Angels & Assholes for April 29, 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               Claire Metz, WESH-2

It is an honor to congratulate my old friend and former colleague – the incomparable Claire Metz, WESH’s longest serving on-air journalist – as she prepares to receive the coveted Legacy Award from the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists.


I rightfully refer to Claire – and her long-time photojournalist, Hutch Breneman – as colleagues because during my service in law enforcement, the team became trusted confreres who both reported on incidents with meticulous accuracy and independence, requested community assistance when necessary, and broadcast time-sensitive information to residents during emergencies. 

(While somehow making my ugly visage and rambling delivery seem coherent on the evening news during what seems like hundreds of stand-up interviews through the years. . .)

Because Claire is so beloved in the community, I have noticed when people seek information on emergent issues affecting their neighborhood on social media, the first call for help is “Hey, Claire, do you know what’s going on?”

Impressively, she always comes through – regardless of the time or circumstance – Claire Metz does her best to serve and inform. 

During over forty-years in broadcast journalism in Central Florida, Claire has covered it all as both an anchor and highly respected reporter – wildfires, hurricanes, accidents, homicides (including the arrest, prosecution, and execution of serial killer Aileen Wuornos) she has seen it all – from the life-threatening to the mundane, Claire brought it into our living rooms with great professionalism, the consummate storyteller, always setting the gold standard for her colleagues and competitors.

As Hutch so aptly put it in the recent FABJ announcement:

“In my nearly four decades in news, I’ve never known a more dedicated journalist, or one who cares more about the people in her community.  Who else makes beat calls, requests reports and files stories while they’re on vacation? Who else gets a call from a source, and runs out to breaking news with her iPhone in the middle of the night, in her pajamas? Then again, who else covers a hurricane in high heels?”

Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition of your stellar career, Claire.  Your incredible professionalism will serve as the benchmark for aspiring broadcast journalists – and a testament to your esteemed legacy of service to Central Florida and beyond. 

Asshole           Florida Rep. Randy Fine

I don’t know about you, but this has bothered me all week. . .

On occasion a story emerges that reminds me of all the reasons I write this blog – the cathartic nature of venting my spleen while pointing a jaded finger at ‘the shit’ – comforted by the faint hope that my neighbors still believe some behavior should be universally reviled, even in the feted slit-trench of modern politics.   

I cannot abide bullying and abuse of position – especially when that aggression and intimidation comes from high and mighty politicians seeking to use their vast power to punish the defenseless.

Floridians got a disturbing glimpse of the politics of personal destruction this week when influential state Rep. Randy Fine got caught victimizing a Brevard County community after he felt snubbed by, of all things, an invitation to a local fundraiser for Special Olympics in West Melbourne. 

According to reports, Rep. Fine took the ass after the West Melbourne Police Department sent a blanket invitation to community leaders – including the Brevard County School Board – seeking participation in a “jail and bail” style fundraiser at an area Chick-fil-A – apparently neglecting to prostrate themselves and humbly beseech Rep. Fine to grace the event with his attendance. 

What raised Rep. Fine’s wrath was that his long-time political punching bag, Brevard School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, agreed to participate. 

In a series of text messages between Fine and his obsequious toady, West Melbourne City Commissioner John Dittmore, obtained by media outlets last week, Rep. Fine can be seen threatening to withhold funding for Special Olympics (read that again) and a flood-mitigation project for citizens of West Melbourne:

Fine:                “Thanks for taking care of it.  Jenkins just put your project and special Olympics funding on the veto list.”

Dittmore:        “Burns (a Brevard County blogger) went after me…said I did it at your direction,”

Fine:                “Lol” (Laugh out loud)

Fine:                “Seriously though, this does put your project on the veto list. Very dumb move.”

Dittmore:        “Apparently the police department invited the school board, all declined or ignored except her”

Fine:                “Odd they didn’t invite me and I actually represent west melbourne”

Dittmore:        “Well that’s going to be a topic of discussion with staff on Monday.  They seem to (sic) focused on a lot of teachers the school board, etc. for this particular year I don’t know why”

                        “I’m going to personally donate the amount of money that she would’ve earned and exchange for her being removed from the event 500”


                        “The crazies are going at it right now.  I’m just going to handle on my end and then if she doesn’t voluntarily step away I will bring up Tuesday at our council meeting”

                        “You wouldn’t happen to know what percentage of support you got from the city of West Melbourne in the last election?”

Fine:                “I can figure it out”

Dittmore:        “I just wanna make sure I have the right number for Tuesday night in case anyone’s on the fence about supporting me”

Fine:                “It is a slap in the face given I got you all money”

Dittmore:        “We’re (sic) you able to review the social media”

Fine:                “Which one?”

Dittmore:        “Facebook”

Fine:                “Whose?”

Dittmore:        “I just want to make sure you have seen it”


                        “And hers”

Fine:                “Yes”

“Two west melbourne precincts in my district we believe”

                        “309: 64.2 – 35.98”

                        “529: 61.4 – 38.96”


Dittmore:        “4/22 is the fundraiser, will you attend with me.  It’s around 6pm”

                        “I think she deleted the post but I need to confirm.  The focus should be on the SO (Special Olympics) kids, not her bs”

Fine:                “Problem is their funding is now at risk too.”

                        “Huge fuckup by the bureaucrats.”

                        “Smart move is to cancel with apology for wading into politics.”

Dittmore:        “The problem is low level police supervisors sent a blanket email and she was the only SB member to respond.  I doubt that the officer who coordinates this event had any clue about potential issues…as a cop I hated politicians/politics so they are pretty much oblivious to these things”

                        “4/22 is the fundraiser, will you attend with me.  Its around 6pm”

Fine:                “I’m not going to jack shit that that whore is at”

Dittmore:        “Conditional that she is not there”

                        “I’m going to get Paul to go, and Matt Susin just asked about attending.  I’m going to ask Rob Medina as well, Burns attacked all of us”

Fine:                “Yes.  I’m not doing anything involving that whore.”

                        “You guys need to raise a lot of money given that’s who you want to honor, not the person who got you money in the budget.  And I don’t mean you specifically.”

(From Eric Rogers, Florida Today, “Florida Rep. Randy Fine threatened Special Olympics funding over school board member feud, texts show,” April 23, 2022)

Yeah.  That. 

As Rep. Fine so arrogantly put it – Boom.

It gets worse. . . 

According to an article by reporter Eric Rogers writing in Florida Today, “A city leader said Fine later tried to block the release of the text messages through a public records request and wanted a city attorney who was overseeing the request to be fired.”

“Fine denied he threatened to get the funding pulled or that he ever spoke about firing the city attorney.”

Wow.  Does that comport with what you just read in the transcript of his text messages?    

If that isn’t base thuggery, I don’t know what is. . . 

What a couple of Class A scumbags.

Look, before someone gets their knickers in a wad and tries to make this a “righty v. lefty” Republican/Democrat thing – it isn’t. 

I don’t give a damn which side of the aisle you align with, an elected state official threatening to influence Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto funds for Special Olympics and flood-prevention efforts to protect the homes of some 500 at-risk citizens in Brevard County over petty personal politics is wrong.    

It should be criminal. 

Of course, Florida legal experts say threatening to withhold public funds for a previously allocated public purpose is perfectly above-board here in the Sunshine State.

According to a subsequent report in Florida Today:

“Ben Wilcox, research director for Integrity Florida, a government accountability watchdog based in Tallahassee, said that while Fine’s behavior was unethical, it wasn’t a clear ethics code violation.

“It seems like an abuse of power. But I’m not sure that’s covered in Chapter 112 (the section of the Florida Statutes dealing with ethics for elected officials),” he said.

It could be argued Fine was gaining some sort of “political benefit,” but that would be hard to quantify, Wilcox said.

“Whether or not you agree that a state legislator should be threatening and pressuring local government officials, I don’t think that’s an ethics violation.”

This is Florida, the rules are different here. . .   

In addition to Rep. Fine’s douchebaggery, the fact West Melbourne City Councilman John Dittmore – that bootlicking sycophant (who, to my utter disgust, bills himself as a “retired police officer”) – threw members of his community’s hardworking police department under the bus for having the temerity to solicit local school leaders for a fundraiser in support of the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities is revolting

What exactly, was Councilman Dittmore planning to discuss with “staff” on Monday morning? 

What was he planning to bring up at Tuesday’s council meeting? 

Was Ditzmore going to lean on any public employee who failed to join him in kissing the pasty fat ass of some pompous despot?  A petty tyrant who wields his considerable power – derived from the will of the people – for personal political gain and spiteful retribution? 

Hey, Councilman Dittmore, do the honorable thing (look it up) and resign. 

I know, I know – in Florida’s labyrinthine public ethics statutes nothing is ever out-of-bounds, the laws written to benefit politicians and administered by a bunch of political appointees with the decisiveness of Jed Clampett ordering soup in an Ethiopian restaurant. . . 

However, resigning from office and preserving the public trust is the right thing to do when you no longer possess the moral authority to lead.

In my view, the likes of Rep. Fine represents the worst-of-the-worst – and he is everything wrong with what passes for modern politics – where anyone with an opposing viewpoint is painted as an ‘enemy’ which must be destroyed, and women with whom they disagree are denigrated as “whores,” with each move carefully choreographed to be more outrageous than the one before, with no option off the table as the ‘culture wars’ are perpetuated at all levels of government, and the only rule is lockstep fealty to those behind-the-scenes partisan powerbrokers on both sides who underwrite their campaigns and set the order of battle.

Trust me.  That cabal of strategic puppeteers with a chip in the game most assuredly does not include Rep. Fine. 

He is merely a dull tool with the ethical malleability to do exactly what he is told – now revealed as a cheap bully and gross embarrassment to his party, “colleagues,” and the State of Florida.

Look, I realize political ogres like Randy Fine don’t have the strength of character to do what is right, step aside, and make way for someone (anyone) with the moral backbone to protect the dignity of the office, stop this insane tit-for-tat from fringe elements on both sides, and work cooperatively to find a way to return some sense of governance and decorum to Tallahassee and beyond.

I don’t care if you are a staunch Republican or diehard Democrat – anyone with a conscience should find this behavior abhorrent, un-American, and detrimental to a democracy many have fought and died to preserve.

Expectedly, the silence from our elected “leadership” is deafening. . .    

Kudos to Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool for having the courage and sense of decency to contact Rep. Fine’s colleagues and ask them to condemn his abhorrent tactics. 

According to a subsequent article by Eric Rogers in Florida Today this week:

“News of the text messages — which included Fine twice calling Jenkins a “whore” — angered Dana McCool, a commissioner for the city of Deltona in Volusia County. She contacted reporters Monday, saying she took the day off to call state legislators and urge them to speak out about the incident.

“We must condemn him for his hypocrisy,” McCool said. “He portrays himself as a fine, upstanding, God-fearing family man who’s a Boy Scout leader. We’re seeing the underbelly of how Randy Fine operates.”

McCool said she had contacted the offices of about 30 House members by 5 p.m. Monday. Not one leader she spoke with would comment on the record, she said.

“It’s a new level of low when you don’t hear from leadership,” she said.”

Like Commissioner McCool, I find the collective cowardice of our representatives – those we elect to preserve the public trust and protect the sanctity of our state government – a disgusting example of just how far we have strayed from our foundational beliefs. . .

As evidence that Fine’s belligerence transcends partisan politics, in the same article, Rick Lacey, the elected chair of the Brevard County Republican Executive Committee (who has also felt the ire of Rep. Fine) is quoted:

“Lacey called the threats an “abuse of power” and a “major insult to women voters,” and called on Fine to resign over the incident.

“The voters give people a position of power in our community to represent them,” Lacey told FLORIDA TODAY. “And if a person misuses that power, which is obvious in this case, that is an abuse of power. It is a misuse of the office. And, to me, the proper thing to do would be to resign.”

According to Beth Rosenson, an associate professor in political science at the University of Florida, who was also quoted by Florida Today, “Fine’s actions carried some “pretty deep, profound implications” for the state of government in Florida.”

“Personal motivations dominate in a dictatorship. … Based on personal rule, where a dictator says, ‘If you don’t bow down to me, you’re not going to get what you want,’” said Rosenson, author of “The Shadowlands of Conduct: Ethics and State Politics.”

“It’s not how the Founding Fathers envisioned democracy working, that people would make decisions based on some petty political feud rather than on the merits of the case,” she said.”

In my view, if Rep. Fine does not have the scruples to resign (he doesn’t), then it is high time for the voters of South Brevard to do all Floridians a favor and show this shameless goon the door at their earliest opportunity. 

Quote of the Week

“I’m in a tough spot,” Haynes said. “Ninety-five-percent of the time, I will always take the high road. I don’t believe in airing dirty laundry because it doesn’t do our students any good, our families or communities any good, but it’s been rough lately.”

“Haynes continued that it was made harder as she’s had trouble communicating with School Board Attorney Ted Doran. She detailed an incident where she was on the phone and did not take his call and Doran immediately emailed her complaining that she wasn’t taking his call or communicating with him.”

