Volusia County Schools: Perception and Reality

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

 –Potter Stewart, Supreme Court Justice, 1958-1981

It is no secret that some very influential forces are at play in the gilded chamber of the Volusia County School Board.

During a recent discussion of whether to extend the contract of Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz, We, The Little People who pay the bills and suffer in silence were treated to a ringside view of what happens when true power moves in Volusia County. 

It began when two sitting members of the School Board – Carl Persis and Linda Cuthbert – pushed for a premature off-the-agenda vote to extend the Superintendent’s contract without any substantive analysis of his performance.

In backing Cuthbert’s play in seeking a vote, Mr. Persis said:

“I feel sorry for Dr. Fritz right now. He probably thought something was going to happen. It’s stressful,” Persis said. “I’d rather take the heat than go through this all over again, put him through this again, put everyone who came out tonight through this again.”

I found that strange. . . 

As a member of the coveted $200K Club – that rare atmosphere where those making more than $200,000 a year in public funds understand and accept the professional volatility and uncertainty that comes with it – Dr. Fritz either knew, or should have known, that his performance would be open for discussion.

Interestingly, the move to keep Fritz at the helm was supported by some very heavy-hitters who spoke to board members from the podium – quickly followed by glowing letters from the heads of area colleges, universities, and the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce – supported by other internal and external lobbying efforts.    

Given the abject dysfunction and lack of any substantive communications strategy that has hamstrung the Fritz administration – a foundering ship that never found its compass during the pandemic when students, teachers, parents, and staff needed strong leadership the most – many have questioned the full-court-press to extend the Superintendent’s contract some eight-months ahead of its expiration in November. 

The resultant confusion has caused many to speculate on the why of things.

Some wonder if keeping Dr. Fritz at the helm is to ensure funding for what they suspect may be a technology-based high school – possibly affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – something that might explain why the incredibly influential Forough Hosseini – the wife of Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini, who serves as Chairman of the ERAU Board of Trustees (and Chair of the University of Florida Board of Trustees) – has been such a vocal supporter of Dr. Fritz, recently calling him a “visionary.”

Other watchers contacted me with rumors that Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis – the wife of Volusia County School Board member Carl Persis – was granted a lucrative contract with Volusia County District Schools to provide “coaching” services to several area principals.

One concerned citizen suggested that in an environment where the district is facing massive budgetary shortfalls, difficulty securing pay increases, and hemorrhaging teachers, the quiet agreement with the wife of a sitting board member – who represents one of the five fingers on the hand which controls Dr. Fritz’ fate – represents Volusia County cronyism at its finest. 

That raised my eyebrows. 

So, I did some checking to satisfy my own morbid curiosity. . . 

On March 16, 2020, Susan Summers Persis formed a Florida Limited Liability Corporation known as Summers Educational Coaching, LLC.  According to SunBiz, the $160.00 filing fee was paid using a personal check from a Bank of America account listing Susan S. Persis and Carl G. Persis on its face.

On September 1, 2021, Susan Persis signed a Contracted Services Agreement with the School District of Volusia County (CS 22-031LS) – the binding contract was approved by Deputy Superintendent Carmen J. Balgobin on September 7, 2021, and signed by Superintendent Ronald Fritz on September 8, 2021 – with a retroactive effective date of August 16, 2021, terminating on June 30, 2022. 

Among the scope of services, the agreement requires that Ms. Persis provide “…coaching and mentoring services to School Principals and Assistant Principals upon request by the Superintendent and/or the Deputy Superintendent…”  The location of services is listed as Pathways Elementary, Sugar Mill Elementary, Horizon Elementary, and Holly Hill School. 

The goals of the contract include coaching school principals to “…prioritize and accomplish sustainable target initiatives,” “guiding Principals to prioritize tasks,” “assisting Principals to become situational and instructional leaders,” “provide advice to Principals on how to effectively retain staff,” and some bureaucratic horseshit described as, “Provide Principals with comprehensive perspectives in a dynamic environment, while confronting new challenges daily.”


Under the terms, as a district contractor, Summers Educational Coaching is compensated at a rate of $82.00 per hour – not to exceed $23, 616.00 over the term of the agreement with services provided no longer than six-hours per day. 

The contract specifies Dr. Carmen Balgobin as the administrator designated by Superintendent Fritz to coordinate “…all matters pertaining to this agreement and to authorize services, accept and approve all reports, drafts, products, or invoices for all services…”

The contract terms are within Dr. Fritz’ spending authorization – which means the agreement did not need to come before the School Board for public approval. 

Pursuant to a formal public records request to Volusia County Schools, last week I learned that the following invoices have been paid to Summers Educational Coaching, LLC:

June 30, 2021              $1,025  (Before the effective date of the agreement)

September 18, 2021   $   902

September 28, 2021   $   738

October 1, 2021          $   492

October 31, 2021        $   820

November 15, 2021    $   615

November 30, 2021    $   738

December 15, 2021    $   738

January 15, 2022         $   902

January 31, 2022         $1,066

March 9, 2022             $   615

In addition, I found it interesting that Susan Persis executed an Authentication of Proposal and Statement of Non-Collusion and Non-Conflict of Interest dated April 28, 2020 – which was apparently made part of the Contracted Services Agreement signed in September 2021. 

Among other declarations, the agreement certifies that Ms. Persis, as a vendor, “…is legally entitled to enter into the contract with the School District of Volusia County and is not in violation of any prohibited conflict of interest, including those prohibited or any procurement regulation of the School District of Volusia County.”

Section five of that declaration states, “That the Vendor has fully disclosed with their response the name(s) of any officer, director, or agent who is or was an employee of the School Board of Volusia County, Florida.”  However, that disclosure was not made part of the public records I received.

For the record, Volusia County District Schools did not provide any ‘work product’ of Summers Educational Coaching relative to my public records request – that does not mean none exists – but I did not receive any.

Look, I am not casting aspersions on Ms. Persis’ contract with Volusia County Schools – if she certifies that no conflict of interest or prohibited business relationship exists under the terms of Florida’s ethics laws or the procurement of regulations of Volusia County Schools – then I accept that. 

As I understand it, by statute, School Districts are specifically exempt from Florida’s nepotism law – as are the Board of Governor’s of the State University System – and Ms. Persis has appropriately listed her company on required financial disclosure forms filed with the Supervisor of Elections.

Besides, I’m not an investigative journalist – I am just regurgitating information that is available to anyone who asks for it – and I damn sure am not the conscience of Volusia County District Schools.

But like Justice Stewart so eloquently said, “…knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do,” in my view, is the essence of personal and professional ethics. 

In my experience, avoiding even the appearance of impropriety is omnipotent in public office – because any conduct perceived to impair the ability of an elected or appointed official to fulfill their important responsibilities with fairness, impartiality, objectivity, and integrity is detrimental to the public’s trust of the institution. 

That is when – right or wrong – perceptions become reality for taxpayers who are routinely treated like mushrooms: Kept in the dark and fed bullshit. . .

This is especially true as controversy arises, such as when the School Board splits on whether to renew the Superintendent’s employment contract – especially when the wife of a board member has a lucrative contract with the same district overseen by the member – signed and authorized by that same Superintendent.  

That is when suspicion increases as We, The Little People seek answers – especially when what we see with our own eyes does not comport with what we are being told by some very influential people – and confidence in the important processes of governance continues to erode. 


According to a report by education reporter Nikki Ross in The Daytona Beach News-Journal this morning:

Volusia County Schools Superintendent Scott Fritz has decided not to extend his contract, which he announced to staff in an email Monday morning. 

“After much reflection, I have decided not to extend my contract,” Fritz said. “Serving VCS has been the greatest experience in my 30 years of public education. I would like to thank each of you for your dedication to our students and our school system.”

Fritz did not give a reason for his decision in the email. He did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.” 

Angels & Assholes for March 25, 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               Volusia County Emergency Medical Services

The term “Emergency Medical Services” is just that – an essential service staffed by highly trained professionals who respond in cases of serious illness or injury to provide acute care and transport between the scene of an incident and a trauma center or emergency department. 

Like most of those we ask to go into harms way to protect our safety and security, the dedicated paramedics and emergency medical technicians who perform life-saving measures under difficult and dangerous conditions serve for far less than they are worth – subject to long-hours and appallingly low pay in a profession that consistently ranks as one of the world’s most stressful. 

Here in Volusia County, these brave professionals have long been pawns in a poorly managed and inefficient system that many practitioners have warned is placing the lives of residents in jeopardy – and driving many paramedics and EMT’s out of the emergency services altogether. 

Inexplicably, for years, members of the Volusia County Council have been reluctant to even question senior administrators on the serious issues facing emergency medical transport – while ignoring the alarms sounded by those on the front lines – choosing instead to accept the same protocols (and excuses) while expecting a different outcome.

In the meantime, Volusia County EMS continues to hemorrhage qualified employees – an industrywide problem our ‘powers that be’ have addressed (as always) by throwing money at it – offering recruitment and retention bonuses while refusing to change the culture.     

Last year, Councilwoman Heather Post attempted to extract answers to persistent questions from the former Public Protection Director and County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – only to be lambasted by her “colleagues” – accused of “micromanagement” and conducting a “witch hunt.”

Her sin?  Daring to look behind the velvet curtain of a cloistered system where those providing this vital service are expected to suffer in silence from the stifling confines of an ambulance cab.

Recently, the Volusia County Council held a much-needed workshop to discuss EMS service delivery and working conditions in an atmosphere where, as of March 1, the average Volusia County paramedic has worked 362 hours of overtime, with EMT’s racking up 256 hours, in the last year.

As someone who was once responsible for the recruitment, retention, and scheduling of emergency service personnel – I can tell you those hours are unsustainable – and, more important, detrimental to the mental and physical health of those who are forced to work them.   

During the workshop, Jason Lademann, president of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics Local 77, explained that the most pressing issue facing emergency medical personnel is the lack of dedicated facilities where working paramedics and EMT’s can write reports, decontaminate, resupply, or simply eat a meal outside the fishbowl.   

“Although the overtime demands issue is a close second place, the overtime demands are a reflection of retention,” Lademann said.

“And that first priority of providing stations for EMS personnel to work at addresses one of the contributors to turnover that we’ve identified, as we’ve studied those who have departed the organization in recent years.”

At present, due to Volusia County’s “dynamic deployment” model, wherein ambulances respond from different locations throughout the county instead of returning to stations to await calls, EMS personnel are forced to disinfect themselves of blood, mud, urine, feces, and other potential pathogens in public restrooms – where crews have been exposed to dirty hypodermic needles from illicit drug use and other unsanitary conditions – a recurring situation that demands purpose built EMS stations at strategic locations. 

I have always felt that forcing EMS personnel to spend hours-upon-end responding to emergencies – operating exclusively from the close-quarters of their ambulance with no place to call home – was detrimental to the physiological and psychological needs of those asked to perform critical procedures in high-stress situations. 

Only recently did Volusia County implement a system of “respite locations” – an unofficial understanding with area fire departments that requires paramedics and EMT’s knock on firehouse doors like Dickensian orphans seeking refuge because they are not issued access cards or codes. 

My God.

Of course, the workshop was not without its share of high-ranking Volusia County officials engaging in the old bureaucratic soft-shoe as a diversion for those dimwits on the dais of power.   

For instance, when Councilwoman Post asked, “Why aren’t we sort of allowing them to base out of the nearest fire station from wherever they would be stationed instead of the 7-Eleven so that they can actually use the fire station fridge or the fire station restroom?”

