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.
It will soon be time to start traveling again. Summer vacations and weekend getaways – things we could only dream about this time last year.
We all need some time away – a fresh perspective that comes from a change of scenery – a chance to see what other communities are doing to put their best face forward.
Last week, my wife and I joined dear friends on a road trip to South Carolina’s enchanted Lowcountry – essentially the coastal and cultural region which encompasses the beautiful marshlands and sea islands – a place of moss draped live oaks, canopied byways, and the ever-present aroma of saltwater and pluff mud, all framed by brilliant azaleas and camellias ablaze with spring color.
I have loved Charleston since I first laid eyes on her – the Holy City – with its charming colonial architecture, church steeples, picturesque alleyways, vibrant arts and entertainment, upscale shopping, and incredibly diverse culture, punctuated by a flourishing food scene that rivals New Orleans.
Or Paris, for that matter.
From the beautiful antebellum mansions and old money opulence South of Broad, to its historic French Quarter and beautifully lush gardens, flickering gas lamps and carriage houses, the City of Charleston puts its rich history on full display – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all.
On a daytrip to the historic waterfront community of Georgetown, about an hour north of Charleston on Highway 17, we experienced a vibrant downtown, punctuated with eclectic shops and funky restaurants, which the Chamber of Commerce is proud to note are almost exclusively owned and operated by local residents.
Following a tour of beautiful Pawley’s Island with its weathered ‘arrogantly shabby’ beachfront cottages and narrow treelined streets, on a whim, we turned north on the coast road for the short drive to the bustling tourist mecca of Myrtle Beach on The Grand Strand.
After stopping at The Bowery – a wooden beachfront honky-tonk best known for giving the supergroup “Alabama” their start – we sipped rum drinks on the boardwalk and watched the throngs of tourists, volleyball players, and beachgoers do their thing just off the traffic packed boulevard.
I really enjoyed the feel of Myrtle Beach – lively, bustling, ‘touristy’ in an old-fashioned way, packed with a diverse group of families, bikers, and young people.
Does it have issues similar to east Volusia? Sure.
But I found it an old school destination that never gave up its identity or inherent charm – a place that truly lives up to its marketing slogan: “Where happiness comes in waves.”
Upon returning to the Charleston area, we took the drive out to Folly Beach, southeast of the picturesque Ashley River, for an incredible oyster roast at Bowen’s Island – self-described as “…an aging pile of cinder blocks and boards held up by layers of graffiti” – a 70+ year old restaurant in name only that steams enormous clusters of fresh local oysters in a small inner-sanctum under the building – briny bivalves best washed down with copious amounts of ice-cold Hamm’s beer.
As one food writer so aptly put it, “Bowen’s Island isn’t a restaurant, it’s a state of mind. . .”
If you are looking for a spring getaway, consider taking the drive north to Charleston and immerse yourself in the extraordinary history and culture of one of the most unique cities in the world.
You’ll be glad you did.
Now, let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Asshole Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry
Let this serve as a cautionary tale to any local business owner, resident, or investor who gets caught up in the momentary hype and attempts to provide substantive input on how to improve our blight-ridden beachside. . .
In my view, when it comes to tyrannical diktats and despotic decrees, few local “leaders” can match the consistent authoritarian overreach – or base stupidity – of Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
If there is one thing a tin-pot tyrant like Mayor Henry knows it is how to get his name in the newspaper by taking wildly controversial positions – especially when those views prove detrimental, even fatal, to Daytona Beach businesses who are struggling mightily to emerge from the economic devastation left by the pandemic – an almost hour-to-hour fight to keep their doors open and support the families who rely on them.
Of course, Hizzoner always wraps himself, and his goofy dictates, in the thin cloak of “safety” – easy insulation for someone who has not missed a paycheck during this entire ordeal and knows that he won’t – so long as the spigot of public funds remains patent.
During his closing remarks at a recent City Commission meeting, Mayor Henry figuratively lit his Calabash pipe, donned the deerstalker of an expert criminologist, and stunned many with his asinine pontification that the city’s extended 3:00am bar closing for permitted establishments should be rolled back to 2:00am as a means of curbing crime (?).
In an excellent heads-up by Eileen Zaffiro-Keen writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we read a cogent quote from Rick Kitt, a local entrepreneur who owns three establishments along the horribly neglected Seabreeze Boulevard:
“Anything that takes money out of people’s pockets is not a good idea,” said Kitt, who owns Daytona Tap Room, the Axe & Grog Pub, and Evolved Vegan Kitchen. “With COVID everyone’s struggling. Why put more people out of business? They’re supposed to support us.”
Last month, Seabreeze Boulevard business owners (no doubt regrettably) joined residents in a wide-ranging discussion of what could be done to improve the area.
The meeting followed a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence when the new owners of the Plaza Resort joined Hotel/Motel Association president Bob Davis and Mayor Henry on a walking tour of the area – a stroll that left some local merchants claiming it was the first time they had ever laid eyes on the city’s Mayor. . .
