One Daytona? Hardly. . .

If you have four or five reasonably functioning senses – do not let anyone sell you on their distorted version of reality. 

In the lucrative world of politics, there will always be self-serving elected officials, and the powerbrokers who own the paper on their political souls, who try and convince us that what we see, hear, and think isn’t true by painting an alternative reality that they can control.   

For instance, last month, The Daytona Beach News-Journal published an editorial which arrogantly lectured Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower for having the cheek to live up to those campaign promises that resonated with voters – while encouraging him to stop fighting, rollover, and accept the status quo – to embrace the stagnant “go along and get along” good ‘ol boy system that has served all the right last names for years. 

“There are people whispering in Brower’s ear (or thundering on Facebook) who suggest it’s all a pleasant-seeming front. That each of his colleagues — with the occasional exception of (District 4 Councilwoman) Post — are controlled by a dark cabal of the wealthy and powerful. That the true agenda is to scrape Volusia County residents (and their cars) off the beaches, drain them dry through taxes and fees, destroy the environment and otherwise crush the county’s 500,000-plus residents into a state of miserable submission while throwing the door open for marching hordes of monied, retired invaders.”

The newspaper used several contrived examples to drive the point home, one claiming that the Brower-supported purchase of environmentally sensitive land along the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail resulted from the “emotional blackmail” of elected officials – rather than the hard work of civic activists, the political leverage embodied in the 70,000 citizens who signed a petition supporting the purchase, and thousands more who plastered the community with banners, signs, and bumper stickers.

The piece continued by gaslighting already suspicious Volusia County residents who have been continuously told, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

In my view, the piece played on our well-founded fears, and asked that citizens question their own thoughts and opinions – to doubt their perceptions and distrust the empirical evidence they have seen and heard with their own faculties – using the illusory truth effect, where a lie repeated often enough is accepted as truth. 

“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.”

So, what happens when The Daytona Beach News-Journal – which long-ago assumed the position as a cheap propaganda organ for our “wealthy & powerful” – is openly embarrassed by its own manipulative influencers?

When the grim perception of backroom deals and the undue influence of the uber-wealthy few we have all been told does not exist proves true? 

When our newspaper of record makes us out to be rubes and fools in a shameless smokescreen to hide the truth about ‘the way things work’ here on Florida’s Fun Coast?

Last week, our worst fears were realized during an exclusive cocktail party at the publicly funded One Daytona shopping and entertainment complex, which is wholly owned by Daytona International Speedway, where “50 of Daytona Beach’s most influential leaders” apparently attempted to carve out some private time with new Daytona Beach City Manager Deric Feacher.

During this swellegant soiree, the crème de la crème of the Halifax areas civic, social, and business elite noshed on hors d’oeuvres while subliminally explaining to Mr. Feacher which side his bread is buttered on. . .

The exclusive guest list included some heavy hitters, to include NASCAR Executive Vice Chair Lesa France Kennedy and His Royal Highness King J. Hyatt Brown – along with a host of lesser ‘movers & shakers’ all seeking to set the tone for Mr. Feacher’s tenure. 

The fête contrasted in the most extraordinary way with a townhall hosted at the Dickerson Center earlier this month – demonstrating the stark social and economic divisions that still plague the fractured Halifax area – a dynamic that has given an influential few far too much access, for far too long.   

During that community meeting, some 200 residents enjoyed a simple sacked meal while getting acquainted with their new city manager, who willingly answered their questions, and did his best to assuage the lingering fear and trepidation after nearly 20-years of being dismissed and ignored by those untouchables at City Hall.   

According to a report by the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Keen writing in the News-Journal, Mr. Feacher promised the assembled residents that he would never do anything “illegal, immoral or unethical,” and “…vowed to steer clear of any “under-the-table deals” and clandestine conversations.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he said.”

He also explained how he made all department heads reapply for their jobs – rightfully observing, “Some of them have been working slow for a long time,” he said, adding that’s no longer acceptable.”

I found Mr. Feacher’s personal dedication to avoiding even the appearance of impropriety a refreshing change from our abysmal past.   

Interestingly, when Zaffiro-Keen and a News-Journal photographer attempted to enter the exclusive “gathering” at One Daytona last week, both were initially denied entry. 

I don’t make this shit up.  You read that right. 

“Organizers of Tuesday’s event said they intended the gathering to be private. But they invited County Council members, and having two or more elected officials from the same government body at an event means the public has to be allowed to attend under Florida’s Sunshine Law.”

I’ll bet they did – because when the conclave was exposed to the light-of-day – it had all the earmarks of just another slimy attempt at undue influence by all the right last names. . .    

After all, why wouldn’t Eileen be permitted inside?

She works for a media outlet that buys printers ink by the barrel and is well-versed on the local issues – which makes her incredibly influential – and she has a stellar reputation for reporting the news of the day in a fair and unvarnished way.

So why keep her out?

I’ll let you answer that disturbing question for yourself. . .

Ultimately, “organizers” of this intimate affair must have realized the appalling optics of denying the working press access, and, ultimately, Zaffiro-Kean and her photographer were allowed inside.

According to reports, only one elected official, freshman Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu, was found rubbing elbows inside the reception – no doubt enjoying the fawning and perquisites that come with high office – completely clueless to the ugly image her attendance presents to long-suffering constituents.

Let’s chalk it up to a ‘rookie mistake,’ eh? 

Whatever.  

In one moment, the damage to the well-crafted narrative was complete – and We, The Little People will never again be deluded into believing that a powerful few aren’t working hard, behind closed doors, to feather their own nest, control public policy, and maintain their suckling order at the public teat – while the great unwashed hordes suffer the civic and economic stagnation that always results from an unlevel playing field. 

One Daytona?  Hardly. . .

Photo Credit: NOT The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Angels & Assholes for June 25, 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.

Angel               City of Holly Hill 

Theologians can point to my life as evidence of divine intervention – the empirical proof of God’s mercy and direct intercession in the lives of sinners, drunks, and fools – which makes me triple-sanctified. . .

Do you have a better explanation?

The fact is, my life has been blessed in innumerable ways, thanks to my fortunate association with “The City with a Heart.”

On March 28, 1983, I walked through the doors of the Holly Hill Police Department for the first time to take the Oath of Office from then Chief John P. Finn – a lifelong mentor and friend who somehow saw faint promise in a 22-year-old kid with little life experience and no educational accomplishments beyond a high school diploma. 

Some 38-years later – my tangible connection to this wonderful community will come to a quiet end today.   

Following my retirement as Chief of Police in 2014, Chief Stephen Aldrich graciously allowed me to remain with the department in a part-time reserve status, which kept my Florida law enforcement certification active, provided a much-needed psychological buffer to losing my professional identity, and an opportunity to put my emergency management training and experience to use during severe weather events and other occasions when an extra set of hands proved helpful.

In turn, I served when and where I could – well compensated by the sheer pleasure of working shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters in blue – a way of giving back to the citizens who have given me so much, a life I could never have imagined all those years ago when I was given the opportunity to do what I loved with a remarkable group of talented and dedicated people, providing an important service to a community who genuinely appreciated the effort.

I can say this now:  I would have paid them for the privilege.   

Like any career, or life worth living, it was not without its humps and bumps, but I was fortunate to work for leaders with the courage to allow me to make mistakes and learn from them – a humbling exercise that taught me taking responsibility for personal and organizational shortcomings is not always fatal – that people can forgive what they see themselves doing – and that honesty alone builds trust.

I was gifted the opportunity to work in that magnificent coquina building on Ridgewood Avenue – a place that became a sanctuary from the storms of life, a refuge where I felt the love and respect of friends and colleagues – a mighty structure that next year will have anchored the municipal government for 80-years

Most important, I was given the chance to serve with some extraordinary people who would later become family – devoted public servants who taught me the enduring strength of friendships forged in fire – and the deep satisfaction that comes from dedicating one’s life to cause greater than our own self-interests.    

Two-weeks ago, I submitted my resignation from part-time status with the Holly Hill Police Department effective today.     

Seven-years into retirement – it was time.  

After all, at some point, “old has-beens” like me take up too much space in the modern world of law enforcement – time waits for no one – and all good things eventually come an end. 

I recently completed firearms qualification leading to the issuance of a credential which authorizes retired police officers to carry the lifesaving tool of their trade under HR 218, known as the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act

The identification number on my randomly issued card was 00008.

No doubt sensing my sadness and trepidation in severing formal ties with the department I have loved so well, for so long, a young police sergeant who I have watched grow into a gifted leader reminded me of the biblical significance of the number 8 – a symbol of “New beginnings.”

Wow. Heaven sent? 

To the outstanding elected and appointed leadership, the incomparable City Manager Joe Forte, Chief Aldrich and his remarkable staff, my former colleagues in Volusia County law enforcement, and the wonderful citizens of Holly Hill – Thank You!

What a fantastic ride. . .

My hope is that I have at least one more great adventure, one exciting “new beginning,” left in me before I take up the rocking chair in earnest – but no matter what life has in store – nothing will compare with the greatest privilege of my life in service to that beautiful community. 

Heaven sent, indeed. 

Asshole           City of Deltona

Respect and communication is a two-way street.

Earlier this month, during an emotionally charged melodramatic performance worthy of an Academy Award, Deltona’s Interim City Manager John Peters III, cemented his role with public accusations that several elected officials insinuated themselves into the day-to-day operations of city government. 

These were serious allegations that constituted violations of the city charter and most certainly had a chilling effect on any elected official seeking to keep an eye on the inner sanctum at City Hall.   

