Angels & Assholes for October 25, 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           Team Volusia

Go figure. . .

Earlier this week Barker’s View advanced even higher on the “Halifax Area Civic Shit List” when I penned my goofy opinion on Team Volusia, and our other hyper-redundant “economic development” maharishis, following a solid piece by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Business Reporter Clayton Park which explored the not-so-mysterious demise of Blue Coast Bakers in Ormond Beach.

Apparently, I succeeded in personally offending everyone in the Volusia County economic development apparatus.

Oh, well.  Can’t please everyone, right?

Besides, in this case, I have purchased the right to an opinion.

As a resident of Ormond Beach, I’m an honorary Executive Level “investor” in Team Volusia – which means $25,000 in public funds that originated from my neighbors and I go to underwrite this hayride each year. . .

Whatever.

At the risk of paraphrasing Clayton Park’s excellent reportage, when Blue Coast purchased an aging distribution center circa 2014, Team Volusia announced the company had the potential to create 300 jobs with an average annual wage of $38,000 – resulting in a potential financial impact to Volusia’s gross domestic product of $46,000,000.

That’s one helluva bakery, dudes and dudettes.  Heady stuff.

The problem is – it was all bullshit.

Now, many question if we can believe anything Team Volusia says. . .

Landing Blue Coast Bakers was held out as a testament to the power of expensive direct mailings, and, by association, evidence of a return on our investment for the thousands of dollars in national and international travel for Team Volusia execs, the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK,  the auspicious Hannover Messe Industrial/Technology Show in Germany, extravagant meetings in Tokyo, the full-color annual reports that look like a travelogue, the VIP Rolex 24 soirees and other expensive perks, spiffs and bait offered for other potential “Big Wins.”

Everyone in the crapshoot that is the “economic development” game hung their hat on it.

Blue Coast was the toast of regional business journals, annual reports and cocktail parties.

Even the illustrious up-and-coming civic honchos at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce proudly listed Blue Coast Bakers in it’s 2019 Membership Directory and Buyers Guide as one of Volusia County’s “Top Employers” at 300 jobs.  (Source: Team Volusia – July 2017 latest data – Page 49)

One small problem:  Blue Coast Bakers ceased operations in 2018 and everyone associated with the venture – including the measly “15 to 20” jobs it produced – has been MIA since. . .

“I’m not sure what happened,” said Team Volusia CEO Keith Norden, whose group played a key role in bringing Blue Coast Bakers here. “It took so much time for him to get set up, but his equipment was there.”

Well, Mr. Norden may have been poleaxed by the news – but I think I know what happened:

Team Volusia and others used Blue Coast Bakers as a cheap marketing tool to further their own self-interests – then promptly forgot about the poor rube when it unceremoniously folded.

They flogged the shit out it as the next big thing in glossy annual reports – touted a struggling start-up commercial bakery in a building which required $12 million in upgrades as the best thing since sliced bread (pun intended), promised hundreds of “high paying” jobs, then screamed and preened in various business journals and our local newspaper “Look at what we did, assholes!” as an ostentatious means of keeping their publicly funded do-nothing gigs – then, crickets, when the whole shebang folded and vaporized.

Now, the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce claims they weren’t intentionally duped by their “partners” at Team Volusia as I suggested earlier in the week – nor did they deliberately puff the 300 nonexistent jobs in their glossy magazine without any concern for the validity of the information.

According to Nancy Keefer, president and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, the erroneous information was the result of timing – the buyer’s guide goes for design and layout well in advance, so the information was dated, at best, when the publication went to press.

At worst, the job data was fabricated by Team Volusia – who either knew, or should have known, that Blue Coast Baker never employed more than “15 to 20” on their best day.

But I’m not supposed to concern myself with those things. . .

Neither are you.  Because it upsets the apple cart.

Enough with the rude questions and innuendo, Barker.

You’re just pissing very important people off and making others terribly uncomfortable.

Besides, nay-saying assholes like me don’t attract “high paying” jobs to our area – however, spewing positive gibberish regardless of circumstance, publishing false narratives about our economic situation and going along to get along does. . .

