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.
That’s right, my fellow shut-ins – it’s Friday Funday here at Barker’s View HQ!
I thought we might resurrect a little game I like to call, “What the Hell?”
Come on, it’ll be Wide. Open. Fun!
For those who haven’t played with us before, the rules are simple – study the photograph below and take a wild-ass guess if the scene depicted is:
A. County workers explaining to Chairman Ed Kelley and County Manager George Recktenwald the difference between their ass and a hole in the ground?
B. Chairman Kelley and Mr. Recktenwald searching for the last vestiges of the Volusia County Council’s integrity and credibility?
C. Volusia County’s 2020 Earth Day celebration, which included exhuming and opening a time capsule planted 25-years ago?
Take your time. (Cue the final Jeopardy theme music. . .)
If you selected “C” – give yourself a Gold Star!
Yep, earlier this week, Chairman Kelley and Mr. Recktenwald cracked the seal on the historic cache – removing old telephone books, a 1995 edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, and other archaic, now completely irrelevant, artifacts from our past. . .
Obviously, Volusia County officials put a lot of thought into what citizens of the future will find when their capsule is unearthed a quarter century from now – to include a roll of toilet paper made from recycled material, a copy of the county’s “pandemic response plan” (we have one of those?) and a pink flamingo.
I’m assuming the toilet paper represents how state and local officials used the United States Constitution during this time of crisis – and the Pink Flamingo is obviously a nod to the outrageous John Water’s film by the same name.
Right? It’s perfect!
In his cult classic, Waters cast the late drag queen Divine as ‘Babs Johnson,’ an on-the-run criminal who is dubbed by a tabloid “The filthiest person alive.” Babs lives in a trailer park with her ne’er-do-well son, ‘Crackers,’ and their “traveling companion,” ‘Cotton.’
Ultimately, Divine is harassed by Connie and Raymond Marbles, a couple of low-life crooks who run a black market “adoption clinic” and are openly envious of Babs’ title.
The film progresses with what one critic described as, “…every kind of cruelty, obscenity and freak show behavior you can imagine. . .”
However, there was one pivotal scene in the film that, in my view, serves as the perfect analogy for Volusia County government in 2020 – and I’m glad our county staff included the symbolism in our time capsule for future generations to interpret.
During the key segment of the film, Divine holds a kangaroo court after having charged the Marbles with, “first-degree stupidity” and “assholism.”
Sound familiar? The perfect parallel indeed. . .
Kudos to all involved for including this classic representation of our current situation here on the Fun Coast!
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Asshole Volusia County Health Department
I’m the first to admit, over the past several weeks these screeds have turned increasingly hypercritical of many of our senior elected officials who, in my view, failed us during this crisis.
One notable exception is Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood.
From the onset, Sheriff Chitwood has fought for our right to know – and, despite withering criticism from those who seek to protect the status quo – he boldly broke ranks with the forces of mediocrity and has provided his constituents with the commonsense information and recommendations they need to protect themselves.
In turn, the Volusia County Health Department and its overseers in Tallahassee have done everything in their power to withhold critical information on the geographic spread of COVID-19 – including nonsensical claims that providing the city in which cases originated somehow violated privacy laws, then blocking public access to information regarding skilled nursing facilities – locations that have turned out to be a hotbed of coronavirus cases locally.
Most shocking, weeks ago, Sheriff Chitwood told us that the Department of Health would no longer be providing the addresses of coronavirus victims, or residences being monitored as potential cases, to public safety agencies.
According to the Sheriff, it was his understanding that DOH attorneys felt, “…all first responders should be taking precautions when they respond to these locations anyway, so we don’t need access to the information.”
When Sheriff Chitwood spoke out, his efforts to seek this vital information were met with resistance from our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, who called the Sheriff’s work to inform his constituents “an injustice” (?).
Let’s face it, like the Department of Health, our county government abhors transparency – in fact, the people’s business has been conducted in the shadows for so long – with public policy crafted in those dark places where the external forces that control our lives and livelihoods can work their magic outside our prying eyes – that our ‘powers that be’ remain instinctively tight-lipped.
Frankly, it defies logic – but ‘them’s the rules’ here on the Fun Coast.
Why would a public health agency, ostensibly dedicated to providing the community with the best information available as it works to stop the spread of a communicable disease refuse to communicate information vital to our safety?
And, perhaps most disturbing, why would Volusia County – with a population of some 540,000 – not have a credentialed medical doctor in charge of our public health organization?
You read that right.
The current administrator, Patricia Boswell, is not a doctor – nor is anyone currently on staff – with the exception of one who holds a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. . .
Wait. Say what?
In my view, Ms. Boswell is a master of bureaucratic bullshit, skilled in the fine art of telling elected officials exactly what they want to hear – but she’s not a doctor – or particularly forthcoming when it comes to public communications.
However, she has the unique ability to speak persuasively – while saying absolutely nothing – then, when the questions begin to expose the bureaucratic ruse – she instinctively ducks for cover behind “statutorial protections.”
Therein lies her value to the “system.”
Bullshit. We deserve better.
Add this lack of substantive communication to the long list of gaffes, missteps, blunders and foul-ups by county leadership and public health officials – each of which can be linked directly to the lack of planning and preparation prior to the outbreak of this pandemic – serious issues that need to be adequately addressed as we hold these blathering pseudo-experts personally and politically responsible for their glaring ineptitude.
Angel Civic Activists Brandy White & Dana McCool
Like many of you, I have long admired the grassroots civic activism of Brandy White and Dana McCool – women of extraordinary grit and courage – who have, at great personal risk, transformed Deltona politics and improved the lives of their neighbors.
I first became acquainted with Ms. McCool when she made a bold statement by paying a patently unjust $493 water bill with a wagon load of pennies – a move which brought national attention to the shit show that is Deltona utilities – and ultimately resulted in a top-to-bottom external audit that confirmed problems with “staffing, outdated technology and inefficient practices.”
In addition, Brandy White’s intrepid civic engagement put her square in the cross-hairs of Deltona’s entrenched cabal, then led by former City Manager Jane Shang, who ultimately made White’s life an unmitigated hell when they brought life-changing felony charges against her following an interaction with a city official.
Ultimately, the frivolous charges against White were rightfully dropped by the State Attorney’s Office; however, the ugly scenario brought to light the depths some in Deltona government would go to crush citizen dissent – and proved that Ms. White has the mettle and tenacity to stand her ground.
On March 17, Ms. White had the temerity to actually approach the Volusia County Council seeking redress for the horrific manner in which she was treated by Shang through a clear misuse of the Sheriff’s Office and our criminal justice system.
Her presentation included bringing a small poster into the exalted council chambers to help make her point.
Apparently, County Chair Ed Kelley’s enormous ego was challenged by the idea of a mere “citizen” violating the decorum of his sanctuary, and, in a pique of hubris, he arbitrarily ordered Ms. White to move her sign to the back of the nearly deserted chamber.
When White asked Kelley to explain the legal basis for his officious demand – His Royal Highness ordered she be physically removed from the gallery!
You read that right.
In a report by Casmira Harrison writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“When I asked for their basis to tell me to not display my sign, (Kelley) said it’s because he didn’t want to have to look at it,” said White in the video, arguing against the proposed rules and defending her choice to carry the sign. ”(Kelley said) that it’s his chambers, his rules and that’s how it goes.”
Rather than let his heavy-handed horseshit stop there, Chairman Ed “Ceaușescu” Kelley took it upon himself to unilaterally ask County Attorney Mike Dyer to determine “where our decorum situation is” (?) – a “request” which prompted Dyer to issue a four-page missive on how best to erode our First Amendment protections in the interest of not upsetting Kelley’s delicate sensibilities by controlling public participation in our government processes.
Either Chairman Kelley’s conversation went beyond a mere mention of the “decorum situation,” or Mr. Dyer is proving to be an obsequious asshole – more intent on protecting Mr. Kelley’s vanity with official resolutions and “rules” prohibiting self-expression and meaningful citizen input when the Chairman’s self-important sense of authority is openly challenged by a peasant. . .
Inexplicably, on Tuesday – during a declared state of emergency – when elected officials are literally phoning it in from their bunkers and citizens are required to address them from a video “kiosk” – Mr. Dyer followed through on Chairman Kelley’s overbearing directive by placing a formal resolution on the agenda limiting our ability to speak to those we have elected during a public meeting – and formally prohibiting signs, banner, placards or “wearable signboards” outside an individual presentation.
In keeping with their proven dedication to good governance, Ms. White and Ms. McCool “virtually” addressed their elected officials from somewhere in the bowels of the “TCK building” (as its now euphemistically called by the county’s paid mouthpiece), denouncing Chairman Kelley’s attempt to suppress citizen participation and challenging the constitutionality of Attorney Dyer’s crude regulatory cudgel.
Additionally, White and McCool’s presentations were supported by numerous written opinions attached to the council’s public agenda.
To prove the power of public persuasion, when the agenda item was raised, Councilwoman Barb Girtman rightfully moved to table the oppressive resolution “until we’re back up live and can have public comment.”