To drive the point home in the newspaper, he threatened to take his football and go home.

Given that the City of Deltona has now had three chief executives in less than a year-and-a-half, perhaps an extra set of eyes was warranted – someone elected by the taxpayers to ensure that things did not go off the rails as they had under the tumultuous reign of the tyrannical Jane Shang.

While Mr. Peters commands the respect of many in the community, I felt his very public threat to resign and return to the relative comfort of his role as Deltona’s Director of Public Works could be perceived as a cheap powerplay – one designed to virtually eliminate external oversight and neuter the people’s representatives – in a place that desperately needs strong checks and balances.

Earlier this week, in an informative article by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Wild West Volusia correspondent Katie Kustura, we learned that Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III was giving serious consideration to finding the City of Deltona in contempt of court for its failure to live up to the terms of an April settlement agreement with a resident whose home was flooded with raw sewage in 2018, after the city’s wastewater system was found “to be in a state of continued disrepair.”

According to reports, on April 19, the city entered an agreement with the homeowner for approximately $250,000 – which assistant city attorney B. Scott George said he would “strongly advise the commission to approve” at a meeting later that month.

Ultimately, the matter did not appear on the commission agenda until Monday. . .

According to an order filed June 9, Judge Rowe said “…the city has shown “willful disregard” and “gross indifference” to the court’s orders as this was the third issuance of a show-cause order in the case.”

Further, “Rowe wrote that the goings-on with the case led him to believe that, prior to his most recent order, the “mayor and commissioners may not have been told about this settlement agreement.”

Whoa. 

Commissioners Dana McCool and David Sosa – two of the elected officials publicly gibbeted by Peters – ran on a personal commitment to champion the interests of long-neglected residents.

Now, both watchdogs are walking on eggshells, even as the City of Deltona is under threat of criminal sanctions handed down by a righteously pissed off Judge Rowe.    

In my view, the fact Sosa, McCool, and their colleagues were not made aware of the terms of the agreement until Peters sent them a belated email on the matter speaks volumes to the continuing pact of secrecy amongst the upper echelon at City Hall.

At the end of the day, Mr. Peters was left uncomfortably staring at his shoes when the hard questions were asked – while City Attorney Marsha Segal-George tap-danced around the issue of who dropped the ball and when with a weird “not my job” argument, yammering about insurance companies and blaming Deltona’s notorious personnel turnover – all while the elected officials looked on like a befuddled troupe of out-of-the-loop bumpkins. 

In my experience, one ignores a court order at their own peril – and I am not sure the good citizens of Deltona received a clear explanation as to how their hapless ‘powers that be’ got into hot water with Judge Rowe. 

At the end of the day, the elected officials voted unanimously to approve the settlement agreement.   

In the meantime, Peters is now trying to get his staff off their ass to develop a game plan for fixing the decades old engineering problems that have led to a citizen’s home being inundated with a virtual tsunami of human waste – multiple times – without previous mitigation.   

My God.

According to the perpetually perplexed Mayor Heidi Herzberg, “It’s a new day.” 

Is it? 

Or just another variation on the same tired theme that has left the largest city in Volusia County in this seemingly endless and utterly dysfunctional quagmire.    

Asshole           Volusia County Council

Once again, our ‘powers that be’ heard your fervent pleas on an important issue of public concern and opted to do what they do best:

Absolutely nothing. . .

After getting everyone’s hopes up by directing county staff to research and present various options that would expand where dogs are permitted on Volusia County beaches – then mechanically “listening” to residents who took time away from their lives to present their views on both sides of the issue – the entire expensive exercise became a horrible waste of everyone’s time when At-Large Councilman Ben Johnson moved to maintain the status quo – a parliamentary action that was instinctively seconded by his dutiful mentee Councilman Danny Robins.

As has become the fashion, the idea went down in flames on a 5-1 vote with Chairman Jeff Brower, once again, in the minority (it would have been 6-1, but Council member Dr. Fred Lowry left the building to nurse a sore knee).

Unfortunately, Chairman Brower’s common-sense suggestion to allow leashed and permitted dogs in a small section of beach convenient to Halifax area residents (University Boulevard to Zelda Boulevard) on a limited trial basis – rather than maintaining the onerous requirement that District 4 taxpayers and beyond drive their pets to either Smyrna Dunes Park or Lighthouse Point Park – north and south of Ponce Inlet – was pooh-poohed (pun intended) by our elected officials in favor of sitting on their thumbs.

Why?

Because your elected officials do not trust you to clean-up after your dog. 

Remember those glad-handing political hacks who asked for your trust and begged for your sacred vote during their last election? 

Well, they are firmly convinced that responsible dog owners should be punished for the sins of those irresponsible few who leave steaming piles of dogshit in the sand – rather than the other way around.    

Because trying something – anything – new, fun, or marginally innovative to accommodate the needs of beachgoers and pet owners is considered verboten in a place where lockstep conformity is valued over anything remotely inventive or original. 

Because here on the Fun Coast, the tail wags the dog (another weak pun intended) – and public policy decisions regarding beach management and access issues will always be based upon the amount of “extra work” it requires from our exalted executives, beach management poohbahs, paid pooper scoopers, beach specialists, environmental gurus, turtle whisperers, waste managers, toll takers, etc., etc., more, more, ad infinitum – a massive and obstinate bureaucracy where the word “NO” has become the operative, and immediate, response.   

Because creative adaptation to changing needs is no longer considered a virtue on the Volusia County Council.

Look, no one asked that roving packs of wild curs be given unfettered access to all 47 miles of Volusia County beaches – just a reasonable accommodation for the 99.999% of residents living north of Ponce Inlet who want a convenient dog friendly section of beach. 

Get used to it, rubes.  We’re screwed. 

And our little dogs, too. . .   

Pay your taxes and shut your pie hole, John Q. – No one in a position of power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center gives two-shits what you think.

My hope is you will remember this latest insult at the ballot box next year.

I damn sure will.  

Angel               Daytona Beach Police Department   

On Wednesday evening, 26-year-old Daytona Beach police officer Jason Raynor was gravely wounded during an encounter with a cowardly piece of human waste while investigating a suspicious incident on Kingston Avenue. 

This horrific incident serves as a reminder that while we go about our daily lives and sleep comfortably at night – brave men and women stand a thin line between peace and chaos, defending justice and the rule of law against civil and social anarchy – protecting us from the ever-present evil in the world and the predatory criminals who prey upon the weak and vulnerable.    

Unfortunately, the sacrifices of these brave souls often become an afterthought, or worse, our law enforcement officers are forced into the role of societal scapegoat – a punching bag to absorb the anger and frustration that result from our collective civic, moral, and cultural failures – villainized by fringe elements whose perverse cries of “defund the police” have been brought into the mainstream by pandering politicians and cowardly bureaucrats who kowtow to radical activists and charlatans – blunting the tip of the spear in an effort to appease craven opportunists who seek to divide us.

A topsy-turvy Twilight Zone where everything our officers do from the mundane to the extraordinary – including instantaneous life-and-death decisions – are recorded by jeering mobs, then painstakingly analyzed by an out-of-touch media and mercenary lawyers, picked apart frame-by-frame, with every perceived misstep used to further the current sport of destroying the lives and careers of those we have asked to do the unthinkable in our defense.

Disgusting.     

As a result, many law enforcement officers rightfully feel abused and abandoned by those they have sworn an oath to serve and protect – and the gulf between us and those we ask to go into harms way grows wider – all while highly trained and experienced officers continue to flee the police service in droves.

Who could blame them? 

In my view, this exodus from my beloved profession will continue so long as the protected find it fashionable to beat and muzzle the sheepdog, even as the flock sleeps safe and sound under the cloak of protection these heroes provide at such great personal and professional risk.   

Am I venting?  You bet your sweet ass I am – and anyone who is not moved to rage by this violent attack on one of the best our community has to offer should remember this young man took a bullet to the head while defending you and your family from a similar fate. 

As a career law enforcement officer, it was heartening to see hundreds of my brothers and sisters from throughout the region descend on Daytona Beach to assist in the search for the suspect – acting in the finest traditions of the service – demonstrating the strength, amity, and camaraderie inherent to those who are called to this special profession. 

Please join me and my family in prayer for this dedicated public servant, someone who so willingly risked his own life to protect ours – and for the safety of all law enforcement officers, who, time-and-again, selflessly face the forces of evil to safeguard all that we hold dear.     

Quote of the Week

“The promotion and management of our tourism and our events has been in the hands of bed tax funded entities for far too long. As a tourist destination Daytona Beach must take control of marketing itself. Create a tourism and events Department. Hire professional tourism marketers that will implement 21st century techniques and away from the same old tired 20th century ways of “we have always done it this way.”

The Speedway, the promoter, our elected officials, and our paid bureaucrats failed miserably with managing the truck event. Leaving it up to the DBPD to manage and control the attendees. Our DBPD are law enforcement that are here to protect and serve our residents not events Manager’s.

The Speedway and the promoter made money, while residents paid $175,000 in overtime for policing of the event as police officers had vacation time canceled. This doesn’t include the inconvenience to Daytona Beach residents. We control our own destiny Daytona. Demand better.”

–Ken Strickland, civic activist, and former Daytona Beach mayoral candidate, in response to the Barker’s View op/ed “Daytona Beach: If Not Now, When?” writing on Facebook’s “East/West Volusia Forum,” Monday, June 21, 2021

And Another Thing!

It is said that to experience the human emotion of shame, one must first have standards.

