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 First District Court of Appeal
In December 2018, Sheriff Mike Chitwood made headlines when he rightfully called six members of the previous Volusia County Council “scumbags” for “violating the public trust and circumventing the will of the people,” when all but Councilwoman Heather Post voted to seek a legal exemption from Amendment 10, the ballot measure returning sovereignty to constitutional officers that was approved by 63% of voters.
Instead of accepting the voter’s decision, our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, began telling tall tales that the transition would cost taxpayers $10 million – then, he led the charge to have former County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert use public funds to challenge Amendment 10 in the courts.
Of course, the Volusia County Council’s decision to contest the results of the election using a weak “home rule” argument came during a typical off-the-agenda ambush.
It was all bullshit, a bald-faced lie – Old Ed and The Funky Bunch knew that – yet, the majority continued to defend the Old Guard’s status quo, regardless of cost.
To his credit, at the time, Sheriff Chitwood courageously called on Chairman Kelley to “…resign from office for his lack of leadership.”
Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s astute suggestion fell on Old Ed’s tone-deaf ears and we have been stuck with this obstructionist asshole ever since. . .
Earlier this week, we learned that the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee upheld a previous ruling by a Leon County circuit judge rejecting Volusia County’s asinine opposition to Amendment 10, clearing the way for a return to political accountability in key county offices.
Unfortunately, if we have learned anything about Kelley’s régime – a wholly compromised plutarchy that takes it’s marching orders from wealthy political insiders who have controlled the Chairman like a ventriloquists dummy for years – it is that Old Ed and his handlers have no qualms using the peoples own money to subvert their will.
Earlier this week, the consigliere of Volusia County’s ruling elite, Dr. T. Wayne Bailey – who, a half-century ago, served as co-chair, along with Dr. P.T. “Bud” Fleuchaus, of the 21-member group that cobbled together the county’s original charter – continued to challenge the appeals court ruling in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, saying:
“My view as a citizen is that the issues raised in the case are such that there ought to be a Supreme Court determination because it is a constitutional issue.”
That’s horseshit, T. Wayne. . .
I can’t think of anything more unconstitutional – more inherently un-American – than using public funds to underwrite an effort to overturn the will of the people – and reverse a voter-approved measure that fundamentally changes our local government by increasing transparency and ensuring political accountability.
Next week, the Volusia County Council will have one more bite at this expensive apple when they decide whether to take their daft fight against Amendment 10 to the Florida Supreme Court.
It’s time for this governmental defiance to end.
Maybe this will help:
I have washed my feet, donned my sackcloth robe, reverentially genuflected and prostrated myself on the floor, forehead to the carpet, arms outstretched in utmost humility and submission, dutifully facing west toward the Ivory Tower of Power at the Thomas C. Kelley administration building in Deland.
There now (in my best Gregorian chant):
“Oh, Great and Powerful Monarchs of the Volusia County Council – In your infinite and infallible wisdom – your faithful taxpayer, Mark the Nobody of Ormond Beach, does humbly and meekly beseech you to allow our collective voices to be heard, as erring and imperfect as they may be, and stop the expensive challenge of Amendment 10 to allow our High Sheriff and the other constitutional offices of our all-knowing, all-seeing government to have slight independence from your powerful prince, the politically unaccountable County Manager. Verily I beg of thee. Amen and Amen. Selah.”
Whatever. . .
Here’s hoping that, for once, common sense prevails, and this ill-thought challenge of the peoples sacred right to self-determination at the ballot box is brought to an end.
Wait. Damn. Can somebody help me get up off the floor?
Asshole Daytona Beach City Commission
This week, the Daytona Beach City Commission voted without discussion on a non-committal resolution “…approving the selection of preferred design options to be used in the construction of improvements to East ISB. The City Commission wishes to support the design of either FDOT option C – “SR A1A Roundabout Concept Plan” or a plan for intersection improvements using the current “T” intersection configuration, whichever is most efficient as determined by FDOT.”
In other words, we are either getting an almost universally despised roundabout – or a proper signalized intersection at the most heavily used beach access point in Volusia County – but the ultimate decision is being left to the Florida Department of Transportation as Daytona Beach officials succumb to political cowardice and abdicate any responsibility.
Because to make a difficult decision, one that will effect the lives of thousands of residents and visitors, takes courage – true political backbone – and that virtue simply does not exist in a place where elected officials callously turn a blind eye to the malignant blight that continues to consume the Halifax area’s core tourist strip, Main Street, Mid-Town, Downtown, East ISB, beachside/westside, etc., etc.
Of course, we are told the equally weak-kneed Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce will pass a similar wishy-washy resolution supporting the “whatever you guys want” approach to traffic infrastructure improvements on the ruined remains of East ISB.
Considering that, for decades, every in-coming president of the chamber has stood in their finery and crowed, ad nauseum, about the need to revitalize the “ISB Gateway” during their haughty acceptance speech at their annual high society Grand Gala – so, one would have thought the chamber’s “leadership” would have demanded that Daytona Beach city commissioners get off the fence and fight for what their members and constituents want?
