Angels & Assholes for January 10, 2020

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           Volusia County Council

I’m trying my damnedest to stop carping on every mini-move and intrigue of the Volusia County Council – because the turmoil and dysfunction is omnipresent – and it has become clear that there is nothing anyone without a billion dollars in the bank can say that will fundamentally change the existing state of affairs.

At least until the election this fall. . .

In the interim, I’m left looking like a demented Henny Penny, running in circles, pointing fingers and calling attention to the blatantly obvious.

Let’s be honest – as long as the dais resembles some weird Island of Misfit Toys – led by our doddering fool of a county chair, Ed Kelley – I think its prudent to keep at least one eye peeled, as their every decision directly affects our lives, livelihoods and pocketbooks.

So, let me just hit the high points that caught my eye during the latest production of our Theater of the Absurd:

Yesterday, we learned that absolutely nothing has changed as we enter the new decade, when Councilwoman Heather Post nominated her colleague, District 1 representative Barb Girtman, for the Vice-Chair post.

Her motion died for lack of a second – amid an awful, earth-shattering silence.

Instead, the status quo was suitably and predictably protected when Rev. Fred Lowry was returned to the post for another term.

Then, Councilwoman Billie Wheeler made an abrupt motion to appoint Assistant County Attorney Michael Dyer, former general counsel for Volusia County Schools, to the role of interim county attorney effective immediately.

Since Mr. Eckert announced he would be leaving, there has been speculation in the community that Dyer was Eckert’s first choice to succeed him – an idea, I suspect, that is shared by unnamed fringe players who control our destiny from the shadows – especially given the fact that there are two very experienced and respected deputy county attorneys on staff – one a former county court judge.

So, despite all the caterwauling from the dais about ensuring a “transparent process,” a nationwide search, the possibility of dissuading qualified outside candidates from applying and other horseshit assurances – I predict that our “new” county attorney will ultimately be Mike Dyer.

On a positive note, Ms. Post announced that Votran is working toward providing long-needed bus service to Tanger Outlets and the shopping mecca of Tomoka Town Center – at no additional cost – something we were told was physically impossible (unless we agreed to pony up some $871,000+ to expand service) when the subject was broached eons ago.

Of course, Ms. Post’s contributions to the public transportation effort were immediately marginalized by County Manager George Recktenwald and Old Ed – who pointed out that it was actually Georgie who built the fire under Votran during the behind-the-scenes discussions that ultimately reversed months of stonewalling.

Sorry Councilwoman Post, early on, when you refused to be beaten into the round hole of lockstep conformity to the “system” – in the eyes of your esteemed “colleagues” – you will never measure up and your efforts will always be marginalized.

It’s the “Volusia way”. . .

I also want to commend Councilwoman Deb Denys for her persuasive suggestion that someone from that festering money pit over at First Step Shelter be asked to appear before the council.

Call me crazy, but I would very much like for someone, anyone, in a position of authority to formally explain the chaos and confusion that permeates everything about the so-called “shelter” and its bizarre administration.

Wouldn’t you?

With millions of tax dollars over the transom – and more coming – I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Denys logical suggestion to explore where First Step is going, and how it plans to get there, as it continues to hemorrhage cash month-over-month.

Look, I’m sorry – I tried to follow along with the afternoon workshop – but my antiemetic simply wasn’t strong enough.

When the talk turned to the exploration of Charter amendments for this year’s election – somehow it has become imperative that we change the name of the County Council to “County Commission.” 

Why?

Because “Councilperson” apparently doesn’t command the appropriate level of respect from their cronies who hold office in other Florida counties – leaving them feeling like a hillbilly municipal official from some panhandle hog waller.

I don’t make this stuff up, folks.

Then, for reasons known only to him, Old Ed pushed the weird idea of changing his exalted title from “Chairman” to “Mayor.” (?)

I guess “King Shit the Rag Boy” was taken.

When money is no object – that’s when tone-deaf elected officials begin spending our money to put vanity referendums on the ballot.

Remember that the next time they ask you to support a sales tax increase. . .

Whatever.

It was when the group began collectively crying the Poor Mouth Blues over the pittance they receive for their exhaustive service to Volusia County and all Mankind.

Frankly, as they prattled on about “what people expect” of them (they don’t have a flippin’ clue what people expect) and the atrocious drain their haughty positions put on their valuable time and pocketbook – then tried their level best to couch an undeserved pay raise in disjointed terms they think you and I (and the thousands of their constituents living at or below the poverty line) will swallow – I actually became nauseated.

Yep.  Threw-up in my mouth a little.

 I had to turn it off.  Really.    

From their pretentious whining about how much their car insurance cost (suggesting a “car allowance” might be appropriate) to crying and rending their garments over the stress shameless self-promotion puts on their disposable income, it became chillingly clear that we’ll soon be asked to pay these stuffed-shirt buffoons even more than we already do.

Honestly.

