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 VCC Zone 2 Candidate Paul Zimmerman
During the Bellaire Community Group’s monthly meeting last evening – a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting and preserving our unique quality of life in the Halifax area – the intrepid Paul Zimmerman, long-time president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach access advocacy – announced his candidacy for the Volusia County Council Zone 2 seat in 2022!
Running for elective office is not something to be taken lightly – especially in the meatgrinder of local politics – an endeavor that has become more of a blood sport than an honest path to public service – and Paul has committed to running on a straightforward platform of preserving our unique lifestyle, improving government services, and protecting our sensitive environment from the ravages of unchecked growth and the accompanying environmental atrocities that have become commonplace in an era where the abject greed of speculative developers eclipses our quality of life.
It is now undeniable that there is a groundswell of civic activism sweeping Volusia County marked by a fervent desire for substantive change as evidenced by Chairman Jeff Brower’s decisive win over an entrenched insider in last year’s election – and civic activist Ken Strickland’s recent victory over the “establishments” well-financed candidate in the Daytona Beach City Commission race – this building wave is evident everywhere you look.
From the protection of threatened land along the Ormond Beach Scenic Loop to Chairman Brower’s recent town hall meeting, where residents raged against the unbridled sprawl that is destroying all we hold dear, to the nearly 300 Indigo Lakes residents who joined on Tuesday night to present a united front against a Chinese-Canadian developer’s plan to shoehorn hundreds of single-family homes, townhouses, commercial, and office space into their community on the site of a former golf course – there is an awakening taking place.
Don’t expect Paul to receive support and ebullient endorsements from our local newspaper – or the massive financial backing of those uber-wealthy insiders who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast – because independent thinkers who remain true to their moral compass and committed to the promises made to their neighbors, are anathema to Volusia County’s stodgy Old Guard whose sole focus lies in protecting the status quo.
It was fitting that Paul announced his candidacy at a community meeting, because you will never find him anywhere near those political fishing camps that have reduced many of our elected officials and cardboard candidates to sycophantic bootlickers – rubbing shoulders with our economic and social elite – or those brownnosed political hacks who are wholly-owned by the craven few with the financial wherewithal to pay-to-play.
Trust me. Paul’s announcement is swirling through our elected elite – and those who hold the paper on their political souls – like an ice water enema.
That’s a good thing.
In my view, Paul Zimmerman has proven his worth through personal dedication to worthwhile causes greater than his own self-interests – always willing to fight the good fight to protect and preserve the civic amenities and natural attributes that make Volusia County great – never accepting the mediocrity, tax-and-spend excess, and bureaucratic stagnation that has reduced Volusia County to a cautionary tale.
I hope you will join me in supporting Paul Zimmerman as he launches this important campaign to return our government to the people – as we change the dismal tide that seems intent on sacrificing our unique lifestyle on the altar of greed.
The 2022 Volusia County Council elections present a once-in-a-decade opportunity for We, The Little People to regain control of a dysfunctional county government run amok – and I can think of no one better suited to represent the interests of all Volusia County residents than my friend Paul Zimmerman.
I hope you will share this good news with everyone you know!
Angel Former News-Journal Opinion Editor Krys Fluker
On Monday morning I poured a steaming cup of Café Bustelo fortified with two-fingers of Tennessee Hills Pecan Pie whiskey, opened my daily e-edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, and turned to the Opinion page.
I found it depressingly silent. . .
Like many of you, I was pleased by the recent announcement that the incomparable Krys Fluker has been named Opinion Editor of the venerable Orlando Sentinel – the last real print media outlet in the region – but it saddens me to watch the continued degradation (and ultimate demise) of my hometown newspaper as another extraordinary talent flees the crumbling ruins for greener pastures.
Over the years, before I was branded a poisonous “blogger/troll” by Krys’ former boss – the increasingly confrontational News-Journal Editor Pat Rice – I had the pleasure of periodically corresponding with her on a few Community Voices columns usually addressing some topical law enforcement issue, always suggesting a “go with what you know” approach, rather than one of my long-winded jeremiads on local politics.
