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:

“GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH DAY”

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 www.vsyf.org

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.” 

Interesting.

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 www.sonsofthebeach.org   

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

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for December 11, 2020

  1. California Governor Pat Brown made the truest statement ever made by a politcian…”The floods in Yuba City are the worst disaster to hit California since I took office. “

    Like

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