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.”

How?

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.

Whatever.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for February 8, 2019

  1. Sales tax increase ballot for May, but no one has addressed the required state audit with 60 day public disclosure. Are tens of thousands of taxpayer’s dollars going to be spent before the state even approves the measure?
    Not to mention as the Wonderful Ms. Post says.. “What’s the hurry”.
    Ms. Girtman has the right idea once again for an independent audit, but once again that won’t fly.
    Council authorized an internal auditor position, has that position been filled and, if so, what is that person doing?
    Keep up your FANTASTIC work, Mark, your public appreciates you.

    Like

  2. Appears we have a NEGATIVE return on the investment in “WIDE OPEN FUN” .
    But no one is talking about that fiasco any more.
    Excellent column once again.
    Thank you all the ANGELS for your caring, performance, and for being an important part of our community.

    Like

  3. Please do not stop I enjoy your commentary. No one seems to quite get what you see your laser focus unmasked the political shell games played weekly.

    I would like the meetings to move to the evenings so others could expose some of the long standing crap perpetrated on the tax payers as progress.

    Mark I am disgusted with the small mindedness of this council attempting to subvert ether will of the voters. I am specifically talking about Amendment 10. I worked under that system for almost 30 years in Broward. It worked for the Sheriff and the county. Try it don’t fight it.

    Like

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