It’s been a hell of week and I’m in a dark mood today.
Perhaps it’s the throbbing pain in my knee – or the strange appearance of the ‘Super Snow Moon’ a few days ago?
According to astronomers, “The Snow Moon is the first full moon in February, named after the snow on the ground. Some North American tribes named it the Hunger Moon due to scarce food sources and hard hunting conditions,” others believe these celestial occurrences are a personal sign from the gods and portend impending doom.
Perhaps they’re right. . .
Earlier this week, after thoroughly enjoying several rye whiskeys, helped down with several high ABV craft milk stouts, I took a header – ass-over-teakettle, baby – while walking home from the bar (which, according to the other drunks who witnessed it, would have placed me in medal contention for artistry, technique and execution had it been in International competition).
The concrete nosedive left me with a suppurating gash on my left patella – and a discernable limp to my gait – something I now blame on the pull of this eerie full moon’s powerful gravity field. . .
(Am I the only one who still treats wounds from an old brown glass bottle of Tincture of Merthiolate from Rexall Drugs circa 1963? A little goes a long way, and you get that nice orange stain that lets you know it’s working. . .)
My inebriated gymnastics aside – some intergalactic spookiness is clearly afoot – and it has not been a good week for us seaside denizens of Florida’s Fun Coast.
For instance, my alma mater, Daytona Beach’s Seabreeze High School, has dissolved into a bizarre scene from Children of the Corn – with frightening videos of violent brawls between student factions now regularly spilling onto social media – a deteriorating situation that apparently went unanswered by our “security experts” at Volusia County Schools for weeks – necessitating law enforcement intervention to secure the peace.
In Ormond Beach this week, the real estate development community received their first substantive return on investment when their hired hands on the dais of power voted in the majority to approve an automated car wash – literally in the backyards of Woodgrove and Tomoka Avenue residents – ignoring the recommendations of their own advisory board, planning staff and the heartfelt pleas of their bewildered citizens.
Then, on Tuesday, those dullards on the Volusia County Council announced plans to launch a ham-handed public re-education campaign designed to ‘get our minds right’ and convince an already overtaxed constituency why it’s a good idea to transfer even more money from their own pockets into government coffers controlled by the very same politicians who got us into this mess in the first place.
In my view, this whole political indoctrination scheme to inculcate the idea that higher sales taxes are somehow a “good thing” for our collective future seems overly forced – with hastily contrived narratives, colorful maps and storyboards, each with a whiff of propagandized flim-flam to them (as evidenced by the word “DRAFT” prominently displayed on their face – allowing, I assume, plausible deniability when project’s and priorities mysteriously “change” after the referendum passes. . .)
In fact, rather than wait until the Knights of the Round Table can huddle next week to finalize a formal marketing strategy, earlier this week, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Old Ed Kelley, lit out on his own with a presentation before the Republican Club of Daytona Beach – who, by all accounts, embraced him – and his goofy tax-and-spend message – like dear old friends.
I found that interesting.
There was a time, back when I was a registered republican, that if a half-wit politician showed up asking a group of fiscal conservatives for more of their hard-earned tax dollars, he would have been sent packing with his PowerPoint presentation lodged where the sun don’t shine.
My, how things change. . .
Sadly, on Sunday, we received word that Dr. Oswald Bronson, the esteemed 4th President of Bethune-Cookman University, passed away at his Port Orange home. He was 91.
During his impressive 29-year tenure, Dr. Bronson proved, by word and deed, to be a true leader – both on campus and in our community – and his personal dedication to the highest principles of honor and excellence in higher education, and in life, served as a shining example to thousands of successful B-CU alumni.
Under Dr. Bronson’s thoughtful stewardship, the university increased its budget from $6.2 million annually in 1975 to $51.4 million in 2003 – and B-CU’s endowment grew from $1.2 million to $26.5 million in the same period.
His passing only worsens the unfathomable tragedy that now threatens the very survival of this once proud institution.
