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?
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 www.thesmokingtruth.live – 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 Gonzo@thesmokingtruth.live
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
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 www.sonsofthebeach.org 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 www.volusiaelections.gov