Angels & Assholes for March 24, 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:

Asshole           Volusia County Council

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

–Carl Sagan

Call me a soothsayer, but I just knew the innovative ideas of creating a dog friendly section of beach – and freeing Volusia County residents from the odious burden of double-taxation in the form of beach access fees – were dead on arrival when the bureaucracy started presenting its own “facts” ahead of the public meeting last week – prefaced by the fearmongering line, “What you are not being told about Free dogs on the beach and Free beach driving passes…”

Upon taking office in January, District 4 Councilman Troy Kent expressed interest in establishing limited dog friendly sections of beach in each coastal community – and resurrected the possibility of allowing residents to drive on the beach toll-free by charging out-of-county visitors a little extra for vehicular access and parking in beachfront parks. 

Councilman Troy Kent

The idea had originally been a campaign promise of Chairman Jeff Brower – but, of course, the initiative was universally shit-on by the previous iteration of the council because, well, it was a campaign promise of Chairman Brower…

Sadly, in lockstep conformity with the bloated bureaucracy he serves like an errand boy, in February, Councilman Danny Robins moved to squash the idea early, wringing his hands and crying the Poormouth Blues, championing the cause of nickel-and-diming strapped residents at every turn:

“The big elephant in the room is, how are we going to pay for it?  I don’t want to hear that we have a $1.2 billion budget — that’s not a sufficient answer … We’re in an economic decline.”

Yeah.  Let’s get the inconvenient fact “…we have a $1.2 Billion budget” off the table early… 

The truth is, area families are the ones suffering from inflation, rising housing costs, and “economic decline” – while Volusia County government remains flush with cash – as the increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy gets larger and more distended by the day.


On Monday, literally one-day prior to the discussion, Volusia County officials received an email from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service warning that opening a dog friendly pilot site near Bicentennial Park in Ormond-by-the-Sea could violate provisions of the Incidental Take Permit that protects shorebirds, sea turtles and other threatened species – which, some warn, could potentially end our century-old tradition of beach driving. 

So, after sitting stone-faced as over twenty residents spoke both for and against the proposal – and the hyper-emotional Councilman Robins engaged in a few of his nonsensical stream-of-consciousness histrionics – some of our elected representatives suggested ruthless penalties for anyone found in the company of a dog without a “doo-doo bag” in their hand, more signage, adding a full-time animal control officer to patrol the short stretch of sand writing citations commanding hundreds of dollars in fines, having pet owners pay a fee and register with Volusia County, and generally making it so burdensome that no one in their right mind would visit the “dog friendly” area – the council deferred their decision on creating a test site near Andy Romano Beachfront Park in Ormond Beach until staff can obtain more information from the feds.

It was interesting to watch Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan at work – a true Master of the art of Bureaucratese and Pettifoggery – as she dispassionately inflated costs for the trial program by swinging a wild-ass guess that the dedicated animal control officer would cost $104,000 and a few waste bag dispensers would set us back nearly $6,000.

(Just for grins, I did a quick Google search and found durable aluminum pet waste bag dispensers with keylock holding up to 700 bags for $61.00 each – and 6,000 replenishment bags for less than $200.00…)

While we’re talking about inflated costs for services – another Google search found that the combined salaries of the three senior staff members who spoon-fed the canned PowerPoint presentations to council members totals almost $500,000 annually (2021 excluding benefits. 

Wow.  Talk about the Old Bamboozle…

In my view, this was a perfect example of government taking a simple suggestion – the establishment of a small area of our 47-miles of beach to accommodate dogs on a leash – and making it so onerous, complicated, and expensive that it takes the fun out of the concept, paints any elected official who supports it as a spendthrift, and exasperates supporters until they simply give up and go away. 

Even with a generous donation of $100,000 in start-up funds gifted by Ormond Beach philanthropists Nancy and Lowell Lohman – and an anticipated favorable nod from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – it would be at least November before the proposed trial period would begin, giving senior staff something to micromanage, analyze, trifle over, dissect, worry, and bicker about for the next, oh, seven-months.

Look, most people of average intelligence could create a dog friendly section of beach before lunch with little consternation, additional staff, or added cost – but not county government.  

In the cloistered Halls of Power in DeLand, by splitting hairs, arbitrarily setting an astronomical budget estimate, bringing to bear multiple levels of government and federal regulatory agencies, parading high-paid lawyers, division directors, and deputy managers before the dais of power – the bureaucracy ensures the status quo – and innovation is quickly suffocated to the strains of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well, mission accomplished, fellas…    

When talk finally turned to Councilman Kent’s well-thought plan for increasing revenue using paid off-beach parking for out-of-town visitors to allow Volusia County residents toll-free vehicular access to our beach, Councilman David Santiago immediately employed some parliamentary slight-of-hand to effectively cut Kent off at the knees to ensure nothing of substance could be done to change the current fee schedule.   

Once the status quo was safe, “staff” began down a byzantine path as the lawyers were once again trotted out to explain why a “uniformity requirement” of the County charter demands the general fund “buy down” the difference in the cost between residential and non-residential annual passes.

I don’t get it, either. 

But it apparently means you and I – the stoop-shouldered Volusia County taxpayer – will continue to pay twice for the privilege of accessing our beach for the rest of our lives…

As the “discussion” continued, to ensure that We, The Little People keep paying through the nose for a day at the beach, those stalwarts of the status quo used their patented scare tactic – raising the specter of burying us with even higher property taxesnever once considering hacking the thick rind of fat off the redundant, ever-expanding (and grossly ineffective) Coastal Division and its various and sundry support functions.

Look, you and I both know they were never going to let us off the hook for beach tolls. 

That was telegraphed last week, well before Tuesday’s hot-air session, when Councilman Robins published a laundry list of “facts” on social media so everyone (including his “colleagues” on the dais) knew how he planned to vote – announcing that the “Beach Budget is roughly $14 million dollars” (the beach management budget is actually $24,527,613.  The $14 million represents the amount the “beach budget” is subsidized by the general fund under the “buy down” requirement). 

He also embroidered a fancy dress for this tax by another name and labeled it a “user fee.”   

$24.5 million annually? 

For what? 

To ham-handedly “manage” a natural shoreline that could manage itself without any interference from Volusia County?  

I defy anyone to point to a single beach management service – from closed ramps to officious wardens, impassable walkovers, the lack of a comprehensive erosion control plan, a chronic lifeguard shortage, and the ever-expanding ugly forest of poles, signage, and cones littering the strand – that works well for residents and visitors.   

Ominously, in a weird (but not unexpected) twist, Councilman Don Dempsey showed us serfs the whip by threatening an increase in beach access and parking fees for residents as well.   

You read that right.  

That will teach us ungrateful helots from getting our hopes up, eh?   

