Daytona Beach: A Monumental Loss

There are many things that We, The People entrust to the care of our local government.

For instance, we expect that those we elect to serve our community will steward our hard-earned tax dollars to provide effective public protection, respond to emergencies, ensure safe potable water, maintain adequate transportation and utilities infrastructure, enact and enforce local ordinances that protect property values, conserve our natural places and enhance our collective quality of life.

We also have a right to expect that those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest will respect and maintain the integrity of our buildings and facilities – especially those that house essential government services or have historic significance to the community’s heritage.

Unfortunately, many years ago, Volusia County government patented a technique I like to call “strategic neglect” – a malicious practice that withholds preventative maintenance and upkeep at certain publicly-owned facilities – allowing them to essentially rot in place until they reach such a deplorable state of dilapidation that demolition and replacement becomes the only viable option.

Now, it appears the City of Daytona Beach is using the same tactic to further their narrow-minded vision of “economic progress” on City Island and beyond.

That’s sad, because once these historic places are destroyed they are gone forever.

Under this pernicious scheme, “progress” requires the sacrifice of properties which link our present to our past – and the idea of preserving and enriching our unique cultural heritage by incorporating our rich history into the modern landscape is dismissed as “too expensive” by arrogant politicians and short-sighted administrators who naturally know what’s best for the rest of us.

The practice is also used whenever local governments decide they need to expand or replace operational facilities, rather than renovate and repurpose existing assets.

The ruse usually begins with scary stories about changes to flood maps or other physical threats to the existing building – a nasty “mold” infestation or compromised structural elements – all while management purposely withholds funding for maintenance of the facility – allowing the elements to do the rest.

Then, when the public asset has deteriorated to the point it is no longer serviceable – outrageously inflated estimates for repairs are published – and the complicit elected officials tut-tut in faux astonishment about “priorities” and lack of funding – leaving razing and replacing the building as the only prudent solution.

In my view, it borders on official nonfeasance – the willful failure to perform a duty required by one’s office that results in harm or damage to public property.

It appears the City Island Recreation Center is the latest historic public facility to fall victim to strategic neglect.

According to a report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “At some point over the past 76 years, the charm of the structure a half block east of Beach Street got lost in rotting wood and a pervasive musty stench. The city-owned building has been closed for seven years now, and it’s plagued with mold, water damage, buckling floorboards and peeling paint. It’s boarded shut, and used only by termites, rodents and the occasional homeless person who slips into the crawlspace below the building constructed on pilings.”

The building was erected in 1943 as a dance hall to entertain American service members during World War II.

According to reports, the city was set to demolish the building last fall; however, a protest by area residents has given the historic facility a short stay from the wrecking ball.

Earlier this year, the city paid an engineering firm $25,000 to estimate the cost of renovations – and received a range of “$762,450 to $1.5 million.”

Naturally, the quote resulted in an immediate knee-jerk reaction from Commissioner Rob Gilliland (who seems to have his hand on every hot-button issue, yet never finds a workable solution to any of them?) who dashed the hopes of many when he said, “It is absolutely not a priority for me to spend $1 million.  The likelihood of that (building) surviving is not good.”

Now, a veteran’s organization wants to save the structure and re-purpose it as a military museum.

Given its unique location near the proposed veteran’s memorial at the foot of the new Orange Avenue bridge, the center would be the perfect space to house displays showcasing the Halifax area’s contribution to the war effort.

And, like most privately managed projects, proponents say they can make necessary renovations for a fraction of the cost proposed by the City of Daytona Beach. . .

I guess what sticks in my craw is the fact city officials rolled over and pissed on themselves like incontinent lapdogs when J. Hyatt Brown asked for tens-of-millions in tax dollars to fund perpetual maintenance of the riverside park that fronts his new headquarters building on Beach Street.

Without so much as a vote on the issue, the citizens of Daytona Beach are now on the hook for $800,000 annually for maintenance and upkeep of the Brown & Brown Esplanade – the gift that keeps on giving – which will serve as the perfect natural buffer between the ghastly condominiums, commercial shopping and office space that will flood City Island – once that deathtrap courthouse has been demolished, our historic ballpark “The Jack” has been bulldozed, the City Island Rec Center has been flattened and those pesky “public purposes forever” deed restrictions are legislatively removed.

You see, this historic building isn’t compatible with some speculative developers’ screwy “vision” (or profit motive) for this incredibly beautiful piece of land, and, ultimately, that is why it is doomed to the “remember when” bin of Daytona Beach history.













Angels & Assholes for June 28, 2019

Hi, kids!

Well, it looks like we’re in for a long hot summer, folks.

As I sit down to pound out this week’s rambling screed, the jovial television weatherman is telling me its 110° in the shade – and the disturbing headlines in this weeks Daytona Beach News-Journal make it seem even hotter. . .

Let’s take a look at some of the hot-button issues that “made the paper” this week (in no particular order):

“County feeling affordable housing crunch”

 “Cancer docs accuse AdventHealth of ‘anticompetitive conduct’”

 “Russell moving from Volusia to Flagler”

 “Bombshell ruling against Florida environmentalists”

 “Hepatitis A soars in Volusia County”

 Wow.  Any one of those nuggets should steam your beans.

But this is Volusia County – we’re used to doom-and-gloom.

Thanks to the near-constant intrigues of our local governments, we’ve lost the ability to be shocked by sensational headlines – or enjoy a carnival funhouse for that matter. . .

That’s what happens when you live in a smoke-and-mirrors political environment full of elaborate effects, hidden puppeteers and mischievous clowns.

It takes something extra special to get our hackles up, right?

Well, earlier this week, we had one of those good ol’ Fun Coast “WTF?” palm-slap-to-the-forehead moments when we awoke to an interesting juxtaposition on the front page – “Principal, AP exam under scrutiny,” – and – “Exiting schools chief’s payout: $244K,” reports which shocked the conscience of even veteran observers and underscored the catastrophic leadership and management issues that continue to plague Volusia County Schools, even as former Superintendent Tom “Hungry, Humble and Smart” Russell rides off to a cushy new gig as principal of Flagler-Palm Coast High School with a sack full of severance following his unceremonious termination in Volusia.

Weird how that works, huh?

Not really.

Especially when we know that Flagler County School Superintendent James Tager – who tapped Mr. Russell for the Flagler-Palm Coast job – was hired as Flagler’s head honcho with Russell’s recommendation. . .

Yep.  You read that right.

With former Superintendent Russell in full skedaddle, on Tuesday, parents and taxpayers received their first look at a scandalous issue at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School, where the principal, Cheryl Salerno, is accused of concocting a weird experiment which lumped freshmen students into an advanced college-readiness course – something called an AP Seminar – yet, only 78 students sat for the official examination required for college credit – while 336 were given last years test, mocked up to look like the real one.

It’s ugly. . .

In the aftermath of this colossally deceitful ruse which shook the confidence of parents and students – and with an active U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the district underway – one would think the Volusia County School Board might reconsider its decision to offer Mr. Russell $68,627 in severance pay – and thousands more in extended health, dental and life insurance benefits – until this matter can be properly reviewed by outside authority?


On Tuesday, Russell’s incredibly lucrative severance package was unanimously approved without discussion. . .

Now, if history repeats, absolutely no one in the upper-echelons of district “leadership” will be held responsible for this deplorable scam – a fraud that only serves to teach impressionable students that they truly are victims of a system they cannot escape – and perpetuates the distressing notion that no senior administrator is ever held to account in this godforsaken quagmire that passes for our children’s educational system.

Then, on Wednesday, the headlines – front page, above the fold – screamed that Volusia County has the 4th highest number of Hepatitis A cases in the state.

From the maps, it looks to me like the I-4 corridor is, as learned virologists like to say, “eat-up with it”. . .

Add to that the mysterious case of why no one in a position to know is returning reporters phone calls on what many are now calling the “Putin Tower Fiasco” at the “$192-million” Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominium project – or the fact affordable housing apparently hasn’t been on the radar of those we pay handsomely to, well, plan for these things – and one could say the “news” here on the Fun Coast has been hotter than bare feet on an asphalt off-beach parking lot this week.


There was one quaint piece in this weeks News-Journal that tugged at my frayed old heartstrings.

In Wednesday’s Perspective section, Ponce Inlet Town Councilman Joseph Perrone – who also serves as a member of the booboisie over at our do-nothing River-to-Sea Transportation Planning Organization – wrote a dewy-eyed essay asking why the Volusia County Council has given up on pushing for a DeLand SunRail stop (yawn, excuse me. . .)

Regardless, it was nice to hear from someone who still gives two-shits about the broken promises of SunRail and worthless $2-million transportation studies – or naively questions why the Volusia County Council has become the most artificial and ineffectual elected body in the region. . .

Oh, I almost forgot the “Big News” that I didn’t see in the newspaper this week:

Have you heard the disturbing rumors of an 825-acre planned unit development in southeast Flagler County delightfully called “The Gardens”?

A massive project which will bring some 4,000+ residential, commercial and mixed used development to the area south of State Road 100 on the east and west sides of John Anderson Highway near the Volusia County border?

I have.  And it’s no rumor. . .

So much for all that “smart growth” nonsense, eh?

Never mind all that.  This is a “Boom” cycle!  Get your head out of your ass, Barker!

No one cares about your goofy Henny Penny routine over unchecked sprawl destroying our environment and ruining our quality of life, wah, wah, wah.  Old news, old man.

How many times do I have to tell you – there is no profit in useless wildlife habitat!

Gopher tortoises and whitetail deer don’t take 30-year mortgages on three-bed/two-bath zero-lot-line cracker boxes with “prices starting in the mid-$200’s”. . .

Slash-and-burn land rape and the health of Graham Swamp or the headwaters of Bulow Creek be damned – now is the time to focus our complete and undivided attention on the real environmental threat as artfully defined and flogged by our ‘powers that be’:  Plastic straws and Styrofoam plates. . . 

A long, hot summer indeed.

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:

Angel               Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post

If there’s one thing I can’t abide – it’s when vindictive animus and petty politics stand in the way of true public service.

In my view, a true call to serve a cause greater than ones own self-interest is a sacred and special thing.

Since she was elected to represent the citizens of District 4, County Councilwoman Heather Post has tried valiantly to serve the best interests of her constituents with fairness, integrity and enthusiasm on the local, regional and national stage.

Unfortunately, each time Ms. Post has attempted to represent Volusia County in a larger leadership role, her efforts have been unceremoniously quashed – not by her political detractors or opponents – but by her so-called “colleagues” on the dais of power in DeLand.

Last year, when Post asked for a letter supporting her bid for the Florida Association of Counties Second Vice President slot – her request was arrogantly denied by our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, who said, “…he doesn’t trust Post and would never support her representing the county on a state board because her views on issues too often don’t align with the council majority.”

Then, in January, following the election of freshman Council members Ben Johnson and Barbara Girtman, Old Ed apparently had a change of heart and issued a glowing letter of recommendation to the Florida Association of Counties, which stated, in part, “Volusia County enthusiastically supports County Council Member Heather Post’s candidacy for a Vice President position with the Florida Association of Counties (FAC).” 

In turn, Ms. Post qualified to run for the leadership role against Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine during the organization’s annual conference at the posh Hyatt Regency Orlando earlier this month.

It would be the first time in the 90-year history of FAC that a sitting Volusia County representative had been a candidate for the Executive Board.

However – when the time came to make good on his promise to support Post’s run –  in perhaps the most shameful display of Chairman Kelley’s seemingly bottomless propensity for quisling, mean-spirited backstabbing – I’m being told that prior to the vote, Old Ed and Councilwoman Billie Wheeler actively and enthusiastically campaigned against Ms. Post!

Those in the know reported that Kelley and Wheeler pulled a double-cross move that some saw as highly disparaging to a sitting elected official – and a complete embarrassment to Volusia County.

Look, I wasn’t there.

You may find this hard to believe, but I’m typically not invited to rub-elbows, slap backs and smooch poop-chutes with our elected ‘movers and shakers’ in vendor-sponsored “hospitality suites” at haughty statewide political confabs. . .

