On Volusia: How long can we afford Ed Kelley?

I normally save ditties like this for Friday and a little compilation I like to call “Angels & Assholes” – but sometimes I just can’t wait. . .

Like many of you, I’ve been routinely gobsmacked by the buffoonery of our Volusia County Council – but I really hoped-against-hope that the “new” iteration seated last month would bring a modicum of stability and decency to the dais of power.

Yeah.  Right.

With time and experience, I have come to the unfortunate opinion that our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, is suffering from some strange political delirium – a disorder that manifests as a rambling schizophasia of incoherent babbling on important issues – leaving his long-suffering constituents horribly confused as to his point and purpose.

During a recent Volusia County Council meeting, Old Ed suffered “one of his spells” when our elected officials were asked to approve a personal injury settlement with Michael Wade, who, in December 2015, was literally hit by a Votran bus, suffered apparent injuries requiring surgery, then filed suit against the county to recoup the $130,000 in medical bills he incurred.

In perhaps the first maneuver of its kind here on the Fun Coast (at least in my foggy memory) our weaponized County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert wielded an obscure law that allows a government body to countersue and collect reimbursement from plaintiffs who prevail in lawsuits that have previously been incarcerated in the jurisdiction.

Apparently, way back in 2012, Mr. Wade was held in the Volusia County Jail for 366 days following a marijuana conviction.

Look, I have no problem with the practice – so long as the law is employed in a uniform, timely and consistent way – and not used as a cudgel at the whim of the County Attorney – a concern shared by District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post.

According to Ms. Post, “If county legal is interested in filing claims for reimbursement against every inmate that’s released from incarceration then that’s wonderful, and I would absolutely be open to discussing that in a future council meeting.”

I agree.

What I found most shocking was the fact that, after The Daytona Beach News-Journal obtained a copy of the in-vehicle video footage which clearly shows Wade being struck by the bus, even though he had the right-of-way, Old Ed transformed from policymaker into a demented judge, jury and executioner – belittling Mr. Wade’s injuries and calling his claims “bogus.”

According to the News-Journal, Kelley yammered, “He’s perfectly OK,” upon viewing the video for the first time Friday. “I think the claim is bogus.”

“At some point, we are going to have (to) pay a quarter of a million dollars to defeat these” types of lawsuits, he said, wondering if this type of payout will have other consequences. “What’s going to stop more people from jumping in front of the bus?”

Jesus.  I didn’t realize that throwing oneself under a moving transit bus was epidemic?

(Although, if we continue down the same uneven economic path we’ve been on for a decade – I can see the practice catching on. . .)

Look, Despite Ed’s twisted logic, this wasn’t some ‘sue and settle’ sham – even Votran determined that the accident was preventable – and Councilwoman Deb Denys and freshman member Ben Johnson had the good sense to stay in their lane.

In my view, Old Ed’s bizarre outburst was more about countering the very real concerns expressed by Councilwoman Post (because that’s just what her “colleagues” do whenever she tries to make a valid point) and less to do with his faux concern over saving taxpayer dollars. . .

So, gird your loins fellow Volusians – if this doddering dipshit has his way, we’ll be throwing astronomical amounts of our hard-earned tax dollars at “Cujo” Eckert and his team of firebreathers to challenge personal injury lawsuits regardless of merit – even when the county is demonstrably negligent – rather than ethically negotiate settlements for a fraction of the cost to defend.

Why?  Because that’s how public policy is decided in this otherworldly environment where the County Chair no longer even pretends to recognize his fiduciary responsibility for the people’s assets.

But, in my view, it was his take on Councilwoman Heather Post’s recent attempt to defend herself against the Volusia County governments seemingly concerted effort to besmirch her professional reputation and sully her work history with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office that really shows what a meanspirited wank Ed truly is.

In a letter to county officials, Post’s attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, indicated that Volusia failed to live up to the terms of a separation agreement by not correcting employment records – coupled with a near-constant attack on Post by senior administrators and elected officials – who have treated her like a cheap piñata since she took office.

