After reading The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s full-spread marketing campaign in Sunday’s edition flogging Volusia County’s half-cent sales tax increase – a shameless money grab that asks every man, woman, child and visitor to throw good money after bad to the same compromised politicians who got us into this quagmire in the first place – I thought long and hard about the Editorial Board’s almost condescending suggestion to Volusia taxpayers:
“Here’s what will help: Take a look at each of these politicians as they come up for re-election, decide whether or not they’ve done a good job, and vote accordingly. Look for those candidates who offer better decisions about growth management and fiscal stewardship, and then hold them to the promises they made.”
Isn’t that exactly what well-informed voters should do every election?
Unfortunately, here on the Fun Coast we live under a weird oligarchical system – driven solely by abject cronyism – the ritualistic worship of the ‘Rich & Powerful,’ and the resulting out-of-control corporate welfare which continues to drive an artificial economy designed to benefit the few who can pay-to-play.
A place where a handful of incredibly wealthy insiders artificially skew the political playing field with massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates – providing them an almost insurmountable advantage over grassroots challengers – or setting up a “best of two evils” choice.
As a result, these Big Money overseers now control votes on important public policy by the power of their mere presence in the gallery of council chambers.
Since early times, in war or politics, the winner of a contest not only vanquishes his or her opponent – but also receives the lucrative benefits of high office and political power.
For instance, in the early-1800’s many local governments in the United States operated under a “spoils” or patronage system where the party or individual winning an election would award lucrative civil service jobs and contracts to friends, family and financial supporters as a means of political recompense.
In 1883, the civil service system was reformed, strengthening security for public employees, and jobs and promotions were awarded based on a merit system.
These changes provided continuity and ensured a level of professional competence in the delivery of essential public services, while guarding against political interference at the operational level – but, unfortunately, wink-wink favoritism in government contracts and access to public funds continued.
In Volusia County’s no-holds-barred political environment, where a few wealthy individuals pick winners and losers – and perennial politicians essentially sell their very soul for elevation to positions of power – seeking a return on the resulting quid pro quo relationship has become the accepted norm.
After all, why wouldn’t powerful insiders and the corporations they control seek the incentives they have bought and paid for as long as they are being offered and routinely granted by their hired chattel on the dais of power?
In my view, this symbiotic relationship between the donor class and our elected policy makers is at the epicenter of Volusia County’s proposed half-cent sales tax increase.
Something tells me the News-Journal’s editorial board understands this issue better than I do. . .
Yet, our newspaper of record – and many municipal officials – continue to dismiss the very real concerns of the much-maligned “vote no crowd” as though we haven’t been continually lied to, watched as impact fees were strategically suppressed for the benefit of campaign contributors in the development community, or suffered the years of abject blight and dilapidation in Downtown Daytona as the area decomposed into an economic wasteland until real estate prices made it advantageous for the Big Boys to buy it up – then ride in like heroes and build a publicly-funded high-rise insurance office that we’re told will solve all our problems.
And how long will those with the ability to sway public opinion and bring fundamental change stand idle for the utter buffoonery that has become our Volusia County Council under the abysmal “leadership” of our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley?
In recent days, residents of Volusia County have been bombarded with glossy fliers and a carefully contrived marketing campaign on local government websites (some funded by our own tax dollars – others by a pro-development PAC) touting the benefits of self-inflicting a sales tax increase, knowing well that many residents are struggling to make ends meet – living at or below the poverty line with precious few means of escape.
The full-court press is on – and it will only get worse with ballots now in the mail – before the May 21st deadline for this weird, $490,000 mail-in referendum that many are already befuddled by.
For instance, some folks are receiving ballots for family members or former residents that haven’t voted (or lived) in Volusia County for years – and social media posts are showing similar issues in other households countywide.
I don’t blame Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis.
Clearly, she’s doing her best – and this referendum is like walking on Mars – a mail-in ballot scheme has never been attempted in Volusia County before (which says something about the way this process been managed from the start.)
In my view, these issues add to the sense of confusion – and hopelessness – that has marked this incredibly clumsy initiative since its inception in the backroom of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance. . .
As a Charter Member of the VOTE NO! crowd, I encourage you to reject this shameless money grab for what it is – then negotiate the real issues of unchecked growth, environmental destruction and corporate favoritism from a position of power – and demand that our elected officials represent the best interests of all citizens.
I happen to agree with The Daytona Beach News-Journal on one point:
If not now – when will Volusia County voters finally say, “enough is enough”?