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 Beach Police Department
Desperate times require innovative thinking, especially when it comes to protecting our community – and Chief Craig Capri, and the officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department, have set the bar for state-of-the-art public safety solutions.
This week, the agency unveiled the use of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Sergeant Tim Ehrenkaufer, a recognized expert on drone applications for law enforcement, the technology is currently being considered as a means of screening visitors to the Police Department using an infrared sensor to identify persons with fever from distances up to 400 feet – while other systems are being flown over parks and public areas, allowing officers to safely interact with groups and individuals from a distance, broadcast directions and public education information from an intercom array or drop equipment and supplies to officers or citizens in need.
“We’re reducing the officer having to go out there, walk into the park property, walking into a crowd of people, share those germs back and forth just to deliver a message that, ‘The park’s closed. Don’t be in here,’” Sgt. Ehrenkaufer said.
Two of the agency’s sUAS’s are on loan from DJI, manufacturer of the popular Mavic and Phantom series of drones, under a federal disaster relief program.
In my view, using this advanced technology to keep first responders – and the public they serve – safe during an emergency is the highest use for sUAV’s, and the Daytona Beach Police Department should be commended for their pioneering vision in service to the community.
Asshole Halifax Health Leadership
Look, no one has more respect and admiration for the outstanding nurses, doctors and medical staff at Halifax Health – an incredible group of professionals doing God’s work literally on the front line of this crisis.
However, earlier this week I read something that gave me cause for pause regarding a recent decision of the hospital’s administration.
Several days ago, WFTV reported that nonclinical administrative employees at Halifax Health were questioning why they were not being allowed to work from home during the Governor’s “Safer at Home” mandate – with many fearing they were being placed at risk for exposure to COVID-19.
When pressed for answers by Channel 9, Halifax Health’s “marketing vice president” John Guthrie sent an email stating:
“Halifax Health is focused on providing a safe work environment and is approaching remote work possibilities on a case by case basis. However, we do not feel a blanket remote working mandate is in our community’s best interest to provide care.”
At the time, several employees spoke to a Channel 9 reporter under conditions of anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs. . .that’s rarely a good sign.
Well, it appears the prescient concerns of those employees came true this week when Halifax Health announced it would be putting profits ahead of people when some 300 employees were placed on a “four-month” furlough – with no real assurance their jobs will be available when this crisis has passed.
According to an informative article by News-Journal health reporter Nikki Ross, in an email received from Halifax Health President and CEO Jeff Feasel as part of a public records request, the layoffs ostensibly come down to dollars and cents:
“As you know, hospitals and health systems across the country have suspended elective, non-emergent procedures and surgeries to save capacity, supplies and staff in order to treat COVID-19 patients,” Feasel said in the email to staff. “One of the effects of these restrictions has been decreased medical and surgical volumes which, in turn, have resulted in significant decreased revenues for our system.”
Or is it a case of good, old-fashioned “payback”?
Corporate retribution for anxious employees who went off the reservation to have their concerns exposed?
I don’t know – I’m asking. Because the timing is suspicious as hell.
What really rubbed me wrong was the flippant answers to worker’s questions about their ultimate professional fate in the wake of these massive furloughs.
For instance, when asked in the News-Journal “How does the furlough help Halifax Health?” – the response was painfully curt: “It reduces labor expense for departments and retains our talent.”
As an employee who had been unceremoniously kicked to the curb, I know how I would have interpreted that callous statement. . .
To add insult, Halifax Health also reported that no jobs affected by the layoffs are “guaranteed” following the four-month period.
Given the abrupt nature of the furlough announcement this week – literally on the heels of a public airing of internal grievances by worried employees – this one bears watching.
If, in the aftermath of this emergency, we learn that senior executives used this crisis as a crude cudgel to bash workers for daring to speak out – or opportunistically capitalized on a bad situation by placing the financial burden on the backs of dedicated employees – then, that would be a completely different story.
My God. 300 families. . .
Asshole Volusia County Council
Speaking of the innovative use of tech during a crisis, in the past three-weeks, I’ve participated in Zoom chats with family and friends – and even attended a virtual birthday party with some 35 others joining from around the state.
Yet, somehow, when our Volusia County Council – with a budget rapidly approaching One Billion dollars – attempted to hold what passed for a “virtual” public meeting on Tuesday, it resulted in a chaotic cluster that sounded more like Alexander Graham Bell trying to link our elected officials with his newfangled harmonic telegraph. . .
