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.
Angel Sons of the Beach, Dream Green Volusia, and the CEO Business Alliance
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The infant will play by the cobra’s den, and the toddler will reach into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is full of water.”
We live in strange times, folks. The stuff of Old Testament prophecies. . .
When I mention Sons of the Beach, Dream Green Volusia, and the Volusia CEO Business Alliance as Angels – in the same space – well, it sounds like something out of The Book of Revelation.
Sometimes it takes extraordinary circumstances – and strange partnerships – to accomplish extraordinary things – none more important that reversing the devastating effects of excess nutrients, toxins, and sewage-fueled algal blooms that are destroying the Indian River Lagoon, one of Florida’s most threatened ecosystems.
Something that affects all of us.
It’s no secret that we’ve made a mess of things here in the Sunshine State, literally shitting in our own nest – paving over wetlands, allowing fertilizer runoff and septic leaching in tidal creeks and canals, always favoring the greed-crazed profit motives of coastal real estate developers over the health and safety of our rivers, springs, estuaries, and critical waterways – even sacrificing the very source of our drinking water for another half-empty strip center or godawful “theme” community.
Early last year, Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy – partnered with that mysterious camera stellata at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance to host world-renowned marine biologist and bio/geochemist, Dr. Thomas Goreau, in Daytona Beach.
According to a media release by Sons of the Beach, Dr. Goreau specializes in “ocean reef restoration and construction, shoreline protection, and fisheries restoration,” and has developed Biorock technology that can help mitigate the impact of coastal erosion, protect biodiversity, and stabilize beaches – something we desperately need here on the Fun Coast.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 precautions prevented Dr. Goreau’s presentation last year, but further research found that Biorock technology could be used to naturally mitigate and repair damage to the severely threatened Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River.
Earlier this year, the grassroots environmental group Dream Green Volusia – who recently mounted a successful campaign to save a threatened portion of the Ormond Scenic Loop – has joined the fight.
As a dilettante aquarist – one who has successfully flooded my home with live seawater on multiple occasions, resulting in thousands of dollars in repairs and remediation, and watched hundreds of dollars in tropical fish feed on one another through the years – I know something of the restorative effect of biological filtration and the nitrogen cycle in the conversion of harmful nutrients and waste – and while not everything created in the microcosm of a home aquarium can (or should) be recreated in nature – the idea of technologically assisted natural filtration and symbiosis is compelling.
Now, thanks to the unlikely partnership of Sons of the Beach, Dream Green Volusia, and the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, we have a chance to learn more about Biorock applications from the inventors of this promising technology.
On October 5, Dr. Goreau and his colleague, Dr. Brian Lapointe, will join Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower and county staff in presenting a pilot program on how Biorock could be used to assist in the restoration of the Indian River Lagoon and beyond.
The presentation will take place during the regular Volusia County Council meeting.
According to SOB President Paul Zimmerman:
“The Sons of the Beach would like to invite all those who are concerned about the degradation of The Indian River Lagoon, and all the waterways of Volusia County, to attend the VCC meeting on October 5th, to learn how this innovative technology can transform our waterways. If you are unable to attend, please visit the link below to learn how Biorock can help us restore this vital marine ecosystem. We believe that an approval for this pilot program will result in a measurable improvement, and eventually lead to expansion in other waterways and beaches in Volusia County.”
Unfortunately, there are some experts who believe the Indian River Lagoon is too far gone to save, and the current patchwork of solutions have come too late to make a substantive difference – but that doesn’t mean we would stop trying – or close our minds to innovative ways to stop the cycle of destruction that has resulted in the death of scores of manatees, fish, mollusks, and the seagrass beds that are critical to supporting the sensitive biodiversity of the lagoon.
In my view, it is time we do something beyond a convenient photo-op for politicians holding outsized checks who paint themselves as “environmentalists” – or the well-meaning, but wholly insufficient, band-aid approaches – and begin the process of using proven solutions and legislation that, over time, can change the grim tide of overdevelopment and the resulting effects of excess nutrients and toxic chemicals that are slowly suffocating this once bountiful ecosystem.
Yard signs supporting the “Save The Lagoon” initiative will be available Saturday, October 2, 2021, from 10:00am to 11:00am at the City Island parking lot in Daytona Beach.
Angel Daytona Beach Special Events Task Force
“This is just not going to happen again,” County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said Thursday. “I don’t want this back in this community. … I don’t want our citizens going through that again.”
–Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Drinking, public urination, cursing: Why Daytona Truck Meet will end,” Thursday, JULY 20, 2017
The American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
Obviously, Ralph didn’t understand the pettiness of politics. . .
In the early 1980’s when I was a young and idealistic police officer, serving as president of the Volusia Crime Prevention Association, the organization had a thought that our area could benefit from a telephone tip line much like the Orlando Police Department’s successful “Crimeline” program.
Naïvely, we ran with it. . .
Back in the day, OPD Officer Jim Bishop would feature re-enactments of crimes which were aired on regional television affiliates and radio, offering a reward of up to $1,000 for anyone who called in an anonymous tip which led to an arrest in the unsolved case.
With the blessing of the association, I became the point man for the effort – holding fundraisers with area civic groups, recruiting volunteers for a community-based board of directors to oversee the program and administrate rewards, mapped out the logistics, spoke to every club, group, committee, and commission who would listen, all while lobbying hard to convince then Volusia County Sheriff Ed Duff – a brash pipe-smoking former FBI agent who privately voiced support for the project – knowing that his backing and political clout would be key for a successful countywide effort.
Then, a small neighborhood newspaper ran a headline, “Crime Line Start Up Spurred by Holly Hill.”
That’s when the wheel came off the cart. . .
Shortly afterward, Sheriff Duff was quoted prominently in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, speaking at a meeting of the Volusia County Police Chief’s Association, “I’m not convinced we have that many crimes that would warrant Crimeline attention,” and, just like that – the project was dead in the water. . .
The article continued, “After Duff announced his agency would be unable to staff the phone, Chief Harold Burr, Ormond Beach, president of the group asked if any other agency would be able to bare the burden of the phone. When no response was given, Burr said the group would consider the proposal and report back to Barker at the next meeting.”
My boss, former Holly Hill Police Chief J. P. Finn, broke the news to me as gently as he could – The idea should have come from someone who could use the creation of a high-profile program to their political advantage. . .
I was disheartened – our hard work had been for naught, and it was wrong and unfair to those who helped bring this important program to life – but I knew he was right.
It wasn’t the quality or necessity of the program – it was who could take credit for it that mattered.
I never forgot that.
Today, Crimestoppers of Northeast Florida – which was incorporated in 1996 by the Daytona Beach Rotary Club following the tragic murder of prominent local businessman Alan Robertson – is one of the most successful programs of its kind in the nation, helping to solve thousands of felony cases and resulting in the recovery of millions-of-dollars in stolen property.
In addition, the program incorporates a robust crime prevention message that is vital to fighting crime and victimization in our area.
I was reminded of my early education on the fine points of ‘politics’ earlier this week when the “Daytona Beach Special Events Task Force” held its first meeting.
The task force was the brainchild of Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu following the disastrous Daytona Truck Meet in June, an anything goes beer-fueled debauch, which resulted in widespread mayhem as lifted truck enthusiasts turned our community into a public urinal, terrorizing beachside residents with gridlocked traffic, burnouts, and insufferable train horns.
In my view, getting everyone around the same table to discuss solutions – an all-hands-on-deck approach involving a cooperative effort to limit the impact of these “special events” on east Volusia communities – was a great idea and an excellent way to effectively manage these caustic spectacles that are ruining our tourism product and irreparably tarnishing the brand.
According to a July 2021 report by WFTV’s Mike Springer, “Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu said she is working with the other cities on the peninsula from Ormond Beach to Ponce Inlet to form a joint task force to respond to those pop-up social media event that she says can be disruptive for the people living there.”
Apparently, lame duck Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler also wanted credit for the initiative.
Unfortunately, she’s done little more than mewl about doing something for the past four-years – then, just days before the task force met, she was quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“I knew everybody needed to be engaged,” said Volusia County Council member Billie Wheeler, who was first to suggest a unified approach to the problem. “If Daytona pushes them out, they’ll just go to the Shores or Ormond Beach. It’s like squeezing the balloon.”
Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu has also taken a lead on the effort, and after talking with Wheeler, a former Daytona Beach police chief and others who handled past wild events like Spring Break, Cantu suggested forming the task force.”
It shouldn’t matter, but it does.
After the task force met on Wednesday, the News-Journal finally got it right:
“The task force had its beginnings with City Commissioner Stacy Cantu. After listening to residents vent their frustrations about unsanctioned events, Cantu decided to look into what could be done.”
To her credit, Commissioner Cantu began voicing support for what became known as the Special Events Task Force in the immediate aftermath of the June truck debacle – rightfully calling for a comprehensive response to these disruptive events – and, in my view, she should be applauded for this important first step.