But based upon everything I’ve seen and heard – it’s apparent that Kelley and Wheeler openly supported Ms. Post’s opponent.

In fact, I received a telling photograph which shows Kelley and Wheeler sporting Constantine campaign stickers on their shirts at the conference – a real thumb-in-the-eye to Heather Post – and a gratuitous “screw you” to their clueless constituents at home who actually believed they would support one of Volusia’s own for this prestigious position as they pledged to do.

Ed and Billie FAC.png

I mean, how low can these insufferable assholes stoop in their endless attempt to destroy Ms. Post’s personal and political credibility – or crush the confidence of long-suffering residents of Volusia County who are routinely deceived by this base form of political treachery?

Rather than live up to the letter and spirit of the recommendation endorsed by Chairman Kelley on January 11, 2019 – which “wholeheartedly” supported Ms. Post in her leadership bid – when it came time to champion their colleagues run – these two contemptuous turncoats publicly threw their influence behind Lee “The Lion of Seminole” Constantine.

You remember Lee, right?

He’s the Seminole County Commissioner who was accused of sexual harassment last year by a college-aged intern who was sent from the University of Central Florida to work with Mr. Constantine’s non-profit Charity Challenge.

According to reports, in a complaint sent to Seminole County officials, the student alleged that the Commissioner massaged her shoulders, played with her hair and “tickled” her from behind.

Apparently, Seminole County kicked the complaint to UCF who took a cursory look-see at the accusations.

Ultimately, Constantine denied any misconduct and avoided discipline – admitting that he touched the young intern when she worked for his charity; however, he emphatically denied having any sexual intent.

Thank God he set the record straight.  Otherwise, it would have seemed creepy, right?

Regardless, in what I’m sure was an abundance of caution – the University of Central Florida no longer sends interns to Mr. Constantine’s office or charity citing “the safety of their students.”

Fortunately, Charity Challenge – which Mr. Constantine founded – is reported to have conducted its own internal inquiry into the disturbing matter and earlier this year confirmed to the news website Florida Daily that their investigation cleared the Commissioner of any wrongdoing. . .

Again, whew, right?

I mean, we wouldn’t want any lingering questions about a sitting elected official’s fitness to serve – so, kudos to the independent investigators over at Charity Challenge for clearing up any ambiguity.

In an odd twist, the intern’s allegation came on the heels of a separate 2015 complaint by Seminole County administrative employees that Constantine created a “hostile work environment” – with some going so far as to call him a “nightmare boss.”

According to a report by WFTV-9, “Soul-crushing, demeaning, unfair, inconsistent and rude were all terms used by former aides to Constantine. They all worked for him at the county’s administrative headquarters.”

Again, most fortunately, Mr. Constantine was able to clear things up by denying any wrongdoing – claiming the malcontent employees who complained were essentially malingerers who wanted to maintain the “status quo.”

“This, I think, in many ways was a self-fulfilling prophecy. They did not want to work with me, and it turned out that way,” Constantine said.”

 (Only a perennial politician could have made that statement. . .)

Ultimately, Commissioner Constantine agreed to sit for some “management training” – but to make things crystal clear for you insufferable cynics – at the time, Seminole County leaders said that, because commissioners are elected, “they do not fall under the same code of conduct as county employees.”

I guess not. . .

But, hey, that’s all water under the bridge, right?

Because Mr. Constantine is now the esteemed newly elected Second Vice President of the Florida Association of Counties.

And Ms. Post is not.  She lost the statewide election by 18 votes.

At the end of the day, how in the hell can Volusia County residents trust anything these two-faced shitheels say or do – given their perfidious actions against one of their own at a taxpayer funded conference – in direct contradiction to what they told us all they would do?

Sadly, in Volusia County, it’s business as usual.

Asshole           City of Bunnell

During my public service career, my colleagues and I developed a simple but effective plan for providing emergency cold-weather shelter for homeless persons in our community.

Our patrol officers simply left bathrooms in public parks unlocked and encouraged those in need to overnight inside when temperatures dropped and windchills became threatening.  I am convinced this unsophisticated measure saved the lives of many sick and elderly persons by providing a windbreak during periods of frigid weather.

Then, a former city manager – who, in my view, was one of the most self-serving, mean-spirited and inherently dishonest bullies I had the displeasure of being saddled with – found out about our improvised shelter of last resort and ordered that the bathrooms be locked and the homeless forcibly turned away from protection.

In fact, I was rebuked and belittled by this asshole – who believed opening public restrooms as cold-weather shelters was counter to his goal of eradicating homelessness through harsh, demeaning and inhospitable treatment.

In fact, several times this same manager proudly told me a sickening story about how, in an out-of-state community he once “served,” the police were used to physically harass and abuse homeless persons as a way of keeping them out of the jurisdiction.

Eliminating this last-ditch shelter option was one of the most callous, heartless and dangerous directives I ever received from a superior – and I proudly ignored it without hesitation. . .

In my view, the idea of a public entity knowingly depriving a vulnerable human being of basic refuge during life-threatening weather conditions is not only immoral – but borders on criminal negligence.

Perhaps that’s why the City of Bunnell’s open intimidation of a faith-based organization who operates Flagler County’s only cold-weather shelter has outraged so many.

Last month, the city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board voted to deny a variance for The Sheltering Tree that would have allowed the all-volunteer organization to provide cold weather sheltering at the First United Methodist Church’s fellowship hall.

The Sheltering Tree is a ministry of Bunnell’s First United Methodist that has leased space from the church for the periodic shelter operation, a food pantry, clothing closet and other community services to assist the less fortunate for the past 11-years.

Last winter, the shelter was open just 19 nights. . .

Now, city officials are doing everything in their officious power to rid the community of Flagler County’s lone cold-weather shelter – ostensibly in favor of allowing homeless persons to suffer hypothermia and exposure – rather than make a commonsense exception to its sacred zoning regulations for this all-volunteer/donor-supported religious organization.

Because, if Bunnell is known for anything, it’s the city’s long-time, inviolate adherence to the sacrosanct zoning regulations that have made the small municipality the utopian Shangri-La of Flagler County. . .

My ass. 

Now, these same overbearing bureaucrats are piling on – knitting together petty “violations” and making a list of administrative oversights designed to shut down the group’s other good work – claiming the ministry hasn’t filed for a business tax receipt in over a decade (an allegation the church disputes) – something that mysteriously “came to light” when The Sheltering Tree attempted to do the right thing and applied for a special exception to add two ADA-compliant restrooms, two showers and a small laundry room.

According to the report by Matt Bruce writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Rodney Lucas, Bunnell’s community development director, said the city’s decision comes down to complying with zoning regulations, indicating that the shelter is set up in a residential area that does not accommodate such uses. He urged First United Methodist to relocate the shelter to a light industrial zone where it could operate without restrictions.”

“This has nothing to do with homelessness,” Lucas told The News-Journal on Thursday. “This has everything to do with abiding by the rules. It doesn’t matter what faith a person has. It’s about us all living harmoniously in Bunnell. We’re not opposed to homelessness; we just need an effective plan.”


This has everything to do with “homelessness” – and mirrors the often inhumane and always unimaginative “out of sight, out of mind” strategies favored by insipid bureaucrats and itinerant “community development” dipshits who say asinine things like, “We’re not opposed to homelessness; we just need an effective plan,” when every government entity in Flagler County has stood around with a thumb wedged firmly in their collective ass for years – before legislatively hamstringing the only organization who is actually trying to save lives.

In a well-written piece on the news site,, entitled, “Bunnell’s Mean Streak,” journalist Pierre Tristam critiqued Mr. Lucas’ conduct at the zoning meeting:

“But when church and Sheltering Tree representatives spoke, Lucas treated them like criminals, his tone, his language and his questions intended to crucify rather than enlighten. His questions, in any case, were out of place and inappropriate, because he’d already provided the answers. He had his turn. But he wanted to administer a beating. He did.”


In my view, we are witnessing what happens when a bureaucracy begins stacking the legislative deck – providing groups without legal representation the option of orchestrated “hearings” where the decision is a foregone conclusion – and affording due process only to the point it checks a required box.

It appears the City of Bunnell has set its sights on the useless strategy of eliminating social service options for homeless persons in the vain hope they will relocate to other areas of Flagler County – and if they have their way – there is not a damn thing The Sheltering Tree can do about it.

Bringing the full-might of government authority down on a small group of do-gooders will be just fine with some disgruntled residents who are happy to see officials making things uncomfortable for the homeless – but what happens when their ‘powers that be’ use the same tactic on them?

You see, oppression in all its forms – including the use of bumptious, badge-heavy “community development” types to bureaucratically crush otherwise legal activities that don’t comport with the current administrations vision, no matter how myopic – is a very slippery slope.

Wherever you live, I hope you will join me in supporting The Sheltering Tree, First United Methodist Church and the intrepid members of Flagler County’s faith-based organizations who are coming together to find innovative ways to appeal Bunnell City Hall’s senseless aggression.

As Sue Bickings, chair of The Sheltering Tree’s governing board, recently said:

“If we don’t do this, who will?” 

Angel              City of Daytona Beach Shores

As regular readers of these screeds know – I’m not a fan of financial incentives cloaked in the pernicious guise of “economic development.”


In my view, government has no business picking winners and losers – or creating an artificial advantage for the privileged few – a situation tailor-made for quid pro quo corruption while discouraging legitimate entrepreneurial investment in our community.

As we’ve seen at places like International Speedway Corporation’s “synergistic” (and publicly underwritten) shopping and entertainment center “One Daytona” – and other anointed enterprises where startup and fixed costs are paid with public funds – many of these businesses can’t compete when released to the open ocean of the competitive marketplace.

After all, when was the last time someone from City Hall or Volusia County government offered your existing business a hand with operating expenses, eh?

Like its larger neighbor to the north, Daytona Beach Shores has a very visible problem with vacant buildings and barren storefronts along the A-1-A commercial corridor, which creates the appearance of stagnation and economic dysphoria.

Recently, the Daytona Beach Shores Economic Development Council developed a list of potential solutions – to include offering a 10% rebate on the renovation or revitalization of existing vacant properties and buildings – with half paid upon commencement of construction activities and the remainder when the business opens.

According to reports, the discount is available to anyone willing to invest in the economic prosperity of the community.

I like that.

Other proposals include a lease subsidy program to help businesses who can’t purchase a building or property – and to reward established companies by waiving renewal and permitting fees.

I respect that the program is open to anyone – not just select last names and perennial political insiders with a history of getting fat on the public teat.

According to City Councilman Rick Frizalone, speaking in the News-Journal, “We want to show businesses we are here to help them, and we are on their side.  We want to reward them for loyalty and good service.”

Doing nothing is no longer an option for struggling beachside communities.

Kudos to the City of Daytona Beach Shores for recognizing a problem and bringing innovative solutions for making this small municipality more attractive to outside investment.

Quote of the Week

“. . .I also wrote council members when the parking lot was promised next to the Hard Rock Hotel as a trade for our beach to be taken away.  Anyone with any foresight would know that Hard Rock employees would use this lot.  But now the council members are concerned about complaints about Hard Rock employees parking there?  Now they want the residents to pay for problems that they created?  Plus, I’m thinking they are trying to get money for the half cent tax that was voted down.”

–Roger Cook, Daytona Beach, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “The county created beach parking woes,” Monday, June 24, 2019

I don’t know him, but Roger Cook is a wise man. . .

And Another Thing! 

Sometimes the right man for the job comes along and leaves things better than he found them.

For us, that man was Central Florida’s preeminent environmentalist, educator, legal scholar and water policy expert, Clay Henderson.

According to his impressive biography, as a freshman at Stetson University, Mr. Henderson fell in love with the St. Johns River and Florida’s springs in the 1970’s.  Over his long career as an environmental lawyer, he was a zealous defender of our natural places – ultimately helping to conserve some 300,000 acres in Florida.

He even served a sentence as a member of the Volusia County Council. . .

Most recently, Mr. Henderson served as executive director of Stetson’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience.

