The Politics of Cowardice

Call me a soothsayer – but I knew this shit was going to happen. . .

When the CDC announced the COVID-19 vaccine priority groups – which rightfully give precedence to the elderly and infirm over the young and healthy, as well as essential healthcare workers battling the virus on the frontline – I joked with friends that I was trying to figure a way to weasel my way to the front of the line, given the fact I can easily pass for 85 years old. . . 

I knew in my heart that this sick joke of mine would eventually become a reality, as craven members of our “power elite” jump the line on the flimsy excuse of ‘setting the example,’ as they put their own selfish, lily-livered interests above those most at risk.  

On Wednesday, my worst fears came true when Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry epitomized the arrogance of power by placing himself above his elderly, infirm, and most vulnerable constituents – abusing his status as a low wattage political hack – to receive the vaccine at Halifax Health ahead of first-responders, EMS personnel, police officers, firefighters, telecommunicators, postal workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, aged shut-ins who have been living in near total isolation for a year, essential workers, your grandparents, etc., etc.     


I mean, did he use the patented Henry “Do you know who I am?” technique – or the vainglorious “Look at me, I’m setting an example for you” ruse? 

Rather than wait his turn behind those who are 65 and over – or the men and women who are bravely exposing themselves to provide care and comfort to those afflicted – in my view, Mayor Henry commits the dreadful act of a base coward – the equivalent of throwing women and children out of a lifeboat – in a craven move to save himself. 

It was the ultimate in political privilege and gross entitlement – a gutless politician boasting of his elite status on social media from the very hospital where coronavirus victims lay sick and dying. 

My God.

At a time when we desperately need service-based leadership from our elected and appointed officials – the essence of which is placing the safety and comfort of others before their own – we are forced to watch in utter disgust as tin-pot politicians shove the weak and susceptible out of their way.


In my view, Mayor Henry lost the moral authority to lead the exact second he ensured his personal protection over those who need it most.   

Unfortunately, Derrick Henry is not alone.

Frightened politicians at all levels of government have shamed themselves in the face of this public health crisis on both sides of aisle, using their haughty positions to receive preferential treatment – while those who truly need it are forced to stand in queue for what remains – or die alone in a hospital bed. 

This isn’t ‘politics’ – its a shameful lack of courage in the face of danger.

Fortunately, in the wake of Mayor Henry’s reprehensible act, brave leaders like Sheriff Mike Chitwood and New Smyrna Mayor Russ Owen have publicly condemned the spineless practice of politicians cutting the inoculation line.

According to Sheriff Chitwood, “We don’t need every Congressman, every Governor, every Mayor and every Sheriff in America taking a valuable vaccine dose just to send a message. The message I want to send is that those who need the vaccine should get it before any politician. Get the vulnerable onto the lifeboats first before you save yourself.”

That is what leadership looks like, folks.

We are hearing from a hodgepodge of social media sites, Tweets, and conflicting news blurbs that early next week, Volusia County residents 65+ will have the option of traveling all the way out to Daytona Stadium on LPGA Boulevard and entering “The Thunderdome” – a dystopian first come, first served drive-thru free-for-all where you may, or may not, receive an inoculation from what the Florida Department of Health has described as a “limited supply.”

The vaccination site is being “managed” by the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County in partnership with the City of Daytona Beach.

No appointments. No reservations. All the organization of a cattle stampede.

Because that’s how we do it in Volusia County. . .

Good luck.

In my view, Mayor Henry should immediately resign and make way for someone – anyone – with the physical, mental, and moral fortitude to lead during these dangerous and difficult times.  

Déjà vu all over again…

There is a reason I abandoned party politics – openly rejecting the drama, dissention, and disunity – opting instead to become a free-thinking “NPA” – with no party affiliation and a growing contempt for the lockstep stagnation of partisan politics, a malignancy that I believe is doing exponential harm to our nation. 

I am not alone. 

Statewide, research indicates that unaffiliated voters rose from 3,089,929 in 2016 to 3,753,286 this year alone.

That said, the real reason I ran like a scalded dog from either of the two polarized political parties is because the power-crazed people who run them typically tend to be contentious assholes.  

Am I wrong?

For instance, I believe the late Tony Ledbetter, who ran the Volusia County Republican Party with an iron fist for years – flagrantly skirted the rules whenever it served his political purposes, including highlighted “guides” unfairly endorsing one party candidate over another, throwing sharp elbows at the polls, puffing and grandstanding for the faithful, always the center of attention – helped lower the bar on what passes for political campaigns in Volusia County and beyond.

During the 2018 Volusia County Council race, candidate Tom Laputka summed it up when he said, “Some people are born assholes.  There are others who try really hard to be one.  Ledbetter is both.”

Anyone want to be associated with that?

No thanks.

Trust me.  It is equally disastrous on the other side of the aisle. . .

This week, we learned that Richard Thripp, a 29-year-old wet-behind-the-ears political newcomer who earlier this year ran for a Congressional seat but lost in the Democratic primary to Clint Curtis (who was summarily trounced by Rep. Michael Waltz), has clawed his way to the pinnacle of the local Democratic hierarchy – using a self-described “ruthless” leadership style – then immediately set about making autonomous decisions – like who wins elections, and who loses them.

How democratic, eh?

According to Mark Harper, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Richard Thripp, the newly elected party chair, on Thursday certified the winner of the state committeewoman race as Valerie Duhl, one day after saying he had intended to hand that decision over to a committee to be determined in January.”

As it happens, Ms. Duhl is “…aligned with Thripp’s slate,” which apparently comes from the “My way or the Highway” school of party unification. . .  

To her credit, Duhl’s opponent, Susanne Raines, a 2016 delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Ormond Beach, is not taking the intraparty chicanery laying down.

As I understand it, due to “technical difficulties” during a Zoom call between committeemen and committeewomen who were deciding local party leadership – coupled with an error by the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections that left a candidate off the ballot – it was determined that internal provisional votes would be used to determine a winner the following day.

Raines claimed she took the race by one vote.

That resulted in internecine challenges questioning who was eligible to vote, the rejection of provisional votes, muscle flexing, power moves, quibbling party bylaws, blah, blah, blah.  

It was eerily similar to. . .well, you know.

Most interesting, Ms. Raines released a transcript of an ominous telephone message attributed to Chairman Thripp which said:

“Hi Susanne, it’s Richard Thripp. I had an interesting call from Mr. Harper at The News-Journal today. I just want to ask you … it’s sort of a rhetorical question. Do you think that a 29-year-old becoming chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party is something that just happens, or is that something that happens by being ruthless and tough-as-nails? I would encourage you to consider your decision to do whatever it is you’re doing over there, very carefully. Please have a Merry Christmas. Take care.”


Again – how democratic, egalitarian, and inclusive?   

Clearly, Chairman Thripp is not that politically savvy.    

First, he recorded not-so-veiled ‘mansplaining’ against a strong, politically active woman for all posterity – then, he committed the one mortal sin no millennial/uber-liberal can ever live down by using the verboten term Merry Christmas – which, as all self-absorbed super-progressives know, is a damnable “tool of demagoguery.”  


Richard Thripp has a lot to learn. 

Until then, save me a ringside seat to the shit show – and pass the popcorn. . .

Photo Credit: Richard Thripp for Congress

Editorial Note: An earlier version of this post erroneously noted that Thripp had lost to Rep. Michael Waltz in the District 6 US House race – he didn’t. Mr. Thripp was beaten by Clint Curtis in the August primary.

The Honor Roll – 2020

Hi, kids!

Can we flush this foul year already? 

Before we do, let’s take a look back at a few people who helped foster the success of this blog site during the past year as we proudly unveil the 2020 Barker’s View Honor Roll!

Some who tried to screw us – and some who tried to save us during the year that was.

The only honor in Volusia County you can’t buy!

I am fond of an expression that some purport to be an ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Be it a blessing or bane, we long-suffering denizens of Florida’s fabled Fun Coast definitely live in a weird era – a political Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – careening through a civic, social, and economic maze, white knuckled, only to find the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming SunRail train. . .


But the one constant on this wacky political thrill ride is that, regardless of our unique hopes, dreams, and vision, we all coexist on this salty piece of land, and – each in our own way – want what is best for the place we call home.

