Angels & Assholes for September 18, 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.

Before we get this weekly hayride started, I just want to say that I HAVE THE BEST READERS IN THE WORLD! 

Thanks to all of you, this goofy alternative opinion blog has returned a true sense of purpose to my life, and allowed me the privilege of meeting so many wonderful, civically active, people in our community.

Whether we agree on the issues or not – I am extremely grateful that we can remain friends and share a chuckle at the absurdity of our political predicaments here on the Fun Coast.   

Something you may not know about me – I have a rather acute form of social anxiety – a weird sense of Hikikomori – that manifests as an almost hermit-like avoidance of social situations – a self-isolation that transcends the relatively recent phenomenon of quarantines and social distancing. . . 

In short – I don’t get out much. . . 

Last Saturday, with the help of a couple close friends, I screwed up my gumption and stopped by the well-attended Take Back Your Power! fundraiser supporting the candidacy of Jeff “Plan B” Brower for Volusia County Chair at Crabby Joe’s on the Sunglow Fishing Pier. 

Quite unexpectedly, I met the wonderful Sherry Huskey-Hopson and her husband, long-time readers and loyal members of the Barker’s View Tribe – true BV Angels – who gifted me with an incredible hand painted lamp fashioned from a tequila bottle, beautifully adorned with Thin Blue Line flags!

I hate to admit it, but I was so taken aback by the Hopson’s kindness that I got a little misty. . .

From the bottom of my beat-up old heart – please accept my thanks for this wonderful gift.

I sincerely appreciate everyone who takes the time to read Barker’s View, form an opinion, and generate a greater discussion of the issues in our community!

You guys are the best! 

Angel              Volusia County Council

It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong. 

On Tuesday, former four-term Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson, who currently serves as the at-large member of the County Council, spoke in opposition to Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s request for a Bearcat armored vehicle.

Mr. Johnson couched his disagreement in terms of fiscal responsibility.

Regardless, Councilman Johnson’s initial resistance came off angry and wrong – and conflicted with the previous convictions of Sheriff Johnson. . .   

Given his vast law enforcement experience, Ben Johnson knows better than most – when you need an armored tactical vehicle, you really need an armored tactical vehicle – and with the looming possibility of a change in administration in Washington, it is imperative that the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies prepare for the very real possibility that all federally granted tactical vehicles, weapons, and equipment currently in use will be removed from service, literally at the stroke of a pen.   

Should that occur, it would leave the Sheriff’s Office with just one armored vehicle – vital equipment which is used extensively during emergency management operations for hurricanes and highwater rescues – and provides a critical tactical advantage to deputies during armed encounters. 

Councilman Johnson’s opposition stirred a passionate response from Sheriff Chitwood – during which he repeated Mr. Johnson’s own 2015 concerns when President Barack Obama stopped the transfer of surplus military equipment to law enforcement.

In addition, Sheriff Chitwood explained that VCSO has operated millions-of-dollars under budget each year of his administration – something he has every right to be proud of during these unprecedented times.   

To his credit, Councilman Johnson changed tack – and agreed that the safety of Volusia County residents and law enforcement is too important to leave to chance, and, given the uncertainty of the upcoming presidential election – he agreed to err on the side of caution and support the appropriation. 

Because that is what a true statesman does. 

They leave personal biases and preconceived notions outside the chamber, listen to the lively debate of ideas, put personal hostility aside, weigh the information presented, and make an informed decision in the best interests of all constituents.

I was extremely proud of Ben Johnson – and Sheriff Chitwood – who proved he can hold his own in the political arena. 

It has been awhile since I’ve seen it, but I’m quite sure that’s what good governance looks like.

Then, after the obligatory politically correct mewling and handwringing, I was also glad to see the Volusia County Council give some much-needed hope to struggling small businesses when they agreed to consider Biketoberfest activities on unincorporated properties who adopt reasonable safety procedures during the annual fall bacchanalia next month.

When faced with the option of a temporary moratorium on special event permits – or allowing the event with responsible safety restrictions – our council members opted to strike a cautious medium and impose protocols which may allow area businesses to take advantage of the crowds that will naturally attend this popular annual rally.

The Volusia County Council will take up the matter at their September 28 meeting.  Let’s hope they throw struggling businesses a lifeline when its needed most.     