“I personally didn’t know that if my phone rang and it was Mr. Doran calling that I needed to immediately hang up with whoever I was talking to, to talk to him,” she said. “I don’t take well to being threatened.”

–Volusia County School Board Member Jamie Hynes, as quoted by Ormond Beach Observer Associate Editor Jarleene Almenas, “Volusia County School Board approves interim superintendent contract; evaluation for its attorney coming soon?” Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Last year, the Volusia County School Board somehow ‘forgot’ that attorney Ted Doran’s contract – who, along with the superintendent, is one of the board’s two direct reports – was due for renewal.

How does that happen?

With little more than one-week notice to consider alternatives; Mr. Doran received a three-year contract without any evaluation of his performance. 

That binding agreement increased Mr. Doran’s hourly rate from $195 to $245 an hour – a more than 25% increase. . . 

Life is good in the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand, eh?

According to a June 2021 article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:  

“Last fiscal year, Doran and his firm were paid between $400,000 and $450,000 total for work with the school district (the final numbers are not yet available). The majority is for other legal services they provided to the district. The district contracts with six to eight outside law firms for various legal services and specializations.”

Now, we learn that the Volusia County School Board could not evaluate Mr. Doran if they wanted to – because they lack the capability

You read that right.

That disturbing revelation lead member Carl “Namby-Pamby” Persis – a staunch advocate for the dysfunctional status quo – to call for a highly paid consultant to take them by the hand, walk them down the garden path, and develop a tool for how best to review their own attorney’s performance. . . 

Never mind that a Google search would provide a plethora of vetted evaluation examples from school boards in Florida and beyond.  Nah, too simple.

Here on the Fun Coast, we need another convoluted and incredibly expensive process that – if done properly – should drag on beyond the election this fall.   

Of course, any consideration of demanding accountability for one of the most sensitive and highly compensated positions in the district was pooh-poohed by the always melodramatic, Linda Cuthbert, whose histrionics from the dais suggested any proposed workshop to discuss a means of evaluating the board’s attorney was a “ruse” to fire Mr. Doran. 

Say what?

In addition, Mr. Persis took the opportunity to lecture his colleagues, essentially whimpering that if any member had an issue with Mr. Doran, they should simply take him behind closed doors, sit cross-legged in the floor, and sing Kumbaya until things improve – you know, away from the prying eyes of those who pay the bills. . . 

“It’s very easy for us to just say to them, ‘ Hey, something’s bothering me. I really need to talk to you privately. Can we do that?'” Persis mewled. “… But then of course if you see a pattern of the same thing and it’s not getting any better, then I understand.”

Does he mean the pattern of abject dysfunction, scandal, and miscommunication that has had students, teachers, parents, and staff feeling like they are strapped into some nightmarish version of Mister Toad’s Wild Ride?


Given that Mr. Persis has spent the bulk of his professional life climbing the gilded ladder in the cloistered confines of Volusia County District Schools, it is not surprising that he seems to have no concept of responsibility and accountability, preferring to allow issues to fester into a public shit-show rather than address conflicts and performance issues in an objective, transparent, and measured way, consistent with established policies and protocols. 

But then, when did the Volusia County School Board ever give two-shits about following their own policies? 

Clearly, “the rules” are meant to control the little people. . .


Earlier in the meeting, something everyone could agree on was approving a contract with Interim Superintendent Rachel Hazel, which raised her pay from $423 a day ($107,833 annually) to an astronomical $804 per day, which places her at the same $205,000 annual salary that former Superintendent Scott Fritz commanded when he was recently terminated on a 3-2 vote. . .   

$804 per day?  For an interim role?

“Congratulations,” Persis crowed. “I’m glad you’re gonna get paid.”

Life is good, indeed. . .

I don’t make this shit up, folks. 

And Another Thing!

“I wholly disapprove of what you say—and will defend to the death your right to say it.”

— Voltaire

When it comes to voicing opinions – I subscribe to the theory that my viewpoint is no less valid, or invalid, than yours. 

In many cases, how we see the issues of the day comes down to a matter of perspective.  

For instance, if a parade is passing in a busy downtown, a person walking on the street two-blocks over may hear the sirens, sense the raucous roar of the crowd, see glimpses of flashing lights, and run for safety thinking a riot has broken out; while a worker sitting in an office on the fourteenth floor of a high-rise can observe the scene from beginning to end, see the decorated floats, the clowns, marching units, prancing horses, and run into the street to join the fun, while the guy who follows the elephants with a push broom has a completely different perspective of the cavalcade.

The office worker isn’t any smarter or more prescient that the pedestrian or street sweeper, they simply have a different vantagepoint

I spent over three decades serving in municipal government – clawing my way to middle-management and holding on with my fingernails.  In that time, I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly – and my thoughts and opinions on the issues of the day are informed by my experiences.

Against my long-suffering doctor’s advice, I get my blood pressure in a boil spending long hours watching bone-crushingly boring public meetings, debating competing ideas with people who are much more intelligent than me, analyzing the behind-the-scenes gossip of insiders who confide in me, then – in the information black hole of local government – attempt to form an educated opinion on the issues with the required dose of good old-fashioned guesswork.   

For the uninitiated (or those thin-skinned Caspar Milquetoasts who are easily triggered) these jeremiads are simply one man’s jaded opinions on the issues of the day – neither always right, nor always wrong – and most smart people understand that when they open Barker’s View.  

(In fact, if I must remind you of that – I beg you to stop reading these posts.  Just turn them off and storm out in a huff – no need for what the French call L’espirit de l’escalier, the “wit of the staircase,” that annoying moment when we think of the perfect retort after having walked away from the argument.  Trust me – you will feel better – and I can assure that your departure will not hurt my feelings. . .)

They say the flak is always heaviest over the target, and since I began publishing these screeds, it has become apparent which topics are hitting close to the bone with area “Movers & Shakers” by how much opposition I receive from their self-anointed mouthpieces and deferential allies. 

In fact, I have learned that a good barometer of which ideas and initiatives members of Volusia County’s Old Guard vehemently oppose is by watching how they wholeheartedly support those same issues each election year. 

The wolf living with the lamb, the leopard laying down with the goat, the calf, the lion, and the yearling together; political campaigns financed by developers and special interests suddenly agreeing with environmentalists. . .


As this election year heats up, I am amazed by how many sitting politicians are suddenly embracing the hot button issues they have avoided like the plague – clean water initiatives, low-impact development, traffic and utilities infrastructure, growth moratoriums, traffic issues, public input, etc. – in some cases, the very same elected officials who have rubberstamped massive development with Pavlovian regularity have suddenly transmogrified into virtual tree-hugging dirt worshippers. . .

Don’t worry.  Others are doing the dirty work for them. 

In a weird flanking maneuver, those who support this same entrenched power structure are increasingly demanding that thoughts or opinions contrary to their own (or, more accurately, their benefactors) be deleted or banned from the public discourse. 

Worse, some refer opinion pieces like this to anonymous social media authorities who determine which speech is worthy of being heard, and which is not, like good collaborators reporting on the thoughts of their neighbors. . .   


When that fails to silence critics, they label editorial content as “lies” – or marginalize those they disagree with as “conspiracy theorists” and “discontents” – ultimately retreating to the last fallback of the craven Champions of Censorship by pointing their bony fingers and screaming “hate speech!” 

Trust me.  I have seen hate speech.  This goofy political blog ain’t it. . . 

Look, I have some hard bark, not easily threatened by those who prefer to use intimidation to silence competing viewpoints (I have the hate mail and “I know where you live, asshole” letters to prove it) but I find this concerted effort to silence criticism and mitigate any threat to the lucrative status quo disturbing. 

In my view, the measure of a healthy society is the willingness and ability of its citizens to express unpopular opinions, take positions that others may reject, and enthusiastically participate in the public debate, especially in an era where once trusted media sources and what passes for our political “leaders,” present a biased narrative created by their uber-wealthy corporate owners, benefactors, and overseers who manipulate the rods and strings of public policy from behind the velvet curtain. 

With so much at stake, things are getting interesting as the election cycle heats up. 

Get involved.  Speak your mind fearlessly.  Participate in the process.  Vote.

That’s all for me.  Have a great Jeep Beach Weekend, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for April 22, 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               Holly Hill Police Sergeant James Patton, (Ret.)

Tomorrow I will travel to Statesboro, Georgia, to eulogize my friend and former law enforcement colleague Sergeant Jim Patton – who served honorably with the Port Huron, Michigan Police Department, Daytona Beach Police Department, and Ormond Beach Police Department, before embarking on a distinguished 25-year career with the Holly Hill Police Department.

Jim was sui generis.  He was unique.  He was of his own kind.  Although I am certain that I never told him this – he was also a personal hero of mine and one of the toughest men I ever knew.   

During his working life, I watched Jim defeat life-threatening cancer three times – continuing to serve the community with a chemotherapy port implanted in his chest – never missing a day during the ravages of his treatment. 

Jim was born into a military family, spending much of his childhood in Germany and at Army installations across the United States.

After graduating from Marysville, Maryland High School and St. Clare Community College in Port Huron, Jim enlisted in the United States Army.  Following Basic Training, he was stationed at Fort Dix New Jersey before assignment to a Pershing missile site in Germany attached to the 56th Field Artillery Brigade. 

After returning to the United States, Jim transferred to the US Army Reserve, serving with the 5th Special Forces Group before joining the Air Force’s 403 Reconnaissance Air Sea Rescue Wing until his honorable discharge.

During his career with the Holly Hill Police Department, Jim served as a Traffic Homicide Investigator, Detective, Police Photographer, Field Training Officer, and Patrol Supervisor.

It is said that the finest compliment that can be paid to a police officer is “He or she was a Good Cop” – and Jim Patton most assuredly was a damn good cop.    

During his exemplary service to the citizens of Holly Hill, Jim earned numerous meritorious service commendations and decorations – to include an award for valor when he courageously talked an armed subject into surrendering during a suicide attempt – and special recognition for his skill and perseverance from state and federal agencies, including the State Attorney’s Office, Seventh Judicial Circuit, for his expert handling of violent crimes and child exploitation investigations. 

Jim Patton was a Cops, Cop. 

Outside of work, Jim loved riding his motorcycle and was a long-time member of the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.

Sergeant Patton is survived by his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Patton; his children, Heidi Friend (Allan), Heather Castro (David), Jennifer Roberts (Brian), Allen Garrett (Audrey); his sister, Gail Romain (Fred); Seventeen grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held tomorrow, Saturday, April 23, 2022, beginning at 2:00pm, at Deal Funeral Directors, 22757 Highway 80 East, Statesboro, Georgia. The Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service, beginning at 1:00pm.

The service will be live streamed via Facebook at Deal Funeral Directors

I have many funny anecdotes about Jim and his unique sense of humor (trust me, as a perennial victim of his pranks and practical jokes I knew it all too well…) but I will save those for his family and friends as we gather tomorrow. 

Please join me in extending the condolences of a grateful community to Jim’s wife and family who mourn his passing last week at age seventy-one. 

Asshole           City of Ormond Beach

In my view, the City of Ormond Beach could learn something from a humorous phrase in an old Petticoat Junction episode wherein the loveable curmudgeon Uncle Joe Carson objects to a $6 tax increase the county levied on the Shady Rest Hotel:

“It’s not the principle, it’s the money!”  

Except, there is nothing funny about the shearing of Ormond Beach residents in an asinine – and incredibly expensive – push to argue a point with the Volusia County Property Appraiser’s Office over back taxes on the now abandoned River Bend Golf Course. 

In that mythical Land of Oz known as ‘government,’ spending and debt mean something completely different than what you and I are accustomed to in our household budgets. 

When these increasingly bloated bureaucracies need more money – or want to flex their muscles – they simply tax our homes, property, assets, consumption, etc., etc., or borrow what they need – always placing the parasitic burden squarely on the shoulders of strapped residents.   

On occasion, the waste and abuse inherent to a system where money is no object becomes too flagrant to ignore. . . 

This week, Ormond Beach residents received a disturbing wakeup call from the intrepid Mark Harper writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Ormond Beach, Volusia 4 years into court battle: Legal fees top $330K in fight over $271K in taxes.”  

You read that right. . . 

According to the report, “Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett says Ormond Beach owes $271,000 in back taxes on a former golf course property, money the city claims it doesn’t have to pay because of its status as a municipality.”

This is a familiar tale, with various counties and municipalities having engaged in this legal tug-of-war around the state of Florida.  The confrontation typically erupts when publicly owned properties are leased to for-profit enterprises. 

In this case, “The land owned by the city was in 1988 leased to the River Bend Investment Group, which operated a golf course on that land adjacent to the Ormond Beach Municipal Airport.”

In 2010, the lease was transferred to new owners who went out of business at the end of 2020, “…citing the pandemic and the tax fight as contributing factors.”   

According to Mr. Bartlett, examples of similar taxable properties include DaVita Labs in DeLand, Joe’s Crab Shack in Daytona Beach, and a restaurant operated by a private company at the publicly owned Cypress Head Golf Course in Port Orange. 

