Don’t look now – but here it comes again. . .
And by “it” I mean the macabre spectacle of Volusia’s half-cent sales tax money grab slowly clawing its way out of the mass grave of bad ideas after voters drove a stake through its greedy heart in 2019.
Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise to those cynical observers of Volusia County politics who understand that no tax increase is ever dead – just lying in wait for its next rehashed opportunity to suck more blood out of this exsanguinated turnip.
In May 2019, following a protracted and incredibly expensive public/private marketing effort that culminated in a strange $490,000 special mail-in ballot scheme designed to give the proposed half-cent sales tax money grab its best chance of passage – Volusia County voters roundly rejected this strong push by a cabal of uber-wealthy opportunists and their hired chattel on the Volusia County Council and municipal elective bodies across the breadth of the Fun Coast.
That bungled initiative was spearheaded by the mysterious camera stellata over at the CEO Business Alliance – an elite galère of billionaires who seem to think they know what is best for us rabble outside their gilded tower of power – wealthy insiders who plotted the worst possible strategy for selling a sales tax increase to an already overburdened constituency.
It was an embarrassing abomination from the outset.
There were weird “studies” paid for with private funds – a glib shill in former South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarborough (who now manages King of Kings Hyatt Brown’s Esplanade?) – a dubious pie-in-the-sky list of pressing transportation infrastructure projects that would benefit from the then estimated $42 million annual windfall to local governments – an expensive special election – and near-constant scary stories about the coming gridlock and snarl that awaits area residents, even as our elected dullards continue to approve land use amendments and “Planned Unit Developments” across the spine of Volusia County – shoving even more shit into the already bursting bag – with no relief in sight.
In my view, when this tax grab went down in flames, it was a resounding indictment of those craven politicians and institutions who ignored their best instincts and succumbed to the slimy motivations of a few well-heeled insiders with a profit motive – who sold out their constituents for the promise of a few crumbs of a much larger pie – and destroyed the public’s trust in the process.
Unfortunately, our ‘powers that be’ never learn from previous mistakes – they just repackage them with a bigger bow. . .
In an excellent article this week by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean reporting in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:
“…at least a few local leaders are interested in resurrecting the 2019 push to raise Volusia County’s sales tax an extra half-cent — or maybe even a full penny — for a decade or two. The idea would be to use the tens of millions of dollars that would be raised each year for road repairs and construction, and possibly to improve sidewalks, bridges, water quality, storm water systems and flood control.
“We don’t have any other way to keep up with roads,” said Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry. “These needs have not gone away.”
For the record, Mr. Mayor, the willy-nilly approval of more, more, more development throughout Daytona Beach and beyond hasn’t gone away either. . .
As in the past, this latest money grab is being billed as a way for local governments to pay for a weird retroactive transportation infrastructure ruse – where developers have been allowed to build thousands of new homes, apartments, and commercial centers – then worry about how we pay for the streets, roadways and utilities infrastructure required to support tens-of-thousands of new residents after-the-fact.
According to the News-Journal’s report, “Henry and other Volusia County leaders who are thinking about again pursuing a temporary sales tax for infrastructure believe 2024 would probably be the right year to put the tax proposal on the ballot.
That would give the effort three years to work through the process of lobbying the Volusia County Council to put the measure on the ballot, and persuading voters that the tax is needed.”
For this latest bite at the apple, supporters of the tax grab are going to change tack and develop an artificially contrived “grassroots” effort – complete with something called a “citizens education committee” (sounds eerily like a page out of a Khmer Rouge manifesto) – then “…a permanent citizens’ board (to) oversee expenditures of the levy.”
(Hide and watch: The “committee” will be comprised of the crème de la crème of our social and civic elite; very familiar last names who will naturally concoct some chilling doomsday scenarios for the politicos who appointed them – then shamelessly recommend a one-cent sales tax increase just about the time Avalon Park Daytona breaks ground. . .)
My God. How stupid do they think we are?
According to Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry, “Let the people determine it.”
We have. Resoundingly. With more than 55% of Volusia County voters saying, “Hell No!” just three-years ago.
What part of that don’t they understand?
Recently, my friend Big John – a long-time civic activist, former multi-term member of the Volusia County Council, and current host of the Halifax area’s premiere public affairs forum GovStuff Live! – has been prodding area politicians and bureaucrats to consider resurrecting the sales tax.
He has been joined in the effort by the incredibly smart Maryam Ghyabi-White, CEO and President of Ghyabi Consulting and Management, a traffic engineering firm based in Ormond Beach, who is clearly thinking outside Volusia’s tax-and-spend paradigm when suggesting “…she would want the conversation to include impact fees and the idea of suspending Volusia County’s five cent gas tax if the temporary sales tax is adopted.”
Why are these dedicated community icons so passionate about a sales tax increase?
Because they truly fear that out-of-control development has outpaced our transportation infrastructure and the outlook is grim – and they’re right.
My fear is doing the same thing over-and-over again – pissing away good money after bad – and expecting a different result.
Like many of you, I am not ready to hand more of my hard-earned money over to the same shitheels who got us into this fetid mess in the first place – only to be force fed more of the same, i.e., increased development, corporate welfare for well-heeled insiders, cozy public/private partnerships that always use public funds to underwrite the private profit motives of a few, Volusia County’s bloated $1.1 Billion budget and supporting property tax increase, no identifiable transportation infrastructure program, sweetheart deals for roads-to-nowhere to support future development, increased fees, etc., etc., etc.
Trust me. It is one of the few issues that Big and I vehemently disagree on.
This time, proponents of the tax increase are using syrupy terms like “temporary” and “citizen-led” to grease our gullet before they shove the tax increase down the collective throat of every man, woman, and child in Volusia County.
Inconceivably, the Knights of the Roundtable – a silly pseudo-government comprised of local mayors, managers, county officials, and parasitic hangers-on – in reality, a do-nothing groupthink consortium which provides political insulation to Volusia County’s elected and appointed officials – have agreed to discuss this newest iteration of the sales tax grab at their January meeting.
And the only thing We, The Little People who pay the bills and suffer in silence can do is gird our loins for more of the same. . .
Once again, what we are witnessing is the antithesis of leadership, strategic vision, and participatory democracy – a further erosion of the people’s trust – a shim-sham scam pulled each time our ‘powers that be’ don’t get the answer they want at the ballot box – so, they simply bring it back, ad nauseam, until they do.
In my view, our elected officials should make growth attempt to pay for itself as out-of-town speculative developers continue to haul cash out of the pine scrub with their “theme communities” that have paved over what once constituted our aquifer recharge areas, sensitive wetlands, greenspace, and wildlife habitat.
When will these greed-crazed bastards we have elected understand that continuing to increase taxes and fees on a population trapped in a service-based artificial economy of their making is morally, ethically, and economically wrong?