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 News-Journal Executive Editor John Dunbar
I want to be among the first to welcome John Dunbar to Florida’s fabled Fun Coast!
Last week, we learned that Mr. Dunbar was named the new executive editor of The Daytona Beach News-Journal and the St. Augustine Record. He brings more than 25-years’ experience in various newsrooms with a “…focus on investigative journalism.”
According to an excellent article by the News-Journal’s Jim Abbott touting Mr. Dunbar’s impressive credentials:
“…Dunbar spent 14 years, including two as CEO, at the Center for Public Integrity, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom in Washington, D.C.
His work there included investigations about money in politics and the impact of the Citizens United decision on the funding of elections. He also created a project investigating all 50 state legislatures and ran coverage focused on the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown. As CEO, he took over the organization during a financial crisis and returned it to stability. He raised more than $10 million in grants over five years.
As an editor and reporter, Dunbar has created or supervised work that has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, Investigative Reporters & Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Online News Association, and the George Polk Award for Business Writing among others.”
I don’t care which dark alleys and dank political jungles Mr. Dunbar has plied his trade in the past – the man has his work cut out for him here. . .
For the better part of a decade, our newspaper has become something of a somnolent monitor – similar to the Sam Sheepdog cartoon character – which is an unfortunate comparison, because the News-Journal has a stable of some of the finest investigative journalists in the business, reporters who have more than demonstrated their commitment to both the newspaper and the long-suffering residents of Volusia and Flagler Counties.
Unfortunately, they are rarely let off the leash. . .
Hell, things have gotten so brazen that, more times than not, we read where even C-list elected officials refuse to so much as return a reporter’s phone calls. Sad.
Like you, I have watched as The Daytona Beach News-Journal morphed from a hyperlocal daily into a poorly edited, homogenized, and neutered version of US Today, as the bones of the paper were outsourced and good reporters furloughed, “downsized,” assigned to specialized “groups” within Gannett, or just run off by bad management.
I’ve got news for the News-Journal – and those faceless corporate shills who are busy regionalizing our local newspaper – no one who reads The Daytona Beach News-Journal gives two-shits about happenings in St. Augustine.
That’s an hour up the road and a million miles away – more akin to Jacksonville than the Fun Coast – and stuffing our hometown paper with pap from the St. Augustine Record is confusing when things are bursting at the seams here at home.
The editorial page has been pared down by Gannett edict, some of the best opinion writers and columnists anywhere retired or moved on, and what passes for the “Local” section became a hodge-podge of cut-and-paste nonsense from places like Palm Beach, Naples, and Gainesville while riveting multi-page fluff such as “Where to get the best corndog in the Tri-County Area” is wedged between hearing aid advertisements.
During many years in public service, I made my bones at a time when the News-Journal served as a potent watchdog – an objective overseer that caused our ‘powers that be’ to take a beat and think, “How will this decision/expenditure/policy play on the frontpage tomorrow?” – a time when everyone (well, almost everyone) was judged equally under the facts without the cozy “Who’s Who” factor that has destroyed public confidence in both the paper and local government.
In my view, for a variety of reasons, the accountability pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that there is little, if any, substantive oversight of the machinations of government.
And the results are self-evident. . .
Now, public funds are gifted to all the right last names in barefaced corporate welfare shim-shams, “economic development” is limited to the low-hanging fruit of warehouse jobs, and factious elements on elected councils and commissions whose malleable loyalties are purchased each election year with massive campaign donations confederate to protect the stagnant status quo and facilitate the malignant overdevelopment that is enveloping Volusia County – a voracious monster now growing at a pace that is frightening even those who created it.
My hope is a veteran investigative reporter like Mr. Dunbar will see through the tony “welcome receptions” and cocktail parties in his honor that will be hosted by our uber-wealthy “Movers & Shakers” – hold firm to the finest traditions of the Fourth Estate – and return that equilibrium and accountability the taxpayers of Volusia and Flagler Counties so richly deserve.
Let’s hope so.
Good luck, Mr. Dunbar. I hope you have your journalistic whip and chair at the ready, because something tells me you are our gonna need ‘em this election cycle. . .
