Angels & Assholes for January 15, 2021

 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               Florida Department of Emergency Management and Florida National Guard

Last week I was exposed to COVID-19. 

You don’t need to be a hypochondriac like me to understand how unsettling that news can be. 

While most who become infected with the virus experience mild to moderate symptoms the grim statistics prove others are not so fortunate, and I always consider the worst-case scenario. . .

To be on the safe side, my wife and I self-isolated ourselves – and, at the suggestion of my long-suffering medicine man – Dr. Sandford Kinne – we waited the median incubation period, then went to the New Smyrna Beach City Gym where the Florida Department of Emergency Management and Florida National Guard have established a testing facility. 

Although identification is not required, as suggested, we preregistered for the testing online and received a scan code in advance – which allows you to move to a shorter line and expedite the process.

After a wait of less than 10-minutes, we were welcomed inside – self-administered a painless nasal swab – and conveniently received our results by text message in approximately 20-minutes.

Fortunately, both of us tested negative, and while we will continue to quarantine for a few more days per CDC guidelines, the fact the virus was not detected is a big relief.

The testing process was done with great precision – and the young soldiers, nurses, and staff could not have been more accommodating or kind – immediately easing our natural apprehension with their courtesy and efficiency. 

Impressive.

I sincerely appreciate the professionalism of the Florida Department of Emergency Management and the Florida National Guard who are on the frontline in the fight to eradicate this scourge. 

If you are considering a COVID-19 test, please go to https://tinyurl.com/y35xpjd3 and follow the prompts for “walk-ins/appointments”. 

Testing is available 8:00am to 4:00pm daily at 1000 Live Oak Street, New Smyrna Beach.

Angel               Founding Director Mark Geallis, Homeless2HOME

Mark Geallis is a man of vision. 

What sold me was when he had the foresight to run like a scalded dog from that debacle known as First Step Shelter – a move that proved Mr. Geallis is a man of high moral character – someone who embraces the ideals of honesty, fairness, and human compassion.

While others in a position of public trust spent millions of tax dollars on a structure that bears no resemblance to the low barrier homeless shelter that we were promised, Mr. Geallis held firm to his values and maintained his professional integrity at great personal cost.  

He is also a man of action.

Using the tiny home village concept, Mr. Geallis is working hard to fill the “most critical missing part” of overcoming homelessness by establishing a community of 150 small houses, each no larger than 400 square feet, a true micro village that will accommodate the housing needs of limited income elderly persons, the disabled, and the homeless.

According to the Homeless2HOME website, “Our business model is to be 100% funded by donors, foundations and the revenue generated onsite by residents and micro businesses.”

“We will not pursue typical government grant funding which restricts innovative programs like ours. What we do want from government is cooperation in needed zoning approvals and consideration for donated land only.”

This powerful vision for a holistic community is to allow residents to live a “simple but dignified life.” 

While bumptious politicians squawk ad nauseam about the need for “affordable housing” – after ignoring the problem for decades – Mr. Geallis has developed a viable option which provides those less fortunate with a real alternative to the mean streets.  

In my view, the concept of a privately funded and operated organization, free from the bureaucratic meddling and lethargy that often accompanies government grants, is the key to bridging the gap between homelessness and self-sufficiency.

According to reports, Mr. Geallis is using the successful Community First! Village concept, a 51-acre master planned tiny home community in Austin, Texas, that “…provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness.”  

Much remains to be done as Mr. Geallis works to see his extraordinary vision become a reality.     

To determine how you can help, please visit the project’s website at www.homeless2HOME.org for more details.

Angel              Ruben Colon and the Volusia County School Board  

INERTIA:  “… is the resistance of any physical object or entity, to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.  The resistance to change is proportional to an object’s mass.  The greater the mass the more energy it takes to effect a change in direction or speed.  This principle applies to objects as well as to cultures and governments.”

Look, I don’t know much about the administration of a vast public school district with a budget rapidly approaching one-billion-dollars – but like turning a supertanker at sea – it takes advanced planning and a deft hand, always considering the unintended consequences of changes large and small.  

It is a big undertaking with a lot of moving parts – an unwieldy taxing authority with sloth-like dexterity and a governing board that often seems content to take the word of self-serving insiders in the Ivory Tower of Power over the righteous protestations of parents, teachers, and staff. 

And when changes are undertaken and big ideas put forward without due consideration for the concerns of those who pay the bills, the pushback should not be ignored.       

To get a better understanding of the issues facing our school district, I read, talk with people who are “in the know”, listen to parents and teachers, maintain a dialog with insiders who have a chip in the game and form opinions based upon my own experience, perceptions, and splenetic instincts.   

My criticisms of this behemoth bureaucracy are frequently attacked by a few pretentious gadflies – self-appointed “experts” who believe they are privy to the district’s every secret and mystery because they watch every carefully choreographed school board meeting with religious intensity.    

Whatever. 

The one thing I do know something about is the administration and operation of a police department – because I spent the bulk of my adult life doing exactly that.   

Recently, many were surprised to learn that district administrators have developed a crude plan to create – “The Volusia County School District Police Department” – an apparent solution in search of a problem.    

But why?

One social media expert explained that the establishment of a district police department was the brainchild of Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz – who, unfortunately, has been on medical leave for months.

Others told me it was to give District Security Director Michelle Newman (who apparently plans to self-levitate to the role of Chief of Police should the plan come to fruition) access to certain restricted databases which are available to sworn officers with authorization for legitimate law enforcement purposes. 

Not many people I have spoken with like this guessing game very much. 

In keeping with the District’s insular culture, the “plan” is sorely lacking in specifics – but I can assure you of one thing:

Creating, maintaining, and sustaining a law enforcement agency is going to be incredibly expensive. . .

Don’t take my word for it.

According to Sheriff Michael Chitwood, the cost of hiring, training, and equipping a single law enforcement officer is approximately $120,000 – yet senior district administrators would have us believe “additional costs would be minimal.”

“There will be costs but it will be minimal in comparison to agencies who truly start a new police agency,” Newman said.

But what about the fine print?

This half-baked, poorly planned idea was put on the Volusia County School Board’s agenda on Tuesday as a “Non-Ministerial/Ceremonial Resolution” – complete with the recommendation of Interim Superintendent Carmen Balgobin.

Perhaps more disturbing, the resolution was brought forward with no background information, budget impact statement, proposed policies, operational procedures, or a thousand other administrative, operational, and high liability considerations that every law enforcement executive thinks about every hour of every day.  

Given the fact the Volusia County School Board has repeatedly cried the “Poormouth Blues” – looting reserve funds to make the frayed ends meet – and fighting tooth-and-nail any reasonable attempt by Volusia United Educators to seek a living wage for teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff – along with openly ignoring internal warnings of a looming financial crisis – why would they even consider this ludicrous suggestion?

Just when it appeared this goofy ‘resolution’ would be shot through the grease at this week’s meeting of the Volusia County School Board – board member Ruben Colon boldly stepped forward in the public interest to table the matter until additional information and discussion could be had.

His colleagues unanimously agreed.   

That was the right call. 

While I may not agree with Mr. Colon on every decision – he is a man of great integrity, who genuinely cares about the needs of students, teachers, and staff – a committed elected official who is quick to respond to tough questions and willing to discuss the issues in an open and transparent way.

You can look for Mr. Colon to drive a greater discussion of this issue in coming weeks.

I respect that.

In my view, creating “The Volusia County School District Police Department” out of whole cloth simply to obtain access to state and national criminal information databases is a massive overreach – especially considering that all current School Resource Officers are already authorized to obtain that information – literally at the stroke of a computer key.

Kudos to Ruben Colon and the members of the Volusia County School Board for taking the logical step of postponing this incredibly expensive proposition until the myriad details can be fleshed out in the light of day.

That’s what fiscal responsibility and conscientious leadership looks like. 

Angel               Florida Department of Transportation   

According to an informative article by Jim Abbott reporting in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, this week the Florida Department of Transportation set about dismantling the unpermitted construction of a controversial “valet parking lane” on Oakridge Boulevard.

As you may recall, last fall, Protogroup – the mysterious Russian developer constructing the on-again/off-again “$192 million” Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums – began work on a 50-foot westbound “contra-lane” on a one-way section of Oakridge Boulevard near the twin-tower’s elevated parking garage on the westside of North Atlantic Avenue. 

One problem: The FDOT permit authorizing the valet lane expired way back in July 2018 and was never renewed.

At that time, civic activist Paul Zimmerman put into words the outrage many were feeling in a letter to Daytona Beach and Volusia County officials:

“Is there any governmental body or individual in either Daytona Beach or Volusia County that is going to rein in this developer who has repeatedly violated agreements and time frames?”

“Allowing a developer to continually ignore agreements invites future difficulties. Please someone stand up and call this developer to account.”

Fortunately, someone did just that.

In early October, the Florida Department of Transportation issued a cease-and-desist order giving Protogroup 21-days to apply for a new permit – or face having the construction removed at the developer’s expense.

FDOT meant what it said.

It is refreshing to see a state regulatory agency stand by its word – and take definitive action to address the concerns of residents who saw this wrong way valet lane as a clear and present danger – while sending a message to others who dismiss the rules as a mere hindrance to their vision of “progress.” 

Thanks, FDOT!

