Angels & Assholes for March 22, 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 County Council Chair Ed Kelley

Regardless of the topic, you can always count on our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, to have a flaky take on the important issues of the day.

And by “flaky,” I mean Old Ed’s abject stupidity is as thick and dense as a buttermilk biscuit. . .

Whether he’s bashing Councilwoman Heather Post for challenging the status quo – or yammering incoherently like some demented ventriloquist’s dummy about things he doesn’t have a clue about – Old Ed’s wacky soundbites never fail to disappoint.

Normally, I find Mr. Kelley’s unique brand of political slapstick humorous – who doesn’t – but this time he crossed the line, and once again exposed himself as the meanspirited churl he’s always been.

There’s nothing funny about that.

Last November, Joel Price of Daytona Beach, a veteran of the United States Navy who describes himself as legally blind – filed suit against Volusia County, and other political jurisdictions around the state, under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, after his attempts to learn more about local government were hampered by the fact many documents available for review were incompatible with his screen reading software.

Most people who pay attention know that this has been a long-standing issue for the visually impaired as screen reader software cannot translate portable document format while many government websites use PDF to display content.

Since the ADA passed in 1990, the public and private sector have worked hard to ensure that buildings, parks and other public spaces are readily accessible to persons with disabilities – not because it’s the right thing to do – but because it’s the law.

Unfortunately, in many cases it took the force of law to ensure compliance – and I applaud Mr. Price’s efforts to make the services and information provided by government websites equally accessible to all citizens.

Many local communities have taken this movement seriously and are researching technology that will make their web content available to everyone.  For instance, to their credit, the City of Deltona has formed an ADA Compliance Committee that is studying ways to make the city’s online documents and media more accessible.

That’s a big step – especially for Deltona – a city government that isn’t exactly known for its openness and transparency. . .

Trust me – Mr. Price isn’t doing this for the money.

For instance, in a compromise agreement with Flagler County, Price will receive just a fraction of the $15,700 settlement, with the bulk going to pay legal fees.

Clearly, Mr. Price is fighting valiantly for accessibility and reasonable accommodation for all citizens attempting to interface with their government because, as his important lawsuit pointed out, “One must be informed to understand their peril. . .”   

Unfortunately, Chairman Kelley doesn’t seem to grasp the seriousness of ensuring that the visually impaired have the same right to meaningful participation in the political process as everyone else.

That’s not unusual.

There are a lot of things Mr. Kelley doesn’t understand – but that never stops his incessant slack-jawed jabbering – which always serves to expose just how far he missed the point.

Earlier this week, Chairman Kelley responded to Mr. Price’s legal action in The Daytona Beach News-Journal with his usual gracelessness, “This just makes the cost of conversion a lot more expensive,” Kelley said, adding that documents on Volusia’s website are rarely explored and that it’s unlikely Price has been truly interested in records from 137 jurisdictions. “It seems like a frivolous lawsuit.”

Jesus.  What a blathering dipshit. . .

According to experts, “In law, frivolous litigation is the practice of starting or carrying on lawsuits that, due to their lack of legal merit, have little to no chance of being won,”  and are usually filed with the intent to harass, annoy or disturb an opposing party.

In this case, Mr. Price attempted to make governments around the state aware of the accessibility issue – and gave them ample opportunity to correct the problem.

In most cases, they blatantly ignored him.

Only when his pleas for help in accessing these web-based community services, programs and public information afforded to those who are not sight impaired were disregarded did he use the Americans with Disabilities Act for its intended purpose.

I am convinced Mr. Price’s lawsuit was anything but frivolous.

In my opinion, Mr. Kelley’s crude comments and brazen indifference to the very real needs and motivations of the blind and visually impaired in their struggle for reasonable access and inclusion is a new low – even for this callous twit.

Angel              Deltona Strong

 One of my favorite quotes comes from the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 A sentiment embodied by those intrepid souls of Deltona Strong.

The community-based organization bills itself as a “…grassroots citizens action coalition located in Deltona, Florida.  As non-partisan non-profit, we strive to break down barriers to achieving an inclusive and engaged community. We research issues that have a negative impact to our community and strategize to identify solutions to challenges for Deltona residents.”

Formed over a year ago by a group of concerned residents, the group’s president, Dana McCool is famous for taking a courageous stand against the city’s grossly unfair and wildly fluctuating water billing policy by paying her utility bill with $500 in pennies – all while livestreaming her simple, but effective, protest on social media.

I loved it.

The effort is guided by McCool, the group’s president; Troy Shimkus, vice president; and Terri Ellis, the communications director. The group’s advisory board includes veteran civic activists Brandy White, Dayle Whitman and Christina Larsen.

Since its inception, Deltona Strong has demanded government accountability, remained focused on building a stronger, more cohesive community through outreach and ambassadorships, and partnered with elected and appointed officials to address lingering civic problems.

In my view, any community activist seeking to make a transformational change at the local level need look no further than the hardworking members of Deltona Strong for example and inspiration.

Through a core commitment to building a better community, Deltona Strong has become an important voice in the life of Volusia County’s largest city.

Tomorrow morning, beginning at 9:00am, Deltona Strong – in cooperation with Mayor Heidi Herzberg – will host a water, septic and sewer forum at City Hall Chambers, 2345 Providence Boulevard.

During the meeting, residents will be invited to participate in an in-depth discussion of public utilities issues, and Ms. McCool will provide an update on the audit of the Deltona Water Department.

Kudos to Deltona Strong for your quality efforts to make a positive difference.

Angel              The Daytona Beach News-Journal

This might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I’m going to say it anyway.

In my view, the News-Journal has taken the lead on public education campaigns on every important civic and social issue facing Volusia County from beachside blight and dilapidation to this goofy half-cent sales tax money grab.

I’m glad they stepped up to the plate to provide a forum for a meaningful exchange of information – especially when those who should have, didn’t.

Where I take exception is the one-sided composition of the presenters – which appears to be limited to those lock-step cheerleaders for a higher sales tax – including our addled County Chair Ed Kelley, Volusia’s “new” County Manager Georgie Recktenwald and usually a few yokels from the respective city crying the poor-mouth blues.

To many, given the make-up of the dais, these forums appear to be little more than a propaganda organ of the pro-tax crowd – a cheap infomercial for all the wonderful things that will come our way if we just rollover and take it like good little taxpaying drones.

At a recent Town Hall forum sponsored by the News-Journal in West Volusia, citizen-activist Keith Chester – who is rapidly emerging as an important voice of opposition to the tax hike – stood before this “Phalanx of Positivity” (a performance expertly choreographed by Sales Tax Guru Steve Vancore of Clearview Research) and asked the hard questions.

According to reports, Old Ed patronized Mr. Chester, and the assembled citizens, with his ridiculous “trust me” promises and empty guarantees:

“County Chair Ed Kelley assured Chester that state law mandates the tax to sunset in 20 years. And while the money is coming in, it would be put to good use, Kelley said.

“I can guarantee you while I’m here we will not waste your money,” Kelley promised.”

“I can assure you the money will be used for these purposes and you can hold your local elected officials accountable,” Kelley said.”

Then, in perhaps the most bald-faced ruse in the short history of this clumsy shit-show, Old Ed tugged at the heartstrings of citizens desperate for hard answers by using the fallback “It’s for the kids” argument, “A lot of this half-cent sales tax is about tomorrow,” he said. “It’s for our children and grandchildren. A lot of its longer-term issues.”

Bullshit.

It’s about the children alright.

Many of us are working hard to spread the word that if these gluttonous bastards have their way, our children and grandchildren will be saddled with a crippling gas, property and sales tax burden that will make living in Volusia County all but impossible for many struggling families.

Then, Chairman Kelley attempted to convince the crowd that the much-ballyhooed Advisory Review Committee “will make sure each half-cent sales tax dollar is spent as pledged.”

The problem is – that’s not what the actual ordinance says – and Ed Kelley damn well knows it.

