Angels & Assholes for September 13, 2019

Hi, kids!

I’ve got a goody for you on this spooky Friday the 13th with a Full Moon – so sit down and strap in – ’cause you ain’t gonna believe this one. . .

I get some downright weird phone calls here at Barker’s View HQ from strangers, readers and well-connected friends who keep me up to date and “in the know” on the latest Fun Coast gossip from the political realm.

None more utterly bizarre than the whackadoodle-doozy I heard earlier this week.

The only reason I mention it is because the person who spun the yarn is a loyal member of the Barker’s View tribe – extremely bright and in the loop on all-things government – always spot-on when it comes to the swirling undercurrents of Volusia County politics.

Besides, what’s a juicy rumor if you can’t perpetuate it, right? 

According to the BV grapevine – our illustrious former County Manager Little Jimmy Dinneen is actively considering a run for the newly created Volusia County Tax Collector seat – a constitutional elective office which will appear on next year’s ballot following the voter approved Amendment 10!

Yes.  That Little Jimmy Dinneen. . .

As I understand it, the Tax Collector does just that – collects and distributes a variety of local taxes and acts as the county’s chief revenue officer.  In some areas, the tax collector also serves as an agent of the State of Florida to issue drivers licenses and hunting or fishing permits.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. . . 

Look, I don’t know if its true or just idle tittle-tattle – but I wanted you to hear it here first.

And if the buzz on the street isn’t accurate, well, it’s a damn good joke.

Made me laugh all to hell, anyway. . .

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              B-CU President Brent Chrite

On Thursday, the Halifax area received a breath of fresh air in the form of a humble leader who demonstrated the strength of character to speak frankly – to tell the truth – and begin the long-awaited process of healing and rebuilding a key foundational element of our community.

Friends, this is what true leadership looks like.

During the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues breakfast, Bethune-Cookman University President Brent Chrite called out the malicious actions of those who used their position to loot the coffers of the institution.

“Bethune-Cookman over the last few years has been viewed (by some of the university’s leaders) as a trough for the well-being of a selective few who looked at it as ‘what I can get from this institution, it’s disgusting. … It’s despicable.”

“A new day is coming.”

The university is facing a host of potentially fatal issues – to include an active criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Education into a mysterious student housing project that clearly benefited the few at the expense of many – numerous lawsuits, allegations of financial mismanagement and the looming possibility that B-CU may lose accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

During his heartfelt plea to reestablish lifelines with the community, President Chrite described how the university was “traumatized” by the pernicious régime of former president Edison O. Jackson.

That’s putting it mildly. . .

“There was great damage done to this institution but we’re going to clean it up … if we can get through this year and I’m here because I believe we can.”

In describing his reception in the community, Chrite said he was moved by the “warmth” displayed by local leaders since he and his wife Phyllis relocated from Colorado.

The only advice I would offer President Chrite is be careful which of our illustrious ‘powers that be’ he gets close to.

The fact is, some of our “community pillars and philanthropists” who “served” on the Board of Trustees stood idle while Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s sacred institution was robbed at the point of a pen – leaving the school millions of dollars in debt – then actively blocked any substantive outside intervention by cloaking the inner-workings of the university’s administration in secrecy, before fleeing their post in a cowardly attempt to sidestep responsibility.

Beware of those “community leaders” who assumed positions of vital oversight and high responsibility – then were inexplicably struck deaf, dumb and blind while the institution was being gutted – before claiming, “I was just a member of the Board of Trustees – we weren’t given all the information.”

The same shameless assholes who spent precious time giving each other awards and accolades at elegant soirees, even while the once venerated university they were responsible for protecting fell to its knees.

You know who you are. . .

I admire a man who seeks the truth and fights honorably in the cause of protecting those things our society holds dear – truth, honestly, transparency – and strives to preserve our collective trust in the institutions and ideas that form the foundation of our community.

Kudos to President Chrite for his clear understanding of the frightening issues that threaten B-CU – and for his fervent commitment to saving it.

A new day indeed.

Angel               Buc-ee’s

Yeehaw!

