On Volusia: The Ultimate “Bait and Switch”

I hate to call “bait and switch,” on the First Step Shelter, but I’m definitely leading the growing chorus of Volusia County taxpayers – and concerned politicians – who feel that what we paid for, and what we ultimately received, are two very different things. . .

I’m not inclined to provide a history lesson to politicians who never seem to learn from it – but many here in the “Real World” will recall those dark days in the winter of 2016 when the City of Daytona Beach closed access to restrooms, benches and the relative concealment of soggy cardboard boxes and dirty blankets tucked into the oyster middens of Manatee Island.

The equal and opposite backfire to this misguided action was an orchestrated mass migration of homeless from the shadows to a very visible perch outside the County Administration building on North Beach Street.

The occupation became a very visible social, civic and economic reminder – and one that would drive what ultimately came to be the ungodly expensive First Step Shelter.

As early as 2013, when the homeless population grew in the face of the Great Recession, our local “movers & shakers” began to explore options for “controlling” the problem – or at least providing a rudimentary shelter that would comport with laws prohibiting the institutional humiliation of the homeless population.

To that end, in early 2014, the city hired controversial shelter consultant Robert Marbut – who now serves the Trump administration as our national director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness – paying him some $135,000 for his suggestions.

Ultimately, Marbut developed a plan – then known as Volusia Safe Harbor – which the News-Journal described as a “no-frills, 26,000-square-foot shelter with 250 beds on county property” that would be funded by all 16 Volusia County municipalities chipping in a cumulative total of $1.6 million annually for operating costs.

By 2015, Volusia County finally got off their ass and offered property near Stewart-Marchman ACT and other service providers – along with $4 million for construction costs and $2 million for operational expenses over five years.

Then, in February 2016, immediately following the Beach Street encampment, the county’s contribution was formalized in a written agreement – but the plan went down in flames on a split vote of the County Council – ostensibly over concerns the municipalities weren’t adequately committed to supporting operating costs.

In 2017, Daytona Beach countered with a contentious idea – under a nonprofit formed by the city called First Step Shelter – with the selling point that the facility could be built quickly, and at a lower cost, than the original plan.

Endless debate began over every aspect of the proposed shelter – would it be tensile fabric, modular buildings, tents, trailers, etc. – and time marched on.

We were told, “an important goal for the city is to design a shelter building with an estimated construction cost not to exceed $2 million.” 

Within months – and without any logical explanation to long-suffering taxpayers – construction costs alone soared to over $6 million with operating costs estimated at $1.1 to $1.7 million annually.

(And don’t get me started on the uber-weird ancillary “deal” to allow P$S Paving to haul publicly owned fill dirt off the site and sell it for private profit. . .)

In November, The Daytona Beach News-Journal announced, “New Daytona homeless shelter to include safe zone,” a legal place for homeless persons to sleep and an integral part of why many Volusia County cities signed on in the first place.

The area would have provided homeless persons who either can’t, or won’t, participate in First Step’s publicly funded self-help seminar a place to sleep in relative safety – and an option to incarceration for those engaging in “life sustaining” activities, such as sleeping or creating unsanitary conditions in a public place.

Now, we’re faced with yet another growing shit storm after the current iteration of the much-anticipated Safe Zone was effectively killed by unilateral edict of City Manager Jim Chisholm – eliminating the one piece of this complex and incredibly expensive solution that the municipalities were promised.

Jesus.

What was once billed as a reasonably priced “come as you are” low barrier shelter has transmogrified into a mysterious personal development program that, as far as I know, has never been publicly explained in terms of programmatic goals, success in similar shelters or per client operational and ancillary costs.

And abject confusion reigns. . .

As an example, on Wednesday afternoon, I watched in absolute shock as members of the First Step Shelter Board – with the exception of Ormond Beach City Commissioner Dwight Selby, who pushed to allow staff to develop a workable policy – explained why they didn’t believe the shelter should permit the common humanitarian service of protecting vulnerable homeless people from the threat of exposure and hypothermia on extremely cold nights.

You read that right.

Our $6 million dollar “homeless shelter” will not provide cold weather shelter to our homeless population. . . 

Christ.  That’s not penny-pinching – that’s cruel.

Then, after much saber rattling in the newspaper, the First Step Board took a namby-pamby, do-nothing position after Mr. Chisholm put the kibosh on the promised Safe Zone when they simply kicked the can even further down the road as they ostensibly search for additional funding (or a new plan, or something.)