Masterfully, Krys was able to take these rambling screeds and polish them into something lucid – and that, gentle readers, takes a true editorial gift.
Through the years, many News-Journal readers enjoyed Krys’ unique take on the news and newsmakers of the day – she has an inimitable style that deserves a larger audience – and I know her contributions will enhance the Orlando Sentinel’s already deep bench of wonderful editorial writers and reporters.
I cannot wait to activate my new subscription!
While I rarely agree with the News-Journal’s editorial board – on anything – Krys always crafted the argument in a way that examined the human component – how the issue affected us – a perspective I found most enlightening.
Unfortunately, Ms. Fluker’s transition has left a vacuum in our community – with Editor Rice now further confining the already limited discussion to just Wednesdays and Sundays.
In announcing Krys’ escape from the sinking SS News-Journal in his standing Sunday op/ed, Mr. Rice explained his hairbrained plan of limiting the opinion page for the “…next few weeks”:
“Instead of opinion pages on the other days, we plan to devote that space to giving readers more news stories about the nation and world — something readers also want.”
“Hey, Pat, we want more rehashed, three-day-old national and world news, thinly shrouded in Gannett’s progressive whole cloth – or maybe some more goofy dispatches from the frontlines of the ‘culture wars’ – where the “social engineer-turned-journalist” is the only one offended by the obscure non-issue being set up for ‘cancellation’ in our ‘local’ newspaper!”
Said no reader of The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Ever.
Look, provoking a larger discussion on the important issues that impact our collective lives and livelihoods is, in my cockeyed view, what opinion writing is all about.
We need more deliberative space in our community media – a no-holds-barred debate of all sides of the myriad issues – a trusted public forum beyond the Wild West atmosphere of social media where we can listen, consider, learn, and gain perspective.
Look, Mr. Rice is right. I’m not a journalist – just a blowhard “blogger/troll” – but the undeniable popularity of Barker’s View has taught me the importance of providing that desperately needed alternative opinion in a place where dissent is often crushed under the weight of a few well-heeled, and incredibly influential, powerbrokers and the malleable politicians they control like sock puppets.
The fact is an echo chamber of immoderate voices like mine might be an effective way of venting steam – but it does nothing to foster a healthy democracy, offer solutions, or craft an inclusive vision for Volusia County’s future.
For that we need a reasonable, regular, and ongoing dialog on the issues that shape our community – including robust disagreement – in a space where the debate of opinions can help sort fact from fiction, challenge those in positions of power, and improve our civic, social, and economic understanding in a time when government is anything but transparent.
One would think the editor of our hometown newspaper would understand the importance of that. . .
The excellent work of Krys Fluker gave us that crucial “marketplace of ideas” here on Florida’s uncultured Fun Coast – and her thought-provoking page will be sorely missed by those who value exceptional writing and the healthy competition of ideas.
With luck, Ms. Fluker will help push the Orlando Sentinel’s focus a little further east and help fill the unfortunate void left in her wake.
Congratulations, Krys! And best of luck on this exciting new chapter.
Asshole Palm Coast City Council
“Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations”
For decades, this mantra has been used by spies, “communications directors,” and public relations hacks who find themselves in a sticky situation – now increasingly adopted by politicians who, often due to their own abhorrent behavior, are forced to defend the indefensible.
Is it effective? You be the judge.
I like to say that if you care about good governance in your own hometown, you should care about good government everywhere – and the sprawling City of Palm Coast is the second largest city in the Deltona-Daytona-Ormond Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area and a major influence on the civic and economic future of our region.
It is also a political shit-show of epic proportions – like a bad movie that most citizens would get up and walk out on – but they are trapped in a theater of the absurd. . .
Earlier this week, following an investigation by an Orlando-based law firm, we learned that embattled Palm Coast City Councilman Ed Danko (in my view, an angry little man who seems perpetually at odds with damn near everyone) was demonstrably “rude” to city employees – findings that stopped just short of determining that Danko created a hostile work environment or engaged in other legally prohibited conduct which may have been actionable by employees.