During his long career, he co-authored many of the natural resource protection provisions in our state Constitution – including Amendment 1 – the largest voter approved conservation funding initiative in United States history – and was instrumental in the creation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Now, the time has come for Mr. Henderson to retire from his many years of service in the public, private and academic sectors.  According to reports, for reasons known only to Mr. Henderson, he’s relocating to Boston.  As in Massachusetts.

(You know what they say about ‘book smarts’ and common sense?  Well, I suspect he will too, come February. . .)

A reception honoring Mr. Henderson will take place from 6-8pm this evening at the Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center, 2636 Alhambra Avenue in DeLand.

Thank you, sir.  Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement.

We’re glad you passed our way.

That’s all for me – thanks for considering my oddball opinions – and for driving a larger discussion of the issues of the day.

Have a great weekend, y’all.





Volusia Schools: Failing the Integrity Test

In education, there is a principle of learning called the “Law of Primacy.”

Essentially, it says that what is learned first usually creates a strong and durable impression – and the material presented remains longest in the mind of the student.

That is just one reason why it is so important to teach sound fundamentals – which means things must be taught “right” the first time – because “unteaching” wrong first impressions can result in life-long confusion.

What impression must Volusia County students have this morning?

Earlier this week, there was an interesting juxtaposition of headlines on the front page of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – “Principal, AP exam under scrutiny,” – and – “Exiting schools chief’s payout: $244K,” which served to underscore the catastrophic leadership and management issues that continue to plague Volusia County Schools, even as former Superintendent Tom Russell rides off to an incredibly convenient new gig as principal of Flagler Palm Coast High School – with a sack full of severance and accrued benefits – following his termination in Volusia.

Weird how that works, huh?

Just yesterday, parents and taxpayers received their first sickening glimpse of a mushrooming scandal at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School, where the principal, Cheryl Salerno, is accused of concocting a weird “experiment” which lumped freshmen students into an advanced college-readiness course – something called an AP Seminar – yet, only 78 students sat for the official examination required for customary college credit – while 336 ninth-graders were given last years test, mocked up to look like the real one.

Say what? 

We’re being told cost was a factor. . .

According to an explosive report by Cassidy Alexander in the News-Journal, “. . .the nearly $60,000 cost of offering the exam to all of the AP Seminar students proved to be out of reach for the school.  And the district said it wouldn’t pay either. Instead, Salerno paid for the official exam for 78 students at $142 apiece — a cost of about $11,000. . .”

 Because I’m an inquisitive asshole, I’d be interested to know which kids received the “real” exam – and which were openly conned by those they trusted?

And what criteria separated the two groups?

Now, rather than admit their outrageous conduct and work to give all qualified students the same opportunity their more fortunate classmates received – school administrators and district officials are busy quibbling the facts, denying that the program was ever “sold” as a college credit course – or that students were told they would receive advanced credit – even though anyone with two synapses still firing understands that advanced placement coursework is accepted at all public universities in Florida. . .

Following an anonymous complaint to the Florida Department of Education (who apparently abdicated its responsibility and directed Volusia County Schools to investigate itself) the internal inquiry uncovered a disturbing email from Jason Kester, the Mainland faculty member who taught the AP Seminar, expressing concerns he may be found “complicit” by the College Board, the group that creates and administers the test, because of his “role in some of it.”

Jesus.  Talk about a smoking gun. . .

To make matters worse, we later learned that this ill-conceived plan to “gauge student achievement” was personally green-lighted by Superintendent Russell and other senior administrators – “because they were under the impression that Salerno had cleared the plan with the College Board.”

I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .

One would think the Volusia County School Board would reconsider its decision to offer Mr. Russell the $68,700 in severance pay – and the thousands more in extended health, dental and life insurance benefits – until this sordid matter can be properly reviewed by outside authority?

Yeah, right.   

On Tuesday, Russell’s severance package was approved by our School Board without discussion. . .

In my view, based upon what has been reported by the News-Journal, this egregious scam evidences a well-formed and orchestrated intent to purposely deceive students – something high-level district officials must have been aware of – because it flies in the face of reason to believe the College Board could possibly have agreed to something so patently bizarre.

Regardless, how does an “experiment” involving some 414 high school students – the majority of the freshman class – get approved by the Volusia County School District  without so much as a phone call to the very organization who administers the testing?

My God.

Now, if history repeats, absolutely no one in the upper-echelons of district “leadership” will be held responsible for this unmitigated ruse – a fraud that only serves to teach impressionable students that they truly are victims of a system they cannot escape – and perpetuates the distressing notion that no senior administrator is ever held to account in this godforsaken quagmire that passes for our children’s educational system.

In my view, now is the time for Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor to prove his mettle (and demonstrate that “immeasurably valuable leadership” experience he crowed about in his cover letter for the job) and summarily terminate anyone who conceived, approved or failed to blow the whistle on this cockamamie scheme that victimized Mainland High School students and further destroyed public confidence in the Volusia County School District.


Photo Credit: The West Volusia Beacon

Angels & Assholes for June 21, 2019

Hi, kids!

I’m back from a glorious week in the mountains of east Tennessee – the place where I was born and where I return when I need time to check-in with myself, clear my mind, focus on the frivolous and daydream.

These hills and valleys are among the oldest in the world and have a restorative vibration that resonates inside me – the ability to improve concentration, relieve stress, improve the immune system and, in my case, heal a tattered soul.

A place to feel whole.  To feel focused.  To be free.

I happen to believe that there is a healing power in nature that is amplified and concentrated in places like the mountains – or where the water meets land – environments where beneficial negatively charged ions revitalize our bodies and minds at the molecular level.

In olden times, doctors would often prescribe a change of place and climate to treat various maladies.  Despite quantum advances in modern medicine, I think there is more benefit to that age-old therapy than we might realize.

In fact, I once heard that the reason John D. Rockefeller – the richest man in American history – came to Ormond Beach was his belief that the salty air had intrinsic health benefits that would help him live to 100.

He made it to 97. . .

One of my favorite places in this world is a little stand of maple trees near Jonesborough – known affectionately as “Tennessee’s oldest town” – a beautiful community nestled in the Tri-Cities region where the Watauga watershed meets the Nolichucky River.

A quintessential small-town, rich in history, the arts and Americana, once the capitol of the State of Franklin, which was never formally recognized by Congress, and reclaimed by North Carolina in the late 1700’s then, somehow, transferred to Tennessee.

I like to take a folding chair, and a handle of good local whiskey, then get comfortable in my special spot just before dusk.

From the side of a gently sloping hill overlooking a small brook, I can watch a mother Mallard teaching her rambunctious ducklings to swim in a calm pool, listen to the cardinals and blue jays flitter in the gloaming, and anxiously await the nightly emergence of the lightning bugs – who appear punctually at exactly 8:42pm – rising from the tall grass into the dark green trees, hovering and twinkling by the hundreds as the sky grows dark and a cool breeze rustles the Rhododendron.

It’s a special place.

Now, any self-respecting Son of the South, at least once in his charmed life, knew where to find the best local “Moonshine” – usually a sketchy friend or errant family member who knew someone who knew someone – which, with a clandestine exchange, resulted in a couple of quarts of harsh-tasting, high-proof clear whisky (known as “white liquor” where I’m from) whose wholly unique corn-forward flavor and lingering burn is something you will never forget once experienced.

Today, every liquor store in Appalachia has a wide variety of now commercially produced Moonshine – most mellowed with fruit and other natural flavorings – all perfectly legal to make, market and sell now that applicable taxes have been paid and all state and federal regulations met.

In my view, one of the best is the product of Tennessee Hills Distillery ( in Jonesborough.

Using “age-old recipes and distillation methods” this small local still is producing some of the finest of the genre – from traditional mountain whiskey to their wonderful Pineapple Upside Down Cake rum – all in an old “salt house” which stands so close to the Clinchfield rail tracks that you can feel the earth rumble beneath your boots when the train cars trundle by.

Last week, I also had the pleasure of spending a few minutes in the engaging company of Emmy winning storyteller Jim May following his Friday matinee performance at Jonesborough’s renowned International Storytelling Center.

We discussed the life and times of his good friend – and our areas preeminent tradition-bearer and songwriter – the late, great Gamble Rogers – and Jim was so kind to sign his soul-satisfying book, Trail Guide for a Crooked Heart: Stories and Reflections for Life’s Journey, and pen a generous personal note for me that I will treasure.

Restorative indeed. . .

I hope you have a place like this in your life.

If not, find your own verdant hillside this evening and sit a spell.  It’s important.

Be it the mountains, the beach or your own back porch – take a break – relax, recharge, revive.

Trust me.  You’ll be glad you did.

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

Our perennial favorite is back in the news this week – once again, for all the wrong reasons. . .

Sometimes I wonder if our elected and appointed officials in DeLand have simply given up on the whole concept of truth, transparency and honor in public service in favor of some free-wheeling, increasingly chaotic exercise that bears no resemblance to a representative democracy – a weird pastiche of a Three Stooges slapstick wrapped in a gut-wrenching Greek tragedy.

Don’t believe me? 

Just take a quick gander at how this confederacy of dunces handled their open promise to civic activist Greg Gimbert that they would issue a simple letter of support for opening a portion of the Tiger Bay state forest to off-road vehicles. . .

Regardless of whether you support the measure or not – I think everyone can agree this latest five-alarm fiasco is indicative of the utter ineptitude we suffer here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Sad, really.

Last week, what passes for our elected “leadership” told us with a straight face that the entire bloated bureaucracy that comprises the width and breadth of our massive county government was completely unaware that the City of Daytona Beach has been working overtime to see deed restrictions on City Island lifted and the most scenic location in the Halifax area handed to ravenous speculative developers.

An incredibly disturbing article by reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Volusia County says Daytona left it out of City Island plans,” found our elected and appointed officials in DeLand whining over the fact that Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm apparently kept them out-of-the-loop on his grand plans. . .

My ass.

Like every other community in the area – the City of Daytona Beach learned a long time ago that Volusia County officials cannot be trusted – and this latest move in the internecine battle has overtones of old-fashioned tit-for-tat politics. . .

Anyone remember the March 2017 sneak attack when former County Manager Jim Dinneen waited until the very morning of the County Council’s vote to spend some $970,000 on a parking lot fronting Main Street to let Mr. Chisholm know their plans?

I do.

Even after voicing concerns about the appropriateness of a removing this valuable property from the tax rolls in the city’s “Entertainment Zone” – Mr. Dinneen failed to advise county council members that Daytona Beach had questions until after the vote had been taken.

At the time, Mr. Dinneen summed up the county’s commitment to collaborative planning efforts:

“There’s no obligation to call (Chisholm) at all.”   

 What’s changed?

It should be clear to anyone paying attention just how little substantive interaction there is between Volusia County and, well, any other entity in the region on the important issues of the day.

At the June 4 county council meeting, Councilwoman Billie Wheeler exclaimed, “I’m really, really, really concerned about this. The county did not give the city the authority to petition on its behalf.” 

Now, We, The People, are supposed to believe that no one in DeLand had any inkling that Daytona Beach officials – in concert with state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff – were actively attempting to have the Florida legislature remove deed restrictions which maintained the property for ‘public purposes forever’?


As Mr. Chisholm essentially said:  Doesn’t anyone over there read the paper?

Not surprising, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, was recently quoted admitting his abject ignorance of this important civic issue that has been well-publicized since at least February.

According to the News-Journal’s report, “I don’t know that any of us were aware that was going on,” said Kelley, who’s been the county’s top elected official for two and a half years.”

Say what?

Because that’s not what Old Ed said previously. . .

In late 2017, Chairman Kelley boldly announced at a goofy Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast:

The time is right to relocate the City Island Library and free the land for commercial development.

Naturally, Mr. Kelley’s bombshell resulted in a strong response from anyone and everyone who cares about the future of the Halifax area – something Mr. Dinneen immediately attempted to walk-back. . .

Chairman Kelley’s monstrously stupid idea resulted in a landslide of angry questions – and fueled speculation that Volusia County was planning to remove established public amenities from City Island to make way for private development.

