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 The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Recently, News-Journal editor Pat Rice published a piece under the headline, “Honest, accurate local news matters,” announcing that certain content would now be available by subscription only and encouraging readers to purchase his product by touting the importance of “local journalism.”
“…such journalism is absolutely vital to the fabric of the communities that make up Volusia and Flagler counties. We have a First Amendment right to do our work, and we also feel a great responsibility to do it professionally.”
In my view, Mr. Rice and his associates have an ethical responsibility to gather and present the news in a professional and objective way – ensuring that all sides of a story are told in a fair-minded way – rejecting the slant and sensationalism that has become the not-so-subtle marketing tool of “news” organizations everywhere.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal failed in that sacred obligation last week.
It seemed simple enough – the low-hanging fruit of the “bad cop” narrative – a guaranteed draw, especially when coupled with the arrest of a larger-than-life personality in the form of Robert “Naked Cowboy” Burck, a 50-year-old street performer most identified with New York’s Times Square who parades around in his skivvies, strumming a guitar, and taking selfies with tourists.
According to reports, on the first Saturday of Bike Week 2021 – after being warned that accepting money from visitors near Main Street businesses violated specific provisions of a city ordinance which also prohibits panhandling – Burck apparently ignored fair notice and continued doing his thing.
In a statement issued by Daytona Beach Chief of Police Jakari Young, we learned that officers were prepared to issue the Naked Cowboy a notice to appear in court – little more than a citation for the city ordinance violation – but while in custody, Mr. Burck began engaging a small crowd that gathered to watch, using extreme profanity, and chiding the arresting officer.
Then, things turned ugly. . .
At one point, Mr. Burck turned to the arresting officer and uttered a disgusting racial slur:
“Put your mask on. You’re a Joe Biden fan, right? You want higher gas prices and fucking (N-word epithet) running the country. . .”
Then, as the female officer moved Burck to the rear of a patrol car – his guitar was inadvertently broken – prompting him to hurl a revolting homophobic epithet to humiliate the officer, calling her a “Fucking dyke” – twice.
The entire exchange was captured by the officer’s body worn camera – and when I watched the unedited full-length version released by the Daytona Beach Police Department – I was so taken aback I had to watch the shocking footage multiple times so I could confirm I heard what I thought I heard.
In my view, those hurtful words degraded the officer – and disparaged our entire community – and were the last thing I expected to hear from this iconic street performer.
Yet, when I watched the News-Journal’s version of the video – the offensive parts had been masterfully edited out – leaving only those sections which supported the “cop screws up” storyline – totally ignoring the fact a famous performer came to our community and uttered the worst, most divisive racial epithet in the English language, in my view, using the provocative and hateful speech as a means of humiliating a local police officer.
Ultimately, the city ordinance violation was dismissed by a judge, Mr. Burck paid a nominal fine to settle a misdemeanor charge, and adjudication was withheld.
But not one word of his abhorrent verbal abuse of a local police officer appeared in the newspaper – and this week, when they had a chance to set the record straight – they laid up short.
From the onset, the News-Journal, and other national and international media outlets, covered this story with front page/above the fold prominence – including sympathetic interviews, lecturing editorials, one under the sensational banner, “Free the Naked Cowboy! Panhandling law doesn’t ban street performers,” publishing letters to the editor headlined, “Daytona Beach owes ‘Naked Cowboy’ an apology for arrest, and an explanation,” then heralding Burck’s triumphant return with “The Naked Cowboy rides again on Main Street after arrest at Daytona Beach’s Bike Week.”
What I found most reprehensible was an oh-so-morally-superior op/ed last Friday headed “Learning lessons from the Naked Cowboy” which said, in part:
“Mayor Derrick Henry, Police Chief Jakari Young: We suspect that you, like the rest of us, didn’t know about this until after the worst had happened. But you are the ones with the power to turn the story around. Burck told The News-Journal’s Jim Abbott he plans to return to Daytona Beach today, and all eyes will be on him when he does. Be ready with a plan to make things right. Ask Burck for forgiveness. Do the same for his wife, who had to watch her husband being manhandled and taken away, leaving her holding his broken guitar.
Make it clear that, as a city, this is not who we are.”
You read that right – the News-Journal’s editorial board demanded that two prominent African American civic leaders seek forgiveness from someone who spewed highly charged racial and homophobic slurs on a public street corner in their community?
Are you serious?
Kudos to Mayor Henry and Chief Young for refusing to grovel and beg for absolution.
That takes courage – especially after our hometown newspaper did little more than canonize Mr. Burck for over a week.
