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:
Asshole Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley
In Volusia County, the ability of a sitting council member – a district representative – to meaningfully participate in the legislative process is directly proportional to the 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, 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 vote of the council in February – had been unilaterally altered without notice by public protection director Joe Pozzo.
But when Councilwoman Post attempted to press Mr. Pozzo and other senior administrators for information – she was rebuked and interrupted by Chairman Kelley – who repeatedly 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.
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 – talking down to sitting officials and quibbling what he did and didn’t do in February, like some condescending snob – all while Ed Kelley repeatedly covered Pozzo’s ass with those inane hillbilly analogies he’s famous for. . .
But when Councilwoman Post pressed for answers to legitimate budgetary considerations, she was brusquely silenced by the Chair – her very real concerns marginalized and dismissed as “micromanagement” and “Grand-Standing.”
Seriously. It was ugly – over-the-top – and whether they will admit it or not, every sitting elected and appointed public official in municipal and county government knows it.
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.
In most places, Old Ed’s abhorrent personal conduct during a public meeting would result in his “colleagues” calling for his resignation – and a formal reprimand for our “new” County Manager Georgie Recktenwald for allowing a subordinate to surreptitiously subvert the will of the County Council.
But not here.
On Florida’s fabled Fun Coast, the rules are different, depending upon who your political benefactors happen to be – and the rest of our elected twits in DeLand are too cowardly to do the right thing and stand up for Ms. Post – lest they fall into disfavor with those who actually set policy in Volusia County. . .
Angel The Daytona Beach News-Journal
As a dilettante opinion blogger, my “body of work” is never going to receive an award. . .
I get it.
A successful day here at Barker’s View HQ is when someone doesn’t hock a loogie on the Lone Eagle’s windshield and leave a colorful note denigrating my ancestral lineage over some goofy thought that I wrote in one of these screeds. . .
That’s why I have such incredible admiration for true journalists, feature writers and columnists who so eloquently report the important stories and bring meaning to the issues that affect our lives and livelihoods, often under incredibly difficult circumstances, with integrity and a true dedication to the craft.
Kudos to the intrepid journalists of The Daytona Beach News-Journal – my ‘hometown heroes’ – who were appropriately recognized for their outstanding work earlier this month at two prestigious galas – the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors annual awards banquet and the Society of Professional Journalists’ “Sunshine State” awards.
I’ve said this before – we need local journalism, now more than ever, and I’m glad to see those who work so hard to bring the news into our homes recognized for their efforts.
In my view, reading the daily paper should stir the complete range of emotions – from breaking local news, to in-depth series and well-written editorials that spark a greater discussion in the community – and I am invariably moved (sometimes to rage, sometimes to laughter) when I digest the news of the day as reported by The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
These intrepid professionals serve in an environment where local government officials no longer present themselves to the working press – scurrying around like diseased rats and hiding like the cowards they are behind paid mouthpieces and canned “press releases” that spin the facts and dodge any semblance of accountability or responsibility.
For instance, Dustin Wyatt – a young reporter of great promise – received recognition for his government and politics reporting – including his work on the Volusia County half-cent sales tax debacle – and for exposing the “secret impact fee study” that earned him a well-deserved notch on his pen for helping usher former County Manager Jim Dinneen out the door.
I also believe that Dinah Voyles Pulver is the best environmental reporter working today – and, in a place where our sensitive natural places are being exploited by greed-crazed developers – we’re lucky to have her on the beat.
Congratulations and a hearty BV “Thank You!” to all the outstanding reporters and staffers of The Daytona Beach News-Journal who serve our community with such dedication.
Angel Cocina 214
So long Cocina 214. We hardly knew ye. . .
This week, we learned that the Tex-Mex restaurant which shared a beautiful beachfront spot with Landshark Bar & Grill will be leaving us early next month – and it’s not clear if the eatery’s exit was voluntary – or they got eighty-sixed. . .
According to Sir John Albright, head honcho of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company, who owns the oceanfront property (and the souls of many local policymakers) – the eatery that opened to great fanfare in January 2018, “didn’t translate well to the beachside,” – so, it has apparently been given its walking papers.
Look, it’s been a tough week over at Consolidated-Tomoka.
Just when Sir John was setting the hook on a buyer for the LPGA golf complex – a subsidiary of a Chinese conglomerate known as CBIGG willing to pay over twice what C-T paid the City of Daytona Beach for the property just a few years ago – the City Commission got jittery and wanted a closer look – leading to ugly accusations from the potential buyer’s representative of “good ‘ol boy networks,” “racial bias,” and “back channel deals” as they crawfished on the deal.
