Angels & Assholes for August 26, 2022

Hi, kids!

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:

“It’s easy to be a holy man at the top of a mountain.”

–Larry Darrell, “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham

I took a few days away last week to deal with some family business in East Tennessee – my ancestral home in the Appalachian Highlands. 

Comfortably warm late summer days gave way to refreshingly cool nights and the change in altitude and surroundings gave me time to reflect, spend quality time with family, and see life from a different perspective.

One afternoon, a dear friend and I traveled to Roan Mountain where we took a short hike near the summit at 6,286’ – which rivals nearby Mt. Mitchell as the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6,684’.  The ecology is cool, damp, and enchanting with mossy spruce-fir forests and prolific stands of Rhododendron framing panoramic views, rocky outcroppings, and unique high-elevation balds.  

These ancient and majestic mountains have a spiritual quality, a sense of strength and permanency – symbolic of the perseverance and stability required to overcome obstacles – untamed places, closer to the sky – and closer to God – far above the madness down below.   

Kudos to the National Park Service and United States Forest Service for their conservation and stewardship of this richly diverse ecosystem straddling the Tennessee and North Carolina border.

A true national treasure. 

The region has not escaped the “development boom” with new home starts sprouting from once verdant farm fields and cow pastures – to include the recent addition of a massive Hard Rock Casino and resort complex under construction in Bristol, Virginia; an economic engine that will bring thousands of visitors to the Tri-Cities and bolster the already strong heavy industrial/manufacturing base.     

While amicably chatting with long-time locals from my perch on a barstool at the Tennessee Hills Distillery ( ) in Jonesborough – much like here, opinions on the issue differed, and the good-natured debate raged about what rapid growth in the predominantly rural area will mean for the area’s natural places and quality of life of existing residents. 

To their credit, state and local officials have planned for new development with road and infrastructure improvements, and the pace of building seemed more measured compared to the explosive sprawl we have experienced across the width and breadth of Volusia County, with homes and subdivisions offered there in a variety of price ranges and density options.

As an uneducated man, I learn through the eyes and experiences of others. 

While enjoying some of the best craft spirits I’ve ever tasted, I spoke with the enthusiastic principal of a local middle school who was excited about educational opportunities for the future – and overheard a retired couple from coastal Massachusetts marveling at the relatively low cost of living, housing prices, traffic, and slow pace of life when compared to the Boston metro.

I met a dedicated Physician’s Assistant specializing in immunology and pulmonology who spoke of the quality healthcare in the region and listened to the hopes of a young firefighter and his family who recently relocated to the area from Oregon to start a new life.     

Wherever I travel, it is hard not to conduct an unscientific comparative analysis to the Fun Coast.

By observing things from a different vantagepoint, with an objectivity I no longer possess in my own backyard, I invariably come to a better understanding of all we have gained, and all that we have lost, here in this beautiful place we call home.

If you hear the mountains calling, please avail yourself of a few days in beautiful East Tennessee.

Now, on to the challenges of the fall. . .

Angel              Volusia County Voters

If you joined me in casting a ballot in Tuesday’s primary election – I salute you!

Together, we accomplished some important things and helped set the stage for the November general election. 

Unfortunately, of the 407,264 eligible voters in Volusia County, just 117,362 (28.82%) exercised their most important civic duty and cast a ballot to determine the future of Volusia County. 

As I said earlier this week, the bedrock principle of our American democracy – that all power is derived from the consent of the governed – is rooted in the conduct of fair elections, the idea of “one citizen, one vote,” that purely American concept of political egalitarianism.

On Tuesday, the system worked. Once again, I was amazed by the incredible competence and efficiency of Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis and her outstanding staff and volunteers who make it all work.  Seamlessly. 

As with any hard-fought election, when the results came in, some were elated – others horribly disappointed.

But it also became clear that many more disenfranchised victims of what passes for “governance” here on Florida’s Fun Coast simply stayed home and shrugged the whole thing off, adopting the late great political satirist P. J. O’rourke’s jaded philosophy, “Don’t vote, it just encourages the bastards. . .”

Voting is the most important right and responsibility that citizens of a free and democratic society possess.

It separates citizens from subjects and ensures our basic rights under the law – which permit blowhards like me the freedom to vent my frustrations, criticize, call out basic unfairness, and challenge those stalwarts of the status quo who seem committed to ensuring government of, by, and for uber-wealthy insiders with the wherewithal to pay-to-play.

Hell, if nothing else, participation in the electoral process secures our right to bitch and complain, right?

Tuesday’s primary election sorted the wheat from the chaff – paring down the field – setting the stage for the final contests in November and I was encouraged by the results.

It is no secret that I support the grassroots candidacies of Volusia County Council at-large candidate Doug Pettit and District 4 challenger Ken Smith, both of whom moved on to the Big Dance this week.

On election day, Smith will face Ormond Beach City Commissioner Troy Kent – a perennial politician currently serving his ninth two-year term in municipal government.

In the at-large race, former Port Orange City Manager Jake Johansson received an impressive 33.88% (37,379) of votes cast on the strength of a war chest groaning with over $106,000 – which included what The Daytona Beach News-Journal described as “…donations from some of the power players in Volusia County…”

Conversely, Pettit garnered 23.72% (26,168) of the vote having collected just over $30,000 in campaign funds.  

However, of the 110,329 votes cast in that race – 46,782 were split between Sherrise Boyd and Andy Kelly – both of whom ran on a platform which included controlling growth and protecting our natural resources. 


Both Pettit and Smith – who ran under Chairman Jeff Brower’s “Volusia Values” slate of likeminded candidates – have their work cut out for them this fall, and I suspect the scorched earth tactics, social media skirmishes, and brutal politics of personal destruction that has marked this exceedingly ugly campaign season will increase in scope and intensity. 

Although the Volusia County Council’s incumbent Gang of Four have demanded lockstep fealty to the “system” and blocked Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post’s initiatives at every turn – they continue to twist the narrative, accusing the Brower supported candidates of building a voting bloc – the same tactic they have used to preserve the status quo for years. . . 

Trust me.  There is a lot at stake, and it is going to be a good old-fashioned knife fight this fall.

I was also pleased with the results of the District 5 School Board contest wherein incumbent Ruben Colón narrowly defeated Volusia’s self-anointed éminence grise, The Very Reverend “Dr.” Fred Lowry – who, when his current less-than-stellar term on the Volusia County Council mercifully ends in December, will shuffle off to that fetid ash heap where meanspirited obstructionist politicians go when We, The Little People have had enough. . .

No one has been more critical of the myriad issues facing Volusia County Schools than me – a bloated bureaucracy that continues to hemorrhage talent – with teachers, staff, and paraprofessionals fleeing the district at an alarming rate, a self-described fiscal crisis looming, and a budget now exceeding $1 Billion

In fact, every former Volusia County educator I have spoken with has described their love of teaching and working with children – before painfully lamenting how the turmoil, disrespect, and basic unfairness of the district’s shambolic administration drove them away. 

However, every time I have reached out to Mr. Colón – regardless of the issue or time-of-day – he has responded promptly, engaged me in the debate of competing ideas, corrected the record, shouldered harsh criticism without taking it personally, and has shown a true care and concern for students, parents, teachers, and staff. 

I respect that.

Another bright note on Tuesday was the absolute rout of the “controversial and divisive” Flagler County Commission Chair Joe Mullins. 

According to an excellent piece in FlaglerLive!:

“Leann Pennington beat Mullins, the incumbent, one-term county commissioner, in a landslide, winning with 69 percent of the vote. The only other elected official to win an election with anywhere near 70 percent of the vote in recent years is Sheriff Rick Staly, though the comparison may be somewhat off: Pennington was voters’ choice because Mullins had become in every way insupportable.

It is a crushing but unsurprising blow for the most controversial and divisive county commissioner in the county’s 105 years, and the culmination of a tenure fraught with scandals, embarrassments, serial insults of different constituencies, individuals and at least two fellow-commissioners, and finally a campaign acidly informed by lies against Pennington.”

I guess Mullins doesn’t “run the county” anymore as he threatened while arrogantly haranguing a Florida Highway Patrol trooper during a traffic stop earlier this year. . .  