In my view, most telling was when members began discussion on 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. . .

Trust me.  If anyone at First Step – or the City of Daytona Beach – thinks that kind of petty crap instills confidence in potential donors, they are mistaken.

All we know for certain is that First Step is NOT a homeless shelter – and acceptance into the “program” appears to be contingent on a persons willingness to jump through a multitude of hoops – making First Step anything but “low barrier.”

In a Tweet earlier this week, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post said:

“Unfortunately people finding a way to the shelter & showing up are being turned away with no assistance being told “They don’t take walk-ins”.  On a hopeful note, discussion about being a cold weather shelter is expected to be discussed at their next Board mtg.”

With just 23 homeless persons currently being served – and multitudes remaining on the street – many of my neighbors are asking serious questions about the future of this unsustainable money pit, and when our representatives on the First Step Shelter Board will finally grow a pair and challenge Mr. Chisholm’s unrestrained power over a program our tax dollars are helping underwrite.

And perhaps its time for the Volusia County Council to determine the direction of this mess before releasing one more dime of our tax dollars – because it is growing more apparent that First Step has the financial life expectancy of a consumptive Mayfly. . .

In my view, our municipal representatives should make good on their promise to pull external funding for this godawful quagmire and turn the facility, operation and growing expense over to Daytona Beach once and for all.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Daytona’s own “Deep Throat”

During the Washington Post’s investigation into the Watergate conspiracy, a high-ranking FBI official, decades later identified as Mark Felt, surreptitiously provided key information to reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein regarding the Nixon administration’s involvement while operating under the now infamous pseudonym “Deep Throat.”

The revelations helped to confirm the reporter’s suspicions – exposing what was arguably the biggest scandal of the last century – and ultimately resulted in the resignation of a sitting United States president.

Interestingly, Woodward and Bernstein met “Deep Throat” in a darkened parking garage. . .

Sound familiar?

This week, Pat Rice, editor of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, published some disturbing photographs depicting the unfinished interior of the Protogroup’s languishing hotel and condominium project – which remains virtually stagnant at the epicenter of our core tourist area.

According to the report, these compelling photographs and other revelations received by Mr. Rice, originated from someone close to the project who wished to remain anonymous. . .

In addition, Mr. Rice detailed some troubling information regarding the condition of internal fixtures – including what appeared to be rusting pipes associated with the fire suppression system – and “surface rust” on two escalators that have been stored under tarps on the first floor of the south tower.  

Look, I’m no expert on the construction of skyscrapers – in fact, I don’t know which end of a hammer you blow in – but does storing expensive escalators in a corrosive salt mist protected only by a blue tarp – or potentially installing a rust-pitted moving staircase in a “luxury” hotel,  sound right to you?

Me neither. . .

Maybe it’s just my debilitating paranoia, but when you assemble the mysterious puzzle pieces of setbacks, slowdowns, allegations, lawsuits and revelations that have surrounded this project from its inception – one gets the idea maybe all is not as it seems.

In fact, the intrepid civic activist, Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach – whose only motivation is preserving our quality of life – has been sounding the klaxon for months.

To make matters worse, I recently read a disturbing social media post from someone purporting to have inside information alleging serious irregularities surrounding the project – which, if true, would not bode well for the future of the already overdue towers.

I’ve learned to take things I read on the internet with a grain of salt – unless and until they comport with other material evidence at hand – but every time we see workers slap another coat of paint on the corroded reinforcing steel on the “north tower” – residents become increasingly uncomfortable.

I’m glad that people seemingly ‘in the know’ are beginning to speak out.

It takes courage to come forward with information vital to the well-being of our community – and it can be extremely intimidating, especially when one looks at how whistle blowers are treated in Volusia County government and beyond.

The fact someone with internal knowledge brought this to Mr. Rice’s attention should not be looked on lightly.

When one feels an ethical obligation to expose acts and omissions they believe are contrary to the public interest, be it in public or private organizations – it comes at great personal expense – and exposes whistle blowers to retaliation, the potential loss of a hard-earned career and the destruction of personal and professional relationships that results in ostracism and isolation.

That’s a heavy price to pay for doing the right thing.

But, in the end, sunlight is always the best disinfectant, and, as Einstein said, “To remain silent is to be guilty of complicity.”   

As Mr. Rice pointed out, everyone hopes the Protogroup’s project is a “resounding success” – because the alternative is grim – and I’m not sure our beleaguered beachside can withstand another blow.

