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 The Mysterious Protogroup
Did you attend the Daytona Grande Oceanfront Resort’s swellegant soirée yesterday?
Me neither. . .
Evidently, it was the most exclusive ticket in town. The high-point of what passes for the Halifax area’s late summer scene – a last chance to rub-elbows, see-and-be-seen, and soak up all the coquetry and hobnobbing inherent to these affairs, an occasion spéciale, no doubt worthy of mention in David Patrick Columbia’s famous Social Diary.
Look, don’t feel snubbed – the invitation-only fête celebrating the opening of what The Daytona Beach News-Journal described as “…that portion of the biggest, most expensive development in Daytona Beach history” – was envisioned by Protogroup as “…a small gathering with a select few.”
That “select few” included a declined invitation to lame duck Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler. . .
I wonder why?
In his own inimitable way, Uncle Bob Davis, president-for-life and CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, committed the ultimate social faux pas by forwarding a copy of his invitation to everyone in his groaning Rolodex – only to suffer an awkward discomfiture when “…some who RSVP’d with their interest in attending the event received word from the hotel that the guest list was full.”
Now, I don’t know if Mr. Davis was trying to expand attendance, rub his colleagues’ noses in the fact he was invited and they were not, or, if he simply ignored the first rule of social etiquette that warns “friends of friends should not invite friends” – but I found the resulting tempest in a teapot classic Daytona Beach. . .
According to a News-Journal report on the resulting bruhaha, “In the wake of the misunderstanding, Davis isn’t planning to attend the event, he said.”
I also found it interesting that, once again, our newspaper of record was given the cold shoulder – rudely excluded from yet another chic Grand Gala.
Again, I wonder why?
It was embarrassingly similar to the gauche treatment the newspaper received this spring during a choisi cocktail party at the publicly funded One Daytona shopping and entertainment complex, where “50 of Daytona Beach’s most influential leaders” apparently attempted to carve out some private time with new Daytona Beach City Manager Deric Feacher.
While the crème de la crème of the Halifax areas civic, social, and business elite noshed on hors d’oeuvres and subliminally telegraphed to Mr. Feacher which side his bread is buttered on, News-Journal reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean and her photographer were initially denied entry.
That is, before the horrific optics became too flagrant for even those high-hatted snobs to ignore and the door was, begrudgingly, opened to the working press. . .
I don’t make this shit up, folks.
I wonder why We, The Little People – you know, the forgotten ones who have suffered for years with that grotesque eyesore that is the rotten bones of what may or may not eventually become the “North Tower” portion of the still unfinished project, endured the perpetual disruption of Oakridge Boulevard, ran the gauntlet on the blocked sidewalk, been frustratingly turned away from the often closed pedestrian beach access point, the long-suffering locals who have anxiously borne the controversies, the concessions, the speculation, the media embargo, the delays, and uncertainty – are always shunned from these oh-so swanky “invitation-only” affairs?
Angel Volusia’s “Full Rollback” Supporters
“I Thank God every day we have a strong majority vote…”
–District 3 Volusia County Councilman Danny Robins, August 21, 2021
I read an interesting factoid this week, one that helped bring perspective to the debate over Volusia County’s proposed property tax increase.
If you started a timer, one million seconds would take over a week and a half to elapse – one billion seconds would take almost 32 years. . .
The budget recommended by Volusia County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald is $1.1 Billion.
This week, the “strong majority” of elected officials on the Volusia County Council chose to ignore the Great Unwashed – and by their abject arrogance – let us all know where those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence stand in the great scheme of things.
On Tuesday evening, with Rev. Fred Lowry in a hospital fighting COVID-19, four craven political hacks – the remainder of Volusia’s Old Guard – those stalwarts of the status quo, turned their backs on the fervent pleas of constituents demanding full rollback, including callously snubbing over 3,114 concerned citizens who signed petitions begging for tax relief, at a time when many are still suffering the financial devastation wrought by the pandemic while county government is awash in over $107 million in federal funds – literally more money than the burgeoning bureaucracy knows what to do with.
For those just joining the fun – an annual tax increase is a foregone conclusion here on the Fun Coast – and asking those we have elected to represent our interests for relief is an exercise in utter futility.
Because they no longer work for you.
To add insult, at a time when Volusia County government refuses to live within its massive means, I found it reprehensible that our elected representatives had the unmitigated gall to limit federal rental assistance to thousands of low-income residents to six-months – many of whom lost jobs, small businesses, or had their income drastically reduced during last year’s government-imposed shutdown – that’s after telling strapped participants that the program (which took in over 1,300 applications in just three-hours) would provide aid for a maximum of one-year.
Is it possible those dullards on the dais haven’t seen the numbers?
According to reports, a staggering 45% of Volusia County households are living below the poverty level or considered “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” earning little more than a pauper’s wage, unable to afford basic monthly household necessities.
Or maybe they just don’t care?
Regardless, the lockstep majority could give two-shits what you think – or the struggles your family endures to put food on the table in this artificial, service-oriented economy – and anyone who dares complain, to make their voice heard, or demands spending cuts is dismissed as a heretic.
Prior to the budget sham, the same “strong majority” voted this week to weaken our inalienable right to approach our government for redress of grievances, to share input with those we have elected to represent our interests, speak out on issues of civic concern, and participate in our government in a meaningful way – while attempting to use the parliamentary process to effectively hamstring Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post and limit their ability to question the ways and means of this bloated bureaucracy.
The change was subtle, but strategic.
For instance, during what passed for a budget hearing, Councilman Ben Johnson – and his ventriloquist dummy, Councilman Danny Robins (who actually claimed in one of his weird stream-of-consciousness rants that it is citizens, not government, who are failing to live within our means) – droned on, ad nauseum, telling scary stories about the doomsday scenario that awaits if the millage was set at full rollback – yet turned on Ms. Post, demanding that she effectively sit down and shut up, whenever she attempted to make cogent points, protect her constituents, and identify areas where the bureaucratic blubber could be cut.
As I have said before, small-minded politicians and entrenched insiders quash dissent and civic activism by cloaking bald-faced censorship in “civility ordinances” and “rules of decorum,” insidious suppressive measures that crush the spirit of anyone who suggests slowing the cash conveyor the monster needs to grow exponentially.
This tactic was never more evident than during the horribly convoluted “budget process” – where elected policymakers drape themselves in a political armor of strategic ignorance – seemingly content to make decisions based upon a colorful, but essentially meaningless, staff supplied PowerPoint presentation, without the benefit of detailed information or line-item specifics – conveniently ‘running out of time’ to make substantive cuts before statutorily imposed time limits force a vote.
Add some mewling about “how hard this is,” and old-timey gibberish about “starting the process earlier next year,” “this isn’t politics, it’s for the good of our children,” and the ever-popular “we’re taxpayers too” dodge, and you have the essential elements of a classic Volusia County money grab.
Perhaps most despicable, the ability to make your voice heard on this and many other important issues was limited under the guise of a decorum ordinance – setting “guidelines” for public participation – a tyrannical diktat cloaked in a velvet glove that ensures our Monarchial rulers aren’t unduly inconvenienced by the incessant whining of their subjects – and, more important, a means to protect the “system,” and those entrenched insiders who feed greedily at the public trough, from any threat or oversight.
Clearly, Volusia County government would prefer taxpayers acquiesce to symbolic “meetings” – choreographed charades where predetermined public policies and expenditures are rubber-stamped – while the ‘people’s business’ is hammered out behind closed doors and shaped by external influence, far from the prying eyes of us rubes who pay the bills.
In my view, it is time those lockstep marionettes on the dais of power understand that good citizenship is not silent subservience to an entrenched power structure convinced of its own infallibility – and the process of crafting inclusive public policies should not be at the comfort and convenience of a few hypersensitive prima donnas perched on the dais of power.
If citizens cannot make themselves heard before their elected representatives at a public meeting – in a building paid for with their own hard-earned tax dollars – among bureaucrats and senior staff who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – then where can they be heard on matters of civic importance?
How about the ballot box?
In my view, it is time those who hold high elective office understand that all political power is derived from the consent of the people – and there is some shit we won’t eat.
You have one last opportunity to speak out on this abomination of a budget on September 21 when the final hearing is scheduled.
Asshole Port Orange Fire Chief Joe Wulfing
Looks like Port Orange Fire Chief Joe Wulfing is enjoying the Volusia County Kool-Aid.
