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 started, I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my beat-up old heart who reached out to me since our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, announced that he won’t be running for a second term.
Look, I sincerely appreciate everyone who asked me to consider a run for elective office – your support and confidence is truly humbling (if not a bit baffling) – but there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell my name will ever be on a ballot. . .
You see, Volusia County politics has become a blood sport – and I don’t have the stomach for it.
I’m not running for anything – or from anything – and that’s the way I like it. . .
For those intrepid souls who are considering standing for high office – you have my abiding respect; however, please know that I have absolutely no clue how to start, manage or strategize a political campaign.
Sorry, but I wouldn’t know where to begin.
My role, as I see it, is limited to openly criticizing every misstep, mini-move and machination of those who are actually in the political arena – a toothless watchdog perched up here in the cheap seats – nothing more.
I’m not kidding. You take your burgeoning political career (and personal reputation) in your hands when you ask for my advice.
Besides, nothing about wallowing around in the mud with these assholes intrigues me.
Last weekend, with Volusia County residents still processing his decision to leave public life, Old Ed took to social media to bash, Jeff “Plan B” Brower – the only declared opponent to the darling of the Halifax areas “in-crowd” – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys.
Apparently, our ‘powers that be’ are pissed that a family farmer and small business owner from Deleon Springs has the temerity to challenge the status quo and threaten the flow of public funds to the private, for profit projects of our uber-wealthy east-side insiders who purchase political candidates like cheap livestock with massive campaign contributions each election cycle.
In Ed’s vapid and mean-spirited style, he struck in all directions, like a blind rattlesnake, openly accusing Mr. Brower of various and sundry atrocities – like being $136 delinquent on his property taxes – and making veiled threats to expose similar outrages as things progress.
Who needs that shit from the likes of Ed Kelley?
It was ugly and crude and so typical of the petty mudslinging that has marked Chairman Kelley’s absurd political career since his early days meddling in Ormond Beach.
Old Ed’s bumbling attempt to besmirch Mr. Brower’s personal and civic reputation reminded me of every reason I don’t want any direct association with Volusia County government – or the rabid, wholly compromised political whores and hangers-on who lurk in its dark and moldy corners – dutifully servicing those who bought the paper on their very soul.
If Jeff Brower’s trivial transgressions make him unsuitable for public office – then I’m the last guy who can meet the high standards of our “Rich & Powerful” gatekeepers.
You see, I’ve been married three times – and I’m hopelessly guilty of more youthful indiscretions, character flaws, mistakes, imprudence, recklessness, foolishness, irresponsibility, piss-poor judgment, personal errors and professional blunders than I can count.
I hail from a long line of impertinent hillbillies – and my love of self-indulgence, debauchery and the non-stop pursuit of fun is legendary.
I have a propensity for strong drink and I smoke like a chimney fire.
At one point or another, I’ve been delinquent on every insufferable tax, fee, loan and past due bill that I couldn’t wheedle my way out of.
I’ve been shot at and missed, shit at and hit, and squandered my misspent youth dancing the soles off my boots at every ol’ bar from The Frontier to the Rockin’ Ranch.
(Trust me – there’s a lot of stories under those wagon wheel lights. . .)
I’m perpetually lazy, broke, beaten and bruised – as the song says, “a man of means by no means” – still upside-down on a car loan – carry two mortgages on a wood frame cracker box that’s three years late on a paint job – and there’s a gentleman in India who works for American Express that calls me several times a week to ask where the money went – and I’m just as confused as he is.
The last time someone stole my identity – they repossessed his car and turned his damn utilities off. . .
And I exaggerate more than any stuffed-shirt politician you ever met.
I’m a piece of work.
Perhaps most disturbing, I take some perverse pride in it all. . .
At the end of the day, I know that what little I have was earned honestly – during an incredibly satisfying career that spanned three decades of service to a cause greater than my own self-interests – a true calling that gave me far more than I can ever repay – along with a few emotional and physical scars – and enough stories to last a lifetime.
It’s the one thing I got right in life.
And I don’t need Ed Kelley’s approval. For anything.
You see, for reasons I’ll never understand, my long-suffering wife, two dogs, a precious few friends and my beautiful grand kids think I’m something special.
And that means more to me than any highfalutin elected office in the world.
So, to all you kindhearted souls who continue to ask me to run for political office, I’ll just echo the sentiments of the late Congressman Mo Udall, who once said:
“If nominated I will run — for the Mexican border. If elected, I will fight extradition.”
Angel Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado
Finally, true leadership emerges. . .
Last week, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado saw with the clarity of his own eyes the onerous hurdles and hoops that await any homeless person who attempts to seek shelter at our “new” $6 million First Step Shelter.
