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 County of Volusia & FDOT
There’s an old saying “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
In Volusia County, perhaps that adage is better stated – “We knew what we had, we just never expected it to be stolen from us.”
Earlier this week, gripped by acute cabin fever and the corona-paranoia that comes from the media’s non-stop, around-the-clock flogging of this pandemic, I took a leisurely drive around The Loop – one of the true jewels of east Central Florida – which covers the circuit from the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach to High Bridge near the Flagler County line.
As I drove north on A-1-A, I noticed that certain sections of most off-beach parking areas had florescent traffic cones and barrier tape blocking spaces, effectively prohibiting residents and visitors full use of the public lots – limiting the opportunity to park and enjoy the relatively unspoiled beaches of the North Peninsula.
I’m told the parking restrictions were designed to enforce social distancing requirements before the DeSantis Lockdown, and Volusia County’s knee-jerk reaction, by regulating the number of people who could access the beach on overcrowded weekends – but this was noontime on a Monday – yet, the tape and cones (and at least one Beach Patrol vehicle) were still in place, dutifully protecting us from ourselves.
“But I helped pay for that parking space with my hard-earned tax dollars. . .”
“Tough shit, you subservient villein. This is an “emergency,” asshole – we control your life now.”
In my experience, when it comes to Volusia County Beach Management, sometimes things get done in a timely manner, and sometimes they don’t – or, maybe some high-level staffer thought, “Screw it. We just have to put the tape back-up next weekend anyway, leave it, the sheeple will get used to it eventually.”
Regardless, I chalked up the weekday parking snafu to typical bureaucratic inefficiency and kept driving. . .
As I approached ICI Homes’ new seaside development, Verona, in beautiful Ormond-by-the-Sea, I saw the Florida Department of Transportation’s handiwork in the form of a physical blockade to beach access disguised as a “sand fence” – a godawful series of treated wooden posts with slat fencing attached, ostensibly designed to reestablish the natural dune-line as a protective barrier for the adjacent roadway.
Continuing north, I was met with a large sign announcing, “State Prisoners Working,” just before encountering a scene out of Cool Hand Luke – a clutch of inmates in faded prison uniforms actively driving even more wooden poles into another stretch of sand that had been leveled by a small excavator – equipment which was now parked on top of the very vegetation nature uses to anchor the dunes.
I noticed that no one on the jobsite was practicing anything resembling social distancing – I guess those mandates only apply to us little people who are expected to keep quiet and do what we are told. . .
Are the state prisoners augmenting the paid workforce of the contractor who won the bid to erect the fencing?
I’m asking. Because, if so, that’s a pretty sweet deal for someone. . .
Then, perhaps most disturbing, as I approached the North Peninsula State Park, I noticed another line of gaudy traffic cones completely blocking the beachside parking area – this time due to the statewide closure of all state parks in response to the coronavirus.
And it hurt my heart.
If we hadn’t been told differently by FDOT representatives after-the-fact – I would swear this ugly, intermittent wooden barrier has been strategically placed to block parking at traditional beach access points on the North Peninsula.
I’ve been going to the beach at the far reaches of the North Peninsula for over fifty-years.
It holds a very special place in my life – a place of refuge from the world, a place to think and watch the ocean, a place to enjoy the golden coquina sands that make that section of beach so unique – and it is where I’ve directed my remains be scattered when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil.
That is, if we can find a parking space. . .
Angel The Daytona Beach News-Journal
I have a soft spot in my heart for our local newspaper of record.
I know many of you no longer read The Daytona Beach News-Journal – and some that do often take exception to their editorial content – but the fact remains, these are hard times, and I was taught to leave no one behind in a crisis.
Besides, it’s easy to kick those people and institutions we disagree with when their down – I do it all the time – but the character of our community demands we help preserve our foundational elements.
To say the News-Journal has taken it on the chin of late is an understatement, and I fear for the long-term viability of our newspaper in the aftermath of this global financial downturn that has small local businesses and multinational corporations alike fighting for their lives.
Let’s face it – the handwriting is on the wall – and the News-Journal is trying hard to adapt.
It’s difficult not to notice the subtle daily changes to what was once ‘our paper’ as it slowly transitions to what increasingly looks like a homogenized regional USA Today – as those intrepid local journalists who earned our trust and brought such institutional knowledge, flair and hometown feeling to the news are moved to other assignments – or moved-along altogether. . .
