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 Palm Coast City Council
The City of Palm Coast was conceived in the mind of a marketing executive, a planned unit development funded by an international telecommunications corporation, meticulously laid out for maximum transportation efficiency, with neighborhoods designed in “sections” designated by roadways starting with letters of the alphabet – such as the “R” section or the “P” section – with feeders to major thoroughfares and a main commercial corridor known as Palm Coast Parkway.
When I was a young boy, what would become the City of Palm Coast was 22,000 acres of unspoiled pine scrub and swamp in the hinterlands of Flagler County – at the time, a largely agrarian economy with commercial farms, lumber mills, and working cattle ranches surrounding the small town of Bunnell at the intersection of US Highway 1 and State Road 100.
It was a sportsman’s paradise, with abundant whitetail deer and world-class fishing complimented by the ‘Old Florida’ charm of its quaint coastal communities like Flagler Beach.
Given that the project was expertly marketed to residents of the Northeast Corridor, many wondered how the inevitable clash of cultures would affect the whole of Flagler County and beyond.
As it turns out, given the massive influx into Palm Coast that continues to this day, the original settlers and those who made their life off the land were slowly displaced by a different kind of ‘pioneer,’ and, in recent years, the area was identified as the “fastest growing metropolitan area in the country” by the US Census Bureau.
According to the Palm Coast History Brief:
“From their start in 1969 until International Telephone & Telegraph (Development Corporation) withdrew, the corporation provided most of the services and leadership in Palm Coast. They had planned, built, and maintained a model environmental community. In a unique private/government relationship, ITT had financed Palm Coast’s most necessary improvements. The interchange at I-95 and the Hammock Dunes bridge were funded at relatively unnoticeable cost to local taxpayers and the state. As ITT withdrew from Palm Coast, the void left by its departure was increasingly felt in the community.
Then (in 1995) the complicated and often contentious process of incorporation began. Flagler County residents’ opposition groups debated. The county authorized a feasibility study, the state legislative delegation sponsored incorporation, the Florida state government approved the referendum and (in 1999) we elected our first City Council.”
And Frankenstein’s monster has never been the same. . .
Whenever I get too close to a sensitive topic in this space, or ruffle the feathers of our ‘powers that be,’ some thin-skinned politician will puff up like a toad and not so subtly suggest that I shut up and mind my own business – usually in the form of “that blowhard doesn’t even live here,” etc.
My response is if you care about good governance where you live and pay taxes – you should care about good government everywhere – because turbulence in one county or municipality directly impacts the social, civic, and economic stability of other communities that comprise the mosaic of east Central Florida.
As a rabid observer of local politics – I equate the stability of local elective bodies to that plate spinning novelty act on the old Ed Sullivan Show.
In my estimation, all government entities in the Deltona–Daytona Beach–Ormond Beach metropolitan statistical area (which includes Palm Coast) are just a few bad moves from total civic meltdown.
Don’t take my word for it – tune into any “meeting” of the Deltona City Commission – or the Volusia County Council, for that matter – to confirm my weird theory.
The grim consequences when “government” (in the loosest sense of the word) runs amok were emblazoned across the front page of The Daytona Beach News-Journal last Saturday – tragic tales of international intrigue, and how the lives of the governed can be turned upside down by the self-serving machinations of a few power-mad politicians and hangers-on desperate to maintain power.
In my view, the articles were perfectly juxtaposed.
One told the unfolding story of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse by what one state official described as “foreign mercenaries and professional killers,” a bungled coup d’état that has further destabilized a long-deteriorating internal situation and plunged the challenged nation into chaos.
Now, acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph is fighting to prove his legitimacy, and calling for United States assistance in stabilizing the threatened nation at a time when Haiti’s Senate and Supreme Court both lack a majority of seated members.
Then, above the fold, was a shocking piece by News-Journal reporter Frank Fernandez entitled, “Councilman called fugitive – Sheriff says Barbosa may be wanted in Costa Rica,” which detailed an investigation by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office into whether Palm Coast Councilman Victor Barbosa is an international fugitive from justice – and a request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for an executive investigation.
Councilman Barbosa claims its all a big mistake.
As what passes for governance in the City of Palm Coast continues to come apart like a cheap flywheel – an aimless Banana Republic wracked by partisan rancor and upheaval – this shocking revelation has further destabilized a long-deteriorating internal situation and threatens further chaos and confusion in one of the largest municipalities in our region.
To say that Palm Coast, now a monstrosity of over 94,000 residents, is a shit show of epic proportions is an understatement – an atmosphere of perpetual dysfunction that recently saw the mysterious departure of embattled Mayor Melissa Holland and former City Manager Matt Morton – leaving the rudderless ship in turmoil with just four horribly conflicted members on the torn and hopelessly deadlocked City Council.
