Manatees don’t vote

I hate it when elected officials – and those appointed to protect our threatened environment – piss down our backs and tell us it’s raining. . . 

In a recent article by reporter Brenno Carillo writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal we learned of the tragic death of another distressed manatee found in a New Smyrna Beach canal.

“It is highly likely that the manatee’s poor body condition is related to the extreme loss of forage within the Indian River Lagoon as a result of excess nutrient pollution over decades,’ which ‘has led to a series of algal blooms that shaded out and killed the vast majority of seagrasses within the Indian River Lagoon.”

In short, the manatee starved to death – just like some 1,100 others who died last year – many in the northern Indian River Lagoon.

That’s right here in our backyard.     

Obviously, we’ve made a mess of things.  But what have our ‘powers that be’ learned from it?

In my view, they have discovered how to shoehorn even more development onto threatened areas while convincing us they are spending on “environmental restoration” projects. . .

You read that right.

Last month, while our elected elite gathered in their finery in the Ocean Center – noshing on epicurean delights generously provided by their corporate benefactors, some in the development and construction industry – this unfortunate manatee was struggling for survival in a murky Southeast Volusia canal, the latest victim of a growth-at-all-cost strategy fueled by the unbridled greed of a few powerful insiders with a chip in the game. 

Who gives a shit, right?   I mean, screw the manatees

They don’t purchase zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes “from the low $300’s” – they don’t vote – and they damn sure don’t subsidize the political careers of those malleable shit-heels who expedite it all with arbitrary land use changes from the dais of power. . .

It’s no secret that there are untold billions to be made developing and redeveloping waterfront real estate in East Central Florida – draining the land, building ghastly “theme” communities on top of our aquifer recharge areas, and the newest phenomenon, allowing sprawling “cities within a city” – while those elected dullards who rubberstamp land use changes and neuter environmental protections, salve their conscience with band aid solutions, and state sponsored hurt here/help there mitigation strategies, all while wallowing in the political cowardice that does nothing to stop the obscene slash-and-burn sprawl.  

Look, I realize we live in a time when landowners are given free rein to do whatever they want, when they want, with their property – because “private property rights” have been bastardized by those with a chip in the game to mean “shit on your neighbor – money talks – and anything goes.”

Even if it kills, sickens, and maims indigenous wildlife – chokes and pollutes our finite water supply – and endangers future generations by allowing development directly on top of former dumpsites and adds to toxic runoff into the very waterways they claim to be helping, while strategically camouflaging infrastructure projects that facilitate even more growth as “restoration” efforts – all under the deranged belief no one will notice.

Besides, it is easy for these hypocritical assholes to produce videos taking credit for the hard work of actual environmentalists when it comes time to stage the next round of “accomplishments” for the State of the County soiree next year. 

Look, despite popular belief – I’m a big fan of County Council Chair Jeff Brower. 

I supported his candidacy and cast my sacred vote for Mr. Brower – and I remain confident that his intentions are pure as he struggles to live up to his campaign promises to free our beach and slow the ferocity of current growth in the face of Volusia County’s Old Guard – a fusty group of obstructionist’s intent on protecting the pernicious “system” at all costs. 

They say the flak gets heavier the closer one gets to the target – and Mr. Brower is clearly making some very important people uncomfortable with talk of “low impact development” and strengthening environmental protection strategies – while his “colleagues” do everything in their power to marginalize his effectiveness on the dais, and the Old Guard’s goofy mouthpieces spout nonsensical horseshit on social media to question and disparage the very initiatives that got Chairman Brower elected in the first place. 

Recently, craven politicians touted a City of Oak Hill septic-to-sewer project – a phased initiative you and I paid for with some $9 million in “grant funds,” gifts, and loans from various local, state, and federal agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns River Water Management District, the Indian River Lagoon Council, and the County of Volusia – which, we were told, will partially pay for helping restore the threatened lagoon by converting some 285 septic tanks in the Indian Harbor Estates area to “. . .a more environmentally friendly central sewerage collection system.”

For the record, Volusia County will lease and operate the sewerage collection system “…to ensure payment of the city’s long-term debt.”

In the same breath, now Oak Hill officials are considering approval of a land use change that could potentially bring an additional 900+ homes and commercial space to the Bills Hill Road area of this once pristine fishing village – a move that would more than double the population of a community which currently hosts one stop light.   


In the view of many, this environmental sleight-of-hand merely supplanted Oak Hill’s inability to build adequate utilities infrastructure that will allow additional development on lands near the lagoon.

Is there another explanation?

Look, we get it.

This project isn’t curing the sins of the past – it’s making it more palatable for future development – a publicly funded marketing tool.

So, these faux environmentalists on various commissions, councils, and the legislature can stop the pandering bilge and cheap propaganda of politicians throwing sacks of used oyster shells, paying lip service to water quality projects, and planting mangroves in some vainglorious “look at me” feel-good ruse while backdooring even more development.

My God.  How stupid do they think we are?

A recent rehashed op/ed written for Treasure Coast Newspapers, then republished in Sunday’s The Daytona Beach News-Journal, blared the question, “Manatee death numbers rage into second year. Is there help on way?”

The answer is “No.” 

What is “on the way” is more, more, more paved over sprawl along the diseased spine of Volusia County from Farmton to the Flagler County line and beyond – all facilitated by these spineless bastards that claim to care about the health and welfare of your family at election time – while doing everything in their power to advance this malignancy that is sacrificing our collective quality of life on the foul altar of insatiable greed.

While manatees don’t vote – the citizens of Oak Hill and Volusia County do.

This evening, beginning at 6:00pm, concerned residents will gather for a meeting of the City Commission to discuss the proposed residential planned unit development at Oak Hill City Hall.

Let your voice be heard.   

Angels & Assholes for February 18, 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               Friends of the Green Lion Café

“Maybe politicians are motivated by power. They want to boss the show, call the shots, twist arms, and land on the rest of us like a ton of bricks. That would mean that politicians are bad. Or maybe politicians are motivated by fame. Perhaps they believe the old saw “Washington is Hollywood for the ugly.” They want to be fabulous, in the limelight at all times, the only noodle in the soup, and box-office dynamite. That would mean that politicians are mentally ill.”

–The Late, Great P. J. O’Rourke, “No Apparent Motive: A chilling characteristic of politicians is that they’re not in it for the money,” The Atlantic, November 2002

In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, our eponymous hero observes, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Well, in the gilded chambers of the Palm Coast City Council, “Life is like a box of cereal – full of nuts and flakes – and you know exactly what you’re going to get.”

As this latest unfortunate saga began, in 2017, Carolyn and Tony Marlow, owners of the incredibly popular Golden Lion restaurant in Flagler Beach, took a chance on a dilapidated space at the failing Palm Harbor golf course. 

At the time, what passed for a “restaurant” had dwindled to little more than an unsightly concession stand, and the dying golf operation had hemorrhaged some $9 million since its inception. 

After agreeing to renovate the space and attempt to turn the failing eatery around, the Marlow’s, negotiated a favorable lease consistent with the risk – with the first six months absorbed by the City of Palm Coast, then $500 a month, with a $25-a-month increase each year after year two. 

In turn, the Marlow’s put some $100,000 and copious amounts of blood, sweat, and tears into refurbishing the place and opened what would become the wildly successful Green Lion Café, which Trip Advisor now rates as the number one restaurant in Palm Coast.

Due to the Green Lion Café’s popularity, the Palm Harbor golf course has also turned around. 

According to an excellent exposé by Pierre Tristam writing in FlaglerLive! “The intangible role the restaurant played in that turnaround, to the benefit of the city, is likely incalculable. Green Lion in April requested a lease extension, as allowed by contract.”    

I encourage everyone to read Mr. Tristam’s excellent report here:  

Then, as things often go in that wild and wacky funhouse that is the Palm Coast council chamber, the proverbial wheel came off the cart. . . 

During a recent workshop, Palm Coast Councilmembers Eddie Branquinho, Ed Danko, and Victor Barbosa set upon the Green Lion lease, calling it “shameful,” “outrageous,” and a “sweetheart deal” that was “robbing the people” – clearly punishing the Marlow’s and their hardworking employees for their extraordinary success.  

The matter came back to the elective body recently after staff renegotiated the terms of the Green Lion’s lease which increased the restaurant’s rent 317% over the next five years, bringing it more in line with current market rates. 

According to Mr. Tristam’s article, “The work of months of negotiations between the city and Green Lion crumbled before the council’s assault.”

