Since retiring from municipal service, I’ve had the opportunity to take a step back and get an outsiders view of the machinations of government – and, more important – how the moves and motivations of our ‘powers that be’ are perceived by many in the mosaic of communities in Volusia County.
I’m amazed – and frightened – by the stark disconnect between local governments and those they ostensibly exist to serve. Even when projects are undertaken in the best interests of our environment or quality of life – We, The People have developed a healthy skepticism about the true intent of those we have elected to represent our interests.
Sadly, Volusia County and the municipalities have no one to blame but themselves.
They underestimate our ability to see through the thin veil politicians use to conceal their clumsily orchestrated schemes to appease the whims and wants of their political benefactors – those individuals and industries with the financial wherewithal to control their environment using massive campaign contributions to purchase the malleable loyalty of elected officials who stand at the nexus of public funds and private interests.
That breeds suspicion in those of us who can no longer afford political representation.
Then, there are the instances where normally docile local governments transmogrify from sloth-like bureaucracies into King Kong – a monstrous brute that crashes around, crushing jaws agape, roaring and posturing, establishing dominance – stirring anxiety and apprehension in the hearts of the citizens who feed it.
Naturally, citizens develop a healthy fear of what can happen when government forcibly moves on issues that directly affect our lives and livelihoods, and, ultimately, that fear transforms into the secondary emotion of anger.
And make no mistake, many in Volusia County are increasingly infuriated by this weird system of governmental misinformation and outright lies that continues to insult our collective intelligence and requires we dig for the truth on our own.
For instance, last week, Volusia County Growth Management Director Clay Ervin had the brass balls to suspend reality and congratulate the county and municipalities for incorporating “smart growth” initiatives into their comprehensive plans for the past six-decades – even as we watch the malignant sprawl to our west threaten our feeble transportation infrastructure, pressure our natural resources and destroy our quality of life.
Clearly, this growing distrust knows no jurisdictional boundaries.
In a recent edition of the Ormond Observer, a resident published open letters to both Mayor Bill Partington and City Manager Shanahan seeking answers for the pending annexation of over 400 manufactured homes in the Plantation Oaks subdivision.
In addition, a concerned citizen described the City Commission as “Weak. Lame. No substance. Self-serving” – while another questioned the “current state of democracy” in Ormond beach – and decried the destruction of even more greenspace to accommodate a gaudy three-story storage facility on Nova Road. . .
Another example is the current septic-to-sewer imbroglio that is consuming Ormond-by-the-Sea. . .
Residents of the quaint seaside community in unincorporated Volusia County recently drew together in a David and Goliath fight against what many perceive as a Trojan Horse invasion by the City of Ormond Beach.
Add the fact Volusia County has, for decades, reaped tax dollars while virtually ignoring the needs of north peninsula residents and one begins to understand the growing militancy and distrust of those who are joining forces to protect their way of life.
Last week, I met with Ormond Beach City Commissioner Dwight Selby – who has become the point man for the septic-to-sewer initiative – to seek hard answers to my own growing questions.
It was an interesting meeting.
I’m not easily bullshitted, and I found Mr. Selby to be engaging, articulate and passionate about the issue.
I also learned a few things that were counter to strong opinions I held going in.
For instance, I was told – without equivocation – that environmental impacts on the water quality of the Halifax River is the sole stimulus for this initiative.
In addition, Mr. Selby personally assured me that Ormond Beach has no desire to annex the north peninsula – a point driven home by City Manager Joyce Shanahan, who made it clear at a meeting last week that the city has no interest in annexing their neighbors to the north.
The most important question remains murky: How much will the multi-phase implementation of septic-to-sewer cost OBS homeowners and Ormond Beach taxpayers – and what steps will be taken to lessen the financial impact on OBS residents who choose to connect?
Unfortunately, those answers won’t come until a design and permitting study (paid for by the City of Ormond Beach) is completed within the next 10-12 months.
I encourage anyone with serious concerns about the septic-to-sewer initiative to personally contact Commissioner Selby.
Sit down, look him in the eye, ask the hard questions – debate the issue to your satisfaction – then spell out your concerns and demand evidence-based answers.
Then, join the Ormond-by-the-Sea Association and collectively hold the Ormond Beach City Commission and Volusia County Council politically accountable for their actions.
I assure you I will. . .
Look, there are a multitude of valid reasons why Ormond-by-the-Sea residents would reject septic-to-sewer – and the City of Ormond Beach should be sensitive to those compelling concerns and strive for complete transparency going forward.
There is a lot of good information out there for those willing to seek it out.
There is also a lot of speculation and distrust.
And this ‘us vs. them’ mentality isn’t limited to environmental concerns.
In fact, it has clouded every substantive issue in Volusia County from beach driving to growth management for decades – and I think we’re going to see it’s influence at the ballot box next year. . .
Even if Ormond Beach has the best of intentions – our well-founded distrust in government is a serious impediment to progress on many fronts – and the onus is on the city to begin rebuilding the horribly fractured relationship.
We truly deserve better. . .
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal