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.
Patriot Day – September 11th – honors the memory of the nearly 3,000 innocent victims who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and those who perished when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
This day is also when we solemnly remember those valiant first responders who laid down their lives, courageously giving the ‘last full measure of devotion’ saving others – and those who continue to succumb to illnesses related to their extraordinary service at Ground Zero.
These vicious attacks on our nation by radical Islamic terrorists reminded us of our external vulnerability – yet demonstrated how, in our darkest hour, American’s forget our differences and come together to protect those freedoms we hold dear.
But what about our internal vulnerability on this day of reflection and national introspection?
Unfortunately, that sense of national unity and patriotism we felt in the days, weeks and months following the attacks has been replaced by disharmony, lawless rioting, and calls for anarchic change to our democratic system and the incredible freedoms it ensures all of us.
Are we doing to ourselves what others tried and failed to accomplish?
With our nation so terribly broken and divided by literally everything – race, age, gender, political affiliation, ideology – let us remember that this is the day we have set aside to recognize and honor those we lost – and the shared traits that bind us together as Americans – as we show the world our collective resolve and our enduring love for this great nation.
Let us never forget.
Angel B-CU President E. Brent Chrite
In a February 2020 letter to alumni, Bethune-Cookman University President E. Brent Chrite didn’t pull any punches.
“2020 will be a pivotal year in the history of B-CU,” President Chrite wrote. “It will be the year our beloved university prepared to close its doors, or it will be the year we turned a corner and began moving toward an exciting future.”
At that anxious time, B-CU was in its second year of academic probation after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges demanded the elimination of an $8 million operating deficit and improvements to its system of governance.
The loss of accreditation would have signaled the death knell for this challenged institution – one that has been financially gutted by mismanagement, a lack of oversight by its self-serving trustees, and voracious greed.
Last week, Bethune-Cookman University learned that it will maintain its all-important academic accreditation, thanks to the collective efforts of so many faculty and staff, who have worked hard to right the ship under the extraordinary leadership of Dr. Chrite.
Under Dr. Chrite’s stewardship, the University was able to reduce expenditures, complete an extensive review of policies and protocols, and overhaul all contractual obligations and transactional relationships and “recalibrate” them to B-CU’s advantage.
In addition, the school brought together experts in finance, accreditation, and academic governance, and increased private sector support to transform the University “…into a properly running institution of higher learning.”
Fortunately, thanks to the support of Volusia County’s own political powerhouse, Mori Hossieni, in March, Bethune-Cookman learned that it would receive a $17 million annual recurring infusion from the Florida Legislature.
The funds will be used to assist students struggling to pay for their college education – and go a long way to restoring confidence and standing to this important HBCU.
Kudos to Dr. E. Brent Chrite, and his inspiring team, for honoring Dr. Bethune’s dream and pulling this vital local institution from the brink of disaster.
Asshole Daytona Beach City Commission
I have a strong suggestion for the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau’s next attempt at a marketing slogan:
“Daytona Beach: Where fun goes to die.”
On Wednesday evening, I watched in horror as perhaps the most anti-business City Commission in the history of the Halifax area crushed area merchants – many of which have been brought to the point of extinction by the economic collapse – when elected officials ignored the fervent pleas of area small business owners and refused to support a reasonable safety plan that would have allowed a toned-down Biketoberfest next month.
The vote came on the heels of another harsh measure that all but ensures the death of Go-X scooter rentals on the beachside – a wildly popular attraction that some area hoteliers and other businesses have used to pay the bills during these disastrously lean times.
It became clear that the gluttonous City of Daytona Beach was trying desperately to siphon off private profits with onerous registration regulations and a “franchise agreement” with scooter operators, who will now be required to submit a proposal to city staff in the next 90-days – one that includes burdensome regulations and sets technological limitations on the devices – and, no doubt, includes heavy fees – for the privilege of doing business in our artificial economy.
Ignoring the fact that many small businesses in our community have finally found a profitable venture that provides area residents and visitors with a fun means of personal transportation around our core tourist area – the discussion quickly turned to just how difficult the municipal government can make it on operators after Commissioner Quanita May felt slighted by Go-X representatives – who apparently didn’t pay proper fealty to her officious sense of self-importance when she insinuated herself into the private marketplace.
Frankly, it was sad watching business owners and their employees literally beg their haughty elected representatives – explaining how the rentals have helped them feed their families and returned a sense of hope during this unprecedented economic downturn – while the owners of Go-X were publicly humiliated from the dais for having the temerity to do business without first coming before the Monarchy, hat in hand, and offering up their pound of flesh to the municipal government.
