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 Columnist Mark Lane
Whether we agree on the politics of the day or not, if you are reading this I’ll bet we have one thing in common: Like me, you are a perpetual page turner.
I read everything I get my hands on.
From novels, to newspapers, what remains of magazines in this online age – even the back of the shampoo bottle in a pinch – and when I’m not repeatedly touching a hot stove, reading is how this uneducated rube learns.
I grew up with the Daytona Beach Morning Journal and Evening News, then The Daytona Beach News-Journal when the papers merged in the mid-1980’s. The great columnists of the News-Journal – Bob Desiderio, John “Gonzo” Carter, Kathy Kelly, and Margie Schlageter to name a few – taught me how to read critically and develop a situational awareness of the civic and social issues of the day.
None did it better than the incomparable Mark Lane.
This week, Mr. Lane announced his retirement after 41-years of full-time newspapering.
Fortunately, in his poignant sign-off we learned that Mr. Lane will contribute a weekly column starting in June and continue his interesting local history page in the News-Journal’s Sunday edition.
I do not know Mark personally (we met once, which is to say I introduced myself, and he good-naturedly humored me for a moment) but having enjoyed his thoughts and asides three days each week, I feel like we are friends.
As a dilettante editorialist, I found it interesting to watch a true master of the craft work his magic – how the turn of a phrase could help shine a light on the important and mundane – and his Darwinian Gardner segments balanced Mark’s self-effacing humor with sound information for amateur horticulturists.
While it is wonderful to see anyone reach this well-deserved reward following a successful and satisfying career – as a longtime fan of Mr. Lane’s wit and style – I will miss his observations of our life and times here on Florida’s Fun Coast.
Like everything else, print media is changing. Fast.
In my view, not for the better. . .
As The Daytona Beach News-Journal continues its inexorable slide toward a homogenized and regionalized shadow of its former self, Mr. Lane represented a final connection with what once was my hometown paper – he lived where we live, he enjoyed baseball at The Jack, he was ‘one of us.’
I always respected the fact that Mark Lane held true to the columnist’s charge – to observe and provoke thought – in a well-researched way that challenged the ideas and decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods while fostering a larger discussion of the issues.
And he did it with great balance, fairness, accuracy, and fun.
Kudos on the culmination of an extraordinary and important career, Mr. Lane. Your insight and creativity will be missed by your legions of loyal readers.
Angel Jeep Beach 2022
Another Jeep Beach is in the books!
The festival of all-things-Jeep lived up its stellar reputation as one of the most anticipated – and universally welcomed – special events of the season.
Unlike many “pop-up” invasions and “truck meets” – insanity that can leave area residents trapped in their homes as rowdy (insert motorized conveyance here) enthusiasts turn our streets into a congested dragstrip and our beachside neighborhoods into Party Central during three days/two nights of gridlocked debauchery – Jeep Beach brings thousands of visitors to our area for a great week of fun at various venues throughout the area.
According to a recent report by Jim Abbott writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, since incorporating as a non-profit in 2017, “Jeep Beach has donated over $2.8 million to area charities over the past decade through the event’s annual weeklong fund-raising efforts. Recipients include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia & Flagler Counties; the NASCAR Foundation; the Childhood Cancer Foundation, as well as more than 30 additional nonprofit groups.”
I was also impressed by the annual beach clean-up that coincides with a beautiful parade of custom Jeeps that culminates the week-long event. It is called leaving it better than you found it – the benchmark of a good guest – one our residents will welcome back with open arms.
The festivities are expertly managed by Charlene Greer, Jeep Beach’s executive director, who this year led a team of some three hundred volunteers to produce an event that benefited the Halifax area hospitality industry as well as businesses, shopping venues, and non-profit organizations throughout Volusia County.
Kudos to Ms. Greer and her many wonderful volunteers, sponsors, and partners for setting a shining example of how a well-managed draw – one that works hand-in-glove with city officials and business interests – can elevate our areas reputation as a tourist destination while showcasing the generosity and community spirit of Jeep enthusiasts!
See you next year!
