“Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehoods in school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.”
We live in strange times, indeed.
Look, I’m just a blowhard with internet access who pontificates on the issues of the day – railing against the perennial politicians and bureaucratic do-nothings that are actively destroying our quality of life.
Admittedly, I spend an inordinate amount of time brooding on our collective situation, then putting my jumbled thoughts into words. In a weird way, venting my spleen in this space is cathartic for a local boy who has lived in the Halifax area for over a half century.
Try as I might, I’ll be damned if I can figure out solutions to the myriad questions surrounding the ‘why’ of how a once vibrant tourist destination has been allowed to crumble into a quagmire of blight, dilapidation and economic stagnation.
I’m normally not a maudlin guy – but sometimes it really bothers me.
Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that our illustrious elected and appointed officials who accept public funds to serve in the public interest seem utterly clueless – and our “visionaries” in high places, like the mysterious CEO Business Alliance who seem to control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide on the Fun Coast – can’t develop workable solutions either.
They’ve simply thrown in the towel. . .
Tragically, those who should be holding our wholly ineffectual “leaders” to task – the Chamber of Commerce set who represent struggling businesses in this artificial economy – seem comfortable accepting the tired rhetoric of mediocrity seeping from city and county government.
And if I hear another real estate broker or economic development shill tell me how – as occupancy and daily rates are plummeting at area hotels, airport passenger traffic continues its drastic decline, malignant blight spreads on the beachside, Midtown and our Ridgewood Avenue commercial corridor and beyond – “Amazing things are happening in our community,” I’m going to vomit.
Why? Because it’s bullshit, that’s why.
I’m not talking about “New Daytona” that’s being built on Boomtown Boulevard – I’m talking about our horribly challenged beachside – a “real” beach community, not some faux purpose-built theme subdivision – that has almost purposely been allowed to wither and die.
Anyone who lives in these neglected neighborhoods – or visits our area on vacation – can see it up close and personal.
On Friday morning, Daytona Beach city officials joined concerned residents, business owners and civic activists in a walking tour of the smoldering ruins of our core tourist area.
Unfortunately – despite the exuberant pap and fluff of those with a vested interest in telling us what they think we want to hear – it became apparent that city officials still don’t have a comprehensive strategy for the physical and economic revitalization of the beachside.
According to an excellent report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, City Manager Jim Chisholm admitted, “It takes private investors to be part of the solution. We can have the greatest plan, but an investor has to see they can make a wise investment.”
I agree. But what plan is he talking about?
In order for entrepreneurial investment to be attractive and financially practical in Daytona Beach, investors must be free of the bureaucratic formalities, exorbitant fees, mind-numbing applications, processes and approvals that continue to force small businesses to close or relocate to more “business friendly” areas.
For instance, in a recent News-Journal piece on the condemnation and demolition of dilapidated properties which often trades one form of blight for another, Tom Huger, a contractor and former City of Daytona Beach facilities manager, described an investor seeking to put an $85,000 beauty salon project on distressed George Engram Boulevard – an opportunity that would require $25,000 in municipal permits.
Sadly, rather than taking people like Daytona Beach Economic Development Director Reed Berger by the short hairs and demanding something – anything – that can explain how, with $120 million over the transom, the area between Oakridge Boulevard and International Speedway Boulevard continues to struggle for its very survival – the Chamber of Commerce has seemingly rolled over and acquiesced to the city’s fatalistic view.
According to reports, Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Nancy Keefer admitted during the tour that it may take “30-40 years” to turn things around.
Sorry, Nancy. I’m not sure your members who struggle to keep the doors open on beachside businesses have that much time. . .
Fortunately, there are bright spots – glowing pilot lights of inspiration that continue to flicker amidst the darkness of economic futility – and give hope for the future of the Main Street Redevelopment Area and beyond.
For instance, bold entrepreneurs like Krista Goodrich and Tom Caffrey – who renovated a vacant store front on Main Street, jumped through the bureaucratic hoops, and formed two highly successful endeavors, Pallet Pub and Hopcycles – and the intrepid Phaedra Lee at Main Street Station – and the tireless community activist Amy Pyle, to name a few.
These are young, energetic investors with new and innovative ideas for the future who continue to give their blood, sweat, tears – and money – to help revitalize one of our beachside’s most important commercial corridors with little, if any, assistance from city or county government.
Perhaps it’s time our uninspired city officials get the hell out of their way?
In my view, the City of Daytona Beach – and the Regional Chamber of Commerce – simply cannot continue to do nothing and expect a different result.
This almost suicidal inaction – and Mr. Chisholm’s odd strategy of waiting for the entrepreneurial Knight in Shinning Armor to appear and solve all of our civic, social and economic challenges – is less than inspiring to businesses and homeowners who are hanging on by their financial fingernails.
It is painfully clear to anyone paying attention that those who pass for “economic development” gurus in the Halifax area have become tired, visionless, sloth-like sluggards more content with maintaining whatever status quo ensures their continued place at the public tit – rather than fostering a free, open and level marketplace that supports and encourages the very private investment they so desperately seek.
Barker’s View will be taking a few days to rest, relax and recharge – please enjoy past postings at your leisure – and I’ll return with our usual mishmash of rants, raves and alternative opinions on the issues of the day next week.
As always, thanks so much for reading.