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 Daytona Beach Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Whittet
After three decades in the business, I have developed a theory that you can tell everything you need to know about a law enforcement agency by examining its leadership.
The character of the leader defines the organization.
In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department has been blessed with a series of transformational servant/leaders who have consistently advanced the agency – developing innovative protocols, connecting with the community, selecting a diversity of talent, and adapting advanced technology for more effective and efficient service delivery – always remaining on the cutting edge – never losing focus on the needs of those it serves.
At just 42 years old, newly appointed Police Chief Jakari Young has proved himself, both operationally and administratively, and has now rightfully reached the pinnacle of a stellar career with the Daytona Beach Police Department.
From my vantagepoint, Chief Young possesses a strategic mind and sharp intellect, honed by a wealth of practical leadership experience, and, most important, he embodies the strength of character and quiet professionalism that instills confidence in those around him.
Fortunately, Chief Young’s good instincts have elevated Jennifer Whittet to the Deputy Chief position.
A 20-year veteran of the Daytona Beach Police Department, Deputy Chief Whittet has proven herself an outstanding community asset by excelling in positions of increasing trust – gaining knowledge, setting the pace, and earning her way through the ranks.
Now, the Halifax area is recognizing Deputy Chief Whittet’s wealth of experience, leadership skills, and her inherent willingness to serve others.
In a wonderful exposé by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we caught a glimpse of the unique challenges faced by Deputy Chief Whittet during her incredibly successful career – and the depth of love and commitment she has for the citizens of Daytona Beach, her subordinates, and the diverse community she serves.
I can tell you that no one achieves command responsibility in a large, full-service law enforcement agency like DBPD without standing on their own merit, demonstrating honesty and integrity, earning the confidence of others, and embodying the humility, emotional intelligence, adaptive thinking, and creativity required to move the agency to new heights – and Deputy Chief Whittet can take pride in this important career accomplishment.
She’s a damn good cop, too.
“In 2003, Whittet appeared on “America’s Most Wanted” for the capture of an armed suspect wanted in connection with bank robberies and other felony charges.
A year earlier, in 2002, Whittet was awarded the Medal of Valor. She was recognized for her response to a horrific car accident in December 2001, less than three months after she began working for the Daytona Beach Police Department.”
Deputy Chief Whittet is married to the legendary Volusia County Sheriff’s Sergeant and waterman Jim Whittet – both consummate professionals whose family legacy of selfless service is inspirational.
It is heartening to know that my beloved police service – and the good citizens of Daytona Beach – are in such skilled and capable hands, well situated to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Congratulations to Deputy Chief Whittet on this well-deserved promotion!
Asshole Volusia County Council & Votran
Talk is cheap.
That’s abundantly true here on Florida’s Fun Coast.
And that age-old idiom describes me to a tee.
If I had the courage of my oh-so-haughty convictions, I would volunteer, donate to a charitable cause, or work for positive change, getting my hands dirty, down in the trenches with those intrepid civic activists who selflessly put their time, money, and effort into improving our quality of life.
Like the sluggish bureaucracies and apathetic politicians that I complain about, my hypocrisy knows no bounds. . .
However, sometimes the callous indifference of government shocks even my limited moral awareness.
On Tuesday, the Volusia County Council failed to demand substantive action on an issue of life and death – choosing instead to play politics with the City of Daytona Beach – while a representative of our public transportation service explained all the reasons why adding or moving a bus stop following the tragic death of a First Step Shelter client was too cumbersome and expensive to accomplish with reasonable speed and efficiency.
Then, County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald mumbled something about talking to Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm, the Florida Department of Transportation, and a few First Step board members about “solutions” to “mitigate an unsafe situation” at First Step – of course, he assured the elected officials that everyone is working “diligently.”
Of course they are because time is of the essence, right?
When it came down to getting answers, Mr. Recktenwald felt it would not be “productive” to discuss what those “solutions” were – choosing instead to let these sloth-like bureaucracies develop individual “plans.”
Then, a manager with Votran, had the unmitigated balls to tell the Volusia County Council that it would cost $10,000 to construct a simple bus stop at FSS.
Considering that most Votran stops are little more than a post in the ground with a sign attached, I found that hard to believe – especially when the estimate came from the same public transportation company that once told us it would cost $900,000 to place a stop at Tanger Outlets. . .
When Chairman Jeff Brower asked what could be done to correct the problem today – his question was met with more gibberish about how much time it takes the molasses-like agility of Votran to get up to speed (on anything) – and why FSS residents might not qualify for their “Gold Service” for disabled persons, blah, blah, blah.
