On Tuesday, the Volusia County Council’s Gang of Four will be faced with a conundrum:
How to avoid doing the right thing, for the right reasons, while publicly screwing Chairman Jeff Brower – and the taxpayers of Volusia County – out of a political “win.”
At issue is Chairman Brower’s revenue generating proposal to allow naming rights and sponsorship of beach access points – something that was roundly panned by the I Hate Brower Brigade when it was first discussed this spring – as a means of reducing or eliminating beach tolls for already overtaxed Volusia County residents.
At the time, Chairman Brower reminded his surly “colleagues” that residents already pay for beach ramps through their property taxes and charging them an additional toll is double taxation, “It’s a tiny little tax break for the people that live here not to have to pay twice for beach access.”
In typical fashion, rather than find a way to strangle the proposal outright, the Gang of Four pooh-poohed the idea, agreeing to kick the can down the road, reluctantly agreeing to revisit the proposal in the fall after the predetermined sham of raising property taxes had been ramrodded through.
At the time, lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said with a straight face, “I would really like to see if after the fall when the budget has already been discussed.”
Sure she would. . .
Because why would any elected official in their right mind even consider an outside-the-box moneymaker that may help offset exorbitant beach management expenses – or dare question the staff’s prearranged budget to find ways to cut spending, generate additional income, and lessen the groaning tax burden on John and Jane Q during the budget process?
Crazy talk. Right?
Inconceivably, Councilman Danny Robins – who has cemented his role as an entrenched insider and lockstep conformist – took things a step further, accusing Chairman Brower of pandering to his supporters in the beach driving community:
“You are feeding your base support, only with other people’s money. Welcome to the swamp,” Robins railed from the dais in his patented stream-of-consciousness gibberish, “Talk about ‘bought and paid for’ and ‘pay to play,’ something you campaigned — and we all campaigned — so hard on.”
It was a left field cheap shot which no doubt earned Danny – who exhibits the loyalty of a Golden Retriever – an affectionate pat on his pointy head from his political maharishi, At-Large Councilman Ben Johnson.
At the end of the day, Brower’s suggestion was effectively marginalized, stained, and tabled until it could be brought back for a sham hearing tomorrow – well after the $1.1 Billion budget and corresponding tax increase had been set in stone.
Now, Volusia County “leadership” has begrudgingly placed an agenda item under the lofty “Excellence in Government” goal (sorry, I just shot Café Bustelo through my nose) complete with an obligatory watered-down PowerPoint presentation – which leads the elected officials down the Yellow Brick Road to the “decision points” – which asks whether or not the Volusia County Council should diminish any potential savings from sponsorships by hiring an outside firm – or develop yet another thick layer of inhouse bureaucracy – to market and manage the program.
Clearly, those do-nothing senior executives at the Beach Management Division are far too busy printing additional “do this/don’t do that” sign pollution and figuring out ways to prohibit anything remotely “fun” or attractive on Volusia County beaches to administrate a simple sponsorship program.
Don’t take my word for it.
See the half-assed presentation for yourself – the information, such as it is, can be found under Item 10 on the agenda – complete with two pages of pap, fluff, and filler listing “County Assets” consisting of a tableau of generic photographs depicting beach ramps, parks, libraries, etc.
You paid for it, folks. Look for yourself.
After reading the lackluster agenda package, one can almost hear County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald telling an underling, “Don’t spend too much time on this one. Brower’s “naming rights” bullshit is dead on arrival. . .”
5-2 here we come. . .
Another item that caught my attention is a Land Development Code waiver request by an entity called Oak Hill Association, Inc. – what appears to be a mobile home community located on a manufactured peninsula which extends well into the endangered Indian River Lagoon – which seeks to construct a vertical seawall to prevent erosion from boat wakes, something specifically prohibited by current shoreline protection regulations.
“Vertical seawalls and bulkheads are prohibited adjacent to all [naturally occurring] watercourses or water bodies except as may be waived by the county council. Hardening of the estuarine shoreline shall be allowed only when erosion is causing a serious threat to life or property.”
So, what does the esteemed Clay Ervin, our Director Growth and Resource Management, recommend?
Approval, of course.
According to the agenda package, Mr. Ervin is recommending that the Volusia County Council rubberstamp the seawall request under the following conditions:
1. Provide shoreline stabilization by adding oyster shells, earthen material, and coquina rip-rap in front of the seawall to protect against erosion and provide habitat for wildlife.
2. Restore a five-foot portion of wetland buffer, with plantings according to the Volusia County Habitat Planting Guidelines, to provide nutrient uptake and improve water quality.
What a load of “rip-rap”. . .
Earlier this month, 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.
The discussion was met with open skepticism, consternation, and tut-tutting by the Gang of Four – supported by questioning editorials in The Daytona Beach News-Journal – all pushing the old “We need more information” ruse.
Everyone who is anyone was reluctant to even consider a small pilot project to determine if Biorock could be used as part of a comprehensive preservation strategy to turn the grim tide of death and destruction attributed to deteriorating water quality caused by overdevelopment, simply because Chairman Brower is associated with it.
Now, the Council is faced with a no-brainer – with vertical seawalls specifically prohibited as a means of preserving critical estuarine habitat – this should be a 7-0 no vote without discussion.
Because according to Samantha J. West, an Environmental Specialist III at Volusia County, writing in an environmental permitting and ecological impact review:
“Construction of vertical walls or bulkheads along naturally occurring water bodies causes long term effects to an ecologically sensitive habitat such as the Indian River Lagoon. More specifically, it produces an abrupt transition from deep water to dry land, degrading water quality and eliminating the intertidal zone where many marine and estuarine species live and utilize as nursery habitat, and foraging habitat for wading birds. In addition, once one property constructs a vertical wall or bulkhead, a “domino effect” occurs along the shoreline, as the wave action from hitting the vertical wall will move to the adjacent property, scouring and eroding their shoreline.”
I mean, “long term effects,” “degrading water quality,” “domino effect,” what more do those elected dullards on the dais of power need to hear?
Not so fast, Barker. . .
Inconceivably, after explaining the toxic effects of vertical seawalls on ecologically sensitive habitats like the Indian River Lagoon, Volusia’s environmental gurus recommend approval of the seawall (you read that right) based upon the fact the property owner previously tried to mitigate the erosion by erecting a “breakwater” that failed to absorb wave energy before it reached the shoreline.
In my uneducated experience, time and tide are never kind to mobile home parks – and the Volusia County Council shouldn’t stand in the way of Mother Nature.
It’s going to be an interesting meeting.
Let’s see what maneuvers and machinations the hypocritical Gang of Four use to worm their way out of these two thorny issues – one, a proposal to generate additional revenue and save taxpayers from the almost overwhelming burden of bureaucratic spending, the other a step toward beginning the process of saying no to destructive shoreline construction and other projects deemed deleterious to the threatened Indian River Lagoon.
Let’s see how they put our money where their mouth is.
Hide and watch. These craven political backstabbers are more than up to the task. . .