During the subsequent “brainstorming” session, numerous suggestions were floated – including establishing an arts district with murals and functional sculptures, placemaking signage designating Seabreeze an entertainment zone, increased security and trash pickup, beautifying facades to spruce up the area, even a shuttle service to improve transportation for residents and visitors.
Apparently, one resident suggested closing the bars earlier so people can “feel safe” on Seabreeze Boulevard. . .
Guess what stuck with “Il Duce”?
Perhaps now local merchants and entrepreneurs will finally understand why it is best to keep Mayor Henry and his business crushing “economic development” types in City Hall at arm’s length.
Let this be a lesson.
If history has proven anything, it is once Mayor Henry sets his sights on your business – bad things are going to happen – unless you are an uber-wealthy insider with the wherewithal to underwrite his political campaigns coupled with a willingness to ignore his ham-fisted fumbling on the dais of power – then, the world is your oyster. . .
In Mayor Henry’s world, nothing can be given unless something of equal or greater value is taken away – a repressive give-and-take that instills fear and limits opposition.
It is called control.
Still want to get involved?
I didn’t think so. . .
Don’t take my word for it, ask most Main Street area businesses how things have worked out for them under “Il Duce’s” regime – or speak with any potential investor who has jumped through the myriad hoops and hurdles that are forcing small business start-ups to neighboring communities – then ask yourself how much longer the voters of Daytona Beach will allow this tyrannical hack to drive our core tourist area into the toilet?
Angel Daytona Beach City Manager Deric C. Feacher
Thanks for holding firm, Mr. Feacher!
While other finalists for the Daytona Beach City Manager search turned-tail and ran for the hills when they got their first look at what passes for “governance” here – Deric Feacher ignored his physiological fight-or-flight response and stuck with us when others did not.
Thanks to his fearless tenacity (or lack of a pain avoidance instinct?) Mr. Feacher was appointed to the top post following a marathon meeting last weekend.
As I wrote earlier in the week, at the end of an awfully long day – which included an eleventh-hour attempt by Quanita “Call me Commissioner!” May to wipe the slate clean and start over again – a discombobulated round-robin discussion led by Mayor Derrick Henry resulted in the selection of Mr. Feacher, 44, who serves as the current manager of Haines City, a community of 26,000 near Winter Haven.
Commissioner May cast the lone vote against Mr. Feacher. I assume because several civically engaged residents spoke in his favor. . .
Now, all that remains is for Daytona Beach City Attorney Robert Jagger and City Commissioner Aaron Delgado to negotiate an amicable contract with Feacher to be discussed and approved by the full commission in coming weeks.
Many in the community are worried that the Jagger/Delgado legal tag team will gift Mr. Feacher with an ironclad contract that will make it nearly impossible (if not prohibitively expensive) to unseat him should the need arise – but I know Mr. Delgado is a smart guy who will ensure things are fair and reasonable for all involved – including the long-suffering residents of Daytona Beach.
This one’s important – because as the City of Daytona Beach goes – so goes the rest of the Halifax area, and given the harsh financial wallop of the pandemic, and the heavy yoke of the most anti-business local government in memory, we desperately need someone with an open-door and enthusiastic vision for our future.
Look, I don’t know about you, but I am relieved this godawful selection process is behind us – and we all deserve a reason for optimism.
I hope you will join me in welcoming Mr. Feacher back to our community (he is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University) and let’s give this good man an honest chance to prove his worth, get a handle on the formidable challenges we face, and help build a bright future for the World’s Most Famous Beach!
Angel Central Baptist Church & The Florida National Guard
A few weeks ago, a dear friend reached out and gave me a hot tip.
Word was that Central Baptist Church in Daytona Beach was hosting a COVID-19 vaccination site that weekend.
Miraculously, there were appointments available – and my age group had finally become eligible.
So, without much hope of success, (after all, I’m a lapsed Episcopalian, not a Baptist, and certainly not a member of Central) I thought, it won’t hurt to call the church for details.
Much to my surprise, the helpful lady who answered the phone immediately signed me up – and while she could not tell me what flavor of vaccine would be available on the day – she assured me that if I appeared at the appointed time, I would receive a jab.
Considering the hell and high water I went through to get my 86-year-old mother the two Moderna inoculations at the Volusia County Fair Grounds – I was leery that any process involving the Florida Department of Health could possibly be this easy – or organized.
A few days later, I received a confirmation call from the cheerful church lady and it looked like this thing was really going to happen!
And it did.
When I arrived at beautiful Central Baptist, I was promptly greeted by a uniformed member of the Florida National Guard who confirmed my name on the list and courteously invited me inside. In the sanctuary I was met by an equally attentive healthcare worker who quickly checked my paperwork and escorted me to a room where the vaccine would be administered.
I then learned that I would receive the coveted Johnson & Johnson one-and-done vaccine!
While I waited a few minutes for a seat to open, I spoke with a National Guard staff sergeant who explained that the soldiers assisting were from support units based in Orlando and Tallahassee.
The soldier explained that he was a vehicle operator by military occupation, but everyone involved seemed completely comfortable facilitating the logistics of moving people through what was a rapid and highly organized process.
