Angels and Assholes for January 4, 2019

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel:              Lowell & Nancy Lohman

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

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

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

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

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

Asshole:          Florida Department of Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Angel:             Jantzen Bathing Beauty

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

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

Seriously – I’m glad she’s back.

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

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

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

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

Welcome home, old friend.

Angel:             City of Fort Walton Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asshole:          Edgewater City Councilwoman Amy Vogt

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

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

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

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

How’s that for constituent communications during a crisis?

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

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

Good riddance.

Quote of the Week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Another Thing!

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

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

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

protogroup trailer 1

protogroup trailer 3

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

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

Jesus.

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

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

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year from Barker’s View!

New Year, New Me?  Hardly. . .

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

A little older.

A little wiser, perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They don’t.  They can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year, everyone.