I’ve liked Aaron Delgado since the first time we met.
He’s a smart guy with a swagger I respect – he doesn’t suffer fools – and he cares more about people than his political future.
Now, Commissioner Delgado is boldly wading into the middle of this fetid mess in an attempt to bring order and a sense of direction to a publicly funded social service that has clearly left the rails.
In fact, Mr. Delgado is calling for a whole new way of doing business – a return to the low barrier, come as you are, shelter we were promised in the first place – to include doubling the number of available beds and designating an outdoor safe zone for those who can’t – or won’t – participate in First Step’s mysterious transitional streets-to-prosperity self-help seminar.
In addition, Delgado seems intent on determining exactly what we are getting from Catholic Charities, who, apparently, runs day-to-day shelter operations in cooperation with Executive Director Victoria Fahlberg, City Manager Jim Chisholm and the First Step Board – a multi-tiered bureaucracy that has proven wholly dysfunctional.
You may recall that when the facility was still a sandy patch of ground, Catholic Charities continued to accept public funds, month in and month out – giving absolutely nothing in return – because there was nothing for them to manage!
That became painfully clear last month when it was exposed that important policies and protocols have yet to be written or approved – something that should have/could have been completed well before the doors opened.
According to an excellent report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Commissioner Delgado challenged the status quo in an email to City Manager Jim Chisholm last week:
“If this is what we are getting for our money from Catholic Charities (not to mention the year we paid for literally next to nothing), then we need a new group to run it or we need to run it as a division of the government. We take the blame either way.”
Of course, Commissioner Delgado’s new strategy didn’t sit well with those neutered lap dogs on the First Step Shelter Board – hapless municipal officials who have been embarrassingly marginalized and openly abused by Mr. Chisholm literally since the board’s inception.
Several board members (who still think they are relevant to the conversation) immediately began nipping and yapping at Delgado’s pant leg, claiming the board would prefer to “handle First Step operation decisions themselves,” and accusing the commissioner of entering the fray only now that the shelter has been built and opened.
According to Port Orange City Commissioner Chase Tramont, “The commissioner is inserting himself into policy decisions that he has no role in. My advice is that you either stay in your lane, or feel free to take the wheel and I’ll get off at the next stop. What I’m not going to be is a yes man for the Daytona Beach City Commission.”
We’ve heard Mr. Tramont’s saber rattling before. . .
Anyone paying attention knows that the First Step Board has been publicly tied to Jim Chisholm’s whipping post for months.
In fact, the lack of substantive communication between the City of Daytona Beach and First Step has been staggering – and called into question the ultimate motivations of board members – as it seemed inconceivable that any elected official would knowingly endure that level of insult and repetitive disrespect.
Perhaps most disturbing are recent reports of homeless persons being turned away from the First Step Shelter when a blast of arctic air drove wind chill values to dangerous levels earlier this week.
I guess Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry was dead serious when he declared the multi-million-dollar shelter would not provide the common humanitarian service of protecting the sick, vulnerable and downtrodden from the threat of exposure and hypothermia on extremely cold nights.
My God. How does anyone with a conscious refuse warmth and refuge to a person at risk of freezing to death?
These phony “do-gooders” – and the politicians who claim to care – should be ashamed of themselves. . .
When Commissioner Delgado’s plan was announced, the News-Journal was treated to yet another round of the City Hall Two-Step – which has become Daytona Beach’s patented response to uncomfortable questions from the working press:
“When asked Tuesday for legal clarification, City Attorney Robert Jagger, who sits in on all shelter board meetings, said he was referring the question to the city’s spokesperson. The spokesperson did not reply to the question.”
Perhaps breaking the city’s Code of Omerta – something that has become the operative ethic in Mr. Chisholm’s administration – should be the next thing on Mr. Delgado’s quest to bring positive change to this beleaguered municipal government.
Unfortunately, during Wednesday evenings city commission meeting, Mr. Delgado’s strong suggestions for revamping this boondoggle dissolved into one of Mayor Henry’s patented long-winded soliloquies – a monologue which says nothing, and explains even less, other than buying time while anesthetizing anyone listening into a catatonic state.
I’m not sure what the final outcome was – I was hypnotized into a “Henry Coma” on my sofa – but it appears the majority are content to give First Step even more time – and money – as we all wait patiently to see how things shake out.
Good luck, Commissioner Delgado.
And thanks for trying. . .
Angel Deltona Mayor Heidi Herzberg
Well, it looks like the strange and tragic saga of Deltona City Manager Jane Shang is finally coming to a complicated end, thanks to a long overdue motion to terminate her reign of terror brought by Mayor Heidi Herzberg during a meeting earlier this week.
