After decades observing the inner-workings of local government, I don’t believe anything I hear and only half of what I see – never more evident than when I mix Kaopectate with three-fingers of strong Irish whiskey and gawp at what passes for a Volusia County Council meeting. . .
Over time, political power – whether elected or appointed – comes to see itself as infallible, unwilling to admit mistakes or accept responsibility for their individual and collective acts and oversights.
As an example, for years, Volusia County residents have warned their elected representatives of the inherent danger of over-development – inadequate transportation infrastructure, utilities, potable water, emergency services and the devastating impacts on our sensitive environment.
We have demanded moratoriums, asked them to stop making willy-nilly changes to comprehensive plans, sought adequate impact fees and a transparent permitting process.
Instead, our elected officials callously ignore our legitimate concerns for the future, and our diminishing quality of life, while flippantly approving any amendment to the rules and regulations that might benefit their campaign contributors in the real estate development industry – giving us the “Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil.” treatment as thousands of new homes and commercial properties continue to sprout like weeds.
Then, when the effects can no longer be ignored, our omnipotent elected monarchy arrogantly tell us their idea of unrestrained growth is inevitable – so, get used to it.
Don’t take my word for it.
Examine the impacts of Margaritaville, the faux beach community in the pine scrub west of I-95 that sits directly atop our aquifer recharge area, the sprawling Mosaic, and the proposed Avalon Park Daytona – which plans to develop some 10,000 residential properties and massive commercial space literally on the southwest border of Ormond Beach – or drastic changes to the Plantation Oaks subdivision that threatens to forever alter our precious natural amenity known as The Loop.
When we attempt to provide input to our elected officials, we are marginalized, made to feel unwelcome in the people’s chamber, and curtly reminded of our station – where our remarks must be laser focused on one individual in a crowded room, and time limitations are placed on our ability to participate in government – while those who asked for our sacred vote haughtily ignore our questions, refusing to even acknowledge our presence.
Recently, I was disturbed by the Volusia County Council’s unanimous decision to promote Interim County Attorney Mike Dyer to the permanent position in that patented “tell ‘em one thing, do another” sleight of hand that always keeps their constituents guessing.
Look, I’m certain Mr. Dyer is capable of performing the role – after a lackluster tour at the Volusia County School Board – the lifelong member of Volusia’s good ‘ol boys club was welcomed back to county government, got his nose firmly up all the right backsides, then embedded himself like a blacklegged tick.
In January, following a politically motivated bloodbath in the County Attorney’s Office, the council placed Dyer in the temporary role. At that time, we were promised that the full-time position would only be filled following a transparent nationwide search.
To his credit, at the time, Councilman Ben Johnson shared concern that appointing Dyer as interim might give the impression that, if Dyer is eventually chosen as the permanent county attorney, that the decision was a “foregone conclusion.”
Of course, our concerns were assuaged by Councilwoman Deb Denys who assured us the process to select our new county attorney would by transparent – and “discussed publicly.”
No search. No discussion. No transparency. A foregone conclusion.
On Tuesday, Mr. Dyer’s incredibly lucrative and open-ended contract – which was “negotiated” by an outside Orlando-based law firm which does contract legal work for Volusia County (?) – was unanimously approved by the council.
When Councilwoman Heather Post attempted to protect the interests of taxpayers by seeking the mere discussion of a salary cap to ensure that the other foregone conclusion inherent to the position – an automatic annual pay increase – doesn’t get out of control, the silence from her “colleagues” was deafening.
Now, the politicization of the County Attorney’s Office can begin in earnest. . .
Then talk turned to potential charter amendments – one of which could have resulted in a massive pay increase for our part-time elected officials – which I thought was unconscionable to even consider during an unprecedented election year when thousands of their constituents are out of work with businesses closing daily.
Again, to his credit, Councilman Ben Johnson stated unequivocally that he would not support the change – and suggested that any consideration of a pay increase should not benefit current sitting officials – while Ms. Post droned on about how a bump is ultimately necessary to attract “…the type of people willing to put in for these positions.”
What “type of people” is she referring to?
I assume she was referring to other mercenary assholes who are more interested in what an elected position can do for them, as opposed to honoring the sacred privilege of public service?
Ultimately, the motion to move the charter amendment forward died on a weird 4-3 vote – with our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, joining Councilman Fred Lowry and Councilwoman Barb Girtman in voting for the awkward measure that would theoretically see an elected council member hauling in some $361,920 over a four-year term.
In my view, we should not pay council members anything beyond reasonable reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses specifically related to their service – excluding their own shameless self-promotion and goofy junkets.
Let’s make them whole – not rich.
And you can bet your sweet bippy this idea isn’t going away. . .
During this election season, perhaps it would be prudent for voters to ask incumbent politicians why We, The People, continue to be ignored in matters large and small – then demand an answer.
Attend candidate fundraisers, grip-n-grins, debates, and hobnobs – look them in the eye and ask why.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being punished by these wholly compromised dullards who continue to congratulate their own performance, paint themselves as “good stewards” of our hard-earned tax dollars, then lie like a cheap rug when it suits their self-serving agenda.
We deserve better.