Angels & Assholes for April 30, 2021

Hi, kids!

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               Volusia Stateswoman Ann McFall

There are few in the political arena that I truly admire.    

Many current and former elected officials have disappointed me – not because we disagreed politically, that comes with the territory – but because they sold their soul to the forces of mediocrity in a self-serving desire to maintain the perquisites of office while the needs of their constituents languished.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, everyone agrees Ann McFall transcended the fetid quagmire of Volusia County politics and built a solid reputation as a true servant of the people – a stateswoman in the finest tradition – one of those intrepid few who give their all to better the lives and livelihoods of those they have sworn an oath to represent. 

Serving others without fear or favoritism and dedicated to the principle that all political power is derived from the people. 

A rare breed.

Clearly, Ms. McFall’s curriculum vitae of extraordinary accomplishments needs no introduction and her service chairing both the Volusia County School Board and the County Council is sui generis.   

According to a report in the West Volusia Beacon, “McFall began her career in public service as a member of the Deltona Municipal Services District Advisory Board, an appointed panel established by the Volusia County government to make recommendations on policies and improvements for the sprawling community before its incorporation as a city.”

The longtime Deltona resident began her elective service in 1986 as a member of the Volusia County School Board – including service as board chair – before being defeated for re-election in 1994. 

Then, in 1996, Ms. McFall sought the District 5 seat on the Volusia County Council, ultimately serving eight years.

In 2004, Ms. McFall was elected Volusia County Supervisor of Elections and she remained in that demanding role until 2016.

Perhaps most impressive, regardless of position, Ms. McFall was universally respected by political friends and foes alike – as those who see public service as an avenue to help others, rather than a stage for self-aggrandizement, always are. 

She was one tough cookie. 

In the “old days,” there used to be more than the few left today who were servant-leaders in the classic sense, who not only led and inspired others by personal example but excelled at their elective responsibilities as well. 

You never find these standouts anywhere near the political fishing camps that have reduced Volusia County governance to a farcical opéra bouffe – “public servants” in gilded title only – too cowardly to take the high road or earn the trust and confidence of their constituents regardless of political cost. 

I truly admired Ann McFall and her commitment to service-above-self – a good life’s mission now complete.    

Her incredible intellect and strength of character will long serve as a shining example to future generations of aspiring public servants what true moral and ethical courage look like – and what it can accomplish to the betterment of all.   

Ann McFall passed away at AdventHealth Hospice in Orange City this week. 

She was 68 years old.

No one better embodied the qualities of selfless political stewardship. 

She will be missed.   

Angel               Chief Mike Walker, Lake Helen Police Department

Through my long association with the FBI National Academy Associates – in my view, the most exclusive law enforcement fraternal organization in the world – I established an unlikely friendship with The Honourable Bill Blair, former Chief of the Toronto Police Service and current Member of Parliament who serves as Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.

Several years ago, during an FBINAA conference in Toronto, Bill and I had the opportunity to sit in a quiet corner over a cold Molson Canadian and discuss the challenges of administering a police force of nearly 8,000 sworn and civilian personnel. 

It was then I learned how little relative difference there was from my experience leading a department of 30 dedicated officers and staff in Holly Hill – with the exception that I did not have a massive command staff to sort the wheat from the chaff before the hard, sometimes life-altering, decisions needed to be made.

It takes a steady hand and a ‘jack of all trades’ mentality, adaptive leadership skills, the ability to manage often scarce resources, adopting modern policing principles while holding firm to the best traditions of small-town life, a broad institutional knowledge of the community, and a grassroots connection to those you serve. 

When done right, policing a quaint, close-knit community is one of the most personally rewarding experiences in the profession. 

I was reminded of the unique advantages (and disadvantages) faced by small town police administrators when I learned of the pending retirement of long-serving Lake Helen Chief Mike Walker – one of the best to ever pin on a badge.   

Mike comes from a distinguished line of career law enforcement officers. 

I had the honor of serving under Mike’s late father, Larry Walker, who retired as Holly Hill’s police chief.  His brother, Mark Walker, retired from the Ormond Beach Police Department before embarking on a stellar career with the Ponce Inlet Police Department.  Another brother, Jimmy Crimmins, also retired from the Ormond Beach Police Department. 

Chief Walker began his service to the citizens of Lake Helen – “The Gem of Florida” – in 1989 after a year with the Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety.  He was appointed Chief of Police in 2011 following the retirement of former Chief Keith Chester. 

During his long and honorable career, Chief Walker set the gold standard for community-oriented policing – always humble and engaged with an ever-present smile and quick wit, willing to do whatever it took, no job too big or too small, to ensure the safety of his beautiful community. 

In my experience, small town chiefs do not seek this multifaceted job for the money or benefits that often-itinerant major cities chiefs command – they do it out of an abundance of love for their neighbors – a mutual affection that forms the very essence of what it means to truly serve and protect.    

For over 30-years, Chief Walker policed the City of Lake Helen with courage, dedication, and professionalism – a legacy of service that elevated his agency and earned the respect of his officers, colleagues, and constituents. 

Mike Walker is one of the good guys – and his contributions to the local law enforcement community will be sorely missed. 

Kudos and congratulations to Chief Walker on his honorable – and well deserved – retirement from a lifetime of quality public service.

Well done, my friend!

Your father is incredibly proud of you – and so am I.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

Most times, the selection process for the dubious weekly “honor” of Angel or Asshole is a no-brainer – an act or omission by a newsmaker that cries out for special recognition. 

This week was no different. 

I really wanted to recognize the Volusia County School Board this week for leaning toward a policy change which would make masking optional for the coming school year. 

In my view, following a year of choppy, sometimes contradictory diktats from this perennially flummoxed elected body, it struck a commonsense compromise – encouraging students, staff, and visitors to follow current CDC guidelines while on district property without demanding obedience with draconian mandates.

Look, I don’t want to give these elected dullards too much credit for doing the right thing, because it didn’t hurt that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued a directive earlier this month urging school districts to amend their policies for the 2021-22 school year to make masks optional. . .

Considering that some parents have started to revolt, stating that their children will not be wearing masks at school in the fall regardless of the board’s decision; the policy shift marked a return to center after studies demonstrated that sweeping mask mandates had little impact on the presence of COVID-19 in schools.  

According to an informative article by education reporter Cassidy Alexander writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The discussion at the workshop echoed other recent discussions the board has had on the subject, but overall board members are in favor of making the mask policy optional — with the understanding that the state of the coronavirus pandemic may change in the future.”

It was the right thing to do and certainly “Angel” worthy, right?  

Unfortunately, my high spirits were drowned like a sewer rat when I read a depressing piece in the Ormond Beach Observer entitled, “Former Volusia County Schools employee’s lawsuit over whistleblower retaliation remains ongoing,” a sordid tale of a courageous mid-career whistleblower, Alex Kennedy, the former assistant director of applications and infrastructure, who was callously ‘cancelled’ by district Big Wigs in May 2020 after 13-years of service to Volusia County Schools.

His crime?

He shined a bright light on serious irregularities in the implementation of a horribly overbudget and behind schedule financial software program that, as of 2018, has cost taxpayers over $2 million in change orders.  

His sentence?

The exalted ‘powers that be’ ensconced in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand – those who should care about the financial oversight of our tax dollars but don’t – coldheartedly waved their retaliatory wand and simply “eliminated his position.”

According to the Observer’s report, “Kennedy said that he knew early on the software implementation would run over-budget and that staff would have a lot of difficulty with it, and continuously advised his district superiors of this until his termination.”

“It’s just shameful when you have someone like myself saying, ‘This is going to cost you millions and millions dollars more than you expect,” Kennedy said. “Why would you do this?’ And then they don’t renew my contract.”

My God.

To his credit, in August 2020, Mr. Kennedy filed a lawsuit against the Volusia County School Board citing claims of unlawful retaliation – which means you and I are now paying for a vigorous legal defense of the very elected and appointed stooges who refused to listen when a dedicated employee sounded the alarm. . .  


To add insult, in November 2020, the School Board approved an “investigative report” cobbled together by GrayRobinson, the massive one-stop-shop for Florida bureaucracies in need of everything from lobbying services to legal defense and “government affairs services” – which just happens to be the same GrayRobinson that is representing the district against Kennedy’s lawsuit.

You read that right. . . 

Of course, the “investigation” conducted by their own attorney exonerated the school board of “waste, fraud or financial mismanagement,” effectively casting shade on Mr. Kennedy’s very credible allegations – allowing our barefaced elected representatives to hold up their manure-smeared hands and shamelessly claim they are clean.

“Nothing to see here, folks – keep moving. . .”

For now, Mr. Kennedy’s lawsuit continues its circuitous path through the courts – an incredibly expensive process on top of what this debacle has already cost us – but one we all hope exposes the machinations of this grossly vindictive system that sends a clear message of the horrible fate that awaits any district employee who even considers reporting misconduct. 

“My concern is my case gets dismissed or it doesn’t go further, and it continues to enable them to do this to other people,” Kennedy said. “That’s the big thing.”

An easy choice, indeed. . . 

Quote of the Week

“After listening to Volusia Council Member Danny Robins’ four-or-five page, obviously pre-planned attack aimed at county Chair Jeff Brower and backed up by Council Member Ben Johnson, I have to say Robins’ assertion that Brower was pandering to his constituents was right and if any of your constituents would like for Robins to have something brought to the whole council, I’m sure Brower would be more than glad to accommodate you.

Robins held up five or six folders of items for staff to deal with well, that’s their job, and not all those items were from Brower. Robins wanting consensus from the whole council is wrong.

Having a 7-0 vote on all items is not how government should work, especially if the 7-0 vote only goes the way Robins wants it.

The items Robins was ranting about mostly centered around the beach and the loop. These issues have been around for a long time and finally we have a chairman not afraid to bring these items forward and deal with them.

I did not need to write this to defend Brower. He did very well on his own responding to Robins and Johnson.

If Robins wants the council to work together in the future, what he did was not helpful.”

–David LaMotte, Ormond Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “An unwarranted attack,” Monday, April 26, 2021

And Another Thing!

The best thing I can say about Tuesday’s State of the County Address is that Chairman Jeff Brower said all the right things. 

Maybe that’s enough.  For now, anyway. . .  

As loyal readers of these screeds know, I am not a fan of these stilted, overproduced, and ostentatious displays of political exhibitionism – a “free lunch” for area politicians, their hangers-on, and a few concerned citizens who dutifully stand watch to assure things do not get too far afield – all paid for by government contractors, corporations, and individuals who make their living on the public dole.

But, true to form, I washed down a strong antiemetic with a shot of Seagram’s V.O. and watched the annual Bacchanalia of Bullshit from the comfort of Barker’s View HQ.  

In a departure from years past, given that lunch was covered by the overflow of funds remaining from last year – Chairman Brower asked wealthy corporate donors to contribute to Second Harvest Food Bank – and the festivities began with the presentation of one of those jumbo prop checks for $27,000 to help needy families in Volusia County. 

I felt good about that. 

Of course, the production also included the obligatory feel good “messages” from each elected official who flogged Volusia’s dubious “accomplishments,” “initiatives,” and “priorities.” 

Given the fact Volusia County has some of the most breathtaking natural vistas anywhere in the world, I found it strange that the council members were filmed emerging from the ethereal shadows of what appeared to be a haunted art gallery – a weird subliminal message to fool our subconscious into believing these dullards are capable of moving from the darkness of stagnation into the light of civic progress, ultimately filling the screen with a big head close-up of each politician – a visual effect I found, well, creepy. . . 

There was a lot said about the County’s nothing-short-of-heroic (just ask them) COVID-19 response – something about a three-legged dog – and a few senior staff members working hard to pat themselves on the back for one thing or another. 

Typical self-congratulatory bureaucratic fare. 