Where are men and women of Dr. Bronson’s inner-strength, personal character and moral conviction when we need them most?
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 City Commission
On Tuesday, we learned why elections matter.
We also learned – in clear and convincing terms – just how horrifically compromised the bought-and-paid-for chattel on the Ormond Beach City Commission have become.
In a majority vote, these dull tools ignored the recommendation of their own advisory board and planning staff – then circumvented the will of the people – when they voted to approve a zoning change which will bring a car wash to Granada Pointe.
Because real estate developer and political benefactor, Paul Holub, wanted it, that’s why.
In my view, the appointed members of the Ormond Beach Planning Board, the planning director and his staff should resign, en masse, before their good names and professional reputations are further sullied by this ill-disguised charade.
Last year, the community was galvanized by the horror of an environmental slaughterhouse at the Granada Pointe site when men on heavy equipment methodically churned 2,061 old-growth hardwoods and specimen oaks into muddy splinters – destroyed suburban wildlife habitat – and eradicated the only natural barrier between the bustle of Granada Boulevard and long-established neighborhoods to the south.
This latest cowardly concession by Mr. Holub’s minions on the dais means that, in addition to the amplified speakers, delivery trucks and near-constant clamor of a busy WaWa and adjacent grocery store – area residents will now be bombarded with the scream of jet dryers and the mechanized roar of pressurized water and scrubbers emanating from a car wash.
Look, I know that Sparkle-n-Shine is just a few blocks away. I also know that there is an automated car wash on the corner of Ridgewood Avenue and Granada Boulevard – and another self-serve wash several hundred yards south of that. But none of that matters.
In Ormond Beach, real estate developers get what they want – when they want it.
Don’t like it? Then out bid them at the next election.
Now, money rules the day, and our quality of life and sacred right to self-determination through the representative process, are victims of a mercenary system that solidifies power in the hands of perennial politicians who haven’t had an original thought since they accepted their first campaign contribution.
Is there another explanation?
I’m asking, because in most civilized places, spineless shitheels like Mayor Bill Partington and Commissioner Troy Kent couldn’t get elected dog catcher. But in Ormond Beach – with the right application of campaign financing – anything appears possible.
In coming weeks, the Ormond Beach City Commission will begin advocating for longer terms in office – with staggered elections to ensure political insiders maintain a viable majority – and demanding other concessions designed to consolidate power and protect their hard-fought position at the apex of municipal power.
In my view, smart voters should look to the events of Tuesday evening for all the reasons why that insidious power grab should be rejected.
Asshole Volusia County School District
In the latest disturbing twist in the dissolving shit show that has become Volusia County public schools, earlier this week a headline in The Daytona Beach News-Journal blared, “700 students stay home from Daytona’s Seabreeze High amid threat to bring gun to school.”
According to reports, nearly half of the student body was absent on Tuesday following a “series” of brawls that the News-Journal described as “possibly motivated by race” between students at locations near the campus.
Within hours, multiple cell phone videos captured by bystanders (which are now obligatory during any public donnybrook) began to appear on social media showing violent melees involving multiple students – many wildly running about, while exchanging verbal and physical swipes.
The newspaper report said, “According to police, the students reported that the fighting has been going on for about a month between black and white students. Some of the fights were captured on video.”
“The students also reported that they saw a video and text messages that an unidentified student was going to bring a gun to the high school Tuesday, and that would “be the end,” police said.”
Then, according to a report by the Ormond Beach Observer, “DBPD arrested one student for bringing a knife to Seabreeze. According to the report, there had been a major altercation off campus during lunch on Friday, February 15 and a video that surfaced showed a 15-year-old student pulling out a knife.”
Almost inconceivably, on Thursday observant staff members discovered that an 18-year old man wearing a Volusia County School’s Campus Advisor identification jacket had penetrated the campus before being spotted and reported to a Daytona Beach Police School Resource Officer.
The creepy impostor was later found standing outside the north gates to the campus and placed under arrest.