Clearly, the good people of Flagler County have decided they deserve better.

Quote of the Week

“Via this official statement, Volusia County Schools shares that Chief Michelle Newman has decided to resign effective September 2nd.  This was not an easy decision for her but one that is best for her and her family.  She has served as the VCS Safety and Security Director for the last two years and built a strong team committed to provide safety and security for all our students and staff.  Her presence will be missed, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors.

In the interim, Chastity Burke, Coordinator of Safety and Security, will be taking on her responsibilities.”

–Angel M. Gomez, Community Information Services, Director VCS Chief Information & Legislative Affairs Officer

According to a recent article in the Ormond Beach Observer:

“The Volusia County School Board at an Aug. 8 meeting voted to appoint Chastity Burke as its new coordinator of school safety and security.

Burke was previously the district’s guardian commander specialist. She has an associate’s degree in criminal justice and has worked in law enforcement for 20 years, including as a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office detective and on the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, according to district staff.

Burke joined Volusia County Schools in 2021 as a guardian commander.”

And Another Thing!

On Wednesday, the Uvalde, Texas Consolidated Independent School District’s board of trustees fired “Police Chief” Pete Arredondo in a room filled with grieving families after he stood around (literally) with his thumb in his fat ass while an armed madman killed nineteen innocent children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in May. 

As a life-long law enforcement officer and former police chief, in my view, all that remains is to prosecute Arredondo and his “officers” for gross criminal negligence, malfeasance, and breach of their sworn moral code that transcends base cowardice. 

When found guilty of their unforgivable sins against those they were sworn to protect – Arredondo and the other gutless bastards who stood idle should have a bold yellow stripe tattooed down their back then thrown in prison. 

I cannot think of a greater personal or professional calling than protecting vulnerable children, teachers, and staff; and there is no higher responsibility than the willingness to run to the sound of gunfire and trade your life to save the lives of others who cannot defend themselves from unthinkable evil.    

Following the 2018 tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I repeatedly urged members of the Volusia County School Board to employ a recognized school protection specialist – an experienced professional with the tactical, technical, strategic, and administrative skills to plan for, staff, train, and respond to active assailants on school campuses with the sole focus of neutralizing the threat by violence of action. 

In fact, I publicly challenged a sitting board member on a radio forum in an effort to shame them into acknowledging the disturbing lack of expert guidance and leadership in the safety and security component at Volusia County District Schools in the face of increasing incidents of deadly school violence across the nation.

I wanted a combat-tested former Navy SEAL assaulter or GI Jane type with twelve-inch blood-tinged fangs and the ability to instruct, motivate, and hone other hyper-aggressive guards to kill active shooters with surgical precision and a Davey Crockett hatchet. 

Instead, we got controversial former Volusia County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Michelle Newman. . . 

Last year, many were shocked when Newman announced the district had begun the process of forming its own police department – a massively expensive undertaking that was never fully explained to those of us who pay the bills. 

With a complement of courageous school guardians and sworn law enforcement personnel from various agencies serving as School Resource Officers on campuses across the district – the plan did not make sense. 

When Chief Newman announced in the newspaper that costs would be “minimal” (Sheriff Michael Chitwood stated at the time it takes approximately $120,000 to hire, train, arm, and equip a new law enforcement officer) it cost credibility among her colleagues, stakeholders, and the public she served.

With Newman’s departure, former Volusia County Sheriff’s detective Chastity Burke has been tapped to serve as the district’s safety and security coordinator. 

She has been with Volusia County Schools since last year.

Maybe Coordinator Burke is a fire-breather – an aggressive go-getter with extensive military and law enforcement tactical experience, who can snap-shoot a gnat through the ass at one-hundred yards and train, maintain, and sustain other armed protection experts to a razors edge – I don’t know.

But I damn sure hope so.   

Look, I am a besotted has-been. 

A washed-up retired cop whose closest brush with “the shit” nowadays comes from watching Gunsmoke reruns while waiting for the cocktail hour to begin. 

(I recently saw where Governor Ron DeSantis is suggesting that military veterans and retired cops help offset the current shortage of qualified educators by serving as fill-in teachers (?). 

With all respect to Governor DeSantis – can any of my retired brothers and sisters think of a more inappropriate group of crusty curmudgeons to teach impressionable young children in a classroom setting?

Me neither.

This topic is for another day, but I am laughing my sorry ass off just thinking about the prospect of some of the retirees I drink with teaching the “Three R’s” and riding herd on a class full of ungovernable kids!

My lord, that’s funny. . .

Even if they allowed me to smoke cigarettes and take frequent bathroom breaks to relieve the urgent symptoms of my enlarged prostate – that is now the size and consistency of a Honey Baked ham – I wouldn’t consider it.)

But through my foggy haze, I do recall the attributes required to train, equip, motivate, and inspire courageous and aggressive men and women to go in harm’s way, the leadership skills for the effective command and control of critical incidents, and the level and consistency of training (firearms, strategic, and offensive/defensive tactics required to shoot, move, and communicate under stress) to effectively respond and neutralize (kill) active threats on a crowded school campus. 

It is a massive responsibility and I do not fault Chief Newman for moving on.   

Imagine consciously saying to yourself every morning your feet hit the floor, “Today is the day,” then ramping up to Condition Red

Yeah.  Not for the faint of heart.  

I completely understand the physical and psychological toll that level of constant vigilance can take. 

Moving forward, with students back in school, it is not enough that Coordinator Burke was promoted in-house to this critical role by new Superintendent Carmen Balgobin because she was close at hand.

In my view, it is important that Ms. Burke immediately prove that she possesses the strong leadership and elite technical skills required to ensure those charged with protecting the lives of our children and grandchildren are trained, prepared, and equipped to instantaneously defend life during a dynamic emergency. 

Anything less is unacceptable.   

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!

Please Vote!

Polls opened in Volusia County’s 2022 primary election about an hour ago.

I wrote a version of this blog post back in 2016 on the cusp of another important primary, and the maxim still holds true:

Politics is not just about elections.

It can seem that way, especially now, during the final few hours before the primary when local candidates – some very accomplished people – go bat shit crazy with fear, failing self-confidence, and false hubris.

Like Dr. Thompson so eloquently said, “That is the nature of professional politics.  Many are called, but few survive the nut-cutting hour…”

This evening the die will be cast, and the field whittled down to the true players; the Big Dogs who are moving to the general.

The “also-rans” – the fringe candidates and political dilettante’s whose message rang hollow – will soon be forgotten.

And their lame excuses to those who financially and philosophically supported them will fall on deaf ears.

No one will care.

Some candidates may win outright – taking 51% of the vote – while other races will remain close.

Alliances will shift overnight, and things will take a decidedly serious turn as campaigns gear up for the Big Dance in November.

Last weekend, I took a leisurely drive down to the Ormond Beach Public Library to “early vote.”

The most direct route from our home takes me along the west bank of the beautiful Halifax River, and as I drove along enjoying the view on a late summer morning, I smoked a Marlboro and contemplated what I was about to accomplish at the midpoint of what passes for our political process in 2022.

Casting a vote remains the most sacred obligation of American citizens.

In my view, participating in our democratic process reaffirms our commitment to freedom and the idea of government, “…of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and for one brief and shining moment, puts the power back in our hands.

Now, I realize that much of the process has been manipulated well in advance – with local power brokers showering the campaign coffers of hand-select candidates with massive contributions that skew the playing field for those willing to sell their political soul to protect the status quo.

As I turned the corner to the library, I saw that the parking area was virtually awash in campaign signs, each blending into the other to form a kaleidoscope of bright colors and shapes that encircled the entire lot like an impenetrable blockade.

So many campaign signs in such tight confines that the individual messages became meaningless.

(I wrote that line six-years ago and nothing has changed. . .)

As I slowed to navigate the phalanx of cheap nylon tents and lawn chairs occupied by perspiring candidates and their supporters, I saw cliques wearing campaign t-shirts like battledress, sucking on water bottles and staking out territory at what must mark the ragged edge of solicitation restrictions.

I assume they were acting out of some desperate belief that their very proximity to the door could sway a vote or two.

