Angels & Assholes for March 13, 2020

Hey, 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           The Daytona Beach News-Journal

I’m a big supporter of local journalism – and no one has been more vocal or consistent in endorsing the intrinsic benefit and importance of our local newspaper.

However, the editorial board’s ridiculous decision to publish a presumptuous piece calling for the forced cancellation of Bike Week activities as the event rolls into its final weekend is simply over-the-top.

We’ve now reached the saturation point with today’s News-Journal – crammed with “All Coronavirus, All the time.” 

Don’t take my word for it, take a read. . .

In turn, we have learned that editor Pat Rice has given the order to close the newspaper’s lobby indefinitely.

Why?

Because it was one more way to shoehorn the word “coronavirus” into an online headline – a “See, we’re doing something!  Why don’t you join us in shutting down your business or venue – because no matter what it takes – we’re going to force you into social isolation, just like us!”   

Clearly, rather than slowdown and evaluate the who, what, when and why – the News-Journal and other media outlets are just heating up.

Earlier this week, newspapers across the region frightened us all with the glaring headline:

“Coronavirus: In St. Johns County, Bike Week attendee from New York tests positive”

“The Florida Department of Health announced late Wednesday that a 63-year old male New York resident who had traveled to Daytona for Bike Week has tested positive.”

Then, hours later, the story was corrected by official sources to show that, in fact, the scary New York vector never came anywhere near Daytona Beach!

Frankly, if someone from the “Florida Department of Health” announced that erroneous information to media outlets – then that person should be fired.  Immediately.

Guess what?

A sizable number of residents and visitors still think someone from New York, infected with COVID-19, rubbed elbows with them at some Bike Week venue – and writing lukewarm retractions after the fact is rarely effective when people with even non-related sniffles are being told to endure the personal and financial impacts of self-quarantining themselves for 14-days. . .

In my view, that rush to publish something – anything – is wholly irresponsible and does nothing to calm the uncontrolled panic that has gripped our nation after a week of near-constant flogging by national media outlets – Henny-Penny 24/7 “coverage” that  has now taken the form of around-the-clock chyrons crawling across every television screen in the country.

In their piece “Coronavirus threat is too great, so shut down last weekend of Bike Week” – a rattled screed that can only be described as shameless pandering to the legitimate fears and media-driven hysteria of a community on edge – the News-Journal suggests all but martial law:

“Local municipal or health officials should order an early end to Bike Week. But if they don’t, the task defaults to the businesses that operate the bulk of events. The logistics of shutting things down are stark, but simple. Turn off the beer taps, send servers home, cancel the live music, shut down the vendors.”

Bullshit.

“There’s already been one case of COVID-19 linked to Bike Week.  (No, there hasn’t.) A spokeswoman for the city says that person never made it Daytona Beach, but who can say how many people that person came into contact with on the way?  How many of those people are now carrying the virus, but don’t know it?  What happens to their families, coworkers and neighbors when they go home?  And how many more arrived in town already infected, and have spread the virus on to others? How many more are going to show up this weekend?”

Really?

In my view, this gross speculation has no place in a local newspaper – editorial content or not – so, stay in your lane and let jack-leg bloggers like me worry about what “might” happen. . .

My God.

How dare you presume to tell me – or anyone else – what they can and cannot do?

I’ve got a better suggestion, one that will have a far more beneficial impact on the current “coronavirus craze” than seeking a government-enforced stoppage of legal commerce and impede upon our constitutional right to free association:

Let’s “shut down” the 24/7 hype and reckless posturing by national (and now local) news media – and limit this bizarre hand-wringing that is driving a colossal overreaction in the most advanced nation on the planet.

Is this a public health crisis?  Certainly.

But so is this malicious full court press by media outlets intent on driving an international panic that is now drastically affecting the strongest markets and exchanges in the world.

Trust me.  Far more people will be bankrupt when this national quarantine – enforced by shutting down commerce, sports, education, entertainment, etc. – is over than will ever die from the disease.

Is this what our community has come to?

Is this what our society has come to?

Look, let’s all use commonsense measures to protect ourselves from what most relatively healthy victims have reported causes little more than “mild to moderate” flu symptoms:

Wash your hands and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home and office.

With luck, the Volusia County School Board will consider actually cleaning our school facilities.

Limit international travel to locations with a high incidence of COVID-19.