Astonishingly, Mr. Bartlett also cited The Angler’s Club in New Smyrna Beach – a controversial ‘not-for-profit’ corporation – which sits on some incredibly valuable publicly owned waterfront real estate on New Smyrna’s North Causeway.  The Angler’s represents the current iteration of a club formed in 1914 which was chartered exclusively for “white male citizens over 21 years of age.”

For the privilege, the lily-white sausage club has paid the City of New Smyrna Beach a paltry $25 a year for decades.

That’s right.

Don’t worry, its all perfectly legal. 

As these things often go whenever a citizen has the temerity to challenge City Hall, in 2020, a Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a New Smyrna taxpayer who questioned the all-too-cozy arrangement which, in the view of many, allowed discriminatory membership practices on public property which was leased far below fair market value. 


In the Ormond Beach debacle, as of last month, residents were on the hook for $338,208 in legal fees to dispute a tax bill of $271,000. . .

Look, I am not a lawyer – just another well-fleeced rube, like you.    

But I am certain that government attorneys, those who serve as our representatives and advocates, have a fiduciary responsibility to put the interest of the taxpayers first – especially in a case where the cost to litigate an issue far exceeds that which would be gained – and act as any reasonable and responsible person would in the management of his or her own affairs.

Does this sound like something you would instruct your family attorney to do?

I didn’t think so.

According to Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington (who happens to be a lawyer), “Cities don’t pay taxes” (no shit), “If we didn’t defend the taxpayers and allow the city to be responsible for the taxes, that’s a dangerous road to go down,” he said. “Our job is to protect the residents and not allow the residents to be steamrolled by an aggressive tax appraiser.”

Wait.  Did Hizzoner say, “defend the taxpayer”?

So, the legal strategy is to waste hundreds-of-thousands of tax dollars to protect the taxpayer? 

Only a perennial politician thinks that way – and Mayor Partington is a walking billboard for term limits (or mandatory Wechsler testing for political candidates. . .).   

In my view, former Ormond Beach City Commissioner Jeff Boyle summed it up best in the News-Journal’s informative exposé:

“It probably won’t be settled for another year. It’s probably going to go to (the 5th District Court of Appeals). Who the hell made the decision in Ormond Beach to spend ($338,000) so far to try to … beat the rap on $271,000?” Boyle said.

“Ormond Beach will not win that case, because there’s precedents all over town. The other local communities pay property taxes on any property where they have a profit-making enterprise.”

Boyle said he expects the city’s legal bills to keep climbing. “That meter is still running,” he said. “It’s going to head up to $400,000, and the public is just now becoming aware of it.”

 Honestly.  You can’t make this shit up, folks. . . 

Asshole           Palm Coast City Commission

“Ask not what you can do for your community, ask what your community can do for you.”

This dyslexic twist on John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inspirational inaugural address – a true call to service for the betterment of humankind – came to my warped mind when I read of the on-going self-enrichment scam being perpetrated by the Palm Coast City Council despite the fervent protests of those citizens who pay the bills – and will no longer suffer in silence. 

My God.

How far some of our elected “leaders” have strayed from the egalitarian and moralistic imperatives of public service – the selfless pursuit of good governance in the public interest – and the social, civic, and economic advancement of all citizens, eh?   

Look, I realize the point is infinitely arguable, but in my jaded view, the Palm Coast City Council is inhabited by the most egocentric, greed-crazed dipshits ever to sit atop a gilded dais – and given the sorry state of local governance in the Deltona–Daytona–Ormond Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Palm Coast) – that’s quite a distinction. 

I mean, who do these mammonistic assholes think they are – DeBary City Manager Carmen Rosamonda? Just this week, Mr. Rosamonda received a $46,000 pay raise when he claimed he was being “recruited” for a job with a larger organization that paid more.

Talk about the Land of Oz. . .

My ass.

Following the gluttonous lead of Mayor David Alfin, on Tuesday, the Palm Coast City Council voted 4-1 to give itself at whopping 151% pay increase – with the mayor receiving a 164% raise – to become effective after the election in November.

To his credit, beleaguered Vice Mayor Eddie Branquinho was the only member to vote against this shameless money grab. 

For the record, on a previous vote, the Palm Coast City Council approved a proposed increase of some $35,000 – which would have taken councilmember’s salary from a reasonable $9,600 to an obscene $44,670 annually – with the mayor’s haul going from $11,400 to $46,470

Based on the revised salary figures, councilmembers will now bank $24,097.61, and the mayor $30,039.47, for their “service” to the community. 

Did I mention the mayor and councilmembers will also command annual cost of living raises and healthcare benefits – all paid for by their constituents – or opt to receive a cash equivalent if they already have health insurance. 

You read that right. 

Of course, the argument for hefty pay increases is always couched in the altruistic tripe, “It’s not for our personal benefit, better salaries will attract better candidates. . .”


Have you seen any evidence of that?  At any level of government? 

Me neither.

Look, no one is asking politicians to – God forbid – volunteer their time for the greater good. 

Because volunteers are civic heroes, driven by altruistic instincts to help others for the betterment of their communities – as opposed to money-grubbing politicians gorging themselves at the public trough.  

In fact, I do not know of any sitting elected official who is not adequately compensated and reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses related to their duties and responsibilities. 

When did elective service become a path to personal enrichment?

(Don’t answer that. . .)

Regardless of jurisdiction, the fact is, most perennial politicians spend a lot of energy begging We, The Little People for our sacred vote each election cycle – asking us to permit them the privilege of public service. 

Then, once on the throne, between the bickering and bitchery on the dais, they spend an inordinate amount of time feathering the nests of their political benefactors and figuring inventive ways of excluding our participation in the process.

Sound familiar?

In my view, if an elected official is not willing to attend rubber chicken dinners, photo ops, ribbon cuttings, ceremonial functions, and the many bone-crushingly boring meetings, summits, and workshops required of the role – knowing in advance what the part-time job pays – then they should not hold themselves out for public office in the first place.    

In my view, Palm Coast City Councilmembers, and other craven politicians seeking self-enrichment on the public dime, should remember that President Kennedy’s seminal speech ended with the admonishment to citizens, “…ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds. . .”

Quote of the Week

“It is with profound disappointment that I have to announce my withdrawal from the race for Volusia County Council, District 2. 

As the result of an unexpected outcome of a doctor’s visit this week, and subsequent medical findings, that my health will not allow me to continue in the race.  My disappointment is not only personal but also knowing how hard Trish, my campaign manager, and the wonderful team of volunteers who have worked to gather qualifying petitions and who have campaigned for me knocking on countless doors across District 2. 

I can’t help but feel I have let you down. I want to express my gratitude and pride for your efforts in attempting to make Volusia County a better place for all of us to live.  I will continue to work, as I have for the past 20 years, to effect positive changes in how Volusia moves forward.  Thank you to my supporters, I have no doubt we would have won.”

–Paul Zimmerman, President of Sons of the Beach and former candidate for Volusia County Council District 2, Saturday, April 16, 2022

And Another Thing!

Last night I participated in a civic forum at the invitation of the Bellaire Community Group where I shared the dais with Steve Koenig, Jeffrey Boyle, and Paul Zimmerman for a freewheeling discussion of the issues. 

I always learn more than I contribute during these discussions, and it was an absolute pleasure to join these astute civic influencers and hear their insight. 

For anyone new to the Halifax area – or those looking for constructive insight into the civic, social, and economic issues facing Daytona Beach and beyond – I encourage you to attend a meeting of the Bellaire Community Group, which meets the third Thursday of every month at the Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 N. Atlantic Avenue, beginning at 6:00pm.  

Those who follow the ebb and flow of local politics know that Paul Zimmerman stands alone as a grassroots civic activist and volunteer who has worked tirelessly to preserve our unique lifestyle here on Florida’s Fun Coast.  

He is best known as the long-time president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy – along with his efforts to protect our sensitive environment from overdevelopment and our most precious natural amenity from the constant threat of government overreach.

In recent years, Paul has been the beachside’s de facto representative – doing what those who were elected to the job should have done, but could not be bothered. . . 

His community involvement includes service on the Beachside Redevelopment Committee and leading a very public effort to hold developers of the Hard Rock Daytona (who were gifted 410’ linear feet of traffic-free beach) and Protogroup – who are responsible for the controversial and still unfinished twin-span condominium/hotel complex at Oakridge Boulevard and A-1-A – accountable for performance, appearance, beach access, and building safety standards.

In November 2021, Paul announced his candidacy for the Volusia County Council Zone 2 seat, having collected over $8,200 from his supporters – not one dime of it from fatback developers and extremely wealthy special interests.

This lion of grassroots advocacy left the arena this week after health concerns prohibited him from continuing with the stress of a hotly contested fight. 

Good for him. 

As I have said before, modern political campaigns have become a blood sport – a fetid shit-trench where the stakes are far too great for some to leave to chance – a “system” where massive campaign contributions from our “Rich & Powerful,” and those business entities and dubious corporate entities they control, funnel massive sums of cash into the war chests of hand select candidates who always seem of like mind when issues their benefactors support come before them.

Once qualifying ends in June and the field firms up, I will have more on the good, the bad, and the ugly of this election season. 

For now, I want to thank Paul for having the courage to enter the fray – and the wisdom to take his leave with such honesty and transparency in the best interests of his health, family, and community.   

Trust me.  We need strong influencers now, more than ever, and through his involvement with Sons of the Beach, the well-informed Bellaire Community Group, and other activists and advocates, Paul can have far more sway on the issues that affect our quality of life than he ever could wallowing around in the filth with those compromised empty suits on the dais of power in DeLand.

Kudos, Paul.  Keep up the good fight.


Looking for a way to make a difference in our community?

Help preserve our unique heritage of beach driving and access by joining Sons of the Beach at their fundraiser tomorrow, Saturday, April 23, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm, at Crabby Joe’s Deck & Grill on the beautiful Sunglow Pier, 3701 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach. 

The Sons of the Beach band will perform and there will be new and classic SOB t-shirts and swag available!

I hope you will consider a donation to this worthwhile cause. 

In my experience, Sons of the Beach is a wonderful grassroots organization doing great work to protect our unique heritage and lifestyle.  Most important, it provides an opportunity to get involved and learn more about the issues we face here on Florida’s Fun Coast, and it is a great way to become acquainted with other civicminded citizens who are working hard to preserve our quality of life.

Membership is free! 

To join, please visit to register and download your membership card today!

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

It Was Never About Us

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

–George Orwell, Animal Farm

To the residents of Pelican Bay – It was never about you. 

It was never about any of us.

Earlier this week, we learned what many savvy observers already knew – massive truck and employee traffic associated with the now under construction Amazon megawarehouse is coming to already congested Beville Road.

And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. 

Now, residents are being told to look at the coming gridlock, wait times, and property devaluation “holistically” – which is bureaucratese for ‘shut-up and accept the inevitable, peons’ – because there is one indisputable fact that governs Fun Coast politics:  What certain people want, they get, and if their version of “Progress” adversely impacts our lives and livelihoods – tough shit. 

Slowly but surely, Volusia County residents are awakening to the realization we are pawns in a much larger game – a weird form of predestination – an accepted doctrine that all events have been agreed to by our “Rich & Powerful” monarchs behind closed doors, those wealthy few with the wherewithal to purchase a chip in the game and know what’s best for the rest of us.  

Trust me. Here on the Fun Coast, you are either in that elite circle – the same five people passing the same nickel around – or you aren’t.

For many, it became evident long ago that our destiny is controlled by all the right last names, heavy hitters who trade malleable politicians like cheap livestock each election cycle – little more than weak-minded elected marionettes who hope against hope that by pleading ignorance to their largely apathetic constituents, the resultant thin veneer of plausible deniability will buy them another bite at the apple to better serve their political benefactors. 

And the pernicious cycle continues.

Last Thursday, some one hundred residents and small business interests along Beville Road learned from Volusia County and Florida Department of Transportation officials that their fervent pleas and protests to move heavy freight and employee traffic accessing the new Amazon fulfillment center away from their neighborhood had fallen on deaf ears.

According to an informative article this week by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal under the demoralizing frontpage headline, “Residents lose fight over trucks”:

“Instead the group of middle-aged and elderly residents found themselves at a two-hour explanation of how a spot directly across from Pelican Bay’s east gate was chosen for the main access road for Amazon trucks, and what that will mean for traffic on Beville Road a short distance east of Williamson Boulevard.”

But don’t worry, we’re being assured by those on the inside that no one who stands to benefit is “…trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

According to the News-Journal report:

“Planning started about eight years ago for the new access road and other roads that will branch off of it. But many residents at Thursday’s meeting said they felt blindsided by both that network of planned roads and the Amazon project.

Pelican Bay resident Tom Kaczka asked why the access road wasn’t shown on maps at a meeting in August about the area around the Amazon site being rezoned. Local attorney Mark Watts, who’s representing the developer, said that meeting was only about rezoning the specific building site, which doesn’t include the area around the access road.”


Sound familiar?  It should. 

I call it the Old Volusia County Shilly-Shally.

Wasting time, running the clock, and prolonging the inevitable is the insidious diversionary tactic that allows our “economic development” types to facilitate preplanned intrusive projects with little, if any, substantive oversight, due diligence, or community input before the massive and unwieldy rabbit is pulled out of the hat with great flourish. 

All perfectly legal here in the Biggest Whorehouse in the World.

For instance, the Amazon project was initially cloaked in total secrecy, known by the mysterious cryptonym “Project Tarpon,” while the true beneficiaries of the backroom wrangling – the uber-powerful elite at NASCAR and Amazon – worked out the details using a perverse bureaucratic sleight-of-hand that has our elected officials voting in the blind on projects of significant regional impact.   

When those elected officials who so enthusiastically voted to approve the development agreement – along with some $4 million in “incentives” for the wealthiest online retailer in the known universe – magically discovered that there just might be some traffic associated with a 2.8 million-square-foot 24/7 industrial warehouse, they feign ignorance of the noxious byproducts of “Progress” and cravenly commiserate with their poleaxed constituents who found themselves without a seat when the music stopped.


Sorry, Pelican Bay.  You’re screwed.

If its any consolation, you are not alone

In the aftermath of a recent do-nothing deflection dubbed a “smart growth workshop” some wholly compromised members of the Volusia County Council are now telling us our concerns of water quantity and quality degradation associated with the out-of-control sprawl our elected officials across the region continue to rubberstamp is an overreaction

You read that right. 

Of course, while we waste time debating the obvious with them – the bulldozers continue to roar across the width and breadth of Volusia County.

Get it? 

I damn sure hope so. . .

To them, it is just another spineless method of procrastination – allowing time and distance between necessary environmental regulations and growth management strategies and the current malignant sprawl that is making their political benefactors obscenely rich churning our natural places into more sticks-and-glue cracker boxes “starting in the $300’s.”

But lying to their constituents is a dangerous game for sitting politicians. 

What happens when We, The Little People finally awake to the fact that those we trust to steward and manage growth and resources have so perverted the truth while running interference for their puppeteers that they have destroyed the public’s trust in government? 

When the death and destruction of wildlife, the gridlocked traffic, topography changes, toxic soup that was once the Indian River Lagoon, dried up lakes, soiled springs, and the massive sprawl we see with our own eyes no longer comports with the “happy talk” being flogged by our elected and appointed officials? 

What happens when it is too late?

I urge everyone to read the campaign finance reports here – examine who the fatback developers and special interests are supporting (the why should be self-evident) – then vote like our quality of life depends upon it. 

Angels & Assholes for April 15, 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.

Asshole           Volusia County Council

For the umpteenth time in the last decade or two, on Tuesday, this iteration of elected dullards who comprise the Volusia County Council once again gathered in chambers and allowed Growth and Resource Director Clay Ervin to paint another masterpiece describing the extraordinary job Volusia County government has done in planning for the onslaught of malignant growth that continues to spread like wildfire across the width and breadth of east Central Florida.    

Five of the seven Volusia County Council members attended this latest do-nothing “summit of procrastination” with Councilwoman Heather Post apparently sidelined following a nasty slip-and-fall on a slick staircase at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center.

(Hey, Ms. Post – Morgan & Morgan, “For the People.”) 

Apparently, His Eminence, The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry was dealing with a personal issue which prevented him from sitting apathetically in his wingback chair, staring into space, and idly manipulating a lozenge around in his mouth. . .   

In the end, it didn’t matter who attended and who did not.

As planned, nothing of substance was accomplished.

According to an article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“At Tuesday’s meeting, Council members didn’t attempt to brainstorm specific strategies to deal with the growth explosion. Most of the six-hour meeting was spent listening to county staff members who explained the history of the county’s growth, what’s been done so far to manage it and preparation for future development.”


As this latest diversionary theater got rolling – essentially a slow parade of highly paid bureaucrats droning on, ad nauseum, narrating another godawful PowerPoint presentation – lulling the elected officials into a hypnotic trance using acronyms, percentages, “visioning processes,” and soporific administrative procedures to buy time while the bulldozers continue to roar across Volusia County as speculative developers make hay while the sun shines – and those who facilitate it generate more hot air.  


According to Chairman Jeff Brower, prior to the confab, councilmembers were given a sheaf of papers some ninety-pages thick to accompany the PowerPoint mumbo-jumbo – because all good bureaucrats know the equation: More Pages = Less Questions – a proven strategy which, when accompanied by the right amount of ego massage, obsequious toadyism, and “happy talk” limits pesky inquiries from our horribly confused policymakers. . .

In typical fashion, Director Ervin – as he has done repeatedly during his tenure – distilled his carefully crafted Dog and Pony Show into one rosy note: NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS, KEEP MOVING, “We’ve anticipated and planned for the increasing population. . .blah, blah, blah.”


How about you? 

Does anyone living out here in the “Real World” (read: anywhere outside gilded council and commission chambers throughout Volusia County) think that those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest have planned and prepared for the tsunami of growth and sprawl what is being foisted on us?

I didn’t think so.

Of course, for a time, things dissolved into a bureaucratic pity party as Director Ervin and his senior minions cried the blues about how overworked and understaffed they are – always “pushing the pea up the mountain” (whatever that means) – slaving under state imposed time constraints to get permits approved so more, more, more sticks-and-glue zero lot line cracker boxes can come out of ground, woe is me, WOE is me. . .

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . . 

We then heard from another expensive suit from the County Attorney’s Office who provided some political insulation by explaining that, outside the density and intensity provisions of the comprehensive plan, our elected officials have little discretion when it comes to controlling growth.

‘Welp, there you have it!  Hands are tied – nothing we can do about it, y’all.’  (And thanks for that sizeable campaign contribution, Mr. Fatback Developer.  Much obliged. . .)

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . .

Look, I could go on, but I got physically nauseated and had to step away when Chief Building Official Kerry Leuzinger took the microphone and asked the deep and thought-provoking question, “Why do we have building codes?”

I knew exactly where he was going with that time consuming ruse.

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . .  

With the ever-present PowerPoint anesthetizing everyone in the room, Mr. Leuzinger chuntered on with a tedious review of the inspection failures that resulted in a deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire and the collapse of a condominium in Surfside, Florida – compelling stuff that helped run the clock – but I’m not sure an exhaustive explanation of the role of the Permitting Department is what Volusia County residents were praying would come from this “growth management” workshop.  (And our ‘powers that be’ knew it.)  

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . .

The permitting department’s dance number was followed by a question from At-Large Councilmember Ben Johnson, who asked whether Mr. Leuzinger could limit inspections to “spot checks” for roofing contractors with a history of following the rules (the answer was, thankfully, a hard “No”) – followed by a riveting discussion on the possibility of eliminating permits for yard sheds. . .

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . . 

Then, they broke for lunch.  

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . .

What I found most disturbing (I mean, other than the fact the windy “workshop” represented six-hours of my life I’ll never get back) was the number of already approved projects sitting dormant on the books – some considered “Developments of Regional Impact” – a significant backlog of pending projects that will have serious ramifications for our already diminished natural places.

During her act, Director Ginger Adair who oversees the county’s environmental management division, spoke of the overtalked and underutilized idea of requiring (rather than asking nicely?) that developers incorporate low-impact development practices, a strategy which mimics natural processes and minimizes impervious surfaces to limit stormwater runoff and protect the biological and physical condition of receiving waters. 

The “workshop” also included a presentation by Jane West, policy and planning director for 1000 Friends of Florida – a Tallahassee-based “smart growth advocacy organization” that promotes sound public policy on development issues – who lectured on the “cumulative effect” of incremental land use changes made by Volusia County and municipal governments that, over time, have a big impact on our quality of life.

According to an excellent report by Associate Editor Jarleene Almenas in the Ormond Beach Observer:

“Brower said he felt the county needed to move from just encouraging low impact development practices to requiring them, but that first they need to decide which low impact development practices the county wants to implement.

(No, shit!  When?)

“I hope that we will move in that direction,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t think we have any choice. Stormwater is a big problem and every bit of pavement that goes down prevents water from being absorbed into the ground.”

Now, as always, we wait. 

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . .

In the weeks/months to come, Director Ervin has vowed to bring back some ideas for our elected officials to chew over – you know, when he gets ‘around tuit’ – no rush. 

I suspect another list of neutered talking points to come back before our elected dullards about the same time that mythical impact fee study we’ve been promised finally materializes, or the Comet Kohoutek returns. . .

Screw it.  You get the picture.   

Unfortunately, at the end of an awfully long day, absolutely nothing of substance was accomplished.

In other words, everything went according to plan. 

If past practice holds, Volusia County’s bloated bureaucracy should be able to squeeze at least three more meaningless “workshops,” a timewasting “summit” or two, and at least one more “Green Ribbon” political insulation committee out of the illusive concepts of “smart growth” and “low-impact development”buying even more time – as our natural places continue to burn. . . 

Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc. . .

Angel               Palm Coast’s Mike Martin

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

– Robert Kennedy

I recently read the inspirational story of Mike Martin, a civically involved resident of Palm Coast, who is taking a bold stand against the fleecing of his fellow citizens.  Since 2020, Mr. Martin has served as an elected member of the East Flagler Mosquito Control Commission and has bravely spoken out against several controversial issues in Palm Coast and Flagler County. 

For instance, according to an excellent report by Chris Gollon writing in, last year, Mr. Martin mounted an effort to stop development on the poisoned grounds of the former Matanzas Woods Golf Course after levels of arsenic were found in shallow test pits at the site.   

Most recently, Mr. Martin has been an outspoken opponent of Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin’s asinine idea to gift himself and his greedy “colleagues” on the dais of power a pay increase of over 300%.

You read that right.

This shameless money grab was recently approved on first reading by a vote of 4-1 – with members Ed Danko, Nick Klufas, and John Fanelli joining Mayor Alfin to enrich themselves – while Eddie Branquinho cast the lone “No” vote.

Honestly, you cannot make this shit up. . . 

In a recent interview with Mr. Gollon, the intrepid Mike Martin reminded his fellow citizens of one thing:

“…Win or lose this fight, I know one result will happen: the people of Palm Coast will now understand that they can fight back, and they have the tools.”

I don’t know Mr. Martin, but I like his style. . .

Quote of the Week

“Knowing that, if there’s going to be one takeaway that we have today for you, it would be that the small cumulative land use decisions that you make every month here in these chambers really add to affect the quality of life for Volusia residents,” West said. “It is a cumulative impact of land use changes, because there’s a domino effect: If you’re adjacent to a high-density development, even though you can’t use that as a basis legally to justify expansion of that high density into more rural lands, the fact of the matter is that is what happens all the time.”

–Jane West, policy and planning director for 1000 Friends of Florida, as quoted by Associate Editor Jarleene Almenas in the Ormond Beach Observer, Growth spurt: Volusia County growth management workshop spotlights how to mitigate development impacts,” Tuesday, April 12, 2022

And Another Thing! 

As most regular readers of these screeds know, I do not have a formal education. 

That is why I put so much value on it, and hold those who pursue learning, teaching, and imparting experiential wisdom to others in such high regard. 

The events of Tuesday’s Volusia County School Board meeting leading to the termination of Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz were disturbing, and have exposed a depth of dysfunction that has been described by shell-shocked insiders and sitting School Board members as a “toxic culture” – a deleterious situation frequently cited as the primary reason people leave an organization. 

Look, I don’t know a damn thing about the cloistered world of academia or the myriad challenges of administrating a district with a lot of moving parts, a ballooning $1 billion budget, internal warnings of a looming financial catastrophe, a flood of state mandates, and the “culture wars” that are dividing communities across the nation.    

However, based upon my own experience, I recognize sound leadership practices when I see them – the ability of the chief executive to lead and inspire a well-informed and cohesive team to organize complex activities (like educating children) from the bottom up, with unity of effort, and clearly articulated intent – supported by a transparent internal and external information-sharing strategy that keeps all stakeholders on the same page. 

The personal attributes and principles of leadership that most people respect are often defined as justice, judgement, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, integrity, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty, and endurance. 

Leadership also requires the strength of character to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, cronyism, and favoritism in the decision-making process – especially in matters involving the perceived personal enrichment of a superior – with an emotional stability that instills confidence. 

Did anyone see any of those traits on display Tuesday evening? 

Me neither. 

In my view, it is time for the housecleaning to begin.

During that contentious meeting, I watched as School Board Attorney Ted Doran seized the reigns and clearly orchestrated a motion to approve a severance package exceeding $186,000 in the immediate aftermath of a serious confrontation that left Chairman Ruben Colon clearly stunned. 

If any of this is going to have public buy-in going forward, what happened between Fritz and Colon Tuesday evening demands an outside investigation.

To many, it appeared that Mr. Doran was the best lawyer Dr. Fritz never paid for – and I believe he owes those who pay his salary – the taxpayers of Volusia County – a clear explanation for why he ramrodded Fritz’ severance through without allowing time and distance for a closer examination of the circumstances and factors that led to the Superintendent’s termination. 

What about the duty of our elected officials and legal representatives to uncover and examine the facts and circumstances, allow cooler heads to prevail, and ensure every fiduciary responsibility has been met?

Why the rush?    

I’m asking. And I am not alone.