In my view, based upon the News-Journal’s excellent reportage – and the various rumors that are swirling throughout our worried community – perhaps it’s time our ‘powers that be’ consider investigating these serious concerns – then take steps to enforce whatever neutered performance guarantees they agreed to back when everyone who is anyone in the Daytona Beach elite were soaking themselves in a fit of excited incontinence over the ‘next big thing.’

This ones important.

 

Photo Credit:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: The Year of the Rat

“Trust is a fragile thing – difficult to build, easy to break. It cannot be bargained for. Only if it is freely given it can be expected in return.”

–Peter Lerangis, The Sword Thief

 

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2020 is the Year of the Rat. . .

Despite the rat’s unappealing reputation here in the west – the rodent ranks first among the twelve zodiac animals.

How the rat received that premiere distinction is an interesting story:

According to folklore, the exalted Jade Emperor – who, in Chinese mythology, ruled heaven and earth thousands of years ago – decreed that the place of each animal on the calendar would be decided by the order in which they arrived at his celestial party.

Needless to say, all the animals were excited to meet the Heavenly Grandfather as the Emperor was known, and the Cat asked the Rat to wake him from a nap so he would not miss the opportunity to ascend into the heavens and attend the grand soiree.

After thinking about it, the Rat feared he would seem unattractive to the Emperor when compared to the handsome Cat, so, he intentionally let the Cat oversleep and miss the party altogether.

Then, after outwitting the Cat, the Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride to the Emperor’s home in heaven. . .

Just as the pair arrived at the Emperor’s gilded door, the Rat jumped off the beasts back, landing ahead of the Ox, and scurried forward to gain the advantage and became the first animal to the enter the party.

Needless to say, the Ox never trusted that rat bastard again – and the vicious animosity that still exists between cats and rats is notorious. . .

I was reminded of this ancient tale of treachery and betrayal after reading The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s first editorial of the new decade, “Build trust in 2020,” which spoke of the ultimate importance of local efforts to restore the public trust and rebuild confidence in our local government in the coming year.

I agree.   Wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, it appears the Halifax areas current oligarchical system, which bears no resemblance to a representative democracy, coupled with an almost pathological need for secrecy – something at odds with our sacred principles and open government laws – has isolated a worried constituency from their elected and appointed representatives – isn’t going to change on its own.

For instance, earlier this week, WFTV’s intrepid investigative reporter Mike Springer – whose smarts, perseverance and grasp of the important issues ranks him among the best in the business – produced a disturbing story on his attempts to gain hard answers to where some $90 million in Community Redevelopment Funds were spent in the Main Street CRA.

According to the report, a tour of the area found abundant evidence of blight, dilapidation and civic neglect permeating the redevelopment area – to include numerous vacant storefronts, graffiti and pole banners in the Surfside Village historic district that were so tattered and faded the signs were unreadable. . .

The short question being how – with nearly a hundred million dollars over the transom since 1992 – could this relatively small area of our beachside still be an atrophied wasteland?

Given that the City of Daytona Beach has stopped formally communicating with the working press, Springer dutifully attempted to contact “Communications Manager” Susan Cerbone – a professional mouthpiece who is paid handsomely to guard the gate from pesky reporters and inquisitive citizens – by email for “three straight days.”

Really?  

In a brazen display of just how far senior officials at City Hall will go to avoid external scrutiny – Ms. Cerbone (by email, of course) questioned what Mr. Springer’s “story was about” and, rather than be interviewed in an open, professional and transparent way, directed that the reporter tip his hand and forward a list of questions for review.

Weird.

When Springer explained he was investigating “The Main Street CRA and how the city has used the money to reinvest and develop that district,” and logically asked to speak with the city’s redevelopment director Reed Berger – Cerbone mysteriously stopped communicating altogether.

It appears Mr. Springer has hit upon something that the City of Daytona Beach would prefer remain in the shadows. . .

The bureaucracy’s obvious unwillingness to provide an open accounting of where $90 million in public funds went – which actually equates to some $120 million over thirty years – and how, decades later, the redevelopment district (along with much of our core tourist area) remains mired in malignant blight and economic stagnation – is incredibly telling.

And frightening.

The citizens of Daytona Beach – and beleaguered Main Street merchants – deserve answers.

In my view, it is clear why Mr. Berger – who has stood unconscionably idle while the beachside and beyond deteriorated – wouldn’t want to answer a reporters pointed questions.

I don’t blame him.

But that’s his job, dammit.