Or, perhaps the county’s Director of Public Protection Joe “Blue Falcon” Pozzo’s strategy of publicly destroying the career of former Port Orange Fire Chief Ken Fustin as an example of the grim fate that awaits anyone who buck’s Volusia’s horribly broken emergency medical system has had the desired effect?
Despite the fervent cries from first responders, hospitals, and area residents that Volusia County’s EMS system is a disaster-in-waiting – Chief Wulfing tells us that response times, at least in Port Orange, aren’t a problem.
In an interesting article by Brenno Carillo writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Port Orange ambulance times are ‘satisfactory,’ for now, new fire chief says,” Wulfing (who was the Division Chief of Operations before his elevation to Fire/Rescue Chief following Fustin’s professional execution) comes off as a clueless dolt – now claiming he was unaware of the myriad historical issues that have made Volusia County EMS a cautionary tale:
“I’m amazed at how much I did not know (about) how thorough the EMS system is,” Wulfing said in a recent interview with The News-Journal.”
Shocking. Considering any rookie firefighter or paramedic can explain – chapter-and-verse – the problems and mismanagement in Volusia County’s EMS system.
Don’t take my word for it. Ask them.
Now, apparently after being indoctrinated during meetings with county officials, Wulfing isn’t sure around-the-clock municipal ambulance coverage is needed in his community.
“I don’t know if that’s the answer right now,” he (Wulfing) said of expanding the service to 24 hours. “With everything I learned in the past couple months, I can’t say that if we put another ambulance on the road it solves the issue. It’s impossible to know.”
Wulfing explained “Ambulances are going to hospitals to drop patients off and they can’t leave because the staffing, the overcrowding of the hospital is so bad that they have to sit in a hallway,” he said. “We need to address these other issues to prevent ambulances from sitting in hospitals and not being utilized.”
Just two-weeks ago, The Blue Falcon – under withering questioning from Councilwoman Heather Post – said fielding additional ambulances would help unburden the system.
Unfortunately, Volusia County can’t attract, hire, or retain qualified paramedics to staff them.
So, why wouldn’t allowing Port Orange 24/7 transport help?
In my view, Ms. Post was right to hold Director Pozzo’s feet to the fire and attempt to draw out the truth – to insist on an explanation for the abysmal response times, the exodus of qualified paramedics, and senior staff’s repeated failure to recognize the inherent flaws in the disastrous “dynamic deployment” strategy.
During the same meeting, Ms. Post inquired when/if the City of Port Orange would receive authorization for around-the-clock transport and Pozzo had the cheek to explain he has asked Wulfing to put the request in writing.
I guess we know the answer to that, eh?
Something stinks. . .
Anyone else remember the cheap backstabbing in April when Pozzo orchestrated the termination of Ken Fustin after he boldly stood up to months of Pozzo’s provocation, bullying, and foot-dragging on the 24-hour transport question?
A serious issue of public concern that Fustin rightfully believed placed the lives of Port Orange residents in danger?
At the time, in a heartfelt explanation, former Chief Fustin said:
“My professional relationship with Mr. Pozzo took a dramatic nosedive about 10 months ago when I felt he and Volusia County Fire Chief Howard Bailey were attempting to extort the taxpayers of Port Orange by reducing the annual enclave fire protection fee Volusia County paid to Port Orange, in exchange for allowing Port Orange Fire to operate our ambulance 24 hours per day, instead of the 12 hours per day they have limited the department to for the past two years.”
“There had been a long history of the county paying Port Orange $50,000 per year for enclave fire protection, in spite of the fact they were collecting nearly three to four times that amount from residents within these enclaves. They proposed reducing the annual enclave fee to $35,000 per year on a three-year contract offer, so a reduction of $45,000 in total,” Chief Fustin said.
“This was concurrent with conversations I was having with County Fire Chief Bailey who stated if I were to accept the lower enclave protection fee, he would help get us 24-hour ambulance coverage. Where I’m from, that’s extortion.”
Now, less than five-months later, Joe Wulfing – the beneficiary of Pozzo’s cheap shot – would have residents believe everything’s hunky-dory?
These diametrically opposed mixed signals are confusing.
