I’m not a “joiner.”
When I was a kid I tried to become a member of the Columbia Record Club once, even submitted an application.
But, when no one called me back, I didn’t push it. . .
Besides, I’ve always subscribed to the old Groucho maxim, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”
The fact is, Volusia County has a long history of people who set themselves apart from the rest of us based upon their own sense of self-importance or social status – and that’s okay.
To each their own, I say. . .
Where I have a problem is when these “invitation only” groups, “alliances” and “civic leagues” commission “studies” and “reports” to impose their narrow-minded views on other taxpayers who can’t be members of the club and attempt to craft public policy in their image.
Or when discriminatory organizations flaunt their exclusivity on publicly owned property – through wink-wink arrangements cloaked as “lease” agreements – in my view, patently unjust pacts that affect everyone through a reduced tax base and limited access to community amenities.
In New Smyrna Beach, there has been a long-simmering (and incredibly ugly) community secret that many residents – including some who have been elected to represent the interests of their neighbors – would prefer remained in the civic shadows.
The Anglers Club – a ‘not-for-profit’ corporation – which sits on some incredibly valuable waterfront real estate on New Smyrna’s North Causeway – is the successor of something called the “Sons of Leisure” which was formed in 1914.
To say the organization’s roots run deep in the quaint coastal community is an understatement. . .
In 1951, after various iterations, the organization apparently amended its governing charter to change the name to the “Anglers’ Yacht Club,” with the stated purpose “to form a social club, having for its purpose and promotion and advancement of recreation of its members and the advancement of game and sports fishing in both fresh and saltwater; to encourage yachting and power boating. . .” yada, yada, yada.
Under the revised charter, the club was exclusively limited to “white male citizens over 21 years of age,” and membership required a majority vote by the club’s even more exclusive “governing board.”
At present, the “club” has some 90 members – none of whom are black. . .
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the organization’s spokesperson, retired attorney Michael Brewer, said (Cue the Dukes of Hazard theme song), “The fact that we don’t have a black member doesn’t mean that we discriminate against them.”
Yeah. No. . .
The Anglers Club isn’t so cagey when it comes to their views on accepting women into their all male ranks – they don’t.
“It’s a fraternal organization,” Brewer said. “We have a freedom of association in America. To belong to a men’s club doesn’t make you a nasty, discriminatory person.”
In my view, the only problem is that argument is that most “men’s clubs” don’t sit on two-acres of prime riverfront property – owned by the citizens of New Smyrna Beach – with an estimated worth in excess of $2-million and “leased” to the Anglers Club for a paltry $25.00 a year. . .
You read that right. $25 bucks. A year.
In my view, if a group of ‘good ol’ boys’ want to buy some property, build a meeting hall and form the New Smyrna Beach chapter of the “He-Man Women Haters Club” who cares?
Just get the hell off public property if you’re not willing to welcome everyone. . .
Now, a courageous resident of New Smyrna Beach, Rhonda Kanan, has decided to do what city officials won’t and challenge the validity of the Anglers Club asinine “lease,” which essentially allows an organization that openly discriminates against women the use of very valuable public property for private benefit.
In her lawsuit, Ms. Kanan alleges that the Anglers secured a Small Business Administration loan after the hurricanes of 2004 damaged club structures – the terms of which require that the organization not discriminate “in any fashion.”
In addition, the organization apparently rents boat slips under a “Submerged Lands Lease” with the State of Florida, provided that the Anglers “shall not discriminate against any individual because of that individual’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status with respect to any activity occurring within the area subject to this lease or upon lands adjacent to and used as an adjunct of the leased area.”
You see, when you start accepting public funds – which originate from hard working taxpayers who are white, black, brown, male, female, gay, straight, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, from various and sundry places, ethnic backgrounds, and all shapes, sizes, colors, etc., etc. – to repair your private clubhouse – there are strings attached.
And there should be.
According to Ms. Kanan’s suit, way back in 2009, the City of New Smyrna Beach received a legal opinion that the Anglers Club leases were invalid – along with remedies that ran from ratifying the leases in an open public meeting – to asserting the agreements aren’t worth the yellowing paper their printed on and “seek to eject the Club from the premises.”
The 2009 review also found “no racial discrimination” by the Anglers. . .
The News-Journal reports, “The City Commission in 2009 voted 4-1 to renegotiate the lease. But it never did, and the club remains on the property paying the low rate for the land.”
I guess NSB officials opted for the “let’s sit on our collective asses in see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil fashion until people forget about it” response.
According to reports, Ms. Kanan suspects her membership in the New Smyrna Yacht Club was blocked by “certain members of the Anglers Yacht Club” who blackballed her application for reasons that haven’t been made clear – and that prompted her to exhume something many in the community would prefer remained out of the light of day. . .
Regardless of Ms. Kanan’s motivation, in my view, this case raises some interesting, long-simmering questions about basic fairness, the taxpayers expectation of just compensation for their civic assets – and the rights of all people to enjoy the benefit of public amenities – and public funds.
Perhaps if the Anglers spent more time around strong women, they would understand the irrefutable fact that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” – or Heaven more rage than one who sets to right perceived wrongs in service to her community.
Stay tuned, folks. This ones going to get interesting. . .