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?
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what passes for “local journalism” is often a reworked press release from Palm Beach County fashioned into an outdated article that has gone completely stale by the time it reaches our driveway, or worse, a haughty lecture from the editorial board on the social issue du jour.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. . .
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.”
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!