On Volusia: A Flair for the Dramatic

Many people in government (who still have the chutzpah to speak with me) describe District 4 Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post in glowing terms – bright, informed, an active listener, focused on the issues – someone who works tirelessly to learn all she can about the civic, social and economic concerns of her constituents.

By all accounts, she emerged from relative obscurity during a highly contentious – and incredibly expensive – 2016 run for public office to become one of the most important voices in Volusia County politics.

Yet, in many ways, Ms. Post remains terribly ineffectual – and a lightening rod for conflict.

In my view, one unfortunate flaw in Ms. Post’s professional and political development has been her seemingly pathological need for self-inflicted controversies.

Clearly, Heather Post’s tenure on the dais has been a classic example of the Square Peg syndrome – best described as an individualist who refuses to conform to the lock-step conformity of an established system.

All elected officials go through an assimilation period.

The natural process of learning what the policymaker’s role is – and isn’t – and dialing back the natural urge to become involved in the day-to-day operations of government.  It’s experiential learning, akin to touching a hot stove, and the neophyte politician tends to learn quickly how they can be most effective within the confines of the rules, regulations and information black hole inherent to most bureaucracies.

Add to that the politician’s instinctual compulsion for shameless self-promotion and the new commissioner or council member’s rookie year can be a painfully embarrassing experience (for those who still possess the common human emotion of shame after the campaign season. . .)

Unfortunately, from the outset, Ms. Post’s experience was something different – something darker –  a near constant, mean-spirited effort by her haughty “colleagues” on the dais of power and former County Manager Jim Dinneen to blunt her curiosity and suppress any fresh perspective in favor of enforcing a paralytic fealty to the ‘system.’

In fact, regardless of circumstance, Ms. Post was painted as an out-of-control mutineer, an outsider mistakenly allowed access to the inner-sanctum, someone who the ‘powers that be’ needed to marginalize before she exposed Volusia’s ‘shadow government’ – the long-standing process by which public resources are used to underwrite the for-profit projects of uber-wealthy political benefactors.

Of course, Councilwoman Post could also be her own worst enemy.

In spite of her desire to position herself as a maverick, time-and-again Post voted in lock-step with her detractors on controversial issues, then entered a self-imposed media blackout – preferring to communicate with her constituents exclusively through a contrived Facebook page – where she could control all aspects of her oddly crafted message.

Truly cringe-worthy.

But these rookie mistakes pale in comparison to the bitter personal attacks she endured from entrenched insiders – a clearly choreographed effort to discredit Ms. Post and paint her as some vainglorious, ego-maniacal  nut-job – more interested in feathering her own nest and positioning herself for higher office than working collaboratively with her fellow council members.

It has been painful to watch.

To her credit, Ms. Post remained focused on the issues and persistently asked the difficult questions during the contentious periods when the abject ineptitude, cronyism and compromised service delivery inherent to Volusia County government was finally exposed.

As a result of her tenacity, Councilwoman Post was instrumental in driving former County Manager Jim Dinneen from his comfy perch at the apex of power.

Unfortunately – like some mutant flatworm that can regrow its own head from the severed stump of the old one – the ‘system’ found a way to survive the loss of Dinneen – moving forward, business as usual, like nothing ever happened. . .

For her determination in ferreting out answers for her long-suffering constituents, Ms. Post gained the respect of faithful followers who see her as a refreshing change from the status quo and the answer to breaking the cycle of insider control as she works to return a voice to disenfranchised taxpayers.

It seemed Councilwoman Post had finally come into her own.

Then, several weeks ago, the “old” Heather came back for a visit. . .

For reasons known only to her – Ms. Post and her attorney resurrected an ancient manuscript detailing a tumultuous time in her past when she was repeatedly investigated and ultimately terminated from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Through her attorney, in a January letter to county officials, Ms. Post demanded a public apology from Volusia County, along with specific changes to her decade old personnel file to clarify that her separation was a voluntary resignation and threatening a lawsuit to force the issue.

But why?

In a statement, Ms. Post explained, “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?”

So, if I understand this correctly (and I’m not sure I do) Councilwoman Post is championing the rights of the ‘former county employees who entered into separation agreements then were later elected to the County Council’ constituency?

Of course, in taking what amounts to a routine personnel issue public, Ms. Post drew fire from her normal critics – namely those she shares the dais of power with.

For example, in a subsequent statement, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, trotted out his usual anti-Post theme, publicly describing her demands as “. . .total political rhetoric.  She’s setting the stage for her next run for office.”

Then, our weaponized county attorney, Dan “Cujo” Eckert, (naturally) denied any wrongdoing by Volusia County bureaucrats as he prepares to spar with Ms. Post’s attorney over the fine points of employment law – after all, it’s not his money, and ol’ Dan gets paid win or lose. . .

At the very least, Ms. Post has succeeded in getting her face on the front page of the News-Journal – twice this month – but at what cost?

After all, many of her constituents were completely unaware of her unfortunate career trajectory at the Sheriff’s Office – and exhuming a nearly ten-year-old controversy for an apology seems self-absorbed.

In my view, if Ms. Post truly wants to cement her reputation as a defender of the voiceless in some David and Goliath struggle with Volusia County – there are plenty of more productive ways to do that.

With so many serious issues effecting the lives and livelihoods of Volusia County residents, who is ultimately served by this non-issue playing out on the front page of the News-Journal?

As Volusia County continues to navigate one of the most contentious periods in our history, perhaps its time for Ms. Post to return her focus to real issues faced by her long-suffering, overtaxed and increasingly frustrated constituency.

In my view, these goofy diversions that serve a constituency of one only divert attention away from the opaque machinations of county government – and the political insiders who control it – true intrigues that will have long-term impacts on our collective quality of life for years to come.



A Look Back: The Curious Case of Long John Miklos

The news out of Tallahassee yesterday was extraordinary. 

At long last, Governor Ron DeSantis finally put the kibosh on one of the longest running scams in our states history when he unceremoniously retracted the appointment of Long John Miklos, Chairman of the powerful St. John’s River Water Management District and president of Bio-Tech Consulting, an environmental consultancy that advocates for private clients before the very regulatory agency he oversees. . . 

The move comes after the second ethics complaint in three years was filed against Mr. Miklos alleging “a pattern of concealing ‘conflicts’ which appear to have been completed in a deliberate purposeful manner.”

No kidding. . .

This is good news for anyone who values our sensitive ecology, clean water or the ethical, fair and impartial administration of government regulatory agencies.  

As we digest the Governor’s decision, it is also important to recognize the incredible persistence and journalist integrity of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s environmental reporter Dinah Voyles-Pulver – who, in my view, deserves a Pulitzer for her dogged pursuit of the truth in the curious case of Long John Miklos.  

When this alternative opinion blog was in it’s infancy, Mr. Miklos came on the Barker’s View radar in early 2016 with his weird involvement in “The Debacle in DeBary,” a period when city officials hired Mr. Miklos and Bio-Tech to ramrod a highly controversial transportation oriented development on sensitive wetlands known as the Gemini Springs annex. 

It was ugly and dark, but it perfectly exemplified how “things” work here in the Sunshine State – the biggest whorehouse in the world.

May 31, 2016 – “The Debacle in DeBary – The Temptation of John Miklos”  

My wife and I enjoy the company of two wonderful dogs, Diamond and Nola, both of whom are very affectionate and have become the center of our household.  I often remark that we don’t so much keep a home as an elaborate support system for our dogs.

Our youngest, Nola, is just two years old and she can be very precocious.

While well-mannered in most respects, Nola’s one intractable failing is her complete inability to resist the temptation of food.  If Patti or I let our guard down and leave the slightest opening – Nola will seize the moment.

As good natured as Nola is, she simply can’t help herself.

Last Christmas I had just taken a beautiful Honey Baked ham out of the oven and placed it carefully on the counter to rest.  The family was gathered in the other room, all the trimmings were carefully cooked, prepped and baked and that incredible store-bought ham was as shining and resplendent as a $50-dollar piece of processed meat can be.  Just gorgeous.

As I walked into the living room to call the assembled extended family to dinner, I detected a weird shuffling sound behind me.  Imagine if you will my abject horror when I next heard what sounded like an Atomic bomb detonating in the kitchen.

Nothing – and I mean nothing – sounds quite like a ten-pound ham and its Pyrex baking dish smashing onto a tile floor from counter-height.  It’s a shock to the system.  My worst fear was instantly realized with the immediate recognition that Nola had helped herself to the centerpiece of our family’s Holiday dinner.

