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 Volusia County School Board
I am not the most financially savvy guy you know.
In fact, my wife and I have one of those classic “spender vs. saver” relationships – where Patti looks to the long-term viability of the household while I indulge every hedonistic impulse.
However, even a profligate wastrel like me knows that when funds are low and debts are high, it is time to tighten the ol’ belt, patch financial leaks and ooze, and, most important, stop spending money.
In my experience, many governmental organizations and taxing districts have a hard time grasping this basic economic concept because the assets and resources they are tasked with stewarding are not their own – an environment where public funds are viewed as a gift from the mythical money tree, manna from heaven, the byproduct of a dyspeptic goose that continuously lays golden eggs – all while strapped taxpayers are forced to ante up, or else.
By all accounts, Volusia County District Schools are facing a serious financial crisis.
With a $992.1 million budget (you read that right) our hapless School Board continues to cry the poormouth blues while failing to staunch the small cuts and gaping lacerations that threaten to exsanguinate district coffers.
For instance, the School Board recently announced that they plan to use federal coronavirus relief funds (a completely unsustainable source) to cover an estimated $46 million deficit for the next fiscal year – while simultaneously gifting Superintendent Scott Fritz with a wholly unwarranted $10,000 performance bonus for his role in developing a “strategic plan” – a trifling list of run-of-the-mill “goals” facilitated by an outside contractor.
What was the number one strategic objective on the much-anticipated list of “measurable, attainable, smart goals with key performance indicators” established for Volusia County schools – those ambitious targets that were carefully crafted by the best minds our money can buy following nine-months of burning the midnight oil?
Engage all students in high levels of learning every day.
You also read that right.
As opposed to what? Circling the wagons, showering senior executives with lucrative bonuses, denying learning opportunities, and allowing students to wallow in abject mediocrity every day?
If Superintendent Fritz makes good on these unremarkable aims – where success or failure is left to the eye of the beholder – he is eligible for additional annual bonuses equaling 10% of his $205,000 base salary – for a potential personal windfall of $20,500 each year. . .
In a district where teacher salaries (you know, those who are actually in the classroom, struggling mightily to engage students in high levels of learning each day?) are ranked in the lower third of school districts statewide, while executive compensation ranks among the highest in Florida.
Did I mention that the school board failed to set new “goals or standards” for Dr. Fritz for the current year?
Because no one in the Ivory Tower of Power is held responsible for anything. . .
Every bloated bureaucracy knows that once it starts down that slippery slope of setting high standards or holding people accountable – those pesky constituents who pay the bills start expecting things – and that never ends well.
Perhaps more disturbing, last week, with only days to spare before his contract expired, the Volusia County School Board gifted their longtime attorney, Ted Doran, with a new three-year contract and a whopping 25% pay increase, bringing Doran’s lucrative hourly rate from $195 to $245.
According to Doran, we are getting a bargain, because his standard fee for private clients is $400 an hour. . .
Which begs the logical question – why is Mr. Doran wasting his valuable time shepherding around these buffoons when he could be farting through silk for the rest of his life if he just paid more attention to his day job?
Perhaps my odd curiosity was answered in an informative piece by education reporter Cassidy Alexander writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, cleverly entitled, “Volusia School Board attorney gets raise, new 3-year contract”:
“Last fiscal year, Doran and his firm were paid between $400,000 and $450,000 total for work with the school district (the final numbers are not yet available). The majority is for other legal services they provided to the district. The district contracts with six to eight outside law firms for various legal services and specializations.”
Kudos to educator and board member Carl Persis, who pointed out the painfully obvious when he suggested that taking up the expensive issue of entering negotiations with just one week to spare on Mr. Doran’s contract seemed “forced.”
“I feel like right now we’re being forced into something,” Persis said. “Let’s not feel like we’re held hostage in this and make a poor decision.”
To allow the board an opportunity to seek alternatives after 19-years under Mr. Doran’s counsel, Mr. Persis rightfully moved for a one-year contract.
His commonsense effort fell victim to the abject absurdity that has perpetually plagued the Volusia County School Board.
Ultimately, most of our elected “hostages” on the dais succumbed to a weird form of political Stockholm Syndrome and approved a three-year deal on a 4-1 vote – with Mr. Persis casting the lone “No.”
According to the News-Journal’s report, “Board members expressed frustration at the timing of the discussion, and board chair (Linda) Cuthbert apologized for not realizing when Doran’s contract was up.”
Wait. Are you telling us not one of our elected representatives – not even the chair – “realized” that Mr. Doran’s contract was up for renegotiation?
Perhaps it is this lackadaisical approach to awarding lucrative contracts for goods and services that has contributed to the current financial quagmire the district finds itself in – a distinct lack of urgency or organizational discipline that allows our elected officials to conveniently forget when their attorney’s contract is up for consideration – one of only two positions the board hires, directs, and supervises.
What a damnable embarrassment.
Angel Daytona Beach Police Officer Jason Raynor
By any metric, it has been a difficult week here in Volusia County.
On Monday morning, a Volusia County employee identified as Tim Swiger, 52, a tradesworker in the Facilities Management Division, died tragically in a motor vehicle accident involving a Votran bus.
The horrific crash injured 14 others.
By all accounts, Mr. Swiger was a gifted carpenter who specialized in cabinetry, framing, and special projects – a much-admired craftsman who took great pride in the quality of his public service.
In a recent evaluation, Mr. Swiger’s division director commended his personal dedication and commitment to seeing a job done well, “Tim takes pride in his work and enjoys what he does. He goes above and beyond to help others and is a true asset to his division.”
That evening, Phil Vanderhoof, a homeless person who became a beloved fixture in the community – known far and wide for his remarkable talent for knife sharpening – passed away at Halifax Health Port Orange.
Mr. Vanderhoof was fondly remembered in hundreds of messages of condolence on social media this week – a fitting memorial for a simple man who left such an indelible impression on the many who knew Phil and relied on his skill.
Then, the legendary professor, political scientist, and statesman Dr. T. Wayne Bailey died during the early morning hours of Tuesday.
He was 86.
Professor Bailey was world-renowned for his keen insight into all strata of governance and politics – and his learned opinions were frequently quoted in local, national, and international news articles and scholarly writings – but he will most be remembered for the fatherly mentorship and devotion to the holistic education of Stetson University students.
It was this depth of care and positive influence on the lives of so many that will remain his enduring legacy.
In addition, Dr. Bailey had a direct role in shaping modern Volusia County government as one of the founding fathers of the county’s original home-rule charter. He also chaired the first two Charter Review Commissions before serving as a member of the commissions in 1995, 2006, and 2016.
I did not always agree with Dr. Bailey politically, but I invariably learned something new and important whenever he weighed in – perpetually impressed with his ability to disagree with those who thought different from him without being disagreeable.
The mark of a gentleman – and a scholar.
According to an article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal announcing Dr. Bailey’s passing:
“There are few people I know who receive the regard given to Stetson University Professor Emeritus T. Wayne Bailey,” said Stetson University Provost and Executive Vice President Noel Painter. “The impact of his 53-year career at Stetson has produced ripples across the country, with Stetson students pursuing meaningful careers in the fields of law and public service due to his mentorship, teaching and sage advice.”
These remarkable gentlemen, each from different walks of life, will be widely missed and long remembered by all who were touched by their lives and contributions.
The traumatic line-of-duty shooting of 26-year-old Daytona Beach Police Officer Jason Raynor has galvanized our community in such a profound way, uniting us in the common goal of supporting this young man’s recovery, while expressing our sincere appreciation for all those brave souls who serve and protect.
In ways large and small, the community has expressed just how much the dedicated men and women of law enforcement mean to us – and we continue to honor the sacrifice of Officer Raynor and his family by donating food, money, and resources, holding prayer vigils, establishing fundraisers, and participating in heartfelt tributes.
I know those we send in harms way to protect my family and yours are thankful for the gratitude shown by many of our local and state elected officials this week – some of whom spoke from the heart, dropping the ‘politically correct’ façade to authentically express their outrage – and their deeply held admiration for Officer Raynor and his brothers and sisters in blue.
An openness which resulted in withering criticism from some misguided groups and individuals with a larger, more divisive, agenda.
My hope is you will seek out a meaningful way to support Officer Raynor in the days and weeks to come – it is important – and your love and encouragement mean everything to those precious few who sacrifice so much in service to our community.
A GoFundMe account has been established to assist Officer Raynor and his family during this difficult time. Please find it here: https://tinyurl.com/5k3t4kks
Also, the Daytona Beach Police Department is offering double-sided yard signs for a $20 donation with all proceeds going to the Raynor family. For more information, please contact Sergeant Lissette Deschamps at (386) 671-5367 or DeschampsL@DBPD.us or Eva Ziehl at (386) 671-5408 or ZiehlEwa@dbpd.us.