Perhaps it is time for Mayor Don Burnette and the Port Orange City Council to examine this odd reversal of fortune and determine what significant improvements have been made to this horribly fouled system since Ken Fustin sounded the alarm on the grave threat to public safety that caused the City of Port Orange to purchase and staff an ambulance in the first place.
Asshole The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Is it wrong to demand a reasonable product for the price paid?
I’m asking, because what passed for Monday’s edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal left a lot to be desired. . .
When I’m sitting in a bar and talk turns to the state of our local newspaper, I like to pontificate that “The Daytona Beach News-Journal is the best written, worst edited paper in the nation.”
Because it is.
Like a smart friend asked this week, “Since when does a media outlet work 9 to 5?”
Since I was a small boy, The Daytona Beach News-Journal has been my hometown newspaper and it holds a special place in my heart.
I learned to think logically and read critically while perusing the News-Journal – discussing the news and opinions of the day with my father – spending quality time, getting his perspective on the issues, learning what was important to him and why.
For many years, area subscribers received both a morning and evening paper (can you imagine?) – what remains is a homogenized, and increasingly regionalized, exercise in three-day old rehashed “news” – a collection of dumbed-down pap that contains just enough local content to justify its masthead and waning existence.
As a local news junkie, I take the online edition – which permits me to read the “E-Edition” of the printed paper – while also receiving relatively topical “breaking news” reports before they become stale – which doesn’t take long in our modern 24/7 news cycle.
On Monday – Labor Day – many loyal readers settled down with a cup of coffee and discovered that the News-Journal had taken the day off as well.
The “newspaper” was little more than a frontpage history lesson on the origins of the traditional end-of-summer holiday – the rest reminded me of a cheap hotdog, stuffed with meaningless filler, fat, and fluff – a smattering of recycled wire reports, the comics, a primetime television guide, and paid public notices.
Look, it was a refreshing break from the “All COVID-All the time” sensationalism, “progressive” slant, and weird editorial bent we have come to expect – a “local” newspaper in name only, now wholly controlled by an international mega-conglomerate and clearly in survival mode – with a whittled down newsroom, barebones staff, outsourced printing, and a final product as far from a hometown daily as one could imagine.
I understand the newspaper business is a hard dollar, and editor Pat Rice keeps it mildly entertaining by fomenting increasingly ridiculous opinions on the issues of the day – always siding with those “Friends of Pat” who hold sway in all-the-right social and civic circles – while routinely virtue signaling about the demographics of those precious few journalists still on the payroll, because Pat’s notion of “diversity” apparently determines “…what makes news, and it impacts how we cover it.”
Look, I don’t care what color, creed, religion, orientation, or planet you happen to identify with – I think the one common denominator is we all want our news to be gathered and reported in a fair, reliable, unbiased, and objective way.
In my view, The Daytona Beach News-Journal has some of the best working journalists and photographers in the business – who, when given the opportunity, are more than capable of in-depth investigative reporting, crafting interesting local features, writing riveting editorial content, and covering the rich political, social, civic, and cultural landscape here on the Fun Coast.
Analysts who study the changing media marketplace have long declared the death of print media; claiming the emergence of social media platforms, internet penetration, and the fact consumers are increasingly reluctant to pay for content they can find any number of places for free represent the death knell for paper and ink.
Maybe they’re right.
Unfortunately, the News-Journal’s leadership seems content to let this important outlet die a death of a thousand cuts, slowly throwing in the towel, with management phoning it in, satisfied with whatever Monday’s edition represents – rather than allowing time and space for the detailed reportage and hyper-local focus on the stories and issues that shape our lives and livelihoods in Volusia County.
I’m talking about the quality newspaper we once enjoyed before talented reporters were given pink slips, reassigned, or run off – and those who remain were relegated to regurgitating press releases and tiptoeing around the editor’s apple cart.
Regardless, it is incredibly painful to see my beloved hometown newspaper go down in a flaming hole of mediocrity. . .
Quote of the Week
“The Ormond Beach City Commission is poised to raise your taxes 4.7%, but they will do it without my support, and I’d like to tell you why.
I will oppose this tax increase for one very simple reason: The city doesn’t need the money. The tax increase will generate about $800,000 in additional revenue.
The city has $8.8 million in reserves (or 25% of the Operating Budget). The city has a policy of maintaining reserves at 15% (or $5.4 million). That means the city has excess reserves of $3.4 million.
