Let’s face it, the property tax increase was a given – it was inevitable.
Like any massive bureaucracy, the “system” exists to feed itself – and it was clear that County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and his senior staff of creative bean counters would not be denied – even if it cost them, and the elected officials who carry the water for them, their last ragged shred of credibility. . .
After those we elected to represent our interests were done whining the blues about what a “tough decision” they faced – mewling over how hard they work for us, shoveling our hard-earned tax dollars into the insatiable maw of this monstrous machine – at the end of the day, everyone in county government got what they wanted.
And, once again, the long-suffering Volusia County taxpayer got the shaft.
Did anyone really expect something different?
How about the lady who respectfully approached her elected officials and made a fervent plea for mercy – explaining that the tax increase would make it difficult for her to make ends meet?
Screw you – our gas prices went up too. . .
Or the residents who found some $400,000 in unnecessary library improvements?
Screw you – we don’t have the luxury of looking at the minutiae of a $1.1 Billion budget – we’re Big Picture strategic thinkers, you meddling assholes. . .
On Tuesday evening, the Volusia County Council sat smugly on the dais of power, the majority arrogantly ignoring the voices of their frustrated constituents, and raised our taxes at a time many are still reeling from the financial devastation of the pandemic – and county government is awash in hundreds-of-millions in federal relief funds with enough reserves to weather anything short of a thermonuclear holocaust.
While the Gang of Four cried the Poormouth Blues – reminding us all how fiscally responsible they are – the subtle clues told anyone paying attention that everyone who is anyone is getting their share – including the corporate welfare pipeline at Team Volusia.
For instance, prior to the budget vote, our elected marionettes mechanically handed over some $250,000 in public funds to those do-nothings at Team Volusia – that “public/private” consortium of all the right last names which claims to be the “economic development” arm of Volusia County government – yet apparently hasn’t a clue about Volusia County’s true economic landscape.
After I bitched (repeatedly) about the shitty optics of using non-existent businesses and over-inflated employment numbers as catfish bait, it appears Team Volusia finally removed the long-defunct Blue Coast Bakery from their dubious list of Volusia County’s largest employers, now using the more generic (but equally confusing) ruse:
“Volusia County is fortunate to have employers of all sizes. From small startups to companies with thousands of workers. These large employers also account for the creation of jobs by other employers, which builds a dynamic workforce. Among our larger employers are: BLANK – NADA – ZILCH – NOTHING”
Incredibly, Team Volusia still refuses to list tourism and hospitality – our bread-and-butter – as a target industry on its “new” website. . .
I guess President and CEO Keith Norden and Team Volusia’s “distinguished board of directors” were too busy taking pictures with one another to do the research, eh?
(Hey, what do you want for $250,000?)
Name one company currently operating in Volusia County – with the exclusion of government or a taxing district – that employs “thousands” of full-time local workers?
I’ll wait. . .
Screw the truth, Barker. It sounds good, dammit, and if the sham lures some unsuspecting dupe to Volusia County – or keeps the public teat flowing – who cares?
How do these shameless shills sleep at night?
Unfortunately, our elected officials refuse to do the homework – or even question expenditures and inefficiencies using “Dr.” Fred Lowry’s patented “Not my yob, man” dodge – avoiding anything remotely resembling oversight or accountability that would expose where our tax dollars are most effective – and where they are not – especially in an environment where an endless supply of money is a foregone conclusion.
Don’t take my word for it, watch how the “strong majority” (that Councilman Danny Robins prays for each night) circle the wagons and viciously attack Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post when they dare question six-figure department heads, suggest alternate revenue sources, or ask for a line-item review of government spending.
Seriously, if you live and pay taxes in Volusia County, you owe it to yourself to watch yesterday’s achieved video of Tuesday’s regular meeting and subsequent budget vote.
In my view, the way Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Post were treated by these contemptuous bullies epitomizes the depths to which the “strong majority” of lockstep conformists will go to protect the stagnant status quo – and it deserves a larger audience.
The fix is in, folks – and it is hard to unsee once you witness it firsthand – and decipher the motivation.
Now, their annual lycanthropic transformation can begin.
When the gavel fell Tuesday evening, it marked the moment those spineless tax-and-spend schlubs on the Volusia County Council, the quisling Gang of Four, comprised of Councilman Ben Johnson, the lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, Councilman Danny Robins, and The Right Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry, who fought so hard for the exorbitant tax increase the bloated bureaucracy needs to sustain itself – an annual budget of $1.1 Billion – began their transmogrification, preternaturally reverting from champions of Big Government to the faux “staunch fiscal conservatives” – skulking back into the fold of what passes for the Volusia County Republican party – hoping against hope that us rubes who pay the bills and suffer in silence will forget their slick transition before election time.
The great truth in local politics is that those who practice it seek desperately to be all things to all people – to have their cake and eat it too (sharing only with those well-heeled insiders who fund their political campaigns) – using scary stories of financial Armageddon to instill fear in their long-suffering constituents, while pandering to the entrenched bureaucrats and special interests who orchestrate the show behind the scenes, a moral and ethical conflict never more evident than during the annual Kabuki known as “budget hearings.”
A time when our elected representatives are lulled into strategic ignorance as senior “staff” (who fawn over them and laugh at their jokes) use elaborate PowerPoint presentations – colorful pie charts and confusing graphs, long on pap and fluff, but devoid of the line-item specifics which would expose the thick rind of insulating fat – to sell the ubiquitous annual tax increase that has left Volusia County residents among the most burdened in the state.
Then, once they have given the ravenous bureaucracy everything it asked for, those who had no qualms getting their greedy hands even deeper into our pockets immediately duck behind a thin façade of respectability, referring to themselves as “conservatives” while kissing the sizeable backsides of those who sit at the top of the Volusia County Republican hierarchy – shameless dupes who invariably allow these tax-mongers back into the tent without question or consequence. . .
Watch. Listen. Learn.
Most important – get involved.
Your family’s quality of life hangs in the balance.
Please join Barker’s View tomorrow from 4pm to 6pm on GovStuff Live! with Big John where we will be talking local issues and taking your calls on the fastest two-hours in radio!
Tune-in locally at 1380am The CAT – or online at http://www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).
And please join Barker’s View for Angels & Assholes in this space on Friday where I’ll have more views on the absurdities of our life and politics here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast!