Fear and Censorship on the Fun Coast

Your friend Barker here – still tilting at windmills. . .

In the early 1600s, Miguel de Cervantes wrote the classic The Ingenious Gentleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, commonly known as Don Quixote. 

In its simplest explanation, the theme surrounds Don Quixote’s out-of-touch chivalrous ideals, describing a series of misadventures as the middle-aged knight-errant takes up his lance to defend the helpless from perceived enemies using idealistic justifications that are totally counter to the reality of the changing world around him.

I know how that poor bastard felt. . .

Since starting this blog six-years ago – a purely cathartic vehicle for venting political frustrations and purging the guilt of my own faults and foibles during three decades in public service – friends and former colleagues have cautioned that seeking to change an entrenched system by speaking your mind to the masses makes one a target of the power structure.

I accept that.  It comes with the territory. 

A personal benefit of this blog’s popularity (the only one, it seems) is that some of our “movers & shakers” who possess the self-awareness not to take themselves too seriously and have the ability to laugh about the absurdity of politics, sometimes find the time to argue the fine points with me and discuss the issues over a cold beer.

More often than not, we agree to disagree.

Frankly, I enjoy the spirited debate that often ensues – because that is how I learn. 

Trust me, I can give as good as I get, and my experience tells me that good things come from a robust discussion of competing ideas – and terrible things can happen when a lack of transparency, an ego-driven sense of infallibility, and the arrogance of power combine to silence voices seen as counter to those in control of our lives and livelihoods.

During my many years in the fishbowl, I came to understand that those who hold themselves out for high office and accept public funds to serve in the public interest should grow some hard bark, because condemnation and harsh critique come with the job. 

I also learned the importance of listening to pointed, even caustic, personal criticism – using the concerns of those I served as a barometer of community sentiment – knowing that for every citizen with the courage to speak truth to power there are thousands more with similar beliefs who suffer in silence. 

In time, I came to understand the importance of accepting personal responsibility, admitting mistakes, understanding all sides of an issue, and maintaining the bureaucratic agility to reverse course and make things right – safe in the knowledge that not all errors are fatal to one’s career (political or otherwise) – and that most people can forgive what they see themselves doing, especially when it comes to the Sophie’s Choices inherent to politics. 

What I cannot abide is censorship.

The suppression of thoughts and ideas by powerful elected officials who seek to ‘cancel’ anyone who disagrees with their position on matters of great civic importance – especially in an era where local elected bodies use oppressive “civility ordinances” and legislative sleight-of-hand to limit citizen input at public meetings, deciding by decree the who, what, when, where, why, and for how long We, The Little People can approach our Monarchical leaders for redress of grievances.  

Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of that pernicious treatment last week.

And it stung.

A distressing sign of the times – or something more telling?       

Last month, most of the Daytona Beach City Commission voted to approve a $4 million economic incentive package for Amazon – the largest e-commerce retailer in the known universe – something that did not sit well with many in the Halifax area. 

One of those voting in the majority was the powerful City Commissioner Stacy Cantu – who has been outspoken on the issue of the coming Amazon Fulfillment Center and ancillary issues which directly affect her district.

After voting with the majority to approve the economic incentives which paved the way for the massive warehouse operation, Ms. Cantu was quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “I love this project.  I think it will put us on the map.”

Then, Ms. Cantu’s neighbors in the tony Pelican Bay community learned that the Volusia County Council had previously approved an extension of Pelican Bay Drive from the Amazon warehouse to Beville Road, poorly planned logistics which will dump cargo and employee traffic at an entrance to the gated community.

At that time, Ms. Cantu commiserated with her neighbors, describing the situation as a “nightmare.”  

Because it is.

The Pelican Bay Drive extension resulted in finger-pointing between Daytona Beach and Volusia County, including allegations that elected officials had been kept in the dark by staff, resulting in a public meeting attended by several public officials and some 275 concerned citizens from throughout the Halifax area. 

In recent weeks, like many, I have expressed my thoughts on the coming Amazon Fulfillment Center – and a recent announcement by NASCAR and their partner, Hillwood, revealing plans to construct even more commercial and industrial space on adjacent land near Daytona “International” Airport under the name “Commerce 500.”    

I questioned how any sitting official who voted for the Amazon incentives could have failed to consider the radiating impacts on the community inherent to a five story, 2.8 million square foot industrial warehouse? 

Then, a citizen made public a post by Commissioner Cantu originating on a private social media site for residents of Pelican Bay that began, “Consider the third gate off the table!  It was just (an) idea to help relieve traffic that I could put in the Hilwood (sic) PD.  Believe me they didn’t want to pay for it in the first place,” which some believed concerned a possible amendment to the Hillwood planned development which would have the developer pay for a “third gate” into her neighborhood while a large-scale land use amendment is pending before the Daytona Beach City Commission. . .

You can read the post here: https://barkersview.org/2022/01/26/commerce-500/

Because I asked uncomfortable questions and expressed community concerns, Commissioner Cantu responded by labeling me a “Clown” and “Carnival Barker” – all while continuing to send mixed signals to her baffled constituents in subsequent soundbites in the News-Journal:

“We are not happy that over 600 semi-trucks will be coming out of the front of our east gate of Pelican Bay,” said Cantu. “We were told it’s part of the master county plan that they have been working on for years. We would like it to come out on Williamson.”

As for the Amazon facility itself, Cantu said, “Most of the residents here are OK (with it). We do need the jobs. Amazon has agreed to pay 95% of the tuition for their workers to go to college and you don’t have to have a career with them. That really sold me.”

Apparently, Commissioner Cantu’s voice is the only one that matters. . .

Inexplicably, last week I learned that Commissioner Cantu filed a complaint with Facebook – alleging that the Barker’s View post regarding the “Commerce 500” project published on the popular public affairs forum Volusia Issues constituted “harassment” – in my view, a scurrilous, thin-skinned, and bald-faced attempt to censor an opinion which opposed her own. 

Admittedly, I was taken aback and did not want to believe it – until the complaint was forwarded to me. . .

Anyone who read my piece understands that it was not intended as harassment (a grammatical nightmare and an insult to one’s intelligence maybe, but not harassment).

My God.  I must admit, I did not see that cheap shot coming. . . 

One thing is certain, Commissioner Cantu and her colleagues on the dais of power hold all the cards – with the power to approve or deny these incredibly lucrative projects and spiffs for some immensely powerful people.

So why the need to silence a rube like me? 

Was it because I took a position counter to those of powerful policymakers on a matter of great interest to our community – or a spiteful attempt to silence a dissenting opinion and ‘cancel’ my voice while important land use changes are pending?   

Let’s face it, there are many bureaucrats, elected officials, and those who hold the paper on their political souls roaming the Halls of Power here on the Fun Coast who are anxious to see citizen forums like Barker’s View and Volusia Issues muzzled and brought to heel – limiting freedom of expression and restricting the message to one they control.    

If petty-minded politicians and influential insiders who seek public funds to underwrite private, for-profit projects are successful in silencing my thoughts and yours – that leaves only their voice in the echo chamber – a lone “official narrative” expressed without challenge.

That’s frightening.

As George R. R. Martin said in A Clash of Kings, “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”

When it comes to the pettiness of politics, not much bothers me. 

But I must admit, this one hurt.

Angels & Assholes for January 28, 2022

Hi, kids!

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               Volusia Teacher of the Year Madison Miller

During a recent awards ceremony at the Ocean Center, Madison Miller of Chisholm Elementary was named the 22-2023 Volusia County Teacher of the Year! 

According to Volusia County Schools, Ms. Miller will now represent Volusia in the state Teacher of the Year program.  She succeeds Citrus Grove Elementary art teacher Frank Garaitonandia, who was Volusia County’s 21-2022 Teacher of the Year, and a top-five state finalist.

In an excellent article by education reporter Nikki Ross writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ms. Miller began her remarkable career as a single parent who overcame obstacles with persistence and the support of those who cared:

“My family and friends wouldn’t accept anything less than me going back to school and finishing my degree, even with a baby on my hip,” Miller said.”

In my view, Ms. Miller is an inspirational role model for her students and peers – a true local success story who exemplifies the virtues of hard work and perseverance.  Now, the educator is providing that same encouragement to at-risk students in Volusia County.

According to Volusia County Schools:

“Madison Miller is a product of Volusia County Schools and continued her post-secondary education in Volusia. Her undergraduate degree is from Daytona State College, and she is currently completing a second master’s degree from Stetson University.

“My goal in my career is to continue that legacy of support,” Miller said. “It is the support, the roles that we play, that get our kids here, albeit proverbial stage. My career has focused on those without support: students in poverty, students in crisis, minoritized students, and transient students. We are their support system. Through equity and efficacy, we can continue to be that support.”

In addition, Superintendent Scott Fritz acknowledged the significant contributions of three additional area educators who best represent the district’s core values.

Honorees include, Suzanne Boss, an English Language Arts teacher at Silver Sands Middle, Joseph Brennan, Social Studies teacher at Deltona High School, and Vanessa Emers, a Third Grade teacher at Spruce Creek Elementary.

Kudos to Madison Miller and her colleagues on this well-deserved recognition – and congratulations to all those inspirational educators who were nominated.    

There are many challenges facing Volusia County Schools, but the quality of those wonderful teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff members who serve under often challenging circumstances are true superstars who I count among my personal heroes.

Thank you for your inspirational service to Volusia County students!

Asshole           State Sen. Travis Hutson (R – Palm Coast)

In October 2013, I watched as partisan flexing over the Affordable Care Act brought the federal government to a halt. 

The gridlock occurred when overblown posturing on both sides of the aisle continued interminably while legislation to appropriate funds for fiscal year 2014 failed.    

For the first time in 17-years, all government services deemed “non-essential” were shuttered as some 800,000 federal workers were furloughed, while many more deemed “exempt” were forced to work without pay, while you and I were denied access to important programs and services.   

Admittedly, that is an oversimplification of a very protracted and contentious period that resulted in a 16-day shutdown – the third longest in our nation’s history.   

The partisan stalemate rubbed me wrong. 

In 2013, the United States was a nation at war – fighting the Global War on Terror – with our brave service members actively deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq – with others fighting al-Qaida and other terrorist organization bent on our destruction on several fronts – while our elected leadership in Washington acted out like recalcitrant children.

In my view, this petty posturing and infighting weakened our nation in the eyes of our enemies – and the world.

In those hours, I came to the stark realization that the fringe ideology fomented and embraced by both major political parties meant that neither represented my interests any longer.  

So, I left the Republican party, which, like my father and grandfather before me, I had been aligned with since I was old enough to vote. 

Just like that, I filed the appropriate voter change request, packed my middle-of-the-road ideology in an old kitbag, and trudged off to the increasingly popular No Party Affiliation camp – a catch-all for an eclectic mix of the disenfranchised, the disillusioned, and the disgruntled refugees of a two-party political system gone haywire.

As a self-described ‘moderate conservative’ (whatever that means) the horrors that have resulted from the partisan and cultural warfare in Washington makes those halcyon days of 2013 seem like a cakewalk. . .

Now, as elected officials flaunt their lockstep allegiance to influential Big Money interests, each legislative season and election cycle confirms that my decision to stop lending tacit approval to what has become an Us vs. Them paralysis on both sides was the right call.

With Florida’s legislative session in full swing, the obstructionism and fight for total control continues.

For instance, State Sen. Travis Hutson, a republican from Palm Coast, has made a splash promoting the asinine idea of disbanding Florida’s Soil & Water Conservation Districts during a tumultuous period of growth as development quickly outpaces our threatened natural resources. 

The non-regulatory SWCDs began in Florida in 1937, and, by statute, are meant to provide “assistance, guidance, and education to landowners, land occupiers, the agriculture industry, and the general public in implementing land and water resource protection practices,” with all activities project-based and grant funded. 

Not the most powerful mandate in politics – but a vital role, nonetheless. 

According to Sen. Hutson, he acted to abolish the toothless SWCDs statewide when agricultural concerns in his district complained they were not adequately represented.  Now, after some ham-handed amendments and rewording – the bill keeps the 56 Soil & Water Conservation Districts intact, politically subdividing each county-based district, while placing onerous requirements on who can serve. 

Earlier this week, the bill’s language was changed to require that elected SWCD board members (called “supervisors”) be eligible voters who are “actively engaged in the business of farming or animal husbandry.”     

Say what? Only Old MacDonald (read: Big Agriculture) can have a say in soil and water conservation measures?

The new wording drops a previous unconstitutional requirement that candidates own land in the district to which they are elected. . .    

Opponents of Hutson’s legislation claim he is attempting to crush SWCDs for focusing on ‘global warming’ and other hot button environmental issues that make his influential “friends” nervous – and to prevent board members who are viewed as “environmentalists and progressive activists” from using their elected service on a SWCD as a springboard to higher office.   

So much for all that “level the playing field and let the people decide,” horseshit, eh?

My God. . .

Locally, the Volusia County Soil & Water Conservation District, which is chaired by Dr. Wendy Anderson – a Professor of Environmental Science and Studies at Stetson University who has been outspoken on growth and development issues – focuses on conservation stewardship programs, promoting low impact development, community gardening, beekeeping, and various educational programs focusing on water quality issues, and hosting an annual pre-COVID tree sale. 