At some point, shouldn’t responsible elected officials and municipal administrators come to the realization that perhaps the City’s Redevelopment Director should be held personally responsible for – I dunno – Redevelopment?

Whatever.

When it comes to matters of trust, a lack of substantive communication between elected and appointed officials and their baffled constituents typically doesn’t promote public confidence.

In fact, it destroys it.

It’s a big part of why Volusia County’s desperate push for a half-cent sales tax was soundly defeated last year – and the reason the referendum will go down in flames again if the same incompetent assholes remain in power when the question is returned to the ballot.

And the ongoing shit show that is the Volusia County Council – under the miserable reign of our doddering fool of a county chair, Ed Kelley – whose biweekly Captain Queeg impression has broken our faith and turned the legislative process into a tasteless joke – isn’t helping to repair our horribly damaged relationship with those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest.

This complete lack of values-based leadership and cult-like addiction to secrecy at all levels of government is perhaps the most troubling issue facing Volusia County residents – one that our current crop of rats have proven unable or unwilling to escape.

In our democratic system, just power is derived from the consent of the governed, and we don’t have to accept this – or stand by while those who have abused our sacred trust attempt to ameliorate their sins, rewrite history and stand for reelection.

I hope you will remember where true power lies come November.

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for January 3, 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           Daytona Beach Downtown Development Authority

“Sham: Cheap falseness, not genuine, having such poor quality as to seem false, a trick that deludes”

–Merriam-Webster

Despite the death song of some downtown merchants, and the growing protests of long-time residents, it is painfully clear that the City of Daytona Beach is moving full steam ahead with an asinine plan to destroy a serviceable streetscape on Beach Street and replace it with something, well, different.

When the process begins in a few weeks, I think it’s safe to say that not all of the small businesses that currently occupy downtown storefronts will be there when the project ends sometime later this year.

And maybe that’s part of the plan?

I cannot imagine how it must feel to put your blood, sweat and tears into something you built – only to have your own municipal government actively work against you – with the only logical explanation being that your shop or service doesn’t comport with some wealthy insiders “vision” of what they ultimately want downtown to look like. . .

Now, apparently to soften the blow of a terminal diagnosis, the City of Daytona Beach is announcing grand plans to “help” downtown merchants by suddenly changing tack from a cloistered, fuliginous, information black hole to what is now being described as a culture of “consistent communication” and a willingness to listen to “impacted groups” and solicit feedback.

My ass.

In my experience, the only accurate predictor of future performance is past behavior, and anyone paying attention can call this sham a mile away. . .

Given the experience of some merchants during the Orange Avenue reconstruction – which began in August 2014 yet wasn’t finished until 2017 – and myriad other projects that drag on for months, even years, beyond estimates, nobody is holding out much hope for the proposed Beach Street “improvements” timeline.

And don’t get me started on the Tom Staed Veterans Memorial Bridge fiasco – a county project which, despite daily fines, finger pointing and official promises – has remained perpetually under construction since 2016. . .

Now, to calm the fears of some Beach Street merchants – or to salve their own tortured conscience – Daytona Beach officials are saying all the right things, promising to assist struggling businesses, and, now that the city has awarded the $4.4 million job to P$S Paving, actually listen to their concerns. . .

Bullshit.

The Daytona Beach Downtown Development Authority, which just happens to be chaired by an attorney with Cobb Cole (a firm representing everyone who is anyone in the downtown development game), are exporting dollars to a Ponte Vedra Beach based marketing agency while flogging “special events” as a means of providing palliative care for the doomed – a too little, too late hospice for retail used-to-be’s.

One concerned reader forwarded me a copy of a colorful brochure, apparently sent by the Downtown Development Authority in resident’s water bills, touting Christmas events on Beach Street.

It arrived on December 31st. . .

Wow.

Clearly, a select few in the Halifax area aristocracy have definite plans for what our downtown will look like over the next decade – including which businesses will be allowed to prosper and which will wither.

I believe their dream of creating a “destination” ultimately includes the commercial development of City Island – the real estate is simply too valuable – and all the right players are on-board – which means the rest of us are just along for the ride. . .

If it’s any consolation, in my view, the die was cast on the fate of downtown Daytona long before what passes for public discussion even began – and was cemented when His Royal Majesty J. Hyatt Brown callously held a proposed $750,000 children’s splash park in the “Brown Esplanade” hostage to the lane reduction project.

Unless the street project moved forward – the splash pad would be “eradicated.”

(And I’m a mean-spirited ogre?  Whoa.)

To ensure there was no confusion where our exalted Ruling Class stood, J. Hyatt was bolstered in his hostile demand by our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mori Hossieni, as the two titans rose before their hired chattel and gave them not-so-subliminal marching orders.

The great Bob Dylan said, “he not busy being born is busy dying” – and, in my view, that moment at the Daytona Beach City Commission meeting of December 18, 2019, marked the birth of “Hyattona” – and the death of anything that doesn’t comport with one man’s vision for the rest of us.

Angel               Louis Fuchs  

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias”

Unfortunately, the Halifax area elite could give two-shits when it comes to curating our community history – and the memory of those who took us from a salty patch of palmetto scrub, across the Bell Curve of civic success, to where we are now.

Instead, Volusia County’s self-aggrandizing ‘powers that be’ seem more interested in assuring their own legacy (and currying favor) through the deification of our present-day pompous political insiders.

Even if their strange idea of civic glory only lasts a few decades.

In the 1960’s, a small group of local businessmen, led by the venerated J. Saxon Lloyd, formed the Civic League of the Halifax Area – one of those “membership by invitation only” secret societies that, to this day, continue to serve as the puppet masters who form public policy in their own image – and to their own advantage. . .

The Civic League, and those “Rich & Powerful” political insiders who populated it back in its heyday, were of the opinion that a clique of power brokers was more effective at community decision-making than our democratic system of politically accountable representatives, “which change administrations every year, because it will be permanent.”

(What’s changed?)

No one was more ingrained in the local power structure of the day – or more dedicated to the future success of east Volusia County – than Halifax area business leader and community activist, Lou Fuchs.

In fact, Mr. Fuchs is the late uncle of the esteemed Dr. Hal Kushner, a former Vietnam Prisoner of War and true American hero, whose ophthalmology practice has served residents of the Halifax area since 1977.

It is reported that, as a boy, Dr. Kushner spent a couple of summers working at his Uncle Lou’s linen service.

Given the importance of Mr. Fuchs personal and professional contributions to our areas progress, the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce named one of their most prestigious honors “The Lou Fuchs Leadership Award” – a prize which now appears on the political resume of every Old School Volusia County “mover and shaker” worth their salt.

In fact, the honor was so exclusive that recipients were nominated and selected solely at the suggestion of previous award winners.

Unfortunately, I guess Lou’s contributions to the halcyon days of the “World’s Most Famous Beach” just don’t measure up to those of our current nobility – who have successfully built a “New Daytona” in the piney woods west of I-95 – then collectively turned their backs while the rest of our once vibrant community, including our beleaguered beachside, decomposes into dilapidated oblivion. . .

In keeping with their obsequious trend of renaming awards after our present crop of uber-wealthy overseers – it was announced this week that the Chamber has callously shit on the revered memory of Lou Fuchs – and will now refer to the honor as “The Glenn Ritchey Leadership Award.” 

Jesus.

What happened to honoring Mr. Fuchs’ dedication and contributions?

Hell, what happened to the common human emotion of shame?

The Chamber’s unabashed brown-nosing follows closely on the heels of their equally boot-licking move to rename the annual “Enterprise Award” after the current King of Kings J. Hyatt Brown. . .

(Which, by the by, will be bestowed on the do-nothing, publicly funded Team Volusia at the Chamber’s elegant soiree later this month. . .you read that right.)

Damn. . .

Sorry, Lou.  Your legacy is lost to whatever passes for our malleable and capricious history now.

In the end, I wonder how the Halifax area’s mutable historical record will remember this damnable period of our civic, social and economic existence – and the contributions of our current crop of Exalted Monarchs and their shameless “Pretensions of Greatness”?

Quote of the Week

“Deltona, where the trust of the commissioners and city manager was lost a long time ago, only added to that mistrust.

When I read the Opinion page (“Big News: It’s Amazon”) and it lists all the “obvious people” who were aware of what was going on, I just shook my head.

The residents were told: Non-Disclosure Agreement, we can’t say anything.

When you’re approving $2.5 million in incentives, the residents have a right to know a bit more than “We can’t say anything.”

The city’s DeltonaTV page posted “It’s all pretty exciting #amazon is coming to #deltona and the residents FAITH in City of Deltona, Florida has never been stronger.”

Really?

In my opinion the city missed a big opportunity to regain some of that FAITH and residents trust.”

