Angels & Assholes for December 6, 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:

Angel              Daytona Beach Police Department

It’s been a tough few weeks for the City of Daytona Beach.

For all of us, really.

A spate of violent crime – including nine deaths – has radiated through the community and galvanized the Halifax area – teaching us all a brutal lesson of just how cheap life has become to the criminal element.

By the grace of God and their superior skill, on Monday, Daytona Beach police officers successfully defended themselves against an armed and dangerous suspect who had fatally wounded a neighbor before attempting to murder responding officers.

Some might say these incidents illustrate just how close the line between order and utter chaos truly is. . .

Young men argue, angry words turn to unspeakable violence. Scores are settled with heartbreaking permanence.  Debts are paid in blood.  Revenge becomes the operative ethic.  The cycle of drugs and despair turn to aggression and cruelty.  Lives – and the peace of a community – tragically destroyed.

Madness.

The truth is, these senseless crimes of violence are almost impossible to prevent.

Unlike property crimes, where removing either the desire, opportunity or ability to commit the act can markedly reduce the occurrence – these despicable acts of gun violence we’ve experienced speak to something infinitely more difficult to protect against.

Because this evil manifests in the human heart and soul.

Standing courageous and firm in the breach between the timeless forces of good and evil are the incredible men and women of the Daytona Beach Police Department.

These hard-charging public servants continue to put themselves in harm’s way – again and again – working diligently and heroically to keep the peace, protect the innocent and bring those responsible for these horrific acts to justice.

In my view, the leadership, officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department have acted in the finest traditions of the police service to reduce tensions, ease our fears and protect the vulnerable.

It takes a special breed to work the streets during these difficult and dangerous times – and I sincerely appreciate the extraordinary service of these brave souls who respond to our desperate calls for help and work so diligently to serve the community.

Their valor brings us hope.

I am especially proud of the way Chief Craig Capri has responded to this unusual eruption of violence – providing reassurance and a calming presence to his worried constituents, becoming the face of the city’s active response, and demonstrating the guts and leadership we’ve come to expect from this consummate law enforcement professional.

On Tuesday, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Paula Reed organized a candlelight vigil to honor those killed in Midtown violence and foster unity among her grieving constituency.

Some 200 people attended the service at the Dickerson Center, including Chief Capri and Sheriff Michael Chitwood, who, in both word and deed, have demonstrated their unyielding support for justice – and the citizens of Daytona Beach.

In my view, events like this bring healing and understanding during troubled times, and I applaud Commissioner Reed’s concern, activism and leadership.

Angels indeed.

Sometimes it is during our darkest hours when our community shines brightest.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

 Weeks ago, Volusia County School Board Chairman Carl Persis made a personal commitment to me that he would consider hiring a competent and credentialed security professional to oversee the safety of children who attend district schools.

As of this writing, it is increasingly apparent that Chairman Persis is a damnable bullshit artist – a polished politician, schooled in the dark art of telling concerned constituents exactly what they want to hear. . .

Thanks for nothing, Carl.

Misleading a rube like me is one thing – but standing idle while our schools dissolve into a Guyanese penal colony (think Papillion, only more depraved) is morally reprehensible. . .

What has to happen before someone – anyone – in a position of responsibility gets off their ass and does something in this district? 

Last month, we learned through an investigative report in the West Volusia Beacon that, during a five-week period in October and early November, members of the DeLand Police Department responded to at least eight fights on the campus of DeLand Middle School – and arrested some 14 children, ages 11 to 14.

Yesterday, social media was ablaze as worried parents literally begged for information following reports of multiple brawls in the courtyard of Atlantic High School in Port Orange – a violent melee that took multiple law enforcement officers from three jurisdictions and the physical arrest of 12 students to suppress – including that of an adult who penetrated the thin slice of Swiss cheese that passes for campus security protocols armed with a pair of brass knuckles.

In my view, forcing terrified parents to send their vulnerable children into these deplorable and dangerous conditions is a travesty.

Monday, our new superintendent, Ronald “Scott” Fritz, signed for this godforsaken mess.

Welcome to Thunderdome, Scotty. . .

