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.
Angels & Assholes is on hiatus this week – a short ‘pause for the cause’ – before the political silly season heats up in earnest. Sometimes it’s fun to take a look back with the clarity of 20-20 hindsight and see what has changed, and what remains the same, as we (hopefully) learn from history so we aren’t doomed to repeat it. (Yeah, right. . .)
This Angels & Assholes appeared one year ago – June 25, 2021.
I am still unemployed – whiling away the hours sipping Gin and cogitating on what passes for the news and newsmakers here on Florida’s Fun Coast. Then jotting my often confused thoughts down hoping to stimulate a larger discussion of the issues we collectively face.
And, I still miss my former profession and those brave and wonderful souls I had the privilege of serving with. . .that hasn’t changed, and I have resigned myself to the fact it never will.
In Deltona, John Peters is still the “Interim” City Manager.
The Volusia County Council is still practicing its official policy of refusing to listen to the needs and concerns of constituents, Ken Strickland is now a sitting City Commissioner in the City of Daytona Beach, and County Councilman The Very Rev. “Dr.” Fred Lowry is a declared candidate for the Volusia County School Board.
Finally, our debt for the courageous service and ultimate sacrifice of 26-year old Daytona Beach Police Officer Jason Raynor can never be repaid. Never forget.
Angel City of Holly Hill
Theologians can point to my life as evidence of divine intervention – the empirical proof of God’s mercy and direct intercession in the lives of sinners, drunks, and fools – which makes me triple-sanctified. . .
Do you have a better explanation?
The fact is, my life has been blessed in innumerable ways, thanks to my fortunate association with “The City with a Heart.”
On March 28, 1983, I walked through the doors of the Holly Hill Police Department for the first time to take the Oath of Office from then Chief John P. Finn – a lifelong mentor and friend who somehow saw faint promise in a 22-year-old kid with little life experience and no educational accomplishments beyond a high school diploma.
Some 38-years later – my tangible connection to this wonderful community will come to a quiet end today.
Following my retirement as Chief of Police in 2014, Chief Stephen Aldrich graciously allowed me to remain with the department in a part-time reserve status, which kept my Florida law enforcement certification active, provided a much-needed psychological buffer to losing my professional identity, and an opportunity to put my emergency management training and experience to use during severe weather events and other occasions when an extra set of hands proved helpful.
In turn, I served when and where I could – well compensated by the sheer pleasure of working shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters in blue – a way of giving back to the citizens who have given me so much, a life I could never have imagined all those years ago when I was given the opportunity to do what I loved with a remarkable group of talented and dedicated people, providing an important service to a community who genuinely appreciated the effort.
I can say this now: I would have paid them for the privilege.
Like any career, or life worth living, it was not without its humps and bumps, but I was fortunate to work for leaders with the courage to allow me to make mistakes and learn from them – a humbling exercise that taught me taking responsibility for personal and organizational shortcomings is not always fatal – that people can forgive what they see themselves doing – and that honesty alone builds trust.
I was gifted the opportunity to work in that magnificent coquina building on Ridgewood Avenue – a place that became a sanctuary from the storms of life, a refuge where I felt the love and respect of friends and colleagues – a mighty structure that next year will have anchored the municipal government for 80-years.
Most important, I was given the chance to serve with some extraordinary people who would later become family – devoted public servants who taught me the enduring strength of friendships forged in fire – and the deep satisfaction that comes from dedicating one’s life to cause greater than our own self-interests.
Two-weeks ago, I submitted my resignation from part-time status with the Holly Hill Police Department effective today.
Seven-years into retirement – it was time.
After all, at some point, “old has-beens” like me take up too much space in the modern world of law enforcement – time waits for no one – and all good things eventually come an end.
I recently completed firearms qualification leading to the issuance of a credential which authorizes retired police officers to carry the lifesaving tool of their trade under HR 218, known as the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act.
The identification number on my randomly issued card was 00008.
No doubt sensing my sadness and trepidation in severing formal ties with the department I have loved so well, for so long, a young police sergeant who I have watched grow into a gifted leader reminded me of the biblical significance of the number 8 – a symbol of “New beginnings.”
Wow. Heaven sent?
To the outstanding elected and appointed leadership, the incomparable City Manager Joe Forte, Chief Aldrich and his remarkable staff, my former colleagues in Volusia County law enforcement, and the wonderful citizens of Holly Hill – Thank You!
What a fantastic ride. . .