Don’t get me wrong: Being fiscally careful is a good thing. But taking money out of your pockets to put it in the city’s savings account is unacceptable. It’s your money, and it should stay in your bank account until the city absolutely needs it.
Although I don’t believe we should raise taxes at all, I recommended a compromise of half the proposed increase (or 2.35%), which would have covered the increase in the cost of living. Unfortunately, that compromise received no support from any of the other four City Commission members.
In case you’ve heard that most of the tax increase will be used to finance the new $625,000 Public Safety Fund, let me explain why that’s not completely accurate. Most of what that fund consists of is being used to pay for things previously found in other accounts like $200,000 for new police vehicles (formerly in the Vehicle Replacement Fund) and $230,000 in fire engines (the $90,000 loan payment on one older fire engine and the $140,000 per year payment for two new engines). So the tax increase isn’t paying for enhanced public safety spending because nearly 70% of that fund (or $430,000) was already in the budget.
Nobody supports the brave men and women of the Ormond Beach Police Department more than I do. In addition to serving on the City Commission, I am president of the Ormond Beach Police Foundation, which has raised over $140,000 of private donations in support of training, technology, equipment and benevolence for our brave men and women in blue.
So here’s the bottom line. The proposed General Fund (a.k.a. Operating Fund) for the city is $35 million. The proposed tax increase is $800,000. The city has $3.4 million in excess reserves. Cut the taxpayers some slack. Do not raise taxes. Use a quarter of the excess reserves to fully fund the budget, and the city will still have $2.6 million in excess reserves.”
–Ormond Beach City Commissioner Dwight Selby, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Why I won’t vote for a 4.7% tax increase,” Wednesday, September 1, 2021
On Wednesday evening, during its first budget hearing, the Ormond Beach City Commission voted 4-1 to raise the property tax rate by 4.7% for fiscal year 2021-2022.
Commissioner Dwight Selby voted against it.
The final budget hearing is set for 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 22.
And Another Thing!
In September 1996, I matriculated with the 187th Session of the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia.
Wow. How time flies, huh?
It remains one of the highlights of my career – and the source of many longtime friends and professional colleagues from around the globe.
The FBI National Academy was founded July 29, 1935 under then Director J. Edgar Hoover.
The program was created in response to a 1930 study by the Wickersham Commission that recommended the standardization and professionalization of law enforcement departments across the United States through centralized training.
With strong support from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and with the authority of Congress and the Department of Justice, the “FBI Police Training School” was born.
At that time, courses included scientific aids in crime detection, preparation of reports, criminal investigation techniques, and administration and organization. With the advent of World War II, courses were added in espionage and sabotage.
Today, the FBI National Academy has evolved into the premiere professional course of study for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders through a nomination and extensive vetting process.
Because the title is earned – never given – it remains the greatest brotherhood and sisterhood in international law enforcement.
The 10-week program – which provides coursework in intelligence theory, terrorism and terrorist mindsets, management science, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication, and forensic science – serves to improve the administration of justice in police departments and agencies at home and abroad and to raise law enforcement standards, knowledge, and cooperation worldwide.
In keeping with the holistic mind/body approach, participants are offered the opportunity to complete a grueling physical fitness challenge colloquially known as “The Yellow Brick Road” – a series of intensifying runs during the session which culminate in a 6.1-mile obstacle course along constantly changing terrain built by Marine Corps Base Quantico.
The Yellow Brick Road was made famous by actress Jody Foster in the opening scene of “Silence of the Lambs.”
Along the way, participants must climb over walls, run through creeks, jump through simulated windows, scale rock faces with ropes, crawl under barbed wire in muddy water, maneuver across cargo nets, and more. When (and if) the students complete this difficult test, they receive an actual yellow brick to memorialize their achievement.
I am incredibly proud of mine.
This weekend, members of the 187th Session of the FBI National Academy will join in Central Florida to celebrate our 25th Anniversary in high style!
Look out O-Town – the 187th is coming through! (Like a herd of geriatric turtles, considering we’re all over 60 now. . .)
Barker’s View will return on September 24 for your listening and dancing pleasure.
In the meantime, please feel free to enjoy the archives located at the bottom of this page.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!