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…)
(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!
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