Later, Kelley went so far as to describe the land’s potential use to a reporter, “It could be a private use that could generate jobs or provide residences, but it’s not up to me to say what should go there. … We (the council) should evaluate the situation.”

Now, this doddering asshole has no recollection that Daytona Beach was attempting to have deed restrictions removed?


Gentle readers, in my view, this latest kerfuffle between the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County government is far more disturbing than it may initially appear.

If proven true – and our elected and appointed leadership in DeLand were really caught totally flatfooted by the city’s efforts to open City Island to private development – then this foundering ship of fools truly has no rudder – and this level of abject ignorance and lack of even a cursory understanding of the important civic issues facing our region should frighten us all.

Because the grim alternative is that we have once again been blatantly and spuriously lied to by senior county officials as they attempt to control the narrative and seek standing in any lucrative future plans for the commercial development of City Island.

Neither scenario is acceptable – and, like the always naive Billie Wheeler – I’m really, really, really concerned about it.

You should be too.  Because the hits just keep on coming. . .

During a raucous three-hour “workshop” (?) on Tuesday, our elected officials discussed a wide-range of issues – from the mundane to the ridiculous – some of which are guaranteed to have a negative impact on our quality of life.

For instance, our half-bright County Chair, Ed Kelley, made the disastrous suggestion that Volusia County begin charging beach-goers for parking in the “off beach” lots that you and I have already paid for – and been forced into – by the county’s shameless giveaway of our century-old tradition of beach access and driving.

It’s the natural progression of a shockingly failed public policy that uses our most precious natural resource as a cheap bargaining chip for speculative developers and campaign donors (usually one in the same) – and leaves you and I in the untenable position of paying Volusia County twice for the same “amenity.”

And make no mistake, despite the fact our ‘powers that be’ promise that paid parking won’t apply to Volusia County residents – ultimately, it will – in one form or another – no doubt as a “low cost permit” or goofy window sticker to differentiate residents from visitors.

As it stands, those of us who live here are forced to pay for an annual “beach pass” that permits us to enjoy the unique convenience that brought many of us here in the first place – the ability to drive and park on increasingly limited sections of our beach.

This is on top of the extortionate taxes we pay to feed a swollen, unnecessary and wholly ineffective beach management organization whose dreadful, uninspired rules and regulations have left our beloved shoreline looking like a forest of poison-laden wooden poles and ‘do this, don’t do that’ sign pollution that is quickly ruining the experience for residents and visitors alike.

Clearly, Old Ed never met a fee or insidious tax he didn’t wholeheartedly endorse – regardless of the long-term impact to already strapped residents and increasingly set upon tourists who are quickly learning that their disposable income and leisure time spend anywhere other than this down-at-the-heels money pit – a place clearly more focused on shearing the sheep than providing a quality experience that will sustain our most important economic engine.

Stay tuned, friends:  Paid parking on what passes for our already calamitously expensive “beach access” lots is in your near future. . .

Angel              City of Holly Hill

Kudos to the City of Holly Hill for showing its residents what true ingenuity looks like.

In the aftermath of the failed half-cent sales tax referendum – rather than squat like pouting gargoyles on the dais of power and lambaste their constituents for having the temerity to reject this shameless money grab – Holly Hill officials went back to the drawing board to find innovative ways to pay for the small community’s 17 most pressing transportation infrastructure needs.

According to the News-Journal, “The plan, in its most recent iteration, calls for borrowing $1 million from the city’s solid waste fund, $137,000 in gas tax revenue, and $276,000 in funds carried forward from the gas tax to repair the city roads over the next two years, Via said, adding that the details could change when the project’s finalized at the city’s June budget workshop.”

I may well be biased – but that’s what good governance looks like.

A tip o’ the Barker’s View cap to Mayor Chris Via and the Holly Hill City Commission for their nimbleness, strategic vision and financial flexibility in finding unique solutions to entrenched problems with existing resources.

Well done!

Asshole           City of Deltona

Anarchy: A state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.

Forget the Merriam-Webster definition. . .

If you want to know the true meaning of the word, please send any children and fragile adults out of the room, turn up the volume, and watch a recording of the unmitigated shit-show that was Monday’s free-for-all Deltona City Commission meeting.

My God.

Normally, I like to joke about these things – embroider the stories of the day with some funny aside or silly name-calling that exemplifies the often-comedic nature of local government (and exposes my own limitations as a dilettante opinionist) – but this is different, something more ominous and deeply concerning to anyone who cares about good governance.


In the aftermath of the utter chaos that passed for a public meeting, I’ve had several readers reach out to me for reassurance – to commiserate over the seemingly unrecoverable dysfunction that has gripped the Deltona City Commission – and to vent their growing fears and frustrations now that long-time community activists are being replaced by militant outside protesters, professional shit-stirrers and veteran radicals from across the nation – many with extremist views and coarse (but effective) methods for forcing change.

Unfortunately, it appears these external influences have already fractured grassroots efforts to restore sanity to Deltona City Hall – and that’s disheartening to watch.

I fear it’s going to get worse – and the Deltona City Commission bears sole responsibility for this building maelstrom.

On Monday evening, things came to a festering head following an impassioned presentation by Commissioner Loren King – a straightforward and heartfelt review of the criminal investigation that has left embattled City Manager Jane Shang in a pre-trail diversion program as she seeks to avoid prosecution on multiple felony crimes related to voter registration fraud.

Mr. King’s analysis of this incredibly embarrassing chapter in the city’s history ended with a motion to rightfully terminate Shang’s employment for cause – which was courageously seconded by Commissioner Anita Bradford.

What followed will be recorded in Deltona’s short history as one of the worst examples of what happens when the people are ignored and ostracized by those they have elected to high office.

Inexplicably, the subsequent vote was 5-2 to keep City Manager Shang in office – even as she completes the requisite steps of what is, in essence, a supervised criminal probation.

As one would expect, complete pandemonium ensued. 

In an excellent article, the News-Journal’s intrepid Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura did a good job describing the rebellious scene:

“Explicit language from residents at the lectern addressing city commissioners was frequent, though sometimes hard to hear over occasional chants of ‘lock her up’ and other similar demands. There was even a profanity-laced tirade by phone from someone out of state made during the raucous proceedings for which at least one child was present.”

There is legitimate fear in the air.

Many long-time citizens – including Commissioner Bradford – have openly discussed their very real concerns of retaliation by Shang and others in positions of power in city government – while some are legitimately afraid to attend public meetings due to escalating tensions in the commission chambers.

That is unacceptable.

Others have told me they fear because the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is contractually obligated to the city, the agency will side with elected and appointed officials over citizens – I don’t believe that to be true for one minute – but it is clearly something Sheriff Mike Chitwood will need to address as this war of wills intensifies. . .

In my view, no one – including the clearly unaffected Ms. Shang – should be permitted to bring this frightening level of polarization, distrust and growing trepidation to Deltona City Hall – and the fact she is so tenacious in hanging onto this important position with her fingernails despite the building public outcry and utter distraction speaks to her true character.

For months, Deltona residents have consistently asked pointed questions of their elected representatives, seeking answers on everything from the city’s often murky financial practices to the repetitive instances of gross mismanagement and apparent criminal conduct by Jane Shang – only to be stonewalled – or met with provocation and ridiculous measures designed to quash dissent and limit public involvement – including Shang’s pernicious attempts to employ the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office as her personal Tonton Macoute to silence her most strident critics.

Now, it appears those cowardly political avoidance measures have finally come home to roost.

In my view, it is time for Governor Ron DeSantis to intervene and request an external review of Ms. Shang’s continued fitness to serve as Deltona’s chief executive.

It is also high time for the hapless Mayor Heidi Herzberg to do some serious soul-searching and come to grips with her apparent inability to maintain any semblance of order during the pursuit of what passes for the people’s business – then consider stepping down for the good of her community.

Regardless, the Deltona City Commission has clearly and irretrievably lost control – and those who continue to stand in the way of ridding the community of Shang’s corrosive and disruptive influence should also consider removing themselves from this horrific equation and allow dignity and decorum to return to the municipal government.

Asshole           Daytona “International” Airport

I mentioned this a few weeks ago – but the plot of this farcical comedy thickens. . .

Earlier this month, we learned the disheartening news that our most recent beneficiary of public funds – something called Silver Airways – announced it will be stopping scheduled service from DAB effective July 1.  That comes on the heels of the abrupt departure of Jet-Blue – who blasted off into the wild blue leaving Daytona Beach in a haze of jet exhaust and hurt feelings. . .

“Hey, Barker – we’ve been over this, you insufferable crank!”  

“Who gives a damn if some regional commuter pulled their single route to Ft. Lauderdale?  I mean, it’s a three-hour jaunt down I-95 – and who in their right mind wants to be stuck at the corner of walk and don’t walk on Las Olas Boulevard without their car?”    

Well, smart ass:  Because you and I ponied up an incredibly lucrative incentive package to lure Silver Airways to Daytona Beach – that’s why.

This publicly-funded goody bag of expensive inducements included some $100,000 to market the Daytona Beach-Ft. Lauderdale flights, a partnership agreement with the Daytona Tortugas organization, waiving landing fees and “facilities costs” (read: rent and utilities), a year of free ground handling services (according to reports, estimated at $91,250) and a quarterly payment of $25,000 for one year to help “offset some of the airlines startup costs.”

In my warped view, most responsible airport executives would use this latest departure as a time for reflection and contraction – an opportunity to demonstrate that frugality and effective physical and financial management can result in profitability when it is apparent that small air carriers have determined that “fare levels are not sustainable” in this feeder market.

But not here.

In Volusia County, our airport “leadership” believes that now is the time to undertake a multi-million-dollar renovation of the domestic terminal. . .


Following a typically ham-handed attempt at a simple public hearing – repeatedly mucked up by the yammering and painfully confused Chairman Ed Kelley – the Volusia County Council unanimously approved a $12 million loan to refurbish the terminal under the dubious guise of “recruiting new airlines.”


According to DIA’s own hyper-optimistic executive director Rick Karl, who – with a straight face – stood before the county council earlier this week and confirmed that the complete renovation of a domestic airport terminal built in 1992 is “badly needed.”

My ass.

Airlines, large and small, are in business to generate revenue in a highly regulated and competitive industry.  This is a major reason why DIA repeatedly agrees to absorb startup and overhead costs – even going so far as to guarantee ticket sales – only to have them (literally) fly the coop when the financial reality hits.

Throwing $12 million around the airport isn’t going to change that dynamic.

Trust me.  Most air carriers would operate out of a thatched hut if it meant increasing their profit margin, but – unlike our airport officials and their rubber stamps on the Volusia County Council – they have the ability to learn from the mistakes and experience of others.

In my view, there is nothing substantially wrong or outdated with our current facility – don’t take my word for it, go out there and have a look for yourself – then, you tell me – if it were your facility, would you borrow $12 million to fix something that isn’t broken?

In this economic environment?

But it doesn’t matter what you and I think – the “experts” say taking on this massive debt is necessary for us to remain “competitive” in an place where we’re told our very quality of life is threatened by transportation infrastructure and utilities shortfalls which will require upwards of a billion dollars to address.

Apples and oranges?     

Bullshit.  It’s indicative of a mindset.

Let’s face it – renovating a place that looks like a ghost town most of the day is a “nice to have” – not a “must have.”

So, why is it so hard for anyone in county government to simply tell us the unvarnished truth?     

Quote of the Week

“If we’re not past that now in 2019 and you have fear of us reverting back to that, we have bigger issues to deal with.”

 –Volusia County Councilwoman Barb Girtman, responding to a point made by Council member Ben Johnson, that if voters were to abolish the County Charter we would return to a day when the county was run by “non-professionals” – and the measure would see Volusia “turned upside down.”


I agree with Ms. Girtman’s spot-on assessment – and if the current state of affairs in DeLand is the anyone’s idea of a “professional” administration – then I must be living in an alternate universe. . .

(Hey, I admit, that’s infinitely possible. . .no one ever accused me of being wrapped too tight.)

During the June 18 Volusia County Council meeting, Councilwoman Heather Post broached the clearly unpopular topic of placing the charter on the 2020 ballot.

Her thinking is that if the county should fail in its on-going legal challenge to the voter-approved Amendment 10 – the charter will directly contradict Florida’s constitution.

“I think change isn’t always bad,” Post said.

Of course, her “colleagues” on the dais of power disagreed. . .

Considering it would take a two-thirds vote of the council to repeal the charter – I think its safe to say that this sacrosanct governing document that keeps power vested in all the right circles isn’t going anywhere soon. . .

And Another Thing!

Among the various boards, committees and consortiums that administrate and ostensibly safeguard public funds in the maze of Volusia County’s byzantine governmental infrastructure there appears to be an unwritten rule:

Don’t question the status quo. 

So long as elected and appointed officials agree to toe the line and work politely within the long-established framework they will be exalted as “statesmen” and “servant-leaders,” praised and rewarded for their good work on behalf of a clueless constituency.

But the minute a member of a board or committee begins to ask the difficult questions – to peel back the layers of the onion and expose the rotten core that our ‘powers that be’ have worked so hard to conceal, they are vilified as a rogue  – a disrespectful rabble rouser – and summarily dismissed, marginalized then personally and professionally destroyed.

These pernicious “go along and get along” expectations were most prominently revealed when Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post was repeatedly hauled over the coals when she first took office – or when former Volusia County lobbyist James Pericola valiantly attempted to expose the abject dysfunction inside the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – and most recently when the intrepid Brian Soukup was summarily dismissed from the West Volusia Hospital Authority’s Citizen Advisory Committee.

For the uninitiated (like me), the WVHA serves as a weird governmental vetting and billing service – administrating a massive publicly-funded budget which serves some 1,608 indigents enrolled in something called the “Health Card” program.

According to reports, the WVHA distributes a portion of these tax dollars to “…20 different health care agencies” which ostensibly serve those in the program.  “Each organization is paid monthly after providing proof that the patients for whom they are claiming money have health cards.”

What I found most interesting is the fact that some $2 million of the WVHA’s budget is allocated for internal overhead – to include advertising (?), legal counsel, applicant screening and other “operational expenses” – with $18 million actually distributed to the various healthcare providers – which, according to the News-Journal’s calculations, equates to $11,286 per cardholder.


When Mr. Soukup ran unsuccessfully for the WVHA in 2018, he campaigned on a pledge to bring “transparency and accountability” to the board – a government authority with the highest tax rate of all three health-related special taxing districts in Volusia County.

Later, Soukup was appointed to the WVHA Citizen Advisory Committee by board member Dr. John Hill, and began making good on his promise to ask the hard questions and shine a bright light on how some $20 million taxpayer dollars are being spent.

Naturally, that didn’t go over well at the murky intersection of public funds and private interests.

In fact, in a mealy-mouthed letter to the Board of Commissioners, Citizen Advisory Committee Chair Elmer Holt went so far as to “sincerely apologize” to recipients of our tax dollars who may have felt uncomfortable during Mr. Soukup’s attempt at accountability. . .


For his trouble, Soukup was openly accused of violating Florida’s Sunshine Law and drummed off the committee on a 5-1 vote. . .

I found it interesting that the WVHA later walked-back the Board’s attorney, Theodore Small’s, rather serious accusation against Soukup in an “Errata Sheet For WVHA Meeting Minutes of May 16, 2019” – changing the record from “Mr. Small confirmed that Member Soukup is in violation of the Sunshine Law,” to the more legally ambiguous, “Mr. Small reviewed the circumstances that would suggest a potential violation of the Sunshine Law.”


The damage was done – Soukup will forever carry the ugly brand of a Sunshine Law violator – and the label of a disrespectful troublemaker intent on “destroying” the WVHA.

In the end, another inquisitive watchdog will have been publicly disemboweled on the altar of political conformity as an example of the fate that awaits those who dare step outside the bounds of obedience – or serve the highest and best interests of their constituents.

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










On Volusia: Ignorance is Bliss

In aviation – where risk mitigation is the sum of everything a good pilot does – it’s called Situational Awareness.

You either have it or you don’t. . .

According to one model, situational awareness is achieved by perceiving the current status and dynamics of elements in one’s environment – processing that data to comprehend the current situation – and then extrapolating this information forward in time to anticipate future status.

Perception, comprehension, projection.

What is happening now?  What can I expect to happen next?  

When I served as Chief of Police for a law enforcement agency in east Volusia County, I quickly learned how to mentally weigh hundreds of pieces of often unrelated information against known facts to constantly assess and respond to threats.

I tried to remain hyper-vigilant and cognizant of what was happening in and around my community because people counted on me for their safety and security.

For instance, I would often good-naturedly quiz new supervisors with seemingly inane questions, like: “Which way is the wind blowing this morning?”  

Initially, my query would be met with a shoulder shrug and blank stare – or worse, a “What difference does it make, Chief – I’ve got more important things to worry about. . .”

I would then explain that in the unlikely – but potentially deadly – event that we experienced a train derailment where hazardous materials were present, or there was a release of toxic gas from a compromised storage facility, knowing wind speed and direction would allow our officers to immediately initiate evacuations and secure the scene while avoiding the danger zone without unnecessary hesitation while the incident commander tried to determine which way the plume was moving.

It was an exercise in getting those responsible for serving and protecting others to think comprehensively – to consider the bigger picture – and remain aware of relevant issues in their environment that could assist in both time sensitive and strategic decision-making.

Because that’s what people who accept public funds to serve in the public interest are expected to do.

Like many of you, earlier this week I read a disturbing article by reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Volusia County says Daytona left it out of City Island plans.”  

The piece found Volusia County officials whining over the fact that Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm, and others in the municipal government, who were working overtime to see deed restrictions on the publicly owned land at City Island removed to allow the commercialization of the area by greed-crazed speculative developers who, for years, have salivated over the mere thought of putting up condominiums and strip centers on one of the most picturesque spots on the Fun Coast, apparently kept them out-of-the-loop on their grand plans. . .

My ass.

Look, this is nothing new.

Like every other community in the area – the City of Daytona Beach learned a long time ago that Volusia County officials cannot be trusted – and this latest move in the internecine battle has overtones of good, old-fashioned tit-for-tat business as usual. . .

Anyone remember the March 2017 sneak attack when former County Manager Jim Dinneen waited until the morning of the County Council’s vote to spend some $970,000 on a parcel of land fronting Main Street to let Mr. Chisholm know their plans?

I do.

At the time, Chisholm said he wasn’t made aware of the purchase until Dinneen telephoned him the very morning of the council meeting.

Even after voicing concerns about the appropriateness of a parking lot under the city’s “Entertainment Zone” planning tool – Mr. Dinneen failed to advise county council members that Daytona Beach had questions until after the vote had been taken.

Speaking at the time, Dinneen explained, “There’s no obligation to call (Chisholm) at all.”

Now, it’s Volusia County officials who have been exposed for the clueless assholes they truly are. . .

It should be clear to anyone paying attention just how little substantive conversation there is between Volusia County and, well, any other entity in the region on the important issues of the day.

I guess when you take your marching orders from the same group of oligarchical puppet masters, there is little, if any, real need to collaborate?

After all, Big Money interests have taken the need for our elected officials to think and plan out of the equation.  As a result, those who manipulate the campaign purse strings of sitting politicians also control our areas strategic vision – and define what passes for “progress.”

At the June 4 council meeting, County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler exclaimed, “I’m really, really, really concerned about this.  The county did not give the city the authority to petition on its behalf.”  

Now, We, The People, are supposed to believe that no one in that bloated bureaucracy in DeLand had any inkling that Daytona Beach officials – in concert with state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff – were actively attempting to have the Florida legislature remove deed restrictions which maintained the property for ‘public purposes forever’ and release the $8.77 million ransom enacted by former Governor Slick Rick Scott and his cabinet?


As Mr. Chisholm essentially said:  Doesn’t anyone over there read the paper? 

Not surprising, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, was recently quoted admitting his abject ignorance of what anyone with a Glasgow Coma Scale above “No Motor Response” knew was in the works since at least February.

According to the News-Journal’s report, “I don’t know that any of us were aware that was going on,” said Kelley, who’s been the county’s top elected official for two and a half years.

Say what?

Because that’s not what Old Ed said previously. . .

In late 2017, Chairman Kelley boldly announced at a goofy Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast:

The time is right to relocate the City Island Library and free the land for commercial development.

Naturally, Mr. Kelley’s bombshell resulted in a strong response from, well, anyone and everyone who cares about the future of the Halifax area – something Mr. Dinneen immediately attempted to walk-back.

Chairman Kelley’s monstrously stupid idea resulted in a landslide of angry questions – and fueled speculation that Volusia County is planning to remove established public amenities from City Island to make way for private development.

Then, Ed just kept digging the hole as he explained to everyone what he didn’t say:

“My statement was, ‘Yes, we should look at it,’” he said. “I think anytime there’s an opportunity to make something better, you look at it. Who would want to have a closed mind about something?”

That’s not what you said, Eddie.

You specifically said, “Now would be the time.”

Let’s look at the facts – Chairman Kelley told a room full of like-types that he supports reallocating funds to move the City Island Library as part of a larger plan to demolish the Courthouse Annex and turn the property over for private development.

Later, Kelley went so far as to describe the land’s potential use to a reporter, “It could be a private use that could generate jobs or provide residences, but it’s not up to me to say what should go there. … We (the council) should evaluate the situation.”

Now, this doddering asshole has no recollection that Daytona Beach was attempting to have deed restrictions removed?

Seriously?  Less than two-years ago he wanted us to believe it was his idea!

Gentle readers, in my view, this latest kerfuffle between the City of Daytona Beach and county government is far more disturbing than it may initially appear.

If it is proven true that our elected and appointed leadership in DeLand were caught totally flatfooted by the city’s efforts to open City Island to private development – then this foundering ship of fools truly has no rudder – and this level of abject ignorance and lack of even a cursory understanding of the important civic issues facing our region should frighten all of us.

Because the alternative is that we have once again been blatantly and spuriously lied to by senior county officials as they attempt to control the narrative and seek standing in any lucrative future plans for the commercial development of City Island.

Neither scenario is acceptable.



On Volusia: The Politics of Cowardice

” … the distinguishing character of (the reign of king Henry the Seventh) was that of amassing treasure in the king’s coffers by every means that could be devised; and almost every alteration in the laws, however salutary or otherwise in their future consequences, had this and this only for their great and immediate object. To this end, the court of Star Chamber was new-modeled and armed with powers the most dangerous and unconstitutional over the persons and properties of the subject.”

–Blackstone Commentaries

For good or ill, Florida’s “Fun Coast” consists of a mosaic of distinctive communities – each with unique attributes, challenges and personalities which provide a true sense of place and identity for their residents.

For instance, Ormond Beach is as different from Holly Hill as Pierson is from Ponce Inlet – and those of us who live in one of Volusia County’s 16 municipalities have a distinct pride in where we call home.

In keeping with our right to self-determination and accountable representation, in each community we elect fellow citizens to serve our collective interests, ensure efficient service delivery and steward public funds while remaining politically answerable to a concentrated and invested electorate.

Because I have old-fashioned notions of accountability and responsibility in local government, I happen to like it this way.

Bigger is not always better.

Anyone who has been forced to deal with a behemoth bureaucracy – trapped in a weird loops-and-traps maze which seems purposefully designed to frustrate any meaningful interaction between government and those it ostensibly exists to serve – will know what I’m talking about.

Because the very nature of a government bureaucracy is to self-perpetuate.

In my view, in Volusia County we’re seeing exactly what former Coca-Cola executive Harry Teasley, Jr., who spent his life confronting and triumphing over mindless agents of self-serving power structures, called “The Seven Rules of Bureaucracy” in action:

  1. Maintain the problem at all costs! The problem is the basis of power, perks, privileges, and security.


  1. Use crisis and perceived crisis to increase your power and control.


  1. If there are not enough crises, manufacture them, even from nature, where none exist.


  1. Control the flow and release of information while feigning openness. Deny, delay, obfuscate, spin, and lie.


  1. Maximize public-relations exposure by creating a cover story that appeals to the universal need to help people.


  1. Create vested support groups by distributing concentrated benefits and/or entitlements to these special interests, while distributing the costs broadly to one’s political opponents.


