Angels & Assholes for January 27, 2023

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:

Angel               Port Orange Councilwoman Kat Atwood

You wouldn’t know it from my often-acerbic take on local politics and those who practice it, but I have a great deal of admiration for anyone with the mettle to hold themselves out for elective service who still respects the sanctity of their office – and the needs of their constituents. 

In my view, the idea of “service above self” speaks not only to one’s political ambitions – but also the courage to step aside when wellness, focus, or motivations change and ensure citizens receive the best representation possible. 

Given the rigors of modern political campaigns, and the power and perquisites of high office, it is rare when a sitting politician demonstrates the selflessness to stepdown when circumstances warrant, the gracious act of putting the needs of others above their own.

The mark of a true servant-leader

Last week, Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette announced that newly elected City Councilwoman Kat Atwood has announced her resignation citing health issues.  Ms. Atwood ran unopposed for the District 2 seat after Chase Tramont left the council to undertake his successful run for the Florida House of Representatives.

As a United States Navy veteran, Ms. Atwood knows something about that sacred concept of “service above self” – and I found it refreshing that the citizens of Port Orange had such a staunch advocate occupying the dais of power – someone who heeded the call to translate their unique military leadership experience to elective office. 

Recently, Ms. Atwood gave a heartfelt explanation for her departure to concerned constituents on social media:

“Those who know me know that I am an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of girl. I believe in giving it my all – or why bother doing it at all, right?

That said, the people of Port Orange deserve nothing less than my 100%. I cannot, in good conscience, occupy the District 2 seat knowing that I am not 100% healthy. I cannot be charged with making City decisions, voting on laws and City issues that affect Port Orange families, workers’ benefits, resident concerns, union issues, employee retirements, etc., without being 100% present to address them properly. I’m just not made that way; that’s not who I am.  And, it wouldn’t be fair to my husband, our children, or my parents to not take this time to focus on my health and heal.  In short, as difficult as this decision was to make, it was the right decision.”

Thank you for your service, Ms. Atwood.


When the time is right, I hope you will consider a return to local politics – we desperately need your sense of service and selflessness now, more than ever. 

Angel               Volusia County Teacher of the Year Vonda Morris

During a ceremony held last Friday at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, Vonda H. Morris, a Probability & Statistics / AP Statistics Teacher at Spruce Creek High School, and a math educator for 28 years who has taught at the middle, high school, and collegiate levels, was named 2024 Volusia County Schools Teacher of the Year! 

According to reports, Ms. Morris was selected from an outstanding field of sixty-nine nominees representing schools across Volusia County and one of five finalists for the district recognition. 

Now, Ms. Morris will represent Volusia County Schools in the state Teacher of the Year program.

In a release from Volusia County Schools, Ms. Morris received high praise for her significant contributions in the classroom and beyond:

“Vonda H. Morris is a leader whose work goes beyond the classroom, serving as a member of the school leadership team, mathematics department chair, new teacher liaison, class sponsor, and sunshine committee chairperson. Her test scores exceed district, national and state averages.”

Unfortunately, it was clear from Tuesday’s Volusia County School Board meeting that the chasm between classroom teachers and Superintendent Carmen Balgobin’s top-heavy administration continues to deepen as evidenced by the unstaunched hemorrhage of talent from the district. 

I encourage everyone to listen to what passes for “public input” when veteran teachers and paraprofessionals approached our elected officials from behind a weird strapped-off podium – an asinine barrier which physically and subliminally separated them from board members.

They spoke passionately of disrespect, being called out for referring students for discipline who engage in acts of violence, suffering physical abuse (to include one teacher who described being bitten in the classroom), anxiety, filthy facilities, fighting, obscenities, low morale, disillusionment, and a frustration with ongoing wage compression while contract negotiations remain at impasse – with “international teachers” being shipped in from foreign countries to fill the loss of certified educators – descriptions that sound more like a dystopian Thunderdome than a public school system with a budget now exceeding $1 Billion.  

If you have children in Volusia County Schools or pay taxes here, I encourage you to listen to the fervent pleas of these dedicated professionals. 

It is eye opening.    

Please find that section of the School Board meeting here:

A sincere congratulations to Vonda Morris for this well-deserved special recognition – along with my heartfelt thanks to all teachers who dedicate themselves to educating, mentoring, and inspiring the next generation under difficult (and increasingly dangerous) circumstances for far less than they are worth.   

(Photo Credit: Volusia County Schools) 

Angel               City of New Smyrna Beach

With a few notorious exceptions, the City of New Smyrna Beach gets it right.

This quaint seaside community exudes the Old Florida charm that many cities are striving (and spending) to recreate.

That does not happen by accident. 

With bustling commercial corridors on both sides of the intercoastal and quaint residential areas that complement the relaxed feel, city officials have crafted the quintessential ‘beach town’ that now rivals Florida gems like Siesta Key, Captiva, and Key West.     

Unfortunately, New Smyrna has not been spared from the malignant sprawl that has spread across the width and breadth of Volusia County – a “growth at all costs” strategy, facilitated by compromised politicians whose loyalties were bought and paid for with massive campaign contributions – ramrodded by land use attorney’s and others who convinced us that developers can do anything they damn well please, regardless of how it affects their neighbors.

Now, many residents are concerned that the devastating flooding that blanketed many areas of Southeast Volusia during Tropical Storm Ian correlates to the hodge-podge of area development that left some neighborhoods uninhabitable. 

To their credit, earlier this month, city officials passed a six-month building moratorium on residential developments of ten acres or more – or more than 25 homes – in certain FEMA-designated flood zones covering the bulk of the city.

Now, the City of New Smyrna Beach has commissioned a study by Gainesville-based engineering firm Jones Edmunds & Associates Inc., who are now charged with determining the who, what, when, where, why, and how some 1,200 residents were left with between four-inches and four-feet of standing water in their homes and businesses. 

Last week, officials hosted a public information session attended by some 500 residents at the Brannon Center to communicate the “goals, scope, and schedule” of the study. 

In an excellent report by reporter Brenno Carillo writing in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned from the engineering firm’s vice president Brett Cunningham:

“The study will also “analyze the impact of large new developments and their associated stormwater management systems for potential adverse offsite impacts.”

“Once we put together a model and make sure that it’s matching all the observations we have for it, we are going to kind of go back in time, if you will,” Cunningham said. “We are going to take out some developments on the mainland side and on the beachside and see how things would have been in Hurricane Ian without those developments.”

The study will also “review the city’s stormwater code and standard for appropriateness and potential improvements.”

“(We are going to) compare those to what other similar communities are doing and see if there are other recommendations that we would have,” he added.

The firm’s team will “present findings and recommendations to the City Commission” in May.”

In other words, the study will check the arithmetic of those planners, engineers, and others who recommended approval of these developments back during Volusia County’s ‘Orgy of Greed’ that resulted in a frenzy of slash-and-burn clearcutting to facilitate anything and everything that came down the pike. . .


In my view, and at the risk of opening a Pandoras Box of panic-stricken real estate developers, if the study finds a direct connection between development, radical changes in topography, and substandard stormwater management – and the devastating inundation that impacted and displaced so many existing residents – there should be serious consequences for any shill who convinced us, “if you’re not growin’, you’re dying…”

According to the News-Journal, if you live in the New Smyrna area and would like to assist with the study, please email photographs and video of flooding to

This one bears watching, folks.

Angel               Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission

From the ‘Will wonders never cease’ file, last week, the Volusia County PLDRC said “No” to a developer’s request to change the zoning on twenty-six acres of undeveloped property at the intersection of South Blue Lake Avenue and Taylor Road near DeLand.

The 4-3 vote to reject the request came after the county’s malleable planning staff instinctively recommended approval. . .   

According to a piece by reporter Al Everson writing in the West Volusia Beacon:

“…the board voted 4-3 to recommend that the County Council keep the current land use of Rural, instead of the requested Urban Low Intensity. Changing the land use would have set the stage for the zoning to be changed from Rural Agriculture (A-2) to Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD).

Under the A-2 zoning, development would be limited to one home per five acres, or a maximum of about five homes.

But the property owner, Stewart Properties LLC, wanted to carve the 26 acres into 71 lots for single-family homes, as well as green spaces, a community park and stormwater ponds, in a community that would be called Taylor Ridge.

According to the Beacon, PLDRC Chair Ronnie Mills cited traffic and flooding concerns – and reminded his fellow committee members that once the county’s comprehensive plan is amended – it opens the door for increased density.

In my view, considering future impacts on existing residents and civic infrastructure is called responsible growth.

Interestingly, last February, the DeLand City Commission rejected a proposed annexation of the Taylor Ridge property over concerns that the developer would be entitled to more homes than permitted by current Volusia County land use regulations.

(Sounds like the old “When Mom says “No,” go to Dad” strategy of ultimately getting your way, eh?)

The measure will now go before the Volusia County Council with the PLDRC’s nonbinding recommendation dragging along like a neon boat anchor for everyone paying attention to see.      

