Howdy my fellow shut-ins!
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.
Well, it’s been a slow week here in the Fun Coast’s Complaint Department.
Not much for me to whine about of late – at least not on the political, civic or social fronts – as our news cycle remains consumed by the “All Coronavirus/All the time” sensationalism that, in my view, continues to do more harm than good as our seclusion drives a sense of social claustrophobia and uncertainty.
My hope is our local newspaper, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, will reconsider its choice of words during this trying time.
For instance, screaming headlines, like – “Coronavirus: 785% increase in cases; two in Volusia, one in Flagler; still no stay-at-home orders” – don’t really paint an accurate picture of our current situation, at least according to our local hospital medical directors, and simply stoke the fears of readers who are helpless to do anything beyond enduring endless isolation or getting lost in the Byzantine maze of trying to sign up for unemployment benefits.
Who knew that improvised toilet tissue and interminable boredom were the only effective antidote to COVID-19?
Meanwhile, I pass the rosy hours here at Barker’s View HQ – reading, brooding and contemplating ever-changing events – trying desperately to limit my intake of what passes for “news” (difficult for a confirmed info-junkie).
I’m also dodging a constant barrage of Facebook Messenger videos – everything from home remedies for the coronavirus to a Brahma bull knitting a sweater to cartoonish morality plays about “hoarding” – weird vignettes which are literally pouring into my phone – Ding! Ding! Ding! – at all hours of the day from cloistered “friends” (my 84-year old mother at the head of the list) whose boredom-fueled need to share has clearly reached the wacky stage.
That’s okay – if it helps you pass the time with a sense of purpose – keep sending them.
But if you forward anything prefaced with “Let’s keep this going!” (that means you, mom) just know the one meme that would have saved the world died a quick death with me. . . sorry.
In reality, my days under this godawful self-quarantine aren’t much different than any other day in retirement – and those of you who are champing at the bit to retire from contributing jobs to a life of leisure should use this Groundhog Day experience as a precursor of what’s to come when your just reward arrives.
A little advice:
Be careful what you wish for. . .and stay gainfully employed as long as you can.
I hope you and your family are staying healthy and busy, keeping spirits bright and finding a way to occupy your time in productive ways that bring you closer – that’s important.
Please don’t forget to check on your elderly or vulnerable neighbors and make sure they are doing well during these frightful times – and if you don’t have anyone at home and feel lonely or depressed – feel free to reach out to me.
You’re not alone.
Plus, I’m a damn good pen pal.
To that end, earlier in the week, I mentioned the possibility of organizing a Barker’s View “Meeting of the Minds” when this microbial monster is bested, and we are all able to join together as a tribe.
I’m happy to report the response was overwhelmingly positive.
So, I’m committed to doing just that once our current crisis is over.
We’ll find a willing locally owned establishment where we can all come together, enjoy the beverage of our choice and celebrate our new-found freedom in high style!
I’ll look forward to it. I hope you will too.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Asshole Daytona Beach City Commission
On Tuesday, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and the City Commission did the right thing in courageously approving a wide-ranging relief package which will assist residents and businesses who have been financially devastated by government-imposed coronavirus prevention measures.
The program will see the city temporarily absorbing a portion of residents’ utility bills, setting aside building permit fees, suspending commercial rent at city-owned properties and other economic benefits.
The programmatic costs are being covered by the municipality’s reserve fund.
In my view, this outstanding humanitarian effort will assist many shattered families who lost their livelihoods almost instantaneously following unprecedented closures and restrictions, and help the many small businesses who are literally holding on by their fingernails.
Unfortunately, the elected officials couldn’t leave it at that.
Because it’s not enough to give your suffering constituents something of value during a time a crisis – the deal is not complete until you take something of value from them in return.
During the special session, Mayor Henry continued his foolish crusade to shut down Volusia County beaches and further contribute to the sense of civic confinement and building frustration as residents enter the second week of having their lives turned upside down by state and local officials who continue to use our sacred Constitution as toilet paper as supplies of Charmin run low in the Ivory Tower of Power. . .