On Wednesday, with little time to spare before next month’s “Trucktoberfest” shit-show descends on the beachside, area managers, mayors, and police chiefs met at the Ocean Center in what many hope will be an on-going effort to develop cooperative solutions.
In the end, some very good ideas came from the meeting which was moderated by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry.
The confab also proved, once and for all, that Sheriff Mike Chitwood is a Master of the Art of telling it exactly like it is.
When talk turned to the 800-pound gorilla in the room – Daytona International Speedway – who plays host to the daytime portion of these otherwise unsanctioned truck events, Sheriff Chitwood placed blame squarely where it belongs:
“If I invite 150 of my closest friends to my house, and they trash the shit out of the city when they’re leaving, whose fault is it?” Chitwood asked. “It should be mine.”
As always, I was most impressed by Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young – who explained the problems inherent to these “invasion events” – and helped map a cooperative and targeted strategy to effectively manage them in the future – including holding promotors financially accountable, supporting legislation to give law enforcement more tools, and taking a ‘zero tolerance’ stance with those who break the law.
“If we’re forced to deal with this event again it’ll be zero tolerance,” Young said. “We can see this event is getting bigger and bigger and has become like a Mardi Gras.”
Kudos to Daytona Beach Commissioner Cantu for her vision and initiative – and to the impressive group who participated Wednesday night.
In my view, this incredibly cooperative and collegial meeting was a great first step – now, let’s hope our elected and appointed leadership can keep the momentum going.
Asshole Deltona City Government
You know the old sideswipe, “You couldn’t pay me to work here”?
Well, in the City of Deltona, that appears to be true.
Recently, Interim City Manager John Peters – who just last month rescinded his pending resignation which, for months, had been hanging over the heads of elected officials like Damocles’ sword – announced that his administration would be offering substantial across-the-board pay increases as a means of attracting workers to perpetually vacant positions in the municipal government.
The move came ahead of a job fair held yesterday afternoon to fill “multiple positions” ranging from public works technicians to administrative and compliance roles – with a “Parks Superintendent” appointment beginning at $32.89 per hour.
(Damn! Where’s my Smokey the Bear hat?)
In an article by the News-Journal’s outstanding Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura, Deltona Mayor Heidi Herzberg – who was first elected to the perennially dysfunctional Deltona City Commission over a decade ago – claims the city has historically lost personnel to other area municipalities who pay more for similar services.
“People come here, they get their training for a year, they get their certification and bye-bye,” Herzberg said during the August 9 workshop.
Other municipalities aren’t the only other competition either.
“We do compete with the private sector in a lot of our positions,” Peters said. “Customer service, we lose them to the power company, the phone company, the bank.”
I’ll just bet Deltona loses a few to the concept of common human decency, too. . .
Look, I hate to contradict Mayor Herzberg’s educated assessment of what Mr. Peters described as a “multilayered problem” – after all, anyone who has been in the wheelhouse of this perpetual shit-show as long as Ms. Herzberg should have a pretty good grasp as to why the place is hemorrhaging people – but has anyone taken a look at the near-constant internal strife and turmoil in a community that seems destined to come apart at its seams?
The fact is, many are drawn to government jobs at all levels for the stability, security, excellent benefits, retirement plans, and almost guaranteed annual pay increases – advantages that are rarities in the private sector (as the poster boy for civil service protections, I should know).
But even with these attractive employment benefits and incentives, no one in their right mind wants to work in a topsy-turvy environment where the city government seems perpetually at odds with the citizens it exists to serve – or suffer the career crippling wounds of the internecine warfare at City Hall – forever enduring the embarrassing gaffes and howlers by elected officials that have kept the City of Deltona in the funny papers for years.
For instance, many are still reeling from the devastating fallout of former City Manager Jane Shang’s reign of terror, a terribly divisive period which destroyed morale (and the public trust), while the merry-go-round of acting/interim managers and directors has resulted in an unstable and confusing environment for both citizens and staff.
Most professionals want to play for the coach that recruited them – not a placeholder with an expiration date.
When you add confusing headlines like, “Deltona’s HR director claims in lawsuit he was fired; city says he’s still on payroll,” which accompany ugly claims that Mr. Peters used demeaning and sexually harassing language toward employees – coupled with disturbing allegations that “…women in a position of power or management have either been let go, forced to resign or voluntarily left” – and you get the idea that money might not be the real reason Deltona is having a problem recruiting and retaining quality candidates.