Now, as I stood there gazing at that wonderful, mahogany-colored, warm dark sugar encrusted beauty laying in a glittering debris field of broken tempered glass I immediately realized – it was not Nola’s fault, it was mine.

I had left the ham too close to the edge knowing full-well that our poor dog is pitifully incapable of any reasonable self-restraint in these matters.  So, we all tried to laugh and even took a picture for posterity.

Then Patti mixed a strong eggnog. . .

Leaving Nola alone in the kitchen and asking her to mind the lunch meat is like asking a big boar raccoon to watch your hen house – after a while, the poor bugger just won’t be able to help himself.

It’s in the genes, and at the end of the day, you know deep down that you have no one to blame but yourself.

Which brings me to the continuing saga of Long John Miklos and the curious case of the “DeBary Land Deal.”

It seems that John has a small environmental consultancy in Orlando, Bio Tech Consultants, Inc., that has had the most incredible run of success in ensuring his clients – generally big time land developers – get what they damn well want from the St. John’s River Water Management District.

I mean, it’s uncanny.

Did I mention that the same John Miklos also happens to be Chairman of the St. John’s River Water Management District’s Governing Board?

Because he is.

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but in most places promoting the interests of personal customers coming before the very same regulatory board that you chair would be considered a colossal conflict of interest – if not a criminal misuse of public office.

In most places, a person that engaged in that level of open thievery would be slapped in irons and publicly humiliated for high crimes against the environment and massive public corruption.

But this is Florida.  The rules are different here.

Since his gubernatorial appointment to the board, Miklos’ environmental record is, well, one for the record books – and an interesting confirmation of the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

In 2012, in order to facilitate a development near Vero Beach, Bio Tech received a permit to remove a tree which contained an osprey’s nest.  Turns out it was a bald eagles nest – but they took the tree down anyway.  In my experience, you mess with a bald eagle – or its nest – and the Federal government will tack what’s left of your hide to a barn door.

Not if your John Miklos.

Apparently, records of an investigation into the incident show that Bio Tech had a financial relationship with the chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – the very agency conducting the investigation.

It seems Miklos and then FWC Chairman Kenneth Wright were business partners in two Florida corporations.  No prosecution was ever brought and Federal authorities gave the whole matter a wide berth.

Naturally, Miklos explained his relationship with Wright away as a mere partnership in a Polk County hunting camp.

He has a convenient answer for everything.

Then, last summer a subcontractor working for Bio Tech destroyed nearly 30 acres of restored conservation land in Osceola County.  Of course, John Miklos had a perfectly logical excuse – it was the tractor operators fault.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the gentleman operating the tractor said he was simply following a map personally given to him by John Miklos.

Again, regulatory officials investigating the incident found no violation.

Miklos also happens to be the longest serving chairman of the SJRWMD Governing Board, having first been appointed by Charlie Crist in 2010, then reappointed by Rick Scott to an additional four-year term in March 2014.  The Governing Board first elected Miklos as Chairman in 2013, and re-elected him in both 2014 and 2015.  His current term runs through November 2016.

Let’s just say Governor Scott must have a lot – and I mean A LOT – of confidence in ol’ John.

I mean, most folks would look at his environmental track record and glaring professional conflict of interest and say, “maybe not the best guy to be regulating our drinking water supply,” but not Rick.  In fact, the Governor cleaned house of any real environmental regulators at SJRWMD and allowed Miklos to essentially cherry pick the new executive director.

And that’s a big deal.

Conveniently, in 2009 the rules were changed so that only the biggest permits are decided by the Governing Board – the rest are administered by the Executive Director.  A good person to have on your side if you are an environmental consultant. . .

The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported that an analysis of records obtained from the St. John’s River Water Management District shows that Miklos’ company has represented clients in permitted activities 117 times since he was appointed to the board in 2010 – and Bio Tech’s permitting activity before the district has more than doubled since he became chairman in 2013.

Life was good at Bio Tech.

Unfortunately, it looks like John Miklos and his co-conspirators at the City of DeBary dropped the ball.  Or, like all habitual criminals, they just got complacent.

The News-Journal’s Dinah Pulver hasn’t just peeled the onion on this slimy land deal in DeBary – she ripped that sucker open like one of those greasy “Bloomin’ Vidalia’s” at a chain steakhouse.

Of course, these cheap bastards have an answer for everything, and they’ve told themselves the same lies so many times that they are actually beginning to believe their own line of bullshit – and that’s the fatal mistake of the professional grifter.

Never fall victim to your own con.  That’s how you end up in a 6’x6’ cell like Bernie Madoff.

Trust me, at the end of the day this debacle will lead all the way to the Governor’s Office.

When asked for comment on the deepening scandal at the St. Johns River Water Management District, Slick Rick repeatedly responds through his media liaison with the same rehearsed yammering about how he expects his appointee’s to conduct themselves in an ethical manner, blah, blah, blah.  But I think some folks are getting nervous in Tallahassee.

Scott knows full well that he put the fox in charge of the hen house and everyone associated with Miklos got rich on the double-dip.  Much like my Nola – John Miklos just couldn’t help himself when tempted.

In my view, Governor Scott either knew or should have known that John Miklos is a congenital liar and a pathological sneak thief with no morals and a personal disdain for transactional ethics.

Hell, he’s been engaged in the basest form of quid pro quo corruption for so long that he actually thinks its normal.

We are the victims of John Miklos’ crimes, and his exploitation of our sensitive conservation areas – the very wild places he was charged with protecting – will have repercussions for our children.

Damn these scum.

Fortunately, it appears the worm is beginning to turn, and thanks to the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the focus is returning to ensuring that those who occupy positions of high power serve the citizens of the State of Florida – and not their own self-interests.   


Angels & Assholes for February 22, 2019

Hi, kids!

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.”

A month?

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.”

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. . .

What gives? 

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?

My God.   

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.















On Volusia: The Cycle Repeats

Any local government who needs a primer on how not to push a sales tax referendum need look no further than Volusia County, Florida.

Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. . .

Born in the greed-crazed minds of area corporate big wigs who developed a two-pronged attack on public coffers by financially supporting candidates for high office who, in turn, approved massive real estate development in the pine scrub west of Daytona Beach, all while keeping transportation infrastructure fees frozen in time – they created a perfect profit machine for the privileged few.

In doing so, they knowingly manufactured an infrastructure emergency when sprawl outpaced the capacity of existing roads, bridges, public utilities – and the ability of current residents to pay for improvements – then developed a plan that requires every man, woman and child in Volusia County to saddle themselves with a half-cent sales tax increase which will generate an estimated $42 million in annual revenue for the same politicians who have already proven they cannot manage public assets under their stewardship.

In classic Fun Coast form, our Camera Stellata over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance recognized the limitations of our Brain Trust on the Volusia County Council and took on most of the heavy lifting themselves.

By using private funds to exempt most of their machinations from the purview of Florida’s public records laws – a sinister “public/private” confederation wholly designed to keep We, The People out of the loop – they met side-by-side with elected officials from the county and municipalities, providing advice and direction, then commissioned dubious “studies” wherein a sampling of a few hundred likely voters spoke for the other 538,292 of us.

Concurrent to the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of the CEO Business Alliance – in perhaps the most dangerous internal scandal in recent memory – career civil servants in Volusia County government were caught red-handed intentionally suppressing a publicly-funded study from citizens and policymakers that clearly recommended immediate massive impact fee increases.

As a result, in 2018, the politically unaccountable fathers of this shameless money grab pulled it from the ballot in the eleventh-hour – strategically retiring from the battlefield until after sympathetic candidates could be returned to office by the usual method.

Trust me.  It’s been a continuing shit show of gaffs, howlers, missteps and mini-moves that has telegraphed the fact our “best and brightest” in government and industry can’t organize a one-car parade.

Scary stuff.

Now, just days after being called out in the newspaper for their lack of a prioritized schedule of identified projects for public review – our ‘powers that be’ have cobbled together another hodge-podge preliminary laundry list of road and utilities projects – a smorgasbord of transportation infrastructure needs that remains painfully short on specifics – such as, “Pave dirt roads at more than 80 sites through the county ($19 million),”  or “Widen sections of Williamson and LPGA boulevards”?

What in the hell does that mean?

