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:
Before we get this weekly hayride started, I want to take a minute to say thank you to every member of the tribe who rode to my aid during a pretty dark week here at Barker’s View HQ.
As most of you know, I was recently named in a spurious complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics – false allegations which specifically targeted Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte – accusations which were summarily dismissed following a preliminary investigation by state officials.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal and other local media outlets responsibly covered this ugly issue – but it didn’t help salve the heartbreaking reality of being wrongly accused.
I’m all washed up – a retired has-been with no relevance – but Mr. Forte remains very much in the fray.
Knowing the depth of his character and commitment to good governance, the fact Mr. Forte will be forced to forever explain this senseless stain on his otherwise stellar record of honest and ethical public service troubles me to the core.
While the experience only served to further harden my manners – and lower my already whale shit opinion of mankind – I know this unfortunate episode truly weighed heavy on a man of Joe Forte’s integrity.
My spirits were buoyed beyond belief by the response of Barker’s View readers – even from some of you who abhor these screeds and despise everything I stand for – who raced to defend my honor.
When the chips were down, you showed up.
I’m humbled by that.
As the great Texas folklorist J. Frank “Pancho” Dobie said, “You’ll do to ride the river with. . .”
Thank you all from the bottom of my beat-up old heart.
Enough of that maudlin crap – let’s get things started, shall we?
Look, this week’s A&A is a long one – so don’t think you have to eat it all in one sitting.
This isn’t “Mrs. Petrie’s Rum Nut Plum Raisin Cake of the Season” – just my goofy views on life here on the Fun Coast – so feel free to savor it, in moderation, throughout the Holidays. . .
Angel Deltona City Commission
Well, the hyper-dramatic Grande Révélation didn’t quite go as planned. . .
Just yesterday, antsy taxpayers in Deltona were all set to learn the identity of the company they are gifting massive “economic development” incentives to – but, alas, secrecy prevailed as Team Volusia announced that, because of “unforeseen delays,” the mysterious “client” has opted to remain in the shadows.
Unfortunately, the ham-handed “emergency meeting” on Thursday left the Deltona City Commission looking like a troupe of buffoons as the rug was pulled out from under them – and exposed Team Volusia president and CEO Keith Norden as an addled, ill-informed stooge. . .
But, at the end of the day, the Deltona City Commission did the right thing.
Look, I get it.
I don’t agree with it. But I understand the pressures.
Earlier this week, members of the Deltona City Commission preliminarily ponied up some $2.5 million in tax incentives for an entity that hasn’t even been identified yet. . .
What else were they going to do?
Call it a sign of the times, I guess.
We live in an era when local governments are asked to handover hard-earned tax dollars to a mysterious business enterprise, shrouded in secrecy, and touted by “economic development” types as the next best thing to sliced cheese – a one-sided transaction long on faith, but with very little hard information – other than a promise of storehouse jobs paying around $32,000 annually.
That’s hardly the “high paying” careers we are promised, ad nauseum, by those who are paid handsomely to separate us from our tax dollars in the name of business recruitment.
In my view, those who the good people of Deltona have elected to represent their interests were right to wait until the operator of the massive distribution center is ready to reveal their true identity – and prove their corporate commitment to seeing the project to fruition – before final authorization of $2,479,966 in ad velorem tax rebates for the still undisclosed company.
In my view, companies like Amazon, and other mega-online retailers, didn’t dominate the marketplace by selecting locations for their logistics and distribution centers by throwing darts at a map – or listening to the pap and fluff of some Team Volusia shill. . .
I suspect, under the right circumstances, whomever this secret enterprise is would pay the City of Deltona if it meant getting a profitable location in the very epicenter of Central Florida.
But that’s not how the game works. . .
Now, people like Chris Wimsatt, vice president of business development at Team Volusia – who makes a fine living getting politicians to throw our money around – will paint a rosy picture of all the wonderful things Deltona can expect once they host a massive industrial warehouse.
In an article heralding Deltona’s incredibly expensive corporate welfare offer, Wimsatt said, “Clearly it’s something that is a game-changer for the county and the city, and we think a wonderful catalyst for further development.”
“Game-changer,” “springboard” and “wonderful catalyst” – all the bullshit adjectives and contrivances from the Team Volusia playbook were trotted out for the benefit of elected officials and their constituents – who are only now coming to the realization they are being asked to give massive tax breaks to someone who hasn’t even introduced themselves.
