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 Volusia County Government
On Wednesday, Volusia County residents were greeted with this provocative headline in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“Coronavirus: Uncooperative beachgoers make reopening Volusia beaches difficult”
Is anyone else sick and tired of being openly blamed and villainized by clueless elected and appointed officials who continue to project their clumsy mishandling of their “response” to the coronavirus outbreak on law-abiding citizens?
Yeah. Me too. . .
After enacting arbitrary “rules” for beachgoers – a horribly confusing mishmash of “do this, don’t do that, no, you can do that but not this” regulations ostensibly designed to protect us from ourselves – we’re told that our Beach Safety personnel (which lost all objectivity and impartiality early when their union published a manifesto demanding the complete closure of our beach) have issued over 2,500 warnings and six citations to citizens who had the gall to sit on the sand.
Then, last week, persons with disabilities were allowed to drive onto the beach at designated approaches – but once they were there – yet another asinine “rule” prohibited the mobility-impaired from sitting outside their vehicle.
Is this open shaming of disabled beach-goers the official policy of the Volusia County Council?
Or just the subjective enforcement of illogical, poorly planned pseudo-legislation by a slow-on-the-uptake Beach Safety Department who, according to County Manager George Recktenwald, is still “learning as they go”?
Trust me: When over 2,500 citizens are found in “violation” of the rules – the problem lies in the terribly flawed and virtually unenforceable regulations – not with citizens engaged in otherwise lawful activities.
In my view, if our elected representatives want to provoke civil disobedience and flagrant disregard of the “law” – keep suppressing our access to public beaches, amenities, trails and parks with draconian decrees and officious enforcement that turns good citizens into criminals for the heinous act of sitting down. . .
Effective tomorrow, we are being told that the beach is “open to all activities” – except driving, gathering in groups of more than six, being closer than ten-feet apart, etc., etc.
Which, I think, means you can now sit down on the beach without fear of being prosecuted for a second-degree misdemeanor – but that’s not “open” – not by a long shot. . .
Regular readers of these screeds know that I’ve never been a fan of the Volusia County Council – a stultified parody of an elected body that has mutated into a ridiculous theater of the absurd; a ham-fisted bully who long-ago lost the ability to think for itself or act with independence from its uber-wealthy overseers – that has, once again, exposed itself as a grossly inept hindrance during this endless “State of Emergency.”
However, during this weeks installment of what was either a faux public meeting – or another goofy political posturing session cloaked as a “briefing” – I heard a paid public official issue one of the most nonsensical, inappropriate and outrageously stupid ideas ever hatched by a local government.
With an apparent straight-face (we don’t know, we couldn’t see her on the “virtual” meeting screen), Mr. Recktenwald’s coadjutor, Suzanne Konchan, explained to our elected dullards that Volusia County has purchased some 1,800 “utility markers” (at $16.55 each) which will be installed at intervals on what remains of driving portions of the beach.
You read that right.
Apparently, our “beach management” experts plan to place even more hideous poles between the existing “conservation area” pillars to designate temporary socially distant parking spaces – a move which, when driving is allowed to return, will separate cars by 25-feet and limit beach access to approximately 210 cars per mile.
This disastrous plan – that adds even more ugly pole/sign pollution to the forest already in place – is so wrongheaded that it causes one to wonder how ostensibly smart people, who accept public funds to serve in the public interest, could possibly have dreamt it up?
Perhaps most disturbing – not one of our elected officials questioned this idiocy – or, to my knowledge, acted to formally approve the nearly $30,000 expenditure of CARES Act funds which we are told will be used to pay for this latest fiasco.
With tens-of-thousands of Volusia County residents out of work, area businesses closing and families standing in line for sustenance at strapped food banks – this is how our elected officials plan to use $30,000 of the $96.5 million in federal coronavirus relief?
Look, whether you agree with my goofy opinions – or abhor everything blowhards like me stand for – know this:
None of this is our fault.
You are not to blame.
Our community has done an incredible job of following guidelines and recommendations, practiced social distancing, worn masks, remained in isolation and done our level best to obey the rules, flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19.
Now, remember this pretentious tut-tutting and godawful finger-pointing at the ballot box this fall.