Tomorrow morning the Daytona Unity Walk will honor Officer Raynor, while helping heal and bond the community. The walk begins at the City Island parking lot (near Jackie Robinson Ball Park, 105 East Orange Avenue) at 9:00am.
Participants will traverse the Veterans Memorial Bridge before returning to City Island for an event offering free food, music, and presenters.
Daytona Strong – Raynor Strong.
Angel Civic Activist & Change Agent Sherrise Boyd
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of participating in the popular public affairs forum Live with Boyd! a production of the extraordinary Daytona Beach civic activist Sherrise Boyd.
In my view, Ms. Boyd, a former mayoral candidate for the City of Daytona Beach, is emerging as a true change agent who possesses the bona fides, innate curiosity, and depth of character to make a true difference in the future of the Halifax area.
In addition, Sherrise brings her educational accomplishments and extensive public service experience to her role as Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Consulting, a local branding, marketing, and lobbying consultancy offering a wide range of administrative and operational services to government, non-profits, and the private sector.
The multitalented Ms. Boyd also produces Breakfast with Boyd, a weekly dialog offered across a variety of social media platforms, which introduces viewers to various area politicians, business leaders, environmental activists, and civic influencers.
In other words, Ms. Boyd is everything a tired old blowhard like me is not – and I find it refreshing that a creative with her impressive professional attributes and inquisitive mind is using her voice to elevate the discussion – working hard to effect positive change in Volusia County and beyond.
I sincerely appreciate that Ms. Boyd included me early on her important journey.
Whenever someone is kind enough to ask me to speak on a topic of community concern – or take part in a larger conversation on the social, civic, and economic issues we collectively face – I do my best to help.
The Great Mystery of our Time is why anyone would be interested in listening to my goofy thoughts, but I appreciate the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, and I always gain valuable insight from interacting with civically active people with different views and perspectives.
For anyone interested (and if you are, you probably need a hobby worse than I do) I will be contributing to the discussion at the following civic and professional organizations soon:
On Thursday, July 15, 2021, at 6:00pm, I will join the Bellaire Community Group at the Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, for a roundtable discussion with area writers, to include the exceptional Derek Catron, former managing editor of The Daytona Beach News-Journal and a talented novelist, who has published two incredibly well-received works, Trail Angel and Angel Falls. (For more information, please find Derek’s work here: http://derekcatron.com/)
Also on the dais will be former Ormond Beach City Commissioner, longtime community activist, (my high school civics teacher, so blame him), and award-winning author Jeffrey Boyle, whose novels Nam Story and Hidden Truths can be found on Amazon. (See more at http://jeffboyleormondwriter.com/ )
I am embarrassed to mention my name in the same breath with these talented authors – which is a gross affront to real writers and journalists everywhere – and I have no doubt these gifted artists risk being expelled from the guild for having agreed to sit next to me – yet here we are. . .
The event is open to the public and I hope you can join us.
In addition, I have been extended a most generous invitation to luncheon and speak with the New Smyrna Beach Board of Realtors on August 26 at 11:30am, at the beautiful waterfront Brannon Center.
Now, I have no earthly idea what to say to a roomful of distinguished realtors and business leaders – but I shall do my best.
If you are a member of this prestigious professional organization, I look forward to meeting you!
Quote of the Week
“The 800 members of Daytona Dog Beach, Inc. are disappointed and angry with the Volusia County Council’s June 22nd vote, based on an inaccurate/incomplete report by their staff, which ignored the voices of residents and taxpayers asking for compromise to allow expansion of leashed dog friendly beach options.
For longtime resident members, it confirmed their long-held cynicism that their county leaders don’t value their voices. Instead, they listen to those who pull their strings and take away the simple pleasures and freedoms residents once enjoyed growing up along the beaches.”
— Nanette McKeel Petrella, president of Daytona Dog Beach, Inc., as excerpted from her Letter to the Editor in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Volusia ignored our proposal,” Monday, June 28, 2021
“…their county leaders don’t value their voices. Instead, they listen to those who pull their strings…”
Anyone else see a disturbing trend here?
For years, the Volusia County Council has suffered from what has become colloquially known as “The Trust Issue.”