Inexplicably, last week, many watched in horror as perhaps the most anti-business coalition 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 the Daytona Beach City Commission, under the “leadership” of Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry, openly ignored the fervent pleas of small business owners and refused to support a reasonable safety plan that would have allowed a toned-down Biketoberfest at its traditional epicenter next month. 

Although couched as a public health measure, the asinine abdication by Daytona Beach officials was mean-spirited and officious – and will be remembered for the lasting damage it will naturally inflict on our already crippled local economy.

In addition, Daytona Beach area residents, visitors and businesses will forever live with the consequences of the strange time their hapless elected officials refused to implement a commonsense coronavirus prevention strategy, which would have allowed businesses to provide food and beverage service, entertainment, and outside vendors, while maintaining social distancing and other precautionary measures.

I know some vehemently disagree with the City of Ormond Beach’s decision to permit Biketoberfest activities in that community, but when you consider the number of families that have been financially devastated by the economic shutdown – our friends and neighbors standing in breadlines, on the very brink of losing their homes, businesses and future – it is the right decision, one that brings hope, and allows everyone to make their own decision whether to attend the event or not.

Not unexpectedly, the always arrogant Dishonest Deb Denys, used the opportunity to flex her muscles and flaunt her dictatorial nature when she crowed, “I think it’s better that we set some parameters on what we expect for our citizens…” 

Hey, Deb, guess what? 

The citizens you have lorded over for the past eight-years are sick and tired of your ludicrous idea of nanny state politics – and we don’t need you to “set parameters” on the lawful conduct of free people – nor do we give two-shits what your expectations are for the rest of us – just adopt a reasonable safety plan, okay?  

Why can’t Dishonest Deb simply recognize the gravity of this situation to the lives and livelihoods of small businesses across Volusia County who are facing imminent economic disaster – get off her high horse – and stop making everything a cheap “look at me” powerplay?

My God.

Once Councilwoman Denys is beaten like a gong by the people’s candidate – Jeff “Plan B” Brower – in the Volusia County Chair race in November, perhaps someone should memorialize her pompous pontifications on a marble plaque and hang it in the council chamber as a reminder to future politicians who conveniently forget their role. . .

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only pretentious horseshit that marred an otherwise positive public meeting. 

Not to be outdone, our doddering fool of a County Chair, the lame duck, Ed Kelley, made it a point to show just how pious and petty he can truly be when he opined from the dais that Sheriff Chitwood brought his department in under budget due to unfilled personnel vacancies – not because of fiscal responsibility to the citizens he serves so well.    

Bullshit.

It was a cheap shot by a confused old hack trying desperately to remain relevant as his disastrous political career comes to an unceremonious end.  Nothing more. 

His shabby comments did not add to the discussion. 

No one asked for his backhanded “clarification.”

The simple old flunky could not help himself. 

So, as Tuesday’s unusually productive meeting was brought to a close, Old Ed seized the opportunity to besmirch Sheriff Chitwood, and, in doing so – illustrated in the purest way possible – why the citizens of Volusia County voted to approve Amendment 10 and returned constitutional sovereignty to the Sheriff and other essential elective offices. 

Angel               Joe Roebuck and SCCY Firearms

Earlier this week, we were given front row seats to the ongoing melodrama starring FitUSA – an Ormond Beach sportswear manufacturer that successfully diversified into personal protective equipment at the advent of the pandemic – and is now threatening to move the medical supply arm of the business (and the 500 jobs it promises) to Atlanta, unless city, county and state officials come up with an extortionate $5 million to $7 million in public incentives. 

It’s not pretty.  A public relations nightmare run amok. 

I called bullshit in a Barker’s View piece earlier this week entitled “Give or Take,” and many of you agreed with me. 

That’s why it was so refreshing to learn that Joe Roebuck – a self-made success who began manufacturing reasonably priced, high-quality SCCY Firearms (pronounced Sky) in a small shop in South Daytona – has committed to keeping his expanding business in Volusia County.

Without any government handouts attached. 

I admire that.

I also admire Mr. Roebuck’s excellent product. 

Having owned an early SCCY model, I can report that these compact handguns are tailor made for the popular concealed carry market, extremely reliable, and competitively priced for anyone looking for a quality, well-fitted, semiautomatic handgun. 