Trust me. It’s a frigging warehouse – not a panacea for all the social, civic and economic ills that continue to plague Volusia County like a grotesque disease – and I hope everyone keeps that in mind.
Clearly, questions are beginning to outnumber answers – and this shell game isn’t exclusive to Deltona. . .
In my view, it should be criminal for any government entity to give away millions in public funds, tax incentives and infrastructure improvements unless and until all the players have been properly identified, and those of us who pay the bills know exactly who – and what – we are being saddled with.
If we’ve learned anything this year, it is the importance of transparency in maintaining the public trust – and these Secret Squirrel “nondisclosure” games which statutorily cloak negotiations involving millions-of-dollars of OUR money don’t instill confidence in those of us who pay the bills.
I don’t know about you, but I’m damn tired of Team Volusia and others pissing my money away on project’s that would have naturally settled here without their insidious meddling and horseshit hype.
Angel First Step Shelter
After a decade of anguish, political posturing, back-biting and intrigue, this week the beleaguered First Step Shelter – the Halifax areas premiere life enrichment and personal development seminar for the urban outdoorsman – opened to much fanfare in the hinterlands west of I-95.
Here’s wishing the shelter’s convoluted “leadership” conglomerate – a weird amalgam of the First Step Shelter Board, Catholic Charities, an Executive Director, etc., etc. (all of which are totally subservient to Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm) – a hearty congratulations and best of luck going forward.
They’re going to need it. . .
My sincere hope is that First Step is a rousing success, because, God knows, the homeless population that has besieged our core tourist area and beyond – and the long-suffering residents and businesses that have been forced to tolerate it – deserve a break.
We need these community-based services desperately – and I encourage everyone who can to donate whatever possible to the effort – because failure is not an option.
However, I’ll withhold judgement until we see the tangible results of our already sizeable investment. . .
This week, as everyone who is anyone was backslapping, cutting festive ribbons and celebrating the Grand Opening; I was quietly reminded of the story of the boy and the Zen Master:
On his sixteenth birthday the boy gets a horse as a present. All of the people in the village say, “Oh, how wonderful!”
The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
One day, the boy is riding and gets thrown off the horse and hurts his leg. He’s no longer able to walk, so all of the villagers say, “How terrible!”
The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
Some time passes and the village goes to war. All of the other young men get sent off to fight, but this boy can’t fight because his leg is injured. All of the villagers say, “How wonderful!”
The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”
Angel International Speedway Boulevard
“It’s not me. It’s you. . .”
Like some faithful but aging lover who has been kicked to the curb in favor of a younger, more attractive flame – watching the abandonment, and ultimate demise, of our main thoroughfare saddens me.
Recently, News-Journal Business reporter Clayton Park published an excellent piece entitled, “Ale House eyes Tomoka,” reporting efforts by the chain to potentially relocate its Daytona Beach eatery from its long-established location on ISB to a “new standalone” restaurant at the now fashionable Tomoka Town Center.
If things gel, Ale House will join a host of other former ISB residents – from Ross to Barnes & Noble and Hobby Lobby – that have left their roots and moved to the bustling 170-acre mixed-use development on Boomtown Boulevard near the LPGA/I-95 interchange.
If you ever question why I read and digest everything I can get my hands on regarding Halifax area business and politics, it is because sometimes I find a pearl in the remains of this rotting oyster of ours – an insight so profound that it speaks to the very heart of the myriad issues facing Daytona Beach and beyond.
In this case, Mr. Park included a very revealing quote by Dick McNerney, a clearly astute commercial realtor with Adams, Cameron & Co., who remarked that the restaurants move “makes perfect sense.”
“Everything around there is old and tired,” he said of the area next to the I-95/International Speedway Boulevard interchange. “By moving to Tomoka Town Center, they’d be getting a nice clean new facility.”
I understand that no one wants to be left behind when the Gold Rush starts, but at the end of the day, what are we becoming?
As “New Daytona” continues to emerge from the pine scrub west of town – with elegant gated developments and a “theme” subdivision which has created a vast faux-beach community – coupled with a surfeit of restaurants and retail on the frontage road just east of our sparkly new Tanger Outlet – one gets the idea that New Daytona’s sandy Phoenix remains on the rise.
Yet, a short drive east finds the rust and rot of our once vibrant beachside – the grim and very visible consequence of multi-layered political dysfunction, gross mismanagement of public funds and resources, and a wanton neglect by greedy property owners who consistently put profits over progress.
