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 Retired Motorsports Editor Godwin Kelly
I have a natural affinity for anyone who stands out from the rest.
Masters of their craft, who, through hard work, loyalty, persistence, and dedication, reach the summit of their profession and thrive in that rarified air where passion and skill become art.
I know nothing of journalism – and even less about sports writing – but I enjoy both when done right. Those of us who came up reading The Daytona Beach News-Journal in its prime were fortunate to have Godwin Kelly reporting.
For 44 years, Mr. Kelly served as a staff sportswriter and motorsports editor for the News-Journal, covering four decades of Daytona 500’s during his stellar career. Most important, both current and former News-Journal reporters have praised his innate willingness to assist and mentor up-and-coming colleagues on the intricacies of racing and reportage.
In my view, mentorship – reaching down and lending a helping hand to those who are building their skills and climbing the ladder is the mark of a true professional – and clearly Godwin Kelly was an outstanding ambassador for his profession.
And his product was second-to-none.
To the collective loss of readers and race fans everywhere, Mr. Kelly took up the rocking chair last November.
Last week, the France family appropriately honored Mr. Kelly’s contributions to NASCAR and the iconic Daytona International Speedway by dedicating the work room inside the Speedway’s infield media center as the “Godwin Kelly Deadline Room.”
During a short ceremony at DIS, Speedway President Chip Wile said:
“For 40 years you have been an incredible ambassador for Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR,” said Wile, who credited NASCAR’s ruling France family for deciding on the honor. “You’ve been an incredible journalist and mentor to a lot of folks, including myself.”
A fitting tribute to the extraordinary legacy of a legend.
Angel Beachside Residents & Merchants
“It’s not Daytona. It’s Dirtona,” said Enrique Zahn, an east International Speedway Boulevard property owner since the early 1990s who has grown weary waiting for things to improve on the road.”
“We are nobody,” Zahn said. “It’s controlled by the powerfuls.”
–Enrique Zahn, Daytona Beach, speaking in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Daytona’s east ISB overhaul 3 years away,” Monday, January 27, 2020
I recently wrote a piece regarding the good efforts of Duane Winjum, general manager of The Plaza Resort, who is partnering with the hotel’s owners and management company to stimulate positive change on Seabreeze Boulevard.
As loyal readers of these screeds know, I tend to take a polemical view of our situation here on the Fun Coast, often playing devils advocate on proposed solutions, and challenging the motivations of those who seek to save us from ourselves.
But a very smart friend of mine made perhaps the most cogent summation of our decades old issue of beachside blight and neglect when he blamed the persistent stupidity of our “movers and shakers” and those redevelopment officials who serve them – those who we have placed our money and trust in – who have fallen into a habitual, entrenched way of “doing things” that has gotten us so off track that there is no logical path back.
We have lost our way – and it is evident that there is no one in a position of influence who seems interested in trying anything other than the failed “that’s the way we have always done it” strategy.
I have long held the belief that any substantive change to our decomposing core tourist area will come from entrepreneurial investment – like the efforts of Dr. Charles Duva to improve the look and feel of our disastrous East International Speedway Boulevard – individuals who are willing to bring their talent, vision, and money to transforming the current paradigm.
That requires a high level of support from local government and the community to establish an attractive environment for private investors – innovators with the right set of eyes – who see beyond the blight and dilapidation to the beauty and potential of our beleaguered beachside.
Unfortunately, beachside merchants from the Seabreeze Entertainment District to Main Street and the East ISB Gateway, have been ignored and maligned by City and County officials – victimized by reverse blame and made to feel like an afterthought – while millions in public funds are lavished on all the right last names in places like Beach Street, or on Boomtown Boulevard off the LPGA corridor.
Don’t take my word for it.
Anyone remember the wasted time and effort of the Halifax area’s greatest thinkers who served admirably on the ill-fated Beachside Redevelopment Committee?
Please don’t be too hard on yourself – no one else does either. . .
That’s because it has been almost three-years since the committee, which was formed in the aftermath of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s scathing exposé on the deplorable condition of our core tourist area, presented its bureaucratically neutered findings to the Volusia County Council.
In the view of many, the BRC – comprised of heavy hitters with names like Albright, Bowler, Ghyabi, Lichtigman, Sharples, Grippa, and Henry – represented our last/best hope for substantive change.
