Angels & Assholes for March 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:

Asshole           Volusia Citizens for Better Roads and Clean Water

Hey, Barker!

How can you call hard-working Volusia County residents who want nothing more than better roads and clean water assholes? 

The fact is, I can’t.

Because that’s what we all want.

But I can damn sure call bullshit on a registered Political Action Committee by that dubious name  – formed and administered by uber-wealthy political insiders – many with direct ties to the mysterious Star Chamber over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – who are investing thousands of dollars in flogging Volusia County’s proposed half-cent sales tax increase.

Take a moment and ask yourself the following:

Why do you think millionaires, who use massive campaign contributions to maintain their spot in the suckling order at the public tit, are working and spending to convince Volusia County residents that taking more money out of our pockets and putting it into government coffers is a good idea? 

Suddenly, many of our ‘movers & shakers’ – luminaries like J. Hyatt Brown, the Forbes listed France family, Sir John Albright at the good old boys investment club over at Consolidated Tomoka Land Company, mega-insider Glenn Ritchey (whose daughter-in-law, Cyndi Ritchey, has been tapped to run the PAC) and P$S Paving – have established a war chest of nearly $200K ostensibly to augment this weird public/private money grab.

According to the intrepid reporter Dustin Wyatt writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Of the $190,948 raised through Feb. 11, $24,660 has been spent, according to campaign finance records. Steve Vancore, president of Clearview Research, has been paid $12,026 to offer consulting during the education and marketing campaign. Records show that $10,000 has gone to Cyndi Ritchey for “administrative services” in her role as committee chair. A few hundred dollars has been spent on marketing supplies.”

($10,000?  For “administrative services”?  Jesus, these vultures even feed off each other. . .)

In my view, this full-court-press by members of the CEO Business Alliance has everything to do with the abject greed that has defined this process since it was revealed that our elected officials in DeLand refused to raise transportation impact fees on their cronies in the real estate development community for nearly two-decades – ensuring untold profits as they continued to approve massive development along the spine of east Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line.

Then, when the stress on our inadequate infrastructure and utilities could no longer be ignored – many of those same bought-and-paid-for politicians created a faux emergency – which we are told can only be resolved when We, The People agree to self-inflict a higher sales tax in one of the already overtaxed county’s in the state.

Bullshit.

I believe that P&S Paving, and the other multi-million-dollar corporations who have been tapped for the secret society over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, are banking that the $42 million generated annually by this piggish duty on goods and services will simply pass through – from our wallets to theirs – in terms of government contracts, infrastructure improvements for corporate projects and other shadowy “public/private partnerships” which use tax dollars to underwrite for-profit schemes.

Given the fact that each election cycle we are forced to watch while all the right last names populate local elected bodies with hand-select candidates by skewing the process with hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in campaign contributions as a means of recouping massive returns on investment – do you really think these corporate honchos have your families best interests at heart? 

According to our “new” County Manager George Recktenwald, Volusia County taxpayers will pick-up the $490,000 cost for a first-of-its-kind “mail-in” referendum – a tactic specifically orchestrated by our ‘powers that be’ and their privately funded political consultants to ensure maximum probability of passage – while the funds generated by the Volusia Citizens for Better Roads and Clean Water PAC will be used to “handle the advertising.”

I find that murky confederation of government officials and political insiders who stand to benefit most incredibly disturbing.

Now, the mouthpiece for this shameless scam – the totally unaccountable former South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarbrough – wants us to believe that the PAC serves to symbolize that the “private sector is behind it.”

My ass.

Speaking in the News-Journal, Mr. Yarbrough said, “The PAC is essentially running this campaign by doing things the public sector can’t do.”

“The private sector can say, ‘You need to support this half-cent sales tax and let me tell you why.’ All we can do from the public sector is tell you where we intend to put the money.”

Really?

Because our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley – and his whippy co-conspirators on the dais of power in DeLand – have done little more than gnash their teeth and rend their garments over the impending death of our very way of life if we fail to tax our own eyeballs out at the point-of-sale. . .

The nightmarish yarns and sense of utter doom – such as “There is nothing else!  This is it! – No Plan B . .” has become their rallying cry – and, trust me, its only going to get worse until these greedy bastards get their way.

Never mind the fact that all we’ve seen in terms of where our money will ultimately be spent is a hodgepodge of pie-in-the-sky vagaries – like “widen LPGA Boulevard” or “pave dirt roads at 80 sites” – with accompanying price tags clearly designed more for the shock value than actual repair and replacement costs.

