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.





2 thoughts on “The battle for the soul of Volusia County

  1. I wrote about how the land use process in Volusia County is stacked against ordinary people. “The playing field is not level, and it never can be.”
    Mr. Barker, i invite you to read “The Story of Thornby: How Orfinary People Took on Government.”


  2. Is there not a path to recall the members of our Council that squandered a half a million dollars on a vote that would have cost another 49 million a year on residents and visitors to Volusia County.

    Then immediately said, “We don’t give a damn what you think, we’re going to put it on the ballot again.”

    The time to drain the swamp is now.


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