On Volusia: The Politics of Fairness

Sometimes my arguments against the machinations of Volusia County government become limited to calling our ‘powers-that-be’ funny names, repeating myself like a broken record and using weird tropes to explain the inexplicable.

That’s because I’m intellectually limited – not the sharpest knife in the drawer – and although I pretend to have an advanced vocabulary, sometimes my utter exasperation extends beyond the capability of mere words and phrases.

It’s incredibly frustrating.

Sometimes, seeing is believing – and if you haven’t watched the shit show that was the July 16, 2019, “meeting” of the Volusia County Council – I encourage you to take a strong anti-emetic and have a look. . .

I hold to the simple belief that in a representative democracy, the governed should expect that those who hold themselves out for high office will serve the best interests of all constituents – and uphold the highest traditions of equal and equitable representation during the open debate of competing ideas – in an accessible forum that values public input.

Unfortunately, in Volusia County, the ability of a sitting council member – a district representative – to meaningfully participate in the legislative process is directly proportional to that elected official’s willingness to “go along and get along” – to protect the status quo and conform to the rigid expectations of an entrenched power structure that values fealty to those who can pay-to-play.

It also requires strict subservience to a bloated bureaucracy that has reduced the elected body to mere figureheads – a tail wagging the dog situation – where elected policymakers with the temerity to think outside systemic limitations are pounded like square pegs into the round holes of groupthink and political conformity.

Look, don’t take my word for it – watch any meeting of the Volusia County Council and you tell me who’s in charge?

Because it is becoming clear to anyone paying attention that our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, is quickly transitioning from the addled, uninformed and utterly ineffective dipshit we came to know and love during the bulk of his term – to an aggressive, mean-spirited tyrant.

During last week’s Volusia County Council meeting, an important annual milestone when our elected representatives set the proposed millage rate, District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post asked a commonsense question regarding why a highly-publicized plan to improve Emergency Medical Services – which was recommended by senior staff and approved by action of the council in February – had been unilaterally altered without notice by public protection director Joe Pozzo.

When I served in municipal government, if I proposed a project to the people’s elected representatives that involved the expenditure of public funds that they have a fiduciary responsibility for protecting – then fundamentally changed the budget and operational strategy without notifying them – I would expect to be summarily terminated and my role filled by a paid professional they could trust.

Why?  Because to do otherwise it’s a direct misrepresentation – regardless of the reasoning –  and contrary to the notion of politically accountable oversight.

Since February, our elected officials, and the citizens they represent, have been under the mistaken impression that Mr. Pozzo’s department had made specific improvements to EMS protocols, hired personnel and implemented the central changes outlined in a presentation to the Volusia County Council in February.

Now, only when preliminary budget reports are released do we learn that only 15 emergency medical personnel will be added – not the 23 authorized and expected by our elected officials – among other material variations.

Unfortunately, when Councilwoman Post attempted to press Mr. Pozzo and other senior administrators for information – she was openly rebuked and repeatedly interrupted by Chairman Kelley – who talked over her, ignored her objections, protected senior administrators from answering difficult questions and generally acted like a bullying asshole intent on shutting down any substantive discussion of this important issue.

Conversely, when the always arrogant District 3 representative, Deb Denys – or the hapless District 2 Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – yammered and stammered from their perch on the dais, Old Ed looked on, slack-jawed, like their comments were coming from the burning bush – held in rapt attention as they mewed and cooed over the “success” of senior staff members – as though acting contrary to the stated will of the County Council is a positive professional trait?

In addition, Mr. Kelley upheld Director Pozzo’s apparent sacrosanct right to patronize our elected representatives – maintaining utter silence on the dais as Pozzo chattered incessantly – quibbling about replacing ambulance chassis, “recommendations,” “revenue projections” and “five-year forecasts” – talking down to sitting officials, hedging what he did and didn’t do in February, like some condescending subject matter snob – all while Ed Kelley repeatedly covered Pozzo’s ass with those inane hillbilly analogies he’s famous for. . .

But when Councilwoman Post had the unmitigated gall to press for answers to legitimate budgetary considerations, she was brusquely silenced by the Chair – her very real concerns marginalized and dismissed as “micromanagement.”

Seriously.  It was ugly.

Why is it “okay” for residents living in Volusia County’s other districts to receive inclusive representation by their individual elected officials – yet, when Ms. Post attempts to make policy decisions based upon the best information available or represent her constituents from an informed perspective – she is branded a micromanaging grand-stander and rudely excluded from the legislative process?

That’s not fair – and it’s counter to our sacred democratic principles.

As residents of District 4 – my neighbors and I deserve equal representation – just like everyone else in Volusia County enjoys – especially during the always murky budget process.

Instead, we are expected to stand silent as Ms. Post – our duly elected representative – is forcibly shut out of the process, ostracized, maligned, embarrassed and delegitimized by this foul ball of a County Chair – and the horribly compromised power structure he represents – a wholly dysfunctional “system” that continues to ignore the will of the people in favor of protecting (and funding) the status quo regardless of cost.

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