So, I guess it’s “hello” and “goodbye” to CBIGG – thanks for playing!
(Something tells me everything will work itself out – as soon as the City of Daytona Beach decides exactly who they want Consolidated-Tomoka to do business with. . .)
Last year, during a simultaneous grand opening with the incredibly successful Landshark, Cocina 214 was hailed by Daytona Beach officials as a “match made in heaven,” while Sir John spoke as though the very revitalization of Daytona Beach were lashed to its success.
“Our whole mission here is basically to get this property activated and get the beachside activated,” Albright said. “To me, this is the potential of Daytona Beach, and this is a start and there’s a lot more to come.”
Oh, well. It didn’t translate. Easy come, easy go. . .
The Halifax area’s fast lane is littered with the carcasses of restaurants and bars that didn’t translate – which is a sad reality of having grown up here. Last week, I posted a long list of once popular/now defunct eateries and nightspots that any long-time resident would remember from birthday celebrations and prom dinners past.
My maudlin reminiscence received nearly two hundred responses from “Old Daytona” residents who fondly recalled the tastes and places of our youth that, like Benny Grunch says, “Ain’t dere no more. . .”
Such is life on Florida’s Fun Coast.
I’m sad to see the demise of Cocina 214. But don’t fret, Sir John is working hard to convince us that the replacement will be good too. . .
Just don’t get emotionally attached.
In reality, Landshark – and whatever comes next to Cocina 214’s soon to be empty shell – are merely temporary parts of a much larger plan – stand-ins until Consolidated-Tomoka makes good on a plan to demolish these disposable restaurants and erect massive, high-density hotel and condominium towers on the oceanfront property.
In 2016, despite the concerns of many in our community who feared the massive density increase would permit Consolidated-Tomoka to shoehorn too much “stuff” onto the 6-acre property, Daytona Beach city commissioners approved a future land use change and rezoning needed to allow high-rise buildings that could climb 360 feet in the air.
C’est la vie, losers. Money is money – and in Daytona Beach, those who have it make the rules.
Get used to it.
I happen to enjoy the Landshark – if you haven’t passed a warm summer afternoon with a cold beer at this corporate reproduction of an open-air beach bar – well, you’re doing it wrong.
Let’s wish Cocina 214 all the best as we bid a fond farewell to yet another oceanfront ‘game-changer’ that didn’t.
I just hope Sir John won’t hold it against me if I don’t get all misty about the “next big thing”. . .
Angel Coach Morris Small, Jr.
Barker’s View joins a sad community in mourning the monumental loss of Coach Morris Small, a former Bethune-Cookman University men’s basketball assistant and prominent Volusia County educator who taught the attributes of sportsmanship and fair play to generations of area student athletes.
He was a graduate of the former Campbell Sr. High School and Bethune-Cookman College and a member of Mt. Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, where he sang in the male chorus.
During his career, Mr. Small served the Volusia County School system for 33 years and the youth of our community for over 40 years as a volunteer coach with many area high school teams. In 1991, he took the Father Lopez High School boys team to a district championship – and lead the Daytona Beach Housing Authority basketball team to a National Championship in 1994.
However, he will be best remembered for his love of family.
Coach Small was 71.
Quote of the Week
“Do Daytona Beach residents know what is happening with their tax dollars or how their city is being managed?
The “shady” attempt to remove deed restrictions on City Island to make way for private development.
The planned obsolescence/intentional neglect of the City Island Recreation Center.
The mismanagement getting the First Step Shelter built – it’s years behind schedule and costs have skyrocketed from $2.5 million to $6 million.
The “dirty dirt” deal with P & S Paving, selling the topsoil from 40 acres without putting it out for bids and being paid what appears to be well below market value for the dirt.
Allowing the deplorable conditions of East International Speedway Boulevard to exist for over a decade.
The Main Street CRA has collected approximately $100 million with very little improvement, very little transparency and no accountability.
Millions to special interests, without enforceable benefits for the city, including $20 million to One Daytona, at least $1.5 million to Trader Joes, $2.25 million to Tanger Outlets, more than $5 million to Brown & Brown and an estimated $40 million over 50 years to Brown Foundation Riverfront Esplanade to be paid for by the tax money paid on Brown & Brown building to the CRA.