On Tuesday, during the latest preposterous production of that théâtre de l’absurde known as the Volusia County Council, several important civic and religious leaders made a very convincing case for the resignation of our self-anointed éminence grise, District 5 Council member The Very Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry. 

Of course, Crazy Fred just sat at his perch on the dais, lost defiantly in his own bizarre thoughts, slowly shifting a lozenge around in his mouth, totally unfazed by the storm of criticism raging in the gallery – clearly refusing to give those ungrateful bastards he represents the satisfaction.

Strange. 

Following a now infamous sermon at his Deltona church in May, Dr. Lowry was appropriately taken to task by the Orland Sentinel for his macabre thoughts on Hollywood’s alleged connection to satanic rituals involving the exsanguination of children to produce a hallucinogenic youth serum, the outright denial of the Coronavirus pandemic, and other uber-weird and hyper-political conspiracy theories taken literally from the lunatic fringe. 

Look, as a blowhard blogger I understand better than most the importance of our First Amendment protections ensuring free speech – the inalienable right to form individual opinions, no matter how outlandish or repellant – and publicly express our thoughts on the issues of the day.

It is the foundational principle of our democratic system. 

However, I also believe those who are elected to represent the interests of all residents of Volusia County, have an obligation to speak the truth, to hold themselves accountable – a responsibility to instill public confidence in both the process and their important role in it – and have the decency to step aside when they lose the sacred trust of their constituents.

Much of the ruckus over Dr. Lowry’s odd proselytizing has dissolved into typical partisan opportunism, with area democrats exploiting a clear political misstep, while stodgy republican operatives continue to defend their weakest link and remain sore over the fact their Darling of the Donor Class was soundly trounced by a plebian like Chairman Jeff Brower in the last election.   

Clearly, many residents on all sides of the political spectrum remain concerned that these deranged beliefs – when voiced by a sitting member of the Volusia County Council who places the respected title “Doctor” before his name – have compromised his ability to effectively represent the broad and varied interests of residents and visitors.

At best, it was a damnable embarrassment.  

Unfortunately, when it came time to protect the institution – to step down from the dais of power and return to the sanctity of his ambo at the Deltona Lakes Baptist Church, a place where he is free to preach anything his conscience, and congregation, will permit – he refused to do the honorable thing.

In a terse email to The Daytona Beach News-Journal following the contentious meeting, Dr. Lowry smugly responded to his critics: “I will not be resigning. That is all.”

Did anyone expect anything different?

In my view, Fred Lowry may well be meshuga – but he isn’t going anywhere – not unless and until the voters have their fill of this pompous ass.   

As a Stalwart of the Status Quo and senior presiding member of Volusia County’s “Old Guard,” Dr. Lowry continues to play an important role – defending the crumbling ramparts of this dysfunctional citadel that shelters the forces of mediocrity in DeLand – a dull tool of those influential interests who seek to marginalize Chairman Brower and torpedo his vision of addressing the needs and wants of average taxpayers, not just the whims of the self-serving few with a chip in the game.  

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

Daytona Beach: If Not Now, When?

Just months before his death in 2015, at the conclusion of his 70th birthday celebration in beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina, the magnificent novelist Pat Conroy explained to his legions of loyal readers, “I have written books because I thought if I explained my own life somehow, I could explain some of your life to you.” 

While I have nothing in common with one of the greatest literary virtuosos of our time, I understand his desire to use his own experiences to inform others, to stir a sense of introspection and consideration of what ‘community’ means, to use the written word to show our kinship and connectedness – especially during a time where everything in popular culture seeks to divide us.   

Here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast, our lifestyles and economics may differ – but our shared experience cannot be ignored – anymore than closing the drawbridge at some gated community in Ormond Beach can shield those trapped inside from the ugly realities of the Halifax areas schizophrenic search for a civic identity.   

Whether we want to admit it – from Ormond Beach to Ponce Inlet – we are all in this fetid mess together. . . 

Some years ago, I published a blogpost entitled, “Daytona Beach: A Tale of Two Cities,” a crude study of our civic dichotomy – a look at the distinct halves of the same whole – the two markedly different communities that comprise Daytona Beach.

It was written at a time when the concept of Latitudes at Margaritaville – that faux-beach community in the palmettos and pine scrub west of I-95 brought to life by Canadian developer Minto Group – was being marketed to tens-of-thousands of 55-and-over Parrot Heads, and the mega-convenience store/destination Buc-ees was still on the drawing board. 

At the time, Minto’s overenthusiastic Senior Vice President Bill Bullock squalled, “How could you not be ecstatic?  On both the east and west of the interstate you’ve got incredible things happening – and they’re all complementary uses – it’s putting Daytona back on the map!”

As things progressed and the hype reached its crescendo, as is my habit, I turned my attention away from the crowd marveling at the “progress” on Boomtown Boulevard and looked over my shoulder at what remains of our core tourist area on Beachside – and our blighted established neighborhoods, such as Midtown, Downtown, and beyond.

Then I asked the darker question, “What will become of the rest of us now that the real money is moving west.  Are we not all part of the same “Daytona Beach Resort Area?”

Unfortunately, the answer to that grim query is now crystal clear to anyone paying attention – and we remain horrible conflicted on just who, and what, we want to be – never more evident than in the woozy aftermath of the disastrous Truck Meet 2021 – a wide open debauch that may have been the final straw in a long series of obscene insults foisted upon area residents by quick-buck promotors and the stuck-on-stupid leadership of our challenged hospitality industry. 

In my view, it has become equally clear that those entities we have relied on to craft a marketable product – such as the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, that good ‘ol boys travel club over at Team Volusia, the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce, or the redundant Volusia County Division of Economic Development (who are still advertising the exciting prospect that “One Daytona will be located directly across from the Daytona International Speedway,” a project that opened in 2017. . .) – have proven incapable of creating an appropriate image that complements the best strand of beach on the eastern seaboard.

For instance, on its website, “Team Volusia” still refuses to enact a key suggestion of the $100,000 2011 Volusia County Tourism Study by even acknowledging “hospitality and tourism” under its “Key Industries” section (although it does highlight our booming “motion picture/video production” trade.  Am I missing something?).

Even News-Journal editor Pat Rice, gave a nod to the supreme importance of tourism in his Sunday editorial on the extent of the Daytona Beach Resort Area’s horribly split personality:  

“Unfortunately, our No. 1 industry – tourism – pays low wages. Daytona Beach’s per capita annual income in 2019 was $24,360, and a quarter of the community lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Tragic.

In February 2020, the HAAA previewed a calamitous “new” advertising campaign – “Think You Know Daytona Beach?” – to replace the equally disastrous “Wide.  Open.  Fun.” debacle, a marketing ploy which continues to play on all the double-entendres and worst perceptions potential visitors have come to associate with the Fun Coast: “Endless Parties,” “Kids Getting Wild,” “Hitting the Clubs,” “Going Topless,” “All Day Beach Bashes,” and “Just a bunch of kids making pour decisions.” 

My God. . . 

According to a report by Jim Abbott writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, last week, the rudderless HAAA Board of Directors “decided to consider (?)” seating yet another committee to address the “destination’s long-term marketing vision.”

Bullshit. 

How many more bites at this rotten apple are we expected to give the demonstrably clueless HAAA – or any of the other redundant and unimaginative “advertising authorities” and self-serving “economic development” shills that, for decades, have failed to craft a sustainable image to promote our “No. 1 industry”?

Perhaps it’s time for the taxpayers of Volusia County to let our elected officials know that we are tired of throwing good money after bad supporting these farcical shams and repetitious “party town” marketing ploys – and demand a collaborative approach that encourages civic engagement and values community input in developing a comprehensive strategic vision for the future of the Halifax area, one that capitalizes on our many attributes – to write a story that explains to visitors the very best of our lives here – rather than catering to the prurient interests of fast-buck artists with a profit motive. 

If not now, when?

Angels & Assholes for June 18, 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.

Asshole           Daytona International Speedway & Truck Meet 2021

“The last Dictate of the Judgement, concerning the Good or Bad, that may follow on any Action, is not properly the whole Cause, but the last Part of it, and yet may be said to produce the Effect necessarily, in such Manner as the last Feather may be said to break a Horses Back, when there were so many laid on before as there want but that one to do it.”

— Thomas Hobbs, 1684

In the aftermath of the DIS sponsored Truck Meet 2021, one former area law enforcement official made the astute observation on social media, “This event is the trashiest spectacle of shit-faced miscreants I have yet experienced. Whatever money we make off of it isn’t enough.”

Other beachside locals have described it as the “worst event ever seen,” (that is saying something, considering most long-time residents are hardened veterans of some truly noxious events).

It appears this may have been the straw that broke that swayback camels back. . .

Now, as the dust settles and the glaring echoes of train horns fade, there remains more questions than answers. 

One thing is certain, those old fogeys at the helm of the Daytona Beach lodging, hospitality, and tourism industry seem incapable of experiential learning – the ability to gain understanding from past mistakes – then use that hard-earned knowledge to their strategic advantage. 

If they had the capacity for heuristic reflection, perhaps someone in a position of influence would say “enough is enough,” finally realizing that this level of mass mayhem is irreparably damaging our product.   

Perhaps its time to change that?

Earlier this week, in a piece entitled “Daytona’s Definition of Insanity,” I jotted down some thoughts on the pros and cons of a hospitality industry based on binge tourism, an event driven boom/bust market that prospers when the carnival comes to town and eats beans in between, rather than develop a sustainable year-round draw punctuated with the well-managed traditional events Daytona Beach is famous for.   