It’s happening!  It’s happening!

Buc-ee’s – the Pride of the Lone Star State – a mega gas station with super-clean restrooms and an insanely loyal cult following is finally breaking ground on their much-ballyhooed Daytona Beach location!   

I’m sorry.  I’m an emotional wreck of excited incontinence and blubbering happiness this morning. . .  Forgive me.

Oh, how I’ve longed to bring you these good tidings after months of uncertainty – and I write this with tears of pure joy streaming down my blotched and bloated cheeks!

Folks, our day has come!

Yep, after hemming-and-hawing with Daytona Beach over the trivial non-issue of exactly how much traffic a massive, 120 pump convenience store might generate on our already strapped Boomtown Boulevard – this week, Buc-ee’s executives announced that work on the behemoth will commence on Monday!

Wow.  What a difference a few weeks make, eh?

In July, a Buc-ee’s spokesperson threw a Texas-sized bucket of cold water on our orgasmic delight when it was reported that city officials were holding up permitting over traffic concerns – something that would push construction back until at least 2021.

Then – as if by divine intervention – the city suddenly produced the required “permits and approvals,” now Buc-ee’s is off to the races!

According to a report by the always effervescent News-Journal business reporter Clayton Park:

“The 53,000-square foot Buc-ee’s “travel convenience center” and 120-fueling position gas station is expected to open in early 2021 and will include a car wash as well as room on the 35-acre property for other stores and/or restaurants.”

Once open, our new addition will be the largest gas station in Florida, so, we’ve got that going for us. . .

Fortunately, the Lords of Economic Prosperity have once again shined their ethereal light on all of us – prompting the City of Daytona Beach to finally come to their senses and realize Halifax area residents could give two-shits about the specter of traffic gridlock on LPGA Boulevard – not when we’re talking a new travel convenience center, dammit!

That includes those laid-back beach bums in their half-million-dollar-zero-lot-line cracker boxes over in Margaritaville who won’t mind for a moment jockeying for position at the Tomoka River pinch point – not when it ensures convenient LPGA access to a “Wall of Icees,” seasoned nuts (roasted on site!), kolaches, cream filled ring-a-dings, beach-themed tchotchkes, Beaver nuggets, homemade fudge bars and a gazillion flavors of jerky. . .

We won! 

By God, we’ve finally arrived!  (Oh, man, there go the waterworks again. . .)

Asshole           Knights of the Roundtable

On Monday, the Knights of the Roundtable – otherwise known as the Roundtable of Volusia County Elected Officials – had a klatch of their weird pseudogovernment where area elected officials and city managers gather in the middle of a workday to enjoy lunch on the taxpayers dime and get their stories straight – a bastion of cowardly “groupthink” that protects the status quo, discourages independent thought and provides political insulation to the weak links.

After months of waiting, our collective political brain trust finally received the much-anticipated public briefing on “smart growth” – a byword local bureaucrats sifted from the smoldering ashes of the horribly failed half-cent sales tax initiative – and a concept area residents hoped would reign in the unchecked growth that promises to have us all drinking recycled sewage in the near future.

Regrettably, our hopes for substantive change were dashed when Volusia County planner Clay Ervin (whose cockroach-like ability for political survival is only rivaled by County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert) assured our assembled politicians there’s “no need to reinvent the wheel” given that Volusia County and the municipalities have incorporated “smart growth” practices in their comprehensive plans for the past 60 years.

Say what?

“When you take the full continuum of what cities are doing with smart growth, I’d say our report card gives us an A grade,” he said. “Every city in Volusia County has a smart growth initiative.”

Wow.

Well, so much for the quaint notion that its sound public policy to ensure transportation and utilities infrastructure keep pace with demand. . .

Who knew?

Despite all empirical evidence to the contrary – we’ve been doing it right all along!

Just for laughs, Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley used the forum as an opportunity to shit on the fears of some 43% of his countywide constituency who are considered asset limited/income constrained when he presented his asinine solution to the growing affordable housing crisis:

According to a report in the Ormond Beach Observer, “County Council Chair Ed Kelley said the answer to making housing more affordable is creating high-paying jobs in the area. Then, those $300,000 homes will be affordable for those people.”