If Mr. Doran is not prepared to explain the intrigue surrounding his unusual role in steering the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting, then he should submit his resignation for the School Board’s consideration.

Because that is the right thing to do.    

In my view, what has been allowed to fester in Volusia County District Schools is the antithesis of effective leadership – culminating in a rebellious confrontation between the Superintendent and one of his direct superiors, the sitting Chairman of the Volusia County School Board – the senior member of the very political body that was elected by the citizens to provide effective oversight and stewardship. 

The preamble of the district’s “Standards of Conduct” begins:

“The School Board recognizes that the education of children is a process that involves a partnership between students, parents, teachers, school administrators and other school based and district personnel. For this educational process and partnership to be successful, it is necessary for all individuals to conduct themselves in an appropriate and orderly manner, demonstrating mutual respect for others. . .”

In my view, our elected representatives and senior administrators have lost their moral compass and strayed far from the lofty standards memorialized above.

Now, it is time for School Board members to either regain some semblance of organizational bearing and establish a stable learning environment for the thousands of Volusia County students who rely on them for a quality education – and support and protect the devoted teachers and staff who have committed their professional lives here – or have the courage to step aside and make way for someone who will. 

That’s all for me.  Have a Happy Easter, y’all! 

A Toxic Culture

I like to joke that the Volusia County School Board put the “fun” in “dysfunction” – except it’s not funny anymore. . .

There was more high drama on Tuesday when things took a theatrical turn in the ongoing saga of beleaguered Superintendent Dr. Ronald “Scott” Fritz when he was unceremoniously fired on a 3-2 vote following an offstage altercation with Chairman Ruben Colon.

Good.  In the view of many, Fritz should have been shown the door months ago.  

Don’t worry, everyone involved landed on their feet – except those who rely on Volusia County District Schools for their education or livelihood – because that’s how this pernicious “system” is geared to work. . .     

In the aftermath of the vote, Dr. Fritz quickly skedaddled with a sack full of severance worth a whopping $186,843.42 pursuant to the terms of his lucrative contract which guaranteed him the proverbial golden parachute for termination “without cause.”

In the aftermath, many are wondering if that was the right call – and why the rush?

Look, in my view, the Volusia County School Board had ample reason(s) to send Fritz packing long before the announcement he would not be renewing his contract – not the least of which was the laundry list of pseudo accomplishments he sent to stakeholders – something many found self-indulgent given the well-publicized internal opposition and organizational dysfunction that belied the results of a recent external accreditation audit which praised the districts much-heralded “strategic plan.”

Except, last year we learned that the strategic plan (for which Dr. Fritz received a $10,000 spiff) was actually facilitated by an outside company who apparently received some $49,000 in public funds – an amount just under the Superintendent’s spending threshold – which meant the consulting fee did not have to come before the School Board for approval.

That wasn’t the only issue that came outside the public’s view during Dr. Fritz’ tenure.

For instance, during public participation prior to the vote, a speaker asked that Dr. Fritz consider reimbursing the district after he continued to receive an automobile allowance during his seven-month leave of absence at the same time his interim replacement, Dr. Carmen Balgobin, was also being paid a vehicle stipend.

Recently, many were concerned by Dr. Fritz’ controversial decision to enter a contracted services agreement with Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis, a retired district employee and wife of current School Board member (and Fritz cheerleader) Carl Persis, which pays her $82.00 an hour (not to exceed $23,616.00 over the life of the contract) to provide “coaching services” to principals at select schools – another dubious expense that did not come before the School Board for approval.   

In the view of many, it was this all-too-convenient arrangement that removed Mr. Persis’ moral authority to contribute to the discussion of Dr. Fritz’ fate.

But that didn’t stop him.   

Interestingly, Mr. Persis joined Linda Cuthbert in voting against terminating Dr. Fritz. . . 

Yeah.  That. . . 

Of course, between all the gnashing of teeth and political posturing, there was much gushing from the dais about the importance of “putting the children first” and prioritizing those professionals who teach and support children in the classroom – which seemed to drive the point home that it has never been “about the children” with this bunch of over-the-top buffoons and their attorney, Ted “Sleepy Potato” Doran – who guides the decisions of his wayward charges with admonishments like, “You’re gonna make me rich!”

Which would be funny if it weren’t true. . . 

In typical fashion, the School Board meeting had all the earmarks of another noxious shitshow – and the handwriting was on the wall following a spirited “workshop” earlier that afternoon – during which board member Linda Cuthbert publicly unraveled and cemented her standing as a hyper-dramatic soup sandwich who clearly lacks the emotional strength for elective service.  

Don’t take my word for it, watch the shenanigans for yourself here:  

When talk turned to “succession planning” (which looked nothing remotely like actual succession planning, a process that typically takes place before the Head Honcho departs) board member Jamie Haynes courageously made the much-anticipated motion to terminate Fritz, which was seconded by Anita Burnette, and followed by pious tut-tutting from the tag team of Cuthbert and Persis.

Then, during a clumsy recess before the vote to allow Mr. Doran to discuss potential victims – sorry, make that “interim superintendents” – with two board members, Dr. Fritz could be seen gesturing for Chairman Ruben Colon to follow him into an anteroom off the dais. 

When the meeting reconvened, an obviously frazzled Colon made the cryptic statement:

“During the break, Dr. Fritz made it clear he does not want to be here by his actions.  So, I’m going to support the motion tonight. It’s not what I came here to do. But I do not believe our employees deserve what I was just subject to a few minutes ago.”


That should have signaled an “All Stop” from Mr. Doran so an investigation could be commissioned to determine exactly what happened outside the public view that influenced (or intimidated?) the Chair to support the Superintendent’s immediate termination. 

But he didn’t. 

In retrospect, it seemed infinitely more important to Mr. Doran that Dr. Fritz’ exorbitant severance package be set in stone without delay. 

But why?

Many of us looking on were shocked when Mr. Doran stepped out of his advisory role, seized the reigns from Chairman Colon, and clearly orchestrated a motion to approve the severance package in the immediate aftermath of a confrontation that left the Chair of his board clearly stunned.

From what little we know – Chairman Colon was apparently on the receiving end of one of Dr. Fritz’ infamous “temper tantrums” – angry outbursts that have had many staff members “walking on eggshells” as fear and intimidation permeated the Ivory Tower of Power in Deland.   

A toxic culture, indeed.  

Look, it has been a while since I was on the public dole – and I have no idea what Mr. Colon was “subjected to” behind Oz’s curtain – but if memory serves, I distinctly recall a prohibition on insubordinate and disrespectful behavior by senior appointed officials toward those We, The Little People elect to represent our interests in the municipality that employed me. . . 

Yep.  I am certain that if a senior executive saw fit to verbally abuse a sitting elected official where I worked, it would have resulted in a formal outside inquiry; and, if proven true, the conduct would have resulted in termination with cause – which would negate any claim to a massive severance package – in this case, worth over six times the median per capita income of Volusia County residents.

We deserve an explanation from Mr. Doran. But don’t hold your breath.

Unfortunately, the rules are different at Volusia County District Schools – depending upon who you are (or who you’re married to), that is. 

In the opinion of many residents, in his final act of defiance, Dr. Fritz violated the “Termination with Cause” provisions of his contract which expressly lists “gross insubordination” as a terminable offense resulting in forfeiture of severance.    

While many view insubordination as an intentional failure to carry out the lawful order of a superior, the term is also accepted to include insolence – acts, conduct, and language which demonstrate a lack of respect or contempt of lawful authority – like when the Superintendent of Schools sends the Chairman of the School Board into a panic with his boorish behavior. . .  

In Volusia County, the tail often wags the dog, and elected officials are admonished to view things from the “30,000-foot level” rather than get mired in the minutia of their fiduciary responsibilities to protect taxpayers from the burden of an undeserved $186,000 payout to a failed superintendent with a penchant for making his bosses cry. 


Before fleeing the dais, Dr. Fritz continued to toot his own horn:

“It will still remain one of the high points in the 30-plus years in public education.  Nobody wants change, but sometimes it’s necessary, and I will tell you that when I was hired here, I was asked for a change. And I think we’ve done that. I stand ready to help the next permanent superintendent of Volusia County Schools because we want what’s best for our kids.”

No thanks, Dr. Fritz.  You’ve done quite enough. . .

For the immediate future, Human Resources Director Rachel Hazel was tapped by unanimous vote to temporarily steer the ship – at least until Chairman Colon has an opportunity to beg former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Carmen Balgobin to uproot from her new post in Broward County and return to the muck and mire of the Fun Coast.    

You read that right. 

They are banking on “Dr. B” – who just jumped ship for greener pastures – to pull our collective fat out of the fire. . .   

It is called “Panic Mode” – a complete lack of any continuity of operations plan or identifiable chain-of-command in the face of a growing crisis. 

Adding to the chaos and confusion – Tuesday’s contentious meeting ended with no firm design for how (or even if) the School Board will search for a replacement, the level of stakeholder participation (if any), or a strategy for calming the tumult and rampant speculation going forward. 

With a budget now exceeding $1 Billion and the busiest time of the school year approaching – this one deserves your undivided attention.

I fear the fun is just beginning. . .  

A History of Deception

“A favorite theory of mine [is] that no occurrence is sole and solitary but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.”

–Mark Twain

I am an observer – and a student of history.   

Rather than participate officially, I watch the action and analyze things from the sidelines – with a hard-earned ability to discern both the minute and significant – gaining insight into all aspects of a situation, determining patterns, and comparing modern issues with historical outcomes. 

Because motivations become apparent once you learn that leopards are incapable of changing their spots. . .

With practice, one can see through the cosmetics, drapes, and disguises used by politicians (and those who control them) to craft an image of themselves relative to the perennial problems we face – especially true during an election year – hoping those they “govern” won’t peek behind the well-crafted façade and connect the dots (and the dollars).     

In time, we find that the issues we face bear striking similarities to other events in our history and ignoring this convergence often results in that painful sense of “déjà vu” that comes from touching a hot stove twice.

These recurrences are often called “history repeating itself” – and, as Winston Churchill warned, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

This week, I took notice as a giddy sense of excitement built ahead of Tuesday’s Volusia County Council “growth management and development permitting workshop” – which will be held in Council Chambers between the intentionally inconvenient hours of 9:30am and 2:30pm – putting it off the table for most concerned citizens who work for a living. . . 

Incredibly, some smart people are pinning their hopes to yet another hot air generator – one more mind-numbing PowerPoint presentation hosted by the same do-nothing “growth management” drones who remain comfortably mired in the same incestuous relationships with real estate developers and insiders – another time-wasting diversion for the masses while the bulldozers continue to roar. 

No thanks.  I have seen it all before. 

Look, I hate to be the proverbial turd in the punchbowl – but I remember the sense of excitement I felt in the leadup to the “Smart Growth summits” of 2003 and 2004.

And who can forget the Great Smart Growth PowerPoint of November 2008?  With its ominous conclusion, “Where do we go next?”

(Unfortunately, hindsight tells us the answer to that question was a “cram ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag” growth management strategy that continues to allow our elected dullards to maintain their paralytic grip on the stagnant status quo while ensuring their political benefactors can squeeze every dollar they can out of our decimated natural places. . .)

Remember that heady horseshit, “The concept of Smart Growth emerged as communities have been increasingly impacted by “sprawling” development patterns and related infrastructure and service delivery costs. Locally, this pattern cannot be sustained without permanent destruction of vast ecosystems and wildlife corridors”?

I do. 

Or how about that collective feeling of keen anticipation ahead of the exalted “Smart Growth Policy Review Committee of 2013-2014” – the council commissioned Blue-Ribbon political insulation committee charged with recommending a host of planning and zoning policy initiatives? 


Oh, I know!  How about the “Smart Growth Policy Review Committee of 2015-2016”?

Just me?  Okay.

Wait, I’m certain you will recall the impressive presentation by Clay Ervin, our long-serving director of Growth and Resource Management, at a Volusia County Council meeting in January 2019.

Or Director Ervin’s subsequent ‘Dog and Pony Show’ at the Knights of the Roundtable conclave in June of that year, to “…explore the idea of “smart growth” within the county, with the input from municipalities and other community stakeholders.”

If it sounds like “déjà vu all over again,” that’s because it is. 

Have you seen evidence of “smart growth” initiatives or “low-impact” development rules resulting from these decades-old shim-shams?

Me neither.

So why are we so eager to expect a different outcome?

This weekend, a very smart friend of mine sent a front-page clipping from the Tallahassee Democrat – published 50-years ago this week – with the glaring headline, “Halt Florida’s Chaotic Growth, Experts Plead.” 

The lede, written in April 1972 by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mike Toner of the Democrat-Miami Herald News Service, explained, “Florida’s growth is outstripping the efforts to plan properly for it, and, in some parts of the state, growth should stop until planning can catch up. . .”

In the report, Mr. Toner quoted the recommendation of two groups with seemingly competing interests – the American Institute of Architects and Florida Defenders of the Environment – who promoted a list of “temporary solutions,” which included “A halt to all major transportation programs, especially I-95 and I-75 in south Florida and I-10 in north Florida, while a comprehensive study of their environmental impact is made,” and “…a moratorium be placed on areas “of new and potential growth” where the growth is certain to affect natural resources…”


The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

The one common denominator is a long stain of compromised politicians – and the developers and special interests who own the paper on their political souls – who continue to approve malignant sprawl (with a building tsunami of approved projects already on the books) that look us in the eye and tell us there’s “nothing we can do/hands are tied” while approving zoning changes, increasing density, and always ensuring a malleable “planning process” that is quickly destroying our environment and quality of life.    

In my view, tomorrows “growth management workshop” represents more bureaucratic gaslighting, more nonsensical rehashing of “low-impact” development concepts that have been intentionally suppressed for years – yet another diversionary tactic – a means of putting time and distance between now and any substantive action to reduce the malignant sprawl that has already outpaced our transportation and utilities infrastructure and is now rapidly threatening our water supply. 

They do it because we allow it, and in this election year, it is time to determine who has our back and who is content with ‘more of the same.’

I often sound like some demented Henny Penny, but as I have previously said, please take a moment from your busy lives and truly reflect on what the basic principles at the heart of these matters mean – not for us – but for our children and grandchildren. 

As we have seen in recent elections, there remains one fundamental mechanism which, if exercised broadly, will allow us to prevail over the political insiders and well-heeled donor class that seem intent on promoting this “growth at all costs” insanity for personal enrichment:

In this election year, it is the ultimate power of the ballot box.

In truth, it is the only thing that strikes concern in the heart of these self-serving bastards who are actively selling their political soul – and our unique quality of life – all while wasting precious time with these insulting diversions.

Don’t be fooled again.

Angels & Assholes for April 8, 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.

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

“Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?”

–Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

Along our personal and professional journey, we stand or fall by the decisions we make.    

Those who hold senior public leadership positions know (at least they should) that perception becomes reality for outsiders peering at the innerworkings of a cloistered bureaucracy through that greasy pane in the fortified portcullis, especially when what they are told does not comport with what they see with their own eyes, and answers come in the form of carefully crafted soundbites and punched up social media posts.   

This uncertainty results in suspicion and speculation – which is why, in places where accountability is still important – many senior executives are never more than two bad decisions from the door.  In consideration of this volatility, they often command outlandishly high salaries, benefits, and severance packages unheard of in the private sector. 

Last week, the tumult surrounding early discussions of extending Volusia County School Superintendent Dr. Ronald “Scott” Fritz’ employment agreement – which included an intense lobbying effort by some very important people and organizations seeking to keep him at the helm – ended when Fritz announced he would not be extending his contract when it expires in November. 

Within days of his announcement, Dr. Fritz published a laundry list of his accomplishments in an open letter to staff and taxpayers – something many found self-indulgent given the well-publicized internal opposition and organizational dysfunction that belied the results of a recent external accreditation audit which praised the districts much-heralded “strategic plan.”

For instance, in one key finding (which many onlookers found incongruous with what we have heard and read) the accreditation team described Volusia County Schools as, “A large district structure that was very organized, well-focused, strategic, all headed in the same direction and unified.”

Another glowing accolade depicted, “A strong sense of family, despite the large size and geographical areas.”

More on that sense of family thing in a minute. . .

Look, by any metric, the outgoing Volusia County School Superintendent has not had an easy time of it. 

During the bulk of his first year at the helm, Dr. Fritz was sidelined by an unfortunate health diagnosis and subsequent seven-month leave of absence that saw his second-in-command, Dr. Carmen Balgobin, (who mysteriously jumped ship and is now the Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in Broward County), taking the tiller during the tumult of the pandemic.

It was during this uncertain time when many parents, teachers, students, and staff lost confidence in their leadership amid a clumsy communications strategy that seemed to rely on rumor and social media posts to convey essential information to stakeholders. 

Unfortunately, in the view of many, the confusion did not end when Dr. Fritz returned. 

During incredibly contentious School Board meetings, Fritz offered divisive opinions, fueled raucous protests by calling it “bad parenting” not to have your child wear a mask (while acknowledging a parent’s right to choose), and implementing policies that contravened the direction of state education officials in the face of growing criticism from parents – and his own staff – that ultimately required a police presence at meetings to include the use metal detectors to screen participants. 

It quickly appeared as if a siege mentality had gripped the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. 

Insiders in district offices have told me that Superintendent Fritz was prone to “temper tantrums” – raising his voice to subordinates – something I equate to the “Captain Queeg” syndrome that can invade the executive suite when self-absorbed “leaders” feel betrayed and abandoned. 

Recently, many were concerned by Dr. Fritz’ decision to enter a contracted services agreement with Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis, a retired district employee and wife of current School Board member Carl Persis – which pays her $82.00 an hour (not to exceed $23,616.00 over the life of the contract) to provide “coaching services” to principals at select schools.  

All perfectly legal and within Dr. Fritz’ discretionary spending authority.

However, in the view of many, quietly awarding a lucrative contract to the spouse of a sitting School Board member can be perceived as cronyism – and that is corrosive to the public trust – especially in a time of frightening budgetary shortfalls, unprecedented staff turnover, and flagging taxpayer trust in the system.

I recently received an anonymous note in the mail suggesting favoritism in the selection and hiring process.  According to the note, the same information was sent to School Board members, Volusia United Educators, and The Daytona Beach News-Journal.   

According to the note, in January, Mr. Thomas Soli – who previously served as an assistant principal in Orange County Public Schools – was appointed Principal of Riverview Learning Center in Daytona Beach. 

I looked high-and-low for any official announcement on the district website before finding the following blurb on Dr. Fritz’ Facebook page from January 2022:

“Congratulations to our two newest administrators! Thomas Soli will be the principal of Riverview Learning Center and Timothy Carignan will be an assistant principal of VCS River Springs Middle School of Technology and Innovation.”

Conversely, the detailed information I received in the mail last weekend painted a much broader picture – explaining that Mr. Soli is married to former Deputy Superintendent Carmen Balgobin – which, once again, raised questions about transparency and preference in the selection process – along with concerns about string-pulling as the appointment placed Mr. Soli as a direct report to Ms. Balgobin before her departure.      

You read that right. 

Talk about that sense of family, eh? 

A public records request to Volusia County District Schools seeking information on the selection and hiring has gone unanswered since Monday. . .

My God. 

Look, my only frame of reference is over thirty-years of service in small-town municipal government.

Trust me, I have seen some weird shit go down. . .

But at no time in my public service did I see this complete lack of self-awareness – or utter disregard for the appearance of impropriety – decisions that, regardless of intent, leave the unmistakable impression of favoritism. 

Look, I am not going to kick the man after he has tapped out – and I am sure Dr. Fritz will land on his feet in another district as that is the nature of his profession – but many believe that our elected officials on the Volusia County School Board either knew or should have known the potential perception issues surrounding these questionable decisions and taken action to prevent the further erosion of the public trust in this important institution. 

In this election year, it is the hope of many that our rudderless School Board can see through the hype and fluff, then take the time to explore all available options in selecting Dr. Fritz’ replacement. 

This should be accomplished with a transparent and inclusive process, soliciting the invested recommendations of parents, teachers, and staff – with fair consideration for qualified internal candidates with a demonstrated commitment to the education of our children – and a real connection with those dedicated educators who present the curriculum in the classroom. 

In my view, it is also time for our School Board to consider the ramification to the public trust of allowing lucrative backroom deals that invariably seem to favor those close to highly placed decisionmakers over the very real concerns of stakeholders.    

More of the same is no longer an option – and we deserve better. 

Asshole           Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith

Florida politicians are sui generis.

They bare a passing resemblance to other office holders in Banana Republics around the world, but pound-for-pound Sunshine State politicos have lowered the bar to whale-shit levels – drawn by their worst instincts to all that is dumb and nonsensical – making decisions that affect the apathetic masses with the prudence of a deranged toddler loose with a loaded shotgun – always sinking to the lowest common denominator: Money.    

This base idiocy, made worse by a total disregard for any known philosophy of ethics and morality, knows no ideological or partisan boundaries. 

Our current predicament(s) did not occur overnight – proving that, regardless of which political party is in control, the greed-heads and pirates who have historically been granted carte blanche to slash-and-burn what remains of our wild places win every time.

To save face, our elected dullards string together a few “wildlife corridors,” a patchwork of conservation land, often purchased at hyper-inflated prices, to allow what remains of Florida’s natural fauna to thread their way through remaining slivers of wetlands and encircled pine scrub in a hurt here/help there strategy that allows politicians and real estate speculators to live with themselves. 

(Don’t worry, newcomers – we will kill any disoriented wildlife that strays from their “corridor” and wanders into your gated community. . .)


In the first four-months of 2022, some 400 manatees have succumbed to starvation along Florida’s Atlantic Coast in what state and federal wildlife officials now refer to with the sterile term “Unusual Mortality Event.” 

Many of those gentle creatures died right here in the northern reaches of the Indian River Lagoon in Southeast Volusia County. 

In my view, there is nothing “unusual” about it. 

Florida politicians, at all levels of government, have openly sacrificed the manatee’s food source for lucre – permitting more, more, more malignant coastal development while gutting environmental regulations in a “fox in the henhouse” strategy that allows neutered regulators to look the other way while those with a chip in the game rape our natural places for profit. 

And don’t give me any horseshit about how many acres we have put into conservation – the proof of the wholesale exploitation of our waterways is bloated and decomposing on a shoreline near you. . .

According to recognized biodiversity experts, runoff into the Indian River Lagoon from overdevelopment is fueling algal blooms that have killed tens of thousands of acres of seagrass beds – while sediment washing into the water blocks sunlight and smothers the unique and necessary ecosystems found in seagrass meadows that manatees rely on for nourishment. 

Last week, inconceivably, a pasty-faced douchebag by the name of Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith promoted the deranged idea of intentionally killing even more manatees as a way of “thinning the herd” and reducing the number who are dying horrible (and very public) deaths due to hunger.

You read that right.

Naturally, a check of previous Brevard County campaign finance records finds Komisar Smith’s groaning war chest was chockfull of contributions from real estate developers. . .

According to the obviously unbalanced Smith:

“Everybody loves manatees. I love manatees. I love seeing them. It’s part of the scenery,” Smith said. “But we have to get real and the reality is that there has never been a calculation of what the carrying capacity should be for this habitat.”

Really?  Part of the scenery? 

Like no one bothered to calculate what the carrying capacity should be for residential and commercial development adjacent to our sensitive springs, rivers, and waterways before craven elected officials approved malignant sprawl for their political puppeteers with Pavlovian regularity? 


In my view, Commissioner Smith’s idea is the most galactically stupid notion ever proffered by an elected official (this week, anyway).

Researchers are suggesting that we are already doing a masterful job of depopulation – destroying manatees at a rate never seen before in the toxic soup that was once one of the most diverse estuarine systems in North America – citing the fact that further slaughter would have dramatic impacts on other species in the symbiotic cycle that once gave life to the lagoon. 

According to Patrick Rose, an aquatic biologist and executive director of Save The Manatee Club, “To have one of those commissioners to be so uninformed so ignorant of what the real problem is disconcerting. Certainly, the solution is not to have more manatees killed.” 

Did I mention that Commissioner Smith serves as the vice-chair of that do-nothing political insulation committee at the Indian River Lagoon Council? 

Because he does. . .

In my view, it is time that those we have elected to represent our interests stop using the piecemeal restoration of the Indian River Lagoon as a cheap photo-op and get serious about stopping the destruction of our waterways with moratoriums and direct prohibitions on unsustainable development in sensitive environments along the IRL and beyond.    

Regardless, neither history, nor nature, will absolve us of our sins. 

Angel              Citizens Committed to Preserving Our History   

Like some half-drunk Diogenes crashing about with my dim lamp, I searched long and hard for an ‘Angel’ this week.  

I really needed some good news this week, and I found it in a diverse group of area residents who are passionate about preserving an important part of our unique wartime history.    

On Wednesday evening, I watched in utter disgust as the Daytona Beach City Commission was treated to a walkthrough video of the horribly neglected City Island Recreation Center as the historic structure was slow walked toward the gallows.

Earlier in the day, Commissioner Ken Strickland filmed the shocking video for the edification of his “colleagues” and residents who have been denied access to one of their oldest public assets as it fell victim to strategic rot, willful negligence, and official malfeasance

In my view, the footage represented compelling evidence of the criminal neglect that has destroyed and depreciated a publicly owned building.

Following the presentation, Mayor Derrick Henry permitted his subjects to approach their overlords on the dais with the admonition, “It is everyone’s right to speak and be heard, but. . .” before a concerned group of residents advanced and begged their elected representatives to save this unique piece of Halifax area history. 

During public comments, some truly courageous citizens spoke out, including former Leisure Services Director Percy Williamson – who spoke passionately about his losing battle to secure budget allocations for proper maintenance and upkeep of the City Island Recreation Center – calling it a “…wrong that happened many years ago.”

It was heartening to hear Commissioners Ruth Trager, Ken Strickland, and Paula Reed champion this connection to our community’s past, while Commissioner Dannette Henry opened her mind to exploring options before making a final decision on the building’s fate.