In all honesty, in a fit of narcoleptic boredom, I may have lost consciousness somewhere between Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan’s debatable description of the county’s reopening as “…thoughtful, measured, and strategic” and Community Service Director Dona Butler’s melodramatic monologue, “Resilience is no longer just a vague term or abstract concept.  It represents hope and strength. It’s a way of life and our roadmap to continued recovery.”

Yaaawwwn, sorry!  Where was I, dammit?

Trust me.  Like everyone else in County government – Ms. Butler knows that the “road to recovery” is paved with our greenbacks flowing freely from Washington in this damn-the-consequences tsunami of cash being lavished on local governments – “essentials” who didn’t miss a paycheck or see a day of financial hardship during the “shutdown.”

“Hope and strength,” my ass. . . 

In my view, this piss-poor federal policy that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be paying for is dangerous – and any empty talk of “resilience” is cold comfort to the small business owners who gave up the ghost at the tyrannical hands of their own local governments

When Chairman Brower finally had a moment to connect with his audience, he set an incredibly positive tone, and reminded his detractors, “Each (county chair) had their own style and approach to the job and so too will I. Yeah, it might be different from what we’ve had in the past, but I believe that’s why voters elected me.”

Damn right it is.

“Can we set the rancor aside?  Can we not look in each other’s eyes on a local level and say, ‘We have many things we all agree on’? Let’s work on those things.  Let’s truly make Volusia County the best place in Florida to live, to work, to play, and to do business.”

To his great credit, Chairman Brower spoke passionately of the importance of accountability – and reaffirmed his commitment to a government of the people where citizen input is both encouraged and respected – and he bravely set a vision for transformative growth, planned in a responsible and controlled manner, that protects our sensitive environment and preserves our dwindling greenspace. 

In my view, Mr. Brower went out of his way to be inclusive – playing all the right political notes by inviting the remainder of the Volusia County Council onto the stage (twice) for recognition – and I felt his remarks were both conciliatory and unifying. 

Time will tell if his message of “setting the rancor aside” was received by those not-so-mysterious forces who seem intent on winding up their marionettes on the dais of power with orders to attack Chairman Brower in a desperate attempt to maintain control (read: access to the public teat).   

In my view, Mr. Brower spoke from a position of true power – an iron fist (represented by the tens-of-thousands of voters who elevated him on a promise of effective change) in a silk glove of compromise and conciliation – and everyone in the room knew it.   

How was Chairman Brower’s message received by those stalwarts of the status quo he shares the dais with?

Or those saboteurs of the Old Guard who still pompously promenade through the gilded Halls of Power in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building?

Again, time will tell.  

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

Illegitimi non carborundum

For those keeping score, today we mark yet another small victory over COVID-19 as the Volusia County Council resurrects the ostentatious practice of packing the Ocean Center with local politicians, their respective camarillas, and various hangers-on, for a “free lunch” – complete with tall tales about “accomplishments” and how wonderful we have it here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

It is the one day each year (outside the dreaded campaign season) when our elected officials come down from their gilded perch in the Ivory Tower of Power and rub shoulders with us rabble who pay the bills – slapping each other on the back and fawning over their political benefactors in an ostentatious display of public bootlicking that reminds all of us where the true power resides. . . 

In a departure from past years, when the soiree was funded by government contractors and other corporations and individuals who make their living on the public dole, we’re told there were enough private “donations” left over from last year to support today’s Bacchanalia of Bullshit.

My hope is that our “new” County Chairman Jeff Brower – a straight shooter who is working hard to stay true to his word despite withering opposition – will tell it like it is, rather than spin a fantasy yarn like his predecessors were so famous for.

As our ‘powers that be’ gather to be recognized, my mind drifts to the state of local politics – and a simmering undercurrent of organized treachery and deceit that has all the earmarks of a cheap coup d’état in the making – something that Chairman Brower should not dismiss going forward. 

For instance: 

A delegation of old fogeys from the Republican Executive Committee of Volusia County attended the Volusia County Council meeting last week to parsimoniously spurn the idea of spending ECHO funds (which uses a fraction of our property taxes to preserve and protect environmental, cultural, historical, and outdoor recreational amenities) for the purchase of 39-acres of, well, historically significant and environmentally sensitive land adjacent to Ormond’s scenic loop. 

In my view, their presence in the chamber had nothing to do with the expenditure of ECHO funds, and everything to do with an on-going concerted effort by the Old Guard to force Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower into the round hole of lockstep conformity – one that assures the development of public policy will remain the exclusive domain of a few uber-wealthy insiders with the wherewithal to pay-to-play. 

In Volusia County politics, regardless of party or political views, once We, The People elect someone we feel will best represent our interests, the ‘powers that be’ – who have crafted an oligarchical “government” in their own craven image – begin the process of forcing fealty to the “system.” 

Although Chairman Brower is a staunch republican and self-described “constitutionalist,” he boldly ran on a platform of returning government to the people of Volusia County – a notion that was rejected by both the Democratic party apparatus (who tried their best to torpedo Brower by insinuating a no-name third candidate) – and the fusty Republican hierarchy, who remained loyal to the conformism and conventionality represented by former Chair Ed Kelly, and his heir apparent, the now washed-up Councilwoman Deb Denys.

Then, on Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal ran a Your Turn op/ed by guest columnist Tom Coriale – who also happens to be the Vice Chairman of the Republican Executive Committee of Volusia County – entitled, “Loop vote: Politics as usual,” which began: 

“OK, I get it. Politicians make promises. Our county chair campaigned that the ECHO and Volusia Forever funds would be transparent, follow the requirements and wouldn’t be used any longer as a slush fund. So, here we are and ECHO is being used to buy land to appease special interests for no-growth and land conservation.”

Then, Mr. Coriale threw in an odd line, “Of course, special interest groups cannot be denied and I expect that some will rebut me and label me.” 

Part of that whole self-affected partisan paranoia that is rife on both sides of the isle, I suppose. . . 

I am assuming these formidable “special interests” Mr. Coriale is referring to are the diminutive Suzanne Schieber – an Ormond Beach grassroots environmentalist – and Natalie Pilipczak – a Port Orange High School student, who worked hard to collect over 71,000 signatures and some $26,000 in private donations to help protect a historically significant section of the Ormond Scenic Loop which was in imminent danger of falling to a developer’s bulldozer? 

The fact is, while “politicians make promises,” precious few live up to those pledges – and while the concept of standing firm to one’s word may (understandably) be a foreign concept to partisan political operatives in Volusia County – Chairman Brower is working hard to change the tradition of bait-and-switch politics we have all come to expect. 

In a strange stretch, Mr. Coriale harrumphed, “So, here we are. The ECHO funds are again being used as a slush fund. . .”

No, they aren’t.

But why waste a good opportunity to paint Chairman Brower as an irresponsible spendthrift – a tree-hugging dirt-worshiper whose only goal is to satiate rabid environmentalists with an agenda, eh?


Clearly, Chairman Brower showed the nimbleness to seize a fleeting opportunity to save a threatened section of the Old Kings Road and accompanying archeologically significant sites, while expanding a conservation buffer to protect sensitive wildlife habitat and specimen hardwoods – the very definition of Volusia ECHO’s purpose.   

And he did it in less than 90-days. . . 

In my view, that quick thinking, and ability to move rapidly to see the interests of his long-suffering constituents met in a timely fashion, has upset the stodgy Good ‘ol Boys Club who’s legendary can kicking has kept Volusia County dragging on the hind teat of Central Florida’s civic and economic growth for decades.

All while true special interests, a controlling cabal with all the right last names and the wherewithal to fund the political campaigns of their malleable marionettes, receive untold millions in corporate welfare, “economic incentives,” and perquisites all backed by public funds (read: our hard-earned tax dollars).

Something’s up, folks. . . 

Add to the mounting evidence last week’s goofy diatribe by District 3 Councilman Danny Robins – which now appears to have been a weird semaphore to commence hostilities against the Chairman – a self-aggrandizing screed that resulted in a synchronized attack from the dais – and the sudden appearance of Port Orange Councilman Chase Tramont – another Darling of the Donor Class – who threw his hat in the ring nearly two-years early for the District 2 seat now held by the lockstep loyalist Billie Wheeler – and one gets the idea this is a coordinated effort to neuter Chairman Brower and crush any opposition to the status quo. 

In my view, these treacherous machinations represent the true state of Volusia County government in 2021.

Rotting from the core and as screwed up as it ever was. . .

What does an incredibly popular elected official do when he is under direct attack by the forces of mediocrity? 

What can the Chairman of the Volusia County Council do when he finds himself equally hated (and feared) by the loyal Republican and Democratic apparatchiks who see their death grip on the public purse strings threatened by a return to an actual local government – one of the people, by the people, and for the people?

In my opinion, if he is true to those who cast their sacred vote in the fervent hope that they might have valued input in their system of governance – you live up to the promises made – damn the slings and arrows of those craven greed-heads who, up until now, have controlled everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast.

And, above all, you tell the truth.

Then, Chairman Brower can rest comfortable in the knowledge there is a tsunami of change coming in Volusia County’s 2022 elections – a quantum purge that will give these ass kissing loyalists who continue to mistake the size of one’s bank account with their civic vision something to think about as they sit on the sidelines.    

Rest easy, Chairman Brower – don’t let the bastards wear you down.    

Angels & Assholes for April 23, 2021

Hi, kids!

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              Dream Green Volusia

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

–Margaret Mead

Tuesday saw the successful culmination of a true grassroots effort to save a small, but historically significant, section of the Ormond Scenic Loop from the insult of a developer’s bulldozer – a true labor of love by local environmentalists Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Piliczak. 

And we are all better for their courageous efforts. 

To their credit, neither Suzanne nor Natalie took no for an answer – even when saying “oh well, we tried…” and walking away would have been the easy thing to do – and it was a pitched battle against the forces of ignorance to the bitter end.

So, let us give credit where credit is due.

During their campaign to save a 36-acre section of The Loop that was in imminent danger of residential development, Suzanne and Natalie collected over 71,000 signatures and some $26,000 in donations in support of their Dream Green Volusia initiative – which plastered the region with “Defend the Loop” yard signs and bumper stickers as a means of drawing attention to our fabled scenic byway.   

Along the way, Suzanne and Natalie were met with every form of political chicanery, base apathy, and opposition from some well-connected groups and elected officials who openly scoffed at their plan.

For instance, last year, Mayor Bill Partington and his pro-development shills on the Ormond Beach City Commission (who annexed the property and approved the developer’s zoning requests) did everything possible to hamstring the bold plan to purchase 76 undeveloped lots from Plantation Oaks developer Parker Mynchenberg to add to a conservation buffer. 

In November, Ormond Beach Commissioner Dwight Selby looked down his long nose and tried to take the wind out of the intrepid environmentalist’s sails when he tut-tutted that their presentation at a public meeting, “did not impress him.”

According to a November 2020 report by Abigail Mercer writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “It’s not a priority, it’s not on my radar as something that needs to get done,” Selby said. “Part of it is I’m sort of missing what the point of it is. It’s something that’s going to need a lot more grassroots work.”  

Clearly, Mr. Selby is a master of the old “put them on the political gerbil wheel and let them wear themselves out” tactic for dissuading civic involvement. . .  

Fortunately, Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower fulfilled a campaign promise to the citizens who elected him when he stood tall in support of Suzanne and Natalie’s vision for conserving The Loop. 

Working under extreme time constraints (by government standards, anyway), Chairman Brower demonstrated outstanding leadership in shepherding this difficult proposition to fruition – even as his “colleagues” on the dais of power did their level best to kick the can down the road, “look at other options,” or delay the purchase indefinitely until the whole thing was forgotten about.

