“…when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
–Sherlock Holmes -The Blanched Soldier
Most of my life was spent bringing bad people to justice with fairness but firmness, without passion or prejudice.
Just the facts, Ma’am. . .
It was someone else’s job to present the evidence and passionately argue the facts of the case to a judge and jury. I simply collected the who, what, when, where, why and how of the matter – and of these basic investigative questions – often the hardest to determine was the “why” of things. . .
Frankly, after more than three-decades in the business, I finally came to the conclusion that there is good and evil in the world – and outside of that simpleminded explanation – I have no idea why people do the things they do.
My job was to gather the facts.
After a lifetime of thinking analytically about how items of evidence proved or disproved the elements of a crime, that mindset naturally carries over as I bitch and brood over our myriad civic issues – like this shameless half-penny money grab we are all staring down here on Florida’s fable Fun Coast.
In my view, the what is clear – our elected officials demonstrated how compromised they truly are by artificially suppressing transportation impact fees for nearly two-decades as a favor to their political benefactors in the real estate development community – all while approving incredibly lucrative growth along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line.
Like the obsequious lapdogs they have become – our politicians and bureaucrats in both municipal and county government are working overtime on behalf of their handlers to convince your family and mine of the importance of self-inflicting a sales tax increase that will generate an estimated $45 million annually, ostensibly to fund transportation and utilities improvements in the wake of the unchecked sprawl they helped create.
Now, those same dullards who perpetuated this gross miscarriage of their fiduciary responsibilities are once again abandoning any semblance of political independence as they kowtow to the whims and orders of their uber-wealthy puppet masters at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance.
The how of this shameless money grab is equally apparent.
A few of our ‘Rich & Powerful’ who see the potential windfall that will result if We, The People agree to hand even more of our hard-earned money over to their elected intermediaries, have formed a goofy Political Action Committee known as Volusia Citizens for Better Roads and Clean Water – a thinly veiled consortium of perennial insiders who long-ago cemented their place at the public titty and latched on like a suckfish.
In turn, the PAC has used private funds to hire a professional strategist in the form of Steve Vancore, President of Clearview Research, who has made a cottage industry out of ramrodding local option tax increases around the Sunshine State.
With Mr. Vancore’s necessarily simplistic coaching, our elected and appointed officials are busy making their way around the width and breadth of Volusia County parroting what they’ve been told to say, as they try and convince us of what our quality of life will look like if we fail to acquiesce to this thinly veiled pass-through which takes cash from our wallet at the point-of-sale and transfers it to theirs.
The who, what, when and where is pretty clear to anyone paying attention.
I’m most interested in the why of it all. . .
Why weren’t entrenched political insiders in the real estate development community – who contributed $1 of every $5 spent to the campaigns of their hand-select political candidates during the last election cycle – required to pay their fair share for the infrastructure stressors they created with mega-developments like Mosaic and Latitudes at Margaritaville?
Why are we being rushed into a weird, first-of-its-kind “mail in” referendum costing some $490,000 – a highly suspect process which now bears no resemblance to any election ever held in Volusia County – one that will allow voters to drop ballots in “secure” collection boxes at their local City Hall (?) – a slapdash referendum hurried to the polls while voters still wait for a comprehensive list of prioritized projects. . .
Why were the results of the statutorily required Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability audit (which must be posted at least 60-days in advance of any local option tax referendum) arbitrarily removed from the Volusia County website on Friday – then mysteriously re-posted on Monday afternoon?
According to our “new” County Manager George Recktenwald, the audit results were taken down to give the county council a “chance to review it.”
Hey, Georgie – this performance audit wasn’t completed to satisfy the nervous curiosity of those compromised shysters on the dais of power – the audit was done to satisfy the well-earned suspicions of their long-suffering constituents.
It was a means of protecting our interests and provide some level of outside oversight to this crude process which has commingled public funds and staff time with cold hard cash from those private interests who stand to benefit most.
Why didn’t you conniving shitheels give everyone the opportunity to “review the results” simultaneously?
Why was it necessary to screw up something as simple as posting the performance audit results with a modicum of transparency?
Why did a plan to widen Howland Boulevard between Providence and Elkcam Boulevards in Deltona, which was previously identified as a “fully funded” project on a 2017 River-to-Sea Transportation Planning Organization priority list for gas tax and transportation bond funding, also appear on the current half-cent sales tax wish list?
Why can’t anyone in Volusia County government produce a credible accounting for the money already allocated for the Howland widening and other projects identified under our current $65 million transportation bond?
Why is our highly-paid County Manager now allowing county mouthpiece Joanne Magley to field sensitive questions regarding why already funded transportation projects are now showing up as sales tax priorities?
If funding was available for infrastructure considered critical in 2017 – why wasn’t the project put out to bid two years ago? And if it wasn’t – how in the hell can anyone say with certainty that construction costs are “more expensive than originally envisioned?”
Why were We, The People promised that the much-ballyhooed advisory review committee would provide independent oversight and prevent the abject waste, fraud, reallocation and mismanagement inherent to any county-run project – yet, in reality, under the terms of the ordinance it’s a toothless watchdog – with “no decision making authority” – whose members are merely “nominated” by the municipalities, but “appointed” by royal edict of the county council – and serve completely at the whim and “will of the county council?
So much for any semblance of autonomous outside review. . .
Why didn’t our municipal and county governments establish, and adequately fund, a strategic plan for the repair and replacement of key transportation infrastructure and essential utilities?
And don’t try to pass off that goofy federal and state cash clearinghouse over at the Transportation Planning Organization – a hot air generator populated with many of the same elected dullards who got us mired in the mess in the first place – as being a legitimate intermodal transportation planning agency.
Why do our elected officials continue to funnel money to the private interests of uber-wealthy political insiders ($40 million to ISC for their “synergistic” One Daytona project, $4.5 million to Tanger Outlets, $15+ million to gazillionaire insurance intermediary Brown & Brown to underwrite construction of their corporate headquarters, a probable $1 million annual squeeze on the citizens of Daytona Beach for upkeep of the proposed J. Hyatt and Cici Brown Grande Esplanade, a potential $8.77 million to payoff state officials to drop century-old deed restrictions on City Island and make way for private development, etc., etc.) all while allowing a potential public infrastructure crisis to reach an estimated $1.4 billion countywide?
Why, with citizens being asked to go in their own pockets for a collective $45 million annually to avoid drinking their own recycled sewage, does the Volusia County Council still refuse to implement a fiscal integrity ordinance – or at least halt the long-standing, pernicious practice of allowing politically unaccountable senior staff to reallocate funds and amend the previous decisions of elected policymakers without their knowledge or approval?
Why would our elected officials ask that we hand even more of our hard-earned money over to these demonstrably inept bureaucrats who have proven, time-and-again, that they are patently incapable of effectively managing funds and projects that have been previously entrusted to them?
With just weeks until we are asked to vote on perhaps the most important civic decision of our time, these disturbing questions, turmoil and utter sense of confusion remain.
If there is any positive to come out of this incredibly expensive shit-show, it is that this creepy process has exposed just how grossly disorganized and horribly fractured Volusia County has become after years of mismanagement, oligarchical rule and strategic rot.
Trust me. If this blundering attempt to pass a local sales tax increase represents the very best effort of our political elite – we’re doomed.
So, the next time your mayor, council member or commissioner comes before you groveling for your sacred vote that will return them to office for more of the same – or some politically unaccountable shill tries to convince you why your family should throw good money after bad to these same inept assholes who got us into the predicament in the first place – ask them the simple question: