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.”
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. . .
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.
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.”
The next waves?
At least the next few years?
“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!