We will soon see if our newly-seated Council members are willing to respect the deliberations and advice of their advisory boards – or will simply follow the pernicious process of rubber-stamping comp-plan amendments with no consideration of the civic and environmental impacts, or the quality of life of existing residents.

Asshole           Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees

Bethune-Cookman University is in real trouble.

In my view, the University’s wholly incompetent and irretrievably broken oversight board and what passes for ‘leadership’ are to blame.

I am not alone in that dismal assessment.

On Monday, an estimated 300 students gathered on the Bethune-Cookman campus demanding the resignation of the Board of Trustees – to include Chairman Belvin Perry – amid chants of, “Hey, hey, ho ho, the Board of Trustees has got to go” and “Hail Wildcats! Hail Belvin? Hell, no!”

According to a report in the Daytona Times, the student protest centered on the short, but shambolic, tenure of National Football League Hall of Famer Ed Reed as B-CU’s head football coach.

Reed was effectively dismissed on Saturday amid swirling controversy (without ever signing a contract) following his strong criticism of B-CU’s abysmal athletic facilities – along with his passionate support for players, their families, and staff. 

In my view, Ed Reed had the courage to say what others would not – putting his own time and money to solving long-standing problems, going so far as to personally pick-up trash around the school’s practice facility.

His honesty and sharp-elbowed push for positive change did not sit well with B-CU’s ‘powers that be.’ 

Unfortunately, as Ed Reed found out, speaking truth to power rarely ends well in these parts. . .

Now, the disclosures prompted by Mr. Reed’s shocking observations and subsequent departure has morphed into a nationally publicized catastrophe for the B-CU administration. 

More ominously, this week’s campus protest exposed disturbing revelations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in B-CU dormitories – accompanied by gross photographs of mold and mildew infested student living spaces – a situation described by the Daytona Times as “…moldy and rat-infested dorm rooms, substandard athletic facilities, and poor cafeteria food, among other things.”

Given the cost of a B-CU education, that’s unacceptable – and indefensible.   

In my view, B-CU never fully recovered from the sordid scandals and shadowy maneuverings that resulted in a financial spiral and corresponding lack of confidence that nearly destroyed the school’s reputation and viability.   

At the time, many felt those in a position to know better – the Board of Trustees – had an ethical, moral, and fiduciary responsibility to alumni, students, and staff to ensure the best interests of this historic university were protected from the self-serving motives of former ‘administrators’ and predatory shysters who financially gutted the institution. 

They didn’t.

Now, like before, the insular Board of Trustees – whose response to any internal or external criticism is to circle the wagons and communicate in canned pronouncements while refusing to alter their disastrous course – has left students, athletes, and staff feeling powerless to control the destiny of this vital community asset and preserve the important legacy of Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune.

So, students let their voices be heard.

Unfortunately, this continuing lack of substantive give-and-take with stakeholders and students will not end well, and many fear the continuing instability will hamper the university’s ability to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff. 

In a prepared announcement, B-CU Interim President Lawrence Drake advised that the University is preparing a comprehensive assessment of “…all its facilities for fitness, renovation, and teardown, as well as the construction of new facilities to enhance our campus,” while prioritizing “necessity and cost, as financial resources are limited.”

No word on who, when, or if anyone in a position of responsibility will be held accountable for allowing facilities to deteriorate into the horrific conditions described by Mr. Reed and the student body.

Kudos to those courageous students who moved swiftly this week to bring much needed attention to the on-going abominations being committed at B-CU before it is too late.

Quote of the Week

“The County Council will discuss the costs for beach access at its meeting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, a result of District 4 Councilman Troy Kent making a motion during his closing comments at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Kent — who while campaigning for his seat during the recent elections, vowed to “fight tooth and nail” for residents to be able to drive on the beach for free — said at the meeting that he wanted all non-residents to have to pay to park on the beach and at the county’s beachfront parks.

“The access for our beaches and many locations is broken,” Kent said. “I do not believe the county has done a good job in running our beach. I am hopeful that we can turn that around with this council and this advocate, because there’s never been a District 4 representative more pumped up, more concerned, and more excited to get our residents on our beach, enjoying it the way they should.”

–District 4 Volusia County Councilman Troy Kent, as quoted by Senior Editor Jarleene Almenas in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Volusia County Council to discuss cost of beach driving tolls for residents in March,” Thursday, January 19, 2023

Being a cynical dipshit, I am tempted to ask:

“Why is it when Chairman Jeff Brower suggested allowing Volusia County residents to drive on the beach without paying a fee – citing the fact we pay for the privilege each year with our exorbitant property taxes – he was strung up as a barking-mad lunatic by his “colleagues” – while Councilman Kent is now heralded as an oracle?” 

But I won’t. 

Frankly, I am grateful to Mr. Kent for finally getting this important issue the fair hearing it deserves. 

Perhaps our “new” Volusia County Council just want to get the matter settled early – drive a stake through the heart of “free” beach driving once and for all – or perhaps they are sincere about reversing the abysmal mismanagement and fee-grabbing that has turned our most precious natural asset into the uninviting, sign-polluted, and overregulated place it has become?

I don’t know.  But it will be interesting to watch how this play out.    

For anyone interested in preserving our long-standing tradition of beach driving – and protecting our shoreline from the threat of further erosion – please join Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, for their annual meeting on Saturday, February 18, at Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, beginning at 10am.

Everyone is welcome.

Topics will include a pause on new oceanfront development, with expert guests providing information on future tropical storm projections, sea level rise, meteorology, and beach erosion.

Sons of the Beach is a non-profit organization whose only membership requirement is a willingness to preserve Volusia County beaches.

For more information – or to join SOB – please go to   

And Another Thing!

Last week, reporter Charles Guarria published an exclusive in Volusia Hometown News regarding the concerns of David Wimmer Presents, the producer of the incredibly successful Welcome to Rockville four-day music festival held annually at Daytona International Speedway, claiming some local hotels are increasing room rates to unacceptable levels during the event.

According to a release by DWP earlier this month:

“During the 2022 Welcome to Rockville, one of the major concerns expressed by our fans was the high rates at the hotels in Daytona. As a result, fans chose not to attend or booked hotel rooms outside of Daytona. If this trend continues, we will be forced to look at a more affordable location for Welcome to Rockville. We are asking that the hotels please offer reasonable rates so we can stay in Daytona for many years to come.”


Of course, Bob Davis, Grand Poobah of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, was quoted by the Hometown News, “If our pricing has inched up a bit, it is from supply and demand.”

“We don’t gouge people. We don’t do things of that nature. It would be a violation of price-fixing laws. We don’t price fix. Everybody prices their rooms as how they see fit.”

Inched up a bit?

In a startling revelation, Mr. Guarria reported:

“The Courtyard by Marriott at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a mere half mile from the speedway. It charged an average of $300 per room last year for Welcome to Rockville. For this year’s festival, it has raised the prices to $439 for Thursday, May 18, and $444 for the succeeding two evenings. One month before the festival, a room can be had for $168 per night on average.”

“By comparison, a front desk receptionist informed the room price averages $250 during another busy time, snowbird season.”

Look, I’m no tourism analyst – but that’s over $1,300 (before taxes and fees) for a three-night stay at a Courtyard by Marriott. . . 

So, is this a case of supply and demand – charging what the market will bear – or a short-sighted money grab by some Daytona Beach Resort Area hoteliers forced to survive on the peaks and valleys of an event-driven cyclical economy – a boom/bust mercenary mindset that now threatens to drive Welcome to Rockville, which attracted an estimated 140,000 headbangers to the area in 2022, out of our fragile market? 

Shockingly, Mr. Davis – apparently speaking on behalf of the Halifax area hospitality industry – responded to the producer’s concerns with the laissez-faire shrug – “If he wants to pull out, let him pull out.”


Absent the infamous 2021 “Golden Shower” when Sophia Urista, the vocalist for Brass Against, dropped trou and gushingly, effusively, and volubly, urinated on a willing fan’s face as he sprawled on the stage – and the inclement weather during last year’s event that caused consternation over refunds – Welcome to Rockville has been seen as a positive for local businesses since arriving here from Jacksonville three-years ago. 

The Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently took things more seriously than Mr. Davis and broadcast DWP’s price gouging concerns to local industry marketing execs in an email earlier this month.

With beachfront resort properties struggling mightily in the aftermath of back-to-back tropical storms – amid reports that tourism dollars are down 30-50% – time will tell how local hoteliers will respond.

In my view, in an area that has taken a dim view of alternatives to traditional hotels – including criminalizing the concept of short-term rentals outside narrowly defined areas – it is time our hospitality gurus take a hard look at what remains of the “brand” and finally come to agreement on how to break (or embrace) their reliance on the special event cycle.