Sometimes government’s go-to panacea of throwing taxpayer dollars at a problem until it goes away works well – and sometimes it doesn’t.
In my experience, those drawn to government service are some of the most dedicated and personally committed professionals anywhere – many with an innate enthusiasm for service above self and a true connection with the community – traits that money cannot buy.
Perhaps the City of Deltona should take a long, introspective look at its culture – then find ways to improve the work environment by mending fences with rightfully chary residents, encouraging productivity through performance-based recognition, developing strong core values, breaking down barriers between citizens and staff, establishing opportunities for professional and personal development, and setting definable organizational goals that allow each employee to use their creativity and initiative in a meaningful way.
It’s not rocket science.
Creating a welcoming environment and professional climate that allows people to excel doesn’t cost a thing.
Quote of the Week
“The City Commission voted 4-1 on a second reading of an ordinance amendment to prohibit all car and motorcycle washes in Ormond Beach during recognized special events at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 22. Commissioner Rob Littleton voted no.
Two residents, one of whom is a business owner, spoke against the city passing this amendment, pointing out that the washes raise money for nonprofits.
The commissioners voted on the amendment without further discussion. At the first reading of the amendment, voted on by the commission on Sept. 8, Commissioner Troy Kent said the residents he had spoken with don’t want to see these types of washes in the city.”
–Associate Editor Jarleene Almenas, Ormond Beach Observer, “City bans Bike Week, Biketoberfest car and motorcycle washes,” Thursday, September 23, 2021
Hey, screw your small business that partners with not-for-profit civic organization to take advantage of special event traffic – the “resident(s)” who have Komisar Troy Kent’s ear said they don’t want to see that tawdry shit anymore.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like my Bike Week a little on the trashy side, and those ubiquitous bikini bike wash events have, for decades, been a part of our hallowed tradition of separating out-of-town bikers from their disposable income with a sophisticated and highly scientific combination of boobs, bikes, and beer.
These bike washes serve as a way for bars and restaurants to lure customers off the street – and for properly permitted civic organizations to raise funds in support of local charitable causes during special events.
As we slowly emerge from the civic, economic, and social stagnation of the pandemic – with many small businesses still struggling for survival – Mayor Bill Partington and his Merry Band of Prudes thought it best to take up the nonsensical cause of banning these harmless fundraisers.
Given that this uber-important legislation amending the city’s Land Development Code has been winding its way through the bowels of City Hall since July, including a scheduled hearing and testimony before the Planning Board, it is apparent this latest cause célèbre has received the full and undivided attention of the bureaucracy.
Considering the sausage making included a supporting nine-page staff report containing background and analysis, a three-page “Proposed Land Development Code Amendment,” a four-page memorandum to the Mayor and City Commission reviewed and approved by three senior executives, and a six-page draft ordinance – all completed by Planning Director Steven Spraker (a credentialed member of the American Institute of Certified Planners) – it is reasonable to assume that the City of Ormond Beach has now expended many hours equaling thousands of taxpayer dollars to give this horseshit decree the full weight and might of government enforcement.
To whose benefit?
As a resident and taxpayer of Ormond Beach, how does this godawful waste of time, talent, and tax dollars improve my overall quality of life?
I mean – what difference does it make – and who gives a damn?
These charitable bike washes are a self-correcting issue – without any oversight or enforcement, at the end of each Bike Week or Biketoberfest, they simply vanish – like they were never even here – and a few struggling businesses and nonprofits have a couple of bucks in the coffer that they wouldn’t have without the opportunity.
Dollars that equate to putting food on the table for area small business owners and their staff – and a little extra for doing good in our community.
By the way, at the same meeting where this landmark legislation received its first public hearing and approval, the Ormond Beach City Commission set an annual budget of $101.7 million while raising taxes some 4.7% on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Dwight Selby voting against the increase. . .
And Another Thing!
I pride myself on the fact this blogsite attracts an eclectic readership.
From uber-wealthy oligarchs who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast, to politicians, government executives, retirees on fixed incomes and young people just getting established, everyone can find something on this page that piques their interest – or pisses them off – and ultimately stimulates a greater discussion of the issues across our diverse social and economic strata.
As The Daytona Beach News-Journal continues its inexorable slide into mediocrity and regionalization (damn the looming government shutdown and potentially crippling US credit default, how about that frontpage story of a 225-pound pig in a sundress?!) – with its near-constant virtue signaling and “progressive” slant on everything – many are starved for an alternative view, a jaded take on the news and newsmakers that better represents our collective reality.