From what The Daytona Beach News-Journal have dubbed our “Rich & Powerful,” the movers and shakers with infinite power and influence – to those of us who struggle mightily to eke out a living in this artificial economy while being bled dry with exorbitant taxes and fees – we are all collectively dedicated to the proposition that we can be better.

That we deserve better.

So, it is my pleasure to honor all those who fight the good fight – who persevere, overcome, and make a life here in Volusia County – those who courageously stand for public office and endure the slings and arrows of harsh criticism, those who have devoted their professional lives to public service, and those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence.

This includes those hardworking civic activists who fight valiantly to protect our quality of life – from beach driving to clean water, environmental advocacy, eradicating hunger and beyond. 

In my view, these grassroots efforts form the very backbone of our community.

When I began trying to provide an authentic alternative opinion five years ago, I could not have imagined how many of you would take the time to read, to welcome a different perspective, and consider these diatribes for what they are – and what they are not.

Thanks to your engagement, this blog continues to open doors, shine a light, and influence opinion – and I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people – including a few of our “movers & shakers” – some of whom still have the humility and sense of humor to laugh at themselves and our situation.

Invariably, whenever I meet people who are familiar with Barker’s View, including those in powerful public positions who I frequently write about – they are incredibly kind to me – and take the time to offer their own unique opinions on the issues, point out where we differ and agree, and provide constructive criticism.

So, it is appropriate that we recognize those who have impacted our lives and livelihoods – both positively and negatively – and those who supported, or rejected, this blog site over the past year.

The problem with lists is you will invariably miss someone important – and if I have overlooked your contribution, please forgive me, and know it was not intentional. 

Please drop me a note and I’ll make the correction with a sincere apology.    

While this roll is not all inclusive, it begins and ends with YOU – those who read, contribute, opine, comment, argue, agree, disagree, disparage, elevate, share, search for solutions, think deeply, offer criticism, offer hope or a word of encouragement – political allies and foes alike – especially the ones who “get it,” and can still be my friend when the debate is over.

All of you.

The faithful readers of Barker’s View – the independent thinkers who analyze and contemplate my often-warped thoughts on the issues and newsmakers of the day – then use these screeds to continue a larger discussion in the community, an important exercise that can lead to new ideas and solutions to the myriad problems we face.

This year saw the largest increase in readership since our inception, with thousands of views each month – including readers from 87 countries from around the globe. 

I could not possibly know everyone who regularly accesses and shares this site, but it is important to me that each of you know how much I appreciate your interest.

Whether you hate everything I stand for – or support an alternative point of view in a place that desperately needs someone to question the status quo – I am forever thankful for your insight. 

You are making a difference in our beautiful community.

The only thing I can promise you is that in the coming year I will be watching from the cheap seats – a rheumy-eyed, half-drunk witness to the machinations of our local governments – providing you, the devoted members of the Barker’s View Tribe, with my jaded thoughts and skewed perspective on the issues of the day.

Thank you for your friendship.

That’s all for me – here’s wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

2020 Barker’s View Honor Roll

Patti Barker

Jeff Brower

Ed Kelley

Ben Johnson

Billie Wheeler

Deb Denys

Rev. Fred Lowry

Heather Post

Barb Girtman

Danny Robins  

Jarleene Almenas

Governor Ron DeSantis

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Mayor Bill Partington

Dwight Selby

Troy Kent

Susan Persis

Rob Littleton

George Recktenwald

Danny Fuqua

Travis Hutson

Mayor Chris Via

HRH J. Hyatt Brown

Deltona City Commission

City of Holly Hill

Susan Lutz

Patricia Boswell

Sheriff Michael Chitwood

Anonymous Teacher

Josh Vedder

Richard Nisbett

Sheriff Guindi

Dan Ravan

Jenny Nazak

Bret Douglas

Troy Olson

Sharon Raffel

Robert Augusto

Jamison Jessup

Scott Markham

Shelia Prather

Valerie Joiner

Angela Dempsey

Holly Smith

Rich Felisko

Cindy Hale

Kelly Schulz

Charleen Smith

Edgewater Environmental Alliance

Step-Up Volusia

Valerie Duhl


Eveline Kraljic

Kadie Hayward Mullins

David Isenberg

Brandy White

Hubert Grimes

Lang Every

Mark Harper

Colleen McDevitt

Kristine Tollefsen-Cunningham

Donna Maxwell

Joe Petrock

Gregory Trent

Alvin Mortimer

Patricia Miracle

Mori & Forough Hossieni

Dr. Kent Sharples

Kenny Franks

Joe DeAngelo

Erick Piskator

Elbert Bryan

Gary Owens

Valerie Manning

Richard Bellach

Linda Scheibener-Boardman

Edward Somers

Hon. Chris Miller

Laurie Cromie

Russ Cormican

Manny Chevrolet

Rene Coman

Troubled Men Podcast

Bryan Soukop

John Hawkins

Andrew Grosso

Eileen Zaffiro-Kean

Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance

Maryam Ghyabi

Jenny Nazak

John A. Peters

Harvey Morse

Ken Bradley

Steven Burk

Natalie Brunner

Mary Connor

Peter Grosfeld

Bethune-Cookman University

Big John

Mindy McLarnan

Amanda Brower

Rob Brown

John Penny

Gerard Witman

Steven Narvaez

Jane Glover

Greg Akin

Curtis Wayne

Ginny Maccio

Volusia CEO Business Alliance

Dana McCool

Elaine Barnicle

David Simmons

Elaine Gibilisco

Marilyn Stumpf

Jim Chisholm

David Mims

Chris Nabicht

Kelly McGee

Steve Ridder

Ryan Ridder

Lynn Caniglia

Florida Legislature

Mayor Derrick Henry

Ruben Colon

Carl Persis

Derrick Orberg

Sophie’s Circle Dog Rescue

Tom A. Wright

Clayton Park

Rob Jackson

Tom Rebman

Cyndi Ritchey

Paul Renner

Don Shinnamon

Sheriff Rick Staly

Dan Eckert

Mayor Bill Hall

Paul Stevenson

Pat Rice

Mike Scudiero

Tom Leek

Tony Ledbetter

Dana Paige-Pender

Hon. Mike Orfinger

Roundtable of Elected Officials

Milissa Holland

Elizabeth Fetterhoff

Stetson University

Chief Craig Capri (ret.)

Chief Jakari Young

David Santiago

Richard Myers

Bob Davis

Evelyn Fine

Hon. Joan Anthony

Hon. Cyndi Stevenson

Mike Philbrick

Brown & Brown

Mayor Heidi Herzberg

Clay Ervin

Hope Place

Craig Albright

Dustin Wyatt

Michael Dorsett

Tim Curtis

Mike Springer

Ida Wright

Frederik Coulter

Linda Cuthbert

Jamie Haynes

Minto Communities

Volusia Building Industry Association

Rob Merrell

Carmen Balgobin

P&S Paving

Tony Walsh

Robert Giebel

Root Family Foundation

Eileen Zaffiro-Kean

Jimmy Buffett

Robert Gilliland

Jewish Federation

CTO Realty Growth, Inc.

Lee Ann Luedeke

Deltona Strong

L. Gale Lemerand


Jeff Feasel

Dan Ryan

Volusia Issues

ICI Homes

Bellaire Community Group

Eddie Hennessey

Kimberly Hennessey

Steve Koenig

Riverside Conservancy

Volusia County Government Forum

James S. Purdy

Lisa Lewis

Hard Rock Daytona


Carmen Rosamonda

Larry Bartlett

Rev. Kathy Tew-Ricky

First Step Shelter

Larry French

Raquel Levy

FREE Daytona Beach

Harry L. Burney, III

Tanger Outlets

John Boyer

Larry Newsom

Dinah Voyles-Pulver

Foundation Risk Partners

Daytona Tortugas

Santiago Avila, Jr.


Teresa Morford Rice-Peck

The Civitas Project

Will Roberts

Paul Deering

Deltona – A City on the Move?

Volusia Politics

Larry Arrington

Geraldine Morgan Clinton

Joe Forte

Volusia County Schools

Glenn & Connie Ritchey

Daytona Beach Regional Chamber

Jerry Cameron

Security First Insurance

Joe Woody

Dr. Sandford Kinne

Bob Lloyd

Arthur J. Byrnes

Jameson Distillery

Libby Ann Higbee

Elaine Stewart

Anne Ruby

Glenn Storch

Connie Colby

Bryon White

Karen Jans

Dru Driscoll

Terry Cady

Ann Ryder

Chief Jesse Godfrey

Mike Dyer  

Sherrise Boyd

Rocky Norris

Barbara Kincade

Kevin Wallace

Bobbie Stricklen

Pat Finn

Babe’s Blue Room

Weegie Kuendig

Robert Taylor

Amy Pyle

Glenn Irby

Richard Thripp

Chief Matt Doughney

Greg “F-ing” Smith

Lu Witton

Barbara Bonariggo

Krista Goodrich

Roland Via

Joe Hannoush

Ormond Einsteins

Suzanne Johnston

Marc Bernier

Jim Cameron

Norma Bland

Randy Dye

Dan Merrithew

Frank Fabrizio

Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia

Ormond Issues

Helping Hands Through Arts

Frank Van Pelt

Randy Ast

J. Mark Barfield

Sandra Bass Van Cleef

Laura & Greg Ward

France Family

Troy Shimkus

Laura Berglund Weast

Jack Driskell

Joyce Cusack

Kim Morris

Lynn Swenson

Debbie Darino & Justice for Ponce

Linda Williams

Missy Phillips

Sheila Hancock

Keith Chester

Barry Chantler

Ron Wright

Paul Rice

W. R. Dalla Rosa

Daytona International Speedway

Elizabeth Albert

Martin J. Favis

Tom Russell

The Bridge

Pat Northey

Marc Antonie-Cooper

Troy’s Pub

Debbie Phillips

County of Volusia

Eric & Vanessa Lewis

Wayne Harris

G. G. Galloway

Allan Brewer

Mayor Russ Owen

Andy Esterhay

Mark Watts

Tom Ryan

Gail Gianfelice

Chief Stephen Aldrich

GateHouse Media

Volusia County Voters

Michael Booker

St. John’s River Water Management District

Mark Geallis

Anthony Recascino

Nancy and Lowell Lohman

Michael Von Kreuzfaufsteiger

Rainer and Julie Martens

E. LaBrent Chrite

Theresa Doan

Rich Malkus

Rob Gilliland

Kevin Bowler

Charlie Lydecker

Doug Pettit

One Daytona

Tim Grigsby

William Jones, Jr.

North Turn Beach Bar & Grille

Jason Davis

Chief Stephan Dembinsky

George Anderson

Tito’s Vodka

Brenda Hahn

Clay Henderson

Jon Wong

Pat Balona

The West Volusia Beacon

Rev. L. Ronald Durham

Daytona International Airport

James Pericola

Seminole Curmudgeon

Warren Shaw

Laura Roth

West Volusia Hospital Authority

Brian Soukup

Ken & Deborah Strickland

Halifax Health

Roger Sonnenfeld

Rose Ann Tornatore

Noah McKinnon

Doug Kinney

Jeffrey Dees

Derek Catron

Sandi Snodgrass

Jayson Meyer

Commissioner Quanita May

Claire Metz

Deputy Frank Scofield

Rick Karl

Wray Gillette

Tennessee Hills Distillery

Anita Burnette

Gloria Max

Richard Bryan

Roger Eckert

Nancy Long

Rep. Michael Waltz

Mainland High School

Coach Morris Small, Jr.


Sir John Albright

Cassidy Alexander

Roy Johnson

Michael Politis

Joe Pozzo

Alex J. Kennedy

First Step Shelter Board

Robin Hanger

James Connell

Joe Roebuck

Jim Pappalardo

Sons of the Beach

Daytona Beach Police Department

Chief James Bland

Ed Connor

Christopher Cloudman

Michael Schottey

Synergy Billing

Jim Landon

Nancy Keefer

Coastal Cloud


Charles Paiva

Col. Jack D. Howell

Chuck Duva, M.D.

Sen. Rick Scott

Taxpayers of Volusia County


Julio David Sosa

Les Cantrell

Denny Hockenberry

Chuck Marcus

Laurie Massfeller

Cheryl Espy-Dalton

Chase Herbig

Nancy Capo

Jim Judge

Saralee Morrissey

Tom and Kayti Caffrey

Juanita Garza

Jay Maher

Angry Mom

Tony Servance

Kathy Yingling Weaver

Krys Fluker

Colleen & Rob Corrozza

Paul Zimmerman


Pictona at Holly Hill

Tim Egnor

Oliver Du Bois

Penny Currie

Scott O’Connell

Donald Freeman

Christopher Alcantara

Mike Shekari

Jane Bloom

P. Barry Butler

Sonya Wiles

Doug Quartier

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office

Bill Bernardo

Reed Berger

Casmira Harrison

Daytona State College

Scott Simpson

Catholic Charities

Kurt Ardaman

Bill Milano

Bob Jagger

William Freebern

Chase Tramont

Donald Moore

Rep. Bill Posey

Spencer Stratton Hathaway

Judy Rock Bergevine

The Avion

John Danio

Rhonda and Walter Glasnak

Lori Campbell Baker

Jamie Seaman

Tanner Andrews

Mike Panaggio


Mary Synk

City of DeBary

Tadd Kasbeer

Ormond-by-the-Sea Association


Ted Doran

Joyce Shanahan

Richard Klein

R. J. Larizza

Victoria Fahlberg

Rhonda Kanan

The Pallet Pub

Lori Graf

Cheryl Bagshaw Frederick

Steve Puckett

Kelli McGee

Bill Fletcher

Team Volusia

Chief Jason Umberger

Glenn Ring

Jason Wheeler

Alan Lowe

Nick Conte

Kurt Swartzlander

Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau

Josh Wagner

Jonathan Edwards

Paula Reed

Matt Metz

Patrick Gavin

Betty Goodman

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office

Ruth Trager

Jason McGuirk

Jeaneen Witt

Shelley Szafraniec

Rose Schuhmacher

World’s Most Famous Brewery

James D. Sass

Mary Reid Morelly

Robert Sprouse

Douglas Gibson

Jonathan L. Squires

Ken Doremus

Betty Landrum

Robert Jagger

Elliott Hagood

Robert W. Krause

Randy Hartman

Deborah Joy Williams

Douglas Bell

Riverside Conservancy

Bill Albert

Lisa Scartelli

The Frye’s

Alan Burton

Susan Cerbone

Michael Dye

David Romeo

Michael Mc Bride

Susan Scofield

Bill Partington II

Linda Ann Brownlee

Henry Wolfond

Marilyn Ford

Bob LaRue

Rocky Lawrence

Andy & Debbie Cotton

Aaron Delgado

David Brannon

Susan Brehme Park

Catherine Craig Fisler

Bill Lindlau

Karen Roby

Hon. Belle Schumann

Ben Butera

Stephen McGee

Maureen France

Cindy Rivera

Marti Smolinski

Mark Lane


Larry Steele

Marla A.

Dr. Mark Soskin

David Lamotte

Gwen & Rev. Larry Edwards

Alexey Lysich

Enrique Zahn

Jim Weite

Stacy Cantu

Keith Norden

Dannette Henry

Claudia Archer

Jason Greene

Julie Sipes

Jim Whittet

Framework Group

Stacy Wager Day

Stan Schmidt

Ray Hill

Kevin Gelnaw

Edward Gist

Linda Gatewood

Alicia Page

Kevin Walsh

Nancy Epps

Liz Wade

Roxanne Hallahan

Michael L. Young

Ted Hordecky

Iron Head

Gene Crouch

Palmer Wilson

Claudia Vanderhorst

Sandra Walters

Zetta Baker

Raymond Johnson

Liz Murdoch

Thomas Akin, Sr.