The director of Volusia County EMS, Michael Coleman, explained that “rest locations” are based upon a standard response time of eight minutes and 59 seconds, requiring that ambulances stage in the “most ideal place.” 

(You mean “more ideal” than a centrally located fire station?) 

“I’m not discounting your idea, it’s just if we do that, then we have to agree that 8:59 isn’t a reality that we could get there for a while,” Coleman said.

Say what?

Given the fact municipal departments and county fire services typically respond simultaneous to Volusia County EMS, are we to believe that their fire stations are not located in the “most ideal” locations for rapid response to emergencies? 

Is this another failure of our “growth management” gurus to plan for adequate public safety facilities and infrastructure in the face of malignant sprawl?

Or is it because any substantive change in the “way we’ve always done it” is guaranteed to upset the bureaucratic applecart at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center – transformation that is always scotched using scary stories of the dramatic impacts on service delivery any deviation from the status quo would bring?


According to an informative article by Jarleene Almenas, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer this week:

“County Council Chair Jeff Brower asked if EMS personnel are allowed in fire stations, and County Manager George Recktenwald said they are. However, he also added that during the pandemic, there were situations where the county was aiming to keep first responders as isolated as possible.”


Whatever. . . 

During the workshop, we learned that Volusia County is placing a “modular building” at Fire Station 46 in DeLand – in my view, a temporary structure (at best) which offers zero protection for EMS personnel, their vehicles, and equipment during severe weather events when their services are needed most.

“We’ve gone through a lot of ideas of how to drop these stations around, because the reality is that this county is growing superfast,” Colman said. “So we don’t know where that station is going to be in a few years, and if we do a lot of brick-and-mortar stuff … and then all of the sudden dynamics change, we have people in other areas, now we need to abandon that spot and then that’s good for the taxpayers and all the effort that was put into this.”

Excuse me?  All of the sudden?

It appears efficient emergency medical services is yet another victim of this “cart before the horse” growth-at-all-cost strategy where the proliferation of new wood frame cracker boxes is outpacing government’s ability to provide essential services to them – with absolutely no relief in sight from those compromised politicians who rubberstamp new development as an involuntary reflex.  

Again, I am no longer in the emergency services business, but when I was, I distinctly remember my bosses and the taxpayers we served, demanding that I think strategically, anticipate threats, then formulate comprehensive solutions to meet expected challenges. 

In my view, Director Coleman is a nice guy who clearly knows his stuff – but if he and Mr. Recktenwald cannot marshal the massive resources of their enormous bureaucracy to anticipate shifting needs and population centers – then tactically locate hardened facilities to house and stage this important essential service, perhaps it is time for our elected officials to take off the blinders and find someone who can? 

The dedicated professionals of Volusia County Emergency Medical Services deserve better.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

I like to joke that I have a solid eighth-grade education – my high school years a blur of hops, malted barley, and habitual truancy – which means I have spent the bulk of my life as an experiential learner and skilled mimic of qualities I admire in others.

It is the most expensive education one can achieve. 

The fact is, everything of substance in my life came from the efforts of my long-suffering parents and dedicated teachers who refused to give up on me – or allow me to give up on myself – in helping overcome what I now recognize as intellectual disabilities affecting comprehension, including persistent dyscalculia, something I still struggle with. 

But even a dull-normal rube like me knows there are few government services more important than the education of our children – and as the “culture wars” rage, more parents are taking an active role in shaping the who, what, when, where, why, and how local school boards set policy and present the curriculum in the classroom. 

At their February meeting, the Volusia County School Board became mired in a premature discussion of whether to extend Superintendent Scott Fritz’ current contract, which is set to expire at the end of November, during what I am sure will prove to be a very contentious election year. . . 

During the confusing confab, two members – Carl Persis and Linda Cuthbert – pushed for a hasty off-the-agenda vote to extend Dr. Fritz’ contract without any formal evaluation of his performance.

Why the rush?

To their credit, Chair Ruben Colon joined members Jamie Haynes and Anita Burnette in calling for more information – with Haynes and Burnette making the commonsense suggestion that Fritz undergo a comprehensive performance review before a final decision is made on the contract extension.

Following the usual awkwardness, the board voted to push the discussion to a workshop initially scheduled for earlier this week. 

Didn’t happen. . .

Last Friday evening, Volusia County taxpayers, students, parents, and teachers were taken aback by the surprise announcement that the much-anticipated discussion of the Superintendent’s contract had been summarily cancelled – the prepared agenda removed from public view – with little explanation beyond a social media post from Chairman Colon, which explained, in part:

“During our next regular school board meeting, the board will have a discussion on a revised timeline of a formal evaluation of the superintendent. A formal evaluation of the superintendent’s performance will serve as the basis for the board’s decision on whether to extend his contract or not.  It will allow the opportunity for the board to evaluate the superintendent’s performance formally & in writing. After this, should it be the desire of the board, a discussion of an extension can be had based on the evaluation. Clearly this has not been an easy decision.  This was my decision as Chair. I believe this is in the best interest of our district.”

Something else raised a few eyebrows as well: Many watchers were flabbergasted by the mysterious behind the scenes wrangling of some influential insiders who lobbied the School Board to extend the Superintendent’s contract absent a formal evaluation – or substantive input from district employees, parents, and the public. 

Something’s up, folks.   

Unfortunately, I’m too dumb to figure out exactly what is happening in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.    

But I will.  And so will you. . .

What we do know is that this mystery is quintessentially Volusia County – a place where a few well-heeled political insiders with a chip in the game wield a lot more influence over those we have elected to represent our interests than you and I do. 

That’s only going to change when We, The Little People decide there is some shit we won’t eat and make our collective voice heard at the ballot box. . .    

(Don’t take my word for it, read the familiar contributors in the District 5 School Board race between incumbent Ruben Colon and that perennial political retread Volusia County Councilman The Right Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry, here: https://tinyurl.com/3khvk4wt )

In my view, as we wait for whatever this process will be, Dr. Fritz’ administration and the Volusia County School Board has, once again, shown little regard for the “strengthen communication and community engagement” standard set forth in their heralded “Strategic Plan – perpetuating the sense of confusion and entrenched mediocrity the bureaucracy has become known for.

In a recent News-Journal article detailing the fiasco, Elizabeth Albert, president of the Volusia Teacher’s Union, articulated what many are thinking:

“I can tell you that there’s been much anticipation about this workshop and the meetings on both sides of the coin. Those who want Dr. Fritz contract to be extended and those who feel like maybe we should look in a different direction,” Albert said. “I think the timing is very poor. I think the lack of communication just further demonstrates the level of disarray that the district is in right now.”


Trust me.  I’m doing some digging – others are too – and I have no doubt that time will explain the full-court-press by some very influential forces to keep Dr. Fritz at the helm of this foundering ship. 

In the meantime, keep an eye on this one. . .

Asshole           City of Ormond Beach

On Tuesday, Ormond Beach residents were treated to another large, and awfully expensive, slice of “Pie in the Sky” – this time a proposed community recreation center to accommodate our new neighbors to the west – during a City Commission “workshop” to discuss future recreation needs. 

(Not a peep about why I, and what seemed like hundreds of my motoring neighbors, had to sit through three light cycles at a horribly clogged intersection on Granada Boulevard this week. More on that later. . .)

During the hot-air generator, our elected dullards discussed the findings of a Parks & Recreation Master Plan Study conducted by an external consultant (read: someone paid to think for them – not necessarily a bad thing) at a cost of $125,000

According to a 2020 City of Ormond Beach resolution authorizing the analysis and survey:

“The Master Plan update is intended to help meet the needs of current and future residents by positioning the City of Ormond Beach to build on the community’s unique parks and recreation assets and identify new opportunities. Included with this project is an analysis of funding sources, such as the park and recreation impact fee. This effort will also prioritize future improvements to align the desired needs of citizens and be utilized as a steering component for the future of the provision of parks and recreation.”  

At Tuesday’s meeting, those dreamers on the dais unanimously agreed to pursue a new indoor recreation center – possibly partnering with those visionaries over at the Volusia County School Board to collocate the facility at Pathways Elementary on Airport Road – a not-so-bright idea that would obviously limit when residents could access it.

(Because, God forbid, those of us who are asked to pay for Taj Mahal school facilities should be permitted to use the gymnasiums, multi-purpose rooms, and other amenities when they are not in use educating our children. . .)  

According to reports, in 2016, the City of Ormond Beach paid Zev Cohen and Associates nearly $50,000 for a feasibility study which, at the time, estimated construction costs on the Pathways site at between $8.9 million and $10.2 million.

To his credit, Commissioner Dwight Selby brought everyone back to reality by reminding his colleagues that the “bottom line” remains identifying funding sources for these nice to have community amenities. 

According to an excellent piece detailing the workshop in this week’s Ormond Beach Observer:

“Commissioners were presented with three funding options as part of the master plan update: 1) Continue existing practices to fund Leisure Services, including impact fees, ECHO grants and CRA dollars; 2) add a dedicated millage for park and recreation projects; or 3) opt for a bond.

The first option is projected to bring in $11 million, the second $17 million and the third, $18.5 million.”

Which option do you think those “all growth is good growth” developer shills on the Ormond Beach City Commission are going to select?

“Per the master plan update’s statistically valid survey, where 402 people were asked how much they would be willing to pay annually to fund leisure services projects, the majority of respondents — 69.5% — said they would be open to paying $12-$60.

A total of 41.9% of respondents said they would be OK with paying $61-$120. Only 21.4% said they weren’t willing to pay any additional dollars.”

I have no idea how those percentages shake out mathematically – but I think it means the ‘survey says!’ the majority of my neighbors (obviously addled rubes I have never met) have no problem taxing their own eyeballs out to pay for shinny baubles before we know how much we will need to spend on roads, bridges, potable water, and wastewater treatment in the not-so-distant future. . . 


In most private sector endeavors – you know, where smart people spend their own money to effectively plan, rank needs, and accomplish goals – they conduct a detailed analysis to prioritize must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and not right now requirements. 

But not in the gilded halls of power at Ormond Beach City Hall.   

Like giddy children with a Tinker Toy set, our ‘powers that be’ are given to floating goofy ideas about moving a serviceable police facility out of downtown, destroying historic structures for parking lots, or constructing an indoor recreation center so our new neighbors west of I-95 don’t have to travel to Nova Road to use the existing one – all while long-suffering taxpayers try desperately to turn their attention to the real crisis we collectively face: inadequate transportation and utilities infrastructure in the face of massive internal and external sprawl that is rapidly threatening our quality of life.

In my view, nothing exemplifies the utter incognizance of some sitting elected officials like Commissioner Susan Persis’ tone-deaf remarks at this week’s confab:

“I think something really fabulous needs to go out there to keep making Ormond Beach better and better,” Persis said.   

Do you know what my neighbors and I think, Mrs. Persis? 

We believe the coming tax increases and inconveniences we are told are necessary to pay for the devastating impacts of out-of-control development this Commission (and others) have winked and approved – sprawl that is destroying our natural places and wildlife habitat, fouling our waterways, encroaching on scenic byways, and threatening to gridlock our roads – should be prioritized to fix this godforsaken mess and not be wasted on fabulous amenities that fit into some craven politicians twisted view of our overcrowded future.

Quote of the Week

“Affordable housing, roof replacements, business façade grants, vaccine incentives, COVID education, crime fighting, public art, park improvements, sidewalks and trails are all on the city’s list for ways Daytona Beach can use its allotment of Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

“We want to make sure it’s legal so we don’t have to give back the money,” Deputy City Manager Dru Driscoll told city commissioners at their meeting last week.

Since the final federal rules were released in January and February, Driscoll said, “many governments had to recraft their plans” and Daytona Beach also tweaked its COVID fund proposal.

The city received $7.5 million in federal COVID relief funds in May 2021 and expects to receive another $7.5 million in May or June this year.”

–Excerpted from The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “City firms up plans for relief funding,” written by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, Tuesday, March 22, 2022

I am not an expert on the authorized uses of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $2.2 trillion in economic relief to help Americans cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic – or the nuances of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 – which allocated an additional $350 billion to support state and local governments. 

What we do know is that this Manna from Heaven has many local governments salivating as they develop clever ways of shoehorning expenses and programs that seem wholly unrelated to mitigating the economic impacts of the pandemic onto “Wish Lists” – some of which have resulted in embarrassing back-pedaling by public finance directors and elected officials who got too “creative” with their wants and whims. 

While the CARES Act and ARPA programs share a similar funding stream (our tax dollars) the authorized purpose is different for each.  But I’ll be dipped if I can understand how public art programs and corporate welfare giveaways for developers of “affordable housing” projects are being considered – while needed improvements to water, sewer, transportation, and broadband infrastructure are ignored? 


Trust me.  When gobs of “free money” are floating around – people inside government and out – get highly imaginative. . .    

For instance, our elected dullards on the Volusia County Council were recently forced back to the drawing board after it was revealed that Chief Financial Officer Ryan Ossowski’s “creative accounting” overestimated revenue loss for the covered period by some $34 million – resulting in a red-cheeked reversal of some “big-ticket” items the council had excitedly agreed on in July 2021.

Trust me.  Volusia County is not alone when it comes to reassessing their Christmas lists. . .

I applaud Daytona Beach Deputy City Manager Dru Driscoll’s wise caution to city commissioners last week.  Because we all want to ensure that allocations of public funds are “legal” – and used only for expenses and programs specifically authorized under the terms of these incredibly expensive programs.

To ensure fiscal accountability in the high-risk environment that occurs when federal dollars are showered on already bloated public coffers – We, The Little People want to see anyone who ignores programmatic regulations and engages in waste, fraud, cronyism, favoritism, and abuse of this tax funded windfall prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.    

And Another Thing!

As a rule, Barker’s View focuses solely on local issues.


Because it is hard enough for me to untangle the petty machinations at City Hall – let alone the international intrigues, rogue powerplays, and global economic manipulations moving across the geopolitical stage.

However, I understand base thuggery when I see it – and like freedom loving people everywhere – I have been riveted on the crisis in Ukraine and the building humanitarian disaster resulting from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s horrific barbarity.

I recently watched through gritted teeth as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the United States Congress – an impassioned speech accompanied by a video depicting the gut-wrenching atrocities being committed by the Russian military against the civilian population – scenes of abject terror and heartbreak that left many of us wondering how we could help. 

This week, local civic activist and loyal member of the Barker’s View Tribe, Mary Synk, reached out for help publicizing a worthwhile effort to help Ukrainian women and children who have fled to the relative safety of neighboring Romania.   

As I understand it, Mary has traveled to the region on several volunteer missions and has developed trusted friendships there.  One of them being Daniel Stefanica, a middle-school principal in the City of Barlad.   

Last week, Mr. Stefanica made a plea for direct assistance to Ukrainian refugees. 

According to Mary:

“Ukrainian mothers & children are fleeing their country, and many are arriving in bordering Romania.  Daniel is one of the people organizing help for them.  Women arrive with their children and only what they can carry.  Many don’t know anyone, have no specific destination, no food, and no shelter.  Daniel has given up his own home for two families to live in while he himself has moved into an apartment.  This is happening all over Romania (and I’m sure other countries).

Romania is the poorest country in the European Union.  Barlad is in the poorest region of Romania.  The generosity of these people, who have so little themselves, is heart-warming and inspiring.   

I have organized a GoFundMe campaign to support Daniel’s work.  The work is being done through Scouts of Art, a non-profit organization that Daniel founded in 2013 to help under-privileged Romanian children. 

It is the organization that sponsored two English Camps, back in 2015 and 2016, where I was a volunteer teacher.  He is now using that organization to help the refugees.  The money is used for their basic needs (transportation, food, clothing, shelter).  Once they are safe, he helps them enroll their children in school, find jobs, learn the Romanian language, and become self-supporting.”

I ask that you visit Mary’s GoFundMe campaign at: https://gofund.me/0e4a8aa0

For additional information, Mary has posted a recent interview she conducted with Mr. Stefanica at  https://youtu.be/9n6gNIAGMLs or please feel free to contact Mary directly at mlsynk@yahoo.com .

According to a report by Katie Kustura writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal following last week’s prayer vigil in Deltona, As of Friday, more than 3.27 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia began its full-scale military invasion on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. A few million more have been internally displaced.”

My God. . .

Thank you in advance for your generous support of this most deserving effort. 

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

For the sake of the children

“You should stay together for the sake of the children. . .” 

That’s bad advice – regardless of the setting.

In my long experience in law enforcement – often dealing with people on the worst day of their lives – I came to understand that perpetuating a dysfunctional situation to create a façade of domestic tranquility is tailormade for disaster. 

Because old wounds rarely heal in the presence of suppurating resentment, and once trust is lost, it is impossible to regain.    

This holds true for government entities and taxing districts trying desperately to keep up appearances in hopes those who pay the bills won’t notice the paralytic chaos, fails, and fiascos that invariably result from prolonging the inevitable. 

In my view, pretending things are normal rarely convinces anyone – especially those who have been personally and professionally victimized by the failures of leadership and systemic disasters that always result in organizational entropy and distrust. 

At a February meeting of the Volusia County School Board, our elected representatives produced a voluminous amount of hot air discussing the thorny issue of whether to extend the reign of Superintendent Scott Fritz, whose current contract is set to expire in December.   

Incredibly, two sitting members of the School Board – Carl Persis and Linda Cuthbert – pushed for a premature off-the-agenda vote to extend the Superintendent’s contract without any substantive analysis of his performance and leadership acumen, or his administrations positive and negative impacts on students, parents, teachers, or staff. 

Following the usual chaos and confusion, the board voted to push the discussion to a workshop scheduled for tomorrow, Tuesday, March 22.

To their credit, Chair Ruben Colon joined members Jamie Haynes and Anita Burnette in calling for more information – with Haynes and Burnette making the commonsense suggestion that Fritz undergo a comprehensive performance review before a final decision is made on the contract extension.

At that same meeting, some local heavy hitters weighed in – to include Len Marinaccio, board member of the FUTURES Foundation; Nancy Keefer, president and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber; and Daisy Grimes of the Volusia County African American Leadership Council – all of whom supported extending Dr. Fritz’s contract.

But everyone in the room sat up straight and slicked down their cowlicks when the incredibly influential Forough Hosseini approached the podium and described Dr. Fritz as a “visionary” – before “suggesting” that the School Board give him the opportunity to, in her words, take us to the “next level.”

Trust me.  When those High Panjandrums of Political Power at the House of Hosseini speak – people listen – or they don’t remain in a policy-making role. . .

I caught some flak for my view that Mrs. Hosseini’s support all but guaranteed that Fritz’ contract would be extended with great flourish – his tenure cemented by the swaddling insulation of area heavyweights who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on Florida’s Fun Coast

Still think I’m off base? 

This week, in an excellent piece by education reporter Nikki Ross writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned of the growing effort by some very influential community “leaders” to ensure that Dr. Fritz’ contract is extended – as ordained by Mrs. Hosseini last month:

“Area organizations, universities and colleges have sent multiple letters to Volusia County School Board members supporting Superintendent Scott Fritz’s contract extension.

Signed letters have come from the FUTURES Foundation, the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, Daytona State College, Bethune-Cookman University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Stetson University.

All organizations expressed their concern with a change in leadership in the district.

“We believe a leadership change at this time, as the community and school system begins to recover from the pandemic and the strategic plan continues to evolve, would negatively impact the forward direction of the Volusia County School District,” the letter from the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce stated. “The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly believes extending the contract of Dr. Fritz will continue to move Volusia County Schools in the right direction and add stability to our students, teachers and community.”

Based upon what metrics? 

The abysmal lack of an effective internal or external communications strategy that has plagued the district since Fritz took the helm? 

The “Us vs. Them” mentality that permeates the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand? 

The annual warnings of a coming financial catastrophe with a budget now over $1 Billion?

The dire warnings from those in the classroom, “…burnout, low pay, lack of respect and community support have led some teachers to retire early or seek new careers”?

The unfilled vacancies? 

The district’s ham-handed, divisive, and often chaotic pandemic protocols that resulted in angry outbursts and demonstrations from concerned parents at board meetings?

The fact that “…teachers, district staff and parents have spoken out against the contract extension” – you know, the core ‘stakeholders’ with a vested interest in the district’s success? 

Or is it the need to project the illusion of stability to lure more warehouse operations to Volusia County and the $15-an-hour scutwork our graduates are asked to aspire to? 


Regardless of the district’s shortfalls, we always have the almighty three-year “Strategic Plan” – a boilerplate of vague goals and objectives that read like most superintendent’s job description (don’t take my word for it, read it here: https://tinyurl.com/2p8fpkzb) – much of which was facilitated by an “external consultant” – for which Dr. Fritz received a $10,000 spiff on top of his $205,000 annual salary. . .   

Now, the workshop scheduled for March 22 has been abruptly cancelled with the swiftness of a Facebook post by Volusia County School Board Chair Ruben Colon – apparently to allow time for a formal evaluation of Dr. Fritz’ performance. 

Given that Dr. Fritz took a leave of absence for some seven-months while receiving cancer treatments, his performance has never been formally reviewed. 

According to a News-Journal report, “The special meeting had been on the school board calendar for nearly a month. The district website was updated Friday afternoon to say the meeting was canceled and the agendas removed.”

A meeting to discuss the ins-and-outs of the Superintendent’s proposed evaluation has now been set for April 12. . .

I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .

“Elizabeth Albert, president of the Volusia Teacher’s Union, said the abrupt cancellation of the meetings is “suspicious.”

“I can tell you that there’s been much anticipation about this workshop and the meetings on both sides of the coin. Those who want Dr. Fritz contract to be extended and those who feel like maybe we should look in a different direction,” Albert said. “I think the timing is very poor. I think the lack of communication just further demonstrates the level of disarray that the district is in right now.”

Albert said one of Fritz’s steps highlighted in the strategic plan was to improve communication. She said this canceled meeting shows where the district is missing the mark. The decision to cancel the meeting was made by Colon.

“If we can’t support our goals and our strategic plan, I think we can take a second,” Albert said.”

Well said. 

Look, by any measure, we are emerging from a very difficult time. 

Right or wrong school districts around the nation have become Ground Zero for the resultant “culture wars” and Volusia County is no exception.  But anyone can hold the helm in calm seas – it takes strong, adaptive leadership to right the ship and set the direction during challenging times.

That is why Dr. Fritz makes the big bucks – and with it comes responsibility, and accountability. 

At least it should.     

In my view, we are witnessing what happens when real power moves in Volusia County – and the needs of the students, parents, teachers, and staff members most affected by the continuing dysfunction that permeates the district be damned. 

Stay tuned.  This one’s important. 