Or the fact we can’t get a hard answer on the as yet to be identified oversight committee who, we are now told, will remain nameless until after the referendum passes. . .

Word to the wise:  Beware when uber-wealthy political insiders with demonstrably self-serving interests begin pooling their own money in a push to get more of yours.

The fact is, these people don’t give two-shits about our collective quality of life.

In my view, we stand at yet another crossroads here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

We can either listen to our inner-voice – the one that warns us when shiftless grifters in expensive suits attempt to convince us that paying more for goods and services is the only way to avoid an infrastructure Armageddon of their own creation – or stand firm to our core conviction that  elected and appointed officials have a moral and ethical obligation to work in the public interest – not use our hard-earned tax dollars to pad the pockets of their political benefactors.

Angel              Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce

Look, I admit it – I give the “Chamber of Commerce set” a hard time.

Most of it well-deserved. . .

But birthdays are special times, and it is my pleasure to bestow a very special Barker’s View “Angel Status” on the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce as they celebrate their 100th Anniversary serving the Halifax area’s business community!

From humble beginnings, ‘The Chamber’ has developed into an influential local powerhouse, a strong advocate for our community – resolute in good times and bad – always serving as the consummate cheerleader for the World’s Most Famous Beach.

God knows, we need one from time-to-time. . .

When I take the chamber to task, it’s normally because of their near-constant pap-and-fluff – always attempting to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear that continues to struggle with entrenched economic issues that add to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness for many – but, I never lose sight of the fact that is why the Chamber of Commerce exists.

If they don’t defend and promote our area – and work tirelessly to encourage entrepreneurial investment, promote sound economic development and create jobs – who will?

Trust me – I gave up a long time ago.

Nay-saying, hypercritical assholes like me are a dime-a-dozen, and it doesn’t take any special talent or innate intelligence to launch these fey rants or point out the faults and foibles of those actually in the arena.

I recently read an interesting piece in The Daytona Beach News-Journal written by Nancy Keefer, President and CEO of the Regional Chamber, on how the group will position itself to promote economic prosperity in the next 100 years:

“The chamber of the future will continue to work towards bringing all sides of government towards the center.”

“We will do this boldly without apology as long as the end game is movement forward on very complex issues.”

“We will not be fearful of tough issues like homelessness, blight, the economic stratification of our community, or the needs of those who are working pay check to pay check.”

“We will, however, be the cheerleaders for all that’s right with our community while dealing with the less positive issues intentionally, often times behind the scenes, while providing solutions.”

“We believe that our image in the community with our stakeholders — our members, elected officials, future members and partners, is paramount to the success of the organization and our region, and will abide by our core values of advocacy, collaboration, engagement, leadership and professionalism.”

Well said, Ms. Keefer.

Now that’s something we can all get behind.

Asshole           Flagler County Interim Administrator Jerry Cameron

In professional sports, they say you’re only as good as your last game.

It’s also important to know when its time to retire from the field while you’re still on top.

That adage holds true for public administrators as well.

Earlier this week, newly minted Interim Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron – a governmental jack-of-all-trades who parlayed his extensive prior service as everything from Chief of Police to Chief Dog Catcher (and all points in between) into a retirement gig as a “community consultant” – learned the hard lesson that sometimes it’s better to stay on the sidelines. . .

Look, by all accounts, Mr. Cameron has an impressive resume – and he wowed the Flagler County Commission in February with his depth of knowledge of all thing’s government.

In fact, according to reports, Cameron wrote that during his service as assistant county administrator for community services in St. John’s County, “…he was responsible for the successful launch of the St. Augustine Amphitheater and planned, negotiated and implemented a $25 million public safety radio system.”

That’s quite an accomplishment.

As a result, the Flagler County Commission agreed to pay Mr. Cameron over $13,000 a month to steer the ship of government following the resignation of Craig Coffey in January.

During the interview and selection process, when asked his views on homelessness, Mr. Cameron gave all the right answers.

When Flagler County’s library director Holly Albanese – who is currently dealing with a massive dystopian homeless encampment in the scrub near the Flagler County Library in Palm Coast – asked Mr. Cameron how he planned to deal with the issue, his response cogently explained the realities of dealing with the homeless population in a country where we all have a right to exist, regardless of socio-economic status.