With the Daytona Beach Police Department clearly on the cutting edge – in contrast, Volusia County’s administration is still dragging on the hind teat of technology. . .
I mean, really?
With so many working from home these days, the use of basic teleconferencing applications has become second nature to most – but not in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.
With six council members accessing the meeting remotely (apparently using tin cans and waxed twine) – and only Councilman Ben Johnson in physical attendance – the lack of coordination and organization, at times, made the whole charade difficult to follow.
In other words, it wasn’t that different from a normal council meeting. . .
According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Casmira Harrison, the technological interruptions, “…resulted in delays and confusion.”
Our elected officials should understand that “delays and confusion” are not what their constituents want to hear during a time of crisis.
I’m not sure they wanted to hear some of the meeting’s other startling revelations, either. . .
Let’s face it, Volusia County’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, from its outset, has been chaotic, even baffling – a terrible mishmash of premature/reversed decisions and political grandstanding – marked by a complete lack of organization and planning in everything from the dissemination of public information to beach management and airport screening procedures.
In my view, the fault does not fall on County Manager George Recktenwald’s shoulders alone.
Last month, pursuant to proper emergency management protocols, the Volusia County Council unanimously authorized Recktenwald to make decisions related to response, recovery and mitigation efforts under a formal emergency declaration.
Unfortunately, certain elected officials (who are standing for reelection) couldn’t help themselves from meddling – resulting in a hodgepodge of manifestos, political maneuvering, social media diatribes and sniping from the sidelines – all for the sole purpose of getting their names in the newspaper.
In turn, their official interference in the decision-making process undermined Mr. Recktenwald’s authority and destroyed public confidence.
To make a bad situation worse, during Tuesday’s “meeting,” the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys – with all the brazen craving for attention and self-promotion that someone running for higher office can muster – made a goofy motion requiring that the Volusia County Council meet once a week and, “…take the responsibility as council members for some of the decisions that are made…”
Of course, it passed unanimously. . .
In my view, Ms. Denys’ inappropriate action effectively completed the castration of Recktenwald, ties up every staff member’s valuable time preparing asinine “briefings” for the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker and delegitimized the very concept of emergency management, all for cheap political exposure.
So, now that Deb is influencing the county’s response, are the decision-making principles of the emergency declaration still applicable?
Do we listen to the garbled message of self-absorbed politicians pontificating on Facebook?
Is there ever going to be a single point of information management?
What happened to the once statutorily mandated concept of open and accessible public meetings?
Most important: Who’s in charge of this shit train?
For the first time in my life, I firmly agree with County Chair Ed Kelley – who, in a rare moment of perfect mental clarity – decried Councilwoman Denys’ gross micromanagement of county government – and the direct insinuation of elected officials into the day-to-day operations of government.
Yet, in her completely tone-deaf style, Ms. Denys insisted that Recktenwald needs the jumbled input of the individual council members – demonstrating her total willingness to muck up an established process for her own self-aggrandizement.
Shameless. And, incredibly stupid.
Then, we learned from our illustrious Public Protection Director Joe Pozzo that county officials are “in the process of creating a “pandemic plan” that will be “implemented later this week.”
According to Recktenwald, “The manual, the playbook for this one. We’re writing it now.”
In the parlance of our times – WTF?
Now weeks deep into this crisis, we are just being told by our emergency management “experts” that Volusia County is finally getting around to creating a plan for dealing with this pandemic?
Perhaps Mr. Pozzo should check the nameplate on his office door – then look up the definition of “Public Protection” in the dictionary. . .
In my view, this sluggardly response is totally unacceptable and speaks to the piss-poor planning and lack of preparation that somehow escaped Recktenwald’s “highly experienced team” when they failed to develop even a basic strategy for protecting our citizens and the local economy during a pandemic.
The tortuous meeting also included more of Councilwoman Heather Post’s hand-wringing and fear mongering – punctuated with a nonsensical motion to close all “spoil islands” to public use – something that was met with stone silence by her incredulous “colleagues.”
Then, Councilwoman Post ended with a long-winded jeremiad demanding that even more hospitality-related businesses be shuttered – further crippling our already devastated local economy.
Fortunately, crickets were again heard as Post’s fellow council members clipped their toenails at home and totally ignored her. . .
The only thing I didn’t hear Ms. Post yammer about was when she plans to donate her substantial county salary to a service industry relief effort during this unprecedented period of unemployment?
What a friggin’ mess. . .