This week, we learned that publishing giant Gannett, which owns The Daytona Beach News-Journal, has instituted severe measures to further reduce costs, including immediate furloughs in newsrooms across the nation, as it struggles to find ways to survive the current economic pressures.
That hurts – and our thoughts and prayers are with News-Journal employees who will be affected by these cuts.
I was moved by the irrepressible Mark Lane’s recent Footnote column, “This is no time for April foolery,” a plaintive look at the importance of local journalism to the life of our community and an introspective take on the efforts a newspaper goes through to ‘get it right.’
Look, I’m the first to admit that the News-Journal can be its own worst enemy – I’ve often questioned its objectivity when it comes to reporting the machinations of our local “Rich and Powerful” oligarchs – and many have been critical of their wall-to-wall coverage of the darkest aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, on balance, our newspaper has served us well through good times and bad.
Look, no one is more hypercritical of our local public and private institutions than I am.
Hell, sniping from the sidelines is my stock in trade.
My sincere hope is you will help support the last vestiges of local journalism by subscribing, reading, and, when possible, advertising with The Daytona Beach News-Journal during these dark and difficult times.
We don’t have to agree with each other – I believe a healthy diversity of opinion strengthens the fabric of our community – but it is vitally important that our local newspaper survives this crisis.
These are our neighbors and they deserve our help.
Asshole Florida’s Broken Unemployment System
Extraordinary circumstances often expose the atrocious inefficiencies and bureaucratic bottlenecks that exemplify the ossified status quo at all levels of government.
Just a few weeks ago, I doubt anyone could have predicted the overnight statewide closure of small businesses which left thousands of service-industry workers unemployed – many of whom will rely on our state’s meager unemployment benefits to feed their families.
The fact is, we pay government bureaucrats to do just that – predict and plan for the worst-case scenario!
So, what happens when they don’t?
In Florida, unemployment benefits are administrated by the Department of Economic Opportunity – yes, that Department of Economic Opportunity – under the direction of Ken Lawson, a former Marine Corps officer and federal prosecutor who has enjoyed a diverse and profitable career in state government under Rick Scott and now Governor Ron DeSantis.
In December, DeSantis moved Mr. Lawson from his cushy job as president of VISIT Florida to his current role as director of the multifunctional DEO, which, in addition to processing workforce unemployment benefits, is also responsible for Florida’s corporate welfare and “community development” initiatives.
Trust me – the abject failure of DEO to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers, who, through no fault of their own, find themselves financially ruined and worried about feeding their children in the immediate future – will far eclipse the agency’s past sins, like the $1-million Pit Bull debacle, the toxic spending at CareerSouce Tampa, etc., etc., etc.
In my view, as a former military officer, it is time Director Lawson accept personal responsibility for this colossal disaster – one that has left some applicants waiting over two-weeks just to access the online system, while others are left guessing if their application was accepted at all – and resign his position so someone, anyone, who knows what they’re doing can take the wheel.
I mean, imagine the shock of attempting to access these life sustaining benefits, only to find that Florida’s unemployment system is so horribly broken you can’t even log-in to the website, let alone get your phone call answered?
According to an eye-opening editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Fix Florida’s jobless benefit,” we learned that our state is “…one of only a few states that cuts off benefits after 12 weeks (most states allow 26) even for people who are demonstrably trying very hard to find work. And benefits are capped at only $275 a week – a number that hasn’t increased in two decades.”
In addition, many are coming to the disturbing realization that state regulations create an intentional roadblock to “casual, tourism-based” employees seeking to claim benefits – even as hundreds of traditionally low wage hospitality workers in Volusia County and beyond are being furloughed.
Now, we are being told the DEO will also be responsible for coordinating workers benefits under the federal stimulus package. . .
In my view, once we’re on the other side of this crisis, it is time we begin holding our state legislators politically accountable for determining how Florida’s unemployment system could become so mind-bogglingly inept – so terribly unfair – as struggling Florida workers find themselves essentially blocked from accessing their rightful benefits by this dreadfully faulty system.
Quote of the Week
“DeSantis and local officials can’t go back and make more timely decisions, but they can make it clear to Floridians: This is real. Follow these orders, or the restrictions will only get tougher.”
–The Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial Board’s Our View column, “Right call on shutdown,” Thursday, April 2, 2020
Have we reached bottom yet?
I’m not talking about the number of people effected by the COVID-19 outbreak – I am referring to the non-stop assault on our civil liberties and basic freedoms – something our newspaper of record should be scrutinizing, not celebrating.
