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”?     

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

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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.