According to a great piece by business reporter Clayton Park in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, by the end of October, all SCCY operations will be consolidated in Daytona Beach, operating from a 21,000-square-foot building off Bill France Boulevard – with a second manufacturing unit set to occupy a portion of the vacant Costa Del Mar headquarters at Center Point Business Park on Mason Avenue. 

In 2017, Mr. Roebuck announced plans to move his operation to East Tennessee after officials there offered a very lucrative incentive package worth some $5 million – including 68-acres of land for an expansive headquarters campus.

However, facing strong competition for skilled workers – which drove labor costs through the roof – Mr. Roebuck made the decision to return all SCCY operations to Daytona Beach. 

In doing so, Mr. Roebuck earned the respect, good will, and grassroots appreciation that FitUSA lost in its mercenary demand for millions in scarce public funds during a pandemic. 

According to Mr. Park’s informative report:

“Roebuck said the new jobs he plans to create here range from $14 an hour for low-skill machine operators up to $90,000 to $100,000 a year on average for skilled engineers.

“We pay above market and we also offer a full benefits package that includes a 401(k) program. We pay more than 90% of medical, including vision and dental, and offer two to three weeks of PTO (paid time off) and all major holidays off,” he said. All employees at SCCY are full-time. “We don’t have any part-timers here. We operate in three shifts.”

In my view, Joe Roebuck is a true ‘Hometown Hero’ who represents the kind of responsible corporate partner the citizens of Volusia County so desperately need and deserve.    

Asshole           First Step Shelter

The differences between West Volusia’s “The Bridge” come-as-you-are homeless assistance center and the City of Daytona Beach’s extravagant First Step Self-Improvement Seminar and Spa could not be starker – or more telling.

Apparently, First Step’s executive director and governing board failed to realize (or care) that the needs of the vulnerable homeless population – literally their raison d’existence – did not stop during the coronavirus pandemic.

Only their willingness to help. . . 

I have a problem with that. 

Citing COVID-19 fears, for nearly six months, the First Step facility has refused to accept new residents, leaving just a handful at the facility which is capable of providing shelter to between 45 and 100, depending upon who you talk to.   

In my view, pulling up the drawbridge, barricading the portcullis, and cutting off services to those in need is a unique way of preventing the spread of coronavirus at the 15,820-square-foot, $6+ million homeless assistance center in the hinterlands west of Daytona Beach.  

By any metric, the First Step Shelter – from its inception – has been a shit show of epic proportions, and has exposed the whale dung level of dysfunction and mismanagement that has kept smart people shaking their heads, suspicious donors at arm’s length, and left many curious if some members of the board have lost their marbles. . .

For instance, area businessman and First Step board member Mike Panaggio gushed in the News-Journal this week,  “I continue to be very proud to be involved,” said shelter board member Mike Panaggio. “I think now we’re on the right path.” 

Really? 

What planet is Mr. Panaggio on?    

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the shelter’s perpetual failure to launch is a colossal embarrassment – and has perpetuated the sense that, so long as the current multi-dimensional management scheme is allowed to continue, absolutely nothing will fundamentally change.

Because, like every other public/private pursuit, First Step is no longer about providing essential services.  Now, it is little more than an income source for multiple layers of staff and management – the homeless be damned.

I mean, is there another explanation?

Yet, manna from heaven continues to fall into the shelter’s coffers – and, given the facility’s recurring $113,000 monthly nut – First Step needs all the help it can get.        

Earlier this week, the Volusia County Council directed some $1.09 million in CARES Act funding to the needy First Step shelter – a cash infusion that will apparently be used to hire even more staff – and convert the homeless shelter into the Lord Mountbatten suite at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. 

In addition to a 1,000 square foot addition, which will serve as an initial quarantine area for new residents, the facility will see a dedicated computer room and a floor to ceiling partition for the multipurpose room.

The remainder of the federal funds will be used to:

“…hang microfiber curtains around bunk beds to prevent germ transmission; install motion-activated faucets, urinals and toilets; add UV air disinfection units; build outdoor patio roofs; buy patio furniture; purchase high-grade washers and dryers; hire a housing coordinator who would help find residents places to live; and add another new full-time employee who would monitor residents for up to 12 months after they moved into permanent housing.”