I realize that getting the government’s heavy hand out of our pockets and away from every aspect of our daily lives – including a day at the beach – is frightening to our powerful elected elite and those entrenched mandarins who control our lives and livelihoods from the Ivory Tower of Power in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.

As things stand now, the Council voted 6-1 – with Chairman Jeff Brower casting the lone “No” vote, to direct staff to bring back recommendations for charging out-of-town visitors for off-beach parking.

Now, many are wondering who this “new” iteration of the Volusia County Council exists to serve – We, The Little People who pay the bills, or the omnipotent bureaucracy, now containing so much mass and internal momentum that antiquated notions of oversight, policy implementation, and political accountability no longer matter?   

On Thursday, Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, wrote an excellent summation of this latest exercise in futility on social media:

“The County Council kills the dog beach, AND free beach access for their own residents…miraculously the FEDs send a letter to the county the day before the vote threatening the ITP (Incidental Take Permit) and HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan) if dogs are allowed…

The bureaucratic staff flexing their muscle…just showing who is in charge and how they can sabotage any action that runs contrary to the bureaucrat’s agenda. Sadly most of this new council are too dim to realize they are being manipulated…or they are part of the problem…hard to believe but this council may be worse than the last one…we seem to have 2 that represent the citizens and 5 the status quo, 5 are incapable of independent thought or investigation.”

Well said.

I sincerely appreciate the fact that Councilman Kent made good on his promise to bring these innovative ideas to the table, working to make our beach a more fun and attractive draw, and presenting a commonsense plan for increasing revenue to feed the insatiable machine while removing some of the burden from Volusia County residents.

Stay tuned, folks. 

When Councilman Don Dempsey callously admonished struggling Volusia County families to “suck it up” and expect to pay more, something tells me enjoying a day at the beach is about to get more expensive for everyone – even as annual pay raises and perquisites for senior administrators expand exponentially.

Sadly, the tail continues to wag the dog in DeLand…  

Angel               Florida Commission on Ethics

No.  I haven’t suffered a closed head injury. 

Just like a blind hog finds an acorn on occasion – sometimes even those toothless and somnolent watchdogs over at the Florida Commission on Ethics get it right.

Last week, the Ethics Commission exonerated Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool after spurious allegations she misused her public position were brought by thin-skinned Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez.

Maritza Avila-Vasquez

In dismissing the frivolous complaint, the state’s ethics apparatus rightfully determined that the mishmash of butt-hurt babbling and hyped-up horseshit that Avila-Vasquez cobbled together in an attempt to destroy her “colleague” lacked legal sufficiency. 


According to Avila-Vasquez’ grammatical nightmare of a formal complaint (I’ll spare you the transcript) to the Ethics Commission, the entire tempest in a teapot stemmed from a testy off the dais tête-à-tête between the two elected officials last year during which Commissioner McCool is alleged to have dropped the “F-bomb” (the Vice Mayor’s word, not mine). 

In my jaundiced view, the pettiness of the complaint had a whiff of political revenge about it and it rightfully backfired.  I’m glad the Florida Commission on Ethics (which, given the shady nature of politics in the Sunshine State, should be working in shifts) dismissed Ms. Avila-Vasquez’ ridiculous complaint for what it was. 

I’ve said it before, if the Lost City of Deltona is to restore the public trust, then the elected officials must begin the painful process of sorting through the divisive baggage and set a collective vision, putting aside the mean-spirited “gotcha” politics, self-serving collusions, and accusatory maneuvers, then find a means of working cooperatively with community stakeholders to achieve civic equilibrium.

Perhaps that healing process could begin with a sincere and public apology from Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez to Commissioner McCool for her wholly disproportionate reaction to a perceived personal slight – and for putting a colleague through the emotional wringer of an Ethics Commission review.    

Or maybe it is time to vote petty politicians/shit-stirrers like Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez out of office altogether?

Regardless, the good citizens of Deltona deserve better.

Quote of the Week

“In a blockbuster investigation published last week, the Washington Post may have cracked at least part of the code. The Post spoke with five independent insurance adjusters, hired by insurance companies to deal with the crush of Ian claims. Each and every one of them reported the same thing: Their professional appraisals of damages was altered – always downward, in some cases as much as 90%. Photos documenting ravaged homes were removed from reports. Descriptions of damages were changed. Jordan Lee, an adjuster who inspected dozens of homes for Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co., said that when he looked back at the final version of his reports, 100% had been altered.

The Post spoke with adjusters who were working with three insurers, none of whom would talk to reporters. There’s no proof that other insurers were engaging the same tactics to avoid paying claims. But there’s also no getting around the fact that more than one-third of claims filed after Hurricane Ian are seriously overdue, or were denied any payment at all.

Yet lawmakers thought insurance companies needed more leeway to deny claims – and put them at risk of having to pay their own insurer’s legal bills if they took them to court and lost.”

–Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, “This is what a real insurance emergency looks like, Florida,” The Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, March 19, 2023

Imagine that.

While the legislature is in session, perhaps it should consider making Florida’s new state slogan: “Prioritizing profits over people…”

And Another Thing!

As regular readers of these screeds have no doubt noticed, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of our sacred rights enshrined in the United States Constitution – and how quickly our foundational truth that all humans are granted certain freedoms and liberties by God, and the state does not have the power to usurp or infringe upon those rights – is being rapidly eroded by those we have elected to represent our interests at all levels of government.   

The farther afield things get in Tallahassee and Washington (and DeLand, for that matter), I’m quick to let people know that I am a proud No Party Affiliate

After spending most of my adult life as a staunch Republican – I came to the realization that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties represent Lincoln’s idea of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”   

It is a feeling secretly shared by many, who now whisper their fears in private, careful not to be seen as disloyal to the lockstep conformity required by those partisan firebrands on both sides of the Great Political Divide determined to seize power at any cost

As the wild-eyed fringe elements of both political parties wrested control from moderates – those more interested in good governance than fighting the never-ending “culture wars” – we watched as national politics descended into chaos, the pandemic proved how willing we were to be locked inside our homes and have our businesses shuttered by cowardly politicians who now deny their Draconian measures, inflation strained family budgets, and we collectively came to the frightening realization that both state and local governments are actively figuring out ways to operate independent of We, The Little People by trying their best to assure us the omnipotent bureaucracy knows best.     

Scary stuff.

I have a theory that it’s easy to bury someone alive if you convince them each scoop of dirt is a gift, and that you are doing them a favor by lavishing them with rich soil. 

After a while, they no longer have the ability to complain…

It is all in how you spin the “facts.”

Sound familiar?      

As a practiced observer with enough experiential scars to recognize when someone in an expensive suit is pissing down my back and telling me it’s raining – I believe what is happening in Tallahassee this legislative session (and closer to home at the Volusia County Council) is truly alarming.

