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 Halifax Area Advertising Authority
Perception is the “immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment.”
It is our mental interpretation of images, objects, ideas, scents, sounds, and physical sensations based upon our own unique experiences.
What is your “image and perception” of the Daytona Beach Resort Area?
Yeah. Me too. . .
So, why is it necessary for the Halifax Area Advertising Authority to spend $50,000 in bed tax Monopoly money to bankroll yet another study by an out-of-town expert for “…a full-scope deep dive into today’s destination image and perception of Daytona Beach”?
Earlier this week, I gave a brief history lesson of the reams of expensive paper – complete with colorful graphs and charts – extensive reports that various and sundry experts have been paid handsomely to generate so our elected officials and tourism gurus could fade the political heat and say, “See, we’re doing something, folks!” as our core tourist area deteriorated from bad to worse.
For instance, in 2013, Volusia County residents paid $100,000 to Strategic Advisory Group of Duluth, Georgia for an “Analysis of Volusia County Tourism Marketing” – a voluminous and wholly ignored independent study which is now collecting dust on a groaning shelf in some ancient records morgue in DeLand.
The informative SAG study is bookended by a 2017 year-long effort by Volusia County’s best-and-brightest, an impressive consortium of all the right last names, who, under the leadership of Tony Grippa, became known as the Beachside Redevelopment Committee.
The blue-ribbon think tank was born in the aftermath of the News-Journal’s outstanding “Tarnished Jewel” exposé which took an in-depth look into the malignant blight that has slowly destroyed our core tourist area – an embarrassing picture of the civic stagnation and gross malingering by those who, for decades, have accepted public funds, wasted precious resources and assets, and looked the other way – doing absolutely nothing to turn the grim tide.
In May 2018, as Mr. Grippa finished presenting the group’s recommendations to a disinterested Volusia County Council – our elected dullards on the dais of power collectively yawned and discharged the committee with “great thanks and appreciation.”
Then, crickets. . .
In the aftermath of the Beachside Redevelopment Committees arduous work – core recommendations which were painfully ignored by both our elected officials and entrenched hospitality insiders – News-Journal editor Pat Rice wrote in a 2019 essay:
“It takes time to remedy the decades of neglect and problems that have allowed the beachside to become decrepit and crime ridden. Raggedy rental housing doesn’t improve overnight. Shops and restaurants don’t just sprout up because people wish for them. Everyone gets that.
But there is such a thing as not trying hard enough. There is such a thing as flying too below the public’s radar. There is such a thing as not banging the drum loudly.”
Then, last Sunday, Mr. Rice wrote another entreaty, once again asking for someone to do something about what he described as our “decrepit core beachside.”
“Most everyone wants to see the beachside better than it is. Not just so we can attract tourists. It should be the place where all of us want to visit or live.
Let’s get to it.”
Right. . .
But first, let’s throw another $50 grand down the bottomless rabbit hole of bureaucratic ineptitude and stagnation so yet another high-priced consultant can give us solid advice that, as history repeatedly proves, our entrenched tourism insiders and elected officials will totally disregard.
As one smart BV reader so aptly put it this week: “It is paralysis by analysis.”
Asshole Palm Coast City Councilman Ed Danko
I don’t care where you fall on the political spectrum – from left wing moonbat to right wing nutjob, and all points in between – we can all agree that journalistic freedom and the ability to address ones elected representatives on matters of public concern – free from threats and intimidation from those who hold governmental power – is sacrosanct in a free and open society.
Values that live at the very core of our nation’s foundational principles.
It is no secret that the City of Palm Coast has come off the rails, taking on all the foul attributes of a Banana Republic – with petty tyrants, inept goofballs, and political zealots holding key positions within what passes for a “government” – a situation that has now dissolved into censorship, partisan warfare, and the open suppression of dissenting opinions by a sitting member of the Palm Coast City Council.
According to reports, last week, civically active Flagler Beach attorney Scott W. Spradley rose to address the Palm Coast City Council after his business was apparently blacklisted by something called the “Flagler Trump Club.”
Mr. Spradley advertised his business on FlaglerLive! an online news and opinion site expertly written by former News-Journal editorial writer Pierre Tristam – a forum which has been openly critical of City Councilman Ed Danko – who also happens to serve as Vice President of the Flagler Trump Club – and other Flagler County politicians.
