Angels & Assholes for January 17, 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:

Angel              Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley

He finally did the right thing. . .

Earlier this week I received word through the Barker’s View grapevine that Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley would announce his retirement from public life during the Volusia County Association for Responsible Development’s elegant soiree last evening.

Apparently, it wasn’t a very well-kept secret. . .

Out of some warped sense of begrudging respect, I held the news until Chairman Kelley could sing his swan song in his own inimitable way.

I owed him that.

I can’t think of a more fitting setting for his valediction – in a gaudy ballroom at One Daytona – the struggling retail, shopping and entertainment complex owned by International Speedway Corporation that Volusia County and Daytona Beach taxpayers gifted a cumulative total of $40 million in incentives – with Old Ed standing resplendent before an intimate coterie of developers, real estate speculators and political benefactors that he served so well, for so long.

Unfortunately, the news was bittersweet – after Ed stole her thunder, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys announced she will now be seeking the catbird seat when she takes on the only external threat to the iron grip of Volusia County’s oligarchy – Jeff “Plan B” Brower – and whoever else our power brokers insinuate into the race to muddy the waters this fall.

Tragically, the ascendance of Deb Denys may well be a prophetic sign that we are finally hitting rock bottom. . .

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Kelley said he plans to spend time helping his son, Brian Kelley, with business endeavors related to his very successful music career with the country band Florida Georgia Line.”

Whatever that means. . .

Cowbell
In retirement, Kelley plans to assist his son, Brian Kelley, of Florida Georgia Line

Regardless, I find the timing interesting – and you can bet your sweet patoot none of this was conceived in a vacuum – as I’m sure our power brokers were involved at every step.

Before you pop the champagne corks, Chairman Kelley plans to finish out his term – which means he isn’t going anywhere until December 31st. . .

Look, I’ve watched Ed Kelley’s political mischief since his early days in Ormond Beach – back when I was still bound and ball-gagged by my job in the public sector and wasn’t allowed to have an opinion – but to say he and I never saw eye-to-eye on the issues of the day is an understatement.

In my jaded view, for years, Old Ed has used his considerable clout – influence he earned the hard way – by kissing the sizable backsides of our oligarchical overseers, ignoring the needs of his constituents and doing whatever it took to ramrod the for-profit projects of his cronies – always in a manner detrimental to our quality of life and pocketbooks.

In fact, I don’t believe Ed Kelley had an original thought after he accepted his first campaign contribution. . .

But maybe that’s how the game is played here on the Fun Coast? 

If so, then Mr. Kelley was a master of his craft.

As a perennial politician with many years of public service under his belt, I was always struck by the fact he had the ability to shrug off withering criticism (and common sense) and remain true to his own North Star.

No matter how ridiculous or hurtful to our quality of life his brainless decisions were, he never wavered; something I found both admirable and confounding.

I am essentially a hapless rube lost in the dark political wilderness – a naïf who shifts through the massive piles of steaming manure produced by local governments seeking specks of truth – then I salve my raw frustrations on the pages of this blogsite.

And Ed Kelley was the perfect foil.

In my mind, Chairman Kelley was never a political villain – more a dithering figurehead who shilly-shallied on stage while the real decision-makers worked behind the curtain – and his value to the “system” was that he never asked “why?”

Regardless of the issue, he never disappointed my pathological need to find fault – and proved a worthy adversary for anyone attempting to influence public policy from outside the Ivory Tower of Power – or blow the whistle on inefficiencies and mismanagement in county government.

Like a gormless drone, he dutifully patrolled the battlements of this Kingdom of Fools like a demented sentry – always protecting the status quo from any external threat.

If Chairman Kelley is remembered for anything, it will be that he helped crush participatory democracy in Volusia County – an ineffective jackleg who shit on everything his long-suffering constituents held dear.

So, as Chairman Kelley enters the twilight of his public career and becomes a lame duck – a political eunuch – (which can be infinitely more dangerous than a politician who still needs to curry favor) I plan to stay vigilant – and metaphorically quirt him like a borrowed mule in this space every time he sells us out for cheap political leverage – right to the bitter end.

I don’t think Chairman Kelley would expect – or respect – anything less. . .

I hope you’ll stay tuned.  Because things just got very interesting in Volusia County politics.

Angel               Former DeBary City Clerk Stacy Tebo

Last month, while meeting behind closed doors in “Executive Session,” the DeBary City Council approved a settlement agreement with former city clerk Stacy Tebo worth some $287,000.

The citizens of DeBary will pay a $5,000 deductible and the remainder of the cost will be assumed by the city’s liability carrier.