Pretty benign stuff in the scheme of things.

Now, these hyper-local resource protection boards are poised to suffer a fate symbolic of what happens when influential insiders feel their access to the riches inherent in churning the land into a moonscape to make way for more, more, more is threatened – and they lean on their hired chattel in Tallahassee – ensuring that city and county commissions are populated with malleable rubberstamps.     


The out-of-control overdevelopment across the state of Florida is no longer an exercise in shaping growth – the art and science of minimal impact development, planned neighborhoods, and infill projects that revitalize communities concurrent with existing infrastructure and resources.

And the voracious appetite of developers is damn sure not concerned with protecting our fragile environment, preserving wildlife habitat and biodiversity, or ensuring an adequate water supply.

Now, those quaint ideas have been replaced by the malignant spread of placeless sprawl, and the wholesale destruction of our remaining greenspace – further separating communities by income and demographic – all mindlessly approved by craven politicians all too eager to please their political benefactors.   

In my view, it is all about money and power which fuels the insatiable greed of speculative developers and other interests who ensure a return on investment by furthering the political ambitions of those who permit the wholesale destruction of our natural places and resources.

Another disturbing sign of our troubled times, I suppose. . .     

Angel               Daytona Beach Shores City Manager Kurt Swartzlander

This week, the Daytona Beach Shores City Council tapped Finance Director and Assistant City Manager Kurt Swartzlander to serve as their next City Manager!

His appointment will become effective in July with the retirement of veteran City Manager Michael Booker following 22-years of dedicated service to a grateful community. 

According to a release by Daytona Beach Shores government:

“Swartzlander, 51, came to Daytona Beach Shores four years ago as Finance Director and has also served as Assistant City Manager since last spring. He spent 11 years at the city of Holly Hill before that, serving as Finance Director and Assistant City Manager, with two stints as Interim City Manager during his time in Holly Hill.”

His impressive preparation includes a Master of Business Administration degree from prestigious Stetson University in DeLand and service as the founding vice president of the Volusia/Flagler Chapter of the Florida Government Finance Officers Association.

Knowing Kurt as I do, he is most proud of his important roles as husband and father to his wife, Stacy, and their four children: Sydney, Kinsley, Jadon, and Jackson.

I had the pleasure of working closely with Kurt at the City of Holly Hill and can report he is a gentleman of great faith and unquestioned character – an accomplished resource and superior talent – who takes the high road at all costs, a personal and professional trait that has earned the confidence of those he serves.

In my view, the DBS City Council made an incredibly wise decision.

Mr. Booker’s shoes will be difficult to fill – but I can think of no one more capable of building on his impressive legacy of civic accomplishments than Kurt. 

Congratulations to Kurt Swartzlander on this important milestone in his impressive career!   

Quote of the Week

“A Native Remembers”

“When I was a kid growing up in South Daytona in the 1950s and 60s, I spent the majority of my time, when I wasn’t in school, in the woods around my neighborhood. Our parents used to send us out “to play” first thing in the morning and we weren’t expected back until dinner time. There were orange groves and cattle ranches along with acres and acres of undeveloped land.

We wandered the woods for miles, built forts, dug “tunnels” (log and palm frond covered trenches), built tree houses, rafted down, and swam and fished in the Halifax River. We swam in artesian sulfur springs that watered the cattle.

We camped, and cooked hot dogs and marshmallows around fires, and slept in the forts and tunnels so many nights I couldn’t begin to count them all. Looking back, it was an idyllic childhood for a Huck Finn type, and most of us were, even if we never read a line of Twain. We took it for granted.

We didn’t know how blessed we were.

Today that area of South Daytona has all been developed. Where there were 10 or so homes, there are probably a few hundred. Gone are the orange groves, the sulfur springs, and cattle farms. I wouldn’t swim in the Halifax today and I would be reluctant to eat any fish caught there. This transformation came about slowly. First, there was the development of Anastasia Blvd, and then came Sherwood Forest, and we slowly watched our woods and playground turn into homes.

We didn’t think much of it; we thought there was plenty of room. Then the Fortich’s cattle farm became a subdivision and the sulfur springs were capped. Next the navel, tangerine, and grapefruit trees were bulldozed and homes lining the paved roads replaced what was once Laroche’s Groves.

That’s how it happens most of the time.

Slowly, incrementally, so you hardly notice. The life and scenes out of a Huck Finn novel are now suburbia. Maybe we didn’t notice it so much back then because the developers seemed to have a degree of respect for the land. They came in and cut roads and laid out lots for sale that followed the natural terrain and topography of the land. They left trees on the lots and even left a patch of woods here and there.

Today slowly has been replaced with rapidly. Incrementally has been replaced with clear cutting thousands of acres of every living thing. Topography be damned, bring in the fill dirt. Flat land is easier and more profitable to develop than dealing with hills or cypress ponds. The cost savings in dealing with the natural terrain can used to plant saplings. The wildlife?… Well, hope they got out OK. Traffic?… well, that is someone else’s problem. Water? Florida has springs, right? Sewage?…Well, what’s a million gallons of sewage spilled every once in a while? The folks buying homes and fleeing the parts of the country where this type of development has already occurred will enjoy it for a while, until the reason they came here is gone.

CONCURRENCY is the concept that no new development can be approved unless the infrastructure ALREADY exists to support the development. Just a few years ago, concurrency was Florida Law. The State of Florida decided that the concept of concurrency was too hot to handle, so they did what most governments do when in a pinch: they handed it off. Today, the concept of concurrency is the responsibility of local governments. That means municipal and county governments are now responsible for being sure development doesn’t outpace our infrastructure. How are they doing? Things change, and if you live long enough, they say you will see almost anything. I hope someone is paying attention.

–Paul Zimmerman, Candidate for Volusia County Council District 2, writing in the Bellaire Community Group’s January newsletter

And Another Thing!

It is increasingly clear that our ‘powers that be’ are either unwilling or incapable of saying “Whoa” to their influential political contributors in the development community as their disastrous growth strategy of cramming ten-pounds of shit into a five-pound bag roars on. 

As Paul Zimmerman so eloquently said, the concept of concurrency rightfully places the commonsense responsibility of ensuring that development does not outpace our transportation and utilities infrastructure on local governments. 

Unfortunately, the idea of planning, concurrency, and growth management has been replaced by a gluttonous growth at all cost approach that is quickly destroying our quality of life and draining precious natural resources as “theme” communities and sprawling subdivisions give way to the “City within a City” concept.  

This week, we learned that those brainiacs at the City of Deltona and the St. Johns River Water Management District recently broke ground on a classic “Rob Peter to pay Paul” project which, according to reports, will draw 12-million gallons of surface water a day from the St. John’s River at Lake Monroe to supplement the city’s reclaimed water supply.

Once operational, the system will support minimum flow levels at Blue Springs – a winter refuge for hundreds of endangered manatees – and supplement six area lakes from the effects of excess groundwater withdrawals.   

In an informative report by the intrepid Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Effort to draw 12M gallons of surface water for irrigation,” we learned:

“Mike Ulrich, director of Volusia County Water Resources and Utilities, said developing alternative water supplies for non-drinking water purposes is an important strategy on which municipalities throughout the state are working.

“We’re trying to reduce our impact as more and more people move to the area,” Ulrich said.”


Look, I’m not the highfalutin director of Volusia County’s challenged “Water Resources and Utilities,” but something tells me trying to mitigate the impacts of overuse by sucking more water from surface resources sounds like the textbook definition of “unsustainable.”

But what do I know?

Rather than hide their heads in shame, earlier this month, those Deltona dimwits had their photo taken for posterity turning dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony on a clear-cut plot where the pumps will be placed near the bank of Lake Monroe.

According to the News-Journal’s report, in December, Duke Energy cleared the site of “trees and brush to prepare for the construction work,” leaving nearby residents rightfully pissed.   

Not to worry.  City officials promise to replace the natural vegetative buffer with “landscaping” – another artificial fix for a completely man-made problem. . . 

In my view, it is indicative of the way our elected officials, and those who clean up their messes, live with themselves – creating temporary solutions that often exacerbate the original problem – like bypassing natural processes while allowing more development on top of our aquifer recharge areas – the same greed-crazed mindset that will have us all drinking our own sewage as our ‘powers that be’ seek to appease their insatiable benefactors in the real estate development industry.  

I hope you will remember this insanity at the ballot box this year. . . 

In other Deltona “happenings”:

Congratulations to Deltona’s Always Acting City Manager John Peters, who spent much of last year threatening to take his football and go home after publicly claiming certain elected officials were interfering in day-to-day operations – then defending allegations of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and “incest innuendo” after a former employee alleged that Peters suggested he was the product of inbreeding – was recently named Executive Officer of the Year by the Volusia League of Cities!  

In all fairness, according to a subsequent report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, to his credit, “Peters admitted to using ‘questionable’ language and indicated he would discontinue such behavior moving forward.” 

Well then, no harm-no foul. 

(Until the next employee complains, then it’s “cha-ching!” – You know, that pesky ‘they either knew or should have known’ thing again. . .)


Kudos to Mr. Peters and the Volusia League of Cities for always raising the bar!   

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend – stay warm, y’all! 

Commerce 500!

“Consider the third gate off the table!

It was just (an) idea to help relieve traffic that I could put in the Hilwood (sic) PD.  Believe me they didn’t want to pay for it in the first place.

The city doesn’t own the Amazon property.  It’s owned by NASCAR.  NASCAR has a contract on their property with Amazon and they do not need commission approval.  If you haven’t noticed lately, they are building right now.  All the property across from Pelican Bay is owned by the County and NASCAR.  The city doesn’t have land over there.  The roads are owned by the state and county.  The county has been working on the master plan with the state for years.  I’ve stated this before, the only area the city has control of is the western side of the Hilwood (sic) PD.  I’ve explained the Amazon and Volusia County Master Plan till I’m blue in the face.  I can’t explain it any better than I already have.  I’m not going to lie to you.  I even called a meeting to have their attorney explain what is going on over there.  I heard from you that you don’t want a third gate which you would need 75% of the residents to agree.  Consider it off the table!  I will not waste anymore time on this and will not be calling a second meeting.  A second meeting will not do any good when a majority of the residents are not hearing me.  Do your petition to the state and I wish you the best of luck!”

–Daytona Beach Zone 4 City Commissioner Stacy Cantu, lambasting her neighbors and constituents on the restricted Facebook page “Pelican Bay Daytona Beach Community,” as posted to Volusia Issues by a citizen privy to the private communication which discussed a “third gate” at Pelican Bay, something Commissioner Cantu clearly planned to add to a planned industrial development agreement (?), Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Wow.  Interesting. . .

“On Dec. 1, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu joined with three others to vote to change the comprehensive land use for two adjacent Daytona International Speedway-owned parcels totaling 211 acres, clearing the way for an Amazon distribution center. “I love this project. I think it will put us on the map,” she gushed.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Editorial Board, “Secrecy of Amazon’s identity ahead of comp-plan land-use change unspools other concerns,” Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Admittedly, I’m a rube.

But I am not alone. . .

In the January 14, 2022, edition of Angels & Assholes, I asked the same questions many residents of the Halifax area have regarding the enormous impacts – both positive and negative – of the coming Amazon Fulfillment Center and adjacent commercial/industrial development planned for public and private property south of Daytona “International” Airport. 

For having the temerity to exercise my rights and responsibilities as a Volusia County taxpayer to seek answers and engage in civic dialog on issues of public concern, the powerful Commissioner Cantu once again upbraided me on social media:

“Stay tuned to Stacy’s Corner, As the subject of Barkers Angels and rear ends, Carnival Barker is at it again and as Big John says “Nobody knows nothing!” I can guarantee you Carnival Barker knows nothing regarding the Volusia County Master Plan, Hillwood and Amazon….”

She’s right.  But now I am in good company.

I guess the good residents of Pelican Bay don’t know anything either.

But we’re learning. . . 

Earlier this week, a release published in PRNewswire announced that Hillwood, an international industrial development firm, has partnered with NASCAR to build Commerce 500 at Daytona Beach, a project “…with the potential to build out to about two million square feet of industrial space and much-needed new roads and infrastructure for the surrounding community.”

Which, I think, means NASCAR and their friends at Hillwood are doing us a favor?

I’m asking.  Because nothing about this unfolding debacle makes sense.

Last November, during an open and advertised public meeting, the Volusia County Council voted unanimously to approve a $2.7 million proportionate share agreement between the City of Daytona Beach, Daytona 634 Development, LLC, and the County of Volusia – along with an extension of Pelican Bay Drive that will connect the Amazon fulfillment center (and Commerce 500?) to busy Beville Road – dumping traffic from the 2.8 million-square-foot e-commerce warehouse at the east entrance to Pelican Bay. 

Then, we were told that members of the Daytona Beach City Commission were kept in the dark by their own bureaucracy as the mysterious Project Tarpon/Amazon project wound its way through the opaque process – which resulted in the wealthiest online retailer in the universe being gifted a $4-million public spiff. . .


I do.

At the time, Commissioner Cantu – whose district (and neighborhood) is directly impacted by the massive facility tried to sell us on another panacea project:

“We need the economic growth. We need more jobs. I think bringing this project in will help bring more industry to our community.”