But transitioning to a more year-round destination requires a draw – a competitive product – something all the slick marketing slogans in the world cannot replace.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, the stodgy Halifax area tourism and hospitality apparatus has stood lead-footed – locked in almost paralytic inaction as the death spiral of the beachside gained speed – allowing corrosive blight, civic neglect, and economic stagnation to blanket our core tourist areas like a shroud.

It is called vision, something far more openminded and creative than the unhospitable “Screw ‘em. If they want to leave, let ‘em leave” mentality that continues to hamstring substantive progress here on the Fun Coast

That’s all for me.  Have a great Rolex 24 weekend, y’all!

Future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades. . .

“Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”

–Timbuk3, “The Future’s So Bright, I gotta wear shades”

Regular readers of these screeds know that I frequently equate the buffoonery of Fun Coast governance to a Théâtre de l’absurde.

Because it is.

An exercise in spoofing and quackery – the painfully drawn-out bureaucratic tragicomedy of fumbling to develop imaginary solutions to very real civic problems – while always ensuring adequate time and distance between the profit motives of our “Rich & Powerful” oligarchs and substantive public policies to preserve that which is important to We, The Little People.

You know, things like clean water, greenspace, and our quality of life. . .

I have a weird love/hate relationship with this dreadful political theater – the carefully orchestrated sideshows and attention-grabbing horseshit that is always punctuated by obsequious “D-list” politicians having their picture taken frotteuring “B-list” politicians – the egoistic preening and posturing that come so naturally to those self-centered peacocks who hold themselves out for public office today.    

For instance, last week, the incredibly popular Florida Governor Ron DeSantis travelled to our area to announce what The Daytona Beach News-Journal described as “…the largest slice of a $100 million pie” – $37.6 million in public funds earmarked for beach erosion projects in Volusia County following the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Nicole. 

Now, you and I know that $37.6 million is a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to what it will eventually cost to harden our greatest natural asset – but it is a start – and the appearance of one of the most popular politicians in the nation presented a prime opportunity that some of our tone-deaf County officials couldn’t help but take political advantage of. 

Posing proudly in front of the ruins of a public bathroom at the Dunlawton approach (a collapsed structure that has remained in place presumably to be used as stage dressing for political photo-ops since November) Governor DeSantis, along with County Council members Danny Robins and Matt Reinhart, were joined by beleaguered County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald to get a little dust on the spit-shines while having their picture taken holding one of those gaudy oversized cardboard checks politicians use as a prop whenever they are doing us a favor.

As though long-suffering taxpayers, and those poor souls working feverishly to protect their crumbling beachfront homes, had won a prize. . .   

My God.  Sick. 

Look, I get it. 

Getting elected to high office is an increasingly difficult proposition at all levels of government – and the pseudo-gravitas that comes from rubbing-elbows with popular politicians can have influence in an apathetic world where “glossy mailers” and goofy partisan “voter guides” have replaced identifying the issues, studying a candidate’s positions and voting record, or thinking for oneself.       

Just watch any of our local elected officials as they fall over each other jockeying for position, schmoozing, brown-nosing, and theatrically posing for the cameras (usually in their obligatory cowboy boots) whenever Gov. DeSantis makes one of his increasingly frequent appearances to secure the vote in Volusia County. 

But this is different.

Our government’s response to natural catastrophes – at the local, state, and federal level – should be a preplanned and well-executed process, based upon the concepts of emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts taken from lessons learned – not an orchestrated political stunt by pompous elected and appointed officials using a disaster scene as the backdrop for promoting their own self-interests.

It will also require a serious discussion of limiting development east of the Coastal Construction Control Line.   

Trust me.  Danny Robins and Matt Reinhart had absolutely nothing to do with Gov. DeSantis’ political decision to allocate $37.6 million to Volusia County (hell, Reinhart has been in office less than a month) – and both would rather take an ice water enema than discuss a building moratorium east of A-1-A – but that did not stop these two shameless self-promoters from doing what they do best.

(Sadly, I assume The Wreck climbed down from the Ivory Tower of Power in a desperate attempt to rehabilitate his tattered reputation as the debacle at the Volusia County Department of Corrections rages?)

Yeah.  Disappointing.

Look, I’m no image consultant, but if Robins, Reinhart, and Recktenwald are going to continue their pathological pursuit of having their photograph taken rubbing up against real political players – they should take Governor DeSantis’ example and remove their sunglasses – which presents a subliminal image they have something to hide, an inner sense of célébrité, or are avoiding eye contact with their constituents. 

Oh, wait. . .

The fact is elected and appointed officials at all levels of government have some difficult and time sensitive decisions to make regarding the replenishment and long-term protection of our most precious natural asset before the next series of corrosive storms pay us a visit.

Unfortunately, the future of our beach is not so bright.

In my view, now is the time for strong leadership, cutting the bureaucratic red tape, and facilitating a commonsense approach to stabilizing what remains, saving existing structures, and establishing a plan for the future – not more grandstanding and asinine political theater as politicians take credit for returning our money where it is needed most.

The Seduction of Secrecy

(Angels & Assholes will return next week. In my absence, a few things caught my jaundiced eye – like the age-old theater of Governor Ron DeSantis standing with several of our fawning Volusia County Councilmembers and County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – all holding one of those enormous cardboard checks – (as though strapped taxpayers in desperate need of beach erosion control won a prize?) – standing proudly before the ugly backdrop of a destroyed publicly owned beachfront restroom that has been laying in ruins since, oh, November…

We’ll have more on that stunt next week. For now, here’s a ditty from January 2020. As I’m fond of saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Ain’t that the damn truth?)

January 2020

(Lightly Edited)

“Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to the truth.”

–Thomas Jefferson, 1815

I find it fascinating that people – depending upon position and perspective – can see the same issue from such distinctly different viewpoints.  For instance, those who hold lofty public positions and elevate themselves above those who elected them have a different line of sight from those of us down here in the trenches.

In Volusia County, there is a supreme third perspective – the views of those known colloquially as our “Rich & Powerful” – the oligarchical insiders who trade in local politicians like cheap livestock each election season – then use their purchased clout to shape public policy.

As a result, the always self-serving vision of our uber-wealthy overseers is the only one that matters.

As outsiders peering into the inner sanctum of local governments through the greasy window in the fortified portcullis that separates us from those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – we are forced to use scripted public meetings to catch a glimpse of where our haughty “leadership” stand on the pressing issues of the day.

With the advent of paid government mouthpieces, “Community Information Directors,” and “Public Information Officers” – who sanitize, manage, and condense “the message” into expressionless press releases while running interference for public administrators – these stilted biweekly theatrical productions by the Volusia County Council and various municipal commissions are the only knothole we have left.

Over time, it has become painfully apparent that most official decisions are a foregone conclusion – hashed out ahead of time in the city or county managers office or based solely on the political insulation of a “staff recommendation” – reducing the need for public input or strategic thought on the important issues.

This homogenized decision-making process excludes differing opinions from the debate – reducing public policy considerations to an exercise in rubber stamping the behind-the-scenes “suggestions” of those with a chip in the game.

Look, don’t get me wrong – secrecy simplifies things.

However, as taxpayers, we should have an equal voice on how our money is spent – and some meaningful input in legislative and policy decisions that directly affect our lives and livelihoods.

It’s true.  “Information is the currency of power,” and ensuring the people’s ‘right to know’ is the central purpose of Florida’s venerated (yet increasingly eroded) public records and open meetings law.

Recently, this growing culture of secrecy became problematic when the City of Deltona willingly entered the high stakes game of attracting an Amazon distribution center – and the adage ‘knowledge is power’ became more than just a worn proverb.

Now, the long-suffering community is embroiled in yet another controversy as some city commissioners rightfully question why some members were provided advance information – and others were not.

Meanwhile, no one has mentioned that the good citizens of Deltona were asked to pony up millions in tax incentives before knowing who – or what – they were luring to town. . .

In my view, our local governments are increasingly falling victim to what Fritz Schwarz, Chief Counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice, has called “the seduction of secrecy,” and everyone will agree that an informed citizenry is democracy’s best defense.

So, why are We, The Little People being treated like mushrooms: Kept in the dark and fed bullshit?

I mean, the lengths to which some government offices will go to avoid answering legitimate questions from citizens and reporters – such as where millions in public funds have been spent – are becoming too obvious to ignore.

The working press, who, despite having some trust issues of their own, still hold an important watchdog role over the often-self-serving nature of government, should be provided reasonable access to investigate and report on the maneuverings and motivations of those who hold power over us.

That always gets messy – and it should.

Our elected and appointed officials derive their authority from the will of the people – in other words, they work for us – or at least they should.

Somehow, in Volusia County, those well-defined roles have been reversed.

This sense of remoteness between the average citizen and those we elect to serve our interests, is becoming institutionalized, an accepted part of what passes for local governance in the new decade, an environment where public policy is formed in seclusion.

Especially when public officials seem to completely ignore that the “trust issue” even exists.

This summer, when incumbent politicians come out of their bunkers in the Ivory Tower of Power to shake our hands, slap our backs, and ask for another bite at the apple, please take a minute to ask them when those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence became an afterthought?