The problem is – I don’t report the news. I bitch about it.
Last week, the News-Journal (which has found a lucrative niche as a weekly real estate marketing brochure) spent an inordinate amount of time reporting the sale of a $5.1 million oceanfront château in Ormond Beach, which was recently purchased by a Tennessee couple who, we are told, run a charity for disabled dogs – good work which they apparently plan to continue here.
According to an article by the News-Journal’s exceptional business editor Clayton Park entitled, “Oceanfront Ormond Beach home sells for $5.1 million, most ever in Volusia County”:
“The two-story luxury home was built in 2007 and offers 12,426 square feet of living space and “nearly 16,000 square feet under roof,” said (realtor Christopher) Connors. It sits on a nearly one-acre lot that includes 156½ feet of ocean frontage, an outdoor infinity pool with an attached spa overlooking the ocean, and two garages that can accommodate up to six cars.”
The article went on to tout the boom in “luxury home” transactions in the area – as exemplified by the sale of 14 homes costing “$1 million or more” in August alone – which has left some area real estate brokers absolutely giddy.
According to a report by the Daytona Beach Area Association of Realtors, “The average sales price of homes sold in the greater Daytona Beach area exceeded $400,000 for the first time ever in July. In August, the average sale price dipped slightly to $392,448, but was still up 20.3% from a year ago, according to the association’s latest report.”
That’s good news, I suppose.
Considering that less than a year ago, some 7,645 businesses in Volusia County (including some real estate brokers and developers) accepted a collective total of between $435,953,828 and $751,803,828 in federally backed Payroll Protection Loans which, according to reports, retained some 57,269 area jobs. . .
Now, I assume those loans will need to be paid back at some point – so, when these massive bills come due, what happens to La Belle Époque?
Look, I hate to spoil the party by dropping a deuce in the proverbial punchbowl – but these are questions we should be asking ourselves – because, God knows, the News-Journal isn’t going to ask them for us. . .
Unfortunately, not everyone is living in the Gatsbyesque splendor of an oceanfront manse here on the Fun Coast.
As I sit here at Barker’s View HQ – comfortably ensconced in our arrogantly shabby wood-frame cracker box in the wilds of “affordable Ormond” – I can’t help but contemplate the growing contrast of this Tale of Two Cities – a place where homes now command an average price of $400,000 while the median household income in Volusia remains below state (-$10,713) and national (-$18,730) averages and a sizeable portion of the population live at or below the federal poverty line or are considered “asset limited, income constrained, employed.”
In my view, these numbers – on both sides of the spectrum – bring into focus the true depth of the looming affordable housing crisis as those who struggle to make ends meet in the warehouse jobs our “economic development” types are so proud of, or perform dead-end scutwork in the hospitality industry, are quickly pushed out of the market – and any “federal assistance” that thousands of area residents and businesses relied on for their survival now seems limited to supporting the whims and bonuses of massive bureaucracies.
For instance, for those who have been caught between an economic rock and a hard place due to COVID-19, a recent vote by our elected dullards on the Volusia County Council reduced your rental and utilities assistance to just six-months – all while county government lavishes in hundreds-of-millions in federal relief funds. . .
Hey, Barker, who gives a shit about helping families avoid homelessness when bathrooms at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building need a remodel, eh?
In my view, these astronomical property values call into question why – almost universally – local government’s saw the need to raise taxes and inflate operating budgets at a time when many families and the small businesses that support them (89% of Volusia County businesses employ 20 people or less) are still feeling the devastating financial impacts of the pandemic?
I mean, is a $1.1 Billion budget in a county with no identifiable transportation infrastructure plan ethical?
Given the number of people who spoke passionately at the recent Volusia County budget hearing, which saw craven politicians increase taxes while setting an enormous budget – my hope is that this shameless money grab may finally have awakened the sleeping bear – the thousands of residents who are feeling the pain of eking out a living in this artificial service-based economy, at a time when the price of goods and services continues to increase exponentially. (Anyone been to the grocery store lately? Me neither.)
Given the growing local divide between the “haves and have nots” perhaps these concerned citizens will make good on their promise to sharpen their pencils and do the homework our elected officials can’t be bothered with – doing the deep dive into the massive spending and inflated allocations to identify the fat and gristle – then demand the fundamental changes necessary to bring this monstrous bureaucracy in line at the ballot box next year.
Its now or never.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!