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 First Step Shelter Board
“We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”
— Konstantin Josef Jireček
Regardless of how you feel about the Halifax area’s painful, plodding and laborious quest to establish a homeless shelter on publicly-owned land in the hinterlands west of Daytona Beach – the one positive has been the dedication and perseverance of those intrepid members of the First Step Shelter Board.
At times, I wasn’t sure how much longer these volunteers would remain at their post – and no one would have blamed them had they said, “enough is enough” and distanced themselves from the embarrassing roil.
But, like good stewards, they valiantly remained in the wheelhouse, steering the struggling project through the storms.
I admire that.
Like many, I still struggle to understand the mindset of Daytona Beach senior administrators who, after asking other local governments for assistance and commissioning the oversight committee, seem intent on single-handedly ramrodding their unique vision of the shelter to completion.
It has now dissolved into one of those civic pissing contests that never work out well.
I fear the City of Daytona Beach is about to find itself in a very cold and lonely place when the other municipalities and private donors have had enough, and taxpayers are forced to shoulder First Step’s constantly increasing operating cost by themselves (perhaps with some loose change thrown in by Flagler County?)
For instance, when former First Step Executive Director Mark Geallis was forced into an untenable position and resigned in June – given the critical need for boots-on-the-ground leadership – the board asked city staff to advertise the position immediately.
On Monday, they learned this commonsense request was ignored. . .
Add to that the utter confusion surrounding the city’s previous last-minute push for a bizarre “outdoor safe zone,” a proposed 1,800 square foot concrete slab littered with “pads and mattresses” plopped awkwardly at the main entrance of the facility.
Now, the board is hearing from Daytona Beach Community Relations Manager L. Ron Durham that the outdoor “safe zone” concept has changed once again – with the current plan calling for the shelter to incorporate an area inside the building where homeless people “not enrolled in the facility’s rehabilitation program could spend the night and leave in the morning.”
In the News-Journal’s excellent continuing coverage of this unfolding shit show, this week reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean wrote, “Neither city safe zone idea went over well, nor did the continued end runs around board decisions. The board’s decision to buy used kitchen equipment and cook food on site is rapidly morphing into the city’s idea to instead buy food from the Volusia County Branch Jail.”
Which calls into question exactly what the center’s “rehabilitation program” will include, especially if residents have no responsibilities beyond enjoying three hots-and-a-cot. . .
For reasons known only to him, it appears Mr. Chisholm has no intention of working with – or even consulting – the First Step Shelter Board on operational and policy decisions in the lead-up to the center’s October 15 grand opening.
That leaves board members in the untenable position of sitting passively as they are dictated to by city officials, maligned by the City Commission and ignored by key contractors who have also taken to bypassing the oversight committee.
It also forces board president Mayor Derrick Henry – and Rev. L. Ron Durham – to continue this mendacious double-dealing that is rapidly undermining what’s left of their personal and professional credibility – and all but ensuring municipal contributors and private donors rethink their commitment to something they have absolutely no control over.
Asshole Florida Wildlife Commission
If you’ve travelled to South Florida or the Keys recently you know that green iguanas have become a prevalent part of that hot and humid landscape.
In fact, they’re everywhere down there – like swaying coconut palms, corrupt politicians and white compression socks. . .
I don’t know about you, but I’m a live-and-let-live kind of guy when it comes to wildlife encroaching on my neighborhood – even when it comes to invasive, non-native species. You see, I happen to believe that there is an inherent unfairness to destroying a wild creature’s home for strip malls and “theme” subdivisions – then killing them when they try to share ours.
Last month, many were taken back by a weird mandate issued by the Florida Wildlife Commission that essentially directed residents to terminate green iguanas with extreme prejudice.
The crime? Occasionally burrowing under driveways, munching on ornamental plants – and the one unforgivable sin of Florida wildlife: shitting on pool decks owned by transplanted retirees. . .
“Homeowners do not need a permit to kill iguanas on their own property, and the FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” the agency said.
