It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
Angel NBA Legend Charles Barkley
I’ve always been a fan of Charles Barkley.
The 11-time NBA All-Star and always humorous, often controversial, commentator for TNT’s “Inside the NBA” keeps us coming back for more with a charm and charisma that has made the irrepressible “Sir Charles” one of the most successful personalities in all of sports.
In October, a rumor had the NBA Hall of Famer signing a new 10-year contract with Turner worth an estimated $100 million (possibly closer to $200 million) – a deal Barkley described as “life-altering” in a recent interview with the New York Post.
Now, The Daytona Beach News-Journal is reporting that Mr. Barkley has generously pledged $1 million each to our own Bethune-Cookman University and Mississippi’s Jackson State.
“Since 2016, Barkley has given $1 million to six other HBCUs in addition to Bethune-Cookman and Jackson State. Those schools include: Alabama A&M University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Miles College, Tuskegee University and Spellman College.”
According to the report, the impetus for Mr. Barkley’s largesse was due to B-CU’s Athletic Director/Head Basketball Coach Reggie Theus – a fellow NBA alum – who also served as a commentator for TNT, and later coached the Sacramento Kings before coming to Bethune-Cookman in 2021.
In the News-Journal report, Mr. Theus expressed his appreciation, “I’m just so incredibly humbled by what he’s done. It’s just a big thing. He’s my NBA brother. It’s a small fraternity,” Theus said. “I was actually surprised. I didn’t know this was coming.”
It is no secret that Bethune-Cookman University has seen its share of adversity in recent years – and this incredibly generous donation represents a much-needed shot-in-the-arm – and serves as an outstanding testament to Coach Theus’ efforts as he works to build a championship program at B-CU.
In a recent interview with reporter Roy S. Johnson writing in AL.com, Mr. Barkley explained in his own inimitable way:
“I’m [expletive] sixty [years old] in a couple of months, which is crazy,” Barkley said. “All this [expletive] money is crazy. I’m gonna use the rest of my life to bless as many people as I possibly can.”
Many thanks to Mr. Barkley and Director Theus for their personal and professional commitment to Bethune-Cookman University and our community.
We’re glad these two legends passed our way.
Angel City of Ormond Beach Planning Board
No, I haven’t bumped my head. . .
As a self-anointed cretinous critic of local government, I call the balls and strikes as I see them – and, by any metric, the once quaint community of Ormond Beach (like much of the Halifax area) has unequivocally grown too far, too fast.
But last Thursday, the Planning Board listened to the very real concerns of existing residents when they unanimously denied a developer’s request for a 300-unit mega-apartment complex near the busy intersection of Tymber Creek Road and West Granada Boulevard.
Anyone who has sat through three cycles of a traffic signal at Granada Boulevard and (insert any cross street here) is celebrating the board’s decision as a victory for our area’s quality of life.
According to an excellent article by Senior Editor Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer:
“The developer first submitted a site plan for review in 2020 and resubmitted another plan in December 2021 after the first application expired. Ten residential buildings were initially proposed, though due to concerns from residents of the nearby Indian Springs subdivision, the developer agreed to remove one of the buildings facing the community.
Citizen concerns also included the worsening of traffic on Tymber Creek Road and West Granada Boulevard.
“Your decisions are permanent,” resident Mike Lambert said. “To say that the quality of life in the areas of Moss Point, Indian [Springs] or Tymber Creek will not change is absurd. The traffic already on Tymber Creek Road is horrific.”
In my view, Mr. Lambert is right – and it is refreshing to see stakeholders speaking truth to power at public meetings, fighting hard to limit the adverse impacts of development on existing residents and infrastructure – especially with the specter of Avalon Park looming dark on the horizon.
Kudos to the Ormond Beach Planning Board for having the wisdom to discern between quality development that enhances the character of our community and that driven by voracious greed that increases density regardless of the long-term impacts.
Now, the Planning Board’s recommendation will be sent to the newly constituted Ormond Beach City Commission on January 24 for review.
Trust me. The Commission’s decision on this issue will tell concerned citizens all they need to know about our path forward. . .
Asshole County of Volusia
Something stinks at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building in DeLand.
In what may well be the biggest scandal to rock Volusia County government since, oh, the last melodrama to befall this shadowy administration – late last week, we learned that county officials plan to fire besieged former Corrections Director Mark Flowers.