Where is the moral outrage?
Where is the fervent cry for “social justice”?
I guess those haughty concepts are null-and-void when it is a police officer on the receiving end, eh?
Fortunately, the same First Amendment that gives Mr. Burck the right to spew this inflammatory speech on a street corner in Daytona Beach is the same one that gives me the right to rebuke his comments – just as the venerated concept of journalistic integrity requires that Mr. Rice tell all sides of the story – even those facets that do not comport with the prevailing narrative that cops are the last socially acceptable punching bags.
I love The Daytona Beach News-Journal – it is “my newspaper” – but I fear what it is becoming.
In my view, now that Mr. Burck has stated his regrets in the newspaper (and hired a Jacksonville lawyer to “come after” the City of Daytona Beach) The Daytona Beach News-Journal owes Chief Jakari Young, Mayor Derrick Henry, and the Daytona Beach Police Department an apology – a big one.
It is time that Pat Rice assure us all that, as our newspaper of record, this is not what “local journalism” has become.
Angel Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite
So, long Dr. Chrite, we hardly knew ye. . .
This week Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite abruptly announced he was resigning the presidency of Bethune-Cookman University after being selected to lead Bentley University in Massachusetts, one of the top business schools in the nation.
According to reports, he did not notify the University’s Board of Trustees of his decision – but clearly Dr. Chrite is smart enough to get while the gettin’s good. . .
To say his relatively brief tenure at Bethune-Cookman was difficult is an understatement, and in a February 2020 letter to alumni, Bethune Dr. Chrite did not pull punches.
“2020 will be a pivotal year in the history of B-CU,” President Chrite wrote. “It will be the year our beloved university prepared to close its doors, or it will be the year we turned a corner and began moving toward an exciting future.”
He was right. Times were grim.
At that anxious point, B-CU was in its second year of academic probation after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges demanded the elimination of an $8 million operating deficit and improvements to its horrendous system of governance.
The loss of accreditation would have signaled the death knell for this challenged institution – one that has been financially gutted by mismanagement, a lack of oversight by self-serving trustees, and voracious greed.
Last fall, under Dr. Chrite’s outstanding leadership, Bethune-Cookman University announced it would maintain its all-important academic accreditation as the University was able to reduce expenditures, complete an extensive review of policies and protocols, overhaul its contractual obligations and transactional relationships, and get them working to B-CU’s advantage.
In addition, Dr. Chrite brought together experts in finance, accreditation, and academic governance, then increased private sector support to transform the University “…into a properly running institution of higher learning.”
Thanks to the almost universal confidence Dr. Chrite inspired, Volusia County’s own political powerhouse Mori Hossieni is believed to have lobbied hard behind the scenes to ensure B-CU received a much needed $17 million infusion from the Florida Legislature.
Now the shock and disappointment of Dr. Chrite’s decision is sweeping the community, and many are begging the obvious question – why?
Everyone except Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, that is. . .
According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal by Pat Rice and Eileen Zaffiro-Kean on Wednesday, Mayor Henry said:
“Based on a lot of factors I knew he wouldn’t be there that long,” Henry said. “There are a lot of subterraneous issues at Bethune-Cookman that are complex, and the community is not aware of the rationale of some of the decisions he made at the university during his tenure.”
Oddly, Mayor Henry felt the need to kick Dr. Chrite on his way out the door, describing a non-existent “gulf” between the university and the community.
Then, on Thursday, we learned in an informative article in the News-Journal:
“The mayor’s wife, Stephanie Henry, had been dean of education at B-CU when Chrite arrived. She was offered another position during a staff reorganization of the school but decided to leave the university. She left on good terms,” the mayor said. “She left in great standing with him (Chrite).”
Sure. Whatever you say, Mr. Mayor. . .
I can only assume that the “subterraneous issues” Mayor Henry described included Dr. Chrite’s, honesty, transparency, truthfulness, a willingness to put the needs of the university above those of his cronies, and a highly developed fiduciary responsibility to something other than his own bank account.
It is called “professional integrity” – something that has been sorely lacking in the halls of power at Bethune-Cookman University – and Daytona Beach City Hall, for that matter. . .
Unfortunately, men and women of good character do not seem to last long in our local power structure – so, we say goodbye and best wishes to another lost visionary as he rides into the sunset.
Kudos to Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite for his outstanding efforts to right the ship during turbulent times and under extremely difficult circumstances. In my view, Dr. Chrite’s good work honored Dr. Bethune’s dream and saved this important institution from the brink of disaster.