Weird how that always happens, right?
According to reports, Danko, who was elected a year ago, faced allegations that he “bullied and harassed” several city employees and “inappropriately attempted to influence staff’s administrative duties,” actions which, if proven true, could constitute violations of the city’s charter.
From the outset, a defiant Danko vehemently denied the charges, calling them a “political hit job” launched by former Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton – who was no stranger to internal conflict and controversy.
This week, a report by the News-Journal’s Frank Fernandez explained:
“Several employees said they believed Danko treated female workers more harshly than males and used a “sharper” tone with women, the report stated.
But the report also found that it did not appear that Danko was targeting certain groups.
“It did not appear that Danko targeted employees due to any legally protected status, such as gender or race,” according to the report.”
Interesting. . .
Ultimately, the toothless investigative report suggests that Danko sit for “employee rights training,” and warned that the citizens of Palm Coast may well be liable for future acts by elected officials – citing that the city is “now on notice in regards to Danko.”
Unfortunately, Danko remains obstinate – outright refusing to attend the recommended training and suggesting the investigation was not worth the $12,347.50 it cost (he’s probably right about that).
Councilman Danko continued to maintain he beat the rap in the News-Journal article, sounding eerily like an Edward G. Robinson monologue:
“People can draw their own conclusions as to whether somebody is rude or not,” Danko said. “People are rude every day. The point is they had nothing to hold against me. None of these charges stuck. If you’re rude to someone, is that a crime?”
Danko also said that if he had treated females more harshly, he would have been targeting that class.
“I don’t know how you can have it both ways,” said Danko.”
In other News of the Weird from our neighbor to the north, on Wednesday, the outstanding online media outlet FlaglerLive.com announced that in a “stunner” on Tuesday night, former Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre made the “short list” of applicants for the vacant Palm Coast City Manager position after council members Victor Barbosa, Ed Danko and Nick Klufas included Manfre on their lists.
You read that right.
According to FlaglerLive:
“A stunner, because in previous attempts at the city manager’s jobs, both in Palm Coast and Flagler Beach, Manfre had not been so much as short-listed, let alone interviewed. He also applied to be an appointed county judge in Flagler in 2019. He was interviewed, but not short-listed, and Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Andrea Totten.”
Again – I find that interesting. . .
Because in 2016 then Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order publicly reprimanding Sheriff Manfre after the Florida Commission on Ethics found that he violated ethics laws and ordered him to pay a $6,200 fine.
According to a 2016 report by Jonathan Simmons writing in the Palm Coast Observer:
“The executive order states that Manfre “is hereby publicly censured and reprimanded” for using an agency credit card for personal use and for failing to report a gift in excess of $100. The gift in Manfre’s case was a five-night stay in then-undersheriff Rick Staly’s cabin in Tennessee. (Manfre did ultimately report the cabin stay after realizing after an ethics seminar that it was required, but the Ethics Commission stated that he had not done so properly.) The executive order gives Manfre 30 days to pay the fine.
“In an emailed statement concerning the executive order, Manfre wrote he that he had not violated agency policy or state law.”
The Commission also found probable cause that Manfre misused a publicly owned vehicle for his personal use – including out-of-state travel – but that charge was later dropped citing a lack of “corrupt intent.”
In his response to the citizens who trusted him, then Sheriff Manfre wrote, in part:
“The administrative law judge (ALJ) has rendered her opinion in the 3 allegations filed against me. From the very beginning, I’ve stood firm in my position that I never intentionally violated Florida law, agency policy or used any public money for personal gain. The ALJ’s decision clearly shows that I never used corrupt intent in any decisions that I made or actions that I took. I sincerely apologize to the citizens of Flagler County and to the men and women of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office for making poor decisions as it relates to these incidents in my first few months in office and ask for your forgiveness.”
Now, he’s asking for another bite at the apple?
With deference to the immortal Humphry Bogart, knowing what we do about the turmoil that already exists at Palm Coast City Hall, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. . .”