Since many smaller municipalities – whose residents are being asked to pay the same sales tax increase as everyone else, but who will see just 2% of the revenue respectively – won’t have the same flow of money as Volusia County (who will receive nearly half of the windfall), when the list was ham-handedly released, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Old Ed Kelley, crowed that county government will partner with the municipalities to assist them with infrastructure repair and improvement.

Right. . .

Because if Volusia County is known for anything – it’s their impressive track record of “working” with the cities in the spirit of cooperation and collegiality. . .

My ass.

Interestingly, on the very same day Volusia County and it’s lock-step marionettes in the 16 municipalities rolled out their project list – which, interestingly, had been pared down from the shocking original estimate of $1.4 billion to the more palatable visual of $762 million – our friends over at the good old boys investment club at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company announced obscure plans to build two panacea projects designed to stimulate Daytona’s downtrodden downtown and blighted beachside.

Don’t get me wrong – we desperately need entrepreneurial investment in both locations – in fact, I am convinced it is the only thing that will have a substantive impact on the death spiral of economic stagnation, blight and dilapidation that threatens the continued viability of the Halifax area.

But this was something different.  Something slick, overly bold, floating in the ether – too far off for specifics.

It had the taint of a classic diversionary tactic about it – tall tales supported by shadowy renderings of high-rise buildings linked to mysterious code names like “Project Delta,” hyped for maximum effect, but (like the infrastructure project list) without any hard specifics.

“Conceptual plans.”

“Potential projects.”

“Can, and most likely, will change depending on many factors.”

“No guarantees either project will be built. . .”

It’s all too clean – too conveniently timed – with ample plausible deniability built in.

A classic Volusia County bait-and-switch in the making.

Then came the kick in the groin local taxpayers knew was coming:

Towards the end of Clayton Park’s article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal announcing Consolidated Tomoka’s red herring, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm was quoted, “Project Delta and the Main Street mixed-use project will require “a partnership” effort of the city, Volusia County and private-sector developers.”

“It only works if we’re all working together,” he told the chamber gathering.”



Even as our ‘powers that be’ are busy trying to sell us on all the reasons why we should tax our own eyeballs out – the pernicious cycle of taxing those who can least afford it then underwriting the private, for-profit projects of billionaires continues unabated.

My God.  Are you as tired of having your intelligence insulted by these dullards as I am?

Ladies and gentlemen – keep your eyes and ears open over the next few weeks.

If you listen carefully, you won’t need nay-saying assholes like me to explain all the reasons why we need to vote “No” on this shameless money grab of a half-cent sales tax –  and break the tax and spend cycle that maintains the patency of the public tit for all the right last names.


Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal








Angels & Assholes for February 15, 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              Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly

I can’t imagine a more difficult, or more important, role in any public protection organization charged with administering and securing a correctional facility than providing quality health care to inmates.

Imagine the immense responsibility of providing essential medical services to incarcerated persons – many with preexisting medical conditions, communicable diseases, addictions, infections, mental and physical infirmities – within the confines and security restrictions of a correctional facility.

But that is the moral imperative that jurisdictions accept when carrying out their societal and public safety mandate to incarcerate, rehabilitate and reintegrate convicted criminal offenders.

After all, when a citizen is legally deprived of their freedom and ability to access medical care, their health and safety become a public responsibility.

Because our tax dollars directly fund the operations of jails and prison facilities, We, The People have a right to expect that inmates will be treated firmly but fairly, and held in a safe and secure environment where their basic needs, and human rights, are respected and protected in the most effective and cost-efficient manner possible.

Last week, Anthony Fennick, a 23-year old inmate of the Flagler County Jail, died under shadowy circumstances from an apparent acute medical condition that many believe may have been the result of negligence on the part of contract medical services provided by Armor Correctional Health Services and county corrections staff.

To his credit, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, whose office has direct responsibility for the jail, responded to the tragedy immediately – contacting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to request an outside criminal investigation of the circumstances surrounding Fennick’s death to supplement his agency’s own internal review.

In my view, Sheriff Staly’s response was ahead of the curve, appropriate and transparent – totally consistent with how a strong, ethical law enforcement executive should react under these difficult circumstances.

So far, FDLE has refused to accept Sheriff Staly’s request, citing the fact that Mr. Fennick’s death occurred at the hospital and not while he was in custody at the Flagler County Jail.

Given that the precipitating events clearly occurred during his incarceration, I find that excuse disingenuous.

No agency has more experience working at the nexus of politics and the law than FDLE, and they have maintained a very high-level of professional integrity by sorting the wheat from the chaff and refusing cases which are clearly political issues requiring a political solution.

This is different.

With the public trust and a grieving family hanging in the balance – the untimely death of a young man remanded by the judicial system to the care, custody and control of Flagler County deserves hard answers.

Unfortunately, Armor Correctional Health Services is already circling the wagons – refusing to place those staff members who provided medical services to Mr. Fennick on administrative leave while the matter is reviewed (unless Flagler County agrees to pay them during the suspension) – then denying wrongdoing before the cause of death has even been established.

According to reports, Armor no longer provides contract services for Volusia County after four wrongful death suits were filed against the Miami-based company alleging medical neglect in that facility.

In my view, that’s a warning sign that deserves state scrutiny.

While I have no doubt that Sheriff Staly’s experienced investigators are capable of conducting a fair and impartial collection of the facts – findings that will ultimately be vetted by the Office of the State Attorney – it is in keeping with accepted best practice to have serious internal issues (especially an in-custody death) impartially and dispassionately investigated by an independent outside authority.

Given Sheriff Staly’s impressive record of complete transparency in the conduct and administration of his office – and his proven respect for the highest standards and traditions of law enforcement – I sincerely hope FDLE will rethink their difficult decision in this matter and provide the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance they so desperately need in this highly sensitive – and incredibly tragic – circumstance.

This evening, Mr. Fennick’s family and friends will gather to memorialize his young life.

Let’s hope the truth doesn’t go to the grave with him.

Asshole           Ormond Beach City Commission

I’m not a “joiner.”  Never have been.

I live by certain rules, and one of those follows the old Groucho Marx adage, ‘I would never join a club that would have me as a member. . .’ 

But it appears at least one social/civic club in Ormond Beach is having a great influence on Mayor Bill Partington – and his long-suffering constituents.

Just when you thought these brazen opportunists couldn’t sink any lower, the power-crazed megalomania running amok on the Ormond Beach City Commission may have finally reached bedrock as officials kick off a shim-sham campaign to increase term lengths and stagger elections.

The reason?  “Stability.”


According to Mayor Partington, his cronies over at the all-male fraternity known as the Ormond Beach Rotary Club, a traditional sausage fest that (mysteriously) rarely accepts new members and refuses to admit women, recently asked Hizzoner how they can best protect the status quo.

I’m sorry, I had a sudden pang of conscience – that’s a lie.

According to published reports, what they actually asked Mr. Partington is why the city risks losing all existing institutional knowledge if the council were to be kicked to the curb, en masse, during a future election.


Oddly, we’re told this faux crisis has brought us so dangerously close to the precipice of total chaos that residents of Ormond Beach are going to be asked to vote on this slickly packaged non-issue in a few short months. . .

To the complete astonishment of everyone paying attention (including, I’m sure, the puppeteers over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance) – our elected chattel in Ormond Beach want to pin this turd to the recently called special election to decide, once and for all, the half-cent sales tax debacle – a mail-in ballot that will cost Volusia County taxpayers nearly a half-million dollars.

Trust me.  The last thing the smart boys over at The Alliance want is their handiwork sullied by five power-hungry stooges in Ormond Beach muddying the waters with a controversial term limit issue on the same ballot containing their hard-fought tax levy.

Let’s call this barefaced power grab what it is.

After fighting a pitched battle in perhaps the most contentious election cycle in memory –  meanspirited and wholly lopsided contests that exposed the depth of special interest control over the municipal government – now, these shameless quacks want to cement their grip on the reins of power and fortify their position with term extensions and staggered elections.

When you add the fact that Ormond Beach is one of just two municipalities that still refuse to require candidates to file qualifying and campaign finance reports electronically – requiring anyone interested in knowing which special interests are bankrolling a particular candidate to jump through hoops for this tell-tale public information – one comes to the inescapable conclusion incumbents and their handlers are working hard to stack the deck.

In my view, Mayor Partington’s explanation for this rushed ballot question is pure horseshit, and as a perennial politician, he should know better.

