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.
“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.
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: http://www.faithvolusia.org/housing.html
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.
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLnQCIwe5Ic
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!