“I want to use the word shame. Because I could use different words, but the word shame, that’s what we should be using over here for the people that actually did this lease five years ago,” Council member Eddie Branquinho said, not naming Jim Landon, the city manager who negotiated the lease. “And shame on us if we agreed to this. Shame on us. This is actually – let me use the bad word, this is robbing the people of Palm Coast. This is actually a shame.” He was equally critical of the city staff, which he said should not have submitted the lease proposal in its present form. “This is bad,” he said. “This is shameful. Shameful.” He tried to walk back the personal attack later, by saying he was not intending to be personal.”

Not to be outdone, the always angry Ed Danko, began throwing superfluous offers from the dais, “I’ll give you seven, or eight,” mocking the $600 a month rent the Marlow’s paid under the initial terms. 

According to Mr. Tristam, had Councilman Danko bothered to read the agenda packet he would have known the renegotiated terms called for $1,200 per month starting in September, increasing by several hundred dollars each year to $2,500 by the fifth year. 

After much preening and posturing, most of the Council supported going immediately to the $2,500 per month rental fee – before pulling the rug out from under the Green Lion altogether and agreeing to go out for competitive bid on the restaurant operation.    

After the meeting, Christopher Marlow of the Green Lion said:

“And now they’re talking about kicking us out and putting 30 families out of work so the city can make $1,000 a month more? Are you kidding me?” Marlowe said. Since taking over the restaurant had weathered numerous closures because of hurricanes and tropical storms, the kitchen floor had caved in, the dining room had flooded. The restaurant repaired and moved on. “We want to continue our lease. The City of Palm Coast is making it very difficult, and quite honestly making it almost impossible.” He added: “We have agreed to everything that they’ve asked for and it’s still not enough for these councilmen. I don’t know what to do with these people. It was just like a feeding frenzy yesterday.”

According to reports, on Monday, Palm Coast employees entered the restaurant’s kitchen to take measurements while staff was preparing for a busy Valentine’s Day service. . . 

My God. 

Over the years, I have written a lot about the concept of shame in politics – an emotion that once served as a controlling factor in public life.

Now, that social trait has been lost to accelerated evolution in brazen politicians – a time when we can no longer count on a sense of dishonor and ignominy to control boorish behavior from those we elect to represent our interests – or govern their often-outrageous official actions once the arrogance of power becomes the operative ethic.    

As a result, the ad hominem attacks on staff, marginalization of “colleagues” who refuse to tow the line, and open debasement of citizens who engage with government is now the norm rather than the exception.   

Unfortunately, most reasonable people – even those who are proven assets to their community like the Marlow family – simply choose to disengage, chalk it all up to a horrific experience, and relocate their proven enterprises elsewhere. 

Trust me.  That deteriorating Us vs. Them mentality is not limited to the Duchy of Palm Coast.

Now, it seems political pressure, well applied, is the only effective deterrent to this abject egotism. 

Earlier this week, the heat generated by a group of committed citizens was felt by the Palm Coast City Council when hundreds of friends of the Green Lion Café descended on City Hall to let their voices be heard on the asinine and arbitrary decision which threatened to crush a successful local business under the council’s supercilious bootheel. 

Although the rental rates were not on Tuesday’s agenda, according to reports, furious residents began lining up in advance of the 9:00am meeting, intent on letting their elected officials know their utter disgust at the unwarranted abuse heaped on a local business and its employees.

What resulted was some two-hours of terse public comment.

According to a subsequent report in FlaglerLive!, “Remarkably, not one of the scores of people who spoke dissented from the recurring theme, which combined indictments of the council with appeals to reopen lease negotiations with the Green Lion.”

“The crush of pointed, at times bitter but never indecorous unanimity was a counterpoint to what has become the chronic, inflammatory tendency of council members, particularly Danko, to use their dais, their social media accounts and their position as brutal bully pulpits. The approach is typically divorced from thoughtful deliberation or even an understanding of recent history or administrative groundwork.”

At the end of the day, in the face of withering criticism, the Palm Coast City Council reversed their previous decision and agreed to reopen lease negotiations with the Green Lion.

As Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin said after the action, “I must say it’s rare in today’s political climate that we can have so many residents, so many neighbors, so much of our community attend an event, an organization agenda like this and perform with such decorum. I applaud you all and thank you very much and at this point, I’ll move on with the rest of the agenda. So thank you.”

Good stuff.

Please read the rest of this interesting story here:

Thanks to the civic involvement of Palm Coast residents, some thirty families who stood to lose their livelihoods – a tragic consequence of this abject stupidity that would have had radiating impacts across Flagler County – will now remain employed, allowed to continue their excellent work operating the most popular establishment in Palm Coast.     

Kudos to the Marlow’s – and the good citizens of Palm Coast – for boldly stepping forward to let their voices be heard! 

As Margret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

What a splendid example of that adage in action, eh? 

Times they are a-changing across the political landscape in Volusia and Flagler Counties, and it is refreshing to see the long-suffering victims of these bullies finally pushing back.    

Asshole           Volusia County Council   

Earlier this week, it was interesting to watch Glenn Storch, one of Central Florida’s most prominent and effective land use attorneys, morph into his new role as adjunct legal counsel to the Volusia County Council on the languishing issue of establishing low-impact development standards. 

This doesn’t happen often (if ever), but I agreed with Mr. Storch when he advised our elected dullards that it is impossible to ask developers – his clients – to adhere to environmental regulations and design requirements that preserve natural areas and processes when no one in county government has taken the time to define those standards or formulate comprehensive legislation that can be duplicated uniformly in each jurisdiction across Volusia County. 

Frankly, I thought it was nice of Mr. Storch to meet his pro bono obligation lecturing those dipshits on the dais how to legislate public policy to the benefit of their constituents – a foreign concept to most of this bunch. . .

Although definitions differ, low-Impact Development is typically considered an approach to land development that works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible by incorporating principles such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features, capturing rainwater, maintaining natural greenspace, and limiting impervious surfaces to create functional and visually appealing site drainage that treats stormwater as a resource rather than a waste product.

During Tuesday’s discussion of an agenda item regarding an amended interlocal service agreement with the City of Ormond Beach related to yet another proposed “upscale” 298-unit residential development – Ridge Haven – shoehorned between Plantation Oaks and the Village of Pine Run, things took a strange turn when Chairman Jeff Brower asked Mr. Storch if his client would consider low-impact development concessions.

The Chairman’s request was based upon citizen input from recent town hall meetings he has moderated across Volusia County – and the undeniable groundswell of popular support for controlling malignant sprawl in the region.   

As always, I was impressed by the intrepid Suzanne Scheiber of Dream Green Volusia who spoke passionately on behalf of our environment – recapping several distant hot-air generators that were hosted by Volusia County in 2018 where the “principles” of low-impact development were bandied about – then reminding everyone that “we can do better.”      

During the very productive deliberation that ensued, the true loyalties of those sitting on the dais of power became evident as the craven Gang of Four circled the wagons around the needs of their political benefactors in the development industry – before Councilman Ben Johnson attempted to cut off further discussion altogether on a matter of near universal concern to citizens of Volusia County – his motion immediately seconded by The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry.   

It was incredibly telling to watch the maneuverings of those Volusia County Council members who serve as finger-puppets of their political donors and benefactors in the real estate development industry – crowing about “overregulation,” “over-stepping,” protecting the rights of speculative developers from onerous regulations, and (for the umpteenth time) what the definition of low-impact development even means.   

My God.

Taking rightful exception to Johnson’s parliamentary obstructionism, Chairman Brower called for a roll call vote on the motion which resulted in lockstep “Yea” nods from Council members Danny Robins, Billie Wheeler, His Eminence “Dr.” Fred Lowry, and Ben Johnson – with Brower, Heather Post, and Barb Girtman voting for transparency and open discussion. 

Fortunately, the measure to muzzle further discussion required a two-thirds majority for passage, and the conversation was allowed to continue. 

As always, the discussion tactically dissolved into a spitting match between the developer’s darling, “Dr.” Fred Lowry and Councilwoman Heather Post, with Lowry running interference for his benefactors – pushing hard to quickly approve the issue at hand and “move on” – past the uncomfortable discourse that threatened the status quo. . .

Unbelievably, this rather benign agenda item exposed the disturbing fact that neither County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald, County Attorney Mike Dyer, Growth and Resources Management Director Clay Ervin, nor anyone in the gilded halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Complex has taken the initiative to develop strategies for controlling growth, strengthening development regulations, or define low-impact development standards in the face of massive public outcry against the sprawl that is rapidly choking our quality of life. 

Perhaps the “LID” legislation is moldering in the same dank bureaucratic sink as the long-forgotten impact fee study? 

Time will tell.  It always does. . .

Anyone else remember the educational series Ms. Scheiber spoke of – paid for by the United States Environmental Protection Agency – and presented by Mr. Ervin and others back in 2018 which discussed implementation of “green building and infrastructure standards”?

I do.