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, with little understanding of how the coronavirus is transmitted – or apparent care for the financial devastation that these cockamamie local ordinances and “emergency declarations” are having on our economy and residents – the majority of the Daytona Beach City Commission voted “…to send a resolution to the county urging that the beach be legally fenced off.”
Look, I know I sound like a broken record – and I’ve been harangued by many on the importance of social distancing, even self-isolation, to “flattening the curve” – I get it.
But the prevention protocols of the Centers for Disease Control haven’t changed one iota since this crisis began – and Governor Ron DeSantis has continued to push for individual responsibility and commonsense local control while keeping beaches and recreation areas open to the public.
In my view, and that of recognized experts, there appears to be little threat to those who visit the wide expanse of an open beach while maintaining group restrictions and proper intervals – much less exposure than when residents venture out to forage for food at increasingly crowded grocery stores or obtain life sustaining drugs at pharmacies – yet, politicians seem to understand the intrinsic political value in allowing their constituents access to food and water.
At least for now. . .
Regardless, Mayor Henry continues to demand that county officials completely shut down access to the physical and psychological benefits of sunshine, warmth and fresh air.
Now, even Commissioner Aaron Delgado – who I consider the most stable of the bunch – has picked up the torch (after Mayor Henry failed to convince anyone of note outside City Hall to take him seriously) and is now “leading the charge” to erect a fence between citizens and their publicly owned beach.
In keeping with this sweeping hysteria that is consuming local elected officials, beginning today, the City of New Smyrna Beach has closed boat ramps in that community, further sequestering residents and shutting them off from the relative isolation of the open water.
Really? Boat ramps?
In my view, in perhaps the most horrific example of the malignant political arrogance that will mark the nadir of this crisis locally, Daytona Beach Commissioner Quanita May pontificated that closing Volusia County beaches would “…send out the message that people can’t use Volusia County’s beaches to dodge the restrictions put in place to fight the virus.”
Even as she admitted that – every day – she walks on the beach, mornings and evenings. . .
So much for practicing the draconian measures that you so haughtily demand for the rest of us, eh?
If Commissioner May has her way – not even the relative peace of a day at the beach will allow us subjects of the realm to escape the iron boot of this ‘well intentioned’ tyranny.
Now, that truly is “appalling.”
Infuriatingly, the rules will always remain different for those who make them – the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on the dais of power – who transmogrify into all-powerful martinets, undermining core civil liberties to “protect us from ourselves” as they continue to cobble together “public health laws” seemingly out of thin air.
Frankly, I’ve been impressed with County Manager George Recktenwald and County Chair Ed Kelley’s efforts to weather the storm of criticism and keep our beaches open.
In my view, it is time Florida counties and municipalities follow the leadership and authority of Governor DeSantis and stop this willy-nilly enactment of local lockdowns, shelter-in-place mandates, “stay-at-home” orders, and arbitrary business closures – the “let’s do something for the sake of doing something” legislation that is shitting on the constitutionally protected civil liberties and basic freedoms of their constituents.
During this crisis, local officials have constantly lectured that the reason we cannot simply be governed by CDC suggestions and commonsense recommendations is because We, The People aren’t “taking this seriously enough,” or we can’t be trusted to do the right thing to protect ourselves and our families if we are given access to the knowledge we need to make a decision.
I don’t know what this is, but we are no longer living in a participatory democracy.
Perhaps our benevolent nannies in local elected and appointed positions should remember that they derive power from us – the will of the people – and we won’t soon forget this overreach at the ballot box – when those we elected to represent our interest treated us as subjects, not citizens – and enforced obedience through irresponsible fear-mongering and oppressive decrees.
Angel Sheriff Mike Chitwood and the Volusia Deputies Association
Our brave first responders face myriad dangers while serving and protecting our communities – and the traditions and nature of their essential services require that they suit up, show up, and hold the line regardless of the threat.
I’ve said this before, the response at all levels of government has appeared choppy – policies enacted at a 9:00am press conference are no longer relevant at 5:00pm – and it appears our elected leadership has yet to break the seal on their jurisdictions comprehensive emergency management plans.
Yet, our first responders have never wavered.
It appears our political leadership has chosen to engage in what appears to be a game of seat-of-the-pants one-upmanship – making life-altering decisions on the fly – closing businesses, shutting down public recreation areas, limiting movements, and, in some areas of the country, locking down entire cities without a thought to due process or even a good explanation.
Clearly, our leadership gave little thought or planning to the management of potential pandemics – a point made clear by the glaring lapses in executive policies that should go into effect immediately upon an emergency declaration.
Last week, Sheriff Michael Chitwood publicly supported a push by the Volusia County Deputies Association requesting that Governor DeSantis issue an executive order directing that any first responder in the state who contracts COVID-19 would be presumed to have been infected by the virus while on-duty.
In addition, the measure would require that any period of hospitalization, quarantine or self-isolation be paid as on-duty time – rather than deducted from the public safety officials sick, vacation or personal leave time – terming the period of incapacitation as “emergency hazard health duty.”
I agree wholeheartedly.
In my view, this legal presumption should be extended to cover healthcare professionals who work in public hospitals, testing sites and infection control areas, who, like first responders, do not have the option of standing down or protecting themselves and their families from infection as they perform their vital work in service to our community.
In my view, this commonsense directive should have taken effect throughout the state immediately upon activation of any pandemic emergency declaration – and any authorization should be retroactive to cover those courageous first responders who have contracted COVID-19 since this crisis began.
As Sheriff Chitwood said, it is not a matter of if a first responder will be infected – but when.
Kudos to Sheriff Chitwood and the Volusia Deputies Association for supporting this important measure to protect all first responders as they boldly hold the line during these unprecedented times.
Angel Halifax Area Hospitality Industry
No one takes more perverse pleasure in holding the leadership of our local tourism, convention and hospitality apparatus accountable for their various missteps as they haplessly flail for a way to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that has become their “brand” than I do.
But this isn’t a gaffe over some goofy marketing slogan.
These are desperate times.
Earlier this week, in a disturbing piece entitled, “Hotels begin cutting staff,” News-Journal reporter Jim Abbott explored the devastating affects of the coronavirus on Halifax Area hospitality workers as resort properties face single-digit occupancy rates.
For instance, at the Shores Resort & Spa, 90 employees have been furloughed – representing 85% of the workforce – as other area hoteliers prepare to close their doors indefinitely.
Despite what our ‘powers that be’ would have us believe – Volusia County remains a challenged, service-based economy – with some 43% of area households not earning enough to consistently cover basic living expenses – placing many residents at serious risk for financial ruin, even homelessness.
When you add the thousands of our neighbors who have been laid off from their jobs at area bars, restaurants and other face-to-face businesses in the past week, it is depressing to consider how many families are being bankrupted by this crisis.
In my view, this extraordinary period of rapid unemployment underscores the imperative that our do-nothing “economic development” shills at Team Volusia (who, inexplicably, still refuse to recognize tourism and hospitality as a “key industry” in our area) get off their collective ass and recruit a diverse range of employers offering more than storeroom jobs and scut work.
It is time we demand that those who accept public funds to market the Halifax Area start living up to their hollow promise of “high paying jobs” and allow our desperate workforce innovative opportunities to prosper in this new reality.
We live in strange times – where the cure may well be worse than the disease – and the citizens of the Halifax Area and beyond face the possibility of being “saved” by draconian measures – so they can live in the grip of abject poverty not seen since the Great Depression.
As time runs out for many local businesses, perhaps we should demand our local and state elected officials take immediate and direct action to save our economic lives with equal enthusiasm?
For now, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are experiencing the ruinous effects of these dubious government-imposed measures that seemingly pick which industry wins – and which loose – and have put thousands of our neighbors on the unemployment line.
Please give generously to area service-industry relief organizations.