Carefully constructed language in the ordinance makes the oversight committee little more than 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, how is this neutered “review board” supposed to “make sure each half-cent sales tax dollar is spent as pledged,” when the members can be terminated with extreme prejudice anytime they make an advisory recommendation contrary to the shady intrigues of county council members and their uber-wealthy handlers?

That’s not autonomous oversight.  That’s a rubber-stamp.

In my view, News-Journal Editor Pat Rice should consider reaching out to local dissidents – those who have a well-researched opinion on this shameless scam – such as Daytona Beach activists Ken Strickland and Greg Gimbert, former county council candidate Jeff Brower or the well-informed Keith Chester.

(Anyone but me – I have to wash my beard that night. . .)

By doing so, these important discussions would offer a point/counterpoint alternative to the carefully crafted pap, fluff and talking points – and help challenge the well-heeled power structure that is spending lavishly to see this sales tax increase become a reality for hard-working Volusia County families who can least afford it.

Asshole           Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler

When it came down to standing up for the fundamental principles of American democracy – Weak Billie Wheeler proved, once again, that she simply does not possess the backbone and strength of character to stand with her constituents against the entrenched oligarchy that passes for governance in Volusia County.

At Tuesday’s county council meeting, our dullards on the dais of power decided on a 4-3 split vote to continue the county’s expensive, and incredibly divisive, challenge to Amendment 10 – a measure passed by 53% of Volusia County voters which returns constitutional authority to the office of sheriff, property appraiser and elections supervisor.

Why?

Because when Volusia County’s power elite decide they don’t agree with a decision of the voters – they unleash the full might of County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert to overturn the majority decision of We, The People as they maintain a death grip on the status quo.

In my view, this is the antithesis of a functional democracy – one accountable to the supreme power of the people – and represents an insidious form of subjugation, where our vote only counts if it meets the approval and serves the needs of the ruling class.

It may be a benevolent form of tyranny – the direct oppression of the will of the people cloaked in the velvet glove of protecting our “Home Rule” – but it reeks with the stench of dictatorial rule.

When it came to the nut cutting hour, Weak Billie Wheeler changed her stated goal of dropping the suit to “get on with business,” and joined the always arrogant Deb Denys, the Very Reverend Fred Lowry and our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, in the majority vote to permit Cujo Eckert to continue this sinister push to overturn our sacred vote.

Apparently, Weak Billie was swayed by Councilman Lowry’s patented argument that you and I are too damn stupid to understand what we were voting for in the first place – which, you may recall – was the same spiteful reasoning the Old Guard used when they attempted to suppress transportation impact fees for their benefactors in the real estate development industry.

In his typically condescending  way, Rev. Lowry said, “Do you like babies, puppies and cats, and by the way, we are going to change your charter.  I found not one single person who understood we were changing the charter. That’s why I’m supportive of this. People just weren’t aware of what they were voting for with this measure.”

Bullshit.

Once again, the Vicar of Verbosity – the Bishop of Bullshit – proves that he will say anything to protect the status quo – even if it means trampling the rights of those he has sworn to serve. . .

Not to be outdone, Councilwoman Deb Denys once again lectured her long-suffering colleagues on her unique brand of “leadership” when she crowed, “We started this, and we need to finish this. That’s what leaders do.  We’ve come this far, so I think we need to see it all the way through to the Supreme Court and get a final determination.”

(Hey, Deb – you are not a leader – you’re a dull tool of special interests that are slowly exsanguinating Volusia County – you know it, and we know it – so stop the Dale Carnegie routine and stay in your lane. . .)

Just for the record, what true leaders do is understand and respect that all governmental power derives from the will of the people – as expressed through our sacred vote – in fact, it is what members of the United States Military have fought and died to preserve for 238 years – and anything less is an affront to all we hold dear in this country.

In fact, what we are witnessing here bears no resemblance to leadership.

As a smart friend said, “This fight isn’t about Home Rule.  It’s about who rules.”

In my view, council members Ben Johnson, Heather Post and Barbara Girtman demonstrated incredible statesmanship – and acted in the highest traditions of our system of representative democracy – when, despite their personal reservations, they stood tall in support of the will of the majority of Volusia County voters and voted to uphold our hallowed right to self-determination.