“I love this project,” Cantu swooned when voting to approve the agreement, “I think it will put us on the map.”

Then, when the elected elite came out of the ether and realized cargo and employee traffic would be routed onto an already congested Beville Road – something first-year Commissioner Ken Strickland, who cast the lone “No” vote, described as lies by omission – Commissioner Cantu and other elected officials did their best to convince residents of Pelican Bay that they were blindsided by the news there would be traffic associated with an industrial warehouse.

In fact, Ms. Cantu held an informational meeting attended by over two-hundred area residents (and several elected and appointed officials?) during which she described the project as a “nightmare.”   

At the time, residents of Pelican Bay and other concerned citizens were promised there would be a second meeting to address lingering questions and concerns. 

Now, according to Ms. Cantu’s post on a private social media page, that community confab is apparently not going to happen.


Because she is “blue in the face” explaining how things are to us insolent dolts – vowing to “…not waste anymore time on this and will not be calling a second meeting.”

So there.

I guess that’s how public meetings attended by elected officials who will vote on ancillary issues surrounding the planned industrial development are either announced and scheduled – or dismissed out-of-hand – in the Duchy of Daytona Beach? 

Really?  “Off the table”?  

Trust me.  We, The Little People may be ignorant of the behind-the-scenes wrangling that got us here, but our elected elite either knew or should have known – that’s their job, dammit – and no one is fooled by the faux-indignation, political posturing, and handwringing these elected chameleons hope will assuage the very real fears of their constituents who are justifiably worried about their future.

In my view, those who permit these enigmatic ‘pig in a poke’ economic development shim-shams, then paint themselves as misinformed rubes, should be held accountable – and the condescending “You’re too stupid to understand” dismissal of constituent concerns undermines confidence in the system.

Look, Ms. Cantu is right – I am a carnival clown who knows little about the inner-workings of a plan involving some of the heaviest hitters in Volusia County business, industry, and government – but it is important that taxpayers know what our policymakers knew and when – or how they were kept in the dark on an issue with such indelible impacts on the Halifax area and beyond.  

The advent of Amazon and Commerce 500 will have major regional impacts – and our elected officials are strategically out-to-lunch on the details.

Stay vigilant. This one is important.  

When will we listen?

In the past week, we saw two unfortunate interactions between people and black bears on both sides of Volusia County. 

These human-bear contacts are increasingly frequent occurrences in Central Florida, and, when they happen, things never end well. 

For the bear, that is. 

In my view, the idea of paving over wildlife habitat to make way for another damnable strip center, wood frame apartment complex, or theme housing development, then destroying bears who have become desensitized to the trappings of human beings, wild animals with nowhere to go, is wrong – epitomizing the arrogance of those who don’t give two-shits about preserving our natural places and sensitive ecosystems – choosing instead to profit from destroying habitat and killing off any wildlife that stands in their way.

As a young man I enjoyed deer hunting – more for the social aspect of sitting around camp enjoying the company of friends – or spending time with my late father on traditional dove hunts in South Georgia, learning from the yarns spun by my elders, as copious amounts of good bourbon were sipped in front of a roaring fireplace on cool fall evenings. 

From experience, I can report that there are few things more rewarding than spending time in the woods at daybreak, quietly attuned to the sights and sounds of nature all around, watching the grace and majesty of wild animals in their natural habitat. 

Unfortunately, almost to the acre, the forests and swamps where I enjoyed nature in my youth have been paved over – making way for “theme” communities where speculative developers have created an escapist façade for retirees seeking to live out an artificial lifestyle that no longer exists – pine scrub and hardwood forest ground into a black muck, the wetlands drained and filled, now chockfull of zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes from the “low $300’s” serviced by godawful half-empty strip centers. 

And We, The Little People – hapless rubes led to believe the “system” still serves us – watch helplessly as glib real estate attorneys, powerful developers, and marketing shills smooth off the rough edges – ensuring more “inventory” for the never-ending influx on the I-95 conveyor as we transition from subdivisions and gated communities to “Cities within a City.” 

My God.

The out-of-control overdevelopment of Volusia County is no longer an exercise in shaping growth – the art and science of planning neighborhoods, revitalizing downtowns, enhancing civic assets, ensuring adequate transportation and utilities infrastructure, making room for cultural and creative space, while preserving our historic places.

Now, those quaint ideas have been replaced by the disastrous idea of growth at all costs – which has resulted in the endless spread of placeless sprawl and the wholesale destruction of our remaining greenspace – further separating communities by income and demographic, all conveniently rubberstamped by malleable politicians all too eager to please their benefactors. 

With $1 of every $5 contributed to select Volusia County political campaigns in recent races originating from real estate development interests – prove me wrong.  

In a recent article in the Palm Beach Post, we learned that the State of Florida is considering increasing fines on developers who steam over gopher tortoise burrows as the cost of rehoming the endangered animals “…outpaces penalties for burying them alive.”

Estimates show the cost of “rehoming” a single gopher tortoise is now between $5,000 and $6,000 – while fines for destroying a burrow remains at a paltry $500 plus court costs. 

You read that right.

According to the disturbing report:

“Last year, housing giant Pulte Group paid $13,790 after pleading guilty to annihilating 22 burrows on land slated for an age-restricted community in Marion County.

At the Pulte site, investigators found a juvenile gopher tortoise that had been cut in half “by something large, presumably heavy equipment,” as noted in a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report. Another tortoise was spotted digging in a machine cleared area “attempting to repair its collapsed burrow.”

With malignant growth churning habitat into a moonscape across the width and breadth of the Sunshine State, last year, the Florida Wildlife Commission issued just 118 warnings and 49 citations statewide for gopher tortoise violations. . . 

Now, paving over a threatened species or cutting them in half with heavy equipment has become the cost of doing business.  In short, gopher tortoises, black bears, whitetail deer, and other species lost out to the voracious greed of speculative developers who hold the political paper on the souls of the craven politicians who facilitate it.

To ameliorate their guilt and mitigate the political damage – the same elected officials who rubberstamp land use changes and literally pave the way for more “planned unit developments” and industrial warehouses that interface with residential neighborhoods, pouring traffic onto already congested roadways – beat their chest and crow about “wildlife corridors,” narrow patches of contiguous natural space that allow wild animals a chance to run, fly, or swim from the vice-like growth that is rapidly destroying their last remaining habitat in the perverse name of “progress.” 


In my view, the 2022 election cycle is our opportunity to purge these blowholes from the dais of power – those who asked for our sacred vote – then did nothing to address the destruction of our natural places, voted to approve more, more, more growth and sprawl, while shrugging their shoulders and telling us “there’s nothing we can do,” allowing “growth management” bureaucrats to run interference for developers in a tragic tail wagging the dog scenario they think we are too stupid to see through.

It is not hard to figure out a candidates allegiances.

Rather than listen to what they say – simply read their campaign finance reports – and review the record of how incumbents voted while in office.

In my view, if we leave these same compromised assholes at the helm – there will be no end to the cancerous sprawl that is metastasizing like tumors along the spine of Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line. 

We cannot say we were not warned. 

The gopher tortoises and black bears did everything possible to get our attention.

When will we listen to them?

Angels & Assholes for January 21, 2022

Hi, kids!

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               Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post

As the late, great commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “Now we know the rest of the story.”

Earlier this month, during what passed for the annual organizational meeting of the Volusia County Council, the intrepid Councilwoman Heather Post took it on the chin from her “colleagues” for having the temerity to report a possible crime to the one person in the massive bureaucracy with the independence to do something about it – Internal Auditor Jonathan “Big Foot” Edwards.

I half-facetiously refer to Mr. Edwards as “Big Foot” – because like the mysterious Sasquatch – he is rumored to exist but rarely seen. . .

So, when Edwards appeared in the Council Chamber to present the 2022 Internal Audit Plan, Ms. Post took the rare opportunity to discuss the autonomy of the Internal Auditor in Volusia County’s autocratic hierarchy. 

During that discussion, we learned that in October 2021, Ms. Post reported a significant issue with Volusia County Jail inmate trust fund accounts to Mr. Edwards in her role as an elected representative – a responsibility which Ms. Post justly considers an integral and important part of her job.

Because it is.

That turned into a pointed rebuke by the three lame ducks, Councilman Ben Johnson, His Eminence “Dr.” Fred Lowry, and Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, who explained to Ms. Post just how county government works – ensuring that everyone is aware that all roads go through County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – warning that individual elected officials are expressly prohibited from bringing serious concerns to Mr. Edwards’ attention.

Clearly, Volusia County’s “Old Guard” is comfortable in the knowledge that ferreting out fraud, theft, and financial inefficiencies will never be as important as lockstep conformity to a rigid process that protects the bureaucratic upper crust.


As a veteran law enforcement officer, Councilman Johnson knows that it is not important how crimes are reported, and an internal policy that discourages elected officials from bringing constituent concerns to the attention of the only person in the building specifically charged with investigating internal corruption is tailormade for disaster. 

It got worse.

“I don’t think that any one of the council should be going to a department head or Jonathan personally and saying, ‘I need you to look at this.’ That puts him in a terrible situation,” Councilwoman Billie Wheeler mewled.

Say what?

Then “Dr.” Fred Lowry took a cheap swipe at Ms. Post:

“The problem I have with the way it was brought up is it indicates to the public there’s a problem in that area.  While maybe certain people’s Facebook groupies tonight will be cheering them on, there will be a lot of saying, ‘Why in the world were they talking for hours? Is there a problem going on with the auditor?’”

Yes, you read that right.  This is how these jacklegs think. . . 

My God.

Now, we learn that Councilwoman Post’s concerns were completely validated when it was confirmed that money had been illegally taken from the accounts of some thirteen inmates – ostensibly to reimburse the county for various services provided during previous incarcerations – unauthorized withdrawals made after the statutorily permitted three-year time limit had passed. 

In an informative report by Mary Helen Moore writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ms. Post explained that she routinely receives requests for assistance from her constituents – and acts upon them:

“In this case, a Volusia County Branch Jail inmate reached out to me for assistance, saying that money had been removed from his inmate banking account in violation of state statute and that his inquiries and requests for resolution over many months had been ignored,” she wrote in an email.

Post said she inquired about the matter and was told the money had been withdrawn to pay the medical lien from 2015, in violation of the Florida statute which caps the liens at three years.

“Although obviously simply an oversight in jail operations… We can’t be illegally taking money from people we have placed in jail,” Post said.

She told The News-Journal that she pointed out the person should be reimbursed and procedures should be corrected, then asked staff to investigate whether this had happened to others.

“I was advised there were too many transactions to look at to audit, so county finance staff advised they checked into a select category of inmate accounts with deposits of greater than $600 over the last two years and found twelve where the county had withdrawn monies in violation and they were working to rectify those,” she said.”


Interestingly, the inmate trust fund accounts are now Priority One on Mr. Edwards’ 2022 audit plan. . . 

Despite the asinine unwritten policy limiting how evidence of possible criminal activity can be transmitted to Volusia County’s internal watchdog – purely bureaucratic restrictions that have a chilling effect on this important process – in this case, thanks to Councilwoman Post’s persistence in ensuring that a constituent’s initially ignored concerns were addressed, an unlawful practice was exposed and rectified. 

No thanks to Ms. Post’s craven “colleagues” who place more weight on lockstep conformity to a rigid system that allowed the unlawful withdrawals – and the concerns of victims of the pernicious practice to be ignored by senior administrators.    

Asshole           Gannett Company   

For the uninitiated, Barker’s View is not a “news site” and I am not a “journalist.”

Far from it. 

At best, I am a dilettante editorialist – at worst, a blowhard with internet access and a jaded opinion on everything. 

Like you, I simply digest scraps of “news” and rumor regarding the myriad issues of the day, consider the possibilities through the prism of over three-decades in local government, hoping my off-base theories stimulate a larger discussion in our community.

Unfortunately, local journalism is quickly ebbing away, leaving an information vacuum that social media forums and blogs simply cannot fill, especially in a political environment where public policy is chillingly susceptible to insider persuasion

Last month, The Daytona Beach News-Journal took a disturbing step in the ongoing effort to pare down and regionalize our hometown newspaper when they consolidated the Holiday Week editions, combining the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday print issues into a single paper that was delivered on Thursday. 

Rightfully, many long-time subscribers felt shortchanged. 

Because they were.  

Recently, the News-Journal’s parent, Gannett, announced that beginning in March it will be eliminating the Saturday print edition altogether – making it solely an online offering. 

In exchange for forcing this “new Saturday experience” on its dwindling readership, Gannett is now marketing what it enthusiastically bills as “additional benefits” for perplexed subscribers, including online access to its daily newspapers across the nation, as well as its flagship, the horribly homogenized USA Today.

What?  You don’t want a new Saturday experience?  Tough shit.

That is what happens when your hometown newspaper is sold to a media “investment group” committed to “expanding and promoting digital offerings” and the concept of local focus and control is lost to a greed-crazed strategy of profit over quality. . .

For instance, on Monday, when I attempted to take advantage of my “additional benefits” by accessing an online story from a previous e-edition of The Daytona Beach News-Journal – the website directed me to last Sunday’s Mansfield, Ohio News-Journal.


We’re not alone.

According to reports, Gannett – the nation’s largest newspaper network – is eliminating the Saturday print edition in half its markets, a cost-cutting move affecting some 136 daily newspapers across the United States.

