Naturally, I assume that Barker’s View readers fall on the “informed voter” spectrum.
After all, if you take the time to read alternative opinions and stay conversant on the issues of the day, I’ll just bet you’re cognizant of the serious threats we face, and the weird players who contribute to the problem by masquerading as “public servants.”
I follow the ebb-and-flow of political discourse on social media, local newspapers and beyond – keeping my cauliflowered ears open like a pitifully punch-drunk, over-the-hill heavyweight – hoping against hope I can anticipate where the next low blow will come from.
Look, I understand that not everyone has the luxury of time to maintain focus on the machinations of our local governments – and that’s okay – you don’t have to be a hopeless gadfly like me to remain reasonably conscious of current events and their context.
Like knowing who is running for political office, gaining a basic understanding of their platform – and, most important – which factions are financially supporting their campaign.
Then performing your sacred civic duty to vote. . .
I’ve come to the conclusion that many times we denizens of Florida’s Fun Coast wait until the damage is done, then boil into something akin to a disturbed fire ant nest – rather than keep a watchful eye on the fate of our tax dollars – then respond to threats like an organized electorate with differing views but the common goal of protecting our quality of life.
Unfortunately, the majority of Volusia County voters have the political acumen of a narcoleptic ground sloth – snoring soundly, delightfully unaware, while their tax dollars are squandered, or worse, funneled to the private projects of those who own the rights to our elected representatives – only awakening when some neighborhood-level issue threatens their ‘ignorance is bliss’ existence.
Then, they look for all the world like lambs lost in the woods – and that gullible naïveté only emboldens the paid-for politicians and the entrenched insiders who seek to victimize them. . .
That’s when it becomes painfully apparent just how woefully uninformed many of our neighbors are.
I was reminded of this during the growing septic-to-sewer brouhaha on the north peninsula – where the fear of annexation and aggression from the City of Ormond Beach on the quaint seaside community of Ormond-by-the-Sea – has resulted in a storm of disorganized fury and argumentative dissonance.
The Ormond-by-the-Sea Association was formed by a group of concerned citizens to fight for the community’s right to self-determination and freedom from what they perceive as governmental interference in their lives and property.
Unfortunately, some members of the fledgling organization are telling me they have become disillusioned by the tone of certain highly vocal residents who seem clueless about the underlying issues – and even less informed about the process for effectively ‘fighting city hall.’
Rather than educate themselves on all sides of the issue – weigh the known evidence and match lose ends to gain a comprehensive view – some are content with screaming half-truths and misinformation and attacking those with an alternative opinion – seemingly for no other reason that to dominate the conversation and remain ‘relevant’ to the issue by force of personality.
Ultimately, it burns energy, destroys cohesiveness and replaces the all-important sense of shared goals with disillusionment.
Rather than speaking with a united voice – both internally and externally – the organization becomes known for conflicting messages and confusion.
It’s part of why I’m not a “joiner” – it’s also a big reason why Volusia County lags years behind every successful county and community in Central Florida.
In my experience, this self-destructive fragmentation is the fatal flaw in many grassroots organizations – and the main reason our ‘powers that be’ repeatedly steamroll over the will of the people with little, if any, substantive opposition.
For years, Volusia County has been plagued with a malignant form of voter apathy that has brought us to this dismal place in our history – so, in many ways, we have only ourselves to blame.
Many residents are still swayed by glossy mailers and goofy billboards with the smiling visage of our perennial candidates – politicians of no real substance or integrity – who pose on the very beach they are working behind-the-scenes to privatize with their perfectly coiffed family and rented dog. . .
Others feel if they scream louder than the next guy they’re message will be taken seriously by the decision-makers.
It doesn’t work that way here.
Politicians fear the might of citizens who band together in a common cause – who outwork those who control our destiny with massive financial contributions to the campaigns of malleable politicians – then vote their conscience and demand the equal representation our participatory democracy should ensure.
My fervent hope is that as some begin to announce their candidacy for 2020, Volusia County voters will come together on the issues that affect us all – remember those heady days in the immediate aftermath of our crushing defeat of the half-cent money grab – and know that there is power in the ballot box to bring positive change.
I realize it’s difficult – almost impossible – to successfully ‘organize’ a group of very vocal, highly opinionated and incredibly frustrated citizen/activists.
But those who do can change the world.