Some of the money may also be used to pay security deposits and provide rental assistance for residents transitioning to their own housing – however, there is no word when First Step will resume providing these programmatic services to homeless persons – other than the robotic bureaucratic mantra, “as quickly as possible, as quickly as possible, as quickly as possible. . .”

Whatever.

In keeping with the governmental practice of showering money on failing programs while starving those who are doing the most good – the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, which operates DeLand’s The Bridge homeless shelter, is also in line for a small bite of the CARES Act funding. 

Unlike the all-but-shuttered First Step, the West Volusia program is practicing reasonable COVID-19 precautions while actively assisting homeless persons at its 6,300 square foot facility, which will officially open on September 28. 

At present, the low barrier shelter is helping people get off the street through its innovative day care program, which offers activities, personal care, and medical/mental healthcare referrals to those in need, while welcoming the hungry with a nutritious lunch at 11:30am and dinner at 5:30pm. 

The Bridge shelter is quickly becoming a beacon for those less fortunate in West Volusia – a shining example of what First Step could be – what it should be.   

Quote of the Week

“It was really disappointing to learn that our local Republican Executive Committee voted against support of ECHO and Volusia Forever! At the cost of less than $30 a year for taxpayers, ECHO over the last 20 years has helped fund 203 projects for Environmental, Cultural, Historical and Outdoor Recreation.

The Republicans position went against funds for nonprofits; without ECHO, the nonprofit groups could not have created or preserved such wonderful attractions like Lilian Place Heritage Center, the Pioneer Settlement, DeBary Hall, Ponce Inlet Lighthouse Park, Peabody Auditorium, etc. ECHO has supported cultural and art groups such as the Art League and the Athens Theater, plus it upgraded youth athletic fields and community parks. This is an impressive list of projects that have benefited all.

Volusia Forever has assisted with the acquisition of approximately 38,000 acres of land which were saved for water and natural resource protection. This funding is most needed as we look 20 years ahead and realize land must be preserved if we are to restore our springs and renew our aquifer which provides drinking water.

ECHO and Volusia Forever must be approved by voters to continue the important funding for preservation of our quality of life in Volusia County.”

–Nancy Long, South Daytona, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor, “Opposition to ECHO disappoints,” Tuesday, September 15, 2020 

For the record, I am not a Republican or a Democrat – I’m someone who has learned to think for myself – and have come to the conclusion that neither of the major political parties represent my interests.

That’s why I find it disturbing that partisan politics are playing such an influential role in the debate over the return of Volusia ECHO and Forever – two tax supported environmental and cultural programs that have brought such tangible benefits to residents and visitors.

Last week, the Volusia Republican Executive Committee snootily tut-tutted their opposition to these initiatives – citing the need for roads and utilities over parks and greenspace – which, I assume, is a crude attempt to correct the sins of those malleable politicians they supported who allowed unchecked sprawl to outpace infrastructure.  

Now, the Volusia Democratic Executive Committee is weighing in, jumping up-and-down, giddily expressing their support of ECHO and Forever as a clear means of showing how “different” and morally superior they are from Republican’s in a cheap effort to gain a political advantage this fall.

Whatever.

In my view, these important funding sources transcend partisan politics. 

At least they should.

With strengthened oversight, a disciplined commitment to responsible spending, and a willingness to check craven politicians who would pervert these programs to fund projects outside their intended purpose (like purchasing off-beach parking lots and squirreling away cash for a dubious “boardwalk extension”) it is possible to have both.

Call me selfish, but I happen to believe it is important that my grandchildren enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities, hiking trails, cultural and artistic venues, wildlife habitat and environmental treasures like clean lakes, springs and rivers – rather than endure a bleak civic life marked by half-empty strip centers and ghastly “theme” communities – built over what were once the pristine wetlands and natural places of their grandfather’s youth.

And, when it comes to actually protecting and preserving our local environment, neither Republicans, nor Democrats, have done more than generate hot air. . .   

I have found wisdom in the 1966 opinion of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno, who wrote of the importance of supporting the acquisition of those important amenities that make a community home: 

“The objective of a community is not merely to survive, but to progress, to go forward into an ever-increasing enjoyment of the blessings conferred by the rich resources of this nation under the benefaction of the Supreme Being for the benefit of all the people of that community.

If a well governed city were to confine its governmental functions merely to the task of assuring survival, if it were to do nothing but to provide ‘basic services’ for an animal survival, it would be a city without parks, swimming pools, zoos, baseball diamonds, football gridirons, and playgrounds for children.