Depending upon who you believe that action is either a retaliatory act by craven senior administrators to silence a whistleblower – or a long overdue comeuppance for a dictatorial and unpredictable ogre.
The abrupt notice of termination came following competing allegations by Flowers attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, who claims Flowers was retaliated against after he came forward with information on the abuse of inmates at the jail – and the results of an internal investigation by Volusia County which sustained serious policy violations – including accusations that it was Flowers who ordered the abuse of inmates, along with anecdotal information leaking from the Department of Corrections that Flowers was a vacillating leader with the management skills of Atilla the Hun.
These diametrically opposed claims have left many wondering who to believe. . .
According to a News-Journal report, Chanfrau alleged that Flowers repeatedly reported misconduct by corrections officers – including the abuse of an inmate identified as Justin Caruthers, who reportedly “…suffered two black eyes after a beating administered by correctional officers.”
Now, the findings of the county’s internal investigation have turned the tables – sustaining a laundry list of violations against Flowers – to include ordering the isolation of inmates, violating suicide protocols, creating a hostile workplace, and directing that corrections officers place an unidentified inmate in a “four-point restraint” – naked – for days.
This week, Flowers appealed his termination and requested a hearing after it was determined Volusia County violated its own Human Resources protocols “…by not giving him enough time to appeal.”
Good thing this outrage isn’t playing out on the frontpage of the newspaper, or that glaring oversight would be embarrassing for Volusia’s outside counsel and highly paid HR professionals, eh?
Adding to the confusion, County Manager George Recktenwald said in a canned press release, “Any suggestion that the termination was retaliation or in any way related to Dr. Flowers filing the complaint is absolutely and unequivocally false,” then laid full responsibility for the abuse and mismanagement at the jail on his former subordinate:
“He (Flowers) was under investigation for three months before he ever filed the complaint. The reality is that the allegations that were substantiated during our investigation were so egregious that it was impossible for Dr. Flowers to continue in his job. His own actions and his mistreatment of his staff and inmates left us no choice.”
According to the News-Journal, “Flowers filed a complaint Monday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Flowers has claims against the county related to failure to accommodate, veteran status and disability, Chanfrau said.”
Those complaints are in addition to “…a whistleblower claim, a Family Medical Leave Act claim and a First Amendment claim.”
Now, Chanfrau is actively preparing a lawsuit on Flowers behalf.
Regardless of how this conflagration plays out, guess who is ultimately on the hook?
More important – who do we hold responsible for the on-going shitshow at the Volusia County Jail?
As the accusations and counteraccusations mount, one thing is clear – inmates have been subjected to horrible abuse inside the isolated walls of Volusia County’s Abu Ghraib – and a hostile workplace exists for an already demoralized and overworked corrections staff who perform a difficult and dangerous job for far less than they are worth.
In my view, regardless of who is eventually found culpable for this abominable misconduct, County Manager George Recktenwald bears personal responsibility for the acts and omissions of his subordinates.
According to a recent News-Journal’s report:
“Councilman Danny Robins said the situation is under the purview of the county manager and that it was his understanding that Flowers would meet with Recktenwald Friday, though he wasn’t sure what would happen.
Councilman Ben Johnson and Vice Chair Barb Girtman declined to comment. Volusia County Council members Jeff Brower, Billie Wheeler and Heather Post couldn’t be reached.”
(God help me, I chuckle every time I read that last part as outgoing council members realize their political legacy will be the horrifying mental image of a secluded prisoner stripped nude and tacked-out prone in some fetid isolation unit of the Volusia County Jail. . . )
The fact is, Councilman Robins is right.
This repugnant scandal is directly under the “purview” of the County Manager – and the inviolate rule of command is that responsibility may be delegated, but ultimate accountability cannot be abdicated – and Mr. Recktenwald either knew, or should have known, what was going on at the Department of Corrections.
If history repeats, no one in that bloated maze of overlapping senior managers, department directors, division directors, a deputy county manager and beyond will ever be held to account – so long as an atmosphere of “admit nothing, deny everything, make counteraccusations” prevails.
But this is different.