If you have traveled overseas, come in contact with someone infected by coronavirus and you are having symptoms – get tested.

And, if you’re sick – stay home.

Perhaps most important – think and rationalize for yourself!

Despite what you may have been told by some well-coiffed doctor-who-plays-a-doctor-on-TV – no one needs 500 rolls of toilet paper.

Let’s turn off the nonsensical gibberish being spewed, ad nauseum, by talking heads on what passes for the “news” – and start making decisions for ourselves, and our families, based upon information from respected organizations without a profit motive.

And let’s hope The Daytona Beach News-Journal can regain the trust of its readers once this fear-mongering has run its course.

Asshole           Volusia County School District

Last Sunday, parents and taxpayers opened The Daytona Beach News-Journal to learn the shocking details of the most recent debacle at Volusia County Schools.

In February, a disturbing video depicting a 15-year old student at Seabreeze High School being tripped by two other students during a dangerous “Skull Crusher” prank in a school hallway went viral on a social media platform – an incident that naturally resulted in widespread outrage – and, according to the victim’s parents, was completely mishandled by school officials.

As an attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida who is representing the victim put it, “How did the entire world know what the right thing was, except for the administration in Volusia County?”

Wow.

That’s a damning indictment of our horribly broken system. . .

As I understand it, the matter is now in the juvenile court system after criminal charges were filed by the victim’s parents – but that doesn’t forgive or explain why the district’s internal policies – and those who are paid handsomely to administrate them – seem to consistently get it wrong?

Every damn time. . .

And it just gets worse.

Now, at a time when institutional disinfection, proper sanitary procedures and the availability of basic hand hygiene supplies (i.e. soap) are vital to the prevention of COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses – we’re being told that fear is spreading like wildfire among parents and students of Volusia County schools as teachers roll up their sleeves to clean “filthy” classrooms, field trips are curtailed and the possibility of closing educational facilities looms.

According to a report by the News-Journal’s intrepid education reporter Cassidy Alexander, “The district’s messaging on coronavirus has consistently asked people to keep their hands clean, to use disinfectant on hard surfaces that people touch and to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.”

But How?

Teachers from throughout the district – those who are actually on the front lines and care deeply about the health and welfare of children in their charge – are reporting school bathrooms being out of soap for “multiple days,” while others are going in their own pocket for hand sanitizer and surface disinfectants, because they no longer have confidence in the district’s contractor to properly clean their classrooms.

My God. 

 Of course – as is standard operating procedure in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand – when this deteriorating situation was brought to the attention of administrators, some well-paid district mouthpiece downplayed the severity with the official reaction, “…a few teachers complained of problems with the cleanliness of their rooms, which she said they’re addressing with ABM (the district’s maintenance provider).” 

Seriously? 

Does the district’s Public Information apparatus read the newspaper?

In turn, Chief Operating Officer Greg Akin said in a nonsensical emailed statement to the News-Journal,  “We will share with ABM any classroom that is missed to make sure they are there to take care of the classrooms within the district.” 

Really, Greg? 

You plan to “share” the problem with the very entity that created the problem in the first place?

Good work, Chief.  That’s the kind of direct action we need right now. . .

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

How many more times does the Volusia County School District have to be plastered across the front page/above the fold of our local newspaper – or go viral on international social media – before someone, anyone, reevaluates the effectiveness of these so-called senior administrators – who are, in my view, little more than blundering posers – who continue to get it wrong, time-after-time?

And where is our new Superintendent Dr. Scotty Fritz? 

In the last week, we learned that Dr. Fritz has played Three-card Monte with some senior administrators – changing their title from Area Superintendent to Assistant Superintendent (?) – and assigning responsibilities for elementary, middle and high schools – and a fourth for student services.

Whatever.

Two of the new six-figure assistant superintendents are transplants from districts where Dr. Fritz previously worked.

I’m not saying bringing in someone he can trust – outsiders with a fresh set of eyes – is a bad thing.  It isn’t.

While it appears district officials are, for some reason, downplaying the significance – we also learned that former Volusia County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Michelle Newman was recently named Director of Safety, Security and Elementary Management – a position our district has desperately needed for years.

Maybe the district will flesh out Director Newman’s qualifications, background and responsibilities going forward?

In my view, how Dr. Fritz handles the “coronavirus crisis” – and the myriad other issues that continue to plague the district – will tell us all we need to know about his leadership ability – and worth.