According to Ms. Post, “If the County acts in such a manner ‘because they can get away with it’ and they will do this to one of seven highest government officials in the County, then how many other settlement agreements are they not abiding by and in fact blatantly disregarding?”

Specifically, Post and her attorney cited an insubordinate swipe by former County Manager Jim Dinneen who said during an open public meeting, “I think you all forget her circumstances of why she does not work here anymore.”

But rather than fire him on the spot for his insolent outburst – our elected officials simply rallied behind Dinneen – further shunning and isolating Ms. Post.

In response to Councilwoman Post’s very valid concerns of systematic workplace retaliation – our County Chair issued the type of cogent and well-thought response we’ve come to know and love:

According to the Ormond Beach Observer, “County Council Chair Ed Kelley attributed Post saying she’s “standing up for everyone that has no voice” as “total political rhetoric.” She’s setting the stage for her next run for office, he said.”

“Everyone has a voice,” Kelley said. “Anyone that is in a situation like this has a voice.” 

(Yes, he Really said that. . .)

My God.  I guess the game isn’t so fun when the piñata hits back?

Then, in his typical nonsensical word salad, Old Ed added:

“Kelley also said he was disappointed with Post calling herself “one of seven highest government officials in the County.” He said she is making herself out to be important.”

“I don’t consider what I am as important,” Kelley said. “I consider what I am is a public servant doing what I was elected to do, and not that it’s important.”

Say what?

No, really, what the hell is he trying to say, eh?

If stewarding a &700+ million-dollar budget and setting public policy for a population of nearly 540,000 souls who depend upon our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County to set a strategic vision for our very future – and providing essential services we need to ensure civilization on this patch of overstuffed pine scrub – isn’t “important” what is?

In my view, it is high time for this addled asshole to issue a simple apology (if he’s capable) to both Ms. Post and his flummoxed constituents – then resign to the ash heap of political history where these cartoon characters go when they have exposed the depth of their incompetence – and cruelty.


On Volusia: “It’s a Major Award!”

Wow!  Who knew?

Less than one year ago, we were squabbling over the deplorable conditions at the still very much under construction Hard Rock Daytona – a “theme” hotel built upon the skeleton of the haunted Desert Inn, once known as the “Dirtiest Hotel in America” – a project that took a circuitous route to becoming a reality and ultimately cost the personal and professional reputations of several high profile elected and appointed officials in the eyes of their flummoxed constituents.

In 2015, the Volusia County Council dutifully did the bidding of their puppeteers and passed ordinances setting specific performance guarantees in exchange for granting the developer 410 linear feet of traffic-free beach behind the hotel.

Then, construction languished – at times it was like the project was being completed by two guys working weekends.

During a fateful County Council meeting in April 2017, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and former County Manager Jim Dinneen, confederated with developer Abbas Abdulhussein to bring an off-the-agenda ambush which ultimately changed the flag from a Westin luxury property to a Hard Rock International affiliation – along with a request for various concessions and time extensions.

We, The People watched in horror as those blowholes we elected to represent our collective interests immediately succumbed to excited incontinence – erupting in mock surprise and jubilation – hooting and jabbering their complete support for the developer’s every request without hearing the first shred of testimony, analyzing a statement of need or even receiving a basic explanation for the extension request.

Just like that, the fix was in.

As the date certain for the performance and completion standards set by ordinance grew near, concerned citizens began taking photographs depicting structural integrity concerns in a subterranean parking garage, ugly concrete spalling on the external seawall and the then clearly unfinished pool deck.

There were angry allegations and counter-allegations in the newspaper.

Area residents worked hard to convince ourselves that no corporation with standing in the hospitality industry would dare risk their hard-earned reputation by certifying an incomplete renovation as meeting the exacting standards of an International brand.

Yet, in February 2018, that’s exactly what Hard Rock International did.

Kind of.

Hard Rock corporate shrewdly issued a note to Little Jimmy Dinneen quibbling that the “luxury design” of the hotel – and “upon opening” the operation of the hotel “will” – meet brand standards and service requirements.

