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.
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.