Angels & Assholes for May 21, 2021

Hi, kids!

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.

King Hell Asshole        Volusia County Council

“All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty and the right of acquiring property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their government whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purpose of its institution.”

–James Madison

When a governmental body – comprised of duly elected officials charged with representing the needs of all citizens, legislating public policy in the sunshine, and stewarding our hard-earned tax dollars – puts unreasonable restrictions on the ability of their constituents to fully participate in their governance, the balance and source of power becomes skewed.

But one thing is clear – ultimately, We, The People, will find a way to be heard. 

During Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting, following the pleas and protestations of those for and against the prohibition of short-term rentals in unincorporated Volusia, we witnessed perhaps the best example of why many citizens consider this body – this throwback to the bad-old-days of backroom cronyism and good ol’ boy politics – the most abusive, dictatorial, and clearly choreographed shit-show in modern times.

At the end of the day – nothing changed.

When our ‘powers that be’ were given the opportunity to establish modern, commonsense regulations that would bring the popular concept of vacation rentals into code compliance while protecting the peace and dignity of homeowners in areas of unincorporated Volusia County – a burgeoning worldwide industry that Volusia County government shamelessly reaps tourism taxes from while scoffing at the practice from on high – the majority agreed to, once again, do nothing.   

For me, it was not so much why the majority elected to listen to current pseudo-chairman, The Right Reverend Fred Lowry, and vote to preserve the status quo – it is how they ultimately went about it – and for anyone paying attention, it was clear from the outset that Volusia’s Old Guard were not going to allow Chairman Jeff Brower a victory. 

Even if that meant keeping unincorporated Volusia County in the Stone Age.  

The handwriting was on the wall when, in recent weeks, District 3 newcomer Danny Robins had his photograph taken in a chummy pose with Bob Davis, “President for Life” of the decrepit and horribly stagnant Daytona Beach Hotel and Motel Association – an organization vehemently against even the mention of short-term rentals, considering the concept an anathema to offering our dwindling tourist population anything other than a tired beachside motel experience. 

Then, after dozens of citizens from all districts spoke in favor of allowing well-regulated vacation rentals in unincorporated areas – including a video featuring countless residents who work for a living and couldn’t take the day to sit on their ass in the council chambers because their elected officials won’t even consider an occasional evening meeting – Councilwoman Billie Wheeler had clearly been inconvenienced long enough and called a point-of-order to whine about how long these concerned residents were taking to communicate with their representatives. . .

Of course, Wheeler’s mewling chaunt was immediately supported by the self-anointed éminence grise, Fred Lowry, and Councilman Ben Johnson – yet Chairman Brower held firm to his core belief that those who pay the bills have a right to participate in their government – and allowed the people to finish their presentation. 

After His Eminence made the motion to maintain the status quo and do absolutely nothing to establish proper regulation of a major segment of our region’s hospitality options (which was quickly seconded by Johnson) it came time for our elected officials to openly discuss the issue in front of Volusia County voters.

That is when the proverbial cart left the rails. . .

As happens, Billie Wheeler quickly wandered off into one of her self-absorbed orations where she muses out loud – somehow managing to craft a narrative about how her personal life meshes with any issue coming before the council, from outhouses on the beach to short-term rentals, using a string of possessive personal pronouns, “me, me, me” – yammering something about how she bought a condo to keep the riffraff out, followed by the incredibly conflicted statement:

“I love short-term rentals. I use them myself, but I may not want them to infiltrate somebody’s residential neighborhood that already has an ordinance stating that it’s not OK.  That’s all I’m saying. . .”

Whatever that means. . . 

As the discussion digressed, Councilman Robins’ eyes glazed over as he launched into one of those weird soliloquies of his, delivered without intonation or expressiveness in the patented Robins monotone, spouting nonsensical platitudes, disconnected bromides, and parallels to current events that only he understands:

“Four score and seven years ago, ferggitty verst gliddy darn well glurb gloopy, societal issues, nibby nabby noopie, sex trafficking, sabby siddy saba, war on drugs, toody uooby walla – something to chew on.  Turn on your television, flippidy, flappidty, floop, and beware the Jabberwock. Flamsky ramsky damsky crocklefether squiggs. In the immortal words of Fred Flintstone, yabba, dabba, do, cities on fire, iggily biggily, personal accountability, suum, mun, ha, no, nonny and peaceful coexistence.  Bottom line, Jeff Brower and his ideas are stooopid.  Shama lama ding dong.” 

