“The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.”
–John Stuart Mill
In a 2009 essay on the nature and effect of mediocrity, political columnist Gareth van Onselen opined that this infectious disease is fueled by apathy and legitimized by indifference, and, if ignored, it will self-replicate, “…generating and reinforcing the very environment in which it thrives; and, the more it comes to dominate public thought, the harder mediocrity becomes to recognize.”
I came up in the police service, spending my entire adult life in a pursuit where my name was at the bottom of my work product – essentially creating a personal “brand” – building a reputation with those who would read and interpret the myriad incident reports, forms, affidavits, investigative notes, and the other documentary and explanatory narratives that I created during my work – including clerks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, reporters, and the public.
It was important to me that others viewed me as a professional – comfortable that my reports were terse, factual, accurate and well-crafted – something deserving of my name.
Anything less would reflect poorly on myself and my agency.
I was reminded of the importance of professionalism and expectations while reading Daytona Beach News-Journal editor Pat Rice’s column in Sunday’s newspaper entitled, “Qualities Daytona’s next city manager needs.”
Among other attributes, Mr. Rice explained, the City of Daytona Beach should look for “..a really good listener, and not just to the city’s perceived power structure,” in other words, someone who listens to the entire community, not just the oligarchical powerbrokers who rule with an iron fist and an open checkbook come campaign season.
In addition, Mr. Rice feels “The next city manager needs to make City Hall more transparent that it is right now,” citing that City Hall has been in “information lockdown,” an environment where the entrenched City Manager Jim Chisholm controls the flow of information to citizens and the media through gatekeepers like Communications Manager Susan Cerbone.
I agree with that assessment.
According to Mr. Rice, depending upon the media request, “…it may take hours, or days, or weeks to get the information requested.”
That is unacceptable – and probably illegal under Florida’s public records statutes.
Most important, Mr. Rice rightfully acknowledged that “The next city manager needs to visibly put just as much energy into the core beach side and Midtown neighborhoods as City Hall currently has to develop downtown and the area around Interstate 95 and LPGA Boulevard.”
In my view, selecting the next municipal chief executive will be the most important decision Daytona Beach city commissioners will make during their tenure – one that will have an enduring effect on the community’s social, civic, and economic future.
So, why have these same elected officials been so willing to accept the malignant spread of mediocrity under Mr. Chisholm for so long?
An institutionalized “averageness” from a manager who will not listen, share information, or focus on areas of the city awash in blight, dilapidation, and economic stagnation – all while exclusively serving the needs of well-heeled political insiders in return for political insulation – ongoing, systemic issues that our local newspaper has only now acknowledged.
I find it strange that just 43 candidates applied for a Florida city manager job currently paying Mr. Chisholm nearly $300,000 (for a city in this condition?) – with many of the applicants having little actual experience in the influential and multifaceted role.
Of the twelve finalists selected by Georgia-based Slavin Management Consultants, newly elected City Commissioner Stacy Cantu said, “I’m not too impressed with the top 12 that we have right now,” explaining that she hopes the firm conducts a thorough background check of the applicants.
My sincere hope is that Ms. Cantu and her colleagues won’t be afraid to wipe the slate and start over if necessary – even employing a different headhunter if that’s what it takes to deepen the pool of candidates.
Unfortunately, this indifference to governmental shoddiness is not limited to Daytona Beach – the problem has made Volusia County a cautionary tale in the eyes of our Central Florida neighbors.
When is enough, enough?
Mediocrity allows bad things to happen, like placing a city-owned/county funded residential homeless assistance center in the middle of nowhere without any consideration for client transportation beyond forcing them to cross a foggy highway in the predawn hours – no crosswalk, no sidewalk – something that has now resulted in the death of a 30-year-old woman who was working hard in the First Step program to change her life and reunite with her 10-year-old daughter.
In response to this compound tragedy, Volusia County Vice Chair Billie Wheeler mewled in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Of course from the beginning we knew it would be a logistical problem, but the city of Daytona Beach said they would take care of it.”
It is this excuse-based, finger pointing, “not my yob, man” approach to government that is killing us. Literally and figuratively.
How tragic. How utterly preventable.
Mediocrity also distracts focus from serious issues and reduces expectations.
It lowers the bar – and allows our elected and appointed officials to appease us with bluster, gibberish, and tall-talk – rather than taking definitive action to resolve the serious issues we face.
We get what we accept.
The time to demand positive change is now.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal
6 thoughts on “We Get What We Accept”
How do I contact Baker directly?
You can reach me at email@example.com
I lived in Daytona Beach for almost 10 years on A1A, and fell in love with the City. We lived very close to what was then the Hilton in the Shores. I could ride my bike on the beach, to the grocery, and I felt safe. I felt like I could walk anytime I wanted on the beach and not be worried about it. the police in the shores were always visible and they took care of problems quickly. We moved away for a few years to the north and when we came back it’s almost like everything changed. I love Daytona and the beachside and I feel sorry for it. It’ss where I wanted to retire but not anymore. I don’t know what happened in those years but the feeling around the whole area changed. I’m beginning to see why after reading all your posts, thank you.
Pat Rice is the editor one of hundreds of Gannett garbage papers.He let Chisholm,Deny,Kelley and Derrick Henry get away with their bull but now complains about the past .Reading your garbage for 4 years and never saw you go after any of these people as my 240 neighbors dont have the paper on their driveways anymore.Cable tv news from Orlando gives us faster news than your online.Now I only read Clayton Park not the stories you get from the Palm Beach Post.Yesterday drove to the Chart House from Ormond down Ridgewood and saw porn,homeless and pawn south of Mason.I will live my life west of Clyde Morris and north of Mason.Was in Daytona in 1972 for our honeymoon and the place was great .What happened Pat Rice.?Did you not notice the shithole that occured or do you just go to LPGA and I95?.You missed lots of blame in your 10 years at the DNJ.I predict you will only be online only in the future like USA today as your delivery rates are stupid high.Make Daytona Great Again.Lets get good workers instead of the good ole boy club.Builders rule.Love my area in Ormond Beach.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Did you hear that yesterday morning at the First Step Shelter at approx. 6:40 am one of the participants was killed by an auto accident on West ISB?
I heard the participant (a lady) was leaving the shelter and attempting to take a Votran bus to work on her first day and was killed by a car. The participant was crossing the highway (west ISB) to get a bus trip.
Also, supposedly the employeed shelter van driver who shuttles the participants to work and such, does not get to the shelter to start work in the van until 8:30 am. Are you kidding?
The shuttle driver (s) should be there whenever a ride is needed. Why was not the shuttle driver there to give her a lift? Shuttle is for participants not shuttle drivers schedule.
From the start this shelter has been a planning disaster.
The director of the shelter should be terminated for allowing this to happen. Where is the health & safety plan?Where was security escort for the participant? Where was the assigned Daytona Beach Police senior staff? Who was manager of the shelter at that time of day? Why woudl a Director allow a woman to leave the shelter alone at 6:40 am?
I personally hold the Shelter Board and the shelter director responsible for this participants death. At least, security should have escorted her and stayed with her until she boarded a bus.
I as a man would never stand at a Votran Bus Stop AT 6:40 am with no safety lighting in the dark to catch a bus.
This is really sad and many individuals and groups are culpable. The participant had a 10 year old daughter. Failure, failure, failure.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Bad situation for sure. Any news on Riverwalk Park adding an Island int0 the Halifax ?