After kicking it around with a liberal application of governmentese, it was essentially agreed that it was the First Step Shelter’s problem to resolve. . .
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“Councilmembers Billie Wheeler and Ben Johnson said working with First Step was the clear answer.
“Daytona chose the site,” Wheeler said. “I don’t think it’s for us to shift Votran around because that’s not going to solve the problem.”
“We just keep throwing money out and we can’t do that. Sometimes people have to solve their own problems,” Johnson said.”
I suppose they are right – the $10,000 Votran estimates it would cost to make a quick stop at FSS far outweighs the price of protecting the flotsam and jetsam of society that find their way to a homeless assistance center. . .
I mean, we have important things to consider, like spending our way deeper into the SunRail debacle and implementing Amendment 10, right?
Right. . .
Anyone see a pattern here?
At the end of the day, no one on the dais of power demanded action – and absolutely nothing of substance happened – as our elected representatives sat on their thumbs and lectured the City of Daytona Beach, and the First Step Shelter, on their obligations.
So, until First Step Shelter can get its shit together and find a timely solution to its limited in-house transportation service, residents will be required to dodge four lanes of heavy traffic on dark and foggy mornings to get to the Red John Road bus stop on the opposite side of busy US-92.
Fortunately, program participants are not without options.
They can hike the half-mile east, through the weeds, and rain, and muck on the shoulder of the highway – literally to the middle of nowhere – where the closest Votran stop on the south side of ISB is located.
And that, gentle readers, is how government and its ancillary “services” use hot air, foot-dragging, and finger pointing to effectively shrug off a rapid response to a compound tragedy.
It is an effective strategy that puts time and distance between controversial issues and the various government entities responsible, deferring conclusive action until no one gives two-shits.
Do you think anyone other than her grieving 10-year-old daughter will remember the death of Ashly Baker in six-weeks?
How about two-years from now at election time?
The fact is, Volusia County has coldheartedly sidestepped the issue of homelessness for decades – choosing instead to throw our hard-earned tax dollars at others with the courage to do something to help.
There is another adage I’m fond of: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Asshole State of Florida/County of Volusia
When I was a young police officer, I worked for a prickly chief who would restore my bearing by screaming, “Barker, get your head out of your ass!”
I never forgot the message he was trying to convey:
Confusion results from mixed-messages – visual, aural, sensory inputs, and external information that does not line up with expectations – a condition that disorients and degrades our situational awareness, resulting in misperceptions, something that can prove deadly in critical circumstances.
We saw that principle in action on Monday afternoon when Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post took to social media in an attempt to assist frustrated constituents still competing for an elusive COVID-19 vaccination appointment, encouraging them to use the State of Florida’s new www.myvaccine.fl.gov online preregistration platform.
Then, on Tuesday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported just the opposite – in a front page/above the fold piece entitled, “Volusia not adopting COVID-19 registration system yet.”
The article by reporter Nikki Ross clearly stated that “Volusia County isn’t yet using the state’s new coronavirus vaccine preregistration system, causing tension with residents who used the new system and thought they were finally on the waiting list for the highly coveted vaccine.”
By Wednesday, the News-Journal’s Mary Helen Moore published a front-page explanatory piece under the headline, “Volusia: Start using state site to get vaccine.”
“Volusia County residents qualifying for the coronavirus vaccine are encouraged to sign up now on the statewide COVID-19 registration system, even though it won’t be used locally for another two weeks.
“You’re in line the moment you complete your application,” Volusia County’s public protection director Joe Pozzo said.
The state of Florida launched the preregistration system Friday, but Volusia County will use Eventbrite for all currently planned vaccination events until it can train staff and get the necessary hardware.”
The article contained a quasi-explanation from some heavy hitters, including Volusia County’s public protection director Joe Pozzo, chief mouthpiece Kevin Captain, and Councilwoman Post.
“They (the state) just posted it,” Post said. “I think it was a surprise to many counties. It is what it is. This is where we’re at.”
Look, I’m sure this will all work out – and I know Councilwoman Post has our best interests at heart (although I am not sure she, or the county’s public information apparatus, has grasped the concept of information coordination during a declared emergency) – but given the abject dysfunction of the vaccine rollout at all levels of government, this latest snafu does not inspire confidence. . .
With tens-of-millions in CARES Act funds being spent on everything under the sun by local governments statewide, one would expect that a few bucks could be allocated to develop and communicate an effective system for registering citizens for this potentially lifesaving vaccine.
Instead, we have been subjected to recurring misinformation, half-truths, excuses, and official apologies – resulting in quibbling and finger pointing as one level of bureaucracy starts feeling sorry for itself and blames the one above it.