After four years and countless acres of slash-and-burn clear-cutting to make way for more wood frame cracker boxes (with more being approved every week), we are now waiting for yet another plodding “water quality” workshop before Volusia County kicks the rusty can even further down the road on the most pressing issue of our time while the bulldozers continue to roar. . .  

I hope you will remember this deliberately ineffectual stall tactic at the ballot box this year.

In my view, the issue of uncontrolled growth and the resultant environmental impacts is the singular concern of area residents – one that will have major impacts on elections that will determine the future composition of the Volusia County Council.

In my experience, sometimes these pernicious practices can bring a quick end to the public service of entrenched bureaucrats when the right people assume the reins of power. . .

Just a little unsolicited career longevity advice that these sluggardly senior bureaucrats might want to consider before they drag their expensive heels and leave their bosses squirming on other topics of grave public importance. 

Quote of the Week

“Now, more than ever, it is important to balance environmental and economic considerations in our daily operations. A sustainable future for Volusia County, and our entire region, will be based on solutions that include environmental, economic and social considerations.”

–Volusia County Council, 2012

What the hell happened?

This decade-old quote was excerpted from a dull 2018 PowerPoint presentation entitled “Low-Impact Development in Comprehensive Planning,” presented by Volusia Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin at the Lyonia Environmental Center.

That inspirational ditty by a previous iteration of the council did not age well. . .

The dog-and-pony show containing this hollow remark was part of a larger educational series focused on the “…challenges and benefits of instituting low impact development strategies into our structures and community design.”

During the program, speakers discussed the recommendations of something called the 2005 Volusia Smart Growth Implementation Committee, which included heady suggestions like, “protect the environmental core,” “meet the infrastructure needs of smart development,” “direct development to appropriate locations,” and ample bureaucratic pabulum like “develop vibrant, livable and sustainable urban communities,” (as opposed to, “slap together lethargic, dispirited, unlivable communities on every inch of greenspace while permitting growth to outpace supporting infrastructure. . .”?)

So, here we are in 2022 – still clueless about what “low-impact development” and environmental protection standards might look like in the context of comprehensive land use planning.   

Trust me.  The longer this hedging drags on, the more suspicious We, The Little People become – never a positive for incumbents during an election year. . .   

Is it old-fashioned bureaucratic foot-dragging in an environment where no one is ever held accountable?

Or is it bureaucratic paralysis by analysis – a strategic procrastination by senior administrators? 

In my view, it has all the earmarks of a pattern of intentional stalling that benefits well-heeled insiders who control their environment with massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates who, once in office, have effectively fiddled while Rome burned, as their political benefactors haul untold millions of dollars out of the pine scrub. . .

I’m asking.  Because, ten-years on, citizens who are living with the environmental fallout, gridlock, flooding, and water quality concerns have a right to know.

And Another Thing!

This week, what passes for a public meeting of the Volusia County Council was apparently held on the dark side of the moon – at least those parts I could decipher – as the proceedings were transmitted across the rusty tomato cans and taut waxed twine our ‘powers that be’ use to communicate with us rubes who pay the bills and suffer in silence. 


As in weeks/months/years past, this week, the online broadcast sounded like Alexander Graham Bell hailing Mr. Watson on his harmonic telegraph – the video feed fading in-and-out, microphones spitting and sputtering with frustrating frequency – coupled with the annoying tone and pitch of COVID stricken Councilwoman Billie Wheeler screeching across an ear-splitting Zoom connection with an amplitude that broke a wine glass in the sideboard, aggravated my already raging tinnitus, and left me with a weird form of Havana Syndrome. . .   

Seriously, I’ve heard clearer communications transmitted from space probes in the Kuiper Belt.

The sound quality, unreliability, and physical manipulation required to remain marginally connected to these staged bimonthly hootenanny’s sucks

Am I wrong?

Look, I spend an inordinate amount of my sedentary life watching hours of bone-crushingly boring public meetings on public access cable channels, so you don’t have to. 

(At least that is how I justify sitting on my ass, drinking iced whiskey, and hurling snarky barbs at my television. . .)

To their credit, local governments like Daytona Beach, Port Orange, Flagler County, and Deltona actively broadcast public meetings and other important civic information to residents via public access programming.

So, why can’t Volusia County, the wealthiest most bloated bureaucracy in the region – a cash hog commanding an annual budget now surging past $1 Billion – take advantage of this newfangled technology called “television” to engage with interested taxpayers? 

I realize the Volusia County Council is not the most transparent group of elected officials ever to convene – but many taxpayers are beginning to suspect that by making it physically burdensome for their constituents to listen to their stilted and highly choreographed meetings – most will simply tune out and go away. 

In my jaded view, that scheme helps fuel the apathy and disinterest that allows them to ramrod shitty public policy, implement tax and fee increases, and change important regulations without opposition. 

Is there another explanation why these elected dullards – awash in millions of federal Coronavirus relief funds – refuse to improve communications capabilities that allow residents to watch a legible and reliable broadcast, so they are not forced to gather in proximity with other serfs and helots who must sit shoulder-to-shoulder in chambers to watch the intrigues of our Monarchical rules? 


Look, most of what passes for the “public’s business” is so much pap and fluff – staged Kabuki  punctuated with mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations, delivered in a hypnotizing monotone by some disinterested staffer, peppered with complicated bureaucratese, and artfully packaged so no normal human being could possibly understand what in the hell they are talking about – including our dazed and confused elected officials who nod quietly while daydreaming about what their ‘free lunch’ will consist of. . .  

In my view, effective public communications improve accountability, increase transparency, and expedite responsiveness to constituent concerns – all the elements required for something called good governance.

In my experience, increasing the flow and quality of information also increases the public’s trust in the process. 

Folks, we deserve better. 

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

Barker’s View will on hiatus next week.  Please feel free to peruse the ample store of past pieces all conveniently archived for your listening and dancing pleasure at the bottom of the page. 

Keep the faith, friends!

Rise and Shine, Volusia!

Most of the time, these rambling screeds on the news and newsmakers of the day elicit a knowing chuckle – or an uncomfortable groan – from loyal Barker’s View readers. 

I am no more perceptive or prescient than you are – but after years in the game I have a highly-tuned bullshit detector that allows me to analyze the political posturing and make a scientific wild-ass guess about the motivations of local power brokers, bureaucracies, and the elected officials that serve them. 

It’s great to see so many of my neighbors pulling their heads out of the sand and dusting off their own sensors as well. . . 

It is an acquired skill, seeking the truth in an arena often devoid of “facts” – the intrigues and feints that occur in that foggy gray area between the dais of power and the gallery – which make it difficult to discriminate among differing theories – often so intertwined, convoluted, and mired in extraneous crap that they defy Occam’s razor. 

But sometimes these goofy observations of mine hit so close to popular opinion that they provoke a visceral response as the cringy antics of our elected officials – who seem blissfully ignorant of the fears and perceptions of those they govern – become too barefaced and flagrant to ignore.

Fortunately, times they are a-changing – and many in our community are slowly awakening to the fact our apathy and indifference has proven the adage, “We get the government we deserve.”

Across Volusia County, citizens are stirring to the political realities that have resulted in the wholesale destruction of our natural places, environmental atrocities that pave the way (literally) for massive sprawl – out-of-control development that has far outpaced our transportation and utilities infrastructure – with no visible means of supporting repair and replacement as the nagging “Trust Issue,” that hyper-skeptical Us vs. Them mentality we use as a protective mechanism, rightfully blocks additional sales tax increases.

In this once every decade election year, where the bulk of the Volusia County Council seats are up for grabs due to redistricting, the attitudes, awareness, and perceptions of voters are changing – with even the most jaded taxpayers educating themselves, attending meetings, seeking answers, researching how our representatives voted and who benefited – taking a close look at campaign finance reports and other indicators of who has a chip in the game – and why.

This renewed interest in those who manipulate the rods and strings of public policy that control our lives, livelihoods, and tax dollars is palpable – and long overdue – as many come to the realization that a systemic lack of transparency, and the resultant disillusionment and voter apathy, has consequences.      

Trust me.  I’m no Hemingway – so there must be a connection between the growing popularity of my wordy jeremiads, active debate on social media civic forums, and the political awakening that is taking place across Volusia County – a developing consciousness as citizens increasingly reject the pap and fluff flowing from some embroidered press release issued by a government gatekeeper.    

This burgeoning public awareness is making some very important people nervous. 

Last week, I received a strong reaction when I put words to what many Volusia County residents were silently thinking as the annual State of the County address – an ostentatious tableau of government “accomplishments” artfully presented with professionally produced video vignettes staring our elected officials and senior bureaucrats – which served as a backdrop to a grandiose “free” luncheon we were repeatedly told was paid for, in toto, by corporations and government contractors.    

