Angels & Assholes for October 11, 2019

Hi, Kids!

It’s a well-known fact, I’m not a ‘joiner.’  Never have been.

I’ve always subscribed to the old Groucho Marx adage, “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member.”

Call it social anxiety, or a well-founded feeling of inferiority, I just never felt comfortable in stilted situations.

But I’ve always been curious about those “political clubs,” not dull party organizations where like-types meet to reinforce each other’s myopic views, but places where people much smarter than me pay annual dues to have lunch – listen to congressmen, ambassadors and other “movers & shakers” bloviate on the issues of the day – then chat about “public affairs” over linen tablecloths.

Somehow, I don’t think I’d fit in – and I’m sure I don’t have the $500 to find out. . .

Instead, I get my take on our local political climate from a barstool.

I have a favorite watering hole where I talk politics over shots and beers with an eclectic group who actually experience the effect of public policy up close and personal.

Working folks and retirees who feel every dime of a tax increase, see the effect of unchecked growth, fear for the quantity and quality of their family’s drinking water, experience the adverse impact of development on our environment, worry about the fate of downtown Daytona businesses, live with the malignant blight and dilapidation on our beachside and lament the fact that they have been outbid by our “Rich & Powerful,” whose wants and whims bear no resemblance to their own.

I don’t know what the feeling is around the fancy luncheon tables of our local Bilderberg – but by my barroom barometer – those of us here in the “Real World” are ready for substantive change in local and county governance.

And, for good or for ill, it appears things are starting to heat up on the political front.

For reasons known only to him and the uber-wealthy masters he serves, this week our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, decided to continue his destructive path that has ruined the public’s trust in our massive county government, and skyrocketed taxes and fees into the stratosphere, when he filed for reelection.

In a recent interview with his able challenger, Jeff Brower, a long-time civic activist and community servant who, in my view, embodies the sense of honor, ethics and service above self that is sorely lacking on the Volusia County Council, expressed the hopes of many when he said “He (Kelley) served for a long time. I thought he might just retire.”

In addition, Mr. Brower cited a health scare that saw Chairman Kelley “rushed to the hospital” last year as another reason he might want to take up the rocking chair.

Apparently, Old Ed is in fighting trim, and responded to Mr. Brower’s legitimate concerns with a cheap shot hearkening back to the last election, “I was surprised that a person who finished third out of four people in a district race would want to run for County Chair,” Kelley quipped, before addressing his health. “If my health was an issue I wouldn’t be running.” 

I think it’s clear to anyone paying attention that Chairman Kelley’s political wit and acumen aren’t what they used to be when he first entered the local political arena way back in 1993.  In fact, it’s become something of a pastime of mine to watch as both his “colleagues” and fed-up citizens run mental laps around Mr. Kelley time and again.

Sad, really. . .

Besides, after Chairman Kelley’s over two-decades enabling the self-serving wants of his political benefactors from a dais, Mr. Brower could spend the rest of the campaign exposing this quack – who hasn’t had an original thought since he accepted his first campaign contribution – without once turning to his mental or physical limitations.

In other campaign news, this week, Councilwoman Heather Post picked up a very important endorsement from the incredibly popular Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

When giving his seal of approval, Sheriff Chitwood described Ms. Post as “. . .a change agent and that doesn’t go over really well in a county full of good ol’ boys.” 

I agree.  But she’s going to need all the help she can get.

A check of campaign finance records finds that Ms. Post has accumulated just $7,000 as compared to her opponent – Barbara Bonarrigo, the darling of the Big Money set – who has already amassed over $24,000 from many of the right last names who historically sway our elections with artificial infusions of cash to the campaigns of those candidates they control.

In my view, if we learned anything from the insanely expensive special election that was foisted on us in an attempt to ramrod a half-cent sales tax earlier this year, it is that We, The People can change the status quo in Volusia County politics and break the oligarchical grip of those who sway elections with massive campaign contributions by voting our conscious.

Keep your eyes and ears open, kids.  This election season is going to be one to watch. . .

Now, pull up a barstool, enjoy the beverage of your choice, and let’s shoot the breeze after a soggy week on the Fun Coast.

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           Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron

I once worked for a wise old chief who would facetiously exclaim, “Managing people would be a great job, if it weren’t for people. . .”

It’s true.

Anyone can steer the ship when the seas are calm – or be the best strategist and leader since General George S. Patton when everyone is pulling in the same direction.  It’s during times of turmoil and crisis – when circumstances, and the imperfect people we rely on to mitigate and manage them – are at their worst that test the mettle of a chief executive.