Angels & Assholes for March 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               Chief Jakari Young and the Daytona Beach Police Department

I am incredibly proud to call Chief Jakari Young of the Daytona Beach Police Department a friend and former colleague.  In my view, he represents everything good and right with the future of my beloved profession.

Let me show you just one example why this quiet professional sets the Gold Standard for those who perform this vital role: 

Last Saturday night – during the final blowout weekend of a busy Bike Week – Chief Young could have been at home, allowing his able command staff to manage the event or sitting in a warm office monitoring the situation – instead, he was in uniform patrolling the streets, serving in the trenches shoulder-to-shoulder with hardworking officers to keep his community safe. 

Just after 11:00pm that evening, Chief Young observed a man rummaging through a trash dumpster.  Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon sight in our troubled times and many officers would have simply offered a verbal warning and left. 

To say it had been a busy week for the Daytona Beach Police Department is an understatement.        

Chief Young and his officers spent the better part of the week investigating a grisly double homicide – a senseless act of violence that galvanized the region – the brutal murder of a random couple as they bicycled home after a night on Main Street. 

Thanks to their diligent efforts, investigators quickly identified the suspect and tracked the butcher to Orlando where he was arrested and later extradited to Volusia County where he is being held without bond. 

By any metric, Chief Young would have been justified in taking some downtime. 

But that is not his style. . .       

As a veteran law enforcement officer, when Chief Young observed the scene unfolding in a filthy dumpster behind a Daytona Beach business, his good instincts told him that something “didn’t feel right, didn’t look right,” so he stopped to investigate.

Rather than interrupt a crime in progress, what Chief Young discovered on that chilly night was a struggling family down on their luck.  A devoted father – heartbreakingly searching through the trash in the desperate hope of finding toys for his children – one of whom had a birthday coming up.    

According to Chief Young, “With the help of Patrol Officer Sean Wagner and Patrol Captain Trisha Loomis, we took the family to our Valor Boulevard headquarters, where the kids got some toys we keep in reserve along with some much-needed school supplies.”

In a subsequent note of thanks, the children’s grateful mother appropriately described Chief Young’s actions as a “…most unexpected act of kindness.” 

In my view, the compassion extended by Chief Young, Officer Wagner, and Captain Loomis, exemplifies the very essence of community-oriented policing – a simple act of goodness in a difficult situation that illustrates the Daytona Beach Police Department’s culture of humanity and commitment to service above self.   

In keeping with his humble nature, Chief Young was quick to give credit to his subordinate officers, but this incredible story begins with a resolute Chief of Police who took time out of his busy night to look deeper into a routine situation. 

Rather than drive away and address a thousand other pressing issues – Chief Young acted in the finest traditions of the police service – and took the time to leave an indelible impression on this young family, setting the example and cementing his stellar reputation as a true servant-leader. 

In my view, Chief Young’s actions in successfully leading a complex and protracted homicide investigation, simultaneously managing a world-class motorcycle rally, while still making the time to brighten a desperate situation for a family in need is worthy of official recognition.

Yet, Chief Young later explained that the best prize is the satisfaction that comes from helping others: 

“These are the moments which makes being a police officer worth it.”

Kudos to Chief Jakari Young and the outstanding officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department.  You are a true credit to your difficult and dangerous profession – and, by your personal example – epitomize the gallantry, pride in service, and depth of human compassion that rightfully elevates and enhances the reputation of our noble service.    

Thank you for your service, Chief – and congratulations on a job well done!

Angel               Anne Ruby, Sandy Murphy, and Citizens 4 Responsible Development

Last month, the great Halifax area civic activist Anne Ruby – an incredibly astute watcher and researcher who, with the intrepid Sandy Murphy, have devoted countless hours working to make Daytona Beach a better place – called me to say ‘not so fast’ following a premature piece I wrote lamenting the demise of the beleaguered City Island Rec Center. 

I am happy to report that there may well be new life in this horribly neglected civic asset. 

With a ‘never say die’ attitude and the confidence of knowing they are right, Anne, Sandy, and members of Citizens 4 Responsible Development have fought to save this notable building and preserve its important link to our area’s unique contributions to the war effort.    

According to published research, the Rec Center was built in 1943, primarily with funds from the Federal Works Administration, to serve as a dance hall for the many military personnel stationed in the area during World War II. 

The estimated 10,000 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps stationed at Daytona Beach caused some consternation among area residents – with some locals complaining that crowds of servicemembers were taking over the city’s few “sizeable restaurants,” drinking, carousing, and “touring in groups” when they descended on the city nightly. 

A subsequent military investigation found that these scurrilous criticisms were largely without merit, reporting that “…most such complaints came from about 15 percent of the local residents described as “well-to-do property owners. . .”  (The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?)   

The City of Daytona Beach and military authorities agreed that area recreation and entertainment opportunities were inadequate, and city officials agreed to expand facilities on City Island for that purpose.   

According to Citizens 4 Responsible Development – a 501c3 nonprofit formed to encourage the City of Daytona Beach to provide a better quality of life for its citizens:

“It was the only building in Florida built for this purpose; it is unique. The City Commission voted to fund the stucco finish and a stronger roof so the building could serve the community long after the war. The building was actively used for community events, meetings, and classes until 2012, when the city closed the building. Since its closure, it hasn’t been maintained in a manner appropriate for any municipal property, let alone an historic property.”

Last month, it appeared the city’s ‘powers that be’ had successfully killed the historic property with a one-two punch of strategic neglect and frightening repair estimates, with The Daytona Beach News-Journal reporting:

“At a meeting last week, City Commissioner Ruth Trager made an impassioned plea to keep the structure standing and restore it. City Commissioner Ken Strickland also argued for a stay of execution and a chance to fully renovate it.

But Trager and Strickland were outnumbered by the five other commissioners who said it’s not worth the estimated $2 million it would take to save the nearly 80-year-old building. City Commissioner Paula Reed said she’s “just not willing to spend that.”

“We need to be better stewards of city facilities … but I am not in favor of saving this building,” Reed said. “I think we need to count our losses and just do better from this point forward.”

Fortunately, Anne Ruby, Sandy Murphy, and members of C4RD refused to allow the structure to fall victim to the pernicious practice of destroying buildings and facilities that connect the present to our past in the name of “progress.” 

The group placed emphasis on the value of the building to the community – rather than the inflated cost of preservation and rehabilitation.   

In an open letter to members of the Historic Preservation Board, C4RD explained:

“If the Rec Center is demolished it will be gone forever.  If you declare it historic and convince the Commission to do the same, options for purpose and funding of the Rec Center could be explored over the next year. A refreshed, repurposed Rec Center could again be a valuable city asset, contributing to the economic good of the city.

 There are many good reasons to explore the options to restore the Rec and many possible valid counterpoints to arguments the city may raise.  Citizens are not typically allowed to engage in a public conversation with staff or members during Board or Commission meetings.  City staff and their experts have unlimited time to speak and interact with those on the dais; they always have the last word.”

On Tuesday, the volunteer’s provided a professional video presentation and research material to the Daytona Beach Historic Preservation Board which debunked many of the myths surrounding the building’s threats and condition – an effort that saw some seventeen area residents speak in support of protecting the facility from demolition.    

Thanks to the excellent work of these committed civic activists, the HPB determined on a 5-1 vote that the City Island Rec Center is a place of important historic significance to our area!

I am told that the meeting was not without the usual dose of civic drama when HPB Chair Tracey Remark, who cast the lone “No” vote, engaged in what one observer described as “bizarre” dialog in arguing against saving the structure from oblivion. . .   


For now, let us celebrate the Historic Preservation Board’s visionary finding – and continue to support the efforts of C4RD and others working to save this endangered part of the Halifax area’s history. 

If, as Commissioner Paula Reed said, it is time for our elected and appointed officials to be better stewards of municipal facilities, let that commitment start with saving the City Island Rec Center – both in remembrance of those who served – and as a tangible link to our past for future generations. 

Please visit Citizens 4 Responsible Development at https://www.c4rddaytona.com/

Asshole           Volusia County Council

I hate to replough the same furrow, but the abject absurdity of Volusia County government is never more evident than when our elected dullards facilitate some influential insider’s vision of “progress” – spending the next year dipping and dodging complaints resulting from the disruptions and inconveniences felt by us rubes who live and eke out a living here on Florida’s Fun Coast

For instance, last November the Volusia County Council voted unanimously to approve a $2.7 million proportionate share agreement between the City of Daytona Beach, Daytona 634 Development LLC, and the County of Volusia. 

The agenda item included a proposed extension of Pelican Bay Drive connecting the under-construction Amazon fulfillment center’s driveway to busy Beville Road – a plan that anyone paying attention could see would dump heavy traffic from the 2.8 million-square-foot warehouse facility at the east entrance to the tony Pelican Bay gated community. . .

As I understand it, a “proportionate fair-share agreement” is fancy bureaucratic double-speak for a ‘hurt here/help there’ pro-growth shim-sham that (we are told) requires developers to ensure necessary public services and facilities are in place “concurrent with the impacts of growth.”

It doesn’t.      

Both the “prop-share” agreement, and extension of Pelican Bay Drive, passed with no discussion from the normally chatty council members – beyond Chairman Jeff Brower’s explanation of the behind-the-scenes wrangling you and I were not privy too:

For the purpose of the public…I will let you know there has been a lot of discussion with councilmembers with staff, and apparently this seems to everybody, including me, that this will be a benefit for future economic development opening up this area. . .” 

Then, one month later, the Daytona Beach City Commission unanimously authorized the “prop share” agreement on a staff recommendation – effectively paving the way for the nightmare traffic funnel on Beville Road. 

To ramrod the project, the Daytona Beach City Commission enthusiastically approved a development agreement – including some $4 million in corporate welfare incentives – when the development, previously known only by the mysterious cryptonym Project Tarpon, was revealed to be an Amazon Fulfillment Center. . . 

For the record, then newly elected Commissioner Ken Strickland cast the lone dissenting vote on the corporate welfare scheme.   

Now, the 3,600 residents of the Pelican Bay community are vehemently opposed to the deleterious effects of around-the-clock traffic at the gateway to their homes – a low-ball estimate of 630 to/from truck trips daily and 3,000 employee trips every 24-hours – leaving our suddenly stupefied elected officials scrambling to appear as if they give two-shits. . . 

They don’t. 

Because here on the Fun Coast, “future economic development,” regardless of impact, naturally equals “good” – and anyone who asks questions is dismissed as a “clown,” “disgruntled naysayer,” or worse. . . 

Who’s the Clown now? 

According to an informative report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Daytona Beach residents take Amazon traffic worries to County Council”:

“Nine people urged County Council members to talk to Amazon officials and work with county government staff to find an alternative to the current plan to create a new thoroughfare just north of Beville Road for large Amazon trucks that will be heading to and from the e-commerce giant’s new facility.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for everybody,” Pelican Bay resident Janis Griffith told Council members.

“We’re already at somewhat of a logjam, and that’s before Amazon starts up,” Pelican Bay neighborhood resident Paula Kaplan said during Tuesday’s meeting. “My husband and I and others are fearful.”

Other Pelican Bay residents spoke of their very real concerns of gridlock, an increase in crashes, and the effect of non-stop commercial traffic on tourism – all while their elected officials sat on the dais of power staring down at them like gargoyles – knowing full-well they voted to approve this mess without discussion just four-months ago. . . 

My God. . .

Now, we are told that council members are “working behind the scenes” – in that ethereal bureaucratic rip in the space-time continuum where the concept of ‘accountability’ does not exist – struggling to find a “solution” to the inevitable consequences of their own gross lack of due diligence as they put the blinders on and worked to protect the interests of their political benefactors over the needs of their constituents.

