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.