In my view, the tiered sponsorship scheme perpetuated the cheap auction house feel of a county government where those with a chip in the game buy and sell the loyalties of their handmaidens on the dais of power – skewing the political playing field each year with huge campaign contributions to hand select candidates with a malleable mindset. 

That kind of politically incendiary talk angers some of our elected elite – and not everyone agrees with my assessment – but it is increasingly difficult for external forces to manipulate the “system” when those directly affected by it start paying attention, honestly debating differences of opinion, and furthering the discussion beyond the gilded echo chambers in the halls of power.

That takes the conversation out of the shadowy backrooms and gives voice to our concerns. 

In my view, it is also important to call bullshit when with equal enthusiasm. 

Look, I understand the old-timey concept of political loyalty – remaining supportive of popular elected officials who have made promises and strive to represent their constituents with fairness and inclusivity, then work hard to live up to their campaign commitments – despite the often-fierce opposition of entrenched bureaucrats and perennial politicians. 

For example, look no further than the trials and tribulations of Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post, both of whom have been on the receiving end of the gaslighting and parliamentary roadblocks that Volusia’s stodgy Old Guard use to ensure lockstep conformity to the “system.”

There is a reason why so many have tried so hard to suppress Brower and Post – painting them as ineffectual while doing everything in their power to marginalize their efforts – and once you figure out the who, what, when, where, why, and how, nothing in local politics will look the same to you again. . .

In my view, Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Post have weathered the non-stop bullying by their “colleagues” and proven their commitment to substantive change by challenging the stagnant status quo and shifting the paradigm away from years of bureaucratic mediocrity with creative thinking, fiscal responsibility, and accountability. 

But when I see any of our elected elite being taken in by the trappings and perquisites of a system run amok – like last week’s chichi State of the County luncheon – I’m going to call that horseshit what it is, and I hope you will too. 

If politics is the art of controlling one’s environment – it is high time We, The Little People make ourselves heard – at the ballot box and during public policy decisions. 

Fortunately, we have some outstanding candidates in races throughout Volusia County – and more in the wings who are considering a run.  We’ll talk more about who is in, who’s out, who’s a contender, and who is not during what will be a very interesting local election year. 

I warn you – Volusia County politics is not for the faint of heart.

But now is the time to begin the process of recovering a government of the people, reducing the groaning tax burden that feeds this bloated bureaucracy, and defending our quality of life from the corrosive effects of abject greed while there is still something to worry about. 

Rise and Shine, Volusia! 

Welcome to the party. 

Angels & Assholes for February 11, 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           Volusia County Council

Earlier this week, I wrote my thoughts on Tuesday’s State of the County Address – a charter-mandated summation of the county’s goals, objectives, and accomplishments presented annually by the Chair of the Volusia County Council that has morphed into an ostentatious display of excess, pomp, and pageantry.      

I understand my screed generated quite the hullabaloo and rubbed a few very important people the wrong way.    


According to Volusia County’s home-rule charter:

“The county chair shall report annually to the county council and residents the activities of county government for the previous year and the status of accomplishment of existing goals and objectives. The report shall set forth new and revised goals and objectives for future action. Subsequently, the county council shall meet to consider adoption of a plan of action for implementation of the goals and objectives.”

Try as I might, I couldn’t find that section of the charter that requires the “address” be given at a grandiose luncheon, complete with groaning steamtables and free-flowing margaritas, all paid for by the lavish largesse of corporate “sponsors” – some of whom looked eerily similar to government contractors, contributors to the political campaigns of sitting elected officials, and for-profit entities engaged in continuing relationships with Volusia County – who provided our elected elite with the mythical “free lunch” – seeking absolutely nothing in return for their generous bronze, silver, gold, and platinum tiered sponsorships.  

Believe me, I looked. 

What I did find was a fleeting reference to something called a “Code of Ethics” – a short sentence buried in “Article XII” that points county employees and office holders to Florida’s Standards of Conduct for Public Officers and Employees as defined in Chapter 112 Section 311 of our state statutes, which says, in part:

“It is essential to the proper conduct and operation of government that public officials be independent and impartial and that public office not be used for private gain other than the remuneration provided by law. The public interest, therefore, requires that the law protect against any conflict of interest and establish standards for the conduct of elected officials and government employees in situations where conflicts may exist.”

Sound familiar? I didn’t think so. . .

In my jaded view, allowing corporations to “donate” tens-of-thousands of dollars to what has all the earmarks of a two-hour privately funded and unreported campaign rally for incumbents with a say in who gets what reeks of conflict – and casts doubt on the integrity of the competitive public contracting and procurement process. 

Just me? 


I have nothing against those companies who chose to support the State of the County address with sponsorships.  Hell, it’s a good business decision.   

After all, the glossy event brochure contained page length full-color advertisements for the “proud sponsors” and was distributed to some 450 civically active attendees with even more exposure via Volusia County’s public website.    

In fact, many government entities have policies which accept “sponsorships” as a mutually beneficial business arrangement between the city or county and corporations who provide cash or in-kind services in return for access to the commercial and marketing potential associated with an event or activity.

I happen to disagree.

It is bad public policy – because these “business arrangements” can give the perception of cronyism, favoritism, and undue advantage even if none exists – and that can undermine the public’s faith in the impartiality of their government. Something especially true when a tiered system is used – making certain donors more important than others based upon the amount of their “gift.”

Besides, I saw little accomplished “in the public interest” on Tuesday. 

For instance, in an apparent attempt to make amends to his constituents who are struggling mightily to feed their families and put a roof over their children’s heads in this artificial economy – Chairman Brower proudly announced that any excess funds remaining after our elected officials gorged themselves at the extravagant smorgasbord inside the warm confines of the Ocean Center would be donated to organizations that feed the hungry. 

In my view, it had a “Let them eat cake” quality that added to the incredibly poor optics. . .   

Look, I’m the last guy to lecture our elected and appointed officials on ethics and morality – but even a scumbag like me knows this annual soiree has a whiff of the shit about it – and if our County Attorney and ghostlike Internal Auditor can’t see the inherent problems in that – then maybe those “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” dullards on the Dais of Power need better counsel?

In the eyes of the governed – perception is reality – and, over time, Volusia County has lost all credibility with those it exists to serve as the “Trust Issue” outgrew the double-talk and sleight-of-hand the “system” has used to protect this bloated bureaucracy, and the entrenched insiders who so deftly manipulate it, for decades.   

I realize not everyone looks at things through the same smudged lens I do – and that’s okay.

If Chairman Jeff Brower is sincere in his goal of increasing trust in county government (and I believe that he is) then it is time for a change in the methods and mindset that has led us to this dismal “Us vs. Them” mentality that has all but locked We, The Little People out of the process.    

In my view, it is time for our elected officials to view themselves as “trustees” of the public’s confidence, avoiding even the appearance of impropriety – open and accountable to the people they represent – not beholden to special interests with the wherewithal to manipulate the political process with the massive campaign contributions and “sponsorships” many believe lead to undue access and influence.   

As Chairman Brower so eloquently said during his address, “We’re the council. You’re the government. This is your government. You must hold each of us accountable.”  

I hope the residents of Volusia County will take Mr. Brower’s charge to heart at the ballot box this year.

While that over-the-top shit show we witnessed on Tuesday might serve to massage the enormous egos of our elected elite as they preen and posture before their gathered benefactors and those intrepid members of the public who kept watch – in my view, any ‘accomplishments’ were sullied by private money solicited by county employees to underwrite a public gala.

I could be wrong, but in my opinion, nothing about that furthers Chairman Brower’s virtuous goal.   

If this circus is allowed to continue, I say we allow contractors, contributors, and corporations to pin their various logos and marketing slogans to the expensive suitcoats of their marionettes on the Dais of Power – like race car drivers festooned with their sponsor’s promotional patches. 

At least it would add an air of transparency to next year’s address. . .   

Now, let’s see if our elected elite follow through with the other provision of the charter’s mandate and adopt a ‘plan of action’ to implement Chairman Brower’s goals of opening more of the beach to driving, ensuring clean water, affordable housing, and dropping onerous beach tolls for Volusia County taxpayers.

Yeah, right. . .

Angel               State Rep. Tom Leek (R-Ormond Beach)

Law enforcement officers have always been my heroes. 

It is one of the reasons I am accurately accused of an inherent bias in my writings – if you want to bash cops and malign those who put their lives on the line to serve and protect people they don’t even know, there are plenty of those sites across the interwebz – but you won’t find it here.  

From my earliest memories all I wanted was to be a police officer. 

In my experience, the emergency service professions are more of a divine calling than a vocation, with law enforcement embodying the incredible courage and selflessness found in Isaiah’s vision when the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” and the prophet responded, purposely volunteering for service, “Here am I; send me.”

