“All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people, which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty and the right of acquiring property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their government whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purpose of its institution.”
Does the hallowed concept of political power originating from the consent of the governed and exercised for our collective benefit sound anything like our system of governance here on Florida’s Fun Coast?
I didn’t think so.
This week, an excellent article by Mark Harper writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal gave an overview of the current political playing field as six seats on the Volusia County Council will be decided next year, and Volusia’s Old Guard – those stodgy stalwarts of the stagnant status quo – are clearly getting nervous.
They should be.
In all things, the ‘political pendulum’ swings whenever We, The Little People awaken to the fact that our interests have become secondary to those of a few well-heeled insiders who control Volusia County politics (and feather their comfy nests) by taking advantage of a weird campaign finance system that allows those with the wherewithal to make massive contributions to hand-select candidates – cloaked under the various and sundry corporate entities they control – to enjoy undue influence in the hallowed Halls of Power.
In my view, by injecting huge sums of money into local political contests – dollars that skew the playing field – they ensure a return on investment through subliminal fealty to the oligarchic “system” that has been in control for far too long.
This Turkish bazaar atmosphere has allowed a small group of uber-wealthy elites to exert extraordinary influence over local policymaking as they pull the rods and strings of those small and malleable minds willing to sell their political souls in a Faustian bargain for the power and perquisites of office.
As a result, public meetings have become little more than bad theater, with choreographed “winners and losers” decided in advance as what passes for “public policy” becomes a foregone conclusion – any deviation met with eyerolling histrionics or outright obstructionism (See: Any idea or initiative endorsed by Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower or Councilwoman Heather Post.)
With a practiced eye, it becomes easy to discern the often-blurred line between a staged representation and the actual intrigues of what passes for the “people’s business,” especially when those who are elected and appointed to represent our interests form a lockstep majority and become enmeshed in petty power plays and slapstick skits designed to block any substantive change while ensuring the health, growth, and prosperity of the bureaucracy.
Don’t take my word for it – just watch a painful replay of the recent budget cycle, when those who wear the trappings of “fiscal conservatives” displayed their true plumage by increasing property taxes and fees – arrogantly ignoring the fervent pleas of their strapped constituents – many living at or below the poverty line, unable to escape the scut work and warehouse jobs our “economic development” gurus have the balls to tout as “progress,” even as they serve as shameless conduits between private profit motives and the public teat.
Now, the wagons are being circled as the Old Guard rolls out a few political fossils who attempt to rewrite history on the frontpage of the newspaper, telling scary stories about “fiefdoms,” and elected officials losing a sense of “free will,” wringing their hands that a potential “…slate of candidates running together — if that’s what it becomes — might smack of partisanship.”
This wholly compromised system that has served a select few for so long bares no semblance to a participatory democracy – with concepts like independent thought and “free will” forcibly beaten out of any newly elected official who dares break with the lockstep conformity or consider solutions outside the aging box of conventionality – and it is made crystal clear that the inner sanctum of power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administrative Complex is reserved for those who go along and get along.
Don’t take my word for it.
Ask Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post the heavy price of political independence – then watch the Gang of Four crush anything resembling an innovative revenue source, tax decrease, growth reduction strategy, or spending reduction – a political shunning of duly elected members of the Volusia County Council as a means of limiting influence and forcing allegiance to the status quo.
From time immemorial, Volusia County politicians have endorsed candidates, tried to ‘stack the deck,’ and form a like-minded majority (something unheard of in politics, right?).
But now that Chairman Brower has openly backed Paul Zimmerman for the District 2 seat, and David Sosa in District 5, the Old Guard is losing their feeble minds, suggesting “…Brower appears to be orchestrating an attempt to control the County Council,” and labeling the practice of political endorsements “unprecedented.”
Buckle your seatbelts, kids.
This is what happens when an entrenched power structure starts to feel the heat from a fed-up constituency – those who have been ignored and marginalized for far too long – and the political hype and horseshit is about to wash over the Fun Coast like a tsunami as our “Rich and Powerful” see their decades-long control slipping away.
I believe the unserved, overtaxed, and wholly ignored masses – who have been ordered to pay the bills and suffer in silence – are beginning to understand what those who have controlled our lives and livelihoods have known for years: Elections have consequences.
Fortunately, that awakening is beginning to change the political dynamic.
If enough like-minded citizens hold firm to the basic belief that we can control our destiny by electing strong, ethical, and visionary members of our community to high office – servant-leaders not marionettes – who will stand firm in defense of the rights, responsibilities, and best interests of taxpaying residents who work hard to carve out a life here on Florida’s Fun Coast – we can once again balance political power and restore transparency, fairness, and the spirit of democracy in Volusia County government.