Is tightening the noose on law-abiding citizens who have followed the recommendations of the CDC and tried diligently to inform themselves, assist in “flattening the curve” and stop the spread of the coronavirus the new American Way?
Achtung! Follow the orders or the restrictions will only get tougher!
What are we becoming?
And Another Thing!
Earlier this week – before Governor Ron DeSantis put us all in solitary confinement with little consideration for our collective sense of personal and community responsibility, or any thought for the millions in our state who voluntarily self-isolated and closely followed the recommendations of the CDC – the Daytona Beach City Commission met in “special session” to implement a nonsensical 10:00pm to 5:00am curfew to further sequester their constituents.
Now, given the sweeping nature of the DeSantis Lockdown, that curfew has been logically lifted.
But the intent is what matters to me.
Once again, Lord Protector Derrick “Henny-Penny” Henry demanded even more closures – openly contemplating which businesses are “essential” and which are not – in essence, waving his monarchical hand over those enterprises which will be permitted to survive, and those that will be sacrificed on the alter of government overreach.
In my view, this senseless restriction of lawful movement represented a slap in the face to the vast majority of Daytona Beach residents who are dutifully following proper protocols and acting in the best interest of their families and community.
Now, it’s a moot point.
Under political pressure to “do something,” His Excellency Governor Ron DeSantis caved and extended his cleverly disguised lockdown, benevolently known as “Safer at Home,” from high incidence areas in South Florida to the entire state – ordering that anyone not engaged in activities the government has deemed “essential” remain inside their homes.
Now, as of 12:01am this morning, County Manager George Recktenwald has ordered the complete closure of our expansive 47-miles of public beach.
“…because the county does not want to send an inconsistent message about social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”
See, it has nothing to do with the concept of “public health” – or even enforcing the Governor’s stay at home order – and everything to do with how Volusia County’s “message” is received.
And, by any metric, their “unified” message has been an abject mess since this crisis began.
That’s called “criticism mitigation” and it is cowardly.
And speaking of people afraid to do the job they were hired for – will the complete closure of the beach mean that the 54 sworn law enforcement officers of the Beach Safety Department (who’s union vehemently demanded their jurisdiction be fenced off two-weeks ago in a politically threatening open letter to the County Council) be deployed to augment our courageous deputies and police officers throughout the county to support the coronavirus response – or merely sent home to hide until the bogyman leaves?
Because I, for one taxpayer, damn sure don’t want to pay a full complement of beach patrol personnel when they have absolutely nothing to do for the next 30-days or longer.
I’m weird that way.
For many of our elected and appointed officials turned Nanny-State hand-wringers, it wasn’t enough that 99% of citizens were guided by personal responsibility and sense of community to stay home, self-isolate and adopt commonsense measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Because trusting their constituents to do the right thing, for the right reasons, doesn’t get their name in the paper.
Instead, they came to believe it is imperative that government bureaucrats must tell us what to do and when to do it, to control our movements, to insinuate themselves into our homes and businesses and demand submission to their increasingly restrictive edicts and orders without question – or face fines and imprisonment – because it is in our “best interest.”
Stop thinking for yourselves.
That is now being done for you in some obscure state office in Tallahassee – and no one wants your input anyway.
For our friends and neighbors who have demanded, ad nauseam, that our local and state bureaucracies “do something to protect us from ourselves,” well, you finally got your wish.
Sleep well – your government is in complete control now.
Just make sure your ‘travel papers’ are in order.
Most thinking people understand the horrible severity of this crisis and are voluntarily willing to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and those most vulnerable – and consider these excessively harsh measures to be an insult to their intelligence and constitutionally protected civil liberties.
Because they are.
In my view, since Mayor Henry has no problem putting his boot on the throat of small businesses – placing hundreds more area residents on the unemployment line – perhaps he should be willing to show some true leadership and donate his mayoral salary – estimated at $27,500 annually, plus a “weekly expense allowance” of $246.00 (about what an unemployed worker will receive in weekly benefits, that is, if they can log on to the system) along with an $18.23 per week cell phone allowance – official perquisites worth somewhere north of $40,000 annually – to a local service industry relief effort.
You know, let Hizzoner put some actual skin in the game – show some solidarity with his subjects – instead of simply issuing Royal Proclamations from on-high that will have an astronomically detrimental impact on struggling families – and our regional economy – long after the threat of coronavirus is quelled.
Don’t hold your breath. . .
Unprecedented times, indeed.
That’s all for me – be well, friends.