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 The Daytona Beach News-Journal
The Daytona Beach News-Journal did not make many friends this week among a growing segment of its subscribers who open the paper, hold their nose, and take what passes for the “news of the day” with a grain of salt. . .
Perhaps the management of our struggling hometown newspaper cemented some long-term relationships with those it calls our “Rich & Powerful” – uber-wealthy insiders who have openly controlled Volusia County politics for decades – but a Sunday editorial oddly touted, “No, Volusia County isn’t run by the forces of darkness. Not even close,” didn’t earn any points with those of us desperate for an unvarnished view of the issues that affect our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast.
I am not sure who this weird piece was trying to convince – us, or the haunted conscience of the newspaper’s clearly out-of-touch editorial board?
Because the premise demands that we suspend belief in what we see and hear with our own senses, lower our expectations for those we have elected to represent our interests, and accept what we have come to expect from our elected “leadership” in Volusia County.
In short, the editorial suggests both Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower, and his only apparent ally, Councilwoman Heather Post, should acquiesce to the forces of mediocrity – get along and go along – so they will not be a one or two vote minority on the important issues they both campaigned on.
For the record, it is called keeping promises to your constituents – an almost unheard-of concept in the Turkish bazaar of Volusia County politics.
Anyone paying attention can see that Volusia County’s Old Guard is desperate to hold onto power – to protect the outsized influence on public policy their exorbitant campaign contributions demand – while their mouthpiece (our newspaper of record) does everything possible to support the notion of the majority’s infallibility.
In turn, the issues that are important to Volusia County residents – such as beach access and management, the conservation of our natural places, reining in unchecked sprawl, limiting corporate welfare and kick the can politics – are scoffed at, both from the dais and in our local newspaper.
Last Sunday’s editorial was juxtaposed with an op/ed written by the civically detached/socially connected editor Pat Rice, who lectured frustrated taxpayers on the importance of civility in public discourse, while espousing his haughty thoughts on our rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment.
Apparently, some “very important” member of the Halifax area’s oligarchical elite (aka: Mr. Rice’s social circle) has become insulted by something in this space – or an opinion expressed by a concerned citizen on the everyman’s soapbox of social media – which prompted the editor-in-chief to take us to the woodshed, and, once again, explain our “responsibilities.”
My views on our rights under the First Amendment are (naturally) mirrored by the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt v. Jerry Falwell, which reads, in part:
“The sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment is bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office or those public figures who are “intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape events in areas of concern to society at large.”
“[o]ne of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to criticize public men and measures.” Such criticism, inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate; public figures as well as public officials will be subject to “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks,” and “[T]he candidate who vaunts his spotless record and sterling integrity cannot convincingly cry ‘Foul!’ when an opponent or an industrious reporter attempts to demonstrate the contrary. . .”
In my view, these recent screeds by the News-Journal raise darker questions – like when will We, The Little People have someone to champion our interests?
When will those elected officials with the strength to hold firm to their promises command the same respect as those lockstep marionettes they share the dais with?
And when will the News-Journal stop being used as a propaganda organ to gaslight us peons into believing that the organized aggression and open hostility we see being used to protect the status quo is a figment of our collective imagination?
Perhaps the telling answer could be found just under the surface, down in the recesses of that repressed editorial conscience the News-Journal tries so hard to ignore:
“In fact, all opposition seems to be considered as a sign that the forces of darkness are aligned against the chairman. Even as we write this, we can imagine the howls of inchoate fury that will rage across social media Sunday morning. Clearly, they will say, The News-Journal is in on it.
To which we’d reply: If we are, we’re not doing a very good job. In fact, the Evil Committee of Evil To Destroy Volusia County seems to be the most inept band of scoundrels ever to plot destruction.”
Sadly, the News-Journal was right on both accounts. . .
Angel City of Deltona
Government can be slow on the uptake.
You know, the act of grasping a concept based upon readily available evidence – sensing a problem then taking definitive action to correct or mitigate the threat. And once it does, the painfully slow yet massive momentum of government requires a lot of time and distance for the bureaucratic leviathan to change course.
Residents of Volusia County have been sounding the klaxon on the dangers of overdevelopment – the civic equivalent of cramming ten pounds of manure into a five-pound bag – where residential developments are approved with little, if any, consideration of their long-term impact on our water supply, environment, the ability to process and dispose of waste, and an already overburdened transportation infrastructure.
In fact, the good citizens of Deltona have been screaming (literally) in the face of their elected representatives for years – demanding to be heard on growth management issues – and it appears City Hall is finally beginning to listen.
This week, we learned that Deltona officials are exploring the possibility of a short moratorium on residential planned unit developments while interim City Manager John Peters reviews codes and determines how best to wrest control of the process from developers and return it to the elected representatives.
It is refreshing when government awakes to the fact that few things are impossible when you make the rules.