In my view, the théâtre de l’absurde that passes for all levels of government has grown so outrageous that many people I speak with have simply tuned-out – always expecting the worst – refusing to watch or read the “news,” constantly pushing the boundaries of what they once vowed never to accept, and suppressing that queasy feeling that our freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights are being usurped for the convenience of tetchy politicians seeking to suppress the legitimate criticism and participation of those citizens who cannot afford a chip in the game.  

Trust your best instincts, folks.

That weird feeling in your gut is right – these asinine bills working their way through the Florida legislature that suppress free expression, demand that bloggers register with the government, lower the bar to allow petty politicians to sue anyone who speaks out against their money-grabs and incompetence, and wield the full might of the state government like a cudgel to punish political opposition, limit our access to public records, and silence critics – are inherently wrong – and a damnable slap in the face to every veteran of the United States who served and fought to defend our sacred democratic principles. 

You know, those same veterans that shameless politicians embrace for photographs each election cycle?

The next time a politician asks for your vote (because you will rarely see them again after they get elected) remind them that the government did not give us our rights – and it cannot take them away with the wave of a legislative wand. 

The United States Constitution is not there to tell American’s what our rights are.  It exists to limit the power of tyrannical despots when they infringe on those inalienable rights. 

In my view, that is something all citizens should remember. 

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

Angels & Assholes for March 17, 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              Atlantic High School Students – “We Are United”

Volusia County residents were shocked following the arrest of Arin Hankerd, 42, of Ormond Beach, a teacher and football coach at Atlantic Hight School in Port Orange, on multiple charges related to alleged “sexual contact with a student” at the school.

That shock turned to righteous outrage when it was disclosed that Hankerd had a documented history of inappropriate conduct with students during his previous tenure at Mainland High School.

According to a February 14 report by Katie Kustura writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“The Port Orange police report shows this isn’t the first time concerns have been raised about Hankerd and his contact with students.

Daytona Beach police took two reports in recent years when Hankerd was the physical education teacher at Mainland High School; both reports were closed without criminal findings.

In the first report, a student said Hankerd made her feel “uncomfortable by hugging her and asking her personal questions, such as if she would date older men.” In the second report, a student said Hankerd touched her shoulders and thigh and asked her personal questions.

The Port Orange police report states Hankerd told the victim he transferred to different high schools frequently, and “a rumor went around the school he transferred because he was talking to young girls.”

The police department’s Facebook post regarding Hankerd’s arrest received more than 550 comments and 800 shares by Tuesday. In at least a dozen comments, parents and former students said they or someone they knew had raised concerns about Hankerd or had interactions with him that made them uncomfortable.”

It was later reported that the Port Orange Police Department is now investigating four more cases of sexual abuse “involving females Hankerd met in his role as a high school teacher.”

During a subsequent court hearing, Circuit Judge Karen Foxman said that it appears Hankerd is someone “…who took that environment that’s supposed to be safe for children and turned it into somewhat of a hunting ground in order to sort of prey on minor children…”

Naturally, many students and parents at Atlantic High School were frightened and confused – high emotions made worse by the typically tepid response by Volusia County District Schools. 

According to a follow-up report by the News-Journal, in response, senior Sofia Valle and other Atlantic students formed the unofficial club “We Are United” and held a peaceful silent protest outside the school on February 27 to “…raise awareness about the situation and sexual abuse as a whole.”

To their credit, some one hundred Atlantic students participated in the protest.

“I was just really nervous that when (the school administration) would shut it down that I would get in trouble, which I was prepared to face because I feel like I’m fighting for something that’s right, and I would have no problem getting in trouble for that,” Valle said.”

An inquiry by News-Journal reporter Brenno Carillo found that Volusia County Schools felt that a student assembly to address the situation “would not be adequate” (?) since the law enforcement investigation of Hankerd is ongoing.

Instead, a District mouthpiece gave the typical canned response to horrific events that always involves “having extra counselors present during the week…” 

Fortunately, the We Are United protest appears to have opened a desperately needed line of communication between the Atlantic administration and concerned students, who rightfully questioned how a teacher and football coach could have engaged in sexual relations with a student on the school campus? 

In my view, considering his previously identified conduct at Mainland High School, the circumstances surrounding Hankerd’s arrest should sound an alarm in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. 

But it won’t.

If history repeats (and it always does here on the Fun Coast), rather than initiate a top-to-bottom review of how process, procedures, and personnel may have contributed to this dangerous situation – especially one where serious indicators of predatory behavior by a teacher were missed or ignored, allowing him access to more victims on a different “hunting ground” – Volusia County District Schools will simply circle the wagons – obfuscate, deny, spin the facts, explain, play things close to the vest, and make excuses why senior officials were caught flatfooted and became uncommunicative in the aftermath of a traumatic event. 


Kudos to Sofia Valle and those courageous members of We Are United who stood up for the safety of their fellow students by fighting against sexual abuse, providing a safe place for victims, and starting a serious discussion of how this horrific crime can be prevented on school campuses and beyond.   

Sounds like senior administrators at Volusia County District Schools could learn something from these young student activists…   

Angel               Daytona Beach City Commission

This space prides itself on one man’s subjective divination of “who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us.”

I’m the first to admit, some days I get it right – and sometimes I miss the mark completely.  

In my view, the four members of the Daytona Beach City Commission who voted to deny a rezoning request this week that would have paved the way for a massive 1,600 unit residential and commercial development – including 340,000 square feet of commercial, institutional and light industrial uses – on 415 acres between Interstate 95 and Tomoka Farms Road had the best interests of everyone in east Volusia County at heart. 

Look.  I may be a rube, but I’m not stupid – and neither are you.    

We all know this is merely a momentary reprieve from a development that will ultimately be approved – adding more pressure to our already overburdened traffic, utilities, environment, medical, and water infrastructure and resources – even as the specter of the gargantuan Avalon Park looms on the horizon…

It is clear that the increasing grumble of disenfranchised existing residents (and some of our vocal new neighbors/voters/potential candidates in sprawling subdivisions west of that Monument to Mediocrity at the LPGA Boulevard pinch-point) who see their quality of life crumbling as the bulldozers roar, is having an impact with more elected officials who sense the increasing frustration of those of us stuck in three light cycles on any main roadway in the Halifax area. 

It is heartening that so many are beginning to push back on the detrimental effects of the asinine “shove ten-pounds of shit into a five-pound bag” growth strategy that has many residents feeling claustrophobic – and betrayed by those they relied upon to protect our best interests.

According to an excellent report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“The mayor and city commissioners have been taking heat from local residents who are worried that Daytona Beach is building too much too quickly. They worry about increasingly congested roads, and whether the city’s water and sewer infrastructure can handle the expansion.”