Once inside, a friendly nurse asked me a few questions before painlessly administering the shot and issuing my completed vaccination record.
Fortunately, I experienced no side effects at all – beyond a slight soreness at the injection site which quickly went away – with none of the fever, fatigue, and general aches many have reported after receiving the various vaccines.
Per Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent order, Floridian’s 18-years of age and older will be eligible for the vaccine beginning Monday, April 5 – and I encourage everyone who wants one to take it.
It is an individual decision – what works best for you and your family – and I realize many have serious reservations about receiving the vaccine.
All things considered, I feel most fortunate to have had the opportunity.
Kudos to Central Baptist Church, and the remarkable soldiers of the Florida National Guard, for providing this potentially lifesaving service – thanks to all involved for a wonderful experience!
Quote of the Week
“Daytona’s appetite for out-of-control ravenous growth is going to be detrimental to all of Volusia County, particularly on the eastern side.”
–Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington, as quoted in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Avalon Park Daytona project gets Planning Board’s approval,” Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Look, I’m not a traffic engineer, but I have developed a foolproof method for gauging the level of congestion and gridlock on Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach by the number of times I am forced to roll down my window and scream – “Pull your head out of your ass, you dumb S.O.B!” – a well-intentioned public service that assists my fellow motorists in retaining situational awareness to ensure they move people and goods down the roadway safely. . .
No need to thank me. Just doing my part.
Let’s call it Barker’s ‘PYHOOYAYDSOB Measure of Infrastructure Effectiveness.’
As the current mega-developments and tony “theme/lifestyle communities” west of I-95 reach buildout, I find the run between Nova Road west to Williamson Boulevard is consistently a four PYHOOYAYDSOB trip.
And things just took a turn for the worse. . .
The Frankensteinian Avalon Park Daytona got a jump start last week when the Daytona Beach Planning Board approved a preliminary plat for the project’s first phase which will include some 1,609 residential units and 90,000 square feet of commercial property.
According to the Observer’s report, “. . .the commercial portion of the development in this first phase would front on Granada Boulevard.”
Of course, the City of Daytona Beach is absolutely giddy over the project, continuing their ‘damn the torpedoes – growth at all cost’ approach to urban planning with no concern for the detrimental impacts this malignant sprawl will have on neighboring communities, our fragile natural places, or our regions threatened aquifer.
With a glittery promise of adding “$2 billion in ad valorem values to Daytona Beach and Volusia County,” don’t expect any impediments to this latest concept of “progress” that will border an already overburdened State Road 40 and beyond.
Everyone gets over. Everyone gets fat. And no one who should seems to care.
Of course, to put a band aid on the gaping avulsion that the slash-and-burn land clearing will leave on the pine scrub and wildlife habitats, Avalon’s first phase includes “…six parks, two amenity centers and the preservation of wetlands at the southern portion of the project.”
Building artificial greenspace and “amenity centers” is how pro-growth politicians and planning board puppets live with themselves after allowing some out-of-town developer with a profit motive to churn the land into a moonscape – essentially shitting in our own nest – all to make way for 10,000 more overpriced cracker boxes and the godawful commercial strip centers that sustain them.
Welcome to the party, Mr. Mayor. . .
Better late than never.
And Another Thing!
Last week, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, Sons of the Beach, began circulating a petition urging the Volusia County Council to return on-beach parking from International Speedway Boulevard north to the Boardwalk.
Petitions are now available at the Oasis Tiki Bar, RST Computers, Crabby Joe’s, Main Street Station, The Guitar Attic, and both Salty Dog Surf Shops. You can also download a copy at www.sonsofthebeach.org – or sign the petition online here: https://tinyurl.com/yazye4ec
I hope you will join me in supporting this important grassroots effort to restore beach access in the challenged Main Street corridor and return a sense of fun to our core tourist area!
In addition, I wholeheartedly support Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower’s bold new plan to exempt county residents from the exorbitant beach access fees that have all but priced a day at the beach out of reach for many Volusia County families.
Mr. Brower believes that Volusia County taxpayers have already given their pound of flesh for the privilege of accessing their public beach – and they should not have to pay again to use it.
According to Mr. Brower:
“First, if you want to discourage something you tax it. If you want to encourage an action you give tax relief. Tolls and driving restrictions have been killing our beachside since they were started. We were promised Miami Beach like results. It failed.
Most people who live here are glad we didn’t become Miami. But we have all suffered from the declining beachside these policies have laid at our feet. The results of these failed policies are a gateway to the World’s Most Famous Beach that is an embarrassment. Main Street and the Boardwalk died. A1A and Seabreeze Blvd. have declined and discussions are finally beginning to plan ways to rejuvenate it.
Removing the toll booths completely would make us a destination for visitors and locals once again. That means increased business for all. When you tax less, revenue increases. It’s a proven economic principle. And when you make folks welcome they come back and bring friends.”
If you live or do business in Volusia County, I encourage you to support Chairman Brower and his innovative plan to make our beaches more accessible for all residents.
That’s all for me. Happy Easter, everyone!