Sam Bell

Ron Andersen

Thom Morris

Stan Kapp

Christina Gerson

Katherine Wanamaker

Sandy Walters

Frank Sawyer

Nancy Niles

Sandy Murphy

Psycho Magnet

Diane Reynolds

Niki Yanakou

Lori Bennett

Rita Ware

Gordon Brown

Jim Annett

Cumiskey Consultants

Yogi Martin

Gary Mostert

Billie Barker

Gary Wandelt

Dr. Scott Fritz

Barry du Moulin

Daniel Apker

Barb Shepherd

Darren Zoeckler

Stephanie Bidlack Cox

Gus Massfeller

Joel Paige


Laurel Foley

Diane Choquette

Chris Belflower

Dawn Starr

Volusia United Educators

Kat Brown

Jared Crawford

Sherry Purdy

Phyllis Clark Hogan

Chuck Siple

Bryan Glaze

Rusty Ford

Abraxas Books

Mark Annitto

Susan Barrie

Jeffery P. Terzini

Suzanne Scheiber

Brian Smith

Sherry Gilreath

Sandy Kauffman

Linda Parkin

“T” & Bill Lawson

Don Bok

Melissa Lammers

Ed Gist

Linda Leary

Terry Heisler

H.V. Grantham

Bill Offill

Volusia Deputies Association

Chuck Collins

Al Smith

Eric Breitenbach

Beth and Jim Legary

Ron Martin

Jim Purdy

Bill Hyde

Rob Hougham

Robert Augusto

Bob Renforth

Bob Walker

Maritza Avila-Vazquez

Brodie Hughes

The Bulman’s

Timmy & Annemarie Groarke

Rob Bobek

Jessica Winterwerp

Deana Sallee

Victor Ramos

Jeff White

Janet Kersey

Bruce Williams

Chip Olden

Dr. John Hill

Jeff Terzini

Diane Crisp

Bo Brewer

Jennifer Finno Ellis

Linda Smiley


John & Sue Lyle Reynolds

Rich Waters

Kimberly Taylor-Bandorf

Lisa Martin

Kayleen Garcia

Noreen Morris

Volusia Firefighters Association

Cheryl Reed

Andy Grosso

Rob Bridger

John Difiore

Kevin Callahan

Jerry Ficco

James Alford

Margie Padgett

Don Burnette

Loren King

Bob Apgar

Diane Clow

James Gillis

Joe Stitch

Pete Lynch

Keith Prewitt

The Nines Parlor

Beat Kahli

Jake Johansson

Paul Milward

Brian Smith

Kevin Lowe

East ISB Dead Zone

Pam Lawler

Paul Skinner

Anita Bradford

Alan Rosen

Dan Luby

Lisa Rinaman

Pat Katzenstein

Dr. Fred Costello

Dave Seyse

Pat Hodgkins

Gigi Bennington

St. John’s River Keepers

Richard Kane

Mike Denis

William Sell

Mayor Mike Thomas

Linda White

Karen Waters

Johnson Bros.

Robert D. McFall

Pat Zuegg

Chuck Guarria

Sherry Huskey-Hopson

Fredrik Coulter

Stephen Bacon

Steve Weaver

Kevin Duffy

Bill Barber

Joe Bungart

Jay Barton

The Nowinski’s

Michael Pleus

Kathy Josenhans

Steve Thomas

Volusia County Concerns

Dorothy A. Fogg

Megan O’Keefe

Jim Fogg

Leo J. Vidal

Bill Boots Bouthillette

Noel Bickford

Christine Power

Dayle Whitman

Chris Graham

Roberta Richardson

Vicky Jackson

Alycia Severson

Joe Balona

John and Sue Lyle Reynolds

Ruth Norman

Parker Mynchenberg

Dede Siebenaler

Luke Zona

Sue Barnes

Brad Carter

Katherine Hurst Miller

Linda Morse Dixon

“High Paying Space Jobs”

Greg Gimbert

Jonah Powers

Ted Teschner

Randy Cadenhead

Bud Baldwin

Katie Kustura

Daytona Times

Robert Stolpmann

Pierre Tristam

Natalie Pilipczak


Lynn W. Thompson

Michael J. Arminio

Hometown News

Richard Waters

Phyllis Butlien

Patricia Stevenson

Volusia ECHO

Volusia Forever

Jack Jarrell

Ormond Beach Observer

City of Flagler Beach

Karen Chasez

Volusia County Deputies Association

Frank Thomas Graham

Volusia County School Parents Forum

All who contribute and wish to remain nameless


Well, you know who you are. . .

Merry Christmas!

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

– Luke 2:4-14

May peace be with you today and always. 

From the Barker family to yours, Merry Christmas!

The Greatest Gift of All

Have you ever noticed that when someone complains about teachers – they typically do so using perfect grammar and phraseology – their critical thoughts the result of reading, observation, and comprehension – then cogently organized and written with well-constructed sentences and proper punctuation, so that the message coveys the critics ire while provoking an emotional response?

Somewhere, a dedicated classroom teacher taught them how to do that.

It’s sort of like griping about the farmer with a mouthful of food. 

Many years ago, I trained and earned the FAA Certificated Flight Instructor rating – essentially a federally administered teaching certificate. 

One of the requirements was a test detailing one’s knowledge of the principles and process of learning, barriers to the transfer of information, teaching methods, planning instructional activities, and techniques for critiquing and evaluating students.

It gave me a very brief peek at the preparation of an educator.

It was an incredibly difficult process – as it should be. 

There are few roles in our society that are more important than the development of impressionable young minds – imparting the fundamentals of reading, writing, and mathematics – and exposing students to the arts and sciences, fostering a love of exploration and examination, leading to a quest for lifelong learning based upon a solid foundation.

The influence of classroom teachers goes far beyond imparting understanding and awareness – they help shape and ready the leaders of tomorrow – and they literally change lives in the process.

The transfer of knowledge is the greatest gift of all.    

Historically, our classroom teachers have been horribly underpaid and overburdened – forced to go into their own pockets for instructional aids, paper, and pencils – then subjected to harsh internal and external criticism, exposed to maltreatment and physical abuse by out-of-control students, and saddled with additional responsibilities and bureaucratic meddling that has resulted in a growing recruitment and retention crisis in Volusia County and beyond.

For what seems like an eternity, Volusia United Educators – under the leadership of the intrepid Elizabeth Albert – have fought hard for a sliver of the pie, demanding a living wage for classroom teachers and support staff, while watching an unrestrained administration spend precious public funds like a drunken sailor, under the “supervision” of a feckless elected body who often seem paralyzed by political fear, misdirection, and ignorance. 

Fortunately, it appears VUE has reached a tentative agreement.

According to a press release issued by Volusia County District Schools on Friday:

  • The minimum teacher salary will be increased to $44,335.00
  • All teachers will receive a minimum of a 2.5% salary increase
  • Eligible teachers will receive longevity bonus in addition to the salary increase based on the previous MOU which will be included in the January 29, 2021 paycheck
  • Salary increases will be retroactive to July 1, 2020

The agreement is expected to be ratified by teachers in January, before going to the Volusia County School Board and Florida Department of Education early next year.  

According to the release by the District’s Community “Disinformation” Services, “This agreement honors the original contract language agreed upon on April 4, 2019 and reflects a commitment to making salaries a budget priority.”

That’s complete “BS” (hey, it’s Christmas, y’all – I am trying my damnedest to be “merry and bright”) because if history has proven anything, it is that a living wage for teachers, paraprofessionals and staff will never be a “budget priority” for a bloated bureaucracy that now exists solely to serve itself.

Congratulations to Volusia County teachers – and the negotiating team at Volusia United Educators – for standing in solidarity and fighting hard for a competitive compensation and benefits package at a time when teachers are being asked to risk their lives to mold and educate our next generation of thinkers. 

Well deserved – and a step in the right direction.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Photo Credit: Volusia United Educators

The Reason for the Season

Hunger is the great demoralizer. 

It has a negative impact on everything it touches and destroys nations, and families, with the same ugly efficiency. 

I’m not talking about missing lunch. 

The growing problem of chronic malnutrition has adverse impacts on every aspect of a person’s life – the ability to concentrate, to focus on school and work, fatigue, dehydration, lack of sleep, medical, emotional, and psychological problems – and the feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and irritability that can lead to domestic violence – even suicide.

During this foul year 2020, where fear, and the natural disaster of government’s ham-handed political involvement in a dire public health crisis, has resulted in many losing their businesses and livelihoods, a problem complicated by a horribly broken Florida unemployment system, and a Congress that has not missed a paycheck, yet feels comfortable passing on a paltry $600 bucks in “relief” to those who desperately need help – and those who do not.

According to a report compiled by Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, almost 102,000 of our neighbors in Volusia County face food insecurity – defined as being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food – unable to meet basic dietary needs consistently.

That’s one in five people here on the Fun Coast. . . 

The pandemic did not start this problem – it intensified it – and those we have elected to stop the insidious creep of hunger and poverty – to establish real economic development, support small business, and add sustainable jobs – seem to think having their picture taken behind a steam table at a homeless shelter gives the impression they are “doing something” to alleviate this crisis. 

Fortunately, there are true angels among us.

Gloria Max, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties, the nonprofit organization that operates the Jerry Doliner Food Bank, continues her tireless efforts to provide sustenance – and hope – to those less fortunate in our region.

Unfortunately, the 80-year-old is battling Stage 4 peritoneal cancer, yet she remains committed to helping those less fortunate in our community. 

In October, Gloria Max was honored with The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s “2020 Most Influential Woman of the Year” award for her exemplary volunteerism, incredible generosity, and extraordinary leadership. 

But for Ms. Max, its not about awards and accolades – unless they call attention to those community needs she serves – as her work continues to inspire others to give of themselves to help others.

Now, this inspirational force in our community needs our help.

According to an urgent appeal by Ms. Max:

“At the last minute, the Federation was notified that an organization, which was contributing food for our Christmas meals to families in need, would be unable to assist us this year due to the pandemic and the churches being closed for health reasons.

We have already reached out to economically disadvantaged families who come to our Food Bank regularly and put them on our list to receive a turkey, side dishes, fresh produce, and other groceries for a holiday meal. Now, we have only weeks to raise the funds to provide some of these food items for hundreds of holiday meals for our clients.”

Clearly, the need is exceptional this year. 

If you can help, checks can be sent to the Jerry Doliner Food Bank, COVID-19 Emergency Appeal, 470 Andalusia Avenue, Ormond Beach, Florida, 32174 – or online at:

According to Ms. Max, “One hundred percent of your donation will go to purchase food for families in need because the Jewish Federation absorbs all administrative expenses. We help low-income families, regardless of race or religion.” 

Families and individuals interested in receiving food donations should schedule an appointment immediately by calling 386-672-0294.

Thank you, Gloria Max – your selfless efforts to reduce suffering and bring hope exemplify the reason for the season. 

Photo Credit: The Ormond Beach Observer

A Christmas Angel

In my view, the miserable existence of Travis Archer should forever be defined by the brutal beating death of a 9-month-old Labrador retriever named Ponce – an innocent dog, who, according to records, suffered “…extensive trauma to three sides of his head, six fractured teeth, a fractured lower jaw, two broken ribs and other injuries. . .”

I will always look upon Mr. Archer, and those like him, with disgust – something best held at a distance – a golem formed of excrement, a monster beyond redemption.   

And I hope this grisly stigma follows anyone who would maliciously torture, abuse, and kill animals – so that those who commit these atrocious crimes never become accepted members of a civil and just society. 

After serving in law enforcement most of my life, I have developed a burning hatred for those who cause harm to the vulnerable – children, the mentally challenged, elderly persons, defenseless animals – sentient beings who cannot protect themselves from victimization and exploitation. 

‘Hate’ is a strong word, but I accept these feelings as a natural psychological reaction after more than three-decades observing man’s brutal inhumanity to the helpless – years when I was forced to approach these horrific cases with a cold, unemotional professionalism – physically suppressing the normal feeling of human outrage.

I have come to realize that, over time, attempting to overpower and compartmentalize one’s instinctive emotions takes a toll.  I suppose that is why this blog has proven so cathartic.          

As an “advanced” culture, we rely on the rule of law as a means of seeking what passes for justice, and, in the case of Travis Archer, the law in place at the time of the crime worked – sort of.

From the start, Mr. Archer received incredibly competent and aggressive representation from his lawyer, Aaron Delgado – one of the best in that difficult business – who fulfilled his role, and lawful duty to the system, by using every legal means available to present a vigorous defense and ensure his client’s rights were protected.   

According to reports, following Archer’s no contest plea to felony animal cruelty, Circuit Court Judge Sandra Upchurch levied appropriate sanctions, fines, and fees, then reasonably ordered that he never again be permitted to own an animal. 

Sounds fair, right? 

After all, the courts typically rule that those who use technology and the internet to steal from or exploit others cannot have access to computers – nor should they.

It’s a viable means of limiting access to future victims.

Unfortunately, in a split decision, the Fifth District Court of Appeals recently ruled that Judge Upchurch exceeded the scope of her jurisdiction, ruling that Archer could not be barred from owning animals for the rest of his life – only for the duration of his three-year probation.

Fortunately, that should never happen again. 

Thanks to the intrepid animal rights activist Debbie Darino – whose legendary fight for what would become known as Ponce’s Law – added enhanced penalties for those who would abuse defenseless animals, including a new provision of the law that permits judges to order a lifetime ban on animal ownership for those convicted of these heinous crimes.   

Obviously, those protections were not in place at the time of Ponce’s death. 

Now, Ms. Darino is continuing her compassionate crusade to ensure adequate protections for vulnerable animals by fighting hard for anti-tethering and adequate shelter ordinances in all cities in Volusia County – and she is working hard with State Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff of DeLand to introduce legislation in the 2021 session which will clarify the animal cruelty statute and ensure that offenders are properly charged with a felony crime.

I hope you will join me in supporting Ms. Darino’s inspiring efforts to seek protections – and justice – for defenseless animals who cannot speak for themselves. 

Thank you for your outstanding work – and for your humanity, Ms. Darino.

You are one of Volusia County’s true Christmas Angels!    

Angels & Assholes for December 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.

Angel               Volusia County Council

This week marked what (I hope) is a bold new beginning for governance in Volusia County.

After the calamity that was the last four years, the good people of this salty piece of land we call home deserve it. . .   

The legendary Henry Ford said that “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently,” and with such great possibilities on our horizon, there is no time to wallow in the past – or waste any more of our lives pondering ‘what could’ve been,’ or ‘what should’ve been.” 

As one would expect, the last meeting of this iteration of the Volusia County Council was weird – and, as a loyal watcher of this bimonthly shit show, I would have been disappointed with anything less.  

It was the final act of the Théâtre de L’absurde – a performance which reached its dramatic crescendo when Councilwoman Billie Wheeler mysteriously wailed – “We are not corrupt! We are not corrupt! Not a one of us has stepped over the line!” – a strange, almost unconscious parapraxis that seemed to expose a paranoid streak in Ms. Wheeler we had not seen before. . .

Weird, indeed.

I admit, a dark part of me is going to miss these parliamentary train wrecks. 

This final meeting was like watching the circus pack up and trundle away from the fairgrounds, leaving only the stench of elephant dung and horse manure lingering in the air.      

Several people have told me that former Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley is a nice guy. 

I am sorry I never saw that side of him.   

And, when you cut through her self-important aura, outgoing Councilwoman Deb Denys is gifted with a natural cunning and Machiavellian guile that allowed her to play smash-mouth politics with the best of them – truly a formidable force.

But none of that maudlin crap matters now. 

I am giddy with a high sense of anticipation – the thrill of ‘what comes next’ – and a feeling of liberation after helplessly watching taxpayers openly marginalized, abused, and ignored by an oligarchical system that ensures an open faucet of public funds for all the right last names with a chip in the game.      

This week marked the swan song for much of what remains of Volusia’s Old Guard – the Stalwarts of the Status Quo – at least for those holding positions of “official” power in DeLand.   

After years of dedicated service to entrenched insiders – these two perennial politicians who so unashamedly served the wants and whims of their uber-wealthy cronies and benefactors – are no longer relevant to the architectural design of Volusia County’s future.

Trust me.  That is something to celebrate.   

Following the obligatory Deification & Adulation Ceremony, our doddering fool of a County Chair, and the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys, finally shuffled off the dais of power into the dustbin of history.

(I’m not crying, you’re crying. . .)

Unfortunately, the end did not come soon enough, as Chairman Kelley had the opportunity to lord over one more public farce – the “annual evaluation” of County Manager George “The Wreck” Rectenwald and County Attorney Mike Dyer – a hollow exercise which serves as a laughable formality before the pair receive an end-of-year salary increase. 

True to form, the council member’s verbal reviews of their only direct reports dissolved into a meeting of The Mutual Admiration Society – replete with glowing accolades, saccharine compliments, and a brown-nosing fealty that showed how incredibly loyal our elected officials have become to the bloated bureaucracy. 

Look, I like George Recktenwald. 

I think he does a damn fine job under difficult circumstances, with an unflappable style, adroitly answering to seven loopy bosses, while managing to keep their leaky vessel afloat.

That’s a hard dollar. 

I am going to reserve judgement on Mr. Dyer’s work product – our “new” county attorney whose salary already exceeds $200,000 a year – you know, like those we have elected to steward our tax dollars should have?   


In my view, we have a lot to look forward to.

Following a hotly contested election, a hand-to-hand contest which so brutally exposed the true character (or lack thereof) of many of our area’s ‘movers & shakers,’ we will soon have a core group of elected officials who have made a clear and solemn promise to Volusia County residents:

To return a county government of, by, and for the people – a place where those who pay the bills have an equal, honest, and influential say in the direction of our tax dollars, and our future. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, I thought incoming Chair Jeff Brower showed incredible magnanimity as he stood in the well and formally congratulated Kelley and Denys as they took their painfully slow leave.   

I admire that. 

If I had been bludgeoned like Mr. Brower was during the campaign, I am not sure I could be that high-minded in victory.   

(That’s just one reason I do not run for elective office – because the sight of me swilling cheap champagne from the bottle, while drunkenly screaming, “Don’t let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out!” at my defeated opponent would only lower the bar and sully the decorum. . .)

In addition, Chairman-elect Brower took a bold stand this week in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, vowing to make our century old heritage of beach driving and access a priority after decades of having the venerated tradition used as a cheap inducement for speculative developers.

That’s encouraging. 

Clearly, Mr. Brower realizes the importance of our greatest natural resource to the economic vitality of Volusia County, and, more important, he understands the damage that has resulted from years of mismanagement by a bureaucracy that seems totally out of touch – physically incapable of the quantum change necessary for the revitalization of the Halifax area and beyond.

Councilman Daniel Robins, Councilwoman Heather Post, and Chairman Brower will join a group of experienced elected officials that – I hope – are equally committed to moving forward with a renewed passion for protecting, preserving, and enhancing those things that make Volusia County such a special place.

I add Heather Post to the list of incoming freshmen because, unfortunately, she was never given the opportunity to fully participate in any meaningful way during her first term, as her every effort was belittled, bullied, and marginalized under what passed for Old Ed’s “leadership.”

Clearly, all the important tools are now in the box.    

For instance, Councilman Ben Johnson is a veteran public servant who has proven his commitment to making Volusia County a better place – a true leader, tested in the furnace of law enforcement, with the demonstrated ability to listen to opposing opinions with an open mind and make decisions based upon facts – not politics.   

By any metric, Councilwoman Barbara Girtman is the intellectual superior on the dais – an incredibly bright and thoughtful elected official with a sharp, strategic mind – someone whose refined sense of service originates in the heart – as she remains sensitive to the needs of our underrepresented citizens who are so often overlooked.

In my estimation, the only unknowns are Councilwoman Billie Wheeler and The Reverend Fred Lowrey. 

However, both have proven smart enough to sense the prevailing winds, and they possess the political savvy to know what is possible, and what is not. 

Given the mix of authentic enthusiasm and experience, this has the making of a great team. 

Time will tell.     

Like Mr. Ford said, times of transition always present opportunities, and this is clearly an exciting time for all of us. 

Quote of the Week

“Just to set the record straight, River Bend owes property taxes because a private company leases public land to make a profit. The 1997 court order referenced in The News-Journal article was entered based upon a statute that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2001. The Supreme Court confirmed that public land cannot be used for private purposes (to make a profit), without also paying property taxes.

If Norwood’s company merely managed River Bend on behalf of the city, there would be no property tax liability. The cities of Daytona Beach and Port Orange both run golf courses for the enjoyment of their citizens.

I would be willing, personally, to pay more property taxes in order to keep River Bend open. I hope the Ormond Beach City Commission is willing to consider taking over the operation and maintenance of such a wonderful part of the Ormond Beach way of life. No future county property taxes would be owed by the Ormond Beach city government if they kept River Bend open by running it themselves.”

–Volusia County Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, River Bend golf course can be saved,” Tuesday, December 15, 2020

I respect Mr. Bartlett’s cogent explanation of the terrible (and avoidable) circumstances that have conspired to see the demise of the beautiful River Bend Golf Course. 

In fact, it is difficult to watch.

Many years ago, following my father’s death, a plaque was placed on a fairway at River Bend to commemorate his contributions when the course was being built. 

At that time, my dad – an avid golfer and longtime friend of PGA Professional Lawson Mitchell, who was instrumental in the origination of the course – volunteered to assist in the compassionate relocation of endangered tortoises from areas under construction.

My fear is that once River Bend goes to seed – some well-placed speculative developer will be champing at the bit to churn that prime public riverfront property into another godawful gated community. . . 

Why else would ostensibly smart public officials believe that collecting property taxes on a public amenity – one built on publicly owned property – outweigh the detrimental effect of an overgrown shithole, a civic eyesore, another abandoned golf course, reeking of failure, positioned immediately adjacent to the city’s municipal airport?   

No, once the City of Ormond Beach unloads this prime real estate to the right last name – the property will not sit idle for long. . .   

I could be wrong.  Hide and watch. 

Regardless of Mr. Bartlett’s good thoughts, please do not expect the Ormond Beach City Commission to do the right thing and provide for the operation and maintenance of this outstanding recreational amenity. 

In my jaded view, after tens of thousands in developer dollars were thrown around during the last election, I suspect none of Ormond’s elite elected officials will want to stand in the way of “progress.”    

And Another Thing!

Last week, I expressed my fears about the insidious censorship being practiced by social media monopolies, and some individual sites, which illegitimately purport to serve as community “forums” for the discussion and debate of diverse ideas on the important issues of the day. 

I have a standing policy on this blogsite that all opinions are welcome – especially those that are contrary to my own (because that’s how I learn) – and I have only blocked a small handful of comments that sought to incite violence, used base racial, ethnic, or religious epithets, or made patently untrue personal allegations against others with no supporting facts.   

If you want those types of discussions, the internet is rife with them, but you will not find that vile content here. 

That said, there are some outstanding social media sites that provide an avenue for citizen input on the issues that affect our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast

Never one to shy away from controversial issues, civic activist Greg Gimbert hosts the wildly popular Facebook forum Volusia Issues – a rollicking, no-holds-barred, public soapbox which welcomes a wide variety of opinions, encourages free thought – and always calls the balls and strikes with a real sensitivity for preserving uninhibited debate.

In addition, Mr. Gimbert administrates the Facebook-based Volusia County School Parents Forum – which encourages those interested in our quirky local educational system to, “Post your events, challenges, and victories. Post your suggestions in the areas of curriculum, budget, and staffing. It is time to move past party lines and towards better schools for all of our kids. This forum is the place to gather with good neighbors to do so.”

I like that. 

In my view, we live in a time and place where, for far too long, citizen input in governmental affairs has been limited by small-minded politicians and appointed officials in the halls of power – despotic martinets who prefer to issue diktats from on high – rather than deliberate competing ideas or accept the suggestions of us bumpkins who pay the bills. 

I understand better than most – we do not have to agree

Unlike some in positions of elected and appointed power, I never learn anything in an echo chamber of like-minded people agreeing with one another while cementing their haughty sense of infallibility. 

Sound familiar?      

I encourage everyone to take a stand against this sinister erosion of our God-given right to free and open expression – which forms the very foundation of a robust civic debate – and I ask that you make good use of those open-minded public forums where our First Amendment rights are respected – and protected. 

That’s all for me. 

Angels & Assholes will take a short pause next week while we enjoy this most joyous season.

Thanks to each of you – the loyal members of the Barker’s View Tribe – this has been a banner year for our little experiment in alternative opinion blogging – the most annual activity since we began five-years ago!

I appreciate you riding the river with me. 

Your encouragement and support mean more than you know. 

Have a great weekend, y’all!

Velvet Glove Censorship

For the first time in the life of this alternative opinion blog, the content of something I wrote was censored.   

On Friday, a Barker’s View Angels & Assholes piece regarding the controversy surrounding Volusia School Superintendent Carmen Balgobin was unilaterally purged by the administrator of a local social media site ostensibly dedicated to our local school system.     

“Your post was removed by admin.”

The reason?  Language. 