I often say that The Daytona Beach News-Journal is the best written, worst edited, daily in the nation. 

Our hometown newspaper has some of the most talented journalists in the business – dedicated reporters who live here and care about the issues that affect our lives and livelihoods – the hard-working survivors of a once bustling newsroom that lost so many in recent years, victims of corporate ‘downsizing,’ and others who were simply run off by shortsighted management – corporate tools more fixated on fighting the inane culture wars than retaining talent and producing a marketable product. . . 

When Gannett acquired our local newspaper, we lost a big part of our civic identity – and a vital watchdog in a political environment dominated by a few extremely wealthy insiders with outsized influence.  

Unfortunately, that external oversight is not coming back – now replaced with a mishmash of pap and fluff derived from other Gannett properties in the region – the editorial page eviscerated, while the local stories get short shrift just when we need aggressive investigative journalism the most. 

A disturbing sign of the times.  

A November 2019 study by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at The University of Texas at Austin entitled, “Newspaper Decline and the Effect on Local Government Coverage,” found:

“…staffing cuts and a shift to online publishing have dramatically changed the reporting model of local newspapers. These changes prompted a reduction in press attention to local government activities and led to a more reactive press that is less able to set the agenda in communities.  Journalists note that there are likely important political consequences to changes in coverage. Corruption, mismanagement, lower turnout, and incumbency advantages are all thought to possible outcomes from changes to local government coverage.”

A frightening take on the old “When the cats away, the mice will play” analogy, in a place where our local governments are not known for their transparency. . .    

In the past 15-years, more than a quarter of American newspapers have gone away – and those that remain have been traded like chattel – with more than half of all daily newspapers now controlled by hedge funds and financial firms. 

In an excellent October 2021 article by McKay Coppins writing in The Atlantic, “A Secretive Hedge Fund is Gutting Newsrooms – Inside Alden Global Capital,” we got a glimpse of the mercenary strategy that many believe is destroying local journalism:

“What threatens local newspapers now is not just digital disruption or abstract market forces. They’re being targeted by investors who have figured out how to get rich by strip-mining local-news outfits. The model is simple: Gut the staff, sell the real estate, jack up subscription prices, and wring as much cash as possible out of the enterprise until eventually enough readers cancel their subscriptions that the paper folds, or is reduced to a desiccated husk of its former self.”

Sound familiar?

At a time when We, The Little People are increasingly ignored by those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests – openly sold out to speculative developers and craven opportunists willing to slash-and-burn our natural places to make room for another zero-lot-line “theme” community, while our hard-earned tax dollars are willingly pissed away in dubious corporate welfare schemes that hide projects behind “confidentiality agreements,” a system that perpetuates the warehouse/logistics economy that is being foisted on our children and grandchildren – independent local journalism has been neutered by this weird profit strategy that substitutes recycled and regionalized horseshit for hard news. 

Angel              Daytona Beach Shores City Manager Michael Booker

“At the top of the mountain we are all snow leopards. Anybody who can do one thing better than anyone else in the world is a natural friend of mine.”

–Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

I have a natural affinity for anyone at the top of their game – and few have done it better in their difficult field of endeavor than Daytona Beach Shores City Manager Michael Booker. 

Earlier this month, Mr. Booker announced he would be retiring in July following 22-years of admirable service to this seaside community – a notable effort that has helped craft one of the most stable and respected municipal governments in Florida.

In my view, Mr. Booker has built an outstanding team of servant/leaders that includes standouts like Director of Public Safety Stephan Dembinsky and Finance Director Kurt Swartzlander, two of the absolute best in the business. 

Last week, Daytona Beach Shores City Clerk/Human Resources Director Cheri Schwab was honored by the Volusia County League of Cities as Administrative Employee of the Year while Mayor Nancy Miller received the prestigious Mayor Blaine O’Neal Award of Excellence.

During his impressive tenure, Mr. Booker has guided a period of incredible progress. 

Collaborating with elected officials and civically engaged residents who take immense pride in their unique coastal community, Mr. Booker successfully brought a new City Hall facility, a state-of-the-art Public Safety building, the Shores Community Center, beautiful parks and recreational opportunities, a Public Works headquarters and storage facility, and utilities infrastructure improvements.    

According to a release issued by Daytona Beach Shores:

“Safety, financial responsibility, and the appearance of the community are highly valued. Shores voters approved a major beautification project to move utilities underground and upgrade streetlights, sidewalks and water/sewer lines and, in 2021, the City paid off that debt early, along with other debt in the general fund. As the City prepares to welcome a new city manager, it is officially debt-free.”


“Booker said he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family during retirement. He’s been in treatment for cancer since 2020. Booker plans to take up the drums again and is excited to have more time to read about history and to travel.”

Thank you, Mr. Booker.

Congratulations on your well-deserved retirement – enjoy it in good health and happiness!    

In my view, Michael Booker is a credit to his difficult profession, someone who has worked diligently to improve the quality of life for residents of Daytona Beach Shores.  In doing so, he has raised the bar for the entire Halifax area and set a shining example of what can be accomplished when government works cooperatively with those it serves.   

We’re glad he passed our way. 

Quote of the Week

“Brower said he thought the perception was that Holly Hill had been given special treatment.

“We need to talk about that,” Brower said before quizzing staff on a number of matters, including asking why Pictona was allowed to use other local property taxes to serve as their match when it had been prohibited for others in the past.”

–Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, as quoted by reporter Mary Helen Moore writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Pictona scores $2.5M grant,” Wednesday, January 19, 2022

From personal experience, I can report that the City of Holly Hill has never received preferential treatment from Volusia County – or any other public or private entity – in its hardscrabble 121-year history.

While I normally agree with Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower – in this case, he got it wrong.   

On Tuesday, the Volusia County Council considered the recommendations of their ECHO Advisory Committee and approved some $3.8 million in grant funding – including an “exceptional grant” of $2.5 million for the expansion of the popular Pictona at Holly Hill pickleball facility – a public/private partnership of the City of Holly Hill and founders Rainer and Julie Martens. 

A worthwhile project that Chairman Brower voted against. . . 

Look, I understand not everyone agrees with the Volusia ECHO and Forever programs – publicly funded initiatives that use tax dollars to protect and enhance our environmental, cultural, historical, and outdoor amenities.

However, in 2020, some 70% of Volusia County voters supported renewing these important programs which makes this well-vetted allocation something Mr. Brower could have hung his hat on without any political liability.    

In my view, the Pictona expansion represents the very essence of a mutually beneficial public/private project, and its extraordinary success is self-evident. 

In fact, the incredibly popular pickleball facility is a proven regional asset, and the coming 1,200 seat multi-use championship stadium will also serve as a venue for concerts, art festivals, and community events. 

There is no denying that the sport has legions of devoted participants and represents a growing national draw – one that has, quite literally, put Holly Hill and Volusia County on the map – with fitness-related businesses, a proposed luxury recreational vehicle resort, and other enterprises seeking to take advantage of Pictona’s increasing popularity.   

In my view, Chairman Brower attempted to play the role – publicly questioning a proven project that had already been thoroughly scrutinized during a rigorous evaluation process – before casting the lone “No” vote, safe in the knowledge the grant request would pass with a majority vote. 

Rather than show unanimous support for the most promising new addition to Volusia County in decades – Mr. Brower chose to engage in the same ridiculous preening and posturing normally exhibited by his “colleagues” – a shallow, time-consuming exercise in political theater that is patently disingenuous and, in my view, corrosive to the public trust. 

Does Mr. Brower not realize that these carefully choreographed dramatics – questioning worthy projects, while issues of real concern, like corporate welfare giveaways and tax breaks are ramrodded at warp speed – represent everything his long-suffering constituents abhor?

For instance, where was the same level of concern in November when this council voted unanimously – without any substantive public discussion of the detrimental impacts – to accept a $2.7 million proportionate share agreement and extend Pelican Bay Drive, dumping traffic from what will be Amazon’s massive industrial warehouse onto the already congested Beville Road? 

I guess it all depends upon who’s asking, eh? 

Talk about special treatment. . . 

To their credit, Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via and City Manager Joe Forte stood firm, advocating for this valuable project, and the future of their community:

“It’s already shown to be a success,” Mayor Via explained. “Doubling this facility will only make it greater, into a world-class facility… This is an opportunity to put Volusia County on the map, Holly Hill on the map.”

Early in his presentation, Mayor Via made the cogent point that the City of Holly Hill does not ask for much – and Brower’s insinuation that this small community received an undue advantage in the open and extensive approval process is laughable.  And wrong.

To his credit, Councilman Danny Robins was the voice of reason reminding Chairman Brower that Volusia ECHO was overwhelmingly approved by voters during the 2020 election:

“We’re not talking about a 50-50 split in the community,” Robins said. “There is an extreme vetting process for this. It’s expensive, but the public voted for it.”

Nothing has ever been handed to Holly Hill – a community that has historically been treated like a red-headed stepchild by Volusia County government – and snidely maligned by some who have never lived or done business there.    

If it sounds like I take Mr. Brower’s pandering “No” vote on an issue of vital importance to the economic future of Holly Hill and beyond as an insult – that’s because I do. 

I can tell you from personal experience that Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte, the elected officials, and staff get the most from every tax dollar they receive while providing a full range of responsive and efficient essential services to a grateful constituency. 

In fact, Volusia County government could learn a valuable lesson about fiscal stewardship, inclusivity, and the lasting benefits of working cooperatively to reach civic goals from The City with a Heart.

Congratulations to the City of Holly Hill and Pictona on this monumental award – one I am certain will pay dividends for all Volusia County residents for many years to come.

And Another Thing!

I am not an educated man. 

Perhaps best described as a hedonistic simpleton who squandered his early educational opportunities – the boy who couldn’t be told – a maladaptive daydreamer with a hyperactive imagination rivaling Thurber’s Walter Mitty

As a mimic of the admirable qualities found in others, I always felt Winston Churchill’s famous insight, “It’s a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations” was sound advice. 

In my experience, there is much to be learned from the musings of the great thinkers, and their anecdotes have helped shape my ability to think critically on the issues of the day.

For instance, I frequently use Einstein’s definition of insanity as a metaphor for Volusia County politics.

We do the same things – electing the same perennial politicians over and over again – each time expecting a better outcome than before.  

Fitting, don’t you think?

Because history always repeats for those who refuse to learn from it (George Santayana), this week we learned that the Volusia County Council’s own éminence grise – The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry – will challenge incumbent Ruben Colón for the District 5 Volusia County School Board seat.

My God.  The more things change, the more they stay the same (Alphonse Karr). . . 

At present, “Dr.” Lowry has now been in elective office for the past 12-years – having been elected to the Deltona City Commission in 2010 – then elevated to the Volusia County Council in 2014 and again in 2018.

In my view, this important history lesson bears repeating.   

During his first term on the Volusia County Council, by any estimate, “Dr.” Lowry was an almost ethereal presence in the chamber – rarely heard from on the critical issues – voting as he was no doubt instructed by those who so deftly manipulate the rods and strings of their malleable politicians – always maintaining lockstep conformity with Volusia’s “Old Guard” – fiercely committed to maintaining the stagnant status quo.    

Then, in January 2021, following the election of Chairman Jeff Brower – an outsider who beat the ultimate insider with a voter mandate for change – Lowry seemed to emerge from a weird chrysalis, transforming before our eyes from an ineffectual lump – an inanimate houseplant perched on the dais of power who didn’t say two words during his first term – into a virtual parliamentary expert who relished publicly spanking the neophyte Brower for every procedural faux pas using arrogant histrionics, annoying “Hear!, Hears!,” and toad-like puffery to get his point across.

Don’t take my word for it.  Steel yourself with an antiemetic suppository and watch a Volusia County Council meeting. 

Trust me.  It will be 8 or 9 interminable hours of your life you will never get back – and you will somehow be dumber for the effort – but you will come away with a better understanding of how things work around here. . . 

As 2021 wore on, it became obvious to even a casual observer of that bimonthly théâtre de l’absurde that His Eminence was leading a blatant effort by those stalwarts of the status quo (inside government and out) to marginalize Chairman Brower and diminish any political momentum he may have enjoyed after decisively defeating the preferred puppet of Volusia’s well-heeled insiders.  

After four-years of virtual silence, Rev. Lowry had come into his own – and he aggressively fulfilled his marching orders to wrest power from Chairman Brower and return it to those elite political insiders who believe they have rightfully purchased it with massive campaign contributions to their political handmaidens. 

The Right Reverend repeatedly put the boots to the often-clumsy Chairman Brower, then sat back, arms folded with an overconfident hubris, as his “colleagues” on the political tag-team joined in the near non-stop beatdown of Brower, Councilwoman Heather Post, and everything they stand for.  

In turn, it looked certain to many observers that Rev. Lowry was on his way to the at-large seat in 2022.

Then, the hopes and dreams of Rev. Lowry’s uber-wealthy handlers went off the rails. . .

As often happens at the nexus of politics and religion, His Eminence virtually imploded in the pulpit of the Deltona Lakes Baptist Church during a May 30, 2021 sermon to the faithful – a weird allocution that ran the gamut of half-baked political nuttery – from wild conspiracy theories to descriptions of macabre Satanic rituals involving child sacrifice, even a puzzling denial of the Coronavirus pandemic – bizarre pontifications, literally from the lunatic fringe, that left many of his constituents horrified.