Let’s hope the B-CU Board of Trustees will continue on the path Dr. Chrite so boldly blazed.
Yeah, right. . .
Angel Ormond Beach City Commission
No, I didn’t bump my head – but thanks for the concern. . .
Look, I rarely agree with anything those pro-development lackeys on the Ormond Beach City Commission do or say – but I must give credit where credit is due.
On Tuesday night the majority struck a small blow for the preservation of a sliver of this community’s last remaining greenspace.
In a strange turn of events, Mayor Bill Partington joined City Commissioners Troy Kent and Susan Persis in voting against a proposed land use change that would have seen some 2.81 acres on West Granada Boulevard rezoned from “open space/conservation” to “medium density residential” – literally paving the way for more godawful townhouses on the already horribly congested thoroughfare. . .
According to a piece in the Ormond Beach Observer by Jarleene Almenas:
“City Commissioners Dwight Selby and Rob Littleton were the only ones to vote yes. Littleton said it was a “tough” decision, as the property was located in his zone. He said he supported the land use change, but would have been very strict once the development order came before the commission at a later date.”
During the meeting, Commissioner Persis had an incredibly cogent thought that is being lauded by many of her thankful constituents:
“I think it looks beautiful the way it is,” she said. “…I don’t know why people feel we have to build on every leftover greenspace that we have in Ormond Beach.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with leaving something ‘Open Space/Conservation.’ We don’t have a whole lot of greenspace left in that area, and it’s just concerning to me why we would need to build something right there.”
Perhaps the fact that Ormond Beach residents are rising in unison, vehemently demanding that their elected officials take steps to preserve and protect environmentally sensitive lands along The Loop and beyond from further destruction and development, is beginning to sink in at City Hall.
I damn sure hope so.
With the pending encroachment of the monstrous Avalon Park, and mounting pressure from unchecked development along the city’s southern border, it is refreshing to see one small patch of green will remain.
For now, anyway. . .
Kudos to Mayor Partington, and Commissioners Kent and Persis for having the courage to do the right thing for your constituents and community.
Quote of the Week
“I want to be clear that I believe the urgent issue of LGBTQ+ discrimination in our schools deserves a strong response based on policy, not just sentiment. I could not in good conscience support a resolution that relegated such an important issue to spring break when students would not be in school. The resolution dismissed the values of inclusion that it allegedly represented. We cannot keep passing toothless statements of support instead of tackling the very real problems our LGBTQ+ students are facing.”
–Volusia County School Board member Anita Burnette, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer Letters to the Editor, “Volusia County School Board’s Anita Burnette: says LGBTQ discrimination deserves ‘a strong response,” Friday, March 12, 2021
I am always skeptical of politicians who do one thing – then wait to see which way the political winds are blowing – before saying they would have done this or that IF only the measure had gone farther in resolving the issue, blah, blah, blah. . .
I guess when a sitting School Board member wants to end LGBTQ+ discrimination in Volusia County Schools, she does it by refusing to second a resolution supporting “LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week”?
It’s Politics 101: How to appear the hero without really committing yourself.
Look, maybe Ms. Burnette is sincere.
As a neophyte politician recently elected to the Volusia County School Board, perhaps the most grossly dysfunctional governing body in Volusia County, I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt.
The fact is, this tempest in a teapot did not need to become such a disruptive dispute in the first place.
In my view, it is a given that more should be done to protect the health, welfare, and education of student’s who identify as LGBTQ+ – but this should not become the flashpoint for more hysterical and divisive debate – asinine arguments fueled by the unrighteous indignation of a few pompous closed-minded fools – intramural feuds that always breed contempt, amplify differences, and pit student-against-student as they follow their parents’ lead.
Typically, that is when the quaint notion of an elected official ‘doing the right thing’ meets its fiery end on a pyre of empty, but highly emotional, demagoguery – and the cycle of stagnation repeats.
What the hell – let’s see what Ms. Burnette is capable of, eh?
I don’t know about you, but I am willing to give Ms. Burnette a chance to prove herself – and demonstrate the deftness and political savvy to bring all sides of this difficult and divisive issue to the table and propose realistic public policies that ensure all Volusia County students have an educational environment free of bigotry, prejudice, bullying, and intolerance.
Good luck, Ms. Burnette. You’re gonna need it. . .
And Another Thing!
“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – you’re about to behold a sight so strange, so horrifying, so utterly monstrous, that I urge you who are easily frightened or upset, who suffer from nervous disorders, weak hearts, or queasy stomachs, who experience nightmares, and any children under the age of 16, to forgo witnessing this exhibit of the greatest oddities and illusions in the history of local governance. . .”
