Angels & Assholes for September 27, 2019

Hi, kids!

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:

Asshole           Saw Palmetto Pirates

It’s that time of the year. . .

Last week, I was invited to go fishing at a spot so remote that you really have to know where you’re going to get there.

The circuitous route to the wilderness pond requires that you traverse washboard dirt roads, fire trails and a series of overgrown one lane wilderness paths that take you deep in the heart of the south Flagler County swamps.

Trust me.  It’s out in the sticks.

Those who spend time in the woods understand that fences and gates are to be respected – only crossed with the express permission of the property owner.

Violations of those rules can result in serious confrontations and criminal prosecution.

I was surprised to find that these idyllic backwoods were being patrolled by noisy out-of-state pick-up trucks filled with rough men in search of saw palmetto berries – a species that the State of Florida has listed as a “commercially exploited plant” – due to its demand as a natural remedy for enlarged prostate.

The vehicles I saw were openly trespassing on private property – I assume searching for areas that had yet to be picked – totally disregarding the rules – which require both a permit from the Department of Agriculture and written permission of the landowner.

The exploitation isn’t limited to rural areas.

Saw palmetto pirates can be found trespassing on private property in subdivisions, backyards,  public parks, along interstate highways – anywhere they can find access to the profitable berries.

Kudos to the Volusia County and Flagler County Sheriff’s Offices for the recent arrest of several suspects who allegedly disregarded regulations governing the harvest of Saw Palmetto berries.

Thank you for your efforts to curb the exploitation of this important natural resource that also serves as a food source for black bears and other wildlife – and for protecting the private property of landowners throughout Volusia and Flagler Counties.

 Angel              Daytona State College

 My one great regret is not pursuing higher education.

Throughout my youth I struggled academically – probably the result of what would today be diagnosed as “learning disabilities” – a condition aggravated by old-fashioned laziness.

Back when teachers hand-wrote telling notes on the back of report cards to summarize a student’s performance during the grading period – mine read, “Needs to apply himself” (whatever that means) or “Easily distracted daydreamer.”

As a result, I struggled through my life and career with a serious inferiority complex – always feeling less than friends and colleagues with advanced degrees.

For instance, when I was appointed Chief of Police, it was based upon my experience and past performance, not formal education – a mustang of sorts.

As a result, I rarely participated in formal group discussions with my “peers” from other agencies, avoided leadership positions in professional associations and was always self-conscious of the fact I hadn’t earned the requisite academic credentials for a seat at the table.

Without the fundamentals, it meant that I had to work twice as hard, yet, I always made the feeble excuse that I didn’t have the time or it was too expensive to pursue a degree.

Now, in my dotage, I’m afraid that ship has sailed. . .

So, I have stumbled down the path like the uncultivated bumpkin I am, doomed to the most expensive education there is – a lifetime of experiential learning and its grudging release from ignorance.

Whenever a young person asks for advice, I invariably tell them to pursue a college degree, master a trade – or, if all else fails – get a job in government, claw your way to middle-management, and hang on by your fingernails until you vest. . .

Fortunately, the Halifax area is blessed with some of the finest institutions of higher education in the world – a diversity of technical training, research and liberal arts tracks that consistently rank among the best anywhere.

From the high-flying Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to the prestigious Stetson University and Bethune-Cookman – new students and mid-career professional have local access to a wide variety of quality programs to suit their unique educational needs.

This week we learned that the editors of the Bachelor’s Degree Center, a site that helps degree-seeking students “find the best educational program most suited to their financial, educational, and personal situation,” recently ranked Daytona State College’s bachelor of science in engineering technology as the most “affordable online program in the nation.”

In addition, DSC’s online transition program for registered nurses with associate degrees seeking to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing has been recognized as the most reasonably priced as well!

Wow! 

Given the exorbitant cost of tuition and other fees that can lead to crippling student debt that hamstring many young students before their lives and careers truly begin, it’s refreshing to known that we have superior programs at competitive prices right here in the Halifax area.

Kudos to Daytona State College for placing higher education and the lifelong opportunities it provides within financial reach of everyone.      

Asshole           First Step Shelter Board

 When considering the plight of the First Step Shelter Board, I am of the opinion that it is physically impossible for ostensibly bright and successful individuals with extensive business and political experience to step in large piles of shit with such frightening regularity – then get down and wallow in it in such a public way – time and time and time again. . .

It simply defies logic. . .

Yet, that has been the unfortunate legacy of the First Step board – the horribly abused and much maligned issue of the Daytona Beach City Commission – who are now the sole caretakers of this sordid mess.

On Tuesday – with taxpayers still reeling from the news that the shelter’s completion date has been pushed back an unconscionable fourth time – board members inexplicably cloaked the process of selecting the shelter’s executive director from public view – adding to the sense of utter chaos and confusion that has destroyed the public’s faith in the project and all but ensured an end to municipal funding sources and private donations.

