A Broken Record. . .

Damn.  It’s our fault. 

Again. 

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.”

Really?

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.”

Remember?

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.

Remember?

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?

Damn. 

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.

Thanks.    

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. 

Damn. 

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.   

Whatever.

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. 

Bullshit.   

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.