Angel Samuel “Rip” Collins
The Barker’s View sports desk has learned of the passing of Samuel “Rip” Collins, a former Bethune-Cookman Wildcat football great who went on to a legendary local coaching career, at the age of 104.
Coach Collins’ positive influence on our community went far beyond the playing field.
He was a true hero.
The following is excerpted from a most fitting tribute by Bethune-Cookman University Athletics:
Samuel Collins came to Bethune-Cookman in the 1940s on a football scholarship when the program was then a two-year school.
He then transferred to Clark in Atlanta, before being drafted into the U.S. Army.
Upon being honorably discharged, Collins returned to Bethune-Cookman and received a bachelor’s degree in 1947, the last year founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune served as President.
Dr. Bethune personally conferred his degree.
After graduation, Collins accepted a teaching position at Hutto High School in Bainbridge, Georgia. His next move landed him in DeFuniak Springs at Tivoli, whose athletic program thrived under his leadership, as he started a football program that enjoyed success against schools twice or three times larger.
Returning to Volusia County, Collins was the first football coach at Campbell Junior High School and also coached at Campbell Senior High.
He would later become the first baseball coach at Spruce Creek High School.
Along with Sallie Shelton-Culver — another Bethune-Cookman alum – Collins was one of the first African American teachers at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School before the school’s legally mandated integration in 1969.
Instead of coaching football, he was originally assigned tennis – a sport he never participated in but learned and developed into a winning program.
In 1985, he was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
He married his college sweetheart, Ollye Eichelberger, in March 1942. The couple remained married 77 years later.
They had three children, Samuel III (deceased), Thaddeus and Sonya. He was a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Rest in Peace, Coach.
Quote of the Week
“Consider this: 3,068,000 Floridians (moms, dads, etc.) are employed in Florida’s tourism, hospitality, restaurants, retail trade and affiliated trade and wholesale businesses. That’s 34% of all jobs, the largest segment of employment in the state.”
“These are the businesses that typically have the least amount of financial wherewithal to withstand a shock like this. These businesses need immediate assistance — not two weeks from now. They need it now!”
–Matt Walsh and Joel Schleicher, Ormond Beach Observer Opinion Section, “Gov. DeSantis, we need economic hope,” Monday, March 23, 2020
And Another Thing!
Here’s an urgent message from Gloria Max, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties – and one of the true angels in our community:
“The Jerry Doliner Food Bank of the Jewish Federation has wonderful volunteers and we have seen a huge increase of people coming for food.
Somehow, we have been able to keep up with our supply of food, but it is costing us a lot more. We are asking the public to donate funds so we can continue to assist our needy clients, regardless of race or religion. Even small donations add up. One hundred percent of all donations go for food, as our administration absorbs all costs. We at the Federation have never seen anything like this and we have been giving out food for over 30-years.
Please help us assist those who are vulnerable.”
To contribute, please mail checks to the Jerry Doliner Food Bank, 470 Andalusia Avenue, Ormond Beach, Florida 32174.
Please, help if you can – many in our community need it now, more than ever.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, friends!
Now, I’m going back to feverishly nursing from this bottle of Tito’s and staring catatonically at the television as Pete Weber bowls against Walter Ray Williams, Jr. in the Barbasol World Championship from Lubbock circa 2016. . .
Keep your chin up, folks!
3 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for March 27, 2020”
Sir: I read and enjoy your blog, thank you for writing it. I have a question that maybe you can answer for me. What is the purpose of Daytona Beach waiving Building Permit fees for 90 days? Were the builders threatening to shut down their operations due to Covid-19? And if they were to keep people separated how does waiving permit fees solve the problem? I am wondering if I am missing the obvious.
I wish I could answer that – but there’s a lot about our local government response to this crisis I don’t understand.
Thanks for reading.
Mark, you’re spot on about keeping the beach open to walking, running, surfing, bicycling, etc. During my 5 mile walk to the Main Street Pier and back yesterday afternoon, only the gulls weren’t observing proper “social distancing”. Everyone else seems to get it…enjoy the outdoors, while keeping a respectful and safe distance from others. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.