And don’t forget the serious issues facing Midtown – which has, for years, suffered from inattention – virtually deserted by those who are elected and appointed to help solve the acute needs of its long-suffering residents.
Now, ISB has been formally identified as “old and tired” by those in the know.
As the burial shroud is slowly wound round our once grand gateway (just as our never-ending I-95 interchange is coming to completion) we can fondly remember west ISB in her heyday, when she was once new and vibrant. . .
As the big money continues its rapid move west, so does the focus and attention of our “movers-and-shakers” – you know, the Chamber of Commerce set, our goofy elected officials and their friends in high places, like the CEO Business Alliance, etc.
Like victims of a contagious pandemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, city and county officials – and those who make their living grubbing from government coffers – will conveniently forget the fetid mess on what remains of the beachside and beyond as developers continue churning ecologically sensitive land west of the Interstate into the “Next big thing.”
For now, we can just be comfortably anesthetized by the ‘big doing’s’ on Beach Street – pie-in-the-sky plans for a “dense cluster” of retail shops, a hotel (with rooftop pool!), parking garage, plazas and multi-family housing between ISB and Bay Street – as our “Rich & Powerful” tell us what our tawdry little lives will look like in the future. . .
Your input wasn’t needed, so tough shit, you nay-saying residents and business owners.
(Don’t take my word for it, look at the beautiful architectural renderings, with happy shadow people idling away the afternoon, strolling among posh boutiques and palm-lined boulevards – “doing lunch” and spending their disposable income from those good “high paying” warehouse jobs on wine, cheese and tchotchkes.)
I just wonder, in the aftermath of this Bacchanalia of Building in the hinterlands west of town, if any thought or planning has been given to what the rest of our beleaguered community – and our dying tourism and hospitality industry – will look like when the party’s over?
Asshole Team Volusia
Sometimes I wonder if those who have been elected and appointed to represent Volusia County municipalities – the mosaic of unique communities that make us such a special and eclectic place to live, work and play – remember who they work for?
Earlier this month, our soi-disant Gurus of Economic Development over at the taxpayer funded Team Volusia – that laggardly camarilla that seemingly exists as an international travel agency for president and CEO Keith Norden and his coterie of high flying bon vivants – exerted their power with what amounts to a hostile takeover of the local Economic Development Practitioners Council.
In Volusia’s labyrinth of redundant “economic development” teams, councils, chambers, millionaire cabals, cliques and committees, the Practitioners Council is comprised of business recruitment professionals who are actually employed by the municipalities – those who are truly engaged in bringing new enterprises and encouraging capital investment in your community and mine – a heretofore independent arm of “Investor” cities who contribute heavily to keep Team Volusia alive.
Now, following a curious near unanimous vote of our municipal practitioners – the Vice Chair of Team Volusia will serve as “Co-Chair” of the Practitioners Council, to, among other demands, “facilitate the mutual exchange of information between our investors and staff of Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation, including without limitation information regarding potential prospects, sites, and opportunities.”
Am I the only one who sees these shameless power-plays for what they are?
I mean, why can’t our highly-compensated and ostensibly smart city managers recognize Team Volusia’s strategic overreach for what it is – then put their foot down and say, “enough is enough”?
And why do our elected municipal officials continue to throw good money after bad subsidizing this unnecessary sham?
In my view, so long as one red cent of public funds is being spent on this charade (Ormond Beach alone spends some $25,000 annually, which, as a citizen, makes me an “Executive Level Investor”) then Team Volusia works for us – the long-suffering taxpayers of the municipalities who contribute – and this aggressive takeover of our independent local practitioners should not stand.
I guess it makes things infinitely easier when every local practitioner is required by committee bylaws to share their leads and prospects with the Team Volusia staff (who always seem to play things close to the vest) so that Norden and Company can take credit at the eleventh hour. . .
Look, I don’t know about you, but I tend to judge organizations by their attention to the small, but infinitely important, aspects of their business – elements that demonstrate the groups professionalism and commitment to their stated mission.
For instance, a cursory glance at the Team Volusia website finds that substantive information hasn’t been updated since 2018 – nearly two-years – which immediately telegraphs to me, and any site selector who stumbles over it, that Team Volusia could care less. . .
I defy you to find any summary of meeting agendas or minutes for the Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation – a “public/private” partnership that is subject to Florida’s open meetings law – on the website, or anywhere else for that matter.
