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 Sheriff Michael Chitwood
The art and science of policing is changing at quantum speed.
In the six years since my retirement, many policies and protocols are unrecognizable to has-beens like me. Some changes I disagree with, but there is no denying that the manner and means by which law enforcement agencies provide essential services is more effective, equitable and efficient than ever before.
As law enforcement budgets and operational focus shift to include social services, outreach, and intervention opportunities as a means of transforming the community’s perception of those who serve and protect while broadening core services, Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood is ensuring no opportunity is lost, especially when dealing with the growing addiction crisis.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with the nonprofit Volusia Recovery Alliance, have created an innovative peer assistance program that will put those whose lives have been touched by drug addiction at the scene of nonfatal overdoses, seizing a unique opportunity to encourage others to seek help.
This program takes advantage of an important moment in time – an addicts near-death experience – that may serve as a critical turning point in the lives of those suffering the devastating effects of addiction by placing trained advocates in that space to discuss treatment and recovery options.
According to reports, 175 people died of drug overdose in Volusia County between March and October – up from 136 over the same period last year – another horrific byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic which has exacerbated mental health issues and contributed to an increase in suicides countywide.
Kudos to Sheriff Chitwood, and the Volusia Recovery Alliance, for developing this lifesaving program and bringing hope to local families dealing with this tragic reality.
Angel Volusia County Council
On Tuesday, during an uber-weird session of the Volusia County Council, outgoing Councilwoman Deb Denys mysteriously donned a facemask before fleeing the dais altogether – mid-meeting – apparently in a scramble to get tested after she was exposed to the coronavirus by state Senator Tom Wright during a fundraiser the pair attended on Sunday.
As I understand it, on Monday, Sen. Wright was denied entry to this week’s legislative session following a positive/negative/positive Roshambo-style COVID-19 test in Tallahassee.
When Denys bolted from the meeting, it gave our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, his next-to-last opportunity to continue his storied tradition of mucking up the works when he called all subsequent votes “unanimous” – even though there were only six council members actively participating in the proceedings. . .
Fortunately, Councilwoman Heather Post rightfully asked that Ed’s blunder be corrected to ensure an accurate record.
Despite Old Ed’s confused mumbling and fumbling, our elected officials summoned the wisdom to approve a plan to revitalize the former Blair’s Jungle Den in Astor – a once vibrant restaurant/hotel/fish camp on the beautiful St. John’s River – a place that remains a great memory from my childhood.
Unfortunately, the Jungle Den fell into serious disrepair – with dilapidated mobile homes littering the grounds – and untended septic tanks polluting the river as crime became an increasing problem in the area.
According to the landowners attorney, Glenn Storch, plans call for investing some $30 million to bring the property back to its heyday – with a new hotel, shopping, and world-class amenities – while the former mobile home park will be converted into a seasonal RV camp to eliminate permanent residents – and some 21-acres set aside as a conservation buffer.
The well-thought plan also includes a substation for the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
What a great opportunity for Astor – and for all residents of Volusia County – as this once beautiful outdoor resort is returned to its former glory.
Look, I didn’t agree with everything that happened on Tuesday, but in this case, they got it right.
In my view, the rebirth of the Jungle Den as a profitable area attraction is something we can all take pride in – and a much-needed economic stimulus for our neighbors in beautiful Northwest Volusia.
Asshole Palm Coast City Council
“Councilman Corrupt.” “Councilman Full of Crap.”
Sounds like something out of a Barker’s View diatribe on Palm Coast politics, right?
Unfortunately, that is how far in the dumper things have descended as newly elected Councilman Ed Danko and sitting Councilman Eddie Branquinho squared off on the dais earlier this week – complete with name-calling, personal insults, and thin-skinned swipes that no doubt set the tone for things to come in this troubled community.
According to an excellent piece in FlaglerLive.com – your one stop source for news and opinion on all things Flagler County (https://tinyurl.com/y4vq5oux) – things got heated when Branquinho called Danko’s suggestion to return the city’s corona-safe virtual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony to an in-person event:
“Well, I think I am being responsible,” Danko said.
“No you’re not!” Branquinho snapped.
“Yes I am, and I don’t appreciate you raising your voice to me,” Danko said.
“No, it’s my emotion. It’s my emotion.”
“Keep your emotion in Check,” Danko said, continuing to make his case for a public tree-lighting, which was scheduled for Wednesday. He said perhaps the city could organize the event the way it has previous, ticketed events where attendance was controlled. But when (City Manager) Morton spoke of a city staff already stretched–and with more staffers in quarantine or in the hospital than at any point since the beginning of the pandemic–Danko backed off his proposal and withdrew his motion.”
The cheese completely slipped off the cracker when Branquinho accused Danko of accusing him of “corruption” during his recent campaign, something Danko denied:
“I’ve never referred to you as corrupt. Get your facts correct, Eddie.”
“Excuse me. Excuse me. I’m talking,” Branquinho said.
“No, excuse me. You’re accusing me of doing something. I never singled you out. I singled you out?”
“No, but you put me under the same umbrella, and until the day you apologize to me personally right here, or prove that I’m corrupt, because I was part of city hall–”
“I never called you corrupt, Eddie.”
“You will be called Councilman Corrupt by me.”
“You will be called Councilman Full of Crap as far as I’m concerned.”
According to the FlaglerLive report:
“Mayor Milissa Holland looked stunned and taken entirely off guard. City Attorney Bill Reischmann looked pained, and at one point intervened to remind the panel of its own rules of decorum. City Manager Matt Morton buried himself in a laptop.
A minute after the meeting adjourned, Branquinho, still on the dais, repeatedly yelled at Danko to “get away from me!” The sheriff’s commander and liaison with the city had to trod toward the men to ensure the clash wouldn’t escalate.
So began the new era on the Palm Coast City Council.”
In an election year marked by allegations that Mayor Holland misused her elected position by intermingling her day job at the Palm Coast tech firm Coastal Cloud with her official role – including suggestions of an active FBI investigation – coupled with City Manager Morton’s bloody massacre of any employee who dared speak out on the civic turmoil – many were hoping the election would bring stability to local government and end this shit show that continues to erode the public’s trust.
I like to say if you care about good governance in your own hometown, you should care about good governance everywhere – and the City of Palm Coast in in trouble.
In my view, the continuing debacle in one of our region’s largest communities isn’t good for anyone – and it’s high time the adults on the dais (if there are any) get a handle on the building Danko/Branquinho feud before their constituents suffer even more embarrassment.
Asshole Volusia County School Board
How does one earn the dubious “Asshole of the Week” award in this space?
First, you lavish an obscene $50,000 pay increase on an overpaid failed senior administrator during an off-the-agenda ambush so no one is prepared to speak against it – while simultaneously singing the Poormouth Blues – and taking some $11 million from reserves to balance a bloated budget approaching $1 Billion.
Then you callously turn to hardworking classroom teachers and staff members who are struggling under the arduous and ever-changing demands of a global pandemic – give them the figurative middle-finger by cowardly declaring an impasse – effectively barring any additional negotiation that may have lead to a fair and equitable pay increase for those intrepid souls serving at the tip of the spear.
That’s how you do it.
Quote of the Week
“Maybe we should also look back to Lincoln and his Cabinet of Rivals — recognizing the need for the contribution of all parts of a diverse population. Our Constitution is inclusive, not exclusive. We are all included in the process as Americans who don’t always (often?) agree. Love of country and patriotism are not the exclusive property of one side or the other, but the joy of We the People.”
–Lynn Berg, DeLand, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Celebrate our unity,” Sunday, November 15, 2020
And Another Thing!
On Monday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Penny Young-Carrasquillo, Chief Development Officer for the Council on Aging, during her informative appearance on the public affairs forum, GovStuff Live! with Big John.
It’s easy to forget how many local senior citizens are in need this Holiday Season and the COA is seeking volunteers to assist with their many wonderful programs and direct services which help our elderly neighbors remain active, nourished, and independent.
At present, the COA is seeking Meals on Wheels drivers to deliver nutritious meals to homebound seniors across Volusia County. The only requirements are a valid driver’s license, current auto insurance, and a background check which is paid for by the Council on Aging.
The commitment is approximately one to two hours beginning at 10:30am Monday through Friday.
Schedules and routes are flexible for the convenience of volunteers.
In addition, Council on Aging is promoting their Adopt-a-Route program that allows businesses, clubs, and faith organizations to adopt a specific route and share responsibility for meal delivery!
According to the COA, “This is a great opportunity for developing your corporate/civic team while receiving recognition.”
For more information, please call 386-253-4700 x 239.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend and a Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!