On Volusia: Home Rule or protecting the status quo?

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.

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “On Volusia: Home Rule or protecting the status quo?

  1. It is a threat to many important things…mainly local control regardless of how ugly it us at times.
    The state Legislature has dreams of controlling everything. Local ordinances on short term rentals are under attack again.
    Like it or not, and there’s a lot I didn’t like, Jim Dineen left the county in excellent financial condition of the books haven’t been cooked.
    If you can address that without “F” bombs I would like to hear some constructive ideas!

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  2. Kenny Strickland,
    Think you are getting sidetracked amigo, because the argument shouldn’t get bogged down into what ‘tourists’ will be paying, albeit 40% or 7.8% to a high of 23%, or whatever made up number of the total estimated whole of the needless income tax increase, the argument ought to be that no matter who pays what when, THE FACT IS, all 100% of Volusia County residents will be paying the needless tax 100% of the time. That’s the argument! That’s the fact, Jack!!
    Hope this makes sense. Buh-bye.

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  3. Amendment No. 10 State and Local Government Structure and Operation

    Statewide: Yes, 4,809,426, 63.2%; No, 2,800,934, 36.8%
    Volusia County: Yes, 114,437, 53.6%; No, 99,256, 46.4%

    County Chair Kelley, Volusia County voters also approved Amendment 10. Deal with it.

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  4. I am not supporting the ½ sales tax increase and this is why….

    In 2007 we were warned of a road funding crisis by George Recktenwald, who at that time was the Public Works Director for the County of Volusia, and nothing was done. (https://vcservices.vcgov.org/agenda/minutes/20070802.htm Ref. to Item 40)

    Zoning changes and developments continued to be approved, by the County and Cities, causing unfunded or underfunded impacts.

    Against the wishes and advice of many, SunRail was approved in 2007 without known funding sources and while County was in a known road funding and budget crisis.

    The citizens of Volusia County were put on the hook for untold millions of dollars and that obligation will continue beyond the time many of us remain on this earth. Millions of dollars that could have and should have been used for our county and local road needs have been and will be into the future squandered on SunRail.

    We were told in 2007 if “Phase 2” of SunRail was not operating to DeLand by 2013 the County could renegotiate the contract and it is now 2019 and no contract changes have been made.

    Twelve years since the first SunRail contracts were signed and no one knows what SunRail will cost the citizens of Volusia County or how it will be paid for.

    Some members of the current County Council have told us “there is no plan B” for the needed road improvements beyond the ½ sales tax, yet the County’s staff and politicians knew about the road funding crisis going back to 2007. In my opinion, some of the current members of the County Council can be blamed for the lack of planning if they have been sitting on the dais for several terms or if they were supporters of the former County Manager who was responsible for steering the ship.

    Some members of the County Council plan on bonding the ½ sales tax funding and once done there is no way out if the economy takes a dive again. We could be obligated until 2040.

    Developments continue to be approved with little if any land use or building code changes that would allow for fewer impacts on the roads, environment, drinking water, and other quality of life issues. Little if any consideration is given to Sustainable Practices such as Xeriscaping. The County and Cities should be leading the charge and setting the example.

    The current ½ cent sales tax plan is all over the place, no one knows how much the tourist will contribute, 30%? 35%? 40%?, and there is no real commitment on projects. It appears in many cases figures and project ideas are being pulled out of the air. It feels like SunRail all over again.

    The lack of transparency with ECHO, very little information left on the County’s website for the public’s view, and the fear there will also be a lack of transparency with the ½ cent sales tax if it is approved? Currently if you want information pertaining to ECHO projects you will have to submit a request and if you want to view numerous documents you may be charged.

    The ½ cent sales tax ordinance states “the County Council by resolution may establish rules of procedure for the citizens’ oversight committee” yet there have been no procedures presented.

    The citizens committee will have no authority and there will be no one holding the Cities and County accountable. As with ECHO, no elected person will have the political will to go against the County or a City if the rules are violated.

    As with ECHO, the County Council will have a great deal of authority over the ½ cent sales tax program. I personally do not feel as a governing body they can be trusted with that responsibility.

    Some justify the ½ cent sales tax increase by telling us it is just a little bit more out of our pockets yet the just a little bit mores ad up and we already pay far more to the County beyond our property taxes, simply look at the County’s revenue line items.

    We are being asked to pony up more of our hard earned money after the County has given millions of our tax dollars away and there are no assurances this practice will not continue into the future.

    An additional sales tax will reduce the amount of money that flows through our local economy that supports our local businesses.

    Soon we will be seeing a great deal of advertising in favor of the ½ sales tax increase. These advertisements are being paid for by a PAC that is being funded by some who have, in my opinion, bought previous elections. One of the contributors to the PAC is an owner of a major road construction company that would most likely benefit from a vote in the affirmative for the sales tax increase. I certainly do not think this PAC is being funded with my best interest in mind.

    I see the need for road improvements, however, without a mitigation plan included that would insure we will not need to be asked to contribute more in the future for the impacts caused by new developments and a plan for better overall better governance by the leaders of the Cities and County, I will not be able to vote in favor of the ½ sales tax.

    Please let us not forget we already pay a County of Volusia five cent per gallon gas tax that is supposed to be used for road projects. When enacting the gas tax we went through a song and dance that was very similar to what we are experiencing now with the ½ sales tax money grab.

    Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

    Keith L. Chester
    DeLand, Fl.

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