Angels & Assholes for May 29, 2020

Hi, kids!

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.

Last night Barker’s View had the distinct privilege of appearing on an upcoming episode of the hugely successful Troubled Men Podcast – hosted over cocktails by the incomparable René Coman, bassist for the band The Iguanas, and my friend Manny “A Troubled Man for Troubled Times” Chevrolet, a brilliant comedic talent and the next Mayor of New Orleans!

Please check out the podcast here: https://troubledmenpodcast.podiant.co/

Proud to be part of the Troubled Nation! 

Well, let’s get this hayride started, shall we:

Angel              Mayor Chris Via and the Holly Hill City Commission

“I believe that government should always be fair and should never choose winners and losers. By allowing restaurants to reopen at 50% capacity and serve alcohol to customers, but not allowing bars to operate whatsoever is patently unfair.”

–Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via, Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What defines a hero? 

According to lexicographers, it characterizes a person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great, someone willing to risk it all, a bold warrior, a mythological or legendary figure, often of divine descent, who is endowed with great strength, ability and courage.

It also describes a sandwich. . .

In the Barker’s Book of Style: The Use and Abuse of the English language, the common noun ‘hero’ distinguishes anyone who stands tall for that which is right and just and gets my fat ass back atop a barstool at my favorite watering hole after more than nine weeks of desert-like misery and privation.

Bars are non-essential?  My ass. . .

Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via is my hero.

On Tuesday evening, the intrepid members of the Holly Hill City Commission listened to the concerns of their constituents – and felt the pain and financial stress of many small business owners who have been left to wither as bars remain closed by Royal Edict of Governor Ron DeSantis – even as restaurants and other service establishment are allowed to reopen.

In my view, it is immoral and unethical for government – acting under the color of law – to select which families will be allowed to prosper, and which will be doomed to insolvency, failure and deprivation – and, by any metric, stand alone bars have been unduly burdened by this arbitrary and officially sanctioned oppression.

In response, Mayor Chris Via sent an open letter to Governor Ron DeSantis imploring him to stop this capricious practice and allow bars and veteran’s organizations – such as the American Legion, AMVETS, and VFW – to reopen in the State of Florida.

In his heartfelt plea, Mayor Via notes that bars provide a communal gathering place and source of social interaction for many who suffer year-round isolation – and represent thousands of hard-working employees and business owners who have gone months without any way to earn a living for their families – even as others in the service industry are getting back to work.

Kudos to Mayor Chris Via and the Holly Hill City Commission for standing up for all that is right and fair.

It is high time government gets out of the way.

I join with Mayor Via in demanding Governor DeSantis put a stop to these biased and prejudicial practices that are killing many small businesses who have shouldered an inequitable share of the financial burden.

End the shutdown!  Open the bars!  Do it now!    

Asshole           Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys

When shameless campaigning from the dais goes wrong. . .

In response to Saturday’s event in Daytona Beach which saw a large influx of African-American visitors (including a passel of troublemakers), this week the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys exposed the depth of her civic and social disconnect when she proposed a searingly stupid plan to exclude anyone other than Volusia County residents from our public beach – which, in the view of many, is dog whistle for “We don’t want large numbers of black youth on our beach.”

In her incomprehensible plan, Denys suggested that persons living outside Volusia County – you know, “tourists” – be denied access to public beaches through the use of some tyrannical and openly discriminatory scheme to be concocted by the county’s “legal team.”

Just another example of how horribly politicized the county attorney’s office has become.  They no longer ask for a legal opinion – they demand a defense for their worst impulses.

To complicate matters, persons staying in motels, or renting condominiums, would be somehow excluded from Denys’ unconstitutional and patently unfair proposal.

(I could almost hear Beach Chief Ray Manchester’s sphincter chewing a hole in his seat cushion as he tried to figure out how to cull residents from non-residents. . .)

“I think it’s time to look at unusual applications and I think we’re strong enough, our legal team is strong enough to defend it during this time. . . We’ve got to have this.”

As Denys demanded this completely unenforceable decree – both Councilwoman Billie Wheeler and The Very Reverend Fred Lowery bobbed their heads in agreement like a couple of nodding dashboard dogs.

Bullshit.

To her credit, Councilwoman Barb Girtman – the only African-American elected official on the dais (and, in my view, the sharpest mind) – stood firm for all citizens when she openly and rightfully embarrassed Ms. Denys by calling out her ignorant ploy for what it is – while voicing her utter disappointment at the mere suggestion.

Adding insult to injury, Councilwoman Denys rudely branded Ms. Girtman a liar when she pointed out the financial impact closing the beach to non-residents would have – compounding the already devastating economic damage caused by the coronavirus response – all because of a two-hour event in Daytona Beach on Saturday evening.

“That’s not true,” Denys seethed. . .

Of course it’s true!

Why else would you make this cockamamie suggestion, Ms. Denys!

In response, Ms. Girtman continued to speak the extremely uncomfortable truth:

“Have we had this discussion prior to this weekend?  No, we haven’t.  I just want people to search their own heart for their own fears.”