Entering the profession requires a conscious, well-thought decision – one not taken lightly. 

You don’t fall into policing while looking for another career, and, as daily events show, it is not an easy path for those who are called. 

Following strict admission requirements, police recruits receive extensive specialized training and skill development in criminal law, legal process, patrol techniques, physical agility, defensive and offensive driving, criminal investigations, traffic crash investigations, human diversity, interviewing, report writing, weapons and firearms qualifications, defensive tactics, de-escalation techniques, etc. – all leading to a demanding state certification examination. 

If successful in passing the strenuous training requirements, applicants submit themselves to a rigorous vetting process involving wide-ranging background and suitability investigations, medical and fitness testing, drug screens, polygraph examinations, psychological evaluations, oral interviews, and weeks of other assessments, all leading to a period of closely documented in-service field training and evaluation with their employing agency before new officers are considered competent.

For those who make it, surviving the rigors of the job, physically and politically, while dealing with people on the worst day of their lives, compounded by the stress and uncertainty of managing often out-of-control critical incidents – your every word and act recorded on video for extensive critique in 20-20 hindsight – becomes an hour-to-hour struggle with any mistake, no matter how small, having the potential to cost a law enforcement officer their life or career in nanoseconds.     

Why would anyone assume that high responsibility? 

I had the honor of serving as a law enforcement officer for over 31 years.  The great privilege of my life was working with some of the finest men and women I have ever known, in a cause important to the life of our community.

In that time, I have seen these brave souls, time and again, willingly go into harm’s way to protect the lives and welfare of their fellow citizens, routinely putting their own lives at risk to serve others.  Law enforcement officers play an integral and inspirational role in binding the very fabric of our society and, in my view, that makes the sacrifice worth it.

Given the radical vilification of law enforcement and the prosecutorial weakness exhibited across the nation in recent years, it is increasingly difficult to attract our best and brightest to this demanding pursuit. 

To his credit, last October Governor Ron DeSantis announced plans to make Florida the most ‘law enforcement friendly state’ in the Union, and this legislative session, Rep. Tom Leek of Ormond Beach sponsored a bill that would provide $5,000 signing bonuses for qualified individuals who join state or local law enforcement agencies, including those who transfer from departments in other states.

Obviously, some commonsense restrictions apply – like the need to remain employed for two-years or repay the bonus to the State of Florida – and the bill includes training incentives, bonuses for officers who adopt special needs children from the state child welfare system, directs law enforcement Explorer and 9-1-1 operator training courses for career-oriented high school students, and establishes a recruit training scholarship program.  

Of course, in these polarized times, not everyone is on-board with Rep. Leek’s noble efforts.

According to an informative article by Michael Moline writing in the Florida Phoenix:

“Democrat Andrew Learned of Hillsborough County worried that military veterans might be too gung-ho for police work absent the proper training. He recalled his U.S. Navy days when he was responsible for ship defense. In the event of a breach, “Our procedure was two in the chest, one in the head, cuff ‘em, and then start figuring out what had happened,” he said.”

“I want to make sure I’m putting my head, you know, in the mindset of one of my 18-year-old guys who’s transitioning out of the military back into law enforcement, make sure they’re given the proper training so they can be successful in this transition,” Learner said.”

What a disconnected asshole. . . 

Kudos to Rep. Tom Leek for putting this important bill forward to help attract quality applicants – to include our transitioning military heroes – to fill the current and future needs of Florida law enforcement agencies as they strive to keep our communities safe. 

Thanks for ‘Backing the Blue,’ Mr. Leek.

Good work! 

Quote of the Week

“My friends – today my family and I have made an important decision that I want to share with each of you, from my household to yours.  As you know, for the past several months I have been campaigning for the open District 2 seat on the Volusia County Council. 

While I still have the same desire to see Volusia thrive and prosper as I did the day I began campaigning, an opportunity has arisen that my family and I cannot pass up.  Today I have filed paperwork to seek the newly-created District 30 in the Florida House of Representatives, an open seat where no incumbent legislator is running.  This is not an easy decision but it is one in which I firmly believe I must step forward and seek so that I may best represent the needs of our communities in my journey to serve the public.

Our state is the epicenter for some of the most significant public policy debates in our country and our legislature is responsible for spearheading initiatives that make us stand apart from our neighbors in many of the other 49 states.  Ron DeSantis has helped put Florida on the map as the go-to state for Freedom and conservative policymaking.  But he can’t do it alone, and he’ll need to continue having great partners in the legislature.  I know I can be such a partner, because we need the next generation of leaders who will proudly stand and fight when the people not only expect it, but frankly, demand it.  I greatly look forward to being that new voice for smart decision-making and conservative principles in the House.

This venture is going to require even more work and dedication to see it through to fruition.  Please know my team and I are already off and running and ready to roll up our sleeves even more to make this a reality.       

My prayer going forward is that God will provide the people to be a part of this journey.  I can’t wait to see you all as soon as we ramp up the campaign in earnest this week.

God bless you all!

The Tramont Family”

–Candidate Chase Tramont, announcing his withdrawal from the Volusia County Council District 2 race as he now campaigns for the District 30 Florida House of Representatives seat, Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Interesting. . .

And Another Thing!

C’mon, man. 

Another year, another crippling disappointment. . . 

The Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce’ annual awards banquet has come and gone – a swellegant soiree this year fittingly hosted by our friends and civic benefactors (?) at Daytona International Speedway. 

As expected, yours truly was not recognized with the 2022 J. Hyatt Brown King of Kings Enterprise Award.   

Didn’t happen for me. . . 

For the umpteenth consecutive year, “Barker the Bitcher,” the “Carnival Barker,” the “Malevolent Malcontent,” the “Curmudgeonly Troll,” the “Naysaying Nabob of Negativity” – the civic golem who won’t stop picking at the well-crafted façade painted by our out-of-touch politicos – always screaming to be heard over the anesthetizing refrains of “Everything is Beautiful in its Own Way” wafting from the Halls of Power – always pointing out the festering underbelly of a down-at-the-heels resort town controlled by the same five people passing the same nickel around was overlooked by the Chamber’s awards committee.  

I am being facetious, of course.

That coveted honor went to Daytona State College for preparing local kids for factory and warehouse jobs. . .

(Sorry.  I can’t help myself.) 

Look, I like poking snarky fun and taking the hot air out of these lofty affairs – preferring to keep laser focus on the myriad issues we face here on the Fun Coast – but even an unsophisticated cretin like me sees the value in recognizing those who work hard to improve our quality of life, provide worthwhile jobs, and advance the slow and stumbling renaissance of the Daytona Beach Resort Area. 

After all, the Chamber’s raisons d’être is advocating, supporting, and lobbying for business and industry here in East Central Florida – a vital role that the board and staff approach with great verve – and the annual awards and installation celebration is a chance to tout all the good things happening in Daytona Beach and environs. 

Despite my near-constant negativism, the fact is, there is a lot to be optimistic about. 

In my view, Daytona Beach’s new City Manager Deric Feacher is working overtime to break down barriers between business and government, encouraging inclusivity and diversity in the strategic planning process, and developing solutions in long-neglected places like Downtown, Seabreeze Boulevard, Main Street, and historic Midtown.     

Each year as the Chamber’s gilded gavel changes hands from one hyper-enthusiastic Chairperson to another, so does the onus for the substantive change leery entrepreneurs and investors have been clamoring for.       

Look, time will tell – and I am not one to hold my raspy breath – but I believe the Chamber’s 2022 Chairperson, Kelly Parsons-Kwiatek, senior vice president and general counsel for Halifax Health, is the right choice for this important role in our community at a critical time in our transformation.    

In my view, Chairwoman Kwiatek did a great job using her keynote address to paint a glowing picture of “what will be” in the year to come, encouraging “…community leaders to work together to bring about a “bright future for ourselves and for generations to come” – complimented her inspiring message that now is the time “to connect and collaborate with fellow residents, businesses, elected officials, and local governments. Now is the time to listen to, to talk to, and to be curious about each other and encourage each other’s successes. Now is the time to spread the good news of all that is happening in our community and celebrate where we live, work, learn, and play.” 

I find that refreshing.   

According to an excellent piece describing the festive gala, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s business editor Clayton Park noted:

“Kwiatek said the chamber’s goals this year include taking part in efforts to attract more high-paying jobs that can “make the real difference and transform the community” as well as ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place to accommodate Volusia County’s growing population.”

According to reports, the Duke of the Duchy Glenn Ritchey Leadership Award went to Mary Greenlees of Ormond Beach’s Olivari & Associates recognizing her dedicated service as president of the fusty Civic League of the Halifax Area (Is that still a thing?)  