Several weeks ago, Mr. Danko, who likes to quickly change hats and metamorphose from elected official to partisan wacko and back again – acting in his role as the Flagler Trump Club’s vice president – published a list of some twenty-one area businesses (including the City of Palm Coast) who advertise on FlaglerLive! calling for residents to “boycott” the establishments until they knuckle under to the economic pressure and stop running ads with the newspaper – or, I assume, go broke.
When addressing the Palm Coast City Council, Mr. Spradley explained:
“I have my business and Flagler Beach, which is a law firm. I’ve been there for 15 years. My law firm provides representation to individuals and small businesses throughout the area. The last two years have been really a struggle for a lot of individuals and small businesses for all the reasons we know. So, I added to my plate, and helped fifty-four businesses obtain PPP loans–paycheck protection program loans. A lot of restaurants or law firms, other businesses, real estate companies, all of which kept them going, and we are happy to do that. This is what we do. Over the last two years I have four employees, all women, all moms, all who live in Palm Coast. You represent them all, including Mr. Danko. Two weeks ago today–”
With that, Councilman Danko rudely interrupted Spradley – raising a parliamentary point-of-order – asking Mayor David Alfin, “Is the Flagler Trump Club and its agency on our city council agenda?”
To his credit, Mayor Alfin reminded Councilman Danko “The public is allowed to speak their mind, so reserve your comment.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Danko’s contentious and antagonistic attempts to prevent a citizen from addressing the City Council continued – with Mayor Alfin admonishing Danko to “respect the public first” – before Danko began making ridiculous counteraccusations, claiming “This man is just making this stuff up trying to pin it on me. I’ve had enough of this garbage from this guy,” which prompted Mayor Alfin to invite Mr. Danko to “leave the dais.”
During the heated exchange, Councilman Danko openly threatened Mr. Spradley from his seat on the dais, “You’re in dangerous territory as a lawyer and you should know it,” as Mayor Alfin repeatedly attempted to gavel the shit-show into some form of order.
Ultimately, City Attorney William Reischmann intervened, reminding the elected officials, “All members of this council are not to speak over other members of this council, all members of this council are not to interrupt. The mayor has the power to remove individuals, including council members, from this gathering, from this room, if the order is not followed, and his orders are not followed.”
When Mr. Spradley’s three-minutes had elapsed, Mayor Alfin rightfully gave Councilman Danko the opportunity to respond.
The Councilman used the time to brand Spradley a “liberal” (although reports indicate that Mr. Spradley is a registered Republican) – and chastised Alfin for standing up for the public’s right to speak, “Quite frankly, Mr. Mayor, I’m appalled that you allowed it.”
Look, I do not particularly care for Mr. Tristam’s politics (or Danko’s for that matter) but I defend his right to publish an independent opinion – free from the base censorship and economic intimidation wielded by Councilman Danko.
In my view, this is not about political preference or the debate of competing ideas.
It represents a crude attempt by a petty, self-serving politician with no qualms about shitting on our hallowed democratic values – or stooping to threats, bluster, and economic bullying to suppress opposition and silence anyone he happens to disagree with.
I cannot think of anything more un-American.
As Flagler Beach City Commissioner Eric Cooley so aptly put it on social media earlier this week (excerpted):
“A council member from Palm Coast called for a boycott of local Flagler Beach business owned by Scott W. Spradley in the “political club” he is Vice President of due to the publications this local business advertises in. He also went on further to state that if the business changes the method of advertising to a way he sees fit, he will call for the boycott to end by the political group he is vice president of.
This is not ok. Using the same audience you work with as a Council member for personal initiatives (or in this case personal vendettas) is unethical and immoral. Elected officials should be supporting local business, not attempting to turn the community against itself. Elected officials should be working to make the community better, not drag partisan problems into non-partisan business. Elected officials should be supporting the right to free speech and free enterprise, not attempting to dictate personal mandates on how local business functions. Lastly, a elected official should NEVER purposely damage the community they are tasked with representing! As you can see, this particular official does not comply on ANY of these counts. There is also a county commissioner who supports this behavior.”