The action didn’t receive the required super-majority – but the handwriting is on the wall. . .
When it came time to do the right thing and eliminate this malignant curse of drama, maladministration and outrageous personal and professional conduct that has resulted in the city government becoming a cautionary tale – inexplicably, Commissioners Bob McFall, Maritza Avila-Vazquez and Chris Nabicht voted against the motion. . .
In our modern vernacular: WTF?
The commission responded in kind when Mayor Herzberg called for a vote of no confidence.
At the end of the day, Ms. Shang is now on the losing end of a majority vote – a formal notice that most of the elective body feel she is no longer fit to serve – and I suspect all that remains is determining the amount of taxpayer funds she’ll command on the way out the door.
In my view, the Shang administration has been a perpetual disaster – marked by repugnant strongarm tactics more akin to a barbarous dictatorship than a representative democracy.
From the insidious intimidation of employees who attempted to bring her mismanagement to light – the malicious use of the criminal justice system to crush citizen dissent and intimidate anyone who worked to expose the dysfunction in her weird administration – to the embarrassing debacle that found her entering a deferred prosecution agreement last year following an investigation into voter fraud allegations – it has been a shit show of epic proportions.
Frankly, in most places that value good governance and a strong civic reputation, this nightmare should have ended when the city commission had a moral obligation to protect their constituents from Ms. Shang’s abhorrent conduct.
Shang continued to crash around like a demented bull in a china shop, destroying civic morale and using the close manipulation of information vital to the decision-making process like a weapon to divide elected officials, all while the community grew increasingly fragmented, frustrated and angry.
City commission meetings descended into chaos, with obscene outbursts building to threatening rhetoric from the gallery, as many frightened residents feared the situation was deteriorating toward violence.
Soon, metal detectors and armed sheriff’s deputies greeted citizens as authorities responded to the mounting discord.
All while Jane Shang sat smugly on the dais in stoic, almost mocking silence – holding firm to her omnipotent power in the cloistered environment of City Hall – while Deltona smoldered.
Now, residents (and city commissioners) are just learning of Shang’s cockamamie deal with a 46-year old Deltona firefighter accused of gross sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct with coworkers and citizens, which resulted in Fire Chief Bill Snyder’s recommendation for termination.
Instead of supporting her department head, Shang agreed to allow the employee to remain on something called “suspended without pay” for one year, allowing the firefighter to use accrued leave until November 1, 2020, when he will have completed 25-years of service – thus becoming eligible for full retirement benefits under the city’s plan. . .
After learning of the “deal” from a records request by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mayor Herzberg remarked:
“You (Shang) undermined your director (Snyder) and you didn’t inform your commission until it got hot and heavy.”
How Commissioners Avila-Vazquez, Nabicht and McFall can continue to support this abject lunacy defies reason. . .
Kudos to Mayor Herzberg for following her conscience in calling for Jane Shang’s termination – and for bravely defending the precepts of good governance and participatory democracy for her long-suffering constituents.
In my view, that takes a level of personal and political courage that has been sorely lacking in Deltona for far too long.
Angel BC-U Track and Field Champion Summer Brown
Barker’s View joins with the Wildcat Nation in mourning the untimely passing of the legendary collegiate athlete, Summer Brown, who passed away following a courageous battle with cancer earlier this month.
According to Bethune-Cookman Athletics:
“The 2016 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference indoor pentathlon and outdoor long champion had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma cancer last December and had used social media as an outlet to both inform and motivate.”
“To God Be the Glory for the Life of Summer Brown,” said B-CU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn W. Thompson via twitter. “Summer was such a beautiful soul who touched so many during her time at B-CU. We will forever cherish her!”
In remembering Summer’s brilliant life and athletic career, B-CU Head Coach Donald Brown said, “I use her name a lot when describing how a true champion makes sacrifices to obtain their goals, I want to thank her and her parents for blessing us with her presence here at Bethune-Cookman University. She is forever family and forever loved.”
Ms. Brown leaves behind a young son, Aycen, to cherish her inspiring legacy.
Quote of the Week
“At what point does a city or town reach a growth saturation point? Is it when first responders receive negative commentary for response times? Is it when traffic gridlock becomes a daily obstacle? Is it when your community loses its character and the very reason as to why you decided to settle is lost?
The buzzwords “Smart Growth” can have various meanings that can be orchestrated to fit the planners, engineers and developers; however, the end results in many cases is not always in the best interests of the community. We know growth does not pay for itself (tax referendums) and locally falls short in providing those economic achievements the developers so smoothly cover in a presentation.”