Most fittingly, the Chairman’s Award was aptly bestowed on members of the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, accepted by board chair and local philanthropist Nancy Lohman (who deserves credit for doing the heavy lifting) and Bob W. Lloyd of Brown & Brown. 

A worthy accomplishment for those members of the board who fostered and funded the beautiful marble tribute to Dr. Bethune’s enduring contributions to the world – one that will stand in perpetuity in our nation’s capitol. Something we can all be proud of. 

Me and MMB

Well deserved. 

Look, I know these events require the cheerleading one expects from the Chamber of Commerce – and I hate to live up to my well-deserved reputation as the Halifax Area’s premiere turd in the punchbowl – but we’ve heard it all before.  Right? 


But behind this crusty façade burns the beaten-up heart of an infernal optimist – and I know that the smart, enthusiastic new leadership Ms. Kwiatek represents can bring hope, just when we need it most. 

My sincere hope is that the Chamber’s impressive new Chair will make good on her promise of creating opportunities for area civic and business leaders to “come together and work together” to find lasting and equitable solutions to the challenges we collectively face. 

Keep the faith, my friends. 

There’s always next year. . .

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

A Sorry State of Affairs

I don’t know who said it first, but I have always held to the tried-and-true proverb, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” 

It is as much a morality tale as a warning.   

Because anyone who thinks they can get something for nothing, without any hidden motive, return, or benefit, is either lying to you – or themselves.    

For a brief time in my career, I served as an interim City Manager – the worst period of my professional life, an incredibly difficult and multifaceted job, akin to spinning plates while herding cats. . .

On my first day filling the seat, an expensive box of chocolates arrived at my desk, accompanied by a congratulatory note addressed from a firm which held a professional services contract with the city. 

I asked a staff member to return the gift, and included a letter of thanks expressing my sincere appreciation for the gesture, explaining that I could not accept the generous gift.  It sent a message to city staff – and the contractor – that, from the top of the organization to the bottom, gratuities would not be solicited or accepted. 

In my view, at best, the practice unavoidably promotes the appearance of quid pro quo favoritism in the public contracting and procurement process, regardless of how the thing of value was intended or whether the gift results in an official act. 

Some praised my action – others said I should have simply shared the goodies with staff and forgotten about it – while a few of my colleagues (and some of my elected bosses) thought it sent the wrong message to a valued and well-intentioned outside partner. 


At the end of the day, the contractor might not have felt the love – but it felt right to me. 

Look, I am no better or worse than anyone else – a leaky vessel, susceptible to the same ethical faults and moral foibles inherent to all human beings – but, for right or for wrong, I was recently reminded of my decision to return that box of candy.

Earlier this week, the pomp and circumstance of the annual State of the County address played out in all its pageantry at the Ocean Center – presented in grand style thanks to copious gifts from a few government contractors and local businesses seeking absolutely nothing in return for their generous bronze, silver, gold, and platinum corporate sponsorships.   

Unfortunately, I wash my beard on Tuesdays, so I couldn’t attend. . .

Instead, I took a strong antiemetic – chased it down with three-fingers of Woodford Reserve – and hunkered down for the 2022 edition of that yearly hootenanny touting all the wonderful accomplishments granted to us by our munificent Monarchical elite on the Volusia County Council.

My weakened stomach is still doing flip-flops. . .  

I thought it fitting that Mother Nature set the tone for the afternoon – openly weeping with a cold and steady rain – symbolic of her anguish over the death and destruction of our natural places as the bulldozers continue to roar across the width and breadth of Volusia County as the “free” Margaritas flowed like manna from heaven.    

Look, I know many smart people see a public benefit in these fancy fêtes – with someone I respect noting that they provide a certain level of access to our elected officials – others noting the value in educating constituents on the various programs and initiatives their tax dollars are funding. 

In my jaded view, they are wrong. 

If we have gotten so far afield that citizens need a gilded gala, sponsored by active government contractors, campaign contributors, and hangers-on to interact with our elected county representatives – then we have bigger problems than we know. . .   

Admittedly, I got caught up in the excitement as a disembodied voice counted down, announcing to the assembled elected officials, their political benefactors, and a few gallant citizens who came to keep them all honest: “The program will begin in five-minutes.  Please bring the congratulatory backslapping and unhygienic brown-nosing to a close and take your seats,” or something like that. . .  

Things kicked off with a flashy video touting the ‘free lunch’ as the “Hottest Ticket in Town!” – with Community Information Director Kevin Captain reminding everyone that the food, margaritas, knick-knacks, gimcracks, and giveaways were all “compliments of our sponsors!” – a message reinforced by Chairman Brower, who, at least twice, reminded everyone in attendance that the soiree was paid for by sponsors and not our tax dollars.

Okay. . .

(Emetrol, don’t fail me now. . .)  

As guests noshed from the ‘free’ buffet, I chomped on a greasy ham sandwich, sipped my whiskey, waited through the various saccharine video productions and fluffy time-fillers on the live-feed, and, in the lead up to Chairman Brower’s address, perused the online event brochure, “2021 Volusia County Council: A year of change,” which began:

“For Volusia County, 2021 was a year of great hope, promise and optimism.  (Gyaaak, sorry) And the accomplishments were abundant. An historic water quality improvement project with significant implications for the Mosquito Lagoon got underway. A cherished portion of the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail was protected from development.”

(Huuuurk, again, my apologies.  Damn agita.)

That snippet reminded me of the abuse and opposition the intrepid environmentalists at Dream Green Volusia, through its successful Defend the Loop campaign, faced as they pushed against incredible odds to see some 36-acres of endangered land at Plantation Oaks saved from future development. 

Although the final vote to appropriate Volusia ECHO funds to save the historical and ecologically sensitive parcel was unanimous, at the time, His Eminence, District 5 Councilman “Dr.” Fred Lowry, crowed he would “hold his nose” and vote for the purchase, an important environmental conservation project that is now held out by Volusia County as a major accomplishment

As threatened manatees continue to die in unprecedented numbers in Mosquito Lagoon – the direct result of government approved overdevelopment and the resultant toxic soup of runoff and discharge that has decimated seagrass beds and eroded water quality – I remembered the reception two world-renowned marine biologists recently received when they appeared before the council to discuss a small-scale test of an innovative biofiltration technology called Biorock

For their trouble, the esteemed experts were met with open skepticism – treated like cheap hucksters and charlatans by those dullards on the dais, a countywide embarrassment complete with gross negativity, roadblocks, and politicking from every corner – including two derogatory editorials in The Daytona Beach News-Journal – bolstered by chiding posts on social media dismissing the concept and accusing anyone associated with the project of ulterior motives.


Because Chairman Brower proposed the idea. Something Volusia’s obstructionist Old Guard, those stalwarts of the stagnant status quo, would not let see the light of day. 


“But more than anything, 2021 was a transformational year – a year of meaningful, monumental, impactful change for the county.”

Rah, Rah, Sis-boom-bah!

(Urrrrp, excuse me! Wow.)

I agreed with Chairman Brower on a number of issues – especially his push to open the beach to vehicles from International Speedway Boulevard to Main Street – a true economic shot-in-the-arm to the flagging boardwalk – and exempting Volusia County taxpayers from excessive beach access tolls that he rightly believes represent double-taxation.

Perhaps most impressive was Mr. Brower’s nod to addressing the malignant development that is rapidly consuming large swaths of Volusia County when he accurately said, “We cannot and we will not pave our way and clear-cut our way to a better future.”

Look, I cannot tell you what the rest of the State of the County address included. 

At some point, I think it was right after Councilwoman Barb Girtman gushed over Volusia County’s commitment to “affordable housing” in an environment where average monthly rents now top $1,300 a month, I collapsed into a sugar coma, regaining consciousness only when the screaming strains of Jake and Elwood crooning “Gimme Some Lovin!’” serenaded Chairman Brower and his smiling “colleagues” off the stage to the applause of those who bought their lunch.

How fitting. . . 

How horribly depressing. 

I like Chairman Brower.  In my view, he is an incredibly decent human being – a man of character navigating a system where that virtue is rarely valued – trying valiantly to accomplish some important things under difficult (if not politically impossible) circumstances. 

That said, sometimes I wish Mr. Brower would remember his role – and the powerful decree that placed him in the most important position in Volusia County government.  Then use the bully pulpit he has been gifted by We, The Little People to speak truth to those pernicious forces that have had their way for far too long, and give validity to those things we see with our own eyes, rather than what we are told to believe by those with a chip in the game.    

Because to stand before us and gloss over the serious issues we collectively face is disingenuous – not befitting a trustee of the public’s confidence – and when we see him embracing the same pageantry and perquisites of his predecessors, it sends a confusing and conflicted message to his long-suffering constituents.     