Asshole Volusia County Council
As the bimonthly hootenanny that passes for a meeting of the Volusia County Council got underway this week, a concerned citizen approached the podium with two profound questions for our assembled brain trust:
When will Volusia County address impact fees on new and proposed development in the face of “unsustainable growth”?
Given that Volusia County has been in a “water crisis” for over twenty-years – how does county government plan to supply water as this massive development continues to spread?
As the speaker began to explain the obvious water demands inherent to the “thousands” of new homes and apartments that are sprouting up across the width and breadth of Volusia County – her microphone stopped working – a not unusual embarrassment in the gilded chamber where the tone and quality of the audio/visual component is just shy of Alexander Graham Bell’s harmonic telegraph. . .
After an uncomfortable pause, the resident was handed another rusty soup can with more wax on the string so she could communicate with our stone-faced elected representatives, but at the end of her three-minutes, none of it mattered.
After a silent (and awkward) wait for an explanation, the citizen begged, “Does anyone have an answer for that?”
Of course, they didn’t. . .
After waiting for answers to questions that are on the minds of everyone in Volusia County – our elected dullards sat on the dais of power staring into space like scarecrows stuffed with dry manure – until Chairman Jeff Brower broke the tension by explaining the obvious, “Our policy is we don’t answer questions…” assuring that the citizen’s contact information would be provided to his fellow council members who could “share with her privately” if they are so inclined. . .
Each election cycle, we listen to stuffed-shirt politicians tell us they value our input and participation in the ‘people’s business,’ then, once elected, acquiesce to the stagnant status quo, willingly accepting asinine internal policies that limit public participation and prevent elected officials from addressing the concerns of worried constituents.
Somehow, We, The Little People – from which all political power is derived – have come to accept this exclusion from the process as business as usual.
In this case, their utter disregard was laid bare in striking fashion – and the deafening silence spoke volumes – as a lone citizen bravely stood firm in front of the assembled Monarchy waiting for an answer to her urgent questions regarding the out-of-control growth and resource mismanagement that is rapidly threatening our quality of life.
Unfortunately, our elected officials are far too self-absorbed to understand the optics of the moment – but it was a powerful scene.
I hope you will remember it at the ballot box this year. . .
Then, during the consent agenda, we watched the Council unanimously approve a one-year extension of a contract for a loosely defined “advertising and marketing service” with no list of previous expenditures, prices, budget impact, or associated costs noted in the agenda item.
Oh, Councilman Danny Robins asked a cursory question to get on the record and was assured by Community Information Director Kevin Captain that he can produce an accounting of the funds if needed – just not right then, I guess. . .
Yet, when talked turned to the expenditure of a paltry $240,000 (of the $107.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act manna the county received) to improve domestic violence services – Mr. Robins and others broke out the microscope, sharpened their pencils, and began a molecular dissection of a beneficial program proposed by the Beacon Center that would use just $60,000 each year over the next four-years to fund its Safe at Home project.
According to the funding request, the program would “…monitor perpetrator compliance, review current practices, identify areas of improvement and offer accountability solutions that support survivor safety.”
The Beacon Center is the only certified domestic violence service provider in Volusia County.
With little, if any, guidance from county staff on how to properly format the funding proposal – it was clear the Beacon Center did its level best to address pressing needs with the “piecemeal” direction received from those high-paid bureaucrats who make their living, well, determining how to spend ARPA funds – who apparently couldn’t be bothered to set spending priorities or provide substantial assistance to a service provider.
(Was anyone held accountable internally? Nah. Again, bid’ness as usual in DeLand. . .)
Our election year watchdogs seemed hung-up on a line item for a proposed annual statewide conference to be held in Volusia County which would bring together experts on intimate partner violence to provide training and information sharing with first responders and others on recognizing and addressing pre-incident indicators to domestic homicide.
Important stuff. But not here. . .
Because in the Land of Mediocrity, why would Volusia County take a leadership role on anything, let alone saving the lives of domestic violence victims?
Besides, there’s probably a quilting bee booked for the Ocean Center that weekend. . .
For the record, according to the Beacon Center, Volusia County ranks 10th in the State of Florida for incidents of domestic violence – yet, we have no certified Batterer Accountability Specialists to provide expert testimony or monitor perpetrator compliance.