(Oddly, we didn’t learn about this major breech until it was reported in today’s News-Journal – page C-3. . .)
According to reports, “The male seen on campus Thursday was the same person who had been seen on campus in September 2018 posing as a student, even though he had never attended a class there. He was ordered then to stay away from the school.”
Ordered to stay away from the school?
A Volusia County Campus Advisor jacket?
Unbelievably – despite escalating violence – school officials admitted on Tuesday that parents were not notified of the fracas on Thursday. Apparently, district officials wanted to handle the matter “in-house” and waited until Monday – the President’s Day holiday – to send an automated message to parents notifying them of the threat.
On Wednesday, another skirmish occurred between students and a group of construction workers near the school.
To their credit, the Daytona Beach Police Department immediately intervened, made at least one arrest, and initiated an investigation into the mounting hostilities that have been simmering for weeks.
Earlier this week, Chief Craig Capri assuaged the fears of nervous parents with an enhanced police presence on the Seabreeze campus and a promise to meet with student factions and bring an end to the conflict.
Clearly, upon being made aware of the deteriorating situation, Chief Capri and his officers acted quickly and decisively to ensure school safety – then worked to calm the fears of the community with straight talk.
Apparently, besieged Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell and his clearly indifferent “cabinet” were taking more of a “wait-and-see” strategy. . .
Last September, local attorney Jason Harr boldly filed suit against the Volusia County School Board citing a December 2017 beating at Seabreeze High School wherein a young man was allegedly pummeled and verbally humiliated because of his Jewish faith.
At that time, the victim’s mother reported that when she notified school authorities of the attack, administrators responded, “You’re getting all worked up over nothing. . .”
I guess “see something, say something” only applies to at-risk students and vulnerable staff members – not apathetic Volusia County administrators.
Look, this isn’t a “police problem” – in my view, it’s an acute symptom of the crippling lack of effective leadership at the Volusia County School District.
In my view, district officials have an ethical obligation to engage law enforcement and community resources – or at the very least notify families of potential threats – such as raging off-campus free-for-alls – without hesitation before tragedy strikes.
Unfortunately, I’m not surprised.
I’ve written about this before – but under these deteriorating circumstances – it bears repeating, both for the uninitiated, and anyone with a child under the care, custody and control of Volusia County Schools:
Last summer, in the aftermath of the atrocity at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and the lead-up to Florida’s School Guardian program, I made a formal public records request for information regarding the administration and oversight of district security protocols and personnel assigned to protect our precious children from harm.
In response to my credible concerns, I received the following uber-arrogant response from Greg Aiken, the district’s Chief Operating Officer, which read, in part:
“I have 22.5 years of military experience and 15 years in the School District where 14 of those years has been building and managing the safety and security program for the district. I am a certified FEMA and TEEX Adjunct Instructor for the past 10 years teaching all facets of emergency management all over the US.
I am right now working with the current classes of school guardians to bring that program up and running by August 13th. Mr. Craig Pender was appointed by the board to take over the day-to-day responsibilities of the Safety and Security program and comes to the department with school-based emergency management experience. That position is a level 9. Ms. Rosalyn Velasquez-Morales, has FBI experience and has been working the safety and security program for over a year now. She is a level 6.
We have identified three (3) employees that will have the duties as the School Safety Specialist to ensure we have back-ups when the others are on vacation or out sick. Mr. Pender is the primary with Rosalyn and myself as the back-ups.”
When I finally received Aiken’s sketchy claims – being the suspicious asshole that I am – I did a little checking around. . .
I discovered that Mr. Pender – our “school safety and security expert” – began his career in 1994 as a Band Director at Southwestern Middle School – and most recently served as an ESE supervisor and Assistant Principal at University High School in Orange City.
However, he does have one very important credential – at the time of his promotion, Mr. Pender was married to the School Districts Chief Human Resources Officer. . .
As I’ve previously written, that’s an impressive career track for an academic middle-manager – but, in my view, it doesn’t qualify Mr. Pender to assume the massive, almost unprecedented, responsibility for physically securing and providing close personal protection for 63,000 children and an untold number of teachers, staff and visitors.
