Earlier this week, I ripped News-Journal editor Pat Rice a new bunghole in response to the editorial board’s misinformed, finger-wagging lecture to beach driving advocates on the ongoing ruckus over the Volusia County legal department’s mysterious attempt to crush a long-time historic parade on the old beach racing circuit at Ponce Inlet.
In my view, he deserved it. . .
However, juxtaposed with the hot button beach driving piece was a cogent editorial written by Mr. Rice entitled, “Beachside committee report languishes in silence,” wherein he made the spot-on assessment that more than a year has passed since the gilded Beachside Redevelopment Committee issued suggestions for the revitalization of our core tourist area.
As many will recall, the committee – lead by former Brown & Brown executive Tony Grippa, and populated by everyone who is anyone in the social, business and civic stratosphere of our Halifax area beau monde – was chartered by the Volusia County Council to identify the corrosive issues that have led to the economic stagnation and abject blight that has crippled the beachside and develop strategies for improvement.
I didn’t hold out much hope from the beginning – in fact, I was openly mocked as a fool for dismissing the effort as a sham – but, in reality, if any group of people could make a positive difference in the life of our community, it was this one.
Unfortunately, when it came time to formulate the report that would serve as a blueprint for the resurrection of the beachside and beyond – Volusia County’s Director of Growth & Resource Management, Clay Ervin, took control and proceeded to neuter the committee’s vision with a liberal dose of bureaucratese – crafting the final recommendations in a manner that avoided any possible responsibility and sidestepped all accountability for the elected and appointed officials who provide what passes for oversight in Volusia County government.
When the report was finally issued in 2018, I wrote, “. . .our fervent hope for substantive change has been replaced with another worthless “See, we did something” political insulation report that will collect dust in County Manager Jim Dinneen’s already groaning library of consultant reports, master plans and “recommendations.”
“Perhaps the Grippa Report can bookend the 2011 tourism study wherein the Volusia County Council paid $100,000 to an out-of-state consultant to conduct a review which concluded that our beachside “tourism product” was a serious impediment to attracting visitors and economic development, “…there is no “plan” for who is leading the effort and how these challenges can be improved.”
Clearly, there still isn’t. . .
In his well-thought editorial, Mr. Rice acknowledged that the hard work of the Beachside Redevelopment Committee resulted in a list of “tangible ways” our core beachside could be improved – and given the depth of the problem no one expected change overnight.
But we had a right to expect that something would happen.
Then, like many expensive and time-consuming reports, studies and findings of a hundred other time-buying committees – absolutely nothing happened. . .
According to Mr. Rice:
“It takes time to remedy the decades of neglect and problems that have allowed the beachside to become decrepit and crime ridden. Raggedy rental housing doesn’t improve overnight. Shops and restaurants don’t just sprout up because people wish for them. Everyone gets that.
But there is such a thing as not trying hard enough. There is such a thing as flying too below the public’s radar. There is such a thing as not banging the drum loudly.”
Perhaps now that the News-Journal has formally called them out, our ‘powers that be’ will realize that some of us are still paying attention out here in the political wilderness – waiting patiently for action on the findings of serious people with serious ideas for reanimating the corpse of a once vibrant tourist destination.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal