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 Nancy and Lowell Lohman
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Rich Boy, 1926
I have known a few in my life who base the very worth of their existence on the accumulation of money.
Those who ignore all moral and ethical imperatives in furtherance of keeping and building wealth – as Keynes said, “The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life. . .”
This includes denying family members – a constant suspicion of “friends” – and a compulsive hoarding of assets and cash, spending only that which expands their own sense of self-importance or span of control.
In private, these people tend to be dull and uninspired – even meanspirited – with any sense of happiness or personal contentment pushed aside by “wealth paranoia” that misleads them into believing everyone is seeking to take advantage.
How terribly sad.
Fortunately, there are others who find great purpose and enjoyment in giving to causes greater than their own self-interests – no strings attached – using their hard-earned wealth as a means to better the lives of their less fortunate neighbors, fund humanitarian initiatives, improve our quality of life, seek answers to community problems, and make a better world.
The Halifax area is blessed to have a precious few successful families who exemplify the term philanthropy – “the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes,” – who spend in a way that reflects their personal and civic values.
Few have been more generous with their time and money than Nancy and Lowell Lohman.
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Lohman’s recently gifted Halifax Health with an initial $1 million installment on a $4 million endowment, to be donated over the next six years, “…establishing Lohman Diabetes Center of Excellence at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. It is conceived as a one-stop resource center for diabetes patients seeking access to world-class endocrinologists, on-site lab work, educational and lifestyle coaching, the Lohmans said.”
It has been reported that Mr. Lohman, 75, an incredibly successful entrepreneur with a variety of business interests, has suffered from Type I diabetes for over a half-century.
The new Center of Excellence will be based at Halifax Health’s Professional Building on Clyde Morris Boulevard, which will now be appropriately renamed the Lohman Building.
The Lohman’s generous support of Halifax Health’s efforts to research and treat diabetes is just part of their comprehensive effort to improve our quality of life in the Halifax area.
In total, the Lohman family has donated more than $6 million to local charities, which includes $1.6 million to the Halifax Humane Society, $1 million to the Council on Aging, and $2.5 million to the Museum of Arts & Sciences.
Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Lohman.
You enhance and improve our lives through your generosity.
We’re glad you passed our way.
Asshole Dirty Politicians and Those Who Enable Them
Admittedly, I have not always been kind to Volusia County District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post – but I will not apologize for criticizing my elected representative when I felt her positions on the issues of the day were wrongheaded.
I don’t play favorites, and, when an elected official needs to be taken to the woodshed, I oblige them in this space, pointing out, as Roosevelt said, “…how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” an unabashed critic of those who hold great power, without fear or favor.
Even when we disagree, I have always respected Ms. Post – and that is why I will cast my ballot for her in November.
From the day she took office – Ms. Post has worked hard for her constituents – fighting tooth-and-nail to avoid lock-step obedience to the status quo.
And she has endured withering criticism from her “colleagues” for her sense of independence.
No matter how hard our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, and his maladroit protégé, Dishonest Deb Denys, have worked to pigeonhole Ms. Post – to pound her square peg of originality into the round hole of traditionalism and submission – she threw off the traces of conformity and made her own way.
Not always gracefully – as the political tag team of Kelley and Denys have made great sport of repeatedly shutting down Ms. Post from the dais – publicly dismissing her suggestions, torpedoing her attempts to serve on outside boards, malicious bullying, cruel embarrassment, while telegraphing their personal disdain with eye-rolling smirks and exaggerated histrionics.
Her opponent, the enigmatic newcomer Barbara Bonarrigo (whose campaign strategy apparently consists of being photographed with rich people and rubbing elbows with B-list politicians, while having zero grasp of the issues) has seen her run miraculously bankrolled by all the usual Big Money donors (?)
And persistent rumors say she was hand-selected by Chairman Kelley and his cronies in Volusia’s Ivory Tower of Power. . .
According to a News-Journal report:
“Of the $70,430 Bonarrigo raised in campaign donations as of Thursday (September 29), $36,000 came in the form of $1,000 individual donations. $10,000 of which came from the address associated with ICI Homes and developer and businessman Mori Hosseini. Bonarrigo also received at least $11,000 from addresses associated with Hyatt Brown and P&S Paving.”
I guess maintaining “business as usual” is incredibly important to many of our areas ‘movers & shakers,’ eh?
Now, Ms. Bonarrigo is suggesting to anyone who will listen that Councilwoman Post is “ineffective” – clearly playing on the groundwork so artfully set by Old Ed over the past four years.
Nothing wrong with that.
Calling out your opponent’s efficacy is what politicians are supposed to do.
But it quickly became apparent that Ms. Bonarrigo’s supporters were not satisfied with merely attacking Ms. Post’s political record. . .
Following the recent shit-show of a Presidential Debate, a mysterious text was sent to many Volusia County voters under Ms. Post’s name, praising President Trump’s performance.
The problem is – Ms. Post did not send, nor authorize, the shadowy communication.
The message essentially linked Post’s campaign to the hyper-partisan and extremely divisive presidential race, forcing her to deny the message, which no doubt left her at odds with both Republicans and Democrats alike during a non-partisan race.