As I exited the Lone Eagle and began walking toward the door, I saw an “operative” circling behind me, calling out, “Hey, buddy!  I saw your Military Police bumper sticker – I was an MP, too!  Would you like a voter’s guide?” while extending a glossy brochure in my direction. . .

As a confirmed “No Party Affiliate,” and an informed voter, I don’t need some pre-marked Republican or Democrat “guide” to know which candidates I support.

I can make up my own mind.

So can you.

Let what passes for the local “leadership” of the two major political parties’ bicker and bitch over the petty squabbles and hyper-dramatic skirmishes that those who get entrenched in partisan politics seem to live for.

By now, we know where the candidates stand on the issues important to our lives and livelihoods.

So, I waved off my new “buddy” and entered the library where the superb staff of Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis made for a flawless experience – I was in-and-out in less than ten-minutes!

As I drove away from the polling place, I thought about what this election means for our future, and the dire consequences that hang in the balance.

Many have come to the realization that our quality of life here on Florida’s Fun Coast is under siege by greed-heads and others who would see us drink our own recycled sewage (that’s not fearmongering, its fact) – and sit in gridlock traffic while they throw up even more zero-lot-line cracker boxes in “lifestyle communities” and monstrous “cities within a city” while the unbridled sprawl of one community begins to impact its neighbors.

It has become the Wild West, a gold rush “boom cycle” in the pine scrub – and, so long as all the right facilitators are in place – it will not end until everyone who is anyone has gorged at the gravy train.

I do not make a lot of political endorsements on this blog site.

Naturally, I assume that as a fellow informed voter you can make up your own mind on the issues of the day – and determine which candidate best matches your personal vision for our future in keeping with the needs of your family.

In my view, the bedrock principle of our American democracy – that all power is derived from the consent of the governed – is rooted in the conduct of fair elections, the idea of “one citizen, one vote,” that purely American concept of political egalitarianism.

And votes beat money.  Every time.

Unfortunately, far too many Volusia County residents have fallen victim to the malignancy of political apathy – that feeling of disinterest and indifference born of having the rug pulled out from underneath them one too many times – the sense that their vote doesn’t count, or their collective voice can be silenced if their decision at the ballot box goes against what the entrenched ‘ruling class’ wants.

And the abject ugliness of the political battlefield thus far has turned many good people off.

But the stakes are incredibly high.

This election year is a time for new beginnings and a restoration of public confidence in our system of governance.

That fundamental change begins with those we elevate to higher office.

Regardless of which candidate you support – please vote today.

Vote like your family’s quality of life depends upon it. 

Because it does.

For more information, please go to

The “Yuck” Factor

According to psychologists, “Gaslighting” is loosely defined as a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own reality or judgment, maintaining power through invalidation and marginalization. 

In politics, this insidious form of domination and control is often facilitated by repeatedly presenting a skewed narrative, demanding fealty to their authority, then attacking the character and reputation of those who speak the truth and demonstrate the courage to throw off the traces and trappings and think for themselves. 

Gaslighting bullies use tactics such as distorting reality, telling us different things at different times, pitting likeminded people against each other, deflecting, distracting, and refocusing our attention, scapegoating, and projecting their own failures and negative qualities on others.   

Sound familiar?  It should. 

I call it the “Yuck Factor” – the ugly side of politics and governance that most people find detestable. 

Earlier this month, the Volusia County Council meeting erupted into an embarrassing and counterproductive donnybrook when Councilman Ben Johnson – the elder sage of the stodgy Old Guard – attacked Chairman Jeff Brower in a clearly preplanned ambush, labeling him a “liar” who “politicized” a planned Florida Wildlife Conservation Corridor workshop, among other contrived violations of the lockstep conformity that protects the stagnant status quo.

In addition, Councilman Johnson accused Chairman Brower of fearmongering and lying to area residents about the “toilet to tap” potable reuse concept that is gaining popularity among local governments across the state as they work to destigmatize drinking processed wastewater as a means of accommodating even more growth and development.

Hell, Ben Johnson would have us believe he had never even heard the term “Toilet to Tap” mentioned in Volusia County. . .

As always, Councilman Johnson was supported by the remainder of the arrogant Gang of Four – Councilman Danny Robins, the lame duck Billie Wheeler, and The Very Rev. “Dr.” Fred Lowry – who pompously harrumphed and preened for their political benefactors in the real estate development community as Johnson viciously dismantled Chairman Brower.     


In 2017, Central Florida residents became concerned about the future of our water quality and quantity when it was announced that the City of Daytona Beach had entered a partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District to study treating reclaimed water flushed from toilets, tubs and washing machines to the purity of potable water.

Not everyone liked the idea of this Soylent Green-style approach with many repulsed by another “yuck factor” – consuming our own recycled sewage. . .

By October 2018, Daytona Beach had begun a two-year “proof of concept” research study called the “Demonstration Testing System.”  According to reports, “The purpose of the study was to determine if the City’s reuse water could be treated to national and state drinking water standards.”

At the time, everyone was aware that the small capacity testing process would not introduce the treated toilet water into the city’s potable water distribution system.  The local research was completed in October 2021, and a final report on the results of the study is currently being prepared by a consultant.

The fear was (and remains) that in the future, as malignant development continues its spread across Volusia County, a larger “T2T” plant will be constructed to accommodate more growth by postponing the coming water crisis when consumption outpaces our natural supply.   

The fact is, under a similar project also funded by the SJRWMD, the City of Altamonte Springs’ “PureALTA” plant has already demonstrated that wastewater can be treated to drinking water standards – and the practice is already being used internationally and in several communities around the American west as drought conditions worsen. 

According to the International Water Association, the WateReuse Association has now secured $1 billion for water recycling as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 – and Florida’s Potable Reuse Commission (which was organized to develop a framework for advancing the implementation of potable reuse in Florida) has generated a report that found “…Potable reuse treatment processes are proven, safe, and protective of public health and the environment.”

Last year, One Water Florida – a glossy marketing shim-sham of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – began desensitizing residents to the fact we will soon be consuming our own treated waste, touting “The evolution to a One Water perspective.”


According to the Potable Reuse Commission’s January 2020 report:

“Clean water is vital for a healthy life and successful community. Here in Florida, we use nearly 6.4 billion gallons of water per day. And that number is growing. An estimated 1,000 people move to the state each day and are projected to use an additional one billion gallons per day by 2040. Our supply is not endless, expanding the use of recycled water is one way we can help ensure there is plenty of water to meet this demand.”

Don’t take my word for it, read the report for yourself here:

Trust me.  Despite Councilman Johnson’s strategic ignorance – “Toilet to Tap” is in the Sunshine State’s future. 

Later this week, the City of Daytona Beach will vote to surplus equipment associated with the demonstration testing system.  The move to scrap the material was announced in a weird agenda report clearly written to assuage citizen concerns. 

Last week, Ben Johnson’s dutiful sock puppet, Councilman Danny Robins, piled on by releasing the Daytona Beach City Commission’s agenda report on social media to the strains of “Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead.”

“Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Just more of Brower’s fearmongering and hype.

Under the misleading header, “TOILET TO TAP can finally be put to bed,” Councilman Robins cherrypicked nuggets that fit his narrative from the Daytona Beach agenda report, then branded anyone who expressed concern about direct potable reuse as liars, “The list of lies carefully crafted to create fear to the citizens of Volusia County is despicable and the exact reason why people don’t trust government.”


Sure.  That’s why people no longer trust Volusia County government, Danny. . .    

Is it possible that the bulk of incumbents on the Volusia County Council are totally unaware of the state’s push for direct potable reuse? 

Or, with the primary quickly approaching, are they merely gaslighting voters – claiming “toilet to tap” doesn’t exit – twisting our real fears of overdevelopment as a means of marginalizing Chairman Brower and those “Volusia Values” candidates he supports, who, if elected, have vowed to pass an ordinance banning the process here – something that could naturally limit growth and development?

I’m asking.  Because those beholden to the development community seem awfully frightened of the prospect of losing their grip on power. . . 

While Florida water experts agree that conservation is the best means of protecting our finite water supply, the grim reality is that many of our sitting elected marionettes who have been compromised by the massive campaign contributions of speculative developers lack the political and moral courage to enact commonsense low-impact development and environmental protection regulations.

Instead, they engage in gutter-wallowing and character assassination – while accusing their opponents of “fearmongering” – hoping that an apathetic electorate won’t recognize this political gaslighting for what it is. 

This election cycle, those practitioners of the Politics of Personal Destruction on all sides have seized their weird version of the narrative – demonizing anyone who disagrees with their goals – using fear, bullying, and personal embarrassment as a weapon in a win at all cost strategy that many believe is fundamentally destructive to our democratic principles.  

However, there remains one fundamental mechanism which will allow We, The Little People to prevail over the influential insiders and well-heeled donor class that seem intent on trading our lifestyle and heritage to outside speculators:

It is the ultimate power of the ballot box.

With early voting underway in Volusia County this week, I believe that if enough like-minded citizens hold firm to the basic belief that we can control our destiny by electing strong, ethical, and visionary members of our community to high public office, we can once again balance political power and restore transparency, fairness, and the spirit of democracy in Volusia County government.

Vote like your quality of life depends upon it. 

Because it does.

Angels & Assholes for August 12, 2022

Hi, kids!

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:

Asshole                Gannett Company

Last week we learned the grim news that Gannett – the international media conglomerate that owns The Daytona Beach News-Journal – is well on the road to financial ruin after reporting massive losses. 

Once again, Gannett is announcing that draconian cost cutting measures are eminent:  

According to the nonprofit Poynter Institute, “Media division head Maribel Perez Wadsworth, in a note to staff, warned of impending layoffs. “In the coming days,” she wrote, “we will … be making necessary but painful reductions to staffing, eliminating some open positions and roles that will impact valued colleagues.”

What a damnable shame.  I mean that.

In my jaded view, Gannett’s leadership has no one to blame but themselves.   

In June, the international media giant announced that it would be cutting editorial pages across its 45-state, 250-title megamedia portfolio.

This reduction in editorial content came on the heels of a recent restructuring that split Gannett into two domestic business units – Gannett Media and Digital Marketing Solutions – which senior leadership hoped would drive “sustainable revenue and cash flow growth,” as the company moves toward its goal of becoming a “…subscription-led and digitally-focused media and marketing solutions company…”

That’s corporate-speak for the transition from a newsgathering organization to a ‘heavy on pap, fluff, and advertising/light on local “news”’ online format as newsprint and the concept of “independent journalism” rapidly goes the way of the buggy whip.

Several weeks ago, while Volusia County residents focused on the civic, economic, and environmental consequences of pending local elections – the News-Journal went in another direction – taking great pains to tout the racial, gender, and cultural composition of what remains of its newsroom (?)

Look, some News-Journal reporters have made a valiant effort to cover local elections (mostly “what you should know” gloss overs and coverage of the sensational shenanigans and mischief that most people could care less about) overall the paper’s focus on the local issues remains tepid, at best. 

While its readers point to the most pressing issues of our time, our hometown newspaper dutifully follows Gannett’s orders for even more virtue signaling. . .

Rather than analyze the preferences of Volusia and Flagler residents – then provide unbiased reporting on the issues important to most – Gannett continues its long march into oblivion, choosing to make its final stand with regionalized pap and propagandized horseshit shoehorned between food reviews. . .   

In my view, we are fortunate to have some of the best local reporters and investigative journalists in the business working under difficult conditions for far less than they are worth in a pursuit that is vitally important to the health of our community. 

According to reports, on Monday the News-Journal’s new executive editor, John Dunbar, will assume the helm of this crippled ship with a promise of “good accountability journalism, good community journalism.” 

I hope so. 

Look, I’m not a media business analyst, just a concerned subscriber and voracious consumer of the news who agonizes over the botched neutering of my hometown newspaper at a time when we desperately need it.

No pressure, Mr. Dunbar.  But a lot of people are counting on you. . .   

Angel                    Daytona Beach Commissioner Stacy Cantu & The Marine Corps League

Daytona Beach City Commissioner Stacy Cantu and I have one thing in common – we are the children of former United States Marines. 

As the great author Pat Conroy wrote on the death of his father, Col. Donald Conroy, USMC:

“We were raised by the men who made the United States of America the safest country on earth in the bloodiest century in all recorded history.”

Thanks in part to Commissioner Cantu’s extraordinary dedication to supporting veterans causes in Central Florida and beyond, next week the Marine Corps League and Military Order of the Devil Dogs will host their 2022 National Convention at the beautiful Daytona Hilton Oceanfront Resort!

For the uninitiated: 

“The Marine Corps League perpetuates the traditions and spirit of ALL Marines and Navy FMF Sailors, who proudly wear or who have worn the eagle, globe and anchor of the Corps. It takes great pride in crediting its founding in 1923 to World War I hero, then Major General Commandant John A. Lejeune. It takes equal pride in its Federal Charter, approved by An Act of the Seventy-Fifth Congress of the United States of America, and signed and approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 4, 1937.

The League is the only Federally Chartered Marine Corps related veterans’ organization in the country. Since its earliest days, the Marine Corps League has enjoyed the support and encouragement of the active duty and Reserve establishments of the U. S. Marine Corps. Today, the League boasts a membership of more than 60,000 men and women, officer and enlisted, active duty, Reserve Marines, honorably discharged Marine Veterans, qualified Navy FMF Sailors.”

According to a release by the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau:

“Daytona Beach is proud to host the Marine Corps League 2022 National Convention,” said Lori Campbell Baker, Executive Director of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). “The Marine Corps League National Convention is the largest military convention ever to be held in Daytona Beach and is a great opportunity to showcase this destination to visitors. During the convention, the attendees, as well as their families and friends, will be able to enjoy numerous activities within the destination and bring positive economic impact into the community.”

In addition, the Military Order of the Devil Dogs, a subsidiary of the Marine Corps League that consists of 6,000 members, will present a check for $83,000 to Halifax Health Systems and President/CEO Jeff Feasel during the Daytona Tortugas game on August 16 at Jackie Robinson Ballpark!

Last week, Commissioner Cantu was also instrumental in securing a special parking space at Daytona Beach City Hall reserved for combat wounded recipients of the Purple Heart. 

The dedication coincided with National Purple Heart Day and included remarks and commemoration by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, the Daytona Beach City Commission, Senator Tom Wright, Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 316, and other Volusia County veterans and service organizations. 

Kudos to Commissioner Cantu, the Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, and everyone who worked hard to bring the 99th Annual Marine Corps League National Convention to the Fun Coast!

If you are out and about next week and see Marine’s enjoying all that the Daytona Beach Resort Area has to offer – please take a moment to thank them for their service. 

Trust me.  A group of Marine’s is not hard to spot – they are loud, proud, and patriotic! 

Semper Fi!  Welcome to Daytona Beach!

Asshole                Volusia’s “Economic Development” Apparatus

It seems every week we are treated to more self-congratulatory toot-tooting from Volusia County’s multilayered “economic development” apparatus celebrating another “Big Win!”

This usually comes in the form of another warehouse – an umpteen-thousand square foot monstrosity built on a clear-cut swath of pine scrub near the nexus of the I-95, I-4, and (insert overburdened surface road here).

Another “logistics & distribution” operation offering our best and brightest Volusia County graduates the opportunity to schlep boxes from point A to B for $15 an hour. . .

I hate to be the proverbial ‘turd in the celebratory punchbowl’ (that’s not true, I relish the role) but what happens when we lose an important long-time local business?

Who stands up, raises their hand, and takes responsibility for that?

Who determines how something that resulted in such a visceral reaction from residents could have been prevented? 

Earlier this week, I vented my spleen on the loss of the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant at Deleon Springs State Park – considered by many to be the most unique breakfast spot in America.  For over six-decades, the restaurant has been operated by long-time Volusia County residents doing business as Schwarze Enterprises, Inc.  

They didn’t ‘go under’ like some unfortunate rent-burdened retailer at One Daytona

They were outbid on a state concession solicitation by a larger out-of-state national hospitality management corporation.