Ask them why they sold their souls for a cameo in a staged play that no longer bears any resemblance to a representative democracy – or service in the public interest. 

Angels & Assholes for January 13, 2023

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:

No, you didn’t bump your head – A&A is publishing a day early this week. 

Sorry for the confusion.

Angel               Volusia-Flagler Veterans & Halifax Urban Ministries

Halifax Urban Ministries is doing God’s work.

The Daytona Beach nonprofit’s mission is to prevent homelessness among low-income families by providing emergency assistance and helping those who are on the streets find permanent housing. 

This week, a report by the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties found that 19,000 military veterans in Volusia and Flagler are considered Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed.  ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than is required to meet living expenses. 

In 2020, the United Way also found that 33% of Volusia County households are considered ALICE. 

According to a recent report by the Ormond Beach Observer:

“With the increasing cost of rent, it’s becoming more difficult for organizations like Halifax Urban Ministries to connect people with housing they can afford, said HUM Executive Director Buck James. HUM’s free Barracks of Hope program provides transitional housing to veterans who have struggled with homelessness, addition and mental health.

“I think more people in every category are reaching out for help, and that would include veterans,” James said. “As costs continue to escalate, it’s just becoming more difficult for everyone.”

The Barracks of Hope program provides up to nine-months of transitional housing, daily meals, and counseling services for struggling veterans. 

Fortunately, not-for-profits like United Way, CareerSource of Volusia-Flagler, and Halifax Urban Ministries recognize the problem and are working cooperatively to connect eligible veterans with Veteran’s Administration benefits, access to employment training and skill development, and help support local food pantries to assist with groceries. 

Let’s hope 2023 is the year our state and local elected officials open their eyes to the plight of ALICE families – including those veterans whose dedicated service and sacrifice helped provide the blanket of freedom we enjoy – and demand a better effort from our “economic development” shills than the low hanging fruit of warehouse scutwork.

To find out how you can help, please contact Halifax Urban Ministries at (386) 317-5880 or online at

Asshole           Volusia County District Schools

In a week where Volusia County District Schools announced it would be contracting with a company to fill educational vacancies with “international teachers” – now we learn that the district has declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with Volusia United Educators.

According to reports, school administrators are now reviewing potential contracts with two entities that import qualified English-speaking teachers from other countries under the J-1 visa to fill the massive number of instructional vacancies that remain in Volusia County classrooms as teachers and support staff continue to flee this dysfunctional shit show.

At present, Volusia County Schools currently have 141 instructional vacancies (down from 272 when the school year began) and 239 support vacancies – including 80 paraprofessionals.

Later this year, it is expected that Volusia County Schools will assist these international teachers with their arrival in the United States and help find housing (good luck) allowing them to start teaching later this year.    

School administrators in Flagler County are considering a similar arrangement.

Then, on Wednesday, the district’s mouthpiece issued a “press release” announcing that, “After careful consideration, the district’s bargaining team declared Impasse with the Volusia United Educators (VUE) Instructional and Support bargaining units regarding salaries and benefits.”

Wait.  At a time when contract negotiations with its teacher’s union have reached stalemate, the district has the huevos to tout the savings inherent to filling the recruitment and retention void by hiring “international teachers” when you don’t have to pay them benefits? 


The slanted release went on to explain the district administrations unique interpretation of the laws and regulations governing labor relations – including a weird prohibition on communications with School Board members – something VUE President Elizabeth Albert rightfully took umbrage with, calling the district’s release an “egregious misrepresentation” of the impasse process.  

According to an excellent article by education reporter Danielle Johnson writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ms. Albert summed up the concerns many have going forward:

“I get it. I get it that you’re trying to figure out how to solve this vacancy problem, but I want you to reflect upon this,” she said during public comment later on Tuesday. “If you don’t fix the problems that we have in our district right now, in our classrooms, in our schools, it doesn’t matter who you bring here because they’re not going to want to stay either.”

Albert said that teachers are revered and respected in other countries and questioned what will happen if they come here “and they’re met with violence and disrespect.”

Good question. 

Interestingly, it was also announced on Tuesday that the district’s recruitment and retention coordinator, Christy Mahaney, is also moving on to “bigger and better things.”


Stay tuned, folks.  This one bears watching.

Asshole           County of Volusia – Community Information

I’ve repeatedly written snarky bits poking fun at the County of Volusia’s abysmal audio/visual capabilities – technology that allows concerned residents who cannot haul themselves to DeLand twice each month to watch their County Council make the sausage. 

We, The Little People’s ability to access public meetings remotely is important because, as The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported, the Council’s impact is felt daily by Volusia County residents:

“The County Council has a lot of power collectively; it sets the policy direction for the county government, and the county manager carries out the decisions. The county is involved many parts of people’s daily lives: fire rescue services; water and sewer service; zoning; community services; the county jail; animal control; beaches; libraries; parks; and more.”

I have likened the rickety audio system in the Council Chambers to an early model of Bell’s harmonic telegraph (although, acoustically, it sounds more akin to two rusty soup cans connected by a taught waxed string in the style of Antonio Meucci’s telettrofono) – the difference being that one can decipher what is being said by either of those early means of voice-communications.

Apparently, no one who should give two-shits in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. . .

At present, taxpayers are required to squint to see the machinations of our elected policymakers and the massive bureaucracy that drives it, after navigating the Volusia County website – where we can choose between a postcard sized screen, a grainy and pixilated enlarged image, or an audio-only transmission. 

Over time, my preferred method of staying informed is to down a strong antiemetic, put the audio on in the background (Urrrp), and try to keep breakfast down. . . 

Unfortunately, that prevented me from observing the smirks, eyerolls, and meanspirited facial tics that telegraphed what members of the previous iteration of the Council thought about the ideas and suggestions of Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post. . .

But we are told things are different now, at least according to the promises of our “new” representatives, and a welcome spirit of collegiality – based upon “teamwork and coordination” rather than the contention and abject dysfunction we have come to expect – will drive deliberation and consensus. 

Time will tell.

Last week, Volusia County Judge Angela Dempsey – the wife of newly seated Councilman Don Dempsey – issued the oath of office to Danny Robins, Jake Johannson, Matt Reinhart, Troy Kent, and Mr. Dempsey (Councilman-elect David Santiago is on vacation for the first two meetings.  According to reports, he couldn’t get a refund for the trip, so, priorities being what they are, Mr. Santiago will start serving the citizens of District 5 sometime in February…).

As Judge Dempsey presided over the solemn occasion – the microphones sputtered and popped – intermittently cutting-out altogether – as a bewildered technician looked on, uncomfortably trying to make corrections between ceremonies. 

Then, during the business meeting that followed, technical issues with microphones on the dais became a distraction – and a glitch in the system that places councilmembers in the speaking queue malfunctioned – just when Councilman Johansson wanted to second an important motion by Mr. Kent to discuss establishing dog friendly sections of beach in all coastal communities. 

As it happened, when it appeared the motion would die, Chairman Brower relinquished the gavel to newly named Vice Chair Danny Robins and seconded the motion himself.

That resulted in some consternation from Mr. Johannson:

“I don’t want for you all here to presuppose anything that I may or may not do until I do or do not do it, and I suspect that we don’t want to do that for anybody else. You were perplexed that it wasn’t gonna get second. I was ready to second it.”

This is 2023, folks.  I can video conference with friends across the globe – but my councilmembers can’t effectively communicate sitting next to one another? 


For the uninitiated, according to reports, the current gilded Council Chamber was renovated in 2015 when a construction company owned by the family of a then sitting County Council member was the only entity to submit a bid (the councilmember left the room during the vote to avoid a potential conflict). 

It was the first time in three-decades the meeting space – and its antiquated technology – had been updated. 

What happened? 

And when will anyone admit a problem and fix the damn thing?

At this point, many citizens assume that Volusia County is doing everything possible to make access to public meetings so onerous and annoying that we simply go away.

Is there another explanation? 

And why don’t they want us watching?

I’m asking. 

In my view, with a new slate of elected officials seated – and an operating budget exceeding $1 Billion – it is time for our powers that be to implement upgrades that will allow effective communications with constituents who cannot be physically present – and breakdown the technological barriers to interaction on the dais.

In my view, that capability should include a public access television presence that will increase accessibility to the “people’s business.”  

Enough is enough.

Asshole           County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald

Last Friday, Volusia County made good on its threats and summarily fired former Department of Corrections Director Mark Flowers citing “performance and leadership issues.”

Interestingly, Flowers’ career at Volusia County did not end with a simple dismissal (or a negotiated exit to avoid costly litigation) – as senior officials took the extra step of destroying his professional reputation in writing – following a ham-handed HR process that we are told initially denied Mr. Flowers his due process right to a hearing. . . 

Mr. Flowers’ attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, has another explanation:  Retaliation. 