In my view, most nauseating was the puling of those craven politicians who voted enthusiastically for both the proportionate share agreement – and the spiffs and giveaways that secured the secretive project – who are now praying they can convince their constituents (and neighbors) that they care. 

They don’t. 

Because in Volusia County the one constant is that the wants and needs of those who pay the bills and suffer in silence will always be subservient to the mercenary machinations of those extremely wealthy insiders with a chip in the game. . .

Of course, that Master of Strategic Ignorance, lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler – who forgot she was one of the “Yes” votes to approve the Beville Road nightmare – clucked, “We’re all fighting the battle.  I’m not ignoring it and staff is not ignoring it. Some things, our hands are tied. We’re trying to figure this out as well as we can. We can’t make promises, but we’re not hanging up the towel.”


I’ve asked this question before, but how could any sitting official who voted for the Amazon amendments, incentives, and agreements have failed to consider the radiating traffic impacts inherent to a five-story industrial warehouse?

Oh, I forgot – they didn’t know what they were voting for when they approved it. . . 

Get the picture? 

Now, these same politicians are attempting to use this tactical incognizance in a feeble attempt to dodge accountability for the intrusive after-effects of this ‘pig-in-a-poke’ sham. 

To many living in Pelican Bay and doing business along the Beville Road corridor, it is increasingly evident that their quality of life has become collateral damage – exchanged for the promise of $15-per-hour warehouse jobs (until automation takes over) – and the looming specter of even more industrial development impacting the area in the near future.    

Late yesterday I was told that one solution being considered is to simply change the name of the access road from Pelican Bay Drive to something (anything) else.


You can’t make this shit up. . .

I like to say, “Vote like your quality of life depends on it.” 

Because it does. . .

Quote of the Week

“At the March 3rd, 2022 meeting of the Volusia County Council all members voted in favor of giving $1,500 of our tax dollars to Embry Riddle’s Athletic program.

Their job as council members is not to take our money by force and with the threat of the loss of our homes and property in order to give to another. This is not the government’s role, and the practice should end. $1,500 may not be much in the bigger picture, however, it is wrong, and it is only a small portion of what is given away every year.

Charitable giving should be a personal choice that is made based on one’s desire and ability to give and it should not be done for us by our government. Our elected representatives are not being noble or charitable when they allow this to occur, it is not their money to give away.  It is beyond time to reduce the scope, size, and responsibilities of our county government. Government is in place to do those big things that we cannot do as individuals such as building roads and bridges, providing public transportation services, and providing public safety services.”

–Civic Activist Keith Chester, writing on the popular Facebook political forum, “Volusia Issues,” Wednesday, March 16, 2022

And Another Thing!

On Monday, already stressed area residents awoke to The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s frontpage headline, “Can city’s LPGA Boulevard handle 9,000 new homes? Top city staff members preparing for the growth,” a clearly rhetorical question designed to emphasize the stark reality of overdevelopment. 

At least I hope it was a rhetorical question. . .

Because the unequivocal answer from anyone paying attention is “No” – the entirety of the Halifax area is completely incapable of rapidly absorbing the current rate of rampant sprawl – let alone the estimated 12,500 new “housing units” on the horizon, including the proliferation of wood frame apartment complexes that are sprouting like weeds out of those ugly slash-and-burn moonscapes east of I-95. 

To add insult, some of the very same politicians who have rubberstamped every planned unit development that came before them with Pavlovian conditioning – including Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who was reelected in 2020 on the strength of a war chest crammed with over $91,000 (for a municipal mayoral election?) with thousands of dollars coming from area developers and uber-wealthy insiders – are wringing their hands, now that the crush of new development is (literally) hitting close to home:

“…Mayor Derrick Henry is still a little uneasy with the surge in new home construction that won’t ebb for several years.

“This has given me a bit of a headache, and I knew it would,” Henry said last week after city staff gave commissioners a presentation on the new development approved for the LPGA area. “I prefer more commercial development.”

Henry lives in the LPGA area west of I-95, so he has an up close and personal view of the surge.

“I see what’s taking place. I feel the increase,” the mayor said. “I don’t want it to hit like a sledgehammer at one time.”

Not to worry, folks.

Those highly paid Rip Van Winkles who accept public funds to serve in the public interest are now awakening from years of slumber to “study” things like securing the water supply, treating sewage, reworking the intersection of I-95 and Boomtown Boulevard, and “readying the road network” – all part of some weird ‘cart before the horse’ strategy that has allowed developers to cram ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag and haul untold millions out of the pine scrub before our now groaning transportation infrastructure could handle it.

According to the News-Journal’s report, “City staff members say they’re ready to handle the next waves of development in a part of Daytona Beach already undergoing explosive growth. But there are likely to be some growing pains that, at least for the next few years, could mean more traffic congestion than some people care for and less than optimal cell phone service.

The two-lane bridge on LPGA Boulevard just west of I-95 is one choke point that can already tie up motorists. And as more people pour out onto the roads, there could be other slow-moving stretches until new road extensions, road widenings, new traffic signals and other improvements are in place.”


Choke point?

The next waves?

Growing pains?

At least the next few years?

Traffic congestion?

“Less than optimal” cellular service?

Any of that sound like an effective growth management and concurrency outcome to you? 

So, NOW – after thousands of zero lot line cracker boxes have been built on top of our aquifer recharge areas with more on the way – “Staff” has decided it’s finally time to begin the process of preparing for the “explosive growth” that will have us drinking our own recycled sewage and dying a slow death in gridlocked traffic?   


Trust me.  Growth management, environmental protection, and low-impact development strategies form the most pressing issues facing political candidates this election season – and our decisions at the polls are increasingly influenced by a changing dynamic where campaign contributions from certain heavyweights and the industries they control signal who NOT to vote for – no longer providing the traditional undue advantage for hand-select marionettes who lack the strength of character to tap the brakes on their political benefactor’s out-of-control greed. 

That’s a good thing. 

Please remember – votes beat money – and this one’s important. 

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

It’s Great to be Home!

It’s good to travel, it’s great to be home. . . 

I’ve just returned from a much-needed few days away in Northern Virginia where a late-season snow made things interesting on Saturday – turning the beautiful rolling hills of the Old Dominion’s horse country into a frosty tableau – perfect for relaxing in front of a roaring fire with a few glasses of fine whiskey. 

 On the way home, a stop in Raleigh, North Carolina found a community in the midst of aggressive revitalization – with historic neighborhoods and former warehouse districts being transformed into affordable residential areas with a true neighborhood feel, tony shops and eateries occupying once dilapidated spaces, and a bustling downtown capitalizing on the regions “Research Triangle” designation. 

On Monday, I spent a few hours touring the area – stopping for a delicious platter of fresh oysters and good craft beer at the innovative Transfer Co. Food Hall – a market and gathering place built around an eclectic group of small restaurants housed in the 50,000 square foot former Carolina Coach Garage – a beautifully renovated space where producers, makers, vendors, restaurateurs, community members and their guests gather and connect through food.

My hope is that this space represents exactly what the City of Daytona Beach envisions for their recent acquisition of the former Corbin building on Main Street. 

This afternoon, Barker’s View joins GovStuff Live! with Big John – Volusia County’s premiere public affairs radio forum beginning at 4:00pm. 

Our guest in the 5:00 o’clock hour will be the incomparable Mike Scudiero – a long-time contributor to the Marc Bernier Show, a go-to source on local issues for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, tireless advocate for public safety practitioners, and an astute professional political consultant and influential commentator who has helped many successful candidates craft their message and navigate the intricacies of the political process to achieve their goal of public service. 

In fact, Mike is one of the smartest people I know – and while we don’t always agree – I invariably learn from his insightful take on the important issues of the day. 

You will too.

If you are interested in the ‘local stuff’ – and Mike’s insightful take on the how the political playing field is shaping up this election season – you won’t want to miss this informative and interactive forum. 

Please join us locally at 1380am The CAT, or online at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button). 

I welcome you to join the discussion by calling us at 386-523-1380 where the irrepressible Big John – Volusia County’s foremost expert on local government and politics – welcomes your questions, observations, and “pithy comments” on the Fastest Two-Hours in Radio!

Also, our weekly installment of Angels & Assholes – my often-irreverent take on the news and newsmakers here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast – returns to this space tomorrow morning! 

Please join us! 

Local Politics Matter.

As the world sits on the brink of a global conflagration, some are shaking their heads and asking the question, “Hey Barker, given current international events, who gives a Tinker’s damn about the trifling local issues you drone on about?”   

In my view, there are very few avenues available to We, The Little People to influence geopolitical conflict – and, unless you are a confirmed billionaire with a loose wallet come election time, I defy anyone to pick up the phone and sway the legislative process in Washington – or Tallahassee, for that matter.

Local Politics Matter.

Even though local politics plays a direct role in our day-to-day lives – where those we elect to local councils and commissions legislate ordinances, establish public policies, set budgets, educate our children, manage our beach (or not), plan for growth (or not), protect our environment (or not), ensure safe and effective utilities, and spend our hard-earned tax dollars as they (or their handlers) see fit – the fact is, local issues are easily drowned out by the din and clamor of national and international issues. 

In my view, now is not the time to lose focus on what is happening right here in our own zero-lot-line backyard.

Unfortunately, by careful design, the ‘average citizen’ has few means of affecting substantive change on state and local issues, either – now that the decision-making process is controlled by a camera stellata of entrenched insiders – and the “sense of the people” no longer plays a role. 

As people begin to feel that their voice no longer matters, confidence in government plummets as we begin to speculate who is manipulating the rods and strings – and why.   

In Volusia County, it is not hard to figure out that a handful of uber-wealthy oligarchs and a faceless bureaucracy in DeLand have called the shots for far too long – using our elected figureheads as dull tools – with both outsized influences fiercely protected by the Old Guard of lockstep conformists who are easily controlled by external forces. 

For good reason, we no longer expect much from our elected representatives – that sense of having someone on “our side” in the halls of power has been beaten out of us by the machinations of bait-and-switch campaign tactics, where politicians say one thing at election time, then do another once in office – painting rosy pictures that don’t comport with our experience – asking us to doubt what we see with our own eyes

The result is a stodgy and homogenized conventionality, a rigid closed system protected and perpetuated by those elites with a chip in the game. 

Now, the best the voiceless hordes who pay the bills and suffer in silence can hope for is that the unholy alliances, collusions, and legislative decisions of those we send to City Hall, Tallahassee, and Washington do not disrupt our daily material comforts to any noticeable level.

Returning a government ‘of the people.’

These feelings of alienation are made worse as local elective bodies normalize the practice of limiting when, where, why, and how taxpayers can ask questions, voice an opinion, weigh-in on public policy, or petition their government for redress of grievances relying on “civility ordinances” and other procedural constraints to silence their constituents and limit the ‘citizen input’ that forms the very cornerstone of a representative democracy.  

In Volusia County, these carefully laid bureaucratic roadblocks and political insulation tactics have resulted in a frustrating indifference – a resigned acceptance that “You can’t fight City Hall” – an Us vs. Them mentality that has undermined the public’s trust in their government.  

This fatigue is exemplified by the fact most of your neighbors do not know the name of their mayor – too busy raising a family and eking out a living in our artificial economy to become enmeshed in a political process that has done everything possible to make them feel unwelcome. 

