Every election season we reach a point where truth blends with absurdity.
That does not happen by chance.
The nature of modern political campaigns is to warp our perception with half-truths, spin and alterations – a form of cognitive manipulation where candidates and their handlers attempt to create a weird alternate reality where we forget about their record and how our needs and input were ignored.
Because, as the saying goes, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
It’s political gaslighting at its worst, and includes all the classic techniques – blatant lies, words that do not match past actions, marginalizing those things that are dear to us, projecting their own faults on others, portraying others as liars or lunatics, using confusion to craft an alternative narrative and keep constituents guessing.
We have come to expect that, and smart people recognize the smokescreen for what it is.
But what about when that manipulation becomes a part of our civic lives?
Here on Florida’s Fun Coast, we are lied to so frequently by those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests that we no longer know what to believe anymore – and our distrust of local government and those who have hijacked it for their own self-serving purposes – has made true civic and economic progress impossible.
For instance, last year, the City of Ormond Beach spun a fantastic yarn about how the 20-year old police facility on Granada Boulevard was suddenly vulnerable to storm surge in the event of a hurricane, along with a handful of easily corrected routine maintenance issues that were painted as insurmountable – a threat to the building’s continued viability.
Rather than simply explain to citizens that the property now represents valuable real estate, vital to the completion of the downtown streetscape project that has transformed our community, a potential commercial space better returned to the tax rolls – or explaining that the police department should move west as the community expands – the first thought of our elected officials was to lie to us – blatantly and with confidence.
To facilitate the ruse, the Ormond Beach City Commission even hired a local developer to identify potential relocation sites – at a cost of $30,000 from the city’s general fund. . .
More recently, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm engaged in a weird, clearly orchestrated scam – a feint maneuver designed to mislead citizens into believing they need a new $25 million dollar City Hall complex – all while shilling for a Tampa-based developer who seeks $15 million in public funds to underwrite a parking garage for a downtown apartment complex.
It was cheap, clearly choreographed in advance by those ‘in the know,’ and when the shim-sham was exposed – it left us all feeling gullible and set upon – as our elected officials continue to play their scripted role as the uninformed rubes who need “more information” before putting their constituents even further on the hook to help another private developer maximize profit.
This weekend, The Daytona Beach News-Journal published an intriguing article on how our return on a $40 million public investment in the woefully underperforming private shopping complex, One Daytona – which was originally sold as a means of producing some 4,300 “direct and indirect jobs” and $250 million in local taxes – “are nowhere close to its original projections.”
In another article, Beat Kahli, the developer of the proposed Avalon Park Daytona project – a city within a city – that, once complete, will add 10,000 residential properties and one million square feet of commercial space to the already overdeveloped area west of Interstate 95 – is now telling us we “misinterpreted” his request for a $75 million bond backed by the City of Daytona Beach and the County of Volusia.
“Kahli said he was willing to issue the bond himself but wanted assurances from the county and city that the money could be counted against the impact fees paid on Avalon Park Daytona as it is built out.”
Whatever you say.
For now, Mr. Kahli is busy insinuating himself into the local political scene with campaign contributions and a three-year $10,000 commitment to Team Volusia – becoming a “board level” investor in Keith Norden’s public/private travel club – which immediately resulted in Mr. Norden assuaging our growing fears with, “I haven’t met Beat, but I’ve heard good things about him.”
I’ll bet you have. . .
Most recently, we are being led to believe that Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry has had a change of heart on affordable housing for the thousands of residents in his community and beyond who are living at or below the poverty line – with many now standing in breadlines as their businesses and ability to support their families are crippled by draconian state and local regulations ostensibly designed to show that our politicians are doing something to stop the spread of coronavirus.
After years of green lighting massive sprawl in “New Daytona,” adding catastrophic pressure to our wholly inadequate transportation infrastructure and water source, only now does Mayor Henry suggest its time for developers – who have hauled untold profits out of our sensitive pine scrub and wetlands – to actually give something back to the community in the form of workforce housing?
All while other elected officials wring their hands and tell us that if we “…burden developers too much, they’ll invest somewhere else.”
And the list goes on. . .
We believe because we want to believe. We need to believe.
And those who hold the power use this illusion of truth to continue ramrodding their hidden agendas and profit motives, hoping against hope that we will simply come to accept that civic stagnation and malignant blight in our core tourist area and elsewhere is somehow off-set by massive theme communities and shopping centers to the west – exploiting and destroying our natural places in their perverse idea of “economic development.”
In November, you and I will have the opportunity to ensure that our voices are heard – just as we did during the grassroots effort to overturn last years shameless money grab in the guise of a half-cent sales tax increase – and unseat incumbent politicians who have sold us out to the highest bidder and pursued this continuing deception as a means to an end for well-heeled insiders.
I have said this before – please vote like your lives and livelihoods depend upon it.
This ones important.