Those people?

Whatever.

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

And I no longer try to make sense of Old Ed’s demented ramblings – for the same reason I don’t attempt to communicate with bread mold. . .

Did anyone really believe Mr. Ervin was going to tell the assembled decision-makers anything other than what he thinks they want to hear?

I mean, what nincompoop had the temerity to suggest that Volusia County governments could possibly have been doing it wrong?

Or that – just maybe – there is room to rethink the way we manage massive development on environmentally sensitive land and control the explosive growth that is threatening the very quality of life of every man, woman and child in Volusia County?

I could be wrong, but I think it was us – the long-suffering residents – who made that point to our elected officials following the sales tax referendum. . .

In Volusia County, politicians and entrenched bureaucrats sit together and award themselves an “A” grade – slapping each other on the back and congratulating their own performance – even as their incredulous constituents (you know, the one’s they dismissively refer to as those people) see the catastrophic effects of unchecked sprawl looming on the horizon.

In my view, Director Ervin’s lopsided agitprop was purely designed to massage the massive egos of small-minded politicians – and represents the death knell for any possibility of resurrecting their half-cent money grab in 2020.

Or for salvaging the public’s trust in their local government.

Thanks for nothing. . .

Quote of the Week

“You presume that this is caused by his occupation — I don’t agree with that theory. There’s no other statistic to prove that (firefighters and police officers) have that condition more so than anyone else in the general population.  To presume their job caused this without proof is not right.”

–County Council Chairman Ed Kelley, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia to cover heart transplant for ex-employee,” Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I used to think our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, was suffering from some virulent form of metastatic greed – a parasitic condition that predisposed him to say and do anything he thought would further the whims of his political benefactors – rendering him totally incapable of independent thought.

Now, Chairman Kelley proves he’s just a damnable liar. . .

Following a failed challenge by the weaponized Volusia County attorney’s office to deny an employee benefits, next week the county council will approve a settlement which will extend lifesaving worker’s compensation coverage to former Corrections Officer Brian Sherer.

The 19-year veteran received a heart transplant in 2013, one-year into his medically required retirement.

Florida statute 112.18 – often referred to as the Heart and Lung Bill – provides firefighters, law enforcement officers and correctional officers worker’s compensation benefits for cardiovascular issues, provided the employee passed a physical examination upon being hired.

That’s the law.

Despite Chairman Kelley’s bald-faced lie, extensive independent studies have conclusively proven that the compounding effects of stress – to include repeat exposure to life and death situations, irregular eating and sleeping habits, recurring psychological trauma, rotating shifts, physical strain, family disruptions and other job-related pressures – have left law enforcement officers with a substantially higher rate of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular conditions as compared to the general population.

As a result, the average age of death for police officers is considerably less than other Americans.

In my view, the notion of protecting those who protect us is a moral imperative – or at least it should be.

But not in Volusia County government.

Here, we spend massive amounts of tax dollars fighting tooth-and-nail to deny a veteran correctional officer time-honored benefits to cover the astronomical expense of a heart transplant – the result of a medical condition Florida law has specifically acknowledged is related to his service.

The very same statutorily mandated presumption that served Councilman Ben Johnson when Volusia County covered the former Sheriff’s medical expenses following a minor job-related heart episode in 2014.

I hope you will clip Chairman Kelley’s loathsome quote and place it somewhere conspicuous in your home or office.

Then, as the campaign season heats up and this foul ball begins inundating his long-suffering constituents with glossy mailers, espousing his quadrennial horseshit, trying hard to convince us how much he cares – pull it out and read exactly how Old Ed feels about the service and sacrifice of our brave first responders.

In my view, it’s time for Volusia County voters to send this insipid half-wit – this perennial drain on our patience and pocketbooks – out to pasture, once and for all – anywhere his nonsensical whimsies won’t have such a deleterious effect on the morale of Volusia County law enforcement officers and firefighters or add to the stress of an already difficult and dangerous job.