It doesn’t help that our former local newspaper – the traditional independent community watchdog – has been gobbled up, neutered, and gutted by a global media conglomerate who could give two-shits about the issues effecting your neighborhood and mine. 

Now, it is up to us to affect positive change at the ballot box and shape a future for our children that respects our environment and natural resources, plans for and regulates growth – then sticks to those plans

Fortunately, times they are a changin.’

In politics as in nature, the pendulum always swings, and some very important people with a long-established place in the public suckling order are getting nervous as citizens awaken to the fact we deserve better than this well-crafted illusion that belies our day-to-day experience.   

In my view, this slow recognition of our powerlessness is why thousands of readers visit Barker’s View – and participate in the lively debate of ideas on community social media outlets – as citizens who feel isolated seek an alternative opinion to canned press releases and the humdrum jabbering of mouthpieces who sing Kumbya and tell us what the entrenched power structure thinks we want to hear.    

For instance, as the malignant sprawl that is enveloping Volusia County proves – the insatiable appetites of those influential few who use politics to control their environment have lasting impacts on our environment, quality of life, and economy – especially in a place where massive campaign contributions are repeatedly funneled to political chameleons with the malleable ethics to do their handlers bidding at the nexus of public funds and private interests.

Trust me.  If you live work, work, play, or learn in Volusia County – this is an important year – and the time has come to turn your attention to what will be a very contentious political season. 

Last week, many were disheartened by Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post’s abrupt departure from the At-Large race – a gut-punch to those who have looked on as the Gang of Four used the same filthy tactics to marginalize Chairman Jeff Brower that they unceasingly employed against Ms. Post – trying desperately to pound these last square pegs of independent thought into the round hole of sluggish conformity that perpetuates the status quo.    

In addition, there remains a simmering anger in Volusia County following the shim-sham that passed for last year’s budget process – when those who billed themselves as “fiscal conservatives” transmogrified into tax-gorging profligates – now shoveling cash into the ravenous maw of that bloated bureaucracy in DeLand at a rate of over $1 Billion annually.

In my view, that’s an obscenity in a place where tens-of-thousands are living at or below the poverty line, with many more considered asset limited/income constrained, struggling mightily to find non-existent affordable housing in an environment where $15-an-hour warehouse jobs and hospitality scutwork are what our children can aspire to. 

Fortunately, many in our community are beginning to take notice – and get involved.

When it comes to modern political campaigns, sorting the wheat from the chaff is not easy. 

Professional politicians are the same everywhere – they are glib, glad-handing, warm and approachable at election time, adept at speaking out of both sides of their mouth with equal enthusiasm, with the curated ability to quickly read a room and morph into something that can be all things to all people simultaneously. 

Are you are concerned about the effect of sprawl on our environment?  Amazingly – So are they! 

Even if they have accepted campaign contributions from every speculative developer and related special interest in the region – then rubberstamped every planned unit development that came before them over the past four-years. . .

Rather than show themselves in a true light – warts and all, with a ‘what ya see is what ya get’ honesty – they dress, act, and present themselves in a carefully choreographed way to create a marketable image.

My God.

Tragically, even local candidates now use well-funded political action committees and dark money interests who employ glossy mailers and double-speak ad campaigns to destroy their opponent in a skeevy win at all cost strategy that allows them to keep their hands clean while shadowy political operatives do the dirty work. 

These slimy practices are the singular reason why many good people are unwilling to throw their hat in the ring and wade into this fetid shit-trench for the opportunity to serve their community. 

It seems nothing is off limits in the blood sport of local politics as candidates, and their well-heeled benefactors, stoop to new lows as perennial politicians try and convince us this time they have suddenly grown some personal character and will be responsive to our needs and concerns.


Never forget this undeniable truth when selecting a political candidate: The only accurate predictor of future performance is past performance.

After all, how many weak-minded politicians have you watched become everything they hated when they entered politics, once they are taken into the system?

Change requires engagement.

While some politicians live up to their promise, many have proven that once they ascend to the dais of power, unless you have contributed thousands of dollars to their campaign, We, The Little People no longer matter.

It is called pay-to-play politics, and the pernicious effect of this perfectly legal quid pro quo is evident throughout Volusia County.

However, as contemporary trends have proven:  Votes beat money – and this political awakening that is taking place across Volusia County is changing the dynamic and shaking up the stagnant status quo. 

As the local political season heats up, I encourage you to remain focused on the issues that affect us most, get involved, ask questions, research candidates backgrounds, the voting record of incumbents, and, most important, review their financial contributors here: https://tinyurl.com/3khvk4wt – and work to elect servant/leaders who share your values and vision for our future. 

Then vote like your quality of life depends on it. 

A Warrior Leaves the Field

I haven’t always been kind to District 4 Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post. 

But, deep down, I always respected her drive and tenacity.

My self-created role as a dilettante polemicist, if I have one at all, is to ‘calls them like I sees them’ – providing one man’s unvarnished view of the machinations of local government through the lens of someone who has been behind the velvet curtain – the despised magician who breaks ranks and exposes the sleight-of-hand those we elect and appoint to represent our interests would rather remain a mystery to We, The Little People, who are expected to pay the bills and suffer in silence.

To her credit, Councilwoman Post understood better than most that harsh constituent criticism comes with the territory, and that political accountability is vitally important to the integrity of the process. 

On Friday evening, we learned the disappointing news that Councilwoman Post is withdrawing her candidacy for the Volusia County At-Large seat and has announced she will not be seeking elective office in November. 


Fortunately, Ms. Post will complete her current term in office which ends in December. 

In her heartfelt announcement on Facebook, Councilwoman Post thanked her legions of supporters – speaking emotionally about her admiration for veterans and public safety professionals – those community heroes she has tirelessly advocated for from the dais and in the bureaucratic trenches since taking office.

In keeping with her reputation for speaking truth to power, Ms. Post also gave a nod to her “adversaries” who, through both iterations of the Volusia County Council on which she served, made it clear that her valiant willingness to break ranks – violate the ancient Code of Omerta – and engage with constituents, think independently, and move beyond the tired status quo was unacceptable.

In turn, her craven “colleagues” reacted to everything Ms. Post said or did with faux outrage, openly marginalizing and disparaging her every initiative with personal attacks, eye-rolling histrionics, and an overweening sense of officious superiority that only those preening assholes – past and present – could muster.

For instance, in 2019, when Post asked for a letter supporting her bid for the Florida Association of Counties Second Vice President slot – her request was arrogantly denied by then County Chair, Ed Kelley, who said, “…he doesn’t trust Post and would never support her representing the county on a state board because her views on issues too often don’t align with the council majority.”

Then, following the election of Council members Ben Johnson and Barbara Girtman, Chairman Kelley reconsidered and issued a glowing letter of recommendation to the Florida Association of Counties, which stated, in part, “Volusia County enthusiastically supports County Council Member Heather Post’s candidacy for a Vice President position with the Florida Association of Counties (FAC).”

In turn, Ms. Post qualified to run for the leadership role against Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine during the organization’s annual conference.  It would be the first time in the 90-year history of FAC that a sitting Volusia County representative had been a candidate for the Executive Board.

When the time came to make good on his promise to support Post’s run – in perhaps the most shameful display of quisling, meanspirited political backstabbing on record – Old Ed and Councilwoman Billie Wheeler campaigned against Ms. Post in a bait-and-switch shim-sham that violated the public trust and exposed the depth to which the Old Guard would stoop to embarrass and humiliate Ms. Post. 

She deserved better.  We deserved better.

It was ugly and spoke to everything wrong with this entrenched power structure that has controlled everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides here for far too long. 

“…I am so grateful to my adversaries and those who have opposed me, sabotaging meetings, being deeply horrible people to gain favor elsewhere, spreading lies, encouraging stalkers, and worst, purposefully making decisions detrimental to the citizens and the future of Volusia County just to be able to “go against” what I advocate for. I have learned so much from them and it is through these battles that my positions, beliefs and tenacity have been re-affirmed and are now stronger than ever. I have worked tenaciously to stand up for so many in the community and within the county administration whose voices are sadly ignored and I will continue to do so.”

In another shameful example, last week, Ms. Post advocated for the Honor our PACT Act – federal legislation which would provide enhanced medical benefits to military veterans exposed to toxic contaminants and environmental hazards while in service to our nation. 

Inexplicably, only Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilwoman Barb Girtman agreed to cosign the letter of support endorsing what should be a non-partisan issue (yeah, right), with council members Ben Johnson, Danny Robins, Billie Wheeler, and The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry refusing to be included. 

My God. . .    

Look, nothing has come easy for Ms. Post. 

Following a brutal 2016 campaign marked by horrific mudslinging, character assassination, and combined campaign contributions totaling over $390,000 – to that point, the most ever spent on a Volusia County Council race – it became apparent that Volusia’s Old Guard – those stalwarts of the stagnant status quo – did not like Post’s penchant for independent thought and hands-on representation of those who elected her.

During her first campaign, Ms. Post committed the unforgivable sin of getting crossways with King of Kings J. Hyatt Brown when she labeled a Political Action Committee – “Committee for a Strong Volusia” (sorry, I just upchucked in my mouth a little) – to which His Royal Highness had contributed some $50,000 as misogynistic and a mechanism of the “good ‘ol boy” system that is alive and well here on the Fun Coast.   

Her bread never landed jelly-side-up again. . . 

She became a political punching bag – the target of powerful political insiders and their elected chattel on the dais who tried desperately to pound a square peg into the round hole of conformity – and a lightning rod for time-wasting controversy.

Look, Ms. Post is far from perfect (who is?) – given to the showboating and shameless self-promotion that has become an essential quality of politicians everywhere – and her unwillingness to speak with the working press added an air of defensiveness many found troublesome. 

She could be a polarizing force – and you will rarely speak to anyone familiar with Volusia County politics who have ambivalent feelings about her service. 

However, with time and experience, Ms. Post grew into her own, always championing the cause of those who live and eke out a living in the artificial economy of Volusia County – fighting against overwhelming opposition to become an important, influential, and incredibly popular voice for her constituents. 

I do not know how, when, where, or if Ms. Post will serve in the future – but those with her fire in the belly – the personal and political courage to change things for the better, despite withering pushback, are a rare breed – and I hope she continues her political career whenever the time is right. 

In a current field marked by bought-and-paid for lackeys, political neophytes, retread perennial politicians, and a precious few candidates committed to the grassroots activism, service-above-self, and substantive change that will return a government of the people that Ms. Post and Chairman Jeff Brower represent – things just got a lot gloomier (if that’s possible) in Volusia County politics. 

Despite her withdrawal from the arena, I remain enamored with the ideal Ms. Post represents to many – an independent voice who seeks the truth without fear or favor, serves in the public interest, stands up to political bullies, embraces the concept of fairness, and fights mightily to give taxpayers a true voice in their government – someone who embodied our collective hope for something resembling a representative democracy in Volusia County.

Thank you for your service, Ms. Post. 

You will be missed. 

Angels & Assholes for March 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               Chuck Duva and Beaches Entertainment Eatery

I am an infernal optimist at heart – a walking dichotomy of emotions and goofy opinions on the fate of Florida’s fabled “Fun Coast” – one who believes that progress and revitalization can be just as contagious as blight and dilapidation.

All it takes is hard work and the right set of eyes – a vision of what could be – even in the fetid wasteland that is our horribly neglected beachside. 

After decades of decline and decay, it became apparent to anyone paying attention that waiting on local redevelopment officials to “do something” about the abysmal condition of East ISB – the literal gateway to the “World’s Most Famous Beach” – was an exercise in futility, as only well-heeled insiders get the goodies, incentives, and corporate welfare while small businesses are left to wither and die in an era where government picks winners and losers with our tax dollars.

