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 Daytona Beach City Commission
Last week, the Daytona Beach City Commission held a workshop to discuss exciting changes to the northern end of Beach Street and east Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard – including a potential roundabout and flood mitigation projects at the intersection of Fairview Avenue.
According to reports, the $8 million Beach Street Streetscape Phase II will include new lighting, improved parking to accommodate events at the Esplanade, wider sidewalks, and the potential for decorative medians and other enhancements to improve the dog-tired area from Bay Street to Fairview Avenue and MMB Boulevard from Ridgewood Avenue to Beach Street.
I was pleasantly surprised that Mayor Derrick Henry called for additional meetings to allow for public input before the tough decisions are made – a process that has not always been as transparent or inclusive when considering high-profile public projects.
In fact, it seemed that previous Beach Street streetscape projects were ramrodded through without any concern for the needs or wants of downtown merchants.
Add to that the economic stress caused by the interminable Veterans Memorial Bridge construction, speculation about what, if any, direct impact the Brown & Brown headquarters would have on area businesses, and a previously uncommunicative administration – and one can better understand the gaping divide between City Hall and some who make their living downtown.
Now, there is a ray of hope.
In my view, there are some innovative ideas on the table – and making the connection between Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard and downtown represents a leap forward for the historically neglected Mid-Down business district – and a more comprehensive approach to the community’s placemaking efforts.
Like many of you, Downtown Daytona was a big part of my life growing up – and it remains critical to the success of the mosaic of unique communities that comprise the Halifax area.
It is where we shopped as a family on Saturdays, went to the movies, and enjoyed every kid’s favorite – the magical toy department at Dunn Brothers. Unfortunately, we all watched the slow death of this once bustling area when the Volusia Mall came to town and the focus turned west.
After several fits-and-starts – with the $25 million renovation of the Brown Esplanade slogging toward completion, and rumors of a potential 250-unit apartment complex on a long-vacant site north of International Speedway Boulevard – it appears things are really starting to happen downtown.
Kudos to Mayor Henry, City Manager Deric Feacher, and the Daytona Beach City Commission for tapping the brakes on this important project to allow time for citizen input – creating an avenue for community involvement in civic planning – personal contributions that allow residents to have real‘skin in the game,’ something that has been sorely missing from the visioning process.
Now it is important for citizens, property owners, established businesses, and entrepreneurs to get involved.
In addition, the Florida Department of Transportation is hosting a public charrette on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, at the Ocean Center, 101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, between 5:30pm and 7:00pm.
The community planning session will allow residents input on proposed transportation solutions for segments of Atlantic Avenue, the horror show that is East International Speedway Boulevard, Main Street, Seabreeze Boulevard, and the Nightmare on Oakridge Boulevard.
If you care about the future of our core tourist area – this one’s important.
Look, my suggestions for the future of downtown are no better, or worse, than yours.
But when the best concepts of both are identified and discussed – the debate of competing ideas can help produce something transformative – a shared vision that is no longer “mine” or “yours,” but “ours.”
Angel The Root Family
Many thanks to the Halifax area’s first family of compassionate philanthropy for their recent gift of $500,000 to cover administrative costs of the United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties.
This generous donation will help offset operational expenses allowing every dollar received from charitable giving to support partner agencies.
With little recognition, The Root Family Foundation has been a long-time philanthropic supporter of worthy local causes, to include investments in education, the arts, and innovative health initiatives in Volusia County.
The Halifax area is blessed with a precious few families and foundations committed to improving our quality of life and helping those less fortunate through their substantial giving to service and charitable organizations.
The Root family continues to express its care and generosity in meaningful ways, and this substantial gift will help the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties fund twenty-two programs at 17 local nonprofits focusing on Education, Financial Stability, and Health.
Angel Herbert M. Davidson Award Recipients
This evening, the Halifax area’s civic, social, political, and economic elite will join at the Hard Rock Daytona for an elegant soiree celebrating the outstanding community service of Mr. Joe Petrock and the incomparable Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
The Herbert M. Davidson Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Service is named in honor of the former longtime publisher of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, whose generosity and vision helped promote the arts and fostered social, civic, and economic improvement in Volusia County.
The honor is presented annually to those individuals who have demonstrated exceptional service to our community.
According to a recent article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “This year, because the awards were not given in 2020, two people will receive the award.”
