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 Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry
There is a difference between correcting behavior and punishment – seeking compliance rather than crushing a violator under the full weight of government – using harsh laws, arbitrarily interpreted by a closed system, in a symbolic gibbeting of otherwise law-abiding citizens and businesses as an example to others.
A means of extracting vengeance whenever the Monarchial rule-makers feel disrespected by a member of the servile class.
This time last year, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry got his name in the newspaper by enacting a sweeping Royal Decree in the waning hours of Bike Week 2020 which “revoked” lawfully obtained permits, effectively shutting down small businesses and entertainment venues, hindering commerce and totally disrupting the remaining 24-hours of a special event vital to our local economy.
You may remember that during this same time, Mayor Henry fought desperately to have Volusia County “fence off” public beaches, imposed an asinine curfew, closed community amenities, and sought to enact other cockamamie executive orders and mandates under the COVID-19 “emergency declaration” with no apparent concern for the financial impact his nanny state impulses would have on struggling small businesses.
He did it to flex his muscles under the expanded “emergency” powers.
He did it because no one on the Daytona Beach City Commission had the courage to question it.
And any other explanation that relies on “safety” or the “public interest” simply does not hold water – because last December, Derrick Henry exposed his “do as I say, not as I do” self-serving nature – and, in my view, no longer possesses the moral authority to lead.
I believe Mayor Henry forfeited the right to Lord over his subject’s the exact second that he – and his wife – exercised political privilege and accepted the COVID-19 vaccine in violation of Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order – arrogantly waltzing past his elderly and infirm constituents whose access to the highly-sought inoculation was a matter of life and death.
I realize Mayor Henry was not alone. Many cowardly politicians on both sides of the isle cut the over-the-horizon line – the moral equivalent of throwing our most vulnerable off a lifeboat to make room for the civic and political elite.
It was wrong.
I know some of you are tired of me dredging up this embarrassment time-and-again – but I think most would agree that the rules apply to everyone – or they should apply to no one.
I was reminded of that this week.
On Tuesday, the outstanding tag team of Clayton Park and Eileen Zaffiro-Keen reported in The Daytona Beach News-Journal on the on-going saga of Main Street Station – a beleaguered year-round bar and music venue currently struggling for its life on the horribly neglected Main Street.
Apparently, Main Street Station had the terminal misfortune to run afoul of the Mayor’s wrath during the Edict of Derrick the Great 2020, which declared that anyone who dared ply their wares or – god forbid – try and earn a living on the last day of Bike Week, would be branded Outlaws of the Realm to be dealt with accordingly.
As I understand it, and I am not sure I do, Main Street Station is accused of failing to comply with the Mayor’s diktat – which resulted in a fine (reasonable) – coupled with an asinine, business-killing prohibition on any outdoor activities for the next three Bike Weeks (unreasonable).
The owner of Main Street Station, Phaedra Lee, gave a brief explanation in the News-Journal report:
“She (Lee) said she received it at 5:45 p.m. that day. The notice stated that she had one hour to comply.
“We complied with the request as diligently and quickly as possible,” she said. “We closed the backstage, vendors left, beer tub girls cancelled, bars closed. We had 400 people on (that) Saturday night and we charged them $10 to come inside. … We never had a chance to share our story (with city officials).”
Instead, the business was hit with code violations, a fine and a ban from taking part in outdoor Bike Week activities in 2021, 2022 and 2023.”
Ultimately, the fine was reduced to $5,000 and Main Street Station was “banned” from outdoor activities this year only – but when they tried to establish their normal outside set-up this week the business was sanctioned yet again for failing to have the proper permits in place.
In my view, the city’s order prohibiting open-air activities at Main Street Station is counter to the stated goal of preventing the spread of COVID-19 – forcing patrons to congregate inside the venue.
It also has a direct and devastating financial impact on a small business who relies on special events for its very survival – like kinking the oxygen tube on a patient struggling to breathe.
If members of the City Commission have been given marching orders by their political benefactors to kill special events, they are doing a masterful job of it.