Perhaps our ‘powers that be’ have finally got a small taste of what financially strapped Volusia County families deal with every day – and the burden isn’t attending some stilted meeting, photo opportunity, Washington soiree, Tallahassee hot air generator or other obscure political hobnob – but the real and ongoing struggle of keeping a roof over their children’s heads and putting food on the table.

Regardless, I’m not inclined to supplement these crybabies with one more public dime than they already receive.

The fact is, they each stood for elective office on a promise of selfless public service, knowing full-well what the job entailed – and what it paid.

If they don’t want to do it anymore – then quitget the hell out – and make room for an actual servant-leader who is in it for more than their own personal enrichment.

These assholes should be ashamed of themselves.

Angel              Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz

For the first time in his short tenure at the helm of Volusia County District Schools, our new Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz is saying all the right things.

While he’s not speaking my language just yet – it appears Dr. Frtiz is slowly developing a clear road map away from the flaming wreckage that is our district’s administration – moving carefully towards more insightful, effective and standardized educational strategies for long-suffering Volusia County students.

In my view, for far too long, some principals have been allowed to run their schools like feudal lords – a practice that ultimately resulted in the shocking scandal at Mainland High School and left district student’s with wildly different experiences based solely on geography.

Fortunately, it appears Dr. Fritz sees the very real need to get everyone on the same page, using proven lesson plans, exposing students to scholastic aptitude testing, putting greater emphasis on the fundamentals, promoting early literacy programs, and, perhaps most important, asking the district’s most effective teachers for their valuable input.

That’s the benefit of a fresh set of eyes.

However, it’s patently clear that Dr. Fritz has a rough road ahead. . .

While I was initially impressed that the district acted quickly to relieve the principal of Ortona Elementary after allegations by school staff of “unprofessional conduct,” which resulted in an investigation that, despite multiple revelations by staff members all having close similarities, failed to develop evidence of misconduct.

The result was a strongly worded letter of caution (?) and “mental health and threat assessment training.”  Then, on Tuesday, we learned that the embattled administrator was simply shuffled to an assistant principal role at Spruce Creek High School.

Did I miss something?

Well, at least he wasn’t appointed Chief of Security and placed in charge of our children’s safety. . .

While I applaud Dr. Fritz’ efforts to change the toxic culture in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand – in my view, he still has a long way to go when it comes to important reforms.

Maybe things are happening behind the scenes (I hope), but I still haven’t seen evidence that Dr. Fritz is addressing perhaps the most pressing issue facing Volusia County Schools – the complete revamp of safety and security protocols – to including employing a credentialed physical security expert to administrate and enforce the unique policies and practices necessary to properly secure our schools – along with an effective plan to stop the widespread bullying and violence we’ve seen over the past year.

In my opinion, that includes purging the system of highly compensated senior administrators – shameless posers who have mastered the art of talking the talk – saying all the right things and deflecting blame when telling issues occur – yet lack the training, experience and commitment to walk the walk. . .

Regardless of the quality of the teaching, lesson planning or programs offered, children simply cannot achieve in an environment that harkens back to Attica 1971.

Quote of the Week

“The lack of communication and total disregard for the neighboring cities and county who financially support the mission is wholly unacceptable in my opinion. We were there and gave support when asked.  There was an opportunity to reach out and collaborate with neighboring local governments that was totally disregarded by Mr. Chisholm.  Instead, I hear about it for the first time after he makes his decision in a silo by reading the local newspaper.”

Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette, speaking in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Decision putting Daytona homeless ‘safe zone’ in limbo leaves Port Orange leaders unnerved,” Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Whatever.

Unfortunately, Mayor Burnette’s noble saber rattling – and spot on assessment of the complete lack of substantive communication from Daytona Beach – was diluted by the First Step Board’s milquetoast response to the Safe Zone controversy when they simply kicked the can even further down the road as they grope and fumble for a new way forward.

In my view, most telling was when members began important discussions concerning the fate of the Safe Zone – and Mayor Derrick Henry fled the room like a base coward taking his city attorney with him – as the City of Daytona Beach abruptly cut the television feed with the meeting still in progress. . .

They had a commission meeting, you know.

My ass.

 If anyone at First Step – or the City of Daytona Beach – think these chikenshit moves instill confidence in potential donors, they are sadly mistaken.

My only hope is that area voters will remember the fainthearted response of First Step Board members when it came time to stand up for what we were promised – not to mention their seemingly endless tolerance for abuse and embarrassment at our expense.

What a bunch of neutered lapdogs, eh?

In my view, this continued acquiescence and spineless timidity of certain municipal representatives on the board proves the moral courage exhibited by South Daytona Mayor Bill Hall and Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte, who resigned when it became clear the misdirection and machinations of senior Daytona Beach officials conflicted with their professional ethics and sense of service in the public interest.

Clearly, the City of Daytona Beach wants unfettered control of the First Step facility and operation – so give it to them, dammit – and pull all external municipal funding for this expensive sham now.

And Another Thing!