I understand that Dr. Fritz began his tenure this week by stroking stakeholders with frivolous questions such as, “What is your greatest concern with Volusia County Schools?” and “What should we stop doing because it’s not working?”

Does he take the paper? 

In my view, when the physical security of our children and teachers is in immediate jeopardy –  time is of the essence – and passing this off as “something going on in the community” won’t fly this time.

Hey, Doc – let’s agree that we can all sit cross-legged on the floor, sing Kumbaya, and mew over what our favorite color is when safety and sanity is restored, okay?

Look, I’m more than willing to give Dr. Fritz the benefit of the doubt – after all, he’s barely taken his seat, but quelling chaos and violent clashes in Volusia County schools should have been priority one – day one.

Perhaps Dr. Fritz should hit the ground running and start firing these incompetent posers that continue to masquerade as “security specialists” – callously accepting public funds for a role they are flagrantly unqualified for – then work to return a sense of order and decency to this post-apocalyptic cage match that passes for a public school system.

Because – for $205,000 a year – this violent and wholly dysfunctional quagmire is his personal and professional responsibility now. . .

In my view, the utter outrage expressed by many parents is more than justified.

It’s time for the Volusia County School Board to admit they are desperately incapable of restoring order, ensuring accountability or bringing a modicum of security to the learning environment – then they should do the honorable thing and resign, en masse, and allow their frightened constituents to elect strong, authoritative and responsive representation who will work in the best interests of our besieged children.

My God.  This cannot continue.

Our students, parents, teachers and staff deserve better.

Angel              Stephen Elliott, Warner Christian Academy 

“A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”

–Author Unknown

A loyal Barker’s View reader and successful Warner Christian alumnus reports the untimely passing of the extraordinary educator, Stephen Elliott, who served WCA students for nearly 40-years.

According to Steve’s touching obituary, he estimated having taught over 4,000 students during his wonderful career – and remained a friend, mentor and confidant to many through the years.

In an era when the worth of teachers is quantified by the sterile statistics of standardized tests – clearly, Steve Elliott’s profound contributions to his profession, and our community, can be measured by the lives he touched in such a brilliantly positive way.

The calling to prepare young minds for a rich and fulfilling life is an infinitely important one, and true educators like Steve leave an indelible part of themselves with each pupil – each future leader.  In turn, their legacy of service to others endures.

Steve Elliott passed into the loving arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Tuesday.  He was 64 years old.

A memorial service celebrating Mr. Elliott’s life will be held at White Chapel Church of God, South Daytona, tomorrow morning at 11:00am.

Visitation will be prior to the memorial at 10:00am.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Warner Christian Academy, 1730 S. Ridgewood Avenue, South Daytona, Florida, earmarked for the “Steve Elliott Memorial” which will be used for the improvement of the school library.

Angel               County of Volusia Environmental Management Division    

Throughout December, Volusia County environmental specialists will lead a series of outdoor events which provide an opportunity for citizens to explore the unique ecosystems and natural places right in our own backyard.

These free Explore Volusia programs include insights into the unique biological processes of the Indian River Lagoon, an eco-buggy tour of Deep Creek Preserve, bicycle excursions, informative discussions of native flora and fauna, a look at land management practices and opportunities to paddle the backwaters of our sensitive local estuaries to observe birds and wildlife in their natural habitat.

These exciting explorations of our areas sensitive bio-systems is sponsored by Volusia County’s Environmental Management Division.

Kudos to Volusia County government for educating residents on the diverse ecology where we call home in such a fun and immersive way.

For dates, times and reservations, please call 386-736-5927.

Asshole           Team Volusia

Look, I get it.

I’m the antithesis of our always ebullient Chamber of Commerce types who continue to put a cheerful face on the struggling Halifax area – while seemingly ignoring the myriad problems that have an economic stranglehold on our core tourist area, the marked decrease in special event attendance, plummeting occupancy rates, blight and dilapidation, tone deaf politicians and an artificial economy based solely on the same five people passing the same nickel around.

No, I’m an insufferable critic – a nay-saying blowhard who points out the worst in everything.