Far too often, regulations are narrowly crafted to benefit special interests, all so elected officials can throw up their hands and tell constituents that the “guidelines” prevent them from acting in the community’s best interest.
For instance, real estate developers know that they can purchase a tract under one zoning classification, essentially placing a speculative (and potentially lucrative) wager – knowing odds are they can get the property rezoned – which will permit them to shoehorn hundreds of cracker boxes onto a spit of land at an enormous profit.
Whenever this ‘shoot-it-through-the-grease’ rezoning flim-flam is questioned – developers always scream “If you don’t like having the landscape clear-cut, greenspace destroyed, and dwindling water supplies further taxed – then buy the property and do what you want with it.”
Which is refried horseshit. And they know it.
Eventually, those we elect to represent our interests will come to the realization that zoning changes should be more than a foregone conclusion – and that those who rape the land for profit should not automatically expect a free hand when it comes to manipulating land use regulations.
If approved, Deltona will enact a six-month moratorium on Residential Planned Unit Developments to give staff time to tweak the City’s current “overly broad” regulations and formulate new residential categories for the Commission’s review.
In a recent article explaining the proposed zoning speedbump by the News-Journal’s intrepid Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura, Deltona City Commissioner and Champion of the People Dana McCool explained:
“We are in control of how our city develops, not developers,” McCool said. “We’re not discouraging infill development; we’re not discouraging commercial development. This is so that we can stop and look at the beautiful land that we have in Deltona and move forward in a responsible manner.”
Residents of Daytona Beach don’t hold your breath.
Unfortunately, your elected officials never met a massive development they didn’t like – and those courageous civic activists who run for office on a platform of tapping the brakes on unchecked sprawl always seem to be outspent by those with the wherewithal to purchase a chip in the game. . .
Angel Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young
If it isn’t obvious, The Daytona Beach News-Journal really got my hackles up this week.
Perhaps provoking anger in its lagging readership was the intent of this week’s weird narratives, who knows?
In my view, if we look beyond this week’s leaden headline “Naked Cowboy seeks to take back no contest plea,” we find a story of personal strength and professional courage that every resident of Daytona Beach can take immense pride in.
In keeping with the teachings of Phineas T. Barnum, the American showman who once said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” Robert “The Naked Cowboy” Burck, was back in the news this week – apparently attempting to rescind his no contest plea to a charge of resisting arrest without violence during Bike Week 2021 – and putting the City of Daytona Beach on notice that he intends to file a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, it appears The Daytona Beach News-Journal continues to serve as Mr. Burck’s publicity agent – even after thousands of area residents watched shocking footage from an officer’s body-worn camera which captured his abhorrent behavior following a misdemeanor panhandling violation on Main Street – which included spouting a vile racist epithet and hurling a homophobic slur at a Daytona Beach police officer.
“Put your mask on. You must be a Joe Biden fan, right. You want higher gas prices,’ Burck said. Then Burck said ‘(f-word) (n-word) running (the country).’”
This week, the News-Journal seemed willing to give the Naked Cowboy a very wide pass – along with yet another opportunity to explain away his inexcusable behavior on their platform:
“When a News-Journal reporter suggested to him that the n-word was highly offensive, Burck said he hears it all the time among Blacks on Times Square, who he said use it in reference to him.
“I don’t remember using that word, but it wouldn’t surprise me because I talk that way with my friends. They talk with me. We’re out of control. I’m a redneck. Nothing personal. I love all people. I could (not) care less if you are Black or white.’”
Really? The “I’m a redneck” defense?
In my view, the more important story – one all but lost in the hype and fluff surrounding a larger-than-life cartoon character best known for parading around New York’s Times Square in his skivvy shorts, strumming a guitar, and posing for tourists – is the steadfast loyalty and support Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young has shown for his officers, and his community, throughout this overly dramatized incident.
To his credit, Chief Young has demonstrated an incredible level of professionalism and self-control, all while our newspaper of record ignored Burck’s ghastly behavior and deified him in repeat articles and editorials – including a despicable demand that Chief Young and Mayor Derrick Henry, both prominent African American civic leaders, issue The Naked Cowboy an official apology following his racist tirade:
“Ask Burck for forgiveness. Do the same for his wife, who had to watch her husband being manhandled and taken away, leaving her holding his broken guitar. Make it clear that, as a city, this is not who we are.”
In their most recent coverage, the News-Journal reported:
“Told of Burck’s threat to sue the Police Department, Chief Young said in a phone interview that given all that was happening across the country, including active shooters, police reform and officer-involved shootings of unarmed people, the Naked Cowboy was not high on his list of priorities.
“If this is all we have to talk about is the Naked Cowboy I think we are doing pretty good,” Young said.”
The perfect response.
And I wholeheartedly agree – Is this all the News-Journal has to talk about?