Why is it that politicians – even those who attain high office on a citizen mandate of transformational change – fall victim to the damnable and wholly dishonest practice of shilling for the bureaucratically defined concept of “progress,” all while those of us who elevated them with our sacred vote live in a parallel universe – struggling to maintain a quality of life that is rapidly being destroyed by the insatiable greed of those who control the rods and strings of Volusia County politics?   

As the dust settles on this circus, we wait. Actions speak louder than words – and we’ve heard it all before. . .

In my view, it is time for the charter-mandated State of the County address to return to a simple agenda item, presented at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Volusia County Council, stop this two-hour privately funded and unreported campaign rally, and work to return the public’s trust in Volusia County government.   

Angels & Assholes for February 4, 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               Local Public Affairs Forums

We live in an age where the publics right/need to know is quickly being eroded at all levels of government as craven politicians and entrenched bureaucrats seek to conduct the “people’s business” in the shadows while limiting citizen input in the process. 

I find that incredibly frightening. 

Florida was once the most transparent state in the nation thanks to strict “sunshine laws” which limit backroom machinations, yet our powerful legislators and those who hold the paper on their political souls, have passed laws which allow massive corporations seeking “economic incentives” to hide behind mysterious cryptograms, and force local elected officials to vote on approvals and amendments without any idea who the public largesse will benefit. 

The Florida Legislature is taking up a secrecy bill that would cloak state college and university presidential searches in effective darkness – allowing powerful insiders to exert their outsized influence in private – opening the door for cronyism or worse. 

We live in a time when elected officials sit expressionless on their gilded perches — gazing down on their hapless subjects like stone-faced gargoyles – placing stringent limitations on the public’s right to participate in their government, hiding behind obstructionist “civility ordinances,” while obstinately refusing to communicate, answer questions, explain decisions, or even acknowledge the presence of those they serve.

In my view, our democratic processes work best when vigorous discussion and debate produces a variety of views and opinions in spaces away from the partisan fishing camps and narrow-minded clubs and committees of political parties.      

This is why the United States Constitution places such emphasis on protecting our inalienable right to free speech, allowing the competition of ideas to elevate the best solutions resulting in informed and inclusive public policy, because anything less than complete transparency in government breeds suspicion, speculation, and distrust.

Sound familiar? 

But what happens when powerful public figures – and those working behind the scenes to manipulate the message – use their position to marginalize those who seek to participate in the civic discussion as ‘naysayers,’ ‘malcontents,’ and ‘trolls,’ discredit administrators of social media sites who are charged with keeping order during a tumultuous political debate (often requiring a whip and chair), and work to limit the reach of forums where opposing views can be expressed and debated? 

It is happening all around us – an organized effort to limit free expression on prominent issues and control the narrative by silencing criticism of our elitist ‘powers that be.’ 

In my view, social media sites, community groups, and grassroots political forums – the everyman’s soapboxes which give a voice to the disenfranchised – remain the last bastions of free and open expression, places that invite the rough and tumble political discourse that is vitally important to the preservation of freedom and democracy in an era when our elected officials ignore our fervent pleas, beholden only to their powerful benefactors.

It is heartening to know that so many civic activists in the Halifax area and beyond support one another in furthering a civic dialog, even when we disagree on the issues or solutions. 

When Barker’s View was in its infancy, the first social media forum to post my blog was FREE Daytona Beach – a Facebook site administered by the intrepid beach driving and access advocate Elaine Barnicle – who helped introduce these diverse and often over-the-top screeds to a larger audience. 

On the Wall of Honor in Barker’s View HQ, I proudly display a Certificate of Appreciation presented by the Bellaire Community Group when they invited me to speak on topical local issues.

I treasure it.  

I am most proud of Barker View’s standing monthly appearance (second Monday of each month) on GovStuff Live! hosted by WELE 1380am (listen online at ) – Volusia’s premiere public affairs radio forum – where community icon Big John uses local issues to educate and inspire on the “fastest two-hours in radio” each weekday beginning at 4:00pm. 

Trust me.  If you aren’t listening to GovStuff Live! you’re doing it wrong – an eclectic format that strives to teach us something about this place we call home.

Thanks to your readership, Barker’s View has contributed to several local and national podcasts, to include “Live with Boyd!” presented by Sherrise Boyd – and the New Orleans-based “Troubled Men” podcast moderated by the irrepressible Manny Chevrolet and Renee Coman.   

Now, this blogsite is posted to numerous political and public affairs forums on a variety of platforms – to include the incredibly popular, and refreshingly controversial Facebook page Volusia Issues – and other illuminating community-based social media sites.

These forums are important, and whether we agree or disagree on the issues of the day – I thank you for reading Barker’s View and furthering the discussion.

I hope you – the loyal members of the Barker’s View Tribe – will join me in supporting these important outlets dedicated to the free and open exchange of ideas and opinion so our civic dialog never devolves into an exclusive echo chamber for the “Rich & Powerful.”   

Asshole           Port Orange City Council  

Look, I normally leave Port Orange out of the discussion – the municipal government has been relatively stable of late, and they are accomplishing some wonderful things in that beautiful community. 

But as an avid watcher of the théâtre de l’absurde that is local politics, I live for these little vignettes.

Last month, during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Port Orange City Council, a gentleman clad in a black trench coat who identified himself only as “Anonymous” submitted the required written adjuration requesting permission to speak to his elected officials, approached the dais of power, and asked that Mayor Don Burnette read from the “topic” section of his request form for the public record.

This prompted some squirming from the clearly discomfited Mayor and Council members – who were visibly affright – clearly unaccustomed to being openly challenged by a lowly member of the unwashed public. . .   

There was some awkward repartee – with Mayor Burnette repeatedly reminding the speaker “It’s your three-minutes” (Ugh) – and Mr. Anonymous responding, in kind, “Mayor, please read the topic, for the public.”

Finally, Mayor Burnette acquiesced to his constituent’s simple request and read the speaker’s haughty demand into the record:

“Request to take anonymous requests for public records seriously.”

With that, Mr. Anonymous turned and left the chamber as mysteriously as he arrived – having made a valid point about the need for local governments to respect Florida’s remaining sunshine laws. 

For his trouble, Anonymous was dutifully followed out of the room by Port Orange’s (most recent) Police Chief Manuel Marino, who, according to an article in the Hometown News, “…watched to ensure Anonymous did not cause a further disturbance.”

For the record, the man did not create a “disturbance” – not even a “dustup” – nor anything close to a “bruhaha.”   

(Trust me.  Having served in Holly Hill city government for over 30-years, I’ve seen some bruhahas in my day. . .)

No, this man’s sin was much more egregious – he made some very important people uncomfortable – a transgression that is unforgiveable in the stilted dukedoms of Volusia County. 

Don’t take my word for it, watch the fun for yourself here:

According to the Hometown News, apparently to assuage the fears of our ruffled elected elite, “The various police departments within Volusia had a planned meeting in the following days where such rare instances as this are communicated to ensure a pattern of something nefarious is not in the planning.”


Wait.  Do you mean, the dark and contemptable practice of common citizens prostrating themselves before their elected officials for redress of grievances?  Or the public’s evil-minded attempts to participate in their government by seeking input in policy decisions?  Or, God forbid, asking government officials to adhere to public records laws?

My ass.

After the “disturbance” was quelled, the meeting returned to a comfortable exchange of pap and fluff – allowing the elected officials to recover from the ruffled-feathers induced by an anonymous citizen with the temerity to challenge the ‘powers that be’ – before talk turned to the always thorny issue of “Council Compensation,” setting the stage for a production of that old-fashioned election year Kabuki I adore

The term limited Mayor Burnette – wrapping himself in the political insulation of a second term that continues until 2024 – began discussions of a pay raise for himself and council members with a traditional “It’s not about the money” argument:

“I don’t want Port Orange to be the kind of town that only people with money in their pocket can serve. Because this is not something that we do for the money, but it should be a fair compensation.”

Say what?

The old, ‘Just because we don’t do this for the money, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be fairly compensated for doing it’ tap dance.


What ensued was an impressive performance of the “Poormouth Blues” with its gloomy refrain of ‘service from the ‘heart,’ and the onerous demands and responsibilities placed upon elected officials, yadda, yadda, yadda.


At present, council members receive $13,600 in public funds annually, while Mayor Burnette commands $18,600 for his arduous service.  Under a proposed ordinance, the mayor’s salary would have been increased to $34,414 – with council members taking $25,810 each.     

Thank God it’s not about the money, eh?

The measure died on a 3-2 vote with Councilmen Reed Foley and Scott Stiltner, who are currently standing for re-election – and Councilman Chase Tramont, who is running for the At-Large Volusia County Council seat – voting “No” in a perfectly orchestrated act of cheap political posturing. 

According to reports, Mayor Burnette took umbrage, crowing, “I see how you guys value my time.”