It was also damnably frustrating to listen as another dismissed the facility as “not worth saving” as the discussion dissolved into some truly nonsensical horseshit that gave disturbing insight into how some elected officials “think.”   

After deliberation, the commission voted unanimously to apply to the city’s historic preservation board asking that they designate the City Island Recreation Center a place of local historical significance – which will allow City Manager Derek Feacher to explore grant opportunities and identify resources to fund renovations – along with estimates on the cost of demolishing the structure. 

Commissioners also rightfully decided to form committee comprised of civic-minded residents to determine a “purpose” for the building going forward. 

Look, I still don’t hold out much hope for the building long-term – but, for now, the City Island Recreation Center has received an optimistic stay of execution. 

While some may consider this another example of “kicking the can down the road” and prolonging the inevitable in the face of vehement citizen opposition – the passion and advocacy demonstrated by those residents who stood in support of preserving this important piece of City Island’s rich history was inspiring

At the end of the day, the Daytona Beach City Commission listened to their constituents – with Mayor Henry making the astute observation that – while other citizens want the building demolished in the name of “progress” – those voices did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting. 

Thank you to those caring and civically involved citizens who did – and for restoring our faith in the power of a positive grassroots effort to change the hearts (and votes) of those elected to represent the needs of city residents. 

Quote of the Week

“They’re not respecting the process, and they’re not respecting the voters,” Northey said. “Don’t empower a group to make recommendations and then dismiss them as cavalierly and out of hand as they did.”

–Deltona Charter Review Committee Chair Pat Northey, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Katie Kustura, “2 of 5 charter proposals advanced: 3 recommendations are nixed by Deltona,” Wednesday, April 6, 2022

As H.L. Mencken said, “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

After months of careful deliberation, the City of Deltona Charter Review Committee submitted a list of five commonsense recommendations after a careful line-by-line review of the city’s governing document. 

These changes included:

Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to modify composition and qualifications to allow for city commissioners to reside in a district and be elected on a city-wide basis?

Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to modify the salary of the mayor to be equal to 50% of the Volusia County chair and the salary of the commissioners to be equal to 50% of the Volusia County Council Members?

Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to add language to provide for a maximum term of 18 months that the charter offices of city manager and city attorney may be appointed as acting, and to provide for an additional term of six months for extraordinary circumstances?

Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to increase the Charter Review Committee to seven members and to require any proposed charter amendments to be placed on the ballot of the next general election?

Shall the City of Deltona Charter be amended to add a provision requiring standards, procedures, requirements, and regulations to provide for environmental considerations on major decisions undertaken by the City Commission or city planners?

Which of these recommendations do you think the Deltona City Commission chose to ‘allow’ electors to vote on during the general election?      

During a recent workshop, the commission moved just two amendments forward – to include a pay increase for themselves – and one setting a maximum term of 18-months for charter officer’s serving in an “acting status,” with an additional six-month extension for “extraordinary circumstances.” 

In an informative article by Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:

“In discussing proposed changes to compensation — which isn’t required by the charter — all of the commissioners said they weren’t in it for the salary.  (Excuse me.  I just shot a mouthful of my ‘fortified’ Café Bustelo through my nose.  Dammit.) 

Some commissioners expressed support for some level of increased compensation, but not to the extent of what was proposed.

“I think that a good salary being paid to elected officials in the City of Deltona would attract more people to run for office,” Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vazquez said.  (I’ll say!)

Commissioner Loren King said he didn’t even know the position included compensation when he first made the decision to run.  (Seriously?)

The annual salary of the Volusia County Council chair is $57,357, and council members each are paid $47,797. The mayor and members of the commission presently are paid $14,187 and $10,520, respectively.”

That’s an increase of $14,491 for the mayor – and $13,378 for commissioners. . . 

When was the last time you saw a raise that more than doubled your salary where you work? 

For a part-time gig?

Only Commissioner Dana McCool admitted that – while she loves public service – for her, it’s kind of about the money, “At the same turn of the coin, my time is worth something.”

Why is it whenever local elected officials are tasked with determining a course of action that will either benefit them and their political benefactors – or improve the ability of citizens to have direct input in the destiny of their community – they invariably revert to their atavistic instincts?

(Don’t take my word for it – the Palm Coast City Council just voted to give themselves a $35,000 pay raise – that is an increase of 365%. . .)

Given the series of blunders, bloopers, bungles, and gaffes that have plagued Deltona government for years, a continuing course of abhorrent conduct that has resulted in an ‘Us vs. Them’ mindset at City Hall – and vitriolic pushback from frustrated residents – I think the good citizens of Deltona have seen enough to make a clear call on this one. . . 

In my view, Ms. Northey is right – limiting citizen choices by excluding amendments from the ballot is disrespectful to those they serve. 

Perhaps it is time We, The Little People begin the discussion of eliminating exorbitant salaries and benefits for part-time elected officials in local governments in favor of an equitable system that reimburses actual out-of-pocket expenses, within certain parameters, as approved by voters and memorialized in the charter? 

Something to consider. . .

And Another Thing!

Last week, we learned that the Flagler Beach City Commission – stewards of the last vestiges of ‘Old Florida’ on the east coast – unanimously voted to approve a 100-room hotel in the very heart of their once quaint community that will be known as “Compass” – another take on the contrived “Margaritaville” trope that is quickly remaking Florida into a cheap counterfeit image of its former self.   

My God.  “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot”. . .

Look, I don’t live there.  It is the Flagler Beach City Commission’s Tinker Toy set – but it is hard for those who have spent our lives in the area to watch this regional gem be destroyed in the name of “progress.” 

Frighteningly, the “vague plan” also calls for something on the wide swath of public beach across A-1-A that may or may not allow the great unwashed hordes to bring our own chairs and sit on that portion of sand now controlled by the stylish new hotel. . . 

According to an informative report in FlaglerLive!:

“Whether at the planning board or in the plans presented the city commission Thursday, there were no details about those plans on the beach-side. Only an ominous indication, drawn in outline on a slide, that there will be some sort of activity on the beach tied to the construction of the hotel. That worried (Commissioner Eric) Cooley and Commissioner Jane Mealy. It should not have surprised the developer, who knew city officials wanted more details about those plans as far back as late 2020.

“If we are going to approve it, since there is nothing about what’s going to be built, I would like us to make sure we address this verbiage that that will have to be a separate approval,” Cooley said. “We can’t approve something we have no data for, and that’s going to have a significant impact on our beach. The verbiage bothers me, by saying that is part of the project site, which is the site plan that we’re approving, when it’s never been discussed, it was never brought the power (sic) board, it’s not in the packet, there’s no detail.”

Sound familiar?  It should.

The idea of elected officials voting on issues that will have long-term invasive impacts on their communities without any due diligence is now the accepted method of political insulation in Florida. 

A strategic ignorance that permits these craven marionettes to rubberstamp malignant development (and intrusive industrial warehouses) for their political benefactors with a “We weren’t given all the facts!” fallback when things go to shit. 

So, say goodbye to this quaint coastal hamlet.  It may be better, it may be worse, but it will never be the same – and Flagler Beach isn’t the only local community that is quickly falling victim to this perverse notion of “progress.”  

In keeping with that theme, I recently heard from a reliable source that one freshman local elected official (in a Volusia County municipality) was told that they were not allowed to vote “No” on proposed development and land-use issues coming before their elected body. 

Unfortunately, based upon the evidence, I believe it.    

In my view, if true, that would constitute a willful suppression of independent representation and should be criminally investigated, prosecuted, and any elected or appointed official – or those who benefited from it – allowed to rot in some stifling hole at the Florida State Prison at Raiford.

But no one who should seems to give two-shits that it is developers and influential insiders who are destroying our quality of life and shaping our communities in their own craven image – and those we elect have become little more than the dull tools used to facilitate it.    

Don’t worry, Sunshine State city/county council/commission members, representatives, senators, managers, directors, et al. – your motivations will not be given a second look.    

Your ilk is safe, here in the biggest whorehouse in the world. . . 

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

Angels & Assholes for April 1, 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               F.A.I.T.H.

“Happy days are here again,

The skies above are clear again

Let us sing a song of cheer again

Happy days are here again!”

Some Halifax area “movers & shakers” are of the opinion that if We, The Little People change our negative attitudes, ignore the abject dysfunction that permeates local government, brush off the concerns of “naysayers,” join hands, and embrace the power of positivity, we will eventually come to accept the inconveniences, traffic gridlock, and steady tax increases we face as the necessary byproduct of “progress.”

They tell us these civic incommodes are a small price to pay for the “success” we are all enjoying (you feel the success, right?) while a few fatbacks get filthy rich clear-cutting our natural places and throwing up wood frame cracker boxes – “Starting from the low $300’s.” 

“Altogether shout it now!

There’s no one who can doubt it now!

So, let’s tell the world about it now!

Happy days are here again!”

These well-heeled cheerleaders for the status quo want us to believe that a simple change in mindset is all that is required – that by ignoring what we see with our own eyes, we can turn our collective frown upside-down.  As if ignorance itself can serve as an emotional panacea for the inherent unfairness of a skewed system controlled by those who funnel enormous campaign contributions to hand-select candidates as a means of controlling their environment. 

“Your cares and troubles are gone!

They’ll be no more from now on,

Happy days are here again!

The skies above are clear again,

Let us sing a song of cheer again!

Happy days are here again!”

As a jaded realist, I understand that donning rose-colored glasses and merely viewing problems through optimistic eyes never solves anything. 

In fact, given the serious threats to our quality of life – that strategy is delusional

Besides, it is easy to have a cheerful outlook from the safety and opulence of a gated community. . . 

Earlier this week, F.A.I.T.H. – Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony – held its annual Action Assembly at the Daytona Beach Drive-In Christian Church with remote viewing locations in Port Orange and Wild West Volusia. 

I find it interesting that F.A.I.T.H.’s annual call-to-action has its roots in the biblical story of Nehemiah:

“In 5th chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, the Prophet Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to find his people being exploited. During a terrible drought and famine, a group of moneylenders began capitalizing off of the Israelites desperation by enticing them to buy loans with high interest rates. When the Israelites defaulted on their loans, they were forced to sell their children into slavery (Nehemiah 5:1-5).”

Sound familiar?  It should.

Instead of providing temporary assistance to his exploited people, Nehemiah knew it was the corrupt system that needed to change and used his influence to coordinate a “great assembly” where the Israelites called out the moneylenders for their foul practices.

As in years past, the faith-based group pushed for basic fairness in area living standards – to include Volusia County’s strategic neglect of affordable housing initiatives – once again calling for the establishment of a countywide Housing Trust Fund to ensure adequate housing for working families displaced by the explosive growth our ‘powers that be’ continue to rubberstamp as demanded by their political puppeteers. 

In addition, F.A.I.T.H. is asking for a study to consider inclusionary zoning and “linkage fees” – a one-time impact fee assessed on new construction to mitigate the impact of the additional demand for affordable housing – something considered blasphemy in this growth at all cost environment.

In my view, F.A.I.T.H. is not asking for the world – just a leg up for those less fortunate who are struggling to meet the most basic of human needs – shelter, safety, water, food, rest – in a place where one in three rental families are severely cost burdened, trapped in a wage/rental deficit that, according to F.A.I.T.H., now exceeds a similar gap in the New York City and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

As in years past, their cries for basic fairness were arrogantly ignored by our exalted ‘powers that be.’

Tragically, of all the sitting elected officials who are now busying themselves telling voters how accessible they are – just one Volusia County Council member (Barb Girtman), one School Board member, and three Daytona Beach city commissioners attended the F.A.I.T.H. Action Assembly. 

That’s it.

According to reports, Volusia County Council members Heather Post and Billie Wheeler sent written responses vowing to support a housing trust fund – while Councilman Danny Robins invited F.A.I.T.H. members to ask questions during a Port Orange “town hall meeting” on Tuesday night – on his own turf, far away from the heat of the Action Assembly. . . 

I understand School Board Chair Ruben Colon and Member Carl Persis attended a watch party and answered questions in that venue.

Sadly, Chairman Jeff Brower and L’Eminence Grise – The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry – were no-shows. At least At-Large Councilman Ben Johnson had the courtesy to say he would not be attending.

My God. . .

In an effort to bridge the growing divide – in a place where the median rental income is just $13 an hour and a basic one-bedroom apartment now demands an income of at least $17 an hour – F.A.I.T.H. is asking that $2.5 million of federal American Rescue Plan relief funds, a fraction of the Manna from Heaven that has been showered on Volusia County government – be placed in trust then replenished with a $1 million allocation of public funds annually. 

In my view, that’s not a lot to ask when you consider that we’ve coughed up $4 million in economic incentives for the largest on-line retailer in the known universe on a promise of $15 an hour warehouse jobs, a collective $40 million in “incentives” from Daytona Beach and Volusia County for One Daytona (a privately held retail complex where commercial tenants have had their own issues with exorbitant rental rates), $4.5 million in “grants” to Tanger Outlets, untold millions in city, county, and state spiffs, tax credits, and infrastructure for the heralded Brown & Brown headquarters, some $7.5 million in “tax breaks” for the developer of a proposed luxury apartment complex on Beach Street, $4 million to P$S Paving for Beach Street “Improvements,” another $8 million proposed for the Beach Street “corridor overhaul,” etc., etc., etc.

