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.
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.
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.
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!