In many places, things happen in spite of the elected body, not because of them.

In others – like Ormond Beach – the civic process has become so compromised by outside influences (read: massive campaign contributions) that a large segment of the population no longer trusts local government to serve their interests.

Regardless, essential service delivery is provided by career civil servants under a strict system of command and control that is specifically insulated from petty political influence.  The role of our elected officials is to act as policymakers and set a strategic vision for the future, allocate public funds, legislate ordinances and stay the hell out of the way.

I’m almost certain the City of Ormond Beach Charter specifically prohibits elected officials from meddling in the operations of government at all – so where’s the grave threat to continuity should the citizens decide to return honor and sanity to the dais of power?

The fate of Ormond Beach doesn’t hinge on the “institutional knowledge” of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on the City Commission – in fact, many argue that a periodic purge of entrenched politicians to make way for fresh eyes and ideas has the same beneficial effects as a good laxative.

Just vote no.  Twice.

Asshole           Knights of the Round Table

 Earlier this week, the political insulation committee formally known as the “Elected Officials Round Table” – a weird consortium of elected and appointed officials from Volusia County and the municipalities – met to get their stories together on how best to “re-educate” us bumpkins on the importance of increasing the sale tax to pay for their cowardly failure to raise transportation impact fees on their cronies and political benefactors in the real estate development community.

The problem is – this shameless cash grab has a lot of moving parts – and now they’ve painted themselves into a corner by setting a special election just three short months from now.

Tick-tock-tick-tock. . .

As time marches on, it becomes increasingly apparent that the “Knights of the Round Table” couldn’t organize a one-car parade – let alone put together a convincing argument why we should self-inflict a tax increase in one of the already highest taxed counties in the State of Florida.

By any measure, the requisite selling point for the tax hike begins and ends with a prioritized list of transportation and utilities improvement projects to be funded with the estimated $42 million in annual revenue that our elected officials are salivating over.

After all, people have a right to know how their money will be spent, don’t they?

Right. . .

According to our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, he’s perfectly content to rely on a slap-dash compilation of projects that was hurriedly thrown together by the municipalities in the lead-up to last years failed attempt to ram this increase down our throats – a $1.4 billion hodge-podge of pseudo “priorities” that was long on shock value and short on specifics – intended to ensure our lock-step compliance with their greed-crazed plan before we are all drinking our own sewerage and watching our quality of life ebb away while trapped in gridlocked traffic somewhere on West Granada Boulevard. . .

My ass.

Look, I love South Daytona Mayor Bill Hall like a brother.

In fact, he is one of the most honorable men I know as evidenced by his lifetime of extraordinary public service.

We came up together in local law enforcement and I consider Mayor Hall one of my closest confidants and trusted friends – but we are going to have to agree to disagree on his recent characterization of this tax increase.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “In pitching the sales tax, South Daytona Mayor Bill Hall noted that a half-cent increase is equal to paying an extra 25 cents on a $50 tab at Outback Steakhouse.”

 With some 17% of the county’s population living at or below the poverty line – and thousands more struggling mightily just to make ends meet in this artificial, service-based economy – most can’t afford a $50 steak – let alone an across-the-board sales tax increase on goods and services that most legitimate economists will tell you hurts those who can least afford it the most.

I’m sorry, Mayor Hall – but that addled dunce, Ed Kelley, and his goofy handlers are forcing good public servants like you, and others I respect, to put the cart before the horse and commit us to a referendum without so much as a project priority list or a citizen oversight committee identified.

In my view, given the long-term impact of this price increase on families and small businesses in our area – and the horrific transparency and trust issues that continue to afflict Volusia County government – that’s wrong.

Perhaps our ‘powers that be’ and those who stand to benefit most – the behind-the-scenes manipulators over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – should wait until the legally mandated audit of Volusia County’s financial practices is complete, and a comprehensive list of essential projects can be analyzed, agreed upon, and logically presented for public review.

Only then will We, The People have some reasonable idea of actual demand – and how our hard-earned money will ultimately be allocated – before foisting this money-grubbing scam on an already overtaxed constituency.

Quote of the Week

Don’t take my word for it, here’s what the experts are saying about Volusia County’s assbackwards strategy of setting a referendum for the proposed half-cent sales tax grab without a prioritized list of potential projects in place:

 “How is it we are still sitting here in February, and Daytona Beach (the county’s second-largest city) still doesn’t have a priority list?  Every day that passes they are losing the opportunity to influence the outcome of the vote.”

–Mike Scudiero, Ormond Beach political consultant, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia County, cities work to develop projects for sales tax pitch,” February 11, 2019

“They are burning time.  They’ve passed the resolution (to put it on the ballot), but they don’t say what they are going to spend the money on. This has to be very specific.  They have been talking about this for months. … They are not ready to go.”

 –Former Volusia County Councilwoman Pat Northey

I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .

And Another Thing!

Angel – In Memoriam

 Volusia County Republican Party Chairman Tony Ledbetter was a lot of things to a lot of people.

To many, he was a conservative firebrand – an expert strategist and bold patriot – whose intense love of country, extraordinary work ethic and strong leadership literally changed the political landscape of our region.

To others, he was an old school ward-heeler, a controversial provocateur and inflammatory rabble-rouser whose rhetoric was designed to stir the passions of the fringe – a dogmatist who would do anything – in bounds or out – to promote the party cause or win an election.

For instance, former Orange City Mayor and 2016 Volusia County Council candidate Tom Laputka was once quoted as saying, “Some people are born assholes.  There are others who try really hard to be one.  Ledbetter is both.”     

 Regular readers of these screeds know that I rarely agreed with Chairman Ledbetter’s brand of incendiary politics – and he made more than one appearance on the other side of this weekly opinion column for his no-holds-barred tactics in service to his beloved Republican Party.

A badge I’m certain he wore with unabashed pride. . .

I have always considered myself an independent thinker within the confines of my limited intellect.  As such, I abjure partisanship – convinced that neither of the two predominate political parties represent my best interests – as evidenced by the utter gridlock and bitter partisan rivalry that has paralyzed Washington.

In my view, both parties have morphed into little more than warring tribes of self-serving fringe players, whose blind anger and total self-absorption have left them oblivious to the fact that, at the end of the day, both serve the same uber-wealthy masters.

But there is no denying that Mr. Ledbetter was a force of nature – a true believer and a fierce warrior who fought tooth-and-nail to advance the policies of the ultra-conservative wing of his party – and ensure victory at all costs for Republican candidates and causes.

A committed patriot in the classic sense, Mr. Ledbetter dedicated himself in thought, word and deed to promoting the principles and values that he felt exemplified the promise of America and projected our inherent strength and stability to an increasingly hostile world.

I always admired that.

As a matter of personal policy, I tend to hold political zealots of all stripes at arm’s length – regardless of their persuasion – but I never questioned Mr. Ledbetter’s passion or willingness to stand tall in the furnace of modern political contests, courageously advocating for that which he thought right and important to protecting and defending our Constitutional government.

I recognize and revere the warrior spirit when I see it, and Tony Ledbetter was most assuredly a bombastic brawler with the heart of a lion.

With his indomitable will and strength of personality, he almost single-handedly changed the political allegiance in the region and helped make the Florida Republican Party a force to be reckoned with on the national stage.

Volusia Republican Communications Chair Vic Baker, said it best in The Daytona Beach News-Journal this week,  “Tony Ledbetter was a fearless leader.  I will say this: There were people who disagreed with him. There were people who didn’t like him. But there were very few people who didn’t respect Tony.”

I agree with Mr. Baker.  I also happen to agree with Mr. Laputka – but that is the dichotomy of the modern political operative who must be many things to many factions in this winner take all environment.

No one advocated more fervently for the republican virtues he dedicated the bulk of his life to advancing – and his beloved party has lost a valiant and colorful soldier on the bloody battlefield that passes for modern politics in this distressing age.

Clearly, Tony Lebetter was sui generis.

Unfortunately, we will not see his kind on the local scene again.

Chairman Ledbetter reluctantly left the fray this week after a brief battle with cancer.  He was 71.

Barker’s View joins the many in our community, on both sides of the political spectrum, who mourn his passing.

As always, thank you for reading – and have a wonderful weekend.








On Volusia: Defending the Indefensible

The American Civil Liberties Union has weighed in on the City of Daytona Beach’s efforts to rid our besieged intersections and public spaces of aggressive panhandling and return a sense of sanity to our community.

