Sometimes, in the quiet of the evening, when I’m sipping aged whiskey and cogitating on the signs and wonders – I question if we’re living in some parallel dimension here on the Fun Coast?
Because, of the hundreds-of-trillions of galaxies out there in the infinite expanse of the universe – you’d be hard pressed to find a more surreal political “reality” than what we experience here on this salty piece of land.
A place where, no matter how utterly dysfunctional things may get, our ‘powers that be’ always muster the hubris to stand before their long-suffering subjects, smile broadly, and paint a rosy picture using a dull palette of half-truths, feint maneuvers and old-fashioned political horseshit.
Once again, when it came time to do the right thing, our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, couldn’t rise to it.
On Tuesday, Old Ed stood before a fawning coterie of insiders, political benefactors, government contractors, political candidates, a handful of municipal officials (who, given their historic poor treatment by county government, would have preferred to be anywhere else) and a few suspicious citizens – to deliver the annual “State of the County” address.
(I would have been there, but I wash my beard on Tuesdays and can’t do a thing with it. . .)
So, I watched the oddly produced video on the County website afterward – the first ten-minutes of which was a rolling advertisement for the event’s (wink,wink) “sponsors.”
As usual, I was immediately struck by the fact that every elected official and bureaucrat in the room was acknowledged and thanked during the lengthy introduction – not one mention of the hard-working and overtaxed residents of Volusia County who pay the bills and suffer in silence.
After all, it’s not about us. It never has been.
During the opening segment of the canned video, county employees were shown sampling water quality on the St. John’s River – before a Volusia County environmental specialist took the opportunity to scold residents:
“If people really knew why we did this and rather than just complaining about the water looking so bad or being concerned about whether the fish are edible or not, if they really understood why things get so bad and took more care of what they do we might not have to be out here quite as much.”
So, the fact our water quality is in serious decline – with wild fish showing signs of tumors and lesions – is our fault?
If only we took more care, it would lighten the load on Volusia County Environmental Management and clean-up our increasingly polluted rivers, estuaries and sensitive wetlands. . .
Remember: The state of our environment has nothing to do with the residential and commercial sprawl our elected officials continue to permit – while their political benefactors in the real estate development industry line their groaning pockets – understand?
So, stop your bitching about whether the fish are edible, or why the water looks so bad, and change your heathen ways. Got it?
That’s when I turned it off.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of being blamed and lectured by the very elected officials and entrenched bureaucrats who got us into this damnable condition in the first place. . .
It was an ostentatious affair – political vanity run amok – complete with a “free lunch” provided by several companies that do business with Volusia County (?) – and held at the county owned Ocean Center, which stands at the epicenter of our crumbling core tourist area.
How appropriate. How completely appropriate. . .
One would have thought that as he sang his swansong before a roomful of like types, Chairman Kelley would have, for once, told the truth – you know, sail off into the sunset with a clear conscience – while challenging the next iteration of our county council to begin the monumental process of rebuilding the public trust.
Instead, Chairman Kelley dutifully recognized the assembled nabobs, then flogged some ridiculous narrative to shore up his heir apparent – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys – clumsily touting her weird obsession with “space jobs” – while their “colleagues” provided video evidence of their own ill-informed perception of the state of things here on the beleaguered Fun Coast.
According to the agitprop that was provided to attendees:
“Government, business and education leaders also are coordinating like never before to ensure that Volusia County – squarely within the so-called Space Triangle – has the regulatory climate and educated workforce necessary to broadcast its message to the aerospace industry: Volusia County is ready, and Volusia County is right!”
The fictitious Space Triangle is “so called” because it doesn’t exist.
And the fact of the matter is, we are nowhere near ready. . .
Just for the record – I didn’t say that. Dr. Kent Sharples, the Enlightened One of the exalted CEO Business Alliance did.
During his flashlight-under-the-chin apocalyptic prognostication at the November 2019 meeting of the Knights of the Roundtable, describing our horrific fate if we don’t increase the sales tax, Sharples said of roads, infrastructure and “shovel-ready” sites to attract aerospace companies:
“Until we get that infrastructure in place, we’re not going to be successful. If we’re not ready in 12 to 18 months to be able to start construction, we’re not even in the competition anymore.”
In my view, this shim-sham of aerospace manufacturing in Volusia County continues to serve as a convenient diversion to the fact we don’t have the infrastructure, workforce or ancillary services to support these industries, and, at present, we simply cannot compete with Brevard County – who continues to recover from the economic disaster resulting from the loss of the shuttle program – not to mention that the vacant infrastructure which pockmarks the Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne metroplex sits literally on the doorstep of the commercial launch complex.
While Volusia County’s potential role in the space industry remains decades away – if ever – those we have elected to meet our current economic and employment needs continue to feed us this pie-in-the-sky pap as though we’re ready to start launching rockets from the old Home Depot parking lot next month.
The constant drumbeat from Denys and our shameless “economic development” shills is cruel comfort to some 43% of our county’s population who struggle to meet monthly living expenses – and the thousands more living below the poverty line – who are begging for more opportunities than $32,000 a year storehouse jobs.
In my view, Dr. Sharples was right about one thing – if these half-wits who hold high office don’t put a moratorium on this massive sprawl and begin the process of improving our transportation, water quality and utilities infrastructure in the next 12 to 18 months – we’re all screwed. . .
But wait, there was more “good news” from Old Ed and the Funky Bunch on Tuesday.
According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“Among other things, Kelley touted major upgrades to the Ocean Center and Daytona Beach International Airport, new routes for Votran buses, the hiring of a long-awaited internal auditor and giving County Manager George Recktenwald the permanent job as a few of the year’s highlights, adding that the State of the County video may have shown a lot of progress and accomplishments some residents might not know about.”
Tragically, bus routes and new carpet in an airport terminal are what pass for civic “accomplishments” in Volusia County.
I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .
To take this abject absurdity to the ragged edge – let’s look at a few of the “Goals and Objectives” that, according to the soiree’s glossy program, have been proposed by county government – which, by any metric, remain a figment of our county councils very vivid imagination:
“Maintain and foster productive relationships with public and private partners.”
If maintaining “productive relationships” with “private partners” means funneling public funds to underwrite the private, for-profit projects of their political benefactors – mission accomplished!
“Demonstrate leadership in decisions and actions.”
Does anything about this perpetual shitshow in DeLand resemble strong “leadership”?
“Meet community expectations for quality.”
Please. The community quit expecting anything from Volusia County government years ago – and we collectively spoke volumes about this continuing “trust issue” during last year’s half-cent sales tax referendum.
Now, let’s hope the long-suffering voters of Volusia County continue that positive momentum and demand servant-leadership that will bring true accomplishments we can all be proud of at the ballot box this fall.