An Open Note to the Daytona Beach City Commission:

Look, I hate to be one to give advice.

During my long career in public service, I found it prudent to take the guidance of well-meaning critics over the sycophantic fawning of obsequious shits who’s only goal was to feather their own nest – and I hope you will consider this opinion in the spirit in which it is offered.

If you are a sitting Daytona Beach City Commissioner who plans to seek reelection, I strongly suggest that you take a long look at what’s happening in the bowels of your own City Hall – a place that has become a citadel of non-communication, evasion and obfuscation that protects senior administrators from outside inquiry and steadily broadens the void between you and your increasingly suspicious constituents.

Don’t take my word for it.  Read the paper. . .

Earlier this week, the News-Journal published a bold editorial which painfully, yet accurately, summarized the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the demise of a proposed safe zone at the controversial First Step Shelter.

But this isn’t about who will ultimately pay for a designated patch of muddy ground for the less fortunate to lay their head on.

It’s a telling look at a local power structure that has made a conscious decision to adopt dictatorial rule over democratic representation – a sacred system which serves to provide politically accountable oversight and prevent the kind of abuses and cloistered atmosphere your residents have been complaining about for some time now.

Only now, the City of Daytona Beach’s relationship with its neighbors is being irreparably damaged.

And you are the face of it. 

I don’t need to tell you that we live in a pivotal time in the history of this unique mosaic of municipalities in east Volusia County – where everyone is affected by out-of-control growth, a lack of adequate infrastructure and pressure on our sensitive environment and water supply – a time when open communication and honest collaboration on the issues we collectively face will be key to finding sustainable, long-term solutions.

Yet, City Manager Jim Chisholm seems intent on forging his own path (not always forward) on the important issues of the day – damn the consequences – including unilateral decisions on the direction of the First Step Shelter that has resulted in the resignation of two important advocates from your neighbors to the north and south – meddling that now threatens the all-important financial support from Port Orange and beyond.

Look, I admire Mr. Chisholm’s self-confidence and strength of personality.

Clearly, he shoots from the hip when it comes to making important decisions – but where he finds direction is known only to him.

Despite popular belief, this isn’t the kingdom of a few well-heeled oligarchs – it is a living, breathing, struggling community whose essential services are funded by the hard-earned tax dollars of the residents who voted you into office – and that doesn’t comport with Mr. Chisholm’s increasingly insular style.

In my view, your staff’s refusal to cooperate with the working press is an abomination – the antithesis of an open and transparent local government – a situation that cannot help but foster suspicion and speculation that the tail truly is wagging the dog.

It also projects incredible weakness – and serves to substantiate the pervasive view that Mr. Chisholm’s impetuous actions are protected by a few wealthy insiders who fund your political campaigns. . .

I understand if you don’t want to accept my unsolicited counsel, after all, I don’t have any money – which means I couldn’t possibly have a civic vision – but perhaps you should listen to our community’s newspaper:

“In short, commissioners should have taken control as they were elected to do. They should have stood up for the principles of transparency and respect for the First Step board members and the city’s taxpayers, who are footing the bill.

It’s not too late.

“Commissioners can make it clear that things must change, and fast. If there needs to be a discussion of whether or where to build a safe zone, call all the stakeholders to the table. Stop rubber-stamping staff decisions as if the commission were helpless to make changes. And for heaven’s sake, make it clear that Chisholm no longer has permission to make major policy decisions behind closed doors.”

That’s powerful.

And it does not inspire public confidence in sitting politicians preparing to ask their neighbors for another bite at the apple.

In my view, your action – or inaction – in reining in Mr. Chisholm’s despotic rule by exercising the powers and oversight vested in the city commission by Charter – then demanding that your staff open the windows and let the sunshine bathe the dark corners of City Hall, which have become the realm of “communications managers” and other politically unaccountable gatekeepers – will ultimately determine your political fate this fall.

You’re welcome.  You can thank me later. . .

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend!

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for January 10, 2020

  1. Thanks Mr. Barker! You do have a silver pen!!Wish we had 50 Heather Posts. Regarding school safety, I believe it should be mandatory that every Superintendent, Principal and teacher in Florida read “ Why Meadow Died” by Andrew Pollack. Oh my what a tragedy that was totally preventable. The despicable Runcie is still superintendent of schools in Broward County and he attacked parents and teachers and blamed the NRA of course for the shooting while absolving himself if any responsibility. Please read it. Thanks!

    Like

  2. The sh%$ storm in the guise of first Step Shelter has me deeply concerned. Who the devil does Jim Chisholm think he is? Am I wrong but wasn’t a Safe Zone planned from the beginning? A friend familiar with Catholic Charities told me yesterday that there should be no Safe Zone because those taking advantage of it would be a detriment to those really trying to clean themselves up and move onto a better life. Maybe. But should one man appoint himself to make that decision?
    Also loved your comments on our “poor mouthing” County Council. Maybe they should’ve read the job description before they jumped on board.

    Like

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