Based upon this “kinda/sorta” premature certification from Hard Rock International – Dinneen, by Royal decree, unilaterally decided it was enough to permanently remove our century old heritage of beach driving from the strand behind the hotel.

I won’t get into the slapstick comedy that resulted when county officials subsequently drove a phalanx of poisonous wooden poles into the sand in the pre-dawn darkness. . .

So, imagine our collective surprise earlier this week when The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that our very own Hard Rock Daytona was named Best Hotel in North America (sorry, I just shot coffee through my nose, here, let me clean that up) by a travel industry website called travelplus.com.

Yep!  Our very own Hard Rock is the 2019 Travvy Award Winner for Best Family Hotel/Resort in the United States and Canada!

The Ritz-Carlton New York?  No.

The Montage Beverly Hills?  No.

The Willard Washington, D.C.?  No.

The Rosewood Vancouver?  No.

The Gold Standard sits at 918 North Atlantic Avenue – just down the street from the moldering remains of the Americano Beach Resort (another world class venue by current standards) and a stones-throw from the enchanted, Disney-like atmosphere of the Daytona Beach Boardwalk, where vacationing children can meet and greet the whimsical characters who roam the area creating a magical memory for the whole family!

What’s a “Travvy Award” you ask?

Well, depending upon which industry expert the News-Journal spoke with, it’s either a “very prestigious award” or a “Huh?  Not familiar with it. . .” PR ploy.

According to Michael Terry, an associate instructor at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, “It’s not a big award right now, but they are working to make it that way.”


Given the wide disparity in expert opinions on Hard Rock’s “Major Award” – I conducted a cursory inquiry and found that, apparently, any eligible industry supplier may submit their name for consideration to the publisher – pay an “entry fee” – which “ensures that the entry will be considered for recognition” – then the “entrants” are voted on by participating travel agents through the Travelplus website.

And that, gentle readers, is how Hard Rock Daytona became the crème de la crème of family resort hotels in North America. . .

Yeah.  Wow.

Look, I don’t give a damn if corporations want to feather their own nest with dubious accolades – after all, shameless self-promotion is the way of the world in 2019, and any company worth its salt hires professional flacks to do just that.

God knows my own ego, hypocrisy and petty pretense knows no bounds. . .

But when many locals read The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s coverage of this prize – and the fawning horseshit of our local tourism “experts” who seized this sliver of good news with the tenacity of a drowning victim – it shocked our calloused sense of reality.

Earlier today, I took a drive down to the Hard Rock – parked in the county-owned public parking lot that taxpayers are now relegated to – and braved 30-mph winds and driving rain (never say I don’t marginally sacrifice my personal comfort to bring you what passes for my goofy opinion of the news and newsmakers on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast) to take some photographs of the very visible beachfront face of the premiere family resort in all of the United States and Canada.

After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

hard rock award 1

hard rock award 2

You be the judge.

Angels & Assholes for January 25, 2019

Hi, kids!

We live in weird times.

Heaven knows that long-suffering Volusia County residents have seen our share of governmental dysfunction, divisiveness and good old-fashioned quid pro quo corruption – an orchestrated ruse where the use of public funds to underwrite the private, for-profit motives of political insiders has become accepted public policy.

No matter what, the “system” always finds a way to feed itself.

If we define democracy as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through representation determined by free elections, then how do we explain this sinister scenario that is currently playing out in county and municipal governments throughout Volusia County where we are literally being driven like poleaxed sheep into a scheme that shackles every man, woman and child to a sales tax increase in an economy where many can barely afford to feed and house themselves?

Our demonstrably compromised ‘powers that be’ tell us that We, The People will be given the benefit of a vote – with the terms, means and statistical probabilities of the election analyzed and choreographed with secret surveys and  backroom discussions by private interests who stand to benefit from the infusion of an estimated $45-million in annual revenues to local governments, ostensibly to fund transportation infrastructure, water utilities and, apparently, flood control measures.