Recently, a rift was exposed between Flagler County Fire/Rescue Chief Don Petito and Chief Information Officer Jarrod Shupe – a high-level “blowup” that manifested in a heated turf war during preparations for Hurricane Dorian at the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

According to reports, for some reason, Shupe found it necessary to stick his nose in Chief Petito’s operational planning by arbitrarily changing radio frequencies that established interoperative communications between Palm Coast and Flagler County fire departments – a plan that had been developed by Fire/Rescue staff and signed off by Petito in his role as incident commander.

Under the National Incident Management System, the Incident Commander is just that – responsible for all aspects of the emergency response – to include managing operations, assigning tasks, the allocation of resources, and maintaining personal responsibility for all personnel involved in the incident.

To add insult, Shupe apparently mentioned in an email that Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron and Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord told him he could, “do what he wants” in the leadup to a potential catastrophic hurricane.

That’s disturbing.  

If true – and one should need to look no further than the email’s paper trail to prove it – then Cameron and Lord were wrong in allowing Shupe carte blanche to run roughshod over the incident commander.

Especially when it comes to emergency communications.  That’s dangerous.

Apparently, the internecine grudge match began under former county administrator Craig Coffee and continued to smolder on Cameron’s watch. The spat has resulted in a barrage of finger-pointing internal memorandum’s to Cameron by Shupe and Petito.

According to an informative article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Petito, in his Sept. 6 memo, describes their head-butting during Dorian as part of a pattern of Shupe continually making key changes to county firefighting operations without notifying top department officials. He blasted Shupe as a “control freak” with a “complete inability to be a team player” whose “Machiavellian leadership style” he feared would hamstring the fire department’s operations and jeopardize someone’s life during an emergency.”

In turn, Mr. Shupe fired back in a tit-for-tat memorandum to Cameron – which was accompanied by a 253-page binder crammed with information to prove his side of the story.

Jesus.  This is what Flagler County taxpayers are paying for?

“Shupe blamed the rift with Petito on a lack of communication and claimed the longtime fire chief was “regularly working to discredit him.” He also accused Petito of harassing him and his team for the past year, noting they “regularly witness vulgarity-ridden outbursts” from Petito.”

Whatever.

Now, rather than take the bull by the balls and settle this squabble firmly and equitably between his direct reports – Jerry Cameron has decided to turn a petty squabble into a tumultuous front-and-center shit show by commissioning something he calls a “Board of Inquiry” – comprised of Cameron, County Attorney Al Hadeed and Finance Director John Bower. . .

Really?

According to Cameron, the board is designed to be an “informal administrative review aimed at determining the validity of Shupe and Petito’s claims.” 

 Trust me, nothing destroys the morale of senior staff like when the chief executive spinelessly delegates his or her responsibility for sound disciplinary control of senior department heads to subordinates. . .

And which of the inquisitors will verify Chief Petito’s allegation that Cameron gave Shupe free rein to do whatever he wanted contrary to the incident management protocol? 

In an organization with an established hierarchy of control, fellow department heads should not be expected to pass judgement on each other – especially the Finance Director, who must work in a cooperative and collegial manner with all department’s – and nothing assures the necessity of expensive outside legal counsel like inappropriately involving the County Attorney in what should be a routine personnel matter. . .

Where the hell is Flagler County’s Human Resources department?

Where the hell is the Flagler County Commission?

Look, when I was in my prime, I was passionate about my service to the community – and I can admit it now – I often had sharp elbows when standing on some bullshit principle.

Invariably, my “opponent” and I found a way to hammer out an amicable, often innovative resolution to competing ideas – and became fast friends and colleagues as a result – proving that conflict in the workplace isn’t always a bad thing.

Strong leadership effectively manages disagreements before they fester – and the Shupe/Petito Feud has gone on far too long.

Chief executives who seek to develop strong employee relations don’t rely on some cobbled together kangaroo court to determine blame in what amounts to a mutual personality conflict.

In my view, if Mr. Cameron is unwilling or unable to effectively resolve an interpersonal pissing contest without resorting to some political insulation committee, perhaps Flagler County has bigger problems that two recalcitrant department heads. . .

Angel               DSC Law Enforcement Academy Class 86

Kudos to Daytona State College’s Basic Law Enforcement Class 86 for demonstrating their strong commitment to the best traditions of the police service by seeing a need and working hard to see it met.

Recently, academy participants collected school supplies for less fortunate children in our community.  In turn, Daytona Beach Police Department school resource officers will distribute the supplies to those in need.

According to reports, each Basic Law Enforcement Academy class selects a service project to demonstrate the practical application of community policing concepts.  What a wonderful way to go beyond teaching the tactical and legal aspects of the job to instill a true sense of value-based service in our next generation of law enforcement officers.