(Queue Councilman Fred Lowry shouting “Hear! Hear!” in the background like some addled Member of Parliament in the Imperial Duchy of Duchebagistan. . .)

Look, I’m being facetious, but I must admit – Councilman Robins confuses me.

Honestly, can anyone tell me what Danny is saying when he goes catatonic and launches into one of his passive/aggressive stream-of-consciousness monologues?

I didn’t think so.

In keeping with the theme, Mr. Robins cemented his position with Volusia’s stalwarts of the status quo when he said he supported short-term rentals to “create an incentive to get people to come together” (say what?) apparently in furtherance of his never-ending quest to orchestrate peace on earth from his vaunted perch on the District 3 seat.

Then Mr. Robins quibbled that he actually said something like, I support short-term rentals, the key word being “BUT” – clearly having mastered the old political dodge:  I can’t be responsible for your misinterpretation of what I thought I meant when I made the statement in support of the issue I now oppose. 

Whatever.

When it was his turn, His Eminence Fred Lowry took the opportunity for another cheap shot at Mr. Brower:

“Chair mentioned a few minutes ago that he wants to bring people together.  I’m the senior member up here and this has been the most divisive five-months that I think I’ve ever experienced here on the council,” then he called for the vote.

(If you had the time, and I had an exascale supercomputer, I could refute Rev. Lowry’s outlandish comment on past discord during his reign – but that blogpost would be just north of a Proust novel in total wordcount. . .)

In an act of parliamentary belligerence, Lowry rudely shut off further conversation and debate before Councilwoman Heather Post even had a chance to voice her concerns – or adequately represent the citizens of District 4 – going so far as to demand a legal opinion from the County Attorney before withdrawing his open attempt to silence a “colleague.”   

While Ms. Post was ultimately allowed to speak, it was clear that the majority didn’t give two-shits about her contribution since all the lockstep marionettes on the dais had already been heard. 

During her time, Councilwoman Post made the most cogent point of the day:

“I’d also like to point out the county has actively taken money from short-term rentals for years and it has been illegal for years.  You have a number of owners for years who have come into the county who may have even been told it’s illegal, but told, ‘Hey it’s illegal but we’re not going to do anything to enforce it, but we’ll still take the money,’ and now we have issues with that.”

I think that’s the equivalent of someone who lives off the earnings of a prostitute, then raises the defense that its moral, legal, and ethical, so long as they don’t know the exact address of the whorehouse. . . 

Hear! Hear! 

My God. . .

When the vote was taken, despite the fervent pleas of Volusia County taxpayers who have invested in unincorporated areas of Volusia County, the lockstep majority dismissed any attempt at compromise and the vote fell 5-2 with Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Post on the losing end.

Again, absolutely nothing changed

I don’t care where you stand on the issue of vacation rentals – most will agree this stalling and stagnation cannot stand.   

In my view, Chairman Brower’s victory last November was a clear signal that Volusia County residents are fed-up with this abject dysfunction. 

I believe We, The People will exercise the ultimate power at the ballot box next year and vote to unseat this obstructionist deadwood and fundamentally change the trajectory of our compromised county government. 

Quote of the Week

“Sunday’s editorial “Turmoil on Volusia Council is an intellectual embarrassment to the organization.” The paper’s editorial board should guard against such biased, narrow-thinking, inflammatory writing. It seems this one was written by one person who created a straw scenario of Jeff Brower supporters paranoid of a cabal out to destroy the county with evil intents, who whisper in the dark, blackmail and stampede council members.

Is there a cabal? I believe so.

Just check the campaign contributions. Former County Councilwoman Deb Denys collected $244,000. The $1000 limit didn’t stop those who donate thousands of dollars through loopholes.

Is it designed to destroy the county? No.

See, for example, the Williamson Avenue extension from Pioneer Trail to Airport Road. Cost millions with elaborate palm trees and all amenities but not one residence and plenty of room for developers. Check Riverfront Park that existed for more than 100 years; now fenced to lock out skateboarders and near-do-wells. Don’t like the historical Dr. Josie Rogers house? Who has the power to move it? It is now moved, derelict and inaccessible.

Why did the editorial board approve the language “the evil Committee of Evil to Destroy Volusia County” and describe people as “the most inept band of scoundrels ever to plot destruction?”

I am a Jeff Brower supporter, like a majority of voters, and a beach advocate. I don’t whisper in his ear, blackmail, or stampede but I do wish him well and welcome his new ideas. We need to cheer him on without fear of offending the cabal. Compare an article in the same edition that lauds the new city manager as someone who will listen to an idea even if it’s unconventional and seems a little crazy.

