness, transparency, strategic planning, long-term problem solving and constituent input (you know, the basic fairness of actually listening to the suggestions of those who pay the bills) then this latest money grab should rightfully end up in the overflowing ash bin where the bad ideas of our compromised politicians go to die.

When will these greed-crazed bastards understand that raising taxes on a population trapped in a service-based artificial economy is morally, ethically and economically wrong?    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: Round and Round and Round we go!

Is it really necessary for me to preface these logorrheic screeds by stating the obvious? 

Okay, fine.

In the interest of full disclosure:  I’m not a traffic engineer.

I don’t know squat about transportation planning, roadway design, “lane flow equations” or the geometry of intersection mapping.

Hell, I’m lucky if I put my shoes on the right foot four out of five days each week. . .

I’m just an over-sauced asshole with a chip on his shoulder and an opinion about everything – a dull oaf who graduated Magna Cum Laude from the School of Hard Knocks. . .

But, like many of you, I have a finely honed Sixth Sense, a preternatural sagacity, carefully cultivated by years of experiential learning and sharpened by repeat victimization that permits me to see and avoid bullshit from a mile away.

That said – in my professional opinion – putting a “roundabout” at the intersection of East ISB and A-1-A is a catastrophically bad idea.

It just doesn’t work there.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not one of the many who seem to have a pathological hatred of all roundabouts – in fact, I know of several places where traffic circles work well.

I was recently in my birthplace of Kingsport, Tennessee, a progressive community that is transforming itself from a down-at-the-heels industrial town into a very livable place with a plethora of amenities, quaint pocket parks and revitalized neighborhoods where 1930’s mill worker houses are being transformed into very desirable real estate.

The city is unique in the fact it was one of the first in the nation to be designed by a city planner and landscape architect.

Nicknamed “The Model City,” the community was organized into distinctly separate areas for centralized shopping, worship, commercial space and tiered neighborhoods escalating from starter homes at the foot of the hill, then rising in a weird, almost caste-like system by income to estate properties at the crest.

These early planners incorporated some of the first roundabouts in the United States into the city’s transportation infrastructure – and in that suburban setting – they work well, calming traffic and moving people from point A to B with an efficiency that signalized intersections simply cannot match.

In fact, studies by the Federal Highway Administration show that traffic circles can increase capacity by 30 to 50 percent compared to traditional intersections.

The fact that many of the traffic calming circles in Kingsport have been beautifully landscaped and adorned with modern sculpture simply adds to the charm of traversing the community.

In my uneducated view, the key factors for the successful implementation of circular intersections are location and application – considerations that simply don’t “work” at a major intersection which hosts the busiest beach approach in Volusia County.

Being the narcissist that I am – it confounds me when ostensibly smart people can’t immediately recognize the same potential problems that I do – like the fact putting a roundabout at East ISB and A-1-A simply isn’t a “good fit” – then wasting weeks, months and years debating the issue, ad nauseum, at interminable public meetings, “visioning” sessions and perpetual presentations before spending millions in public funds on consultants and the preliminary design of things that may never happen.

I suppose it represents the life cycle of a tax dollar once it’s taken into the gaping maw of the Florida Department of Transportation – but the “process” (if that’s what you call it) still baffles me.

At a recent public meeting on the issue, many residents rightfully and adamantly opposed the roundabout, citing a variety of legitimate issues from special events to beach access and the radical impact the required widening of East ISB will have on long-established local businesses.

During that meeting, a consulting engineer, whose firm is being paid handsomely to assist in the planning and design phase, did his level-best to assure the assembled long-suffering residents of the Halifax area that, “We’re here to listen. We want to provide a design that fits your needs. At this point we’re an open book.”

 That’s when my highly-developed bullshit detector I was telling you about kicked in. . .

Whenever someone paid with public funds to provide political insulation to bureaucrats uses the words “we’re here to listen,” “fits your needs” and “we’re an open book” in the same sentence, it evokes an immediate pilomotor reflex that causes every fine hair on my body to stand erect like porcupine quills.

That’s when I know to gird my loins.

When I was in the military, we used the acronym BOHICA – Bend Over, Here It Comes Again – now, I just refer to it as Volusia County government in action. . .