Asshole Volusia County Council
Earlier this week, reporter Elieen Zaffiro-Kean wrote an informative frontpage piece for The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Volusia County adopts plan to increase affordable housing,” which is technically accurate.
What bothers me is what they didn’t do.
In my view, the reason for the Volusia County Council’s craven procrastination on one of the most pressing issues of our time became painfully evident during that théâtre de l’absurde that passed for a public meeting on Tuesday.
After years of summits, workshops, “affinity group” (I had to look it up, too) meetings, webinars, analysis, paralysis, and copious amounts of good old-fashioned political soft-soap, this week, while tens-of-thousands of asset limited/income constrained working families struggled to make ends meet, feed themselves in an era of rampant inflation, and place a roof over their children’s heads on a warehouse worker’s wage, our elected dullards callously kicked the can down the dusty trail on the growing affordable housing crisis.
Then, they patted themselves on their fat backs as if they did something to alleviate the problem. . .
On Tuesday, Volusia County’s Facilitator of Growth and Resource Mismanagement, Clay Ervin, trotted out another prevaricating dog-and-pony show – complete with a monotonous PowerPoint, peppered with strategically confusing acronyms, and wrapped in non-committal bureaucratese – that gave the appearance our ‘powers that be’ care about workforce housing.
When I heard hollow terms like “Create an environment supportive of new affordable housing development,” and “Discuss and receive direction on possible development of a trust fund,” “Using state law to waive impact fees” (because we’ve seen how well waiving building permit, inspection, and impact fees works out long-term) I realized it was more mumbo-jumbo geared toward creating yet another political insulation committee.
Then it became frustratingly clear that nothing of substance would happen quickly – if ever.
After making absolutely certain that nothing they approved would have any lasting impact on the problem – the Volusia County Council voted to accept what will become another five-year plan – which, if they started working on the myriad issues today (they won’t) it will be 2027 before their “plan” begins to gel.
Trust me. These “strategies” that took years to put on the same page have been in use by communities around the nation for decades. (Don’t these dipshits ever get out of this backwater and see what other communities are doing?)
For instance, over the past several years, I have spent time in Raleigh, North Carolina, where residents and city officials have placed a true emphasis on workforce housing through the renewal and renovation of historic neighborhoods.
Beginning in 2016, the City established an aspirational goal to create 570 affordable housing units a year for 10-years, with a grand total of 5,700 housing units by 2026.
To that end, in November 2020, following a period of public input to develop regulations and best practices, the City of Raleigh placed a bond referendum on the ballot which received the highest approval in their history with 72% of residents voting for the measure.
Proceeds generated from the bond – when coupled with other private, federal, state, and local funding sources – can be loaned to nonprofit and for-profit real estate developers, who use the money to create and preserve affordable housing opportunities for citizens with limited incomes and limited housing options.
I know, I know. I had the same reaction you did.
But I have seen the results with my own eyes – and they are impressive.
I am not saying this is an option for Volusia County – a relatively poor county with a lot of very influential people at the public teat and a government that lives a champaign lifestyle on a budget now north of $1 Billion – a bloated bureaucracy that would rather talk the talk while doing everything in its power to ensure the stagnant status quo.
Who has time for “affordable housing” when 3/2 wood frame cracker boxes shoehorned into zero-lot-line “theme” communities start in the “low $300’s”?
According to the News-Journal’s report, Anne Evans, chair of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, outlined the growing problem to our elected dullards on the dais of power:
“Fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Volusia County is now $931 based on figures provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Evans said. That jumps to $1,135 for two bedrooms, and $1,505 for three bedrooms, she said.”
“That’s completely unattainable for the more than 70,000 people in the county who have earnings below the poverty level. Someone making $13,600 per year can only afford $340 per month, and someone making $27,000 per year can’t afford more than $690 rent, she said.
“You’ve heard all this before. It’s nothing new,” Evans told Council members. “What is new is now the county has made affordable housing a priority.”
While I admire Ms. Evans’ enthusiasm – I will bet her a Donnie’s Donut we are still talking about what went wrong five-years from now – long after her committee’s clever “strategies” are gathering dust in a dead records morgue in the bowels of the Thomas C. Kelly Administrative Complex. . .