However, my fervid hope remains that, with the right kind of ears, even those infernal optimists at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce might occasionally discern a kernel of truth in these crude rants. . .

I can assure you the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County are listening – intently – because the things we see with our own bloodshot eyes no longer comport with what we are being told by our ‘powers that be’ – and that is not helping our growing social stratification and festering “trust issues” one damn bit.

Case in point – the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce produces a glossy quarterly “business and professional” magazine known as Evolve, which features self-aggrandizing puff pieces on our local ‘movers and shakers,’ complete with flattering photographic spreads and high-priced advertisements featuring the smiling visages of everyone who is anyone on the Fun Coast.

Far be it from me to tell the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce how to spend their members money, but when I repeatedly see Team Volusia – our tax supported “public/private” economic development corporation, ostensibly funded to recruit new businesses from outside the area – emblazoned prominently on the front page of Evolve magazine, I get pissed off.

You should too.

You see, as a resident of Ormond Beach, I happen to be an “Executive Level Investor” in Team Volusia – which means my local government slips $25,000 in public funds to Team Volusia annually so the Team can do whatever it is they do.

Which generally involves jetting the group’s big shots to national and international destinations – like the Farnborough International Airshow (?) and symposiums in Tokyo – as they apparently bird dog more of those coveted warehouse jobs we’re so proud of. . .

My ass.

As an Executive Level Investor, I have purchased the right to know how public funds are being spent.

You have to.

Because in addition to our own in-house economic development practitioners who actually serve our individual communities – virtually every municipality in Volusia County also contributes to this redundant farce.

Why?

When I see our hard-earned tax dollars being wasted sponsoring some regional pap and fluff publication – little more than a slick ego massage for all the right last names (don’t take my word for it, read it yourself at https://tinyurl.com/rrmtchg ) – it makes me question how this misuse of our money will help recruit external enterprises to Volusia County?

How in the hell does purchasing expensive advertising in a local Chamber of Commerce rag further the goals of Team Volusia when absolutely no one outside greater Daytona Beach will see it?   

By the magazines own marketing materials, its distribution is almost exclusive to east Volusia (with 4% sent to Flagler County).

So, how will multiple full-page advertisements (complete with front page logo placement) in a hyper-local Chamber publication grab the attention of a site selector in Birmingham, New York, Fort Worth or Omaha?

How do the thousands of dollars in commingled public and private funds used to subsidize Evolve further the strategic goals of Team Volusia and encourage outside capital investment, when its readership is almost entirely comprised of Chamber members?

I’m asking.  Because smarter people than me are equally stumped.

When you consider that just weeks ago I angrily pointed out to the Regional Chamber that information provided them by Team Volusia listing our areas “largest employers” was demonstrably inaccurate – yet prominently listed in the Chamber’s 2019 members guide – one would have thought the Chamber’s leadership, as taxpayers, would have seen this as yet another potential embarrassment and questioned Team Volusia’s use of public funds to underwrite their magazine.

Not hardly.

Inexplicably, a check of Team Volusia’s own website finds the same erroneous 2017 employment statistics still conspicuously touted in the “Site Selection” section.  (It also still refuses to list tourism and hospitality as a “key industry.”  Whatever.)

It’s a small oversight, but infinitely disingenuous, considering new business recruitment is Team Volusia’s chartered purpose.

And it’s wrong.

In my view, perhaps it’s time we, the long-suffering taxpayers, evolve past this absurd money pit – and demand that our municipal governments stop underwriting this ridiculous waste of public funds.

Perhaps then we can relegate Team Volusia to the smoldering ash heap where do-nothing tax wasters go when the sham is ultimately exposed.

Angel               The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Recently, I’ve been hypercritical of some of the views expressed by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board – especially when their opinions seem deliberately contrary to those of the average citizen in the Halifax area who feel marginalized and alienated by the very officials they elected to serve their interests.

That said, I wholeheartedly agree with the paper’s November editorial, “Too soon for sales tax redo.”

At a recent conclave of that shadow government known as the Roundtable of Elected Officials – a political insulation committee comprised of mayors and managers from area municipalities and a few high-level Volusia County officials – the specter of the once dead half-cent sales tax referendum was resurrected from its freshly tamped grave after being soundly defeated by voters just last spring.

In a cogent autopsy of the failed referendum, the News-Journal opined:

“What was lacking? The trust. Vocal opponents successfully tied the vote to dissatisfaction with elected officials — primarily the County Council, though half the money would have been spent on priorities generated by municipalities. There was a lot of anger over perceived giveaways to wealthy developers, and a persistent belief that the tax revenue would be spent on infrastructure improvements tied to recent and future growth, not existing needs.”

In my view, the “trust issue” that our elected and appointed representatives are trying so hard to minimize is exacerbated by their continued refusal to accept the will of the people whenever our sacred vote is contrary to the objectives of our ‘powers that be’ and their wealthy handlers and contractors who ultimately stand to benefit.

They say that extraordinary problems require extraordinary solutions, and our areas preeminent political analyst, Big John – who served on the Volusia County Council for 12-years, back when something actually got accomplished – has a potential solution that is gaining steam.

Although the fine points are still being honed, Big John has proposed a citizen select committee comprised of residents who would oversee revenues, set funding priorities for both transportation infrastructure and water quality projects and provide a much-needed buffer between mercenary politicians and our hard-earned tax dollars.

In my view, that’s an uphill battle with a lot of moving parts, both legislative and procedural, and will require that sitting officials relinquish control of multi-million-dollar allocations to a politically unaccountable grassroots committee – something virtually unprecedented in government.

But it speaks to one man’s ardent fight for our collective right to self-determination and a return to a system that values public input and participation.

As I understand it, the key players have tentatively agreed to postpone their attempt to force this issue until the 2022 election.

However, the trust issue remains – and I don’t see much changing in two short years – except the continued explosive growth and resultant transportation and water quality needs that are reaching a crisis point.

As the News-Journal opined, “The need for more revenue for roads, water quality and other infrastructure is real. But the sales-tax proposal appears to be dead, at least for now. Dragging it back to life is likely to do more harm than good.”

This one bears watching.

Quote of the Week

“They have tried to move the evening activities (Bellair Plaza Cruise) to a center right across from the Speedway, but it is nowhere near the same as the traditional one at Bellair, we only went there one time, never again.

Also, at one time you could not find a hotel room to stay at on N. Atlantic, but this year almost every one of them had big red “VACANCY” signs flashing all week long. This has to be hurting the economy of Daytona Beach, and the hotel owners.

 Now, all we do is eat dinner and head back to our hotel to watch TV.  I think Daytona Beach officials shot themselves in the foot by making this terrible choice.”

–Don Hulgas, Ft. Myers, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Missing the fun from Turkey Rod Run,” Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mr. Hulgas is right.

I’m not a car guy, but since I was a little kid growing up here in God’s Country, my family and I always looked forward to the week of Thanksgiving when antique cars came to town for the famous Gaslight Parade and Car Show at the Birthplace of Speed.

For over 60-years, classic car enthusiasts have flocked to the Halifax area for one of the largest shows and swap meets in the world, with thousands of vintage cars and trucks on display for both show and sale.

For a destination that long-ago sold its soul to short-term/high gain special events – the Turkey Rod Run and its ancillary activities quickly became an important part of our local economy – especially for those in our beleaguered tourist and hospitality industry.

Like most successful events, the various automotive events tended to meld and evolve naturally over time.

Because the Gaslight Parade didn’t allow Hot Rods, in 1974, a father and son began the Turkey Rod Run at the old Howard Johnson hotel near Bellair Plaza.  As it grew, the show moved to nearby Seabreeze High School, ultimately relocating to Daytona International Airport, and now Daytona International Speedway.

Throughout the years, the one constant was the annual impromptu show and meeting of the minds in the parking lot of Bellair Plaza.

Unfortunately, beginning nearly a decade ago – the management of Bellair Plaza began forcing the car show out of the lot, threatening to tow displayed vehicles, then prohibiting portable toilets and generally making classic car owners feel they were no longer welcome at the unofficial epicenter of the annual event.