In my view, it is time for Palm Coast voters – and the local Republican Party apparatus – to immediately distance themselves from this dangerous political hack before more damage is done to the fabric of a community so vitally important to our region.
Angel State Representative Elizabeth Fetterhoff
Kudos to State Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff for her efforts to protect our courageous first responders with the reasonable presumption that a COVID-19 diagnosis is job-related, legally acknowledged to have been contracted while performing their duties, allowing them the benefits they deserve.
According to an article by Mark Harper writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, after Port Orange Police Sergeant Justin White passed away from complications of COVID-19, “White’s widow Carlyn filed for death benefits through a workers’ compensation claim with the city and its insurer, Preferred Governmental Claim Solutions of Lake Mary. Six days after his death, that claim was denied, as it could not be proven he contracted COVID-19 on the job.”
If successful, Rep. Fetterhoff’s bill would provide the presumption to firefighters, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, and correctional officers – those brave souls who willingly go into harm’s way to serve and protect.
My friend Mike Scudiero, the outstanding executive director of the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association, a union representing some 1,700 police officers throughout Florida, was quoted in the News-Journal:
“The biggest thing to remember is any first responder, whether it’s police, fire or medical, these people have no say as to who they come in contact with. They don’t have the ability as you and I might have to work behind plexiglass in a crowded office, or from home,” Scudiero said. “They have to go wherever a dispatcher sends them during any given shift.”
As a career police officer and proud member of a law enforcement family – I commend Rep. Fetterhoff for her commitment to the health and wellbeing of our critical first responders – and encourage elected representatives at all levels of government to support this important legislation.
Asshole Volusia County Council
I guess there were a few crumbs left on the table that the “strong majority” of our elected dullards on the Volusia County Council hadn’t gotten their greedy little fingers on during last month’s façade of a budget process – a shameless money grab that saw a tax increase in support of a $1.1 Billion budget.
At this week’s Volusia County Council meeting, lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – who, now that she isn’t groveling for the support of her uber-wealthy campaign contributors, could care less how much she screws-over already strapped families – moved to increase entry fees for the tax supported Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet.
You read that right.
Never mind that during an August special meeting, the Volusia County Council proposed a modest $1.00 across the board increase in general admission fees to fund upgrades and offset increased costs.
Because when it comes to raising tolls and taxes, enough is never enough.
In my view, the one-dollar increase was both reasonable and necessary – helping to support and improve this area treasure while keeping the cost of admission within reach of struggling families who are slowly being priced out of a day at the beach.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Wheeler pulled the innocuous fee increase from the consent agenda, which is typically composed of self-explanatory and non-controversial items that do not require individual motions for approval, then telling us all with a straight face that she wanted more. . .
“I really think that that is not enough. . .”
She then quickly “encouraged” a $3.00 across-the-board fee increase.
In keeping with tradition, Wheeler’s cheap set-up was quickly spiked by His Eminence, The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry – before being validated on a classic 5-2 vote – with Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post doing the right thing by their constituents (who already pay for the Marine Science Center through their taxes).
Now, thanks to the heartless, and obviously pre-arranged, suggestion of Councilwoman Wheeler, admission prices will now climb to $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for children over three – with annual individual passes going from $15 to $21, and family passes increasing from $35 to $60.
Look, some will say, “It’s three-bucks, Barker. Who cares?
Because the slimy manner and means by which this increase was clearly orchestrated ahead of time – then wormed through without a shred of public notice or input – makes my skin crawl.
In my view, this quisling bait-and-switch tactic of public policy by ambush – something we were promised in January would not happen again – is a down-and-dirty way of getting deeper into our pockets, fleecing visitors, and ramrodding diktats that directly impact our lives and livelihoods without any public comment or debate of competing ideas.
Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Post held firm to their convictions and, as true representatives of the people who elected them, voted to maintain the agreed upon dollar increase as established during the budget process when it became clear the “strong majority” were not interested in giving Volusia County residents a break.
Many long-suffering Volusia County taxpayers felt relieved when Councilwoman Wheeler announced she would not seek re-election in 2022 – a ray of hope that this meanspirited and disconnected marionette was finally making way for someone, anyone, who will work in the interests of citizens, rather than her political benefactors.