According to a report in FlaglerLive.com, Cameron advised:

“The homeless issue is an enigma,” Cameron said. “Unfortunately you are limited in the way of legislation on what you can do with those,” he continued, with other complications adding to the challenge when it comes to housing. With camps, “the only solution we really found that relieved the pressure was two-fold. We filtered the computers, so that cut down on the demand for computers, and we hired a security guard. That made things a lot more pleasant for people that worked at the library.” (The county library computers are filtered.)”

So, what made this ostensibly bright and experienced public administrator suddenly change tack and decide to round-up homeless people and involuntarily truck them to a rural internment camp?

Because that’s what he planned to do. . .

When county workers posted ‘Notice to Vacate’ signs around the homeless camp last weekend, it inflamed emotions on both sides of the issue, with people taking to social media to plan protests or applaud the measure (I assume, depending upon how close one lives to the Flagler County Library. . .)

On Tuesday, a Flagler County mouthpiece distributed a press release claiming the plan would, “. . .improve a difficult living situation for the homeless.”

Say what?

According to Cameron, the county issued the release after pesky media outlets began asking the hard questions. . .

Then, by Wednesday afternoon, a “new” plan was set in motion that will only uproot the camp temporarily, shifting things to the north end of the property while crews clean the underbrush of trash and omnipresent human excrement, you know, to tidy things up. . .

So, at the end of the day, a couple of things happened as a result of this ham-handed attempt to play a shell game with the hoards of homeless currently occupying the Flagler County Library property – rather than effectively deal with the incredibly expensive social, civic and legislative issues that surround the issue of suburban homelessness.

Now – Mr. Cameron and his bosses on the Flagler County Commission – are left looking like a troop of buffoons who couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel – and area residents are left to deal with the drugs, crime and human carnage inherent to an entrenched tent city that serves as the only viable alternative in the absence of a modern homeless shelter.

It was embarrassing and disturbing to watch as Cameron’s once-proud legacy took the form of a dotty old man who just dribbled his soup.

He sputtered and fumed in the newspaper, “Quite frankly, when the media called us — because my policy is total transparency — we were still in the planning phases,’ he said. ‘And the only information we had to give you was what we had identified as what was possible at the time. But that was always a solution of last resort.”

(A word of advice to senior public administrators:  There is a reason you employ public information specialists – use them. . .)

How terribly sad.

In my view, Mr. Cameron was right the first time – the “homeless problem” is an enigma.

It is also one of the most intractable humanitarian issues of our time – and one that isn’t going away anytime soon.  Perhaps Mr. Cameron should have spoken that truth to whichever power goaded him into this knee-jerk busing scheme?

Asshole           Volusia County Council

With Volusia County officials currently touring the countryside with their weird medicine show touting the benefits of a sales tax increase – they are finding that many of their constituents still have serious “trust issues.”

In fact, many say their confidence in county government is just south of whale shit. . .

Here in the Real World, residents are shocked at the stunning lack of self-awareness exhibited by sitting politicians who seem oblivious to the fact that – despite what their benefactors and sycophantic bureaucrats tell them – John and Jane Q. Public no longer believe a damn thing they say.

Nor should they.

At Tuesday’s County Council meeting, the impressive freshman Councilwoman Barbara Girtman mentioned the almost impossible process of rebuilding public trust during her closing remarks.

According to Ms. Girtman, following a recent infomercial to promote the proposed sales tax increase in DeLand, she met with several concerned citizens – described as “young people” – who expressed concerns about the citizen oversight committee that (we are told) will review project funding and prevent the gross fraud and cronyism that would naturally follow if Volusia County elected officials were left to their own devices. . .

According to Ms. Girtman, the residents wanted to know what “teeth” the regulators will have.

That’s a legitimate question.

“To have people that young not trusting local government, I think we have a little work to do,” Girtman said.

In turn, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, apparently acted unilaterally – literally off-the-cuff – when he single-handedly established the composition of the non-existent review committee by Royal Edict, announcing that the board will be made up of one person appointed by each municipality. . .

Really? 

So, we’re going to have a good, old-fashioned Thundercage Match consisting of 16 to 20 highly opinionated citizens all arguing the fine points of infrastructure improvement projects – a no-holds-barred “Eastside vs. Westside Battle Royale” every month? 

Sounds interesting. . .with that level of efficiency, we should see the group agree on the first utilities project around the return of the Comet Kouhoutek. . .

Then, like the cowardly shitheel he is, Old Ed insulted the collective intelligence of everyone who calls this salty piece of land home when he crowed that the County Council was only putting the half-cent sales tax initiative on the ballot at the request of all 16 municipalities.