In my view, that is a greasy tactic that stinks of whale-shit level politics.
But Ms. Post is not alone.
Add to that a creepy hit piece currently making the rounds against local attorney and current Circuit Judge candidate Joan Anthony – a slimy stain authorized by her opponent, St. Augustine attorney Dan Hilbert – which dredged up an unfortunate chapter in Ms. Anthony’s life from over 20-years ago, and you begin to see how this local election season has quickly become a political abattoir.
Perhaps most unnerving was last week’s shocking revelation that County Chair candidate Dishonest Deb Denys formed a Political Action Committee one day after she was trounced in the primary.
The PAC, deceitfully named Volusia Citizens for Good Governance – was formed with Eric Robinson, an out-of-town political hitman who calls himself “The Prince of Darkness” – which sent a wholly untrue glossy mailer to Volusia voters painting her credible opponent, Jeff “Plan B” Brower, as having pledged to cut funding for public safety.
That’s a bald-faced lie.
Now, Dishonest Deb has commissioned a demonstrably false television advertisement that reinforces the falsehood about Mr. Brower’s stance on public safety funding – then claims she has received the coveted endorsement of Sheriff Michael Chitwood – something the Sheriff has publicly denied.
My God. How low will Ms. Denys stoop?
Unfortunately, I think we can expect more of the same from Dishonest Deb and her political hit team before it’s all over.
In my view, whenever an incumbent politician resorts to these base forms of calumny to disparage and marginalize their opponent, it demonstrates a sad desperation, something easily recognizable to smart voters.
It is just one reason why Jeff Brower mopped the floor with Dishonest Deb on her own turf earlier this week when he handily won the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce straw poll – garnering 61.36% of the vote to Debs dismal 38.64%.
Nobody said politics was an easy game – but fraudulent misrepresentation is something different.
By any metric, political contests have become a blood sport, and that continues to have a chilling effect on any reasonable person who might consider a run for public office.
In my view, if we want good candidates – independent, grassroots servant-leaders who may not have all the answers but are willing to look beyond their political benefactors for advice – then we must vote them into office!
That begins when Volusia County voters reject the despicable lies and no-holds-barred machinations of a perennial politician grasping desperately for another bite at the apple.
Angel Florida Department of Transportation
For years, the East ISB gateway has served as a painful panorama for residents and visitors alike, a shameful landscape of all that’s wrong with our beleaguered beachside.
Two years ago, I entered a gentleman’s wager with an old friend of mine – someone I have known since we were Boy Scouts together – who is an influential voice in civic issues throughout the Halifax area.
Unfortunately, he is also a strong proponent of the tired ‘party line’ that supports panacea projects and sings the mantra, “Good times are here again. Again.”
That’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I bet my friend that the East ISB corridor would look the same in a year as it did then – a blighted shithole that exudes the down-at-the-heels feel that is slowly killing the Worlds Most Famous Beach as a tourist destination, destroying property values, and driving away entrepreneurial investment.
My buddy was of the opinion that things would be markedly different on the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” no doubt hanging his hopes on a July 2018 Regional Chamber of Commerce “Eggs and Issues” breakfast, during which Chamber President and CEO Nancy Keefer shared a glittery video showing what was just around the corner for East ISB:
“I think you’re going to see some pretty major changes starting now and moving forward if they can get some of the ordinances adopted that are going to make a big difference in this area,” Keefer said.”
One year later – he unfriended me on Facebook and I have not spoken to the man since. . .
This week, there was reason for optimism that at least one East ISB bugaboo may soon be resolved.
Kudos to the Florida Department of Transportation for hosting the long-anticipated public meeting to receive input on the future of the East International Speedway Boulevard and A-1-A intersection.
According to a report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in the News-Journal, residents used the forum to make it perfectly clear to FDOT – once and (hopefully) for all – that we do not want a roundabout creating hell and havoc at this important intersection.
“Absolutely, positively no to roundabouts,” said Bob Davis, president and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County.”
I’m with Bob.
Anyone paying attention – including veteran traffic engineers like Maryam Ghyabi, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for an enhanced signalized intersection – can tell you that putting a massive loop-de-loop at Volusia County’s busiest beach approach is ludicrous.
Of course, not everyone has the future of the Daytona Beach Resort Area at heart.
According to the News-Journal report:
“Bob Lloyd, this year’s board chairman for the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber supports the road project either with a roundabout or an alternative idea to create an improved signalized intersection with extra right turn lanes.
After seven years of local leaders discussing the project, Lloyd said the Chamber is mostly interested in seeing some sort of improvements being completed as soon as possible.
“We hope it can come to a speedy conclusion for the businesses who have suffered,” said Lloyd, who’s also the executive vice president and general counsel for Brown & Brown Insurance.”
Can’t anyone make a decision in this town?
Look, it’s no secret that Mr. Lloyd’s boss – King J. Hyatt Brown – is no fan of beach driving, the one unique local amenity that has historically set Daytona Beach apart from other coastal destinations and helped draw millions of visitors for over a century.
