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.
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.
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!
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.
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!