What is the cost of cowardice?
How much does it take for elected officials to abdicate a moral responsibility and walk away from perhaps the most pressing social, civic and economic issue of our times?
In Volusia County, around $4 million taxpayer dollars. . .
Over time, most Volusia County residents have developed a morbid curiosity for our unique system of governance – a fixation not unlike the compulsion to gawp at a train wreck – made more compelling by the fact our elected officials seem clueless to the disaster unfolding around them.
The on-going First Step Shelter debacle is a prime example of a real problem that continues to unfold in front of our eyes – a complete breakdown of intergovernmental cooperation and trust – the natural outcome of the internecine warfare that began one dreary day when local government’s long-term policy of institutional humiliation as the best means of controlling the homeless backfired and “the problem” took up visible residence on the front steps of the County Administration building at 250 North Beach Street.
Ultimately, when Volusia County abdicated all responsibility for seeking a regional solution to a regional problem – opting instead for their tried-and-true strategy of throwing money at a problem then walking away – the City of Daytona Beach set out on a circuitous path which ultimately led us to the First Step Shelter project.
Now, after years of fits and starts, we have a physical shelter under construction on city-owned land in the hinterlands west of I-95 – and that’s about it.
Everything else associated with the ever-evolving project remains in bureaucratic limbo.
Now, during a critical period in the evolution of the shelter, the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys – a shameless self-promoter with visions of even higher office dancing in her head – sees a golden opportunity to insinuate herself into the mess and get her name in the newspaper doing it.
Notably, she offers no solutions – only condescending “I told you so” insults and haughty threats to stick her nose where it doesn’t belong.
You see, the Volusia County Council had a thousand opportunities to provide input, find answers and offer direction.
Instead of demonstrating leadership and seeking collaborative solutions, they took the cowards way out – throwing some $4 million of our money at the problem – then ensured by legal contract that the county “. . .shall have no maintenance or operational obligations at any time with respect to the facility.”
That’s called washing your hands of the problem.
Inexplicably, with the shelter set to open a few months from now, Councilwoman Denys decides its time to start interjecting her hypercritical opinions into an arena she long-ago retreated from in favor of the political insulation that doing absolutely nothing brings.
According to an article by reporter Dustin Wyatt in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ms. Denys crowed, “She doesn’t want to get involved, but she may have to.”
“I’m just here to say that I’m watching this,’ Denys added. ‘The last thing I want to do is show up at one of those First Step Shelter board meetings, but I’m real close to doing it here because this is not what we agreed to.”
After voting against construction of a homeless assistance center – then contractually distancing Volusia County government from any substantive involvement in the maintenance or operation of the First Step Shelter – now, Ms. Denys has the chutzpah to wade into the fray, throw ridiculous threats around and muddy the waters even more with her unique brand of jackassery?
Look, the City of Daytona Beach has rightfully taken it on the chin for unilaterally ramrodding their vision and will for the project while virtually ignoring the concerns and responsibilities of their own oversight board – something that has resulted in myriad questions from taxpayers, contributors and The Daytona Beach News-Journal during the critical final phase of this beleaguered – but infinitely necessary – homeless assistance center.
But at least Daytona Beach picked up the gauntlet and did something other than throw our money around and hide under a rock.
In my view, it is disingenuous and damaging to the process for Councilwoman Denys to seize this sleazy opportunity to promote her own political self-interests.
It only makes a bad situation worse.
You craven opportunist.
Apparently, Ms. Denys doesn’t realize that her eleventh hour ego-maniacal grandstanding only serves to expose her, and the County of Volusia, as spineless quitters who deserted their constituency, opted for political protection over substantive solutions and abdicated their ethical responsibility to those less fortunate.
Join Barker’s View this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm on GovStuff Live! with Big John where we will discuss this and other important civic issues facing Florida’s Fun Coast.
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