But the true damage to our crippled local economy came when the majority exposed their pre-determined plan to reject Biketoberfest special event permits – and killed a well-thought, common sense coronavirus prevention strategy – which would have allowed Main Street businesses at the traditional epicenter of Biketoberfest to safely provide food and beverage service, entertainment, and outside vendors, while maintaining social distancing and other precautionary measures.
Instead, despite the call by Commissioner Rob Gilliland to impose the safety regulations as a means of reducing exposure, the majority imposed their draconian will – voting to reject the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s safety plan out-of-hand – stopping outside vendors, and cruelly shitting on the hopes of some thirteen small businesses who signed a pledge to keep visitors and employees safe.
Where is the “leadership” of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce who, rather than serving as sycophantic majordomos for the civic and economic elite, should be fighting tooth-and-nail for the very survival of their members?
While the Daytona Beach City Commission callously plotted ways to deny area businesses the ability to safely take advantage of the thousands of visitors that will naturally come for the decades old special event – thoughtful leaders in Ormond Beach and Holly Hill were signaling their support for area merchants by formally approving special event permits, allowing concerts, and welcoming other entertainment venues and options during the event.
If you live, work, or play in the City of Daytona Beach – I sincerely hope you will take the time to watch the archived video of Wednesday evenings travesty for yourself.
If you can stomach it. . .
Rarely will you see this level of abject arrogance by an elected municipal body intent on destroying the economic viability of the small businesses, employees and families that form the backbone of this struggling community.
Angel The Bridge Homeless Shelter
Kudos to the City of DeLand and all of West Volusia for opening a true low-barrier, come-as-you-are homeless shelter.
The Bridge, which will be operated by the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, is a true community-based assistance center that will be capable of housing up to 30 people and provide daily services – such as showers, haircuts, and medical/mental health referrals – to many more each day.
Perhaps most important, it welcomes clients to a day care program – allowing homeless persons a place to spend time and receive essential services – rather than congregating in public spaces.
In short, The Bridge is everything the massively expensive First Step Shelter isn’t.
According to an excellent piece in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “We want people to come to The Bridge in lieu of hanging out downtown or in parks around the city,” said Susan Clark, executive director of the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. “We want to have activities occurring on site, where folks are welcome to spend their day.”
I find that refreshing – a facility committed to helping those less fortunate – rather than simply existing to pay exorbitant salaries to high-titled hangers-on. . .
Although the shelter won’t open until September 28, at present, an onsite commercial kitchen prepares two hot meals each day, including lunch for anyone suffering from homelessness or hunger. The meal is served by volunteers beginning at 11:30am.
This winter, facility will serve as an extreme cold weather shelter – providing refuge to an additional 75 people.
The Bridge is located at 421 South Palmetto Avenue in DeLand.
For more information on how you can help, please visit www.neighborhoodcenterwv.org .
Asshole Volusia County School Board
I made a promise to repost this screed earlier in the week – so, if you missed it on Tuesday, here you go:
As you can tell, I’m not a fan of the Volusia County School Board – not because I have any personal animosity toward the members – just a lifelong distain for those who ascend to positions of high responsibility and either cannot, or will not, step up and provide credible leadership during a crisis.
That’s wrong. Because the School Board oversees a lot of moving parts – most important being the education and welfare of our children when we place them in the care of teachers and staff – and that should not be left to chance or experimentation.
There is too much at stake.
In my view, you can tell a lot about people and organizations by the way they react under pressure.
In fact, I believe it is the only true litmus test for leadership.
After all, we see someone’s true character when everything is in jeopardy – and it has become crystal clear that our elected officials on the Volusia County School Board do not have what it takes when the chips are down.
Real soup-sandwiches. . .
Last week in this space, I took the board to task for their miserable failure to keep students, teachers, staff, and taxpayers informed during a pandemic – and their refusal to foster a free and transparent organizational culture where everyone feels comfortable openly expressing their opinions on the issues of the day and making substantive suggestions for bettering the system.
Then something weird happened.
Just days after education reporter Cassidy Alexander’s informative piece in the News-Journal announcing that district officials would not be releasing the numbers of positive coronavirus cases by individual school, Interim Superintendent Dr. Carmen Balgobin proved her malleability by immediately obeying the unilateral diktat of Chairwoman Ida Wright, who has obviously succumbed to the “circle the wagons” siege mentality that has gripped the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.