My hope is that I have at least one more great adventure, one exciting “new beginning,” left in me before I take up the rocking chair in earnest – but no matter what life has in store – nothing will compare with the greatest privilege of my life in service to that beautiful community.
Heaven sent, indeed.
Asshole City of Deltona
Respect and communication is a two-way street.
Earlier this month, during an emotionally charged melodramatic performance worthy of an Academy Award, Deltona’s Interim City Manager John Peters III, cemented his role with public accusations that several elected officials insinuated themselves into the day-to-day operations of city government.
These were serious allegations that constituted violations of the city charter and most certainly had a chilling effect on any elected official seeking to keep an eye on the inner sanctum at City Hall.
To drive the point home in the newspaper, he threatened to take his football and go home.
Given that the City of Deltona has now had three chief executives in less than a year-and-a-half, perhaps an extra set of eyes was warranted – someone elected by the taxpayers to ensure that things did not go off the rails as they had under the tumultuous reign of the tyrannical Jane Shang.
While Mr. Peters commands the respect of many in the community, I felt his very public threat to resign and return to the relative comfort of his role as Deltona’s Director of Public Works could be perceived as a cheap powerplay – one designed to virtually eliminate external oversight and neuter the people’s representatives – in a place that desperately needs strong checks and balances.
Earlier this week, in an informative article by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Wild West Volusia correspondent Katie Kustura, we learned that Circuit Judge Randell H. Rowe III was giving serious consideration to finding the City of Deltona in contempt of court for its failure to live up to the terms of an April settlement agreement with a resident whose home was flooded with raw sewage in 2018, after the city’s wastewater system was found “to be in a state of continued disrepair.”
According to reports, on April 19, the city entered an agreement with the homeowner for approximately $250,000 – which assistant city attorney B. Scott George said he would “strongly advise the commission to approve” at a meeting later that month.
Ultimately, the matter did not appear on the commission agenda until Monday. . .
According to an order filed June 9, Judge Rowe said “…the city has shown “willful disregard” and “gross indifference” to the court’s orders as this was the third issuance of a show-cause order in the case.”
Further, “Rowe wrote that the goings-on with the case led him to believe that, prior to his most recent order, the “mayor and commissioners may not have been told about this settlement agreement.”
Commissioners Dana McCool and David Sosa – two of the elected officials publicly gibbeted by Peters – ran on a personal commitment to champion the interests of long-neglected residents.
Now, both watchdogs are walking on eggshells, even as the City of Deltona is under threat of criminal sanctions handed down by a righteously pissed off Judge Rowe.
In my view, the fact Sosa, McCool, and their colleagues were not made aware of the terms of the agreement until Peters sent them a belated email on the matter speaks volumes to the continuing pact of secrecy amongst the upper echelon at City Hall.
At the end of the day, Mr. Peters was left uncomfortably staring at his shoes when the hard questions were asked – while City Attorney Marsha Segal-George tap-danced around the issue of who dropped the ball and when with a weird “not my job” argument, yammering about insurance companies and blaming Deltona’s notorious personnel turnover – all while the elected officials looked on like a befuddled troupe of out-of-the-loop bumpkins.
In my experience, one ignores a court order at their own peril – and I am not sure the good citizens of Deltona received a clear explanation as to how their hapless ‘powers that be’ got into hot water with Judge Rowe.
At the end of the day, the elected officials voted unanimously to approve the settlement agreement.
In the meantime, Peters is now trying to get his staff off their ass to develop a game plan for fixing the decades old engineering problems that have led to a citizen’s home being inundated with a virtual tsunami of human waste – multiple times – without previous mitigation.
According to the perpetually perplexed Mayor Heidi Herzberg, “It’s a new day.”
Or just another variation on the same tired theme that has left the largest city in Volusia County in this seemingly endless and utterly dysfunctional quagmire.
Asshole Volusia County Council
Once again, our ‘powers that be’ heard your fervent pleas on an important issue of public concern and opted to do what they do best:
Absolutely nothing. . .
After getting everyone’s hopes up by directing county staff to research and present various options that would expand where dogs are permitted on Volusia County beaches – then mechanically “listening” to residents who took time away from their lives to present their views on both sides of the issue – the entire expensive exercise became a horrible waste of everyone’s time when At-Large Councilman Ben Johnson moved to maintain the status quo – a parliamentary action that was instinctively seconded by his dutiful mentee Councilman Danny Robins.