Rather than turmoil, I see a healthy discussion and debate which is to be applauded rather than condemned. We might even find that Brower will be his own man without the supporters so even the cabal will accept him.”

–Former Daytona Beach Mayor (69-74) and founding member of Sons of the Beach Richard Kane, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Brower has ideas,” Sunday, May 16, 2021

The fallout over the News-Journal editorial board’s misguided attempt to convince us (or themselves?) that there isn’t a concerted effort among Volusia’s power elite to marginalize Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower – political legerdemain which took the form of an editorial entitled, “Turmoil on Volusia council,” (Sunday, May 9) – continued this week with an excellent explanation by the politically astute longtime civic activist Richard Kane.

It is no secret that, for years, all the right last names have controlled everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast through enormous campaign contributions funneled to hand select candidates using various corporate entities all linked to uber-wealthy insiders with a chip in the game. 

Like Mr. Kane, I don’t believe this Rich & Powerful “cabal” is out to destroy Volusia County – but they damn sure want to maintain an advantageous playing field by continuing the influence and access their campaign contributions demand. 

It is called controlling one’s environment. 

Is it wrong? 

I suppose that depends upon which side of an issue you fall. 

But when the mere physical presence of one of these political benefactors in a council or commission chamber anywhere in the Halifax area invariably sways a vote in their favor – in my view, that level of influence cannot be healthy in a representative democracy.  

Trust me.  The Daytona Beach News-Journal understands the concept of external political control better than most – and I hope the management of our local newspaper has learned the valuable lesson that the residents of Volusia County (read: their subscribers) can spot these ham-handed attempts at misdirection a mile away.  

And Another Thing!

I left the Republican party in 2013.

A 16-day government shutdown served as the tipping point as I saw both major political parties moved past the ragged fringe. 

Although largely symbolic, I felt the temporary shuttering of our government was a national embarrassment – an insolent act of extremism that demonstrated the nadir of our seemingly bottomless political dysfunction.

I realized my time on the GOP train was ending and I began considering alternatives.

Clearly, the Democratic party does not represent my values and interests.

I don’t know about you – but I’m getting sick and tired of being lectured by arrogant limousine liberals and avowed socialists in Washington and beyond (in that ‘oh so righteous’ drone) about literally everything – from personal health decisions, to the malleability of what were once considered inalienable rights, to my personal complicity in the “(insert perceived social injustice du jour here)” – and anything I say in my defense is branded “hate speech.”   

Bullshit.  

Like many of you, I have watched helplessly as our elected officials disregard the ideals that made our political institutions great – silencing moderates in both parties – while fanning the polarization that has resulted in complete legislative paralysis.

At the time, I wrote a letter to the Republican Party of Florida voicing my concerns (let’s face it, if I am not the archetype of the GOP demographic, who is?) – yet my correspondence was never answered (or even acknowledged). 

I guess when some staffer shook the envelope and a check did not fall out, it went directly in the old shitcan. . .

So, I changed my voter registration and embraced the independence of No Party Affiliation.

As we watch what passes for the “leadership” on both sides of the aisle work overtime to foster this intransient partisan impasse – an ideological chasm that has left our nation dreadfully divided and our treasured liberties in danger – I have never regretted my decision.

That sense of abandonment and frustration is why I rarely discuss national politics in this forum – besides, those partisan hacks that now pass for our “mainstream media” do a fine job of that 24-hours a day.

However, like many of you, I fear the lasting damage being done by radical puppet masters on both extremes of the political spectrum. 

What concerns me most is the emergence of partisan politics in Volusia County non-partisan elections. 

Not that party politics hasn’t always played a large role in County Council races in terms of support and financial backing – but now we are seeing factions like the fusty Republican Executive Committee turning up in council chambers to take Chairman Jeff Brower (a staunch republican himself) to task for one perceived transgression or another.

Then, earlier this week, Richard Thripp, the awkward Chairman of what passes for the Volusia County Democratic Party, took credit for giving The Hometown News “the scoop” on Danny Fuqua’s entrance into the Volusia County Council District 2 race. 

Really, The Hometown news?

According to reports, Mr. Fuqua – a retired Army veteran who lost to incumbent Councilwoman Billie Wheeler by the slimmest of margins in 2020 – will face well-connected Republican Chase Tramont for the same seat next year. 

