One of the requirements for writing a local political affairs blog is digesting the news of the day with discernment; sorting through the often-conflicting views of influencers, environmentalists, our ‘movers & shakers,’ policymakers, and long-suffering residents, turning a critical eye to the self-serving machinations of government, looking past the political posturing and preening, sifting through the rumors – trying to think strategically, connect the dots, maintain a fleeting situational awareness of current events – then form an opinion on the myriad issues and hope it furthers a larger discussion in the community.
Most smart people understand that Barker’s View is just one man’s opinion on the news and newsmakers – neither always right nor always wrong – firmly rooted in the basic premise that We, The Little People, deserve better from those we elect and appoint to represent our interests here on Florida’s Fabled Fun Coast.
And that doesn’t make me many friends among our social, civic, and economic upper crust who effectively control their environment (and ours) with massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates in a lopsided campaign finance strategy that sees individuals, and the corporations they control, contribute tens-of-thousands of dollars to malleable candidates.
That’s okay. I hate me too. . .
But, in my masochistic view, someone needs to say what many are thinking but dare not utter in an economy controlled by the same five people passing the same nickel around – and our newspaper of record has fallen distressingly short on the almost non-existent op/ed page – which is now relegated to a boring series of “I hate Ron DeSantis” screeds.
With The Daytona Beach News-Journal in its death throes – filling what remains of our “Local” section with “news” from Lakeland about where to see Santa Claus in Davenport, Frostproof, Lake Whales, and Mulberry (seriously, did you read Monday’s paper?) – I found it refreshing that the skeleton crew that remains in former editor Pat Rice’s wake found time to report on several prominent issues this week – including the ubiquitous tax breaks and “economic development” giveaways – the equivalent of tying a pork chop around the neck of Daytona Beach.
On Sunday, News-Journal reporter Mark Harper published an important front page piece laying bare the most pressing issue of our time – the asinine “cart before the horse” growth strategy that allowed massive development in the form of Latitudes at Margaritaville, Mosaic, and the looming “City within a City” at Avalon Park Daytona – all trapped on the westside of a crippling pinch point at the two-lane Tomoka River bridge on LPGA Boulevard – which stands as a monument to the disturbing “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” ineptitude at the highest levels of local and state government.
For instance, when Mr. Harper inquired about a future solution to the building congestion on Boomtown Boulevard, state Sen. Tom Wright puffed out his chest and blathered, “It’s in the (Florida Department of Transportation) five-year plan. It’s funded and it’s set to go. The money’s there.”
Except it isn’t. . .
According to Mr. Harper’s report, the I-95/LPGA quagmire has received $3 million in funding for project development and environmental studies, which are underway, and $7 million for design, which is scheduled to begin next year – but the $60 million+ that will be required to reconstruct the tiny bridge and funnel-like interchange has yet to be budgeted.
“All that likely means actual improvements to LPGA are still years away.”
Damn. Not a good look.
Now the esteemed Senator Wright looks like a bald-faced liar or an uninformed dupe – neither of which is particularly good for one’s political future. . .
What I found most interesting was the conflicting opinion pieces in Sunday’s News-Journal – one from Daytona Beach attorney Glenn Storch, an influential member of our local literati who specializes in real estate, land use, land development and property entitlements for some of our areas heaviest hitters, touting the $4 million in corporate welfare the Daytona Beach City Commission recently gifted to Amazon, the wealthiest online retailer in the known universe – the other letter was from Chuck Tindall, a resident of Latitude Margaritaville, decrying the practice:
“Most of us are from other states; we are bringing our retirement funds and we are spending in the restaurants, shops, and malls (at least until Amazon puts them out of business) plus health services.
Has anyone calculated how many jobs have been created by us?
It is past time to stop the giveaway of tax funds to corporations for doing what they have to anyway, and that is hiring workers. We give enough already with the infrastructure and services at taxpayer expense.”
In my view, this represents the first time our new neighbors at Margaritaville (a burgeoning voting bloc that will help decide our future) have flexed their sizeable muscles on a local issue.
Is it possible that, like Frankenstein’s monster, this growth at all cost strategy is beginning to backfire on our entrenched ‘powers that be’?
Have they forgotten that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – and the laws of nature are irrefutable?
Perhaps it is time for our elected officials to decide in earnest which side their bread is buttered on – to get their heads in the game and stop making irresponsible and erroneous comments on the front page of the newspaper and start prioritizing – quit kowtowing to the Old Guard of oligarchical insiders – and begin listening to the growing number of residents who are flooding into the Fun Coast and don’t like what they are finding.
The times they are a-changin’. . .