Prior to his termination, Flowers filed complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations alleging that he was retaliated against by senior officials after he blew the whistle and requested an internal investigation into the abuse of inmates by correctional officers. 

In response, Volusia County turned the tables, claiming that an internal investigation sustained serious violations against Flowers – including that he ordered the isolation of inmates, violated suicide protocols, created a hostile workplace, and directed that corrections officers place an inmate in a dangerous “four-point restraint” for an extended period.   

In his notice of termination, Volusia County Public Protection Department Director Mark Swanson rubbed salt in the wound, claiming Flowers had lost the support of many “if not all” of his command staff and correctional officers:

“While I recognize that you now claim that members of the command staff are incompetent and need to be fired, it is important to note that you were the one who promoted them into command staff positions.”


Something tells me that little ditty is not going to age well. . .

Now, as the ominous allegations and counteraccusations continue to fly, the one senior executive ultimately responsible for the operation and administration of all aspects of county government – the omnipotent County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – continues to draw a salary in excess of $246,700, plus benefits and perquisites, while successfully dodging accountability for the lack of situational awareness that led to the continuing debacle at the Department of Corrections.   

I have a problem with that. 

If you pay taxes in Volusia County, you should too.  

Disturbingly, last month, Community Misinformation Director Kevin Captain issued an embroidered “press release” blatantly mischaracterizing the results of an external review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office – which included an arrogant “statement” from Recktenwald that provided him an opportunity to publicly defend against the allegations brought by Flowers. 

In my view, this self-serving attempt to spin the facts of a growing scandal – coupled with the historic “trust issues” that have plagued Volusia County for decades – has further eroded the public’s confidence in County government and now casts doubt on Recktenwald’s moral authority to lead.    

There is a long-standing military tradition that newly seated At-Large Councilman Jake Johannson – a career naval officer and former public administrator – is no doubt familiar with:

“With responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability.”

The manager’s role is stipulated by County Charter – and Mr. Recktenwald’s authority is inviolate, to include complete autonomy in hiring, promoting, assigning, and terminating all county employees – with serious penalties for any elected official who insinuates themselves into operational aspects of government. 

In exchange for accepting this immense responsibility, the chief executive receives a salary and benefits package commensurate with the political volatility and answerability that comes with the position – and in Volusia County – the position is given a cursory pat on the head that passes for a ‘performance review’ each December – then, like clockwork, gifted a hefty pay increase. . .

In most organizations where such enormous power is consolidated in the hands of one individual, the concept of “accountability” is incredibly important to maintaining internal and external trust, and the delegation of authority to various “directors” and department heads in no way relieves the chief executive of his or her ultimate and continuing responsibility. 

It’s a hard dollar – and why holding a high-visibility leadership position is not for everyone. 

As a result, poor leaders often become so risk adverse that mediocrity and the status quo become the operative ethic – and when scandal hits – the instinctive organizational reaction is to control the narrative, “spin” the facts in a way most sympathetic to the bureaucracy, circle the wagons, find a scapegoat, deny, obfuscate, admit nothing, and make counteraccusations.

Sound familiar?   

Look, I am not talking about the everyday faults and imperfections inherent to human involvement in a complex bureaucratic system with lots of moving parts.  Honest mistakes are a healthy part of the process and can lead to positive changes in policies, protocols, and efficiencies – and repeatedly replacing the chief administrator over petty differences is incredibly destabilizing.        

But this scandal involves the physical abuse of persons in the legal care, custody, and control of the County of Volusia, grievous allegations that include segregating and tacking out an inmate in four-point restraints, in the nude, on a concrete pad – for days – something Mr. Recktenwald either knew, or should have known, was occurring. 

It has also dissolved into diametrically opposed accusations – with Mr. Flowers attorney claiming he was discriminated against and suffered retaliation when he brought forth information to Mr. Recktenwald regarding abuses at the jail. 

Add to that Mr. Captain’s suspiciously stilted press release and the administration’s credibility problem expands. 


In my view, now that Mr. Flowers has been terminated (with extreme prejudice) – it is right and just for County Manager Recktenwald to do the right thing and resign. Only then can the new Volusia County Council begin the complicated, but necessary, process of restoring trust in county government. 

Quote of the Week

“Adrian Brown was under the influence of alcohol to the point that his “normal faculties were impaired” when he operated the boat on Lake Osceola on May 31, 2021, according to the document from the Winter Park Police.

The report stated that Adrian Brown hosted a gathering where the majority of people were under 21. It also stated that Adrian Brown was an adult over the age of 18 and “had the authority or ability to regulate.”

Carter, who was under 21, drank “a large amount of alcoholic beverages,” causing him to be impaired, and he subsequently drowned, the report stated.”

–Reporter Frank Fernandez, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Brown son granted deferral in drowning,” Sunday, January 8, 2022

Kids are tailor-made to embarrass you. 

It’s what they do during periods in their formative years – and why I rarely mention it when some prominent progeny in the community pulls a boneheaded move and leaves their parents red-faced.   

Trust me.  I know what an incorrigible pain in the ass I was growing up (my long-suffering wife will tell you not much has changed…) and my frequent youthful indiscretions mortified my mom and dad on more than one occasion. 

But this is different. 

On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal published an article regarding “The accidental drowning of an intoxicated young man and underage drinking during a party at the home of J. Powell Brown, the president of Brown & Brown insurance, led to a misdemeanor criminal charge against Brown’s son.”

The piece explained that on Memorial Day 2021, Adrian Brown, then 20, hosted a house party where underage drinking occurred.  During the party, Brown reportedly operated a boat on Lake Osceola where a young man, identified as Charles Harrison “Harry” Carter, 20, failed to surface after swimming from the boat. 

A postmortem examination later found that Carter had a blood alcohol level of 0.317 – four times the legal limit of .08 for adults. 

According to the News-Journal:

“Several witnesses told police that Adrian Brown was under the influence of alcoholic beverages while operating the boat and had hosted a gathering where underage men and women were drinking.

Police found 80 empty bottles and cans of beer and hard seltzer aboard the boat as well as an empty bottle of wine and a half-empty bottle of vodka, the report stated.

Adrian Brown was charged with hosting an open house party causing or contributing to a death, a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.”

What has many shaking their heads is the fact Brown, now 22, “…reached a deferred prosecution agreement on Oct. 19, 2022, in which the charge will be dismissed and not refiled as long as he does not commit any “criminal violation” for six months, according to the agreement.

The agreement also requires Adrian Brown to successfully complete a four-hour drug and alcohol awareness class. The agreement also required him to pay $500 to Kids House of Seminole County and $50 to the State Attorney’s Office for the cost of prosecution.

In a motion filed Oct. 26 in Orange County Circuit Court, Adrian Brown’s attorney, Tad A. Yates, wrote that Brown had already completed the four-hour class and payments.”

The Brown family has reportedly settled a wrongful death lawsuit related to Carter’s drowning. 

The details of that settlement have not been disclosed.

And that’s that.  

Not surprisingly, many in the community are concerned about the appearance of things since this story broke on Sunday – questioning that the outcome of this tragic case might have been different – but for the power and prominence of the young man’s family? 

Others equate the outcome to the son of another wealthy Halifax area family who received what many thought was preferential treatment (“the deal of the century”) following his arrest and prosecution on charges of trafficking in cocaine and methamphetamine (which could have resulted in a lengthy prison term and massive fine) then being found under the influence, and in physical control of vehicle at a local bar, while on probation. . .

Does power and political influence result in extraordinary leniency for a few, while others are taken into the “system” and forced to accept the life-altering consequences of their actions?   

I hope not. 

Because even the appearance of differential treatment can result in a loss of confidence in our judicial system.     

Justice for Harry? 

You be the judge. . . 

And Another Thing!

On Monday, the City of DeLand hosted the Volusia Legislative Delegation – an annual audience with our state legislators and senators – a chance for local governments, civic organizations, and even We, The Little People – Joe and Jane Lunchpail – to dutifully genuflect, approach the thrones, prostrate ourselves before the assembled political clerisy – and beg for their largesse. 

That might be a slight embellishment, but it’s accurate, and a sure sign that the election season is over – a clear demarcation between the campaign season, when those seeking to represent our interests came to us, knocked at our door, and asked for our input (and our vote.)

Now, we are required to come before them, hat in hand, to seek a return on our tax dollars.   


According to reports, four of the six men who represent the Fun Coast in Tallahassee listened to some three-dozen requests – everything from funding for a new fire station in Holly Hill, to an impassioned plea for emergency assistance as the City of New Smyrna Beach struggles to recover from back-to-back hurricanes, a call for pedestrian safety initiatives, and prison reform – even a request for Florida to participate in a Convention of States to reign in the power of the federal government.   

Hell, I’d just like a little help with expediting local transportation infrastructure improvements, environmental protections, and water quantity/quality assurance – now that the massive sprawl that has feathered the nests of many of their campaign donors in the real estate development industry has outpaced our ability to support it. . .

