Happy Birthday to the United States of America!
This morning, me and the dogs are slowly emerging from the bunker here at Barker’s View HQ, taking off our helmets – putting away our matching red, white and blue “Thundershirt” anxiety jackets – and beginning the annual bomb damage assessment following the overnight artillery barrage here in north Ormond Beach.
Many years ago, our neighborhood – which is idyllically calm every other night of the year – decided, “To hell with the city-sponsored fireworks display – Let’s celebrate Independence Day by calling in a Star-Spangled airstrike on the old Barker place!”
And let me tell you, this year some of that incoming ordinance could be measured in kilotons. . .
I think I know the origin:
For many years, I had an over-the-road trucker living next door – a friendly chap I affectionately called, well, “neighbor man” (because actually learning his name could have been mistaken for a friendly overture, which would have invariably led to neighborly chit-chat, obligatory “howdy” waves in the driveway, etc. Ugh.)
“Neighbor man” was perfect for me: Because he was on the road for literally weeks at a time.
Pure bliss for a reclusive, anti-social hermit like me. . .
In exchange for his frequent absences, I was more than happy to ignore the periodic “chug-chug-chug-chug-chug-chug-chug” of an idling Detroit Diesel, punctuated by the thunderous hiss of a Freightliner’s air brakes outside my window at four o’clock in the morning – or those times when he moved a new “girlfriend” into the house that he found at some all-night truck stop outside Knoxville – only to have her steal everything he owned and flee in the middle of the night while he was hauling freight somewhere between Provo and Kankakee. . .
Interesting fellow. I liked him.
But at dusk every 4th of July – like clockwork – neighbor man would begin the yearly ritual of detonating his gigantic pyrotechnic arsenal – serious recreational explosives he collected on his runs around the country – and made great sport of launching mortar shells, flaming whizzers, screaming meemies, roman candles, spinning buzz bombs, fire fountains, crowd pleasers, flying crackers, bottle rockets, boom-boom tubes, aerial shockers, mini-missiles and every other known variety of neighbor-hater China ever exported directly over my house.
All while laughing maniacally and screaming over the roar, “How’d ya like dat one!”
Of course, I would respond in faux amusement – like good neighbors do – as the neutral ground between our homes turned into a gunpowder-singed moonscape, “Wow. Good one. Was that thing purchased legally? In this country?” as I staggered around the front yard – stiff cocktail in one hand, garden hose in the other – putting out secondary fires on the roof.
Why? Because I once made the mistake of telling him that my wife enjoys fireworks. . .
And, she does – Patti loves them.
Nothing makes her giddier than the sight of those monstrous flaming chrysanthemums bursting and shimmering over the Halifax river while the William Tell Overture blasts in the background – and I continue circling the block looking for a parking space east of Nova Road. . .
You know, the “professional” kind you sit in a comfortable folding chair down-by-the-river and enjoy from afar – not the ones that each year shower our wood frame cracker box in a continuous downpour of molten sparks – and pepper every inch of my yard in burnt cardboard and smoking detritus.
I guess I didn’t make that part clear to him. . .
Although my gear jammin’ neighbor moved away years ago – I’m convinced his perennial attempt to please my wife’s firework fetish started what I like to call the “Siege of Northbrook” – which, with the accuracy of a Norden bombsight – targets my humble home annually at sundown on July 4th – a bombardment that bangs, booms and whistles damn near continuously until the neighborhood stockpiles have been depleted and the novelty wears off.
When it comes to my neighbors, I’m a live and let live kind of guy.
What you do on your slice of the American Dream doesn’t concern me in the least – to each their own, I say – and, as long as my liquor cabinet is stocked and well-meaning people leave me alone, I can put up with most anything. . .
So, like every year before, yesterday I did the patriotic thing and ate the requisite hot dog, drank copious amounts of Tennessee whiskey, and, come nightfall, I hunkered down with Nola and Benny – holding them tight while they nervously shook and shimmied to the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air as this damnable neighborhood tradition played itself out.
If you happen to live up here in God’s Country – here’s hoping your Independence Day was everything mine was – and more. . .
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 City of Ormond Beach
Kudos to the City of Ormond Beach, Ormond MainStreet and The Ormond Beach Arts District for having the foresight to permit public art downtown.
In May, the Ormond Beach City Commission approved a plan which allows property owners and merchants to commission outdoor artwork with the assistance of the Arts District Mural Committee.
In my experience, murals help provide a sense of place – a vibrancy that stimulates civic dialog – and has a positive economic impact on communities who embrace the cultural and social value of public art.
The Barker Tribe is blessed to have the amazing painter and performance artist, Perego, as a member of our family.
