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.
Here’s a special thanks to everyone who took the time to read my series “The Barker Files: The Case of Mark Scribner,” an examination of a brutal murder which occurred 25 years ago this month.
Like I promised – this was not a contrived “feel-good” story – and readers have told me that the conclusion stayed with them for a while.
This was not the first homicide I investigated during my law enforcement career, and it would not be the last, but I think the indiscriminate nature of the killing makes for a compelling story.
I hope it serves as a fitting memorial for Mr. Scribner as well.
Writing the story and transcribing the report was cathartic, bringing memories and remembrances of working relationships back to the surface so they can be properly sorted and packed away – and a renewed sense of pride in playing a small role in bringing those responsible for this senseless crime to justice.
If you have not had the opportunity, the three-part series can be found in the October 2020 Barker’s View archive.
Thanks again for reading.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Asshole Daytona Beach City Commission
One of the many pitfalls of writing an alternative opinion blog is that the groups and officials you rail about often defend themselves by pigeonholing you as a chronic complainer.
Barker the Bitcher – a naysaying malcontent who obnoxiously whines about the issues without ever offering up a solution.
For the most part, they’re right.
But it does not negate the fact that the underlying issues exist.
After all, I don’t make this shit up.
While it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those who have invested heavily – politically and financially – are champing at the bit to put the first brushstrokes on the revitalization of downtown Daytona – the overpowering stench of the age-old intrigues required to obtain the lucrative government incentives that ensure a profit margin have once again come wafting from the inner sanctum at City Hall.
Now it has become apparent to everyone – including those long-time enablers on the editorial board of The Daytona Beach News-Journal – that something is terribly wrong at Daytona Beach City Hall.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Last Sunday, in his piece “Daytona City Hall’s bad communication,” editor Pat Rice expressed his views on the mysterious attempts by a senior faction in Daytona Beach government to facilitate millions of dollars in public incentives for a Tampa-based developer seeking to build an apartment complex and parking garage on the site of the former First Baptist Church.
I disagree with Mr. Rice on one point – this goes far beyond bad communication.
At an October meeting, Daytona Beach city commissioners were asked to discuss and take action on a plan that would see the developer, Framework Group, receive a $10.5 million tax break in exchange for a few public parking spaces and the potential of moving people into downtrodden downtown.
Interestingly, city staff provided the elected officials with support materials just six-hours before the meeting.
You read that right.
After a year of behind-the-scenes wrangling, Deputy City Manager Dru Driscoll, who also serves as the city’s fire chief, gave little explanation, beyond “…some of the documents were out of date.”
In my view, this represents one more backroom deal by City Manager Jim Chisholm, who openly put the screws to his city commission when he pressured them to make an important decision with little, if any, substantive information – and a flashlight-under-the-chin scary story about the dearth of developers eager to make a buck downtown.
“This is the only developer we’ve had come to us who’s willing to do a project,” Chisholm said. “It’s up to you if you want to let it go.”
Clearly, Chief Driscoll is out of his element – and, if he thinks Mr. Chisholm cares who takes the blame as he shuffles out the door, he should think again. . .
To their credit, the Daytona Beach City Commission rightfully decided to take a deep breath and ask city staff and the Framework Group to go back to the drawing board and develop hard answers before the matter comes back in early November.
Unfortunately, the damage is done – and I cannot understand why the elected representatives failed to take definitive action to ensure this type of public/private chicanery does not happen in the future?
In my view, both the City of Daytona Beach – and the developer – have now lost the trust and faith of the people.
And they have no one to blame but themselves.
Eventually, I believe the City of Daytona Beach will come to the inexorable conclusion that the design and planning of public spaces is best accomplished with the input of citizens and stakeholders in an open and transparent process.
While that might not do much for the bottom line of some local powerbroker with a profit motive, it will ultimately produce something we can all take civic pride in – and develop a creative atmosphere and clear vision for the future of the Halifax area that these backroom machinations can never produce.
Angel Pictona at Holly Hill and the City of Holly Hill
Last week, the City of Holly Hill played host to the Pictona Fall Vintage Pickleball Tournament at the beautiful Pictona at Holly Hill complex on Ridgewood Avenue.