It is also no secret that King Hyatt sits at the top of the current list of those who have spread enough hard cash around to directly influence public policy.
In 2015, after passing the initial ordinances that ultimately removed beach driving from the strand behind the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock property, Mr. Brown stood before his hired hands on the Volusia County Council, patted their pointy heads, and said, “It is a positive step. It is one that we will never regret, and it is a step that in the future we will look back and say, ‘Good job you all.’”
In my view, King Hyatt’s fervent desire to kill beach driving and access for We, The Little People, played a major role in why the City of Daytona Beach originally supported the roundabout – a disastrous plan which will result in massive gridlock as residents and visitors approach the most-used beach access point in Volusia County.
Can you think of a better way to kill vehicular beach access at East ISB?
That said, given the wishy-washy direction given to FDOT by heavy hitters like the Daytona Beach City Commission and Regional Chamber of Commerce, I am not convinced the goofy roundabout is completely off the table.
Time will tell.
Now, it is important to let your voice be heard.
Please submit comments on the East ISB corridor to FDOT Project Manager Kathleen Enot by calling her at (386) 943-5149 or emailing her at email@example.com. Or mail your suggestions to 719 S. Woodland Boulevard MS 542, DeLand, Florida, 32720.
Quote of the Week
“(Pat) Northey, who has endorsed Denys in the high-profile, tense race for county chair, said she didn’t “have anything to add” regarding the Denys campaign advertisement, but she does recall running her own attack ad in 2014.
She said she regretted the decision as soon as she let the mailer go out.
“I felt dirty,” said Northey, who lost her 2014 run. “I said I would never do that again. Never do it again, no matter how much I thought that it needed to be done.”
–Former Volusia County Councilwoman Pat Northey, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia chair race heats up: Attack ads surface as race winds down,” Tuesday, October 6, 2020
And Another Thing!
Who is looking out for us?
The City of Daytona Beach?
The County of Volusia?
This week, many of us learned in a social media post from the intrepid civic activist, Paul Zimmerman, president of Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, Sons of the Beach, that unpermitted work had begun on a “contra lane” at the Protogroup’s massive on-again-off-again hotel-condominium project at A-1-A and Oakridge Boulevard.
The “valet lane” – which will allow exclusive access to the twin-tower’s multilevel parking garage on the west side of A-1-A – essentially routes traffic against three lanes of one-way traffic at the busy intersection – was originally permitted in 2017 as part of a development agreement between Protogroup and the City of Daytona Beach.
Something most area residents were not aware of until last summer.
The permit was valid for one year – and was not renewed. . .
Apparently, Protogroup subscribes to the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” (especially when it transfers the cost and inconvenience to the public) school of real estate development, because, in spite of the fact the FDOT permit had long-since expired, work has begun in earnest – tearing up a pubic sidewalk, closing a public roadway, pouring concrete for an elevated traffic barrier, etc.
Fortunately, the prohibited work has now caught the attention of regional Florida Department of Transportation officials who last week issued a stop work order to Protogroup.
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“It is imperative that you cease and desist from any construction activity within the Florida Department of Transportation right-of-way unless and until a Driveway Connection Permit is applied for and approved,” said Ron Meade, FDOT DeLand operations engineer wrote in an Oct. 1 letter to Alexey Lysich, president of Protogroup, the Palm Coast-based developer of the project.”
Despite FDOT’s belated saber-rattling – now that Protogroup has been given 21-days to reapply for a new permit – anyone want to wager a guess whether we are getting a contra lane on Oakridge?
Yeah. Me neither. . .
Disturbingly, it was also reported that no one from Protogroup is answering the phone. Again.
So, keep panicking, people. You have good reason this time around. . .
To his credit, Paul Zimmerman stood firm in his commitment to preserving what is left of our quality of life:
“Is there any governmental body or individual in either Daytona Beach or Volusia County that is going to rein in this developer who has repeatedly violated agreements and time frames?” Zimmerman wrote. “Allowing a developer to continually ignore agreements invites future difficulties. Please someone stand up and call this developer to account.”
In a phone interview, Zimmerman also extended that call for action to FDOT officials.
“It’s FDOT’s road and certainly they have contractors who have equipment to scoop that concrete up and send the bill to the developer,” Zimmerman said. “Why doesn’t that happen, if there was no permit to do this work? At some point, they need to enforce their rules.”
Thanks for looking out for us, Paul.
Because no one who should seems to give a Tinker’s dam about us – so long as they can keep holding their breath, hoping-against-hope that – somehow, someway – this towering atrocity gets completed sometime within the next decade – and we aren’t left with the equivalent of the “I-4 eyesore” hulking over our challenged core tourist area. . .
I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, Barker, our elected and appointed officials have been neutered by this half-finished monstrosity! What are they gonna do about it at this point? That’s the equivalent of civic hostage holding!”
Tough shit, John Q.
Welcome to another “panacea project” that didn’t work out quite like our ‘powers that be’ expected.
We’re on our own, folks. You watch my back and I’ll watch yours. . .
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!