So, Floridian’s did what Floridians do – they locked and loaded.
Then they went bananas. . .
Apparently, throughout South Florida, residents put their License to Kill to good use and began shooting, stabbing and intentionally running over the creatures on-sight – mowing them down, en masse, from Collins Avenue to Duval Street, in cities and suburban neighborhoods, firing indiscriminately at anything that moved in a feverish attempt to wipe out the entire genus. . .
As writer/comedian Rob Fox said in a satirical piece in Rare:
“Grab your shotguns, handguns, rifles, chainsaws, katanas you bought at the pawn shop when you were kind of drunk, crossbows, switchblades, toothbrush shivs, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, homemade shark tooth spears, Super Soakers poorly converted into flamethrowers, brass knuckles, heavy-duty gardening gloves with shards of broken glass glued to them, flip flops with a retractable blade in the sole, DIY claymore mines made from milk jugs and marbles, old syringes, poorly socialized Pitbulls, random jugs of acid you have laying around, nooses you used for inadvisable Halloween costumes, and stolen riding mowers. Use your bare hands if you have to. There’s yet another invasive species in your backyards, quite literally, and the state’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission needs YOU to kill them.”
“You’ve got your orders, Florida. Waste these fools.”
Then, Florida Man mistakenly shot a pool boy in the leg with a pellet gun. . .
Now, the Florida Wildlife Commission has walked-back its policy of wanton extermination in favor of a more organized approach to this state-sponsored squamate genocide that will hopefully keep pool maintenance workers and other innocent bystanders out of the crossfire.
Apparently, the state’s “new” policy requests that residents “who are not capable” of killing one species without endangering another seek assistance from professionals who “humanely” dispatch the hapless lizards for a fee (only in Florida). . .
According to FWC Commissioner (and fourth stooge) Rodney Barreto, “Unfortunately, the message has been conveyed that we are asking the public to just go out there and shoot them up. This is not what we are about, this is not the wild west. If you are not capable of safely removing iguanas from your property, please seek assistance from professionals who do this for a living.”
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the FWC asked us trigger-happy Floridian’s to do.
It’s a good lesson in why those we elect and appoint to high office should occasionally monitor what their highly paid mouthpieces are putting out to the masses on any given day.
Honestly. I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .
Look, at the rate we Floridian’s kill each other – did Commissioner Barreto think directing a population of 21.3 million heavily armed vigilantes to openly massacre a passive species would end any other way?
Asshole Eco-Poseurs of Volusia County Politics
After I published this piece earlier in the week, Volusia County Council Chairman Ed Kelley responded by posting on social media, “Mark’s article shows just how off base his views are. We (sic) working with the state and federal government to obtain funding for our waterways and get “slammed” for making a difference!”
He’s right. I am “off base.”
Hell, I’m off their whole friggin’ reservation.
I’m their worst nightmare – an educated voter with what’s left of his own mind who can’t be bullied, bullshitted or bought – a former Master Magician who knows all the tricks and political sleight-of-hand and isn’t afraid to expose the sham.
So, sell that “making a difference” tripe to someone who’s buying, Mr. Chairman.
In case you missed it the first time around:
Earlier this week, the faux conservationists of the Volusia County Council joined with members of our state legislative delegation for a meeting of their exclusive mutual admiration society to congratulate each other’s performance in wheedling a paltry $450,000 – apparently split between the City of Oak Hill and Volusia County – ostensibly for restoration of the imperiled Indian River Lagoon.
The introductions of the “honorables” went on for over ten minutes. . .
To their credit, council members Heather Post, The Very Reverend Fred Lowry and Barb Girtman were conspicuously absent from the over-the-top pageant of political vainglory.
Congressman Michael Waltz was in attendance to tout a recent committee vote which moves his amendment adding the Indian River Lagoon to the South Florida Coastal Clean Waters Act. If approved, Waltz’ amendment would include the lagoon in a convoluted multi-year assessment of algae blooms that have already killed thousands of acres of seagrasses, fish and wildlife.