According to an informative article by reporter Jim Abbott writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal this week:

“On Tuesday, John Michaelos, managing partner for family owned Schwarze Enterprises, confirmed that the company had been outbid by another vendor, Guest Services Inc., for a contract with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to operate the restaurant as well as provide other services at the state park that include kayak rentals and the gift shop.”

(According to a 2018 article in the West Volusia Beacon announcing Mr. Michaelos’ takeover as managing partner of Schwarze Enterprises – formerly owned by the Schwarze family – it was reported that Mr. Michaelos’ family has been a fixture in West Volusia since 1925.  In fact, the historic J G Michaelos Building on Woodland Boulevard in DeLand is named after his grandfather.) 

Cooking your own buckwheat pancakes on an open griddle at your table in the cozy little eatery has been a family tradition in Volusia County since I was a small child. 

Generations of visitors to the park have gathered around the beautiful clear spring, toured the museum, and walked the grounds while they wait – often for hours – for a table in the 100-year-old wooden building.

Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection accepted a competing bid from the Virginia-based mega-hospitality management company Guest Services, Inc. effectively ending the locally owned Schwarze Enterprises successful operation and destroying a local small business. 

According to information received from a Barker’s View reader (which originated from State Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff’s office):

“The department received five proposals in response to this solicitation, including one from the current vendor, Schwarze Enterprises, LLC, which were distributed to independent evaluators for review in late June. Staff then also received in person (virtually) presentations of the top four proposals in mid July. The Call for Business Plans include the criteria the department evaluated in making the award for the concession agreement. Guest Services, Inc. was ranked first, while Schwarze Enterprises, LLC was ranked fourth.

While the final concession agreement is currently in development, I can share that Guest Services, Inc. was selected as the new concessionaire for De Leon Springs State Park. To clarify, Guest Services, Inc. will continue all the services and experiences that have made the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House such a treasured part of a visit to De Leon Springs State Park. The restaurant’s famous cook-your-own pancakes will still be available in the authentic, sugar mill building overlooking one of Florida’s most beautiful natural settings.

In addition, Guest Services, Inc. will take over merchandise resale, tour boat operations and recreational equipment rentals, including canoes and kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, paddles and associated safety equipment, for visitors.”

Wait.  “Independent evaluators”? 

(They have those?  State-funded experts who analyze the fine points of operating a pour-your-own-pancake place in an obscure Florida State Park?)


(You mean there is a greater metric of success than lines of fifty people or more willing to wait hours for a seat?)

Outside of appropriating the hard-earned business practices and recipes of Schwarze Enterprises, how will a Virginia-based mega-corporation begin to “continue all the services and experiences” visitors have come to expect at the Old Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House? 

And what will become of the jobs now held by local residents?

I’m asking. 

Because the real-life ramifications transcend the “Oh, Well – that’s how the bureaucratic cookie crumbles in the dog-eat-dog Florida pancake vendor solicitation process.”

In my view, someone who accepts public funds to serve in the public interests should have been aware of that – and lobbied to keep those dollars here. . .

Earlier this week I also wondered what became of the commonsense notion of municipal, county, and state governments providing preference in procurement and contracts to Florida-based businesses as a means of bolstering the local economy, generating jobs and regional supply chains, and creating an “economic multiplier” effect in the community where those dollars originate?

You know, all that happy horseshit our “economic development” gurus spew when selling us on another corporate welfare shim-sham for an influential local billionaire or mega-donor to all the right political campaigns?

(And please don’t give me any of that tripe about fair competition in a ‘free market economy’ until mom-and-pop receive the same tax-supported largesse and access to the public teat as an insurance magnate or some well-heeled developer with a chip in the game.)

Anyone else curious what could have been more important to those do-nothing Volusia County bureaucrats sitting atop piles of federal Covid-19 recovery funds – or those pompous “experts” over at Team Volusia – when we needed them to assist a long-time area business forced to jump through hoops by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after 61-years of success in the same location?

Were they caught unaware?

After the public outcry in 2017 when there was concern the restaurant’s contract would not be renewed by FDEP, didn’t anyone think to assist in keeping this Volusia County staple local?


I received the following response from someone close to Volusia’s “economic development” apparatus:

“To answer your question Mark, Team Volusia is not charged with expansion and retention of local businesses. That task is under the purview of Volusia County’s Economic Development department. But hey, never let lack of research get in the way of undeserved criticism…”

Sorry.  My bad.

I didn’t realize just how redundant and compartmentalized things have become in that shadowy tax-supported domain of “economic development.” 

Putting the “Not my yob, man – that department’s down the hall” bureaucratic bullshit aside – in my view, it should be everyone’s responsibility to protect, retain, nurture, and expand small businesses in Volusia County, which form the very backbone of our economy.   

So, say goodbye to a time-honored local tradition that became part of the culture of our community – a small, family-owned business that for over six-decades worked hard to support West Volusia’s tourism industry and provide a memorable experience for generations of residents and visitors.   

Say hello to a faux version of the original.

“Undeserved criticism”?  My ass. . .

Angel                    The Smoking Truth Podcast

The tragic loss of iconic talk show hosts Marc Bernier and the irrepressible Big John created a huge vacuum in the local political discourse.  Their wide-ranging forums provided a comfortable place we could listen to the debate of competing ideas and learn more about the issues of the day.    

As an avid daily listener and sometime contributor, I did not realize just how much I would miss their extraordinary contributions to our community.     

Now options are limited to the “everyman’s soapbox” of social media – which has transformed into a dark and dangerous political minefield – frequently the scene of vicious ad hominem attacks where the politics of personal destruction has replaced the exploration and understanding of differing viewpoints.    

Fortunately, with advances in digital media platforms, consumers have more options than ever – to include the convenience of listening to original content produced by local creatives in our own convenient time and way. 

I first met Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool back in 2018 when she made international news for standing up for the rights and concerns of Deltona residents.

In a masterful, and completely peaceful, protest of overcharging by the Deltona water utility, Ms. McCool walked into City Hall and paid her $493 bill with a wagonload of 49,369 pennies.

Trust me.  She got her point across. 

At the time, Ms. McCool explained that each of the coins represented a resident that needed a voice.

To her credit, Ms. McCool decided to further her community involvement by making a successful run for elective office and has become a very responsive and accessible member of the Deltona City Commission! 

It was recently announced that Ms. McCool has joined long-time Chief Legislative Aide for the Florida House of Representatives, Eric Raimundo, in launching The Smoking Truth podcast!

According to – discussions will focus on the “…Political Wars by examining issues that all political persuasions have in common. We believe in tackling issues by approaching them in a way that solves the issue instead of attacking sides.  Although very different in political ideology, Dana & Eric will provide provocative conversation in a forum that will allow everyone to participate in getting to the middle.”

I like that.

The idea for this unique format came from Dana and Eric’s “enthusiastic” conversations over fine cigars as they searched for common ground on the issues that divide us while seeking amicable solutions to the myriad civic issues we face. 

In my experience, the harmonious and good-humored search for a happy medium in the cesspool of partisan politics is increasingly hard to find as the front lines of the “culture wars” creep closer every day.

Kudos to Dana and Eric for furthering the discussion in our community using this interesting and informative medium!

For more information, find The Smoking Truth at the link above – on Twitter at @SmokingTruth – or on Facebook at The Smoking Truth Podcast.

To contact Dana and Eric with questions or suggestions, please email them at

Quote of the Week

“Ormond Beach is essentially a town of very attractive residential districts. It has survived many storms, economic troubles, wars, and the ever-present threat of overdevelopment. However, the city government and the people of Ormond Beach have managed so far to value the natural beauty of the town and surroundings above the material value of indiscriminate development, and destruction of ecological and historically important areas. The early pioneers of Ormond, who endured great hardships to found the town, would appreciate and approve the concern and efforts of its present citizens to preserve these valuable assets so that in another hundred years Ormond Beach will survive as a town that is noted for its conservative approach to development, and which has retained its God-given beauty and attractions.”

Alice Strickland (1912-2003) was a researcher and an author of Florida history. Her book, “Ormond-On-The-Halifax,” was published in 1980

–Ormond Beach Mayoral Candidate Rob Bridger quoted Ms. Strickland in the Ormond Beach Observer, Letters to the Editor, “Alice needs a champion,” Tuesday, August 2, 2022

My God.

