Wait a minute?
What happened to the champions of Home Rule?
What became of the whole idea that the right to self-determination in local governance is omnipotent?
What happened to the notion that small, accountable essential public services are the most manageable, responsive and community-focused – while large, unwieldy, centralized government entities become grossly inefficient and impassive with a corresponding loss of services?
And what in God’s name would make our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and freshman Councilman Ben Johnson, think that anyone would want Volusia County government to take over municipal fire services – or anything else for that matter?
On the very day the Volusia County Council smugly patted themselves on the back for “fixing” our horribly broken Volusia County emergency medical and fire services by throwing a collective $17 million of our money to repair the damage and rebuild a marginally efficient service they allowed to crumble, they announce a shameless power-grab in the form of a consolidation of municipal fire departments.
Frankly, as a resident of an east Volusia municipality, I wouldn’t let Volusia County government within arms reach of any essential service my family and I rely on – especially in a life-and-death emergency.
The men and women of EVAC and Volusia County Fire/Rescue are dedicated professionals who have performed with incredible professionalism despite being trapped in a poorly funded and terribly managed system that has long been treated like the red-headed stepchild of county government.
For years, VCFR and EVAC suffered service and staffing reductions – despite increasing service demand due to unchecked development – which is slowly choking area roadways and stressing public infrastructure, utilities and essential services.
At their own professional peril, members of the Volusia Professional Firefighters Association were among the first to sound the klaxon on the life-threatening issues with staffing at EVAC that led Councilwoman Heather Post to fight for substantive change.
In my view, Volusia County government has a very high opinion of itself.
Considering Old Ed Kelley and his cronies are actively traveling the width and breadth of Volusia County trying their level best to convince us to take even more money out of our pockets and transfer it to government coffers as a means of correcting an infrastructure emergency that – under their watch – has been allowed to grow to an estimated $1.5 billion countywide – I’m not sure I want them anywhere near emergency services.
In my view, Ed Kelley couldn’t manage a goat rope. . .
During the height of the EVAC debacle – when your family and mine were placed at grave risk by the horrific mismanagement and under-staffing that caused large population centers in Volusia County to go completely unprotected for hours at a time – Volusia County fire chiefs did their level best to ensure that their citizens were protected.
For instance, Port Orange opted to purchase its own ambulance last summer after that community lost faith in the county’s system.
In addition, the Volusia County Fire Chief’s Association made countless attempts to bring substantive change and suggest solutions to critical issues in Volusia County EMS – only to be met with callous resistance and an unwillingness to address significant issues.
Now, it appears our municipal fire chiefs are about to reap the whirlwind of their valiant effort to protect their citizens and speak truth to power.
If history repeats, no one who dares bring to light the almost criminally negligent machinations of county government leaves the field unscathed – but don’t take my word for it.
Ask former Volusia County Medical Examiner Dr. Sara Zydowicz how bringing forward issues worked out for her – or former federal lobbyist Jamie Pericola – who saw his reputation besmirched by our ‘powers that be’ when he sounded the alarm on internal turmoil and abject corruption of the system by entrenched insiders.
According to reports, the Volusia County Council has asked our “new” County Manager Georgie Recktenwald to begin riding the circuit – talking to city managers about the possibility of consolidating municipal fire departments under the county’s tattered “umbrella” as a way to, “. . .cut costs and improve service to residents.”
(Hey, Georgie – don’t you have an infrastructure “emergency” to manage?)
According to the incredibly mean-spirited Chairman Ed Kelley, “We’d be far better served with a unified, consolidated form of fire service than having it all split up,” he said. “Do we need 13 fire chiefs? Sorry fire chiefs out there. Maybe you could be a different chief in a bigger system.”
And maybe Ed Kelley could pull his head out of his ass – but I don’t see either happening anytime soon. . .
I have a question:
Do we really need this massive, bloated and wholly unaccountable county government?
One that long-ago lost any touch with its constituents and now serves exclusively as a cheap facilitator for the transfer of tax dollars to underwrite the for-profit schemes of political insiders who perpetuate the fraud with massive campaign contributions to their bought-and-paid-for puppets on the dais of power?
How about we start the process of “right-sizing” this swollen bureaucracy that – in its purest form – should exist only to serve the needs of those living in unincorporated areas not covered by municipal services and our judicial system, tax collection and elections services?
Imagine how We, The People could lower our tax burden, improve service delivery and regain control of our county government if we simply whittled this behemoth down to its brass tacks – limiting its reach to essential services and allowing our elected officials – such as Sheriff Mike Chitwood – to have the constitutionally ordained independence to manage and administer their respective departments in a manner reflective of their political accountability to the people they serve?
Its something to think about. . .