Trust me – with the roundabout plan supported by the Daytona Beach City Commission, something called the “International Speedway Boulevard Coalition” and the illustrious River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization (a group which, I assume, is at least partially responsible for approving massive residential and commercial developments on LPGA Boulevard just west of the patently obvious pinch point at a two-lane bridge over the Tomoka River, among other massive infrastructure deficiencies) – and some $5 million in public funds already spent to purchase property on East ISB and another $750,000 allocated for project design – you can bet your bippy we’re getting a traffic circle whether we like it or not. . .

I happen to agree with a recent editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:  Everyone agrees we need to “do something” with that horror show on East ISB – our “historic and symbolic” gateway which looks more like an avenida in some third-world shithole than a seaside tourist destination.

(Don’t take my word for it – take the family for a drive on East ISB – or have a gander at the intersection of Main Street and A-1-A – the epicenter of our core tourist area – a place that has left more than one family in tears, regretting their annual vacation selection, as they ask for directions to anywhere but here. . .)

But the nightmare conditions in our core tourist area aren’t limited to one stretch of roadway – and all the $24+ million roundabouts in the world won’t repair the fundamental social, economic and civic issues that have been allowed to fester for years.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be putting the cart before the horse here?

With an estimated $120 million “spent” on panacea projects and bonds (or directed to all the right hip pockets) in the Main Street Redevelopment Area over the past 35-years – with nothing to show for it but crippling stagnation, blight and dilapidation – we find ourselves in a true conundrum that will require a level of strategic vision and strong leadership that I fear we simply don’t have here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

I hope you won’t lose sight of that fact as our ‘powers that be’ keep us distracted  with cheap talk about fancy roundabouts and far-off traffic improvement projects on our beleaguered beachside.

Because that is exactly what they are doing.

And with our “civic award season” just around the corner – don’t be surprised when a bunch of preening assholes with all the right last names keep taking personal credit for a project that, even under perfect circumstances, won’t turn dirt before 2023. . .

We’ve heard it all before.

Good luck and God bless.  We’re going to need it.

 

 

 

 

Angels and Assholes for January 4, 2019

Hi, 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 week that was:

Angel:              Lowell & Nancy Lohman

It is my sincere pleasure to bestow the very first “Angel” status of 2019 on Nancy and Lowell Lohman for their incredibly generous donation to the Jerry Doliner Food Bank – a much-needed infusion that made the Holidays a little brighter for those less fortunate.

Recently, the Lohman’s presented Marvin Miller and Gloria Max of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties with a $10,000 check to help meet the needs of disadvantaged families in the region.

Thanks to the Lohman’s kindness, the food bank was able to provide dinners and groceries to the poor on December 21, 22 and 23, along with bags of toys, gift cards and other presents for children and families in need.

Last year, the Lohman family followed the lead of local philanthropist (and all-around good guy) L. Gale Lemerand, and donated some $12,000 to the food bank to provide nourishment for impoverished families in our community.

Mr. and Mrs. Lohman – thank you for your incredible generosity – and for reminding us all of the true reason for the season.

Asshole:          Florida Department of Health

As we enter 2019, the State of Florida continues its desperate fight to crush the will of more than 71% of voters who approved a 2016 constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

Last week, attorneys for the Florida Department of Health filed a brief with an appeals court challenging the ruling of Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who found a 2017 law regulating the state’s medical marijuana industry (which was passed by the legislature in special session) unconstitutional and counter to the will of the majority of Florida residents.

Judge Dodson issued a temporary injunction requiring the Florida Department of Health to begin registering medical marijuana firms to do business in the state.

In the meantime, Florida residents suffering from cancer, ALS and other life-altering diseases are being denied access to medical marijuana as the state continues its draconian efforts to limit treatment center licenses.

Earlier this week, Governor-elect Ron DeSantis indicated in a filing with a state appeals court that the Florida House may not contest an earlier rejection of a ban on patients smoking medical marijuana.   In June, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers ruled that the provision banning smokable marijuana violated the state Constitution.

According to Arek Sarkissian writing in Politico, “If the House document is correct about the governor-elect’s intentions, it would be DeSantis’ first significant move on marijuana policy, using the most high-profile courtroom challenge of the policy, which has been paralyzed by lawsuits since it was approved by the Legislature more than a year ago.”