In other words, under the current ploy – any project with a dubious nexus to a public street or roadway will be open game.

Don’t worry, we’re being told by those in the know (our Fun Coast Illuminati who seem to know everything except how to revitalize a region in distress) that a list of “critical infrastructure needs” will be cobbled together some time before the astronomically expensive mail-in election (?) this spring.

Do you remember the last time Volusia County held a special election by mail?

For anything? 

I don’t.  But we’re getting one – because that’s what the smart boys say will give this shameless money grab the best chance of passage.

In other news, earlier this week, we learned that the beloved George Recktenwald will be anointed our “new” County Manager.

The formal Beatification and Celebration of Adoration is set to occur right after Mr. Recktenwald’s incredibly lucrative employment contract is hand-knitted by his friends and subordinates in the County Attorney’s office.


Perhaps I’ve been too tough on ol’ George – after all, I’ve never met anyone who said a bad word about him – and by all accounts he’s an experienced hand who is extremely well-liked by his subordinates, our illustrious elected officials and their bosses over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance.

That’s all that really matters, right?


Besides, a civically engaged friend of mine recently surmised that unless we all support George’s appointment – God knows what kind of underhanded shitheel our “Rich & Powerful” overseers might select for us.

You know, the “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” school of talent acquisition.

Now that the deal is done – who am I to be the lone naysayer?

So, I’m officially climbing aboard the “Georgie Go-Round” like the hapless rube I am!

Weeeeeee!  Round-and-round-and-round we go! 

All Hail King George!

Come on everybody, join in!  “For he’s a jolly good fell. . .”

Screw it.

Just don’t expect anything in Volusia County government to fundamentally change – and to hell with affixing accountability for the sins of the past.

No time for that now.

In policing, we had a time-honored tradition prior to a change of command when a full audit was conducted of all sensitive operational areas of the department – to include a complete inventory of the evidence and property function.

That way, the incoming chief could assume the massive responsibility that comes with overseeing the operations and administration of a law enforcement agency, confident that all areas of concern had been examined and any issues addressed in a transparent way.

It gave a clear demarcation between what came before – and what comes next.

Most important, the process assured the incoming boss that he was assuming command of a tight ship – and the outgoing chief enjoyed peace-of-mind knowing he wouldn’t be held responsible for things that occurred after his watch ended.

It is a classic means of assigning accountability, assuring continuity and protecting the public trust.

To hell with all that “accountability/responsibility” dribble, Barker.  We’ve got a really nice guy who everyone likes now. . .so, sit down, shut up, and enjoy the ride.

Weird times, indeed.

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:          Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington

I published a version of this earlier in the week, but it bears repeating in this forum.

Last weekend I 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 – something 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.”


Come on, Mr. Mayor – you might be able to convince a few apple-cheeked seven-year-olds 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 the 2018 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.

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?

Maybe Mayor Partington and his fellow rubber stamps should curl up under the shade of a mighty oak and read that part of the community’s future land use goals that requires, “The density and intensity of future land uses and any proposed development activity shall be coordinated with the natural conditions of the area, including topography, drainage, and soil conditions in order to maintain and protect vital natural functions and environmentally sensitive areas.”

To their credit, the majority of the Planning Board members rejected Holub’s requests 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. . .?

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.

Asshole:          Deltona City Commission

In addition to my annoyingly redundant verbosity, I have a bad habit of belaboring the obvious.

But the City of Deltona is in trouble.

Every level of government – from our federal quagmire in Washington to Tiny Towns everywhere – experience periodic crises, or suffer the deleterious effects of poor leadership and ethical dilemmas, but Deltona takes dysfunction to a new depth – and I fear if something doesn’t change, and soon, it may take decades and millions of the people’s money to recover.

Suffice it to say that, like most long-term problems, there are various reasons how and why a community comes to these dark places – but, in my view, most evident is the fact Volusia County’s second largest city has been a rudderless ship for a longtime, drifting from one ugly mess to another, doing the same thing over-and-over while expecting a different result.