Interestingly, others felt that this annual truck bacchanalia should continue – but only if it can be better organized and more effectively controlled. 

History has proven that it cannot. 

For years, the Halifax area has hosted various custom truck meets that began as little more than a social media flash mob – with thousands of lifted pickup trucks descending on Daytona Beach, burning rubber on Atlantic Avenue and racing down neighborhood streets, blasting obnoxious train horns, and “rolling coal,” spewing dense clouds of acrid black diesel smoke into the humid spring air, all while rowdy young boys and girls try desperately to see and be seen, drinking beer, cruising the strip, everyone doing their best to perpetuate the anything goes atmosphere our tourist officials spent lavishly to cultivate:

Wide.  Open.  Fun. 

A carefully crafted image of an off-the-rails “party town” – a place where the rules are different and visitors are free to ‘do whatcha wanna’ without concern or consequence – a return to the bad old days when the term “came on vacation, left on probation” became the unofficial slogan of the Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

Unfortunately, no one in the moribund Halifax area hospitality hierarchy seems interested in finding a reasonable balance – I mean, why consider the source, so long as they can disingenuously commiserate with traumatized residents – then crow about sold out room nights and bed-tax increases in the newspaper, eh?    

It’s not like we weren’t warned. 

Our exalted ‘powers that be’ hire experts to give educated advice, develop a unique “brand,” then sell it to the masses in select markets around the country.    

So, why won’t anyone listen to them?

Early last year, as the specter of the Coronavirus pandemic loomed, the Halifax Area Advertising Authority held a workshop to discuss alternatives to the widely panned Wide. Open. Fun. campaign created by The Brandon Agency, the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (?) based marketing firm that brought the controversial slogan to life in November 2017. 

According to a February 2020 article by reporter Jim Abbott writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, at that confab a Brandon executive made the painfully obvious observation that The Worlds Most Famous Beach suffers from a deteriorating image problem: 

“Compared with 15 other regional markets that included St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Cocoa Beach and Panama City Beach, Daytona Beach ranked third in familiarity, but ranked 10th in favorability, said Andy Kovan, one of the Brandon executives at the workshop.”

“Survey comments focused on the area’s “a reputation of being more of a Spring Break/party destination more than a family destination.” Another characterized it as “full of trashy bars and people.”

“We have a perception issue and it’s a big one,” Kovan told the board members, “and we’ve chosen to ignore it in a lot of the advertising. In the new ad, “people who have a perception problem, we’re going after them in a way that we never have before.”  

Was that not clear enough?

How about the highly touted 2018 Beachside Redevelopment Committee chaired by former Brown & Brown executive Tony Grippa – a Blue Ribbon think tank comprised of our best and brightest minds – the crème de la crème of our social, civic, business, and political elite – who, after months of deliberation, came up with the simple suggestion:

“Expand the opportunities to make the beach a year-round destination for all visitors.”

Among the panel’s other wholly ignored recommendations was improving “…the perception of the entire region, with a focus on a variety of residential, recreational, cultural and entertainment opportunities in the area.”

Yet, nobody who should seems to give two-shits. 

Why is that?   

Certainly not those elected and appointed officials who commissioned these expensive studies in the first place – especially after they have served their true purpose as a time-buying political insulation ploy, putting time and distance between them and a horrifying News-Journal exposé on “Daytona’s troubled beachside.”

Now, the Grippa report collects mold in a musty records morgue somewhere in DeLand – bookending the 2011 Tourism Study – the results of a $100,000 comprehensive analysis ordered by the Volusia County Council – which concluded our beachside “tourism product” was a serious impediment to attracting visitors and economic development, finding, more ominously, “…there is no “plan” for who is leading the effort and how these challenges can be improved.”

What’s changed a decade later? 

(Stop asking questions, Barker.  You are making some very important people uncomfortable. . .) 

Good.   

I’m just a little confused.

If we have repeatedly been warned by numerous high-priced marketing gurus – expensive out-of-town “experts” with a nice suit and briefcase – that the Daytona Beach Resort Area is widely perceived as a down-at-the-heels, anything goes, trash strewn honky tonk, then why are stalwarts like Daytona International Speedway and the Convention & Visitors Bureau (the event was listed on their website) still tacitly promoting these horribly corrosive three-day/two-night beer-soaked debauches that advance the very image everyone tells us must change if we want to survive as a tourist destination?    

Perhaps the problem goes back to the Halifax area’s acute dissociative identity disorder – which manifests as our historic inability to decide who and what we are – let alone determine what we aspire to be. 

Trust me – you will get a wide variety of answers to those questions depending upon who you ask. . . 

Are we a “family-oriented destination” – or a kick-out-the-jams beer, boobs, and bikes party scene centered on the World Center of Racing

Many believe we are a throwback to another time, where a few uber-wealthy insiders pass the same nickel around and the rest of us scramble and scrape for crumbs – where ingenuity and a level playing field has been replaced by a thriving “Good ‘Ol Boys” network that permeates politics to gain an unfair advantage and stifles entrepreneurial investment outside tightly controlled alliances.

A divided community of haves and have-nots struggling to find an elusive identity, while the blight and dilapidation of the beachside contrasts with the malignant growth and boomtown atmosphere to the west, as our elected and appointed officials prove, time-and-again, how reluctant they are to change the stagnant status quo.

A neglected diamond-in-the-rough that, to those of us with the right set of eyes, still possesses all the facets to shine brightly. 

Regardless, everyone agrees we remain a cautionary tale to the tourist mecca of Central Florida’s I-4 corridor – an ominous warning of the fate that awaits those who fail to protect and promote that which makes them unique in a vast sea of vacation destinations.   

In my view, the strong opinions held by those on both sides of the “special events” issue provides a unique opportunity for Daytona Beach’s bright new City Manager, Deric Feacher, to start a productive dialog with stakeholders, listen to constituents, conduct an independent cost/benefit analysis of both sanctioned and “pop-up” events, then create a means for residents and the business community to inform their elected officials – and our seemingly stuck-on-stupid hospitality industry – of those things we will, and will not, tolerate in the place we live, work, learn, and play.   

I know, I know – don’t hold your breath, right? 

If history repeats (and it always does for those who refuse to learn from it) once this latest hangover passes, I suspect the Halifax area’s addiction to a quick buck regardless of the destructive cost will continue.

For now, gird your loins, folks – Trucktoberfest 2021 is just around the corner. . . 

Angel               Rev. Larry Edwards & First Lady Gwen Azama-Edwards

If we are lucky, true angels will be placed in our path that positively impact the trajectory of our lives in ways large and small – generous souls who seek to guide and encourage us, asking nothing in return – providing that strong shoulder to lean on, or a swift kick in the backside just when we need it most.

The Rev. Larry Edwards has been a blessing in my life.

During my professional life as Chief of Police for a diverse community, Rev. Edwards served as a spiritual, social, and civic mentor, always encouraging me to do the right thing, for the right reason, regardless of political pressure.    

Given his vast experience serving as chaplain for the Daytona Beach Police Department and good work with the State Attorney’s Office – standing at the nexus of law enforcement and the needs of the community – Rev. Edwards developed a strong reputation for resolving conflicts using street-level diplomacy, and the ability to disentangle seemingly intractable problems in hotspots from Daytona Beach to Virginia Beach, Dallas, Miami Beach, Columbus, and Myrtle Beach. 

Given the universal respect Rev. Edwards commands, before my retirement in 2014, he graciously helped me form a multidenominational executive advisory committee comprised of area clergy to provide advice and support to the members of my agency as we worked to improve police-community relations.   

That special relationship is what first brought a wayward sinner like me into the openhearted sanctuary of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Holly Hill, a place where a white police officer was welcomed with a warm embrace, made to feel at home, and could worship shoulder-to-shoulder with a predominantly African American congregation while building the kind of trust that only comes from a true sense of friendship. 

I value those experiences to this day.     

For over 20-years, Rev. Larry Edwards and his beautiful wife, First Lady Gwen Azama-Edwards, tended to the spiritual needs of their devoted flock with pastoral care and a message of God’s love for his children. 

Earlier this month, Rev. Edwards gave his last sermon from the pulpit at St. John’s as he said goodbye to the church he served so well, for so long.

But his “retirement” would not last long.

On Monday, Rev. Edwards accepted an appointed by Pastor Victor Gooden of New Life Church Ministries to serve in the important role of Pastor of Evangelism effective immediately.   

In addition, Minister Gwen Azama-Edwards will complete her ordination under Pastor Gooden’s tutelage. 

Kudos and hearty congratulations to my dear friends on this exciting new chapter in their spiritual lives in service to a grateful community!   

Quote of the Week

“Mayor Henry, Members of the Commission, and Manager Feacher:

As a resident of the Woodland Avenue Daytona Beach, I cannot express strongly enough my outrage at what occurred in our city last weekend. The reckless behavior and total lawlessness and disrespect for our city shown by these vandals was both frightening and sickening. 

These were not tourist, they were vandals.

The maddening thing is that it was totally predictable, and the entire administration left the citizens you all were either elected to, or hired to, protect exposed to danger.  You had to know, or should have known, what was going to happen…we had last year to predict what this year would bring. Yet you did nothing other than handout the pink Ps… truly a pitiful response to an invasion of lawbreaking not seen since the days of BCR and possibly worse. 