Some openly questioned Lowry’s clearly tenuous grip on reality. . .   

In a subsequent blockbuster op/ed by the Orlando Sentinel’s Editorial Board we learned:

“…a Facebook Live video shows one of Volusia County’s top elected officials preaching to the congregation about satanic rituals and torturing children and using their blood to extract a compound called adrenochrome, which is then used in the belief it brings on hallucinations, intensifies personalities and slows the aging process.

“This issue is supposed to be rampant I hear in Hollywood and among the elite,” Lowry told his flock. “I don’t know if it’s true, but where there’s smoke …” Lowry then held his hand behind his ear and awaited the answer he was looking for: “Fire.”

You read that right.

I am certainly not going to pick Rev. Lowry’s weird thoughts apart – because I don’t want to understand that level of batshit craziness – but, needless to say, the fallout was immediate and included calls for his resignation by the Volusia County Democratic Black Caucus and others who rightfully felt “Dr.” Lowry’s outrageous beliefs had no place in the policy-making chain.

Now, in a scenario that could only happen on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – “Dr.” Lowry announced this week that he will seek a voice on the Volusia County School Board – no doubt to provide a better vantage point from which to protect our youth from the rampant scourge of “left coast” Adrenochrome fiends. . . 

Look, The Right Reverend is free to spew any bilgewater he wants from the comfort and protection of his haughty pulpit in Deltona, and no one, other than those unfortunate souls who choose to listen to his tripe, will be the worse for it.

In my view, regardless of your thoughts on Ruben Colón’s service, to elevate Lowry’s abject lunacy to a policymaking role on the Volusia County School Board – one that will have a direct and lasting impact on the formative education of our children and grandchildren – boggles the mind and proves that this shameless shill knows no boundaries in his perennial quest for power and prestige.      

I know it is hard to believe – but we deserve better than this.      

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!


On Monday, January 24, Barker’s View will join GovStuff Live! with Big John on the fastest two-hours in radio! 

We will take an in-depth look at the local issues and take your calls at 386-523-1380 beginning at 4:00pm. 

Please join us locally on WELE 1380am The CAT – or online at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button). 


A Broken Record. . .

Damn.  It’s our fault. 


I realize these screeds can sound like a broken record, but nothing angers me more than when those who have made such a mess of things project blame on, We, The Little People – those of us who struggle mightily in an artificial economy, pay exorbitant taxes, and are expected to suffer in silence. 

They claim we are ill-informed, disinterested, and unwilling to get involved, and that may be true. 

But in my view, this civic and political malaise is the natural result of elected and appointed officials doing everything in their power to shut us out of the process, dismiss our concerns, and limit our input to three short minutes of their valuable time at choreographed public meetings.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon. 

The marginalization and exclusion of the governed has been years in the making – and many have learned that in an economic environment ruled by the same five people passing the same nickel around – it is not in their best interest to call foul, speak out, or provide input on the issues that touch our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast.   

Now the only voices that matter belong to our ‘Rich & Powerful’ – the uber-wealthy donor class who have taken a profit out of the Halifax area for years, permitted strategic blight to drive property values into the toilet allowing all the right last names to acquire entire city blocks for pennies on the dollar, and destroyed the allure of our greatest natural asset, a beautiful beach, turned into a forest of ugly poles and confusing signage with our unique heritage given away to developers as a cheap spiff – all punctuated by an omnipresent homeless population whose necessities of life on the street adds to the overall down-at-the-heels feel. 

But somehow, it’s our fault

In a recent article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “No walk-ins at the First Step Shelter,” we learned that our tax supported homeless shelter in name only will continue to limit admittance to “clients” referred by law enforcement, social service agencies, hospitals, and churches – while slamming the portcullis and turning away any poor soul who makes the arduous trip to that expensive Taj Mahal in the hinterlands off US-92 seeking shelter from the mean streets. 

Two-years on, we are told the First Step “programming” (whatever that may be) provides services for 40-50 residents at any given time (served, according to my count, by fourteen staff members). 

According to the News-Journal, board member Joan Campanaro – who was once an advocate for the 24/7 come as you are shelter we were promised – now reports:

“Until the shelter raises more money and can hire more caseworkers, Campanaro said she doesn’t see how the facility could increase the number of clients it helps every day. . .”

Ah, there it is – the First Step “Shelter’s” own broken LP: More money (skip), More money (skip), More money (skip). . .

Then came what we were all waiting for, “Mad Mike” Panaggio’s deflection of blame for what everyone knew was a financially unsustainable model going in – an ungrateful community who never gave the less-than-transparent boondoggle a “fair shake”

“Shelter board member Mike Panaggio said he doesn’t think local residents realize what First Step Shelter accomplishes every week.

“We don’t get a fair shake in the community,” said Panaggio, the founder and CEO of direct marketing company DME Holdings.”


So, once again, it is our fault. . . 

In our collective defense, from the outset, I’m not sure anyone connected with the First Step “Shelter” ever took the time to fully explain the mechanics of how a referred, vetted, and vaccinated client is taken into the enigmatic “program” – has their life transformed in “X” number of days/weeks/months/years – and ends up a functioning, self-sustaining adult with the employable skills necessary to live independently in an environment where the median gross monthly rent is now north of $1,075?   

And, to my knowledge, fundraising efforts apparently remain limited to Mr. Panaggio baiting and insulting potential donors in weird midnight rants on Facebook. . .

It might also help to remember that in addition to First Step’s $113,000 monthly nut (2020 estimates) which relies on private donations and public infusions, in September 2020, the Volusia County Council directed some $1.09 million in federal CARES Act funding to the needy “shelter” – a cash windfall we were told would be used to hire even more staff, build a 1,000 square foot addition, dedicated computer room, a floor-to-ceiling partition for the multipurpose room, with the remainder of the federal manna being used to:

“…hang microfiber curtains around bunk beds to prevent germ transmission; install motion-activated faucets, urinals and toilets; add UV air disinfection units; build outdoor patio roofs; buy patio furniture; purchase high-grade washers and dryers; hire a housing coordinator who would help find residents places to live; and add another new full-time employee who would monitor residents for up to 12 months after they moved into permanent housing.”


I do.

But I’m a naysayer.  The Volusia County Curmudgeon. 

“Barker the Bitcher.”  

A disgruntled asshole always pointing out the dark side – marginalized by sitting elected officials and those who own the paper on their political souls – as they desperately seek to deflect their own gross ineptitude onto anyone who dares challenge the status quo. 

And everyone who is anyone in the Halifax area power structure would prefer you ignore my ravings and focus on their message exclusively

The illusory truth effect tells us if a person – or populous – is berated long enough, made to feel lesser than those who rule over them, eventually they will begin to believe it. 

If a citizenry is forced to pass the same blight and omnipresent homeless population – decade after decade – they will eventually become desensitized and begin to accept it – and even those ‘movers & shakers’ with the power to do something about it seem oblivious as they drive through the squalor on their way to another gilded soiree to accept a civic award or accolade for perpetuating it. 

The message our ‘powers that be’ don’t want you to hear is that We, The Little People have the ultimate ability to fundamentally change things through the power of the ballot box – to free ourselves from the stagnant status quo and return our local governments to a form that works for all of us – not just the entrenched insiders, self-serving manipulators, and the malleable politicians they control.      

It only becomes ‘our fault’ when we fail to wield the power of the vote effectively. 

I hope you will consider that this election season. 

Angels & Assholes for January 14, 2022

Hi, kids!

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.

Asshole           Daytona Beach City Commission & Volusia County Council

It’s one thing when politicians have the wool pulled over their eyes. 

It is quite another when they willingly put their head in a bag and allow themselves to be led around like a poleaxed ungulate with a ring in its nose.  But in either eventuality – it is you and I who pay the price for their strategic lack of due diligence and situational awareness.    

That is just one of the problems inherent to an “economic development” sham that permits massive corporations to ramrod projects that will have long-term detrimental impacts on the community to remain hidden under the cloak of a mysterious cryptogram until it’s too late. 

In this case, the super-secret: Project Tarpon.

Regardless of how many times our ‘Rich & Powerful’ tell their bought-and-paid-for elected chattel how smart, witty, intelligent, and popular they are – it is times like this when politicians must wake up in a cold sweat – shocked by the realization they are little more than dull tools of a pernicious system, fueled by big money and influence, that they have no control over. 

A convenient arrangement that relies on the political insulation of plausible deniability – a tactical ignorance that allows embarrassed elected officials to mewl and grovel to their royally pissed off constituents, “Had I known what I was voting for, this never would have happened. . .”

Otherwise, how could any responsible decisionmaker live with themselves after voting on something in the blind without a clue as to the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a project’s multilayered impacts on their community? 

Sound familiar?

It should.  

Last November, the Volusia County Council voted unanimously to approve a $2.7 million proportionate share agreement between the City of Daytona Beach, Daytona 634 Development, LLC, and the County of Volusia – along with an extension of Pelican Bay Drive that will connect the Amazon fulfillment center’s driveway to busy Beville Road – and dump traffic from the 2.8 million-square-foot warehouse facility at the east entrance to the tony Pelican Bay golf community. . . 

According to a short report prepared by County Engineer Tadd Kasbeer, which, I am told, was a last-minute addition to the council’s November 2, 2021 agenda (?), said, in part, “In order to mitigate the traffic impacts to County thoroughfare roads in the vicinity of the proposed residences, the parties have agreed that Daytona 634 Development shall make a proportionate fair share payment to the County.”

(Proposed residences?  Sounds like Tadd forgot to change his boilerplate, eh?  Whatever.  “Close enough for government work,” as they say. . .)

Both measures passed with no discussion from the normally chatty councilmembers – beyond Chairman Jeff Brower yammering, “For the purpose of the public…I will let you know there has been a lot of discussion with councilmembers with staff, and apparently this seems to everybody, including me, that this will be a benefit for future economic development opening up this area. . .”

Guess they got it all out discussing our fate with “staff” in some backroom at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center – because our elected representatives were mysteriously quiet as church mice when it came time to vote. . .    

Then, just one month later, obviously aware of Volusia County’s approval of the proportionate share agreement and Pelican Bay Drive extension, the majority of the Daytona Beach City Commission enthusiastically approved a development agreement – including some $4 million in corporate welfare incentives to the wealthiest online retailer in the universe – allowing construction of the Amazon Fulfillment Center on a promise of $15 an hour warehouse jobs.

To his credit, Commissioner Ken Strickland cast the lone dissenting vote on the corporate welfare scheme.    

At the time, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu – whose district (and neighborhood) is directly impacted by the project said, “We need the economic growth. We need more jobs. I think bringing this project in will help bring more industry to our community.”

“I love this project,” Cantu swooned when voting to approve the warehouse, “I think it will put us on the map.”

Oh, it put us on the map all right. . .

Even if she wasn’t aware of the Pelican Bay Drive extension, is it possible the majority of the Daytona Beach City Commission did not realize that, by its very nature, a colossal industrial warehouse comes with 24/7 heavy cargo and employee traffic?

They do now. 

According to reports, Commissioner Cantu recently described the situation as a “nightmare.”

Why the about face? 

Apparently, Commissioner Cantu has come to the stark realization that she and her fellow elected officials were kept in the dark.  Now the good citizens of Pelican Bay and interests along Beville Road (read: voters) have boiled into an angry hornet’s nest – rightfully concerned that the coming congestion, truck traffic, and gridlock will tank property values and sound the death knell for their gated community.   

Because it will. 

Ask yourself what your elected officials failed to consider when they were helping their friends at NASCAR land the biggest fish in the pond:  Do you want to live at the business end of an industrial warehouse’ alimentary canal?    

On Monday, Commissioner Cantu – a resident of Pelican Bay – hosted a public information forum to educate her neighbors and discuss growing citizen concerns, something many residents across the Halifax area feel should have come well before these elected dullards blindly approved the behemoth without a clue what they were voting for. 

According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, several other now-concerned city and county officials also attended the meeting – including Amazon’s biggest cheerleader, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry – who reassured his distraught constituents that he and his fellow caught-by-surprise policymakers will “…be supportive to make the best of the situation.”

Whatever that means. . .

Look, I am having a tough time believing that those astute members of the Volusia County Council and Daytona Beach City Commission – who every election year flood our homes with glossy mailers billing themselves as our best and brightest – could be that gullible or ill-informed.

Is it possible that those we have elected to represent our interests were treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed bullshit – by their own less-than-transparent bureaucracies until the Big Money players got what they needed from them?

I’m asking.  Because none of this makes sense – or instills confidence.    

Now those same well-connected elected officials who sit high atop the dais of power – our political elite who rub all the right elbows at invitation-only soirees, accept massive campaign contributions from the same ‘movers & shakers,’ and blithely make decisions that impact our lives and livelihoods – would have us believe they have been duped like the rest of us? 

Bullshit.  Not possible. 

Or is it?

And, if so, who in the gilded Tower of Power will be held accountable? 

Trust me.  Our elected elite either knew or should have known – and no one is fooled by the faux-indignation, political posturing, and handwringing these elected chameleons hope will assuage the very real fears of their constituents – homeowners and area businesses that are justifiably worried about their future.