Clearly, the trials and tribulations of besieged City Manager Jane Shang have played a very big role in creating the divisive atmosphere that pits citizens against their civil servants and elected officials – an Us vs. Them mentality that Ms. Shang seems to embrace as public policy.

And it seems to be working for her. . .

Don’t take my word for it – attend any meeting of the Deltona City Commission.

Study the way elected officials interact with their constituents, listen to the calliope music, smell the fresh popcorn and peanuts, the musty odor of hay and earthy scent of elephant dung, listen to the flapping of the Big Top’s canvass then you tell me if this bears any resemblance to a functioning municipal government. . .

While the names and faces may be different, in my view, one common thread between Deltona’s troubles and many other similarly dysfunctional governments is the near-constant erosion of the public’s trust by elected officials with horribly misplaced loyalties to bureaucrats and the apparatus – rather than the citizens they serve.

Even the limited anecdotal evidence released by The Daytona Beach News-Journal tends to indicate that Shameless Shang violated state elections law when she listed the address of Deltona City Hall on voter registration forms – then voted outside her residential district.

If proven true, that’s a serious crime.

In my view, there is even greater evidence that Ms. Shang has been an incredibly distracting and divisive figure in the life of this beleaguered community, and I suspect her longevity in the most powerful role in municipal government has more to do with the strength of her employment contract – and less to do with the strength of her character.

When it came down to it Tuesday evening, once again, the majority of the Deltona City Commission inexplicably put the personal interests of Jane Shang ahead of their constituents in an embarrassing 5-2 vote to retain her as ringmaster of this Circus Diabolique.

In my view, it is time for Jane Shang to go – and for Deltona’s elected officials to do the job they were elected for – then begin the important process of returning stability and confidence to the people’s government.

Angel:             Governor Ron DeSantis

Kudos to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on his courageous attempt to remove Rick Scott’s rubbish from the South Florida Water Management District’s governing board and make way for public servants that actually give two-shits about preserving our states imperiled water supply and natural places.

In November, just two days after the hotly contested gubernatorial election, Scott appointees on the SFWMD board stunned anyone with a working conscience when they voted to approve a last-minute agreement which allows Big Sugar to continue leasing land set for an Everglades restoration reservoir – a back-handed scheme that stunned environmentalist and rightfully pissed-off Ron DeSantis.

According to reports, “The decision came after the lease was added to the board agenda about 9 p.m. Nov. 7, 12 hours before the meeting began at 9:30 a.m. the next day.”

Sound familiar?

Did I mention that the board took this pernicious action even after being asked by the governor’s plenipotentiary – U.S. Representative Brian Mast – to postpone the vote?

Because they did. . .

Then – to show just how much the SFWMD board members appreciate public input in water quality and public health issues – after the vote, the district (a state regulatory agency) intentionally blocked incoming emails from constituents and organizations working to restore and preserve the Everglades.

In my view, these tactics are eerily similar to what we have experienced with Rick Scott’s patented Fox in the Hen House strategy of allowing industry insiders to tailor environmental regulations to meet the needs of developers in our own St. John’s River Water Management District.

Earlier this month, on just his third day on the job, Governor DeSantis rightfully sent letters to all SFWMD board members demanding their immediate resignation.

In a statement subsequent to the governor’s call, Congressman Mast said, “For far too long the South Florida Water Management District has been more accountable to special interests than to the people of Florida.  That changes today, and I look forward to continuing to work with Gov. DeSantis to find replacements who make our waterways and environment the number one priority.”

Since taking office, Governor DeSantis has pulled back the appointments of some 84 cronies, insiders and hangers-on that Slick Rick Scott rammed through literally in his waning hours in office – which, in my view, represents Scott’s last ‘fuck you’ to the citizens of Florida – and a disrespectful slap in the face to our new governor.

Trust me.  Senator Rick Scott will make the perfect addition to that festering slit trench in Washington. . .