So far, it appears business as usual. . .

In my view, if things go south – given the fact parents and taxpayers have already determined that many in the entrenched senior management class in DeLand are incapable – if not wholly incompetent – when it comes to addressing the serious issues facing our schools, our new Superintendent will have no one to blame but himself.

Angel               B-CU Athletic Director Lynn Thompson

From the Barker’s View Sports Desk:

Kudos to Bethune-Cookman University Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lynn Thompson on being named the 2020-2021 Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics!

Vice President Thompson will be honored in June during NACDA’s 55th Annual Convention at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.

According to B-CU Athletics:

“Thompson’s lengthy and impressive resume includes serving as the first African-American to chair the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee and as a member on the NCAA I-AA Football Committee and the NCAA Football Issues Committees, creating policy for intercollegiate athletics on a national level. He has also served the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as chairman of the MEAC Basketball, Softball, Track and Field and Baseball Tournaments, and has been selected five times as an NCAA Peer Reviewer for the athletics certification process.”

In addition, Mr. Thompson currently serves on the NCAA Committee on Academics, as a member of the Board of the Florida Sports Foundations and the MEAC Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to Vice President Thompson – and the entire Wildcat Nation – on this important recognition!

Angel               Volusia Councilwoman Billie Wheeler

Some ‘movers & shakers’ in our community thought the godawful plan to place a traffic roundabout at the busy intersection of East International Speedway Boulevard and A-1-A was a “done deal” – argument over – implying that the mysterious public and private forces pushing the loop had won.

Not so fast.

This week, Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler joined the growing chorus of area residents, activists and business owners in questioning how – after all the meetings, “information sharing” sessions, coffee klatches and FDOT community confabs – some in a position of power still can’t see this nightmare in the making for what it is?

“We are facing increased capacity and a section of stopped traffic, creating, in my opinion, the perfect storm,” Ms. Wheeler rightfully announced.

She’s right.

The Councilwoman’s concerns came during a meeting of the “ISB Coalition,” another do-nothing public/private club – comprised of every self-interest currently controlled by our uber-wealthy overseers – to include, area colleges and universities, hospitals, our Regional Chamber of Commerce, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona International Airport, the hotel/motel types, etc. – who have been twiddling their collective thumbs since 2007 over “what to do” with the blight and dilapidation that is our main gateway to what was once “The Worlds Most Famous Beach.”

Commendably, Ms. Wheeler’s vocal support for rethinking the unthinkable was echoed by Maryam Ghyabi, an experienced traffic engineer who serves as chair of the ISB Coalition – along with civic activist Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach – and Bob Davis, President for Life of the Hotel & Lodging Association of Volusia County, who confirmed, “My entire industry does not want roundabouts.”

These voices represent some heavy hitters in the Halifax Area – which bodes well for We, The Little People, who have been screaming to anyone who will listen that a signalized intersection is simply a better fit for a roadway that includes the busiest beach access point in Volusia County.

Kudos to Councilwoman Wheeler for having the courage to stand firm in support of this commonsense solution to the revitalization of the East ISB corridor and beyond.

If you care about the life and health of this vitally important area of our community, I hope you will attend a public meeting regarding the proposed design plans for East ISB on Tuesday, March 31, 5:30pm to 7:30pm, at the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center, 925 George W. Engram Boulevard in Daytona Beach.

According to a Florida Department of Transportation announcement, the meeting will begin with an open house at 5:30pm, when participants can review design information and discuss the project with staff, followed by a brief presentation at 6:00pm, after which participants can provide comments.

This one’s important.

Now is the time to let FDOT and our local elected official know, once again, how you feel.

Because once an asinine roundabout is clogging traffic at all four quadrants of this incredibly important intersection – it will be too late – and residents and visitors will be saddled with this expensive, and wholly inappropriate, boondoggle for many years to come. . .

Quote of the Week

“Florida officials should free local public health officials to be more forthcoming, sharing information that doesn’t betray patient privacy but does provide more assurance to the public. Instead, finding information about new cases has too often been like a game of hide-and-seek. When the first Florida resident fell sick, the news leaked out through a memo on letterhead from Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, not an official press release. It doesn’t exactly inspire public confidence.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial, “A prescription for more information,” Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I agree.