At Chairwoman Wright’s personal direction, Dr. Balgobin sent an email under her hand to principals, departments, and “Cabinet Members,” ordering that all media communications be solely “facilitated” through Kelly Shultz, who oversees the district’s failed Office of Community (Dis) Information. . .
Trust me, Ms. Wright. That horse has left the barn.
In my experience, once the recognized “leader” of an organization – like the board chair, or interim superintendent, of a school district with a bloated budget approaching $1 billion – begins suppressing the free exchange of information after losing their ability to control the message, well, it is impossible to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
And Wright and Balgobin should have known that.
Now, these repressive actions appear petty and heavy-handed – an attempt to suppress the free speech of teachers and staff trying desperately to bring serious issues to light – and it telegraphs to everyone watching that senior leadership has lost internal control of the district.
Make no mistake, Ms. Wright wasn’t trying to “mitigate risk” when she nervously ordered Dr. Balgobin to muzzle teachers and staff – she was protecting the district’s false narrative.
Given the continuing pattern of indecision, vacillation, and oddball policy reversals that have marked Dr. Balgobin’s short tenure at the helm – that’s a big problem.
Following the board’s meeting on Tuesday afternoon it became apparent that our elected officials are now consumed with a paranoid effort to anticipate where the next criticism is coming from – obsessed with trying to outfox their detractors – rather than provide comprehensive leadership based upon a plan that supports the educational and operational goals of the district.
And this shit train continues to derail with no one at the switch. . .
Inexplicably, instead of simply allowing Blundering Balgobin to fulfill her role as Deputy Superintendent in Dr. Scott Fritz’ medical absence – you know, what she was hired to do – the School Board took the unprecedented step of scratching the term “interim” from her current title – immediately elevating her to Superintendent without any formal evaluation, public input, or process – I mean, beyond the hyper-dramatic mewling and cooing of Board Member Jamie Haynes. . .
At the end of the day, I guess this means that the board has effectively launched Superintendent Fritz into the ether, literally from his sickbed?
It was all horribly confusing – just as School Board Attorney Ted Doran no doubt intended.
When talk turned to treating our “new” Superintendent to a massive pay raise commensurate with her title (we currently pay her $579.00 per day), the board strategically signaled that – while her raise/bonus is a lead pipe cinch – Balgobin will need to keep up appearances and wait until teachers and staff negotiate their paltry bump – which, at best, will amount to little more than crumbs off Dr. Balgobin’s groaning plate. . .
My God. . .at a time when the School Board just took $11 million from reserves to balance its bloated budget – and set a proposed millage rate some 33.3% higher than the rollback rate?
During these terribly uncertain times, rather than demonstrate sound leadership and a “lets pull together” resolve to meet the myriad challenges head-on, our elected officials promote a struggling deputy superintendent who is clearly over her head – and reward her amateurish fumbling with a substantial pay increase that well exceeds the annual salary of many of those teachers and staff who have lost confidence in her abilities.
Quote of the Week
“May we humbly suggest something, in the face of ongoing construction that – along with COVID-19 – has caused immense disruption to downtown Beach Street business owners? We suggest that permit fees for the city should be negated in good faith for this billing year. Brick and mortar shops need thoughtful and real-time consideration as we endure bridge and street constructions that has lasted years.”
–Allan Brewer, Ormond Beach, president and owner of Evans and Son Jewelers, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor, Monday, September 7, 2020
Let’s face it, Beach Street merchants have been the redheaded stepchild of Daytona Beach officials for years – but so have those who try to eke out a living on Main Street, Midtown, East ISB, etc., etc.
Depending upon who you are in the Halifax area’s economic hierarchy, the City of Daytona Beach has proven that they could give two-shits if you live or die – especially if your business stands in the way of say, J. Hyatt Brown’s plans for our future – or any project pushed by Sir John Albright’s CTO Realty Growth – or if you refuse to obsequiously kiss the Monarchial ass of some pompous elected or appointed official. . .
For what seemed like an eternity, the Orange Avenue Bridge project disrupted the flow of business to downtown merchants with little, if any, of the grand promotion and mitigation the City of Daytona Beach promised would happen – you know, right before they went ahead with a plan to destroy the existing streetscape in favor of yet another streetscape?
It is becoming clear that not everyone will survive the “progress.”
The growing number of vacant storefronts along Beach Street is a testament to what happens when the entrepreneurial spirit collides with the self-serving, ego-driven wants and whims of our well-heeled political insiders with a profit motive.