Now, speculation over Councilman Barbosa’s status will no doubt inflame an already terrible situation going into the special mayoral election set for July 27, a race that has taken on the characteristics of a bad Twilight Zone episode.
In a recent editorial by former Palm Coast City Council member Robert Cuff writing in FlaglerLive, the importance of avoiding voter apathy was evident:
“It is vital for all voters concerned for the future of the city to vote for the next mayor. Without a large turnout by voters who truly appreciate smoothly functioning government and who are concerned about the future of their city, there is an excellent chance that we will be saddled with partisanship, division, and dysfunction for the next three years.”
You can find the remainder of Mr. Cuff’s opinion here: https://flaglerlive.com/165524/robert-cuff-palm-coast-future/
On Monday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal will host a mayoral debate moderated by editor Pat Rice featuring candidates Cornelia Manfre, Alan Lowe, Doug Courtney, Carol Bacha, Kathy Austrino, and David Alfin.
If you care about good governance – and the future of Palm Coast – this is a forum you will not want to miss.
The public is invited to attend the debate which will be held at Buddy Taylor Middle School, 4500 Belle Terre Parkway.
The shenanigans begin at 6:30 p.m. and doors will open at 5 p.m.
Asshole Ormond Beach City Commission
On Tuesday evening, the Ormond Beach City Commission gave residents an opportunity to expend some useless hot air before their elected representatives as they sought a reasonable six-month moratorium on demolition of the historic Union Church on North Beach Street.
In an informative article by Brian McMillan, executive editor of the Ormond Beach Observer entitled, “Kent, Littleton, Persis stand by decision to demolish church on Beach Street,” some 100 emails and 25 speakers – including a respected former member of its own planning board – could not convince the majority of elected officials to take a brief pause in their rash dash to destroy the building.
“Many in the audience saw the 1960 church as a historic asset for the city, comparing it with The Casements and the Anderson-Price Memorial Building next door. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” said former Planning Board member and longtime community activist Rita Press.”
Ms. Press is right.
Historically, many municipalities in Volusia County could give two-shits about, well, our “history.”
Structures of significance and sensitive greenspace are routinely razed and exploited to pave the way (literally) for a narrow version of “progress” with little, if any, input from those of us who see these tangible connections to our past as integral to our quality of life.
It seems we live in a time and place when a convenience store is considered preferable to 100-year-old specimen hardwoods, environmental buffers, and urban wildlife habitat – gaudy “theme” communities have become more important than the wellspring of our drinking water – a shell parking lot more desirable than one of the last remaining examples of mid-century architecture in the Halifax area.
A previous church which stood on the property served the citizens of Ormond Beach – including the community’s most famous resident, John D. Rockefeller – since 1886, and the current building anchors the city’s last remaining historic district on Lincoln Avenue.
As of 2009, the Ormond Beach Union Church was prominently featured on the city’s “Historic Landmark List.”
So, why did it become a mold-encrusted blot on the civic landscape when the city took ownership? A dilapidated eyesore of no viable use to the citizens of Ormond Beach?
According to the Observer’s report, Judith Stein, president of the Ormond Beach Arts District, announced that the Union Church building will be named among the ‘Eleven to Save,’ a list of the state’s most threatened historic properties, by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation at an awards ceremony next week – a distinction that will both increase public awareness and garner “assistance from the organization to identify custom solutions,” including the identification of funding sources.
“Knowing this now, it would be even sadder if the building received this award ‘posthumously,’” Stein said.
Unfortunately, it appears the destiny of the Union Church has been written in an irrevocable agreement with a demolition contractor.
Despite the fervent desire of many concerned residents – and the persuasive arguments of Commissioner Dwight Selby and Mayor Bill Partington – Commissioner Rob Littleton could not be swayed, calling even a short delay a “fool’s errand,” a sentiment clearly supported by Commissioner Susan Persis and the always obstinate Commissioner Troy Kent.
Perhaps Commissioner Littleton is right – trying to communicate our thoughts and opinions to our elected officials on matters of civic importance has become a farce – a wasted effort that is infinitely frustrating for residents seeking input on the future of their community.
With each disappointment, concerned citizens learn the terrible truth that their voices are meaningless to those we have elected to represent our interests.
Citizens throughout Volusia County face almost insurmountable obstacles whenever they seek to make themselves heard – labeled cranks, naysayers, and paranoiacs – for having the temerity to question the motivations of an entrenched power structure with a preconceived agenda and behind-the-scenes “plan” that those of us on the outside looking in cannot begin to understand.