Many look to this loss of public confidence as the foremost reason the half-cent sales tax money grab went down in flames – and why smart people know it will fail again, so long as the same greed-crazed hands remain on the tiller – and I don’t mean our elected officials, those wooden bowsprits on that ship of fools in DeLand, who serve as mere placeholders for the influential few with a chip in the game.
The 800 members of Daytona Dog Beach, Inc. – and the thousands more who carve out a life on this salty piece of land – are growing tired of being ignored and dismissed by our ‘powers that be’ – sick of watching helplessly as those who make a valiant effort to represent our interests are marginalized and pilloried by those do-nothing obstructionists whose gut reaction is always the path of least resistance.
In Volusia County, trying something – anything – new, fun, or marginally innovative to accommodate the needs of long-suffering taxpayers is considered verboten in a place where lockstep conformity is valued over anything remotely inventive or original.
The 2022 election cannot get here soon enough. . .
And Another Thing!
Most sitting politicians are smart enough to consider the source and ignore the slings, arrows, and petty criticisms from up here in the peanut gallery.
Others cannot resist getting down in the mud and wallowing around with me – trying desperately to spin the narrative or defend the indefensible – adding to the suspicion and speculation that fuels my often-controversial opinions in the first place.
Last week, I took The Daytona Beach News-Journal to task after they were caught out by their friends and benefactors among the Halifax area’s “Rich & Powerful” – those privileged few who, for far too long, have controlled everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on Florida’s Fun Coast.
Awkwardly, a News-Journal reporter and photographer were initially denied entry to an elegant private soiree at the tony One Daytona last week – a very exclusive affair organized as a reception for Daytona Beach’s new City Manager Deric Feacher and “50 of Daytona Beach’s most influential leaders,” which apparently included invitations to members of the Volusia County Council and other area elected officials.
What? You didn’t get an invite, but your elected representative did?
Why is that?
See how these uncomfortable questions beget questions from us unwashed rubes left standing outside, staring at the inner workings through that greasy opaque pane that separates us from the anointed ones?
Once inside, reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean discovered that the only elected official in attendance was freshman Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu – who, after explaining she did not feel the need to explain herself on social media – explained that she went because she received an invitation, the event was to “…welcome our new city manager,” and the hotel where the ‘reception’ was held happened to be in her zone. . .
She also felt the need to explain, “I don’t rub elbows, I associate with people. Just saying.”
Clear enough? I didn’t think so. . .
In my jaded view it was a rookie mistake – a classic example of a neophyte politician’s inability to read a room – and I said so.
Rather than stop while she was ahead, Ms. Cantu went on to justify her presence by clarifying, “I wasn’t aware being (an) elected official that I needed permission from anyone to attend events that I’m invited to. Hmmm, that’s a new one.”
In my view, her disturbing lack of situational awareness aside, Commissioner Cantu is right.
She can do whatever she wants.
So long as the letter and spirit of Florida’s Sunshine Law are followed – and the suspicions, concerns, and perceptions of her constituents no longer matter.
Trust me. There is a reason her more experienced colleagues on the dais of power in Daytona Beach and Volusia County were not in that space:
Because the optics sucked. Just sayin’. . .
After jotting down my thoughts, I was taken to the woodshed by a few of Commissioner Cantu’s most ardent supporters – all of whom are bright, civically active residents who rightfully look to her as a breath of fresh air after years of civic stagnation – an elected representative who dutifully questions the who, what, when, where, why, and how much of things and works hard to make public policy decisions in the best interests of her constituents.
I admire Ms. Cantu’s hands-on representation. But only time will tell if I am right or wrong.
I hope I am wrong.
Call me a cynical asshole, but I know how things work in the Halifax area – and who works them.
So do you.
Perhaps that is why when Commissioner Cantu tells us – just six-months into her term – not to be “paranoid” of her personal and political associations, it raises the wary eyebrows of those who have seen more than one “for the people” politician transform into everything they hated after being taken into the maw of “The System.”
My sincere hope is that Commissioner Cantu is everything her desperate constituents hope she is – and more – a true champion of the long-suffering citizens and small business owners of Daytona Beach who are rightfully suspicious of anyone who promises substantive change in an environment where the status quo reigns supreme.
Through hard-earned experience, I never hitch my wagon to a politician for the same reason I do not touch a hot stove twice.
Here on the ever-shifting sands of the Fun Coast, blind loyalty is tailormade for disappointment.
That’s all for me. Have a great Independence Day weekend, y’all!