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 Daytona Beach Police Department
The fundamentals of crowd management, intervention, and event containment are hard-earned lessons that involve meticulous planning, intelligence analysis, more planning, establishing objectives and expectations, more planning, tasking and deployment, more planning, team communication, more planning, monitoring crowd behavior and dynamics, more planning, decisive command and control, more planning, managing equipment and assets, more planning, coordinating resources, more planning, scheduling rest, water, meals, evacuating casualties, accounting for and supporting deployed personnel, more planning, etc., etc., etc. – all while factoring the myriad considerations of how large groups of people and traffic can safely exit the area should a disturbance ignite, etc., etc., etc.
Did I mention the importance of meticulous contingency planning?
Managing crowds and dynamic events is both an art and science, and when shit hits the fan, it becomes readily apparent who got it right and who got in wrong. . .
In my experience, the New Orleans Police Department is among the best in the world at crowd and event management and in 2019 I watched the London Metropolitan Police Department effectively deal with the disruptive Extinction Rebellion climate protests with great skill and efficiency using dialog with organizers, patience, and calming tactics (augmented with an incredibly well-organized uniformed show of force).
Yet, despite their best planning and intentions, all law enforcement commanders know – when dealing with large groups of people in a confined space – when things go wrong, it happens quickly, and with deadly momentum.
On Memorial Day weekend, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young understood the assignment.
Unfortunately, the curse of law enforcement is that every day, extraordinary acts of individual heroism, selflessness, moral courage, and kindness go unacknowledged – while every negative situation, both real and perceived, is played out in excruciating detail on the frontpage and six-o’clock news.
As the most visible arm of government – a chain of mistakes months, sometimes years in the making – are often perceived as the fault of law enforcement, especially in the era of omnipresent cameras and social media platforms where everyone becomes an instant expert on (insert travesty of the day here).
Last weekend, Halifax area residents were bracing for yet another “invasion event” – this time known as “Orlando Invades Daytona/Litlando 2022.”
In previous years, the Memorial Day weekend event resulted in massive crowds, traffic gridlock, gunfire, fights, and out-of-control crowds, culminating in numerous arrests as the event became another blemish on Daytona Beach’s already pockmarked “hospitality product.”
In fact, last year the crush of people caused police to rightfully close all bridges between the mainland and beachside for several hours resulting in angry complaints from residents and visitors – many of whom vowed never to return.
Last Saturday, the potential for overcrowding and stalled traffic was exacerbated by the hundreds of families attending local high school graduations at Ocean Center on one of the busiest days of the holiday weekend.
In his own confident and composed way, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young led his officers and staff with great professionalism while sending the simple message to visitors, “Don’t start nothing, there won’t be nothing.”
To ensure adequate staffing, Chief Young cancelled days off for his officers and placed barricades along busy sections of A-1-A to keep traffic lanes open and assist with pedestrian safety. The department’s extensive planning and expert coordination with other law enforcement agencies and support services was evident from the beginning.
In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department did an outstanding job of managing a very busy weekend with great skill and have rightfully earned the admiration of a thankful community.
Kudos to Chief Young and his superb officers, command staff, and civilian support personnel for a job well done!
Angel Former Volusia County Councilwoman Vicky Jackson
In the early 1990’s, Vicky Jackson served on the Volusia County Council during a period of incredible progress – and tumult – a time when her commitment to ‘balance’ meant that all interests and viewpoints received consideration in the spirit of compromise and conciliation.
Widely hailed for her incredibly sharp and independent mind, Ms. Jackson championed diverse causes and innovative solutions – such as her proposal for a countywide water authority to find comprehensive answers to future threats to our water quality and quantity (fears which have now come home to roost) always ensuring that all sides of the growth management equation were heard.
In an October 1990 endorsement by the Orlando Sentinel, Ms. Jackson said: “The builders and developers can claim me just as the environmentalists can.”
As a concerned and involved citizen, in later years Ms. Jackson was an avid reader of Barker’s View and I will miss her astute observations and encouragement whenever she texted me with her insightful thoughts on the issues of the day.
Sadly, the intrepid Vicky Jackson passed away this week – an immeasurable loss to her family, friends, former colleagues, and constituents.
The steadiness and poise in public service that she represented will be sorely missed.
Asshole “Partisan Political Operatives”
I happen to believe that Florida has become the biggest whorehouse in the world.
Your views may differ – that’s cool – and I remember those halcyon days when I lived in a world of blissful naivety, one with cotton candy clouds and big rock candy mountains, where those who ran for elective office were the local butcher, baker, and candlestick maker whose only motive was to serve their community and improve their neighbors quality of life. . .
From experience, I now look at everything coming out of Tallahassee (and DeLand) through a greasy lens of suspicion.
For instance, when I read about water quality projects, my internal voice naturally drifts to the dark side, “Are these really resource protection measures – or just carefully camouflaged, state funded capacity building projects to accommodate more development in our sensitive watershed?”