Ms. Girtman rightfully explained that Volusia County works hard to attract visitors from around the world.

So, now these narrow-minded dullards are willing to authorize legal research to discriminate – and determine how best to exclude certain members of the public from a “public beach”?

My God.

Having felt the heat of Girtman’s righteous indignation – as she is prone to do, Denys immediately attempted to slither out of her political predicament like the cowardly windbag she is – claiming closing beaches to out-of-county visitors has been discussed before (?) – then squirming that she only brought it up at the request of “citizens.”

So, what happened to the whole “We’ve got to have this!” call to action, Deb? 

What a disingenuous asshole. . .

Asshole           First Step Shelter Board

Earlier this week, Volusia County taxpayers learned the disturbing news that Catholic Charities of Central Florida has pulled the plug on their long and often controversial involvement with the First Step Shelter, citing “differences in operating philosophies.”

Who didn’t see that coming?

Catholic Charities was hired to run the day-to-day operations of the beleaguered shelter – the City of Daytona Beach’s homeless assistance center turned personal improvement seminar – then stood by collecting a paycheck as our ‘powers that be’ ham-handedly struggled through the fits and starts of construction.

That’s right.

For the past three-years, Catholic Charities accepted monthly payment for “operating” First Step, even while the massively overpriced facility was still a muddy spot in the hinterlands off West International Speedway Boulevard.

I never understood that, but there is a lot about this convoluted shit show I haven’t gotten my mind around. . .

What was once billed as a reasonably priced “come as you are” low barrier shelter has transmogrified into a mysterious personal development program that, as far as I know, has never been publicly explained in terms of programmatic goals, success in similar shelters or per client operational and ancillary costs.

To complicate matters, the program has always been chained to a weird four-headed master, each with seemingly competing goals – Catholic Charities, the neutered First Step Board of Directors, Executive Director Victoria Fahlberg and, at the top of the order, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm.

And abject confusion continues to reign.

Now, we are learning of serious internal disagreements over shelter operations – conflicts so intractable that Catholic Charities has decided to jump ship three years into a lucrative five-year contract.

According to an article by the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Gary Tester, executive director of Orlando-based Catholic Charities of Central Florida, said if Catholic Charities had stuck around, he was afraid there would be more differences of opinion. Basic disagreements about how to make the shelter a true low-barrier, 24-7 operation were never fully resolved. And Catholic Charities has been uncomfortable with running the safe zone that’s under construction now, something that Tester said was not part of the management agreement or funded for operations.”

It remains to be seen if in-house operations will be more effective and cost efficient – or, as these things normally go, if the First Step budget will place a greater focus on personnel costs and executive perquisites, while programmatic goals are allowed to languish.

This bears watching going forward.  

Angel               Chief Craig Capri and the Daytona Beach Police Department

 A veteran law enforcement commander once told me a story that perfectly described the difference in perspective between police officers and those they serve.

Following his retirement, my friend took a leadership position in the weird world of academia.

His first week on the job, an exasperated assistant came rushing into his office announcing an “emergency,” which prompted a visceral response from the former lawman as he instinctively began formulating an all-hazards strategy in his mind to deal with the clearly urgent catastrophe.

When he asked for a detailed account of the situation – his breathless colleague stammered that an important document had been inadvertently directed to the wrong department – resulting in much consternation in the dean’s office.

After taking a deep breath and physiologically descending from Condition Red, he calmly explained to his exasperated assistant that an “emergency” is when an armed suspect takes hostages and barricades himself in a hospital – while misrouted memorandums are an easily corrected administrative inconvenience. . .

Two totally different views of the same issue.

Unfortunately, rumor, speculation and outright misconceptions continue to circulate over an unfortunate event last Saturday evening when a group of troublemakers marred what should have been an enjoyable day at the beach for thousands of young black visitors who came to the Daytona Beach Resort Area for a quasi-organized party promoted on social media.

Every facet of this event – residents, law enforcement, attendees, visitors, business owners – each have a different perspective on what happened – now with the clarity of 20-20 hindsight.

I suspect that what may have seemed like a riot to some – may not have appeared as bad to seasoned law enforcement commanders who responded and resolved the incident with de-escalation techniques and an eye toward public safety – rather than an “arrest them all, let God sort them out” mentality.

It is called being damned if you do and damned if you don’t – and it comes with the job of every law enforcement officer who ever pinned on a badge.

As the firestorm of criticism continued this week, Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri defended his agency’s response – a strategy that saw massive numbers of holiday visitors, and the resultant heavy traffic, cleared from the peninsula in a little over two-hours with mutual aid assistance from Sheriff Chitwood and his deputies.

Absent the unfortunate fistfights – and a terrible shooting that injured six people – much of the raucous crowd appeared to be having fun – including the hilarious scene of a laughing young lady “twerking” for a clearly uncomfortable Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who seemingly took it with good humor in the spirit of the moment.

It is natural in the aftermath of a chaotic and confusing event that many will question the official narrative – and seek to find fault in the very agencies and individuals who were charged with restoring order and ensuring the public’s safety.

That also comes with the job. . .

Make no mistake, the pockets of lawlessness, brawling and violence on Saturday have no place in our community – and with a video shoot and block party planned for later today – I have every confidence our law enforcement professionals will be monitoring and respond appropriately.

In planning for today’s event, officials have placed crowd control barriers along areas of A-1-A that saw traffic blockage last weekend – and some in the community are now complaining that the barricades are “ugly” and scoffing at their effectiveness.

Whatever.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. . .

I have had the pleasure of knowing and serving with Chief Capri for thirty-years.

In that time, I have come to understand the good heart and sharp mind of a dedicated career servant-leader with a true passion for protecting and serving others.

While some disagree with his off-the-cuff straight talk – or find it offensive that he mixes it up with his detractors – I find it refreshing that Chief Capri has the courage to stand before the harsh glare of the cameras and speak directly to his constituents, the citizens of Daytona Beach, getting out front of the serious issues of the day with a brash style and blunt candor.

In a service where an increasing number of police chiefs choose to communicate behind the relative safety of canned press releases and professional mouthpieces – Chief Capri still understands the civic importance of giving residents his real-life take on incidents and community issues in a direct and unvarnished way.

For good or for ill, that level of accessibility and transparency can result in vehement criticism – even “should’a, could’a, would’a” scapegoating – yet, he never lets the incessant blame game create a void between his agency and those it serves.

Knowing Chief Capri as I do, he will use the lessons of Saturday night to improve his agency’s response protocols – and I hope he takes the venting and criticism of the pseudo-experts in stride.

In my view, Chief Capri and his outstanding officers and staff do a difficult job under often dangerous circumstances with incredible valor and selfless dedication to the highest traditions of the police service.

They deserve our support, partnership and respect.

Quote of the Week

“The beauty of Daytona Beach is that it is not Orlando. Let’s strive to maintain that beauty and take much better care of what we already have.”

–Civic activist Anne Ruby, speaking in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor column, “New development plans demand scrutiny,” Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Amen.

And Another Thing!

I recently took News-Journal editor Pat Rice to the woodshed in this space for an op/ed, which, in the view of many, went over-the-top when the newspaper executive referred to those who use social media – everyman’s soapbox – to voice dissenting opinions on the issues we collectively face as “misinformed, uneducated knuckleheads.”

My counterpoint obviously struck a nerve, and many in the community expressed their views on social media – some supporting Mr. Rice’s perspective on the current vote-by-mail debate – while others vehemently disagreed.

An overall healthy, if not unwieldy, discussion of a topical and newsworthy issue – and Mr. Rice took to social media and wallowed around with the rest of us as he confronted his critics in a no-holds-barred way – a tactic that offended some subscribers.

Then, things turned ugly.

According to Mr. Rice, an anonymous coward saw fit to throw eggs at his personal vehicle – a craven act he obviously equated to the heated disagreement surrounding his editorial stance.

By any measure, what happened to Mr. Rice is wrong.

A criminal act designed to instill fear of retaliation for voicing an opinion has no place in the arena of public debate – or our community.

To his credit, even after being violated, Mr. Rice offered to sit down with the unknown vandal and have an honest discussion – something I felt showed incredible grace under the circumstances.

In my book, that is the epitome of good citizenship – and promotes the idea that we should be able to voice competing points-of-view without fear or oppression.

Look, I’ve been on the receiving end of credible threats by small-minded assholes who attempt to stifle the free and open debate of the issues on this blog site, some of which border on the statutory definition of extortion – but I choose to ignore these gutless bastards – and will continue to voice my opinion as a means of driving a larger discussion in the community.

To that end, I refuse to allow comments on this site that promote violence.

So, if you’re one of those “by any means necessary” types who call for armed insurrection over a minor zoning dispute or promote violent rebellion to correct a local policy snafu – there are plenty of places in the bowels of the innerweb that will embrace your sick thoughts – but not here.

We live in an incredibly polarized time in our national history – and we need more tough dialog to strengthen our sense of community, bind wounds and encourage the debate of competing ideas to our collective benefit – not less.

In my view, it is important that everyone who values our sacred right to self-expression and the rule of law condemn the vandalism Mr. Rice experienced – and hold ourselves to the high standards and sense of personal responsibility our sacred freedoms require.

That’s all for me!  Have a great weekend, y’all!

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for May 29, 2020

  1. Deb for county council, is a slap to all people’s in volushia county. Old days she would be tared and feathered. im sorry for not being polical correct! Nov vote city commissioners in Daytona and county commissioners out. Time for real change. Not hacks funded by corrupt polical insiders!

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  2. It is unconstitutional to limit residents to a public beach. The “Public Access Doctrine”: Our Constitutional
    Right To Sun, Surf, And Sand (google that) They can’t do it and they already know it. I know this has been discussed in prior council meetings. They are just going to push the legal department to do what they want.

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