According to the report, “Commissioners agreed to reconsider the project’s rezoning after traffic concerns on the county’s Tomoka Farms Road are hashed out between city and county government leaders.”

I was surprised to read that some in attendance encouraged the Daytona Beach City Commission to approve the rezoning citing the quality of the project.   

Unfortunately, we are well beyond the point of cherry-picking “smart growth” development that enhances area aesthetics and attracts those elusive “high paying jobs.”

That would have required strategic thought and creative planning – selecting quality projects that respected Florida’s natural environmental processes, retained and reused stormwater, and protected neighboring properties from runoff and flooding and saying “No” to the mediocre – demanding distinctive and attractive communities with a strong sense of place that would have complemented Daytona Beach’s unique history as a vacation destination and prompted infill and revitalization in our core tourist area.   

Instead, with over 12,900 units set to sprout west of I-95 alone – our ‘powers that be’ have approved every sticks-and-glue apartment complex, zero-lot-line cracker box, and strip center that came across their dais, while interfacing industrial warehouses with existing neighborhoods and thoroughfares – blanketing the community with a hodge-podge of ugly sprawl in a cart-before-the-horse orgy of greed that has left existing residents suffering the natural consequences of too much, too soon

Ah, what “could have been,” eh? 

In my view, now that Daytona Beach and beyond is reaching build-out – it is refreshing to see that the voices of so many residents are finally being heard by those with the power and ethical responsibility to protect our quality of life from the dramatically destructive impacts of malignant overdevelopment. 



Stay tuned.  It will be interesting to see how this project ultimately worms its way to approval…

Asshole           Volusia County Council

Whenever one of my cockeyed observations on our life and times here on Florida’s Fun Coast ruffles the feathers of our highbrow illuminati – those “Rich & Powerful” (the News-Journal’s descriptor, not mine) who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide – they accuse me of being a “bully.” 

I’m not bullying anyone. 

In my view, our social and civic elite aren’t accustomed to hearing the unvarnished opinions of a plebeian – or having their loyalties and motivations questioned by someone who hasn’t purchased a chip in the game. 

For instance, last week in this space, as a longtime resident of Ormond Beach, I mentioned that some of my neighbors and I lost confidence in Commissioner Susan Persis, and her husband, Volusia County School Board Member Carl Persis, last September when they posted pictures of their vacation on social media from Europe while the rest of us were hunkered down in our homes, many without power, as the raging winds and rain of Hurricane Ian howled outside our windows.    

Trust me.  I was not alone in that assessment. 

It had an aloof air of “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” about it – and I said so. 

Now that Commissioner Persis has filed to run for Mayor of Ormond Beach, I felt in was politically pertinent to express my concerns about her personal commitment to the job – and her willingness to put the needs of her constituents over vacation plans when the chips are down.

For speaking my mind, I was accused on social media by another member of our moldy civic ‘upper crust’ of “having it out for Susan and Carl,” and told that I went “out of my way to hurt them.”


In my view, this was just another example of the elitism that continues to separate We, The Little People from those we elect to represent our interests in municipal and county government – which should be open, accessible, and responsive to residents – yet, when us lower caste taxpayers call foul on those who hold themselves out for high office, no matter how irresponsible or outrageous their behavior may be, our criticism is considered out-of-bounds whenever the right last names are involved. 

Although our “high and mighty” deny it, the “trust issue” is still a major problem here in Volusia County, and those who measure these things say that public confidence in government can be best assessed by two elements – perceived competence and positive intent.

While judging basic competence should be obvious – it is said that determining positive intent is gauged by the local government’s humanity and transparency – something often based upon a citizen’s interaction with the bureaucracy, and the accessibility and responsiveness of their elected representatives. 

Sadly, since our “new” Volusia County Council was seated in January, I have received several calls from Barker’s View readers lamenting the fact that obtaining an audience with their district council member now requires going through a county gatekeeper who schedules the appearance.

Then, the meeting is shepherded by “staff” under the guise of providing “expert” guidance on whatever topic the citizen may wish to discuss with their representative. 

That’s called controlling the narrative.

Like a malignant tumor, the purpose of a bureaucracy is to expand and multiply – that begins with self-protection. 

While the names and faces on the council may periodically change – those at the top of the bureaucratic pyramid rarely do – and the “system” quickly learns the importance of indoctrinating and controlling the elected officials as key to protecting the status quo.  

Recently, Paul Zimmerman, a lifelong area resident and respected civic activist who serves as president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, wrote an open letter to the Volusia County Council asking, in part:

“Why then are some members of the council insisting on having county staff present during meetings with citizen’s groups or individuals? It has been my experience in these meetings where staff is present, staff acts as a nanny, filtering information from a status quo perspective, a roadblock to open discussion between citizens and their representatives.

These chaperoned style meetings leave some in the public coming to the conclusion that the council is being groomed to follow the lead of the staff. That is not why the council was elected. The council was elected to represent their constituents, not reflect the status quo of county staff.

If the council is only going to follow the directions of staff, then why bother with elections?”

In his predictable response, District 3 Councilman Danny Robins used the opportunity to confirm my worst suspicions about the intellectual capacity of some area elected officials – and take a not-so-veiled swipe at Chairman Jeff Brower.

Here’s an excerpt:

“From my time on the council, countless community meetings and seeing what’s said on social media, I believe it’s crucial to have specialized people within our organization at public meetings.

Not only to keep notes and write down the questions of our citizens, but to answer any technical questions that ordinary people including elected officials may not know.

As you know, some politicians aren’t qualified to own a pet rock. Imagine a plumber trying to answer questions within an electrician’s wheelhouse?

Often I see elected officials at community meetings just like the last Sons of the Beach meeting providing a tremendous number of agenda driven, misinformation catering & pandering to the people in the room, telling them what they want to hear knowing they are not qualified or equipped with the factual information to do so. Then at another meeting saying the complete opposite, kind of like we saw at this year’s State of the County.

That in my opinion sends a mixed message to one’s colleagues, citizens, leads to chaos and causes confusion to our constituents. That is not OK and I believe the role of the government is to be truthful, use the tools (staff) the people pay for, get the factual information out and let the public decide its direction.

In my opinion, the only reason why you or anyone else wouldn’t want a resident expert at community meetings shows me that you aren’t interested in the facts or the truth.”

In closing, Councilman Robins made it perfectly clear he only wants to hear from those who agree with him – and those dull “tools” on the senior “staff” who tell him what he wants to hear regarding the intractable issues we face:

“In closing, please do not include me on these emails anymore in the future. They are self-serving, lack all facts and do not take into consideration the best overall interest, health, welfare, and safety of all 564,000 Volusia County residents.”