Quote of the Week

“Duly elected officials’ actions of today matter, regardless of our previous personal or personal accomplishments. It’s not who we are; it is why we do and/or what we say about current controversial challenges before us. And all our public’s opinions deserve to be considered, weighed, and accounted, whether perceived as fair or unfair.”

–Linda Cuthbert, Chair of the Volusia County School Board, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Comes with the territory,” Tuesday, January 12, 2021

And Another Thing!

I am fond of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s business editor, Clayton Park. 

He’s a good egg – meticulous in his research and dedicated to winnowing the facts. 

In addition to being one hell of a journalist, Mr. Park tries hard to bring a balanced approach to business reporting by seeking differing opinions and constructing a multifaceted view of things – a difficult feat in our artificial “boom and bust” local economy. 

However, this week I took exception to the News-Journal’s description of a section of our beach in the article, “Margaritaville to open its own beach club.”

In his introductory statement, Mr. Park said, “Paradise” is set to open its own private beach at the end of this month.”

I damn sure hope that was a typographical error. . .

In my view, it is one thing for Minto Communities – the Canadian developer of that faux beach community which is rapidly paving over our aquifer recharge area west of I-95 – to use a contrived escapist lifestyle made popular by the carefully crafted “beach bum” image of Jimmy Buffett to sell cracker boxes to middle-aged “Parrotheads.” 

It is quite another to insinuate that the very strand of beach I grew up on is now set aside for the exclusive use of Latitude Margaritaville residents.

It isn’t. 

Make no mistake, even those “traffic free” areas of our beach that have been given away as a cheap spiff for speculative developers are still open and available for use by anyone willing to walk to them – especially Volusia County taxpayers who fund what passes for the management and upkeep of our most precious natural amenity.

What Margaritavillagers have is an exclusive “beach club” in Ormond-by-the-sea – something locals have watched come out of the dunes since it broke ground in the summer of 2019. 

In my view, the “…tropical, coastal-style beach club” complete with “…an open-air pavilion with covered seating, cabanas, a resort-style heated swimming pool, and a catering bar for special events,” represents everything I abhor – artificial, phony, contrived, Disneyesque – a counterfeit version of “paradise” fabricated by some marketing and image group.

But it “looks” the part – and it sells houses.

At the end of the day, that is all that really matters. . .

According to the News-Journal’s report, it is 11-miles from the 55-and-over “active adult” community on LPGA Boulevard to the thatched roof entrance to “paradise” – which is marked by a gaudy sign announcing, “Private Beach Club – No Public Access.”

How neighborly.

How welcoming to long-suffering locals who are expected to tolerate the quality-of-life impacts of this massive development in silence – move over, shut-up, keep out, submit your question in writing. . .  

Whatever.

To quote an old Buffett tune:

I don’t want to live on that kind of island

No, I don’t want to swim in a roped off sea

Too much for me, too much for me

I’ve got to be where the wind and the water are free. . .

Amen.

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

6 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for January 15, 2021

  1. Re: Margaritaville – I just know that back when Jimmy was a dude, not a corporation, he wouldn’t be caught dead there.

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  2. Jimmy has become exactly the type entertainer he ridiculed early in his career. Listen to the lyrics “Makin My Music for Money”, from a early album, A1A.
    “I said I know that this may sound funny
    But money don’t mean nothin’ to me
    I won’t make my music for money, no
    I’m gonna make my music for me”
    Money now means everything to him. He is a millionaire many times over and could care less what anyone thinks.

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  3. Still waiting for Avalon to get his bond,traffic on Granada decision and the permit for the Hand Ave overpass of I95.My wife and I got Covid a month ago and doctors want you to wait 90 days after you recover to get the shot which is a cluster to get that sho even if you are over 65.DeSantis stop giving the shot to people from all states and Canada that is our monthly supply you are not getting it back .If it was not for Rose Anne and her 250k their would be no shelter as Derrick Henry only cares about new building and its benefits not Midtown or the homeless.

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  4. In hindsight, I should have written that the Jimmy Buffett community has added its own private piece of the beach. Latitude Margaritaville’s new private beach club is on a part of the beach but a part that has been private property for more than a half-century. As the article states, the site was an old motel that opened in 1952. The stretch of beach behind the club remains public. What has been added is a new path from the club to the public beach. There is nothing prevented the public from walking on the path but the club itself is gated and only accessible to residents of Latitude Margaritaville.

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  5. Clayton Park is the only reporter I like in the Daytona News Journal.He gives the facts and has no political party to push or any agendas.Minto just bought enough land for 500 more homes for a total of 3900 homes total.I looked at the beach site and you must go by their bus because there is no room any cars to park .I would say there are about 70 chaise lounges and a very small area that looks like a snack bar and bathroom.Bet there will be a schedule for the bus and when it is a nice day it wont have enough room for all those that want to go.Other than the beach their in house facilities at Margaritaville are great .

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