–Barry Du Moulin, Ormond Beach, Letters to the Editor, Ormond Beach Observer, “Can we grow better in Ormond Beach?” January 20, 2020
My friend Barry makes a good point.
Unfortunately, the citizens of Ormond Beach are about to reap the whirlwind of what happens when their ‘powers that be’ make historically poor strategic decisions and allow their much larger, and more aggressive, neighbor to envelop their flank.
As you read this, Orlando-based Avalon Park Group is in the preliminary stages of developing a massive 2,500 acre “master-planned community” on State Road 40 west of Interstate 95 – immediately adjacent to the sprawling faux-beach community of Latitudes Margaritaville – which will see thousands of 55-and-over Parrotheads crowding area surface roads when the 3,400 home community is ultimately built out.
What that means is Daytona Beach gets the revenue boost – while Ormond Beach residents get the shaft. . .
And don’t forget Mosaic – the 1,200 home “lifestyle” community currently being built off LPGA Boulevard by our High Panjandrum of Political Power Mori Hosseini’s ICI Homes. . .
When you add these “master planned communities” up – the tens-of-thousands of new neighbors we’re being forced to welcome will place extreme pressure on our already over-stressed transportation infrastructure and finite water supply, which, in my view, is the very definition of the civic saturation point.
And if you think our ‘powers that be’ have any real plan to implement so-called smart growth initiatives – think again.
They can’t even define the term. . .
The unfortunate reality is that many of the same compromised politicians who are asking us to return them to the Halls of Power throughout Volusia County are the same ones who got us into this mess in the first place.
You might consider that in the voting booth this fall. If you can get there. . .
And Another Thing!
When I was a mid-career police officer, I made the decision to seek promotion to the rank of Lieutenant – essentially a middle management position that, at the time, supervised the uniform patrol division.
After serving as a line supervisor in both patrol and investigations – I felt I had the operational and administrative experience to take on greater responsibility.
So, I put on my best uniform, shined my shoes and polished my brass, then walked into the chief’s office and closed the door.
After making a convincing case why I should be promoted over the other sergeants competing for the job, the chief agreed that I had done everything possible to qualify for the promotion – but he had a few questions that would determine whether I was ready for it:
He looked me in the eye and asked if I was prepared to accept personal and financial responsibility for my officers 24/7 – even when I was home asleep?
When they fail, are you ready accept it as a personal failure?
When they win, are you prepared to defer credit and let them shine?
And, most important, he said when my subordinates screwed up – the first face he needed to see was mine – accepting complete responsibility for the mistake without excuse.
Discipline and retraining could follow to correct behavior – but the responsibility was mine – and, ultimately, his.
I never forgot that.
And while I didn’t always live up to those high standards of accountability commensurate with responsibility – I tried hard every day.
That’s part of why I’m so hyper-critical of those in the Ivory Tower of Power at Volusia County Schools who hold positions of great responsibility – yet consistently blame their subordinates for institutional shortcomings that bear no resemblance to proper command and control.
This week, we learned that several administrators at Spruce Creek High School received something called a Letter of Caution – which, I think, is something similar to a watered-down reprimand – following a September incident in which an ambulatory drunk, armed with a pocketknife, made his way from the street into an occupied classroom without any substantive intervention for 20-minutes. . .
So, as typically happens whenever the district is asked to investigate itself – the official inquiry “found that there was not enough evidence to support disciplinary action” – yet, for some unknown reason, Spruce Creek Principal Todd Sparger, his assistant principal and two campus advisers were “cautioned” anyway.
What we didn’t see was any substantive discipline at the top of the organizational chart – those who make the big bucks to ensure that the policies and protocols designed to protect tens-of-thousands of vulnerable students, teachers and staff are implemented, understood and followed.
Why is that?
According to the News-Journal, Chief Operations Officer for Volusia County Schools Greg Akin – in my view, a wholly ineffective poser who is paid handsomely to oversee a security role he is clearly unqualified for – said “protocol would have been for the campus adviser at the guardhouse to use his radio to communicate, and go into immediate lockdown.”
That’s how the “Chief Operations Officer” quibbles away personal and professional responsibility for a potentially catastrophic event that occurred on his watch – by blaming the lowest man on the totem pole?
If there is any good news to report, it is that the district is actively advertising for a professional Safety and Security expert to provide a degree of credibility and oversight to a critical role that has become a catchall – an afterthought – in an era that deserves the very best we can employ.
In the meantime, perhaps our new superintendent – Dr. Scotty Fritz – can find his way to purge the overpaid and under-qualified frauds in the hierarchy of Volusia County Schools who continue to accept public funds for a vital role they failed when the chips were down.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, kids!