If Ms. Strickland could see us now. . .

And Another Thing!

Looking for something fun to do this weekend?

Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy – will be hosting a fundraiser on Sunday, August 14, from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at The Oasis Tiki Bar behind the Fountain Beach Resort, 313 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach!

A great location to enjoy lunch and libations overlooking The World’s Most Famous Beach in a relaxing setting while listening to the fantastic sounds of the Sons of the Beach Band. 

In addition, Sons of the Beach swag will be available for a small donation! 

I will just bet a few candidates for local elective offices will make an appearance (they are tenacious as ticks this time of year) and this presents a terrific opportunity to ask the tough questions and get a better understanding of their stance on issues important our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast ahead of early voting next week.

As a long-time member, I can report that Sons of the Beach is a wonderful organization comprised of civic-minded individuals doing important work in our community.  Most important, Sons of the Beach provides a fun opportunity to get involved and become acquainted with likeminded advocates working to preserve our unique heritage of beach driving.

Membership in Sons of the Beach is free! 

Simply go to their website at and complete a short application, then print your membership card.   

On the website you can also access a petition opening beach parking from International Speedway Boulevard to Main Street and make a secure online donation to this most worthwhile organization.   

Anyone who donates to the cause of a free and open beach is automatically enrolled as a member of SOB!

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all! 


Barker’s View will be on the road next week.

After you have given of your valuable time to read these long-winded screeds, I hate to ask more of you – but this one is important:   

Early voting in Volusia County begins tomorrow – Saturday, August 13, 2022 thru Saturday, August 20, 2022 – between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

The primary election will take place on Tuesday, August 23. 

In my view, participating in our democratic process by casting your sacred vote is the ultimate civic obligation of every citizen.  Regardless of who you support – I ask that you please take this opportunity to cast your ballot and take an active role in shaping our future.    

If, like me, you want to change the stagnant status quo – please make your voice heard at the ballot box!  

For a list of early voting locations – or more information on Volusia County elections – please visit the Supervisor of Elections informative website at

Thank you! 

Pancakes and Politics. . .

Vacuous bureaucrats have a way of looking at things that work – traditions and proven best practices that make sense.  Then, with the right application of unimaginative routine, sterile processes, and robotic paper shuffling they find a way to muck things up. 

Unfortunately, over time we have been sold on the fallacy that bigger is naturally better – and our faux-reality is often crafted by some corporate marketing image group. 

I hate to break it to you, but Cracker Barrel isn’t really a ‘country store.’ 

It is a 633 location publicly traded mega-chain built upon the concept of identically laid out retail outlets that serve as a convenient waiting area for the theme restaurant – strategically funneling hungry customers toward branded food, apparel, toys, and tchotchkes to provide maximum product exposure.   

And, for the uninitiated, Latitudes at Margaritaville is a zero-lot-line ‘immersive lifestyle’ gated subdivision based on Jimmy Buffett’s well-crafted sense of escapism, built on top of eco-sensitive pine scrub miles from an actual beach. A fabricated Eden blanketed with wood frame cracker boxes “starting in the mid $300’s.”  

That pseudo-utopia may appeal to some, but to my taste, that contrived horseshit is as far from paradise as one can get. . .     

Why is it that our ‘powers that be’ fail to recognize and protect those things that are truly distinctive – a place, service, or attraction that is genuinely sui generis and unrepeatable in nature – things built on hard work and time-honored tradition that become part of the unique culture of our community by virtue of their longevity?

When the hard-earned success of these one-of-kind places becomes attractive to those with resources and a profit motive, it suddenly becomes survival of the fittest, as government engages in corporate welfare schemes to skew the economic playing field in favor of influential insiders – or falls back on narrowly defined procurement policies and officious processes that fail to take anything into consideration other than the size of the bid.       

According to reports, next month, after six-decades of continuous family operation, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant at Deleon Springs State Park – thought by many to be the most unique restaurant in America – will cease to exist as we knew it thanks to a recent decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection who oversees state park concessions. 

Cooking your own buckwheat pancakes on an open griddle at your table in the cozy little eatery has been a family tradition in Volusia County since I was a small child.  Generations of people have gathered around the beautiful clear spring, toured the museum, and walked the grounds while they wait for a table in the 100-year-old wooden building.

This wildly popular local attraction has been lovingly operated by the Schwarze family for 61-years.

Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection accepted a competing bid from the Virginia-based mega-hospitality management company Guest Services, Inc. effectively ending the Schwarze family’s successful operation and destroying a local small business for a few dollars more. . .    

According to the family’s post on social media earlier this week:

“After 61 years, the Old Spanish Sugar Mill will be closing its screen doors.

While it is unfortunate, the state has decided not to renew our contract and move forward with another concession in the DeLeon Springs State Park. We have been blessed to serve as a Central Florida staple since 1961. We sincerely thank you for making us your “go-to” for when you’ve got company or a chocolate chip pancake craving.  Thank you again for sharing those memories with us. The Sugar Mill was without a doubt the coolest breakfast restaurant in America. Our business will close September 12, 2022.”

The Schwarze family specialized in chocolate chip hotcakes. 

Guest Services, Inc. specializes in monetizing what now passes as “hospitality” to drive revenue across a range of services to public and private entities.

Nothing wrong with that – but they are not the same. . .

You may remember in 2017 when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection came under scrutiny when they ghosted the Schwarze family ahead of their quinquennial contract renewal – simply refused to communicate with them – leaving the operation in limbo.    

Following a massive public outcry some faceless bureaucrat in Tallahassee finally got off their ass and did the right thing. . .

Now, here we are again. 

Only this time, a business carefully built by the blood, sweat, and tears of our neighbors – an experience that can never be duplicated – is lost forever.

What happened to the commonsense notion of our municipal, county, and state governments providing preference in procurement and contracts to Florida-based businesses as a means of bolstering the local economy, generating jobs and regional supply chains, and creating an “economic multiplier” effect in the community where those dollars originate? 

You know, all that happy horseshit our “economic development” gurus spew when selling us on another corporate welfare shim-sham for an influential local billionaire or mega-donor to all the right political campaigns? 

Yeah. Don’t give me any shit about competition in a ‘free market economy’ until mom-and-pop receive the same tax-supported largesse and access to the public teat as an insurance magnate or some well-heeled developer with a chip in the game.

Speaking of those do-nothing Volusia County bureaucrats sitting atop piles of federal Covid-19 recovery funds and those self-congratulatory “experts” over at Team Volusia – where were they when we needed them to protect a long-time area business? 

What was more important to these empty suits than saving a family-owned business that has created jobs and served our tourist industry for six-decades?

And why did they sit idle as the Schwarze family was summarily out bid for a high-profile local contract by a national hospitality management conglomerate?   

And where were our incumbent local and state politicians who are so damn busy groveling for our sacred vote – telling us everything they think we want to hear – bickering, backbiting, and grooming their abhorrent records, while the Schwarze family and the unique experience they provided to our community, was being outsourced to an out-of-state mega-corporation specializing in “…luxury communities, hotels, resorts, government and business dining facilities, full-service restaurants, state and national parks, outdoor recreation, boathouses, marinas, museums, conference centers, senior living communities, health care systems, school and university dining facilities, and specialty retail stores.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for answers.

What a damnable shame. . . 

Angels & Assholes for August 5, 2022

Hi, kids!

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:

Asshole           Volusia County Council’s Gang of Four

I like to chuckle along with the farcical slapstick and hopeless absurdity that permeates those bimonthly hootenannies of the Volusia County Council.

But what happened earlier this week was no laughing matter. 

In my view, the meeting dissolved into a vicious and highly coordinated attack – something darker, more sinister – an orchestrated political hit job that simply could not have occurred without careful coordination outside the public’s eye.   

As usual, the big losers of this shambolic shim-sham were the long-suffering citizens of Volusia County.

