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.”
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”?
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.