For all you “ordinary people” – it appears Councilman Robins believes only the all-powerful bureaucracy generates “factual information” – and anyone interested in speaking with their elected representative outside a supervised setting must have ulterior motives that threaten the status quo.

And that, my fellow Dalits, is the true state of Volusia County’s increasingly cloistered and insular government.

One might ask Mr. Robins – and our other elected “independent thinkers” who occupy the dais of power in DeLand:

If they won’t provide oversight, accept everything “staff” tells them with Burning Bush certainty, have no interest in a legitimate performance evaluation of the County Manager and County Attorney, refuse to communicate with constituents without a monitor present, and are only interested in hearing “the facts” as generated by some pseudo-expert in the bowels of the bureaucracy – Why do we need them at all?

Quote of the Week

“HB991 is officially called the Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likenesses Bill. But First Amendment activists like me who have read it call it the “Death to Public Discourse Bill.”

Key supporters of HB991 want you to believe the legislation is about taming the excesses of the “liberal corporate” media by giving the “little guy” a chance to avenge “bad” coverage. But the truth of this bill is all about making it easier for government officials and their rich and powerful allies to use the courts to punish those who criticize them.

And despite the belief by some conservatives that HB991 would only affect The New York Times, the Miami Herald and CNN if it were to become law, the reality is no information outlet would be spared the depredations of punitive lawsuits under its provisions. Fox, Newsmax, conservative talk radio stations will all feel the sting of this new law as public figures across the political spectrum look to exact their vengeance against inconvenient news coverage and commentary. The fallout would just as likely crush Fox’s Tucker Carlson as it would The NYT’s Paul Krugman.

More than that, this legislation would also subject bloggers, community groups, average users of social media — in short everybody who wants their voices heard — to the untold financial and emotional burdens of lawsuits.

And the way HB991 is currently written, a story doesn’t have to be wrong and damaging to an official to land a reporter, blogger or housewife Facebooker in court. It can merely cast the subject of the story in an unfavorable light.”

–Bobby Block, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, as excerpted from the editorial, “Bad for Florida, bad for America,” West Volusia Beacon, Tuesday, March 14, 2023

And Another Thing!

I hear well-meaning people talking about decorum and civility in everything from the public discourse to the personal conduct of the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker we elect to represent our interests at all levels of government. 

Last week, reporter Al Everson published a thought-provoking piece in the West Volusia Beacon, “Do Orange City’s leaders need rules to be nice?” which explained that just before the end of the Orange City Council’s February 28 meeting, “Mayor Gary Blair asked his colleagues to consider adopting a “code of conduct” for themselves.”

According to the report, when asked why he proffered the suggestion, Mayor Blair explained, “Another [City] Council member used foul language on me in a public park in a public event.” 

In December, the Lost City of Deltona was rocked when that self-righteous arbiter of free expression Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez filed a formal complaint against Commissioner Dana McCool with the Florida Commission on Ethics alleging that McCool dropped the “F-bomb” (her word, not mine) on her during a testy off-the-dais tête-à-tête in October 2022.

You read that right.  A formal ethics complaint…

Then, the self-described “uncommonly well-educated” Deltona City Commissioner Tom Burbank reaped a whirlwind of public criticism – and the official censure of his “colleagues” – after he directed a hate-filled and homophobic screed against a private citizen who announced he was exploring a run for public office. 

Recently, another sitting Deltona official responded to citizen concerns of possible violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law by reasoning, “It’s only a violation if someone reports it” – in other words, it is only a crime if you get caught…

My God.

The natural response to this almost universal feeling of helplessness is that what passes for public participation in government continues to take an increasingly confrontational tone as taxpayers become frustrated by factors they see destroying their quality of life that are now completely out of our control, such as:

The uncontrolled sprawl that our elected representatives continue to rubberstamp, citizens being told they don’t have a voice because they supported the wrong candidate for public office, the abhorrent personal behavior of some sitting officials, the backbiting, nastiness, and political dirty tricks that pass for Volusia County elections, the sickening corporate welfare lavished on those who pay to play with massive campaign contributions to malleable candidates, and now, the refusal of some elected officials to meet privately with their constituents as “the system” ensures they stick to a scripted storyline that ensures the status quo.

I mean, imagine if your son were incarcerated at the Volusia County Jail and reported that he had been tacked out nude in a four-point restraint somewhere in the bowels of a cellblock (which, according to recent reports, is not out of the realm of possibility). 

Then consider if you tried to report this humanitarian atrocity to your elected Council member – only to be told the meeting would be monitored by a “resident expert” from the Volusia County Department of Corrections? 

Now, our elected officials tout ignorance as a virtue – and the bureaucracy is allowed to control the narrative, “spin” the facts, while independent thought and contrary opinions are dismissed as “self-serving” misinformation and deemed a danger to the “best overall interest, health, welfare, and safety” of the blissfully uninformed masses.


Rather than open lines of clear communication, improve transparency, and listen to the criticism of their constituents – instead, Florida legislators propose asinine laws weakening our right to free expression, prohibiting citizens from speaking ill of the King – ordering bloggers to register with the state and file financial disclosure forms, lowering the bar and encouraging petty politicians to silence critics and activists by suing them for “libel” whenever we call out their autocratic assholery for what it is.


How patently un-American

A slap in the face to anyone who ever took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I’m going to say this again:

In my view, this “civility and decorum for thee, but not for me” push by some officious politicians is further eroding the fundamental freedoms once protected by our democratic institutions – and widening the chasm between government and the citizens from which its power originates – setting the stage for the dire proposition of our elected elite exercising the all-encompassing dictatorial power to do anything they damn well please without editorial challenge.

We live in strange times, friends. 

That’s all for me.  Have a great St. Patrick’s Day, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for March 10, 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:

Asshole           Florida Senator Jason Brodeur, Seminole County

You don’t have to agree with me.    

In fact, I learn best from those who look at civic issues through different eyes and engage in thoughtful debate – the vigorous competition of ideas and diversity of opinion that spurs a larger discussion of the issues we collectively face here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Apparently that free and open exchange of ideas across the “blogosphere” is making some very important policymakers nervous – I guess because it lets them know We, The Little People are paying attention to how the sausage gets made.

In my jaundiced view, that is the true contribution of even crude blogsites like Barker’s View.

Before I became a hyper-opinionated blowhard, I enjoyed a productive professional life serving as Chief of Police for the wonderful community of Holly Hill. 

As a visible representative of local government, I often took the brunt of public criticism – in coffee shops, on the streets, in living rooms, and over the phone – I listened to residents’ concerns, never forgetting the importance of accessibility and allowing an opportunity for citizens to ask questions, provide a suggestion, or just vent.  

In retrospect, it was one of the most important and fulfilling parts of my job.