You read that right.
At the end of a confusing discussion (with Mr. Robins still “drilling down” on the project’s limited budget, whatever in the bureaucratic hell that means?) our elected dullards voted 6-1 (with Councilwoman Post the lone “No” vote) opting to kick the can down the road, issue a two-week notice of funding availability, effectively tabling further discussion of the Safe at Home project until the council reconvenes on June 7.
That way, the limited ARPA funds allocated to domestic violence services can be spread among other providers – diluted to the point of ineffectiveness – while ensuring that each councilmember currently running for re-election can beat their chest and take credit for “doing good” in their district while the lives of at-risk women and children hang in the balance.
You’re right. That is called putting politics over public safety – the worst form of showboating – something those shameless self-promoters indignantly denied when they were rightfully called out by an unbowed Councilwoman Post.
And please don’t give me any of that mewling election year horseshit about “This is the oversight people demanded after we raised their taxes last year, Barker.”
This is political posturing – not stewardship.
In typical fashion, our self-anointed Éminence grise, The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry, took a cheap swipe at Councilwoman Post when she had the courage to call this shoddy political grandstanding what it is when he crowed, “…it’s only political people that think everything is political.”
Jesus. That coming from the most grotesque political animal in this fetid swamp. . .
To be clear, Ms. Post is not running for re-election – while “Dr.” Lowry is currently begging voters to let him to take his unique brand of pompous douchebaggery to the Volusia County School Board.
God help us. . .
If you needed any additional evidence of why voters should not return any sitting incumbent to the Volusia County Council – these glaring examples should put your frayed mind at rest.
They certainly cemented it for me.
Please don’t take my word for it. Watch it all here and form your own conclusions: https://tinyurl.com/yn5nx5pr
Then vote like your quality of life depends upon it.
Quote of the Week
“Our officials are not taking us seriously,” said (Rev. Phil) Egitto, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach. “It is unconscionable that our elected officials are ignoring us.”
–Rev. Phil Egitto, as quoted by reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “FAITH group continues its push for affordable housing in Volusia County,” Wednesday, May 4, 2022
On Tuesday morning, dozens of the faithful representing Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony (FAITH) held a prayer vigil before entering the Volusia County Council chambers to present a petition signed by some 1,200 area residents urging the creation of an affordable housing trust fund.
The initiative hopes to assist the thousands of local families who cannot afford safe housing in an economic environment where the average wage for area renters is just $13.35 per hour while a two-bedroom apartment now commands $1,488 a month.
So, what do our elected officials on the dais of power think about the idea of using $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds as seed money for an affordable housing trust fund?
Where do our representatives fall on the establishment of “linkage fees” – a type of development impact fee assessed on new construction to mitigate the impact of the additional demand for affordable housing – as a means of addressing an issue that has left some 2,465 school children in Volusia County without a stable place to lay their heads?
Well, we just don’t know. . .
In keeping with the Council’s astronomically stupid policy of refusing to acknowledge the physical presence of any serf who takes time off of work and travels to DeLand to participate in their government – our elected elite sat like wooden gargoyles – as Chairman Brower silently handed off the thick stack of petitions to a clerk like the political hot potato they are. . .
In my view, Rev. Phil is right.
It is unconscionable that our elected officials continue to ignore one of the most pressing civic and social issues of our time – while their political benefactors bank millions of dollars slashing and burning our natural places to make way for more, more, more wood-frame cracker boxes “starting in the $300’s.”
And Another Thing!
As an uneducated bumpkin, I understood early the importance of becoming a good impressionist – observing people I hold in high regard and parroting their positives – listening, watching, learning, then embodying those attributes I respect.
For instance, early in my law enforcement career, I admired a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who was always immaculately uniformed – spotless in appearance and grooming, shoes buffed to a high shine, trousers pressed to a razor-sharp crease, his gunleather and brass polished to perfection.
He had “the look” of a consummate professional who radiated a command presence just by his impeccable appearance.
And I learned to write by plagiarizing police reports written by a fellow officer who had previously served as creative director for J. Walter Thompson in New York, one of the most prestigious marketing firms in the world.