–Dayle Whitman, Deltona, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Deltona’s Amazon secrecy strained trust,” Sunday, December 29, 2019

Well said, Dayle.   Thank you for your important contributions to the betterment of Deltona and beyond.

Also, a Barker’s View tip o’ the hat to Mr. Andy Brachhold of Daytona Beach for mentioning this humble blog in his recent News-Journal editorial, “Keep Beach Street unique and vibrant.”

Sincerely appreciated!

Besides, anytime my name is evoked (without spitting on the ground in disgust) it apparently pisses off all the right people – that can’t be a bad thing. . .

And Another Thing!

Look, I get it.

And, I admire the effort.

Recently, it’s become increasingly clear that a few of our Halifax area aristocrats and their fawning minions are enlisting the help of others in the community to answer my hypercritical screeds on social media.

The typical response usually takes the form of reminding me that I “don’t speak for everyone,” and end with some tripe about “how dare you besmirch the altruistic efforts of the Great and Powerful J. Hyatt Brown to gift us nice things and elevate us from this foul and fetid wasteland.”

Then, they question what I’ve done in my life to better our community. . .     

Unfortunately, my detractors – who always telegraph their intent by admitting they were “asked to comment” – seem to come from that segment of the population who still equate the quality of a person’s civic vision with the size of their bank account, and belittle my supporters with arrogant comments like, “I pay more taxes than most of you combined!,” then remind everyone of their former relevance and standing before they were hypnotized by daytime television. . .

Because they obviously don’t have a clue about current events, local politics or the innumerable problems brewing outside the guarded entrance to their tony gated community.

I suspect we’ll see more of this orchestrated resistance to my rambling thoughts and jaded opinions on the issues and newsmakers as our local governments – and those organizations and hangers-on who make their living suckling greedily at the public teat – egotistically succumb to the need to answer my rants.

Look, I live for the feud – so keep them coming.

Frankly, I enjoy the challenge – because it validates in my own inflated ego that Barker’s View is making a difference in the life and direction of our community – and I’m flattered that anything I could write would result in this much angst in the Ivory Tower of Power.

Maybe our “Rich & Powerful” should consider the source – then think long and hard about the source of this growing civic frustration.

Despite the incredible popularity of this site, I remain, quite simply, a half-drunk everyman – a star-crossed rube banging out my political vexations – then floating them out on the ether, hoping against hope to encourage a larger discussion in the community.

And, maybe it shouldn’t be so dreadfully easy for a few well-heeled insiders to use influence and backroom deals to force their myopic vision on everyone else?

I’m positive that our democratic system of governance works better with the open debate of competing ideas – an all-inclusive discussion that incorporates a variety of opinions into public policy design – a process which values the diverse input of all stakeholders, rather than succumb to the dictatorial edicts of a few.        

In my view, at this dawn of a new decade, it is not the loquacious blathering of some ‘keyboard warrior’ like me that our wealthy overseers need to worry about as they frantically work to protect the status quo.

As I said in my New Year greeting earlier this week – it is the awakening that is slowly taking place across the breadth of Volusia County that threatens their grip on power – and, at the end of the day, our haughty ‘powers that be’ will have no one to blame but themselves.

In my view, the thousands of independent thinkers who read these posts every month – who share these views throughout the community, form their own opinions, then vote their conscience at the ballot box – will ultimately return power to We, The People and set a bold new course for inclusion, fiscal responsibility and equality in local governance.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend – and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year – everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

As we enter the dawn of a new decade, I want to sincerely thank the loyal Barker’s View readers – the independent thinkers who consider my views, form their own opinions, then vote their conscience.

God knows I’m not perfect – and I understand these hypercritical political screeds and weird thoughts on our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast are not for everyone – but, with your help, I believe there is an awakening taking place across the breadth of Volusia County.

Since its inception, this small blog site has now hosted hundreds-of-thousands of page views and, for good or ill, the content continues to grow in popularity with thousands tuning in each month.

Although we don’t always agree, I believe the success of Barker’s View is in driving a larger discussion of the issues – and in letting our ‘powers that be’ know someone is watching from up here in the cheap seats.

The fact so many of you seek out a genuine alternative opinion on the issues of the day tells me that this experiment is making a difference in the life and direction of our community.

I appreciate that.

2020 holds the exciting potential of fresh beginnings – and an election that may well begin our transformation from the oligarchical rule of a few, to an inclusive system where values-driven elected officials represent the very real needs of all constituents.

We’ll talk about that potential – and much more – in the coming year.

Thanks for taking the ride.

Mark