The Commission found time to outlaw kids flying kites and skateboarding in Riverfront Park but took a nap on this obvious danger to your residents

Social media is full of videos depicting all types of lawlessness including a shooting for all to see around the world on what you allowed to occur in Daytona Beach….are you proud?…harsh?  I don’t think so. If all of you resigned in mass it would not be too drastic a reaction to what you are doing to the town you are all supposed to be serving.

Why was the Speedway not forced to apply for a special event permit? Did anyone really think the “event” was going to be contained to the track? Does the possibility of bringing money into the city a justification to allow any behavior in your view?  Do you not see yet the long-term damages these types of events cause the city?  Now we want to revisit the process of actually considering a return of this destructive invasion of vandals?

Insanity to even consider it!

Heads up to you who are still sleeping. There has been an escalation in lawlessness in recent events each one more volatile than the last. Your lack of leadership has left your police department in a position of having a policy of appeasement rather than enforcement. Sending a message now to the entire world that anything goes in Daytona Beach….  Show some courage and leadership or step down.”

–Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach and longtime area resident, in an open letter to Daytona Beach city officials, Tuesday, June 15, 2021

And Another Thing!

On Wednesday evening during the regular meeting of the Daytona Beach City Commission, the elected and appointed officials did something truly admirable.  

The City Commission voted unanimously to restore the time-honored democratic tradition of providing citizens a voice in the governance of their community when they rightfully returned public participation as a regular part of the business meeting.

The vote included extending a speaker’s time to a full three-minutes and featuring citizen remarks on the city’s public access broadcast. 

It is my long-held belief that all substantive civic progress stems from a robust debate and the open competition of ideas – a thoughtful consideration of innovative concepts – a meaningful civic outlet for dissent and discussion. 

Rarely are good public policy decisions made in a vacuum – especially true when elected officials emotionally distance themselves from their constituents by building a hubristic wall of arrogance and infallibility – a strategy that invariably results in festering animosity on both sides of the dais.

This was truly an important moment as City Manager Feacher begins the process of slowly draining the mote, opening the fortified portcullis, and letting sunlight shine brightly in the dank inner sanctum at City Hall after nearly 20-years of effective darkness. 

Then, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young gave a comprehensive overview of the unmitigated havoc that descended on the community last weekend in the form of Truck Meet 2021 – an anarchic shit show that taxed officers and staff to their operational, physical, and emotional limits.

And he rightfully wants it to go away. 

It was a story of organizational courage that highlighted Chief Young’s extraordinary leadership skills – and exemplified his pride and affection for the community he serves.   

His efforts and professionalism during the latest Siege of Daytona spoke for themselves – but his impassioned words and complete transparency earned him the respect and admiration of grateful citizens and elected officials. 

Then, with Mayor Derrick Henry moderating, the elected officials engaged in a sober and thoughtful discussion of an event that is, by any metric, a growing threat to public safety – and rapidly destroying the city’s international reputation – something we have been forewarned is crippling our ability to draw visitors in support of our most important industry.

In my view, it was a positive meeting – one the elected officials, and the good citizens of Daytona Beach, can be proud of. 

To paraphrase the immortal words of Neil Armstrong:

It was one small step for the Daytona Beach City Commission – one giant leap for the long-suffering citizens of the Halifax area. 

For the first time in memory, in a David and Goliath moment, the City of Daytona Beach boldly stood firm and let the leadership of Daytona International Speedway (who, for decades, have wielded unconditional influence over civic affairs) know that there is some shit we won’t eat.

While Mayor Henry called DIS “partners” with the city – not “enemies” – it was clear Daytona Beach officials put them on notice.   

The residents of east Volusia will no longer tolerate being set upon by thousands of out-of-control renegades, literally and figuratively pissing on our streets, front lawns, and community standards, terrorizing our neighborhoods, viciously brawling in front of our children, driving destructively on our beach, and leaving (accurately) tons of trash behind – as some out-of-town promoter sidesteps any financial responsibility – then rides away with a fat wad of cash.   

All while the next storm builds. . .

With community emotions running high, during Wednesday night’s meeting, Mayor Henry made it clear that those tone-deaf corporate money-grubbers at DIS have not yet made a formal decision on whether they will sponsor this, and similar, bleed-over events in the future.

With residents, government, and business owners looking for assurance, why the suspense?

Perhaps that tells us all we need to know about the Speedway’s ultimate commitment to the health and safety of our community? 

In my view, the Daytona Beach City Commission, Chief Young, and City Manager Deric Feacher deserve our respect for standing up to those untouchables in the Daytona International Speedway’s executive suite, holding them to account for their irresponsible sponsorship of an event that they knew, or should have known, would inflict such an indelible wound on The Worlds Most Famous Beach and beyond.

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

Daytona’s Definition of Insanity

Another year, another headline.

This morning’s front page/above the fold banner in The Daytona Beach News-Journal screamed:

“Daytona Truck Meet Snarls A-1-A”

For the sake of brevity, I won’t get into the myriad Facebook comments describing the anecdotal evidence supplied by beachside residents this weekend – or the equally passionate competing views from those who enjoyed the event and see it as another temporary boon for our struggling hospitality industry.

Suffice it to say, the weekend was different depending upon which side of the brew-soaked truck bed you were sitting in. . .     

(It didn’t bother me. I’m not the smartest guy you know, but I’ve learned the valuable lesson of touching a hot stove twice – so, I got the hell out of dodge for the weekend.)

Let’s just say that (once again) the frayed nerves of area residents remain raw in the aftermath of the latest influx of rowdy (insert motorized conveyance here) enthusiasts who turned our streets into a congested dragstrip, and our beachside neighborhoods into Party Central, as the Daytona Beach Resort Area hosted three days/two nights of gridlocked debauchery. 

Look, I am not a stick-in-the-mud ‘you damn kids get off my lawn‘ badge carrying member of the Fun Police – but this situation has gotten out-of-control and simply cannot be healthy for the civic and economic viability of our community.     

Since at least 2013, the Halifax area has hosted various lifted truck meets – another evolving “special event” that began as little more than a social media flash mob – with thousands of custom pickup trucks descending on Daytona Beach, burning rubber on Atlantic Avenue and neighborhood streets, blasting obnoxious train horns, and “rolling coal,” spewing dense clouds of acrid black diesel smoke into the humid spring air, all while rowdy young boys and girls try desperately to see and be seen, drinking beer, cruising the strip, everyone doing their best to perpetuate the anything goes atmosphere our tourist gurus have spent lavishly to cultivate:

Wide.  Open.  Fun.     

In an example of history repeating itself, by Sunday afternoon, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry issued one of his loquacious manifestos sidestepping any responsibility (…I take each complaint, inconvenience, and exposure to contemptuous activities associated with the event to heart. However, the most apparent misunderstanding among our residents is the erroneous belief that this event is sanctioned, sponsored, or benefits the city. The event takes place at the Speedway and has a promoter; none of its activities are approved or encouraged by the City of Daytona Beach. . .)

All while promising to do better next time (…While complaints came from every corner of our city, our beachside community experienced the bulk of the inappropriate behaviors.   We accept that this event must be revisited, and I will be fully engaged in ensuring that its current status does not become a standard…)

My ass.

(Note to Mayor Henry: This “inappropriate behavior” became the Daytona Beach Resort Area’s Gold Standard decades ago.  Our ‘powers that be’ invited it.  They cultivated it.  And now that Frankenstein’s monster is destroying our quality of life, we have no one to blame but you. . .)

Unfortunately, a few frustrated residents continued with the wrongheaded notion that the Daytona Beach Police Department are somehow to blame – they are not.

In fact, they do an incredible job under difficult and dangerous circumstances – standing firm in the face of an often-untenable situation where a relative handful of officers and event staff manage to control and make safe tens-of-thousands of residents, visitors, and vehicles in what can be a powder keg.    

The idea that the Daytona Beach Visitors & Convention Bureau can feature the Truck Meet 2021 event on their official website – with the influential Daytona International Speedway and One Daytona playing official host – then, once we have the participants corralled on the beachside – demand that law enforcement set upon them like a Comanche war party and issue hundreds of traffic citations, or take draconian action on nuisance violations, as a means of dissuading these invited visitors from returning to our area seems inherently wrong to me.   

After all, we, the long-suffering residents of the Halifax area, either knew or should have known what was coming – just like our “hospitality gurus” did – even though, in our feast or famine binge tourism economy, one that is now totally reliant on special events for its very survival – we are told to expect a different outcome, time-after-time-after-time. . . 

(Spoiler Alert:  Stop reading now if you are physically nauseated by the tired and horribly redundant “we need a civic vision and identity” pitch. You have been warned. . .)

In my view, it is time for our Halifax area’s crippled brain trust – which includes those political deaf-mutes over at the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce – to establish a true civic vision for our desperately challenged core tourist area and beyond, reimagine a “brand” which builds on our most important natural asset, The Worlds Most Famous Beach, a real multi-faceted placemaking philosophy that moves beyond the fast buck “special events” mentality, and the itinerant resort town grifters who profit from it, and transform Daytona Beach into a sustainable year-round destination.   

Having lived in the Halifax area virtually all my life, I have seen the devastating effects of this Boom/Bust cycle, the recurring economic expansion and contraction that has reduced some of the most valuable real estate on the Eastern Seaboard to overgrown vacant lots and empty strip centers – and reduced a World Class vacation mecca into a dilapidated shell of its former draw. 

This transformative change cannot happen in the leadership vacuum of the status quo. 

