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








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