The Flowers debacle involves credible allegations of the sadistic physical and psychological abuse of inmates under the legal care, custody, and control of the Volusia County Department of Corrections – acts that, if proven true, would represent systemic civil rights violations that should send a chill up the spine of anyone who values the rule of law – or respects the time-honored obligations and responsibilities of leadership.
This isn’t a wholesale indictment of the men and women of the Department of Corrections. Rather, it speaks to the culture of Volusia County’s senior administration and the lack of politically accountable oversight that allows this shit to fester.
(Speaking of indictments, where is the United States Department of Justice when we need them?)
Frankly, the old dodge, “I didn’t know what was happening,” is not a privilege afforded those who are held to exacting standards of professionalism and personal accountability – and as a chief executive commanding an annual salary of over $224,000, plus benefits and perquisites, The Wreck should understand that and step aside.
He won’t – and here’s why:
In the waning minutes of next Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting, the final act of this slapstick comedy troupe will be to “evaluate” the performance of County Manager Recktenwald and County Attorney Mike Dyer – which, if precedence holds, will result in saccharin accolades and a massive pay increase for both.
Perhaps those dullards on the dais of power should look up the definition of “Leadership, Responsibility, and Accountability” in their Elected Officials Handbook (I’m sure it’s in there, sandwiched between “ethics, negligent retention liability, and best practices”) before evaluating the highest paid public employees in Volusia County government?
Even with this disturbing scandal still raging, something tells me Messrs. Recktenwald and Dyer will have a very, very Merry Christmas. . .
Quote of the Week
“Wilbur-by-the-Sea is a dream spot for those who want to wake up to the sound of waves, beautiful ocean views and the smell of salt air.
But Robert S. Young, a coastal geologist, views this picturesque seaside village south of Daytona Beach as a warning sign, a glimpse into the future. Beachside living will grow even riskier and more expensive as oceans rise and warming seas generate super-charged storms, he said.
“There will come a time, 10 years from now, who knows, 15 years from now, when you’re going to have lots of places like this all over Florida,” said Young, director of Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. “You’re not going to have enough money to save them all.”
–Reporter Skylar Swisher, writing in the Orlando Sentinel, “Not ‘enough money to save them all.’ Volusia grapples with double hurricane whammy,” Sunday, December 11, 2022
While serving as a law enforcement officer, I was lied to on a daily basis.
In fact, I was told so many falsehoods and fabrications that I now live by the idiom, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. . .”
Earlier this week, News-Journal business editor Clayton Park wrote an interesting piece entitled, ‘Daytona is catching up,’ – which included the obligatory fluff from a glib South Florida developer trying his best to convince leery locals that another monstrous 27-story 304-unit ‘condotel’ is what we need on our crumbling dune line.
I wonder if Mr. Park ever feels like he’s “heard it all before” when interviewing the developer du jour?
Way back in 2007, Miami-area Developer Eduardo Avila of Key Realty Advisors purchased a 2.8-acre site at the southeast corner of A-1-A and Silver Beach Avenue. Now, Mr. Avila is planning to break ground (“a year from now”) on what is tentatively billed as the Silver Beach Condo-Hotel.
According to the News-Journal’s report:
“Avila said his group kept waiting for market conditions in Daytona Beach to improve to where they could justify spending more than $100 million to build their planned luxury high-rise.
That time has finally come. “We feel Daytona is catching up with the rest of Florida,” he said.
(Sorry. I just shot coffee through my nose, dammit. . .)
The “Silver Beach Condo-Hotel” name listed on preliminary plans submitted to the city is just a working title, said Avila. “Once we get it branded (as part of a hotel chain), then we’ll have it (officially) named.”
Avila said his group has already invested $11.5 million on the project, including buying the land as well as hiring Miami-based architectural firm Arquitectonica and Daytona Beach engineering firm The Performance Group.”
Yep! Good times are here again! Again. . .
Look, far be it from me to shit on the dreams of another out-of-town speculative developer looking to squeeze a profit from another “$100 million” investment on our dilapidated beachside (God knows others have tried) – and I certainly don’t want to squash the hopes of our giddy ‘powers that be’ who are still desperately searching for the “panacea project” that will save us yokels from ourselves.
With much of our fragile oceanfront in ruins – I question whether permitting additional building east of A-1-A makes environmental and economic sense – especially with hodge-podge emergency mitigation efforts underway to save existing structures from toppling into the sea?
