This shouldn’t come as any great surprise – but we’re being lied to. Again.
Maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of the whoppers we’ve been told by our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County government over the years – but it’s a blatant untruth all the same.
Recently, News-Journal editor Pat Rice performed a practical test of sorts – challenging the veracity of a pedestrian walkway that was opened without much forethought at Protogroup’s “$192-million” Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums project.
When work abruptly stopped on the north tower – after months of closure with a hideous hodgepodge of chain-link fencing – the developer finally opened a rudimentary beach access point as required by Protogroup’s development agreement with Volusia County.
Consternation over the walkway built when Volusia County inexplicably rolled over and completely abdicated its enforcement responsibility under the terms of a “Use, Easement and Access” agreement which ensured public beach access during construction of the monstrous project in exchange for closing the Oakridge Boulevard approach for construction purposes.
Some seven months ago, the intrepid Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, brought the issue to the attention of Volusia County – his concerns were met with exactly what we have come to expect.
For a time, we were led to believe that Councilwoman Billie Wheeler was championing the cause – questioning staff some three times over two-months. (I guess our highly compensated county executive staff have the same level of respect for Ms. Wheeler that her constituents now do. . .)
There were the usual denials from the developer and complete paralytic inaction by our elected and appointed officials in DeLand – followed by some moronic disavowal from our dimwitted County Council Chair, Ed Kelley.
Then, Old Ed – in a fit of hillbilly hysterics – demonstrated that whale-turd level of whatever the antithesis of leadership is when he described the easement contract with Protogroup as a “poorly-worded, hastily written agreement.”
“The only thing we can do is kill the project and tell them they have to stop the building.”
Last week, in response to beach access signage which clearly indicates the path is accessible to “pedestrians, strollers and wheelchairs,” Mr. Rice and another News-Journal editor attempted to navigate the sandy path through the fenced off heart of the half-active construction site while pushing a carriage simulating the weight of a child and beach gear.
He then wrote about the experience in a piece entitled, “Our newest beach access point may be the ugliest,” in Sunday’s News-Journal.
“It was slow going. The baby carriage’s wheels kept bogging down in the sand. In the end, I pushed the baby carriage down the path. But it wasn’t easy.”
What bothered me most was what Rice found at the end of the path – eleven wooden steps leading down to the beach – an obstacle that would make wheelchair access difficult, if not impossible.
In Mr. Rice’s article, he suggests that Protogroup, or “someone,” do the right thing and change the signage to ensure that the mobility impaired aren’t trapped, injured or worse simply because they want to enjoy a day at the beach.
In my view, that “someone” is those do-nothings at Volusia County government who entered into a legally binding agreement – then did absolutely nothing to ensure that residents and visitors retained reasonable access to our public beach.
Ultimately, the City of Daytona Beach was forced to deal with the issue amid slights and swipes from County administrators.
At the time, County Manager George Recktenwald said, “The city, which we have partnered on for many projects, I don’t think has been much of a partner in this case here. This is the first time in my 21 years (with the county) I’ve ever encountered that another government didn’t support us or work with us.”
Which is total and unequivocal bullshit.
In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a case where any interaction between Volusia County and a municipality hasn’t dissolved into an ugly pissing match – complete with threats of lawsuits, angry ultimatums and outright bullying.
Perhaps when the U.S. Department of Justice is finished investigating the Volusia County School District for its alleged mistreatment of disabled children – it could find its way to launch an inquiry as to how running the gauntlet of this half-ass attempt at accessibility to a publicly maintained beach comports with the tenets of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
In my view, the sad reality is – once again – you and I are left in the untenable position of being openly mislead by those compulsive liars in DeLand.
Because lying by omission by entering into a sham access agreement they had no intention of adequately enforcing is a blatant misrepresentation.
Unfortunately, not unexpected.
Earlier this week, we learned through a fluke that Volusia County has summarily banned inflatable amusements at county parks.
The policy wasn’t communicated through a press release – or broadcast by one of our highly-paid professional mouthpieces – and “official” action appears limited to a brief discussion at the June 18 County Council meeting.
This time, Volusia County taxpayers learned about new public policy through a newspaper article – only because the City of DeBary’s request for a “bounce house” at their Independence Day celebration was denied based on “safety” concerns.
Apparently, Volusia County’s “risk manager,” Charles Spencer, decided for the rest of us that slides and other inflatables create too much exposure:
“As a property owner, we have a duty to maintain the premises in a safe condition and to warn of known hazards,” Spencer wrote. “If something should happen alleging improper maintenance while in use (such as it not being properly secured or a defect that we should have discovered upon inspection while in use) that would likely fall back on the property owner and the party renting the bounce house.”
Yet, Mr. Spencer doesn’t have the same concerns over maintaining safe access to Volusia County’s most popular public asset – or warning the disabled of “known hazards” or improper maintenance as confirmed and reported by Pat Rice of The Daytona Beach News-Journal?
Where were our hand-wringing “risk management” experts when the “Beach Access Surface” sign lured unsuspecting persons with disabilities and families with infant children down a nearly impassible lane to a beach wholly maintained and totally controlled by Volusia County government?
I guess its easy to write officious memorandums from an air-conditioned office in DeLand – but actually getting off your ass and ensuring safe and proper beach access for Volusia County families is too much to ask?
What a sick joke. . .
As Albert Einstein once said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”