Regardless, why are Florida lawmaker’s intent on denying thousands of eligible patient’s compassionate care by continuing to defend a law they must know is both unconstitutional – and contrary to the will of the voters?

Angel:             Jantzen Bathing Beauty

Last April, Barker’s View lamented the fact that The World’s Most Famous Beach had lost yet another cultural icon when the 20-foot fiberglass diving girl, with her red swimsuit and Mona Lisa smile, that graced the front of Stamie’s Swimwear Shop on Ocean Avenue for over 50-years was unceremoniously removed from her perch and hauled away.

This week, she made her triumphant return to Daytona Beach – now soaring over the breezeway at the One Daytona “synergistic” shopping and entertainment complex – continuing her long career as a marketing draw for retailers selling overpriced  tchotchkes to tourists. . .

Seriously – I’m glad she’s back.

According to those in the know, the glamorous girl who became as much a part of the Daytona Beach Boardwalk as that tireless saltwater taffy machine in the front window of Zeno’s Sweet Shop, was one of only six of the timeless advertising symbols ever made.

In fact, she was so unique that Roadside America – a website that catalogs oddball tourist attractions – listed our bathing beauty as a must-see when visiting the Halifax area.

In my view, we owe Daytona Beach News-Journal editorialist, Krys Fluker, a huge debt of gratitude for her efforts to stir public support for the Jantzen girl’s return.  She worked hard encouraging letters to the editor and creating a buzz on social media to bring our girl back to the beach.

(Perhaps more impressive, Krys somehow got Old Ed Kelley and a few of our “community leaders” to momentarily act like they give a tinkers damn about our local history – that’s not easy to do.)

Welcome home, old friend.

Angel:             City of Fort Walton Beach

It’s true.  Once developers and their hired shills on the dais of power in communities large and small set their sights on what passes for “progress” in the Sunshine State – you can bet your bippy “progress” is going to come, hard and fast, whether you like it or not.

However, just sometimes, elected officials have the courage and forethought to save our historic places before the wrecking ball forever alters the landscape.

When a Louisiana company planned to develop a 100-room Residence Inn by Marriott on a parcel of land where the historic Gulfview hotel stood – the City of Ft. Walton Beach made the smart choice by physically moving and repurposing the 107-year old structure.

In April, the structure was moved by barge to its new home in the community’s historic district.

Once renovations are complete in February, the former hotel will serve as a welcome center, operated by the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department.

According to a report by Gatehouse Florida, “The building also will house a retail shop operated by the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, space for the William Augustus Bowles (Billy Bowlegs) Museum and leased office and meeting space.”

 With historic Daytona Beach homes currently facing obliteration to make way for the Brown & Brown headquarters building in downtown – including unique coquina architecture and other structures of historical significance – and the fate of the Josie Rogers House still very much in limbo as city leaders decide how to best serve the needs of J. Hyatt Brown – perhaps the City of Daytona Beach could take a second look at how other Florida communities are finding innovative ways to repurpose our states historic places?

Like our environmentally sensitive areas that are currently under assault by speculative developers from Farmton to the Flagler County line – once these beautiful reminders of our past are gone – they are gone forever.

Asshole:          Edgewater City Councilwoman Amy Vogt

I have a problem when politicians stand for elective office on a promise of bettering their community, representing their constituents with honor and integrity and bringing stability to local government – then act like a bull in a china shop before jumping ship mid-term.

And it appears that is exactly what Edgewater City Councilwoman Amy Vogt has done.

After joining with two other council members to fire former City Manager Tracey Barlow in an off-agenda ambush – a move that resulted in a political shit storm which later saw Police Chief David Arcieri unceremoniously railroaded out of office – and drew public outcry over perceived Sunshine Law violations, now Councilwoman Vogt gave residents one-day notice that she is resigning her office effective today.

After allowing rumors to swirl for a month – on Sunday Vogt posted on social media that she would be moving to Kentucky.

How’s that for constituent communications during a crisis?

Maybe she has a valid reason for fleeing Florida, but those who put their trust in her will never know, and the special election to replace her is estimated to cost the good citizens of Edgewater some $30,000.

If there is an upside to this travesty, it is that this irresponsible dullard is no longer making decisions that affect the lives and livelihoods of Edgewater residents.  Now, maybe this troubled community can get on with the business of healing. . .

Good riddance.