So, screw it.  Keep doing what you’re doing guys!

Enjoy the international VIP treatment in Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and beyond – just keep flyin’ high, Mr. Norden – and maybe you’ll luck into a couple hundred of those highly coveted warehouse jobs we’re all dreamy-eyed over.

Hell, even a blind hog gets an acorn every now and again, right? 

All it takes is pulling wild estimates of job creation potential out of your collective ass and giving false hope to the thousands of Volusia County families who struggle to meet basic living expenses each month that Easy Street is just around the corner – but who cares? 

That rabble doesn’t build distribution centers.

Besides, you can clean it all up by handing out awards to all the right last names at the next glitzy annual gala. . .

I’m wrong.  You’re right.  Everything’s great.  Eat the poor.

GO TEAM!

Angel              The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia

With little fanfare and even less civic drama, The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia is well on its way to providing a first-rate homeless assistance center.

The come-as-you-are shelter and “day center” will provide services for nearly the same number of clients as the languishing First Step Shelter – for less than half the annual cost. . .

According to the City of DeLand:

“The proposed 6,300 square foot facility, called “The Bridge” will include 30 crisis center beds, a communal dining area and commercial kitchen, showers, offices and space to provide coordinated entry and case management, mental health and drug abuse counseling, job counseling, medical care, haircuts, showers and laundry.  The goal of this coordinated and comprehensive approach is to transition people to housing within 30-90 days.”

One thing I admire about the West Volusia shelter is how some 50 local volunteers have come on-board – and the City of DeLand has donated several surplus vehicles to assist the community effort.

I also appreciate how DeLand City Manager Michael Pleus is intent on ensuring that The Bridge is a safe and comfortable environment for those it serves.

The differences between The Bridge and First Step are striking, both in its funding strategy and administration, and proves that a community-oriented focus is always better than the competing interests of petty politicians – and profiteers.

Asshole           County of Volusia

Like The Dude said, “New shit has come to light, man. . .”

Here’s an update to another controversial piece I wrote earlier in the week – but given the grave ramifications of this latest revelation of gross resource mismanagement in Volusia County government – it bears repeating:

On Monday, reporter Dustin Wyatt (we’re gonna miss you, buddy) wrote a revealing piece on the growing “mystery” surrounding Volusia County’s previous sponsorship and transportation assistance to the suddenly controversial North Turn Beach Parade.

For the past eight-years, as part of a still puzzling “sponsorship agreement,” Volusia County has used Votran buses to transport visitors to and from the parade in Ponce Inlet.

Only now – after County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert’s sketchy attempt to kill the popular event was begrudgingly overturned on a 5-2 vote – is the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys calling foul.

In fact, she labeled the parade’s use of the county transportation service “discrimination” – and acted for all the world like this was the first time she was ever made aware of Votran’s involvement.   

 Is it possible that Volusia County – a massive taxing authority with an annual budget approaching $1 Billion – could have committed public funds to assist a community event for nearly a decade with absolutely no official allocation (or even knowledge) of the recurring expenditure?

You bet your ass it is. . .

Look, in my view, Volusia County should assist with logistics for the parade – just as it should accommodate other communities who host successful cultural events that draw thousands of visitors to our area each year.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?   

 I mean, isn’t that why publicly funded organizations like the Convention & Visitors Bureau exist?

In my view, the darker issue is that absolutely no one in a position to do so has any memory of just how the county came to subsidize the parade – who authorized the expenditure of resources – or even a true accounting of the amount of public funds spent.

According to the News-Journal, “Last year, the Legends event cost taxpayers $9,732, with nearly half of that ($4,464) going to Votran and the rest going to county staffing and marketing for the event. Since 2013, the county has spent $16,500 on Votran for the event. But the total of the other costs remains unknown.”

Marketing?

The total of the other costs remains unknown?

Jesus. . .

According to Kevin Captain, Volusia County’s “Interim Director of Community Information”:

“There’s not anyone on staff who seems to know. There’s no record of it.”

No record of it?

