“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?)
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.