“This will rewrite our government and it will create a cost to us,” Councilman Johnson said. “And even though we can second guess and say this would not have passed if it wasn’t for the bundling…I’m going to have to go with 53 percent and it’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make.”

Folks, that’s what unselfish service to a cause greater than one’s own self-interest looks like.

That’s true leadership in action.

Asshole           City of Ormond Beach

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse – the City of Ormond Beach goes and lowers the bar – completing its noxious transition from local government to cheap facilitator.

This week we learned the incredibly disturbing news that the Ormond Beach Police Department on West Granada Boulevard is apparently in grave danger of flooding in the event of a catastrophic hurricane – and the building, which was built just 18-years ago at a cost of $1.3 million, has been allowed to fall into such disastrous disrepair that our City Commission was recently forced to commission a $30,000 “feasibility study” which will list at least three alternatives to occupying this toxic site.

Bullshit.

I’ll bet you a Donnie’s Donut that whatever this “study” ultimately shows – it will result in the Ormond Beach Police Department being displaced – and it has absolutely nothing to do with hurricanes and roof repairs – and everything to do with ensuring that the incredibly desirable real estate it sits on becomes accessible to local developers.

There is nothing wrong with the building that cannot be repaired or mitigated – and the facility has never flooded.  Ever.

For over 30-years I served in a local government that was housed in a City Hall facility built in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration – and has now been in continuous service to the citizens of Holly Hill for some 77-years.

It proves what can be accomplished with an attention to preventive maintenance, by living within the community’s means – and building upon an indomitable spirit of civic pride and sense of tradition that has been lost in places like Ormond Beach that value political power and greed over quality of life.

Now, we live in an era where local governments routinely employ the malicious tactic of creating faux emergencies to facilitate the transfer of public assets to private interests with a profit motive.

These ploys usually begin by allowing publicly-owned facilities to strategically rot through lack of maintenance or repair – or a potentially “dangerous” condition is suddenly discovered, usually supported by the “expert” opinions of flexible professionals on the public payroll who go along to get along – which leaves taxpayers with few options beyond building a Taj Mahal replacement.

In this case, the Ormond Beach Main Street project has made wonderful changes to Granada Boulevard – and it is transforming our community’s downtown into something incredibly special.

Why not simply tell citizens of Ormond Beach that the Police Department is sitting on valuable land that could be used to enhance and expand the mixed-use streetscape?

Why ruin it with the stench of lies? 

This blatant deception speaks to how far removed our elected and appointed officials in Ormond Beach have become from the citizens they serve.

Rather than represent our best interests – the City Commission now perpetrates a gross fraud against their constituents – creating fantastic stories of how a relatively new public facility has become all but uninhabitable – as a cheap means of facilitating the transfer of the property to those who would develop it for private gain.

My God.

What have we become? 

Angel               Bethune-Cookman Lady Wildcats

The Bethune-Cookman Lady Wildcats are going to the Big Dance!

Last Saturday, Bethune-Cookman took Norfolk State 57-45 to claim the 2019 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) women’s basketball championship at Scope Arena.  This huge win represents the Wildcats second ever MEAC tournament title and earned the team an automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

Here’s a special Barker’s View “Angel Status” to B-CU Senior Angel Golden, and the Lady Wildcat’s fantastic coach, Vanessa Blair-Lewis, who took home the Tournament’s Outstanding Player and Outstanding Coach honors respectively.

Tomorrow morning, B-CU will take on arguably the best team in woman’s college basketball when they face defending champion Notre Dame to kick off March Madness!

You can watch the action on ESPN-2 beginning at 11:00am.

I hope you’ll join me in cheering on our own Lady Wildcat’s on their fist ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament!

Way to go, lady’s!

Win or lose, you have made us incredibly proud!

