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.

13 thoughts on “Goodbye, Old Friend

  1. As a student at Mainland High School, I entered the American Legion Speech Contest. You had to write and memorize an eight-minute speech on a topic that concerned American Government, history, constitution, etc. and I won the school-level contest. Then on the regional, which included Mainland, Seabreeze, Taylor and DeLand High Schools. To give a speech, you have to have an audience, so they arranged for us four to deliver our speeches at the City Island Rec Center in front of a group of retirees – the “Golden Age’rs Club. When I decided on a topic, I felt that it needed to be different. Remembering that this was 1971-72, my topic was “The Constitutionality of Congressional Censorship of Pornography.” In front of a bunch of pensioners…I won.

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  2. As we all know the CHISLER is still out there now in the form of a “Consultant” and while in office he neglected the building for “His” secret partnership in deals he plans to do in retirement….
    Yes the “Scary” gruff voice of the “CHISLER” was recently heard in the catacombs of Daytona City Hall as the “New CHISLER Consultant” is now trying to BUY the City Marina for some unknown Secret Client….
    My understanding is Derrick Feature told him the “Marina is Not For Sale”….
    IMHO the CHISLER should be banned from “Conflict of Interest” Insider deals and his entire support system of back office cronies should be relegated to the trash heap ie. Hardy Smith and Reed Berger to name a few…
    Just like that old crusty building some of these untalented ass kissers need to stop leaching away from the public trough TODAY and forevermore more…
    Let’s hope the new City Manager grows a pair and stamps out the CHISLER Regime…..

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  3. I recall a debate in the Georgia senate house where a sitting senator argued against the passage of daylight savings time because, in his words ‘the extra hour of sunlight would probably hurt the grass’. Similarly a statement was made by an official during debate some years ago on the 25 year growth plan parameters here in Volusia County to wit: ‘What the hell do I care what the area looks like in 25 years. I won’t be here’. I’m not entirely certain that it’s just a matter of planned neglect. Unfortunately, correcting these moronic pronouncements during voting periods requires the media to keep us aware of the rollicking abject stupidity inherent in politics and carried by many politicians. Media is too subject to editorial prejudice. I personally detest allowing history to fade away in the name of ‘progress’ however that is marketed.

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  4. Although I believe you’ve capture 75 percent of the issue Mark, the most critical component is the people. It appears there is always a core group, foundation, nucleus, whatever you wish to label it, of concerned citizens that take a sincere interest in our community surroundings. Volusia Green, Cando, Civil Discourse, Citizens for Ormond Beach, however, I don’t see the numbers of more locals taking part. All this growth and with more inhabitants moving to Volusia that don’t care about history, environment, local government, our police, fire and even EVAC, these voices will not speak until it hits them in a direct manner. I can’t predict that anything will improve, and although you capture the problem, I doubt you’ll ever author a piece on the solution that’s been reached. It’s broken.

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    1. Barry I live in Ormond and care about Daytona and Palm coast .It is a shame all those yellow license plates from New York where I was born have so much money thay many new citizens of our area are snow birds who live in Margarittaville and other developments that stay here a few months and rent their property out when they go back north.Orlando airport alone had 40 million people go through their terminal last year during a pandemic.Shame we have too many Putins running our government.You must vote in 2022 because lots of people only care about pickleball,mah jong and where are we eating tonight.Wish I could vote for Daytona politicians.Ran away from 5 years in a Palm Beach country club.

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  5. I thought about You when “60 minutes” did a report about the death of newspapers and how the local citizens do not know what is going on in local politics !! You are such an asset to our community. A big THANK YOU !!

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    1. Joy I hate to get into this but Mark Lane of DBNJ owned by Gannett came out with a white supremacist story in Central Florida today and blames DeSantis .Gannett bought 245 local papers.I never in 73 years in NY or down here met a white supremacist as a Jew. A small group of brain dead idiots out of California called Goyim Defense League even drop anti semitic leaflets in Beverly Hills. Schmuck named Jon Minadeo a comedian started it .he even has Goyim tv.As a Jew in NY I was mugged 3 times and caught in the middle of a home invasion.Came down here and caught in a bump and run with a gun at my head and back.in Miami.No police reports made.The people responsible were BLM and ANTIFA types.Mark Lane get your shit together it is legal to stand on Speedway with a banner and Nazi flags as they did nothing just ask George Soros as a Jew kid gave his neighbors names to Hitler and got paid and sold their belongings when they were taken away to the ovens.Local news is mostly owned by Gannett who pushes dem USA Today trash.Soros bought all the Lib district attorneys with no bail.Billionaires do their thing..

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  6. I support saving our old buildings but I believe they must have a purpose for today. To spend that much money for a mere memento of the past does little to enrich the community.

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    1. Vote and get the skum out of this county.He had Charlie Crist fire him and quit is job as assistant principal in Mainland for harvesting mail in ballots and then this piece of trash gets elected twice .You get what you vote for hope you learned a lesson.If I could vote in Daytona this pos would be gone.What watchful eye.Big pockets .

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