In a recent article in the Hometown News announcing the early start to the 2022 political season, Mr. Tramont said:

“The idea of getting out early is two-fold: First, we have already made the internal decision to do this, so what’s the point in waiting? We don’t care who else may get in the race or how the political dominos fall. We believe this (is) the door that the Lord has opened for my family and I, so we are ready to walk through it. The second reason is that we have a lot of residents and business owners to speak to. I don’t have a personal political agenda. The residents of District 2 will be establishing the agenda.”

I don’t know about you, but I have not seen the divine hand of God in Volusia County politics in an awfully long time – and while Mr. Tramont would like us to believe he does not have “…a personal political agenda,” I strongly suspect some of the “very important people” who helped finance his run for the Port Orange City Council do. . .   

Look, I’m not naïve and neither are you – financial loyalties and ideological gridlock is already a big problem on the dais of power in Deland – and partisan politics will always be a part of the process.

And we all know that candidates never cloak their political leanings until they take their seat, right?

Right.   

My hope is that next year’s local non-partisan contests – a wild campaign season which will see six of seven Volusia County Council seats up for grabs due to redistricting – will not dissolve into the fractious tribalism inherent to modern partisan politics – and allow good men and women, regardless of affiliation, to be honest in their promises to voters.

We’ll see. . .

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

6 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for May 21, 2021

  1. Mark we have a new demographic in Volusia.That demographic is I came down to Volusia from up north and dont give a damn about voting,who the
    local candidates are and what is their history we only worry about the food coupons to the local restaurants, who has a happy hour and when does Mah Jong start and why dont we have big malls like Orlando and Palm Beach.Time to educate these people but we dont have a real newspaper to do that as Gannett took over all the local newspapers in Florida and flip flops stories to all of them and runs all of Florida news and shoves USA TODAY down your throats as DBNJ and its leader are useless trash with old news.I will be an Independent next week .I voted for Brower too.Most new home owners dont know what a Jeff Brower is or how govt works here because they are used to Cuomo and DeBlasio the trash of this country.We are retired with money so we dont care we can buy and sell these local hicks.
    Also tried to contact both local Dem and GOP offices and it is run by idiots.We must get rid of the good ole boys and girls and get fresh blood and gut out the shit that is elected in Daytona.Inform the the new residents of Mosaic,Margaritaville and Avalon about the trash but how do we do it with a county with no media with a brain? It has come to the point where I must watch Fox 35 or Click Orlando and read the Ormond Beach Observer to get Volusia news Have a great weekend all .Looks like beach time.

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  2. Been reading and agreeing with you for a long time; even posting with credit to you, many of your articles on NextDoor for aren’t subscribers.

    After all that, your support of Short-term rentals In residential neighborhoods is total unadulterated ignorance.
    Code Dept can’t manage the complaints they have now.

    I voted for Brower, he’s closer to a moron than genius. His complaint is it’s discriminating against the rights of homeowners in Residential Single Family neighborhoods….why the hell do you think they bought there.

    Youre going to lose a lot of readers supporting the demise of true residential neighborhoods, and 9 out of 10 owners are against any changes.

    Get your head out of Brower ass, he’s an embarrassment.

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    1. They’ve been short term rentals going on in Volusia county for 40 years. Over the last 14 years there’s been 86 violations. That’s less than 1/2 of one percent per month. .44 percent of the time there is a complaint. This isn’t an issue. What is an issue is that short term vacation rentals pay a huge chunk of the sales tax revenue and the 12.5% tourism tax revenue for Volusia county. To flip flop from a 7-0 vote to allow STVR to voting 2-5 to shut the door is to place the county in severe financial distress. And that is irresponsible. The malfeasance of the current board of directors that flip-flopped on this issue has put a many families and small businesses at risk at the worst possible time.

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  3. It will be a hard thing to change Volusia County politics to actually serve the people who live there. I was so hopeful when Browser was elected, and sad to see he is being given the bums rush by other greedy, old line members and what propaganda that passes for our local newspaper. I can only hope the next Volusia county elections will bring more honest citizens who really try to listen to the people they work FOR.

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  4. Mr. Barker, you say, “Clearly, the Democratic party does not represent my values and interests.”

    Pray tell, then, what don’t you like about these Democratic policies:

    child-care support, a federal senior care network, investment in R&D and green energy, paid family leave, free community college, ending qualified immunity for police who recklessly kill suspects or otherwise deny their civil rights, and a tax hike that would put an end to the free pass on federal income taxes many big corporations have enjoyed since 2017?

    Oh yeah, and accountability for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

    What don’t you like about such policies, and, if you don’t like them, what are your ideas to make America live up to its reputation as a country founded on equal rights, justice and protection under the law?

    Like

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