Congratulations to DSC’s Law Enforcement Academy Assistant Chair Jim Jabluszewski (who I had the pleasure of attending ‘Rookie School’ with many, many moons ago) and the entire leadership and staff of the DSC School of Emergency Services for this innovative program that will pay dividends in our community for a long time to come.

Asshole           First Step Shelter Board

I’ve got to hand it to the First Step Shelter’s new Executive Director Victoria Fahlberg, who, in just one week, turned a $60,000 base salary into a very comfortable $75,000 annual gig with the addition of several lucrative benefits – to include mileage reimbursement and an unprecedented 24 vacation days each year.

Director Fahlberg is going to need every ounce of those impressive powers of persuasion as she begins the superhuman 24/7 scramble to find $500,000 in annual contributions to make up the deficit between government contributions and what this overgrown personal development course spends.

Make no mistake, this behemoth no longer bears any semblance of the homeless shelter we were promised. . .

We are also learning that the project’s brain trust, those Titans of Industry and Government that remain on the First Step Board, somehow allowed their greedy landlord – the City of Daytona Beach – to wheedle out of paving the entire parking lot before they signed the lease. . .

My God.

Come on, P$S Paving – pave the frigging parking lot.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Do it because you can.

Do it to salve your scabbed-over conscience after hauling load-upon-load of incredibly lucrative, publicly owned fill dirt off municipal property in City Manager Jim Chisholm’s horribly lopsided deal to “add value” to the site without any request for proposals or outside bids.

Do it even if it wasn’t part of your backhanded arrangement.

Ah, screw it. . .at this point, who cares? 

Angel               City of Deltona

Congratulations to the long-suffering citizens of Deltona. . .I guess.

This week, the Deltona City Commission tweaked the zoning on some 85-acres of commercial property at the request of a developer who represents a mysterious company seeking to build a one-million square foot “distribution center” in West Volusia.

Look, I don’t want to pour cold water on what may well be an economic shot in the arm for an area that could really use one, but the secret squirrel shit bothers me.

The developer, Seefried Industrial Properties, won’t publicly identify the company that will operate the warehouse citing a “non-disclosure agreement” – that by some quirk of law supersedes the public’s right to know and make informed decisions on land use issues.

Some are speculating that the rezoning marks the return of the much-anticipated Amazon fulfillment center that was ultimately built in the Tampa area – but nobody’s talking.

All we know with certainty is the company’s representative has previously developed distribution sites for Amazon, Home Depot and Pet Smart.

Of course, local economic development types and elected officials have been struck dumb by the dollar signs dancing in their heads – they aren’t saying squat – because, according to reports, once completed the project could generate some $950,000 in ad velorem revenue for the City of Deltona.

So, citizens of Deltona are left to trust their ‘powers that be’ to do the right thing – and suffer in silence as their elected officials continue to sell past the close with soliloquies about how warehouse work is the cure-all we’ve all been waiting for, yammering about “quality of life,” “shifting the financial burden,” etc.

Bullshit.  It is what it is – they know it and we know it.

Officials estimate that the distribution center will create “several hundred” jobs – and, according to a traffic impact analysis, some 2,596 trips per day with 336 of them being made by 18-wheelers. . .

According to reports, to lessen the impact to area motorists, the enigmatic retailer will make some $6 million in “improvements” to area roadways.

In my view, Deltona, and its east side sister Daytona Beach, seem to get really excited by warehouse jobs – which are hyper-dependent on a strong retail economy and increasingly susceptible to replacement by advanced technology and robotics.

There will be a time in the not-to-distant future when having humans in the loop – with their salaries, benefits, pensions and personality quirks – no longer makes financial sense.  Not with hyper-spectral sorters that can pick up, identify and sort thousands of packages in a nanosecond and never call out sick, file workman’s comp claims or hire labor attorneys. . .

While other communities in Central Florida continue to infill established neighborhoods with upscale shopping and entertainment venues, lure high-paying job in the science/information/tech sectors and develop innovative tourism strategies that build upon our areas environmental amenities – it seems Volusia County remains content to be a regional logistics hub for large companies that don’t believe we have the “demographics” to support an actual retail outlet – just lump their freight.

Look, I get it.

Changes in the way people shop has increased demand for warehouse and distribution space; and communities like Deltona and Daytona Beach would be crazy not to reap the economic benefits of partnering with an Amazon or Pet Smart.

However, despite the giddy enthusiasm of easily wooed politicians, just remember that these “too good to be true” panacea projects are not without risk.

Anyone ever see what one-million square feet of vacant industrial warehouse space looks like when a retailer is economically forced to consolidate distribution networks closer to major population centers?

That’s just one reason it would be nice for taxpayers to know who they are getting in bed with before the deal is consummated under a cloak of secrecy.

Good luck, Deltona.

