Angels & Assholes for February 1, 2019

Hi, kids!

Remember when you were a child and you played connect the dots?

A game where you drew a line between a sequenced number of spots, and when you were done, a clear picture emerged?

Bear with me. . .

When it comes to the machinations of Volusia County government truth is always stranger than fiction.

Just when we were coming to a begrudging acceptance that the shameless money grab of a half-cent sales tax was a foregone conclusion, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, stunning even his jaded co-conspirators on the dais of power in DeLand, when he unilaterally added an item to the Volusia County Council agenda (as demanded by the all-powerful real estate development lobby) seeking even more concessions on the implementation of a long overdue impact fee increase.

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 – which have not been raised in nearly two-decades – to allow developers to pay the fee early and avoid the higher rates the VCC approved last October.

My God.   

Did I mention the VBIA wants this matter resurrected and rehashed at the very same meeting in which our bought-and-paid-for elected officials will appropriate hundreds-of-thousands of taxpayer dollars to fund a controversial special election asking Volusia County residents to saddle themselves with a sales tax increase to bail out these very same local officials who refused to ask their political sugar daddies in the development community to pay for the massive infrastructure demands caused by their own greed-crazed sprawl?

As final proof that Old Ed Kelley has finally gone around the bend – or simply thrown off the traces of common human decency and now utters blatant falsehoods with wild abandon – he had the unmitigated balls to tell reporter Dustin Wyatt of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “If people see this as the ‘county caving to developers, that is not true,’ he said, adding that this request didn’t come from prominent homebuilders.”

Jesus.  How stupid does this addled asshole think we are?

A quick visit to the VBIA website found the smiling visage of our own High Panjandrum of Political Power, King Mori Hosseini – perhaps the most “prominent homebuilder” in the history of “prominent homebuilders” –  conspicuously displayed on the home page gallery.

Interestingly, I also discovered that the association’s Immediate Past Vice President is Mr. Chris Butera of SVN Alliance of Ormond Beach – a commercial real estate firm which, since November,  just happens to list former County Manager Jim Dinneen as an associate in the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation database.

When you connect the dots – the big picture that takes shape is increasingly disturbing to those of us paying attention. . .

This is why nothing (and I mean nothing) surprises me anymore about the backroom intrigue and murky maneuvering that invariably results in these baffling, tone-deaf responses from Old Ed.

If he had the mental capacity to understand the optics of this ham-handed attempt to meet every demand of his political benefactors in the building industry – who, according to reports, gave $1 of every $5 in recorded campaign contributions last year – I doubt he would ever show his balding pate in public again.

Now, in perhaps the most blatant “see what you’ve done” dramatic theater ever perpetrated on an overburdened citizenry, our “friends” at Minto Communities, who are actively churning our aquifer recharge area off LPGA into the faux beach community known as “Latitudes Margaritaville,” are crawfishing on a deal with the good old boys investment club over at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company to purchase an additional 1,614 acres for their Phase II expansion citing “Volusia County’s quadrupling of traffic mitigation fees and plans to raise impact fees; the city’s doubling of fees for utilities; and rising construction costs.”

Bullshit.

Then, in the most ludicrous and self-serving corporate communication ever issued by a real estate developer – Minto honcho Bill Bullock whined that his company is committed to “. . .providing affordable housing,” in a community where homes are selling like hotcakes for between $200,000 and $400,000 – with monthly HOA fees approaching $275.

Jesus.  I don’t make this shit up, folks.

This is what it looks like when cold hard cash cauterizes the human emotion of shame from the cortex of public officials – and drives real estate moguls, who long-ago sold their very souls for untold wealth in the pine scrub west of town – to abandon any sense of decency.

When is enough, enough?   

Hey, Bill – no one is buying your hyper-dramatic horseshit.

In fact, most of us who live here in the real world are breathing a sigh of relief that we won’t be subjected to 3,000 additional cookie cutter homes – and the thousands of new Walmart shoppers that represents on our streets and roadways – in the absence of the transportation and utilities infrastructure to support them.