Clearly, the tired Old Guard of the Halifax area hospitality industry – the same clueless “visionaries” who have, time-and-again, proven they lack the imagination and basic marketing skills to capitalize on the best-known beach on the planet – have now eaten this apple to its rotten core. 

Now, it is time to demand action – and a change in direction.   

Despite Mayor Henry’s patented abdication, where he sheepishly looks at his shoes and promises to do better ‘next time’ – the shell-shocked residents of Daytona Beach who pay the bills and suffer in silence – have clearly had their fill of these raging debacles that benefit a relative few while impacting the quality of life of so many. 

We have all heard Einstein’s theory that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result” – so when are “we” going to do something about it? 

When will We, The Little People, demand that our elected and appointed officials – and those uber-wealthy insiders they take their marching orders from – stop paying hypocritical lip service and fundamentally change the destructive cycle of these horribly corrosive repeat events that continue to destroy “the brand”?     

___________________________________________________

Please join Barker’s View this afternoon on GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm!

We’ll be taking your calls and discussing local issues on “The Fastest Two-Hours in Radio!”

Join us locally at 1380am “The CAT” or online at http://www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button)

Make-Believe: Politics as Theater

During my working life in a very active municipal law enforcement agency, few things took precedence over the afternoon episode of Days of Our Lives – and, over time, the long running soap opera became a staple in our daily lives.    

As the smooth tones of MacDonald Carey spoke the famous introduction, “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives,” cops in uniform, detectives, and administrative staff would gather in the department’s training room to eat lunch and watch the latest goings-on in the fictional town of Salem.

It was a way to tune out the real madness for 30-minutes and immerse ourselves in the silly escapism of a contrived human drama, a brief distraction from the inhumanity police officers deal with as a matter of routine.    

Besides, we all enjoy a good drama, a well-constructed plotline with memorable characters and an interesting arc, artistically presented with building action and an exciting climax, something we can relate to on a social or personal level.   

I suppose us weirdos who enjoy observing and analyzing local politics are inescapably drawn to this grotesque genre by the theater of politics

For instance, I have always been fascinated by the actors who play the various roles in this serial tragicomedy, the mental gymnastics of anticipating the unfolding plotline, watching the interaction of the various cast members and guessing at the behind-the-scenes influences. 

Any given public meeting of a Volusia County elected body will have all the right elements – conflict, tension, surprise, extraordinary characters, strange behavior, controversy, mystery, comedy, and suspense – often leading to a bizarre double-cross twist at the end that pulls the rug out from under the audience in a dramatic conclusion that rivals anything M. Night Shyamalan could dream up.

Good politicians are natural actors, with a knack for self-promotion, timing, and the instinctive ability to paint themselves into the lead role in any situation – shameless scene-stealers who always hit their mark and adapt to whatever environment they find themselves in. 

Don’t believe me? 

Just watch any of our local elected officials as they deftly jockey for position, theatrically schmoozing and posturing with Governor Ron DeSantis whenever he makes one of his increasingly frequent appearances in Volusia County – classic Shakespeare. . .

Getting elected to high office is an increasingly difficult proposition at all levels of government.    

A successful candidate must possess the ability to be many things to many people – in an environment where “likeability” outweighs competence – a compromised electoral process that requires a lot of money to make it to the dance. 

In an age of 24/7 political marketing, where voters are inundated with television, radio, and roadside advertisements, every “press conference” and personal appearance a highly scripted one act play – it is difficult for a grassroots candidate to be swept into office on a groundswell of popular support – and almost impossible for them to survive in this cutthroat environment if they do. 

This cash-as-fuel atmosphere has allowed a relatively small group of uber-wealthy elites to exert extraordinary influence over local policymaking as they manipulate the outcome of elections through artificially large campaign contributions to hand select candidates willing to sell their political souls in a Faustian bargain for the power and perquisites of office.   

As a result, virtually everything We, The Little People see is choreographed with “winners and losers” decided in advance and what passes for “public policy” a foregone conclusion.   

With a practiced eye, it becomes easy to discern the often-blurred line between a manufactured theatrical representation and the actual intrigues of those engaged in the “people’s business,” especially when those who are elected and appointed to represent our interests become enmeshed in petty plays and slapstick skits. 

On Monday evening, the ongoing shit show that is the City of Deltona “jumped the shark” during the overly dramatic conclusion of the “Interim City Manager John Peters submits his resignation” episode – and everyone involved, from Peters to the hapless elected officials – played their supporting roles with practiced perfection on a grand stage set before an emotionally charged gallery.     

The evening began with cage match between Sheriff Mike Chitwood and the Deltona City Commission; wherein Sheriff Chitwood used a CompStat presentation as a feint to lambaste the elected officials for their abysmal reaction to a false report of misconduct by a deputy accused of inappropriately touching a citizen when her leg brace setoff a metal detector at a previous commission meeting.

Ingeniously, Sheriff Chitwood used the contretemps to effectively quash rumors of a mysterious “study” into whether Deltona is ready for its own police department. 

Frankly, the elected officials should have covered up, backed into a corner of the ring, and taken their pummeling with a smile – because their incredibly weak and yammering individual defenses to Sheriff Chitwood’s masterful beatdown was akin to punching back against an enraged Mike Tyson in his prime. 

Sometimes it is better to take the inevitable political ass beating and live to fight another day, especially when your much larger opponent is as skilled and light-on-his-feet as Sheriff Chitwood. . .

Then, discussion of Interim City Manager John Peters’ dramatic threat to resign over veiled “interference” from a few elected officials dissolved into emotionally charged theatrics – with Peters’ voice cracking in a tear-stained explanation of the horrific trauma he was subjected to by a couple of middle-aged neophyte neighborhood politicians, culminating in a theatrical self-defense, “I am damned principled!” – all while those he once worked for tripped over themselves – virtually begging him to reconsider and stay in the catbird seat until at least January, effectively anointing Mr. Peters with almost dictatorial powers, free from any meddling oversight by the people’s elected representatives.

Trust me. This won’t end well. . .

Look, by all accounts John Peters is a good guy who is trying to do the right thing, under difficult circumstances, as he works hard to change the perverse culture of a damaged and dysfunctional governmental organization that is responsible for establishing and implementing policies that affect the lives and livelihoods of some 90,000 souls. 

Unfortunately, this dramatic intrigue is not limited to Deltona – or Daytona Beach, Debary, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, or – hell, you get the drift. . .

Next Tuesday, get your seat early for the latest production of that weird Kabuki theater masterfully acted by the Volusia County Council and directed by County Manager George “The Wreck” Rectenwald – an episode I am sure will be chockful of farcical fits, misdirection, self-serving showmanship, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic machinations.

Make no mistake – absolutely nothing of substance will be accomplished – but I guarantee it will be fun to watch.

It is what keeps us all coming back for more. . .

Lies and Brimstone

What a difference a week makes in Volusia County politics. . . 

Just last Tuesday, our self-anointed eminence grise, District 5 Volusia County Councilman – The Very Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry – seemed to have fully emerged from a weird chrysalis, transforming before our eyes from an ineffectual lump – an inanimate houseplant perched on the dais of power who didn’t say two words during his first term in office – into a virtual parliamentary expert who relished taking our neophyte Chairman Jeff Brower to the woodshed for his every procedural faux pas and misstep using arrogant histrionics, annoying “Hear, Hear’s,” and toad-like puffery.   

It became obvious to even a casual observer of this bimonthly théâtre de l’absurde that His Eminence was leading a blatant behind-the-scenes effort by those stalwarts of the status quo (inside government and out) to marginalize Chairman Brower and diminish any political momentum he may have had after decisively defeating the Old Guard’s preferred candidate with a voter mandate for change.   

The Rev. Lowry had clearly come into his own – and, week-after-week, he aggressively fulfilled his marching orders to wrest power from Chairman Brower and return it to those elite political insiders who believed they had rightfully purchased it with massive campaign contributions to their political handmaidens.  

These must have been heady days for Rev. Lowry.

He repeatedly put the boots to the accident-prone Chairman Brower, then sat back, arms folded with an overconfident sense of pride, as his “colleagues” on the political tag-team joined in the near non-stop beatdown of Brower and everything he stands for.   

In turn, it looked certain that Rev. Lowry was on his way to the at-large seat in 2022.

Then, the hopes and dreams of Rev. Lowry’s uber-wealthy handlers went off the rails. . .  

Look, I am clearly not a religious man – at best a lapsed Episcopalian, the sheep who got lost – but I have a highly developed conscience and have never forgotten the biblical wisdom of King Solomon, who said, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall.”  

As often happens at the nexus of politics and religion, His Eminence virtually imploded in the pulpit of the Deltona Lakes Baptist Church during a May 30 sermon to the faithful – a weird allocution that ran the gamut of half-baked political nuttery – from wild conspiracy theories to descriptions of macabre Satanic rituals involving child sacrifice, even a puzzling denial of the Coronavirus pandemic – bizarre pontifications, literally from the lunatic fringe, that left many of his constituents rightfully horrified

Others openly questioned his clearly tenuous grip on reality. . .    

During his strange oration, the Right Reverend used a call-and-response strategy, best described in a blockbuster essay by the Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board last week:

“…a Facebook Live video shows one of Volusia County’s top elected officials preaching to the congregation about satanic rituals and torturing children and using their blood to extract a compound called adrenochrome, which is then used in the belief it brings on hallucinations, intensifies personalities and slows the aging process.

“This issue is supposed to be rampant I hear in Hollywood and among the elite,” Lowry told his flock. “I don’t know if it’s true, but where there’s smoke …” Lowry then held his hand behind his ear and awaited the answer he was looking for: “Fire.”

