A Reason for Hope

Since The Daytona Beach News-Journal chose to (once again) ignore local political happenings – instead devoting a full-page of what passed for the Sunday Local section to a rehashed 1994 Palm Beach Post article telling us more than we ever wanted to know about a defunct South Florida tourist attraction – I thought I would talk about something more germane to our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

In a recent Angels & Assholes column – my weekly acerbic take on the ‘winners and losers’ from the week that was – I had the pleasure of crowing about the candidacy of the intrepid Paul Zimmerman for the Volusia County Council Zone 2 seat now occupied by that stodgy member of the obstinate Gang of Four, Volusia’s Old Guard lockstep majority of stagnant obstructionists, lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler. 

In my view, Paul’s entry into this important race changes everything – and gives us all a reason for hope going into the 2022 election cycle, a time when every seat except for County Chair Jeff Brower will be up for grabs after redistricting. 

In my experience, like Jeff Brower, Paul is an ‘everyman’ with a proven track record of fighting for the rights of residents who have become an afterthought in a political arena that looks more like a Turkish bazar than a democratic contest.   

As many already know, Paul is a true hometown guy whose family roots in Daytona Beach go back to the early 1900’s.  A graduate of Florida State University, Paul has spent his long professional career serving the needs of at-risk students in Volusia County Schools, while working tirelessly to improve our quality of life as the founder of the Bellaire Community Group.

He has been an avid surfer and beach lover for over 50-years. 

In addition, Paul was instrumental in Chairman Brower’s decisive win over an entrenched insider in last year’s Volusia County Council election – and assisted Daytona Beach City Commissioner Ken Strickland in his recent victory over his well-connected (and well-funded) opponent.    

Recently, Paul worked diligently behind the scenes to build a diverse consortium of groups and environmental activists pushing for an experimental trial of an innovative technology known as Biorock to help save and restore the endangered Mosquito Lagoon.    

Although heavily involved in beach and environmental issues, Paul is far from a one issue candidate – or a flash-in-the-pan partisan fanatic.  

For those who follow the ebb and flow of local politics, Paul is best known for his extensive civic activism as the long-time president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach access advocacy – along with his efforts to protect our environment from overdevelopment – and leading the fight to save our unique lifestyle from the constant threat of government overreach, such as the insidious ‘privatization by proxy’ of our beach as craven politicians seek to give away our tradition of beach driving and public access as a cheap spiff for developers with a profit motive. 

In fact, in recent years, Paul has been the beachside’s de facto representative – doing what Councilwoman Wheeler should have done – with service on the Beachside Redevelopment Committee, and leading a very public effort to hold developers of the Hard Rock Daytona (who were gifted 410’ linear feet of traffic-free beach) and Protogroup, who is responsible for the controversial and still unfinished twin-span condominium/hotel complex at Oakridge Boulevard and A-1-A – accountable for performance, appearance, beach access, and building safety standards. 

While Ms. Wheeler mewled and cooed from her perch on the dais of power – Paul was down in the trenches – taking documentary photographs, speaking to reporters, contributing to public affairs forums, lobbying policymakers, updating civic organizations, holding bureaucrats responsible, and fighting for transparency and accountability.

But Paul isn’t running against Councilwoman Wheeler.

In my view, his campaign is against everything she represents – the lockstep conformity, stagnation, and slavish loyalty to the tired status quo – that unspoken, but painfully obvious, deference that allows well-heeled insiders with the wherewithal to underwrite hand-select candidates undue access and influence in a lopsided system that has permitted all the right last names to gorge at the public trough, reaping “economic development” incentives, tax breaks, cash infusions, deals on public property, infrastructure improvements for private projects, and the privilege of having their every want and whim assured by their mere presence in the Gilded Chamber

Publicly funded inducements that you and I – and our small businesses which struggle on an uneven playing field – could never dream of. 

In my view, it is time we return that same reverence to the civic, social, and economic needs of We, The Little People. . . 

Look, Paul is far from perfect – which of us are? 

(Hell, I’ve been married three times, suffer a well-earned reputation as a carouser, and have more skeletons in my closet than a haunted house – but polling shows most people instinctively hate my face, which is the real reason I won’t be running for any public office. . .)

If Volusia County politics holds true to form (which it will), expect to see Paul’s detractors trashing his character in some skeevy eleventh-hour “glossy mailer” – probably paid for by an equally repulsive Political Action Committee.

Clearly, Paul faces a formidable challenge in his already announced opponents, which currently include Port Orange City Councilman Chase Tramont – and the former co-chair of Daytona’s Midtown Redevelopment Board, Danny Fuqua – who gave Wheeler a run for her $82,000 war chest in 2020, losing by less than seven hundred votes.

And therein lies Barker’s Barometer – the one undeniable record that tells me where true loyalties lie in the fetid slit-trench of Volusia County politics – the cumulative list of massive campaign contributions from those insiders and industries seeking to control their environment or a lucrative return on investment.

As I have said previously, don’t expect to see Paul named in ebullient endorsements from The Daytona Beach News-Journal (he announced Wednesday evening and not a peep in the paper?) – or fêted by those uber-wealthy oligarchs who bankroll the perennial campaigns of their malleable sock puppets – because you won’t find Paul kissing the sizeable backsides of our social and economic elite, bestowing and receiving dubious “awards” and spewing platitudes at stilted galas (while Rome burns), or rubbing elbows at those partisan fishing camps that have reduced us to the mediocrity of groupthink gridlock.

Look, Paul Zimmerman didn’t ask me to write this – that’s not my style – and I tend to keep most politicians at arm’s length once they declare an intent to run.  In fact, previous candidates for various elective offices can report my hotheaded recalcitrance whenever I’m solicited for a canned endorsement. 

Besides, most people could care less what I think – nor should they.  Just one man’s opinions on the issues of the day which come from the heart – not someone’s pocketbook.   

This is something we should all feel strongly about.    

We, the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County, who have been repeatedly strong-armed by petty players and politicians who present themselves as fiscal conservatives at election time, then invariably raise our taxes and fees to support a swollen budget now topping $1.1 Billion annually – have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to regain control of this bloated and dysfunctional county government and change our dismal fate.

I can think of no one better prepared to represent the interests of all Volusia County residents than my friend Paul Zimmerman.  

6 thoughts on “A Reason for Hope

  1. Stopped reading the Pennysaver called the Pat Rice piece of old shit.Cant wait to vote in 2022.Partington hope you are running.Found you blaming past commmissioners for the clustet called Avalon.You act like you had nothing to do with the cluster but YOU were one of those commissioners who passed it you putz..Will look into Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

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