On Tuesday, to draw attention to the momentous purchase of the 36-acres (which holds remnant sections of the historic Old Kings Road), unite the elected body, and honor the hard work of Dream Green Volusia and the county staff who hammered out the details – Chairman Brower appropriately placed a “Defend the Loop” bumper sticker in a prominent spot on the dais – something that resulted in a flinty swipe from the horribly meanspirited lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, who inexplicably called the sign “offensive.”

My ass.

Of course, Wheeler’s first salvo set the tone for what would change a moment of celebration for the people of Volusia County into a “Bash Brower” free-for-all when Councilman Ben Johnson made remarks that this time sensitive, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, could have been handled differently – and the Right Reverend Dr. Fred Lowrey (whose only accomplishment during the meeting was successfully picking the remnants of lunch out of his teeth on the dais) arrogantly fussed that he was going to “hold his nose” and vote yes – even though he didn’t agree with the expedited process.


(I don’t recall Dr. Lowrey having a similar revulsion when Volusia County government squirreled away some $9 million in tax supported Volusia ECHO dollars to fund a skeevy “boardwalk extension” in Daytona Beach – an inside project of mysterious origin and dubious benefit that never got off the ground. . .whatever.)

Ultimately, after much political posturing, moaning, and groaning to dilute Chairman Brower’s proud achievement for the people, members voted unanimously (with Councilwoman Barb Girtman absent) to approve the combination expenditure of Volusia ECHO funds, park impact fees, and private donations to cover the nearly $1 million purchase.

This arduous journey has not been easy for Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Piliczak – putting themselves out there against the slings and arrows of the forces of mediocrity – but nothing worth doing ever is.   

Thanks to their perseverance in the face of withering opposition to the simple notion that we have a moral obligation to protect wild places of historic significance – a portion of this natural treasure has been preserved for generations to come. 

Asshole           Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald

There is an old English proverb that says, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”

Unless, of course, you own what passes for a “luxury” hotel in Daytona Beach that received a 410’ traffic-free beach as a cheap spiff from a wholly compromised Volusia County Council – a scheme sold on the premise of “economic development” – and dedicated to the proposition that a private beach theme is more profitable than one covered in taxpaying riff-raff from the neighborhoods.

Except, when it is more advantageous to the hotel’s bottom-line to have vehicles and vendors covering the sand, then Hard Rock Daytona simply petitions their handmaidens in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building and – abracadabra-alakazam – a “permit” is surreptitiously issued by County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald, and, like magic, vehicles return to the Hard Rock’s cordoned off beach once again.     

At least until it becomes more profitable to have the vehicles removed. . .


The Hard Rock’s Jeep-themed special event on the sand drew the ire of area residents, not because they are opposed to Jeep Beach Weekend enthusiasts having fun on the beach – but because of the glaring double-standard that exists for certain people and properties – courtesies and accommodations that far exceed those of John & Jane Q. Public. 

Perhaps more disturbing, according to Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, the permitted event came as a surprise to him as well:

“No, the council did not give the Hard Rock a pass. The council was not informed. I spoke to the County Manager and Attorney about 6 PM. This was approved as allowed by a county ordinance the Manager can use at his discretion. 

County staff can approve requests from beachfront businesses for special events. They didn’t have to ask the council; they were already given that option. But they should have in my opinion, especially when they public outrage is not hard to gauge.

The County Manager agreed to inform the council in any future request. That is a step. I will review the ordinance tomorrow. An ordinance can be improved.

It was not hard to guess our local population would feel like the Hard Rock was thumbing their nose at them. Letting council know before a permit goes live would allow any council member to speak with the public factually. Many other requests would be welcomed because the business making the request had the beach closed unwillingly. The Hard Rock wanted the beach closed and a great deal of the public have resented them since.

The Hard Rock also asked for a parade through the no driving zone. The County Manager turned that down but approved the static temporary display the ordinance allows.  I can’t imagine the negative public reaction that would have resulted in.”

This isn’t the first time Hard Rock Daytona has infuriated citizens by receiving special permission to flaunt the rules – a proverbial middle-finger in the face of area residents who are required to obey the draconian “Laws of the Beach” – or else.   

For instance, many remember the debacle in May 2018 during the hotel’s debut soiree as – “…an array of local elected officials and other area leaders” – looked on like proud parents, tear-stained cheeks aglow from their complimentary cocktails, as a professional fireworks display illuminated the shoreline. . .on the first day of turtle nesting season. 

You read that right.

Is it just me, or does anyone else have the sense that Volusia County government is still very much under the influence of special interests who remain in the shadows?

Those same influential insiders who, for years, have manipulated the rods and wires through the County Manager’s office and other highly paid senior staff members with “director” or “manager” before their names? 

Time will tell.

In my view, the next time Mr. Recktenwald callously ambushes our elected officials with a hot button issue – perhaps he should be asked to ply his trade elsewhere. . . 

I realize old habits die hard – but a behind-the-scenes nod allowing vehicles and static displays on a section of our public beach that was essentially walled off against the will of the people with absolutely no notice to our elected officials or the public has a whiff of the shit about it. 

Asshole           Deltona City Commission

I wrote about the continuing debacle in Deltona earlier in the week, but it bears repeating – because if political assholery had a face – it would look exactly like the Deltona City Commission. . .

On Monday night, our deepest fears for the future of Deltona became reality as many watched late into the night while, one-after-another, area residents dutifully approached their elected officials and literally begged them to disallow zoning changes that would permit a wholly inappropriate zero-lot-line development to be crammed onto 110-acres of environmentally sensitive land near bucolic Osteen.

In fact, the procession went on for hours as nearly 50 concerned residents – augmented by some 30 emails and telephone messages – spoke passionately about the environmental, civic, social, safety, and potential flooding issues presented by shoehorning 189 cracker boxes into a rural area abutting conservation land, long-established ranchettes, and threatened wetlands.

While residents spoke of the quiet solitude of rural life, the joy of hobby farms, their love for the scenic byway that traverses their slice of heaven, and the inherent value of the woodlands, pastures, and unspoiled wildlife habit to future generations – most of their elected officials sat on the dais of power staring back like disinterested gargoyles – seemingly only interested in hearing from the developer’s land use attorney who stood before them with a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged. . .

Following the overwhelming outpouring of opposition from area residents – and the recommendation of their own Planning Board – only Commissioners Loren King, Dana McCool and David Sosa stood with their constituents as the majority voted to sacrifice another slice of Old Florida by caving to the demands of a speculative developer.

I was proud of the courage exhibited by these three servant-leaders and their demonstrated willingness to hold firm to the principles of a representative democracy.

And, like many of you, I was nauseated by the arrogant indifference exhibited by Mayor Heidi Herzberg, Vice Mayor Anita Bradford, Commissioner Victor Ramos, and Commissioner Maritza Avila-Vazquez (who seemed more concerned that she was not being paid “overtime” for the late meeting than listening to the urgent concerns of her constituents. . .)


What happened in the Deltona City Commission chambers in the early morning hours was nothing short of a foul insult to all residents of Deltona – a return to the ‘bad old days’ when gross political alienation led to disruptive protests and a complete loss of the public’s trust in their local government. 

To add insult, at the end of a very contentious meeting, Deltona’s Interim City Manager John Peters received a $2,500 pay increase after scoring a mediocre 258.5 on a 350 point evaluation with incredibly difficult metrics like “Individual Characteristics” (“Do you like ice cream, Mr. Peters?” emmmm Yes? “Me too! Two points to Mr. Peters!”) and “Professional Skills.”

Meanwhile, the citizens of Deltona received squat. . .

To quote Commissioner Loren King, “shame” on those craven shills who openly shit on the will of the people, kowtowing to the nonsensical zoning demands of a developer seemingly intent on ruining this pastoral rural setting – forever disrupting a fragile environment and sensitive wildlife habitat – all in the name of greed.   

Shame, indeed. . .

Quote of the Week!

“In 2015 Volusia County granted a no drive area to the Hard Rock Hotel under the pretense that it was going to bring economic development to the area. 

Well, we all know now that is just what it was, a pretense…..there has been NO economic development as the result of Volusia County Councils actions granting a no drive area to the Hard Rock. 

Now, as evidenced by the attached photo the county apparently has granted the Hard Rock a “special permit” to support their Jeep Beach event.  If removing beach driving promotes such an economic dynamic, why does the Hard Rock need to put the jeeps on our beach? 

Do any rules apply in Volusia County?

I assure you if I drove in that area the Volusia County Beach Patrol would swoop down on me in a minute. 

Why does Hard Rock get special treatment? 

–Civic Activist Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, as excerpted from an open letter to the Volusia County Council, Wednesday, April 21, 2021

And Another Thing!

After a career in local government that spanned over three-decades, I thought I had gazed into the dark abyss of political treachery – and seen every form of backstabbing and dirty trick known to man.

That was before I became an ardent student of Volusia County government.


Tuesday’s 9-hour marathon “meeting” of that august body proved that cheap political preening and over-the-top grandstanding has now become this bimonthly Kabuki theater’s raison d’être.

The “people’s business” be damned – especially when politicians can showboat and waste more time bellyaching that they don’t have time to accomplish anything. . . 


This week, the non-stop political demonization of Chairman Jeff Brower reached its crescendo as that group of loosely aligned stalwarts of the status quo – Johnson, Robins, Wheeler, and Lowrey – took turns publicly humiliating Mr. Brower in that weird passive-aggressive “we really want you to succeed, but…” bleat that lets everyone know they are lying through their teeth.   


In my view, things took a more ominous turn when fledgling District 3 Councilman Danny Robins used Chairman Brower’s logical attempt to set a workshop to discuss beach access fees as a launching point for a clearly rehearsed ad hominem attack – angrily reading his carefully orchestrated screed, almost as if it had been prepared in advance (?)

While most of it was lost on me, I think Mr. Robins’ tirade attempted to convince anyone still listening that his suggestions for generating revenue were great – while Mr. Brower’s “bad ideas” (and campaign promises) are a wholesale waste of the Council’s time – then hypocritically decried “bullying” while viciously doing the same to Chairman Brower.   

He took a few unprovoked swipes at Mr. Brower’s supporters as well.

That I definitely heard. . . 

As “Dictatorial Danny” madly waved his staff or’ the land and pontificated from his lofty perch, I had to take a hard second look at the live feed of the meeting to make certain the political ghost of Deb Deny’s had not resurrected from the ash heap of political has-beens – because Councilman Robins’ unhinged rant sounded eerily familiar to the tactic of “campaigning from the dais” we all came to abhor during the last election cycle. . .      

I am not sure if Councilman Robins was playing to a fusty delegation from the “Republican’s Against Virtually Everything Committee of Volusia County” who were in attendance to pooh-pooh the use of earmarked tax dollars to purchase conservation lands – or, if he has simply reached his emotional breaking point just 90-days into a two-year term?

Regardless, he succeeded in royally pissing off many of his staunch supporters – and alienated some extremely active political camps who are now mounting a strong campaign to unseat his surly ass next year. 

For the record, I like Danny Robins, and I find it unfortunate that the cheese slipped off his cracker in such a dramatic way. 

Regardless, the “angry politician” act is rarely a good look for a recently elected official in the most backward county in Central Florida – especially with an election looming next year. . .

I am not sure who Councilman Robins is taking his marching orders from – but they damn sure do not have his best interests – or budding political career – at heart. . .

How sad. 

However, earlier this week, my lagging spirits were buoyed when we got some great news on the 2022 campaign front when Councilwoman Billie Wheeler announced she would not be seeking reelection!

Woot!  Thank God for small mercies, eh?

Look, Ms. Wheeler can mewl and coo all she wants about how “at peace” she is with her decision to depart the political ring – but everyone knows the handwriting was on the wall. . .

When Chairman Brower trounced the entrenched heir apparent for the top spot last November, it signaled a quantum shift away from years of oligarchic rule, and a gradual return to true local governance – of the people, by the people, and for the people.  

