On Volusia: Civic Mind Reading

I was sitting on a barstool in my favorite watering hole the other evening, feeding the jukebox, nursing a glass of Irish whiskey and casually shooting the breeze with an old buddy of mine.

We ruminated on life, fishing, football and the infinite mysteries of women and the universe.

Invariably, talk turned to local politics, and my friend asked where I find the inspiration to write such a prolific number of these long-winded diatribes on our collective condition – and how I developed the style to impart my thoughts in a way that seems to resonate with so many?

His question took me by surprise. . .

The fact is, I didn’t have an answer.  I’ve never thought about it.

I just opine on the news of the day through the prism of someone who spent three-decades in the meat grinder of small-town politics – a washed-up bureaucratic magician who knows how the legerdemain is performed – and isn’t afraid to expose the illusion when it conflicts with what I know of good governance.

Obviously, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer – not known for my quick wit, or grasp of difficult concepts like long division or the importance of sticking to the monthly booze budget my wife has imposed – so, I took another shot of Jameson, pushed the empty glass toward the back of the bar, and exclaimed:

“I dunno.  From God’s lips to my keyboard, I guess.” 

It’s true.  These screeds just come to me – like some weird gift of extra sensory perception that allows me to instinctively identify the musky scent of political bullshit in any situation – and spot a stuffed-shirt, phony-baloney grifter from a mile away. . .

Sometimes when I read older Barker’s View posts, I find a kernel of truth or a facet of an issue I didn’t realize I possessed when I wrote it – weird, right?

Last week, the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce – a once proud advocate for our business community that faded into just another bastion of Fun Coast mediocrity – held their 100th annual banquet at the Ocean Center, our county-owned event venue nestled in the rotting heart of our core tourist area, to bestow haughty awards and pass the gavel between the Big Wigs du jour, who, for a Century now, parrot the same tired promises their predecessor spewed the previous year. . .and the pernicious cycle repeats.


Look, I don’t give a Tinker’s damn if our “movers & shakers” want to get together, preen and peacock, slap each other on the back and take credit for their own narrowly defined idea of “progress” – after all, that’s what “movers & shakers” do, right?

However, in my view, it crosses a line when the Chamber’s leadership fail to see the glaring idiocy in “honoring” Team Volusia – a publicly funded do-nothing economic development “corporation” – that has been on the margins of every controversial roll-out, secretive project, and bald-faced “high paying jobs” sham perpetrated on Volusia County residents (who are crying out for something, anything, other than storehouse work) as some 43% struggle to meet basic monthly living expenses. . .

My ass.

It boggles my feeble mind that our Regional Chamber of Commerce would be so callous – so heartless – as to openly diminish the efforts and accomplishments of small businesses and area entrepreneurs who strive every day to keep people employed, pay exorbitant taxes, feed their families, see the doors open and the lights on and authentically contribute to our local economy through sheer grit and determination.

Instead, the Chamber’s most prestigious award goes to a passel of “economic development” shills who spend their time touring the world on our dime, taking eleventh-hour credit for the hard work of municipal practitioners and telling our elected officials exactly what they want to hear – all while facilitating corporate welfare incentives and maintaining control with their statutorily protected Secret Squirrel horseshit – which allows them to conceal key information from those of us paying the bills while leaking it to all the right people in advance.

Crowing about his ludicrous accomplishment in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Team Volusia CEO Keith Norden said:

“. . .the award was a “validation” of Team Volusia’s “economic development without walls” approach to recruiting companies to the area.”

Look, if your sole reason for existence is luring new business and industry to Volusia County and you need the “J. Hyatt Brown Enterprise Award” to somehow “validate” your efforts – if the results of your “public/private partnership” aren’t immediately evident to everyone through a burgeoning portfolio of “high paying” jobs, civic prosperity, a fire hose flow of useful leads to municipal partners, expanding regional influence and a robust local economy – perhaps we have bigger problems than we realize?

Because that would signal that they actually believe their own shtick.

And that level of hubristic self-deception is dangerous in a community dealing with myriad social, civic and economic challenges. . .

I thought it was apropos that the evening’s entertainment for our assembled elite was provided by Mr. Kevin Viner, a self-described mentalist – like a modern-day Amazing Kreskin or Carnac the Magnificent – who must have left the chic event Thursday evening with a pounding headache. . .

I mean, being a professional mind reader and all.

Because, I’m assuming Mr. Viner would have made his way to the Ocean Center through the East ISB corridor, traversing the abject blight, dilapidation and human carnage that populates what passes for our core tourist area, and thought:

“Is this the World Famous Daytona Beach?  How can ostensibly bright civic leaders gather in their finery, smack in the middle of this decrepitude, and not be moved to tears by the condition of their community?” 

Then, upon entering the elegantly appointed space – rather than being telepathically overwhelmed by the surge of civic vision, strategic creativity, clarity of purpose, depth of concern and unyielding advocacy for area businesses that normally dominates the thoughts of Chamber of Commerce officials – Mr. Viner must have been met with a blank 30Hz tone emanating from the vacuous “minds” of our Halifax area brain trust. . .

Oh, well.  Maybe not.

But let me have my little Thurberesque fantasies, okay?

Because it’s the only thing that comes close to soothing my utter frustration over this level of apathy from the very organization who should give a damn – but doesn’t – and the intrinsic damage this senseless strategy of “ignore the problem until it goes away” is doing to our “brand” – and our quality of life.









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