Unfortunately, when the group’s report was rolled out, Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler brought a cruel false hope when she enthusiastically vowed that the recommendations (of what turned out to be little more than a time-buying political insulation committee) would not be put on a shelf:
“I am fighting with you on this,” Wheeler said. “This is my district, and we do have a plan of action but I want to make sure it is not one of those plans of actions that goes on the shelf, and I can tell you I am 100% committed to doing whatever I need to do in collaborating with this group on getting things moving.”
Where is that “plan of action” you promised, Ms. Wheeler?
Beachside residents and businessowners are desperate – and still waiting. . .
I’ll bet the BRC report is yellowing on a dusty shelf in a dead records morgue in DeLand – right next to the 2011 tourism study – wherein the Volusia County Council paid $100,000 to an out-of-state consultant to conduct a review which concluded that our beachside “tourism product” was a serious impediment to attracting visitors and economic development, citing, “…there is no “plan” for who is leading the effort and how these challenges can be improved.”
“Without resources – leadership and economic – the overall tourism experience in Volusia County will decline. An overall collaborative strategy is needed.”
Ah, ten years on and that “Leadership and Vision” thing is still biting us on the ass. . .
Let’s face it, the list of those who have accepted public funds then dashed our hopes on the rocks of incompetency, crushed the dreams of entrepreneurial investors, erected bureaucratic obstructions, regulated anything fun out of business, or turned their backs when small business needed help is long and distinguished.
My hope is that visionaries like Duane Winjum, and long-suffering residents and businessowners who have staked their financial future on returning our beachside to its former (and potential) glory, are given the tools necessary to see their dreams become a reality.
Perhaps that takes the form of government simply getting out of their way – assuming a support role – and removing the entrenched bureaucratic impediments, the use of strategic rot, and the anti-business philosophy that have resulted in economic stagnation and a pervasive sense of hopelessness.
In my view, beachside residents and merchants deserve better.
Asshole Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler
I like to say that the Volusia County Council put the “fun” in dysfunctional.
You can bet whenever that group gets together to plot our future, there will be buffoonery afoot.
Fortunately, under the fledgling stewardship of Chairman Jeff Brower, change is coming – slowly but surely.
Make no mistake, the entrenched status quo is alive and thriving at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center – and it does not appear that mindset is going away anytime soon.
Volusia County voters spoke loud and clear – screaming in unison our fervent demand for substantive change in the manner and means by which our elected officials serve our interests – returning power to the citizens who pay the bills over the wants of an entrenched oligarchy that has steamrolled their personal agenda for far too long.
The difficulty of that transformation was evident during Tuesday’s “priorities session” when several of Mr. Brower’s colleagues gave him a good old-fashioned locksocking for having the temerity to speak out and work towards returning beach driving behind the Hard Rock Daytona.
You know, like he said he would during his hard-fought campaign?
Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – clearly the most disingenuous of the seven on the dais of power – caviled and screeched about Chairman Brower’s plain-talk on the toxic poles used to block vehicular access on 410’ of the strand that was given away by Ms. Wheeler and others as a cheap “inducement” to the developer.
As everyone paying attention knows, Mr. Brower has vehemently condemned the use of these “poison poles” since they were driven into the sand three-years ago – but Ms. Wheeler saw the need to raise the specter of legal action and yammer about the potential fallout of insulting the beneficiary of the traffic free beach – suggesting that Mr. Brower’s meeting with the Hard Rock’s owner and management was somehow out of line.
In response to Chairman Brower’s February 4 meeting with Abbas Abdulhussein, Ms. Wheeler hemmed and hawed – dancing around the issue with her typical histrionics – dramatically asking counsel if the individual comments of council members could place the county in legal peril because they speak their mind on an issue.
Finally, Chairman Brower asked Wheeler to get to the point.
“It was the Hard Rock, because I know there was lawsuit threats going everywhere,” Wheeler explained. “I just wanted to make it clear that when we’re out there and we’re making statements we need to make sure that they understand that this is my opinion and not the council’s.”
There were no “lawsuit threats going everywhere” (Did you hear of any threats? Did the county receive any?) – it was a ham-handed attempt by Wheeler to muzzle Chairman Brower as a means of protecting the status quo – while deflecting from the embarrassing issue of how a group of elected sneakthieves stole our public beach access in the first place.