As this frustrating eyesore festered – many lost any hope.

I know I did. . .

Even a giddy, overly optimistic Panglossian Pollyanna like me – always donning my rose-colored glasses to find that shimmering ray of sunshine in the darkest of situations – can only take so much civic disappointment, eh?     

It took a while to beat the sanguinity and sense of anticipation out of Halifax area residents – but, over time, the foot-dragging of our ‘powers that be’ succeeded in crushing our spirit.

For years, we listened to every incoming Chair of the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce pontificate on how East ISB was a “priority” – yet the stagnation continued.

We were shown impressive computer-generated dioramas of what the East ISB corridor could look like if only this, that, or the other materialized.

It never did. 

In time, residents stopped believing that anyone had a viable vision for the revitalization of our most visible threshold – with everyone in agreement that the deplorable condition of the area – which, at the time, the News-Journal described as “…the ugliest entryway to a beach on the entire East Coast of the United States” – was repellant to both tourists and residents alike.  

Nothing changed.

Then, in an informative January 2021 piece by the intrepid News-Journal business editor Clayton Park, we learned that local entrepreneur Dr. Charles “Chuck” Duva – the visionary behind the wildfire of commercial expansion along LPGA’s Boomtown Boulevard – was taking affirmative steps to “help spark the revitalization” of the East ISB corridor.

I swooned.

According to the report, Dr. Duva spent some $1.4 million of his own money to purchase three distressed commercial properties near the intersection of East ISB and South Peninsula Drive – with plans to develop the former Shell gas station into a “Key West inspired” restaurant and live entertainment venue called “Beaches.”

He didn’t waste any time.

Dr. Duva’s brainchild – Beaches Entertainment Eatery – is set to open later today – just in time for Bike Week!   

The much-anticipated announcement by Clayton Park on Thursday’s front page reported:

“Duva on Tuesday morning posted an announcement on the Facebook page for Beaches Entertainment Eatery that it will present its first live-music act, the VZN Band, this Friday, March 4, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. The band will also perform on Saturday night.”

Also, “This street has been blighted for a long period,” he (Duva) said. “What I’m trying to do with this project is make this the lighter knot, the fire that starts the growth and change and development on this street so the ‘World’s Most Famous Beach’ has a world’s most famous entrance.”

Let’s hope the spark Dr. Duva has boldly struck results in a conflagration of progress that spreads like a raging inferno of economic development and civic improvement throughout the Halifax area. 

In addition to Beaches, Dr. Duva is opening an adjoining liquor store called “The Booze Box” which we are told will feature over one hundred wines from around the globe – and the only carwash on the beachside!

According to reports, Beaches is expected to provide jobs for some 70 locals. 

I like that. 

(Note to Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and those ineffectual lumps who call themselves “Economic Development” experts:  Please, for the love of God – do not “help,” do not “encourage,” do not “suggest,” do not “recommend” – just get out of Dr. Duva’s way and let the man do his thing. . .)

Excellent work, Dr. Duva. 

Thank you for doing what others would not.  We, the long-suffering denizens of the Halifax area, owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

In keeping with their mindless policy of making things more difficult – and murky – than they need to be, last week, the Volusia County School Board spent two-hours deliberating the future of Superintendent Scott Fritz, before a premature motion was made my Linda Cuthbert to extend his contract by three-years.

Then, our elected dullards changed course, rightfully opting to decide the matter at a workshop later this month.

Without a vote to renew it, Fritz’ contract will expire in December. 

The chaos came when board attorney Ted Doran essentially advised his bosses ‘screw the agenda, do what cha’ wanna,’ opining that the matter could be settled at the meeting, even though the Superintendent’s contract was not listed as an “action item” on the published agenda. 


Not surprisingly, Cuthbert’s push for an off-the-agenda vote was supported by Board Member Carl “Fuzzy-Wuzzy” Persis, who put Dr. Fritz’ emotional comfort over the hard-earned rights of taxpayers to have substantive input in the decision-making process:

“I feel sorry for Dr. Fritz right now. He probably thought something was going to happen. It’s stressful.  I’d rather take the heat than go through this all over again, put him through this again, put everyone who came out tonight through this again.”

(Sorry, no confirmation whether or not Carl and Scotty’s took off their shoes and sat cross-legged in the floor sipping warm mugs of Cubby Wubby Womb Room tea to avert the abject trauma of a performance evaluation. . .)

To their credit, Chair Ruben Colon, Jamie Haynes, and Anita Burnette needed more information – with Haynes and Burnette making the commonsense suggestion that Fritz undergo a comprehensive review before a final decision is made on the contract extension. 

You know, like responsible senior managers where you work do? 

After a dozen speakers provided input both for and against extending Fritz’ contract – some raising serious questions about the lack of public notice before a potential vote – our elected representatives postponed the question until a March 22 workshop which will include an official vote on whether students, teachers, and families get more of the same. . . 

During the discussion, Volusia United Educators President Elizabeth Albert spoke for many when she decried yet another instance of the School Board engaging in legislation by ambush – acting on items without adequate notice to the public. 

“The public looks at what’s put out and we’re pulling the rug out from underneath them.  So, it just is again, a lack of transparency. It continues to break trust and I just can’t imagine how you might think your employees and the other members of the public who are watching interpret these actions.”

To his credit, Board Chair Ruben Colon showed leadership in taking personal responsibility for the awkwardness – informing his “colleagues” that the agenda item was intended for discussion only: 

“I’ll take ownership of not having realized what this conversation would become, and so we did not advertise it to the public as an agenda item that we were going to be yes or noing,” Colon said. “If that was the case, it would have been under board action items, which typically come with public comment.”

In my view, Dr. Fritz isn’t solely to blame for the ongoing slips and debacles that continue to haunt Volusia County District Schools. 

History will show that there will be ample blame to go around when cooler heads begin examining how government’s cockamamie response to a public health crisis became the greatest political shit show in the history of the world.

However, the maladministration, political cowardice, crippling financial issues, overreach, notorious scandals, lack of an effective communications strategy, and near-constant missteps in the gilded Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand have eroded confidence in a bureaucracy now commanding more than $1 Billion annually.   

Someone should be answerable for that. 

Even in the insulating bureaucratic vacuum of Volusia County District Schools the buck must stop somewhere, right?

In the view of many, that accountability should begin with Superintendent Fritz.     

Just don’t expect that pie-in-the-sky horseshit to happen here, because the concept of responsibility commensurate with authority is anathema in a bloated and disconnected system that now exists to serve itself.   

During public discussion, the incredibly influential Forough Hosseini described Fritz as a “visionary” (sorry, I upchucked a little) – “suggesting” that the School Board give him another bite at this rotten apple – an opportunity to, in her words, take us to the “next level.”

I’m not sure which circle of Dante’s Bureaucratic Hell Mrs. Hosseini is hoping Dr. Fritz will lead us to, but I’m going out on a limb here and prognosticate that his contract will be extended with great flourish and praise in March. 

I could be wrong, but in my experience, when Mr. or Mrs. Hosseini speak – all the right last names sit up and take notice – which means Dr. Fritz is almost guaranteed a very bright and prosperous future with Volusia County District Schools. 

Kudos to Elizabeth Albert for calling this attempted parliamentary legerdemain for what it is – a means of shooting important items through the grease without sufficient opportunity for public or employee input – especially when the wants and whims of Volusia’s powerbrokers are in play. 

Asshole           City of Oak Hill and Volusia County’s Faux Environmental Strategies

(I published a piece on this critical issue earlier in the week – but it bears repeating in the context of “who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us.”)

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

The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported on the tragic death of a 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 in our own backyard, folks.  

Obviously, we have made a mess of things – but what have our ‘powers that be’ learned from decades of shitting in our own nest?   

I am becoming increasingly convinced they have discovered a cleaver way to shoehorn more development into threatened areas while convincing us rubes they are spending on “environmental restoration” projects. . .

Before you write me off as the conspiratorial nut-job I am, hear me out.

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.  

You know, that tired slack-jawed dodge from the dais, “Nuttin’ we can do here, folks – hands are tied, y’all!”

While the bulldozers continue to roar. . .


Look, I realize we live in a time when developers are given carte blanche to do whatever they want, whenever they want – 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 and maims indigenous wildlife, chokes and pollutes our finite water supply, and endangers future generations by allowing development directly on top of former dumpsites, funnels toxic runoff into the very waterways they claim to be helping, while strategically camouflaging infrastructure projects that facilitate even more growth as “restoration” efforts – operating under the maddening belief no one will notice.

I’m a 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 horribly mismanaged beach and slow the ferocity of current growth in the face of Volusia County’s Old Guard – a fusty group of obstructionists’ 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 rules – while his “colleagues” do everything in their power to marginalize his effectiveness on the dais, and the Old Guard’s double-talking windbags spout nonsensical crap on social media constantly disparaging the very initiatives that got Chairman Brower elected in the first place. 

Unfortunately, we’ve heard it all before.

For example, the very concept of low-impact strategies that work with natural features to preserve water quality and protect what remains of our natural places has remained a conundrum wrapped in an inscrutable enigma for over a decade – one that confounds modern legal and scientific minds – “The Great Mystery” that baffles all explanation and can never be codified in a land use ordinance.

While the bulldozers continue to roar. . .    

As a result, I’m getting the sneaking suspicion our ‘powers that be’ have found a way to appease the fervent outcry of the Great Unwashed Hoards who see their quality of life threatened by out-of-control development while streamlining even more malignant growth for their uber-wealthy benefactors who hold the paper on their political souls. 

For instance, craven politicians recently 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, earlier this week, Oak Hill officials approved the first reading of a proposed land use change that could potentially bring an additional 900+ homes 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 – on top of some of the last remaining natural scrub on Florida’s east coast. 

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

Is there another explanation?

Then, on Tuesday, the Volusia County Council unanimously approved a $250,000 Florida Department of Environmental Management grant to study the feasibility of a wastewater treatment facility servicing a 108-square-mile area that feeds into Blue Spring.

According to an informative report by Mark Harper writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “A 2016 law requires 30 “outstanding Florida springs” to be protected by septic system remediation plans. The goal is to implement cost-effective and financially feasible projects to reduce nutrient pollutants, some of which are leaked by septic systems.”

Interestingly, areas of West Volusia which are seeing massive growth – to include Orange City and sections of DeBary, DeLand, Deltona, Lake Helen, and unincorporated Volusia County – “comprise the Blue Spring Basin Management Action Plan.”

But will this new facility remediate the sins of the past – or be used to increase capacity and facilitate future growth in West Volusia?

The fact is, there has been no serious discussion of mitigating additional pressures on our threatened lakes, springs, and waterways by curtailing the malignant sprawl brought by this zero-lot-line, ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag, development strategy that puts maximum density/profit over growing environmental concerns. 

Is it all smoke and mirrors – a bait-and-switch ruse to placate our fears while spending scarce conservation funds and efforts on utilities infrastructure to accommodate more, more, more?

Why are our ‘powers that be’ refusing to discuss joining other communities around the nation who have changed laws and enacted ordinances to place a short-term moratorium on massive “planned unit developments” while determining how best to navigate existing problems and enact environmental protections like requiring low-impact practices for future development?

While the bulldozers continue to roar. . .

Now, with the wolf clawing at their door, in the spirit of Margaret Mead’s iconic call to service – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” – residents concerned about the impact of unrestrained growth on their quaint small-town lifestyle are banding together to seek substantive change.