I hate to give unsolicited advice where it’s not wanted or appreciated (that’s not true. I love giving unwanted, overbearing suggestions to pompous politicians and stuffed shirt bureaucrats – in fact, I live for it) but, as a summa cum laude graduate of the School of Hard Knocks, perhaps I can help Mr. Recktenwald and his hapless – but highly experienced – “team” going forward.
During my long and completely undistinguished career in public service – during which I clawed my way to middle management and held on by my fingernails – I always felt it important to serve those who paid my salary in the most professional manner possible.
Why? Because I accepted public funds to serve in the public’s interest. That’s why.
Given my intellectual and educational deficiencies, I kept a simple checklist hidden in my pocket notebook – totally unbeknownst to my colleagues, superiors or subordinates – something I frequently referred to when faced with difficult decisions, or when entering uncharted operational or administrative waters, it read:
What comes next?
What do I do next?
What to expect next?
Look, I’m not the smartest guy in the room – and I understand my limitations.
But during my public life I never allowed base mediocrity to become the operative ethic for my organization, especially when public safety was at stake – because anything less is morally and ethically reprehensible.
That’s why professionals who care undertake a conscious effort to develop skills – like anticipatory decision-making, risk analysis and the strategic management of evolving incidents – which allows them to formulate an organized process for making timely judgments in the absence of a predetermined plan.
Perhaps county staff – and our elected officials – should print these concepts, tape it to their pointy little foreheads, and incorporate them into their own deliberations (if they have the capacity) as they work to right this ship of fools – one which is dangerously close to foundering on the rocks of incompetence and political posturing.
Quote of the Week
“Daytona Beach continues to struggle while virtually every other beach community in Florida prospers. Our blight is tied to the reality many people do not want to visit or live where they must share the beach with cars. If we want to give our local hotels a boost, make our beach more appealing. We will also begin to see blighted properties become homes to those who want to live near the beach. This means more restaurants, businesses and hopefully redevelopment of areas such as Main Street.”
–Matthew J. Smith, Daytona Beach Shores, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor, “Is COVID-19 fatal to beach driving?” Thursday, April 9, 2020
I respect everyone’s views equally; however, in my role as a blowhard alternative opinion blogger – it is my sacred duty to call attention to the thoughts and statements of others that, in my view, are, well, misaligned with reality.
Especially those views that cling to the tired, old and misguided notion that destroying our century-old tradition of beach driving is a nostrum for years of civic abandonment, abject greed and strategic rot.
Case in point: Mr. Smith’s statement: “Our blight is tied to the reality many people do not want to visit or live where they must share the beach with cars,” is horseshit.
So there. My work here is done.
And Another Thing!
My heart goes out to service industry professionals – those who historically work long hours for little compensation – and thousands of other workers who, through absolutely no fault of their own, find themselves standing in massive lines to qualify for unemployment benefits and spend sleepless nights wondering how they will feed their children tomorrow.
That’s the harsh reality for many of our friends and neighbors.
Here are a few community-based organizations that are working hard to help:
According to Jeff Brower, a gentleman farmer from DeLeon Springs who happens to be running for County Chair, recently announced that later today a relief effort known as “Farm to Trunk” will be distributing fresh produce, free of charge, to unemployed hospitality employees, service workers and single mothers – promising “no human contact, no questions asked – just pop the trunk.”
The vegetables will be available from 3:00pm to 5:00pm this afternoon at 3305 South Orange Avenue, Orlando.
For more information, please contact Tim Johnson at 407-534-9028.
I realize that’s a haul for some east Volusia families in need – but the effort is also helping local farms who have lost most of their commercial customers.
In addition, The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia is offering assistance to low-income seniors through the City of DeLand’s innovative Neighbors on Wheels program. Those seeking help should call 386-734-8120, extension 2, and leave a message that includes your name, address and phone number.
Also, The Jerry Doliner Food Bank distributes food by appointment on Mondays and Fridays between 1:00pm and 3:00pm at 470 Andalusia Avenue, Ormond Beach.
For more information – or to learn how you can help – please call Gloria Max at 386-672-0294.
These worthy relief organizations need our help right now as they work tirelessly to meet a growing need in our community – thanks in advance for your assistance.
That’s all for me, friends – here’s wishing everyone a blessed and joyous Easter and Passover!
(Correction: This post has been modified to correct information regarding the use of sUAS to screen visitors to the Daytona Beach Police Department. My original piece erroneously said the technology is currently being used to screen visitors to the department. In fact, the agency is considering the use of a sensor for that purpose – but it is not currently in use.)