They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and this emerging Palm Coast saga bears watching.
Angel Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower
A way for local and national politicians to meet with their constituents either to hear from them on topics of interest or to discuss specific upcoming legislation or regulation. During periods of active political debate, town halls can be a locus for protest and more active debate. A means for elected officials to connect with their constituents with origins going back to America’s earliest days.
One of the most acute symptoms of the abject dysfunction that permeates many local governments is the pomposity of power – the self-deification of/by the ruling class – and the resulting sense of overconfident infallibility that has built an impenetrable wall separating We, The Little People from those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests.
I believe this haughty arrogance of ignorance is rooted in the fact government officials have lost the capacity to listen to the concerns of anyone other than their uber-wealthy political benefactors – leading to a sense of alienation as frustrated taxpayers no longer care to tread where they are clearly not wanted.
When we enter the halls of power in that Citadel of Self-importance at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Complex – everyone understands the rules – and they are inviolate.
Unless, of course, our compromised elected elite want to indulge their frequent practice of “Public Policy by Ambush” – voting on critical issues after strategically leaving details off the printed agenda to prevent even the possibility of contention or public input.
Then its no harm, no foul.
So don’t even think about questioning it – or the underlying motivations.
In my view, the rulebook reads different depending upon which side of the dais you are sitting on (or the size of your campaign contribution) – and that basic inequity breeds distrust.
This aversion to citizen participation in our government is evidenced by the extraordinary lengths elected bodies will now go to limit our involvement in the process.
From putting restrictions on public input, enacting “civility and decorum” ordinances that regulate emotional reactions to the often irrational diktats that effect our lives and livelihoods, prohibit signs or video presentations, limit a citizens ability to address their representatives for redress of grievances, hamstring dissent on the dais, and set tightly defined parameters for public participation – three-minutes only – without any expectation of an answer, or even a grunt of begrudging acknowledgement from The Monarchy, other than the stone-faced stare of the exalted anointed ones perched high above.
Don’t take my word for it.
Check out the recent machinations of those dullards on the Volusia County School Board who are making it abundantly clear that they no longer want to be subjected to heated questions from the parents of their victims or district employees – including “loud abusive comments” or the caustic criticism that naturally accompanies the deliberation of important public policy – especially when those edicts shape the education of our children.
That’s why it was refreshing to see Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower host a Town Hall meeting at DeLand City Hall last week – with Mr. Brower paying for the rental of the meeting space out of his own pocket – and members of his family coordinating logistics for the event.
According to reports, the bulk of the participant led discussion focused on the devastating impacts of the out-of-control growth that is metastasizing like a malignant chancre along the spine of Volusia County – sprawl that is threatening our water quality, destroying our natural places, taxing essential services, and placing increased pressure on our inadequate transportation and utilities infrastructure.
Some residents told horror stories of the direct impact of unchecked growth on their quality of life while calling for a moratorium on development – including requiring low-impact strategies to help stem flooding, conserve community resources, and protect our limited water supply.
Good luck with that. . .
The meeting also touched on the thorny issue of Chairman Brower’s inability to break out of the cage stubbornly imposed by Volusia’s Old Guard – his “colleagues” on the dais of power – an entrenched voting bloc which ensures the status quo.
Chairman Brower also used the forum to express his now educated understanding of the innerworkings of Volusia County government, which has left Brower questioning if County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and County Attorney Michael Dyer truly answer to the council.
An article written by the News-Journal’s Mary Helen Moore reported:
“Brower said he doesn’t trust the political system he has become a part of and claimed that the county manager and county attorney don’t “truly answer to the Volusia County Council.” He encouraged those present not to lose hope, however.”
“Everybody’s up for re-election,” he told the audience.”
In my view, Chairman Brower’s community outreach and willingness to listen to street level concerns sets a high bar for Volusia County Council members – those we have elected to represent our interests – and a quantum leap from the lockstep conformity and official “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” insulation tactics that protect a cloistered bureaucracy from any outside oversight or criticism.