You read that right. 

I am certainly not going to try to pick Rev. Lowry’s thoughts apart – because I don’t want to understand that level of batshit craziness.   

Do you? 

Before Rev. Lowry had the opportunity to evoke the “forces of evil” defense to the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial drubbing; on Friday, the Reverend L. Ron Durham – a busy man who wears a variety of hats as a pastor, part-time Community Relations director for the City of Daytona Beach, president of the Volusia County Democratic Black Caucus, who is no stranger to controversy himself – joined in the growing calls for Lowry’s resignation, or outright removal from office, after losing the confidence of his constituents:

“We are calling into serious question Mr. Lowry’s ability and judgement when it comes to making significant decisions that will affect the lives of those living here in Volusia County. Decisions made by the Volusia County Council should be rooted in fact,” Rev. Dr. L. Ronald Durham, president of the caucus, said in a Friday news release.”

So, I guess that tells us who will be running for the Volusia County Council at-large seat (again) next year, eh? 

Whatever.

The Nazi Joseph Goebbels, who served as the Reich’s chief propagandist, is credited with the quote, “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” – an effective strategy that uses repetition to make something appear true, even if it isn’t – creating what psychologists refer to as an “illusion of truth.”

This despicable tactic is especially troublesome when it is used by a recognized authority figure to sway public opinion, demonize political opponents, or draw attention to ones failing church. . . 

In my view, as a pastor – a shepherd of his flock who places the esteemed honorific “Doctor” before his name – and a duly elected representative of the people of Volusia County, Rev. Lowry has a duty to the truth – because most reasonable people consider the source when judging the plausibility of a statement or theory. 

Look, as a blowhard blogger, I am a prime example that, as Americans, we are all entitled to our personal opinions and goofy theories on the ways of the world.

But I firmly believe those who hold lofty positions of public trust have a sworn obligation to stop repeating falsehoods, perpetuating already debunked claims, and using misdirection to achieve a personal or political end.

That’s wrong.

And, as others have been so quick to point out to Chairman Brower – a powerful elected official simply cannot change hats at their whim – because it is corrosive to the public’s confidence in their government – and fosters a growing cynicism and suspicion of those things we were once so certain of – those institutions that form the bedrock of our core beliefs and values – a growing wariness of the heart that has brought us to this dangerous and difficult place in our local and national history.

I know it is hard to believe – but we deserve better than this. 

Now that Rev. Lowry has exposed his true personal beliefs – revealed the glaring contradiction between his religious teachings and civic policy decisions, especially regarding his repeated votes on the dais to accept millions in federal Coronavirus relief funds for something he clearly believes to be the greatest hoax in the history of mankind – I believe he has a duty to resign from his position of political influence.

Then, The Right Reverend is free to spew any bilgewater he wants from the comfort and protection of his haughty pulpit in Deltona and no one, other than those unfortunates who choose to listen to his tripe, will be the worse for it.    

Angels & Assholes for June 4, 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.

Asshole           Chief Antagonist Mark D. Barker

This might come as a shock, but I get a lot of hate mail. 

Yep.  Comes with the territory.  

I know something about the cathartic release that comes with venting one’s spleen, and (other than the cheap threats that end with, “I know where you live”) I just assume the authors of these “nastygrams” feel better for the effort.

I always do. . . 

In my view, anything that furthers a larger discussion of the intractable issues we collectively face is a good thing, and I always learn something from those with whom I disagree.  Besides, after years in the dusty arena – I have developed some hard bark and a calloused soul – perfectly capable of giving as good as I get.

Rather than engage in a battle of wits with my many detractors – or speak to the vacant eyes of our elected officials, who sit stone-faced on the dais of power, like those weird figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island, during what passes for ‘citizen participation’ at any stilted public meeting – or engage with my long-suffering neighbors at some civic coffee klatch orchestrated by what passes for our local newspaper – I simply jot down my goofy thoughts for the masses to ponder, then accept the slings and arrows of contrary opinions in the spirit in which they are loosed.   

Last week, I received a wonderfully condescending note from one of the Halifax areas preeminent ‘Movers & Shakers’ who made the infinitely valid point that, “…this week’s honorable mention ASSHOLE should be you.” 

Because this esteemed member of our local brain trust is apparently a voracious reader of these goofy screeds – and took his valuable time to nominate me – I did not want to disappoint. . .

This uber-wealthy insider took me to task for, among other things, having the impudence to imply in last week’s Angels & Assholes that the latest march toward the resurrection of the failed Volusia County sales tax initiative is anything but “needed and essential.”

According to the high-placed member of our local literati, “…the money needs to be spent on improving Volusia County. It does not go to the CEO Alliance. They don’t need it. The people who voted against it need it and the money needs to be spent wisely and for the people who need it most.”

Bullshit.

I found my critic’s statement revealing on several fronts. 

First, nothing changes.  

Incredibly, our “Rich & Powerful” overseers – even after having their asses handed to them at the ballot box in 2019, and again in 2020 – still possess the abject arrogance to look down their long noses and tell We, The Little People what is best for us. 

In their greed-crazed minds, they know more than you do about how your family’s hard-earned money should be spent – and if they happen to skim a few bucks in lucrative government contracts, weird backroom deals, or “economic incentives” for imparting their infallible wisdom or encouraging more growth – well, that’s just the cost of doin’ bidness here on the Fun Coast.

Meanwhile, an unacceptable percentage of Volusia County residents live like the Joad’s – while a precious few gilded millionaires (and billionaires) soak up all the public largesse and special favors their elected and appointed handmaidens can shovel their way. 

And I’m the asshole? 

Second, while those shadowy puppeteers over at the CEO Business Alliance may not “need” it – it did not stop them from financing a full-blown campaign to shove a sales tax increase down our collective throat that some 55% of Volusia County voters roundly rejected in an expensive special election just two-years ago.

If anyone over at the CEO Star Chamber expect us to believe that the puffery on Monday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal front page touting the virtual philanthropic work of P$S Paving – a major local government contractor and member of The Alliance who donated a reported $17,026 to the political action committee formed to ramrod the 2019 money-suck – was anything but scripted whoopla designed to convince Daytona Beach taxpayers that P$S is doing them a huge favor by hauling all that dirty fill dirt off city owned land – they are insulting our intelligence. 

My God.  How dumb to they think we are? 

Look, I have long suspected that News-Journal editor Pat Rice, and the members of our social and civic elite that he considers “friends,” have lost any capacity for shame – just don’t expect us to believe that P$S Paving did not know to the penny how much profit they could haul out of taxpayer-owned ground for a relatively paltry investment. 

(According to reports, P$S Paving is paying the City of Daytona Beach $1.50 per cubic yard of dirt – in a market demanding between “$4.00 and $12.00” a yard. . .)

Apparently, the News-Journal now runs interference as P$S Paving’s new public relations arm (according to the report, “P&S Paving President Tim Phillips did not return calls this week seeking comment.”  I don’t blame him.) so, our local newspaper set about crying the poormouth blues on behalf of our benevolent benefactor:  

“While the $1.50 per cubic yard P&S Paving is paying the city is lower than what’s being charged on the open market, the company is shouldering hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses up front for fuel, labor and equipment usage. The company is also paying for all surveys, studies, expert services, remediation and restoration of the pond sites.”

“P&S Paving also footed the bill to shift and then pave the dirt haul path that runs the length of the site near First Step Shelter.”

To who’s benefit? 

Is there some direct advantage to the long-suffering taxpayers of Daytona Beach who own the land currently being hauled away – or is this “deal” only of benefit to developers desperately in need of fill to raise “low-lying land” in support of the malignant sprawl west of I-95?   

Is there some environmental value to digging a massive 40 acre crater (billed as a “retention pond”) on a parcel of public property “pockmarked with wetlands”?

I’m asking. 

Am I missing something?

Because I am almost certain that during my three-decades in public service someone told me that it was government’s responsibility to protect public funds, assets, and resources from being used to further private ventures when the public is only incidentally benefitted.

Yes, yes. . .I clearly remember that lesson during my mail-order correspondence course with the Rocco Clubbo School of Bureaucracy of Chillicothe, Illinois, that I found in the back of Public Management magazine. . .     

But I’m the asshole? 

Most of the ‘common folk’ I kibitz with on barstools fail to see the logic in giving more money to the same people who got us into this fetid mess in the first place.

In my view, the most accurate précis on this brewing debacle was written by the intrepid civic activist, Ken Strickland, on the Facebook public affairs site FREE Daytona Beach last week:

“No resident with half a pea brain will vote in favor of giving a nickel to pay for infrastructure for developers. If they can’t pay their own way too damn bad. We have far too many needs in our existing neighborhoods. Our current elected officials cannot be trusted with more revenue period.”

Amen.

Look, I may be a King Hell Asshole (the evidence is overwhelming, just ask my wife) but I refuse to be steamrolled by those with the wherewithal to purchase a chip in the game.

I will not be browbeaten by mercenary insiders who subliminally suggest that my opinions (and yours) are somehow invalidated by their faux optimism.

A crude attempt to “lead with the positives” – a botched strategy born in a backroom by some horseshit-spewing research and marketing firm that requires taxpayers doubt what we see, hear, and feel with our own senses – that demands we ignore our hard-won perceptions after watching the same last names haul millions of dollars in “economic incentives” and corporate welfare out of the public coffers for decades. 

I may be an asshole, but I am not a rube – not anymore – and neither are you.

Asshole           Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington  

The artistry of creating a problem to justify an expense – the cultivated ability to spin a fantastic yarn to rationalize a public expenditure – is a necessary skill for any perennial politician. 

Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington peacocked his mastery of the craft earlier this month when he asked that a dusty feasibility study – clearly designed to facilitate relocation of the city’s police facility – be taken out of bureaucratic mothballs and passed around for serious discussion. 

As you may recall, the “study” found that the current building on West Granada Boulevard (built in 2001) is now an ancient relic of times gone by, lost to the ravages of time.  A dangerous, antiquated hovel that now sits in something ominously called a “flood hazard zone.”

My ass. 

Inexplicably, rather than simply tell the truth and explain to Ormond Beach residents that the Police Department sits on 2.1 acres of the most valuable real estate in the city – its location vital to bookending the fantastic Granada Boulevard streetscape with a complimentary commercial development – Mayor Partington prefers to tell us scary stories of floods and $500,000 critical renovations.

Why?

In my experience, that never ends well. . . 

The problem with fabricating a story to fit the preferred solution is that once an elected official goes down that circuitous path there is no turning back – and the hapless buffoon who tries to pull the wool over his or her constituent’s eyes is forever shackled to the contrived narrative – in this case the expenditure of somewhere between $26 to $35 million depending upon the facilities bells and whistles.

Wow.

I trust Ormond Beach Police Chief Jesse Godfrey – I consider him a friend and former colleague of extraordinary skill and dedication.  If Chief Godfrey tells us his agency needs a new building – I believe him.

In a recent article by Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, Chief Godfrey essentially said just that:

“I think we’ve outgrown this building, to be honest with you,” Godfrey said. “And with our population getting larger, and other cities around us getting larger, we’re going to need more people, more employees at the police department and this building simply can’t hold them all.”

That makes sense. 

Rather than simply trusting the intelligence of Ormond Beach residents and treating them with a modicum of respect – or, God forbid, explain the sound strategy of moving public safety assets as the population center transitions west – Mayor Partington looks like a disingenuous fool, a cartoon character caught red-faced – forced to defend this political insulation ploy with his butterfingered political sleight-of-hand.   

In my opinion (for what that’s worth), the Ormond Beach City Commission can learn something from this needless threat to the public trust and vote to shelve this cockamamie sham in that mildewed bin where bad ideas are entombed at City Hall – then set a course for the structured and transparent relocation of the police facility based upon the sound Granada Boulevard revitalization plan and Chief Godfrey’s professional recommendations. 

The good people of Ormond Beach will understand the need to get this important property back on the tax roll as the brilliant finishing touch to what is quickly transforming into one of the best Main Streets in Volusia County.

Please do not cheapen that civic progress with the stench of political gamesmanship. 

Quote of the Week

“. . .Fred Lowry needs to resign. Now. And if he won’t do that, the County Council needs to use whatever powers it possesses to condemn Lowry for bringing shame not only on himself but on the office he holds.

His colleagues ought to be appalled. Lowry’s not only an embarrassment, his judgment is now in serious question. The council is charged with making consequential decisions that are supposed to be rooted in fact and reality.

How can anyone trust that Lowry’s making fact-based decisions when he’s preaching sermons about cabals of Satanists using the blood of kidnapped children to get high and live longer?. . .”

–Excerpted from the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board’s, “Meet Fred Lowry, a Volusia County Council member spreading the gospel of QAnon,” Thursday, June 3, 2021

Whoa. 

It gets better. . .

I encourage everyone who cares about good governance in Volusia County and beyond to read the Orlando Sentinel’s incredibly disturbing essay on our self-anointed éminence grise, Volusia County Councilman and Right Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry.

According to the editorial, last week, in a“sermon” to his dwindling flock at the Deltona Lakes Baptist Church – the Rev. Lowry spouted wild tales from the lunatic fringe.

For instance, he proffered a conspiracy theory involving the “Hollywood elite” and their alleged torture and exsanguination of kidnapped children at shadowy satanic rituals during which an hallucinogenic compound is extracted from their blood and consumed for its anti-aging properties.

You read that right. . .

The editorial also called out His Eminence’s weird denial of the Coronavirus pandemic, wherein he claimed we were all “lied to” about what has been billed by physicians and scientists as one of the most virulent public health threats in modern times.

Which begs the question, if Councilman Lowry honestly believed what he told his congregants, then why has he agreed to extend the local state of emergency 64 times – or voted to accept millions-of-dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds earmarked for pandemic response – something he now says is the greatest global hoax in the history of the world? 

The Orlando Sentinel’s courageous editorial board did not stop there:

. . . his political campaign in 2018 had the financial backing of Volusia County’s longtime political power brokers like International Speedway Corp. and homebuilder Mori Hosseini’s development companies.

Maybe Lowry’s fellow County Council members will care, knowing that the guy up there on the dais weighing in on policy — including a response to the pandemic he denies took place — is the same guy who’s buying what QAnon is selling, and then peddling that garbage to his church congregation.

Don’t let him get away with it, Volusia. Find the courage to speak out against conspiracies, misinformation and lies before it’s too late.”

Please find this incredibly well-written and highly informative editorial here: https://tinyurl.com/9jhuae7c .

And Another Thing!

The adulation and beatification of former Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm continued this week with an odd “proclamation” by the Volusia County Council – you know, one of those stuffy “Hear ye, Hear ye, Whereas and Wherefore” stroke jobs – the epitome of gross political pandering – proclaiming June 1, 2021, as “Jim Chisholm Day” in Volusia County.

Give me a break. . .

The proclamation was requested by at-large Councilman Ben Johnson, but I seriously doubt it was an original thought, as Mr. Chisholm – the Darling of the Donor Class and Champion of the Civic Elite – slowly slogs his way toward the ash heap of history.   

Among the dubious “accomplishments” included in the proclamation were:

WHEREAS, Chisholm oversaw the development of several multimillion dollar projects that benefit the city’s underserved population: the Midtown Cultural and Educational Center, Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Center, Cypress Aquatic Center, and the Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard reconstruction projects; and

In my experience, the last thing Jim Chisholm cared about was “the city’s underserved population.” 

Don’t take my word for it – look at the deplorable conditions in many Midtown neighborhoods – or refer to Mr. Chisholm’s now infamous 2019 quote to WFTV reporter Mike Springer on the issue of street flooding near Nova Road:

“The only thing they can do is try to look for another place that’s not a flood prone area.  That’s basically the lowest part of the city.”

You read that right. 

When residents in the long-established Caroline Street neighborhood desperately begged city officials for protection from frequent floodwaters the cruel answer from Mr. Chisholm was – Move.

My God. 

I also noticed the County Council’s awkward glorification did not include the City of Daytona Beach’s abysmal treatment of veterans and their efforts to save the historically significant City Island Recreation Center and establish a museum to showcase the areas rich military history during World War II.

In a September 2020 interview in the News-Journal, Robert Hawes, president of the Veterans Museum and Educational Center, was quoted:

“I’m so disappointed with the city of Daytona Beach,” Hawes said. “The city has spent millions and millions of dollars on all kinds of crap, and they stonewalled us.”

Crap indeed. . .

The Veterans Museum and Educational center is now located in the welcoming community of Holly Hill – along with the world class fitness complex Pictona at Holly Hill – and numerous other small businesses who fled to neighboring communities when they could no longer jump through the seemingly infinite bureaucratic hoops and hurdles which impeded substantive entrepreneurial investment under Chisholm’s strange reign. 

Tellingly, Volusia County’s pronunciamiento deifying the life and times of Jim Chisholm rightfully included his all-embracing commitment to the “Brown & Brown Insurance headquarters” in downtrodden downtown – because if anything is certain in Daytona Beach – it is that His Royal Highness King J. Hyatt Brown wants for nothing. . .

Embarrassingly, I summersaulted out of my swivel chair (backwards) when I saw that the proclamation credited Chisholm with constructing a “homeless shelter” – which launched me on a fool’s errand to find the damn thing.

I’m still searching. . .

Oh, I drove past an elaborate $6+ million publicly funded self-improvement seminar in the hinterlands on US-92 west of town – a facility which apparently serves as the raison d’être for P$S Paving’s goldmine on surrounding city owned property – but I have yet to find the come-as-you-are homeless shelter we were all promised.

Have you?

Look, I realize these political platitudes do not carry much weight outside the council chamber – but I wonder what message these unearned accolades send to Jane & John Q. Public, who see the blight and dilapidation in key areas of Daytona Beach, remember the tax funded for-profit “public/private partnerships” they were forced to underwrite, the corporate welfare, deliberate neglect of public assets, malignant sprawl, and the lack of transparency or substantive citizen input in the planning process, etc., etc.?

And what does it say to the other municipalities? 

Many of which will be negatively impacted by the decisions made on Chisholm’s watch for years, yet few of whom had a working relationship with Mr. Chisholm?

At the end of the day, Councilman Johnson, and the others on the dais of power, said ‘all the right things’ and did as they were told, ensuring that Sir James V. Chisholm received his just deserts for serving his (and their) influential masters with such great personal and professional devotion.

All while those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence languish in the civic, social, and economic stagnation that is the natural byproduct of cronyism, parti pris decisions, and political favoritism. 

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

Word to the Wise:  Angels & Assholes will take a brief pause next week. 

In the meantime, please avail yourself of the voluminous Barker’s View collection, chockfull of my wacky thoughts and insights on the issues of the day here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast.

These monthly archives are accessible at the bottom of the page.