I was a little surprised by the lukewarm nonresponse of the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce, who deftly sidestepped the well-advertised trials of Main Street Station – but I guess now small business owners know where they stand when they get sideways with mayoral decrees, eh?
Look, I’ve heard people chiding the cops, attempting to place blame on code enforcement officers for doing their job – that’s wrong – because this is not a law enforcement issue.
Police and code enforcement officers are dutybound to aggressively enforce the laws and ordinances as enacted by elected officials with uniform fairness and firmness – and my hat is off to Captain Scott Lee and the officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department for doing a damn difficult job with consistent professionalism.
This embarrassing brouhaha is the result of bad public policy – set by a power-hungry autocrat flexing his new-found muscles under the guise of an “emergency declaration” – a pattern that has given rise to the emerging belief that the city’s special magistrate process is being used as the City Commission’s own Uncle Gunnysack.
Don’t take my word for it.
Regardless of which side you fall on the short-term rental debate, most agree that levying $15,000 fines for advertising a peer-to-peer rental outside an arbitrary line in the sand is excessive.
Because it is.
In over thirty years in law enforcement, I learned that people are rightfully wary of subjective “emergency” orders and arbitrary mandates.
Once they suspect that some tin-pot politician’s Draconian fiats have crossed into the realm of the ridiculous – or catch a whiff of punitive politics at play – they rightfully begin to question the motive.
When that happens, the people’s desire for personal liberty – and a level playing field for everyone – will make itself known at the ballot box.
Angel Filmmaker Jared Thompson
The purpose of art, regardless of medium, is to move our emotions – to challenge our senses, test our perceptions and make us feel – a process that allows us to view our shared experience and environment differently.
They say the new enlightenment is authenticity, and when I finished watching the phenomenal work of filmmaker Jared Thompson entitled “Daytona Beach: The other side of the bridge,” I was left repeating one word:
Because this short film is as genuine and real as it gets.
In fact, the jarring visuals captured by Thompson, who grew up in Daytona Beach, were so forceful – simultaneously moving and disturbing – that I immediately recommended it to friends, all of whom were equally impressed.
This extraordinary documentary lays bare the challenges of those living and surviving in Daytona Beach’s historic Midtown – which is a million miles from the gated subdivisions of Ormond Beach – and a place rarely seen by those arguing over expensive property rights in tony beach enclaves.
According to an excellent treatment by the News-Journal’s Erica Van Buren:
“The documentary shows scenes of crime, poverty, drug use, murder and citizens coping with the loss of loved ones due to gun violence as the backdrop to some of the poorest streets in Daytona Beach.
“I was inspired to shoot this documentary because I grew up here,” said Thompson, 28, who now lives in Texas. “I feel like we are voiceless on this side of the bridge, away from the tourist attractions and what the city is known for globally. I feel like we don’t matter. And I want to change that.”
In my view, Jared Thompson is clearly an emerging artist at the top of his craft, and his unique perspective on our areas social, cultural, economic, and civic contrasts is incredibly provocative.
A brilliant accomplishment by a gifted young man who tells a compelling story through beautiful – yet intensely graphic – images.
This is important work – not the glazed over Chamber of Commerce version of the Daytona Beach Resort Area we are accustomed to.
It deserves your attention.
You can find Mr. Thompson’s extraordinary documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-x7JOBJwDo
Angel Dream Green Volusia
Last week I brought you an overview of the grassroots effort of Dream Green Volusia and the wildly popular Defend the Loop campaign which is bringing community awareness to this increasingly threatened scenic byway – one highlighted this time of year when thousands of motorcyclists cruise the beautifully canopied roadway.
As the Volusia County Council works to purchase a 36-acre conservation buffer at the planned 1,577 home Plantation Oaks development along Old Dixie Highway, Dream Green Volusia continues the fight to bring attention to the importance of protecting and preserving this beloved and environmentally sensitive thoroughfare for generations to come.
This afternoon from 2:00pm to 5:00pm, Dream Green Volusia will host a 50/50 raffle on Main Street Daytona Beach!
Participating locations include The Pallet Pub, Dirty Harry’s, Froggy’s Saloon, Neptune’s Sports Pub, Boot Hill Saloon, Peanut and George’s Pub and Main Street Station.