I suppose that pathological distrust comes from the same atavistic instinct that has Volusia County residents asking, “qui bono” each time local government (and its facilitators at the CEO Business Alliance) beg for a sales tax increase to improve our horribly neglected transportation infrastructure – all while the bloated, do-nothing bureaucracy in DeLand continues to grub for more, more, more tax hikes and fees like a parasitic insect slowly exsanguinating its host.
When we question “Why?” our craven elected elite look down their noses and tell us – “Because you asked for it, asshole” – punishing us rubes (read: taxpayers) for having the temerity to fund a means of preserving sensitive lands and saving what is left of our environment, culture, and history.
Some well-meaning people remind me, “Hey, Barker, it’s a political problem that requires a political solution,” conveniently forgetting that our upside-down campaign finance scheme all but guarantees the stagnant status quo by allowing uber-wealthy insiders to shove massive contributions into the swollen campaign war chests of hand select marionettes who always seem of a like-mind when it comes time to vote on the issues important to their title-holder’s bottom line. . .
Trust me. It is worse in state and federal elections where the return on investment is exponentially more lucrative for those with a chip in the game.
In my view, this week’s arrest of a “ghost” and two political operatives – to include the chair of the Seminole County Republican Party – who were allegedly involved in a ‘shill candidate‘ scheme proves that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Public Corruption Unit should be working in shifts.
Now, before you get your knickers in a wad and paint this as a partisan hit piece – it isn’t.
I am a true and registered NPA – No Party Affiliate – of the mind that neither Republicans or Democrats have the best interests of our state or nation at heart; instead paying partisan fealty to the divisive and extremist views of incredibly wealthy shadow warriors who force us into a horrific Hobson’s choice each election cycle.
Last week, FDLE agents arrested the three on campaign-finance violations following an investigation into the activities of Jestine Iannotti, a clueless (and cashless) foil who willingly ran as an NPA candidate in name only, backed and financed by “partisan political operatives” in the state Senate District 9 race in 2020.
In a prepared statement, State Attorney Phil Archer of the 18th Judicial Circuit said:
“Some NPA (no party affiliation) candidates, commonly referred to as ‘ghost’ candidates, have been used by political parties as a way to close elections or siphon off votes. While not illegal per se, many have questioned the ethics of the practice. However, when that candidate and the partisan political operatives involved violate election finance laws by illegally funding those races and filing false reports, it is the responsibility of government to act. Today’s actions represent our commitment to ensuring the integrity of Florida’s election process and holding those who violate state campaign laws accountable.”
I am not going to rehash the FDLE investigation – and some questions remain – but suffice it to say, the findings waft a whiff of the shit over some powerful sitting state officials, “political action committees,” and several shady “operatives” who manipulate the financial rods and strings of Florida political campaigns.
Don’t think questionable tactics are used locally? Think again.
Anyone remember Volusia Citizens for Good Government?
That strange political action committee linked to Eric “The Prince of Darkness” Robinson that was used against Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower in 2020?
For the uninitiated, Mr. Robinson is a Venice, Florida-based accountant and political operative who likes to call himself “The Prince of Darkness” for his role as the ‘money man’ behind scores of Florida political campaigns.
In 2017, Sarasota Magazine said of Mr. Robinson, “Several of those campaigns tarred opponents in mailers with false accusations and hid the names of donors, often land developers and other wealthy businessmen, behind patriotic-sounding, made-up groups such as “Stand for Veterans” and “Working Together for Florida.”
Ah, the infamous “glossy mailer” – with the candidate, his/her spouse, and their 2.3 children and rented dog, all comfortably barefoot (because they are just like you), clad in white shirts and blue jeans, sitting arm-in-arm on some idyllic beach – those two-sided postcards chock full of dubious accomplishments and horseshit allegations that are now de rigueur for any competitive campaign.
Watch for those turds to begin filling up your mailbox anytime now – all perfectly legal in today’s no-holds-barred political arena – but, trust me, you are going to want to wash your hands after touching them. . .
It is scumbags like those behind these ‘shill candidate’ scams – those quisling backstabbers, misleading rumor mongers, political pimps, poseurs, and shakedown artists – who are destroying the public’s trust in our most sacred democratic institution.
In my view, once exposed, these dirty tricksters should all be locked in the jougs and given the bastinado treatment in some dark hole at the Florida State Prison at Raiford as an example to the many others who haven’t been ferreted out. Yet.
Unfortunately, we now live in an era where these filthy tactics are expected – and any campaign who doesn’t stoop to them are quickly bested by those who do.
In my view, this electoral shim-sham exemplifies the importance of becoming an “informed voter” – doing the research, reviewing campaign finance reports, asking the tough questions, determining debts and loyalties, always calling ‘bullshit’ when you see it – then weighing if a candidate’s promises, deportment, and focus on the issues (or voting record as an incumbent) comport with what you see with your own eyes.