Folks, when these dullards on the dais have the impudence to consider cutting real estate developers an even bigger break after they strategically shirked their responsibility for helping fund solutions to the very infrastructure and utility overload they created – it demonstrates just how detached they have become from reality – and how thoroughly compromised our system has become under this legal quid pro quo scheme that ensures massive campaign contributions receive a healthy return on investment every time.

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:          Volusia County School Board

Here’s a quick tip for determining the exact second a public official has stopped working in the best interests of his or her constituents:

When you hear a politician say, “. . .we actually have no (legal) obligation to give the public unlimited time to speak about whatever they want to speak about,” they have emerged from the campaign chrysalis and made the insidious transformation from public servant to arrogant elitist – the natural metamorphosis that occurs whenever an elected official loses the ability to balance power with humility.

Sometimes those we have elected to high office – with incredible influence over the lives and livelihoods of others – get confused.

They believe that the sycophants and bureaucrats who tell them what they want to hear, compliment their every hairbrained decision and laugh at their jokes, have all the right answers to the myriad problems we face – and the public, those they are sworn to serve – are little more than misinformation spreading naysayers with nothing of substance to add to the discussion.

Then, usually on the advice of a contract attorney (more interested in keeping his/her lucrative spot on the dais than saying “No”) the hubristic politician begins to explore quasi-legal means to suppress citizen input as they come to believe their opinion is infinitely more valuable than ours.

Several years ago, the British medical journal Brain published an article on the intersection of mental health and politics entitled “Hubris Syndrome: An Acquired Personality Disorder?” which proposed naming a psychiatric disorder for “leaders” who exhibit, “impetuosity, a refusal to listen to or take advice and a particular form of incompetence when impulsivity, recklessness and frequent inattention to detail predominate.”

Interestingly, Tom Stafford, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield, recently wrote that research shows, “people with the highest belief superiority (“mine is the only correct view”) [showed] to have the largest gap between their perceived and actual knowledge – the belief superior consistently suffered from the illusion that they were better informed than they were.”

Sound familiar?

In my experience, the conversion is complete when the elected official begins seeking structural changes to the public meeting format, generally under the guise of giving constituents more opportunities to participate.

In reality, their meddling in the process erects even greater obstacles to the free and open exchange of information between public servants and the public they serve.

Recently, Volusia County School Board Chairman Carl Persis began pushing an agenda which will relegate public participation to a 15-minute window at the beginning of meetings – enough time for five of us who actually pay the bills to speak for three-minutes each – on items of importance that are not on the agenda.

Then, Chairman Persis acts like he’s doing us a favor by letting citizens speak on scheduled items – followed by another 15-minute public comment period on off-agenda concerns at the end of the meeting after everyone has gone home for the evening.

Apparently, Carl isn’t a fan of staff presentations either – asking that the only visible means by which board members, and the public, receive information be limited – while adding one-minute at the beginning of meetings to allow board members to “share something positive” about their district. . .

Enough of that ugliness and negativity about how our district is circling the bowl by all known metrics, or the fact we can’t attract and retain qualified teachers to fill an expanding number of vacancies that, depending upon who you talk to, ranges from 24 to 42 and beyond.

Enough of these information sharing time wasters.

Screw John Q. Public’s asinine concerns for their child’s primary education.

We only discuss Cotton Candy Clouds and Big Rock Candy Mountains in Carl’s world – and, by God, we do it quickly – because, apparently, Chairman Persis has somewhere more important to be. . .

In my view, given the myriad problems that continue to plague Volusia County Schools, perhaps its time our school board members come to the realization that they don’t have all the answers – and neither does Superintendent Russell and his goofy “Cabinet.”

During a crisis, I’ve found it beneficial to seek input from all stakeholders – to open lines of traditional and non-traditional communication, seek alternative opinions, get out and knock on doors, and put an emphasis on developing collaborative, broad-based solutions that simply cannot be arrived at in this vacuum of arrogance.

Asshole:          Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley

I wrote about this earlier in the week – but, given the incredibly divisive nature of the problem – sitting elected and appointed officials on the Volusia County Council ostracizing and marginalizing a “colleague” (and my district representative) simply for putting her sworn priorities on those who elected her and being an outspoken critic of the “system” – this really touched a nerve with me.

Last week, District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post came forward with allegations that Volusia County has violated the terms of a 2010 settlement agreement that effectively ended her law enforcement career.

As I understand it, Ms. Post claims that the county failed to correct employment records regarding the character of her separation as they legally agreed to do – then made disparaging remarks about her service, mischaracterized her reason for leaving and eligibility for rehire.

The agreement was entered into following a tumultuous period during which Post claims her career was ruined “. . .for filing a harassment and discrimination complaint with the county” as well an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge after Volusia pursued two “ridiculous” internal investigations against her.”

In addition to a promise to emend her employment record, Ms. Post ultimately received $44,000 in compensation from Volusia County.

Since standing for election, Post has been brutally criticized, denied opportunities for outside service, blocked from leadership roles, vilified, rebuked and ridiculed simply for her courageous commitment to speak and act in the best interests of her constituents while eschewing the lockstep conformity that has paralyzed county government for decades.

When Councilwoman Post attempted to defend herself last week against the County’s concerted effort to besmirch her professional reputation and sully her work history, we learned what a mean-spirited wank our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, truly is.

In a letter to county officials, Post’s very capable attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, indicated that Volusia failed to live up to the terms of the separation agreement – I assume by failing to correct her employment records – coupled with the near-constant attack on Post’s character and service by senior administrators and elected officials.

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

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

But rather than fire him on the spot for his insolent outburst and total disregard of the standards of ethical conduct one expects of senior appointed officials – our elected officials simply rallied behind Dinneen – further shunning and isolating Ms. Post.

In response to the very valid concerns of Councilwoman Post and her attorney  – our County Chair issued the type of ridiculous response we’ve come to know and love:

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

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

My God.

Spoken like a petty tyrant who is totally oblivious to the fact that in this bastardized oligarchy – only those demonstrating lockstep loyalty to the “system” or the well-heeled insiders who pay-to-play – have a true voice.

Then, in his typically absurd word salad, Old Ed added:

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

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

Say what?

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

If stewarding a $700+ million-dollar budget and setting public policy for a population of nearly 540,000 souls (many of whom are living at or below the poverty line) who depend upon our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County to set a strategic vision for our future isn’t “important” what is?

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

Angel:             Attorney Aaron Delgado

I’m a big fan of Daytona Beach City Commissioner and ace defense attorney Aaron Delgado.

Since he took office, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with him several times on issues of mutual concern – and he was kind enough to join me for a radio segment on GovStuff Live! with Big John last year.

Mr. Delgado doesn’t mind mixing it up and debating the issues with a drunken lummox like me – and I sincerely admire that.

Although we don’t agree on every topic, he is bright, visionary and clearly has the best interests of the Halifax area at heart.

Last Sunday, I enjoyed an interesting piece penned by Mr. Delgado in the Community Voices section of the News-Journal which educated all of us on the State of Florida’s continuing obstructionism in the implementation of medical marijuana regulations – and the weird “patchwork of local, state and federal laws that treat the same drug differently depending upon its vector.” 

Disturbingly, Mr. Delgado pointed out that custody of under 20 grams of marijuana in its unprocessed plant form is a misdemeanor crime – while possession of even one drop of the edibles, oils and extracts currently supplied by Florida dispensaries is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison and a $5,000 fine.

Wow.

Then, in perhaps the most draconian state-imposed impediment to alternative medical treatment ever devised, any citizen who pursues lawful marijuana treatment options forfeits his or her right to possess a firearm – or obtain a concealed weapons permit.

Essentially, if you suffer one of the incredibly debilitating illnesses which qualify for medical marijuana therapy – the patient is essentially stripped of their Second Amendment rights?

Apparently, that’s what our haughty state legislators think about the rights of their critically ill constituents who seek compassionate care under the terms of our state constitution as amended by over 70% of the electorate.

I served in law enforcement for over 31-years, which put Mr. Delgado and I on opposite sides of the courtroom – and the marijuana legalization argument – for years; however, I wholeheartedly agree with his apt and compassionate solution to our current quagmire:

“I think the voters made it clear that Florida is ready to permit people to use marijuana as an alternative to other treatments, including highly addictive narcotic pain medications. We need to consider decriminalizing marijuana and regulating its sale — becoming the first southern state to do so. At the very least, we need to have consistent and clear laws that leave no confusion in their wake and do not result in the situation where possessing a half-ounce of marijuana is a less serious criminal offense than having a THC-infused gummy bear, and where Floridians forfeit the right to own a firearm if they elect a certain medical treatment.”