And it is time we place blame where it belongs. 

In my view, those who permit these enigmatic ‘pig in a poke’ economic development shim-shams, then paint themselves as misinformed rubes, should be held accountable.

If senior staff intentionally misinformed the elected officials, they have an obligation to get to the bottom of it – and take definitive action to stop the backroom chicanery and gross lack of transparency that has destroyed We, The Little People’s trust in our local governments.  

In my view, if our elected officials are sincere, they will start by disbanding the facilitators at Team Volusia – those high-flying opportunists who perpetuate this warehouse/logistics economy that will have our children’s children moving boxes from point A to B to survive (until their job is automated, anyway) – throw them out of their comfortably appointed and publicly funded offices – and return the economic development function to local practitioners at the municipal level who have a personal stake in protecting the character of their communities.

Then, cut off the firehose of public funds and expensive spiffs that underwrite the for-profit projects of speculative developers, billionaires, and wealthy corporations who hide behind confidentiality agreements while gorging greedily on our hard-earned tax dollars, skewing the playing field, as government continues to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.  

Elections have consequences.  So does stupidity.     

And now you know. . .

Quote of the Week

“Watts also shared some facts and figures from traffic studies done to determine the impact of the Amazon facility that will be located between Bellevue Avenue and Beville Road just east of Williamson Boulevard.

 He said there would be about 630 truck trips to and from the distribution center every day, and about 3,000 employee vehicle trips every 24 hours as the workers come and go from the 100-acre site in their personal cars and trucks.”   

–Cobb Cole Attorney Mark Watts, who represents the new Amazon Fulfillment Center’s landlord, NASCAR, as quoted by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “New Amazon warehouse truck traffic worries Daytona residents south of Beville Road,” Tuesday, January 11, 2022

And Another Thing!

This one’s important. 

I hope you will indulge me for devoting this entire Angels & Assholes column to the widening mystery surrounding the Amazon Fulfillment Center, and, more importantly, the astonishing lack of transparency and foresight of our pompous elected and appointed officials who take such perverse pleasure in belittling our concerns and input.   

If there is one thing my massive ego enjoys it is being proven right – and this steaming pile of horseshit is dripping with “I told you so” irony. . . 

But the behind-the-scenes machinations that brought us here are far more important than that. 

How is it possible that no one in a position of power in Daytona Beach had any inkling that a 2.8 million-square-foot warehouse would have concentric and radiating impacts throughout east Volusia County? 

If Daytona Beach City Attorney Robert Jagger signed the proportionate share agreement with Daytona 634 Development, LLC, and the County of Volusia, how is it possible City Manager Deric Feacher and his bosses who make the decisions were not aware?

Do those on the dais of power really expect us to accept that senior staff members kept them in the dark – intentionally withholding key information regarding the extension of Pelican Bay Drive to service Amazon and other planned industrial/commercial development in the area – a road that will connect the 100+-acre Amazon campus (and whatever is secretly planned for nearby acreage also owned by NASCAR and Volusia County) with the already congested Beville Road?   

According to an excellent report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal this week:

“The racing giant will be pursuing a rezoning for the property next to the Amazon first-mile distribution center, but Watts said he’s not authorized to discuss what NASCAR is considering for the adjoining land.

NASCAR also kept its plans for the new Amazon warehouse quiet until the name had to be revealed publicly to ask Daytona Beach city commissioners for a property tax break. That happened at commissioners’ Dec. 1 meeting.”

My God. 

This corporate intrigue and secret compartmentalized information strategy reads like a John le Carré novel.

Thanks for the heads-up, NASCAR.  So much for being good neighbors and civic partners, eh?

In my view, the myriad issues surrounding this unfolding debacle speak volumes about the “trust issue” that permeates local governments – an ugly glimpse at how an institutionalized lack of transparency in the hallowed Halls of Power can cut both ways – leaving those with political accountability vulnerable to criticism and taxpayers holding the bag. 

With some of the biggest names in local business and government playing things close to the vest – many are rightfully concerned about ‘what comes next’ – while those we have elected to represent our interests play the role of Sergeant Shultz, “I know nothing!  Nothing!”    

Call me paranoid, but this one bears watching.   

You may remember that last summer I cautioned Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu for her attendance at an exclusive cocktail party held at the publicly funded One Daytona shopping and entertainment complex, which is wholly owned by Daytona International Speedway, where “50 of Daytona Beach’s most influential leaders” attempted to carve out some private time with new Daytona Beach City Manager Deric Feacher.

At the time, I took a lot of flak for suggesting the gathering was, at the very least, ‘poor optics’ – having the look and feel of an exclusive club – one that barred us rabble who pay the bills – in my view, a function intended to cozily pair politicians with those who donate to their campaigns, some of whom have received millions in public tax breaks, infrastructure, and incentives. 

Although other area elected officials were invited, for good or for ill, only Commissioner Cantu accepted.  I think she felt I made more out of it that it was – and maybe so.   

But now, an assurance Mr. Feacher made following the party is raising eyebrows.    

During this swellegant soiree, the crème de la crème of the Halifax areas civic, social, and business upper crust noshed on hors d’oeuvres while subliminally explaining to Mr. Feacher which side his bread is buttered on. . .

The exclusive guest list was laden with heavy hitters, to include NASCAR Executive Vice Chair Lesa France Kennedy – and His Royal Highness King J. Hyatt Brown – along with a coterie of lesser ‘movers & shakers’ all seeking to set the tone for Mr. Feacher’s tenure.

At the time, Mr. Feacher was quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal promising that he would never do anything “illegal, immoral or unethical,” and “…vowed to steer clear of any “under-the-table deals” and clandestine conversations.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he said.


I guess Mr. Feacher knew why our civic elite had assembled that evening, even if Ms. Cantu did not. . . 

Admittedly, I was critical of Ms. Cantu’s appearance at the private party, which included many of the same names associated with this latest “nightmare” – especially one that physically excluded the media (until someone inside made the wise, if begrudging, decision to let a News-Journal reporter into the gilded space) – a situation of concern in an environment where one needs a program to figure out all the players and connections.    

When murky issues like this latest intrigue become known (and they always do) it makes We, The Little People rightfully suspicious of who knew what and when

That is why perceptions matter.

This one is about to get interesting – and you can bet in coming days there will be some powerful players around town trying to convince Ms. Cantu and her colleagues why granting a change in zoning designation for property surrounding the Amazon warehouse is so important to their political future. . .   

This latest debacle proves that – like the out-of-control development on-going west of I-95 – what happens in Daytona Beach affects the entire Halifax Area, and it is time those we elect to represent our interests understand that we will no longer sit quietly while the ‘Rich & Powerful’ shape what remains of our community while destroying our quality of life to quench their insatiable greed. 

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!  

A day at the beach

I don’t go to the beach anymore. 

That beautiful place that was a constant in my life has lost its allure.   

I grew up ‘beachside’ – the sand and waves just a block away from my parents’ front door in Ormond Beach – the soothing background music I could hear and smell as I went to sleep on cool evenings with the jalousie windows open. 

In my younger years, it became an almost daily escape – with no tolls, signage, or physical barriers – a time when one could drive from Flagler County to Ponce Inlet anytime of the day or night and everyone knew the rules because there were so few of them to remember. 

The unique beauty of the barren windswept strand in winter, standing on an approach to marvel in the froth and churn of a wild ‘Nor’easter,’ taking in the silent beauty of an Atlantic sunrise. 

Vivid memories etched in my mind’s eye.

Childhood walks with my dad and our dog, surf fishing with friends, dragging a blue canvas raft to the water’s edge, the scream of seagulls and sandpipers scurrying from an incoming tide, the healing qualities of clean saltwater, the satisfying warmth of hot sun on tan shoulders, watching the ‘submarine races’ with negative ions creating an energy at the water’s edge. 

The fun, crowds, and music of spring break – the sights, sounds, and mix of aromas on the breeze – salt air mixed with the scent of tanning lotion, taffy, and footlong corndogs at the Boardwalk. 

If you know, you know

Going to ‘The Beach’ was an experience we shared – one that brought millions of visitors to our area when The World’s Most Famous Beach was recognized everywhere in the known universe.

But they went home, back to work and school somewhere “up north,” and we lucky few stayed.

We made our homes, families, and lives here on this salty piece of land – blissfully complacent in the knowledge our beach would always be there for ‘Us.’

Regrettably, I no longer feel welcome there. 

No longer at home.

On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s outstanding columnist Mark Lane wrote an informative piece advocating for a recent state legislative push to ban cigarette smoking from Florida beaches – and while my contrarian instinct was to write a barnburner opposing further regulations which limit otherwise lawful activity in an outdoor public space – especially one that smokers and non-smokers alike pay for – I realized, what happens on the beach is no longer a concern of mine. 

Screw it.  Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em – or don’t – I just don’t care anymore. 

I’m a hardhead – a ‘one and done’ kind of guy.  You don’t get two bites at the same apple with me – and I’m perceptive enough to know when and where I am not wanted. 

Several years ago, just after I retired, a friend and I took a drive on the beach on a glorious summer day.  It was the first time in a long time, but that wonderful smell and the sun shimmering on the waves and ripples like a million mirrors brought so many good memories flooding back.   

I purchased an annual resident pass from a toll taker (my first), listened politely to the rules and regulations, rolled the windows down as instructed, turned on my lights, stayed in the traffic lane, no more than 10mph (“strictly enforced”), radio down, didn’t even think about texting, etc., etc.

Safe in the knowledge that after a lifetime of driving the beach I knew what I was doing. 

As we cruised north, two beach safety officers were stopped in the traffic lane in front of me – conferring door-to-door just like I have done thousands of times as a law enforcement officer – and rather than leave the marked traffic lane to guide around them, I stopped several car lengths behind and waited patiently.   

No big deal.  No rush.  Just enjoying the day.   

When the meeting ended, one of the officers pulled forward, stopping at my open driver’s window. 

At first, I thought he may have been someone I knew professionally, maybe worked or trained with in the past, but before I could exchange pleasantries, the uniformed officer angrily asked me what I was doing driving in an area marked for four-wheel-drive vehicles only?


It was the one directive in a forest of ‘do this/don’t do that’ signs, ugly wooden poles, and ubiquitous traffic cones that I missed – and my mistake infuriated this young law enforcement officer – who proceeded to put me on notice that if I became stuck in the soft sand, he “…will not help me.” 

Verbatim.  “I will not help you.” 

I never forgot that. . .

Having recently retired from over three-decades in the police service – I was privately bemused at how something this insignificant could trigger such a furious response – especially from an officer whose very job description includes being a good ambassador for Volusia County beaches.

I remained silent and attentive. 

Trust me.  I have lost my composure in uniform and acted less than professionally more than once.  As a young, inexperienced officer I could be “badge heavy” and cringeworthily officious. 

Given my time in service I understand better than most that everyone has the occasional difficult day when emotions are raw. 

But this officer seemed intent on punishing me for having violated a rule that, save for a temporary sign on the sand, I didn’t even know existed.  

And he succeeded.

Admittedly, I was embarrassed in front of my friend – and my feelings were hurt. 

Although he had no way of knowing, in my mind, a former “colleague” had treated me harshly for an infraction that could have been managed with an instructive, “The sand is getting soft ahead.  Follow me back the way you came so your vehicle won’t get stuck.” 

The ass chewing went on several minutes too long, and it became increasingly uncomfortable as my friend looked at me with a nervous “Is this really happening?” expression.   

In my mind, the interaction spoke to a culture within the various divisions charged with managing our beach – and, while I have no evidence of it, for some reason I came to the immediate conclusion that my experience wasn’t unique – an environment marked by harsh enforcement of petty rules that created an unpleasant and uninviting atmosphere. 

For me, anyway.  

When my tongue-lashing was complete – I responded with a contrite, “Yes, sir,” and apologized to the officer for my transgression – then asked him for the quickest way off the strand. 

I have never been back.  And I never will

I don’t belong there anymore.   

Sounds strange as I write about it – how something so insignificant could have such a lasting impact.

But it did.

In my mind, the beach I grew up on, that place I longed to get back to whenever I was away, is now the domain of a nameless bearded bully with a badge – and there is nothing the administration of the Volusia County Coastal Division, Beach Safety Department, or my strategically clueless elected representatives can do about it – even if they wanted to. 

Look, I know some outstanding current and former law enforcement officers who serve and protect with Volusia County Beach Safety, good cops and true professionals, who make a positive difference in the life of our community everyday – and things may have changed since the impressive Andrew Etheridge assumed command as our new Beach Safety Director – I don’t know.

And I don’t care. 

I was reminded of this experience last week as the Volusia County Council smartly voted to grant a ten-year contract to Beach Rentals & Refreshments of Volusia County, a local company who employs some sixty area families providing quality food, refreshments, and amenities to beachgoers from around the world. 

During the company’s presentation before the council, I learned that later this year, visitors will have the opportunity to rent cool beach teepees and fire pits, complete with a catered upscale dining experience, electric jetboards, ebikes, golf carts, and shop tony mobile boutiques, while enjoying exciting new food and beverage options without ever leaving their beach chair or pool deck.    

Why hadn’t I heard any of this before?

With so many wonderful new amenities and entertainment options coming to Volusia County beaches, many are asking how many more overpriced out-of-town “branding” consultants do we need? 