Look, I realize these screeds come off as unappreciative of the delegation’s legislative efforts – and I always seem to tetchily focus on the turd in the punchbowl – but, in truth, I sincerely hope that our powerful state representatives can bring home bacon this session.

We need it.

Many of our neighbors are still hurting from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole – with some hospitality gurus speculating that tourism in down 35% to 50% due to beach erosion and damage to supporting infrastructure – and the ravages of the storms’ floodwaters have many still making repairs and rebuilding their lives on both sides of the Palmetto Curtain.

Time will tell. 

I don’t know about you, but I have also been impressed with some of the early suggestions of our newest members of the Volusia County Council – initiatives that will genuinely improve our quality of life and keep with our unique traditions.

For instance, Councilman Troy Kent has requested a February discussion on designating dog friendly sections of beach for each coastal community – something that was shot down by those obstructionists on the former council. 

I like that.

According to an excellent report by Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer:

“Kent’s suggestion is to create 100-yard sections of beach in all coastal unincorporated areas and municipalities where people may bring their dogs on a leash. He recommended adding signage, trash cans and waste stations at each, as well as having a lifeguard station to ensure people follow the rules the county chooses to instate, if the council does approve of the idea.”

Refreshingly, newly seated At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson said he was waiting to second Mr. Kent’s motion to discuss the idea when a technological glitch prevented Chairman Jeff Brower from recognizing him. 

Unfortunately, the only district-level holdover from the previous iteration of the council – Councilman Danny Robins – tried to shit on the idea and dug in his heels as he was taught by Volusia’s Old Guard

In doing so, Mr. Robins exposed a disturbing lack of vision and creativity when he cited the fact our beach is a “disaster” right now – while looking backward to the failed policies and procrastinations of his lockstep mentors on the former council. 

“I’m a dog guy just like you, just like everybody up here,” Robins said. “But there’s a lot of history with this.”

My ass.

According to the Observers report, Kent said staff would provide background information on the issue when it’s placed on the agenda, and that, while the beach is in a bad condition now, it won’t always be. If the council doesn’t talk about it now, Kent speculated the issue would fall to the wayside.”

Look, I have been burnt before – so, I’m not going to get giddily incontinent over the vision and direction of our “new” Volusia County Council just yet – but even a crusty naysayer like me must admit that most of our recently seated representatives have at least said all the right things.

Again, time will tell. 

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

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

Angels & Assholes will return for your listening and dancing pleasure on January 27th.

In the meantime, please enjoy a walk down memory lane by selecting a few ditties from the voluminous archives at the bottom of the page.  I find it interesting to see how history repeats here on the Fun Coast – the similarities and coincidences that have cemented my view that, “the more things change, the more they remain the same. . .”

Thanks for reading – see you soon!   

Angels & Assholes for January 6, 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:

Angel               The “New” Volusia County Council

Whether you agree philosophically and politically with the results of a local electoral process that has taken on the characteristics of a Turkish bazaar – for good or ill – our skewed “system” worked as intended.   

On Thursday, members of the “new” Volusia County Council were sworn-in with much pomp, circumstance, and turd-polishing pontification – annoyingly punctuated by the embarrassing audio malfunctions the long-suffering taxpayers have been forced to accept for far too long.  

Like many of you, I listened carefully to the various longwinded speeches of our newly seated “representatives” – and made a comprehensive list of the many lofty promises made. Of course, I got that warm feeling I always get when talk turns to quarterly coffee klatches with the lower caste, “cooperation and commonsense,” and “respecting citizens time.”

I was incredibly pleased by one of the first significant items addressed, when At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson suggested adopting a hybrid schedule to permit a mix of both daytime and evening meetings to allow more constituents to attend.

District 4 Councilman Troy Kent (who always comes off like a hyper-enthusiastic Middle School Assistant Principal…) strongly supported this concept – and took it one step further – initially making a motion to go to all evening meetings beginning in February. 

That died for lack of a second (while “staff” shifted uncomfortably in their seats. . .)

Another motion from the dais called for alternating start times with one monthly meeting beginning at 10:00am and the other at 4:00pm. 

The measure passed unanimously (with Councilman-elect David Santiago absent).

In my view, this move is a quantum leap forward in addressing the needs of those long-suffering constituents forced to take time away from work to approach their elected officials on issues of concern.

Good stuff.  Well worthy of an “Angel” designation, (I think).   

Kudos to our newly constituted Volusia County Council for considering the needs of their constituents and setting a new bar for accessibility and responsiveness. 

Will progress continue? 

I don’t know. 

I’m still trying to decipher exactly what the theater we witnessed on Thursday means.

But, in my view, the hybrid schedule is an invigorating departure from the stagnant status quo.  

Unfortunately, in my experience, because the bureaucracy and its entrenched leadership remains the same – and the self-serving motivations of those influential insiders who control the rods and strings of public policy have not changed – I don’t expect anything to substantively improve on the dais of power.

That includes the continuing political castration of Chairman Jeff Brower. . .   

I hope that’s not the case.  But it is.   

Disturbingly, when talk turned to refining “the rules” – those contrived constraints which our elected officials use to limit the right of We, The Little People to provide input, speak our mind, and stand before our elected representatives for redress of grievances – it became apparent that some of our Monarchical “representatives” (including the monotonous bureaucratic babbler Councilman Troy “Super Excited!” Kent) still believe their time is more important that yours.


In keeping with tradition, things later dissolved into minor confusion over procedural issues as the new members attempted to get their sea legs – and Chairman Brower once again proved that, while he is a capitulating nice guy – he is wholly out of his element on the political battlefield –and, as per usual, the Chair allowed the “discussion” to melt into a chaotic ramble. 

But it’s the citizens who are holding up the “people’s business”? 

My ass.

It seems in Volusia County, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   

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

Stand by.  Things are just getting started. . .

Angel               Politis & Matovina and The City of Daytona Beach

The Halifax area has its share of problems, but we can still do what we do best:

Throw a kickass party!

On New Year’s Eve, thousands of revelers enjoyed the 16th Annual Politis & Matovina Law Firm’s New Year’s Eve on Main Street Party – a family friendly celebration complete with multiple entertainment stages, street performers, food, drinks, and a midnight ball drop.

Thanks to the support of Politis & Matovina, the event was free for residents and visitors!

The City of Daytona Beach assisted by closing Main Street to vehicular traffic, and, as always, the Daytona Beach Police Department kept everyone safe.

Throughout the evening, Fox News Channel provided national exposure of the Daytona Beach Resort Area with frequent cutaways to a roving reporter interviewing revelers of all ages along Main Street. 

I’m certainly not a “hospitality genius” (Lord knows we have enough of those) but our resident experts at the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Halifax Area Advertising Authority – the “brain trust” who decide how bed-tax funds are spent – could learn something by talking to Main Street merchants, analyzing historically successful events versus those that fill hotel rooms but have a destructive impact on our tattered “brand,” then wisely allocate funds to aggressively market these high draw/low impact events to potential visitors.

Last year, former Daytona Beach Mayor Dick Kane concluded an excellent essay on historical issues with our tourism industry when he laid down some hard-earned wisdom:

“The Resort Tax started at 1 per cent and, like them all has grown to 24 million and is technically overseen by the County Council. Maybe it’s time to take another overall look at our tourist lifeblood.”

I agree.

That requires a break from the current strategy of repeatedly rubber-stamping goofy marketing slogans (“Seize the Daytona,” “Wide. Open. Fun.,” “Beach on, bitches!” etc., etc.) concocted by another out-of-town advertising agency – then demand that our tourism gurus focus on what works – rather than throwing good money after bad while expecting a different result. 

It would also help to see substantive movement on the long-anticipated renovation of the blighted East International Speedway Boulevard gateway – that suppurating carbuncle that for decades has served as a ghastly first impression to visitors and potential investors – a much-needed makeover we have been promised (repeatedly) will begin “early this year.”

Kudos to Politis & Matovina, the City of Daytona Beach, and everyone who worked hard to make New Year’s Eve on Main Street another roaring success!

Asshole           Volusia County District Schools

In an outstanding October 2022 exposé by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s education reporter Danielle Johnson, we learned that the mother of a student with Down syndrome who attends Seabreeze High School under a deferred graduation program filed state and federal complaints alleging discrimination against her son and other students with disabilities.

According to the original report, “Anni Suadi says the district “warehouses” students with disabilities in segregated “building 15” at the high school “like it used to be back in 1950,” and that Volusia County Schools has not followed her son Lance Avery’s legally binding individualized education plan (IEP).

The actions, which she calls “immoral,” “unethical” and “illegal” in her complaint, have deprived him of opportunities to participate in electives and be included with general education students. She’s pulled him out of school until a change is made to include her son and other students.”  

Unfortunately, the trials of Lance Avery are not unique in Volusia County Schools.

In 2021, the United States Department of Justice reached a settlement with Volusia County Schools after finding the district’s “…systemic and discriminatory practices” were punishing students with disabilities for behaviors the students couldn’t control.”