Once again, the organization sides with a proven social corrosive – as detrimental to the health and vitality of communities as any criminal enterprise – under the guise of defending the constitutional rights of the oppressed.

I don’t buy it.  And neither should you.

In Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices column, “Crackdown is overly harsh and probably unconstitutional,” the ACLU’s George Griffin and Cary Ragsdale make the argument that panhandling represents constitutionally protected free speech – akin to Girl Scouts selling cookies in front of a grocery, or neighbors greeting each other on the street – and that those set upon by belligerent beggars also have the right to ignore the solicitation, say “No,” and simply walk away.

Anyone who has ever been verbally and physically accosted by a persistent, wildly intoxicated bindlestiff knows that simply walking away isn’t as easy as Griffin and Ragsdale suggest.

The civil libertarians also took an undeserved swipe at Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri, claiming that he is using the new trespass and panhandling prohibitions to “gleefully arrest and sweep human beings away as if he were cleaning out a rat infestation.”


Look, I respect the tenets of defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States – in fact, I took an oath to do just that when I enlisted in the military and later served over thirty-years in law enforcement.

Unfortunately, over the past 100 years, the ACLU has gone so far into the weeds on issues from the serious to the patently ridiculous that it has lost all credibility in the eyes of most Americans.

Anyone who lives or works in the Halifax area has seen the deleterious effect of hordes of tattered mendicants occupying every quadrant of every major intersection in Daytona Beach.

These weren’t starving indigent’s struggling for their very survival – to the contrary.

Most were ambulatory drunks holding hand-scrawled signs screaming, “Why lie, I need a beer!” making a mockery of those at the nadir of life who must beg to physically survive.

This period of our local history was different.  It was predatory, organized and insidious – their numbers growing weekly like a malignancy – which added to the sense of blight, dilapidation and hopelessness that pervades many areas of our community.

Using sympathy-inducing props, like wheelchairs and the ephemera of the poor, scores of these professional grifters set upon our community and fleeced those whose giving spirit and sensitivity to the human condition refused to let them pass another being ostensibly in need.

When offered work or a hand up, many of these career scroungers scoffed at the very idea of actually “earning” a wage – smug in the knowledge they will make more in a few hours of panhandling than the hapless sap offering them gainful employment would in a day of hard labor.

Contrary to what the ACLU would have us believe, in my view, Chief Capri showed remarkable compassion and restraint in the many months before the ordinances took effect.

In fact, he stood strong and followed the law, even as his department suffered the withering criticism of many residents and business owners who demanded a law enforcement resolution to one of the most perplexing problems of our time, even as stories emerged of intimidating tactics that were having a corrosive effect on distressed areas – such as downtown and the Boardwalk – where already struggling establishments can ill afford to have paying customers discouraged by bands of roving drunks.

Clearly, the Daytona Beach Police Department’s measured implementation of this wide-ranging legislation has been geared toward education and compliance – tempered with fairness, firmness and a respect for the rights of all citizens.

Our area stands at a crossroads – beset by myriad social, civic and economic issues that have resulted in years of stagnation and turned much of our core tourist areas into a wasteland.  In my view, which path we choose now will determine the long-term viability of our community’s hospitality-based economy – and shape our collective quality of life for years to come.

In many ways, it’s now – or never – and this predacious activity simply cannot be allowed to continue.

I join the thousands of Halifax area residents in applauding the visionary ordinance recently passed by the Daytona Beach City Commission which provides our law enforcement officers with the tools necessary to eliminate organized mendicancy and remove the criminal element who prey on the good will of area residents while draining precious resources from those who truly need our help.


Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal


On Volusia: The Curse of Apathy

Earlier this week I wrote a piece about mega-developer Minto Communities pulling out of a $26.5 million deal to purchase an additional 1,614 acres from the good old boy’s investment club over at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company, effectively putting the kibosh on Phase II of Latitudes Margaritaville in an apparent knee jerk to impact fee increases designed to help our transportation infrastructure and public utilities keep up with the demands of unchecked growth.

An old friend of mine called to say he enjoyed the piece – and admired the fact that, even at my age, I never fell victim to the curse of apathy and indifference to our collective plight here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

I appreciate the sentiment, but the truth is, not much excites me anymore.

After retiring from a life-long career in law enforcement, a dynamic and always interesting pursuit, I no longer experience the ‘adrenaline rush’ one gets from encountering dangerous situations – and I haven’t been to a good old-fashioned orgy since the late ‘80’s. . .

I tell everyone who will listen that retirement is great for about six-weeks.

After decelerating from a hundred-miles-an-hour with your hair on fire to zero – you spend a lot of time alone, and its easy to allow the “Groundhog Day” syndrome to take hold.

Perhaps it’s why we frequently read of retired public officials getting themselves in stupid predicaments – like the former Fire Chief recently accused of soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute.

Look, maybe the guy’s plan was to bang hookers in retirement, I don’t judge (I considered that strategy myself, but my wife told me I had to clean out the garage, finish the laundry and change the light bulbs in the kitchen first – then I got tired and took a nap instead. . .) but I think it’s more a side effect of the crippling boredom and monotonous days that come when we lose a sense of purpose in our lives.

Now, I putter.

I get up early, put the coffee on before Patti gets up and mosey around the house.

Most mornings I  “work” at my part-time hobby job, then fall asleep early with a good book on my chest.  Some evenings I gather with old friends at our local watering hole for whiskey and good conversation, discussing the issues of the day, listening to songs on the jukebox that haven’t been popular since the Nixon administration and sharing pictures of the grand kids.

Like Willie said, it ain’t no good life, but its my life. . .

Following my retirement – after three-decades of job-induced silence – I began to write down my jumbled thoughts and goofy opinions on the news and newsmakers of the day.

No longer gagged by the policies and professional considerations that help perpetuate a “wall of silence” that pervades all government edifices to one degree or another, I found a true catharsis in sharing a former insider’s view.

It was akin to breaking the magicians code – a cognoscenti’s guide to the inner-sanctum of local government – which I hoped would stimulate a wider discussion of the issues in a region that has, for years, been trapped in a cycle of apathy – wholly controlled by a few uber-wealthy oligarchs who manipulate our lives and livelihoods while deftly maintaining their place at the public trough.

Given the fact that there have now been over 282,000 views of this boutique opinion blog – Barker’s View has clearly found a niche with those seeking an alternative to the happy talk and pixie dust we’ve come to expect from our elected and appointed officials.

While I don’t find excitement in the daily adventures I once had – now, a seething rage burns inside me when I see good people – struggling families and our vulnerable elderly, small business owners and school children, working men and women stuck in dead-end service jobs supporting a dying tourist-based economy – trapped in a pernicious system they can neither understand nor escape .

Well-meaning “leaders” in the Chamber of Commerce set confuse western sprawl with progress – and pin our collective hope for a brighter future on a glass and steel insurance office or another “panacea” theme hotel – all while doing their level best to paint a pretty face on the fetid corpse of a once thriving beach community with perhaps the most recognizable brand name in the world.

The result is a grotesque façade that breeds a sense of confusion and suspicion that occurs when what we see doesn’t comport with what we are told.

I have never forgotten the fact that it is you – the loyal members of the Barker’s View tribe – who make this such a fulfilling endeavor – and I will be forever grateful that you indulge my weird views and debate the issues with such incredible passion, clarity and intelligence.

When you respond to these screeds on social media – or reach out to discuss items of mutual concern with friends and neighbors – you influence a larger dialog that is a healthy part of a vibrant community.

When you look at the Halifax area like a box of Tinker Toys, you see that all the pieces, connectors and parts necessary for success are here – a beautiful riverfront and world-class beach, a quaint downtown, a research university collocated with a tech business incubator and a thriving state college with active vocational programs, craft breweries and bistros, a small but growing arts community and a core cadre of very vocal, civically active citizens who are well-organized and intent on restoring community pride while protecting the natural amenities and traditions that make our area unique.

In addition, the incredible success of Wild West Volusia is self-evident – with the beautiful City of DeLand setting the gold standard for civic reinvention and revitalization.

Despite my often-grim predictions – we have a lot going for us.

Now, it’s time for our politicians and ‘powers that be’ to recognize our collective desire for a strategic vision that puts all these wonderful attributes together while respecting the needs, wants and dreams of their constituents – not just those of their political benefactors.