But not me.
As a grizzled observer of local politics, I knew that Ms. Wheeler became much more dangerous to our quality of life the moment she shrugged off all traces of political accountability – now free to openly serve her masters – while continuing the tag-team attack on Brower and Post.
Trust me. Councilwoman Wheeler has an agenda, a majority vote, and plenty of time to see the wants and whims of her backstage handlers inside the bureaucracy and out implemented before the curtain falls in January 2023.
In my view, this on-going shim-sham is wrong, a complete lack of transparency, continuity, and stability – a grossly dysfunctional environment where nothing is ever really settled – and just a small part of why we cannot trust anything this “strong majority” of Old Guard insiders say or do.
Quote of the Week
“Pastor Lowry, no one forced you to run for public office, to assume the incredibly important role of giving your constituents eyes and ears on and a voice in their local government — a government designed to be “by the people and for the people.”
You chose to run, and the people trusted you enough to perform this role, so they elected you. When that happened, you gave up the life of an ordinary person, and became a public figure. Again, this is the role you chose, of your own free will.
We entrusted you with amazing powers. You can reach in our wallets to take our hard-earned money to run the government you’re in charge of. You can make rules about how we can conduct our lives and how we are allowed to use our property. Your decisions affect the roads we drive on, the services we depend on, and the communities we live in.
We pay you for this. County Council members earn $45,240 per year, an amount that’s about $5,000 higher than the average annual wage in West Volusia.
At the Sept. 21 County Council meeting, you chastised our county chair, Jeff Brower, because Brower had announced publicly that you had missed two consecutive meetings of the County Council because you were suffering from COVID-19 and were hospitalized with the virus.
You said you hadn’t given Brower permission to share information about your health and scolded him for sharing it.
Hogwash. Brower did exactly the right thing, in consideration of all the people who consent to be governed by the Volusia County Council.
No one needs your permission to share important information about a public figure’s fitness to carry out his or her duties. It’s the public’s right to know. It’s essential information for the people who are governed.”
–Excerpted from The West Volusia Beacon, “Public figures and privacy,” an open letter to Dr. Fred Lowry, Tuesday, September 28, 2021
A tip-o’-the-cap to Beacon publisher Barb Shepherd for hitting the nail squarely on the head. . .
And Another Thing!
If Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower announced that he likes ice cream – you can rest assured that those puppeteers who control the rods and strings at The Daytona Beach News-Journal (and the Volusia County Council) would immediately order an op/ed calling him out – questioning the mysterious reasons why he enjoys this so-called “ice cream,” lugubriously warning residents to be highly suspicious of frozen confections generally – and Brower’s preferred flavor specifically. . .
Earlier this week, Chairman Brower – at the urging of a diverse group consisting of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, the grassroots environmental activists at Dream Green Volusia, and the shadowy CEO Business Alliance – hosted Dr. Tom Goreau, president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, and Dr. Brian Lapointe, a water quality researcher at Florida Atlantic University, to discuss how the emerging Biorock technology might prove beneficial in restoring the fading Mosquito Lagoon, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the nation.
Naturally, the News-Journal’s editorial board found the whole idea, well, suspicious – something to be “questioned” – simply because Chairman Brower’s name was associated with it.
In a cheap-shot editorial on Tuesday – even before Goreau or Lapointe had the opportunity to explain the concept and its potential applicability to the lagoon – the News-Journal began the process of marginalizing the idea by asking inane questions, before getting to the true nut of the matter:
“What applicability would the Oak Hill project have to the rest of the lagoon? Does it have the potential to damage the lagoon instead of healing it? And if so, can that damage be undone?”
Wait. You’re asking if Biorock could cause more damage than the current destruction and degradation resulting from the catastrophic loss of seagrass beds, on-going nutrient pollution, and the resultant harmful algal blooms that have killed hundreds of manatees and scores of fish, wildlife, and mollusks?
My God. . .
Then, the editorial board questioned Chairman Brower’s motivations:
“Council members should also be clear on what this pilot project would cost — and what long-term financial commitments might be involved if the technology shows success. It’s regrettable that this proposal, which has apparently been under consideration for some time, was not brought forward during the county’s budget process. County Chairman Jeff Brower was openly critical of county spending during the recent budget debate. Why didn’t he bring this forward then?”
Apparently, the senior leadership of the News-Journal, and their friends on the Anti-Brower Brigade, feel that if the restoration of the lagoon requires “long term financial commitments” (which it undoubtedly will) or unconventional solutions that go beyond photo-ops for politicians funding a hodge-podge of band-aid approaches, then the entirety of the Indian River can die a long, public, and gut-wrenchingly painful death.
Or am I reading that wrong?
At the risk of speaking for Chairman Brower, perhaps he hasn’t mentioned this promising technology before now because anything of substance the Chair, or Councilwoman Heather Post, bring forward is immediately mocked and maligned by the quisling Gang of Four – Volusia’s entrenched Old Guard who are intent on preserving the status quo while destroying the political careers and effectiveness of anyone who refuses to fall into lockstep conformity.
You know, the same mockery, bullying, and ridicule we watch, month-after-month, that the News-Journal tells us does not exist?
Another reason might be because Chairman Brower successfully campaigned on a platform of reducing government spending, holding the line on Volusia County’s exorbitant tax rate, and protecting our sensitive wetlands, estuaries, and waterways – promises which, unlike his craven “colleagues,” he has tried everything in his power to live up to.
If I understand it correctly, plans include funding any potential use of Biorock technology with grants along with state and federal monies currently earmarked for restoration of the Indian River Lagoon.
Why didn’t the News-Journal listen to the presentation before muddying the proverbial water by stirring up the horseshit?
This wasn’t a sales pitch – it was an opportunity for our elected officials to learn something about a promising new technology that has proven its worth in experimental applications around the globe – a process that has the ancillary benefit of restoring seagrass beds and assisting the proliferation of filter-feeders critical to improving water quality.
Both Dr. Goreau and Dr. Lapointe were simply explaining how a pilot project in Oak Hill might be used to scientifically measure the effectiveness of a new strategy that could become part of the massive, multi-functional effort that will be required to restore the Mosquito Lagoon.
For their trouble, the esteemed scientists were put on the hot seat in a fashion by Councilman Ben Johnson, his ventriloquist dummy Councilman Danny Robins, and the lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – who put on their Dick Tracy hats and did their best to interrogate two world-renowned experts in the protection and restoration of marine estuaries who were simply trying to educate them – then laughably tut-tutted over how concerned they are about protecting “taxpayer dollars.”
These universally respected experts were asked to appear and provide their educated insight – they were not “selling” anything to Volusia County. Frankly, it appeared to me that the good doctors could care less whether this backwards backwater commissions an experiment with their technology or not.
In typical fashion, to build political insulation, some council members suggested Goreau and Lapointe get mired even deeper in state and federal bureaucracies – going before the St. Johns River Water Management District and other labyrinthine government agencies who give lip service to our state’s abysmal water quality – before Volusia would even consider anything so groundbreaking.
To his credit, County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald witnessed what was happening on the dais and mercifully offered to work out the details with Dr. Goreau – a move which gave a glimmer of hope for a Biorock pilot project in the Mosquito Lagoon.
(I don’t think it will happen – but I’m a cynical asshole – while others close to the project feel Mr. Recktenwald will be able to pull something of substance together. I hope so.)
It was a variation on the old kick the can down the road “until we get more information” ruse – which, in the case of government’s relationship to emerging technologies – typically translates to “let’s wait until it becomes a commercial success so we can pay exponentially more than we would have if we assisted with the developmental research.”
In my view, it is time for those organizations who ostensibly exist to protect and preserve Florida’s waterways – like the St. Johns River Water Management District – to begin developing sustainable funding sources to explore these cutting-edge strategies and formulate a comprehensive plan to stop septic leaching, reduce nutrient loads, limit coastal development, and stem the toxic runoff that is destroying the Indian River Lagoon while there is still something worth worrying about.
Despite what we routinely witness here on the Fun Coast, there are some threats that transcend the pettiness of politics, and it was exciting to see a diverse group of stakeholders express such enthusiasm for trying a new and innovative technology to restore biodiversity in Mosquito Lagoon and beyond.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!