When serving a small town, you come to understand that acting as a sounding board for your constituents is a healthy part of community life.

Naturally, I was also subject to withering criticism – most of it deserved, some not – and sometimes the name-calling (especially those barbs questioning my lineage) became quite pointed and personal. 

That comes with the territory.

With experience, smart public officials learn to use even misplaced criticism as a civic barometer – because there is often a kernel of truth in even the most cock-eyed point of view.  

Unfortunately, some self-centered politicians take these gripes personally – an affront to their massive ego, political ambition, and the false sense of infallibility that often accompanies powerful positions where everyone laughs at your jokes…   

The fact is, if you serve in government – that dark and cloistered place where tax dollars feed the machine that both makes and enforces the rules – then I suggest you grow some hard bark. 


I subscribe to what remains of The Daytona Beach News-Journal because (occasionally) it contains the last remaining flakes of local reportage – area stories, explanations, and editorials told by some incredibly talented journalists who actually live here. 

That’s important in an era where corporate media conglomerates are busy regionalizing and homogenizing hometown newspapers across the nation – and staying apprised of area happenings now comes with being lectured, ad nauseum, by some moonbat from the Palm Beach Post and other Gannett properties – all spewing slanted sermons that are bulk packaged and passed off as “news.”

But as an informed citizen – I hold my nose and read it anyway

Then, I think critically about the issue, sort fact from conjecture, consider sources and motivations, view the information presented through the prism of experience and perspective, then form my own opinions – neither always right, nor always wrong.  

Because the thought of living in an echo chamber controlled by partisan political tribes determined to suppress any message not in lockstep with their party line is grim. 

In my view, censoring the views of others and demanding conformity – even fealty – to state-sponsored spin is counter to our democratic principles and inalienable freedoms.

Frighteningly, we seem to be inching closer to that dictatorial precipice everyday…

Now that local governments are doing everything in their considerable power to curtail the ability of the average citizen to address their elected representatives and make themselves heard on the issues – passing insidious “civility ordinances” and subjective rules of decorum that only apply to taxpayers (as our elected overseers behave anyway they see fit) while limiting when, where, and how the governed can prostrate ourselves before our increasingly monarchal rulers – blogs, podcasts, and social media platforms remain the few citizen soapboxes left for those who cannot afford to purchase a chip in the game. 

In my view, this censorship cloaked in a velvet glove is morally and constitutionally wrong.  

In fact, there is nothing more damaging to the fabric of an open society than state sponsored suppression of free speech, silencing alternative opinions, and squashing the unfettered competition of ideas – especially when those ideas stir strong emotions, challenge the status quo, and ruffle the feathers of those in positions of power.  

Last week in this space, I hit the pinnacle of editorial unanimity by pissing off literally everyone who read my rambling screeds – especially my goofy take on Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower’s State of the County Address.

Hey, “I call ‘em like I see ‘em,” and eventually I get around to goring everyone’s sacred ox…  

However, that animus was quickly followed by real concern from many Barker’s View readers who were shocked by a now squashed senate bill introduced by Florida Senator Jason Brodeur, which, among other tyrannical edicts, would have required:

Sen. Jason Brodeur

“If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office, as identified in paragraph (1)(f), within 5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer.”

Under the proposed law, the failure of a blogger to file these state mandated reports would have resulted in fines of “$25 per day per report for each day late, not to exceed $2,500 per report.”

You read that right.

I cannot think of anything more patently un-American

In my view, Bobby Block, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said it best:

“From my own experience, the only places where journalists would ever have to register with the government have been apartheid South Africa, the countries behind the Iron Curtain, the USSR, Zaire, Burkina Faso, and socialist Ethiopia,” Block said. “… I don’t think Florida being in that company of those countries is a good thing.”

More to the point, last week, Charles C. W. Cooke, senior writer for the acclaimed conservative editorial magazine National Review, accurately called Sen. Brodeur a “moron,” and described his bill as “…an unconstitutional, moronic disgrace, and the guy who wrote it, Senator Jason Brodeur of Seminole County, is an embarrassment to the GOP.”

Finally, Governor Ron DeSantis – who is said to have been “caught off-guard” (?) by Brodeur’s proposal – addressed the growing national firestorm following his State of the State Address on Tuesday:

“Every person in the legislature can file bills. I see these people filing bills and there are these articles with my face on the article, “bloggers are going to have to register with the state,” attributing it to me.  That’s not anything I’ve ever supported, I don’t support. I’ve been very clear on what we are doing.”

With that, Brodeur’s asinine legislation was dead on arrival. 

Now, the darker questions remain.

How could a senior elected official propose a bill in direct contravention of the First Amendment and Florida’s state constitution which holds, “…no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press”?

And to what strategic purpose did Governor DeSantis wait so long to address this blatant attack on our fundamental right to criticize powerful policymakers without the chilling effect of requiring government registration?

Being an incredibly astute politician and Harvard trained lawyer, Gov. DeSantis must have known of Sen. Brodeur’s ill-thought intent to propose this baldfaced censorship and the righteous shitstorm of controversy that would ensue?

And what will become of our fundamental liberties if/when another despotic asshole ramrods a similar bill through a supermajority giving “elected state officers” the all-encompassing dictatorial power to do anything they damn well please without editorial challenge? 

I’m asking.

Because, at this point, the only thing I am certain of is that I will never register my personal and political thoughts with the “appropriate” Thinkpol office in Tallahassee. 


Nor will I pay a fine for expressing my independent views and opinions on the ethics, acts, omissions, abject idiocy, and shady motivations of those who accept massive campaign contributions from influential special interests, then enshrine themselves on a pedestal in the Ivory Tower of Power.

Yeah.  Not going to happen.

That’s not bluster and braggadocio.

It is an incredibly difficult and hard thought stand by a disenfranchised citizen who took an oath and devoted my life to public service – someone who, if Senator Jason Brodeur had his way, would be considered a criminal and formally sanctioned by the state for expressing an opinion contrary to that of the burgeoning Monarchy in Tallahassee.

Stay vigilant.

Gideon Tucker was right: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Asshole           Volusia County Council

In 2020, Volusia County residents took a strong leap of faith, ignored their best instincts, and overwhelmingly voted to continue the Volusia ECHO and Forever programs. 

Originally established in 2001, then renewed by voters in 2021, these tax supported programs were created to fund environmental, cultural, historic, and outdoor recreation opportunities and the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands for conservation. 

In fact, the ECHO Volusia Forever Alliance sold us on the continuation of the programs by answering the question, “What are ECHO Grant Awards?”

“They are matching funds that are granted to successful applicants to help pay for facilities that are open to the public, in one or more of the four ECHO categories.”

Further, the Alliance explained to wary voters, “To qualify for a grant, applicants must show that they have matching money equal to the amount of the grant they are seeking from the ECHO fund.”

As with most programs administered by Volusia County government, in the lead-up to the vote to renew ECHO and Forever, taxpayers became concerned about the manner and means by which the funds were being administered – including a lack of transparency in the process – which resulted in the formation of citizen oversight committees. 

It became known as the “trust issue” – and is the exact reason Volusia County voters rejected a proposed half-cent sales tax in 2019.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most Volusia County residents were under the distinct impression that ECHO funds would be used to bring new and innovative opportunities to life by partnering with non-profits and municipal governments with an innovative project of countywide interest who agreed to the grant match and performance requirements.   

Instead, on Tuesday, by unanimous vote, the Volusia County Council approved a “Direct County Expenditure” bundled as a “5-year plan” which will now place divisional capital improvement expenditures – specifically the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure – on the back of the Volusia ECHO program. 

Trust me.  Our councilmembers did not come before the taxpayers with their hat in hand, a novel idea, and matching funds in their briefcase like other ECHO applicants are required to do.

Instead, with the wave of a bureaucratic wand, the Volusia County Council approved a list of 43 projects at 32 sites to be funded using $15.4 million in ECHO funds – with 24 of those projects identified as “improvement of current assets.” 

Increasingly, council meetings are like Wednesday on the Mickey Mouse Club – “Anything Can Happen Day” – and it helps when you have a staff of professional shills, fluent in bureaucratese, who can justify any appropriation using a liberal application of bullshit, smoke, and mirrors.

For instance, Brad Burbaugh – who holds the lofty position of Director of Resource Stewardship (a title you will only find in government) said – “It’s a strategic investment plan, informed by the grassroots needs of our community that balances both improvement of current assets, new construction projects and restoration.”

My ass.   

Call it what your conscience allows, Brad – I call it sneak thieverysupplanting normal and recurring repair and replacement expenditures with funds earmarked for ECHO grants, then selling it to us rubes who pay the bills as a cost savings

To ramrod the massive expenditure, Mr. Burbaugh exhumed a dusty 2020 resolution passed by the Volusia County Council authorizing the ballot initiative and permitting the council to use ECHO funds for “direct county expenditure for County government projects or by grants-in-aid awards.”

(You remember that resolution, right?) 

In addition, Burbaugh masked the foul odor of another bait-and-switch shim sham wafting from the council chamber by assuring our “new” elected officials that their previous counterparts dipped into ECHO funds for 22 projects totaling $16,119,596 by “direct county expenditure” since 2007…

Look, I don’t know about you, but when I voted to extend the ECHO and Forever programs, I had no idea that those dollars would ultimately be used for cultural and historic amenities like repairing long neglected beach ramps, walkovers, and fishing docks, renovating public restrooms at county parks, and replacing aging playground equipment.

You know, those preventive maintenance, repair, replacement, and improvement obligations that most responsible government entities budget for each year – rather than quibble resolutions, twist ballot language, and stretch programmatic intent to shoehorn anything and everything that has long been overlooked but can no longer be ignored?

Apparently, Councilman Don Dempsey wasn’t concerned about the county dipping into ECHO funds, only why more of the loot wasn’t coming to West Volusia. 

According to a report by Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, Dempsey questioned:

“…why many of the projects were located on the east side of the county, with only a couple facilities in the northwest side of the county being included in the plan.”

Burbaugh said that the proposal was based on the county’s needs and that the projects were taken from the divisional budgets.

“It may be worth to look at finding more needs on the west side,” Councilman David Santiago said. “Balance it off.”

Seriously.  I don’t make this shit up, folks…

Frankly, this harkens back to the bad old’ days, when ECHO became little more than a slimy slush fund – our tax dollars looted to purchase off-beach parking lots – and millions of dollars squirreled away to fund a mysterious (now defunct) plan to extend the Daytona Beach Boardwalk – with little, if any, public input in the process.   

I hope this serves as a wake-up call for those lethargic watchdogs on the ECHO and Forever Oversight Committees – those We, The Little People who pay the bills rely on to recognize these shameless money grabs – and preserve the integrity of these vital programs for future generations.

In Volusia County, the more things change, the more they stay the same…

Asshole           Deltona City Commission

Some conspiracy theorists define a “Shadow Government” as:

“…a family of theories based on the notion that real and actual political power resides not only with publicly elected representatives but with private individuals who are exercising power behind the scenes, beyond the scrutiny of democratic institutions. According to this belief, the official elected government is subservient to the shadow government, which is the true executive power.”

If you live in Deltona, that should sound eerily familiar…  

At this abysmal time in the city’s history, is there another explanation

On Monday evening, despite the vehement objections of civically active residents – and two incredibly capable alternatives, the Deltona City Commission sidestepped the venerated century-old Daytona Beach law firm of Cobb & Cole – and Winter Park attorneys Fishback Dominick, who have served Central Florida for over eight-decades – instead opting on a 5-2 vote to recycle the civic lightening rod Marsha Segal-George as the city’s “new” legal counsel. 

To their credit, Mayor Santiago Avila and Commissioner Dana McCool stood firm for the residents of Deltona – remembered the hard lessons of history – and voted against doing the same thing while expecting a different result… 

Following the most divisive period in Deltona’s shambolic history, why would any conscientious elected representative vote to retain an attorney who is still listed as a “senior associate” with the very law firm they opted to fire just weeks ago?   

Shocked Deltona residents were extremely vocal in their opposition to more of the same from Segal-George – who has been enmeshed in every civic nightmare this tormented community has experienced in recent years.

Before the vote, one by one, citizens approached the dais and used terms like, “screwed us over,” “hasn’t served the city well,” “has brought division,” “too much baggage,” and “someone who has wronged us in the past,” to express their experience with Ms. Segal-George during her tenure as city attorney.

When the vote was taken, the uproar from the outraged audience required that Mayor Avila gavel a five-minute recess. 

In my view, a recent social media post by Deltona civic activist Dayle Whitman accurately summarized the crooked road that brought the commission back to the very place they started – and gave voice to the utter exasperation many residents are feeling:

“They pretended to be interested in the candidates, who gave up their time to be put on display, so the commission could make us feel like they gave a shit, when they didn’t.

The request to get residents input on hiring a new legal team was in fact Deja Vu, an instant replay of the October 12, 2022, special commission meeting.

Well guess what Deltona they pulled the same shit sham on all of us last night. 

The only hope we have is to get outside help involved in saving our corrupt city.

It’s going to take more than the handful of people who stand up and fight for our city at every commission meeting.

And I’m not sure we can do it. Deltona is the laughingstock of Volusia County, maybe even the state.”

