Most professional journalists describe bloggers as worthless losers who live in their mother’s basement – socially inept nudniks shoveling Cheetos into their crumb-coated mouth – while angrily trolling the interwebz, conjuring dark myths about government.
Before mom tells them to wash-up for supper, that is.
Speaking from experience, the life is not nearly that glamorous. . .
A recent statistic by those who make their living keeping track of these things says there are currently some 152 million blogs on the internet – with a new one coming online every 0.5 seconds.
Damn. That’s a lot of fat-assed couch ‘taters with internet access and a chip on their shoulder, eh?
Or is it a clear indicator that people are beginning to pull their heads out of the sand and they don’t like what they see – desperate to be heard – and tired of being force-fed the pap and fluff that passes for “news” currently being churned out by mega-media conglomerates?
For instance, in recent weeks, the Gannett owned Daytona Beach News-Journal has spent more space decrying social inequity in the marijuana industry and indulging in other far left handwringing than reporting hard local news – virtually ignoring the pressing issues that affect our lives – while the civically detached/socially connected editor lectures us with “We’re the oracle of responsible journalism, folks – ignore those uncivil cretins trying to draw an audience on social media.”
Add to that editorials that try to convince Volusia County residents that politically powerful insiders, big money interests who have openly controlled Volusia County for decades, are not locked in a no-holds-barred power struggle with our new Chairman Jeff Brower, despite all evidence to the contrary.
In his standing Sunday space, News-Journal Editor Pat Rice wrote, “We have a responsibility to cover the news about all segments of the communities we cover. We have a responsibility to be civil on our opinion pages, even when we have a strong point of view to share.”
Perhaps Mr. Rice should re-read that statement – tack it to his office wall – and understand the importance of not insulting our intelligence week-in-and-week-out as he attempts to run interference for what his newspaper has described as Volusia’s “Rich & Powerful.”
For me, after spending a lifetime clawing my way to middle-management in a small local government bureaucracy – then hanging on by my shredded fingernails for over three-decades – the process of writing these weekly screeds is cathartic.
A creative means of purging my own conscience after years of silent conformity – bearing witness to the sausage being made from the inside out – watching the good, the bad, and the ugly of the mosaic of municipalities that make up the Halifax area – and experiencing the buffoonery of Volusia County government, who, for years, has deftly refined the role of the oafish ogre that far outgrew its britches.
I observe, read, and digest the machinations of area governments, then use the hindsight of my experience to bring a different perspective on the magician’s slight-of-hand – something I hope stirs a larger discussion of the myriad issues we collectively face.
While Volusia County is my traditional stomping ground – pound-for-pound – those elected and appointed dullards in DeLand cannot hold a candle to the consistent political absurdity in Flagler County.
Considering we share the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area with Flagler County – geographic areas linked by social and economic factors – I like to keep a jaded eye on Palm Coast, our horribly conflicted and often belligerent stepsister to the north.
To say that Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton’s tenure at the helm of this behemoth has been an ongoing travesty is an understatement – marked by ugly internecine warfare, a constant churn in senior administrative positions, and recurring headlines alluding to a mysterious conflict of interest by Mayor Mellissa Holland and her weird triangular relationship with her employer, Coastal Cloud, and the City of Palm Coast.
In fact, things have grown so contentious that Mr. Morton recently contracted armed guards to patrol Palm Coast City Hall in a disturbing display of unbridled power that has further alienated citizens from their government.
After months of angry dissent from a faction of citizens who are clearly fed up with the dysfunction and lack of transparency in Holland’s administration, last week’s Palm Coast City Council meeting saw a tense moment when a lowly taxpayer had the temerity to enter the Royal Chamber and approach the Grand Loge to ask his duly elected mayor a question about the expenditure of public funds related to a $5.7 million expansion of the city’s tennis center.
The citizen’s trespass resulted in Mayor Holland shrieking from the dais, “No sir! Absolutely Not! No! We are not doing this!” and “…I’m not getting scared in the middle of a council meeting. I’m not!”
The citizen, later identified in The Daytona Beach News-Journal as Mark Phillips – a member of something called the Flagler Liberty Coalition – claimed he was simply confused and thought the meeting had adjourned:
“It just looked to me like the meeting was over,” Phillips said. “And I saw the mayor was still sitting up there, so I approached to ask her a question and she immediately screamed. And I stepped back immediately, not realizing why she was screaming.”
Ultimately, a Flagler sheriff’s deputy intervened, Phillips was removed from the proceedings and issued a trespass warning at the request of Mr. Morton, presumably preventing Phillips from entering public facilities or meetings of the Palm Coast City Council.
That’s one way to stop uncomfortable questions from those pesky constituents, I suppose. . .
The News-Journal report states the meeting also included some other angry speakers who Holland, or the City Attorney, tried to shut down when the ‘powers that be’ felt these unruly subjects of the realm were insulting an exalted council member.
Apparently, Mr. Phillips’ ill-timed attempt to speak with his mayor is being viewed by some as an escalation of the scorching rhetoric between the Palm Coast City Council and those they are sworn to serve.
In a recent editorial in the must-read FlaglerLive.com, the incomparable Pierre Tristam writing in “The Live Column” sees a more ominous warning in the recent turmoil:
“What happened on Tuesday at the Palm Coast City Council is indefensible and dangerous. But it’s nothing new. We’ve simply not been paying attention to a perilous degradation of public discourse and behavior. We’re no longer witnessing just fiery opposition, which is the DNA of any vibrant democracy. The opposition is now routinely aggressive, threatening, irresponsible. The gap between that and violence is vanishing.”
In my view, the dissent in Palm Coast is not unique to the local political landscape – and represents the natural reaction of citizens in a representative democracy when they feel marginalized and ignored by those they have elected to serve their civic interests and steward their hard-earned tax dollars – and when our newspaper of record (who should be keeping the public informed, but isn’t) overrides our collective reality and repeatedly tries to convince us we are seeing things.
We have seen similar discord in places like Deltona – where elected officials routinely ignore the fervent pleas of their constituents, going so far as to stand idle while appointed city officials have used the full-might of law enforcement to silence its own citizens who dared raise their heads and speak out.
And in the City of Daytona Beach – where officials mandate that the live feed be shut off from the government access broadcast whenever taxpayers rise to address their elected officials during what passes for public participation – a clear attempt to silence the growing voices who are demanding a say in the trajectory of their community.
Trust me – there is escalating aggression on both sides of the dais in local governments throughout Volusia and Flagler counties – and it is a clear sign of the building frustration in taxpayers who are sick and tired of being disregarded – told their perceptions and ideas are wrong – and gaslighted into believing the dysfunction they see with their own eyes is a mirage.