Looking Forward. Remembering the Past.

For me, the week between Christmas and the New Year has always been a time for reflection. 

Looking forward while remembering the past.

During my professional life, I used this typically quiet week of the year to close out projects, clean up outstanding assignments, determine what worked and what didn’t, reflect on mistakes (and I made many), recenter personal and organizational goals and values, consolidate strengths, identify weaknesses, and contemplate the challenges ahead. 

Sounds simple.  But it isn’t. 

Because being honest with oneself is always difficult.

In my experience, self-reflection can be painful when our faults and foibles are laid bare – and we are forced to admit where we fell short – then make personal and professional course corrections to ensure the failures and omissions of the past are not repeated.

For example, I once worked for a police chief who refused to accept excuses or explanations – only acceptance of direct responsibility for my mistakes and those of my subordinates – and an assurance that I had learned from the error in judgement and would not repeat it. 

This sense of accountability was incredibly important to my early career development because honest mistakes became confidence building learning opportunities – rather than career-ending disasters – something I have never forgotten.

Unfortunately, in some local governments, openness, accessibility, and a willingness to admit missteps has become anathema in an era that values “CYA” political insulation over transparency.

In my view, this close-to-the-vest strategy has become standard procedure for bureaucracies that communicate to their constituents through highly paid internal mouthpieces, who report exactly what politicians and public administrators want We, The Little People to know, using carefully crafted releases and canned soundbites heavily seasoned with pap, fluff, and bureaucratese.      

Rather than submit to the open Q&A that once allowed reporters to probe public officials, winnow the truth from spin, and report the good, the bad, and the ugly of government – now, taxpayers are treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed horseshit – left to peer through the greasy pane in the locked portcullis that separates us from those we elect and appoint to represent our interests.

Left to speculate on the behind-the-scenes machinations and true motivations of those in control.

That’s where I come in.

As a Barker’s View reader, you are obviously someone who thinks deeply about the issues that touch our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast – an educated participant concerned about the direction of what passes for a “representative democracy.”   

I am not blowing smoke up your ass – and it does not mean we have to agree on everything. 

People who reason critically and view the world around them with an analytical eye tend to read and evaluate differing points-of-view – including alternative opinions that are counter to the posturing of our elected elite – then form their own take on the motives of policymakers and string-pullers.   

In my view, it is this independent thought that separates the sheep – and those partisan navel-gazers who never look beyond the confines of their close-minded camps – from active, informed, and involved citizens from which all political power originates.

I still believe it is a fundamental duty of citizenship to remain vigilant – even fiercely skeptical – of outsized political power and those murky insider forces that seem intent on shaping our future based on some mysterious plan which does not need or want our input – only our money and apathetic acquiescence.  

Bullshit.

Thank you for reading – and for contemplating our shared experience.

As we close out this strange year, I want to take this opportunity to send my sincere appreciation to the loyal Barker’s View tribe who follow this alternative opinion forum and perpetuate a larger discussion of the issues. 

Thank you for indulging my oddball views and rants.  Your curiosity about the news and newsmakers lets our “powers that be” know someone is watching – and oversight is a fundamental element of accountability.

But that is wisdom for another day.

Now is the time to hoist our glass and celebrate new possibilities.

Last week saw the final self-absorbed goodbyes of the most dysfunctional iteration of the Volusia County Council in recent memory – a bickering group of meanspirited procrastinators who oversaw a bloated bureaucracy where astonishing incompetence is handsomely rewarded – even encouraged – with stratospheric salaries, exorbitant benefits, and clockwork pay increases for those senior administrators who protect the stagnant status quo.

As they sail off to the ash heap of history, the political epitaph of this sad ship of fools will read “Lost opportunities, Lost possibilities…” and history will not be kind.

But that is polluted water under an aging and too-narrow bridge – and stupidity deserves no sympathy.

Now, we turn our jaded eyes to what comes next.

On Thursday, January 5, a new slate of elected officials will be sworn-in amidst much pomposity and circumstance – the pageantry that begins the process of separating those we elect from We, The Little People – the soon forgotten Oath of Office that marks their ceremonial ascendance from butcher, baker, and candlestick maker to the gilded Monarchy

Only time will tell if our new crop of representatives will embrace the concept of service above self – putting the needs and quality of life of their frightened constituents over those of their well-heeled political benefactors – and allow collegiality, mutual respect, and inclusion to build consensus on the difficult issues we face. 

At heart, I am an infernal optimist, willing to give our “new” council a chance to get their sea legs, to heal old wounds, eschew vindictive animus and petty politics, and prove their stated commitment to building a better Volusia County while shaping a positive vision for the social, economic, and civic future of all residents.

A New Year. A fresh start.

Again, thanks for reading.

_______________________________________

Join Barker’s View on Friday for our “2022 Honor Roll” – which remains the only civic honor in the Halifax area (however dubious) that our “Rich & Powerful” cannot buy! 

See you then!

6 thoughts on “Looking Forward. Remembering the Past.

  1. Thank YOU Mark for your stalwart attention and thoughtful insights on the local scene. Your writing style is superbly witty and spot on, and each week I eagerly await your next post. I do hope the newly minted council will heed your sage advice and work collaboratively and in good faith to bring positive change to the community. Keep up the great work!

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  2. Thank you Mark for bringing much needed reporting, to us the general public. I know it’s time consuming for you to delve into the politics of the day. One of my favorite lines that you employ is the one word paragraph “Bullshit”. That’s as succinct as it comes and is usually spot on when referencing must political posturing. Happy New Year.

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  3. Dear Mark: Thank you for filling the void left by the losses of Marc Bernier and Big John. Without your Barker’s View, there would be no one to try and hold the dysfunctional Volusia County Council and the “rich and powerful” accountable for their actions. Happy New Year.

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  4. May all have a better happy year than last year.Mark you are the only person left to help this county.Local newspapers use police scanners ,releases from companies and when they work they work from home.Investigative reporting is gone.Have a happy new year.

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  5. Mark, I am a reader, but between an election decided by political contributions and dismal crisis public information during storms, readily accepted by people who have not seen the better performance in other places. I have stopped beating my head against the local walls and am now offering my local opinion to tourists and visitors from other places deciding where to spend their tourism dollars.
    It’s like college football, when Florida universities aren’t good enough for the playoffs, I don’t cry in my beer at New Years Eve parties, this lifelong Gator fan will be watching and cheering the proven Georgia Bulldogs.

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