  1. Demonize the truth tellers who have the temerity to say, “The emperor has no clothes.”

Sounds eerily familiar, eh?

I’d like to add one:  The prolific use of political insulation committees to avoid accountability.

Like many of you, in recent years I have watched suspiciously as a benign monthly information-sharing klatch known as the Roundtable of Volusia County Elected Officials – which, according to the county website, “…consists of one member each from Volusia’s cities and county government, meets regularly to discuss countywide issues and concerns” – has slowly transitioned into something more ominous:

A de facto government where important public policy is crafted under the watchful eye of those who own the paper on the very politicians sitting at the table – at a stilted meeting more difficult for the public to attend than a Volusia County Council meeting. . .

In the interminable lead-up to the failed half-cent sales tax initiative, the Volusia CEO Business Alliance – in my view, an elitist Camera Stellata comprised of millionaire business interests whose collective take from the public coffers under the guise of “economic development incentives” totals in the tens-of-millions – used the Knights of the Roundtable to orchestrate a shameless attempted money grab through this weird public/private meld.

Don’t take my word for it – simply review The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s coverage of this debacle and see for yourself how the “Roundtable” was used as a conduit to ensure a uniformed, lockstep adherence to the misinformation and “reeducation” campaign crafted by a privately funded marketing expert with experience ramrodding local option tax increases.

Frankly, I’m suspicious anytime a cabal of political insiders with a profit motive cloister themselves with sitting elected officials to craft tax policy – especially when those same profiteers gather like blowflies on a fresh turd anywhere public funds and private interests intersect. . .

Now, we are being told that the Knights of the Roundtable are considering incorporating “smart growth” initiatives into municipal and county land use regulations – a noble cause, considering unchecked sprawl is adversely affecting everyone in Volusia County, regardless of your zip code.

According to Smart Growth America, a non-profit which works with elected officials, real estate developers, transportation and urban planning professionals and chambers of commerce to improve everyday life for people across the country through better development, “smart growth” includes specific planning initiatives which local governments can utilize within existing legislative frameworks to ensure economically prosperous, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable cities, towns and neighborhoods.

These goals are accomplished by developing innovative zoning regulations, planning mixed use projects that create a range of housing opportunities and choices, fostering attractive communities with a strong sense of place, directing the redevelopment of existing communities, providing a range of transportation options and encouraging community stakeholder collaboration in development decisions.

(Essentially, everything we don’t do now. . .)

Unfortunately, this approach is so foreign to our current crop of elected dullards that our County Chairman, Ed Kelley, was recently quoted as saying “smart growth” is merely, “…an abused term.  Just a buzzword to get people excited and make them think that what we’re doing is not smart.”

Jesus.  Does this foul ball’s abject stupidity know no bounds?

Yet, at a recent Roundtable meeting, our elected officials decided that all incorporated communities in Volusia County will adopt a do-nothing “smart growth resolution” (?) (supporting something they clearly haven’t so much as Googled) and directed equally clueless local planning officials to come up with ideas for yet another time-wasting jawbone session in September. . .

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

In my view, the Roundtable is no longer an exchange of best practices on what the various municipalities are doing to benefit their constituents – it is a spineless political insulation committee where the groundwork for significant policy decisions are made in advance of perfunctory public hearings – the old “if everyone is doing it, then it can’t be wrong” philosophy that shirks accountability and gives “wink, wink, nudge, nudge – we’re all on-board” approval without any external input or challenge.

A weird “get the ducks in order” forum where a half-bright dunce like Ed Kelley can formulate his nonsensical “ideas” and political insiders can insinuate “suggestions” into the process from the sidelines without any legitimate public challenge.

In my view, important public policy decisions should be deliberated by our elected officials during properly noticed, accessible and open public meetings in front of the citizens they are sworn to serve – those who elected them to high office, in the community where they are politically accountable – not over a taxpayer funded lunch in some backroom at Daytona “International” Airport at midday on a Monday (when absolutely no one who works for a living can attend) in the presence of their political handlers and benefactors. . .

When are our elected officials going to realize that this unmitigated fear of independent thought, creativity, self-reliance and strategic vision is blunting their best instincts and dragging our system of local self-determination into the dark morass of groupthink?

When will they stop paying fealty to uber-wealthy special interests and start fighting for the citizens and employees of the community they were elected to serve?

It is called base cowardice – and it is the last resort of craven politicians who shrink behind forced consent and conformity.

This Star Chamber approach to determining our collective destiny in Volusia County isn’t healthy to our democratic principles and time-honored ideas of political accountability – and it is high time our municipal officials come to that realization – or face the consequences of their lily-livered need for countywide consensus at the ballot box.


On Volusia: Putting the “Fun” in Dysfunctional. . .

Times of transition offer a brief glimpse into the inner workings of government – and in the aftermath of the failed half-cent sales tax initiative – we are most definitely in a time of transition. . .

Some believe the referendum forced our elected officials to finally listen to the voice of the people and turn over a “new leaf” – a change in tack many see as a catalyst for real change.

Others (like me) are of the cynical opinion these self-serving dullards are merely changing tactics.

Time will tell.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that what passes for “governance” here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast has become so horribly dysfunctional, opaque and fatuous that many citizens who are getting their first peek behind the curtain are still in denial – dumbstruck that something so important to our lives and livelihoods could be so horribly perverted by greed and abject cronyism that our very quality of life is threatened.

Late last week, I was surprise by a series of social media posts by my friend and civic activist Greg Gimbert – a long-time beach driving advocate who has, for years, lobbied long and hard to open sections of the Tiger Bay State Forest for All Terrain Vehicle access – who gushed about our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley’s, recent support for his efforts – and praised Old Ed for leading “…a bold council to do a courageous thing.”

While I haven’t always agreed with Greg’s vision for this environmentally sensitive area – much of which is considered a wildlife refuge with extensive wetlands and unique habitats that are vital to protecting rare fauna and replenishing our aquifer – his enthusiasm and activism for causes he feels strongly about is infectious.

By way of full-disclosure – unlike Chairman Kelley, and Council members Ben Johnson and Fred Lowry – I’m not an ATV enthusiast.

I take my recreation at the bottom of a whisky glass (hey, don’t judge) – a pursuit that can be just as bumpy and adventurous as a 4-wheeler on a washboard dirt road – but the fact is, I’m getting a little long in the tooth to be careening around the woods on a scooter. . .

However, I certainly don’t deny others their fun.

In my view, those who enjoy riding ATV’s should have a publicly accessible place to enjoy their pastime – I’m simply not convinced an ecologically sensitive state forest is the “right fit.” 

Maybe it is – but I think anyone paying attention will agree that the cheap slight-of-hand Chairman Kelley attempted last week isn’t the way to go about it. . .

After hearing from Mr. Gimbert, last Tuesday the Volusia County Council pulled one of its patented off-the-agenda, public policy by ambush maneuvers when Old Ed polled the council members – out of the blue – and all agreed to become signatories to a letter advising state forestry officials that Volusia County supports allowing ATV’s and motorcycles the exclusive use of “up to 10%” of Tiger Bay.

Say what?

It was a typically ham-handed affair – a move that caught everyone by surprise and shocked the conscience of many residents and environmentalists who were under the mistaken impression that Volusia County had already rejected allowing vehicular access to Tiger Bay after the forest service cited “environmental damage, maintenance issues and fire danger” in 2013.

It also appeared to have been well-choreographed in advance – especially when Old Ed whipped out a pre-produced “rough draft” of the proposed letter of support – before anyone on the dais had even been surveyed. . .

More disturbing was the fact that no one who may have opposed the idea, or had an alternative solution, was permitted the opportunity to let their voices be heard – either behind-the-scenes or in a public hearing – an infernal trick used to ramrod controversial matters that has become standard protocol for the Volusia County Council.

According to an interesting article by News-Journal reporters Dinah Voyles-Pulver and Dustin Wyatt,  “…less than 24 hours later, after protests from former council members and others, at least two members of the council had second thoughts, and County Chair Ed Kelley said he would ask for a motion for reconsideration of the action at the council’s next meeting. If it’s approved— which appears likely — the letter of support would be placed on an agenda for discussion at a future meeting.”

Apparently, at least three former council members, including Pat Patterson, Joie Alexander and Pat Northey, had a visceral reaction to the unannounced, off-the-agenda action that essentially reversed years of established public policy.

Then, things started to fall apart for Old Ed’s “bold council” who had just done a “courageous thing” when members Heather Post and Deb Denys began backpedaling faster than Austrian circus acrobats. . .

In a late-night email to County Manager George Recktenwald (who has clearly mastered the art of political survival by simply acquiescing to anything and everything the elected officials want to do) Councilwoman Post asked that her name be removed from the letter of support.

By the following morning, the always arrogant Deb Denys had reached out to County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert requesting an exit strategy for rescinding the vote.

Then, within hours, Old Ed issued an email “…saying he had asked for a motion of reconsideration at the next meeting.”

So much for that whole “conducting public business in an open, transparent and public forum” thing, eh?

What an unmitigated embarrassment. . .

As a result of this bungled mess, our elected officials have painted themselves into a dark place that requires they either go back on a promise made to Mr. Gimbert and those seeking access to Tiger Bay – or they proceed with the previously approved letter of support – and alienate residents who are concerned about the potential environmental impacts, yet weren’t noticed that the council would be taking decisive action to reverse existing policy.

Frankly, Mr. Gimbert – and those who support and oppose his ideas – deserve better from their elected officials.

Look, I happen to know that freshman Councilman Ben Johnson is a very intelligent man with good political instincts – that’s why I’m so surprised he would be caught up in something like this?

I also happen to believe that Chairman Kelley is a compromised buffoon who hasn’t had an original thought since he accepted his first campaign contribution.  Nothing he does or says – regardless of how nonsensical – shocks me anymore.

Perhaps this will finally teach Mr. Kelley’s “colleagues” that it’s never wise to follow that crotchety dipshit down the rabbit hole. . .

In my view, this monstrous lack of concern for our democratic principles – intentionally blindsiding constituents with important public policy decisions simply to deny dissenting opinions a voice – serves no one.

This latest three ring circus underscores the depth of dysfunction and complete lack of effective internal and external communications that continues to drive a wedge between citizens and Volusia County government.

New leaf, my ass. . .

Gentle readers, please join me this afternoon on Govstuff Live with Big John beginning at 4:00pm.

Enjoy the forum locally at 1380am The Cat – or online at (Listen Live button).

Our guest today will be Tom Caffrey – a civically active entrepreneur – owner of The Pallet Pub and Hopcycles – who is a big part of the Main Street renaissance!

First Step Shelter: The mysterious case of Commissioner Quanita May

Anyone familiar with Halifax area politics knows that nothing of substance happens without the acquiescence of the Big Money players who pull the strings.

It’s a fact of life.

Something the long-suffering residents of Volusia County have learned to live with – and we no longer even try and decipher the motivations of these elected shills who do their masters bidding behind a thin façade of political independence that hasn’t existed in our local council and commission chambers for decades.

While I don’t have any direct knowledge of the inner-workings of the beleaguered First Step Shelter Board or the behind-the-scenes maneuvering at the City of Daytona Beach – continuing political machinations that have thwarted efforts to kick-start a homeless assistance center in the pine scrub off International Speedway Boulevard for months – I suspect at least some of these influential elements are present.

In an informative article by News-Journal reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean entitled, “Shelter Board changes sought,” we learned of the weird eleventh-hour roadblock erected by Daytona Beach City Commissioner Quanita May – another mysterious hurdle on an already precarious path that has had more switchbacks and rough patches than the Death Road to Machu Picchu.

Inexplicably, after first suggesting that the First Step Shelter Board be disbanded and the effort returned to the sole control of the City of Daytona Beach (a move which would have left already suspicious municipalities who have pledged financial support without any representation) – now, Commissioner May is suggesting that “one or two” of the existing board members step down to make room for a woman.