Maybe all the pieces and parts are already in the box if we just look close enough?

In my cynical view, it evokes the old idiom, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Perhaps the Halifax Area Advertising Authority is so preoccupied with those things of singular importance to hoteliers in this multifaceted “hospitality market” that they cannot see the opportunities sprouting up right before their eyes.

My hope is that the HAAA Board of Directors, elected officials, and others in the industry will ensure that, as our beach management gurus negotiate the new contract, they establish a mutually beneficial working relationship with those concessionaires and entrepreneurs who are developing a fun and engaging experience for our diverse draw – vacationers, locals, and day-trippers alike – and work cooperatively to bring new and innovative recreation opportunities to the strand.  


My standing second Monday of the month visit to the local public affairs forum GovStuff Live! with Big John – the ‘fastest two-hours in radio’ – has been postponed until Monday, January 24, 2022, due my on-going bout with COVID-19.

I hope you’ll tune-in.    

Stay safe out there, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for January 7, 2022

Hi, kids!

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.

Asshole           COVID-19 Omicron Edition

The bastard finally caught me.

After being “vaxxed,” boosted, masked, washing my hands to the point of distraction, etc., etc., on Monday, I tested positive for the dreaded ‘Rona, so if this edition of Angels & Assholes seems more jumbled and disjointed than normal (is that possible?) please give a sick man a break. 

Now I can speak from achy first-hand experience and provide you with my own victim impact statement from down here in the Kleenex-strewn trenches:

In short – COVID-19 Omicron Edition sucks. 

Going in, it is important to remember – I am a blowhard with a goofy opinion on everything – not an epidemiologist, which means I don’t have a flippin’ clue what variant du jour I am temporarily hosting in what remains of my upper respiratory tract.     

But it is definitely the one that moves in unannounced and unpacks a low-grade fever, chills, dry cough, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, an all-encompassing “brain fog,” and a general “I feel like shit” malaise – one that transcends the normal aches, pains, and confusion of a 61-year-old inveterate drinker who has, for years, ignored the general care and maintenance of his now leaky vessel.

An accurate descriptor is the “flu-like symptoms” we have all been told to expect. 

As word gets around town, I have been humbled by the gracious outpouring of good wishes, advice, and moral support from friends and foes alike. 

A special thanks to everyone who took the time to drop a note on social media or send an offer of help – truly heartening and very much appreciated.  That includes the well-intentioned person who began a conversation about pharmaceutical treatment options by asking, “Do you live near a Petsmart?”     

Thank you all.  What would I do without you?

Last Sunday, a friend that I had contact with called to say he tested positive for COVID-19 – which would make my third known “exposure” in the two years since this damnable pandemic started.  Fortunately, the other two brushes resulted in little more than the recommended quarantine, no symptoms, negative testing, and a clean bill of health – so I wasn’t worried about it. 

In March, I received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, the much maligned “one and done” jab, because that was what they offered at the vaccination site, and I was not particularly fussy about which flavor I got.     

I experienced little more than mild soreness at the injection site – and, for good-or-ill, those little antibodies served me well, guarding against the virus and its various iterations for damn near nine months. 

From the outset, I understood that the vaccine is not a guaranteed grant of immunity – and “breakthrough” infections are increasingly common – but people I trust explained that like the annual flu shot, a vaccination can provide a better chance of avoiding hospitalization (or worse) if/when COVID came to call. 

Look, I am not some radical “vaxxer” – in fact, I could give two-shits if you get the vaccine or not.

Sorry, that may sound harsh, but in my view, immunizations are a personal healthcare decision, certainly none of my business, an individual choice made after weighing the benefits and consequences during a pandemic, something that transcends posturing and politics

Given the number of poor personal decisions in my own life.  I don’t judge others.    

So please do not feel the need to respond with reams of pro/anti-vaccination videos, articles, scary stories, rumors, and crude name-calling.  I get it. 

Rest comfortable in the knowledge that I already know I’m an asshole.  I hate me, too.


The fact is, I was a hypochondriacal ‘germaphobe’ long before COVID-19 hatched – a compulsive handwasher who eschews ‘hugs,’ abhors close physical contact, bolts like a scalded dog at the sound of a sneeze, would rather starve to death than eat from a buffet – a pathological ochlophobe who avoids crowds and confined spaces with a zealousness that borders on fanaticism.

In short – I hate being sick – and if there is an overhyped vaccine, curative serum, Hungarian garlic ritual, obscure voodoo healing incantation, greasy unguent, or smelly ointment available – I’m all in – even if it kills me.

Call me a fool, but my one bugaboo is I stop short of any “remedy” that can be purchased at Tractor Supply. . .

Out of an abundance of caution, last Wednesday, I went online and made an appointment at my local Walgreens where a very friendly pharmacist tech administered both the Pfizer COVID-19 booster and this season’s flu shot at the same time.

By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling a little under the weather, not sick, just “off,” and I thought it might be a normal reaction to the booster.

To be on the safe side, I took a rapid test from a stock that Patti and I laid in a few weeks ago when they were still available on the shelves – back before petty politics required we all line up like cattle at government “testing sites” – hoping against hope we make it to the front of the grim queue of walking wounded while supplies last (trust me, by any metric, this is no way to manage a pandemic at any level of government – especially in the greatest nation on earth – and history will not be kind to our “leaders.”  All of them.)

After swirling and swabbing, then impatiently waiting the required 15-minutes, the home test proved negative.  Whew.   

So, I washed down two Advil with a shot of Woodford Reserve and went to bed.     

A few hours later, a dear friend who I spent considerable time with over the holidays called to say they were also positive for COVID-19.  The noose was tightening. 

My phobias and worry quickly gave way to a real fever and chills – accompanied by a persistent scratchy throat and that weird feeling one gets right before a chest cold settles in – punctuated with fatigue and a tell-tale headache that my daily two-hour “retirement nap” didn’t cure. 


On Monday, with the chills and body aches now undeniable, I took another test and this time the results were immediate – the dreaded pink parallel lines that confirmed the virus had finally stalked its circuitous way from some diseased bat in an obscure Asian wet market, crawled from a broken Petri dish in some back-alley in Botswana, escaped a mad scientist’s beaker in the bowels of Dr. Evil’s bioweapons laboratory, or (insert the latest wild-ass conspiratorial guess on where the damn thing originated) – before invading Barker’s View HQ, crawling up my nose, and making itself at home.      

Look, I don’t want to make light of a virus that has claimed far too many – some of whom were longtime friends, lives of significant contribution to our community, now forever lost – but it is important to look beyond the hype and horseshit, the partisan propaganda and organized campaigns that weaponize information, stir suspicion, and stoke the fearmongering that sells newspapers but confuses constructive discourse on a public health crisis by attaching nefarious motives to both camps – a shitstorm of epic proportions, horribly illustrating that political one-upmanship has become more important that saving lives.   

The facts as I know them are this:  My bout with COVID-19, though uncomfortable and inconvenient, has fluctuated between mild and moderate in severity – all symptoms well-managed at home with ample application of purely medicinal Hot Toddies.

Your experience may well be different than mine – and I urge everyone to contact your doctor for sound medical advice should you experience symptoms.     

Once this dreaded virus has run its course and left my body for other targets of opportunity, I will continue to take all reasonable precautions to protect my community and those dear to me from a similar (or worse) experience, because doing one’s part to limit the spread is the right thing to do. 

I hope you will, too. 

Angel               Holly Hill Police Chief Jeff Miller & Bunnell Police Chief Mike Walker

Wow.  News travels slow here in the hinterlands, eh? 

It is like we are living on the dark side of some barren information wasteland where, if it doesn’t catch the somnolent notice of the Palm Beach Post, Florida Times-Union, Lakeland Ledger, or some other regional newspaper laboring under the yoke of the ‘USA Today Network,’ it didn’t happen. . . 

Recently, two long serving and most deserving local law enforcement professionals were elevated to the rank of Chief of Police – both fine additions to their respective communities – and true gentlemen that I am proud to call friends. 

Last June, Jeff Miller was appointed Interim Chief of Police of the Holly Hill Police Department by City Manager Joe Forte following the retirement of Chief Stephen Aldrich who completed a stellar 29-year career with the agency.

Chief Miller is a product of “The City with a Heart,” attending Holly Hill Elementary School, Holly Hill Junior High, and graduating from Mainland High School in 1989.  

He holds a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida and is a graduate of the 262nd Session of the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia.  His prior leadership roles include service as the City of Holly Hill’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Captain, Deputy Chief of Operations, and Sergeant leading the agency’s Crime Suppression Unit. 

Chief Miller is a member of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Volusia/Flagler Police Chiefs Association, Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Associates, the Holly Hill School Advisory Committee, Florida Department of Children and Families Executive Order 18-81 Leadership Steering Committee, and the Freedom 7 Human Trafficking Task Force. 

Last month, during a surprise ceremony at Holly Hill City Hall attended by three former Holly Hill police chiefs, along with a packed house of friends, family members, and colleagues, Jeff was formally appointed Chief of Police. 

I had the distinct pleasure of serving with Chief Miller for many years, and having watched his professional development and career progression, I can think of no one more deserving.     

In my experience, Chief Miller leads from the front – with a personal commitment to servant leadership – which means he places himself in service to those under his command, not the other way around – always honoring the demanding work and sacrifice of those who serve, protect, and deliver quality services to the citizens of Holly Hill, while demanding a high degree of professionalism and integrity.    

Earlier this week, Bunnell City Manager Alvin Jackson announced the selection of Michael Walker to serve as that community’s new Chief of Police. 

Chief Walker will be formally appointed during a community ceremony on January 24, 2022. 

From experience, small-town policing takes a steady hand and a ‘jack of all trades’ dexterity, adaptive leadership skills, the ability to manage scarce resources, adopting modern policing principles while holding firm to the best traditions of small-town life and developing a neighborly connection to those you serve.

When done right, serving a quaint, close-knit community is one of the most personally rewarding experiences in the law enforcement profession – and the cities of Holly Hill and Bunnell now have two of the finest practitioners of true “community-oriented policing” at the helm.

Chief Walker comes from a distinguished line of career law enforcement officers.

I had the honor of serving under Mike’s late father, Larry Walker, who retired as Holly Hill’s police chief.  His brother, Mark Walker, retired from the Ormond Beach Police Department before embarking on a stellar career with the Ponce Inlet Police Department. 

Another brother, Jim Crimmins, also retired from the Ormond Beach Police Department.

Chief Walker began his service to the citizens of Lake Helen in 1989 after a year with the Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety.  He was appointed Chief of Police in 2011.

During his long and honorable career, Chief Walker set the gold standard – always humble and engaged – with an ever-present smile and quick wit – no job too big or too small to ensure the safety of his beautiful community.

The City of Bunnell is in very capable hands. 

In my experience, small town chiefs do not seek this multifaceted job for the salary and benefits that their often-itinerant major city counterpart’s command.  They do it out of an abundance of love and a sense of community – a mutual affection that forms the very essence of what it means to serve, protect, and place the needs of others above one’s own self-interest. 

These two extraordinary professionals have proven their personal commitment to that time-honored tradition. 

Kudos to Chief Jeffrey Miller and Chief Mike Walker on this wonderful accomplishment in their impressive careers.   

Quote of the Week

“Such an excellent idea from Rep. Bob Rommel to insist on the installation of cameras and microphones in our public school classrooms! So great a concept that no doubt he would insist it to be extended to our state legislature… as in all our elected officials’ offices, conference rooms, et cetera paid for by taxpayers where state business is discussed.

I’m sure Mr. Rommel will be pleased to have his every word recorded for public scrutiny. Remembering, of course, we are the Sunshine State.”    

–Stephen Smith, Palm Coast, writing in what remains of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Letters to the Editor section, “Why stop at teachers?” Wednesday, January 5, 2022

I don’t know Stephen Smith of Palm Coast – but I like how he thinks. 

The nationwide push to advance our burgeoning surveillance state by placing a camera and microphone in every classroom/bathroom/locker room/police cruiser/etc. (anywhere but the corporate boardroom – or the backrooms of the State Capitol and Congress) came to the Sunshine State last week in a bill sponsored by State Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples).

In my view, Rep. Rommel’s measure is designed to ensure Florida teachers are ‘sticking to the script’ – and, like so many posturing mandates that are foisted on local governments and school districts from Tallahassee – the concept of self-determination and the unintended consequences of ill-thought laws be damned. 

Trust me.  When Rep. Rommel’s bill becomes law – the only benefit will be when parents of recalcitrant “students” are forced to watch a loop of their offspring violently and profanely acting out, abusing teachers, students, and staff in a dangerous and all too frequent occurrence that has turned many a public school into a dystopian Thunderdome.   

Like law enforcement officers before them, professional educators are now being told by their elected representatives “We don’t trust you to do the right thing.” 

So, rather than simply set sound academic policy and reasonable oversight – we’re going to have Big Brother monitor you from an all-seeing Orwellian “telescreen” – an omnipresent eye in the sky that captures and records everything you say and do – leaving your every word, move, and teaching technique open to painstaking interpretation by lawyers, parents, politicians, administrators, government agencies, and professional critics.

My God.

What are we becoming? 