Wow-Wee, I’m getting woozy. . . 

You get the point – a mouthful of gimme and a handful of much obliged come election time? 


It is generally accepted (at least by an unrepentant sinner like me) that one’s character is defined by how they treat people who can do nothing in return – and integrity is how we conduct ourselves when nobody is looking.

Well, everyone is watching how those we have elected and appointed to represent the interests of all residents respond to the basic needs of those who can do nothing for their political careers.

I hope you will join me in encouraging policymakers at all levels of government to pull their collective heads out of the sizeable backsides of their political benefactors long enough to address the pressing (and growing) issue of affordable housing for struggling Volusia County families.   

One way to help is by signing F.A.I.T.H.s petition here:

On May 3, F.A.I.T.H. representatives will deliver the housing trust fund petition to the County Council following a prayer vigil to be held outside the Hallowed Halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building that morning.

“Let us sing a song of cheer again,

Happy days are here again…”

Just ask any incumbent running for reelection. . .

Angel              Florida Department of Transportation

I am a fan of the Florida Department of Transportation. 

In my experience, their planning process is transparent and includes ample opportunities for public input, and, whenever possible, the concerns of those most affected are considered and factored into the final design. 

Late this week it was announced that the decades-in-the-making revamp of our dilapidated gateway on East International Speedway Boulevard will finally break round early next year – with a signalized intersection replacing the proposed loop-de-loop at the busiest beach approach in Volusia County.

That’s a good thing.

Unfortunately, I have also noticed that FDOT can be easily swayed by external influences at times – and what our influential powerbrokers want they typically get. . .

In my jaded view, these pressures can move projects up-and-down the “to-do” list, something infernally frustrating to those who see the tilted priorities that often result. 

For instance, this week we also learned that FDOT is sinking $3.3 million into the preliminary design of a proposed $19 million upgrade to a 3.6-mile stretch of Clyde Morris Boulevard from Beville Road to Dunn Avenue in Daytona Beach. 

When I ask my neighbors to list the most pressing transportation needs facing Volusia County – improving the aesthetics of Clyde Morris Boulevard is rarely mentioned. . .

According to a report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “FDOT proposing big changes to road – Clyde Morris Boulevard could get wider sidewalks, underground tunnel,” we are asked to, “Envision a landscaped median running down the center of the busy thoroughfare that snakes past Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Halifax Health Medical Center.  And imagine a new 100-foot-long pedestrian tunnel 20 feet below the road.”

Trust me.  Denizens of the Fun Coast have a lot of time to daydream and “envision” the future landscape while sitting through multiple light cycles in near-gridlocked traffic on Boomtown Boulevard, Granada Boulevard, Beville Road, and other area thoroughfares as the bulldozers continue to roar, making way for more, more, more development. 

In my view, the fact these improvements are being planned for the “busy thoroughfare” that directly serves the fiefdom of our High Panjandrum of Political Power – Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini – at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is no coincidence. 

Look, it would be gauche of me to suggest a connection, but. . .

According to a press release issued by ERAU last week before we learned about the changes to Clyde Morris Boulevard: 

“Philanthropists Cici and Hyatt Brown have pledged $25 million to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – matching $25 million in support approved by Florida legislators and pending approval by Governor Ron DeSantis – to help the university create a revolutionary new business makerspace focused on high-paying jobs for Floridians.”

“Everyone at Embry-Riddle is deeply grateful for the vision and phenomenal generosity of Cici and Hyatt Brown,” said the university’s Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini, who also serves as chairman and CEO of ICI Homes. “Their selfless investment in our community and the Embry-Riddle mission of education will inspire us for many years to come. The creative ecosystem of Embry-Riddle’s Research Park stimulates transformative ideas, which drive economic progress and generate lucrative career opportunities. The new center, made possible by Cici and Hyatt Brown and the State of Florida, will take Embry-Riddle’s already successful economic development efforts to a whole new level.”

Damn.  I guess that makes it hard for us ungrateful peons to say “No” to a mere $19 million road makeover, eh?

Anyone find it eerily similar to the incredibly expensive and on-going “Beach Street Streetscape” that materialized in the wake of the Brown & Brown headquarters building that many taxpayers and downtown business owners thought was an unnecessary waste of public funds and resources. . . 

Just me?  Okay. . .

Look, my ‘philanthropic’ instincts are limited to throwing pocket change into the red kettle at Christmastime to avoid the judgmental glare of the bell ringer – so I am not here to cast aspersions on J. Hyatt Brown when he pledges $25 million for the new “Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology” at our Harvard of the Sky. 

Seriously, kudos to Mr. and Mrs. Brown for sharing the wealth.

I hate to sound like the churlish asshole I am, but it just seems every “gift” we receive requires some form of public recompense – and that is fine, a small price to pay, I am told.

Regardless, the East ISB overhaul is a great place to start the revitalization of our horribly neglected beachside.   

In my view, it is high time our elected and appointed officials begin the process of developing a comprehensive (retroactive?) growth management plan that prioritizes our most pressing traffic infrastructure needs and salves the real fears of residents who are frightened by the pace of massive sprawl, sticks-and-glue apartment complexes, and cookie cutter commercial development that is being foisted on them by forces they cannot begin to understand or control.

Quote of the Week

“On Jan. 18, the Ormond Beach City Commission approved a contract for preliminary engineering design for construction of a second wastewater treatment plant on the western boundary of our city. The city commission also approved significant water and sewer rate increases for both this year and next year, higher bills that will bring the greatest impact on low income homes.

Public Works Director Shawn Finley acknowledged that 50%-60% of the need for the second sewer plant is driven by the planned Avalon Park development in Daytona Beach, 3,250 homes and 200,000 square feet of commercial space west of I-95, bordering the south side of Granada Boulevard. Ormond Beach has the right but not the obligation to provide water and sewer service at wholesale prices to this massive development.

Previously, the city agreed to annex and provide water and sewer to Plantation Oaks, 1,500 homes to be built on The Loop. Just south, the city will ultimately annex 103 acres for 298 new housing units in RidgeHaven that will not apply principles of Low Impact Development.

Townhomes are under construction at the U.S. 1 entrance to Ormond Lakes while just west future growth in Ormond Crossings will include hundreds of new homes. Meanwhile, the city continues to provide water and sewer service to Flagler County portions of Hunter’s Ridge, with more Flagler residential growth to come. Within the city, a south Florida developer plans to squeeze 318 homes onto the 18 holes of the now-closed Tomoka Oaks golf course.

With each annexation or new development, and during the recent city consideration of extending sewer service to miles of unincorporated county homes on the north peninsula, city commissioners told citizens we had adequate sewer capacity to provide the additional services. These assurances now seem contradicted by the recent approval of plans for a second sewer plant.

Why have our elected officials pursued such aggressive growth policies without a public mandate, public referendum, or campaign promises to do so? Why are we providing water and sewer service to enable the Avalon Park mega-development, after Daytona Beach annexed those acres in direct violation of the service boundary agreement that previously existed between our cities? If Ormond Beach taxpayers are responsible for most of the capital costs for a second sewer plant, are we not funding the problematic growth our citizens do not want or need?”

–Civic Activist and former Ormond Beach City Commissioner Jeff Boyle, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, Letters to the Editor, “We bear the burden of growth,” Tuesday, March 29, 2022

And Another Thing!

Gentle readers, after much consideration and consultation with close friends and family, I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Volusia County Council District 4 seat.  My campaign will be financed in total by the local real estate development community, and just for the practice, I have openly stolen my campaign slogan from friend and perennial New Orleans mayoral candidate Manny Chevrolet:

A Troubled Man for Troubled Times”    

April fool!  (There, that’s the most frightening prank that will be pulled on you all day.)

Regardless, it is time to have “The Conversation.”

For the uninitiated, every election year I receive calls from well-meaning people who ask which (insert elective office here) I plan to run for this year. 

Most are incredibly nice folks – many of whom have recently awakened to our collective political nightmare, enjoy these diatribes, and surmise that my snarky take on the news and newsmakers of the day would make me an effective public policymaker. 

So, for the umpteenth time, here goes:

In an everchanging and uncertain world – the one constant is I will never hold myself out for elective service. . . 


Each qualifying period, a few tattered veterans of the internecine political wars take sick pleasure in annoying this reclusive old sot in a game of “Let’s bother Barker” – but I am truly humbled by those kindly neighbors who are unfamiliar with my pledge and nice enough to feign disappointment when I wave them off. 

I appreciate their horribly misplaced confidence. 

The fact is, the older I get the more particular I am about who I associate with (for instance, give me an honest thief over a politician) – and I abhor the political prostitution that now defines the blood sport our local electoral process has become.

As I have said repeatedly – with three marriages under my belt, a debilitating case of social anxiety, and a hard-earned reputation as a degenerate barfly – I have more skeletons in my closet than a haunted house.

Not to mention, after three-decades of municipal government service, my lips are necrotically chapped from kissing the asses of some less-than-deserving tyrants, scam artists, douchebags, and incomps that wormed their way into some high-level government offices during my tenure. 

Hell, I was one of them. . . 

I also had the pleasure of serving with some exceptional elected and appointed officials through the years, true servant-leaders who embraced the finest traditions of public service, and that sense of possibility they bring to local government keeps me looking on from the cheap seats and hoping for better.

Frankly, the very thought of returning to that godawful bureaucratic fishbowl – even at the top of the food chain – makes my pickled liver quiver. 

No, thanks.

Besides, my hypocrisy knows no bounds, and once I got my snoot firmly wedged in the public trough you would never get rid of me. . .

Trust me.  I know all the magicians and most of their tricks for keeping the public teat patent for a select few – and no one responsible for protecting the integrity of the system seems to give a shit anymore.  That makes an advantageous environment for those who make their living at the nexus of public funds and for-profit interests. 

Like clockwork, each election cycle I am contacted by sitting officials, frustrated citizens who are considering a run for office, and neophyte politicians shoring up their rickety platform, all seeking insight on the myriad issues facing Volusia County. 

I find it odd that these same people rarely ask our opinion when the sausage is being made, so I rarely take them up on their artificial offer of input.     

Through the years I have learned that, once elected, many candidates and incumbents who seek to buddy up during the campaign season go out of their way to suppress public participation as they defend the status quo – slowly “taken into the system” by the trappings of office – transmogrifying into everything they hated when they entered politics.

When political newbies reach out to me for advice I typically demur – more times than not doing my best to talk them out of running like a negotiator trying to urge someone off a bridge.  Besides, if they are this far into the process and still do not have a firm grasp on the needs of, We, The Little People, then I question their true motivations. 

Some candidates have been drafted by various factions, party handlers, or wealthy insiders building a political stable – usually uninspired marionettes selected for their flexibility. 

Others represent true grassroots frustration, their candidacy born of the civic stagnation in forgotten areas of their community, out-of-control sprawl, and the blatant ‘good ol’ boy’ patronage that is destroying our quality of life and skewing the economic playing field.   

Other recognizable names entering the ring are what you see is what you get retread politicians hopscotching through various local elective offices.  

The fact is, many are called, but few survive the nut-cutting hour – and Volusia County politics is not for the faint of heart. 

You may not know it from reading these jeremiads, but I truly admire those with the grit to hold themselves out for public office – even when we vehemently disagree on the issues of the day.

In my view, it takes a special brand of courage to accept the slings and arrows, lay oneself bare to withering scrutiny, speak truth to some immensely powerful forces, and hold firm to your promises in the face of crushing internal and external obstructionism. 

Don’t take my word for it – ask Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower how he has been received by Volusia County’s stodgy Old Guard. . .

So, if you are a declared candidate – or seriously considering a run for elective office in one of the various county, municipal, state, or congressional races this year – I salute you

Your participation in our most sacred democratic tradition is a noble pursuit – important to the future of Volusia County and beyond. 

This election year, I am happy to report that We, The Little People are better informed than ever before – and many are poring over campaign finance reports, watching public meetings, researching voting records, connecting the dots, discussing the issues over the back fence, and winnowing down the true motivations of those running for office or seeking to keep their seat.

On a bright note – I want to extend a hearty Congratulations! to my friend Paul Zimmerman, candidate for Volusia County Council Zone 2, who earned the coveted endorsement of our Sheriff Michael Chitwood this week!

According to Sheriff Chitwood:

“I am proud to endorse Paul Zimmerman for [Volusia] County Council District 2. I’ve known Paul for over 16 years. He’s passionate about Volusia County, he’s passionate about our residents and you can guarantee Paul will work for you the first day he steps into that chamber til the last day… God Bless you Paul … you have my support, we can use you.” – Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood”

Learn more here:  

Folks, this year’s political season is important. 

In fact, the balance of power between an entrenched power structure and the needs of those who, for far too long, have been required to pay the bills and suffer in silence hangs in the balance.

As George Orwell said, “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims…but accomplices.”

And that’s no joke. . . 

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