Asshole Halifax Area Advertising Authority
The Daytona Beach Resort Area just got a new marketing slogan: Beach On.
Beach, please. . .
Quote of the Week
“It breaks my heart to see all the wild animals that are being run out of their places to live because of all the houses that are being built that was once wooded areas.
I live in a residential area but now see deer that come over during the night and now even in the daytime. Last week, I was watching a mother turkey and her six little ones in my side yard.
This outrageous building of all these house complexes has got to stop as the poor animals have nowhere else to go and find food.”
—Rants & Raves, Hometown News Volusia, July 22, 2022
If you are not seeing displaced wildlife in your neighborhood – give it time.
I encourage anyone who is concerned about the future of Volusia County’s threatened greenspace and wildlife habitat to attend the Wildlife Corridor Workshop hosted by Volusia Forever.
The workshop is a public event and will be held August 13, 2022, from 8:30am to 1:30pm at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach.
Lunch will be served following the workshop. (Hell, go for the “free lunch,” if nothing else. . .)
Tickets are required due to space considerations and may be obtained here: https://tinyurl.com/2cwp9ut3
And Another Thing!
“Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins, who is seeking re-election, this week falsely claimed that the Fraternal Order of Police’s Flagler/Palm Coast lodge and the local 10-13 club of retired New York City Police officers support him. Presidents of both organizations sharply disavowed the claim and criticized Mullins for the fabrications.”
–Pierre Tristam, writing in the online news outlet FlaglerLive, “Joe Mullins Falsely Claims 2 Associations of Retired Cops Support Him, Drawing Sharp Disavowals,” Wednesday, July 20, 2022
Clearly the red-faced residents of Flagler County haven’t seen the nadir of Chairman Joe Mullins’ assholery. . .
The ugly saga of Joe “Hot Shoe” Mullins continued into its third week when FlaglerLive reported that Mullins has now falsely claimed the endorsement of two prestigious Flagler County law enforcement organizations in an apparent effort bolster his flagging reelection campaign.
Just when you thought ol’ Joe couldn’t stoop any lower, eh?
According to another excellent report by Pierre Tristam writing in FlaglerLive:
“Twice last month Mullins disrespected and attempted to pull rank on Florida Highway Patrol troopers in two separate speeding incidents. He was trying to avoid getting ticketed by abusing his authority, claiming that “I run the county” or that he is “over the state.” It did not work: in one encounter, a trooper warned him that he would go to jail if he persisted in defying orders.”
After verbally abusing Florida Highway Patrol troopers, flagrantly violating Florida traffic laws, and endangering law enforcement and other motorists on area highways, now Mr. Mullins has the impudence to claim the support of both the Fraternal Order of Police and the 10-13 Club – attempting to cloak himself with the imprimatur of their honor, service, and sacrifice.
What a classless scumbag. . .
It’s a convoluted story, one better told by Mr. Tristam here: https://tinyurl.com/3dsspaa5
Frankly, Joe Mullins’ latest fabrication is so egregious that it should incense every law enforcement officer and citizen in Flagler County and beyond.
In my view, through his arrogant instincts, Mr. Mullins has demonstrated that rather than Back the Blue – he reviles it – bullying and berating law enforcement officers in the lawful performance of their duty, then stealing their valor and hard-earned public trust by claiming a false endorsement.
In my view, Joe Mullins represents everything that is wrong with local government today – a discordant screw job whose personal ethics are lower than a broke-back snake and an indelible stain on his high office.
Unfortunately, it is increasingly evident that Chairman Mullins lacks the strength of character to resign and save the good citizens of Flagler County the embarrassment of his association.
As a concerned resident and former first responder identified only as “Ron” said in response to the FlaglerLive report this week:
“As a former NYC Police Officer and NYC Firefighter Mr. Mullins continues disrespect our first responders. He continues to fabricate the truth.
Joe Mullins does not deserve the respect or our vote. Let’s stop this abuse and vote for his opponent in the primary.
Let’s send a clear message to all the county commissioners. You are supposed to be representing your constituents.”
Amen, brother. . .
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!