When it comes to Volusia County politics – those with the wherewithal to finance the campaigns of hand-select “establishment” backed candidates try hard to convince us there is only one viable option.
Unfortunately, others in the race try their damnedest to cement that notion with their complete lack of creativity and independence – the traditional selling point for most successful grassroots candidates.
This often leaves Volusia County voters with a weird Sophie’s Choice where no outcome is preferable over the others.
For those seeking substantive change, you can either laugh at the futility of it all – or throw yourself in the floor and cry. . .
So, I always chuckle when small-minded politicians are asked to describe their strategy for solving difficult issues – then suddenly get that ‘deer in the headlights look’ and revert to the “I don’t think government should be involved in (insert intractable social/civic problem here) – I’m for small government,” dodge.
These are usually the same dullards who address citizen concerns of overdevelopment with flippant answers like, “If you ain’t growin,’ you’re dying!” – which does not hold true in the case of malignant cancer or its civic equivalent – when growth has far outpaced the capacity of existing infrastructure and nature’s ability to produce clean water.
More times than not, it is these same “small government” ideological hypocrites who have no problem showering corporate welfare and government funded “economic incentives” on their political benefactors – using our tax dollars to pick winners and losers on a skewed playing field – where influential insiders get fat while your small business is left to fight for its survival in an artificial economy.
And it is these same compromised marionettes who blather about less government intrusion while raising taxes to feed a bloated bureaucracy that now commands an annual budget of $1.1 billion. . .
Small government? My ass.
On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on a recent “debate” featuring Volusia County Council At-Large candidates and hosted by the well-heeled Tiger Bay Club.
Participants included Doug Pettit, Sherisse Boyd, Andy Kelly, and Jake Johansson.
According to reports, discussion topics included housing, roads, and water, which are all ancillary byproducts of the seminal issue of our time – growth management (or, in the case of Volusia County, the lack thereof).
Look, this is all just one man’s jaded opinion, but some interesting tidbits were contained in Eileen Zaffiro-Kean’s News-Journal exposé which clearly differentiated the grassroots candidates from the “establishments” latest dull implement.
And this is why Mr. Johansson stood out to me:
“Johansson has the backing of the current at-large councilman, former Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson, who decided not to seek re-election to the Council. He also has donations from some of the power players in Volusia County: Hyatt and Cici Brown; Charlie Lydecker and his Foundation Risk Partners insurance firm; two NASCAR-affiliated businesses; and the political committee controlled by state Rep. Tom Leek.
Johansson has amassed the most campaign contributions of the four candidates, with $77,700 raised so far. Doug Pettit and Andy Kelly each have about $20,000 in their campaign war chests, and Boyd has $2,280.”
Wow. That’s some heavy-hitters, folks. . .
Anyone else see the pernicious influence of uber-wealthy insiders and their various corporate entities dumping vast sums of money into the campaign account of their “preferred” candidate – the perfectly legal age-old practice that grants an almost insurmountable advertising advantage over grassroots candidates seeking substantive change?
Fortunately, the long-suffering denizens of the Fun Coast have come to the realization that votes beat money – as evidenced by Chairman Jeff Brower’s decisive win over his well-financed/connected opponent in 2020.
Following a clearly pre-approve playbook, Mr. Johansson said he wants “to bring a collaborative culture to the County Council,” leveraging the work Volusia’s stodgy Old Guard have done to prepare the battlefield against those candidates who support Chairman Brower’s initiatives – painting Brower as an ineffectual outsider whose campaign promises have been maligned and suppressed with consistent 5-2 votes.
In my view, a “collaborative culture” is Mr. Johansson’s way of letting us know he plans to perpetuate the paralytic lockstep conformity that ensures the status quo by going along and getting along. . .
When asked about his financial leadership, Johansson showed the exact opposite when he responded, “I can come up with a lean budget. I can get you to rollback (on property taxes) if you tell me what you want to cut.”
Hell, anyone can do what their told. That is part of the problem.
Apparently, Mr. Johansson forgot that he is seeking a policymaking role where the tough calls are made – well outside his comfort zone as a politically unaccountable city manager who simply follows directions.
The other pressing issue that went unaddressed at the Tiger Bay “debate” was how candidates plan to address the lack of affordable housing – a consequence of current hyperinflated rent and housing prices – which has left thousands of Volusia County families fearing homelessness in an environment where recent studies show some 45% of working households struggle to afford housing, food, and healthcare.
In my view, wasting “economic development” resources luring low-paying jobs to a place with historically low salaries – then failing to ensure a diversity of housing options to accommodate those taking the $15 an hour warehouse scutwork and service jobs available to working families – is just another shining example of Volusia County’s piss-poor growth management planning.
In the view of many, doing nothing is no longer an option – but that seems to be the prevailing sentiment – and not just when it comes to addressing affordable housing. . .
Look, I’m not singling out Mr. Johansson here – I don’t see a lot of substance coming from the other at-large candidates either. Each of these candidates are smart, accomplished people who bring a wealth of personal and professional experience to the table – so why are they trying so hard to avoid specifics?
For instance, speaking in sound bites (because that is what keeps candidates out of trouble), the News-Journal reported:
“Growth is not paying for itself,” Pettit said. “We need to do things to get growth under control.”
“Kelly said if growth isn’t controlled Volusia County will become a metropolitan area without sufficient roads.”
How? Because that horse is already out of the barn, over the hill, and stuck in traffic on Granada Boulevard. . .
“I would love to see us not spend more money on roads,” she (Ms. Boyd) said.”
What? Our ‘powers that be’ aren’t spending money on roads now, Ms. Boyd – in fact, Volusia County doesn’t seem to have any transportation infrastructure plan at all.
Have you traveled Williamson, Clyde Morris, ISB, Beville Road, LPGA, etc., etc., etc. lately?
Because its only getting worse.
But with over $77,000 in Mr. Johansson’s “war chest” even before the end of the qualifying period – We, The Little People (and his wealthy political benefactors, for that matter) should expect more specificity from Mr. Johansson than tired political tropes and “not my yob” evasion on the critical issues of growth, water, housing, and transportation.
Like the biblical phrase taught, “to whom much is given, much is required” – and Mr. Johansson has been given a lot. . .
Now, the informed voters of Volusia County demand answers.
With the August primary quickly approaching, it is time for candidates in all races to stop hedging and start answering the tough questions – demonstrate their independence, acumen, and creativity – and explain to voters their unique solutions to the serious issues facing Volusia County residents.
In my view, voters deserve better than the limited option of more rubberstamped growth and keeping the public teat patent for all the right last names – or giving Chairman Brower a malleable majority for his less than well-defined strategies.