“It’s not a County Council-driven initiative,” Kelley said.

My God.

Even when he is handed an A+ prime opportunity to demonstrate leadership and build consensus on perhaps the most pressing issue of our time – Chairman Kelley trips over his own bollocks and seeks political insulation over statesmanship with his “we’re just doing this because they asked us to” horseshit.

Congratulations, Chairman Kelley.

Once again, you cement your grim reputation for having the brightest yellow streak in a crowded field of base political cowards. . .

Not to be outdone, during the discussion, The Very Reverend Fred Lowry, also took the low road and used the discussion to belittle his frustrated constituents who seek understanding from any available source as an alternative to the lies and obfuscation that form the informational black hole of Volusia County government.

Despite all best evidence, the completely tone-deaf Rev. Lowry still finds it necessary to defend the “system” over the concerns of his long-suffering constituents when he says, “Trust is a two-way street.”

According to Councilman Lowry, residents can’t expect to get information from social media and possibly expect to grasp the nuances of county government.

“You can’t get your information off of Facebook and understand what’s going on,” he said. “People today need to look into things. There’s a little bit on the citizens to always look into things and not always look at social media.”

I agree.

Because when it comes to the utterly bizarre machinations at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – reality is invariably stranger than fiction.

In other news, without much fanfare, on Tuesday we learned that it will cost us $215,000 annually (plus bennies) to take a ride on the “Georgie-Go-Round” as our “new” County Manager George Recktenwald – a stalwart veteran of what passes for governance in Volusia County – accepted a lucrative contract which includes the use of a publicly-owned vehicle and massively expensive Golden Parachute clause for when it comes time to flee the building. . .

Of course, the agreement was handcrafted by Mr. Recktenwald’s friend, County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert – who has consistently proven his worth as the best lawyer this oligarchical shit-show ever had.

Call me old-fashioned – but I take these cushy employment agreements personally.

Why?  Because I help pay for them – that’s why.

At various times in over 31-years in public service, I was assigned a dedicated vehicle for my use at work.  As Chief of Police, I was permitted to use that vehicle for personal transportation between my home and office – and for certain ancillary travel within Volusia County.

I never drove the car home.   Not once.

I could never reconcile the fact that there were people in the community I served who couldn’t afford to adequately feed their families – let alone own and maintain a family car.

The thought of using a public asset for my private gain was abhorrent to me – and while I didn’t begrudge my colleagues the use of their assigned vehicle to respond to after-hours emergencies – I simply could not bring myself to do it.

So, I drove my own car to-and-from work each day.

Not a great sacrifice – most people do it every day – and it served as a reminder of the importance of humility and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

It was also the right thing to do.

I suppose those quaint notions of service to a cause greater than one’s own self-interests have become antiquated relics in an era where Volusia County executives command a quarter-million-dollars annually, plus all the trappings and perquisites normally reserved for private sector poohbahs who, unlike the County Manager position, are actually required to prove their worth to the organization periodically. . .

But who the hell am I to begrudge Mr. Recktenwald his just reward for putting up with this bad Hee Haw episode for 20-years? 

Just don’t expect Good ol’ George to be the effective change agent many of us were hoping for. . .

After all, take a look around Volusia County in 2019:

The critical transportation infrastructure “emergency” that is threatening our very quality of life – the out-of-control blight, dilapidation and sense of hopelessness – the intentional concealment of publicly-funded studies – the continuing giveaway of unique public amenities to speculative developers and political insiders – a County Council with all the stability and vision of a rudderless ship of fools – our wholly compromised beach management plan – unresolved questions from Sheriff Michael Chitwood’s 2018 mention of “Pay to Play” politics – the “public policy by ambush” tactics – the malignant sprawl – the open quid pro quo favoritism – a dangerous emergency medical service quagmire requiring an immediate $1.4 million in cash to patch – the nightmare of political intrigue and mismanagement recently exposed by former Volusia County lobbyist Jamie Pericola – and the complete lack of public confidence in their government – it’s going to be a tough gig.

But, I’m sure after being a cog in the wheel for over 20-years, Mr. Recktenwald is up to the task.

Right?

Right.

Quote of the Week

“Not so fast my friends in Latitude Margaritaville; that bridge on LGPA Boulevard has to get in line. The people that have lived here for a longer time have other plans before money is spent on the newcomers, on something that should have been taken care of before letting the subdivision even be built.”