In my view, Governor DeSantis’ bold move to preserve our sensitive environment and reinstate the concept of service in the public interest – not just populating boards and advisory committees with political pals and big money donors – represents the kind of substantive change that is long overdue.

I don’t know about you, but I call that strong, ethical leadership – something this godforsaken state has needed for a decade.

Well done, Governor DeSantis.

Angel:             Dr. Rebecca Walker Steele

Barker’s View is sad to learn of the passing of Bethune-Cookman University icon Dr. Rebecca Walker Steele, who’s service to the university, and the performing arts community, is legendary.

Dr. Steele came to B-CU in 1976 after a 29-year career at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University – serving as professor, academic dean, and, most famously, as director of the incomparable Concert Chorale.

“Bethune-Cookman University’s reputation was enhanced by the presence and work of Dr. Rebecca Walker Steele,” said, Hubert L. Grimes, Interim President. “Countless young adults are making meaningful contributions to their communities all across the nation and the world because of the sacrifices she made to help them earn degrees from our university.”

In addition, Dr. Steele will be remembered for raising millions of dollars to fund scholarships for deserving students who performed in her choirs.

Barker’s View joins in mourning her passing at ninety-three.

In a fitting remembrance of her incalculable contributions to the life of the university, most appropriately, Dr. Steele’s funeral service was held in the beautiful Mary McLeod Bethune Performing Arts Center on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University last Saturday.

May she rest in everlasting peace.

Quote of the Week:

“When asked if 24 vacancies in Volusia Schools seemed low, teacher’s union President Elizabeth Albert replied “absolutely.” At a meeting of union members from just six schools, she said, they could think of 17 teacher vacancies between them. In an informal check by the teacher’s union, teachers from 17 schools replied to Albert via email to count a combined 42 vacancies.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal Reporter Cassidy Alexander writing in “Volusia School District unclear on scope of teacher shortage, but feels effects,” January 20, 2019

Look, I hate to be a hypercritical shit (that’s a lie – I live for it) but, in my view, Ms. Cassidy’s excellent reporting should be a wake-up call to everyone who throws their hard-earned tax dollars into the gaping maw of the Volusia County School District.

In addition to the frequent gaffs, missteps, howlers and gross mismanagement that has left Volusia County school children victims of a malignant mediocrity they cannot escape – now we learn that administrators can’t even tell us the current number of instructional vacancies – even as the district hemorrhaged some 719 teachers in the 2017-18 school year alone.

I get it.  Superintendent Tom Russell isn’t going anywhere.

Like most appointed executives in government offices, once you claw your way to the top of the heap and hang on with your bloody fingernails – it takes an act of God to get rid of you – even if you come off in the newspaper like an out-of-touch simp with the situational awareness of a cave olm  (I know, I did it for years. . .)

But, just maybe, our “new” school board might take a break from limiting public input at public meetings and in some pique of feigned interest ask Dr. Russell for a closer analysis of the root cause of this revolving door?

Especially in an era when attracting and retaining qualified teachers is increasingly difficult, more so for struggling districts like ours with a shit reputation for teacher pay, benefits, leadership – and respect.

And Another Thing!

During the non-debate that was the super-slick process used by our elected officials on the dais of power in DeLand to ramrod our next County Manager through without even considering outside talent – the lone voice of honest concern came from freshman Councilwoman Barbara Girtman.

I was impressed by that.

During the typical “shoot it through the grease” wham-bam that was clearly orchestrated by our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, Ms. Girtman thoughtfully stated that she saw value in looking at our county government “through a fresh set of eyes and new opportunities.”

Perhaps more important, Ms. Girtman seemed genuinely concerned about the prospect of hiring veteran county employee George Recktenwald without any means of properly evaluating the new manager’s performance – or even holding him accountable for council goals, strategies and objectives.

(Oh, sorry, they don’t have any – so I guess it doesn’t matter much anyway. . .)   

Even District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post, who was initially an advocate for a national search, ultimately voted in lockstep to approve Mr. Recktenwald without even a passing glance at other candidates, simply because he speaks to her.