To which Candidate Tramont responded, “With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, my vote of no is not because I don’t value your time. That was not a personal vote, it was simply because I disagreed with it.”

Mayor Burnette bristled, “You don’t value my time. You value my time zero,” and Tramont – all but unfurling his superhero cape as the Champion of the Overtaxed Taxpayer – assured, “I didn’t say I’m not going to pay ya.  But I’m not going to double your salary.”

That’s rich, don’t ya think?  

Yes, they really think we are that gullible. . .

After the requisite apologies from Mayor Burnette for “taking things personally” – and discussion of how the Port Orange mayor’s salary is somehow tied to the Volusia County Council chair’s stipend – “Councilman (Scott) Stiltner introduced an amendment that would lower the mayor’s increase from 60% to 45% of the Volusia County chair’s salary while maintaining the City Council rate at 75% of the mayor’s salary.”

The final Act of this ill-staged tragicomedy ended when the salary amendment passed on a dramatic 3-2, skin-of-the-teeth margin, with Councilman Foley and Candidate Tramont holding firm to their original “No” votes, for obvious reasons. . . 

Bravo!  Bravissimo!  

(Curtains close, deafening applause, my tears flowing as I gently toss a bouquet of calla lilies onto the gilded stage. . .)

Superb performance.  Well worth the price of admission, don’t you think?


I guess, in the end, everyone got what they wanted – except that poor bastard who slinked out under police surveillance – and the long-suffering taxpayers of Port Orange. . .   

Quote of the Week

“Now more than ever, manatees are facing hazardous living conditions, as food is becoming more scarce in the waters they inhabit. Manatees can weigh up to 1,800 pounds and must consume 10% of their body weight daily.

“The problem is the pollution in the water right now,” (local eco tour guide Ashley) Howard said. “It’s killing off a lot of the seagrass manatees naturally eat. They are purely vegetation eaters, so they’re always looking for some sort of greenery to snack on.”

According to The News Service of Florida, 1,003 manatees have died in Florida waters in 2021, more than 10% of the estimated population of manatees in the state waters. Nearly two-thirds of the deaths have occurred along the East Coast. Last year, the state recorded 637 manatee deaths.

Manatee Watch coordinators will host two upcoming, free training sessions for those interested in becoming a volunteer. Advance registration is required; contact Chad Murch at or call 386-736-5927, ext. 12839. For more information about manatees and Manatee Watch, visit

The sessions will be held 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Feb. 7, at the Stetson Aquatic Center, 2636 Alhambra Ave., DeLand, and 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 12, at the Marine Discovery Center, 520 Barracuda Blvd., New Smyrna Beach.”

–Abbie Pace, contributing writer for the Ormond Beach Observer, as excerpted from her informative article “Want to help save the manatees? Here’s how to get involved in Volusia County,” Wednesday, February 2, 2022

And Another Thing!

The blessing and curse of my life is the gift of a long and vivid memory.

For instance, I rarely forget the exploits of retread politicians who hopscotch through various elective roles with the support of their “Rich & Powerful” benefactors, influential insiders whose hand-select candidates return the favor by allowing them to control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on Florida’s Fun Coast.   

Despite my scathing criticism of local politics and those illusionists who practice the art, it is important to remember that there are true servant-leaders working hard to improve our lives and livelihoods in elected positions on councils, commissions, taxing authorities, and advisory boards throughout Volusia County – and, in my view, some damn fine grassroots candidates are stepping forward to help level the playing field just when we need them the most. 

It takes courage to walk through the fiery shit-trench that is a modern Volusia County political campaign.

I admire that. 

It is not an easy calling for those who endeavor to serve their community without mercenary motivations or lockstep conformity to a stagnant “system,” one sullied by cronyism and corporate welfare schemes that ensure a return on investment for those who can pay to play.

For those of us who prefer to watch from the relative safety of the cheap seats, it is easy to become cynical, jaded to a process that no longer bears any semblance to a representative democracy.   

That familiar queasy feeling returned earlier this week when I learned that 17-year Ormond Beach City Commissioner Troy Kent has filed to run for the Volusia County Council District 4 seat.

17-years.  You read that right. . .

As it stands, Kent will challenge his pro-development colleague, Rob Littleton, who has served on the Ormond Beach Commission since 2016, and the impressive local business owner Ken Smith, who lost the Zone 2 Ormond Beach race to Commissioner Kent in 2020. 

While processing this latest “the more things change, the more they stay the same” moment, my feeble mind returned to February 2018, and the sight of that environmental atrocity on Granada Boulevard that galvanized residents who were horrified by slash and burn land clearing operations that turned a very visible segment of our community’s urban greenspace into a muddy moonscape as some 2,061 trees – many of them century-old specimen hardwoods – and some 20-acres of natural buffer and wildlife habitat were churned into pulp.

Remember?  I hope so.

What followed was a hard-fought campaign for the future of Ormond Beach – a battle between uber-wealthy developers and those who make their living building and selling commercial real estate – and the grassroots activists and environmentalists dedicated to staunching the growth at all cost strategy that is destroying our quality of life.

In total, over a quarter-million dollars was invested in that local City Commission race.

Naturally, the incumbents were returned to office on a green wave of cash provided by special interests who get rich transforming our natural places into obscene cookie-cutter subdivisions and half-empty strip centers.

On election night, Ormond Beach’s tone-deaf incumbent Mayor Bill Partington, Troy Kent, and their posse of re-elected commissioners, posed on the dance floor of the Rockin’ Ranch – epitomizing the back slappin’ good ol’ boy network they represent – holding up a filthy push broom to signify their “clean sweep.”

I don’t know about you, but the abject arrogance exemplified in that moment stuck with me.

Look for more in 2022. . . 

For instance, in the Volusia County Council Zone 2 race, civic activist Paul Zimmerman is facing off against Danny Fuqua, a former military officer who gave lame duck incumbent Councilwoman Billie Wheeler a run for her money in 2020, and the Darling of the Donor Class, Port Orange Councilman Chase Tramont (who is literally on the payroll of CEO Business Alliance member and local powerbroker “Mad Mike” Panaggio at DME Holdings) who has amassed a hefty war chest of some $45,131with twenty-seven maximum individual donations of $1,000 – all perfectly legal under our weird campaign finance rules. . .

Yeah.  I know. . . 

By comparison, Mr. Fuqua’s campaign has received $7,584.70 with Zimmerman trailing both at just $1,997.88. 

To his credit, and in the spirit of Mr. Zimmerman’s citizen-focused effort, he has not received any contribution over $250, nor has he accepted anything from those “Rich & Powerful” insiders in the real estate development, construction, and insurance industries. 

In my view, Paul Zimmerman continues to run a positive campaign fixed on the issues important to his neighbors – like malignant sprawl, environmental protections, and water quality – with a demonstrated commitment to protecting our unique tradition of beach driving and access for residents and visitors.  

Follow along as political loyalties are traded here:

Earlier this week, the intrepid change agent Sherrise Boyd entered the Volusia County Council At-Large race, joining popular Councilwoman Heather Post, and former Port Orange City Manager Jake Johansson, who are each seeking the seat currently held by retiring Councilman Ben Johnson. 

In a release on social media this week, Ms. Boyd said:

“I believe there needs to be plenty of changes in the County and unfortunately not many people want to take on the role and responsibilities of being an elected official.  I feel the real creation of democracy has long been forgotten and left to those of selfish needs to benefit from when they are not truly for the people or the purpose….  Well, I am for the people, who are the entire purpose for a County Councilperson to even exist.” 

In my view, Ms. Boyd brings a wealth of public and private management experience to the field, and her civic activism and educational campaigns – including the popular “Wake Up with Boyd” forum on Facebook Live – adds an interesting new dynamic to this important race. 

She faces an uphill battle.

To discuss Candidate Boyd’s stance on the issues, or volunteer for her campaign, she invites us to contact her at 386-341-5670. 

In 2020, the overwhelming majority of Volusia County voters sent a strong message to Volusia’s stagnant Old Guard, demanding substantive change to the status quo when we elected Jeff Brower to the catbird seat as Volusia County Council Chair over an entrenched insider with what many felt was an insurmountable financial advantage.

Then, earlier this year, civic activist Ken Strickland took the cake in what was widely billed as a “grassroots vs. establishment” contest for the Daytona Beach City Commission Zone 2 seat. 

Although he trailed far behind his well-connected opponent in campaign funds, Commissioner Strickland won on a simple strategy of “Votes beat money.”     

As I am fond of saying, it is time our ‘powers that be’ in the Ivory Towers of Power understand that there is some shit We, The Little People won’t eat – and that message resonates loudest at the ballot box.   

I hope you will continue the wave of change that is sending a message of hope and inspiration for a better, more prosperous, future for everyone.

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