 Quote of the Week

“Since companies supporting the PAC (Volusia Citizens for Better Roads and Clean Water) are convinced that more funds are so critically needed, I will wait for the Speedway and Brown & Brown, as well as Tanger Outlets, to return public money given to them, and voluntarily rescind any future incentives. This would be done in the spirit of being good corporate citizens, and to lead by their example. In addition, all amenity fees, that fake tax-like charge added to all purchases at The Pavilion, One Daytona and Tanger Outlets, should now be remitted to local governments for infrastructure needs. I did not need government corporate welfare money in my 41 years in business in Volusia County, so why do these very successful private enterprises require it?”

–Bernard Baran, Port Orange, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Writers weigh in on sales tax hike,” Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Well said, sir.  But don’t hold your breath. . .

When it comes to the stream of public funds – that’s a one way spigot – with a built-in backflow preventer that ensures We, The People, whose sole role in the process is to feed an insatiable machine, rarely, if ever, see a return on the massive investments we make in the for-profit schemes of the ‘Rich & Powerful.’

But Mr. Baran makes an excellent point.

Thousands of local small businesses struggle to survive in this artificial economy, where our politicians pick winners and losers by skewing the playing field with an infusion of public funds whenever the right last names need us to cover their overhead and reduce risk with tax abatement ploys, infrastructure improvements and other quid pro quo corporate welfare scams.

All while the little guy never sees a dime. . .

When that isn’t enough – politicians permit developers to keep the flow going with “enhanced amenity fees” – a sales tax by any other name – on purchases we make at the very shopping centers we helped to underwrite in the first place.

Then, like the greed-crazed tax-suckers they are, these same “corporate citizens” have the impudence to demand that their elected intermediaries return to the well and demand even more of our hard-earned cash at the point-of-sale with a sales tax increase?

That takes balls. . .

And Another Thing!

 Next week, I will have been a member of the leisure class for five years.

Wow.  How time flies.

During my professional life, I had the opportunity to work on some of the most entrenched civic issues of our time – working with stakeholders in the public, private and faith communities to solve problems and bring about positive change.

I enjoyed that part of the job.

In my view, no issue was more important than juvenile justice reforms designed to protect vulnerable young people from being taken into the gaping maw of the criminal justice system – which invariably led to children leaving school and becoming part of what some refer to as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

One local organization has been at the forefront of the effort to institute a civil citation program in Volusia County

In an excellent editorial authored by the inspirational co-leaders of Fighting Against Injustice Toward Harmony (F.A.I.T.H.) – the Rev. Kathy Tew-Ricky of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ormond Beach and Pedro Dash of Tubman-King Community Church wrote:

“F.A.I.T.H. found evidence that Volusia County indeed tops not only Florida but our nation in out-of-school suspensions and juvenile arrests. A corresponding low graduation rate is not surprising. With this information, F.A.I.T.H. began to research solutions that would keep our communities and schools safer while also correcting misbehavior. The solutions proved to be civil citations in lieu of arrests and restorative practices in our schools. Each of these solutions assures accountability and restitution by juvenile offenders.”

I can assure you that – unless things have drastically changed in the five years since I retired – local law enforcement executives wholeheartedly support reasonable alternatives to arrest and incarceration for young, non-violent offenders – and many are long-term partners with F.A.I.T.H. in supporting the civil citation and other diversion programs in Volusia County.

Now, F.A.I.T.H. is taking on the difficult problem of student discipline.

The organization of 28 inter-faith congregations will hold its 2019 Action Assembly on Monday, April 8th at 6:30pm at Peabody Auditorium.  Last years meeting was attended by nearly 2,000 people who collectively asked for a commitment from our elected and appointed officials to help bring positive change to often broken systems.

This year, School Board members Ida Wright, Carl Persis and Ruben Colon will appear, along with Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood, Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri, Chief Probation Officer Dan Merrithew and Volusia County Council members Heather Post, Billie Wheeler and Barbara Girtman.

I hope you will take the opportunity to join me for a wonderful evening as we join with “good people doing good work” to ensure a bright future for the youth of our communities.

That’s all for me!  Have a great weekend, kids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for March 22, 2019

  1. Fred, you the only reason you haven’t talked to one person that understood the amendment is because you only talk to sheep.

    Like

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