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.

Please?

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!

4 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for June 7, 2019

  1. have you researched shang’s previous stay in el paso?
    plenty there for a follow up.
    bet you that the commission fails to terminate her.
    all part of the ongoing circus.
    keep up the good work.

    Like

  2. Wow! Lightning bugs still exist?! I use to have them here in Ormond Beach in my yard as a kid but haven’t seen them for over 20 years.

    Like

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