In my view, the citizens of Volusia County are fed up with the stagnant status quo – staring helplessly from the sideline of a very lopsided playing field – while uber-wealthy insiders haul private profits to the bank using public funds (read: our hard-earned tax dollars) to accomplish it.

All while quality-of-life issues are openly ignored and serious public policy decisions are kicked even further down the dusty political trail. 

Unfortunately, we are now seeing Chairman Brower subjected to the same despicable gaslighting that effectively robbed District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post of her first term.

As she begins the long goodbye, I doubt Ms. Wheeler will acknowledge her role in this shameful sabotage of Chairman Brower as she continues her tag team partnership with the equally ineffectual Councilman Fred Lowrey.

Just don’t look for things to change without a fight – or a candidate who cares more about the needs of their constituents than their own craven self-interests. . .   

In a clearly choreographed move, last week Port Orange City Councilman Chase Tramont threw his hat in the ring for the District 2 spot simultaneous to Ms. Wheeler’s announcement. 

I don’t know about you, but the clubby nature of their synchronized revelations gave me pause. 

If Mr. Tramont plans to hitch his wagon to the lackluster legacy of Billie Wheeler – he might want to rethink his campaign strategy – because the voters of Volusia County have had enough of the holdover obstructionism and self-serving arrogance that Ms. Wheeler embodies. 

The fact is, I don’t know anything about Mr. Tramont, other than he appears emotionally stuck in his salad days as the BMOC – a high school basketball star who won the big game – and now fits cringeworthy sports euphemisms into media interviews:

“When I was an athlete, I wanted the ball in my hands when the game was on the line because I had prepared myself to handle those pressure situations.  So likewise, when it comes to governing, high-pressure decisions are made every single day that directly impact the well-being of my family and loved ones.”

Oh, and Mr. Tramont works for Mike Panaggio – the condescending chief apologist and self-appointed social media mouthpiece for our local donor class. . .

While it would be easy to dismiss Tramont’s service on the perpetually dysfunctional First Step Shelter Board – or question his cheesy “Somebody has to go into the lion’s den,” soundbite – I commend his willingness enter the fray and look forward to learning more about how his positions on the important issues of the day differ from Ms. Wheeler’s dull-witted take on things. . .    

Perhaps most important, I will be watching Mr. Tramont’s reaction to the recent revelations brought by former Port Orange Fire Chief Ken Fustin, who exposed serious allegations of coercion in Volusia County’s apparent attempt to extort a reduction in service fees by holding the city’s 24-hour ambulance protection hostage. . . 

I hope you will too.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y,all!

The Death of Democracy in Deltona

I am fond of saying that if you care about good governance in your own community, you should care about good governance everywhere – because in the mosaic of municipalities in Volusia County – the actions of one city will invariably affect the quality of life in others. 

Especially when the topic turns to the multifaceted problem of unchecked sprawl.

For years, there has been a gaping divide between Deltona City Commissioners and the citizens they are sworn to serve, one that many residents and observers find grimly disturbing – a real sense of mistrust fueled by the very real perception that, regardless of the issue or the intensity of their dissent – the will of the people is repeatedly suppressed by the wants of an arrogant and disconnected elected body who have seemingly nothing in common with those they represent. 

In my view, Mayor Heidi Herzberg presides over the most consistently dysfunctional group of elected dullards in this long-suffering community’s existence – a weird group who run the intellectual gamut from bright and engaged to borderline morons with a chip on their shoulder – all complicated by a secretive and organizationally unsound City Hall that has resulted in a well-founded “Us vs. Them” mentality that continues to divide and frustrate taxpayers. 

Following former City Manager Jane Shang’s reign of terror – and the election of the intrepid civic activist Dana McCool – many residents saw a glimmer of hope, a return to “normal” after public meetings dissolved into outrage, with vehement, even profane, protests as alienated citizens fought back against a tyrannical and insular “system,” one they could neither understand nor control.

On Monday night, our deepest fears for the future of Deltona became reality as many watched late into the night while, one-after-another, area residents dutifully approached their elected officials and literally begged them to disallow zoning changes that would permit a wholly inappropriate zero-lot-line development to be crammed onto 110-acres of environmentally sensitive land near bucolic Osteen.

In fact, the procession went on for hours as nearly 50 concerned residents – augmented by some 30 emails – spoke passionately about the environmental, civic, social, safety, and potential flooding issues presented by shoehorning 189 cracker boxes into a rural agricultural area abutting conservation land, ranchettes, and threatened wetlands.

While residents spoke of the quiet solitude of rural life, the joy of hobby farms, their love for the scenic byway that traverses their slice of heaven, and the inherent value of the woodlands, pastures, and unspoiled wildlife habit to future generations – most of their elected officials sat on the dais of power staring back like indifferent gargoyles – apparently only interested hearing from the developer’s land use attorney who, in typical fashion, stood before them with a handful of gimme and a mouthful of much obliged. . .

Following the overwhelming outpouring of opposition from area residents – and the recommendation of their own Planning Board – only Commissioners Loren King, Dana McCool and David Sosa stood with their constituents as the majority voted to sacrifice another slice of Old Florida by caving to the demands of a speculative developer.

I was proud of their courage and willingness to hold firm to the principles of a representative democracy.   

After the final vote was taken – long after midnight – I found it difficult to sleep as I pondered the bigger question of what this growing political alienation means as increasing numbers of citizens feel disconnected from their local government, cravenly ignored by haughty policymakers who make irreversible decisions that will forever transform the land and the character of the community.

What happens when We, The People no longer feel we have any way to effect public policy, when the concept of civic engagement becomes meaningless, and the negative consequences on the public trust and polarization continue to erode our foundational principles? 

What happened in the Deltona City Commission chambers in the early morning hours was nothing short of absurd – like watching recalcitrant children defiantly force a jigsaw puzzle piece into the wrong space despite all evidence to the contrary.

It was ugly and patently insulting, as the needs of rural landowners and the fervent pleas of those concerned about the very future of Deltona and beyond were openly shit on by those who have forgotten where their political power originates.   

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: Time for an outside investigation of Volusia Public Protection?

The bully-theme has become its own genre in American film – from Carrie to Mean Girls, A Christmas Story, Lord of the Flies, and The Karate Kid – the premise of the misfit loner, reclusive outcast, or the socially awkward weakling being bullied and harassed by the “cool kids” before finally having his or her fill and fighting back against their tormentors in a visually appealing climactic confrontation is incredibly popular with movie audiences.    

Unfortunately, life rarely imitates art, so intimidation and harassment rarely end without outside intervention.

The act of governmental bullying – where the arrogance of size and the fallacy that bigger is always better leads to a false sense of superiority and infallibility – is something that has become institutionalized at the County of Volusia.

For instance, in 2017, the citizens of Daytona Beach Shores felt the belligerence of their county government when they rightfully balked at Volusia County constructing a parking lot on some of the most valuable beachfront property on the eastern seaboard. 

In response, Volusia County filed no less than three lawsuits against the small seaside community – exposing those hubristic bureaucratic golems in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building for the bullying ogres they are.      

After coming to the realization that appeasement only shows weakness in the face of aggression, then Daytona Beach Shores Mayor Harry Jennings accurately described his county tormenters in The Daytona Beach News-Journal when he said, “They’re dictators.”

History shows that Volusia County has consistently forced their will on the long-suffering municipalities – from the arbitrary closure of community libraries, to using taxpayer dollars to file suit against the citizens of Volusia County challenging our standing in beach access issues, and the capricious closure of large sections of the strand to our century-old tradition of beach driving – along with the gross intimidation of citizens, city officials, and even Volusia County Council members who refuse to join the cult of mediocrity.

Never mind the fact that Volusia County has been plagued by historic incompetence and maladministration – including acts of negligence that allowed publicly-owned buildings and facilities to become community eyesores – and fostered a bought-and-paid-for legislative process so wholly controlled by outside influence that the mere presence of a prominent insider in the council chamber magically swings the vote every time. 

Anyone who has ever served in local municipal government can tell you horror stories of how this bloated bureaucracy arrogantly throws its sizeable weight around (read: an overstuffed budget approaching $1 Billion) and attempts to crush anyone or anything that stands in its way. 

Don’t take my word for it. 

Ask Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower – or District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post – how their outside-the-box thinking has been received by those entrenched marionettes sitting next to them on the dais of power.  

Tragically, late last week, we saw the results of this bureaucratic bullying and gaslighting result in the ruination of a good man’s career as Port Orange Fire Chief Ken Fustin reached his breaking point and aptly took Volusia County Director of Public Protection Joe Pozzo to task using the colorful vernacular that most hardened emergency service professionals understand.

In my view, once he had Fustin where he wanted him, Little Joey clutched his pearls and reeled in mock horror – before running home to tell daddy that Kenny called him a bad name. . .

Real Blue Falcon stuff. . . 

According to a shocking revelation by Chief Fustin following his swift termination, we gained some valuable insight into the extortionate behavior that, over months and years, led to the confrontation:

“My professional relationship with Mr. Pozzo took a dramatic nosedive about 10-months ago when I felt he and Volusia County Fire Chief Howard Bailey were attempting to extort the taxpayers of Port Orange by reducing the annual enclave fire protection fee Volusia County paid to Port Orange, in exchange for allowing Port Orange Fire to operate our ambulance 24-hours per day, instead of the 12-hours per day they have limited the department to for the past two-years.

There had been a long history of the County paying Port Orange $50,000 per year for enclave fire protection, in spite of the fact they were collecting nearly 3 to 4 times that amount from their rate payers within these enclaves.

They proposed reducing the annual enclave fee to $35,000 per year on a three-year contract offer, so a reduction of $45,000 in total. This was concurrent with conversations I was having with County Fire Chief Bailey who stated if I were to accept the lower enclave protection fee, he would help get us 24-hour ambulance coverage.

Where I’m from, that’s extortion….

My City Manager and my Assistant City Manager were fully aware this was going on at the time.

Mr. Pozzo has been stringing Port Orange along for nearly a year operating our ambulance at only 12-hours a day while Volusia County EMS regularly wasn’t available for emergencies in Port Orange during nighttime hours. This resulted in New Smyrna Beach and Ponce Inlet getting sent into Port Orange to provide our citizens ambulance transport.

Mr. Pozzo’s lack of actions has placed our citizens and my former members at risk, and I wasn’t going to sit silently any longer and watch it happen. I lost my temper in Mr. Pozzo’s presence but regret nothing I said to him.”


For years, many area Fire and EMS professionals – those dedicated public servants responsible for providing the life-saving assistance we depend on (and pay for) – have described Volusia County leadership as suffering from an inflexible mindset, totally resistant to systemic change, that has resulted in a utterly dysfunctional and alarmingly inefficient emergency medical transport service.

As a result, several years ago, the majority of Port Orange City Commissioners, after careful deliberation, bravely decided that they were not going to wait while Volusia County gambles with the lives of its residents and – like several other municipalities – agreed to purchase and staff its own ambulance.

To demonstrate how serious Port Orange elected officials considered this issue – they mustered the political courage to increase taxes to help pay for improved service delivery – something former Chief Fustin vehemently championed.

That did not sit well in the inner sanctum of power in DeLand.  

To add insult to injury, during a 2018 Volusia County Council meeting, Councilwoman Post, after taking the time to meet with area firefighters and paramedics, confirmed the problems at EVAC were “serious” and strongly suggested that our elected representatives on the dais of power in DeLand do something about it.

For her trouble, Ms. Post’s remarks were described as “irresponsible and reckless” by her do-nothing “colleague,” the Right Reverend Fred Lowrey.   

My God. 

I ask you, what is more unprofessional – a veteran fire chief so personally dedicated to the safety of the citizens he serves that he finally reaches an emotional melting point and slings a few choice invectives at the obstructionist asshole putting them in danger – or a callous “Director of Public Protection” in title only who flagrantly endangers the lives of Port Orange residents by obstinately withholding 24-hour ambulance service from the community in a crude attempt to coerce a reduction in service fees?

In my view, the citizens of Port Orange should have given Chief Fustin a commendation.

Now that this horrendous debacle has been exposed – at the cost of Chief Fustin’s career and reputation having been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency – it is time for all residents of Volusia County to demand an investigation into the gamesmanship exhibited by Director Pozzo as he used a potentially lifesaving service as a cudgel to beat the citizens of Port Orange into submission – all while goading a brother firefighter into career suicide. 

Given their fiduciary responsibility to the citizens they serve, the Port Orange City Commission has an obligation to investigate former Chief Fustin’s claims as well.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire – and if they are to maintain the public trust – our elected officials in Volusia County and Port Orange simply must get to the bottom of it.     

This bureaucratic thuggery should not stand.    

Angels & Assholes for April 16, 2021

Hi, kids!

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           Volusia Director of Public Protection Joe Pozzo

There was a time in the dark ages when cops and firefighters could settle their personal and professional differences like brothers and sisters without someone getting their feelings hurt and running home to momma.

In my department, the locker room was where we could argue amongst ourselves, resolve interpersonal issues, bemoan our domestic situation, tell jokes, congratulate our own performance, salve our wounds, and complain about the brass – discussions that were always peppered with the liberal use of expletives – safe in the knowledge that whatever was said, in anger or otherwise, was just between those involved. 

It was part of what forms the brotherhood and sisterhood of the emergency services – law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services – a bond forged between those who trust each other with their very lives – supporting each other physically and emotionally in often dangerous and difficult circumstances. 

Regardless of petty differences or internecine spats – when the radio call comes, or the tones drop, we become one team – dedicated to the simple concept of putting the lives of others above our own self-interests. 

In law enforcement, we could fight like cats and dogs, but we remained a family – and nobody else better get involved. . .    

Many old school firefighters I know tell similar stories of times gone by, before it was necessary to involve the command staff – or “human resources” – in sorting out interoffice quarrels or bruised feelings. 

Firefighters call it “The Brotherhood” – something that transcends gender, race, or religion – a title bestowed on those in the fire service who have earned their place and strive every day to live up to the high moral and ethical standards of their chosen profession.   

Unfortunately, resolving issues between colleagues and building trusting relationships – something that was once a strong bonding experience in public safety organizations – is no longer encouraged.

Now the very thought of settling a disagreement outside the narrow scope of a legally vetted personnel policy is a terminable offense – and the benefits of a bloody nose or venting pent-up frustrations between peers – has been replaced with “dispute resolution” protocols, or litigation that often results in the undoing of a career. 

This week, I was reminded of how far afield we have gone when I read a cryptic story in The Daytona Beach News-Journal describing a “verbal altercation” between Port Orange Fire Chief Ken Fustin and Volusia County Director of Public Protection Joe Pozzo earlier this month.

Let me be clear, I know nothing about the particulars of the incident – but I do know that Chief Fustin, a career firefighter who retired after 33-years with the Springfield, Illinois Fire Department before coming to Port Orange in 2016, was placed on administrative leave and publicly relieved of command pending an internal investigation.

Late yesterday, Chief Fustin was summarily terminated for what was officially described as “inexcusable” behavior that did not comport with the city’s “core values.” 

Strong words for a non-physical confrontation. 

I also noticed that Director Pozzo was not. . .

It appears the City of Port Orange threw the book at Chief Fustin, and I mean the whole book – pages, binding, and hard cover – charging him with, “…behavior that may be in violation of City Policy or against one or more of the City’s core values: Commitment, Adaptability, Respect and  Ethics/Integrity.”


I know from personal experience that Volusia County government can be extremely difficult to deal with and when someone representing a local municipality stands up for the interests of their community – that audacity in the face of an obstinate, outsized, and incredibly controlling county bureaucracy – can result in heated tempers. 

As it should. 

The News-Journal report remined me that Chief Fustin has been a vocal critic of Volusia County’s abysmal emergency medical transport service that was putting lives in danger – something that led to the City of Port Orange fielding its own ambulance – a move that openly irritated those haughty muckety-mucks in DeLand. 

Trust me.  It is not easy speaking truth to power. 

Once, during the latter part of my career, I was summoned to the City Manager’s office where I was told a very high-ranking Volusia County government official had lodged a complaint against me following a dispute over law enforcement funding priorities in the Community Redevelopment Area. 

My manager refused to identify the complainant by name (suffice it to say he is no longer in County government) – and the petty allegations were little more than a snooty powerplay – but hurtful, nonetheless.  

Admittedly, I was known for having sharp elbows when it came to protecting the interests of those I served, but there was no need to destroy my career over a policy disagreement.

It was the equivalent of a bully picking on the littlest guy in the political sandbox.  

Interestingly, the matter mysteriously went away when my wife filed a formal public records request seeking costs associated with the renovation of the executive suite at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – and a mysterious incident during which a former county manager’s publicly-owned vehicle was stolen from a boatyard with a set of privately-owned golf clubs inside. . .

I never forgot that – and I am not the only municipal employee that has felt the vengeful wrath of this horribly bloated county bureaucracy. 

Unfortunately, it appears Port Orange Interim City Manager Jamie Miller – who was elevated to the temporary top spot in January after serving as something called an “administrative services director” – saw fit to publicly humiliate her fire chief, drag him through the mud of a hush-hush investigation, then fire him over a “verbal altercation.”

Say what?

Something doesn’t sound right to me. 

At worst, if Fustin engaged in a heated public argument with Pozzo, he should have received a formal reprimand – a stern reminder that the Fire Chief should always maintain a professional bearing, blah, blah, blah. 

And, in my view, as a brother firefighter – Director Pozzo should have stepped in to support Chief Fustin – assuring everyone involved that it was a scrap between two guys from the old neighborhood – something that could be resolved between them. 

Now, it is too late for that. . .

In my view, this one bears watching – and if Ms. Miller overreacted – she should be shown the door. 

Welcome to the pleasures of command, Jamie. . . 

Considering there was more information on how to make a corned beef sandwich in this week’s News-Journal than why a prominent Port Orange city official was ultimately terminated, perhaps the Volusia County Council can set aside time during a future meeting to have a more public exploration of the verbal tiff which so grievously offended Director Pozzo’s delicate sensibilities – to the point it was necessary to destroy the career and reputation of a fellow 40-year veteran of the fire service.

Inquiring minds – and the taxpayers of Volusia County and Port Orange – want to know.

Angel              City of DeBary

In the early days of this electronic soapbox, I cut my editorial teeth on what became known as The Debacle in DeBary. 

Much to my surprise, this squalid tale of treachery, abject greed, and the base arrogance of misguided political power in a tiny town on the banks of the St. John’s River drove tens-of-thousands of readers to this site, and, for good or ill, Barker’s View quickly became part of the political discussion in Volusia County. 

In 2016, the City of DeBary devolved into a cautionary example of what can happen when a local government becomes hopelessly enmeshed in the murky motives of property developers and those who – for a healthy fee – navigate the fast and loose Turkish bazaar that passes for environmental permitting in the Sunshine State.

The city’s twisted scheme to develop 102-acres of environmentally sensitive land adjacent to the DeBary SunRail station was first exposed by the incredible investigative journalism of former Daytona Beach News-Journal environmental reporter Dinah Voyles Pulver.

Her outstanding reportage peeled the onion on the St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board and permitting process – to include the fact public officials transferred public funds to the then District Chairman – who happened to own an Orlando-based “environmental consultancy” – in exchange for his personal assistance in securing SJRWMD permissions for the transit-oriented development.

You read that right:  The Chairman of the SJRWMD Governing Board received money from public and private clients to lobby for their interests in front of the very state regulatory board he oversaw.


Earlier this week, I read an informative piece by the News-Journal’s intrepid Wild West Volusia correspondent Katie Kustura, who reported that the City of DeBary is actively developing a plan to protect the threatened Gemini Spring complex from further nitrogen poisoning by replacing 2,000+ septic tanks and limiting turfgrass fertilizer in the vicinity of the springs.

According to the report, “The need to devise a plan is a result of the 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act in which the state Legislature identified 30 Outstanding Florida Springs, one of which is Gemini Springs. In Volusia County, Blue Spring and DeLeon Springs also received that designation.”

Not surprisingly, all three springs in Volusia County are considered threatened, suffering from the devastating effects of excessive nitrate pollution. Once a plan is in place, DeBary officials can begin working with county, state, and federal partners to identify potential funding sources to limit or eliminate the financial burden on area residents.

Unfortunately, DeBary’s City Manager, Carmen Rosamonda, struck a sour note during an interview with Kustura, when he moaned, “It’s another mandate and burden that’s put on local governments without any funding.”


Why is it that local governments always cry the poormouth blues and squall about “unfunded mandates” when asked to clean up an environmental catastrophe they helped create in their own backyard? 

In my view, many county and municipal governments in Florida continue to succumb to the lure of overdevelopment – the lie of “progress” – as the largesse of speculative developers fuel political campaigns at all levels and we willingly foul our own water supply with greed-crazed malignant sprawl. 

Add to that the sickening practice of transporting the overabundance of sewage sludge – politely called “biosolids” (the byproduct of the wastewater treatment process) out of southeast Florida and dumping it as fertilizer at the headwaters of the St. John’s River – and you get the idea that we are literally shitting in our own nest. 

With an estimated 1,000 new residents moving into the state every day, does anyone believe the volume of sewage – or the complex problem of what to do with it – is going away anytime soon?

I hate to be the voice of reason, but we have made quite a mess of things, and it is past time to reverse this grim trend.  

In my view, Mr. Rosamonda should consider it a privilege – and a sacred responsibility – to help restore Gemini Springs to good health by doing everything possible to eliminate sources of nitrogen and other pollutants – including a hard moratorium on the use of turfgrass fertilizer and chemical applications on ornamental grasses and plants within identified priority areas – and our friends in Tallahassee should work to strengthen the lackluster “regulations” that continue to fall short of restoring and protecting our sensitive springs and waterways. 

It’s a good start. . .

Angel               Volusia Forever/ECHO Alliance

Like many of you, last November I made my voice heard at the ballot box as Volusia County voters overwhelmingly voted to renew the Volusia ECHO and Forever programs, which use a portion of our property taxes to purchase conservation land and preserve our rapidly vanishing environmental, cultural, and historic places. 

For me, the selling point for both was the highly visible nature of the quality-of-life projects funded in our communities – and the renewed emphasis on the acquisition and safeguarding of environmentally sensitive lands surrounding our springs, lakes, rivers, and wetlands – a practice critical to protecting our future water supply. 

I also happen to agree with a position paper recently issued by the Volusia Forever/ECHO Alliance – the group which helped lead the 2020 grassroots effort to get both programs on the ballot – which contains commonsense recommendations based upon stakeholder consensus and polling information obtained from Volusia County voters. 

These recommendations include revising existing procedures to rank and review projects for funding based upon “objective standards of environmental values, management considerations, potential for partnership, and independent appraisals,” insulating the programs from political influence, and requiring that County Council members declare a conflict should they have a contractual or property interest in an application under review. 

Will good people disagree over funding priorities?  I hope so. 

In my view, when it comes to allocating our tax dollars for maximum value, the debate of competing ideas leading to hard-fought consensus always beats a rubber stamp based solely on who has more influence. 

To maintain the public trust, it is imperative that both oversight committees be allowed to operate independent of internal or external pressure – something that will require complete transparency, independent appraisers and audits, and the development of an open and honest review process that comports with both the letter and spirit of the ballot language. 

In recent weeks, area residents had an opportunity to make their voices heard on the ECHO program during multiple “listening sessions” held throughout Volusia County. 

Now, it is time for citizen input on Volusia Forever. 

These meetings present information on how ECHO/Forever benefit our quality of life and allow residents an opportunity to present their thoughts and suggestions – both in person and virtually – to advisory committee members and elected officials.  

The final Volusia ECHO listening session will be held:

Thursday, April 22, at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Avenue, DeLand

Volusia Forever listening sessions include:

April 21: DeLand – Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Avenue

April 28: New Smyrna Beach – Brannon Center, 105 S. Riverside Drive

May 5: Daytona Beach – Beach Safety Headquarters, 515 S. Atlantic Avenue

May 12: Ormond Beach – City Hall, 22 S. Beach Street

May 19: Deltona – Regional Library, 2150 Eustace Avenue

All sessions begin at 6:00pm.

Those wishing to participate virtually should go to and see the individual advisory committees’ pages for more details. 

While you are at it, I hope you will consider an urgent request by Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower:

“The Volusia County Council votes April 20 to decide if we settle for a buffer or actually save the land and extend the Loop bicycle path to the west side of Old Dixie Highway.  You can help get this done by taking three actions.

1.  Help raise another $10,000 to buy the land. So far DREAM GREEN VOLUSIA has helped raise $20,000!

Every dollar donated demonstrates to the council how much you love this land. 

DONATE HERE and help us reach $30,000 by the 20th!

2. Go to and email your County Council members to approve the unanimous recommendations of the Historical Preservation Board AND the ECHO boards to purchase this land.

3. Come to the County Council meeting April 20th to show your support for this purchase.  Our meeting will start with public comments at 9:30 AM. There will be another opportunity to speak up for land preservation after lunch.”

I hope you will. 

This one’s important – and Chairman Brower deserves our support as he fights hard to change the entrenched status quo. 

Quote of the Week

“On April 19, the Deltona City Commission will hear a request to rezone 110 acres of wooded property along Enterprise Osteen Road. Of the 110 acres, 55% is open water, wetlands, or within the 100-year flood plain. It abuts and shares a wetland system with the nearly 500-acre parcel known as the D Ranch Preserve, owned and placed into conservation in perpetuity by Conservation Florida. The property’s other borders are adjacent to 10-acre parcels and a 100-acre parcel all engaged in agricultural activities, a lake, and acreage-oriented residential lots. Conservation Florida has gone on record with the concern that development of the scope under consideration with this rezoning request will have a negative impact on the shared wetlands system and the plants and animals that it is their duty to protect as stewards of the preserve.”

–J. Scott Green, Osteen, as excerpted from his op/ed in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Deltona city leaders shouldn’t trample the beauty of a delicate country landscape,” Tuesday, April 13, 2021

And Another Thing!

Earlier this week, I published a piece venting my disappointment over a full-service restaurant now open for business in the new Brown & Brown headquarters building on Beach Street. 

Look, normally I could care less what King J. Hyatt Brown does with his growing empire – because there is little anyone can say or do that will impede his idea of progress in the Kingdom of Hyattona – but this was different. 

We were promised one thing – then handed something quite different. 

Everyone who is anyone in business and government in Volusia County sold the long-suffering taxpayers on the notion that the very presence of King Hyatt’s massive glass-and-steel office building would be the panacea that transforms the decades old blight and civic neglect that has turned our downtrodden downtown into a place best avoided. 

Then, we were asked to help. 

Just weeks after the carefully orchestrated announcement we would receive the headquarters, both the City of Daytona Beach and the County of Volusia ponied up millions-of-dollars in infrastructure improvements, financial incentives, and property tax abatement – which, we were told, would assist Brown & Brown in obtaining even more tax credits from the State of Florida for the promised 600 “new high-paying jobs” the HQ would bring to Daytona Beach.

As the News-Journal reported at the time, these lucrative spiffs were championed by “some of the city’s heaviest hitters,” to include the formidable former Mayor Glenn Ritchey, past County Chair Frank Bruno, and representatives from Halifax Health, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cobb Cole, ad infinitum. . .

There was heady talk around town – exciting words like “rejuvenation,” “recovery,” and “revitalization” were bandied about – as our ‘powers that be’ assured us tax paying piss-ants that downtown restaurants, shops, and bars would be brimming with young free spending Brown & Brown executives – something that gave strapped area merchants reason to hang on by their splintered fingernails just a little while longer. . .

The idea of Brown & Brown opening a restaurant – complete with a 24-hour kiosk to ensure no one needs to leave the campus – struck me as counter to the promise of a bustling downtown experience, with storefronts filled with young, upwardly mobile executives enjoying a working lunch at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen or meeting with friends and colleagues over a pint at McK’s. 

After sucking millions of local dollars in “economic incentives” – with the promise of more state tax breaks to come – good, old fashioned corporate welfare that everyone agreed to ignore on the promise of prosperity – J. Hyatt brings in a French food service group who won’t even source its fish in Daytona Beach?

That didn’t sit right with me.

In response, Mike Panaggio – who has become the official apologist and social media flack for our ‘Rich & Powerful’ took exception to my jaded views – accusing me and other vocal critics of King Hyatt’s plan to rebuild downtown Daytona in his image of being “jealous” – and suggesting we should all get down on our hand and knees and kiss the hem of the King’s garment for his largesse in plopping this self-aggrandizing monument in our community. 

“As a shareholder of BNB I feel the HQ should have been in a more appropriate city like a Charlotte or Atlanta or even Dallas but Hyatt pushed for Daytona because he loves the city. He has led BNB to incredible levels during his tenure and NO I had no say in the Boards selection of Daytona. Do you honestly feel that the city would be better off without the investment and the new park gift. Also do you know the difference between the public company and Hyatt’s personal contributions? They are quite different since he in fact owns a minority share of BNB.”


As anyone watching knows, I made my living as a Holly Hill cop.  Do you think I am motivated by money – or jealous of yours?

Look, if Mr. Panaggio wants to kiss King Hyatt’s sizeable backside, so be it – the line is long and distinguished.

Just don’t demand I join in.

Perhaps it is time Mr. Panaggio understand that it is easy to confuse the size of someone’s wallet with their civic vision – something that always seems to benefit the latter – and anyone paying attention can see how the use of strategic blight and wholly controlled elected officials has left much of the community in ruins – as all the right last names continue to haul public funds out of downtown by the truck load in the form of tax subsidized parking garages and other private projects. 

Empty promises that continue to destroy what remains of our once bustling commercial area as our ‘powers that be’ push their twisted idea of “progress” – and use our money to accomplish it.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

The Kingdom

Way back in the fall of 2017, insurance magnate and undisputed ‘King of the Realm,’ J. Hyatt Brown, gathered his loyal subjects before him at an “invitation only” event – where both the message and the audience were carefully controlled – and announced plans to construct his Grand Headquarters building on Beach Street – something that King Hyatt’s handmaidens in government and industry hailed as a panacea for Daytona Beach’s downtrodden downtown. 

The answer to our collective prayers and problems – a catalyst for transformative success.

There was gushing adulation from all the right last names as City Manager Jim Chisholm said, “It’s a game changer for the downtown area,” and Dr. Kent Sharples of that mysterious camera stellata over at the CEO Business Alliance swooned, “It’s the biggest and best thing that’s happened since General Electric (or sliced bread, for that matter) in terms of the number of jobs created, salary and impact on our community.”

Whoop!  Whoop!  Good times were here again, again!

In a September 2017 article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, King Hyatt assured us this magical makeover of our languishing downtown – an area that has suffered the indignity of civic neglect for decades – would, of course, require “government help” to accomplish:

“But bringing the project to fruition will require government help. The company is asking for financial incentives from the city, county and state. Company leaders have been talking to state officials for several months about corporate tax credits that could be given in exchange for creating an agreed upon number of jobs in a particular salary range.

No specific ask has been made yet to the city or Volusia County, but J. Hyatt Brown said he’s had a “very, very favorable response from the city and county.”

Very, very favorable, indeed. . . 

Just weeks later, both the City of Daytona Beach and the County of Volusia ponied up millions-of-dollars in infrastructure improvements, financial incentives, and property tax abatement – which, we were told, would assist Brown & Brown in obtaining even more tax credits from the State of Florida for the promised 600 “new high-paying jobs” the HQ would bring to Daytona Beach. 

As the News-Journal reported at the time, these lucrative spiffs were championed by “some of the city’s heaviest hitters,” to include the formidable former Mayor Glenn Ritchey, past County Chair Frank Bruno, and representatives from Halifax Health, the Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cobb Cole, ad infinitum. . . 

I am just absolutely delighted,” said Mori Hosseini, chairman and CEO of ICI Homes.”

“John Albright, president and CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co., said the new headquarters would be “an important spark to the redevelopment of downtown.”

There was heady talk around town – exciting words like “rejuvenation,” “recovery,” and “revitalization” were bandied about – as our ‘powers that be’ assured us tax paying piss-ants that downtown restaurants, shops, and bars would be brimming with young free spending Brown & Brown executives – something that gave strapped area merchants reason to hang on by their splintered fingernails just a little while longer. . . 

To prepare for the second coming of the once vibrant Downtown Daytona, we acquiesced to a plan that gifted a riverfront park to J. Hyatt for his self-aggrandizing “esplanade” – if the citizens of Daytona Beach would agree to pay some $800,000 annually for upkeep – then, a bizarre plan was hatched to replace a perfectly serviceable streetscape.

The taxpayers of Daytona Beach were blindsided as their elected officials agreed to underwrite parking garages and apartment complexes – and historic churches were felled to make way for “progress” as defined by the Good Old Boys Investment Club at CTO Realty Growth (née) Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company. . .

We were assured these sacrifices were our contribution to the coming opulence and affluence envisioned by our exalted Monarchy – those uber-wealthy insiders who holds all the cards – the price of a golden ticket to board the Brown & Brown gravy train to prosperity.

The headquarters was billed as far more than just another glass-and-steel office building.

It was essentially a 10-story talisman, a sacred place with the supernatural power to transform a community that has wallowed in blight, mediocrity, and abandonment for so long it has lost its very identity – and ultimately surrendered to the sad notion that literally anything new held the promise of redemption – regardless of what it cost us. 

At the time, I dropped a turd in the proverbial punchbowl when I pondered aloud, “What if it’s just another insurance office?  You know, a dull place with bored cubical drones grabbing a bite at their desk – doing their eight then hitting the gate – driving home to some overpriced apartment off LPGA Boulevard?”

My concerns were summarily dismissed by those with a chip in the game as the ravings of a nay-saying asshole. . .

I don’t know about you, but my beat-up old heart dropped on Friday when I read a shocking piece on WNDB’s website headlined, “Creative Space Café” Brings Fresh, Locally Sourced Meals To New Brown & Brown HQ.”

In the informative article, we learned from News Daytona Beach’s Sean Mooney:

“The Sanctuary Café—operated by the France-based hospitality company, Sodexo—opened earlier this year in Brown & Brown’s newly opened Beach Street headquarters. The establishment offers guests a variety of meals and some familiar flavors, such as those offered from their own in-house Boar’s Head deli—which uses breads from local bakers.

For those with a craving for fish, the Sanctuary Café also offers a variety of fresh fish that’s sourced right here in Central Florida from Gary’s Seafood of Orlando. That fresh, never frozen fish is then used to create their signature poke bowls. And on Fridays, the fish is used for their Fresh Catch Friday action station where it’s cooked to order.

Patrons can also use the café’s 24-hour self-checkout kiosk to purchase Sodexo’s Simply To Go line of parfaits, sandwiches, salads, and snacks for after-operating hours purchases. Guests can also utilize Sodexo’s free app “Bite by Sodexo” to order ahead and pick up their order once they come in.”

According to the report, the Sanctuary Café will soon offer “fully prepared meals that people can bring home for dinner.”

In addition, the rumor mill is abuzz with gossip that once complete the new Brown Esplanade may host a national chain restaurant as well. . . 