After conducting private interviews with six short list candidates “out of the public eye,” three finalists emerged from the mysterious process to compete for the leadership role worth $48,000 to $60,000 in public funds annually.

Now, after creating the wholly unnecessary skepticism and speculation that naturally comes when public entities intentionally sidestep Florida’s Sunshine Law, some members are mewing and cooing about the public’s perception of this backroom chicanery.

According to a quote attributed to board member Chase Tramont by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“I didn’t think it was anything inappropriate in spite of how some of that has been portrayed,” said Tramont, a Port Orange City Council member. “I have great understanding, though, for the desire to do it all out in public. I think its bad optics that we have done it this way, but there’s no ill will toward it. I’m fully behind how we did it.”

It’s not just “bad optics” – it openly flaunts the letter and spirit of the law – and there was absolutely no need for any of it!

Even Ormond Beach City Commissioner Dwight Selby, who (for reasons known only to him) continues to ‘serve’ on this cheap rubber stamp committee, realized how damaging a backroom selection process would be to the public’s fragile trust in the struggling homeless assistance center.

“If we were to make a final decision tonight, the public would not have an opportunity to weigh in on that,” said Selby.

Unfortunately – for everyone involved, to include the three finalists – nobody with any degree of self-respect cares to “weigh in” at this point.

The damage is done.

You see, the process has been forever marred, tainted by the toxic stench of secrecy wafting from behind firmly closed doors, where the public who funds this expensive experiment were clearly not welcome.

But why?  

As sitting elected officials, both Tramont and Selby understand better than most the importance of openness – conducting the people’s business in the public eye – especially when decisions regarding the future leadership of our horribly challenged shelter are made.

Let’s face it, this entire farce transcends “bad optics” and raises serious questions about the ultimate viability and management of this much needed social service – and the utter dysfunction that dominates our local system of governance at every level.

If the First Step Shelter is to regain the public trust and move beyond the horrific gaffs and mismanagement of the past, what remains of the politically accountable segment of the board must begin to demonstrate strong leadership, and stand firm to the highest principles of our participatory democracy – truth, transparency and inclusiveness.

Asshole           City of Daytona Beach Economic Development

One valuable lesson I learned over three decades in public service is that you can’t have more than one “high profile” issue going at a time.

You can have a bad day – even a major mistake – but when you get too many plates spinning at once, people begin to notice, and that doesn’t bode well for a senior bureaucrat’s longevity.

In government, dealing with multiple highly publicized problems at one time requires that the organization spend a lot of political energy to spin internal and external opinion and protect the status quo, least the dysfunction become apparent.

Unfortunately, the City of Daytona Beach is experiencing the embarrassing results of what happens when senior staff members allow more than one wheel to come off the cart at a time.

From the ongoing nightmare that is the First Step Shelter – to concerns over drastic changes to the downtown streetscape, the secret negotiations for the wholesale development of City Island and the serious traffic and congestion concerns on Boomtown Boulevard and beyond, etc. – Daytona Beach officials are getting further behind the proverbial eight ball every day.

Earlier this week, the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, reported that a $60 million oceanfront hotel project which would have connected to the challenged Daytona Beach Boardwalk has fallen “off the radar.” 

“Some feared the plan to build a nearly 300-room Marriott hotel just south of Main Street had the life choked out of it by an impasse between top city staff and the private developer trying to make it happen.”

Not good. . .

For years, many have openly wondered why Daytona Beach Redevelopment Director Reed Berger has been allowed to virtually ignore the pressing needs of the tarnished beachside – now marked by the potential loss of a synergistic hotel/entertainment complex near the city’s struggling core tourist area.

For years, entrepreneurial investors have lamented the byzantine bureaucratic roadblocks to opening small businesses in Daytona Beach – that cannot continue – not if we hope to pull ourselves out of this fetid quagmire that is ruining “the brand” and slowly destroying our tourism industry.

In my view, it took The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s excellent investigative series on beachside blight to bring substantive attention to the deplorable condition and open corruption that doomed our core tourist areas for decades – and I have joined the many in the Halifax area who are openly cheering the City’s new code enforcement initiatives – but its high time that those in the city’s economic development apparatus, who accept public funds to serve in the public interest, be held accountable for their abysmal inaction.

Frankly, it’s high time elected officials determine exactly which “top city staff” stand as a perennial impediment to the community’s economic progress.

We simply cannot move forward with the same tired ideas, lack of organizational enthusiasm and bureaucratic impediments that continue to dash transformational projects, discourage investment and allow economic stagnation to continue on our imperiled beachside and beyond.

