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.
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.