According to the Florida League of Cities, “The most precious powers a city in Florida has are its Home Rule powers. The ability to establish its form of government through its charter, and to then enact ordinances, codes, plans and resolutions without prior state approval is a tremendous authority.”
In its purest form, most would agree that the right to self-determination – the ability of citizens in counties and municipalities to govern themselves – free of outside interference from the state in the pursuit of their communities economic, social and civic development, is critical to representative forms of governance where supreme power is held by the people.
Unfortunately, in Volusia County, our ‘powers that be’ consistently use the self-governance provisions established by charter to protect the status quo and maintain the patency of the flow of public funds to private interests in this bastardized oligarchy – where control of our elected representatives and processes have been compromised by uber-wealthy special interests who inject astronomical amounts of cash into the campaign coffers of hand-select candidates for local office – setting the stage for massive returns on their investment.
For instance, look no further than the recent hyper-dramatic and incredibly expensive legal challenge by Volusia County officials to the passage of Amendment 10 – which will return constitutional authority to the sheriff, property appraiser and elections supervisor – each of which currently serve as little more than elected department heads, firmly under the yoke of an unelected, unaccountable and almost supernaturally omnipotent county manager.
Although Sheriff Michael Chitwood was elected by the people to oversee law enforcement and public safety services, he is still forced to navigate a bloated bureaucracy and grovel before our co-opted county council for approval of how he administrates his department’s budget, assets and resources.
One thing is certain, here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – any threat to the “system” will be met with a no-holds-barred challenge by our weaponized County Attorney, Dan “Cujo” Eckert – who has made a cottage industry out of suing his own constituents (with our own money) and rabidly defending the Sovereignty of the Monarchy in DeLand against all internal and external threats.
Preeminent insiders – who ferociously preserve and protect the sanctity of their charter by strategically populating the once per decade review commissions with many who stand to directly benefit – crow that Volusia County residents voted for home-rule and cite the fact it has worked well (for all the right last names, anyway) for nearly a half-century.
Our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley – a perennial politician who hasn’t had an original thought since he accepted his first campaign contribution – is fond of telling scary stories about the Pandora’s Box that Amendment 10 represents for Volusia County if (God forbid) We, The People are actually given the ability to use our sacred vote to make decisions and balance power.
Now, Volusia County government, and those who stand to benefit from a proposed half-cent sales tax initiative, are circling the wagons and trotting out the “Home Rule” argument yet again as state legislators appear ready to protect Floridian’s from these predatory money grabs.
Bills currently moving through the legislature in Tallahassee just might derail the rushed half-cent sales tax referendum currently being ramrodded by a weird confederation of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, the County Council and their lap dogs in the municipalities – under the guise that taxing our own eyeballs out is the only thing standing between us and complete traffic gridlock and drinking our own recycled sewerage.
With the potential for an estimated $42 million annual windfall ostensibly earmarked for transportation infrastructure and utilities projects to bailout those same politicians who continue to approve massive sprawl in “New Daytona” west of I-95 – all while spinning yarns about what our lives and livelihoods will look like if we fail to take even more money out of our pockets and place in government coffers – expect this to be a Battle Royale.
According to reports, Florida lawmakers want to end special elections – like the highly choreographed, incredibly expensive, first-of-its-kind mail-in ballot scheme set just weeks from now – requiring that these questions be asked only during general elections when voter turnout is highest.
If approved by the legislature, the regulations would take effect immediately – jeopardizing Volusia’s shim-sham referendum this spring.
According to our “new/old” County Manager George Recktenwald, “We ought to be able to decide what our residents do. We take any threat to our home rule seriously.”
Which was, perhaps, a Freudian slip – as what I think Mr. Recktenwald meant to say was “residents should be able to decide the issue for themselves” – instead, he may have unintentionally called it like it is.
Had he told the full truth, Mr. Recktenwald should have said, “We will decide what our residents will do, and what they will not do, and if anyone doesn’t like it, we will “re-educate them,” we will threaten their quality of life, or we will crush them under our iron boot – and use the full might and treasure of Volusia County government to preserve our vice-like grip on power, force our will, and preserve our supreme right to lord over our tax strapped constituents.”
The abject arrogance and haughty sense of superiority of these shitheels that pass for “public servants” should frighten every man, woman and child in Volusia County.
Here’s hoping against hope that our state representatives do what our local elected officials refuse to and protect long-suffering taxpayers from the machinations of millionaires, and their bought-and-paid-for minions on the dais of power, who have orchestrated an infrastructure emergency for the sole purpose of establishing yet another revenue stream to feed the insatiable appetite of Volusia County government and the special interests who feed greedily at the public trough.