“One is Joe Petrock, executive director of the Halifax Health Foundation. According to the Community Foundation, Petrock has been “a business and community leader for decades.” He has raised millions of dollars in donations for the Halifax Health Hospital and various charities.”
The other continues to serve as an internationally recognized symbol of hope and an inspiration for the ages.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune – a champion of education and civil rights – who founded Bethune-Cookman University and is considered the Matriarch of Daytona Beach, will also receive the award in memory of her generational contributions to the betterment of humankind.
Fittingly, the impressive Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via will receive the Community Foundation of Volusia & Flagler Counties’ Young Leader Award for his extraordinary service and leadership!
Mayor Via has served as a member of the Holly Hill City Commission since 2016 and was elected to his first term as mayor two-years later at just 28 years old. He was elected to a second term in 2020.
During his tenure, Mayor Via has boldly led an exciting renaissance in “The City with a Heart” – to include the development and expansion of the incredibly successful Pictona at Holly Hill – a true community sports and fitness destination that has brought international recognition to Volusia County.
Well deserved, Mayor Via!
Asshole Ormond Beach City Commission
In a recent Letter to the Editor of the Ormond Beach Observer, resident Lori Bennett made a cogent point about the Ormond Beach City Commission:
“Citizen requests are routinely denied and ignored. We need a lifesaving emergency room center for the beachside to replace the razed hospital, more beach parking to supplement the Andy Romano Park — which we had to vote to tax ourselves millions to get — preservation of historic buildings, conservation of what’s left of the Loop, and restoration of Ormond development rules that once protected trees, wetlands, and green space.
The current City Commission continues to spend millions of dollars on projects we don’t want while refusing to consider items we do want. In Ormond Beach, it appears the public agenda has been replaced by a private, special interest agenda.”
Unlike our elected officials, Ms. Bennett clearly has her finger on what is important to Ormond Beach residents – and what is not.
Recently, I wrote a screed on the issue of Ormond Beach donating $20,000 in public funds to help fund a $52,000 plinth to support a privately commissioned bronze statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, which will stand in the Brown Esplanade in Daytona Beach.
The charitable gift to a non-profit committee came just weeks after city officials raised taxes and increased the budget at a time when municipal coffers are overflowing with reserve funds and federal pandemic relief money.
I was recently reminded by an astute BV reader of the famous soldier, politician, and frontiersman Davy Crockett’s thoughts on the use of public funds for private charity during discussion of the congressional appropriation of federal funds to support the widow of a distinguished United States naval officer.
When Congressman Crockett took the floor, he said:
“We have the right as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.”
After Col. Crockett offered to donate one-week of his personal salary to the cause – and invited his colleagues to do likewise – well, naturally, the bill died a quick death. . .
It is called pompous politicians putting their own money where their mouth is. Not mine.
In my view, these limitations on the use of our hard-earned tax dollars are as prudent today as they were then – especially true when members of the Ormond Beach Police Department were in attendance – desperately attempting to educate the City Commission on the fact their pay and benefits remain far behind many department’s in the region – at a time when the recruitment and retention of professional law enforcement officers is increasingly difficult.
With the specter of the colossal Avalon Park looming on the community’s southern border and talk of bringing a new 143-lot subdivision to the already congested area of North Tymber Creek Road and Airport Road – developments that will place increasing pressure on our police department, utilities, roads, and essential public services – perhaps it is time our elected officials start looking after those who risk their lives to serve and protect our community before writing checks for “nice to have” items which should rightfully be funded with private donations, like a statuary base that will stand in a neighboring city.
To his credit, in casting the lone dissenting vote opposing the use of public funds for the private work, Commissioner Troy Kent rightly explained, “It’s not me writing a check for $20,000,” Kent said. “It’s easy to do that, I think, when it’s not coming out of my personal account.”
As I have said, Mr. Kent and I rarely agree – on anything.
But his assessment of this glaring misuse of tax dollars is spot-on.
In my view, it is high time for Mayor Bill Partington and the rest of the City Commission to get their head in the game and look for more appropriate funding sources – you know, like they flippantly directed when grassroots activists from Dream Green Volusia begged for help in preserving a threatened section of the Ormond Scenic Loop – an environmental treasure that is actually located within the city limits.
Look, residents of Florida’s Fun Coast are a generous sort – especially when it comes to preserving our unique cultural and environmental assets – and we have consistently proven our willingness to set something aside for that express purpose.