Now, I’m not sure the overseer of the site that touts itself as a “forum” – something classically defined as a public place for the free and open exchange, discussion, and debate of competing ideas – understands the concept, because just prior to deleting my post from her site, the administrator labeled it a “Monday morning quarterback” piece (which it was) before removing it from the site altogether in an apparent pique after I described Balgobin’s administration as a “shit show.” 

Is there a better descriptor? 

That bothered me.

Because it wasn’t the language, but the criticism, that offended.

I posted the piece on the site because it addressed a topical, and highly contentious, issue in Volusia County schools – and because the “forum” claimed that “Considerate and thoughtful discussion of ideas, thoughts, and concerns, regarding our schools, is welcome.”

Clearly critical thought isn’t welcome – but I’m not surprised.

After all, it’s hard to remain objective about the state of Volusia County Schools. . .    

Suppression of free expression under the slippery, seductive, politically correct ruse that we be subjectively “kind and courteous” in thought and word is nothing more than velvet glove censorship – and it allows those in positions of appointed or elected power to run roughshod – as anyone who dares criticize them are marginalized and silenced by their shills.      

So, I removed myself from what passes for an education “forum” in this foul year 2020, because I know there are competing ideas out there that will not be permitted to see the light of day – and that leaves only half the story being told.

In her 1906 biography The Friends of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall summarized the French philosopher’s beliefs with the line, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That infamously misapplied quote is returning to favor as those engaged in our current “cancel culture” seek to suppress free and open speech by limiting the exchange of views to only those messages which comport with their own. 

Add to that the dangerous practice of social media monopolies attempting to bring censorship into the mainstream by sentencing those who engage in speech deemed offensive by some nameless/faceless “community standards team” to social media “jail” – blocking their ability to engage with others in an anti-discourse policy that essentially banishes anyone with a dissenting opinion to a purgatory of silence – an insidious suppression that, in my view, is slowly desensitizing the American people to the erosion of our God-given right to free speech.  

In today’s world, if someone ventures an opinion that is counter to our own, rather than engage in the competition of spirited debate, we simply “report” that which we find offensive to those self-appointed persecutors who “monitor” content – or remove it from our so-called “forum” completely – so that others are not similarly butt-hurt by a contrary opinion.

As a result, the nation’s social, civic, and ideological rift widens – and, more disturbing, we begin shaping our thoughts to comport with those who hold the authority to affect our lives and livelihoods.  

Those of us who vociferously exercise our right to be heard on the important issues of the day, slowly begin to reign ourselves in – adapting and modulating our voice – to avoid suppression or reprisal by those dictatorial martinets who police the thoughts and opinions of others.   

This summer, a diverse group of academics, authors, and civic activists issued an open letter in Harper’s magazine espousing that “a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments” are “[weakening] norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity”.

“This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.”

Look, I don’t expect everyone to agree with these hypercritical screeds. 

They are not for everyone.

Because provoking higher thought can take people outside their comfort zone, you know, where real and lasting change begins. 

My sincere hope is that these carping, critical, and faultfinding diatribes of mine help incite a larger discussion of the issues we collectively face here on Florida’s Fun Coast – a place where, for far too long, the influence of those with a chip in the game outweigh that of long-suffering taxpayers who are asked to pay the bills and suffer in silence. 

Keep the light of free expression burning bright.

Read, write, comment, debate, let your voice be heard.

It’s important. 

Angels & Assholes for December 11, 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.

Asshole                Chairman Ed Kelley and Councilwoman Deb Denys

During a 1962 press conference following his loss to Pat Brown in the California gubernatorial race, an embittered Richard Nixon glumly said, “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” 

I think I know how the assembled members of the media must have felt. . .

Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting marks the last hurrah for our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair Ed Kelley and his protégé, and ofttimes ventriloquist, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys. 

To honor the political demise of these two Stalwarts of the Status Quo, The Reverend Fred Lowry has sponsored proclamations which will be presented during next Tuesday’s meeting, formally deifying the two perennial politicians, and designating December 15, 2020 as “Ed Kelley and Deb Denys Day.”  

(Sorry.  I just upchucked in my mouth a little.  Damn agita. . .) 

Part of me wants to stay in bed on Tuesday and sob into my pillow over the lack of substantive progress and gross civic stagnation we have endured these last four years – another wants to attend the ceremony in person, because, like that old movie said:

“I don’t want to hear Ed Kelley gone. . . .I want to see Ed Kelley gone.” 

Hey, all good things come to an end, right? 

The fact is, it has been a full-time job pointing out Old Ed’s every goof and gaffe – decrying the abject buffoonery surrounding any meeting he mumbled and fumbled through – and screaming like a scalded banshee every time Deb Denys puffed up like a toad and lied through her teeth in a treacherous attempt to get reelected while trying desperately to destroy her opponent’s reputation in the process. 

So, as Old Ed and Dishonest Deb are ushered out the back door and walk hand-in-hand to the ash heap of history, I thought it only fitting to issue an exalted Barker’s View Proclamation paying homage to these two petty political hacks who have worked so diligently to further the goals of the oligarchical system they served so well:

To All Whom These Presents shall come or whom the same may in any way concern,

A Barker’s View Proclamation!

To Members of Our Loyal Tribe and all others whom these Presents may concern are hereby required to take notice and to govern themselves accordingly:

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!

Whereas, Ed Kelley and Deb Denys have a collective 1,000 years of elective “service” to the uber-wealthy puppeteers who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides on this salty piece of land known as Volusia County – lording over their vassals like a Monarchial tag team – totally ignoring the real economic, social, and civic needs of their long-suffering constituents, and

Whereas, during their ignominious tenure, Old Ed and Dishonest Deb facilitated the wholesale giveaway of 410’ feet of beach driving as a cheap spiff for speculative developers – in direct contradiction of Ms. Denys fervent campaign promise that she would never vote to destroy even more of our century old tradition of beach driving and access; and 

Whereas, Ed Kelley and Deb Denys led the charge at the behest of their political benefactors at the omnipotent Camera Stellata, known colloquially as the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, to levy a half-cent sales tax on every man, woman, and child in the realm – using flashlight-under-the-chin scary stories and “No Plan B” threats – culminating in a wildly expensive “special election” which saw their money grubbing scheme go down in flames when 55% of voters told their dejected elected officials:  We Don’t Trust You; and

Whereas, their constituents watched in utter horror as internal and external whistleblowers were pilloried, ignored, and marginalized – including the startling revelation that a $50,000 2016 taxpayer-funded study calling for higher impact fees was never presented to the public – along with a scathing assessment by Volusia County’s former federal advocate and lobbyist who valiantly attempted to expose the county’s dysfunctional culture, lack of transparency, and the corrosive impact of “years of infighting, pettiness and bad headlines,” only to have those valid concerns boorishly dismissed as “sour grapes” by the befuddled Chairman Kelley; and

Whereas, when any taxpaying citizen – the commoners who Kelley and Denys viewed as servile members of a lower caste – dared approach the dais of power for the redress of grievances, they were treated with open distain, their futile pleas limited to a few short minutes, all while being strategically distracted by the Chairman’s importune babbling – much like the treatment received by Councilwoman Heather Post – who was routinely subject to Kelley and Denys shabby histrionics, eye-rolling, bullying, hectoring cruelty, and blatant assholery as they stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, guarding the crumbling ramparts of the status quo, NOW THEREFORE,

WE, THE LITTLE PEOPLE OF VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA, do hereby proclaim December 15, 2020 as:


And urge all our fellow citizens to remember the damage and stagnation that can result when we stop paying attention.

Out with the old, in with the new. . .

Angel                    Volusia County Constitutional Officers

Kudos to Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Clerk of the Circuit Court Laura Roth, Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis, Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett, and Tax Collector Will Roberts for helping meet the needs of homeless students in Volusia County.

In the Spirit of the Season, and a shining example of true leadership, during a recent meeting of Volusia County’s now independent constitutional officers, Ms. Roth suggested the influential group form a charity drive to support the needs of homeless youth in Volusia County. 

According to reports, as of October, the number of homeless students in Volusia County was shocking:

84 living in cars, campgrounds, and parks; 176 living in emergency shelters and transitional housing; 178 homeless unaccompanied youth; 351 in hotels or motels; and 1,396 “living with others/doubled up,” according to information provided to Ms. Roth by the Volusia County School District.

My God.

That represents over 2,100 vulnerable children, living in challenging and often dangerous conditions, subject to exploitation and victimization, while trying hard to receive an education in Volusia County schools. 