Look, I’m all for diversity and multiplicity of opinions.

In my experience, a variety of unique viewpoints tends to make the product of any endeavor better – but given the fact the First Step Shelter project has just shown it’s first frail steps forward after many months of controversy and disorganization – perhaps now isn’t the best time to raise the issue of gender inclusiveness as a showstopper?

Let’s face it, despite her denials, it is apparent Commissioner May has done everything in her considerable power to besmirch the volunteer service of First Step Shelter board members, question the effectiveness of their efforts and obstruct substantive progress.

But why? 

According to the report, “She (May) wants women to have a voice, and with six of the seven board members representing Volusia County governments, she also would like the group to diversify by adding people with a business background who are “well-connected in the community” and have fundraising experience.”    

Look, I’m admittedly a conspiratorial nut job with trust issues – but the term “people with a business background who are well-connected in the community” sounds a whole hell of a lot like the Merriam-Webster definition of our oligarchical puppet masters who contributed heavily to Ms. May’s 2018 campaign.

In an August 2018 article in the News-Journal, “Daytona campaign contributions show who the power structure supports,” reporter Zaffiro-Kean wrote, “While some locals are trying to figure out how May was able to pull in so much money, and how she managed to get so much of it from some of the area’s most powerful people, May says there’s no mystery or controversy. She said the checks came from people she’s known for years, or those who heard about her accomplishments.”

Interesting. . .

Because even a casual observer of Volusia County politics might come to the conclusion that Ms. May’s sabotage is less noble than ensuring inclusiveness – and more designed to extend control to her politically unaccountable benefactors. . .

A quick check of Ms. May’s campaign finance reports finds most all the right last names and their various entities represented – nothing unusual for a Daytona Beach City Commission race – but perhaps it helps us better understand her bizarre last-minute obstructionism.

In my twisted take on this ongoing shitshow, I have always believed that our ‘Rich & Powerful’ overseers – the Halifax area’s power elite – are directly responsible for pushing the City of Daytona Beach into this no-win predicament in the first place.

They panicked – fearing that the great hordes of unwashed homeless would be an omnipresent part of the landscape – wandering mendicants begging for change around their new headquarters building, riverfront esplanade, “synergistic” speedway attractions and tony new shopping and entertainment areas, etc.

So, they forced the issue of a homeless warehouse – deep in the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” hinterlands miles west of town – something no one in their right mind thought was a good idea.

In turn, the political pressure exerted by our ‘movers and shakers’ set about a Battle of Wills between Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm and former County Manager Jim Dinneen for who would ultimately be left holding the shitty end of the stick.

Clearly, Mr. Chisholm lost. . .

After a series of fits and starts – which almost destroyed the professional reputation of the Rev. L. Ron Durham, who became the face of the city’s often convoluted efforts to find a solution to the “homeless issue” – the idea of the First Step Shelter was set in stone way back in December 2017, when 150 local dignitaries gathered in their finery on the sandy site for a premature groundbreaking ceremony/photo opportunity.

It’s been an uphill battle to say the least – with community-wide disputes and strong feelings on the lack of direction, financial and administrative dysfunction, absence of substantive fundraising and the problem of operational plans and protocols that still haven’t jelled – but the walls and roof are up, the existing board members have pledged their commitment to seeing the project through and things are finally beginning to take shape.

In my view, now is not the time for political grandstanding, isolationism and petty impediments to progress – and I think we need some clarification on just what Commissioner May is really attempting to accomplish. . .

I’m just spit-balling here, but perhaps Ms. May’s political benefactors – who control everything but the ebb-and-flow of the Atlantic tides here of Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – have enlisted her help to ensure their influence on the routing of public funds and policy making now that it appears the First Step Shelter might actually come to fruition?

I don’t know – and I doubt anyone outside of Daytona Beach City Hall knows either.

But time will tell.



Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal








Angels & Assholes for June 7, 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:

Angel               VCSO Senior Deputy Frank Scofield & PIPD Lieutenant Max Binz

 From the time I was a young boy, law enforcement officers have always been my heroes.

They still are.

This week, God took two of our very best home.

Godspeed Frank and Max.

The great honor of my life was the opportunity to serve with men and women of your exceptional character and professionalism.

Well done – go rest now.  Your brothers and sisters behind the badge will take the watch from here.

You will be missed.

Angel               New Smyrna Beach Mayor Russ Owen

When I’m wrong – I’m wrong.

A few weeks ago, I mischaracterized a quote by New Smyrna Beach Mayor Russ Owen when I assumed – through psychological acclimation to Volusia County Politics – that his remarks in a recent News-Journal editorial represented a slight to citizens who voice their political frustrations on social media.

I was mistaken.  Mayor Owen gets it.

In the aftermath of the failed half-cent sales tax increase, savvy politicians in municipal governments throughout Volusia County are coming to the realization that the majority of their long-suffering constituents have had their fill of unchecked sprawl.

On Tuesday, those dullards on the Volusia County Council paid tacit lip service to the idea of ‘Smart Growth’ – a concept they can’t begin to comprehend – because it is counter to the mercenary tactics of those in the real estate development community who fund their re-election campaigns.

There was a fancy presentation – a typical opéra bouffe – replete with colorful maps and a PowerPoint chock full of meaningless fluff – to include a “History of Planning in Florida” (anyone consider that a success?) and an overview of how growth management regulations have essentially been reduced to one-ply toilet paper by the state. . .

The staged production even had the requisite amount of nonsensical “bureaucratese,” such as, “Need to update planning horizon and the data used in the analysis of the goals, objectives and policies.”

Say what? 

As always happens, after enough hot air had been generated, the puffed-up lecture ended with a call for a “needs analysis” relative to the county’s comprehensive plan – and yet another pie-in-the-sky call to “work with the cities,” put another do-nothing committee together, sit cross-legged on the floor and sing Kumbaya, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. . .

What was missing was any substantive talk about real smart growth initiatives – meanwhile, the bulldozers roar on massive developments that have already been approved – with more in the pipeline.

The temerity of these assholes to so blatantly insult our collective intelligence is astounding. . .

Another study.

Another colossal waste of time.

Another opportunity to put political distance between where we are now and the true crisis we will find ourselves in by the time some neutered committee’s “recommendations” have been finalized.

Then, the resulting report (no doubt crafted by Volusia Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin to avoid any substance or accountability) can take its rightful spot in that groaning bookcase in DeLand where expensive, time-consuming studies go to die – how about sandwiched between the dusty 2013 Tourism and Marketing Study and the Beachside Redevelopment Committee report, eh? 

Another example of how true leadership and strategic vision on the serious issues that face Volusia County is anathema to this troupe of wholly compromised sock puppets.

For the uninitiated (including our elected officials in DeLand), smart growth initiatives are a way to build and expand cities and neighborhoods that are economically prosperous, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable – a deliberate approach to development that uses effective planning practices to enhance economic and community development to avoid unchecked sprawl and the resulting infrastructure and environmental pressures that degrade quality of life.

Earlier this year, in the lead-up to the sales tax referendum, Mayor Owen courageously brought up the idea of incorporating real smart growth initiatives into the discussion at the Volusia Roundtable of Elected Officials – a group that spent the better part of two-years scheming and dreaming with their handlers at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance about innovative ways to separate you and I from even more of our hard-earned tax dollars.

In an excellent article by News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt, “Smart growth movement gains momentum,” Mayor Owens indicated that our political leadership can find alternatives to the suburban sprawl that threatens to paralyze much of east Volusia County if they spend as much “time and energy” on the problem as they did pushing the sales tax initiative.

“We had more town halls (on that) than I’ve seen on anything,” Owen said. “There was a willingness to do whatever it took on that. If we do that here, we will see (ideas) start to come together on this. We will start stealing good ideas that are working in neighboring cities, neighboring counties, neighboring states.  We can find a way.”  

In April, the Knights of the Roundtable agreed to “make smart growth a focus once the sales tax vote was over.”

My ass.

Trust me.  At that point they would have agreed to anything – because they just knew the results of the weird mail-in referendum were a foregone conclusion. . .

At that time, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post – one of the few elected officials in the region who saw this shameless money grab for what it was – reached out to the municipalities in the spirit of cooperation (something unheard of in Volusia County) asking that they begin discussing incorporating smart growth concepts into their planning process.

According to the News-Journal’s report, “She (Post) called it “deeply troubling” that development in areas where roadways are already critical or near critical congestion levels continue to get approval.”

 “We all know that saying, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,’” she wrote. “Simple, yet that phrase holds true. If we want different results than what we’re getting, we have to try different approaches.”

Now that the sales tax vote has gone down in flames – and they realize the depth of their constituents disgust – our horribly compromised politicians will begin mewing about sustainable growth, commissioning political insulation studies and generally mouthing the keywords they think we want to hear.

But not too loud.

You see, they know which side their bread is buttered on.

They also know that the incredibly powerful real estate development community will continue to do exactly what they want on the Fun Coast – so long as they throw enough money around and support the political aspirations of their hired chattel on the dais of power in council and commission chambers throughout Volusia County.

Thank you, Mayor Owen.

Many of us support and appreciate your substantive efforts to protect our quality of life and slow the tsunami of unchecked growth along the spine of east Volusia County.

Angel              Rishi Desai & Gloria Max

With a true spirit of generosity and sense of care, Rishi Desai, a junior in the IB Program at Spruce Creek High School, is literally helping to save lives in our community.

That’s not surprising, considering this impressive young man has a goal of becoming a medical doctor.

In keeping with his commitment to helping others, he matched a community service project with a true need in our community of providing medical screening for those less fortunate.

Recently, Rishi raised $5,000 to provide 100 free mammograms for women in need.

The vouchers were presented to Gloria Max, executive director of the Jewish Federation who is generously administering the program.

For information on the mammogram program, contact the Jewish Federation at 386-672-0294.

Asshole           Chairman Ed Kelley and the Volusia County Council

We can all agree to disagree – because that’s what makes a horse race – and none of us are right all the time.

More important, we can have differing views and still be friends – because the healthy debate of competing ideas helps build communities.

That said, in my opinion, anyone who thinks the current iteration of our horrifically compromised Volusia County Council has somehow “seen the light” in the aftermath of the half-cent sales tax vote and is preternaturally transmogrifying into a functional, accessible, transparent and responsive governing body with their constituents’ best interests at heart is delusional.

If you’re one of those unfortunates who truly believe recent events in DeLand are cause for hope – some kind of “new leaf” moment – far be it from me to wake you from this bizarre wet dream.

However, in my view, throwing an occasional bone with a bow on it to residents who have been historically ignored and abused isn’t my idea of substantive change – its ham-handed political manipulation, akin to a ‘Battered Constituent Syndrome,’ not responsive public policy-making. . .

In my view, our collective distrust is well-founded – and it will be a cold day in hell before I kiss the County Council’s collective ass and say, “Thank you, may I have another?” 

Screw that noise.  Nothing has changed but the tactic.

For instance, way back in June 2016, following one of the most divisive periods in the short history of the City of DeBary – after four-years of gross indecision by former County Manager Jim Dinneen – some 102 acres of extremely sensitive land collectively known as the Gemini Springs Annex was saved from the developer’s bulldozer when the Volusia County Council accepted the tract from the St. Johns River Water Management District.

At the time, I strongly suggested that given the shitstorm of controversy and open deceit surrounding the troubled land deal, rather than keep this sensitive area under government control, the acreage, in its entirety, should be transferred to an independent private conservation entity, such as the Nature Conservancy.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

On or about June 2, 2016, the Volusia County Council adopted a revised resolution accepting the threatened land and agreeing to manage it as conservation lands “in perpetuity.”

The material portion of that resolution stated, in part:

“Utilizing any portion of the Gemini Springs Addition to support development or redevelopment is contrary to the stated mitigation purpose of the property.”   

“…the continued management and preservation of the entire Gemini Springs Addition solely as conservation lands is imperative for the restoration of the site which will provide an invaluable benefit to the ecology of the region.”