Oh, remember Ms. Rosalyn Velasquez-Morales? The one with the highly-touted “FBI experience”?
Well, much to my dismay, she served as an “administrative secretary” in the FBI’s New York Field Office. . .
Again, Ms. Velasquez-Morales has an impressive career trajectory, I’m just not sure her secretarial duties at the FBI equate to the terribly important job she is being paid to perform.
Now, I don’t know shit about playing the clarinet in a marching band – and I know even less about collating and filing 302 forms – but I know a little about the investigation and intervention of on-campus violence and techniques for deescalating incendiary situations that threaten the safety and security of children, teachers and staff.
I wonder if at anytime during Mr. Aiken’s impressive “14 years building and managing the safety and security program for the district,” he ever once considered the disastrous ramifications of failing to immediately engage law enforcement and community resources at the first sign of trouble, sealing the porosity of school campuses, or promptly notifying parents of a clear and present threat to their children from seething tensions that have been allowed to fester – for weeks – to the point some 731 students avoided school as a means of self-protection?
Good question, eh?
Just don’t expect the right people to ask it – that’s not the way it works in the bureaucratic maze of the Volusia County School District – where the idea of accountability commensurate with great responsibility is anathema – and protecting the status quo is the operative ethic.
I’m sorry. In my view, this transcends “business as usual.”
What’s at stake here is far too important.
In my jaded opinion, it’s time these lethargic buffoons in high district office suites are exposed for what they are – and what they are not – before organizational incompetence results in catastrophe.
Asshole Volusia County Council
Councilwoman Deb Denys crowed at Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting, “I have never been more encouraged, especially when I saw the water quality projects,” as she and her “colleagues” voted to accept a laundry list of “potential” infrastructure improvement projects as our elected officials begin trotting out all the wonderful things we can have if we just agree to saddle ourselves, our aging parents and the next generation of Volusia County residents with a sales tax increase in a few short weeks.
I found this tone-deaf statement by the always arrogant Ms. Denys interesting – because my neighbors and I over here in the Real World have never been more dejected, disappointed or dissatisfied by this sorry state of affairs that has led us to a self-inflicted tax increase as the only viable alternative to utter traffic gridlock and the specter of ‘toilet-to-tap.’
In fact, in most enlightened societies, those responsible for creating an infrastructure and utilities emergency – then foisting a shameless money grab on their already overtaxed constituents to pay for it – would have the common human decency to confess their sins and resign to the ash heap where political hacks go when finally exposed for who, and what, they truly are.
Now, our quasi-new County Manager, George Recktenwald – and those salivating municipal officials who are all squirming in an onanistic delirium over the very thought of feeding off the crumbs from this windfall thrown to them by the incestuous Monarchy in DeLand – are having a confab next week (fittingly, over a lunch you and I will pay for) to discuss how best to “educate” us bumpkins on the benefits of increasing taxes on all goods and services sold in Volusia County.
After all – there ain’t no “Plan B” (of course there isn’t, because strategic repair and replacement planning and best management practices for public utilities are foreign concepts to these inept twits) – only the prospect of a continued death spiral of doom and degradation should We, The People decide to keep more of our hard-earned money in our own pocket – rather than willingly hand it off to the same elected officials who created this godforsaken mess.
Trust me, boys and girls – that’s going to be difficult to sell when these money-sucking, out-of-touch politicos get bad-breath-to-bad-breath with their long-suffering constituents. . .
In coming weeks, we can expect a series of dog-and-pony shows covering all quadrants of Volusia County, presented by men and women with pencil-necks and expensive suits, who will attempt to “govsplain” the dire importance of this tax hike to our very survival here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.
If the utter clusterfuck that has marred this Theater of the Absurd since its inception is any indication of what’s to come during the “official” roll-out – I can’t wait to get a big ol’ tub of buttered popcorn and watch this slapstick farce unfold from the cheap seats.