The motion was seconded by Councilwoman Billie Wheeler and passed unanimously.
In keeping with her inherent need for lockstep conformity and the political insulation of what “others” may do, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys quickly directed that We, The People pay for an outside attorney with more expertise in the First Amendment than Mr. Dyer – along with a comprehensive list of “decorum” rules in use by other governmental organizations.
In other words, if everyone’s doing it – they can’t be held politically accountable for suppressing public participation, right?
Perhaps Ms. Denys’ request should have included a comprehensive review of the County Attorney’s true motivations for bringing this nonsensical resolution to the table in the midst of this unprecedented crisis – a craven move that exposed Dyer as the consummate bootlicker – and Chairman Kelley for the elitist asshole he truly is.
Angel Harry L. Burney, III
Anyone who had the privilege of watching the incomparable Harry Burney perform was forever changed by the experience.
I am most fortunate to count myself in that number.
Mr. Burney graduated from Bethune-Cookman College in 1965, cementing a life-long connection to Daytona Beach and his beloved alma mater.
Following his service to our nation in the United States Army, Mr. Burney studied the performing arts, nurturing a natural talent for singing, acting and presenting – ultimately moving to New York where he became a highly sought-after actor whose incredible depth and range enhanced concert, opera and theater productions – both on and off Broadway.
In addition, Mr. Burney’s career included roles in popular movies – to include Autumn in New York starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder – and recurrent parts on television shows, such as Kenan & Kel, Allegra’s Window and SuperBoy.
As a long-time supporter of Bethune-Cookman University, Mr. Burney brought his vast talent to numerous productions there, including the iconic 2016 production of Mary’s Gift, in which he was credited with having “…delivered one of the most powerful literary interpretations of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s last will and testament to date.”
In a touching remembrance, B-CU vice president of athletics, Lynn Thompson, who directed and collaborated with Mr. Burney on many productions said, “He was so full of passion and love for people and for the arts. We connected on so many levels including athletics because athletics is truly a form of the performing arts and he loved it.”
Harry L. Burney, III was a humble man, a God-given talent of immense skill, who died last week due to complications of COVID-19.
May he rest in everlasting peace.
Quote of the Week
“Was there an incident where someone with a sign hurt someone on the county council with a paper cut?
The fact here is that your ego was hurt, and you are using the “Peoples” power to silence someone that is criticizing you.
You’ve been around long enough to know that not everyone is going to like you Mr. Kelley. Put your big boy pants on and act like an adult instead of try (sp) usurp powers that do not belong to you.
Remember the government did not give us our rights therefore it can’t take them away.
Just like the U.S. Constitution isn’t there to tell us what our rights are. The U.S. Constitution is there to tell tyrannical governments when they are infringing on our rights. In other words, the U.S. Constitution is there to LIMIT YOUR POWERS.”
–Santiago Avila, Jr., Chairman, Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Public Comments to the April 21, 2020 Volusia County Council Meeting
And Another Thing!
To say we live in strange times is an understatement.
Fortunately, basic human kindness and acts of incredible compassion remain – and I have been encouraged by the many ways our brightest stars have shown us the way forward during these dark and difficult days.
Recently, Chief Craig Capri and the officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department helped to brighten the day of an 8-year old boy whose parents, who are both healthcare workers, weren’t able to celebrate his birthday this year.
When the boy’s grandmother contacted the department for help, Chief Capri and his officers quickly pulled together a very special surprise the young man won’t soon forget.
Not only did they make a grand appearance at his home for birthday cake and party games – they brought United States Congressman Michael Waltz with them as well!
Earlier this week, I was equally moved when Sheriff Michael Chitwood and his deputies joined with members of the Holly Hill Police Department to provide a memorable birthday surprise for a boy who turned 10-years old, but obviously couldn’t celebrate with friends and family.
The impromptu event included an impressive parade of marked law enforcement units – complete with lights and sirens – and, I’m told Sheriff Chitwood provided the birthday boy with a gift bag!
What a beautiful gesture – one that brought great joy to these children on their special day.
Kudos to Congressman Waltz, Sheriff Chitwood, Chief Capri and Chief Stephen Aldrich and all the officers and deputies who participated.
Your good work defines community spirit.
In my view, these profound acts of kindness epitomize community-oriented policing – and the exemplify service above self.
Speaking of special days – I hope you will indulge a personal note:
Yesterday, my mom turned 85 years young (and anyone who knows her will tell you that’s an apt description of this very special, energetic and incredibly funny woman).
Once this microbial monster has run its course – I assure you we will join with family and friends to celebrate this milestone in high style!
Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, friends!
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal