Angels & Assholes for June 12, 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:

Angel              Daytona International Speedway

Kudos to the France family, President Chip Wile, and the team at DIS for their innovative idea to host high school graduations at the World Center of Racing!

On May 31, more than 1,000 graduating seniors crossed the physical and metaphorical finish line at the famous trioval when Bunnell’s First Baptist Christian Academy, Flagler-Palm Coast and Matanzas High Schools took part in a unique drive-thru ceremony at the speedway.

According to a release by DIS:

“We’re honored to have the graduates of Matanzas, Flagler-Palm Coast, and First Baptist Christian Academy, along with their families, with us on what will be a very special day at Daytona International Speedway,” said track President Chip Wile. “The France family and track are committed to supporting our community in any way possible, and we’re glad to be able to provide what will be an unforgettable experience for these graduates. Their day is finally here.”

After diplomas were conferred, each graduate’s vehicle took a “Victory Lap” around DIS, then a moving of the tassel and cap toss ceremony took place near pit road.  In addition, the event was simulcast on speedway radio and live streamed on the Flagler County Schools website.

What an incredibly memorable commencement ceremony – and a fitting tribute to the hard work and perseverance of these students.

When area school districts and students were desperate for a fitting venue that would permit proper safety protocols, our community partners at Daytona International Speedway stepped up in a big way to ensure a memorable day for these graduating seniors.

I guarantee it was the most distinctive ceremony in the nation!

While the offer was extended to both Volusia and Flagler County students, inexplicably, only Flagler seized the chance – while Volusia remains torpified, like a deer caught in the headlights. . .

In my view, the France family and everyone at DIS deserve our sincere appreciation for recognizing a community need and immediately offering an unforgettable opportunity.

Thank you!

Asshole           Volusia County School District

To say that Volusia County School Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz inherited a shit show is an understatement.

Since taking office, he has been faced with the sins of his predecessors, tried to establish a new leadership structure, patched security lapses, assumed the results of historic poor planning, sorted out gross scandals, shouldered a weak and vacillating School Board, been hit with yet another budgetary catastrophe and dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a tough job with no easy answers, and, despite the many setbacks of this crazy year, Dr. Fritz appears to be hitting his stride.

This week, we learned the devastating news that in coming days he will begin cancer treatment – and the sincere thoughts, prayers, and best wishes of everyone in Volusia County go with him.

Because that is what we do here – when the chips are down, we put our petty political differences aside, and pull together to help and support those who are going through a rough patch.

The fact is, we need Dr. Fritz’ leadership now, more than ever – because it is patently clear that the entrenched power structure that he was forced to accept upon his arrival continues to fail him.  And us.

Last Friday evening, in an oddly timed social media notification, Volusia County Schools issued an ambiguous statement to the “VCS Family” announcing, “In the Fall of 2020-2021, Volusia County Schools is planning to have all students start on the first day of school.”

Whatever the hell that means in this crazy, mixed-up mess that was the 1999-2020 school year.

Then, late this week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he plans to reopen school campuses in August.

Now, I don’t know how your “family” works, but in mine we communicate important information directly, discuss options and alternatives, then collectively agree on a path forward – especially when those decision will have a lasting impact on our lives, livelihoods and household budget.

But not in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.

No, in that den of dysfunction, despite nine reopening committees consisting of over 150 people, decisions are seemingly made in a vacuum, then disseminated to everyone affected via a Facebook page (?) – with teachers, staff, parents and students all receiving the news simultaneously – leaving everyone scrambling for answers.

That’s not communication.  That’s chaos.

To make matters worse, rather than identify a single point of contact for anxious parents, the official release ended with, “Volusia County Schools is responsible for the content of this message. If you have any questions, please direct them to your individual schools.”

Say what?

Naturally, the district’s Facebook page received hundreds of comments and questions.

Here’s a brief sampling of the fallout:

“What does this mean? Starting in person, starting online? Can VCS not compose a release with CLARITY for students, parents, and teachers that goes out through an official means of communication (AKA not Facebook?) I’ll certainly have plenty to say about this at the next meeting and the district can expect an email from me in their inbox on Monday.” 

“I got this email as a mom – I have NOT heard this information as a teacher. Also – only elementary families received this info – this leaves more questions NOT answers. I thought we were going to work on COMMUNICATION… your employees would like to know information BEFORE families.”

“If VCS is Responsible for This message, why then would I direct my questions to the individual school which in all likelihood doesn’t have the answers???”

In light of the disorientation brought by the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Volusia County School Board and our highly compensated district administrators, have an obligation to restore organizational confidence, end the trepidation many families, teachers and staff are feeling and rebuild the public’s trust in the safety of our schools.

I am not sure you do that with half-baked Facebook posts.

And what about Volusia County’s graduating senior class?

Recently, Michael Walters, a Deltona resident whose daughter is graduating from University High, recently began an online petition hoping to convince the district to hold ceremonies in June – preferably at an outdoor venue which would allow some 4,000 students to graduate with their peers in the presence of family and friends – as it should be.

According to the district’s website, area high school graduations are currently scheduled to begin a month from now – July 9-11 – at the Ocean Center, the same tired and cumbersome venue as before.

“Admission will be $3 per person. Parking will be $5 for ceremonies. . .”

 Guests will be limited to just two.

My God.

It’s not for me to decide if Volusia County students were cheated out of a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience at Daytona International Speedway – an incomparable event that may have served as recompense for their topsy-turvy senior year.

However, I cannot think of a better primer for graduates on the utter dysfunction and incompetence of Volusia’s tax-supported bureaucracies – something that will serve as a foundation for their lifelong distrust of governmental organizations. . .

Congratulations, kids.  And good luck – you’re gonna need it.

Quote of the Week

“There will be a tipping point where we can’t get back,” Rinaman warned. “Now we still have an opportunity to do things right. We are fortunate to have 600,000 acres of conservation land along the St. Johns River. We need to protect that land. We need to protect the headwaters of our tributaries. We need to provide buffers so we can protect wetlands to keep out pollution.”

–St. John’s Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, as quoted in Another View – The Florida Times-Union, “St. Johns River faces new challenges,” Sunday, June 7, 2020

An irrefutable fact of environmental conservation is that in order to protect the water – you must protect the land.

Yet, in Volusia County, our ‘powers that be’ continue to find innovative ways to make it easier for speculative developers to build massive residential, commercial and industrial sites along the width and breadth of our shrinking wetlands, estuaries and wildlife habitats.

500 new homes here, 10,000 there – with overlay districts and “compressed” permitting processes set to ramrod development on the tired promise of “high paying jobs” – all while ignoring the poisonous runoff that endangers our rivers and sprawl that increases pressure on the aquifer – the very source of our drinking water.

Now, we’re seeing yet another development threat to our beautiful and wholly unique natural amenity known as The Loop.  

A tipping point indeed.

In my view, our powers that be have moved to satiate the greed-crazed desires of their benefactors in the real estate development community with such rapidity that we’ve become more concerned with transportation infrastructure, utilities and emergency services than the wholesale destruction of our natural places.

Perhaps that was the plan all along?

And Another Thing!

We are entering the quadrennial Season of Caring, that weird period when incumbent elected officials would have us believe they actually give two-shits about the wants, needs and dreams of their long-suffering constituents.

This short, well-defined, period is marked by backslapping and clubby fundraisers, gaggles of sweaty true believers waving signs on street corners, glossy mailers littering our countertop and omnipresent yard signs cluttering our neighborhoods – all reinforced with the smiling visage of perennial politicians set on a televised loop-reel – while, off-screen, they prostrate themselves before those uber-wealthy oligarchs who finance the whole shebang.

We will once again be treated to the velvety underbelly of perennial politicians who, every four-years, undergo this reverse lycanthropy – transitioning from the political werewolves they’ve become back to friends and neighbors seeking to represent our best interests if we’ll be so kind as to give them our vote.

And another bite at the apple.

This chummy familiarity ends abruptly on election day – so, enjoy the soft-soap treatment while you can. . .

If we’ve learned anything here on the Fun Coast, it is that political representation has become an illusion – a chimera where our elected officials on the Volusia County Council and beyond no longer work for us – or care about our civic essentials, even as they embrace every desire of those who control our future with campaign contributions and the influence it buys.

Like watching a magic show (or a horror movie) it is okay to enjoy this brief moment, so long as we are willing to momentarily suspend reality and keep it all in perspective.

Just remember, the next several months are a staged production, expertly choreographed by gifted bullshit artists trying desperately to erase our short-term memory and return incumbent politicians to office.

With qualifying for most state and local races ending today, we may see last-minute candidates jumping into area races, each with various purposes and agendas, not all of whom have our best interests at heart.

Fortunately, we also have some great candidates already qualified for key races.

One of those is Jeff Brower, my choice for Volusia County Chair, who will be holding a sign waving event this afternoon, 4:30pm to 6:00pm, in Ormond-by-the-Sea at 1258 Ocean Shore Boulevard (park in the Publix lot).

Now is the time to do our civic homework, get involved, study the issues that are important to us – and determine which candidates best reflect our core values.

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

A Note to the Barker’s View Tribe:

Barker’s View will be taking a few days off next week and Angels & Assholes will resume on June 26.

Please feel free to peruse over 500 archived posts on this site, each offering my goofy views on the issues that touch our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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