Following a mid-life career change, Officer Elliott Anderson took this illiterate fledgling under his wing and taught me the art of technical writing – an invaluable skill that helped me build a solid professional reputation in the criminal justice community – and still serves as a cathartic and creative outlet with this blogsite.
Admittedly, I am no Hemingway – but I can get the point across. With knobs on it. . .
As things heat up on the political front, I have noticed some candidates in county and municipal elections adopting a similar ‘mirroring strategy’ with their campaigns – championing issues that resonated with voters and helped catapult Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower to the catbird seat over a well-financed member of the entrenched Old Guard following a hotly contested race in 2020.
Issues that many obstructionist incumbents refused to acknowledge before now.
Look, most of these candidates are no smarter than you or I. In fact, many are led around like addled oxen with a ring in their nose by their political benefactors and party bosses who tell them which side of any issue to come down on.
But those behind-the-scenes operatives that candidates hire to stage-manage their campaigns and ensure maximum return on groaning war chests – a few already brimming with cash from uber-wealthy insiders who control their environment by trading in malleable politicians like livestock each election year – are incredibly smart strategists who understand the art of telling We, The Little People exactly what they think we want to hear.
For the past year-and-a-half, I have watched some of these same incumbents kneecap Chairman Brower at every turn – belittling his initiatives, questioning his motivations, marginalizing his suggestions and campaign promises, while viciously attacking every parliamentary misstep and rookie mistake – a textbook example of the same political gaslighting used against District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post when she refused to be pounded into the round hole of lockstep conformity.
So, be wary of sudden transformations this election cycle.
With a little information, it is easy to differentiate true grassroots candidates – our friends and neighbors with a fire in the belly to serve our communities with selflessness and honor – from those co-opted perennial politicians, stooges, figureheads, and seat fillers who know intuitively which side their political bread is buttered on – where that butter originated – and why. . .
If you need a playbook, you can learn who is financing who here: https://www.voterfocus.com/CampaignFinance/candidate_pr.php?c=volusia
In Volusia County politics, the devil is always in the details.
For instance, when I read glossy mailers and carefully crafted campaign literature that screams, “I’m for responsible growth!” – I naturally question what they mean by that?
You should too.
Because terms like “responsible growth,” “low-impact development,” and “environmental protection” mean something different to those elected marionettes who continue to rubberstamp malignant growth and density increases at a rate that has far outpaced our ability to accommodate it.
With no end in sight.
Or, does the popular rallying cry “I’m for beach access!” mean the candidate supports removing onerous beach tolls for Volusia County residents and revamping the overpriced mismanagement of our most precious natural resource – or do they want to stop beach driving and spend money purchasing off-beach parking lots west of A-1-A so you and I can schlep our kids and gear across a congested highway while more of the stand is given away as a cheap spiff for beachfront developers?
Recently, several candidates touted the fact they signed a “pledge” supporting something called the “Volusia Wildlife Corridor” – which many believe is yet another “conservation” ruse – one which allows developers to shoehorn even more zero lot line cracker boxes into what remains of our natural places on a promise of leaving a thin contiguous path so displaced wildlife can thread the needle through the sprawl that was once their habitat.
That’s like saying “I like ice cream!”
In my view, that’s not conservation – it is feelgood eyewash wrapped in a hollow promise.
I’ve got an idea: How about candidates and incumbents running for re-election swear an oath to support a moratorium on planned unit developments and zoning changes that increase density until such time actual low-impact development regulations and common-sense environmental protections can be incorporated, impact fees brought to effective levels, the affordable housing crunch addressed, and adequate infrastructure identified, funded, and built to accommodate it?
Don’t hold your breath. . .
In my view, the protection of our quality of life, and the future health and safety of our children and grandchildren, are moral imperatives that require immediate attention – not cheap political posturing that further undermines the integrity of this horribly tainted system – one fueled by massive amounts of money from those with a chip in the game.
Pay attention, folks. Ask questions. Demand hard answers. This one’s important.
That’s all for me. Here’s wishing everyone a great weekend and a Happy Mother’s Day!