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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.