Quote of the Week

“. . .at the Sept. 18 Daytona Beach City Commission meeting, Commissioner Quanita May victoriously confirmed with City Attorney Bob Jagger that a magistrate can impose fines of up to $15,000/day for homeowners who operate what the city deems “illegal” vacation rentals. (She originally made this request at the Aug. 7 City Commission meeting). All that is needed is to demonstrate these rentals cause “irreparable harm” to the community.

Do I understand this correctly?

The city has to “consider” whether or not to fine a large construction company that has repeatedly failed to meet its obligations to build an important community resource (First Step Shelter).  At the same time, the city could fine a citizen immediately, at five times the rate that may possibly be imposed on APM, for hosting a tourist in his home.

The only irreparable harm being done here is to the hard-working, tax-paying citizens who are exercising their constitutionally protected property rights.”

–Mary Synk, Daytona Beach, pointing out the disparate treatment of short-term rental owners by the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Daytona pursues skewed penalties,” September 23, 2019

As I’ve said before, when it comes to the issue of short-term vacation rentals, local governments must retain the right to enact common-sense rules to alleviate nuisance issues and ensure the health, safety and quality of life for all residents – and a means to ensure short-term rentals pay applicable taxes is a given – but property owners should be permitted to market their properties in an open and responsible way without oppressive government regulation.

The use of draconian fines that can crush a property owner under the iron boot of a compromised municipal and county government is not fair – and it’s not healthy to our local economy.

To learn more, please go to www.SAVEDaytona.org

There you will find a link to a petition requesting reasonably regulated short-term rentals in Daytona Beach.  Take time to educate yourself.

Even if you disagree with the concept of short-term rentals – I think you will agree that the Halifax Area Advertising Authority’s push for excessively harsh government intrusion in the marketplace is wrong.

After all, if it can happen to them – it can happen to you. . .

And Another Thing!

I have a cardinal rule here at Barker’s View – I don’t accept advertising dollars or financial “support” from anyone.

Let’s face it, most of my blog posts are hyper-political – one man’s critical opinion on the issues and newsmakers of the day, yadda, yadda – and taking money to hype goods, services or (God forbid) political candidates would, in my view, cheapen the message and give rise to favoritism.

After all, my hypocrisy knows no bounds – and once I got snout-deep in the trough, well, who knows where that would end – so why tempt it, right?

(Besides, my wife claims I have a physiological aversion to making money – which is why she will have to work well into her 80’s to keep us in the lifestyle I’ve become accustomed to. . .) 

So, whenever you see an occasional review in Barker’s View for an enterprise I feel is doing it right – you can take my word for it – safe in the knowledge my recommendation comes from the heart, not someone’s marketing budget.

This week, Simply Gina’s – a long-established Holly Hill eatery – recently moved to impressive new digs at 841 Ridgewood Avenue – and I’m very happy to report the restaurant opened this week to huge crowds!

Look, I couldn’t be happier for Gina and Dan Farmer.  They’re good people who hold firm to high standards and present an exceptional variety of incredibly tasty meals.

For over fifteen-years, Gina’s 6th Street Deli served the community in a small space just across the street from The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Now, Simply Gina’s is open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch from 6:00am to 3:00pm – including dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday – when they remain open until 8:00pm.

Trust me.  If you haven’t been to Simply Gina’s for breakfast – you’re doing it wrong. . .

Kudos to my friend Robin Hanger – a trusted Holly Hill entrepreneur and successful businessman who owns and operates The Car Shop and Best Price Trailers on Ridgewood Avenue – who purchased the former Denny’s building and invested in renovations for the expansion of Simply Gina’s. 

I’m proud to report that Robin is a big part of the renaissance of The City with a Heart!

If you’re looking for a great meal at a fair price – in a true hometown atmosphere where I guarantee you will feel welcome – please give Simply Gina’s a try!

That’s all for me – have a great weekend, friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for September 27, 2019

  1. My mother used to be a psychology professor at Stony Brook University. (She’s now semi-retired at a different institution.) One of her prouder moments was when she was the doctoral advisor for a woman who got her Ph.D. at age sixty five.

    You are not too old for higher education. The advantage to going back to school at your age is you can study something that interests you without concern about whether it will lead to gainful employment.

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  2. The First Step Shelter has been a fiasco since its inception, and it’s hard to believe that ithe shelter will ever reach the potential benefit to the Community that was envisioned for it. But hope springs eternal that the vision that originally initiated it will be fulfilled. I personally think that re-purposing the old Daytona Beach Police Station on Orange ave. would have been much more cost effective, as it would have placed it centrally located and easily accessible to the very people for whom it was originally envisioned. It was built to house a small population and already had the facilities to support it with modification. And I think it could have been done for much less than $7 million dollars! Oh well, water under the bridge

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