A 2011 News-Journal article explained that Publix was enforcing a covenant of their contract which prohibits car shows, something they feel impacts customer parking. Others claimed the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was commercial car carriers associated with the event that took multiple spaces in the lot.

Not all stores in the plaza balked, with many welcoming participants as an important draw to their businesses.

Regardless, last year officially marked the death of the Bellair Plaza Cruise. . .

The vintage car show has recently become a rather forced fixture at One Daytona (complete with its own contrived Facebook page and associated marketing) and many regulars are complaining the event just isn’t the same spontaneous get-together it used to be.

I spoke with some visitors from the Midwest this week – regulars at the Turkey Rod Run – who complained about the event’s move away from the beachside to almost exclusively a “speedway” event.

I got the feeling they won’t be back.

Perhaps this should be an early warning for our tourism maharishi’s and redundant “convention and visitor” gurus that the Daytona Beach Resort Area is slowly succumbing to years of neglect and a lack of comprehensive leadership – clueless stooges who can’t seem to cut a path forward, despite the fact our economic lives depend upon it.

Mr. Hulgas’ observations were spot-on.

The ever-present “vacancy” signs and lack of visitors is indicative of much larger civic and economic problems that reveal themselves in declining occupancy and room rates – market indicators that can no longer be brushed off by tax supported visitors bureaus – or attributed to foul weather or the whims of a growing list of air carriers that have deserted us.

In my view, it’s time for those who influence our elected officials to take direct action and save our languishing tourism industry before it’s too late.

We need a comprehensive strategy for the revitalization of our languishing beachside.  Now.

Otherwise, let’s just write it off altogether – and join the real money who continue to look for opportunities in the pine scrub west of I-95 in New Daytona. . .

And Another Thing!

Want to experience a true slice of Americana as we usher in the most wonderful time of the year?

Join with friends, family and neighbors for an evening of Christmas cheer at the Holly Hill Tree Lighting Ceremony on the front steps of historic City Hall beginning at 6:00pm tonight!

This annual community event heralds the start of the most joyous season in true small-town fashion.

Live entertainment includes performances by local school bands, dancers and carolers.

This year, Miss Florida USA 2019 Nicolette Jennings and Miss Florida Teen USA Katia Gerry will assist Mayor Chris Via with the much-anticipated countdown before illuminating the city’s festive Christmas Tree and spectacular lawn display.

I happen to have it on good authority that the Jolly Old Fat ManSanta Claus himself – will be making his 2019 Yuletide appearance during the festivities!

Then, on Saturday morning, children of all ages will enjoy the 60th Annual Holly Hill Christmas Parade as it rolls on the traditional Ridgewood Avenue route starting at 10:00am.

It’s a wonderful way to welcome the holiday season and support the City with a Heart! 

Hope to see you there!

 

 

5 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for December 6, 2019

  1. I have now made it a habit to NOT read your column while having my morning coffee. I really dislike expelling hot coffee thru my nostrils which has happened on more than one occasion while reading your comments/opinions. Keep up the great writing!

    Like

  2. “allow their frightened constituents to elect strong, authoritative and responsive representation who will work in the best interests of our besieged children.”

    How do you think they got their jobs in the first place??

    Like

  3. Thank you for adding Mr Steve Elliott to your angels column. When I moved to FL, in1987, I was failing out of school in Silver Spring, MD. I attended WCA and 2 of my teachers were Mr and Mrs Elliott (actually she was ms. Sanetznik at the time for they weren’t married yet). I struggled through my sophomore year and didn’t really like school but with the help of my father, all of the teachers,coaches and faculty, at Warner, especially Steve and Kim Elliott, I started turning my high school path (and life) around. I went on to make honor roll in 11th grade and deans list in 12th. I also won Mrs Elliott’s English award she only gives out to one student. Shocker! I know it was the two of them who really helped me get on the right track. They are both wonderful people and great teachers so thank you for shining a light on such a terrific man and his passion for teaching, all of the people’s lives he touched, kids he mentored which mine is included. Appreciate it Mark.

    Like

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