And Another Thing!

I took some heat this week when I spoke out against a plan by Volusia County Schools to intentionally exclude classroom teachers from a seat at the adult table as the School Board goes about the convoluted process of selecting our next superintendent.

Hey, my cockamamie views weren’t exactly mine alone – the front page/above the fold headline in Monday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal screamed – “Volusia teachers feel ignored.”

But since when does anyone give a Tinker’s damn how Volusia teachers feel? 

Some took me to the woodshed for suggesting decision-makers ignore the advice of our learned lawyers and consultants – while others implied that I was championing the cause of greed-crazed teachers who only care about more time off, higher wages and better benefits. . .

In a piece entitled “The Politics of Exclusion,” I tried to argue that most forward-thinking organizations work hard to develop a culture that values the experience and input of stakeholders at all levels – especially during periods of transition and rebuilding.

Stupid me.

You see, I failed to consider that highly paid attorney’s – the finest legal minds our tax dollars can afford – who serve the needs of both the Volusia County School District and our elected officials – apparently in consultation with a quasi-public outside contractor hired to oversee the selection and evaluation process – all agreed that teachers should have no place, no voice, no say in this decision. . .

Why?  Because it constitutes a ‘conflict of interest,’ that’s why.

You see, if classroom teachers were allowed any meaningful participation beyond a “focus group” – well, our new superintendent might be prejudiced when making disciplinary decisions.

Instead, our elected officials have populated the selection committee with a few members who have husbands and wives that currently work for Volusia County Schools – so, at least we can all rest assured  there’s no room for undue influence on the process. . .

Right.

Still no word on where our high-priced legal watchdogs were when a sitting principal at Mainland High School – with the full knowledge of senior district administrators – was victimizing hundreds of students with a fraudulent Advanced Placement exam, manufacturing passing grades for student athletes, using non-certified counselors and generally destroying the good reputation and academic achievement of those who rely on Volusia County schools for their education.

My guess is they were wringing their hands over how to ensure former Superintendent Tom Russell got every last red cent he was due in severance before he quickly abandoned us just steps ahead of the shocking revelations of gross mismanagement. . .

Whatever.

Look, I don’t always get it right – but I still believe my opinion that classroom teachers should have a clear voice in this important process has validity.

Perhaps it’s time for the tail to stop wagging the dog in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand?

Maybe those we put our sacred trust in should serve the needs of their constituents with a degree of independence from the sway of entrenched bureaucrats with a vested interest in ensuring a like-minded superintendent takes the helm of this crippled ship of fools.

Otherwise, God only knows what an outside professional might find when he or she starts looking under the filthy rugs in senior administrative offices, eh?

Besides, I don’t know about you, but I’m growing weary of watching Chairman Carl Persis flash a sheepish grin while gushing yet another wholly embarrassing Mea Culpa on television – apologizing for the dearth of leadership and transparency that has indelibly stained his term in office and facilitated the horrendous destruction of the district’s credibility.

That’s all for me!  Have a great weekend, friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for September 13, 2019

  1. Good read Mark! However, Mr. Kelly must be forgiven for not understanding the link between high-stress public occupations and heart disease, after all, this is same guy who “schooled” me on Facebook for believing the scientists who believe that human use of fossil fuels is causing the atmosphere to heat up. It’s purely coincidental that police, firefighters, corrections officers, and EMS workers experience more heart disease, more cancer, and more suicide than the general population…just dumb luck. Uh-huh.

    Like

  2. I think I need to get my sarcasm meter checked—can’t tell if you’re serious about being a Buc-ee’s fanboi.

    Here’s a guide to their food items. The fudge sounds good.

    https://houston.eater.com/2017/6/14/15798854/texas-buc-ees-best-food-snack-options-what-to-eat

    I find it curious that they “don’t allow” 18-wheelers… as customers, I assume, because we haven’t perfected merchandise delivery via drone just yet.

    As for the cardiopulmonary disease in LEOs, they weasel out of paying that up north too.

    Like

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