It’s bound to be entertaining. . .
Just don’t expect any of them to start their cheap marketing presentation by saying, “I’m sorry for getting us into the mess. . .”
But they damn well should.
Word to the wise, Mr. Recktenwald: If I were you, I’d keep that chattering victim of Political Sundowners Syndrome, Ed Kelley, in his cage as you and the smart boys over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance try to get the ball across the goal line.
Otherwise, that walking example of the Dunning-Kruger effect run amok, will continue his disjointed soliloquies and nonsensical lectures on important issues that are clearly outside his feeble cognition as you watch your gravy train continue to circle the bowl.
By any measure, this entire convoluted process is becoming a personal and professional embarrassment to anyone in public office who still possesses the capacity for that emotion – and what happens over the next few weeks will make, or break, the political and professional careers of many.
Stay tuned, kids – things are about to get interesting. . .
Quote of the Week
“I realize it’s an expensive venture and we don’t take it lightly, it could be the center point of downtown for the next several generations. I don’t know how we could afford to not do it. There’s no opportunity like this we’ll ever have again. We could never do this as a city without this type of benefactor.”
–Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, speaking at a workshop to discuss obligating residents to an estimated $40-$50 million over time to maintain a single riverfront park in downtown, following a “request” by J. Hyatt and CiCi Brown on Wednesday, February 20, 2019
In my view, the restoration of Riverfront Park in Downtrodden Downtown Daytona is key to the social, civic and economic renaissance we all want. Unfortunately, our ‘powers that be’ are approaching this special opportunity like everything else – with total irresponsibility and a horribly mixed message.
On one hand, county and municipal “leaders” are busy painting a terrifying picture of what our lives will look like if We, The People fail to saddle ourselves with a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for utilities and transportation infrastructure improvements, due in no small part, to the unchecked growth now occurring in “New Daytona” off LPGA Boulevard.
If approved, Daytona Beach’s slice of the estimated $42 million annual pie will be around $3.7 million – cash, we are told, that is the only thing standing between us and drinking our own recycled urine.
So why are Daytona Beach City Commissioner’s so willing to shackle a community facing these desperate and unprecedented threats to a 50-year commitment of between $800,000 and $1-million annually to maintain a single semi-public park?
Is John and Jane Q. Public so detached from current events they fail to see that their elected officials are simultaneously giving massive amounts of their hard-earned tax dollars to improve the aesthetics (and eradicating vagrants) near the already publicly underwritten, and soon to be built, Brown & Brown headquarters campus – all while demanding more from them under the guise of an infrastructure emergency?
Look, I think everyone appreciates what Mr. and Mrs. Brown are proposing – and their generous (if not slightly self-serving) financial assistance and willingness to start a nonprofit foundation to oversee maintenance and operations.
But I question the sensibility of spending $1-million a year in public funds on a “Triple A” luxury park at a time when we’re being told our very quality of life is at stake?
But now the die is cast.
Without taking a final vote, Commissioners have clearly telegraphed their intentions.
When J. Hyatt Brown speaks, politicians listen.
And Another Thing!
On Saturday evening, those wonderful souls at Sophie’s Circle Dog Rescue will host the fifth-annual Rainbow Bridge Walk to honor the cherished memory of furry family members we have lost beginning at 6:00pm in beautiful Fortunato Park in Ormond Beach.
The walk will depart the park shortly afterward and proceed across the Granada Bridge.
Participants are encouraged to bring pictures of beloved pets who have passed on to place on a memorial, and all walkers will receive a light-up necklace, a bottle of water and a “goodie bag.”
Food, vendors, commemorative shirts and other mementos of this very special occasion will be available for purchase – and the group will have adoptable pets on site for you to meet.
As always, your pets are welcome to join in the fun!
Walkers are asked to make a $10 donation to further the important mission of Sophie’s Circle to help homeless and abused dogs find a loving forever home.
That’s it for me.
As always, thanks so much for reading – and have a wonderful weekend.