It was a true community effort.
With City Manager Joe Forte and Commissioner John Penny staffing the bar-b-que grill – other city officials worked hand-in-glove with some 50 Pictona members who signed on as volunteers for the event as the facility hosted 650 players and hundreds of spectators for the three-day event.
Now, we have received the exciting news that Pictona at Holly Hill will host the International Federation of Pickleball’s 4th Annual Bainbridge Cup Tournament, April 7-11, 2021.
The international competition is expected to draw some 700 players to the area.
In my view, the pickleball courts and fitness complex is one of the most electrifying additions to the Halifax area in decades – and we owe a collective debt of gratitude to area residents Rainer and Julie Martens, who made a multi-million-dollar personal investment to see the project become a reality.
In my view, this is an outstanding example of what a true public/private partnership should be, as the Martens’ investment was supported with a $1.2 million contribution from the City of Holly Hill – bolstered by a $400,000 ECHO grant from Volusia County and $50,000 in sponsorships and private donations.
This wonderful facility showcases just one unique way Volusia County’s tax supported ECHO and Forever funds have enhanced our quality of life.
I hope you will join me in voting to preserve these important programs on Tuesday.
Asshole Volusia County District Schools
Sometimes I read the news of the day and shake my head in quiet disbelief – other times my incendiary temper gets the best of me as I slam my fists and scream – hoping I never come to accept the near constant gaffes, maladministration and good old-fashioned foul-ups that have become the operative characteristic of the Volusia County School Board and its senior administration.
Imagine the horror of Volusia County residents who perused the International edition of the British newspaper Daily Mail (or The Hill, Newsweek, most national electronic media, etc.) this week and found an article detailing the travails of Tyler Maxwell, 18, a Spruce Creek High student whose parking permit was brusquely suspended when he exercised his first amendment right and placed an elephant figure emblazoned “Trump” in the bed of his pickup truck and went to school.
You read that right.
The youth didn’t start a fight, disrupt a class, engage in a disturbance, or saunter onto the Spruce Creek campus armed with a knife and take a seat in an occupied classroom to “test school security” like some ambulatory drunk did a year ago – he was naturally proud of the fact this is his first vote in a presidential election – and merely parked in the designated lot without removing a clever sign supporting his candidate.
That apparently triggered the school’s high-handed administration.
Now, he is rightfully defending his right to free expression in a court of law. . .
According to reports, “Twenty minutes into his first class at Spruce Creek High School, Maxwell said he was called to the principal’s office and was asked to move his car off campus.”
“His father then drove to the school to demand a reason in writing for why the student couldn’t leave his car on campus with the elephant in the truck. After he said his father did not get a written explanation, Maxwell drove to school the next day with the figurine.”
“Tuesday morning, my parking pass was taken away,” Maxwell said.”
In turn, Maxwell’s family filed a federal lawsuit accusing Volusia County Schools of violating his freedom of speech.
Good for him.
I don’t particularly care who you support in the presidential race – but everyone should take offense when officious school administrators take it upon themselves to suppress free and constitutionally protected expression.
It also bugs me when my hard-earned tax dollars – which support a groaning district budget now approaching one-billion-dollars – are shunted to defend lawsuits because some shithead decided to flex his or her muscles because, “A passerby could interpret a large sign in a school parking lot to be an endorsement by the school district…”
Add to that the debacle at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, which was marred when DeLand Police were given the overbearing order to physically remove a group of Volusia County mothers who wished to attend the public meeting – sans face coverings – and speak on possible changes to the district’s mask regulations.
It was ugly.
In the spirit of the district’s hypocritical “do as I say, not as I do” culture, I found it interesting that both School Board Vice Chairman Linda Cuthbert – and the bungling Chief Operating Officer Greg Akin – removed their masks and spoke barefaced as they groveled for CARES Act funding before the Volusia County Council earlier this month.
I don’t recall either of them being manhandled out of the council chamber by a uniformed law enforcement officer. . .
After trespassing the young moms from the public building – effectively barring them from the Ivory Tower of Power for one-year – the tone-deaf School Board Chair Ida Wright had the cheek to say, “Thank you for being patient, but we live in a country where everyone is able to say his or her piece and we want to respect that.”
The last thing the Volusia County School Board does is respect their constituents right to free expression and public participation.
That’s why teachers and staff are forced to use anonymous social media sites to avoid retribution when they communicate valuable information and insight to families and colleagues.
If Ms. Wright meant what she said, taxpayers would not be under threat of a federal lawsuit to ensure a student’s first amendment protections – or shocked by the sight of a nursing mother being forced from a public meeting on the diktat of the board’s tyrannical Chairwoman.
When will someone – anyone – on the Volusia County School Board come to the realization that taxpayers have had enough international embarrassments from the ham-fisted antics of badge-heavy administrators and senior officials who seem totally incapable of making logical, diplomatic, and fact-based decisions?
Asshole Volusia Council Chair Ed Kelley
Look, I’m not running for anything.
It’s safe to say you won’t be seeing “Mr. Barker Goes to Washington,” (Unless you want a Wilber Mills type, ripped-to-the-tits on cheap vodka, chasing Argentinian strippers around the Tidal Basin – then I’m your man!)
Frankly, what passes for our political process in this foul year 2020 is nothing I want to be associated with.
It’s downright dirty. And depressing. . .
During this campaign season, we’ve been told, ad nauseum, that the Volusia County Council has very little impact on the “growth at all cost” sprawl that is destroying our natural places, threatening our water supply, and exceeding the capacity of our transportation infrastructure as our elected officials cravenly adopt the Three Wise Monkeys maxim toward growth and the influence of mega-developers – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
I believe our elected officials on the Volusia County Council know exactly what they are doing in facilitating the wants and needs of real estate speculators.
Earlier this month, the intrepid Edgewater environmental advocate Libby Lavette attempted to address the Volusia County Council during a scheduled public hearing to determine compliance with the Farmton Local Plan and Master Development of Regional Impact – essentially granting approval for the sprawling 66,000 acre project’s eastern gateway section to move forward.
In an blatant effort to keep the public hearing free of pesky public input, Chairman Ed Kelley forced Ms. Lavette to speak during the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting – then openly quibbled with her over petty aspects of her presentation, trifling over the designation of the agenda item, wasting time, and confusing everyone involved – including Ms. Lavette and the citizens looking on.
In my view, Old Ed clearly designed his meddlesome interference to suppress and confuse Ms. Lavette’s message.
According to a social media post, Ms. Lavette advised that following her allotted three-minutes, she left the council chamber – only to be chased down by County Attorney Mike Dyer, who explained Old Ed was “incorrect,” and invited her to speak during the public hearing on Farmton. . .
Ultimately, Ms. Lavette was able to make her point that the hearing should be postponed until current hydrology and environmental impact studies for the project can be reviewed.
Typically, when Councilwoman Heather Post saw the logic in Ms. Lavette’s request and moved to table the issue until the next meeting in November, her motion failed for lack of a second.
The Farmton development has been in the planning stage for 60 years, with building not expected to begin until 2026. Would postponing the hearing a few weeks to ensure environmental protections – and hold the developer accountable for promises made – have been that big of a deal?
Ultimately, the measure was approved 6-1 with Ms. Post dissenting.
Anyone see a pattern here?
I guess running interference – putting dust in the air at critical points to obscure the public’s view of development decisions – while ensuring that concerned citizens are suitably blocked and castigated whenever they attempt to have substantive input in their government is just one of the benefits developers and corporations receive in Volusia County.
Quote of the Week
“I would like to say “thank you” to Daytona Beach Police Captain Scott Lee. Lee took over at Code Enforcement a couple years ago. He met with neighborhood groups, and was willing to listen to residents and business owners who were fatigued by the lack of progress cleaning up our blighted beachside. He patiently heard plenty of suggestions and complaints from yours truly.
A big problem beachside is the blighted appearance of vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Sometimes used for paid parking without a permit, the owners make money and have no incentive to improve or build. We’re used to looking at broken walls and fences, trash and graffiti.
We’ve heard the excuse that owners are “out of state” but not all are. These properties should be held to redevelopment area standards just like our homes and businesses are.
Two of these properties are on the beach. The seawalls have long been compromised and dangerous. There is always graffiti, homeless people, and trash. But that is changing! These lots are now being cleaned up and the seawalls rebuilt. I know this is thanks to our intrepid Captain Lee.
The city can intervene to clean up properties – and get paid through an ad valorem assessment on the tax bill – if the property owner can’t be reached or is unwilling. Let’s use this method to remove more blight on the beachside, and other areas of the city. I’m hoping this is just the beginning.”
–Civic Activist Amy Pyle, writing in Letters to the Editor, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Cleaning up beachside,” Sunday, October 26, 2020
Good work, Captain Lee!
Thank you for your diligence in overseeing this difficult, but infinitely necessary, essential service for the citizens of Daytona Beach.
And Another Thing!
There is a reason I do not accept advertising on this blogsite.
And I damn sure don’t take money to express opinions with a certain slant – favoring one candidate over another – or advocating for some convoluted tax increase or goofy public policy that always seems to favor the wants of a few over the needs of many.
That kind of bought-and-paid-for content is readily available if you want it.
Just not here.
The views expressed on Barker’s View are my own.
If I endorse one candidate over others – it means I have done some research and come to believe that the politician will serve in the public interest – rather than act as a malleable marionette for all the right last names.
I’m not infallible – subject to being duped like anyone else – and I make my share of mistakes; but I still believe that past performance is the most accurate predictor of future performance.
In short, a leopard rarely changes its spots.
That is why I support Jeff Brower for Volusia County Chair.
By any metric, the County Chair race has been an acrimonious shit show – with the incumbent Dishonest Deb Denys throwing everything in her sizeable arsenal at Mr. Brower – including some low blows that landed far outside the bounds of honesty and fairness.
With over $208,000 already filling her campaign coffers – along with tens-of-thousands more being hoarded in a shadowy Political Action Committee which Ms. Denys personally chaired, until she didn’t – Dishonest Deb continues to hold elegant fundraisers with well-heeled benefactors right up to the eleventh hour, clearly positioning herself for a future run for even higher office.
God help us. . .
In my view, Jeff Brower represents the kind of grassroots, substantive change and inspired vision Volusia County desperately needs at this critical crossroads in our history – a rejection of the oligarchical pay-to-play politics that uses massive campaign contributions to return hand-select perennial politicians to the dais of power – then uses them like dull tools to see the every want and whim of political insiders attended to.
All while We, The Little People are treated like a damnable annoyance whenever we approach our Monarchial rulers for redress of real grievances – or seek to improve our lot here on the Fun Coast.
Do not take my word for it.
I encourage everyone to watch archived video of Volusia County Council meetings and see for yourself how commoners – a.k.a. taxpaying citizens without a title of nobility or a chip in the game – are treated whenever we attempt to participate in our government.
It is despicable. And it needs to stop.
I also believe that District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post deserves to continue her service to the citizens of Volusia County – because both she, and her long-suffering constituents, have been denied equal and effective representation since she took office four-years ago.
That is not Ms. Post’s fault.
It is horrifying to watch as Dishonest Deb and her guru, that doddering fool Old Ed Kelley, try desperately to defend the status quo by beating any sense of independence out of Ms. Post – effectively blocking her every effort – making a mockery out of our representative democracy in the process.
For instance, at their October 20 meeting, it was frustrating to watch as Old Ed publicly ghosted Ms. Post – acting like an addlepated asshole – as he repeatedly feigned that he could not hear her on the monitor whenever she tried to participate.
It was sloppy. And painfully obvious.
Turn-up the Beltone, Ed. . .
Now we have reached the nut-cutting hour – and every vote counts.
In my view, we have a good start in changing this rotten culture with Councilman-elect Danny Robins, who won the District 3 seat formerly occupied by Dishonest Deb in the primary.
Let’s continue the purge of this malignant mediocrity.
In my view, we need committed servant-leaders like Jeff Brower – and Heather Post – to change the tone and tenor of an elected body run amok and restore the public’s trust in Volusia County government.
As Mr. Brower recently said:
“Don’t let a career politician who only represents those able to produce the largest campaign contributions lie and buy her way into a seat.”
Vote your conscience. Vote Jeff Brower.
That’s all for me. Happy Halloween, y’all!