As has become the fashion, the idea went down in flames on a 5-1 vote with Chairman Jeff Brower, once again, in the minority (it would have been 6-1, but Council member Dr. Fred Lowry left the building to nurse a sore knee).
Unfortunately, Chairman Brower’s common-sense suggestion to allow leashed and permitted dogs in a small section of beach convenient to Halifax area residents (University Boulevard to Zelda Boulevard) on a limited trial basis – rather than maintaining the onerous requirement that District 4 taxpayers and beyond drive their pets to either Smyrna Dunes Park or Lighthouse Point Park – north and south of Ponce Inlet – was pooh-poohed (pun intended) by our elected officials in favor of sitting on their thumbs.
Because your elected officials do not trust you to clean-up after your dog.
Remember those glad-handing political hacks who asked for your trust and begged for your sacred vote during their last election?
Well, they are firmly convinced that responsible dog owners should be punished for the sins of those irresponsible few who leave steaming piles of dogshit in the sand – rather than the other way around.
Because trying something – anything – new, fun, or marginally innovative to accommodate the needs of beachgoers and pet owners is considered verboten in a place where lockstep conformity is valued over anything remotely inventive or original.
Because here on the Fun Coast, the tail wags the dog (another weak pun intended) – and public policy decisions regarding beach management and access issues will always be based upon the amount of “extra work” it requires from our exalted executives, beach management poohbahs, paid pooper scoopers, beach specialists, environmental gurus, turtle whisperers, waste managers, toll takers, etc., etc., more, more, ad infinitum – a massive and obstinate bureaucracy where the word “NO” has become the operative, and immediate, response.
Because creative adaptation to changing needs is no longer considered a virtue on the Volusia County Council.
Look, no one asked that roving packs of wild curs be given unfettered access to all 47 miles of Volusia County beaches – just a reasonable accommodation for the 99.999% of residents living north of Ponce Inlet who want a convenient dog friendly section of beach.
Get used to it, rubes. We’re screwed.
And our little dogs, too. . .
Pay your taxes and shut your pie hole, John Q. – No one in a position of power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center gives two-shits what you think.
My hope is you will remember this latest insult at the ballot box next year.
I damn sure will.
Angel Daytona Beach Police Department
On Wednesday evening, 26-year-old Daytona Beach police officer Jason Raynor was gravely wounded during an encounter with a cowardly piece of human waste while investigating a suspicious incident on Kingston Avenue.
This horrific incident serves as a reminder that while we go about our daily lives and sleep comfortably at night – brave men and women stand a thin line between peace and chaos, defending justice and the rule of law against civil and social anarchy – protecting us from the ever-present evil in the world and the predatory criminals who prey upon the weak and vulnerable.
Unfortunately, the sacrifices of these brave souls often become an afterthought, or worse, our law enforcement officers are forced into the role of societal scapegoat – a punching bag to absorb the anger and frustration that result from our collective civic, moral, and cultural failures – villainized by fringe elements whose perverse cries of “defund the police” have been brought into the mainstream by pandering politicians and cowardly bureaucrats who kowtow to radical activists and charlatans – blunting the tip of the spear in an effort to appease craven opportunists who seek to divide us.
A topsy-turvy Twilight Zone where everything our officers do from the mundane to the extraordinary – including instantaneous life-and-death decisions – are recorded by jeering mobs, then painstakingly analyzed by an out-of-touch media and mercenary lawyers, picked apart frame-by-frame, with every perceived misstep used to further the current sport of destroying the lives and careers of those we have asked to do the unthinkable in our defense.
As a result, many law enforcement officers rightfully feel abused and abandoned by those they have sworn an oath to serve and protect – and the gulf between us and those we ask to go into harms way grows wider – all while highly trained and experienced officers continue to flee the police service in droves.
Who could blame them?
In my view, this exodus from my beloved profession will continue so long as the protected find it fashionable to beat and muzzle the sheepdog, even as the flock sleeps safe and sound under the cloak of protection these heroes provide at such great personal and professional risk.
Am I venting? You bet your sweet ass I am – and anyone who is not moved to rage by this violent attack on one of the best our community has to offer should remember this young man took a bullet to the head while defending you and your family from a similar fate.
As a career law enforcement officer, it was heartening to see hundreds of my brothers and sisters from throughout the region descend on Daytona Beach to assist in the search for the suspect – acting in the finest traditions of the service – demonstrating the strength, amity, and camaraderie inherent to those who are called to this special profession.