Quote of the Week:

“The court is concerned the Constitution is being treated as just a recommendation.  It cannot be. The Constitution is the law of the land — the supreme law of our government, which we must all live by. The medical marijuana amendment of the Constitution is specific. Much of that specificity is being ignored.

 — Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson found the 2017 law regulating and licensing medical marijuana firms unconstitutional, and issued a temporary injunction requiring state health officials to begin registering medical marijuana firms to do business

Unfortunately, this is what happens when lawmakers decide they know better than those who elected them to high office.

In addition to doing everything legally possible to paralyze the implementation of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment – now, we’re seeing similar shenanigans beginning to play out with Amendment 4 – which allows people convicted of certain felony crimes the right to vote.

The measure was approved by 65% of the voting public during our last election – but early moves show it may face similar legal challenges.

Look, I don’t necessarily agree with the automatic restoration of voting rights for criminals convicted of serious crimes – I happen to believe we need a fair and clearly defined path for the restoration of a felon’s civil rights – but my opinion, nor those of obstinate Florida lawmakers, does not matter now.

We, The People have spoken – our democratic process worked.

Judge Dodson is right, our constitution is not a mere suggestion, it is the supreme law of the land and governs us all equally – including misguided and power-mad legislators seeking to subvert the will of the Florida electorate once again.

And Another Thing!

Way back in 2014, the Volusia County Council entered into a performance and access agreement with Russian developer Protogroup to ensure the public’s right to enter our beach after the Oakridge Boulevard ramp was closed to facilitate construction of the massive convention center and hotel.

For weeks, the developer has been in violation of that apparently toothless agreement – finally coming up with a goofy idea to ferry beachgoers across the construction site in a golf cart. . .

Last week, this was the scene at Oakridge Boulevard and A-1-A as residents and astonished visitors attempted to navigate the scene of a trailer being unloaded using a boom crane in danger-close proximity to motorists and pedestrians.

protogroup trailer 1

protogroup trailer 3

The result was gridlocked traffic which stretched south beyond Main Street.

Isn’t this the very reason Volusia County agreed to give up public access to the Oakridge approach? 

Jesus.

When do our ‘powers that be’ begin looking out for us – the long-suffering residents (and the visitors we spend handily to attract) instead of compromising our safety and access to our most precious natural amenity to accommodate construction of yet another hideous high-rise?

That’s all for me – have a great weekend, y’all!

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year from Barker’s View!

New Year, New Me?  Hardly. . .

No, I’m still the same cantankerous asshole that I was last week.

A little older.

A little wiser, perhaps.

New beginnings are a good time for reflection and introspection.  So, this week I took some time out to take stock of what’s left of my mind and the vessel that contains it.

The results of this solipsistic navel-gazing weren’t pretty. . .

At this age and stage, I find that “personal growth” comes hard, if at all, and those acerbic personal traits and bad habits that have taken years to carefully cultivate have become an important part of what it means to be “me,” now worn like a warm robe of familiar comfort – an impenetrable bark that protects me from the slings and arrows of modern life.

I drink too much whiskey and howl at the moon, smoke Marlboros like a chimney and can consume my body weight in greasy fast food.  As a result, I’m almost certain that my long-suffering heart and liver are the size, shape and consistency of a Honey Baked Ham (something I could confirm if I ever bothered to go see my equally long-suffering doctor. . .)

When it comes to any semblance of “work,” I procrastinate to the point of crippling dysfunction – a byproduct of my inherent laziness and Walter Mitty-like daydreaming – and my weird personality quirks, raging social anxiety and continuing struggle with OCD are legendary.

However, I still have some very old-fashioned notions of what it means to conduct oneself as a gentleman – and I represent the ultimate hypocrite: An unrepentant sinner with a strong moral compass.

Most people instinctively dislike me – and I get that – because I hate me too.

I like dogs more than most people – and when it comes to holding a grudge – I never forget or forgive a perceived slight.  As most know, I would rather argue than eat – and always see the worst in others and situations (and I’m usually right, not that I would admit it if I were wrong).

I may not know the difference between Empirical Realism and Ontological Realism – and at 58 years old, I still haven’t mastered basic multiplication – but I can smell bullshit from a mile away.