Stop the mini-moves, cronyism and abusive tax schemes and giveaways.

Restore trust in government, accept public input in public decisions, and let’s work collaboratively while there is still something worth worrying about.

Together, I believe we can defeat the malignancy of apathy and mediocrity that threatens the viability of our hometown, our public schools and our government institutions and allows those with a greed motive to run rampant over our economy, our environment – and in the halls of power throughout Volusia County.

Thank you for reading – and for being part of the solution.












Angels & Assholes for February 8, 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              Michael Rodriguez and the Volunteers of Derbyshire Place

There truly are angels among us.

Good people who see a need, then set about finding innovative solutions in the fundamental cause of making the Halifax area, or just their own neighborhood, a better place.

Sometimes it starts with a simple act of kindness, maybe stopping to pick up a piece of litter – planting a tree in the knowledge you will never enjoy the shade of its leaves, but someone will – providing shelter and sustenance for those who can no longer care for themselves or helping a child find their way in this harsh and violent world.

An excellent example shines bright in Executive Director Michael Rodriquez and a small group of volunteers from Derbyshire Place – a community center and ministry of First United Methodist Church of Port Orange – who are working hard to establish a community vegetable garden in the struggling north end of Daytona Beach.

In an excellent article announcing the recent consecration and groundbreaking ceremony The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean wrote:

“Census tract information for the Derbyshire neighborhood shows the need for a community garden there. In 2016, the neighborhood showed a 12 percent unemployment rate and a median household income of $25,571. Only 11.5 percent of residents had a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.

 Where there is poverty, there is often a food desert. In such areas, large chain grocery stores are seldom close by. Residents with little money and sometimes no vehicle have a tougher time getting to a store with a variety of healthy foods, and affording the more nutritious options.”

You won’t hear these startling facts at the next State of the County Address – but neighborhoods like this are more common than our powers that be like to admit.

In addition to providing area residents with a sustainable source of wholesome food, the garden will grow a variety of herbs which Derbyshire Place will sell to local chefs to help sustain the project – and surplus vegetables will be donated to free meal programs to help feed the homeless in our community.

Other hometown heroes, such as Jon Hall of New Smyrna Beach, who owns a construction site preparation firm, plans to pave the garden’s parking area while other local businesses and individuals are stepping forward to help give the initiative a financial jump-start.

I hope you will join me in supporting this innovative program that helps our less fortunate help themselves.  It’s community-based initiatives like this that help build strong neighborhoods which leads to the resurgence of community pride we so desperately need.

God’s work, indeed.

Angel              Jade Ryan

Those who know me best will tell you – at the stroke of 7:00pm weeknights – I’m incommunicado, baby.

Since before I can remember, I’ve been glued to “Jeopardy!”

Hell, I go all the way back to the days of NBC’s Art Fleming and Don Pardo – well before beloved host, Alex Trebek, took the reins of the current syndicated version in 1984.

It’s become a staple in my life – a mind-clearing transition between the crazy day that was and a quiet evening ahead – providing a unique sense of self-satisfaction that only a true trivia buff can appreciate.

Trust me.  A lot of things have to happen before I miss an episode. . .

Imagine my pride when earlier this week, the Halifax area’s own Jade Ryan – a graduate of Spruce Creek High School and daughter of Dan Ryan, a long-time member of the Barker’s View tribe and senior writer for Bethune-Cookman Athletics – appeared on the legendary television game show!

Look, one does not simply show up and appear on Jeopardy – there is a strenuous testing process only open specific times each year – which includes written tests, in-person auditions, mock games and interviews – ensuring that only the very best make the cut to compete on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show.” 

Interestingly, “Daytona Beach” was featured in a clue during Jade’s appearance!

Clearly, Miss Ryan – who is currently an English major at the University of Florida – is a super smart young lady with an incredibly bright future ahead, and we can all be proud of her for representing Central Florida in such a positive way on the national stage.

Congratulations on this wonderful accomplishment!

Angel              Mori & Forough Hosseini

When it comes to American success stories, they don’t get much better than the journey of Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini’s rise to power as one of the most influential people in the United States.

With a keen business sense and an overriding will to succeed, Mr. Hosseini emerged from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and became a true titan – taking his ICI Homes to the stratosphere of the real estate development industry as one of the most prolific residential and commercial builders in the region.

His ability to use the substantial means at his disposal – including his storied power of persuasion – to control our political environment here on Florida’s Fun Coast and beyond is legendary.

His wife, Mrs. Forough Hosseini, has distinguished herself as a true philanthropist and community benefactor who has held various leadership positions – to include service to the Daytona State College Board of Trustees – while almost single-handedly making the Hope Place shelter for homeless families and children a reality for the many who are desperately in need of a hand up.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Hosseini are making an active difference in lives of many area children through an incredibly generous $100,000 grant which provides after-school tutoring and transportation services to the struggling Champion Elementary School.

The funds are a gift of ICI Homes, administered through Mrs. Hosseini’s Halifax area charity, Food Brings Hope. 

Thanks to the Hosseini’s big-hearted endowment, teachers and staff at Champion Elementary are helping prepare at-risk students through a unique enrichment program that provides tutoring, a recess period and a meal three afternoons each week.

In my view, this substantial investment in the very future of our community speaks volumes about one family’s enduring legacy of civic service where it counts most.

While we may not always agree on the political issues of the day – Mr. & Mrs. Hosseini continue to give of their time, talent and resources to help change the very trajectory of the lives of those most deserving – our areas disadvantaged children who are now struggling, against all odds, to succeed.

I admire that.

Asshole           Volusia County Council  

Earlier this week, our elected officials on the dais of power in DeLand set in motion their greed-crazed rush toward saddling their constituents with a half-cent sales tax increase, allocating nearly a half-million of our hard-earned tax dollars to fund the requisite special election.

Clearly, Volusia County government, and the long-suffering municipalities, can taste blood in the water now – salivating at the thought of an estimated $40 million in loosely regulated annual revenue, which, according to the latest, can be used for anything from transportation infrastructure to water utilities and flood control (which, like every other tax grab ever perpetrated, leaves it wide open to wanton abuse. . .)

Those of us who follow these low-rent shenanigans have watched as that camarilla of political puppeteers over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance provided private funding for studies and public indoctrination programs – subsidizing efforts to prepare the battlefield in a manner totally exempt from any semblance of government in the sunshine – forever tainting the process in the eyes of many of us who see this sham for what it is. . .

In the week before the vote – our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, shocked even his shameless “colleagues” on the dais when he inexplicably exhumed the rotting corpse of the impact fee debacle – which, for years, resulted in untold profits to greedy developers who provided massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates in exchange for the suppression of transportation infrastructure fees for nearly two-decades.

Like the venal tool he is, Old Ed did the bidding of his bosses and brought forward a brazen attempt by the real estate development lobby to avoid paying increased impact fees on building permits currently under review in a horribly timed ploy to squeeze even more profits out of this compromised system.

I can almost see the smart boys over at the CEO Alliance shaking their heads and whispering among themselves, “Jesus.  That brain-addled dipshit is going to screw around and torpedo our last chance to fleece these rubes!  Maybe Barker’s right about him. . .”

Frankly, I’m proud of Councilwoman Heather Post, who had the strength of character to boldly suggest wide-eyed politicians take a pause and consider alternative revenue sources, rather than charging hell-bent for leather to strap residents and visitors with a sales tax hike.

According to the excellent reporting of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Dustin Wyatt, “Post has consistently spoken against a special election, objecting to the $490,000 it will cost cities and the county to put that question before voters.”

“I do not feel like taxing citizens is the answer,” she said, especially with so much “urgency” to do it this year.”

Of course, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys took Ms. Post to the woodshed for even considering other options.

Then, in perhaps the most flagrant political insulation ploy in the history of local politics, Denys first mocked Ms. Post’s suggestions – then actually tried her level best to convince us that if the sales tax increase is successful – it will be our own damn fault:

“We have to do the right thing for our citizens. We are not saying, ‘Raise the sales tax.’ All we are asking is to let the citizens decide. I support it to the point that the citizens have the right to decide for themselves.”

And just like that, our ‘powers that be’ tipped their hand on how they plan to sell this wet turd to the masses:

You see, they are not saying ‘raise the sales tax’ – and they only support it to a point we have a choice – but, just in case, they are spending a half-million dollars in public funds to give us the opportunity to increase the sales tax on ourselves!