Through Perego’s incredible talent, I have learned to appreciate the amazing impact art can have on one’s mood and physical environment – and his incredible frescos create a stunning visual aesthetic that set locations and communities who host them apart.
In fact, many places are discovering the intrinsic benefits of public art and its ability to draw visitors to city centers, art districts and commercial areas.
For instance, the next time your travels take you to North Carolina or Southwest Virginia, take in a few miles of the Appalachian Mural Trail – which maps out a whimsical tour of small rural towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway that host both contemporary and historical murals.
In my view, this is a wonderful addition to our beautifully restored downtown – one that will pay dividends for Ormond Beach and the Halifax area for many years to come.
Asshole Volusia County Government
I wrote about this earlier in the week, but there’s been a resolution, of sorts. . .
Recently, News-Journal editor Pat Rice performed a practical test of sorts – challenging the veracity of a pedestrian walkway that was opened apparently without much forethought at Protogroup’s “$192-million” Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums project.
When work abruptly stopped on the north tower – the developer finally opened a rudimentary beach access point as required by Protogroup’s development agreement with Volusia County.
Inexplicably, Volusia County 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.
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 blamed the contract – describing 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.”
In response to beach access signage which clearly indicated the path is accessible to “pedestrians, strollers and wheelchairs,” Mr. Rice attempted to navigate the sandy path through the 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 an editorial entitled, “Our newest beach access point may be the ugliest.”
“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.
Based upon his personal experience, Pat made the pertinent recommendation that “Protogroup, or someone, ought to change the beach access sign.”
Fortunately, Mr. Rice’s piece brought much-needed attention to the issue, and earlier this week, “someone” replaced the deceptive signage which had been in place since June 21st.
I say “someone” because it appears the operative policy for anyone associated with the increasingly mysterious towers project is to avoid reporters’ questions like the plague.
(Word to the wise: Rarely does a total information blackout build community support or instill confidence – especially when construction slows on a massive concrete monolith in the heart of our struggling core tourist area. . .)
In a follow-up report, the News-Journal’s Jim Abbott noted that no one at the general contractors office, the developer or the City of Daytona Beach were available to him – and Volusia County’s mouthpiece, Joanne Magley, gave a lukewarm, shoulder-shrug non-answer: “Our understanding is the contractor responsible for that property changed the sign to properly reflect the access.”
Okay. . .
What bothers me is – even after Mr. Rice demonstrated the problem – no one in County government who is paid to care bothered to demand that the developer simply allocate $12.50 from the “$192 million” budget and erect proper access placards to mediate a clearly dangerous situation for the mobility impaired?
I know everyone is over-the-moon for our “new” County Manager George Recktenwald – but for $215,000 a year – is it too much to ask that he hold “someone” accountable for ensuring shit like this doesn’t happen again?
Sorry. Too much to expect?
Regardless, after nearly two-weeks of jeopardizing the physical safety of families and disabled persons who were misled by erroneous signage suggesting wheelchair access, “someone” finally responded to our community newspaper’s pointed call for change – and for that we can all be thankful.
Angel Citizens of Flagler County
I am incredibly proud of the intrepid citizens of Flagler County who are taking a bold stand to preserve their environment and quality of life by asking the difficult questions of a North Carolina-based developer intent on shoehorning some 4,000 residential, commercial and mixed-use units onto 825-acres along John Anderson Highway.
Last week in this space I mentioned a rumor that was slowly filtering its way into northeast Volusia County regarding a planned unit development known as “The Gardens.”
If successful, the project will ultimately bring an estimated 9,000 residents to the area – nearly twice the current population of Flagler Beach.
In a bizarre editorial (read: fairy tale) written by Ken Belshe, a senior director with the property owner, SunBelt Land Management, which appeared in FlaglerLive.com – Mr. Belshe spewed some of the most phony-baloney, candy-coated horseshit I’ve ever heard uttered by a speculative developer – and that’s saying something. . .
“We have known for decades that this area is a glimmering gem outshining others in the Southeast. We have no intention of damaging that gem or risking its value. We hold it carefully in our hands, polishing it and deliberately waiting to share our ideas about what to do with it.”
Jesus. If this real estate development gig doesn’t work out, Belshe has a bright future in the industrial fertilizer business – or as a Daytona “International” Airport executive. . .
In my view, Mr. Belshe is polishing something, alright – and it isn’t a “glimmering gem.”
On Monday, my friend Rob Merrill, our areas preeminent land use attorney with the esteemed Cobb Cole firm (who is dutifully representing SunBelt Land Management) hosted a raucous community meeting at Flagler’s Hilton Garden Inn.
Some 300 concerned residents packed the room – with some 8,000 having let their feelings be known by signing a petition challenging the project online.