The action brings to a close a very dark chapter in DeBary’s history and emphasizes the importance of professional management and politically accountable oversight in the often-cloistered environment of government organizations where, by charter, the chief executive’s power is virtually omnipotent.

Following some five-years of ugly, and incredibly expensive, legal wrangling as the municipality tried to defend outrageous allegations against former city manager Dan Parrott – who was accused of repeatedly demeaning Tebo and former Assistant City Manager Kassandra Blissett –  who endured alleged misogynistic slurs, an incredibly hostile work environment and the ultimate demise of their promising careers with the city.

The lawsuit claimed “ongoing and pervasive sexist remarks,” such as:

“Women don’t think clearly because they are too emotional.”

 “There’s too much estrogen here.”

 When the women complained, they were fired. . .

Mind boggling, really.

Ultimately, Parrott fled the small community with a sack full of severance and other lucrative payouts, and the city government dissolved into a fetid quagmire of political vengeance and malfeasance, which ended with the duly elected mayor being removed from office in a cheap coup d’etat.

In May 2018, DeBary settled Ms. Blissett’s gender discrimination suit for $250,000.

Then, in August 2018, a federal court ruled in favor of Parrott and the City of DeBary; however, to her credit, Ms. Tebo appealed the decision and continued her relentless pursuit of justice, prompting the city to settle the matter in December.

According to reports, an attorney representing DeBary surmised that, had Ms. Tebo’s case gone to trial, the cost would have been “much higher” than $287,500.

Indeed. . .

The DeBary case aside, perhaps it’s time we begin holding highly paid public administrators personally responsible when they act in an abhorrent manner that destroys morale, discriminates, sexually demeans and exposes their constituents to serious financial liability – then withhold lucrative severance packages until all investigations and lawsuits have been settled.

In my view, the quickest way to put a stop to sexual harassment, official misconduct and discriminatory practices by senior executives is to hold these craven assholes – who feel their lofty position permits them to exercise their God complex with impunity – personally responsible for monetary damages.

The idea that powerful government administrators in Florida and beyond can repeatedly slip the noose by pulling the ripcord on a lucrative golden parachute – then move on to their next victim – is proving extremely costly for taxpayers.

The concept of accepting personal accountability for one’s own actions sounds like a fiscally responsible idea to me.

How about you?

I applaud Ms. Tebo – and others like her – for having the courage and perseverance to expose sexist bullying and pursue justice for herself and other women who feel they have suffered any form of humiliation or discrimination in the workplace.

Angel               Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via

During this week’s Knights of the Round Table meeting – that shadowy de facto government comprised of area mayors and managers that also serves as a political insulation committee for unpopular policy decisions and a war room for tax increases – Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via demonstrated the courage to say what others won’t.

With Volusia municipalities still reeling from the news that Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm tried to unilaterally quash the promised First Step Shelter’s safe zone, Mr. Via put into plain talk what many in our local Halls of Power must have been thinking for over a week.

“There seems to be a disconnect in what we were promised and what is reality now,” Via said. 

“I’m thoroughly disappointed in looking at what we’re going to get.  We talk a lot about trust. This is a perfect example of why citizens don’t trust government.”

Amen.

According to reports, the latest brouhaha began earlier this month when First Step Executive Director Victoria Fahlberg sent a clearly worded email to shelter board members regarding the future of the safe zone that explained, “. . .the manager (Chisholm) has decided to not move forward with building it.”

Any ambiguity there?  Just asking.

Because Fahlberg back peddled faster than a circus clown on a unicycle – claiming what she really meant to say was that Mr. Chisholm “would not be leading the effort to build the safe zone,” deciding instead to send it back to the First Step board to develop a plan, secure funding, etc.

How bizarre.

Why is it that when any aspect of this dreadful money pit is publicly discussed – those close to it are left hemming and hawing, yipping and yapping – trying desperately to explain why what we were told doesn’t comport with what was delivered?

In fact, each time The Daytona Beach News-Journal peels another layer from this fetid onion, more questions arise.

For instance, what began as a low barrier, come as you are, shelter for Halifax area homeless somehow transmogrified into a mysterious self-help seminar designed to efficiently transition wayward vagabonds from the mean streets to a prosperous, contributing life.  Somewhere.

Only the programmatic details have never been fully explained to those of us who pay the bills – and, to my knowledge, no one who should has any understanding of the goals, objectives, past success or per client cost.

Now, it appears the “program” has shape-shifted into little more than a very expensive Book Club. . .