My God.  How stupid do these craven shysters think we are? 

For months, these giddy assholes and their mouthpiece, former South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarbrough, have done little else but terrify us with flashlight-under-the-chin scary stories about what our roads, drinking water and quality of life will look like if we fail to tax our own eyeballs out. . .   

Now that this estimated $490,000 special election is set, gird your loins for the formal launch of this noxious “re-education” campaign – paid for by the millionaire insiders who stand to benefit from the green wave of cash and the lucrative government contracts and projects this tax increase represents – cleverly designed to anesthetize rational thought and make us believe that any tax increase will be self-inflicted.

Asshole           Halifax Area Hospitality Industry

Area occupancy rates down again in December? 

Nothing to see here, folks.  Move along. . .

“We usually don’t expect much from December,” said Evelyn Fine, president of Mid-Florida Marketing & Research. “Daytona Beach is generally not a Christmas destination, aside from a couple of bumps at New Year’s. What we’re seeing is totally steady, with no red flags at all. Now, we’ll see what happens with the Rolex and the (Daytona) 500, and start tracking our major seasons. The buzz is so good about Daytona Beach from what we hear from the travel trade and consumers, so I remain very optimistic.”

–Evelyn Fine, president, Mid-Florida Marketing and Research

When it comes to repairing the horribly mangled brand that once was the World’s Most Famous Beach – I’ve learned it does no good to link flawed public policy and malignant blight to the slow death of our tourism industry here on the Fun Coast – because our lodging and hospitality maharishis simply pay someone to tell them what they want to hear.

It’s easier that way.

Besides, we’ve become a cautionary tale among legitimate destinations – and absent a couple of motorcycle rallies and a waning motorsports draw – no one expects much from us anyway. . .

Rather than react to declining occupancy and average daily room rates, which remain statistically stagnant year-over-year, or even acknowledge that the “panacea” projects our “Rich & Powerful” hot shots assured would lead us from this dark and moribund place if we just hand over more tax dollars and sacrifice our unique public amenities, were complete bullshit – we continue to wallow in the relative comfort of mediocrity.

According to a recent report, “In December, Volusia County’s 54 percent occupancy was lower than the statewide average of 68.1 percent, according to STR, a data and analytics specialist.  At the same time, Volusia’s $101.30 average daily rate was less than the statewide average of $152.82; and the county’s revenue per available room of $54.24 was less than the statewide average of $104.07.”

 I find that disturbing.

Perhaps we’ve simply given up and come to accept the current condition of our core tourist area for what it is?

Incoming Chairman of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, Randy Dye, owner of Daytona Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, recently said that his main goal for 2019 is building the organizations membership to “expand beyond” our tourist-based economy.

“We’re recreating Daytona as a destination for more things other than tourism. Thank goodness for tourism, but we’re enhancing it.”


By placing our hopes on a publicly underwritten insurance building, permitting unchecked residential growth without the infrastructure to support it and stifling entrepreneurial investment? 

In my view, it doesn’t appear that anyone who should is doing anything to staunch the hemorrhage of visitors and the lifeblood they bring to this mortally wounded beach community.

Instead, we continue to cut our own throats, raising access fees – pricing a day at the beach out of the financial reach of many families who are unwilling to do the ‘dance of death’ across A-1-A with their beach gear and children in tow – and allow our elected and appointed dullards to maintain the status quo, stifle entrepreneurial investment with myriad regulations, permits and roadblocks – then turn their backs on the languishing beachside as our “Movers & Shakers” invest in “New Daytona” on Boom Town Boulevard off the LPGA corridor.

How can ostensibly smart people, whose very livelihoods depend on a brisk tourist trade, continue to stand idle while the fountainhead is poisoned by this utter lack of strategic vision, perennial blight, dilapidation and the petty turf wars and competing interests of wealthy insiders who refuse to compromise – or work cooperatively – even as the source slowly gives up the ghost?

Instead, industry “leaders” simply renew the contract with Evelyn Fine over at Mid-Florida Marketing & Research, decade-after-decade, so she can numb the pain like a Brompton Cocktail with feelgood descriptors like “the buzz is so good!” even as tourists figure out (usually upon crossing the East ISB gateway) that their precious leisure time and dollars are better spent anywhere but here.


Quote of the Week:

It “threw me for a loop, we (the county) don’t want to see good projects lost because of increasing costs.”

–Clay Ervin, Volusia County Growth and Resource Director, wringing his hands over the first increase to impact fees in nearly two-decades, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Critics challenge builders claims,” Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Last week, Minto Communities, the Canadian mega-developer who is actively throwing up thousands of cookie cutter homes directly on top of our aquifer recharge area west of LPGA Boulevard, announced they were backstroking on a promise to purchase additional acreage for the 3,000-unit Phase II of Jimmy Buffett’s replica beach community.

In the corporate equivalent of taking their football and going home – Minto honcho Bill Bullock exposed a disturbing level of avarice when he all but refused to pay the company’s fair share for  a solution for the infrastructure overload created, in large part, by Minto’s own handiwork.

It was shitty and small – and it looked exactly like what it is:

A massive corporation who partnered with a big time escapist entertainer (who has apparently become everything he hated) exploiting a cheap labor market (and the malleable ethics of our elected officials) then hauling massive profits out of the pine scrub – and out of the area – while expecting existing residents to underwrite the devastating impact to our roads, water supply, emergency services, healthcare, public utilities and, ultimately, our very quality of life.

But that abject gluttony wasn’t what threw Director Ervin for a loop – it was the fact he doesn’t want to lose “good projects” because We, The People had the temerity to ask our elected representatives to demand that their political benefactors finally pay their fair share for the damage they continue to cause to our very quality of life.

But that is the level of care and concern we’ve come to expect from entrenched bureaucrats in Volusia County government – who are infinitely more troubled by the legitimate costs paid by developers than meeting the needs of citizens who feel the impact of this malignant sprawl.

Apparently, “we (the county)” could give two-shits about shackling working families, retirees and the thousands surviving on fixed incomes in this artificial, service-based economy – wholly driven by the same five people passing the same nickel around – to make up the difference by increasing the sales tax on those who can least afford it.

Recently, a loyal reader shared with me the word “opprobrium” and challenged me to use it in a Barker’s View post.  The word means  public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious.”

I think the despicable behavior surrounding this barefaced money grab by our elected and appointed officials meets the textbook definition of the term. . .

And Another Thing!

The more I see of newly installed Volusia County Councilwoman Barb Girtman in action – the more I like her.

Last Tuesday, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ms. Girtman run mental laps around Old Ed Kelley (not that it’s a long circuit, but entertaining none the less) when she called for an independent, outside audit of county finances to put to rest lingering rumors of massive stores of idle cash that has been pigeonholed for pet projects – even as our representatives cry poor-mouth on transportation infrastructure and essential service delivery.

Given our dismal history, I find Ms. Girtman’s dedication to service in the public interest, ethical clarity and commitment to organizational transparency incredibly refreshing – and listening to her intelligently spar with Old Ed and his room temperature IQ is priceless.

For instance, when Mr. Ed the Talking Dunce fell back on his one tone-deaf , clearly memorized, trope that developers simply push the cost of impact fees off on homebuyers – Ms. Girtman astutely replied, “They (developers) choose to pass (the impact fees) on.” 

 It’s almost pitiful to watch Ed engage in a battle of wits. . .

Look, when it comes to Chairman Kelley’s mental acuity and grasp on the intricacies of the issues of the day, we can all agree, that carnival has closed, but – God help me – I take a perverse pleasure in watching this hapless political hack get his comeuppance by a freshman council member who clearly has the best interests of her constituents at heart.

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






On Volusia: Stop. Look. Listen.

We’re being lied to.

I believe what we are experiencing today is a pernicious and well-organized disinformation campaign perpetrated by Volusia County government and certain corporations – complete with distortions, illusions and outright lies – designed to help force implementation of a proposed half-cent sales tax while providing the local real estate development industry yet another opportunity to avoid the recently imposed impact fee increase.

All the players are present.

Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley – a hubristic simp who hasn’t had an original thought since he accepted his first campaign contribution – has fought any substantive increase to transportation infrastructure impact fees (which help growth pay for itself in terms of keeping streets, roadways and utilities infrastructure on pace with the massive population increase that is the natural result of suburban sprawl) – which haven’t been increased in nearly two-decades.