It was never about poles or speaking out of turn – it was about Councilwoman Wheelers desire to publicly humiliate Chairman Brower for going against the grain.
After taking it on the chin for doing what the others would not in working to solve a controversial issue to the benefit of his long-suffering constituents – Chairman Brower rightfully responded, “If I embarrassed anybody on here, I apologize. But I don’t apologize for my principles.”
Stay in your lane, Councilwoman Wheeler. Your abject stupidity is staggering.
The long-suffering citizens of Volusia County will no longer tolerate the foot-dragging stagnation, fawning reverence for the “Rich & Powerful” insiders, and the sycophantic defense of the indefensible that compromised lickspittles like Billie Wheeler seek to perpetuate.
It is no secret that Jeff Brower supports beach driving – or that he promised to get out of the gilded council chamber and work in the best interests of everyone – not just the well-heeled few who so generously donate to the political campaigns of Ms. Wheeler and other political marionettes to ensure access to the public trough.
I have no doubt Chairman Brower will continue his outstanding efforts to return cars to that stolen section of beach – just as he promised during his successful campaign – regardless of what the wholly out-of-touch and horribly meanspirited Billie Wheeler thinks.
In my view, the “priorities” workshop (what little I could stomach of it) was a bad joke – something I and others found terribly disappointing.
Absent Councilwoman Heather Post’s futile demand for time-certain movement on defined action items – the council’s “priorities” seem tailormade for the kind of watered-down bureaucratic nonsense that allows a few do-nothing department heads to ramble on in governmentese – putting everyone under the ether until their babble lulls the elected officials and spectators into a coma – carefully crafting their message to ensure that nothing changes – and no one is held accountable.
The broad stroke list included a jumble of ill-defined and imprecise buzzwords like “affordable/workforce housing,” “social justice/Infrastructure (?),” “economic development,” “Permitting process; Code enforcement; Staff retention,” and the ever popular, “future growth.”
No who, what, when, where, why and how – nothing that could be construed as remotely actionable.
Just more non-specific horseshit – with no performance metrics or delegation of individual responsibility – just the timewasting drone of more presentations, workshops, and interminable gum-bumping. . .
More “staff input needed.” No thinking required. No one held to account.
Perhaps it is time for our elected officials to get off their collective ass, provide clear direction, and demand that County Manager Recktenwald and his senior staff do more than force-feed them PowerPoint sedatives that accomplish nothing.
What a damnable disappointment.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. . .
Angel Coach George Butts, Atlantic High School
From the Barker’s View Sports Desk:
High School coaches are a special breed.
Through blood, sweat, and tears they give their all to mold their impressionable young players into better people – challenging them, expanding their limitations, positively impacting their academic and athletic performance – and inspiring them to become winners in life.
In Volusia County, we have been extraordinarily blessed to have one of the best in service to our children.
Here’s a heartfelt congratulations to Atlantic High School’s Girls Basketball Coach George Butts on the culmination of an incredibly successful 25-year coaching career and 36-years with Volusia County Schools!
During Coach Butt’s legendary career, he led the Sharks to four district championships and three Final Fours – celebrating his 500th win early last year – earning his place among fewer than 20 coaches in state history to reach that milestone.
In addition, Coach Butt’s holds the distinction of fostering the college and professional careers of many standout players, to include ten-time Volusia County Player of the Year Ronni Williams, 2004 Olympian Athena Ghristoforakis, McDonald’s All-American Kimberly Manning, and All State players Jermisha McCrae, D’Asia Smalls, and Abedemi Agboola.
Kudos to Coach Butts on his stellar 505-171 career record – and for serving as an incredibly positive role model, mentor, and counsellor to his players – both on and off the court.
All best wishes for a healthy and happy retirement, Coach!
Quote of the Week
“Daytona Beach, Port Orange and St. Augustine’s ordinances are not blanket panhandling bans. They target zones where there are real health and safety concerns. Port Orange officials estimate that only 4% of the city is impacted — places like the doorways of commercial establishments, restaurant drive-ins, bus stops, automated teller machines, daycare centers, schools and especially intersections where drivers are trapped at stoplights. And no street begging after dark.
These ordinances speak for themselves, both in the careful documentation of the public complaints leading up to their enactment and the dramatic street-level effects after they went into effect.”
–Columnist Mark Lane, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Daytona Beach’s successful panhandling law forcing neighbors to do the same,” Tuesday, February 16, 2021
And Another Thing!
No one supports the concept of short-term rentals more than me.
In fact, I have written, cajoled, and lobbied extensively for the rights of property owners to market and enjoy the benefits of private peer-to-peer rentals without facing Draconian enforcement actions, exorbitant fines, and business-crushing penalties on the whim of craven elected officials who are totally beholden to special interests in our failing, but politically influential, hospitality industry.
I was also a vocal champion of the candidacy of Volusia County Council Chairman Jeff Brower – using this space to promote his platform, urging friends to donate money to his campaign, and asking family members to wave signs and generate community support – I even spoke on his behalf at a political rally – something I rarely do.
I believed in Jeff Brower. I still do.
But when he takes official action that I disagree with – I am going call him out – because anything less would be dishonest and unfair.
In my view, on Tuesday, we witnessed Chairman Brower fall victim to political inexperience and engage in a political tactic many have railed against for years: The establishment of public policy by ambush.
The spur-of-the-moment adoption of controversial ‘surprise party’ resolutions – off-the-agenda legislation that eliminates citizen input and strategically inhibits an open and honest review of all sides of an issue.
That is wrong – regardless of whose ox is being gored.
Anyone remember the righteous outcry over the surprise maneuvering that led to the Hard Rock beach driving ban?
I know Chairman Brower does. . .
This week, the Volusia County Council heard impassioned pleas from owners of vacation rentals in Bethune Beach and Ormond-by-the-Sea – all lamenting enforcement action for violating short term rental regulations – including tales of code enforcement officers interrogating children, and fears of losing their livelihoods during the approaching special events season.
It was clear from the outset that the owners had the full support of the council.
The bold handwriting was on the wall – and seasoned members understood (without saying it) that the County Manager was savvy enough to ensure that the prosecution of short-term rental regulations was put on the backburner until the legal department could work their magic.
Everyone except Chairman Brower, that is. . .
During discussion, Chairman Brower took the unusual step of ignoring the very ground rules recently established by our “new” council and called for a “short circuit” of the legislative process – asking for a “voluntary” halt to enforcement action (an off-the-cuff “moratorium” that Billie Wheeler giddily endorsed) – and calling for the county attorney to fast track an amended short term rental ordinance for discussion and official action in two weeks.
His return to the ‘bad old days’ of political sleight-of-hand – unannounced votes taken after hearing only one side of a controversial issue, with no opportunity for everyone affected by the decision to be heard – shocked some of his colleagues on the dais of power.
It blindsided me as well.
To their credit, Councilmen Ben Johnson and Danny Robins spoke eloquently about the concept of taking the time to “do it right” – the need to hear all sides of the issue – rejecting a knee-jerk reaction and ensuring the integrity of the legislative process.
It was also heartening to hear Councilwoman Heather Post urge her colleagues to follow the rules and preserve the public trust by allowing council members the opportunity to have all available information before a vote is taken – a call to “step back and do the right thing.”
In keeping with her position as the intellectual superior on the dais, Councilwoman Barbara Girtman spoke eloquently about the importance of due diligence – a holistic conversation on the issue – citing the fact that the impact of this legislation will affect all areas of unincorporated Volusia County.
In turn, Chairman Brower balled up his fists and stomped his feet like a recalcitrant child – his cheese slowly slipping off the cracker – as he launched into a weird wide-eyed political rant, essentially screaming “I don’t care what anybody says, I want it today!” while embarrassing himself, his colleagues, and his constituents.
In my view, it showed a level of political immaturity and an unwillingness to conform to the very rules he advocated whenever violating them becomes politically expedient.
He had a supportive audience – so to hell with the concept of basic fairness and established protocol – make political hay while the sun shines, right?
It was testy, confusing, and ugly.
At the end of the day, Chairman Brower got his way and the council voted to stop enforcement action for now – to the rousing applause of the special interests in attendance.
We were promised this asininity was going to stop.
So, what gives?
And don’t give us any of that “time sensitive” sense of urgency bullshit, Ms. Wheeler – this issue has been talked to death – repeatedly kicked down the road – with plenty of time to have placed it on an agenda.
Special thanks to those members of the Volusia County Council who took a stand for good governance over involuntary political impulse when making an important decision that affects everyone in Volusia County.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!