The older I get, I have little patience and don’t suffer fools like I used to – and I have developed a molecular disdain for assholes who hold positions of power, charged with upholding the public’s trust in our governmental institutions, yet find a way to line their pockets – or serve the profit motives of their friends and political benefactors – and, in doing so, shit on everything We, The People hold dear.

Sadly, for good or for ill, I have no burning desire to change.

Worse yet, I take a perverse ego-driven pride in it all.

Screw it.  In the words of the immortal Popeye the Sailor, “I yam, what I yam. . .” 

Given the grim results of my recent self-examination – don’t be too hard on yourself if you are over 40 and find that those changes you promised to make in early January become less important, or fall by the wayside altogether, come mid-February.

However, there are a few pragmatic civic resolutions that I plan to keep this year – personal pledges that I hope all of you will decide to adopt as well:

In 2019, I refuse to accept the sleight-of-hand that is increasingly drawing attention away from the challenges of Mid-Town, our languishing beachside and Downtrodden Downtown – in favor of focusing exclusively on the promise of “New Daytona” currently under construction in the pine scrub off LPGA Boulevard.

How does the dilapidation that has become the pockmarked face of our core tourist area comport with Minto’s purpose-built, artificial paradise Latitude Margaritaville with its catchy marketing schtick “Palm trees swaying to an ocean breeze” and “Everyday feels like an escape”?

How does the threadbare Volusia Mall, or nearly deserted Volusia Square, compete with fashionably new, publicly-underwritten, “synergistic” shopping and entertainment venues like One Daytona or Tanger Outlets with their built-in “enhanced amenity fees” to cover overhead and reduce risk?

They don’t.  They can’t.

Trust me, the people who stand to profit most wish that people like me would stop making the obvious comparison in public.

As I’ve written before, blemishes are meant to be covered – not openly discussed – especially when they transmogrify into gruesome tumors.

As the big money moves west, so does the focus and attention of our ‘movers-and-shakers’ – you know, the Chamber of Commerce set, our goofy elected officials and their friends in high places, like the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, etc.

Like victims of a contagious pandemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, our elected and appointed officials – and those who make their living grubbing from government coffers – will conveniently forget the fetid mess on what remains of the beachside and much of the mainland as developers continue churning ecologically sensitive land west of the Interstate into the “Next big thing.

I also resolve to hold accountable those who stood for public office on the promise of representing our highest and best interests in the halls of power throughout Volusia County – then proved themselves to be little more than the dull tools of their uber-wealthy political benefactors.

I will no longer accept the blathering of incompetent shitheels like our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, when he tries to convince us that Volusia County government is as transparent, open, honest and fiscally efficient it can possibly be (even as the next ugly scandal or shameful revelation surfaces like a festering boil) or yammers incoherently that sea level rise is a sham perpetuated by those who oppose his “friends” in the pro-growth community.

I will no longer accept the “Us vs. Them” mentality in places like the Ormond Beach City Commission Chambers or the haunted halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building, where speculative developers and the sutlers who subsist off the crumbs of unchecked growth, have hijacked government of the people, by the people and for the people, and replaced it with an oligarchical system which places profit motive over quality of life.

I will no longer equate the size of a person’s bank account – or the motivations of corporate poohbahs and university “trustees” who spend millions of other people’s money erecting phallic monuments to their own self-importance – with their inherent intelligence or strategic vision.

I will no longer stand silent while Volusia County Schools – a public taxing authority with a duty to educate our precious children and the largest budget of any government entity in Volusia County – remains mired in a pernicious cycle of mediocrity, seemingly incapable of reversing its perennial legacy of underachievement and shoddy organizational standards that have become ingrained in Superintendent Tom Russell’s administration.

I vow to honor the service and sacrifice of the brave men and women who police and protect our streets, fight fires, provide emergency medical services, manage and mitigate disasters, protect our environment and wildlife, treat and distribute safe potable water, strive to promote ethical economic development and tourism, provide essential services and work hard to humbly and professionally serve the true needs of their constituents in elected and appointed positions throughout Volusia County.

And I will never forget that those we have elected work for us – not the other way around – and continue to demand an end to the wholesale giveaway of our beach – Volusia County’s most important natural amenity and economic engine – and ensure the continuation of our century-old tradition of beach driving and access for all residents and visitors.

I still believe these things are important.  I hope you do to.

Happy New Year, everyone.