According to a report in the News-Journal by the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, Director Fahlberg said:

“They’re given three free meals a day now, and they can simply sit and read in their free time rather than put their energy into where they’re going to sleep or get more food. Some of the clients are rail thin, but they’re starting to gain weight on food from the county jail that they’re grateful to have.”

So, that’s the measure of success?

I’m asking.  Because that doesn’t sound like a homeless rehabilitation program – it sounds like my daily routine in retirement. . .

It gets worse.

Inexplicably, the same architect who designed the facility has apparently been tapped to plan the safe zone as well.

As a result, a simple fenced in area on the property now has an estimated price tag of $200,000 – not including security costs of $150,000 annually.

I mean, we’re talking a patch of bare ground for those who either can’t – or won’t – submit to the rejuvenating affects of the First Step program – not the Château de Chambord.

With $6 million in public funds already over the transom, my guess is Daytona Beach officials are merely confused:  After all, it’s a tough call – should the safe zone be located between the formal gardens and the reflecting pool or next to the polo pitch?

In addition to Mayor Via’s bold stand against this continuing absurdity, Ormond Beach City Commissioner and First Step board member Dwight Selby recently asked his colleagues to withhold his city’s $82,000 annual contribution to fund shelter operations until the safe zone becomes a reality – or the board determines the space is not needed (?)

I suspect we are hearing the death knell for the shelter’s external funding scheme as more municipalities come to the stark realization that First Step is simply not financially sustainable under the current plan – and it bears no resemblance to what any of us were promised going in.

That’s assuming a “plan” exists at all – because every shred of material evidence points to the fact the First Step debacle remains the exclusive domain of the City of Daytona Beach – as Mr. Chisholm intended – and any external oversight is clearly unacceptable to him or his wholly subservient city commission.

Quote of the Week

“Twenty years ago, voters approved both Volusia Forever and Volusia ECHO. Both are due to sunset this year. However, a half-cent sales tax increase failed to pass just seven months ago in an expensive special election. That should have sent a clear message that there is no appetite for an increase to the local sales tax.”

 –Joe Hannoush, Libertarian Party of Volusia County, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Sales tax isn’t ready for Round Two,” Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When will Volusia County elected officials respect the will of the people?

Now, Deland Mayor Bob Apgar – with the support of our lame duck doddering fool of a County Chair Ed Kelley – are floating the nasty idea of “bundling” a full cent sales tax increase into the voter approved Volusia Forever and ECHO programs, which must be renewed, or allowed to sunset, this year.

Now, our ‘powers that be’ want to present us with a weird Hobson’s choice – a “take it or leave it” proposition that does nothing to address the serious and ongoing “trust issues” that saw last years half-cent sales tax initiative go down in flames.

Can this cockamamie strategy possibly be legal?

In my view, wrapping three important issues into one unappealing turd dilutes the viability of each issue – and does a real disservice to area voters – many of whom, including area environmentalists, support the preservation of Volusia Forever and ECHO.

This idea of “vote for a tax increase and you get all of it – or vote against it and you get none of it” doesn’t sit well with me.

In fact, it stinks.

And Another Thing!

Vote Jeff “Plan B” Brower for Volusia County Council Chair.

Vote like your family’s quality of life depends upon it.  Because it does. . .

For more information, please visit: https://www.jeffbrowervcc1.com/

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

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for January 17, 2020

  1. Oh happy day! Adios Ed! But electing Deb Denys would be no better and probably worse—like throwing a turd in a punch bowl. We Volusia County citizens need to ramp up our support of Jeff Brower—he’s good people.
    And the First Step debacle; I can appreciate Holly Hill and Ormond’s reluctance to further fund this project but then it puts it back on Daytona. But then they always shuttled their homeless to Daytona anyway. I guess I’m like a mole living in the dark. I thought everything had been decided, signed, sealed but now it’s turning into an even bigger sh&* storm. Why am I not surprised.

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  2. Let’s not forget that DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar also said at the Round Table of Volusia County Elected Officials meeting on Monday at Daytona Beach International Airport where they discussed bundling the 2 tax ideas. “Voters can be unpredictable, none of us can accurately predict what might be in the voters’ minds at that point in time. I think 2020 is going to be a very, very unusual election for a whole lot of reasons, starting with Washington. Meanwhile, Apgar said he has taken up the job of trying to drill down and see if there is a better way to get necessary road and water improvements funded.”

    WOW! Shouldn’t they have tried to find a better way to get necessary road and water improvements funded before this? Perhaps they could just try to spend the money they already have more wisely?

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