Wait a damn minute. 

After sucking millions of local dollars in “economic incentives” – good, old fashioned corporate welfare that everyone agreed to ignore on the promise of prosperity – J. Hyatt brings in a French food service group who won’t even source its fish in Daytona Beach?

A full-service restaurant – complete with a 24-hour kiosk – which ensures employees never leave the campus? 

What about the jampacked local restaurants and shops? 

What about the bustling downtown experience?  Storefronts filled with young, upwardly mobile executives enjoying a working lunch at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen – or grabbing a slice at Zappi’s – then meeting with friends and colleagues over a pint at McK’s? 

What happened to the panacea project?  The “biggest and best game changer” our “heavy hitters” promised?

Welcome to the great bait-and-switch. 

Welcome to the Kingdom


This afternoon Barker’s View joins the public affairs forum GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm.

We’ll be talking local issues and taking your calls on the fastest two-hours in radio!

Join us locally at 1380am “The CAT!” or online at (Listen Live button).

Angels & Assholes for April 9, 2021

Hi, kids!

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 News-Journal Editor Pat Rice 

Sometimes I wonder if Pat Rice and I live in the same community?

The divergence of our viewpoints on the issues of the day could not be more contradictory – and his editorials and stewardship of our hometown newspaper seem increasingly tailored to bore his readership into a pap and fluff coma – rather than educate and inform.    

For instance, does anyone give two-shits about a “Naked Cowboy” bobblehead doll? 

Me neither.   

But despite our thirst for hard news on the myriad issues we face here on the Fun Coast, earlier this week, Mr. Rice chose to devote the bulk of the News-Journals frontpage (and damn near half of 2A) to shamelessly marketing the nodding likeness of a street busker who heaped vile abuse on a Daytona Beach police officer following a misdemeanor arrest during Bike Week. 


As the regionalization (and “dumbing down”) of our hometown newspaper continues, what passes for “local journalism” is often a reworked press release from Palm Beach County fashioned into an outdated article that has gone completely stale by the time it reaches our driveway, or worse, a haughty lecture from the editorial board on the social issue du jour.   

It is not the depth of the newsroom – The Daytona Beach News-Journal is blessed with some of the best reporters, columnists, and investigative journalists in the business – but the constant experimentation and endless changeups as Gannett executives attempt to keep their product relevant demonstrates an annoying desperation that is turning many readers away. 

And some of Mr. Rice’s editorial positions simply defy logic. 

For instance, last Sunday, Mr. Rice took a weird stance on the innumerable – and almost fatal – leadership, financial, and administrative issues that continue to plague Bethune-Cookman University when he pooh-poohed the significant contributions of former president Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite, all while heaping praise on the University’s perennially dysfunctional Board of Trustees.

Why?  Apparently, Dr. Chrite didn’t return Mr. Rice’s phone call. . .  

Instead, Chairman Belvin Perry, along with several members of B-CU’s board, gave Mr. Rice a three-hour audience – little more than an off-the-record ego massage that most journalists worth their salt would have recognized for what it was – a not for publication tête-à-tête that may have buoyed Mr. Rice’s self-image, but neutered any substantive inquiry, and left our newspaper’s chief editor with nothing to report beyond the impressive résumés of current board members.  

Well played, Chairman Perry.  Well played.

Clearly, Dr. Chrite’s abrupt departure for Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, arguably the most prestigious business school in the nation, was met by shock and disappointment as the reality of the situation stunned B-CU students and alumni. 

Last month, an informative piece by the Daytona Times quoted B-CU National Alumni President Johnny McCrae, Jr.:

“I do think the board ran him out.  I think the board is responsible for this.  There is a rift.  I have some issues with the role of the board which needs to be addressed.  Chrite’s leaving shows a lack of stability in the Board’s leadership.”

Did Mr. Rice bother to speak to those most affected by Dr. Chrite’s departure before advising “critics of B-CU’s board” to ignore their experiential instincts and support more of the same? 

In my view, the instability and upheaval at Bethune-Cookman University is real – and it is detrimental to the fragile viability of this important institution. 

The fact is, Bethune-Cookman University remains in a very precarious position – just months out of an imminent shroud crafted from greed and maladministration – something many in the administration worked hard to reverse.

The departure of a professional administrator of Dr. Chrite’s international acclaim, someone who righted a leaky ship in very turbulent waters – does nothing to instill confidence in potential donors, creditors, students, or staff – and all the puff pieces and soft-soap Mr. Rice can churn out is not going to change that.   

Only strong, committed, and ethical leadership can turn things around.   

Look, taking contrary opinions for the sake of being contrary is my gig.

Fair and balanced reporting on the important issues of the day and forming an editorial stance based upon the factual totality of the circumstances – rather than bruised egos – is the business of The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

At least it should be.  

Asshole           Volusia County Council

On April 29, National Football League franchises will gather in Cleveland to select newly eligible players for the 2021 NFL season.

My hope is that owners will consider members of the Volusia County Council as key prospects for kicker positions. 

Given their propensity for expertly punting important issues down the political playing field – in my view, these craven do-nothings are prime draft picks. . .

On Tuesday, many watched in slack-jawed amazement as Chairman Jeff Brower asked his “colleagues” to consider begging their woefully overworked and underpaid senior staff to pull together information regarding the possibility of selling naming rights and sponsorships for beach approaches as a potential revenue source.

Understand, Mr. Brower put no date certain on his innovative suggestion – which brings with it the possibility of reducing the burden on residents for beach management costs by an estimated $1 million – merely a request to get things moving in an exploratory fashion.   

Unfortunately, that was too much to ask of their exhausted senior staff – who are apparently physically and mentally drained from rearranging PowerPoint presentations and speaking in circles. . .

When Chairman Brower brought the item for discussion, he was immediately met with the foot-dragging excuses that typically result in good ideas and unconventional solutions being lost in the bureaucratic ether, only to return months/years later in a form or function that bears no resemblance to the original thought. 

Disappointingly, Councilman Ben Johnson said that, while he was not opposed to discussing the issue, he wanted it postponed until after the new budget takes effect – a delaying tactic that was quicky advanced by Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – who mewled about how overburdened everyone is, you know, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and all. . .

My ass.

In response, Councilwoman Heather Post asked the logical question, “We’ve been in COVID for well over a year now.  Who knows how long COVID is going to last, so does that mean that we don’t look at county government issues until that passes?”

In addition, Councilman Johnson noted that he is a fan of “user fees” – like the exorbitant $20 daily toll Volusia County residents currently pay for vehicular access to their public beach – except, in this case, Volusia County also dips into our general fund to supplement the grotesquely distended beach management budget – to the tune of some $9.6 million for the current fiscal year alone. 

In my view, I don’t think Volusia County residents should have to pay to use our beach.

But if so – then direct our wholly inept Coastal Division Czar Jessica Winterwerp to start cutting expenses and downsizing operations so John & Jane Q. Public are not taxed twice for a day at the beach. . . 

When Ms. Post moved to have staff compile information on naming rights at their leisure (God forbid there be any stress applied to our six-figure big shot bureaucrats) her motion was met with the eerie sound of chirping crickets, which resulted in Chairman Brower politely appealing to Mr. Johnson, asking if he would move to bring the issue back in the fall. 

Ultimately, the stonewalling Billie Wheeler floated a motion to bring back the idea sometime after October 1 – a move that had the desired effect of killing any further mention of something potentially beneficial to their constituents – a dilatory maneuver which, of course, received unanimous support. 

In the end, Councilman Lowrey took a cheap shot at Chairman Brower – chastising him for “pressuring” Mr. Johnson into making an alternative motion – then arrogantly demanding that Brower never do the same to him. 


It is time Rev. Lowrey realizes that no one expects anything of substance from him anymore – and it is apparent that his passive hostility toward Chairman Brower is clearly choreographed for effect.   

Until the new Chair was elected – Councilman Lowrey suffered a debilitating form of political mutism that rendered him a wholly ineffectual non-entity on the council – and I hope his constituents recognize that his latest feigned parliamentary expertise is just another brazen attempt to publicly humiliate and marginalize Mr. Brower for having the boldness to challenge the status quo. 

Since taking office in January, Chairman Brower has championed the purchase and preservation of environmentally sensitive land along The Loop, Ormond Beach’s scenic byway, singlehandedly drug the languishing issue of short-term rentals to the forefront, spoke passionately on water quality and development issues, met with the owners of Hard Rock Daytona to discuss beach access issues – to include voicing his support for opening beach driving from the Boardwalk to East ISB – and advocated to increase the number of admission tickets which will allow family members to attend high school graduation ceremonies.  

Too much, too soon?  Maybe. 

But Chairman Brower’s enthusiasm and impressive work ethic is encouraging – a refreshing change to the slogging dysfunction and stagnation that have plagued this elective body for decades.    

My hope is that Volusia County voters will remember these craven obstructionists – obstinate timewasters who oppose or prolong any initiative that may bring positive change to an atrophied system where mediocrity thrives – and jettison these shameless shirkers in favor of true servant-leaders with a willingness to bring innovation and originality to the intractable issues we face.   

Angel               Deltona’s Brandy Lee White

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

–Abraham Lincoln

I’m sure Brandy Lee White has heard Abe’s little ditty a few times this week.  

A few days ago it was reported that the strong-willed Deltona civic activist who has worked tirelessly to bring substantive change to the fumbling and bumbling method of governance in her community, filed a lawsuit following the crucible of fire she and her family were forced to endure in 2018.

In the highly publicized case, Ms. White was criminally accused by Deltona’s former City Manager Jane Shang and Finance Director Tracy Hooper of using her cellular phone to “surreptitiously” record a brief meeting with Hooper in a public area of City Hall.

According to Ms. White, the charge was filed to silence her constitutionally protected civic involvement – and she accuses the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office of being manipulated by Shang in her apparent pursuit of intimidating and retaliating against Ms. White. 

As a result, Ms. White experienced the horror of being wrongfully accused of a felony crime – a life-altering event – a traumatic psychological blow resulting from the stigma, shame, adverse personal and professional impacts, and a loss of standing in the community – not to mention the fear, frustration and disorientation that comes as the case slowly winds its way through the byzantine system.

Fortunately, our outstanding State Attorney R. J. Larizza – who is often required to call balls and strikes at the nexus of petty politics and criminal accusations – rightfully declined to prosecute Ms. White.

In my view, the pathetic ‘powers that be’ in the inner sanctum of Deltona City Hall did not like Ms. White – so they set about to destroy her – using the full might of the criminal justice system to silence her. 

If that doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, it should. . .    

And, inexplicably, Deltona’s elected officials refuse to take the matter to task and make things right.   

After several failed attempts to reach an amicable agreement with city officials to mitigate her harrowing experience and bring positive change to the way citizens are treated by their elected and appointed officials, this week, Ms. White filed a lawsuit “pro se” – meaning “on one’s own behalf” – without benefit of a lawyer.

The rambling suit names just about everyone who was anyone in Deltona City Hall in April 2018. 

There is an ancient adage that says, “He who goes to the law takes a wolf by the ears,” and, unfortunately, I fear when the City’s highly paid legal staff get Ms. White in a courtroom it will not be pretty as they further embarrass, humiliate, and consume her like a lamb in a lion cage.

Look, one should not attempt to remove their own diseased appendix for the same reason they should not represent themselves in a court of law.

Ms. White clearly has pluck. 

I wish her well. 

My sincere hope is that the City of Deltona will tell their incredibly expensive attorneys to retract their fangs and detach themselves from the public teat, stop victimizing a civically active resident, and reach a reasonable agreement with Brandy White – one that recognizes and compensates the permanent and irreversible harm she has endured – then develop strong protections so that no citizen who attempts to participate in their government is forced to endure such a vengeful and spiteful attack in the future.        