That investigation began in 2017 after an attorney representing eleven students – nine of whom were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – filed complaints on their behalf with the DOJ.

According to a 2021 News-Journal report:

“The DOJ found the students’ claims to be true. The district relied on overly punitive disciplinary tactics and law enforcement to address behaviors that are known or should be known manifestations of the students’ disabilities. The district also “routinely sought to exclude these students by removing them,” by asking parents to pick children up from school or asking them to keep the children home, by suspending the children, or by using Baker Act procedures to involuntarily hold children at hospitals.” 

The resulting settlement gave the district three-years to revise discriminatory policies and procedures. . .

Earlier this week, the News-Journal reported that Lance Avery’s due process claim was dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge following a hearing in December. 

Controversial attorney Barbara Myrick represented the Volusia County School Board. . .

As you may recall, in April 2021, Myrick was arrested on a charge of unlawful disclosure of statewide grand jury proceedings and subsequently resigned from her role as Broward County School Board General Counsel.   

The indictment came in the shambolic aftermath of the Broward County School Board’s disastrous handling of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

You can read more here:

On Tuesday morning, School Board Member Ruben Colon – in my view, one of the most transparent, sincere, and genuinely helpful elected officials in Volusia County – confirmed that Ms. Myrick serves as an attorney with a firm contracted by the district, and she specializes in cases related to exceptional student education.

To her credit, Anni Suadi, told the News-Journal “she’s not done fighting.”

According to the News-Journal report:

“In the final order, the judge did acknowledge that one witness, an Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer, presented testimony that was “highly insensitive,” as she stated, “we can’t have him (Avery) on campus where the students who are much younger than him are using him as a plaything and a toy and a pet.”

“The kids are mentors,” Suadi said, disagreeing. “Lance, he grows socially, he becomes independent, he communicates, he complies, he’s on task, he does what all the other kids do….

He’s made friends. Nobody plays with him like he’s a pet or a toy.

Suadi intends to appeal the final order with a lawsuit and is in touch with an assistant United States attorney in the Middle District of Florida’s Orlando Division about elevating her complaints. She has also filed a report with the Daytona Beach Police Department over alleged falsification of Avery’s records.”

Good for Ms. Suadi. 

Given the fact the school district is under an active federal settlement agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section, my hope is DOJ intervenes on Lance Avery’s behalf and gets this matter out of the Florida Administrative Hearing process and into a federal courtroom where it belongs.    

In fact, my hope is the Civil Rights Division will open a branch office here on the Fun Coast, clear the logjam, and let the chips fall where they may. . . 

Quote of the Week

“The News-Journal requested the surveillance video, but Captain cited a law that exempts from public records videos “relating directly to the physical security or fire safety of the facility or revealing security or fire safety systems.”

“In follow up with our legal team, case law has consistently held that video obtained from a surveillance system at any government facility falls within that exemption,” Captain wrote in an email to The News-Journal. “There are several attorney general opinions that confirm this. It does not matter how many cameras are involved.”

–Volusia County “Community Misinformation” Director Kevin Captain, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Report: Inmate, officers give conflicting accounts of incident at Volusia jail,” Wednesday, December 28, 2022

In recent weeks, many have been fuming about the growing speculation following scandalous revelations of inmate abuse at the Volusia County Department of Corrections. 

Despite Volusia County’s repeated attempts to downplay the scandal – it’s a ‘big deal.’

Look, I often make light of the civic issues we face here on Florida’s Fun Coast.  Let’s face it, laughing at our collective plight beats the alternative of throwing ourselves in the floor and having a good cry. . .

But one thing I never joke about is trust in government.   

Unfortunately, in Volusia County “the truth” has now become a choreographed narrative carefully crafted by Mr. Captain – a highly paid mouthpiece who “manages” information and controls the story by spinning “facts” – a strategy which ensures that no one in a position of high responsibility is ever held accountable for (insert debacle du jour).      

On Monday, I wrote my thoughts on the swirling controversy at the Volusia County Department of Corrections – including allegations by former Department of Corrections Director Mark Flowers that he is being retaliated against by senior administrators for blowing the whistle on issues at the jail.

Much of what we know about this disturbing controversy initially came from Mr. Flowers’ attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, as reported by The Daytona Beach News-Journal – revelations which were followed by counter-accusations from Volusia County – including claims that an internal investigation sustained a laundry list of violations against Flowers that 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.

Last month, just hours before the Christmas break, Volusia County issued a self-serving press release choreographed by “Community Information” Director Kevin Captain – complete with a chest-thumping “statement” from County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – touting the results of an independent review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney of a single use of force incident when corrections officers intervened following a fight between two inmates.

According to Mr. Captain’s glowing release, “An independent, outside review of an altercation at the Volusia County Branch Jail in April found no evidence that corrections officers used excessive force while gaining control of a combative inmate.”


That’s vastly different from the findings of Volusia County Department of Public Protection Captain David Vanis whose initial internal investigation concluded, “Based on the information gathered during this investigation, I am unable to determine if the force used against (inmate Caruthers) on April 26, 2022, was excessive in nature.”

Of course, Mr. Captain’s spin set up Mr. Recktenwald to spike his apparent vindication from Mr. Flowers’ pointed allegations in a prepared statement:

“The fact that the review by the State Attorney’s Office of the interviews, evidence and circumstances came to the very same conclusion shows that we were thorough and transparent in our investigation,” said Recktenwald. “We appreciate the detailed and professional manner in which our internal affairs staff conducted the investigation. The suggestion that our investigation was handled in anything less than an appropriate and exemplary manner has been proven to be false.”

Nothing to see here, folks.  Keep moving. . .

So much for self-reflection, a transparent failure analysis, an honest examination of leadership breakdowns, acceptance of responsibility, and the recentering of organizational values at VDOC, eh?

In my view, the FDLE investigative report – and the subsequent prosecutorial review – paint a disturbing picture of issues at the Volusia County Department of Corrections – with conflicting testimony, opposing vantagepoints, and differing recollections of the same incident.

According to reports, neither the Volusia County Department of Public Protection, nor FDLE, were able to definitively determine if the use of force was excessive in nature, resulting in findings of “not sustained” in the case of four of the officers named in the incident – and “unfounded” in the case of two of the officers involved.

Back when I was conducting and reviewing Internal Affairs investigations, “not sustained” generally meant that the investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation – while “unfounded” determined that the alleged incident did not occur.

According to the findings of Assistant State Attorney Ashley Terwilleger, the inquiry was complicated by the fact, “Video surveillance of the area outside the cell provided views of the common area outside of the cell but no angle provides a view of the interior of the cell. There are no video surveillance cameras for the interior of the cell.”

As a result, the State Attorney’s Office found “insufficient evidence to proceed.”

I don’t know about you, but I find Director Captain’s slanted media release, and refusal to release video of the incident, alarming – especially since Volusia County rarely (if ever) publicly comments on employment matters and pending litigation. . .

As the great television journalist Bob Schieffer once said, “…self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation; it makes it worse, because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says.”

Add to that Mr. Captain’s reliance on legal mumbo-jumbo, “case law,” attorney general opinions, and “exemptions” to Florida’s public records laws whenever it does not serve the County’s narrative – and it gives the appearance our county government has something to hide. . .

That’s a problem.

But don’t worry. 

When the time is right, these incredibly well-paid senior administrators will puff out their chests in righteous indignation, then crow, ad nauseam, about their “honor and professionalism” while their bosses – our elected representatives – gaze misty-eyed from the dais, validating this abhorrent continuing course of conduct with their inaction. . .

It’s good to have “friends,” right?    

Earlier this week, I said what many are thinking regarding the ongoing shit show at the Volusia County Department of Corrections – hoping against hope that “The Wreck” would follow his conscience, accept responsibility commensurate with his vast authority (and paycheck), do the right thing and resign during the swearing-in ceremony for the “new” Volusia County Council.   

You know – out with old, in with the new?


That will teach me to put faith in senior Volusia County officials following their conscience, eh?

Hell, even with Councilman Matt Reinhart, the former jail warden now in a position of oversight, the 800-pound abusive gorilla in the room that is the VCDOC debacle wasn’t even mentioned.

(Like I said – where is the United States Department of Justice when we need them?)

The faces on the dais of power may have changed this week, but make no mistake, the exclusive Good Old Boys Club is alive and well in the cloistered Halls of Power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – and those of us who pay the bills are clearly not members.

Despite our optimism for new beginnings, the “Trust Issue” which has hampered substantive progress continues. 

That’s a damn shame.

And Another Thing!

Whether we like it or not, you and I are about to run a railroad. 

What?  You don’t know diddlysquat about the management and logistics of operating a complex commuter-rail system that will ultimately connect DeLand with points south? 

That’s okay.  Neither do our powers that be.