More importantly, why in hell are We, The People allowing ourselves to be thrown down this very slippery path? 

Who will watch the watchers?   

The roots of this issue run deep – to the heart of the all-or-nothing cultural warfare that permeates everything – with the far left elites of what passes for “higher education” – those who blanket themselves in the insulating cocoon of tenure while spouting divisive, even violent, rhetoric in college classrooms around the nation (then ‘cancel’ anyone who dissents) – while “conservative” regents respond with the “nuclear option”crushing free speech with iron boot intimidation, chilling any academic challenge to controversial ideas and concepts, discussions that should form the backbone of a meaningful college education.     

Sound familiar? 

Screw it.  We could trudge down that dank slit-trench all day and not find a sensible answer – because outdated concepts like reasonableness and rationality no longer inform the discussion in Tallahassee and beyond.

Now, lockstep conformity to partisan politics and the pursuit of unrestrained power (and fealty to those self-serving fringe elements on both sides of the widening divide who fund it) is the only thing that matters.    

I agree with Mr. Smith’s suggestion.

It is time we put cameras in the inner-sanctums of government at all levels – broadcasting the backroom mini-moves of our elected officials and those uber-wealthy insiders who control the rods and strings – laying bare the bartered policy decisions, tax breaks, corporate welfare giveaways, exposing the Turkish bazaar atmosphere of “economic development” incentives where government uses our hard-earned tax dollars to select winners-and-losers in the “free” marketplace – an unblinking view of the rotten sausage as it is being made.

Don’t hold your breath, folks. . .    

And Another Thing!

Maybe I was giddy with COVID-induced fever, but as midnight tolled on New Year’s Eve, I resolved to keep an open mind in 2022 – to wipe clear the cracked and greasy lens through which I view the intrigues of local government and those who so deftly manipulate it – vowing to look past the hucksterism in a strange election year when every seat on the Volusia County Council is up for grabs with the exception of County Chair Jeff Brower.

Like clockwork, my well-intentioned fresh start was shot all to hell on Thursday when I tuned into what passed for the Volusia County Council’s annual organizational meeting – which set the tone with a quick adoption of a monthly meeting schedule geared toward the comfort and convenience of our elected and appointed officials – with absolutely no thought of moving “public” meetings to a time when the public can attend and participate in their government.

Can’t afford to take time off to be heard by your elected representatives?  Tough shit, John Q. . . 

A common theme began to emerge as Councilwoman Heather Post took it on the chin from several of her “colleagues” – telegraphing that Volusia’s entrenched Old Guard plan to continue the tired theater of questioning Ms. Post’s motives while limiting her ability to represent constituents with parliamentary shenanigans, then painting her as ineffectual ahead of the coming election cycle. 

Classic political gaslighting – performed Keystone Kops style – a bungling slapstick that always ends in comedic chaos.    

For instance, on the critical issue of ensuring the patency of Florida’s Wildlife Corridor in Volusia County, our elected representatives took the courageous step of voting to accept a staff report (whatever that means?), promises of a “broader” future discussion, and a study to study the need for another “Green Ribbon Political Insulation Committee” which will, no doubt, put even more time and distance between now and anything of substance.   

I hope I’m wrong. 

The Wildlife Corridor Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last summer,  is designed to protect interconnected natural areas of the state – a physical necessity as increasingly enveloped wildlife are forced to escape the out-of-control destruction of their natural habitat to make way for more development.   

It quickly became infinitely clear whose voice mattered most.

When Chairman Brower rightly opted to allow Dr. Wendy Anderson, a professor of environmental science at Stetson University and the duly elected Chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District, more time to address this important issue from the podium, Councilman Ben Johnson was quick to publicly spank Brower for not cutting Dr. Anderson off at the knees before she finished her informative presentation.

Why?  Dr. Anderson went over her allotted three-minutes. . .

Yet, when a representative for the company that owns the massive Farmton Tract – a proposed development which will fundamentally change the landscape of Volusia County as we know it – approached the dais to tout the developer’s conservation efforts – at Mr. Brower’s invitation, Councilman Johnson moved to allow the Farmton spokesperson more time to drone on. 

Because in Volusia County, the “We like ice cream, too!” yammering of a glib corporate shill – a deep-tissue massage that almost convinced me a 60,000-acre development is going to be beneficial to the environment – is infinitely more important than the educated opinion of a respected environmental scientist on an issue made necessary by overdevelopment.   


When Ms. Post asked that a focused discussion of development regulations governing lands near Volusia sections of the Florida Wildlife Corridor be placed on an April workshop – her reasonable request was met with the confused mewling and twaddling of lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler.   

Before the vote on Post’s request, Councilman Johnson asked to recuse himself due to what The Daytona Beach News-Journal described as “…a potential financial interest…”

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

When the fleeting apparition of the ethereal Jonathan “Big Foot” Edwards, Volusia County’s Internal Auditor – who, like Sasquatch, is rumored to exist but rarely seen – appeared out of a ghostly vapor in the Council Chamber to present the 2022 Internal Audit Plan, a puzzling discussion ensued as Ms. Post attempted to ascertain Edward’s complete autonomy. 

In October, Ms. Post reported an unidentified issue with inmate trust fund accounts to Mr. Edwards in her role as an elected representative – a responsibility which Ms. Post rightfully considers an integral and important part of her job. Because it is.

That turned into a pointed reminder by Councilman Johnson, His Eminence Fred Lowry, and Councilwoman Wheeler of how county government works – ensuring that the individual elected officials know they are neutered – expressly prohibited from bringing serious individual or constituent concerns to Mr. Edwards’ attention – comfortable in the fact that, in Volusia County, ferreting out fraud, theft, and financial inefficiencies will never be as important as lockstep conformity to a rigid process that protects the bureaucratic upper crust. 


For her trouble, Ms. Post was left defending herself from insinuations of overreach because she reported a potential crime to the county’s “independent” auditor – which Lowry claimed left a perception in the public’s mind that there are “problems” with the internal oversight and inspection process.

In my view, the most telling twist came when our éminence grise “Dr.” Lowry adopted his weird Perry Mason persona and questioned County Attorney Mike Dyer and Mr. Edwards regarding the auditor’s sovereignty from the dais – concluding that he alone cleared any doubt from the minds of a concerned public – because what else were they going to say? 

While still center stage, Lowry took a cheap swipe at Ms. Post and her supporters here in the Real World, claiming that while “…certain peoples Facebook groupies tonight will be cheering them on” he wants everyone to know there is no problem with the internal auditing process because, based upon his superpower of deductive reasoning, he dispelled any suspicion beyond a shadow of a doubt.    

Okay, whatever you say, Fred. . .  

While there may be some misguided souls out there who disagree – I no longer believe anything that comes from Councilman Lowry’s mouth – and something tells me there is more to this mysterious autonomy question than meets the eye. . .

Please don’t take my word for it.  Watch the archived meeting video and form your own conclusion.

With Ms. Post now a viable and declared candidate for the At-Large seat, look for more of the same in coming months as the campaign to protect the stagnant status quo heats up.    

On a positive note, the elected officials evaluated compelling proposals from our longtime beach concession provider Beach Rentals and Refreshments of Volusia County – and the impressive Miami Beach-based vendor Boucher Brothers.

Fortunately, Councilmembers voted unanimously to keep the 10-year contract local. 

The move will allow some sixty area families who earn their living on the beach to keep providing the unique atmosphere and quality concessions residents and visitors have come to expect. 

Unusually smart thinking for that bunch – and an impressive start to what will be a very interesting year.   

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all! 

The Question Remains

L. Cassius ille, quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat, identidem in causis quaerere solebat, cui bono fuisset?

–Cicero: Pro Roscio Amerin

(“Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a most honest and most wise judge, was in the habit of asking time and again in lawsuits: “to whom might it be for a benefit?“)

This blogsite cut its editorial teeth on that ancient question – Cui bono?

In my view, asking “who benefits?” in an age where explosive growth is rapidly overtaking our ability to absorb and accommodate the flash flood of new neighbors – and their vehicles, waste, and copious consumption – may sound like a rhetorical question, even naïve, but I have never been accused of being quick on the uptake or known for my political sophistication. 

Like a dull boy with a Tinker Toy, to better understand complex questions, I must break the issues down into their smaller parts, study the ways they connect, look at them analytically, and determine how things “came to be.”

For a rube like me, it is necessary to look back to the genesis of the problem, beyond the hype and horseshit, to that place where powerful forces came together and created an environment where those we have elected and appointed to represent our best interests thought it wise to approve massive developments atop our aquifer recharge areas – the very source of our drinking water – churn our remaining wildlife habitat into a muddy moonscape, and inundate our wholly inadequate transportation infrastructure with near gridlocked traffic – all frustratingly bottlenecked at a two-lane pinch point that will take years (and tens-of-millions in public funds) to correct.

For the record, some of those same politicians and planners who have approved thousands of new homes and commercial developments in the piney woods west of I-95 and beyond are still sitting on the dais of power – or polishing a wingback chair with their sizeable backsides at a City Hall or county administrative complex near you – still rubberstamping land use changes, granting “planned unit developments” across the width and breadth of Volusia County, consistently telling set-upon residents that there is “…nuttin’ we can do about it – hands are tied – bidness is bidness, y’all.”    

And, that might have worked. 

At one time. . . 

Then, Volusia County taxpayers learned the outright subterfuge surrounding a quashed 52-page/$50,000 “secret study” that, in 2016, recommended impact fees be raised some three time higher in certain categories – and a change to a county ordinance that “the consultants deemed overly generous to developers.”

We never looked at our elected officials the same again. . . 

With Clay Ervin, who still serves our interests as Volusia County’s growth and resource management guru, yammering that the secret study “…was not final; it was still a draft … and we felt it was incorrect,” and sitting elected officials calling the debacle “troubling,” “upsetting,” and “frustrating” – it proved, conclusively, the worst fears of those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence – and cemented the “trust issue” our elected officials told us didn’t exist yet still skews the political landscape here on the Fun Coast.     

According to a June 2018 article by former News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt entitled, “Secret study? Volusia County’s 2016 report calls for higher impact fees” we learned:

“But they (county officials) also didn’t mention it in February, when council members decided against reviewing impact fees (when His Eminence Councilman Fred Lowry voted to “let a sleeping dog lie” when it came to discussing impact fees). They didn’t bring it up in March, when the council reiterated that decision after a public outcry. The report didn’t come up in May, when, in the face of more public criticism, the council decided to postpone a vote on the half-cent sales tax until it could revise its impact fees. And it didn’t come up this month, when the council approved a contract with Duncan Associates to study the issue.”

Remember?  I do.   

At that time, our entrenched ‘powers that be’ had the abject temerity to attempt a half-cent money grab – a sales tax increase that would have placed the burden of improving our transportation infrastructure squarely on the back of every man, woman, and child in Volusia County – rather than demanding a reasonable fair share from their well-heeled “friends” in the development industry who created the burden in the first place. . .

But why? 

Well, in August 2018, Wyatt (who is no longer digging the facts and writing for The Daytona Beach News-Journal) educated us on where an outsized portion of campaign contributions originate in Volusia County elections:  

“Of the $423,729 reported to the supervisor of elections office through July 6 (2018), not including contributions made by the candidates themselves, $1 of every $5 has come from a developer or someone in the construction or building industry. . .”

Yeah.  “Wow.”

On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s business editor Clayton Park presented a front-page exposé on Volusia’s growth outlook for the coming year – a scourge that shows no sign of slowing as speculative developers continue to make hay (and massive amounts of cash) while the sun shines.

Existing residents, and our new neighbors trapped to the west of the Tomoka River funnel, will be happy to hear that – according to a few of our well-connected real estate mavens – out-of-control growth is expected to ‘sizzle’ in 2022, with more new homes, stick-and-glue apartment complexes, and commercial space on the way as they continue to pursue this “shove ten-pounds of shit into a five-pound bag” planning and management strategy. 

According to G. G. Galloway, a commercial Realtor who serves as a member of the Ormond Beach Planning Board (who last month was on the losing end of a 5-1 vote denying the controversial 143 home Tattersall project at Tymber Creek and Airport Road, which, in the view of many, threatened to bring even more traffic and flooding issues to the area) said:

“Florida’s going to continue to grow. We don’t have a state income tax and we have the sun and weather,” he said. “Sooner or later, rising (home) prices (and construction costs) will slow things down but not in 2022. There’s a lot of projects that will be coming out of the ground in the new year.”

In fact, so many new projects are “coming out of the ground” that malignant sprawl is metastasizing along the spine of Volusia County – with even toxic former golf courses being eyed as a suitable place to shoehorn a few more single-family cracker boxes.

Given the insatiable appetite of real estate developers, will cemeteries be next?

Now, at the advent of 2022, the taxpayers of Volusia County are still waiting on a slow-walked impact fee study that Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower has been begging for since he took office last January – while our wholly compromised elected officials countywide vow to commission more studies, and expend more hot air, on what “responsible development” means – and what the current growth at all cost strategy is doing to our quality of life – as the bulldozers continue to roar.

Cui bono, indeed.

As the 2022 election cycle heats up, it is important to look past the rhetoric and study the campaign finance reports of those who hold themselves out for high office – and review the voting record of those currently in office – as unchecked growth, and what to do about it, becomes the seminal issue of our time.