–Charlie Thompson, Port Orange, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Many roads need fixing before LPGA,” Monday, March 4, 2019

And, so it begins. . .

As Volusia County politicians continue their headlong rush to relieve you and I of even more of our hard-earned money – the jockeying for “what comes first” has started, even before the tax initiative has come for a vote.

The “I’ll support the tax increase if my street is fixed first – but not if your road is ahead of mine” mindset is taking hold as frustrated residents become frightened and confused by the inflammatory rhetoric of their elected “leadership.”

Sad.

In many ways, the half-cent sales tax increase currently being ramrodded by greed-crazed millionaires and their hired chattel on the dais of power is a leap of faith.

By all accounts, even if the tax increase passes, any substantive improvement to our transportation infrastructure will take millions of dollars and “decades” to complete – which means those of us who comb grey hair won’t be around to see our contribution to the collective good become a reality.

That’s okay – everyone wants to leave the place better than they found it for future generations.

However, rather than rollover to the demands of an entrenched power base set on forcing this slimy cash grab at all costs – I believe it is better to teach future generations, by our example,  the inherent benefit of questioning power, demanding accountability and screaming “Hell No!” to the pernicious cycle of government gluttony that is destroying our quality of life quicker than traffic gridlock ever will.

And Another Thing!

 I’m fond of saying that if you care about good governance in your own hometown, you should care about good governance everywhere.

It’s just one reason I enjoy pointing out the myriad examples of the political egotism and the abject stupidity of some local and regional elected officials – many of whom no longer even pretend to serve in the public interest.

In my view, Ormond Beach City Commissioner Troy Kent sets the ne plus ultra example of the perennial politician who became everything he hated – a terribly conflicted, power-hungry churl – totally consumed by his own sense of self-importance and utterly compromised by the wealthy masters he now openly serves.

During a recent workshop to update the community’s strategic plan following the conclusion of the OB Life civic engagement project, the moderator, Marilyn Crotty, asked city officials how they ultimately faded the heat in the aftermath of the environmental atrocity (literally in the center of the city) when 2,061 specimen oaks and old-growth hardwoods were churned into a splintery black muck to make way for another godforsaken WaWa. . .

In typical fashion, Mr. Kent pissed away another opportunity to make good on his promise to rebuild unity in a community still galvanized by the suburban slash-and-burn deforestation when he scorched constituents still rightfully concerned about unchecked growth and the insidious influence of real estate developers on public policy.

According to a report by the Ormond Beach Observer, “Crotty asked the commission how it was dealing with “uproar” over the clear-cutting at Granada Pointe in regard to future development in the city.”

“City Commissioner Troy Kent answered her with a question — which uproar? Granada Pointe or Ormond Crossings where he said twice as many trees were cut.”

“Oh that’s right, there was no uproar for that one,” Kent said.”

For the uninitiated, Ormond Crossings is a long-planned residential and commercial development set in the pine scrub along I-95 south of US-1 that has been on the city’s drawing board for nearly two-decades.

Jesus.  What a mean-spirited shithead. . .

It should now be clear to my neighbors here in God’s Country that our elected public servant, Commissioner Kent – who squeaked back into office like a fat rat with less than 50% of the vote – has no intention of mending fences or demonstrating the common human decency to represent the interest of all Ormond Beach residents.

This abject arrogance is the earmark of the petty tyrant – and a trenchant reminder why any suggestion of extending the terms of elected officials in Ormond Beach should be ignored by anyone who cares about our democratic principles.

That’s all for me – have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for March 8, 2019

  1. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1998-09-29-9809290506-story.html That is a link to a 1998 article in the Orlando Sentinel about raising the Gas Tax and It is a must read. As you read the article you will have that moment when you think “holy shit Deja Vu”. If you are a politician peeking in on Baker’s View you will think to yourself “holy shit they are on to us and the bullshit we have been feeding them time and time again”. Enjoy!

    Like

  2. Scanned the same dialog from the OBO and wondered if I was the only one to read between the lines, guess not, Mark hit center mass. Nothing was / Is more abrasive then to hear Troy talk about his life in OB and how it relates to whatever topic is flowing at the moment. (Hence why it is hard to swallow attending a Commission mtg). He shows his ignorance of one that has never been out of the borders of OB and lives a life of being a narcissist goof ball. He and Rob Littleton are the narrow minded individuals that will ruin OB forever. BS on bringing unity, it is not in their DNA.

    Like

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