Unfortunately, sorting the wheat from the chaff is increasingly difficult in this weird place and time when nothing is as it seems. . .
Kudos to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Public Corruption Unit for having the courage to follow the evidence, expose this filth to the cleansing light of day, and bring those responsible for maliciously manipulating our democratic system to justice.
It’s a good start.
Now, it is time for those guys and gals to get back to work. They have a long way to go before they rest. . .
Quote of the Week
“What goes up is still going up, as Volusia County real estate values and tax roll set new records.
The county Property Appraiser’s Office has just released the 2022 pre-preliminary tax roll, and the figures show double-digit growth in the market values of property in the county.
“It’s hot all over,” Property Appraiser Larry Bartlett told The Beacon, regarding the scramble to buy and hold onto a piece of the county.
Within the past year, the overall worth of all property — land, homes, commercial, industrial, institutional and tax-exempt — increased to $81.6 billion — a whopping 18.8 percent higher than the 2021 high of $68.6 billion.
Of that grand total, $48.3 billion is taxable by the county, cities, state agencies such as the School Board, and special jurisdictions such as hospital districts. The county’s 2022 tax roll is 13.1 percent larger, up from $42.7 billion last year.”
–Al Iverson, writing in the West Volusia Beacon, “Volusia County property values, tax roll set new records,” Wednesday, May 25, 2022
“Volusia County has one of the highest median property taxes in the United States and is ranked 630th of the 3143 counties in order of median property taxes. The average yearly property tax paid by Volusia County residents ($1,713.00) amounts to about 3.35% of their yearly income. Volusia County is ranked 433rd of the 3143 counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.” (According to www.tax-rates.org )
And Another Thing!
Something that distracts: an object that directs one’s attention away from something else. “One created a distraction while the other grabbed the money.” That which amuses, entertains, or diverts; amusement; entertainment: division or disorder caused by dissension; tumult.
Interesting. . .
A classic tale of political treachery involves a disturbing strategy often attributed to Lyndon B. Johnson:
As the story goes, during a heated campaign a Texas politician tells his campaign manager to spread a rumor regarding his opponent’s fondness for having carnal knowledge of his barnyard pigs.
“My God! We can’t do that! It isn’t true!” the campaign manager protests.
‘I know it’s not true, but let’s make the sonofabitch deny it!” the candidate says. . .
Most smart politicians understand the slaughterhouse politics inherent to Volusia County, and like any good chess player, candidates must strategize at least three moves ahead rather than paint themselves in a corner.
Others? Not so much.
Those rubes take the bait every time – caving to the wants and whims of insiders and those on the periphery of politics who they think can help further their ambitions – or indulge themselves in theatrically overreacting to every perceived slight.
Last week, I caught some serious back-channel heat for venting my spleen about the unfortunate (and on-going) commotion surrounding the Volusia Teenage Republican Club’s failure to invite At-Large Volusia County Council candidate Sherrise Boyd to a “debate” at DeLand City Hall last month.
Although one politically astute reader seemed duly impressed that I found a way to publicly spank each of the candidates involved in the dust-up – to include that hyper-sensitive phony Jake Johansson – a declared candidate for the At-Large seat who sparked the whole mess when he got the vapors and cried foul after the fact.
For those new to these screeds, finding fault with others while ignoring my own shortcomings is my only superpower. . .
At the risk of belaboring this goofy tempest in a teapot, the Volusia Teenage Republican Club is heavily stacked with County Council Chair Jeff Brower’s family members – with his wife serving in an advisory role while his son chair’s the executive board – giving the unmistakable impression that the club is being used as a dull tool to support those candidates Mr. Brower has endorsed.
Naturally, that makes the club a prime target for those Chairman Brower doesn’t support. . .
Whether true or not – the perception is inescapable – and those who are paid to effectively manage political campaigns are smart enough to exploit that.
Again, I don’t want to perpetuate this silly bruhaha – but I stand by my original jaded opinion of this shitshow – and the issues, strategy, and players involved.
Nobody “won” – and any candidate who thinks they did is delusional.
Trust me. Things are just beginning to heat up this campaign season, and if history is any predictor, these “distractions” are about to get far nastier than a schoolyard spit-spat with a group of partisan adolescents stung by hardball politics. . .
In my view, the “win at all costs” carnage we are about to witness is the backwash of an age-old Fun Coast Faustian bargain – where mediocre candidates for high office sell their political souls in the name of crony capitalism and the consolidation of power.
That has absolutely nothing to do with representing the interests of the citizens of Volusia County and everything to do with influential insiders and their corporate entities looking to secure a political return from their malleable handmaidens.
And the stakes are high.
I encourage you to stay focused on the issues – ignore the distractions – and demand that political candidates do the same.
The result of this repeated sleight-of-hand is a slow erosion of the public’s trust in the legitimacy of the political process – diversions that only benefit those few with a chip in the game.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!