Unfortunately, no one who should seems to give two-shits as we trundle like a runaway locomotive toward the Florida Department of Transportation’s handover of SunRail to Volusia, Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties and the City of Orlando. 

What we do know is that in coming weeks, work will begin on the final segment from DeBary to DeLand while senior administrators in DeLand and beyond continue to shillyshally on the all-important details as the clock ticks.

The twelve-mile section will cost $34.2 million (Volusia County taxpayers will cover a quarter of that) and the line will terminate at a depot to be constructed near the DeLand Amtrak station. 

With FDOT actively preparing to unload SunRail onto the backs of locals in June 2024, the who, what, when, where, and how (don’t get me started on the why) of the operation and management of the commuter-rail system remains in limbo – including exactly how much you and I will be on the hook for annually – given that ridership is far less than what is required to sustain operating costs for a system that still does not run nights or weekends.   

As I understand it (and I am not sure I do) some are suggesting that the current Commuter Rail Commission become SunRail’s operating agency – an incredibly expensive proposition that would require constructing another massive multifaceted bureaucracy – including hiring some 200 people, building dedicated office space, purchasing various insurance coverage, etc., etc., etc.   

Another suggestion is to contract with Orlando’s existing public bus system known as Lynx – which knows nothing about running a railroad – a move some see as limiting Volusia County’s say in the governance of the system even more than it has been. 

So, why the lack of urgency to find solutions?

Better ask your elected “representative” on the Volusia County Council while they are still feeling communicative. . .

Recently, West Volusia resident and dedicated government watcher Keith Chester wrote in the West Volusia Beacon:

“Our County’s leaders have, as is often said in County Council meetings, kicked the can down the road long enough on the issue of SunRail. It is time to start moving forward with the public’s input. Just waiting to see what the State and the SunRail commission offers up is wrong.

To members of the Volusia County Council, please bring the DeLand SunRail project out of the shadows and call for a nighttime workshop that will allow for the public to participate in the process. Enough of the wishy-washy BS over SunRail, it is coming so let’s make the best of it together!

Sorry Keith.  I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. . .

Happy New Year, everyone.   

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

The Trouble With the Truth

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

– Albert Einstein

Much has changed in the administration of local governments since my retirement from public service.

Good and bad.   

One of the most noticeable is the widespread use of highly paid public information professionals – the “spinmeisters” who serve as gatekeepers for senior administrators and elected officials, none of whom speak directly with the media outlets who once ensured accountability in the cloistered Halls of Power, now communicating exclusively through canned ‘press releases’ and orchestrated “statements.”

Most do a great job of keeping us informed, serving as a single point of information, especially during times of crisis. But make no mistake – as the official mouthpiece, the “PIO” reflects the character of the organization they represent.

“In my day,” public officials developed close working relationships with individual reporters based upon mutual trust – the daily exchange of information that kept the public informed – and I was honored to serve with some of the best in the business.

All these years later, I still maintain friendships with some of the hardworking print and television news reporters I had the pleasure of working with. 

The inviolate rule was to never breach that sacred trust, and I learned early that when my agency made a mistake (and I made some doozies) – it was important to air the dirty laundry – admit the error, explain the circumstances without excuse or embroidery, apologize to constituents, and set about making things right. 

Could that soul-bearing exercise be painful? 

You bet it was. 

That’s the trouble with the truth.  It is difficult – but essential. 

However, the alternative of allowing issues to fester into scandals can be disastrous – and any Public Relations pro will tell you the cover-up is always worse than the crime.  Because once a government official or entity loses the public trust, it is nearly impossible to win it back. 

Unfortunately, when elected and appointed officials begin circling the wagons and pulling the shades, things quickly deteriorate – and a domino effect of distrust can quickly spread – especially to those charged with the oversight of governmental operations where even the appearance of impropriety can have wide-ranging implications.  

In my view, the most recent example of this bureaucratic sleight-of-hand is the on-going conflagration at the Volusia County Department of Corrections following revelations of horrific inmate abuse – including allegations by former Department of Corrections Director Mark Flowers that he is being retaliated against by senior administrators for blowing the whistle on issues at the jail. 

Much of what we know about this disturbing controversy initially came from Mr. Flowers’ attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, as reported by The Daytona Beach News-Journal – revelations which were followed by counter-accusations from Volusia County – including claims that an internal investigation by Human Resources sustained a laundry list of violations against Flowers that 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.


Now, things have gone from bad to worse.   

Amid this swirling controversy, last month, the final act of that foul iteration of the Volusia County Council resulted in a 5-1 vote to gift County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and County Attorney Mike Dyer a 4% pay increase.  Only Chairman Jeff Brower rightfully reserved judgement until the various questions, speculation, and investigations surrounding the Department of Corrections debacle are concluded. 

As this rotten onion continued to peel, just hours before the Christmas break, Volusia County issued a self-serving release choreographed by “Community Information” Director Kevin Captain – complete with a chest-thumping “statement” from County Manager Recktenwald – touting the results of an independent review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney of a single use of force incident when corrections officers intervened following a fight between two inmates.

According to Mr. Captain’s glowing release, “An independent, outside review of an altercation at the Volusia County Branch Jail in April found no evidence that corrections officers used excessive force while gaining control of a combative inmate.”


That’s a far cry from the findings of Volusia County Department of Public Protection Captain David Vanis whose initial internal investigation concluded, “Based on the information gathered during this investigation, I am unable to determine if the force used against (inmate Caruthers) on April 26, 2022, was excessive in nature.”

Of course, Mr. Captain’s spin set up Mr. Recktenwald to spike his apparent vindication from Mr. Flowers’ pointed allegations in a prepared statement:

“The fact that the review by the State Attorney’s Office of the interviews, evidence and circumstances came to the very same conclusion shows that we were thorough and transparent in our investigation,” said Recktenwald. “We appreciate the detailed and professional manner in which our internal affairs staff conducted the investigation. The suggestion that our investigation was handled in anything less than an appropriate and exemplary manner has been proven to be false.”

Nothing to see here, folks.  Keep moving. . . 

So much for self-reflection, a transparent failure analysis, an honest examination of leadership breakdowns, acceptance of responsibility, and the recentering of organizational values at VDOC, eh?

In my view, the FDLE investigative report – and the subsequent prosecutorial review – paint a less than “exemplary” picture of issues at the Volusia County Department of Corrections, with conflicting testimony, opposing vantagepoints, and differing recollections of the same incident.

According to reports, neither the Volusia County Department of Public Protection, nor FDLE, were able to definitively determine if the use of force was excessive in nature, resulting in findings of “not sustained” in the case of four of the officers named in the incident – and “unfounded” in the case of two of the officers involved.

Back when I was conducting Internal Affairs investigations, “not sustained” generally meant that the investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation – while “unfounded” determined that the alleged incident did not occur. 

According to the findings of Assistant State Attorney Ashley Terwilleger, the inquiry was complicated by the fact, “Video surveillance of the area outside the cell provided views of the common area outside of the cell but no angle provides a view of the interior of the cell. There are no video surveillance cameras for the interior of the cell.”

As a result, the State Attorney’s Office found “insufficient evidence to proceed.”

I don’t know about you, but I find Director Captain’s slanted media release alarming – especially since Volusia County rarely (if ever) publicly comments on employment matters and pending litigation. . . 

Confused?  Me too. 

According to an excellent follow-up by reporters Sheldon Gardner and Frank Fernandez writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Report: Inmate, officers give conflicting accounts of incident at Volusia jail”:

“The FDLE did not make a finding on whether the force by correctional officers was justified or illegal. The agency, as it typically does, turns over its report to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecutors to decide whether charges are warranted.”

Now Mr. Captain – and Mr. Recktenwald – have a big credibility problem. 

I suspect FDLE – and the Office of the State Attorney – are reassessing this disturbing development as well. 

At least I hope they are. . .

In my view, this problem begins (and ends) with County Manager Recktenwald – who either knew, or should have known, of the systemic abuses, low morale, and dangerous practices employed at the jail – and that neither Director Captain’s release, nor his gloating “statement,” were an accurate portrayal of FDLE’s review.

Now it is high time for the United States Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate, provide oversight, and return public confidence to the Volusia County Department of Public Protection.

With significant questions swirling around the myriad issues at the Department of Corrections (and the executive suite) – this is not the time for Mr. Captain’s “cover your ass” crisis-management, skewed press releases, and the political insulation tactics that have effectively destroyed the public’s trust in Volusia County government. 

With a new slate of elected officials set to be sworn in on Thursday – the ceremonial transfer of power presents an excellent opportunity for The Wreck to finally accept responsibility and resign.

Because We, The Little People will never believe anything Recktenwald or Captain say again. . .  

I hate to throw a damper on the pomp, circumstance, and self-congratulations, but the first order of business for our “new” Volusia County Council should be to throw open the musty drapes at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building and allow the disinfecting light of day to shine – then hold those in positions of high responsibility accountable for the maladministration that allowed these disturbing issues to fester in the first place.