It’s that time of year when ghouls and goblins take to the streets in search of sweet treats and what passes for fall in Central Florida begins to usher in some less humid air and heat indexes somewhere south of the high 90’s (we hope).
Unfortunately, the political atmosphere here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast has ruined the spirit of the season for us long-suffering locals.
After watching the spooky machinations of our local elected officials – and the macabre half-truths and eerie sense of utter dysfunction that routinely flutter from the dark belfry of Volusia County government – contrived haunted houses and creepy costumes just don’t scare us much anymore. . .
I wanted to take a moment to tell you a parable I experienced the other day – a mark in time which, in my view, serves as a perfect metaphor for these weird, upside-down, topsy-turvy times we live in on this salty piece of land we call home – a message I hope you seriously contemplate as our election season begins to heat up.
Last weekend, a dear old friend and I took a drive to the lovely Lake County community of Mount Dora to attend the 35th Annual Craft Fair, a wildly popular event that brings some 400 vendors – and tens-of-thousands of visitors – to the city’s quaint downtown each fall.
Due to the extraordinary attendance on Sunday, we were required to park in a distant church lot which was renting spaces at a premium as a fundraiser for their youth programs – then hike the interminable distance to the event on a blistering Central Florida autumn morning.
As we approached an intersection, I noticed a young towheaded boy – perhaps 9-years old – standing fixed in the middle of the narrow sidewalk, irritatingly blocking the arduous progress of those making their way down the hill toward the festival.
At first, I thought he was just another self-absorbed “Generation Z” lost in his own weird world – then, when he snickered with his friends, I realized what he was doing. . .
The child’s father was very animatedly spinning a tattered sign nearby, attempting to lure traffic into another private parking lot – totally unaware that his son was making sport of impeding foot traffic – a game that required the elderly and infirm (like me) to leave the sidewalk, guide through the unstable grass or step off the curb to get around the rickety little turd.
I remarked to my friend that my gut reaction was to horse-kick the kid out of my path – landing him on his ass in the middle of East 5th Avenue – but immediately realized, in that scenario, I would be considered the bad guy. . .
Because that is the world we live in now.
In my view, booting the recalcitrant child into next Tuesday would have imparted a temporarily painful, yet infinitely valuable, life-long lesson on the importance of good manners.
After all, I don’t have the time or inclination to teach some ungovernable urchin the inviolate rules of the road – like the social imperative of stepping aside when old people are attempting to navigate an uneven sidewalk – yet, it’s me who would have been seen as an abusive shitheel for applying a well-earned, and highly educational, swift kick to the ass. . .
This little vignette reminded me of how special interests and the perennial politicians they control continue to obstruct progress throughout Volusia County.
From beach driving, to economic development, malignant sprawl, water quality issues, downtown Daytona and beyond – those we elect to serve our interests – officials who have the power to kick these insidious insiders and do-nothing bureaucrats to the curb, have become so horribly compromised by our warped campaign finance system that now we are all at the mercy of a few uber-wealthy overseers and their dull tools on the dais of power.
And, it seems our watchdogs have all been neutered. . .
The newsroom at our local paper is hemorrhaging talent while the number of government “public information” mouthpieces continue to multiply – and true local journalism is becoming a thing of the past as news-gathering organizations continue the push toward regionalization and a reliance on homogenized “feelgood” pap – creating a slanted playing field that allows outsize influences to affect public policy with little challenge.
We now find ourselves in a sick scenario where our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and others like him, routinely fumble and bumble their way through important public meetings – rubber-stamping what passes for ill-informed public policy cobbled together by an entrenched senior staff – with all the poise and statesmanship of diseased rats maneuvering through an electrified maze. . .
And none of this frightens us anymore.
Then, some half-bright like me tries to voice an alternative opinion on the seemingly intractable issues that impede progress here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – to point out the faults in this oligarchical “system” that controls our lives and livelihoods and expose corrosive issues that should be clear as gin to any elected or appointed official who actually pays attention – and I’m called a demented asshole by our ‘powers that be’?
Strange times, indeed.
I hope come election time, you’ll remember the twisted moral of this simpleminded folktale – and vote for those candidates who promise to figuratively kick these political roadblocks off our collective sidewalk – and return a sense of honor, transparency and values-based service to Volusia County government.
Trick or Treat, y’all. . .