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.