According to Mr. Avila, “Some of those (damaged) buildings are from the 1950s and ’60s. They weren’t built with the knowledge we have today. Those pilings (for oceanfront high-rises) need to go down to the rock, at least 75 feet. If you look at Miami Beach, there are a lot of tall buildings and nothing happens to them.”
Is it possible Mr. Avila is unaware that last year – just 19-miles north of his office in Coconut Grove – the Champlain Towers condominium collapsed in a pile of rubble resulting in the tragic death of 98 people?
The exact cause of that disaster has yet to be identified; however, the wide-ranging investigation includes a geotechnical engineering component to study ground behavior at different depths to determine how the structure’s foundation interacted with subsurface soils.
In my view, it is that hard-earned and incredibly expensive “knowledge we have today” that confirms why we should not be permitting new development east of the Coastal Construction Control Line until a comprehensive erosion control plan can be established and funded.
Yeah. Don’t hold your breath.
Because when the fears of We, The Little People come up against the for-profit motives of extremely wealthy developers – you and I lose. Every. Damn. Time.
And Another Thing!
Another week, another glaring frontpage headline in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“More homes planned at LPGA”
And the frustration builds. . .
On Tuesday, we learned that the “out-of-state owners of the golf courses at LPGA International” have plans to pave over the golf community’s three-hole practice course and replace the popular amenity with 154 new single-family homes and forty townhouses in the proposed LPGA Golf Villas development.
This week, Virginia-based Fore Golf Partners LLC planned to hold one of those stilted “developer-initiated meetings” – where residents directly impacted by the increased density and resulting traffic are sold on the idea of more, more, more development at the epicenter of the already overstuffed LPGA Boulevard area – as Daytona Beach’s “shove ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag” growth-at-all-costs strategy continues.
Too many people showed up and the meeting had to be rescheduled. Standing room only.
Naturally, residents of the LPGA community are concerned – especially since they are trapped west of that Monument to Mediocrity that is the two-lane pinch-point over the Tomoka River.
Guess what? No one who should seems to care at Daytona Beach City Hall.
According to the report, Daytona Beach Planning Director Dennis Mrozek concluded in an email to the News-Journal:
“The proposed development will be consistent with the area development patterns and use of residential…”
That’s all ye know, and all ye need to know.
Unfortunately, the residents of LPGA are not alone.
Earlier this week, I spoke to a concerned citizen who owns property bordering the footprint of another colossal monstrosity – the Framework Group’s massive tax supported “luxury” apartment complex and parking garage proposed for downtrodden Downtown Daytona – who has repeatedly reported issues surrounding the development’s impact on his property to local leaders, including at least two sitting city commissioners, and the increasingly reclusive City Manager Deric Feacher.
I was told that while each of the city officials paid cursory lip-service – commiserating with the property owner over issues ranging from denied driveway access, parking encroachment, traffic issues, flooding concerns, and potential nuisance conditions during construction – once they left, the taxpayer’s concerns were completely ignored.
Crickets. Not so much as a return phone call. . .
Yeah. I know.
I’ll have more thoughts on this growing North Beach Street fiasco later, but unlike Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry – who preened and fawned between backslapping with Framework Group executives at the premature “groundbreaking” ceremony last week – not everyone is “…elated for the future of Daytona Beach.”
In fact, many existing residents are sick and tired of having their concerns dismissed with the patented shoulder-shrug and “Nuttin’ we can do about it, rube. You’re either growin’ or you’re dyin’” sidestep that is gridlocking traffic and ruining the character of the Halifax area.
This quantum shift in the attitude toward additional development is best evidenced by the increasing number of people turning up at “developer-initiated meetings” to express their growing anger.
Now, add residents of the LPGA community to that growing list of victims of the old ‘golf course bait-and-switch.’
In my view, the lack of official action to address the adverse impacts of new development on long-time residents – even as city officials bend over backwards to accommodate the wants and whims of out-of-town developers – speaks volumes about the true loyalties of those we elect and appoint.
Unfortunately, I do not see that changing anytime soon. Do you?
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!
Angels & Assholes will take a pause next week.
Here’s wishing you – the loyal members of the Barker’s View Tribe – a healthy and joyous Christmas Season!