Last year, I joined 72% of Volusia County voters in supporting the continuation of the Volusia Forever and Volusia ECHO programs – the latter committed to providing, “…grant funds to finance acquisition, restoration, construction or improvement of facilities to be used for environmental, cultural, historical and outdoor recreational purposes.”
Two key aspects of the Volusia ECHO program are:
“Foster public memory and community identity by promoting and providing access to destinations and experiences associated with past events, peoples, and places within the County of Volusia.”
And “Improve the quality of life for Volusia’s citizens by providing access to the cultural arts, increase cultural based tourism, and encourage redevelopment and revitalization of downtown and urban areas through the provision of cultural arts facilities.”
In my view, Volusia ECHO represents the perfect funding source for this incredibly important statue – one which will be enjoyed by generations to come – in a place of reflection and contemplation of the extraordinary contributions of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune to Daytona Beach and beyond.
Quote of the Week
“I love the Northern mockingbirds and I enjoy hearing them sing, during the day or all night. Why does it matter if other states have the same state bird? … Our pristine natural habitat is being destroyed; I rarely see or hear the mockingbirds anymore! Let the Northern mockingbird remain our official state bird and try to protect their environment — along with many other species that call Florida their home!”
–Patricia Page, Ponce Inlet, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, USA Today Florida Network, “Don’t kill the mockingbird,” Saturday, October 23, 2021
Florida residents are up in arms – and they should be.
But not for the reasons you might think.
Inexplicably, the hottest topic ahead of the 2022 legislative session isn’t the pandemic, the growing labor shortage that is crippling many small businesses, Florida’s horribly broken unemployment system, preventing another deadly condominium collapse, malignant overdevelopment, our threatened water supply, or stopping the environmental destruction that has resulted in the death of scores of manatees, shorebirds, fish, and mollusks in the Indian River Lagoon.
Instead, all eyes are fixed on an absurd bill filed by Tampa State Senator Jeff Brandes “rescinding the designation of the mockingbird as the state bird” – a measure that represents either the worst joke in the history of state politics, or the greatest strategic distraction ever perpetrated on a disinterested constituency.
In turn, lawmakers have filed two additional bills – supported by at least one grassroots petition – to strip the Northern Mockingbird of its title as Florida’s State Bird – a designation it has held since 1927.
Because Brandes thinks it would be a “fun thing to debate.”
What a crock of shit. . .
At a time when our state and nation are facing serious internal and external threats – during one of the most divisive periods in history, where families and neighbors are irretrievably split along political and ideological lines – and once trusted news sources and institutions have turned their focus to fighting the inane culture wars and fanning the flames of partisan discord – these giddy elected dipshits want to waste precious time arguing inconsequential nonsense?
Even The Daytona Beach News-Journal got into the act – multiple times – with cute op/eds legitimizing this idiocy, including suggesting the equivalent of handing out participation trophies to all birds in the state:
“At the same time, however, we don’t think Florida should have to settle for the mockingbird. We’re Florida. We need something big, noisy, bright, and unique to us.
So how about this. Florida’s new state bird is: Bird.”
The piece then launched into some drivel about protecting “…the shorelines, the marshes, the rivers that contribute so much to this state’s quality of life,” even as the editorial board wallowed in environmental politics just weeks before, cutting Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower off at the knees, and arrogantly pooh-poohing a recent push for a small pilot project to evaluate an innovative technology that may help with efforts to restore the threatened Indian River Lagoon. . .
Since we’re all weighing in, I think the official avian representative of the Sunshine State should be the Dodo Bird – an extinct flightless bird which once inhabited the island of Mauritius, which, like most of our elected officials – has absolutely nothing in common with the citizens of the State of Florida – a pathetic order driven to extinction by wholesale slaughter, greed, and invasive species – all while its habitat was destroyed by human intervention.
A bird considered to be dull-witted, too trusting, and easily duped – now, like Florida Man, an internationally recognized symbol of stupidity.
Interestingly, Sen. Brandes is flogging support for his asinine resolution online with the hashtag “#Wecandobetter”.
Ain’t that the damn truth?
Perhaps Florida lawmakers should consider making that the official state slogan. . .
And Another Thing!
There is a reason many good people will not stand for elective office.
Would you willingly walk into a meatgrinder?