You do not have to stand idle and accept unwarranted blame – or fear “more strict action in the future” if you fail to conform to these convoluted, puzzling, self-serving and completely unconstitutional mandates from that ship of fools in DeLand – a troupe of elected and appointed jacklegs who have proven, through their own glaring ineptitude, just how utterly compromised Volusia County government truly is.
Angel Local Musicians, Artists and Creatives
Throughout recorded history, we have used music and the arts to endure times of crisis, to protest, salve our fears, alleviate national sorrow, bolster our confidence and bond with one another.
Artists fill a vital role in protecting our mental and societal health during uncertain times.
In fact, one of the most enduring stories from the last hours of RMS Titanic was when the ship’s musicians gathered to play for frightened passengers and bring a sense of calm in the midst of certain disaster.
During this extended period of social confinement – a seemingly endless period of isolation that has had such a devastating impact on the psychological well-being of so many who feel lonely, increasingly anxious, forgotten and claustrophobic – several area musicians and entertainers have taken to social media to boost our flagging spirits in their own inimitable way.
Asking nothing in return, incredible local talent like my friend Reuben “The Lounge Lizard” Morgan, who, in addition to being an exceptional guitarist/singer/songwriter, just happens to be an all-around great human being – and the incomparable Mark “Muddyharp” Hodgson, New Smyrna’s own harmonica virtuoso – and many others who have regularly performed “virtual” concerts on Facebook to the absolute delight of so many in our community and beyond.
Add to that the incredible contributions of my dear friend Miguel “DJ Dynasty” Capellan, who has produced wonderful shows online – and all the chefs, artists, painters, radio hosts and other creatives who have brought light to this dark time.
In fact, some of my favorite nationally recognized performers – like the great Texas troubadours Pat Green and Ray Wylie Hubbard – have regularly performed songs in their living rooms, bringing a real personal connection that let’s everyone know we really are in this together.
It is truly something special when artists who are feeling the devastating financial impact of this economic crisis – missing scheduled performances and paying gigs while trying to keep their own small businesses afloat – put their own worries and fear aside to brighten the lives of others.
From the bottom of my beat-up old heart – thank you.
I have a request for all members of the Barker’s View Tribe:
When this mess is behind us, and we can once again join together and listen to live music, sing along and enjoy the incredible talents of our local musicians – please put an extra something in the tip jar to show your heartfelt appreciation for letting the music sooth our souls during this difficult time.
Quote of the Week
“It’s important that we heed the governor’s guidance and ensure our actions fall in line with the state,” Kelley said. “We want to open, for me the sooner the better, but safely.”
–Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley, Wednesday, April 29, 2020
As Governor Ron DeSantis slowly peels the onion on his politically cautious “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step” plan for resurrecting the rotting remains of our state’s economy, the Volusia County Council is working on a similarly guarded strategy called “Relaunch Volusia.”
Whatever that means. . .
After all, now that the federal government has turned on the funding spigot, there’s no sense rushing into things, eh?
Even with “the curve” now flatter than a cheap pancake, state and local government officials continue to pick the winners and losers – placing absurd limits on how some businesses can operate – while keeping other industries closed altogether, almost ensuring the financial ruin of many small businesses in our community.
(How can anyone believe that a restaurant can survive with a forced occupancy of 25% of capacity?)
Now, these arrogant phonies on the dais of power – who haven’t lost a dime in salary or benefits during this hyper-extended “State of Emergency” – want to drag their clay feet on when the marketplace can open its doors – all to avoid even a hint of political criticism.
Earlier this week, I listened, mouth agape, to a Special Meeting of the Volusia County Council as Councilwoman Heather Post argued semantics with Corrections officials – demanding that they stop saying there have been no coronavirus cases among inmates or staff (even though there haven’t been) – citing the fact no testing has been done.
Apparently, Ms. Post failed to grasp the fact no testing had been done because no inmates or staff members have exhibited symptoms of coronavirus. . .
That is the most pressing issue of our time?
This is what passes for leadership during a civic, social and economic crisis?
When our elected and appointed officials should be burning the midnight oil determining how to get much-needed financial support to low/moderate income families who are out of work, assisting struggling small businesses and partnering with local governments to determine needs – they twiddle away precious time debating messaging?