Now that marijuana has been legalized in 10 states, decriminalized in others, and authorized for medical treatment in many more – perhaps it’s time state and federal lawmakers abandon the incredibly expensive and wholly ineffective “let’s do the same thing and expect a different result” strategy of criminalizing marijuana.

In my view – It’s time.

Quote of the Week:

“Attracting first-rate businesses requires access to a first-rate public educational system.  While this (Volusia County) may be an attractive place to retire it’s not an attractive place in which to grow up and work.

–Lee Dunkle, Ormond Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “More Volusia school support needed,” January 29, 2019

And Another Thing!

Santa Claus.

The Easter Bunny.

The validity of “Travvy Awards.”

And the conservation and sustainability goals of the Arbor Day Foundation.

These are just a few of the things I once believed in that have proven themselves to be no more than quaint relics of innocent times gone by – now exposed as damnable lies.

Inexplicably, in January, the City of Ormond Beach was awarded the Tree City Growth Award by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Yes.  That City of Ormond Beach.

You remember, the one whose elected officials stood complicit with a speculative developer while 2,061 old growth trees – including specimen hardwoods and ancient oaks – were wantonly destroyed to make way for another convenience store?

The depth of this environmental massacre was willful, grossly excessive, and driven by an avarice many caring souls in our community still cannot come to terms with.

The wholesale ruin went on for acres on both sides of Tomoka Avenue, then south on Bennet Lane and across Granada Boulevard, with men in heavy equipment indiscriminately felling trees and churning this once pristine forest and wildlife habitat – which so appropriately buffered the heavily traveled thoroughfare from residential areas to the south – into an ugly black muck of twisted vegetation and splintered limbs.

This beautiful natural place, and the creatures that inhabited it, were sacrificed for something called Granada Pointe – a contrived commercial space which will ultimately house a WaWa, a chicken wing drive-thru and a third-tier grocery that remains nameless – least they be associated with the very public backlash that resulted in perhaps the most rancorous and divisive municipal election in our civic history.

Well meaning people tell me, “Mark, get over it.  What’s done is done and there is nothing you can do about it,”  and they’re right.

That very sense of hopelessness and helplessness is still very raw in a sizable segment of our community as well.

While I will never be able to repair the damage – what I will never do is sit idle while those in my sphere of influence are hoodwinked to believe that our elected officials in the City of Ormond Beach give two-shits about our environment, our quality of life, or protecting our wild places from the ravenous gluttony of cheap-jack assholes who buy-and-sell politicians cheaply – like diseased livestock – and have no qualms about destroying our environment in the name of “progress.” 

As E.E. Cummings said, “There is some shit I won’t eat” – and that includes watching pompous politicians make a mockery out of the Arbor Day Foundations coveted Tree City title.

Why?  Because it’s wrong.  That’s why.

Now that they’ve had their pictures taken with it, and wrung every ounce of political capital out of the misplaced designation, maybe our grossly hypocritical ‘powers that be’ will, in a pang of shame and conscience, do the honorable thing and send the award back – until such time as we are willing to earn the prize with a true commitment to sound suburban forest management – and a respect for our besieged environment.

Don’t hold your breath.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, kids.

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for February 1, 2019

  1. Dear Fred, (we know you read this), it’s time to do more than just say, “Can’t we all just get along…” You are a Commissioner, not Chaplain for the county and represent a district that will be most affected by the increased sales tax and impact fees. Speak up for your constituents and fellow Commissioner, Ms. Post.

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  2. Hey there Mark! I grew up in Ormond Beach (graduated Mainland Senior High in 1985) and have lived “out West” since 1990 (after a stint at VA Tech for undergrad). Flagstaff, AZ until 2015 and then Durango, CO ever since. In any case, I’ve still got family /friends in Volusia County and recently discovered your fantastic and highly insightful, entertaining blog. Keep up the great writing!

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