For those seeking the vaccine, that means more frustrating double-talk.
And confusion reigns supreme. . .
According to Wednesday’s News-Journal report:
“Some of Florida’s 67 counties are already using the system.
“Our understanding was they rolled it out to those counties that had no other method of registration,” according to Randa Matusiak, who coordinates special projects for the county’s public protection department. “They were rolling it out to those smaller counties.”
“We already had something in place, so they went to those counties that have a greater need,” county spokesman Kevin Captain added.”
So, sign up on Florida’s MyVaccine site now, I guess?
Even though it will not be used by Volusia County for another two-weeks (?) – or something like that?
For a better explanation, call the Volusia County Citizen Information Center at 866-345-0345 and demand clarification – if you can get anything other than a busy signal. . .
For now, it appears the scavenger hunt for appointments continues.
That’s disappointing news for Volusia County’s most vulnerable residents desperate for a chance at life outside lockdown.
Quote of the Week
“I’ve seen some messed up stuff in my 87 years, but trying to get a COVID-19 shot in Florida takes the cake. I’m supposed to head to ball fields, fairgrounds, and heavens knows where else, to wait in the cold for 3-4 hours only to be told there’s no room at the inn. I’m guessing 90% of those over 65 are on Medicare and have a primary physician. Doesn’t it make more sense to provide these physicians the vaccine and have their staff notify their patients in an orderly fashion to make an appointment to come in for their shot?”
–George F. Ritchie, Daytona Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Make it easier,” Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Amen, Mr. Ritchie. Well said.
And Another Thing!
They say cold is the great equalizer.
Hypothermia kills indiscriminately when the human body loses heat faster than it can produce it.
When the temperatures dipped into the 30’s and 40’s this week, my wife and I built a roaring fire, drank hot toddies, and slept comfortably under a pile of warm blankets.
Others in Volusia County were not so fortunate.
Hundreds of homeless people huddled in the palmetto scrub, the doorways of vacant businesses, and miserable makeshift campsites trying desperately to get out of the biting wind – to escape the merciless cold – fighting hard to retain heat faster than the frigid temperature could take it away.
Wait a minute, Barker. Stow that maudlin crap.
Don’t you remember that area taxpayers spent millions-of-dollars for a homeless assistance center out in the boondocks off International Speedway Boulevard?
It’s a big deal. A giant, heated building that could accommodate all comers – you know, if it weren’t for this damn Coronavirus. . .
Why, just a few weeks back, the multilevel management of the First Step Shelter set up a rudimentary “cold weather option” at its outdoor “safe zone” – complete with portable heaters on loan from Daytona International Speedway so a whopping 24 homeless people wouldn’t suffer the deadly effects of exposure.
What more do you want?
Well, that option did not work out so well this week.
Apparently, Daytona International Speedway examined their priorities and determined that they needed their portable heaters back – I mean, screw the homeless – especially when the baked brie canapés need to be maintained at room temperature for the Taste of the 24 crowd, right?
Hell, anything less would be, well, gauche.
My God. . .
Look, it is not Daytona International Speedway’s fault – they generously loaned the shelter the heaters – and that comes with the expectation that, at some point, DIS was going to need them back.
Normally, that is where the concept of strategic planning comes into play.
Which begs the question – with just 38 cold weather beds available countywide this week – why didn’t the First Step Shelter purchase its own portable heaters when it had the buffer?
You know, take some of that $1.1 million in CARES Act funds they were gifted and spend it on something that would benefit those they exist to serve – couch it as a means of separating potential Coronavirus victims from full-time shelter residents, get creative, its play money, no one cares – just show some consistency and common human compassion when it comes to sheltering and protecting the homeless population.
Yeah, right. . .
The fact is, First Step Shelter isn’t about serving the needs of those living on the street – it’s as far from a low-barrier, come-as-you-are “shelter” (you know, like we were promised) as one can get.
On the GovStuf Live! public affairs radio program yesterday, the First Step Shelter Board’s Vice-Chair Dwight Selby spoke of the horrors the facility experienced during the last cold snap when it accepted a bus load of homeless persons into the outdoor “safe zone.”
He said weapons were found in some backpacks during the obligatory search of all who enter – and many were so intoxicated they could not stand – while others urinated and defecated on the concrete pad upon which they slept.
Where was the tight security we pay for?
I’m not sure what Mr. Selby expected – a group of socialites on an overnight from the Jacqueline Whitmore School of Etiquette?
I didn’t get the impression from the sound of Mr. Selby’s voice that street people would be welcomed back to First Step anytime soon.
What a damnable, and continuing, disservice.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!