According to reports, as Rob did his level best to keep order (with the assistance of several Flagler County Sheriff’s Deputies) the rowdy crowd voiced their displeasure with the proposed project, and asked the difficult questions about density, schools, concurrency, impact fees and the inevitable environment impacts to Bulow Creek and beyond.
It sounds like Rob and his clients at SunBelt needed a whip and chair, rather than a flashy PowerPoint touting the benefits of introducing 9,000 new Walmart shoppers to southeast Flagler County, to keep the pitchfork-wielding villagers in check. . .
At the end of a testy two-hours – complete with boos, taunts, invitations to step outside and threats of ejection – Mr. Belshe’s mood appears to have changed from the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Joy!” sentiments of his earlier syrupy essay.
According to an article in FlaglerLive entitled, “Boos, Jeers and Defiance as Flagler Beach Voices Its Opposition to The Gardens Development on John Anderson,” Mr. Belshe exhibited a sharper tone when he said:
“The secret is out,” he said. “Unless you just want to close the gates and say – no more people.” Huge applause interrupted him, a chorus announcing the crowd’s inclination: no more growth.”
“If that’s how you feel,” Belshe continued, “then I encourage you to contact your county commissioners and let’s shut down the office of economic development. We don’t need more jobs; we don’t need more businesses.” But, he said, if there’s some acceptance that growth is ahead, then it should be done smartly.”
“Trust me, density is not the enemy. Urban sprawl is the enemy.” He closed on a note about his young children and his environmentally conscious intentions, along with his intentions to address the development’s impact on schools “with new buses, for instance.”
My God. Do these people know no shame?
There’s a lot to digest in Mr. Belshe’s statement.
In my view, his “good cop/bad cop” approach is typical of how speculative developers ultimately crush public dissent.
The scary “what if” scenarios to drill home the inevitability of their fate – the “trust me” prognostications about all the good things to come, and, in the end, waving shiny baubles around (like school buses, “conservation areas” and fancy civic amenities) to help remaining skeptics come to terms with their inescapable destiny.
Then, the all-important “corporate humanization” campaign.
After all, this isn’t some faceless out-of-state land developer – they have families too – they are part of the community. . .
I encourage the citizens of Flagler County who feel strongly about protecting our sensitive environment and their unique quality of life to stay active and involved as The Garden’s project creeps its way through the byzantine planning and permitting process – in my view, a purpose-built path that invariably leads to formal approval.
It’s important – and it’s up to you. No one is coming to help. . .
Quote of the Week
“I find Kelley’s digital handwringing to The News-Journal unacceptable. Volusia County needs sensible leaders who address environmental threats to existing infrastructure and make responsible development decisions. As the county chair, Kelley should generate ideas to address problems; not shift blame to the residents who elected him — and whose properties will see a five-inch sea rise in the next 10 years. If Ed Kelley cannot solve problems or heed reasonable science, Volusia County must elect someone who will.”
–Tamara Parker, Port Orange, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “It’s a local threat,” Wednesday, July 3, 2019
In an ever-changing world, County Chair Ed Kelley’s cosmic stupidity is the one constant. . .
I’m not a climatologist.
Neither is Ed Kelley.
The difference being, like most reasonable people, I’m willing to read critically and interpret data, keep an open mind, listen to the opinions of experts and weigh the findings of scientists and environmentalists who are working hard to find answers to climate change and its potential impact on our lives and livelihoods in coastal Florida.
Unlike Old Ed, I don’t care about the source.
Be it the Greenhouse Effect from fossil fuels or the earth’s natural processes at work – the fact is, we are experiencing a relatively rapid increase in sea level and changes to weather patterns that are adversely affecting many areas of our state – and now is the time to find workable solutions.
Fortunately, Governor Ron DeSantis has broken with the radical fringe of his party and taken early steps to address Florida’s environmental crisis – including measures to clean our diseased waterways and adapt to the effects of global warming, weather extremes and their coastal impact.
More important, Governor DeSantis has proven that he is willing to engage with the scientific community on climate and environmental issues – which is a stark contrast to eight-years of simply ignoring the issue while streets flooded, the bulldozers roared and our rivers turned to guacamole under former Governor Slick Rick Scott’s “fox in the hen house” strategy of environmental protection.
Unfortunately, County Chair Ed Kelley continues to expose his own limitations on issues he cannot begin to comprehend – a demonstrable lack of brainpower that is destroying public confidence in Volusia County government and perpetuating the unnerving sense that we’re all adrift in a sea of ignorance on a foundering ship of fools.
I happen to believe that Old Ed is simply parroting what he thinks his friends in the upper echelons of the local Republican Party apparatus want to hear – you know, the same Volusia County Republican’s in Name Only that never met a tax increase, exorbitant fee or government handout they didn’t like?