Tickets are $5.00.
The winner will be announced at Main Street Station at 6:00pm – and you need not be present to win (address and phone number are required for each ticket purchased).
In addition, a second raffle will be held tomorrow, Saturday, March 13, at Iron Horse Saloon on US-1 in Ormond Beach.
Tickets will be available between 2:00pm and 5:00pm with the drawing at 5:30pm.
The winner takes 50% of the total collected with the other half going to Dream Green Volusia for land conservation along the Ormond Beach Scenic Loop and Trail.
For more information on how you can help, please go to www.dreamgreenvolusia.com
Quote of the Week
“Much of what happened with VOL (Volusia Online Learning) this school year could have been avoided if district administration would have listened and provided TRUE and COMPREHENSIVE support,” Peterson wrote. “The current leadership does NOT accept any responsibility for being ignorant of virtual school operations or legislation, for not providing comprehensive support, and for not supporting the VOL admin team.”
— J. Susy Peterson, former Volusia County online learning principal, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Ex-principal: Volusia virtual school in need of support,” Friday, March 5, 2021
There you have it, folks.
From the horse’s mouth to your ears:
“The current leadership does NOT accept any responsibility for being ignorant of (insert any contemporary educational issue here) . . .”
This week – for reasons known only to their personal conscience – members of the Volusia County School Board refused to pass a routine resolution declaring March 22-26 as “LGBTQ+ Health Awareness Week.”
The same resolution was unanimously passed last year without controversy.
According to a disturbing report by News-Journal education reporter Cassidy Alexander, “…after hearing from three parents who compared the resolution to supporting pedophilia or teaching students about masturbation, and who said it’s not the school’s role to teach their children about “politics,” the motion failed.”
It didn’t do any of those things.
The resolution stated, in part, that Volusia County Schools are “…committed to bringing awareness to the effects of the devastating cycle of discrimination on LGBTQ+ health and the resulting disparities,” and assured students who identify as LGBTQ+ that adults within the school system support them.
The symbolic resolution did not come with some weird curriculum – and no announcement was required – as students will be on Spring Break during the period during the designated awareness week.
According to Superintendent Scott Fritz, “It was simply saying that every child that walks across our stage and in our schools, will be treated fairly, equally and with equity,” explained Superintendent Scott Fritz, adding that it’s a common resolution for school districts.”
The resolution was supported by board member Carl Persis, whose motion failed for a lack of a second and he pulled no punches in rightfully lambasting his colleagues, “You’re either discriminatory or you’re not. You can’t justify discrimination,” he said. “You either are homophobic, or you’re not. That’s where we are with this.”
Frankly, that is the strongest, most decisive, statement I have ever heard from Mr. Persis.
Like all of you, I have several lifelong friends who are gay.
That isn’t some virtue signaling horseshit – it’s a fact. We all have friends, family, and professional colleagues who identify as LGBTQ+.
One of my closest friends experienced serious difficulties when we were growing up simply because of his sexual orientation – and, despite these challenges, I watched him grow into an incredibly successful man who spent his working life developing high-rise condominiums in downtown San Francisco – a person of great character and a true role model for what skill, smarts, and hard work can accomplish.
Whenever I read something like this, I immediately equate it to my dear friends and former colleagues in the LGBTQ+ community – and I question how anyone could deny or discriminate against these wonderful human beings?
How could anyone not support a child or refuse to advocate for their health and wellness during this incredibly challenging time in their lives?
According to the report, “Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or aren’t sure of their sexuality face significant health risks compared to their heterosexual or cisgender peers, according to the resolution that didn’t pass. They’re far more likely to have considered or attempted suicide or have persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, according to data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
At the end of the day, School Board Chairwoman Linda Cuthbert (who said she would have seconded Mr. Persis’ motion but was prohibited by parliamentary rules) wants to continue the discussion and asked staff to return with a resolution supporting some watered-down version of “diversity.”
Let’s hope something positive results from this latest spectacle of stupidity at Volusia County Schools.
And Another Thing!