And don’t get me started on the false narrative created by the “Volusia’s Largest Employers” list in the Site Selection area – or the fumbling, stumbling performance of senior Team Volusia officials before the Deltona City Commission yesterday. . .
Why would our municipal officials continue to invest in a “corporation” that can’t muster the ‘management and leadership’ to maintain a professional web presence?
In total, Team Volusia has proven, time and again, that it is more interested in lavishing the VIP treatment on its upper echelon – and hosting elegant soirees for all the right last names – rather than focusing on the job at hand.
To show you just how incestuous things have gotten here in Fantasyland – the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce is set to bestow its contrived “Enterprise Award” – this year obsequiously renamed in honor of His Magnificence King J. Hyatt Brown – on Team Volusia at the Chamber’s Annual Celebration of Mediocrity gala next month.
Yeah. You read that right.
Criteria to be determined, I guess. . .
If you are a dues paying member of the Regional Chamber of Commerce – a business owner who contributes to our local economy with your hard work, sacrifice and creativity – maybe your company should analyze the return on investment?
Perhaps it’s time to ask, “What have you done for me lately?” or why your hard-earned membership fees are being spent on frivolous cocktail parties – where sycophants and politicians laugh at rich people’s jokes – and dubious awards for wholly ineffective publicly funded economic development shills?
I mean, our Regional Chamber of Commerce couldn’t find one private employer in all of Volusia County to honor?
Not Foundation Risk Partners (having Charlie Lydecker carry home the J. Hyatt Brown Award would be rich, right?) Not Security First Insurance? Not Synergy Billing? Not B. Braun? Not Costa Del M- (oh, sorry. . .)
Hell, not one established business which employs our residents, supports the tax base and forms the backbone of our local economy?
Look, if any Chamber member is interested – save your $125 per seat fee for the gala. Instead, you can join me at my local watering hole and buy me highballs while I get sloppy drunk and humiliate your staff and openly disrespect your contributions to our local economy.
Hell, we’ll make a night of it!
In my view, that would be less embarrassing than sitting in an elegant banquet hall being publicly slapped in the face by the Chamber’s leadership as they present a fabricated award to a quasi-governmental agency and openly ignore the efforts of struggling local businesses trying to stay afloat in this terribly difficult marketplace.
And people still wonder why Volusia County remains a cautionary tale among the real players in Central Florida business and industry?
Get rid of this shameless scam. Now.
Quote of the Week
“Finally — what the heck?! Why can’t the Volusia County Council get it together and find out why we don’t have a bus going to the Tanger Mall and shops?
If the council and cities are going to keep giving builders the go ahead to keep building more and more houses then they had better start giving people more options for riding the buses. Oh, by the way, when people keep building more houses, apartments, condos and businesses this becomes a big city complex and that’s what we are becoming so leaders better adjust their outlook for public transportation.”
–Joy Putnum, Ormond Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Growth brings big changes to Daytona,” Saturday, December 14, 2019
I’m afraid, Ms. Putnam, despite your spot-on appraisal of our bleak future, that the Volusia County Council doesn’t give a damn about your valid concerns – or the general public’s ability to access the very shopping and entertainment venues they helped pay for with their hard-earned tax dollars.
You see, when developer shills have their hand out – the rallying cry is “high paying jobs!” – but once the check is cashed, no one really want’s you to have public transportation to those retail positions – because they fear a bus will also bring “undesirables” to their idea of a tony shopping experience.
We can’t have the Great Unwashed Hordes mingling amongst the gilded ones, now can we?
To his credit, Volusia County’s preeminent political pundit, Big John, has worked diligently to see public transportation extended to Tanger Outlets and beyond – and I have it on good authority that County Manager George Recktenwald is actively working behind the scenes to bring a Votran bus to the Tomoka Town Center area early next year. . .
Keep your fingers crossed.
And Another Thing!
Please join Barker’s View on GovStuff Live with Big John today beginning at 4:00pm!
We’ll be talking local politics – and taking your questions on the issues of the day – on “The fastest two-hours in radio!”
Listen locally at 1380am “The Cat” – or worldwide at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).
If you would like to participate in this wide-ranging forum, please call in at 386-523-1380!
I would really enjoy hearing from you – and learning your unique perspective on the issues that effect our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast.
That’s all for me – have a great weekend, everyone!