I wish you all the best on your new partnership with, well, whomever. . .

Quote of the Week

“Those were the days, ladies and gentlemen, that were fun.  It was mom-and-pop and people stayed for two or three weeks. There was no Disney World.  It was hot dog and hamburger nights. It was fun on the pool deck. It was all about families.”

 –Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging and Hospitality Association of Volusia County, speaking during an event honoring two-dozen “legends” of the Halifax area tourism industry, Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Those were the days, my friend. . .

Listening to lodging and hospitality cheerleader Bob Davis wax nostalgic for the ‘good ol’ days’ left me feeling slightly confused.

Why would anyone stand at a podium and compare idyllic days gone by – when we enjoyed a vibrant tourist-based economy with a unique brand that drew visitors from around the globe – to the current oceanfront wasteland, pockmarked with overpriced “theme” hotels, fleabag flophouses and a monstrous, half-assed “condotel” that stands like a monument to the economic stagnation that has crushed the spirit of a once proud attraction?

Apparently, we’re in the annual awards season – when various local social climbers, do-gooders and civic organizations give each other plaques and accolades at rubber chicken galas while Rome burns.

And the Lodging and Hospitality Association was not to be outdone.

At a breakfast event this week, president-for-life Bob Davis bestowed “legend” status on area “tourism pioneers” – such as Evelyn Fine of Mid-Florida Marketing & Research.

In my view, Ms. Fine’s illustrious accomplishments include perpetually renewing her contract with the Halifax Area Advertising Authority – for decades – by telling our tourism and marketing gurus exactly what they want to hear.

Other honorees included various developers, hoteliers, convention bureau types and other celebrated ‘movers and shakers’ in our horribly crippled tourism industry – many of whom continue to sit idle as the real money moves west and occupancy rates plummet. . .

Look, I don’t particularly care if people want to congratulate their own performance as their cash cow suffocates in mediocrity – history is filled with the smoldering ruins of once great industries that were allowed to crumble as visionless “experts” refused to adapt to a changing marketplace.

Perhaps it’s good that Mr. Davis and his cronies in the local hotel/motel alliance continue to live comfortably in the “good ol’ days” – blaming the best economy in decades and “Abnb” for the continuing slide – because the frightening reality of what our tourism product has become is anything but fun. . .

And Another Thing!

This week, a dear friend and I had the pleasure of attending Mediums Night at the Southern Spiritualists Camp at Cassadaga, which is held the first Monday of each month at the Andrew Jackson Davis Educational Building & Bookstore.

For a nominal fee, guests have the opportunity to sit for a spiritual reading with either a student or certified camp medium and I highly recommend you make the short drive to one of the most beautiful settings in Central Florida.

According to the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, a spiritual reading occurs “when a medium receives, processes and delivers messages from the spirit plane.”

On Monday, I enjoyed a reading from a student medium named Darlene, who extended a warm welcome and immediately made me feel at ease.

The experience was profound and insightful – with a very personal and recognizable connection with someone very special to me who long ago passed on to the Higher Spirit Plane.  It reaffirmed what I have always hoped – that our loved ones are still looking on, loving and supporting us on the path of life.

During our session, there was a noticeable hum of energy in the room – something hard to explain but immediately recognizable, like a high frequency vibration – and when our time together ended, I was touched emotionally, and left with a wonderful feeling of well-being and deep inner peace.

The experience was unexpectedly energizing.

Look, I admit that receiving the benefits of a spiritual reading requires an open mind – but if you are receptive to it – the time spent can bring a true sense of enlightenment.

Take some time and avail yourself of an evening in beautiful Cassadaga.

Enjoy a stroll through the historic Cassadaga Hotel and spend some time in the eclectic bookstore and gift shop where the names and contact information of available mediums is posted.

The staff is very friendly and can explain the process of meeting with a camp medium or healer.

The quaint community of Cassadaga is located just off I-4 in Wild West Volusia near the Town of Lake Helen.

Anyhow, thanks for reading.  Have a great weekend, friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for October 11, 2019

  1. To your point about the chief who didn’t like managing people, I’m reminded of a line a congressman (not naming names) once told me about the life of working as a congressman: “this job would be perfect if it weren’t for constituents and elections”. Says it all.

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  2. As a deputy sheriff, I worked the zone that included Cassadaga for many years. I found the people living there in the Spiritualist Camp to be kind, genuine and welcoming, unquestionably helping each other and all who may have wandered into their paths. One of the Spiritualist mantras is that God lives a little in each person, so it you are mean or hateful to someone else, you are being mean and hateful to God. Regardless of your spiritual position in life, I don’t think that I want to be mean or hateful to God. So it always stayed with me – you never know if you are actually interacting with a higher power…just sayin’

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