Welcome to our Valentine’s Day Special – All love, all the time!
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:
Angel Daytona International Speedway & NASCAR
We’ve had quite a few issues on our plate in the early days of 2020 – from the machinations in the county attorney’s office, to East ISB, the continuing debacle at First Step Shelter, the breech birth of Hyattona with its wholesale destruction of our downtown streetscape, upheaval in Deltona and the first salvos in this year’s election cycle – so it’s refreshing to have a distraction now that the most exciting weekend in motorsports has returned to Daytona International Speedway.
Last year was a time of transition and contraction for our friends over at DIS and NASCAR as they continue the fight to remain relevant and find a place for their struggling product in the ever-evolving world of sports entertainment.
In Daytona Beach, racing will always be our raison d’être – one man’s extraordinary vision that helped build our community and continues to sustain it – a massive undertaking that remains vitally important to our regional economy.
Here’s wishing everyone at NASCAR a prosperous, safe and exiting weekend as the sport kicks off its 2020 season with the Great American Race – the one and only Daytona 500 – on Sunday.
Let’s hope our local hospitality industry sees a much-needed boost from the event as well.
Despite what we are repeatedly told is a “healthy economic outlook” for Volusia County – many in our community remain dependent on a robust special events season to keep their heads above water – and we really need race fans, spring breakers, motorcycle enthusiasts and anyone else we can lure to our slightly down-at-the-heels destination – to come visit us in droves over the next few weeks.
Like many of you, I fear our hospitality industry, and those ancillary businesses that rely on it, are standing at a dire crossroads – and a few more seasons of reduced occupancy won’t bode well for struggling families who depend on service industry jobs to make a life.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurial start-ups and established small businesses receive very little in the way of assistance or financial incentives in Volusia County.
It seems our Regional Chamber of Commerce has become perpetually starstruck by the “Rich & Powerful” oligarchs who control our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast – and corporate welfare is exclusively reserved for those who have the wherewithal to purchase it through a massive return on their investment in the campaign coffers of perennial politicians with a certain “flexibility” on issues that affect their bottom line. . .
Look, I spend an inordinate amount of time opining on the myriad social and economic issues that are dragging our core tourist area and beyond into a festering quagmire of blight and despair – something I believe is fundamentally damaging our sense of place, civic pride and international reputation.
However, each year about this time, with spring in the air and the roar of stock car racing on the breeze – I get a renewed enthusiasm for what our future could hold under the right circumstances.
Thanks to everyone at DIS, NASCAR and the various service providers and first responders who worked so hard to make Speed Weeks such a rousing success!
When I was growing up, the speedway had bumper stickers that said, “If you wanna race, Daytona is the place!”
Here’s hoping it always will be.
Keep the faith, baby.
Angel New Smyrna Beach Police Department
Earlier this week, we learned that the New Smyrna Beach Police Department is exploring the use of small Unmanned Aerial Systems – commonly referred to as “drones” – to assist public safety efforts and better serve the needs of their residents.
At present, just three Volusia County law enforcement agencies employ this emerging technology – Daytona Beach, Holly Hill and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
I’m proud to report that late last year I helped seven Holly Hill police officers prepare for the rigorous Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 written examination; a comprehensive knowledge test covering various regulatory, safety and decision-making aspects of unmanned flight that certifies them to act as commercial UAS pilots.
As a certificated flight instructor and retired law enforcement officer, this volunteer opportunity allowed me to give back to my department, community and profession in a meaningful way – and, I must admit – it is exciting to play a small role in bringing this amazing asset into service locally.
Just as the Wright Brother’s 1903 flight changed our world forever – rapid advances in the public and commercial use of unmanned systems will improve our daily lives in ways once reserved for science fiction novels – and define this century as the dawn of a new age in aviation advancements.
UAS technology is bringing cost effective aerial capabilities to local, state and federal government agencies for improved search and rescue, law enforcement, disaster recovery, firefighting, inspection, spectrometry, security operations and more.
In fact, advanced payloads are available to assist in a variety of public safety applications – and whenever a drone successfully locates a missing Alzheimer’s victim, allows a safe and efficient damage assessment following a natural disaster or helps contain a raging brush fire – the benefit of this equipment becomes self-evident.
Unfortunately, despite clear rules regulating the use of drones, some still harbor significant concerns that these systems will be misused for surveillance activities or other operations that invade a citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy, or endanger the safety of persons and property on the ground.
While privacy concerns are important to all Americans – unfortunately, the concept, as our parents and grandparents knew it – no longer exists in modern society.
Whenever we go out in public, technology is capturing images and data all around us as business and industry use our personal information for a variety of purposes – and the use of cell phone cameras, CCTV monitors and security sensors is omnipresent.