In keeping with their historic precedence of doing exactly the opposite of what they resolved to do – on Tuesday, the Volusia County Council voted unanimously to permit two-acres of the Gemini Springs Annex to be transferred to the City of DeBary, who will in turn permit a developer to pave it over for a four-approach signalized traffic intersection to support the DeBary Town Center project which sits adjacent to the “protected” land.

Oh, there was much consternation on the dais – a lot of steam about FDOT mandates and agreements the county has no control over, and a requirement to make a trip to the hurt here, help there mitigation bank – but, when it came time to make a statement and do the right thing – our elected dullards did exactly what the 2016 resolution said they would never do when they led two contiguous acres of the environmentally sensitive lands to slaughter.

I hate to say I told you so, but following the transfer of lands to Volusia County, I wrote:

“While this transfer may resolve the matter for the immediate future, in my experience the word “perpetuity” means “about 10-years” in government parlance.  I guarantee you this will not be the last move to develop these lands if they are left in the care of elected officials who are bought and paid for by speculative developers.”   

In fact, it only took three-years to start piecing it out and paving it over. . .

Asshole           Deltona City Manager Jane Shang

For the already beaten and bruised residents of Deltona, the hits just keep on coming. . .

Earlier this week, City Manager Jane “Shameless” Shang entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Office of the State Attorney – essentially admitting responsibility for six instances of voter fraud – three considered felony crimes.

During an investigation of allegations that Shang intentionally listed the address of Deltona City Hall – rather than her residence – on voter registration forms, it was determined that during last year’s election Shang voted in a District 1 race – while residing in District 3. . .

Despite Shang’s hubristic explanation that her offenses were the result of “mistakes and errors” – in my view, knowingly casting a vote in an election outside your district evidences a well-formed intent – something far from an honest oversight.

Under the terms of her agreement, Shang must pay investigative costs, undergo drug testing, perform 100 hours of community service and avoid violating any federal, state or local laws for the next 12 months.

This includes $50.00 per month “toward the cost of her supervision,” plus $2.00 per month to the Florida Department of Corrections – placing her on what is essentially supervised probation.

Jesus.  What a godawful embarrassment to this beleaguered community. . .

In my view, if Jane Shang doesn’t have the common human decency to resign her position and leave with the degree of dignity the city deserves – then the City Commission has a moral responsibility to their constituents to unceremoniously throw her sorry ass out of City Hall before any more damage can be done to Deltona’s already battered reputation.

Quote of the Week

“There will be a time when we have no auto access to our beaches,” Kelley said. “I don’t know when, it’s not my plan.  It’s not something that I’m looking forward to because I’ve driven on that beach since 1962.  I’ve been a supporter of beach access and driving. But you can bet the federal government is not going to allow us to have that permit in 2030.”

–County Chairman Ed Kelley, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia council oks new parking in NSB,” Wednesday, June 5, 2019

In my view, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, is a congenital liar who has become so truth-averse over his many years in elective office that he can no longer discern fact from a bald-face falsehood.

I don’t think he even recognizes it anymore.

It’s borne of the same twisted mindset that ends with his much-anticipated “Plan B” unveil being just another uninspired tax scheme. . .

It’s one of the many problems inherent to a system where uber-wealthy insiders artificially manipulate political campaigns with massive cash infusions to perpetually return these two-faced twits and moral defects to positions of power.

There is nothing to suggest that the federal government is going to revoke the permit allowing beach driving in Volusia County – and Old Ed’s spurious speculation is clearly wishful thinking on his part.

The fact is, Ed Kelley has quibbled the distinct difference between “beach driving” and “beach access” for years.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kelley joined Council members Ben Johnson, Deb Denys and Fred Lowry in blatantly ignoring the wishes of New Smyrna Beach residents when they voted to spend $475,000 for eleven “off-beach” parking spots, bringing vehicular traffic to a quaint residential neighborhood that was well-served by a relatively inexpensive walkover.

Speaking with the News-Journal’s Dustin Wyatt following the meeting, New Smyrna Beach City Commissioner Jake Sachs lamented:

“They basically want to turn New Smyrna Beach into a parking lot,” he said, while acknowledging that it could have been much worse. “I’m very pleased they didn’t make a beach driving ramp out of it.”

And, just like that, New Smyrna Beach joins other small beachside communities – like Daytona Beach Shores – who have taken it in the tookus from our not-so-benevolent dictators in Volusia County government.

As I’ve said, the quaint notion of municipalities controlling their own destiny through self-determination and local governance might work elsewhere, but not in Volusia County.

Don’t like it?  Tough shit.

When Daytona Beach Shores balked at this aggressive form of buggery, Volusia County unleashed the weaponized county attorney’s office like a rabid Doberman – with orders to do whatever was required to exert their omnipotence – including crushing the small municipality’s will with overwhelming legal bills.

When Old Ed says removing beach driving “is not my plan,” you can bet your sweet patootie that’s exactly what he has in mind. . .

In my view, Chairman Kelley now owes every taxpayer in Volusia County a formal apology for making outrageous statements and spending our hard-earned tax dollars over what the federal government may – or may not – do over a decade from now.

Folks, that’s not leadership – that’s hysterical raving and fear-mongering – and any self-serving elected official who has spent as much time humiliating himself from a political dais as Mr. Kelley has should know the difference.

And Another Thing!

I don’t know about you, but I really need a dose of Daytona Beach “International” Airport executive director Rick Karl’s infectious optimism right now. . .

I need to hear Rick tell me how my investment is all “part of the larger story of the renaissance of this community,” and assure me we’re not pissing good money after bad every time another national or regional carrier (that we handsomely subsidized) packs up and jets off into the sunset.

Because, that’s what we pay Mr. Karl for – to pat our bottoms and tell us all the good things about our “International” airport we so desperately want to hear. . .

Regardless of how dire the circumstance, Director Karl can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – spinning fantastic yarns about “passenger traffic increases” – and soothing our worst fears with fairy tales about how much we stand to make in the gift shop if we just throw more money around in a market that has essentially remained a regional feeder – outpaced by Sanford, Orlando, hell, everywhere with access to an interstate highway.

With many in Volusia County still reeling from the abrupt departure of Jet-Blue, on Wednesday, we learned the disheartening news that our most recent beneficiary of public funds – something called Silver Airways – announced it will be stopping scheduled service from DAB effective July 1.

According to a crafty statement from the air carrier, while the service was “well-received by travelers and the community and bookings were good,” the fare level was not “financially sustainable” in current market conditions. . .

I find that strange, because just months ago you and I ponied up an incredibly lucrative incentive package to lure Silver Airways to Daytona Beach.

This included some $100,000 to market the Daytona Beach-Ft. Lauderdale flights, a partnership agreement with the Daytona Tortugas organization, waiving landing fees and “facilities costs” (read: rent and utilities), a year of free ground handling services (according to reports, estimated at $91,250) and a quarterly payment of $25,000 for one year to help “offset some of the airlines startup costs.”

 You do the math.

 I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .

At the time,  Mr. Karl sang us a comforting lullaby, assuring us weary rubes that this time we wouldn’t be stood-up like every time before, “This is the beginning of a long-relationship that we hope to build over time,” Karl said, adding, “One flight a day is not the goal. We want to have more flights. We want to grow the airline with us.”

 He sounded like Claude Rains in the final scene of Casablanca. . .

 Come on, Rick.  I really need to hear how this time is different from last time.


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

Angels & Assholes will be on a brief hiatus next week as I travel to my ancestral home deep in the verdant bosom of the Appalachian Mountains – time to watch the lightning bugs in the evening, sip some corn squeezins and get back to my hillbilly roots for a few days. . .

Stay vigilant!

The battle for the soul of Volusia County

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Why is it that Volusia County politics – regardless of jurisdiction – is increasingly marked by the near-constant internecine battle between ‘Us and Them,’ a destructive series of lopsided skirmishes fought by We, The People and those we have elected to represent our highest and best interests?

In a well-written piece in Sunday’s News-Journal entitled, “Daytona riverfront property remains in limbo,” reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean took us on a journey through the brewing fight over public control of City Island – marked by a pernicious effort by Daytona Beach city officials to remove decades-old land restrictions that held the historic downtown property for “public purposes forever.”


Why would any civil servant – or elected official who accepts public funds to serve in the public interest – seek to quietly strip protections forged decades ago when the spoil islands were created as the channel was dredged in the Intercoastal Waterway?

Because they want to hand it over to their political benefactors in the real estate development community, that’s why. 

That’s old news – the standard modus operandi of this compromised Oligarchy that has replaced our democratic principles in Volusia County.

What I find most disturbing is the mindset.

My sincere hope is that the overweening attitude of some in government that actively works to strip perpetual safeguards on lands set aside for public use through behind-the-scenes political maneuvers – is the typical “we know what’s best for you” bureaucratic approach – the disconnect commonly found in places where entrenched administrators successfully reverse the administrative and political power structure.

Because the alternative – a situation where special interests pressure (suggest?) the very policymakers whose political campaigns they have underwritten to remove restrictions and sell or lease the scenic land for private development – is too grim to consider.

Unfortunately, anything is possible in a time and place where a billionaire insurance executive can assume control of a massive riverfront park adjacent to his already publicly underwritten headquarters complex by mere acquiescence of the community’s elected body – then receive some $1 million annually in tax dollars over the next 50 years to cover maintenance costs. . .

No one asked the citizens of Daytona Beach if they wanted to spend $50 million of their hard-earned tax dollars over the next half-century on a really nice park – and no one has asked the residents of Volusia County if we want to hand over City Island and adjacent waterfront property to a speculative developer for another half-empty condominium tower and a strip center.

And don’t expect anyone to ask for your opinion on the issue anytime soon. . .

In the aftermath of the failed $500,000 mail-in ballot scheme designed to ramrod a half-cent sales tax increase down our collective throats – I doubt our ‘powers that be’ will be asking us to vote on anything of substance – at least nothing they can find an expeditious legislative work around for.

Because, when they do allow us a say – and the outcome is not what their uber-wealthy puppet masters thought it should be – they either attempt to overturn our will by filing a lawsuit against us using our own money – or perpetually return the question to the ballot (no doubt rewritten to make the latest iteration of the money grab even more opaque) each election cycle until the desired outcome is achieved.

That is not how a representative democracy is supposed to work. . .

Fortunately, it appears yet another grassroots effort to protect the public’s interest is forming ranks in the Halifax area to block the handover of public lands on City Island for private development and political expediency.

According to the News-Journal’s article, Daytona Beach resident Mary Welch recently challenged state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff – the darling of the Florida Realtors PAC.  During the last legislative session, Ms. Fetterhoff pushed failed legislation to remove the City Island deed restrictions without requiring the city to pay a $8.77 million ransom demanded by former Governor Slick Rick Scott.

The report indicated Ms. Welch asked Fetterhoff on social media the logical question, “. . .what’s in it for you?”

 According to Welch, “She never replied.”

 “Fetterhoff said she understands there’s been pushback from local residents who want all of the land to remain open for public use, but she said “it needs some value. It’s off the tax rolls.”


What Rep. Fetterhoff and her benefactors in the real estate development community fail to grasp is the intrinsic civic, social and recreational value of holding certain lands for the exclusive and collective use of the public – something our forefathers recognized way back in 1925.

In my view, small-minded politicians – and those officials who have willingly compromised themselves to the mercenary tactics of special interests – have disgraced themselves in the eyes of their disbelieving constituents.

However, rather than exhibit a sense of shame – the much darker emotion of political advancement at all cost has emerged.

It seems now that they have been unmasked for who, and what, they truly are – our ‘powers that be’ no longer try to camouflage their true motivations – or those of their gluttonous political benefactors.

Slowly, the thin façade of service in the public interest has been eroded to the point a pernicious system that exists to serve a small ‘power elite’ is exposed.

A symbiotic relationship between compromised politicians who need massive campaign contributions to ensure victory – and the Big Money donor class who recognize the opportunity this presents.

In my view, this growing shift in strategy represents a dangerous proposition in this no-holds-barred “Us vs. Them” atmosphere, where a few well-heeled winners take all – and the rest of us suffer the innumerable consequences of their ravenous greed.