By convoluted, I mean the proposed assessment protocol would include a 540-day deadline for an interim study, a two-year deadline for completion of an “action plan” to drive federal funding and a three-year deadline for final assessment.
Considering that many South Florida waterways are being turned into a fetid guacamole by what everyone (except, apparently, our state and federal government) attributes to nutrient runoff – and the fact any child with an aquarium understands the nitrogen cycle – it’s nice to see that those charged with protecting our environment are finally getting around to “assessing” the situation. . .
The always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys – who also chairs the Indian River Lagoon Council – served as master of ceremonies for this cheap photo opportunity that included sitting politicians, appointed officials, entrenched bureaucrats and “water management” types.
During her seemingly endless self-congratulatory gabfest, Ms. Denys gushed, ad nauseum, about how hard our politicos have worked to bring state and federal dollars to Southeast Volusia – which will no doubt be distributed to various consultants, corporations, contractors and hangers-on. . .
These are the very assholes who have systematically approved rampant, out-of-control growth from Farmton to the Flagler County line – sprawl that continues to contribute to the abject destruction of our sensitive wetlands and estuaries – who continue to lie to us about their demonstrably bogus commitment to “clean water” as a gaudy political ploy.
The political theatrics turned into a crude cartoon when our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, who continues to deny scientific evidence of sea level rise – lest it slow the rapid destruction of our natural places by his greed-crazed political benefactors in the real estate development community – actually had the balls to be recognized in the same sentence with environmental funding. . .
This stomach-turning soiree was also attended by Senator Tom Wright and Representative David Santiago – who represent our compromised state legislature that recently gutted local land use regulations by neutering a citizens right to challenge the adverse impacts of development in their community. The same legislature that has stood silent as tons of sewage sludge are dumped near the headwaters of the St. John’s River and beyond.
It seems like everyone-who-is-anyone in Volusia County politics was on-hand for the goofy check presentation ceremony – except those of us who pay for it all.
Why is that?
Frankly, it was nauseating to watch these eco-poseurs jockeying for position behind over-sized checks representing our money in a craven effort to convince us they care.
These preening phonies make me sick.
Don’t take my word for it – watch the video.
While the Indian River Lagoon Council has provided funding for some valuable studies, technical assessments and shoreline restoration projects – it also has a tendency toward self-centered spending that, in my view, has little direct effect on the myriad threats to the lagoon’s water quality.
Let’s take a look at a few of the way’s public funds and donations allocated for restoration and mitigation under the Indian River Lagoon National Estuaries Program (IRLNEP) have been spent in the past few years:
$50,000 to a corporate entity to assist the IRLNEP to “revise” the 2008 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.
$50,000 for “brand engagement” of the IRLNEP’s “One Community – One Voice” initiative. Apparently, an enigmatic marketing program designed to “. . .build upon the One Lagoon concept and succinctly articulate the activities and value proposition of the IRLNEP.” (Say what?)
$100,000 to a corporate entity for “technical support and data management.”
$80,000 to three “consultants” for technical grant-writing assistance for “stakeholders.”
$100,000 for “Brand Activation and Implementation,” which, according to the IRLNEP’s almost undecipherable summary, “Deliverables include 2 half-day enculturation sessions, production of a learner’s guide summarizing important IRL-focused topics, audio production of compelling, personal IRL stories for up to 50 stakeholders, creation of a One Voice web page to house archived audio/photo/video experiences.”
(You just know anytime there’s an “enculturation” session it’s going to be expensive. . .)
All this on top of the IRLNEP’s estimated $350,000 annual cost for salaries and benefits, $20,000 for facilities expenses, $30,000 in administrative expenses and $110,000 for legal, accounting, auditing and personnel services. . .
While the lagoon continues to suffocate.
While these shitheels are slapping each other on the back, positioning themselves for even “higher office,” posing behind expensive marketing materials paid for with our tax dollars and donations – the bulldozers and industrial pumps continue to roar – and we inch ever closer to drinking our own reclaimed sewage in the name of progress. . .
Screw these frauds.