Which, given the political Kasepekang Ms. Post has been subjected to since taking office, a simple acknowledgement of her physical existence by the interim chief executive must have been exhilarating for the first-term Councilwoman.

(Well played, sir. . .)

Regardless, I thought Councilwoman Girtman showed true leadership in at least considering a fresh course for her long-suffering constituents – and for our beleaguered county government –that has suffered mightily under the abject arrogance of what has passed for political “leadership” for years – and the greed of political insiders who have clearly worked overtime to protect the status quo.

Good luck, Mr. Recktenwald.  For the sake of our future, I sincerely hope you prove me wrong.

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






On Volusia: Taking back our community

It’s become a rite of passage.

Can you really call yourself a “local” unless you’ve been accosted by a grubby bindlestiff with a cardboard sign announcing, “Why lie, I need a beer,” shouting incoherently while walking past a line of stopped traffic at literally any intersection from Ormond Beach to Edgewater?

You know the drill.

On approach to any major intersection, you shift uncomfortably in your seat, instinctively push the door lock and issue your best Clark Criswold-like “Roll ‘em up!” as you stare straight ahead in an effort to avoid the aggressive mendicants working every quadrant.

And don’t get me started on a trip to the beach – or, God forbid – a day at the crumbling remains of Daytona’s Boardwalk.

Our once heralded fun spot has dissolved into a dystopian wasteland inhabited by every stripe of human carnage – vagabonds, layabouts, ambulatory drunks, opioid zombies, tramps, hobos, the chronic homeless, the mentally ill, organized beggars and criminal miscreants – all of which have descended on our hometown, en masse, impacting our quality of life, ruining our economic viability and rapidly destroying “The Brand.”

Look, all caring human beings have a compassionate spot in their heart for other human beings in need – it’s called having empathy for your fellow man – and it is an admirable quality that compels us to take care of the lesser of us whenever possible.

After all, caring for the oppressed and downtrodden is a basic precept of most religious teaching – “I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

But this is something different.  Something ugly and corrosive.

Last evening, the Daytona Beach City Commission took initial steps to approve an ordinance that will ban most panhandling in the city by allowing police to issue citations and arrest repeat offenders.

According to Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri, his officers will use the first few weeks as an educational period – issuing verbal warnings to violators and only arresting those who refuse to cease and desist.

In my view, Chief Capri has developed a refreshing reputation for policing with fairness and firmness – and I am incredibly pleased to see the City Commission give his officers a new arrow in their quiver to deal with one of the most intractable problems of our time.

“The goal is compliance. We’ve got to take back the streets and make it safe.”  Amen.

According to an excellent article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The panhandling ban would extend within 20 feet, in any direction, of an entrance or exit of commercially zoned property; a bus stop or public transportation facility; an automated teller machine; parking lots, parking garages; parking meters; parking pay stations and any public restroom owned and operated by a governmental agency.”

Other provisions of the ordinance prohibit panhandling on the Boardwalk, within 150 feet of any signalized intersection and within 100 feet in any direction of any daycare center or school including prekindergarten through grade 12 – along with specific prohibitions on aggressive behavior.

Kudos to the City of Daytona Beach for this innovative tool – and for acknowledging what many of us have known for years:  The pervasiveness of hoards of roving beggars and belligerent scroungers has ruined the aesthetics of large swaths of our community, seriously impacted small businesses and threatens tourism as visitors tire of being physically accosted by these assholes, smelling the ever-present odor of urine and realizing that their precious leisure time and dollars spend anywhere.

Why didn’t the Volusia County Council have the strategic vision to take up this issue?

(That’s a rhetorical question. . .)

This malignant curse isn’t limited to just one community – and those dullards we have elected to represent our collective interest in DeLand should know that.

In my experience, this problem is mercurial – and as the City of Daytona Beach cracks down in their community – the practitioners of this lucrative trade will simply move to surrounding cities and set up shop at any intersection that provides ready access to potential victims – and beer.

Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission and Chief Capri for their diligence and foresight.

Well done.








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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.