In addition, the Hotel & Lodging Association of Volusia County – and Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premier beach driving and access advocacy, will also be asked to pass similar watery resolutions.
My sincere hope is that SOB President Paul Zimmerman gives a one-finger salute and tells those Caspar Milquetoasts at the City of Daytona Beach to stuff their political insulation ploy where the sun don’t shine. . .
What a crock of shit. . .
Since this foul idea’s inception, residents and veteran traffic engineers have fought against the ludicrous idea of placing a traffic roundabout at the intersection of East ISB and A-1-A – a plan that was inexplicably supported by the City of Daytona Beach – despite all best evidence that it will result in a nightmare of gridlock during peak season and compromise traffic flow year-round.
It is not that traffic circles don’t work – it’s that the dynamics of this particular intersection make a weird loop-de-loop inappropriate.
Then, in April, during a meeting of the ISB Coalition attended by Florida Department of Transportation Interim District Secretary Jared Perdue, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Rob Gilliland “suggested the signalized intersection idea be dusted off and reconsidered.”
A glimmer of hope!
According to Secretary Perdue, “If the community is not wanting this roundabout, we’ll go back and look at that. We don’t want to deliver a project the community doesn’t want.”
In short, FDOT was begging for direction!
Instead, rather than get the project moving, Daytona Beach elected officials decided to punt. . .
So, why won’t the Daytona Beach City Commission, and their sycophantic stooges over at the Regional Chamber of Commerce, get off their collective ass and lobby for what residents and business owners have been demanding from the beginning?
At a time when Daytona Beach needs a comprehensive vision for the future of the beachside and beyond, on Tuesday, 6,090 voters returned the city’s Monarchical Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry to the throne – ensuring more of the same indecisiveness, vacillation, uncertainty, political insulation tactics and fence straddling that always occur in the absence of strong leadership.
Next month (I hope) the Florida Department of Transportation will hold a virtual public hearing on the future of the intersection.
That meeting may well be our last/best opportunity to be heard on this important matter, now that the City of Daytona Beach has decided it does not want to get involved in the decision-making process. . .
My sincere hope is that residents and stakeholders will scream, en masse, that – despite the total abdication of responsibility by our elected officials – We, The Little People, who live and eke out a living in the Halifax area, fervently oppose the imposition of a nightmarish roundabout at East ISB and A-1-A.
Now, it is up to us.
As one intrepid civic activist aptly described the City Commission after the vote: “No brains. No balls.”
Quote of the Week
“Responsibility falls on both government and citizens to create the civic sphere and shape the future of their communities. We know that Florida needs a visionary and workable planning process that relies on an informed and active citizenry. Improvements to public participation by modernizing and updating public participation ordinances, increasing transparency by providing public notice in a broader range of media formats and empowering citizens through programs like the Citizen Planning Bill of Rights will move us closer to protecting and creating the vibrant, sustainable and livable communities that contribute to outstanding quality of life.”
–Excerpted from “Best Practices for Citizen Participation in Community Planning,” 1000 Friends of Florida, August 2020
This week I did something I rarely do anymore.
I actually agreed with the News-Journal’s editorial board in their informative op/ed, “Involve citizens in growth decisions.”
Admittedly, I was not familiar with 1000 Friends of Florida – but after reading the non-profit organization’s impressive stand on smart growth initiatives, environmental sustainability, and building better, more resilient, communities – I want to be their friend, too.
I have long been an advocate of the charette procedure – a concept where all stakeholders come together in intensive planning sessions to brainstorm ideas, resolve conflicts, map solutions to common problems and keep a project true to its intended purpose.
As a result of these collaborations, everyone involved – citizens, creatives, designers, developers, planners, government, business owners and others with a stake in the project – become co-authors of the mutually inclusive plan.
The very concept is verboten here.
I mean, can you imagine a civic project or real estate development scheme anywhere on the Fun Coast where residents would be permitted substantive involvement at the planning stage?
That is, beyond some canned “neighborhood meeting” a savvy real estate attorney needs to check off a box on their way to another land use amendment that will change the face of our community forever. . .
I would encourage everyone who cares about our sensitive environment and the nature of unchecked sprawl in east Volusia County to review the Citizen Bill of Rights proposed by 1000 Friends of Florida, which would, among other provisions, provide citizens standing in the planning process and protect comprehensive plans from the “shell game” of last-minute changes,” off-the-agenda public policy by ambush, and other legislative sleight-of-hand.
The Citizen Bill of Rights ensures Floridians:
The right to shape changes to your neighborhood, community and region.
The right to a process free of last-minute changes.
The right to a super-majority vote on major land use decisions.
The right to more easily challenge decisions made by your local government.
The right to be free of fear of unwarranted legal retaliation.
At present, some seven Florida counties and municipalities have adopted the Citizen Bill of Rights to include enhanced public participation provisions in the planning process and ensure the integrity of comprehensive plans and land use regulations.