Sometimes I think Volusia County would do well to hire an old-fashioned carnival barker to stand outside the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building and warn us rubes of the frightening geek show that awaits us inside on those days our illustrious elected officials gather for their bimonthly production of the Théâtre de l’absurde.
This week was no exception.
Let’s face it, political cowardice, in all its ugly forms, has been a dominating factor in Volusia County governance for years – it is autochthonous to the “system.”
At best, this phenomenon is marked by a lack of backbone which prevents our elected officials from doing the right thing – for the right reasons – for fear of alienating their most vocal critics, or, god forbid, their political benefactors.
Everyone agrees that elected officials should have the discretion to change tack in response to an ever-evolving political environment – so long as they are open and honest about it.
This week, the Volusia County Council suddenly reversed course on its temporary ban on the processing of code enforcement actions involving short-term rentals – cravenly adopting the political doctrine of ‘who screams loudest’ – a policy guaranteed to create hell and havoc as elected officials flip-flop on contentious issues to appease their noisiest constituents.
Never works. . .
In my view, County Chair Jeff Brower is a good man who is trying desperately to do right by his campaign promises and deeply held convictions – something that frustrates the status quo – but he simply must learn how to read trends, anticipate the mini-moves of his “colleagues,” and get his head in the game.
For instance, Mr. Brower’s open shilling for an internal job applicant from the dais almost guarantees that County Manager George Recktenwald will not hire that individual as he seeks to avoid the very real appearance of political influence (or worse) in the process.
I realize developing that level of dexterity can be especially difficult in the shadowy milieu of Volusia politics – a three-dimensional chess game where the loyalties and motivations of those we have elected to set public policy morph from meeting-to-meeting depending upon who is pulling the rods and cables – creating an unstable atmosphere where nothing is as it seems and literally anything is possible.
Rather than hold firm to a unanimous decision that suspended enforcement action for a few weeks while the state legislature wrangles with the thorny issue of short-term rentals – the majority blinked when faced with potential legal action from residents of Bethune Beach – and caved to Councilman Fred Lowrey’s strategic handwringing over the potential loss of the county’s grandfathered regulatory authority.
On a 4-3 vote – with Chairman Brower, Councilwoman Heather Post, and Councilman Danny Robins holding firm to the council’s previous call – the moratorium was lifted, leaving owners of short-term rentals subject to immediate enforcement action without prior notification.
Now, those unfortunates who have rented their properties through April 30 (the end of the legislative session) are left holding the bag – subjecting them to angry renters whose vacation plans have been upended and the possibility of throwing current visitors out on the street, while exposing the property owner to potential legal action.
I don’t care which side of this incredibly divisive issue you fall on – that hardly seems fair.
Of course, the larger problem is an elected body that sends mixed signals – voting on, then extending, a controversial policy after receiving public input and with the best intentions for all concerned – then reversing course midstream in another off-the-agenda vote.
It appeared botched and bungled as Billie Wheeler and Fred Lowrey worked to embarrass Mr. Brower – whose head swung back and forth like a drowning man searching desperately for a life ring.
When setting ‘parameters’ for citizens wishing to serve on the council’s ad hoc short term rental advisory committee – something that, depending upon its makeup, has the potential to dissolve into a no-holds-barred Battle Royale for the ages – Councilwoman Wheeler attempted to limit appointments to electors living in the unincorporated area – openly shitting on residents who may live in a Volusia County municipality and own rental property in an unincorporated area such as Bethune Beach or Ormond-by-the-Sea.
You know, taxpaying property owners with an actual chip in the game?
Ultimately, Wheeler successfully got the issue kicked even further down the road by whining she didn’t have enough time to vet applications – convincing her colleagues to push the formation of their own advisory board until late April – proving once and for all that Ms. Wheeler’s Gumby-like spine makes her the most malleable, wishy-washy politician to ever bend with the prevailing winds.
Fairness and equal representation be damned – when Billie Wheeler was told that she doesn’t like peer-to-peer rentals anymore – the fate of these poleaxed property owners was sealed.
In my view, Councilman Danny Robins said it best when he asked the rhetorical question – “What kind of message are we sending to our visitors? What kind of message are we sending to our property owners, our residents, our taxpayers?”
“Step right up, folks. Look if you must at the greatest shit-show on earth. . .”
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all.
Barker’s View will be taking a short pause next week – Angels & Assholes will return for your listening and dancing pleasure on April 2!
In the meantime, please feel free to revive old civic nightmares of who tried to save us – and who tried to screw us – in the BV archives!