As I examine the machinations of Volusia County government, sometimes I wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me – like staring fixedly into one of those fun house mirrors.
The old, “That can’t be right, can it?” mental gymnastics that keep me guessing.
Then, I realize that fact really is stranger than fiction here on the Fun Coast. . .
Earlier this week, in a ditty entitled “Sorting Fact from Fiction,” I questioned the wholly confusing “do this, don’t do that – no more than six people in a group – maintain ten-foot intervals, park between the poles, not those poles, the new poles, etc., etc.” revised rules and regulations controlling otherwise lawful activities on Volusia County beaches.
Apparently, County Manager George Recktenwald and our doddering fool of a County Chair Ed Kelley, concocted a poorly thought “half-opening” to keep up with Governor Ron DeSantis’ painfully slow restoration of our tattered economy – an edict which now permits the once verboten pleasures of sitting and sunbathing on the beach – without fear of arrest and prosecution for a second-degree misdemeanor. . .
Unfortunately, there were some glaring discrepancies surrounding the soft opening that no one on the dais of power in DeLand – or any of our highly paid “beach management” experts – bothered to ask before visitors flooded the shore on Saturday.
So, I did my best to sound the klaxon.
Last weekend, I issued a serious warning to the thousands of beachgoers – including the disabled and mobility impaired who were allowed vehicular access under strict controls – to consider where, exactly, they planned to exercise their “bodily functions,” considering the fact every off-beach public restroom remained inexplicably gated and padlocked.
“…if you do venture down to the beach, I hope you are close to home – or don’t have an aversion to emptying your bowels and bladder in the surf, among your friends, family and neighbors – because, for reasons known only to Volusia County officials, public restrooms remain closed to public use. . .
Hell, even I thought that one was over-the-top. . .
I mean, is it humanly possible that following weeks of forced isolation – with confined children unable to attend school, parents climbing the walls and thousands of out of work residents looking for a diversion – those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest could possibly allow unfettered beach access without considering the personal needs of visitors?
Like many of you, I initially thought, “This must have been an unfortunate oversight – another bungling bureaucratic mistake – eventually, our highly paid beach management experts will realize that, at some point in the day, people will need to pee and poop, and unlock the facilities.”
Let’s face it – anything less would be cruel – or, at the very least, horrifically stupid, right?
Who in their right mind would suggest that throngs of beachgoers be forced to create unsafe and unsanitary conditions by relieving themselves in the crowded surf, exposing visitors and residents to serious gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses, infections and disease as raw sewage distributes fecal bacteria and viruses in the shallow the water.
Screw the gross-out factor – Is that even legal?
For years, our elected and appointed officials in county government have done everything in their power to discourage beach access and destroy the experience, to include using our century old heritage of beach driving as a bargaining chip for speculative developers seeking a quasi-private strand, charging obscene access fees, bullying tourists and residents with officious law enforcement and littering our most important natural amenity with countless poles, posts, cones and signage.
Regardless, I could never have imagined that our elected officials would open beaches to “all activities” – then attempt to control crowd behavior by manipulating the public’s right to urinate and defecate in sanitary facilities.
It defies reason.
Just last week, Volusia County purchased some $30,000 in “utility markers” (not including installation) using CARE Act funds – a move ostensibly designed to force ridiculously wide social distance spacing between parked vehicles – yet, they couldn’t task a few maintenance personnel to open and supply public restrooms?
This couldn’t have been intentional, right?
Fortunately, the intrepid investigative journalist Mike Springer of WFTV-9, reached out to Chairman Kelley for hard answers on how this colossal blunder happened.
Having reached Old Ed by phone, Mr. Springer inquired:
“We hear the importance of having good hygiene and being sanitary when you are out and about, but if we have thousands of people at the beach, how are we able to have good hygiene and sanitation if we can’t use the bathroom there to wash our hands and do other things?”
Inconceivably – in the most classically daft response ever uttered by a sitting elected official – Chairman Kelley, the highest-ranking elected official in Volusia County, explained:
“That was a good question. They got the ocean. It’s one of those things where we just weren’t ready, but we wanted to get people back on the beach. We could have put it off a week because I fully expect that this weekend.”
They got the ocean?
Let that sink in for a moment. . .
Sorry, but we are all adults here – and there is no delicate way to say this:
It is now the official policy of Volusia County for beachgoers to relieve themselves in the same surf-line where thousands of men, women and children – your friends, family and neighbors – are swimming, surfing, sitting and enjoying a day at the beach?
Rather than simply open public restrooms – this dullard would rather we turn the Worlds Most Famous Beach into the River Ganges?
Then, rather than admit Chairman Kelley has lost his marbles, Ray Manchester, Chief of Volusia County beach safety, doubled down on Old Ed’s preposterous suggestion – and, in the process, destroyed any shred of professional credibility he had left – when he told The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“Due to challenges with decontamination, the public restrooms remain closed,” said Manchester. “These facilities present a challenge because they create an opportunity for the easy spread of germs and bacteria.”
But forcing visitors to drop a deuce in the waves is perfectly acceptable?
Are you shitting me, Ray? (Pun intended. . .)
In my view, this horrible miscalculation by senior officials is one thing, but the ridiculous, self-serving excuse provided by Kelley and Manchester epitomize the strange culture of this terribly compromised organization – a sick joke that insults the intelligence of taxpayers who look on as our most precious natural amenity is fouled and mismanaged – as the county’s official response to the Coronavirus outbreak is exposed for the inept sham it is.
What a shit show. (Literally.)
(Sorry, I’ve got a million of them. . .)
But most important, please don’t forget to flush these turds this fall – and let’s begin the important process of restoring honor and credibility to Volusia County government.
Enjoy the beach, kids. I think I’ll take a pass. . .