Quote of the Week

“If you could only address one issue during your first year as chair, which issue would it be?

The biggest issue that Volusia County faces now and certainly in the future is water quality and water quantity. The problem is when you just focus on that one thing, it encompasses so much more because of the way we develop. Every new home that is hooked up to water is reducing the amount of water and we really do have a problem that the aquifer is not keeping up now with the amount of water that we have.”

–Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, as quoted in an interview with the Ormond Beach Observer, “Q+A with Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower: beach driving, the Loop and water quality,” Thursday, April 1, 2021

And Another Thing!

In years past, if someone said to me, “Did you hear Holly Hill is hosting a prestigious International sports tournament this week?” I would have assumed they were the victim of a closed head injury and called an ambulance. . .

But “The City with a Heart” is doing just that!

This week, Pictona and the City of Holly Hill is proudly hosting The Humana-Island Doctors Bainbridge Cup, described as “pickleball’s foremost international event.” 

This year’s competition has drawn some 500 competitors, including 65 local entrants, and represents the first time the Bainbridge Cup tournament has been played in the United States.

This major event is sanctioned by the International Federation of Pickleball, who touts the $6 million Pictona complex “…as the finest pickleball facility in the world with 24 lighted courts, 8 covered courts, championship courts, a clubhouse and an onsite restaurant.”

In my view, Pictona is the most exciting addition to the Halifax area in decades. 

Kudos to everyone involved for bringing this high-status sporting event to Holly Hill!

The tournament, which is free and open to spectators practicing COVID-19 safety protocols, continues through Sunday with competitive play beginning at 8:00am each day.    

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

The Cult of Mediocrity

The old saying “If I knew then what I know now” speaks to the universal themes of wisdom and regret, perils and pitfalls, the consequences of our choices, hard lessons learned. 

It is an age-old lament that has been translated into every language in the world and muttered by all people of a certain age as both an affirmation of the benefits of hindsight and retrospection – and a warning to those behind them on the trail of life.    

The process of gaining knowledge through experiential learning is painful – and dreadfully expensive – and the often-embarrassing nature of learning from our mistakes keeps some from admitting their fallibility or changing course, because doing so would break with homogenized lockstep conformity, knowing the best way to camouflage oneself is to stick with the herd.

We see this a lot in local government – especially in the molasses-like quagmire that is Volusia County – where a firmly rooted status quo moves at a glacial pace and things of substance often wither and die of age and neglect. 

As District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post learned during her first term, “mavericks” – freethinkers who dare to consider solutions outside the aging box of conventionality – are not welcome in the inner sanctum at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.

That is the domain of those who understand the benefit of getting along and going along.

A place where toeing the line buys politicians admittance to a very exclusive club – and wraps them in the welcoming blanket of political patronage provided by powerful insiders with the wherewithal to influence elections – and public policy.

For nearly four years, her long-suffering constituents watched as Ms. Post was beaten like a borrowed mule by her “colleagues” on the dais of power – openly maligned, marginalized, and discredited personally and professionally – as Volusia’s ‘Old Guard’ attempted to pound a square peg into the round hole of conformity. 

The melodramatic eyerolling and histrionics on display whenever Ms. Post would attempt to move an issue forward – or, God forbid, question a member of senior staff – was ugly and painful.

Perhaps more important, the open obstructionism and ostracism of Councilwoman Post by perennial elected officials – political retreads who had long overstayed their effectiveness – denied the residents of District 4 the equal and effective representation they voted for and deserve. 

This political shunning – the physical and emotional rejection of a duly elected member of the Volusia County Council as a means of modifying behavior, limiting influence, and forcing allegiance to the status quo – is now being wielded against Council Chair Jeff Brower. 

On Tuesday, Chairman Brower attempted to discuss an innovative idea to sell naming rights and sponsorships of beach approaches as an alternative revenue source – one that would reduce the burden of beach management on taxpayers – possibly leading to the elimination of onerous beach access tolls for Volusia County residents. 

Almost immediately, Mr. Brower’s request was met with the foot-dragging excuses that typically result in good ideas and unconventional solutions being lost in the bureaucratic ether, only to return months/years later in a form or function that bears no resemblance to the original thought. 

Disappointingly, Councilman Ben Johnson said that, while he was not opposed to discussing the issue, he wanted it postponed until after the new budget takes effect (why would anyone delay discussion of something that could have a positive impact on the budget?) – a delaying tactic that was quicky advanced by the stonewalling Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – who mewled about how overworked senior staff is, you know, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and all (read: counting and stacking the $225+ million in federal CARES Act largesse).

And, once again, a good idea – one which held the potential of true and lasting benefit to the people of Volusia County – was kicked down the dusty political trail. . .

If you are interested, I discuss Tuesday’s public pillorying of Chairman Brower in tomorrow’s Angels & Assholes column (because, in my jaded opinion, this embarrassing episode surely represents the height of political assholery). 

On April 27, Chairman Brower will present the State of the County Address – billed as “…an annual opportunity for the County Council to celebrate partnerships, reflect on the accomplishments of the previous year and outline the County’s future goals” – which, in years past, has been little more than a toffee-nosed klatch of our civic and social elite.

My sincere hope is that – rather than regurgitate a laundry list of pseudo-accomplishments as claimed by those do-nothings at Team Volusia or the mysterious CEO Business Alliance – Mr. Brower will use this opportunity to shine a very bright light on the dysfunction, sloth-like foot dragging, and obstructionist mentality of the political in-crowd that has resulted in economic and civic stagnation. 

Now that Chairman Jeff Brower knows what many of his constituents have known for years, it is time this cult of mediocrity be publicly exposed for what it is. 

Free Money?

On Tuesday, the Volusia County Council will reflexively pass the 56th extension of the State of Local Emergency related to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

And, if history repeats, it will accept another massive infusion of federal funds under the ever-expanding COVID-19 response and relief umbrella. . . 

The local emergency declaration was originally passed in March 2020 and gave extraordinary powers to County Manager George Recktenwald and then Chairman Ed Kelley to make unilateral decisions in the early days of the public health emergency. 

Let’s just say our tried-and-true emergency management protocols did not work as planned. 

In fact, the wheel came off the proverbial cart when some council members felt their contributions were being overshadowed – resulting in contradictory social media statements and stilted press conferences – punctuated by hysterical manifestos by a few elected officials demanding the immediate closure of all parks, beaches, recreation facilities – and urging “shutting down businesses completely for two-weeks. . .”

The fact is it would be unthinkable for a politician to let a good crisis go to waste without an opportunity to grandstand – an operational certainty during any emergency – which resulted in spit-spats and finger pointing as “colleagues” began calling each other out for failing to act with sufficient panic-stricken overreach.

Historians will write tomes about the abject buffoonery, one-upmanship, and political cowardice that marked the early days of the pandemic.

I lost interest in the State of Local Emergency about the 14th extension. 

How about you?  Was it the 5th or the 35th?

Regardless, the concept is now meaningless – nobody cares anymore – except those number crunchers in the bowels of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building who shovel the enormous influx of federal funds into the gaping maw of this outsized bureaucracy. 

Last year, the federal government allocated $96.5 million in CARES Act funds to Volusia County. 

Of that, some $21 million went to Daytona “International” Airport, while $15 million was doled out to the municipalities.  By December 2020, it was reported that “…$19 million has been spent on rental and mortgage assistance and about $1.6 million has been approved and will soon go out.”

In my view, things took a weird turn when Volusia County announced it would be spending CARES Act funds to renovate the former New Smyrna Beach Courthouse Annex – something described by Facilities Director Jim Corbett as the “fastest-moving project” he had ever seen. 

Oddly, the original cost of the contract mushroomed from $377,464 to a whopping $996,170 – with County Manager Recktenwald explaining that change orders are normally spread over the course of a job, but this time, the elected officials were getting them all at once.

Say what?

How can a contractor anticipate change orders before the first nail has been driven?    

When several sitting councilmembers questioned the massive price hike – they were mollycoddled into acquiescence with the bureaucratic lullaby, “unforeseen site conditions and upgrading the facility to current Florida building codes, yada, yada, yada. . .”

Why the rush? 

Because the use of federal CARES Act funds required that permits be in hand no later than the last day of 2020. 

Is it just me, or does anyone else think renovating a county-owned building using federal funds earmarked for a public health crisis is contrary to the programmatic goals of pathogen control and community economic recovery?

Trust me – the questions surrounding how the tsunami of federal relief dollars is being acquired and spent isn’t limited to county government. 

Last week, Mark Harper wrote an interesting piece in The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled “Who got federal PPP loans? Were they needed?”

In an interesting quote from our High Panjandrum of Political Power, we got a brief glimpse into the mindset of some local companies in the early days of the crisis:

“Mori Hosseini, president of ICI Homes, acknowledged that home builders ended up doing well in Florida in 2020. But he said that trend wasn’t clear in the first months after the pandemic hit a little more than a year ago and business for everyone slowed for a time.

“The year ended up being pretty good, but we didn’t know (when the pandemic first hit),” Hosseini told The News-Journal on Friday. “Many, many companies immediately laid off people. We decided not to lay off anybody. The culture of our company, we didn’t let people go. So when the opportunity came (for PPP funds), we grabbed it.”

Hosseini also pointed out that his Daytona Beach-based company, which builds homes across Florida, pays millions of dollars in taxes every year.”

This phenomenon of “grabbing” federal funds before demonstrating a need is clearly not limited to the private sector. 

In the late 1990’s I saw local governments across the state of Florida engage in a kleptocratic feeding frenzy when the tobacco settlement showered millions of dollars on dubious youth smoking enforcement and prevention programs – funds that paid for totally unrelated public programs and projects, and supplemented overtime payments for police officers who drove around aimlessly trying to catch Little Johnny Jones puffing a Marlboro behind the corn crib. . .  

There is a unique dynamic that occurs whenever our government fills a trough with cash – then removes the normal checks and balances that deter waste, fraud, and abuse – almost a mob mentality where rules and mores no longer apply.   

Having studied crowd control theories during my professional life, I can tell you that in the early life cycle of a mob – the members lose their sense of individuality and humanity – and become susceptible to emotion, fearmongering, and suggestion as the “collective mind” takes over.

Do the same motivations and psychological drivers apply to government and industries who, by all indicators, not just survived the pandemic but thrived during the economic downturn?  

According to Mr. Harper’s informative report, “…some 343 building and construction firms in Volusia and Flagler counties received $23 million in PPP loans to help support just over 2,000 jobs.”

Yet, “…across Florida, building permits were up 30% in 2020 over the previous year,” and “…new home sales across Florida were up more than 20% over 2019. And 483 real-estate industry firms in Volusia and Flagler counties were recipients of PPP loans totaling about $15 million to support nearly 1,600 workers.”


Nothing about this corporate gluttony made sense to me, then I read on a construction industry website an explanatory article on forgivable PPP “loans” that began, “It’s not as good a deal as free money, but it’s pretty close. . .”

Like I said, this week the Volusia County Council will do two things of substance – both of which will go virtually unnoticed by those who have become desensitized through repetition:

Our elected officials will vote to accept some $2,741,015 in grant funds under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act – specifically earmarked “…for costs related to operations, personnel, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, combating the spread of pathogens at the airport, and debt service payments,” essentially anything that can be remotely correlated to combating the spread of COVID-19 at Daytona “International” Airport.

Then, they will approve the 56th extension of the State of Local Emergency.

With millions of dollars in “free money” being lavished on local governments, many of which have seen little, if any, loss of revenue – and area businesses finding it impossible to hire employees now that individual “stimulus” checks, eviction prohibitions, and assistance programs are flowing freely – many are contemplating the long-term impacts this massive federal largesse will have on all levels of our economy.

If history repeats, I suspect the gorge-until-the-teat-goes-dry mindset will hold until the damage becomes too great to ignore.   

God help us.