Such a city would be a dreary city indeed.  As man cannot live by bread alone, a city cannot endure on cement, asphalt, and sewer pipes alone.

A city must have a municipal spirit beyond its physical properties, it must be alive with an esprit de corps, its personality must be such that visitors—both business and tourist—are attracted to the city, pleased by it, and wish to return to it.

That personality must be one to which the population contributes by mass participation in activities identified with that city.”

Amen.

And Another Thing!

As promised, things are heating up in the Volusia County Chair race between the incumbent lump, Dishonest Deb Denys, and her hardworking opponent, Jeff Brower, a gentleman farmer from West Volusia who has proven his commitment to improving our quality of life. 

In my view, this is the most important local election on the ballot – because it represents the stark difference between the haughty, self-serving, and totally compromised status quo – an oligarchical system wholly owned by our civic and economic elite with the wherewithal to pay to play – and the bright opportunity for new beginnings and an inclusive vision for the future of Volusia County. 

In recent weeks, the troubling refrain I hear from friends and neighbors is that, on the rare occasion they bothered to seek Councilwoman Denys’ assistance – their calls and emails went unanswered – totally ignored – almost as if they didn’t exist, or their concerns had no validity in a place where only the right last names deserve the attention of elected officials.

Sound familiar? 

Many of these residents had never needed help from their elected representative before – and their lasting impression of Volusia County government was forever tainted by the arrogance and ignorance of one unresponsive member who answers only to her uber-wealthy puppet masters.

Like many of you, I have quit trying to figure out Dishonest Debs motivations.

Besides, the reasons for her involvement in this base form of access restricted politic$ are self-evident.

It is just part of why Jeff Brower has earned the unwavering support of the Volusia County Deputies Association and the Volusia County Professional Firefighters Association – our brave first responders who boldly hold the line to protect my family and yours. 

And it is why Volusia County residents continue to reject the timid recommendations of has-been politicians and obsequious hangers-on – stalwarts of the tired Volusia County Old Guard – still trying their best to pander to the last vestiges of the Ruling Class in the only way they know how. . . 

How sad. 

If you are interested in hearing Jeff Brower’s exciting plans to end overdevelopment, protect our fresh water supply, stop corporate welfare, and establish realistic spending priorities to improve infrastructure – I hope you will attend his energetic campaign’s Finish First! fundraiser at beautiful Gemini Springs Park in DeBary tomorrow. 

This is a great opportunity to meet the candidate who finished first in the primary – a true servant-leader who represents our best hope of preserving the environment, protecting our quality of life, and returning responsive representation to Volusia County government.

The activities begin at 10:00am in the park’s OK Corral Pavilion – with a cookout, soft drinks, and treats – and music by Danny G and Robyn Collins until 2:00pm.  Please feel free to bring a covered dish to this community-oriented event!  

Jeff’s special guests will be William Sell, candidate for Debary City Council Seat 2, and David Sossa, candidate for Deltona City Commission District 6.

Please come out and show your support! 

For more information on how you can help, please visit: www.jeffbrowervcc1.com 

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

3 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for September 18, 2020

  1. First step shelter, a huge failure.
    Lets turn it into a Daytona Beach welcome center for tourists. We can give out brochures to tourists. Better yet, we can turn it into a truck stop for overnight truckers. Those truckers work very hard and there is a shortage of highway truck parking.

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  2. My wife and I just got our flu shots.Got only knows how many with pre existing problems had the flu and not covid.Heard a radio interview with a Ormond Beach city councilman yesterday who is running again and never knew how deep he is with manufactured homes and commercial real estate.Only here 4 years but every week I learn something new for my vote.Thought I was kind of intelligent and then these good ole boys who are here 35 years think you are stupid and I just laugh at them like car row owners and employees who when I would not buy a car would not give me my keys back to my trade.Buyers beware of extra window stickers and dealer fees .

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  3. Between the feckless Daytona Beach City Manager and the gutless school board, is there any hope for us? The school board after months of flying by the seat of their pants without a real plan, finally gets tough and tells staff, “fix it?” Wow, I should have thought of that!!! Just tell staff to fix it! No input, no accepting of accountability. Mrs Wright has let us down again!

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