The proof of how much this wholly compromised gaggle of half-wits and others like them truly care about our environment is evident in the rapid decline of our springs, the horrific lesions appearing on fish, the toxic algal blooms that are slowly strangling our rivers and estuaries, the wholesale destruction of our aquifer recharge areas, kowtowing to political donors from big agriculture and the slash-and-burn land clearing practices that are obliterating wetlands and wildlife habitat in exchange for more-more-more “theme” developments and strip malls.
This is exactly what it looks like when politicians lose the capacity for shame.
God help us. . .
Quote of the Week
“This has got to stop. We’ve got to have Daytona quit interfering with our decisions. It’s driving me crazy.”
–Joe Forte, Holly Hill City Manager and First Step Shelter Board Member, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Homeless shelter board wrestling with Daytona Beach decisions,” Tuesday, July 30, 2019
I had the pleasure of serving with Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte for the bulk of my long career in public service.
He’s one of the best human beings I know.
A true gentleman and dedicated civil servant who always places the needs of those he serves above his own self-interests.
Trust me – it takes a lot to ruffle Joe’s feathers.
As a citizen of Volusia County, it pains me to see Mr. Forte – and the other volunteer members of the First Step Shelter Board – being openly ignored, marginalized and relegated to a cheap rubber stamp as important decisions are made in a vacuum at Daytona Beach City Hall.
Why? Because it’s my money they’re charged with protecting. Dammit.
Something tells me this was the city’s plan all along.
In my view, this latest circumvention of the independent oversight authority represents the death knell for private donations and local government funding.
Clearly, the First Step Shelter concept (whatever it may be this week) has lost any semblance of independent supervision or civic collaboration and is quickly becoming the exclusive domain (and ultimate albatross) of the City of Daytona Beach.
And Another Thing!
I’m frequently asked by well-meaning people why I feel driven to take on our ‘powers that be’ – to stick my thumb in the eye of the ‘Rich & Powerful’ who increasingly control our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast – and engage in this base form of criticism of our local government institutions, that, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “points out where the strongman stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”
They look at me with obvious concern in their eyes and warn that my goofy screeds are angering very important people – pointing out things best left alone – and my talk of tired concepts like “responsibility,” “accountability” and “honor” is just rehashing antiquated notions, evolutionary mutations that no longer play an active role in our politics and governance.
Some think I went crazy in the isolation of retirement – a gin-soaked mind irretrievably lost in the maze of my own quixotic perceptions.
Others view this space as the ravings of some unlikely sentinel – a deluded voice from the political wilderness – desperately screaming to anyone who will listen that our sacred democratic principles are being shit on, sold to the highest bidder, as millionaires ramrod their lucrative vision for our collective future.
Maybe the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
However, in my view, anyone who can read critically and form opinions on the issues that we face in Volusia County and not be moved to a seething rage is either a member of the CEO Business Alliance or a sitting elected official.
For instance, another week has come and gone and we are still no closer to resolving the festering quagmire at Mainland High School that saw some 336 students caught up in what I call a “reverse cheating scandal” – where impressionable minds were led to believe successful completion of an Advanced Placement exam would earn college credit for their effort – only to find out they were intentionally deceived by those they were ordered to trust.
People close to the conflagration continue to reach out to me with stories of internal dysfunction at Mainland – serious issues that are jeopardizing hard-earned teaching careers and undermining the institutional underpinnings of this community icon – things I believe deserve an independent investigation by the Florida Department of Education and others who care about excellence in education.
Unfortunately, the district’s self-imposed informational black hole only reinforces the idea that senior administrators would prefer we pesky taxpayers simply forgive and forget – allow the dust to settle on the grave of this horrific chapter in our district’s history – and stop worrying about what other unscrupulous practices may be accepted policy at Mainland High School.
In my view, the onus is now firmly on the shoulders of Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor, who emerged from a comfortable retirement and put his legacy on the line to restore sanity to a school, and district, in grave crisis.
Time is of the essence. . .
Have a great weekend, friends.