I know many civic-minded individuals with the acumen, depth of experience, and commonsense to take Volusia County, and its unique municipalities, out of the doldrums and replace the stagnant status quo with inspirational and inclusive leadership.
Unfortunately, many quality candidates for office are turned away by the disgusting nature of modern political contests – the “win at all cost” strategy of mutual assured destruction – where exaggerations, mischaracterizations, and outright lies are weaponized then mass distributed to ensure the spoils go to the contestant who can stoop the lowest, hit the hardest, and operate most comfortably in this blood-soaked shit-trench where nothing is considered immoral, unethical, or unfair.
Last Saturday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal featured the differences between Daytona Beach City Commission candidates Ken Strickland and Larry McDermott, who are vying for the Zone 2 seat vacated by Aaron Delgado following his move to Ormond Beach over the summer.
It was a story as old as Daytona Beach – where our economy is essentially based on the same five people passing the same nickel around – and as topical as the modern political strategy of those same people using massive campaign contributions to control their environment.
A calculated return on investment – all perfectly permissible under current campaign finance rules – and one that ensures lockstep conformity prevails over innovation or independent thought.
“Grassroots” vs. “Establishment” – the stark contrast between the voiceless ‘little guy,’ families and small businesses scraping by in this artificial economy, eking out a living amongst the strategic blight, dilapidation, and challenged neighborhoods, struggling to maintain what remains of our quality of life while ‘all the right last names’ – those influential few with a real chip in the game – receive everything they ask for from their malleable elected handmaidens and more.
In her informative article, News-Journal reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean pointed out the true difference between the two candidates:
Money and powerful“connections.”
“McDermott is more of the establishment candidate, and he has many more financial contributions from powerful locals who have helped him amass $29,490 in his campaign coffers. Strickland trails far behind with $9,100 in contributions.
But despite fewer connections and campaign dollars, Strickland is the one who collected the most votes in the Sept. 21 special primary election, albeit narrowly.”
The primary was a tight race with just a handful of votes separating Strickland and McDermott – and I knew it would not be long before the knives came out. . .
Earlier this week, the McDermott campaign cut into his opponent with the ubiquitous ‘glossy mailer’ – which asked Zone 2 voters, “Which one would you hire?” – with contrived comparative resumes listing Ken Strickland’s only accomplishment as having once operated a gentleman’s club in Daytona Beach while touting his own volunteer work on various area boards and committees.
Ken has made no secret of the fact he owned the Paradise Club in Daytona Beach – which was open for over a decade – that tells me the obviously successful business was perfectly legal and operated within city codes.
To his credit, not once during this campaign has Mr. Strickland attacked his opponent on any level, always keeping laser focus on the issues – conducting himself, and his campaign, with honor and respect.
I don’t know Larry McDermott – but now I know what he represents.
I first met Ken during our mutual work on beach driving and access issues – just part of his tireless activism with Sons of the Beach, First Step Shelter, Beachside Neighborhood Watch, and other community-oriented groups – and we have shared a radio microphone discussing the issues of the day on Big John’s public affairs forum GovStuff Live!
Few people have Ken’s depth of civic knowledge, a deep understanding of what is important to residents – true situational awareness gained through dedicated attendance at public meetings – and a civic view shaped by listening to the concerns of his neighbors, not well-heeled insiders.
By any metric, Ken Strickland has proven himself a vigorous advocate for the citizens of Daytona Beach and a champion for our unique lifestyle in the Halifax area.
In my view, Ken’s inclusive solutions to the long-term issues we face speak to a different way of thinking – a new way forward.
The choice for Zone 2 voters comes down to a change of tack or more of the same.
As Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower’s overwhelming victory against an entrenched insider proved – We, The Little People have grown to detest the politics of personal destruction – skeevy insinuations and destructive hit pieces by those who are embedded (or indebted?) with the tired stalwarts of the status quo who have overseen the civic deterioration of the Halifax area for far too long.
In my view, Ken Strickland is a dedicated community servant who represents the best choice for collaboratively addressing the myriad civic, social, environmental, and economic issues during this pivotal time in the city’s history.
I encourage all Zone 2 voters to get out and vote on Tuesday.
As Ken said, “Votes beat money.”
He’s right. Now is the time to do your part and participate in our most sacred civic duty – because, as we have seen time-and-again, political apathy has long-term consequences.
That’s all for me. Have a Happy Halloween, y’all!