During my previous life in law enforcement, I saw up-close and personal the horrific conditions endured by children forced to live in the squalor of fleabag motels and worse – literally one step from the mean streets – with little food, belongings, or hope of escaping the cycle of poverty. 

In a video announcing this worthwhile program, Ms. Roth said:

“So please join our cause by supporting our homeless students for the holidays. Donate food or gas-gift card or a gift card for a stay at a hotel at one of our many locations. Our staff is standing by to accept your generous gifts. The deadline to donate is December 14, 2020. Together we can make a difference for our students in need. Our goal is to help as many as we can before the holidays.”

Donations may also be made online at the Volusia Sheriff’s Youth Foundation website at

Angel                    Raquel Levy

Collectors have a special attachment to the items they enjoy, often spending years and thousands of dollars building and maintaining their collections.  Over time, they naturally develop a sentimental connection to the things they value, making them extremely difficult to part with. 

That was on my mind when I read of the kindhearted generosity of Holly Hill attorney Raquel Levy of Atlantic Law Center, who last Saturday joined her two daughters in hosting a giveaway of her lifelong collection of Barbie dolls to children in need. 

This wonderful expression of kindness was held at Holly Hill’s Sunrise Park and saw some 75 Barbies from Ms. Levy’s collection offered to those less fortunate. 

According to an excellent piece by Frank Fernandez in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“My collection got really big,” Levy said. “But as much as I loved them, I also felt kind of shallow and I just came up with the conclusion that it’s completely senseless to possess, you know, this beautiful doll collection when there are children that are actually in need of toys to play with.”

In my view, Ms. Levy’s selfless giveback exemplifies the true meaning of this joyous season. 

I do not know Ms. Levy personally – we are friends on social media – but her beautiful story and amazing generosity has brought much happiness to many children in our community who otherwise would have had a very bleak Christmas and Hanukkah this year.

Thank you, Ms. Levy. 

Your exceptional kindness touched my crusty old heart and restored my faith in the inherent goodness of so many in our community. 

Asshole                Volusia County School Board

Earlier this week I wrote down my thoughts on Volusia County School Superintendent Carmen Balgobin’s decision to hire former School Board Chairwoman Ida Wright just one month after she was trounced in the general election. 

To complicate matters, Wright’s unilateral hiring to the unannounced position in the district’s Human Resources department came after she and the other board members voted in November to gift Balgobin a massive pay raise, which we are now told amounts to a $29,000 increase over her normal salary as deputy superintendent, for the seven months she has served in the interim role.

Like many shocked taxpayers, parents, and teachers I questioned whether Wright’s appointment to a clearly fabricated, unadvertised, and non-competitive “equity and diversity” position with the district represented what one anonymous teacher aptly described as a “kickback.”

According to a report by News-Journal education reporter Cassidy Alexander, Wright is assuming “…a new role meant to help the Human Resources department develop better practices for diversity and equity in the district.” 


Considering there is no job description available for review – and the district either cannot or will not release a job application from Ms. Wright – reporter Alexander has done yeoman’s work putting the pieces of a very intricate puzzle together. 

Yet, questions remain.

For instance, the district’s website currently lists Anne Marie Wrenn – a credentialed Human Resources professional – as the Equity & Compliance Officer for the Office of Professional Standards.

So why do we need to duplicate that role at a rate of $35 an hour paid from Title II grant funds? 

Among other things, Ms. Wrenn is responsible for developing and recommending policies and practices related to the prevention of discrimination and prohibited conduct in our schools and in the workplace, analyzing and monitoring practices to ensure compliance is maintained with the District’s non-discrimination policy, disseminating the District’s non-discrimination policy and grievance appeal procedures, informing employees and others associated with the District of its non-discrimination policies and procedures, and providing civil rights and diversity training.

Sounds an awful lot like what Ms. Wright was just hired to oversee, doesn’t it? 

Also, many have questioned why Ms. Wright would be a contender for a job designed to promote equity and diversity when she failed to do anything about this continuing problem during her years as a powerful elected member of the school board? 

And, as the Superintendent recently announced, if the disparity gap truly is increasing in Volusia County schools, why is she limiting the search for a solution to a part-time/temporary position working less than 20-hours a week?

These are legitimate questions, born of a growing distrust of the district’s failed administration, a lack of transparency, ineffective communication, and ping-pong policies that continue to baffle students, teachers, taxpayers, and staff. 

As usual, none of it makes sense. . .

During Tuesday’s School Board meeting, Ms. Balgobin launched into a melodramatic, self-promoting soliloquy that lasted about 10-minutes (a performance the News-Journal noted was “likely the longest address she’s made all year”) during which she quibbled the nature of her pay increase while glossing over the most pressing issues facing her administration.

According to Balgobin’s pompous lecture, she never requested the additional compensation granted by the board – and has not taken a “dime of it” during stalled union negotiations – a raise she churched-up by referring to it as “…a prorated amount that the board has approved for seven months of servicing in a brand-new role.”  (Which, I think, is a pay raise dressed up in a suit and tie. . .) 

So, if Ms. Balgobin didn’t request an out-of-class bump – who did? 

And why?

Most important, given the contentious nature of the off-the-agenda vote that gifted the substantial increase that she apparently never asked for, can we count on Superintendent Balgobin to show true leadership and demand that the pay raise be formally rescinded by those drunken sailors on the school board?

Yeah, right. . . 

In my experience, good leaders do not roll out their résumé every time their decisions are questioned or the going gets tough – and they certainly do not indulge themselves with stagey Academy Award winning monologues before their bosses as a means of insulating themselves from further scrutiny.  

In a district rife with labor discord, at a time when teachers are rightfully demanding a living wage while the upper echelon in the Ivory Tower of Power are surprised with enormous “prorated amounts for servicing in a brand-new role,” the craven acts designed to muzzle teachers and staff who speak out on social media, international headlines detailing yet another school scandal, internal warnings of a pending “financial crisis,” and qualified teachers and staff fleeing the district in droves – in my view, what we are witnessing under the Balgobin administration bears no resemblance to the “good leadership” she so passionately described.   

In fact, it’s a shit show of epic proportions. 

Look, this foul year of 2020 hasn’t been easy – for any of us – but many Volusia County taxpayers are tired of hearing excuses – or watching another elected school board member stand before the cameras, staring at their shoes, as they sheepishly attempt to explain away yet another questionable decision or controversy.   

In my view, it is high time for Superintendent Balgobin to live up to her self-inflated hype – or get the hell out – and make way for someone who can lead our district away from this all-encompassing quagmire. 

My sincere hope is that one of these days those dullards on the Volusia County School Board will pull their heads out of their backsides and come to the realization that the superintendent – interim or otherwise – works for them

As such, they can no longer dodge the fact that the acts and omissions of the senior administrator are their direct responsibility. 

Unless and until they find the collective fortitude to put a stop to the continuing madness that has cost them the trust of the people, in my eyes, those we have elected will remain complicit – willing accomplices to the Cult of Mediocrity that pervades the upper reaches of Volusia County schools.     

Quote of the Week

“Beach driving advocate Paul Zimmerman, a frequent critic of the project, said that he was disappointed by news of the latest extension, but not surprised.  “Any excuse will do in the city of Daytona Beach,” Zimmerman said. “That would be all I have to say about that. I don’t think any of us watching it had any confidence they were going to meet their deadline.”

–Paul Zimmerman, President of Sons of the Beach, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Deadline for Protogroup project extended again,” by Jim Abbot, Wednesday, December 9, 2020

And Another Thing!

Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, will be hosting a fundraiser and celebration tomorrow – Saturday, December 12, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm – at Crabby Joe’s on the Sunglow Pier, 3701 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach!   

Come out and enjoy a delicious lunch and cold drinks served by our friend Luke and the outstanding Crabby Joe’s staff in a beautiful setting overlooking our beach.    

In addition, you will have an opportunity to meet our new County Council Chair Jeff Brower and Council Members Billie Wheeler, Heather Post, and Danny Robins!

In my experience, Sons of the Beach is a wonderful organization doing great work in our community. 

Most important, it provides an opportunity to get involved, and become acquainted with likeminded civic advocates who are working hard to preserve our unique heritage of beach driving.

If you cannot attend, please consider a donation to Sons of the Beach at   

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