Perhaps this innovative commitment to true smart growth initiatives is something our local governments should consider going forward?
For more information, please see www.1000fof.org
And Another Thing!
As I said earlier this week, the bedrock principle of our American democracy – that all power is derived from the consent of the governed – is rooted in the conduct of fair elections, the idea of “one citizen, one vote,” that purely American concept of political egalitarianism.
On Tuesday, the system worked.
Some were elated with the results – others horribly disappointed – while many more simply stayed home and shrugged the whole thing off as a rigged sham. . .
Unfortunately, far too many Volusia County residents have fallen victim to the malignancy of political apathy – that feeling of disinterest and indifference born of having the rug pulled out from underneath them one too many times – the sense that their vote doesn’t count, or their collective voice can be silenced if their decision at the ballot box goes against what the entrenched ‘ruling class’ wants.
Perhaps this election year is a time for new beginnings – and a restoration of public confidence in the system.
In my view, that fundamental change must begin with those we elevate to higher office.
Let’s face it, politicians have never had the best reputation – ranking somewhere below used car salesmen and lawyers on the Trust-o-Meter – and, by and large, it’s their own damn fault.
In over three-decades in municipal government – I came to understand that the virtue of integrity is omnipotent – because once the public’s trust is lost, it is almost impossible to regain.
At the risk of preaching the obvious – the “do as I say, not as I do” gospel according to Barker – I would like to extend some unsolicited hard-learned advice to our newly elected officials, and those still in the running, that may help foster a culture of honor in the Halls of Power throughout Volusia County and beyond.
Take it or leave it:
For those candidates who won outright this week, I encourage you continue your life of public service with an unwavering commitment to those ethics and ideals that drew you to this often-difficult path in the first place.
Many politicians become everything they hated when they first stood for public office, and that has wide-ranging implications, because reneging on campaign promises and developing a moral malleability are confusing, and corrosive to the public trust.
When human beings with inherent faults and weaknesses ascend to high office, an adherence to strong core principles and a demonstrated commitment to values-based service are a critical anchor point.
Be open to criticism – do not take it personally. You are a politician, and you will have detractors.
Use today’s often-caustic political discourse to understand the issues that are important to your constituents – but avoid rolling around in the social media mud.
That does not mean elected officials shouldn’t have their own mind – or be constantly swayed by which side screams the loudest, or kowtowed by blowhards like me, who have all day to nitpick decisions and complain, ad nauseum – and they should not be afraid to make difficult decisions, knowing that honest mistakes aren’t always politically fatal.
And they should not become subservient to the social and civic elite with the wherewithal to externally manipulate the political system with massive campaign contributions as a means of seeking a return on investment.
Do the right thing, dammit – for the right reasons – even if it means going against your “colleagues” on the dais of power. (Never forget – they’re just as confused as you are.)
Be open to outside counsel.
Remain attentive to the voice of your constituents and never succumb to the arrogance of power and trappings of office that breed a false sense of infallibility.
If you ever – even once – find yourself uttering the words, “Do you know who I am?” – in any context – resign immediately. . .
You cannot be all things to all people. But you can be kind to those who voted for you – and those who didn’t.
It takes just as much time during a public meeting to be remembered as an attentive representative as it does to be labeled an arrogant shithead – and political grudges or personal agendas waste precious time.
Remember, 99.999% of those you represent simply want someone to listen.
Respect the process.
The “staff” are career civil servants with families, professionals with a true desire to provide effective and efficient essential services to your constituents. They are dutybound to serve the people’s representatives with equal enthusiasm. Listen to what they have to say – and never compromise them for political expediency.
Set a good personal example.
Be a role model who embodies community standards, serve in the finest traditions of the public service, and become a mentor to others who seek elective office.
Look outside the box and challenge the status quo.
Search for new and innovative ways to serve your constituents and refuse to accept administrative stagnation and foot-dragging.
Read Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees and abide by it – its not a suggestion – it’s the law.
If you were born a congenital asshole like me – then find someone with the personal qualities and moral courage you respect and emulate them.
As an elected official who took an oath to serve others – make honor and integrity a way of life.
There. I’ll get off my soapbox. . .
Now, we must be willing to meet our elected officials halfway.
Rather than be sucked into the pit of malaise and apathy that lumps all elected officials into the same scum bucket, I tend to look at the individual and their record over time – because I have known some exceptional servant-leaders who, by their personal example, improved the community, maintained the public trust, and elevated the art and science of public policy design.
I hope you will join me in wiping the proverbial slate clean for our first-time elected officials – and those who have been returned to office on their merits, rather than the size of their campaign account – as they gain experience, learn the role, and, hopefully, continue to respect the voter’s confidence in their vision and abilities.
They deserve the opportunity for a fresh start – and so do We, The People.
At least until their words, actions and policy decisions prove otherwise. . .
When that happens, I will be standing ready to call foul, and protect our quality of life through my old-fashioned notion of political accountability – I hope you will, too.
After all, that is how our democratic system and our inalienable freedom of self-expression is supposed to work.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!