Even former County Manager Jim Dinneen – who, I’m convinced, was aware of every backroom deal and shoot-it-through-the-grease public policy legerdemain in recent memory – has no conscious recollection of the matter.

Weird. 

Only former County Councilman Josh Wagner accepted responsibility for the baffling sponsorship agreement.

According to Mr. Wagner, he brought the issue up in one of those famous “off the agenda” public policy by ambush sessions during his comments at the end of a Volusia County Council meeting.

Naturally, there is no official record of the authorization – and former council members Pat Northey and Doug Daniels both dispute Wagner’s self-assured recollections.

“It was discussed,” said Wagner. “There wasn’t any kind of hidden agenda. There was nothing hidden at all.”

Interestingly, research conducted by parade organizer Rhonda Glasnak finds that, while the origin of the sponsorship agreement remains an enigma – our current elected officials were all keenly aware of the event in 2018.

How?  Because it was placed on their community event update in February 2018. . .

A check of the February 6, 2018, County Council agenda packet finds the following:

“The seventh annual Historic North Turn Legends Beach Parade will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 10 in Ponce Inlet, running down Atlantic Avenue making the south turn onto the world’s most famous beach. The event is a cooperative effort among Volusia County Government, the Town of Ponce Inlet and Racing’s North Turn restaurant. These are the sites of the original north and south turns of the early beach and road course.

This was the 4.1-mile course where the Grand National Race ran from 1948 until 1958, when it was relocated to the new Super Speedway, today known as Daytona International Speedway.

Spectators should park at Toronita Avenue Park, 4200 S. Atlantic Ave., Wilbur-by-the-Sea. Votran will provide free shuttle service to and from the north and south turn beach ramps from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. At 9 a.m. at Winter Haven Park, there will be a historic marker unveiling of a bronze marker honoring the only original NASCAR strip of beach/road course left in Volusia County.”

Wow.  Sounds pretty clear to me. . .

The update was prepared and presented to each council member as an agenda item four days before the 2018 parade by former Community Information Director Joanne Magley, who earlier this month was anointed director of marketing and customer service at Daytona “International” Airport. . .

So, why didn’t Councilwoman Denys get her knickers in a twist when she was informed of Votran’s direct involvement last year?

Why the selective amnesia, Deb?

Is this massive financial oversight and subsequent bureaucratic tap dance the real reason Mr. Eckert attempted to put the kibosh on the Legend’s parade after eight years of routine approvals?

And how can We, The People have any confidence that there aren’t other torrential leaks of our hard-earned tax dollars that absolutely no one with the fiduciary responsibility to steward public funds has any knowledge of?

My God. . .

Exactly how much of our money has to go missing – with no official record of lawful requisition, allocation or proper accounting – before someone, anyone, with a badge steps up, issues subpoenas, and begins a competent criminal investigation of Volusia County government?

Don’t those of us who, for years, have been asked to pay the bills and suffer in silence have a right to demand answers?

Damned right we do.

Quote of the Week

 “There is, of course, a faster way to settle this. That’s to invite an outside entity, perhaps the St. Johns River Water Management District, to provide independent testing proving that collectively, septic tanks in the north peninsula are a problem. The city should pursue that testing.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial, “Test claims about septic,” Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The controversial push by Ormond Beach City Councilman Dwight Selby and other local “movers & shakers” (who aren’t generally seen as tree-hugging dirt worshipers) to convert thousands of existing septic systems in Ormond-by-the-Sea to municipal sewer over environmental concerns continues.

I’ve sat down with Mr. Selby and listened to his reasoning and I’ve talked to representatives of grassroots organizations and private citizens who oppose the measure.

Mr. Selby makes a cogent argument for why this is the time – and the north peninsula is the place – to begin the massive undertaking of cleaning up the Halifax River and Tomoka Basin.

Conversely, residents of Ormond-by-the-Sea have an equally convincing narrative why they are suspicious of Mr. Selby’s motives – and aren’t ready to bend over for an aggressive conversion program foisted on them by a neighboring municipality – unless and until someone without a chip in the game provides scientific evidence of need.