Add to that the massive campaign contributions to hand-select County Council candidates – with $1 of every $5 in recorded contributions in the last election cycle originating from developers – and you see just how cozy (and incredibly lucrative) this age-old suppression of impact fees has been.

After their constituents made the logical connection between a push to lash every man, woman and child in Volusia County to a sales tax increase ostensibly for transportation infrastructure – while well-heeled developers continue to receive a pass on impact fees, a realization that threatened to derail the lucrative money grab – last November, our elected officials in DeLand cobbled together a phased plan to increase impact fees by 2020.

At that time, Old Ed began reciting a litany of ways in which this logical hike would hurt growth, “punish” low income families (but a sales tax increase won’t?) and damage the chance for uber-wealthy developers to put even more cash in their pockets.

Sir John Albright, CEO of the good old boy’s investment club over at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company – who has made millions of dollars selling off pine scrub to fuel the current building boom – telegraphed the coming drama last September when he said, “Such a drastic immediate increase may be problematic for developers as they are facing major cost pressures on materials and labor. Not the best time for this,” he said, adding that he’d prefer the council gradually increase rates over time. “I would recommend a staggered, consistent increase rather than a dramatic jump.”

Now, after pouring massive amounts of cash into the campaign coffers of currently sitting council members during the 2018 election – the building lobby, in concert with their paid puppets on the dais of power – are orchestrating an ugly bait-and-switch designed to create a loophole to the impact fee hike by allowing developers to pay early on building permits currently under review to avoid the legitimate fees being implemented next month.

To ram that point home, last week, Minto Communities – who is actively building Jimmy Buffett’s faux beach community directly on top of our aquifer recharge areas west of LPGA – announced they were pulling the plug on a 3,000 home Phase II – citing (virtually verbatim) the issues Old Ed Kelley teed up back in October 2018. . .

Boo-fucking-hoo. . .

In my view, it’s too clean, too well-organized not to have been choreographed in advanced – and anyone who consistently pays attention to the ham-handed machinations of Volusia County government, and the ‘Rich and Powerful’ oligarchs who pull the strings, know that none of this evolved by accident.

What you are witnessing is, as a smart friend of mine likes to say, “corruption in plain sight.”

It is the insidious result of a campaign finance system that allows an industry to infuse a disproportionate amount of funds into strategic local races with the sole expectation of receiving a return on that investment in a legal quid pro quo scheme that benefits developers and the donor-class over the needs of their long-suffering constituents every time.

I encourage everyone to witness this unfold at today’s Volusia County Council meeting.

It’s important to let them know we’re standing silently – watching.

Let’s see if those we have elected to represent our interests have the guts to resist the powerful influence of their political benefactors – or whether they complete the corrupt circuit that began when they accepted massive campaign funds from those who stand to benefit most from their official action.

Listen to the Volusia County Council meeting live beginning at 9:30am here:


Sorting the Quid from the Quo: Questioning the Ethics of Impact Fee Adjustments

As regular readers of these screeds know, I have an opinion about everything, from the nutty to the newsworthy, the routine to the ridiculous.

But when it comes to the machinations of this bastardized Oligarchy that passes for governance here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – the plotting, maneuvering and self-serving schemes of our elected officials and their uber-wealthy benefactors – it goes beyond a passing annoyance for me.


Because, like many of you, I have a tangible investment in the outcome – my hard-earned tax dollars – and a true interest in what the future will look like for my grandchildren.

In my view, the idea of bringing impact fees back before the Volusia County Council next week for the sole purpose of deciding whether the real estate development community should be afforded even more considerations – after being given the long-time luxury of having impact fees remain stagnant for nearly two-decades, while road construction costs increased some 74% over the same period – essentially refusing to pay their fair share of solutions to the very infrastructure burdens they created with greed-crazed sprawl.

Florida law requires that impact fees be based upon the most current and localized data available – but since when did Volusia County government give two-shits about the law – or basic fairness in the age-old conflict of interest between serving the best interests of their constituents and meeting the clear profit-motives of their political benefactors?

When you factor in the complete lack of strategic vision by our elected and appointed officials, you begin to get a clear picture of just how ham-handed and out-of-touch those dullards on the dais truly are (and have been):

During a building boom in the early 2000’s, our ‘powers that be’ borrowed some $65-million to underwrite road projects, such as improvements to Williamson and LPGA Boulevards – something they would later claim was necessary to lure warehouse jobs at Trader Joe’s Distribution Center, and see the publicly underwritten Tanger Outlet become a reality.

Without bothering to consider the proverbial ‘rainy day,’ these mental midgets believed they could pay the money back using the steady flow of impact fee revenues available at the time.

According to a February 2018 report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, in total, the county has spent an estimated $13.4 million of the $14.7 million received from impact fees since 2012 on debt service alone – leaving a paltry $1.2 million available for transportation infrastructure.

In addition, the 12 cents per gallon on gasoline consumers pay in Volusia County earmarked for road construction (which has brought in some $24.7 million in gas tax revenue since 2017) has, for a variety of reasons, remained painfully flat – even as county government allowed unchecked growth along the spine of east Volusia from Farmton to the Flagler County line.

Now, the bond money is quickly running out – even as our transportation and utilities infrastructure needs soar.

This self-inflicted “emergency” now has come home to roost – leaving county and municipal officials salivating over the anticipated $40 million in annual revenue their ill-advised half-cent sales tax initiative would bring.

The problem is – after the “old” Volusia County Council (which looks a lot like the “new” Volusia County Council) voted last November to increase impact fees by 100% in some categories over a two-year period, with 75% of the increase beginning next month, and the remaining 25% in 2020, now the development community is asking for the unthinkable.

Following an election which saw $1 of every $5 in campaign funding originating from the real estate development community, the Volusia Building Industry Association, a local trade lobby “representing, promoting, and protecting the construction industry,” wants the County Council to change how it enacts impact fee increases – to allow developers to pay the fee on pending building permits before March and avoid the higher rates – a scheme that will allow developers to put even more money in their already groaning pocketbooks.

Naturally, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, accommodated the VBIA’s request like the sycophantic lickspittle he is – inexplicably agreeing to resurrect and rehash the impact fee matter at the very same meeting that the VCC is scheduled to appropriate nearly a half-million in public funds for a controversial special election on the sales tax increase.

After all, how does one say “no” to the very hand that feeds your political ambitions?

When this incredible turn-of-events broke last week, I had a conversation with a very smart former law enforcement colleague about the horrific optics of politicians – who just received a sizable portion of their individual campaign funds from the development community – opening up the impact fee debacle to provide even more incredibly lucrative concessions by creating a loophole to avoid full payment of the already approved increase.

We both agreed that, when taken in its disproportionate totality, this latest reveal comes dangerously close to how most citizens define quid pro quo corruption (this for that).

Clearly, individuals and corporations are permitted by law to make campaign contributions to candidates who have similar views to their own, or those who are sympathetic to a cause or industry in which they have a vested interest, as a means of ensuring favorable policy decisions – and the Supreme Court has refused to criminalize campaign contributions absent an explicit something-for-something arrangement – apparently making what we see happening all around us perfectly legal.

However, in my view, when the connection between massive campaign contributions, and the millions in return on that investment some political insiders realize in Volusia County – coupled with the disproportionality between specific industries (with 20% of campaign funds originating from developers) and the considerations, accommodations, millions in infrastructure support, tax abatement, fee suppression, etc. – the ethical line becomes too bright to ignore.

Look, I’m not an attorney – just a flummoxed bystander struck dumb by the crystal clear ethical, moral and good old-fashioned right vs. wrong questions posed by the coercive effect massive campaign contributions by wealthy insiders and the various corporations and LLC’s under their control, invariably have on the implementation of public policy – and the distribution of public funds.

I happen to believe that even a cursory quantitative analysis by any credible regulatory agency, or our state’s neutered ethics apparatus, would clearly demonstrate that these massive campaign contributions have an influential impact on the distribution of public funds to private interests.

It seems clear to me, anyway – and I believe a sizable portion of my neighbors feel the same way I do:  This stinks like a rotting mackerel by moonlight. 

My sincere hope is that our elected officials on the Volusia County Council will see that what they are being asked to do by the building/development industry and their stooge Ed Kelley – an official act to reverse a decision made by a previous council for the sole purpose of limiting its financial impact on the very developers who contributed so heavily to their various campaigns during the last election – is simply over-the-top and too blatant to ignore.