Environmentalists who fight for the preservation of our dwindling greenspace are repeatedly stonewalled by this cloistered system – or have their motives questioned by powerful politicians who bend over backwards to accommodate every need and whim of speculative developers who just happen to be featured prominently on their campaign contributions list.
I find hope in the words of author and cultural anthropologist Margret Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
To the members of the Ormond Beach Historical Society, the Ormond Beach Arts District, Ormond MainStreet, other civic organizations, and the committed residents who are trying desperately to save this important structure from destruction and preserve our unique quality of life here in Ormond Beach – I encourage you to keep the faith.
And, most important, please remember this latest insult at the ballot box.
Angel Volusia County Clerk of the Court Laura Roth
The Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers honored Volusia County Clerk of the Circuit Court Laura Roth, as their 2020-2021 Clerk of the Year at the organization’s annual installation banquet last month.
The Clerk of the Year Award is presented to an FCCC member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills and a commitment to improving the ability of clerks and comptrollers to serve Floridians through professional education, legislative action, and public awareness of the office.
According to a media release by the FCCC, the award was presented by outgoing FCCC President Tara S. Green, Clay County Clerk of Court and Comptroller:
“Clerk Laura Roth has been an instrumental voice in our plans and decision-making as an association, especially so during this last year,” said Green. “She’s a fierce advocate for her constituents, and she never shies away from taking on new responsibilities or initiatives for the benefit of all Clerks. Most recently she served as Chair of the Best Practices Committee and spearheaded our efforts to implement the new Best Practices Excellence Program swiftly and with consistent and clear direction. We thank Clerk Roth for her exceptional service and are proud to present her the 2020-2021 Clerk of the Year award.”
I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for this prestigious award.
In December 2020, during a meeting of Volusia’s new independent constitutional officers – which include Sheriff Mike Chitwood, Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis, Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett, and Tax Collector Will Roberts – Ms. Roth suggested that the group form a charity drive to assist the needs of hundreds of homeless students in Volusia County.
In my view, Ms. Roth sets a shining example of true leadership and a welcome concern for the needs of those she serves.
As the official custodian of court records, Ms. Roth has championed government transparency by hosting one of the most user-friendly public websites in the State of Florida – allowing her constituents easy access to thousands of public records, literally at the stroke of a key, at www.clerk.org .
According to her impressive bio, Ms. Roth earned her bachelor’s degree from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, and her law degree from the University of Arizona. She became the Volusia County Clerk’s office first in-house legal counsel in 2004, and was appointed the Chief Deputy Clerk, the lead administrator, in 2011.
Ms. Roth first ran for office and became the Clerk of Court for Volusia County in 2016.
Clearly, Ms. Roth and her exceptional deputies work extremely hard each day to live up their motto: “We Love Helping People.”
Congratulations to Clerk Laura Roth on this well-deserved accolade!
Quote of the Week
“Ignoring the voice of the people, not listening to your residents, is a very dangerous, dangerous thing to do. … This is an opportunity to be a hero or not.”
–Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington, from his closing comments at Tuesday’s controversial special meeting to discuss a delay in destroying the historic Ormond Beach Union Church, as quoted in the Ormond Beach Observer, Wednesday, July 14, 2021
And Another Thing!
I enjoy being around smart people with noble intentions in their heart – that is how I learn – and those good neighbors who comprise the Bellaire Community Group never disappoint.
Last evening, I had the distinct pleasure of taking a break from the drudgery of politics and get myself some cultcha’ when I was invited to co-host a writer’s roundtable with the extraordinary civic activist Steve Koenig.
The entertaining hour featured local authors Jeffrey Boyle and Derek Catron – two incredibly talented creatives and gifted storytellers who graciously took questions and gave the attentive audience a glimpse into the fascinating, and intensely personal, process of composing artistic works of fiction.
A book signing followed the program.
For anyone new to the Halifax area – or those looking for constructive insight into the civic, social, and economic issues facing Daytona Beach and beyond – I encourage you to attend a meeting of the Bellaire Community Group, which meets the third Thursday of every month at the Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 N. Atlantic Avenue, beginning at 6:00pm.
The evening starts with a delicious dinner ($5 donation suggested) and includes monthly reports on crime and safety from a member of the Daytona Beach Police Department’s command staff, followed by an enlightening program featuring topical civic issues which affect our lives and livelihoods on Florida’s Fun Coast.
The meeting ends promptly at 7:30pm.
A special thanks to Chairman Koenig and everyone who made the Bellaire Community Group’s writers roundtable such an enjoyable experience!
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!