For instance, septic-to-sewer proponents have long stood on the findings of a 2013 Florida Department of Health report which indicates soil conditions on the north peninsula aren’t conducive to septic systems.

Now, a senior administrator for the Department of Health in Volusia County claims the report was merely a recommendation and shouldn’t be used to determine whether Ormond-by-the-Sea should hook into Ormond Beach’s sewer system.

I found that quavering side-step by a senior state bureaucrat troubling – and a far cry from the Burning Bush relevance Mr. Selby and others have put on the report as the foundational argument for the conversion. . .

Caused me to take a step back, anyway.

In my view – like most hot button issues in Volusia County – the septic-to-sewer wars all boil down to a simple matter of trust.

The unfortunate reality is that many citizens no longer trust their elected and appointed officials to represent their best interests.

To his credit, civic activist Jeff Brower, an able candidate for Volusia County Council Chair, stepped up and did what many have been demanding since this debate started – he took it upon himself to take soil samples and sent them to an independent laboratory for analysis.

For his trouble, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, took a cheap shot at Mr. Brower’s efforts, labeling him “just another person who thinks he knows more than the experts.”

The difference being that Jeff Brower actually took definitive steps to seek an independent scientific study into the question of whether or not septic systems have contributed to nutrient contamination of area estuaries – while, predictably, Old Ed sat on his ass, sniping from the clown quarters. . .

Recently, Clifford Gold of Ormond Beach, a civil sanitary engineer with over 70 years’ experience, suggested in a letter to the editor of the News-Journal, “a careful study of the number of failing systems before adopting the major expense of subsurface piping systems (and possibly pumping stations).”

According to Mr. Gold, the most efficient means of conducting this study may be spectrographic analysis using infrared aerial photography to identify compromised systems.

“It appears that more advance study is needed before resorting to the construction nuisance and expense of public sewers.”

 I agree.

Next Tuesday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal is hosting a coffee klatch from 7:30am to 9:00am at Alfie’s Restaurant, 1666 Ocean Shore Boulevard, to further discussion of this thorny issue.

“In the spirit of creating dialog,” the News-Journal hopes to bring city and county officials together with area residents to share information and “answer questions regarding septic and sewer.”

It’s a noble effort – and a civil discussion of the issue certainly can’t hurt – but, in my view, until testing conclusively confirms that north peninsula septic systems represent a significant contributor to groundwater contamination and pollutants in the Halifax River – I’m not sure Ormond Beach and Volusia County “leaders” have any hard answers to provide. . .

Trust me.  More official speculation by bureaucrats and politicians isn’t going to help matters.

In my view, it is time for the City of Ormond Beach to work with their concerned neighbors to agree on an independent engineering firm – one which residents have confidence in – who can conduct an impartial study with a focus on identifying answers to the myriad questions surrounding this incredibly controversial initiative.

Only then can both sides begin substantive negotiations to either proceed – or nix the idea altogether – with all the facts at hand.

And Another Thing!

Last week, Volusia County School Board Chairman Carl Persis appeared on the public affairs radio forum Govstuff Live! with Big John to discuss topical issues facing our embattled school district.

I appreciate Chairman Persis’ willingness to accept hard questions regarding the seemingly intractable problems that continue to plague the district – and I was most impressed by the depth of his clearly well-thought answers and explanations.

In the aftermath of the security breech at Spruce Creek High School earlier this month – wherein an ambulatory drunk armed with a pocketknife penetrated every layer of security at a slow stagger before taking a seat in an occupied classroom – I asked the Volusia County School District for a list of qualifications for the individual who has been appointed our “Emergency Management and School Safety Coordinator.” 

I’m not going to identify the person by name – it’s not important, and its not his fault – he’s a veteran educator, not a security expert – a fish out of water.

Besides, I understand that legitimate journalists are actively looking into this issue and I’ll leave it to them to tell the full story. . .

To my surprise, the public records custodian responded to my simple request by announcing that the district had no current resume or listing of credentials for the individual upon who’s shoulders rests the most sensitive, gravely important responsibility of all – the physical safety and security of our children. 