Spent $1.97 million on the purchase and demolition of apartments on Grandview Avenue, then sold the property for $27,500.
Removing general citizen comments from city commission meetings, demonstrating a lack of concern for citizens’ input. Transparency almost nonexistent
Granting of a CO (certificate of occupancy) to the Hard Rock Hotel while construction was ongoing.
Failure to protect the city’s interest in establishing a process of accountability for the now idle 34 story Protogroup Project (Russian Project).
In the private sector, as a manager of a multi-million-dollar budget and keeper of company assets, there are standards to meet. If those standards are not met or assets are not protected, walking papers quickly send you on your way. Apparently, the standards for managing the $750 million budget and public assets for the city of Daytona Beach are very low. Many of the items on the list above would be a firing offense in the private sector. It is past time to hand City Manager Jim Chisholm his walking papers.”
–Community Activist Ken Strickland, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Daytona’s problems are a long list,” Sunday, July 21, 2019
Periodically, The Daytona Beach News-Journal compiles one of those dull “Most Influential” lists – always heavily laden with all the right last names – those with the wealth and political wherewithal to affect change by buying the rights to political candidates – or through the Halifax areas weird mystique that believes the size of a persons bank account somehow equates to intelligence and civic vision.
All while those who work hard to truly influence positive change and improve the quality of life for their neighbors are ignored, even marginalized.
In my view, Ken Strickland is a tireless advocate for the citizens and unique lifestyle of the Halifax area – and his incredibly sobering look at the myriad issues we face speaks to the frustrations of many in our community who are desperately looking for a new way forward.
Sitting politicians and long-time government administrators owe it to themselves – and those they represent – to take a long, hard look at Ken’s fervent attempt to sound the klaxon while there is still something worth preserving.
As president of Sons of the Beach and Friends – the political arm of our areas premiere beach driving and access advocacy – and his countless acts of organized and independent grassroots activism, Ken Strickland has dedicated himself to making our community a more livable, fun and environmentally resilient place to live, work and play.
He’s one to watch.
And Another Thing!
This week, I shook my head in disbelief as I read an excellent piece by News-Journal education reporter Cassidy Alexander regarding a recent request by Volusia United Educators that School Board members issue a formal apology for the festering debacle at Mainland High known as the “AP ‘placebo’ test.”
Rather than accept responsibility for a cockamamie scheme that saw hundreds of freshmen sit for a fake Advanced Placement exam many thought would result in college credit – our elected officials did some weird dance – quibbling the issue and lavishing praise on the school.
In my view, that’s a far cry from the sincere apology that students, parents, teachers and staff members who were touched by this mess deserve.
It was clumsy. And it made matters worse. . .
In my experience, there comes a time during every public crisis when those in the Ivory Tower of Power convince themselves of their own infallibility – call it ego or arrogance – many times, those at the top of an organization simply cannot accept that mistakes were made.
So, they dig the hole deeper as a siege mentality takes hold – deny everything, admit nothing, make counteraccusations.
What I know of crisis management begins with the premise that most people can forgive what they can see themselves doing.
Can you see yourself doing any of this?
In my view, it is simply inconceivable that the apparent architect of this mess, Principal Cheryl Salerno, remains at the helm of Mainland High School as she aggressively fights a slap-on-the-wrist reprimand – while long-time teachers and school administrators who were caught up in this fiasco have their lives and careers disrupted or destroyed.
Look, in addition to the ongoing U. S. Department of Justice investigation into the district’s treatment of disabled children – if half of the serious issues I’m hearing about through the Barker’s View Telegraph are true – our school system is in serious peril. . .
It’s time Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor step up to the plate – conjure up some of those “unique set of skills and experiences” he touted when applying for this gig, demonstrate some strong leadership and take command of this growing shit storm.
I believe that begins by requesting a formal investigation by the Florida Department of Education, cleaning house of the entrenched power structure in DeLand, establishing a confidential means for teachers and staff to report ethical, moral and procedural concerns without fear of reprisal and enforcing the time-honored doctrine of superior responsibility that says leaders are accountable for their own acts and omissions and those of their subordinates.
Otherwise, our schools – and district administration – will fall further into anarchic dysfunction.
Rather than apologize and turn this mistake into an opportunity – the Volusia County School Board is allowing it to fester – and reinforcing a culture that fears ingenuity and errors, values secrecy and equates honest mistakes with abject failure.
Hard lessons learned. . .
Have a great weekend, friends!