Then, I heard the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys all but burst into a rousing chorus of the Ray Stevens classic “Everything is Beautiful” – as she asked that the county’s website make room for “all good news, all the time” – while no doubt watching her political career dissipation light flicker in the corner of her eye.
During my long career in public service, I saw some in leadership positions come apart under pressure.
That painful process always manifested in repeatedly telling themselves things weren’t as bad as they seem – focusing only on the “good news” while consciously ignoring reality – hoping against hope someone, or something, will intervene to lessen their personal and professional responsibility for the outcome.
As I observed Tuesday’s painful posturing and political grandstanding – a horror show of preening pomposity – I wondered if anyone on the dais had even once considered the pain many Volusia County families are feeling right now – or consider their important role in alleviating it?
So, in this leadership void, I suggest you be you – and I’m not being facetious.
Seriously – stay home if you feel vulnerable, continue to take reasonable precautions, wash your hands, avoid large groups, follow CDC distancing guidelines, don’t go to the beach if you feel it’s a threat, etc. – but now is the time to take back personal responsibility for our own health and safety, and stop looking to this out-of-control Nanny State for answers and solutions they don’t have.
You do not need to be told what to do by Governor DeSantis, Chairman Kelley or anyone else!
We must bring this absurd chapter of our national history to a close.
In my view, now that we have beaten the virus back to manageable levels, it’s time to stop this torturous seclusion that has stolen our basic liberties – end the arbitrary shutdowns that are crushing our economy – and get Volusia County residents back to work.
And Another Thing!
Because I am one of the vainest, most self-absorbed assholes you know, it pains me to say this – but, I’m tired.
I know you are too.
I’ve lost that ‘pep in my step’ – my sense of humor isn’t as elastic – and I find myself even more cantankerous, brooding and argumentative than normal (if that’s possible).
Worse yet, I see a similar change in friends and family who are closest to me – as “quarantine fatigue” combines with a raging case of Spring Fever and frustration born of an unsettling lack of transparency by those institutions we look to for answers during times of crisis.
I’ve convinced myself this isn’t going away anytime soon.
Because it’s not about a virus anymore.
As the media continues to flog the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak 24/7, unrelentingly harping on patently erroneous cumulative statistics and worst-case scenarios that mean nothing, all while the Florida Department of Health refuses to agree on a logical definition of “recovered,” I believe it’s important to begin rebuilding our lives – and start thinking for ourselves.
This week, an expose in the Tampa Bay Times uncovered a disturbing dust-up between Florida medical examiners and the Department of Health.
According to the informative report, “State officials have stopped releasing the list of coronavirus deaths being compiled by Florida’s medical examiners, which has at times shown a higher death toll than the state’s published count.”
In fact, statistics previously released by the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission were some 10% higher than those reported by the DOH – and, the redacted pathology reports contained demographic information, probable manner and cause of death, and pertinent information regarding the persons medical and travel history – while stopping short of identifying individual patients.
As I understand it, the discrepancy is due, in part, to the Department of Health’s weird policy of only counting Florida residents in the death count – while medical examiners include anyone who died in the state of the disease – as they are required to do by law.
Once again, the Department of Health used their tired argument of “privacy concerns” when it formally interfered and strong-armed medical examiners to stop reporting what is clearly public information compiled in the public interest.
According to Dr. Stephen Nelson, chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission, “This is no different than any other public record we deal with,” Nelson said. “It’s paid for by taxpayer dollars and the taxpayers have a right to know.”
More important, the information represents an important piece of the puzzle – one that helps an anxious public understand the scope and impact of the epidemic and identify preexisting conditions that can exacerbate an infection.
I’m not an expert – but I can read and reason.
In my view, when our powerful public health apparatus starts influencing what information forensic pathologists, specialists in the processes of death and disease, may release concerning fatalities from a communicable illness that poses a threat to public health – perhaps its time for outside intervention.
What else is the DOH hiding from us?
Count my voice among the growing number of Florida residents who are calling on Governor Ron DeSantis to commission an independent top-to-bottom review of the Florida Department of Health, and its lockstep minions in county health departments statewide, who, by their almost pathological desire for secrecy have eroded the public trust and added to our government’s chaotic response, just when we needed them most.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, friends!