At this week’s council meeting, at-large member Ben Johnson got it on record that he “highly disagreed” with Chairman Brower’s concerns regarding Recktenwald and Dyer – lecturing that the County Manager and County Attorney work for the “majority” (Read: the Gang of Four who insulate themselves with groupthink and viciously oppose everything Chairman Brower says or does) – a point quickly seconded by our self-anointed eminence grise, The Very Reverend and Completely Loony “Dr.” Fred Lowry.
In my view, Mr. Recktenwald senses that he has nothing to fear from Chairman Brower, so long as the Old Guard majority remains intact – a risky strategy that has been the professional demise of more than one County Manager when the tide inevitably changes. . .
The pushback was expected.
This is the first time (in a long time) that a sitting County Chair has spoken from the heart – peeled back the political patina to reveal their inner-most fears about the health of our “system” – then took the time to consider the same concerns of those who are expected to pay the bills and suffer in silence.
Unfortunately, neither Johnson nor Lowry said one word about the intrinsic benefits of engaging with the community outside the stilted environment of the Gilded Chamber. . .
In my view, the impact of Chairman Brower’s willingness to connect with constituents in an honest, open, and inclusive way – something obviously lost on the lockstep majority – was exemplified in a recent social media post from a thoughtful town hall attendee:
“Attended the meeting last night. Quite informative and it was refreshing to have a public official (Jeff Brower) actually listening to his constituents. Listening to my fellow citizens, it became obvious how important this next election is and the necessity to vet these candidates. All of the present county board representatives except the chair are up for re-election. This is the time for change. We only had two representatives vote against tax increase; Jeff Brower and Heather Post. Time for Volusia County to join the rest of the people who are finally speaking up and saying no more to the establishment, We The People have been shut out too long.”
I hope you will remember that wisdom at the ballot box next year:
“This is the time for change. . .”
Quote of the Week
“Mayor Partington and Commissioner Selby continue to blame “poor decisions” by “past commissions” for the Avalon Park mega-development on the city’s western doorstep.
Facts: The Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company leveraged one city against the other in 2003 and Daytona Beach broke a long agreement with Ormond Beach in annexing 3,000 acres west of our city. Consolidated-Tomoka demanded we weaken our wetland rules to bring them in.
Facts: “Past commissions” were elected by constituents who wanted to keep our wetland rules and who knew growth does not pay for itself. Bill Partington was part of the 2009 commission that abolished our wetland rules.
Mayor Partington says “past commissions” failed to “negotiate and reach a reasonable deal.”
Facts: Consolidated-Tomoka turned down a good faith offer to amend our density rules, allowing the same number of units condensed on higher ground while preserving low-ground wetlands, shortening the city’s lines of infrastructure. Three members of the 2002 City Commission appeared at a Daytona Beach commission meeting to ask them to honor the existing annexation agreements between our two cities.
Questions: Why has the Ormond Beach commission agreed to provide water and sewer services to Avalon Park in Daytona Beach? Why did we annex Plantation Oaks, roughly 1,500 manufactured homes that will receive our water, sewer, police, and fire services with no city control over the development and little revenue in return? Lastly, given the commission’s track record, it is doubtful they would’ve held the developer to a higher standard.
Instead of finger-pointing at past commission decisions, the current city commission should re-examine its own decisions that will accelerate and enable the massive Avalon Park and Plantation Oaks over-developments west and north of our city.”
–Stacy Day, Ormond Beach, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, Letters to the Editor, “Avalon Park,” Monday, November 15, 2021
Well said, Ms. Day.
And Another Thing!
Depending upon who you talk to around town, last week’s multiday music fest “Welcome to Rockville” was either a Godsend or a demonic curse – and I suspect both sides of the argument have validity.
While I was away enjoying the bucolic mountains and fiery fall foliage of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, I had a few phone calls from irate BV readers asking who in the hell (or government) they could contact to lodge complaints about the excessive noise emanating from the venue at Daytona International Speedway – including one from a friend who lives off Airport Road in north Ormond Beach – who reported that the walls of her home were juddering with every bass note.