Just consider the amount of overt and covert scanning and monitoring that occurs during a trip through any airport in the world and you begin to understand how far down that road we are.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand that government agencies act responsibly in the deployment of unmanned systems – and it is important that local departments use sound command and control strategies to ensure these extraordinary devices are properly employed for their intended purpose as a means of building public trust in the technology.
I applaud NSB Police Chief Mike Coffins’ efforts to provide advance information to residents on the laws regulating UAS operations in the public airspace – and his department’s internal policies which will govern the use of drones in police operations.
Kudos to the New Smyrna Beach Police Department for embracing the use of small Unmanned Aerial Systems to enhance and improve service delivery.
Welcome to the 21st Century, y’all.
Quote of the Week
“I’ve lived in DeLand for 67 years. I remember the Daytona from many years back. I worked on the Boardwalk for 7 1/2 in the early 80’s repairing the arcade games. The big money seemed to never like what it was then. Now I drive down A1A and it is like canyon in that area. Horrible!”
“There is no flavor of a seaside town and will never be again. New Smyrna is making some of the same mistakes, but not as quickly. There never should have been high rise buildings on the east side of A1A. I kinda wish there was a hall of shame for the officials responsible for this spoiling of the beach area. May their legacy be recorded for all to know.”
–Doug Bell, DeLand, writing in Facebook’s Volusia Issues public forum, Monday, February 10, 2020
According to Mr. Bell, he placed the above anecdote in the comments section of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s social media page last week in response to a recent announcement that the newspaper will be hosting yet another community coffee klatch to discuss the malignant blight and dilapidation that has all but consumed East ISB and much of our languishing beachside.
I don’t know Mr. Bell personally, but I’m told his opinion was “deleted” from the site – so, I thought I would give him a well-deserved voice on this important issue.
(Note: After I posted this blog, I received word from the News-Journal that the omission of Mr. Bell’s post must have been in error. In my experience, the N-J is good about accepting all points-of-view, even those hypercritical of the newspaper. I’m sure if Mr. Bell is so inclined, he could resubmit his piece for publication.)
While I admire the News-Journal’s persistence in attempting to stimulate a continuing dialog – the fact is, we’ve talked these specific issues to death – and there is still no substantive plan for turning the tide and revitalizing our core tourist area and beyond.
In my view, the time for idle chit-chat on these important issues has come and gone.
Now, it is time for direct action at the ballot box.
Unless and until those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests actually listen to our concerns – all the “Town Hall” meetings and neighborhood coffees the News-Journal can muster will remain little more than hot air generators for citizens who have been marginalized and ignored by their own representatives.
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Bell.
Perhaps it is time to enshrine these do-nothing buffoons that hold high public office in a place of dishonor – the Volusia County Hall of Shame.
Let it serve as a terrible reminder to future generations of the corrosive effect consolidating power in the hands of a few greedy bastards had on a once world-class destination. . .
And Another Thing!
Ready to attend some exciting candidate “grip-n-grins” as the 2020 election season heats up?
Yeah, me neither. . .
But this one sounds like it will be fun – and informative.
From Jeff “Plan B” Brower, Candidate for Volusia County Chair:
“Come on out for happy hour on your way home and meet the real Plan B – Volusia County Chair 2020 candidate Jeff Brower. Enjoy some great snacks and/or buy a delicious meal from this local favorite restaurant over the World’s Most Famous Beach. Ask Jeff questions, meet our volunteers, sign a petition to get Jeff on the ballot and just enjoy the beautiful setting and great food and drinks. Make a donation and get a Plan B tee shirt as a thank you!”
Tuesday, February 18, 2020 – 4:00pm to 7:00pm
Crabby Joe’s Deck & Grill – 3701 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach Shores, Florida
Barker’s View will be on hiatus next week – taking some much-needed time away, a different perspective and a chance to become somebody else’s problem for a while. . .
I know some of you political junkies, sitting politicians, entrenched bureaucrats, uber-wealthy insiders and die-hard members of the BV Tribe miss my weekly take on the news and newsmakers who influence public policy in Volusia County whenever I’m away.
(I have to admit – because I’m a degenerate masochist – I also long for the froth and fray of local politics whenever I’m away. . .)
Have no fear!
Because my views on our place and time are nothing if not prolific – there are over 500 posts archived by month and year on this blog site that will give you a unique historical perspective on the myriad problems we face.
If you want to feed your need for an alternative point-of-view – and take a disturbing glimpse into my quirky mind and the weird forces that affect our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – go crazy with it!
Fair warning: I’ll be back in a week or so. . .
As always, thanks for reading – and have a great weekend, my Valentines!