SAVE OAK HILL! will meet Monday, March 7, 2022, promptly at 5:30pm, at the Lighthouse Cove clubhouse, 100 Golden Bay Boulevard.  Gates will close at 6:00pm.   

If you live in Southeast Volusia – or care about the detrimental impacts on water quality and our fragile environment everywhere – I encourage you to get involved with this grassroots effort to take control of a greed-crazed “too much, too soon” scheme that is quickly outpacing utilities and transportation infrastructure across Volusia County. 

Quote of the Week

“I was shocked to read the story of antisemitic flyers being distributed to Ormond Beach residents in the dead of night. Where does this hate come from? I thought we were past this despicable behavior.

Pastors, priests and preachers must, as must we all, speak out against these despicable hate-mongers and spreaders of lies.

Antisemitism raised its ugly head when rocks were thrown through Jewish windows in Billings, Montana during Hannukah in 1994.

The people of that town responded by placing paper menorahs in their own front windows. “Silence is acceptance,” said the Billings Police Chief. “Billings should stand up and say, “Harass one of us and you harass us all.” Other towns across the United States followed suit.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King.

We will display a Star of David in our window because this matters!”

–Stephanie Walsh, Ormond Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Shocked by antisemitism,” Sunday, February 27, 2022

Well said, Ms. Walsh.

And Another Thing!

It is no secret that I have a vivid Walter Mittyish imagination.

My wife often remarks that I live inside my own little mind – a surreal “me against the world” vignette where I play the Quixotesque protagonist – an egomaniacal anti-hero, conspicuously lacking in conventional heroic qualities – a bizarre alternate universe where I believe my opinions can change the downward trajectory of our collective fate. . .

They won’t. But a fella can dream, right?

The fact is, I’ve seen a lot of things in my day – a life spent serving in small-town municipal government – where everything, good and bad, is magnified beyond its true proportions. 

As a result, not much phases me anymore – especially the sights, sounds, snares, and pitfalls one encounters trudging through the dark muck and mire of this seedy shit-trench that is local politics. 

It’s not for everyone – and that’s the reason I wave-off most neophyte politicians who naïvely ask for my advice when considering a run for elective office. 

But I am always amazed that even a jaded misanthropist like me can still be surprised by this théâtre de l’absurde that passes for local governance and the machinations of the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker who hold themselves out to play the various roles in it.   

Many are drawn to the high emotions that accompany the knife-fight of the modern political process and the desire to have an impact on public policy decisions – the greasy product of the civic sausage factory that yields edicts, fees, and taxes that affect our collective lives and livelihoods.

This episodic tragicomedy draws an odd audience that includes insipid blowhards like me, attentive gadflies who keep a keen eye on the Three-Card Monte shuffle, bored bureaucrats, well-heeled insiders with a chip in the game, idealistic civic activists, committed environmentalists, and the sutlers, lawyers, and hangers-on who make their living off influencing the decisions of elected officials who are just as clueless as the rest of us. 

In my view, it is what government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” has come to look like in 2022 – with all the faults and foibles inherent to any system that is subject to the natural imperfections of human beings. 

There is a reason why things are less than transparent in the Ivory Towers of Power.

Invariably, whenever We, The Little People get a brief glimpse behind Oz’s velvet curtain – a momentary perspective that only comes when the layers of that carefully guarded onion are publicly peeled away – many are shocked at just how weird and twisted things have truly gotten in our gilded halls of power. . . 

Enter the curious case of former Palm Coast City Councilman Victor Barbosa – the enigmatic international man of mystery who, until his public meltdown earlier this week, was an active candidate for the Flagler County Commission – before abandoning that race in a bid to run for reelection in the City of Palm Coast. 

(Pay attention, it gets creepier. . .)

According to reports, Councilman Barbosa resigned from the Palm Coast City Council just two-days after being trespassed from an area Walmart where a security officer accused him of failing to scan an item of merchandise – twice, at two different kiosks – while monitoring one of those annoying self-checkout queues that transform us into both customer and clerk. 

In a subsequent statement, Barbosa explained away the embarrassing incident as a simple mistake – claiming that someone at Walmart’s corporate office had already issued an apology for the dust-up.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office released a statement to local media contradicting Barbosa, “We do not have a request to remove the trespass warning from Walmart yet.”

To make things even murkier, on Tuesday, Frank Fernandez, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, reminded us:

“Prior to the Walmart incident, Barbosa was under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after a routine check following a traffic accident in Palm Coast indicated that he may be wanted in Costa Rica on charges of aggravated battery, assault with a weapon and extortion. Barbosa has denied that he is the fugitive wanted in Costa Rica.”


There is an old Bedouin saying that translates well to the political arena, “As the camel falls to its knees, more knives are drawn,” and as circumstances closed in on Councilman Barbosa this week, he imploded in the most spectacular way, issuing an over-the-top “To Whom It May Concern” resignation/SOS/plea for peace (?):

“I, Victor Barbosa, fear for my life. I repeat I fear for my life.  All I wanted to do was help small businesses, fight corruption, and be the voice of the people of this community. I now understand why Council Member Howell resigned.

Effective immediately, I resign for City Council and withdraw my candidacy from the 2022 election. 

Thank you for all that voted for me.  All I want is my peace back.”


Then, in perhaps the most obtuse, thickheaded, and imperceptive move in the history of municipal politics, with their constituents stunned by the turmoil and confusion that naturally accompanies the sudden resignation of a high-profile elected official – at the same meeting – Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin called for a 365% pay increase for council members – a move that would elevate their salaries from $9,600 to $44,670 annually – a craven money grab which included a similar pay raise for himself.

Naturally, most of Mayor Alfin’s “colleagues” got behind the move, voting 3-1 in support of the proposal.

My God.

Like I said, you can’t make this shit up, folks. . .    

That’s all for me.  Have a happy, safe, and prosperous Bike Week 2022, y’all! 

Angels & Assholes will take a short pause for the cause next week as I travel to beautiful Northern Virginia to enjoy a few days away.

I know, I know – we just had a getaway.  But given my age and proclivities, I often need a vacation from my vacation. . .   

Please feel free to peruse the copious supply of past episodes, all conveniently archived at the bottom of this page. 

As always, thank you for reading Barker’s View and furthering a larger discussion of the issues of the day in this wonderful place we call home!

Goodbye, Old Friend

Geriatrics like me who grew up in the Halifax area can remember a tangible connection to the City Island Recreation Center – civic events, dance recitals, musical performances, shows and socials – and during my professional life I frequently attended meetings there.

It was a unique setting near the yacht basin – a place of, and for, the community.

Now, many are rightfully angered by its dismal, and avoidable, fate.

On Wednesday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal asked the question, “City Island Rec Center: Restore or demolish it?”

That troubling enquiry came with a disturbing caveat: The cost of saving the historic building on the banks of the Halifax River on the Orange Avenue causeway could now reach $2 million.

The sad fact is, that decision has already been made for us. 

For most of my adult life I served the City of Holly Hill, Florida. 

Our essential services and administrative offices were housed in a beautiful City Hall facility that is now 80-years young and going strong.  Given current trends of planned obsolescence and designed disposability, you are probably asking yourself ‘how could a small town government building possibly remain serviceable for over three-quarters of a century’? 

Responsible caretakers of public assets call it ‘preventive maintenance’ – much like your own home requires – a moral and fiduciary responsibility that, when spread over time, is an economical way of ensuring publicly owned buildings and resources remain functional, efficient, and effective.

It is also called having pride in your community.

There are many important things that We, The Little People entrust to the care of our local governments.

For instance, we expect that those we elect and appoint to serve our interests will steward our hard-earned tax dollars in a manner that provides effective public protection, responds to emergencies, ensures safe potable water, maintains adequate transportation and utilities infrastructure, plans for growth, enacts and enforces local ordinances that maintain property values, conserves our natural places, and enhances our collective quality of life.

We also have a right to expect that those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest will respect and maintain the integrity of our buildings, facilities, and other tangible assets – especially those that house essential government services or have historic significance to our community’s heritage.

Unfortunately, many years ago, government patented a technique I like to call “strategic neglect” – a malicious practice that withholds preventative upkeep at certain public facilities – allowing them to rot until they reach such a deplorable state of dilapidation that demolition and replacement becomes the only viable option.

Unfortunately, it appears the City of Daytona Beach has used this same destructive tactic to further someone’s narrow-minded vision of “progress” and eliminate the City Island Recreation Center – a once beautiful structure of great significance to the Halifax area’s ties to the war effort. 

That’s sad, because once these historic places are destroyed, they are gone forever.

Under this pernicious scheme, “progress” and “economic development” often require the sacrifice of public properties which link our present to our past – and the idea of preserving and enriching our unique cultural heritage by incorporating our rich history into the modern landscape is dismissed as “too expensive” by arrogant politicians and short-sighted administrators who naturally know what’s best for the rest of us.

So, they simply breach their duty and fail to act or use due care – a strategic negligence committed in plain sight that allows public property to fall into dangerous disrepair.   

And no one who should seems to care.   

Typically, the practice is used whenever local governments decide they need to expand or replace operational facilities, rather than renovate and repurpose existing assets.

The ruse usually begins with scary stories about changes to flood maps or other physical threats to the building – a nasty “mold” problem, rodent infestation, or compromised structural elements round out the tale – all while officials purposely withhold funding for maintenance of the facility then allow the elements to do the rest.

Then, when the public asset has deteriorated to the point it is no longer salvageable – outrageously inflated estimates for repairs are published – and the complicit elected officials tut-tut in faux astonishment about “priorities” and a “lack of funding” – with razing and replacing the building as the only prudent solution.

Sound familiar?  It should.

Now, the fate of the City Island Recreation Center is sealed after more than a decade of strategic neglect – its interior in shambles and structural integrity compromised to the point I had a tough time distinguishing the documentary photographs published in the News-Journal from images of bomb damage in Kyiv. . . 

According to the report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean:

“At a meeting last week, City Commissioner Ruth Trager made an impassioned plea to keep the structure standing and restore it. City Commissioner Ken Strickland also argued for a stay of execution and a chance to fully renovate it.

But Trager and Strickland were outnumbered by the five other commissioners who said it’s not worth the estimated $2 million it would take to save the nearly 80-year-old building. City Commissioner Paula Reed said she’s “just not willing to spend that.”

“We need to be better stewards of city facilities … but I am not in favor of saving this building,” Reed said. “I think we need to count our losses and just do better from this point forward.”

Count our losses?  Just do better?

My God.

What about the concept of oversight, responsibility, and accountability?

I am always taken by the fact that our ‘powers that be’ have no qualms about gifting tens-of-millions in public funds to all the right last names – with city and county officials rolling over and pissing on themselves like incontinent lapdogs whenever our “Rich & Powerful” demand tax incentives and corporate welfare packages to underwrite their for-profit ventures – yet an expenditure to preserve a threatened piece of our local history is never a “wise investment.”

My ass.

When did we stop holding current and former administrators, department heads, and elected officials who look the other way responsible for what amounts to official nonfeasance, an intentional failure to perform a duty or obligation that one is required to perform as a paid caretaker of public funds and assets?   

What we allow is what will continue. 

This staggering level of incompetence, deliberate waste, and resource mismanagement at all levels of government is not limited to one historic building in Daytona Beach.  In my view, it represents a continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allows this calculated course of conduct to continue.

We deserve better. 

Vote like your quality of life depends on it.