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.
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.