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, in my experience, local and state government have an obligation to prepare for potential threats in advance by developing effective policies and protocols for containing emergencies to the extent humanly possible – while limiting widespread panic through the dissemination of substantive information.

These plans should be made and exercised during periods of calm, before a potential epidemic is at hand – rather than mandated from on high once the public start asking the difficult questions. . .

That includes determining what information will be most beneficial to preventing the spread of disease and permit citizens to make informed decisions outside the media-hyped hysteria of the moment.

In my view, some local governments have practiced a strategy of limiting public communications to pithy soundbites and canned releases for so long – protecting the organization and its senior management at all costs – that they have forgotten the importance of timely information to effective crisis management.

In fact, earlier this week, The Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote an informative article spotlighting area residents who have self-quarantined after international travel.

Unfortunately, when reporter Nikki Ross attempted to get answers regarding screening protocols at Daytona International Airport, she wrote, “Calls to Daytona Beach International Airport spokeswoman Joanne Magley were not returned.”  

My God.  That is a sentence we should never read during a potential emergency. . .

In my view, the very idea of not returning a reporters calls, or refusing to provide substantive information on the location of community infections, is counter to sound public information protocols designed to increase knowledge, build confidence and limit panic.

Now is the time for openness and complete transparency.

Anything less looks clumsy and destroys public trust.

Anything less is irresponsible.

And Another Thing!

On Wednesday, I read a Facebook post from Ruben Colon, a sitting member of the Volusia County School Board, who, in my view, was undeservedly taken to the woodshed by a local on-line news site for a goofy coronavirus meme he posted on social media that some apparently felt was inappropriate.

In turn, Mr. Colon removed the post and openly apologized to anyone who felt offended by it.

Case closed. 

Obviously, I’m not one to embrace the almost universally institutionalized practice of “political correctness” – watching everything I say or do for fear my words will “trigger” someone and upset their delicate sensibilities – but I don’t go out of my way to be offensive, either.

That just comes naturally. . .

Plus, I no longer wear the gag of a public official that limits one’s point of view and suppresses honest discourse.

Those who currently hold high office should understand that social media, and the use of platforms like Facebook and Twitter to express humor and personal opinions – can be a double-edged sword.

Especially in the blood sport that is modern politics. . .

But that shouldn’t dissuade public officials from openly and honestly communicating with their friends and constituents via social media – and most people I know will forgive mistakes they might make themselves.

Look, I like Ruben Colon.  We don’t always agree on the issues of the day – and that’s okay.

We frequently communicate on matters of mutual concern – and he routinely takes me to task when he feels I have gotten it wrong on a matter related to the school district – and he accepts responsibility when the criticism is deserved.

I respect that.

In any interaction, I have always found Mr. Colon to be incredibly smart and thoughtful – with an excellent grasp of the issues and a burning desire to make things better.

Perhaps most important – he truly cares about the needs of Volusia County students.

In my view, I was incredibly heartened to see so many parents and taxpayers come out in support of Mr. Colon on social media and beyond.

He deserves it.

I admire the fact that Ruben took personal responsibility for his actions – which may or may not have offended some of his constituents – and, in doing so, demonstrated a real commitment to personal honesty and political accountability.

In my view, that speaks to Mr. Colon’s personal and professional character – something we need more of in Volusia County politics.     

That’s all for me.  Stay healthy and take care of each other.

Have a great final weekend of Bike Week 2020, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for March 13, 2020

  1. Maybe the Bike Week editorial is an attempt to restore lost credibility. Let a single case of anyone who owns a bike anywhere in the country get linked to Corona, and read all about it in the NJ.

    Like

  2. Miserable bike week and bikers. Noise, rudeness, out of control out bikers. Go home.

    I love round abouts, there are many in south Florida including at beaches.
    Daytona citizens, come out of the dark ages. You are so behind.
    All you beach people do is whine and complain.

    Like

  3. Regarding the News-Journal’s editorial recommending the closing of Bike Week, I disagree with you….it’s the smart thing to do. Asymptomatic visitors can each infect many others, who in turn infect more. The spread is exponential. Social isolation has proven to reduce/stop the spread of this contagious disease. As a former Chief of Police, what would you be recommending if you were still working? As a former Fire Chief, I put a lot of trust in the advice of the CDC and other professionals in the field. They recommend cancelling large gatherings. Bike Week, even in its current state of decline, is still a large gathering. IMHO

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