Because, in my view, Mr. Kelley lacks the basic smarts to make informed decisions on the important issues of the day; however, he makes up for that intellectual shortcoming by doing what he’s told.
You see, many of Chairman Kelley’s political benefactors make their fortune in industries that are panicked by the proposition that curbing emissions, conserving greenspace, modifying building codes and limiting construction in environmentally sensitive areas might adversely impact their ability to haul massive profits off the land.
Trust me. That single external factor has done more to influence Mr. Kelley’s cockamamie ideas about climate change – and the myriad other issues facing his long-suffering constituents – than his legendary inability to reason and think independently.
And Another Thing!
I’m confused. . . (Which should come as no surprise.)
And, at the end of this screed, I suspect you will be too.
Our old friend, the infernal optimist and executive director of the Daytona “International” Airport, Rick Karl, was back in the news this week – still closing after the sale on the massively expensive renovation of our perfectly usable airport.
Look, I’m the first to champion the cause of public officials answering questions of the working press – letting their constituents know about policy issues, public safety threats and other pertinent information that we need to hear from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
But how many times are they going to trot out Rick “Pollyanna” Karl to spin another fantastic yarn about why it was imperative to invest $14 million in public funds into our wholly underutilized and totally serviceable airport?
It’s a done deal. We bitched, moaned and put ice on it. Nobody cared. Move on.
(Although I still wonder if the Volusia County Economic Development offices at the airport are part of the big “renovation”? Humm. . .)
Yet, Rick continues to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – regardless of the news – and the amount of energy expended is giving me a headache. . .
In March, we were told passenger traffic set an all-time monthly record – even in the aftermath of JetBlue’s unceremonious departure in January.
According to Rick, “It’s amazing to see when the airlines add capacity, the community is filling the seats. These types of positive trends bode extremely well for further airline expansion at DAB.”
“March is always one of our busiest months of the year (but) to have this type of growth is phenomenal.”
Apparently, there was actually a silver lining to the JetBlue desertion – at least according to our always over-enthusiastic airport execs! (Look, I don’t understand how or why – but whatever the reason – just know it’s phenomenal!)
Then, last week, we were told that maybe JetBlue’s departure might not have been the blessing we were first led to believe it was.
In Clayton Parks informative article in the News-Journal, “Passenger traffic dips at Daytona airport despite increases for Delta, American Airlines,” we learned, “The effects of JetBlue’s departure at the start of the year continue to be felt at Daytona Beach International Airport.”
It seems passenger traffic at DAB waned nearly 7% year-over-year in May. . .
Wait? That’s not good, right?
Never mind all that maudlin crap – according to Chief Cheerleader Rick Karl: “Even though overall traffic may be down slightly this year; we expect continued growth on our two major air carriers.”
So there! Take that you naysaying assholes!
Passenger traffic is up! Passenger traffic is down! Who cares! – It’s phenom. . .whatever.
Frankly, I’ve all but stopped reading any article with Daytona “International” Airport in the lede because I’m always left with a weird feeling there’s more to the story – something more ominous behind the mumbo-jumbo of statistics, pap and fluff that always paint things in the most positive light.
Maybe that’s the point? Anesthetize the masses with over-the-top optimism?
Regardless, rain or shine, Rick Karl & Company over in the executive offices at DAB never disappoint.
However, in his recent essay in the News-Journal explaining to us hapless dullards why the millions-of-dollars in terminal upgrades will have absolutely no impact on airfares – Mr. Karl gave us an uncharacteristic hard truth about why carriers continue to charge exorbitant ticket prices that drive the local traveling public to airports in Sanford and Orlando.
According to Rick: “Air fares are determined by the local market. Airlines owe a duty to their stockholders to generate as much revenue as possible, and therefore will charge the greatest fares that a given market will allow. This is capitalism at work, and it has nothing to do with landing fees or other fees that the airports charge to operate and maintain such things as the terminal facilities, runways, taxiways and airfield lighting.”
In other words, it’s not airport overhead that causes the two airlines serving the Daytona Beach market to screw us – it’s our own damn fault!
We allow them to gouge us!
Because that’s what their stockholders expect!
Apparently, we are bent-over and paralyzed in a strange Fun Coast Catch-22 where airlines charge as much as the “market will allow” – then, when we balk and use alternate airports – they simply fly off in a haze of jet exhaust, taking our publicly-funded giveaways and incentives with them. . .
At least we’re getting a lot of “cool features” and terminal updates – which will be great – for the few who can still afford to pay the premium required to travel from our new and improved “hometown” airport.
Keep up the good work, Karl! We need your unbridled enthusiasm around here.
That’s just my take on it. Thanks for reading!
Stay cool and have a great weekend, friends!