In turn, I was provided with perhaps the worst written, ill-conceived job description I’ve ever read – a cobbled together hodgepodge of grammatically erroneous horseshit that culminates in a “Position Goal” of:

“To provide supervision and oversight for all school safety and security personnel, policies and procedures as well as to school social services to students of Volusia County Schools.”

Yeah.

When I expressed my utter shock that the district’s human resources department didn’t have a list of qualifications for the person performing this extraordinarily important function – someone scrounged around the musty files and produced a resume for the individual – circa 1993.

You read that right:  The latest vetted credentials available for the senior district executive with personal responsibility for the physical safety and security of thousands of students and staff is at least 26-years stale. . .

Look, I don’t know about where you work – but during my professional life, we used personnel action forms to document academic achievements, certifications, advanced training, unique abilities, credentials and experience attained by our employees during the course of their career  as a way of determining who possessed the requisite skills and qualifications before we promoted them to sensitive positions of great responsibility within the agency.

What a wacky concept, right?   

So, based upon our “Emergency Management and School Safety Coordinator’s” resume, I was able to determine that – once again – we have a security coordinator who does not possess the statutorily defined qualifications to serve as an armed School Guardian – the very position he is charged with supervising. 

During Chairman Persis’ radio appearance, I had the opportunity to ask him if – given the current environment and the findings of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas report – Volusia County Schools would consider recruiting a credentialed and experienced physical security expert to develop and oversee competent protocols for our clearly vulnerable schools.

To his credit, Mr. Persis committed to exploring that possibility.

And I intend to hold him to it.

You see, I don’t have the luxury of taking an impartial and unbiased stance on this incredibly disturbing district-wide practice of promoting and utilizing wholly unqualified individuals in sensitive roles  – because I have young members of my own family who are placed in the district’s charge each and every day.

In an emergency, their lives, and hundreds of other innocents, will depend upon the dedication, leadership and knowhow of the district’s security specialist.

It is my sincere hope that Chairman Persis holds firm to his word, and encourages the other members of the Volusia County School Board to develop sound public policy that raises the security function from a catchall afterthought to the professional standing it deserves.

______________________

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read and further a greater discussion of the issues facing us here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast!

If you’re looking for something extra special to do this weekend, the Glenn Ring Memorial Concert will be held at the historic Daytona Beach Bandshell tomorrow afternoon from 2:00pm to 6:00pm.

Area musicians will join to remember Glenn’s storied life and legacy – and honor his important contributions to the Daytona Beach music scene.  Beer and wine will be available for purchase and you will be able to rent chairs on-site.

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Sunday, October 27, 2019, at 2:00pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 56 N. Halifax Drive, Ormond Beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for October 25, 2019

    1. Pulver, good gracious, you write well, but you know nothing about septic tanks and environmental regulations and rules. Stay away from writing about anything envioronmental.

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  1. Great Mark, you continue to rub salt into the open wounds regarding the topic of school security within our County (And so you should). I still wonder if Carl and his board members ever conducted a root cause analysis, hotwash, whatever one group does to reflect upon and correct past actions. As a plankowner of the DHS and having to hold a ton of credentials to uphold and protect high stake infrastructures and assets, a breach that as you aptly state, penetrating all security protocol levels is unacceptable. Unfortunately, this too will fade away until the next incident that maybe makes press, starts the conversation all over again. Distractions and complacency within institutions is the new norm, and talk is cheap. I know you totally get it!

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  2. Does Selby or perhaps one of his family members own a construction company?? Maybe one that might just “specialize” in converting septic to public utilities??? HMMMMM🤔🤔

    VCSD=NOWORDS 😡

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  3. Mr. Barker don’t hold your Hopes up. Mr. Persis didn’t hold Up to investigating a Deltona High Assistant Principal pictured in multiple photos with a hand gesture like a gun. Instead of taking it seriously they say it was a joke. Even when he appears with students. While our students get arrested (autistic) even when they have disabilities, for making alleged threats.

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