On Tuesday, the craven Gang of Four – Council members Danny Robins, Billie Wheeler, and The Very Rev. “Dr.” Fred Lowry, led by the grandpappy of the Good Ole Boys & Gals network, Councilman Ben Johnson – worked cooperatively to dismantle the biggest threat to their control, Chairman Jeff Brower, and bring him and his “Volusia Values” slate of likeminded candidates to heel before the August primary. 

(According to a report by Jarleene Almenas detailing the tempest in a teapot for the Ormond Beach Observer, “The “Volusia Values” candidates include Doug Pettit (at-large), Ted Noftall (District 3), Ken Smith (District 4) and Julio David Sosa (District 5).”)

Like the dutiful handmaidens they are, the Gang of Four once again proved their devotion to Volusia’s Old Guard – those stalwarts of the stagnant status quo inside government and out – who are scurrying like cornered weasels to protect the interests of their political benefactors and consolidate power in the hands of a few well-heeled insiders by any means necessary. 

Following the typical shitshow of a business meeting where absolutely nothing of substance was accomplished – during his closing comments, Councilman Johnson launched into an obviously rehearsed soliloquy – thundering away in his patented cornpone, openly labeling Chairman Brower a liar for his support of the now quashed Florida Wildlife Corridor workshop, cutting into Brower’s recent effort to challenge the pending environmental atrocity that is the proposed I-95/Pioneer Trail interchange, while showcasing his own abject ignorance of the “Toilet to Tap” reclaimed water scheme which is emerging as the seminal issue of our time.

Of course, Mr. Johnson’s opening salvo was quickly supported on all flanks by his dutiful minion, Councilman Danny Robins and the meanspirited lame duck Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, who took turns cutting into Mr. Brower (and Councilwoman Heather Post) with a ferocity and faux indignation that demonstrated to their political overseers they are earning their keep. 

It was interesting to watch these cheap shot artists at work.

Using political gaslighting to maximum effect, Councilman Johnson painted Brower as having “politicized” the Florida Wildlife Corridor workshop – citing emails with presenters and organizers wherein Brower asked that the meeting be held in advance of the primary elections so voters could better understand the concept and benefits of the conservation effort.

There were also ominous rumblings of a $20,000 donation by a supporter of the Wildlife Corridor to a Political Action Committee which supports the Volusia Values candidates. 

(I guess PAC’s that shower money on candidates are only acceptable when used to fund the campaigns of hand-select developer shills, eh?)

“You have made this a political event,” Johnson crowed. “A cheap political stunt to enhance your Volusia Values candidates. This is wrong all the way around.”

At the end of the day, the Gang got what they wanted all along when they confederated to successfully “postpone” the Wildlife Corridor workshop to an uncertain date after the November election – with Brower and Post voting to keep the already schedule August meeting in place (with some 200 people already registered to attend). 

What are they afraid of – an informed electorate? 

Of course, Robins and Wheeler eagerly piled on while “Dr.” Lowry phoned it in (literally), wallowing in their phony moral outrage, twisting Brower’s every word to support their fabricated witch hunt, then screeching about their “integrity.” 


In the most cogent comment of the day, Councilwoman Heather Post said she had never seen a “bigger circus” staged by Robins and the others – then accurately described the haughty snobbery that marks these arrogant tools for what they truly are:

“This holier than thou attitude that four people on this council have suddenly devised or come up with that everyone has to fall under the standard except them.  It does not show integrity, and I’m a little offended as a resident of Volusia County. We’re having all of these different discussions that we’ve been having over ridiculous stuff.”

Trust me.  Ms. Post knows of which she speaks. 

From the first day she took office, Volusia’s Old Guard demanded lockstep fealty to the status quo – working overtime to beat any vestige of independent thought or innovation out of her – marginalizing Ms. Post’s every initiative and depriving District 4 of equal representation. 

Sound familiar? 

It should – because they have done the same to Chairman Brower every meeting since he took office – callously shitting on the citizen mandate that resulted in his trouncing of a well-funded insider in 2020.

Then, in the longest reach of the day, Councilman Johnson pressed the attack by accusing Brower of misusing his position when he sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis last week requesting an investigation into the Florida Department of Transportation’s decision to waive environmental exclusions for the proposed Pioneer Trail interchange.  

According to Johnson, Chairman Brower’s letter made it appear the remainder of the County Council agreed with the request.

Again.  Bullshit.

Anyone with two functioning synapses understands that anything our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mori Hosseini, disagrees with the Gang of Four must also disagree with – because they know what side their political bread is buttered on – and their hypocrisy knows no bounds. . . 

To kiss the sizeable backsides of their political benefactors in the influential development community – and ensure that everyone who is anyone understands they could give two-shits about environmental impacts to the sensitive Spruce Creek watershed – the Gang voted 4-3 to send a letter to Governor DeSantis explaining the request for an inquiry was Chairman Brower’s doing – not theirs. 

What a contrived crock of shit. . .

Anyone remember when Councilwoman Wheeler willingly took part in the public humiliation of Councilwoman Heather Post after former Chair Ed Kelley wrote a letter on behalf of all residents and the County Council supporting Ms. Post’s candidacy for a leadership role with the Florida Association of Counties?

I do. 

It would have been the first time in the 90-year history of FAC that a sitting Volusia County representative had been a candidate for the Executive Board.

Speaking on behalf of every man, woman, and child in Volusia County, Kelley wrote in his glowing letter of recommendation:

“Volusia County enthusiastically supports County Council Member Heather Post’s candidacy for a Vice President position with the Florida Association of Counties (FAC).”

Then, when the time came to make good on their promise – in perhaps the most shameful display of quisling, meanspirited, cut-throat political backstabbing on record – Old Ed and Billie Wheeler openly campaigned for her opponent in a bait-and-switch artifice that violated the public trust and exposed the depth to which the Old Guard would stoop to embarrass and demean Ms. Post.

Yeah.  That whole “Integrity” thing again. . .

To add to the confusion, during Tuesday’s abomination, Councilman Johnson – now fully enrobed in his demented Inspector Clouseau character – raved about a comment Chairman Brower made at a meeting in Seminole County regarding our threatened natural resources wherein he mentioned the publics concerns over the widely-publicized “toilet to tap” strategy that will have us all drinking recycled sewage to ensure developers can shoehorn more, more, more cracker boxes “starting from the low $300’s” on top of our aquifer recharge areas. 

Acting as though he had just deduced it was Professor Plum, in the library, with a lead pipe – Johnson ensured the Chair’s embarrassment was complete by having a clip of Brower’s comments loudly broadcast through the Council chamber.

For anyone listening, it would appear that Councilman Johnson had just returned from the dark side of the moon – because everyone who has paid even marginal attention to recent events is aware of the City of Daytona Beach’s operation of an experimental treatment plant to process reclaimed sewage for public consumption.

The results of this gross Soylent Green-style testing are currently being condensed into a report by local and state researchers. 

But it’s all news to Ben Johnson?

Apparently, our addled At-Large Councilman is unaware of the massive development across the width and breadth of Volusia County his inaction on issues like impact fees and low-impact development helped facilitate – tens of thousands of new homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space – out-of-control sprawl that has some municipalities already requesting additional groundwater withdrawals to keep up with soaring demand.    

How is it possible that a sitting elected official could be that out-of-touch?

Or that compromised. . .

Don’t take my word for it, watch it for yourself here:

Angel               Volusia District Schools Whistleblower Alex Kennedy

We have a problem, folks.  

Last month, the Volusia County School Board took delivery of a shocking report detailing the results of an operational audit of district processes and administrative activities conducted by Florida’s Auditor General during fiscal year 2019-20. 

The summary findings were a guided tour through a disturbingly dysfunctional organization where the concept of accountability commensurate with responsibility is a cudgel reserved for silencing whistleblowers who point out the flagrant waste and incompetence all around them. 

For instance, the audit’s first significant finding explained:

“District personnel did not always verify vendor bank accounts before electronic payments were made to those accounts and, as a result, electronic payments totaling $359,566 for vendor services were made to a wrong bank account.”

According to the report, due in part to lackadaisical security and independent vendor verification procedures, the district fell victim to what the DeLand Police Department later described as an “overseas fraud scheme,” which resulted in some vendor service payments being routed to an unverified account.