Please join me and my family in prayer for this dedicated public servant, someone who so willingly risked his own life to protect ours – and for the safety of all law enforcement officers, who, time-and-again, selflessly face the forces of evil to safeguard all that we hold dear.
Quote of the Week
“The promotion and management of our tourism and our events has been in the hands of bed tax funded entities for far too long. As a tourist destination Daytona Beach must take control of marketing itself. Create a tourism and events Department. Hire professional tourism marketers that will implement 21st century techniques and away from the same old tired 20th century ways of “we have always done it this way.”
The Speedway, the promoter, our elected officials, and our paid bureaucrats failed miserably with managing the truck event. Leaving it up to the DBPD to manage and control the attendees. Our DBPD are law enforcement that are here to protect and serve our residents not events Manager’s.
The Speedway and the promoter made money, while residents paid $175,000 in overtime for policing of the event as police officers had vacation time canceled. This doesn’t include the inconvenience to Daytona Beach residents. We control our own destiny Daytona. Demand better.”
–Ken Strickland, civic activist, and former Daytona Beach mayoral candidate, in response to the Barker’s View op/ed “Daytona Beach: If Not Now, When?” writing on Facebook’s “East/West Volusia Forum,” Monday, June 21, 2021
And Another Thing!
It is said that to experience the human emotion of shame, one must first have standards.
On Tuesday, during the latest preposterous production of that théâtre de l’absurde known as the Volusia County Council, several important civic and religious leaders made a very convincing case for the resignation of our self-anointed éminence grise, District 5 Council member The Very Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry.
Of course, Crazy Fred just sat at his perch on the dais, lost defiantly in his own bizarre thoughts, slowly shifting a lozenge around in his mouth, totally unfazed by the storm of criticism raging in the gallery – clearly refusing to give those ungrateful bastards he represents the satisfaction.
Following a now infamous sermon at his Deltona church in May, Dr. Lowry was appropriately taken to task by the Orland Sentinel for his macabre thoughts on Hollywood’s alleged connection to satanic rituals involving the exsanguination of children to produce a hallucinogenic youth serum, the outright denial of the Coronavirus pandemic, and other uber-weird and hyper-political conspiracy theories taken literally from the lunatic fringe.
Look, as a blowhard blogger I understand better than most the importance of our First Amendment protections ensuring free speech – the inalienable right to form individual opinions, no matter how outlandish or repellant – and publicly express our thoughts on the issues of the day.
It is the foundational principle of our democratic system.
However, I also believe those who are elected to represent the interests of all residents of Volusia County, have an obligation to speak the truth, to hold themselves accountable – a responsibility to instill public confidence in both the process and their important role in it – and have the decency to step aside when they lose the sacred trust of their constituents.
Much of the ruckus over Dr. Lowry’s odd proselytizing has dissolved into typical partisan opportunism, with area democrats exploiting a clear political misstep, while stodgy republican operatives continue to defend their weakest link and remain sore over the fact their Darling of the Donor Class was soundly trounced by a plebian like Chairman Jeff Brower in the last election.
Clearly, many residents on all sides of the political spectrum remain concerned that these deranged beliefs – when voiced by a sitting member of the Volusia County Council who places the respected title “Doctor” before his name – have compromised his ability to effectively represent the broad and varied interests of residents and visitors.
At best, it was a damnable embarrassment.
Unfortunately, when it came time to protect the institution – to step down from the dais of power and return to the sanctity of his ambo at the Deltona Lakes Baptist Church, a place where he is free to preach anything his conscience, and congregation, will permit – he refused to do the honorable thing.
In a terse email to The Daytona Beach News-Journal following the contentious meeting, Dr. Lowry smugly responded to his critics: “I will not be resigning. That is all.”
Did anyone expect anything different?
In my view, Fred Lowry may well be meshuga – but he isn’t going anywhere – not unless and until the voters have their fill of this pompous ass.
As a Stalwart of the Status Quo and senior presiding member of Volusia County’s “Old Guard,” Dr. Lowry continues to play an important role – defending the crumbling ramparts of this dysfunctional citadel that shelters the forces of mediocrity in DeLand – a dull tool of those influential interests who seek to marginalize Chairman Brower and torpedo his vision of addressing the needs and wants of average taxpayers, not just the whims of the self-serving few with a chip in the game.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!
Thanks for taking a look back. Angels & Assholes will return for your listening and dancing pleasure next Friday.