Something you will not read on the pages of the News-Journal is that the Halifax area enjoys an incredible level of civic stability – free from the destructive civil disobedience and violent turmoil that has reduced many cities across the nation to smoking rubble – due in no small part to professionals like Chief Young and Sheriff Mike Chitwood who have worked diligently to build a foundation of trust in this wonderfully diverse community.
That is not an easy task – nor something that happens by accident.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Chief Young throughout his stellar career, and I have always been impressed by his unflinching professional bearing and quiet self-assurance, important leadership qualities that inspire confidence in his officers, staff, subordinates, and constituents.
During this National Police Week – a time when we honor the commitment and sacrifice of our local law enforcement officers – the Daytona Beach Police Department’s ongoing commitment to community service is something we can all take pride in.
Chief Jakari Young and his dedicated officers have earned our support and admiration.
As for the sordid case of The Naked Cowboy, in my view, it is high time our newspaper of record stops this horribly lopsided narrative and places blame where it rightfully belongs.
Quote of the Week
“Volusia Chair Jeff Brower was quoted as saying in NJ (News-Journal) 5-9, in response to HB337 “we can’t keep up maintenance of our existing roads ….. must (sp?) less come up with money for new ones.” What happened to his plan B to find the $750,000,000 that the 1/2 cent sales tax would have provided?”
–Former Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley, writing in the Facebook political forum Volusia Politics, Monday, May 10, 2021
In my experience, it is unusual for a former elected official to openly criticize his or her successor – especially one that has been in office less than six-months.
In our democratic system, we elect one county chair at a time – and most predecessors, whether they mercifully retire from public life like Mr. Kelley, or are voted out of office – have the class to allow the current elected leadership the space to govern, solve problems (read: clean up the messes created or ignored by the previous administration) and set priorities for their term.
It is an unwritten rule of the elective service that respects the continuity of the process and upholds the dignity of the office – but Ed Kelley’s always opportunistic oeuvre was based upon his ability to take direction from his political benefactors – and it appears absolutely nothing has changed in his new life as a political nobody. . .
Regardless, Old Ed clawed his way off the political ash heap this week and took to social media, using the above-quoted grammatical nightmare to harangue Chairman Jeff Brower – who is trying desperately to hold firm to his campaign promises in the face of withering criticism from those sullen powermongers, who (despite what The Daytona Beach News-Journal would have us believe) are actively attempting to marginalize Mr. Brower and force him into lockstep conformity with the status quo.
I will not attempt to defend Chairman Brower.
In my view, he does an excellent job of defining his bright path forward in his brilliant response to this tired political hack:
“Ed Kelley sorry you don’t understand the concept. You took the county on the wrong path. I will not continue your sprint to insolvency, I am taking us on a new course to endure whatever comes our way as we strengthen our tax base. Job Creation and Economic growth are the result of a healthy local economy NOT a substitute for it. We chase jobs and growth at any cost. That’s a Ponzi scheme whose time ran out.
Now we will build a county that attracts good business and residents so we can pick and choose the kind of innovative businesses we want instead of bribing a few with nothing to show but more calls to raise taxes.
You think we can raise taxes yearly to build more infrastructure to continue to build more developments to continue to create more sewage and pump water out of the ground faster than it can recharge and by magic it all just ends up well. It doesn’t, it ends in insolvency. We can’t maintain what we have now, build more huge developments, maintain them, and keep repeating the cycle and expect that it will ever pay for itself.
Plan B started with the voters who said stop doing the things that got us into trouble in the first place. That’s who I listened to and will continue to serve. I don’t know who you served or if you really can’t see the path you set us on has led to trouble, but your perennial push for tax increases exposes that truth. Please keep talking, it reminds people of how much work there is to do.
Bravo, Chairman Brower. Bravo!
And Another Thing!
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which that day falls as National Police Week.
Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week pays special recognition to those valiant souls who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
From my earliest memories, law enforcement officers have always been my heroes.
They still are.
Tomorrow marks National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day 2021.
A time for reflection on the incredible contributions of the men and women who so courageously serve and protect us all – and an opportunity to honor those brave souls who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
In what is proving to be a particularly deadly period in our history for line of duty deaths, it is important that we remember those officers who, as Lincoln said, gave “The last full measure of devotion.”
It is also fitting that we take this opportunity to consider the greater question of the role of the police in a free and open society – and the importance of citizen support for their indispensable work in preserving our way of life in America.
The great privilege of my life was the opportunity to serve in law enforcement with some of the most dedicated and talented public servants I have ever known.
For thirty-one years I had the distinct honor of standing with strong men and women who hold a thin blue line between order and chaos, between good and evil, between you and I and the predatory criminals who prey on that which we love most.
In my long career, I learned something about law enforcement officers and what these extraordinary people are made of – and I have always considered any small contribution I made was merely a function of the job at hand – but I am extremely proud just to have been associated with people I consider true American heroes.
Please take some time to quietly reflect on their contributions and sacrifices this weekend.
In the words of Roman senator and historian Tacitus, “In valor there is hope.”
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!