Since my earliest days The Daytona Beach News-Journal has been my newspaper of record.
I learned to read and digest the news of the day sitting with my father as he perused the Daytona Beach Morning and Evening Journal – something that became a bonding point for father and son – and taught me to think critically and form my own opinions on the issues that shape our lives and communities.
Through the years, the paper’s editorial stance has periodically swung – neither always in alignment with my views nor continually opposed – but it has consistently given me a thought-provoking focal point to consider the questions of the day.
Unfortunately, I fear the editorial board’s recent finger-wagging lecture to beach driving advocates in the still unfolding aftermath of the Volusia County legal department’s decision to unilaterally stop a two-hour historic race car parade on a short section of the beach in Ponce Inlet has exposed a critical bias that many of us would have preferred to ignore – something that has illuminated a growing fear that long-time readers have secretly harbored for some time now.
For months, loyal subscribers to The Daytona Beach News-Journal have watched in shocked silence as our hometown newspaper has dissolved into a jerry-built regional product.
We have stood horrified as the newsroom was decimated by cutbacks and layoffs – while senior reporters and editors have been swallowed up by the News-Journal’s parent, Gatehouse Media – and shook our heads in silence as the editorial page slowly transitions to a cut-and-paste from other markets ginned-up with an vague local connection.
As our local news dwindled to a trickle, regular readers have looked on as editor Pat Rice appeared in increasingly tight social alliance with those the paper has anointed our ‘Rich & Powerful.’
Photographs regularly appear in the online edition of Mr. Rice rubbing shoulders at ostentatious galas with our high and mighty oligarchical overseers who repeatedly corrupt each election cycle with astronomical campaign contributions from a host of personal and corporate entities that make a mockery of campaign finance rules – and backslapping with the same tired and wholly co-opted politicians they repeatedly return to office.
Look, I won’t presume to Tell Mr. Rice who he should associate with – but the optics suck – especially when his social circle comprises a ‘who’s who’ of the ‘movers and shakers’ who repeatedly access public funds to reduce overhead on private projects and should be the focus of his news organization.
I like Pat Rice. He is an inherently good man, and although our opinions on the issues may differ, I appreciate how he tries hard to remain competitive in an increasingly desperate print news market.
During good times and bad, I have been a staunch supporter of The Daytona Beach News-Journal – I still am – and have repeatedly gone to the mat with those who disparage the outstanding reportage and in-depth investigative journalism that has brought us clear insight into the many local issues that have become so detrimental to our lives and livelihood.
But Sunday’s editorial, “In Volusia beach driving battle, stop depicting allies as foes,” took a more offensive tone – one that besmirched the hard work and dedication of beach driving advocates while championing the self-serving efforts of those money-grubbing insiders who seek to turn our public beach into a semi-private marketing tool for speculative developers.
It was hurtful. It was uninformed. It was wrong.
And, for many of us who have spent our lives here – it was personal.
In my view, for decades, uber-wealthy political insiders like His Majesty Hyatt Brown and his coterie of brown-nosing lickspittles have used the clout of various civic organizations, secret societies and their lopsided studies to support their gilded idea that the World’s Most Famous Beach – which was literally founded on our century-old heritage of beach driving – will always be nothing more than a honky-tonk shithole unless and until we acquiesce to their selfish idea that a traffic free beach is the panacea for our civic and social ills.
So, in the mid-1990’s, amid declining occupancy and average daily room rates in beachfront hotels, Volusia County removed cars from a one mile stretch of beach between International Speedway Boulevard and Seabreeze on the promise it would revitalize our core tourist area.
Now, among declining occupancy and average daily room rates, our ‘powers that be’ stand suspiciously idle as the continued economic strangulation of our core tourist area continues.
And the war on beach driving by those with the ability to purchase political representation – from Let Volusia Vote to the Hard Rock Daytona debacle – continues unabated.
Anyone who thinks County Attorney Dan Eckert and his staff have been “fighting and fighting and fighting” to preserve beach driving is delusional – or has simply stopped paying attention to local issues.
As an example, if you take the time to compare Volusia County’s federal Incidental Take Permit – which allows beach driving while protecting sea turtles and wildlife – with St. Johns County’s, for instance, it becomes immediately clear that those who the News-Journal touts as “allies” have used their misshapen, hand-crafted permit like a weapon for years – even as those bought-and-paid-for chattel on the Volusia County Council gave more of our heritage away to over-hyped theme hotels and here-today-gone-tomorrow developers who never seem to make good on their promises.
Perhaps the News-Journal’s editorial board should read its own reporting. There’s a good reason many Volusia County residents no longer trust their government – or those handmaidens of the “Rich & Powerful” in the county’s legal department. . .
According to the News-Journal’s condescending editorial:
“Always, always, always: Volusia County is depicted as the enemy. That’s just wrong. If beach activists don’t forge a working partnership with the county team that’s been defending beach driving, or at least stop lobbing accusations and leaning on County Council members to rein in their “bureaucrats,” beach driving will be endangered by needless and misinformed strife.”
That hyper-dramatic horseshit doesn’t wash – not when the United States Fish & Wildlife Service – the very federal agency that issues and oversees Volusia’s Incidental Take Permit – have publicly announced it supports the special event.
And, for the past eight years, so did Volusia County government. . .
A shocking revelation that was completely contrary to what we – and our elected officials – had previously been told by County Attorney Eckert.
In my view, the crude demise of the Historic North Turn Legends Beach Parade exposed the depth to which our weaponized county attorney, and those wealthy insiders he serves, will go to maintain their iron-fisted control as a means to pursue their ultimate goal of removing beach driving in the name of the Almighty Dollar.
Time and again – from beach driving to Amendment 10 and a hundred points in between – Volusia County government has proven where its true loyalty lies.
And it is not with those of us who pay the bills and are expected to suffer in silence as the wants and whims of the few consistently outweigh the needs of many.
Now, it appears The Daytona Beach News-Journal has exposed its own not-so-subliminal bias as well. . .