The fact is, the City of Daytona Beach does not have the best track record of attracting and nurturing small businesses in those areas where they are needed most – and many in our community are coming to the realization that this anti-business philosophy and strategic blight is being used to lower property values and make their ultimate acquisition more advantageous to those insiders who pay to play.
What else could it be?
Fortunately, surrounding cities continue to benefit from those startups who simply cannot – or will not – jump through the capricious hoops and laborious bureaucratic bullshit that marks any attempt to establish a new business in Daytona Beach.
So, they simply move north or south to appreciative communities who welcome their enterprises with open arms.
Given the withering pressures Beach Street businesses have historically experienced, my sincere hope is that Mr. Brewer and others will get some well-deserved relief.
I’m not holding my breath – and I’ll bet long-suffering downtown merchants aren’t either. . .
And Another Thing!
For reasons known only to him, earlier this week, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry once again waded into the fetid swamp of social media to throw his weight around – this time to label the moderator of the increasingly popular Facebook political forum – Volusia Issues – as a racist and bigot.
Earlier this week, civic activist Greg Gimbert posted an accurate jab at Mayor Henry’s backhanded endorsement of Volusia County Chair candidate Dishonest Deb Denys, stating:
“Breaking News: BLM Democrat endorses Developer Republican in the sellout of working-class Volusia. Poopy water at 11.”
Now, you don’t have to agree with me – or Greg Gimbert – but I didn’t see anything inherently inaccurate about his statement.
After all, Mayor Henry’s acquiescence to the wants of real estate developers is self-evident – and his “experimental” toilet-to-tap scheme will have us all drinking our own sewage when massive population density exceeds the limits of our aquifer.
That’s now a given.
And, Mayor Henry remains an ardent supporter of Black Lives Matter – an organization which continues to call for the murder of law enforcement officers and the defunding/abolishment of police departments, while these self-proclaimed “trained Marxists” continue to use violence and intimidation to “burn down” our democratic form government.
I’m sorry, but as much as I abhor racism, narrow-mindedness and intolerance in all its vile forms – I simply cannot accept the violent actions and rhetoric of this organization – one that advocates the wholesale slaughter of public servants and stokes violent chaos as a means to an end – and I am surprised that Mayor Henry would embrace it either.
Yet, he does.
And anyone who disagrees with him is branded a “racist and bigot.”
What bothered me most is when Mayor Henry made a wide leap and used Mr. Gimbert’s criticism to bully Volusia County Chair candidate Jeff Brower – insinuating that Mr. Brower was somehow complicit in what he described as a “bigoted agenda” because he refused to denounce Gimbert’s pointed personal opinion – something that confused both Mr. Brower, and many of the Mayor’s stunned constituents, who finally saw this tinpot tyrant for what he is.
The Mayor’s post began as a weird boost for former County Chair candidate Gerard Witman’s recent endorsement of Brower’s opponent, the developer’s darling, incumbent Councilwoman Deb Denys.
Then, Mayor Henry launched an unprovoked, sustained, and wholly mean-spirited personal attack on Mr. Brower’s character and reputation – diminishing Brower’s significant contributions and activism for Daytona’s forgotten residents in Midtown and beyond – and defaming his attempts to bring positive change to the stagnant status quo.
In fact, many Daytona Beach residents and business owners told me later they were shocked by the tone and ferocity of Mayor Henry’s attack on Jeff Brower – using a loose association of a resident who simply supports his campaign (as so many of us do) – to force Mr. Brower to absurdly deny being a racist on a public forum.
It didn’t surprise me.
Mayor Henry and Ms. Denys share the same influential campaign contributors in the real estate development industry – so, I assume Hizzoner is just doing as he is told. Like always.
Things must be getting desperate over in Dishonest Deb Denys’ camp. . .
Just when we thought the disastrous Mayor Henry could not stoop any lower – he astounds his critics and supporters alike with a despicable display of arrogance and pomposity rarely seen in Volusia County politics.
This was not Mayor Henry’s finest hour. . .
I hope you will join me tomorrow afternoon as friends and supporters of Jeff Brower for Volusia County Chair join together at Crabby Joes Deck & Grill on the beautiful Sunglow Fishing Pier, 3701 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, to raise funds and support Jeff’s final push to victory!
The “Take Back Your Power!” fundraiser goes from 1:00pm to 4:00pm with great food and drink specials, served up in a relaxed atmosphere.
This is a great opportunity to meet Jeff, ask questions about the issues important to your family, while enjoying a beautiful setting with other residents concerned about the future of Volusia County.
Hope to see you there!
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!