I don’t know about you, but I get a kick out of how things work around here.
Former longtime South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarborough is a man with many valuable skills, and a deep tool chest acquired over years in the political trenches, who possesses an innate gift for professional survival that kept him at the helm of the municipality for an astonishing 33-years.
That’s like 132 in ‘city manager years’. . .
In a profession where many managers are little more than itinerant labor – plying their trade until the political winds change, then moving on to their next performance wherever elected officials are impressed by a nice suit and a shoeshine – Joe’s longevity was something I always admired.
Then, things got weird.
Following his retirement from South Daytona, Mr. Yarborough mysteriously assumed the unusual role as cheerleader for the failed half-cent sales tax push – a shameless money grab that our uber-wealthy oligarchs attempted to shove down our throats so forcefully one would have thought they stood to personally benefit from the enormous pot of cash the tax would produce. . .
With Joe serving as the initiative’s chief mouthpiece, and Dr. Kent Sharples, president of the shadowy Volusia CEO Business Alliance (who knows something about second acts) as his slack-jawed sidekick, they toured the countryside with a canned dog-and-pony show.
The embarrassing debacle fell flat on its face in an expensive special election.
To our collective credit, Volusia County voters rejected the hype and scary stories, and everyone involved scattered to the four winds – no doubt hunkering down to determine how best to improve their place in the suckling order at the public tit when the question is called again. . .
Just between you and me, I never understood why Mr. Yarborough put 45-years of hard-earned professional credibility on the line to convince a skeptical public to trust a group of fatuous politicians – who long-ago lost the confidence of their constituents – by shamelessly shilling for a controversial effort that threatened to saddle every man, woman, and child with a sales tax increase ostensibly to fund an unstructured and ill-strategized wish list of transportation infrastructure projects.
It seemed beneath him – humiliating in a fashion – and the ploy never made sense to me.
Then, Joe resurfaced last year in a News-Journal article announcing his new role as a ‘gentleman farmer’ hoeing hemp plants on a plot of land near the Alabama-Mississippi border. According to reports, the Martin & Yarbrough Hemp Company produces CBD infused ointments and unguents for humans and their pets.
On Monday, during this month’s Barker’s View appearance on the civic affairs forum GovStuff Live! with Big John, we learned that King J. Hyatt Brown personally appeared at a local Rotary Club meeting where he formally introduced Mr. Yarborough as the new manager of his Esplanade in Downtown Daytona!
Suddenly, everything came into perfect clarity. . .
If a veteran City Manager knows anything it is – always be looking for your next job.
Well played, sir.
The $23 million transformation of the once public riverfront park into an eternal shrine to the Halifax areas Benevolent King and Savior J. Hyatt Brown is well underway, with crews actively planting majestic oaks, constructing a scenic overlook behind the hulking News-Journal Center, preparing space for the lush gardens, excavating expansive ponds, and laying the mile-long raised walkway that will meander through the park.
The renovation is being graciously funded by J. Hyatt and CiCi Brown through a $26 million pledge – which, according to reports, includes some $3 million to cover salaries for park employees, including the manager and an assistant that will be hired by the governing foundation.
Because I’m a cantankerous asshole, I take perverse pleasure in poking fun at serious things – but I honestly believe the Esplanade will be a showpiece for Daytona Beach’s downtrodden downtown – a civic jewel that we all hope will work symbiotically with the recently completed Brown & Brown headquarters to breathe new life into the historic shopping and entertainment area.
Others are not so optimistic about the park’s ultimate economic impact – and given the city’s penchant for throwing massive amounts of public money into dubious streetscapes, a bridge that was years in the making, public investments in odd “economic development” follies involving all the right last names, corporate welfare, and consistently pulling defeat from the jaws of victory – they have every right to their well-founded suspicions.
Especially since the taxpayers of Daytona Beach are now on the hook for an estimated $800,000 annually for perpetual maintenance and upkeep of Mr. Brown’s 22.5-acre Enchanted Kingdom.
Congratulations, Joe. Well earned.
That’s all for me! Have a happy and safe final weekend of Bike Week 2021!