Fortunately, $193,869 of the theft was recovered from the “District’s bank” and the remainder – $140,697 – was paid by the district’s cyber insurance company.

Volusia County taxpayers were on the hook for the $25,000 deductible. . . 

Most telling, the report detailed the massive waste of time, money, and resources related to the district’s horribly compromised software program – something former Assistant Director of Applications and Infrastructure, Alex Kennedy, tried multiple times to warn key decisionmakers about until he was suddenly fired in 2020. . . 

Auditors determined that the installation and implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system was beset with issues from the beginning – complicated by the district’s failure to keep minutes of “steering committee” meetings when the software was selected – with little effort to ensure that the project progressed through implementation according to the terms of the contract. 

Then the committee was disbanded without explanation – which destroyed any institutional knowledge or project continuity – leading to even more expensive delays due to personnel changes. 

Ultimately, the program cost Volusia County taxpayers millions of dollars in cost overruns and functionality issues. 

It also cost the only person in the district who gave a damn his livelihood. . .

From the outset, Mr. Kennedy raised concerns about the School Board’s adoption of the financial software because it was not designed for use in a K-12 setting, which required that the district spend millions of dollars re-engineering the program – the fact that no other K-12 school system had successfully adopted the program – and that there were other software options that cost less and were designed for the district’s needs.

In August 2018, Mr. Kennedy authored an email to the highest echelon of district leadership, which ended with the dire warning:

“More importantly, if we are ever lucky enough to “make” this software work it will most likely be the most expensive ERP solution ever brought forward to a K12 institution with both the minimal and most complicated functionality. As an employee and tax paying citizen I strongly recommend putting this project on hold and having it reassessed by a third party state agency such as DMS (Department of Management Services).”

Unfortunately, his expert opinion was ignored. 

Had district leadership listened to Mr. Kennedy instead of acquiescing to those who told them what they wanted to hear it is estimated taxpayers could have saved over $4 million on the project.

On May 14, 2020, without warning that his employment was in jeopardy, Mr. Kennedy was abruptly terminated – because that is the fate that befalls anyone who breaks the Code of Omerta in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand and sounds the klaxon on misfeasance, the gross waste of funds, or the organizational incompetence that permits it.  

In a recent appeal of his previously dismissed whistleblower lawsuit, Mr. Kennedy’s attorney wrote:

“His repeated complaints resulted in his termination, so Mr. Kennedy brought a claim under the FWA (Federal Whistleblower Act).  The FWA protects public employees from retaliation when they raise allegations of government negligence and waste.”

Considering the findings of state auditors – I wish Mr. Kennedy the best of luck. 

In my view, the audit was a scathing indictment of a cloistered system that now commands an annual budget in excess of $1 Billion with little oversight or answerability. 

In addition to these serious issues, the audit also uncovered a lack of accountability in the disposal of tangible personal property (fixtures, furniture, equipment, and motor vehicles), lax access privileges to sensitive student data that could result in fraud and other financial crimes against individuals, the fact 5% of employees with direct contact with children had not received a required five-year background check, and a history of weak information technology security training, authentication procedures, and written guidelines which could further compromise sensitive data.

My God.

These scandalous revelations should send a shudder through parents, teachers, students, and staff – and enrage Volusia County taxpayers who are forced to pay for this continuing institutional incompetence.

Quote of the Week

“If you don’t grow, you die,” he said.

And Florida is growing.

“Our state has seen an influx of people, about 1,000 per day,” he said. “Those people need a place to live.”

He said property rights need to be protected, but he thinks “development should happen.”

“It’s important for the economic growth and maintenance of the county,” he said.

Johansson said he prefers to see infill development in cities versus new development in rural areas, but he doesn’t want to force any local governments to do anything…”

–Volusia County Council At-Large Candidate Jake Johansson, as quoted by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Where do at-large Volusia Council candidates stand on exploding growth?” Monday, August 1, 2022

And Another Thing!

Believe it or not, well-meaning readers sometimes ask if they can advertise their goods and services on Barker’s View.  

As a dilettante editorialist, it is very humbling to think someone would want to be associated with this tripe, but I always graciously decline.

There is a reason I do not accept advertising on this blogsite – and I damn sure do not take money to express opinions with a certain slant or advocate for the well-funded candidate of some special interest with deep pockets.    

That bought-and-paid-for propagandized bullshit is readily available if you want it.

Just not here.  

Right or wrong, the views expressed on Barker’s View are my own.

If I favor one political candidate over another – it means I have done some research and come to believe that they will serve the broad public interest – rather than function as another malleable marionette for all the right last names.

I am not infallible – subject to being duped like anyone else.

And I don’t have a crystal ball.

My only advantage is that I spend an unhealthy amount of time studying the particulars of public meetings, analyzing the “issues,” talking politics on barstools, picking the brains of those “in-the-know,” before forming a viewpoint on the news and newsmakers through the jaded prism of over three-decades in local government.  

But make no mistake – these jumbled thoughts are mine alone. 

That is why I rarely tell people who to vote for anymore.  Not my role.

I believe it is important for people to educate themselves on the candidates and where they stand on the issues – then vote their own conscience, experience, and vision.

Given modern campaign tactics, that’s not as easy as it seems.  

Like everyone else, I make my share of analytical mistakes; but I still believe that past behavior is the most accurate predictor of future performance, because a leopard is incapable of changing its spots. 

Yet, each election cycle, some very smart political strategists and their surrogates use every tool at their disposal to convince us otherwise – or put just enough dust in the air so the average apathetic voter becomes so confused they simply give up. . .

When educating oneself on the differences in ideology, values, and loyalties of candidates, I always employ the idiom: If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck – it’s a duck, regardless of how anyone presents it. 

Although perennial politicos and their handlers try to deny it, as the voting records of many incumbents prove, the source of campaign funds are a prime indicator of future loyalties. 

I don’t care if an elected official envisions a different path for the future or disagrees with me on solutions so long as they are open and honest about who benefits – and why

As naïve as it sounds, I still believe character counts

I suspect you do to. 

That is why political camps are spending so much time (and money) dredging up, embroidering, and trotting out their opponents’ past peccadillos while downplaying their preferred candidate’s faults, foibles, and ethical lapses.

I have rarely met an adult who hasn’t had at least one bad day, a youthful indiscretion, or lapse in judgement they aren’t proud of.

Have you?   

The fact is no one is perfect in their personal and professional lives – regardless of how impressive their accomplishments may be.  That is what makes us human, and, in my experience, why most people can forgive what they see themselves doing.  

What they will not tolerate is the stench of lies, machinations, and a continuation of the self-serving duplicity that has created an “Us vs. Them” mentality in Volusia County government and beyond.

A continuing degradation of the “trust factor” that has destroyed public confidence in the process – a pay to play system where the very presence of those who have purchased a chip in the game with massive campaign donations elicit a Pavlovian response from their hired rubber stamps on the dais of power. 

Unfortunately, the results of that pernicious quid pro quo – all perfectly legal under our imperfect campaign finance system – are evident across Volusia County. 

In my view, if a candidate is actively taking thousands of dollars from well-heeled insiders and the entities they control – then telling voters that he/she has no intention of ensuring those political benefactors a return on investment – that is disingenuous – and unfair to contributors.

And it causes me to wonder what else that candidate is hedging on. . .     

Most people I talk to are not looking for a “perfect” candidate – because that mythical political unicorn only exists on those glossy mailers that end up cluttering your mailbox.

We, The Little People are seeking candidates of character with a fire in the belly to serve – who dedicate themselves in word and deed to the highest ideals of the public service and constantly strive for ethical leadership, accessibility, and fairness – committed to serving the best interests of ALL citizens of Volusia County.

Candidates who will represent existing residents and believe that clean water, greenspace, and our threatened natural places are more important to the lives of our children and grandchildren than the overstuffed pocketbooks of extremely wealthy land speculators and the sutlers who make their living on the crumbs left in their wake.

They are out there. 

You will not find them anywhere near those partisan political fishing camps and the backslapping ‘Good Ole Boy’ networks that exist to serve the stagnant status quo.

Time to do your homework, folks. 

This one’s important.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all!