I tried to explain that these things have a finite lifespan, and when the show closed on Sunday, peace and tranquility would return to River City.
Then came the “Golden Shower” heard (literally) around the world when Sophia Urista, the vocalist for a previously unheard-of band (to me anyway) known as Brass Against, dropped trou and gushingly, effusively, volubly, urinated on a willing fan’s face as he sprawled on the stage.
Hate to see it. Just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, right? (Okay, I’ll stop. . .)
Apparently after screaming into the microphone, “I’ma piss in this motherf****er’s mouth!” – Urista did just that – to the delight/disgust of thousands of cheering metalheads (of all ages?) in a revolting, if well-timed, publicity stunt that catapulted the once unknown group – and the Daytona Beach Resort Area – into the headlines of newspapers across the breadth of the known universe.
Admittedly, it was an attention-getter.
(Hell, I haven’t seen a stream like that since my prostate reached the size and consistency of a honey baked ham. . .)
Wide. Open. Fun. Indeed.
Conversely, I saw several social media posts from area merchants reporting a strong increase in sales and full hotels – with many visitors in town for the concert asking locals for suggestions on area restaurants and shopping – a true synergistic effect that small business owners who eke out a living in east Volusia’s artificial economy rarely see during events like Truckmageddon or (enter obnoxious “invasion event” here).
In fact, on Friday, James Sass, the civically astute owner of the wonderfully eclectic downtown shop Abraxas Books wrote on social media:
“SLAMMED today by people in town for the Rockville music festival at the racetrack. Lots of foot traffic on Beach Street. If people are fanning out in town as much as they are onto Beach Street this event is very good for the whole city. This is something that should have been doing all along for the last 40 years. People driving around in circles has a much narrower appeal. This is good stuff.”
As for the resulting “image issue” so many are wringing their hands over – let’s face it, the Daytona Beach Resort Area’s “brand” could not get much worse.
Perhaps it is time we embrace the fact we have a darker side – a skewed self-image complicated by our age-old identity crisis – best evidenced in a recent article by the News-Journal’s Jim Abbott, wherein an Orlando bar owner was quoted making the unfortunate, but accurate, statement:
“Somebody got their face peed on in Daytona. I don’t even know how this is news from Daytona.”
Let’s face it – the Fun Coast is a shit-magnet.
A strange portal to an unknown dimension where the bizarre always becomes reality – a sandy realm where the good, the bad, and the weird coexist, and if something prurient or off-base can occur, it will.
And maybe that’s okay – perhaps we can play this creepy hand we were dealt, accept the occasional Naked Cowboy or incontinent rock star, and succeed despite our penchant for weirdness?
At least someone in a position to effect change is finally acknowledging where we are as a community – and where we need to be.
As regular readers of these rants know, I am not someone who uses hope as a strategy – but when you don’t have much else going for you – optimism can help foster a sense of what is possible, make space for ideas, and illuminate a pathway toward revitalization and prosperity.
This week, Daytona’s impressive new City Manager Deric Feacher got his senior staff off their ass and on their feet when he led a series of walking tours of historically challenged areas around Daytona Beach.
If you are a senior bureaucrat ensconced at City Hall and your new boss is traipsing around the remnants of your civic handwork – you are going to want to get some dust on the Florsheim Imperials and at least try to explain yourself, right?
The stroll gave area stakeholders an up-close and personal look at the blight, dilapidation, and personal struggles of area residents – our core tourist area and beyond laid bare – warts and all – but a tour tempered with encouraging talk of Daytona’s long-neglected potential – and the real possibility of rebirth and revitalization.
Perhaps these walks will provide an opportunity for our ‘powers that be’ to listen to business owners like Mr. Sass, other committed entrepreneurs, civic activists, and area residents – those intrepid souls who are personally invested in areas like Downtown, Main Street, Seabreeze Boulevard, Midtown – and use their experience as a barometer when determining which “special events” add value and which do not – as we struggle to decide what we want this wonderful, but infinitely quirky, place to become.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!