A “shit sham” is right… 

For instance, despite the raucous opposition of residents – and with questions still unanswered about when and how Interim City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm will be replaced by a permanent charter officer – on Monday, by unanimous vote, the City Commission contractually ensconced him in the position for another year

With The Chiseler now commanding “$200,000 per year in equal bi-weekly payments of $7,691.31” plus the perquisites and privileges of a High Potentate – concerned residents are demanding to know when a legitimate process will be finalized to recruit a permanent manager.

Unfortunately, per Mr. Chisholm’s modus operandi – hard answers to these important civic enquiries are less than forthcoming – leaving more Deltona taxpayers beginning to question exactly who, or what, is controlling this puppet regime behind closed doors… 

My God.

Deltona’s leery residents are right.

Something stinks in Deltona.

Quote of the Week

“For the low, low price of $3 million, you could be the next owner of the parcel that once housed the Hotel Putnam in Downtown DeLand.

Earlier this week, a for-sale sign sprung up outside of the dirt lot that, as of just last month, no longer boasts the 100-year-old hotel. The building was torn down when an engineer reported that it had become structurally unsound and could collapse at any time.

Realtors with Colliers are hopeful that Florida’s hot real estate market will lead to a quick sale.

“Developers are still very active in these challenging times. They’re looking beyond what people think will be a short-term recession,” Colliers Executive Vice President Casey Babb told The Beacon. “Florida continues to grow very well, and we don’t see that slowing down in Central Florida.”

The location is a prime piece of real estate, he said, and he thinks the City of DeLand will be receptive to a housing project that looks to capitalize on the Putnam’s history, possibly allowing as many as 120 units on the site, which has Downtown Commercial zoning and is in the Downtown Historic District.

Real estate firm Axia Partners purchased the building in September 2021 for $2.3 million. When The Beacon spoke with a representative from the company in January, he said the plan, if the building were to come down, would be to build something “meaningful” in its place.

A representative from the company was unable to immediately be reached…”

–Reporter Noah Hertz, writing in the West Volusia Beacon, “FOR SALE: The site of the former Hotel Putnam,” Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Welp.  There you have it, folks.    

Now that the historic Hotel Putnam has been reduced to dust and hauled off – 100 years of West Volusia history and memories gone in a roar – it’s salvaged bricks now being sold as a fundraiser by (ironically) the West Volusia Historical Society – the vacant lot is on the real estate market…

So much for the assurance from our now uncommunicative friends at Axia Partners – the Utah-based real estate investment group that purchased the hotel last year and promised DeLand resident’s that the firm was “…committed to finding a use for the Putnam site that pays tribute to the once prestigious hotel and the history of DeLand that it reflects.”

Personally, I like the idea of Beacon readers Frank and Kim Schnidman, who suggested asking “…Axia to simply deed the property to the City of DeLand for the purpose of a downtown park and green space The lasting legacy Axia Partners can create for themselves and their investors is to donate the $3 million property to DeLand for a City Park, “Putnam Park, a gift of Axia Partners.” Then the company and its investors can take a tax deduction for this charitable contribution. This would truly “leave a lasting legacy in the market”!!

Don’t hold your breath…

And Another Thing!

“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on (political) offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”

–Thomas Jefferson

Things are beginning to heat up for the 2024 elections with Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington announcing his run for the District 28 Florida House seat now held by incumbent Rep. Tom Leek who has filed to run for Florida Senate District 7.

The announcement came following Tuesday evening’s Ormond Beach City Commission meeting.

Commissioner Persis

I found it incredibly interesting that political opportunist and sitting Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis filed to run for Mayor Partington’s still warm seat on Tuesday morning at 11:00am… 


Personally, I lost all confidence in Commissioner Persis in September 2022, when – with Hurricane Ian’s winds still raging outside – I received a message from a Barker’s View reader who was rightfully mad-as-a-hornet over tone-deaf “Vice Mayor” Persis, and her husband, Volusia County School Board member Carl Persis, aloofly posting their European vacation photographs on social media while their frightened constituents were weathering the howling onslaught here at home.

What I found most cringeworthy was when Vice Mayor Persis doubled-down on her cluelessness by marking herself safe from Hurricane Ian – from Europe…


I do. 

Although Commissioner Persis evacuated to Europe and wasn’t there for Ormond Beach residents when we needed the leadership of our Vice Mayor most – it appears her unbridled hubris and pathological political ambition won’t permit her to do the right thing and step aside for someone (anyone?) who would put the needs of their constituents over their own when the chips are down.

Old Thomas Jefferson said something else that rings true:

“The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

That’s all for me.  Have a great final weekend of Bike Week 2023, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for March 3, 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               State Attorney R. J. Larizza

Last week, the nation was galvanized by the brutal beating of a paraprofessional at Flagler County’s Matanzas High School by a 17-year-old student.  This week we learned that the “student” has three prior battery arrests on his juvenile criminal history.

That video was hard to watch…

A school security camera captured the brutal image of the student – described by The Daytona Beach News-Journal as 6-feet, 6-inches tall and 270 pounds – rapidly advancing on the teaching assistant and delivering a Butkus-like body blow that sent the woman flying to the floor rendering her unconscious.

With his victim prone and defenseless, the student relentlessly punches, kicks, and stomps the woman – pummeling her limp body until staff members and School Resource Deputies intervene. 

According to the News-Journal’s report:

“A deputy’s body camera video shows the handcuffed student being led out of the school. As he walks by where the woman is being treated, the student tried to spit toward her and said he would kill her when he returned, according to the charging affidavit.

In the video the student is heard yelling “Stupid (expletive). I’m going to (expletive) kill you.”


Given what I witnessed on that video – that should be taken as a credible threat

From the vantagepoint of over thirty-years in law enforcement, this barbaric attack met all the elements of the first-degree felony crime of Aggravated Battery on a School Board Employee, and on Friday, Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney R. J. Larizza appropriately charged the juvenile as an adult, and he is being held at a Juvenile Justice facility in Daytona Beach.  

The victim – a mother of two from Palm Coast who works two jobs to provide for her family – was initially hospitalized due to her injuries and is recovering at home.

Now, let the handwringing begin…

Almost immediately, the “But, But, But…” crowd began their mewling chorus of – “But he was an Exceptional Education Student…,” never mind that each day thousands of special education students attend classes without physically mauling instructional personnel.

“But he was living in a group home…,” each day hundreds of students dealing with homelessness, abuse, and parental abandonment attend school and peacefully interact with students and staff.

“But it’s the school’s fault.  The district was negligent.”  Maybe so.  I don’t know what security procedures the district has in place to protect vulnerable teachers and staff from unprovoked acts of violence – but that does not justify the ferocity of this attack by a 17-year-old thug who it appears set out to beat his teacher to death with his bare hands.    

“But it’s not the child’s fault.  He is not a threat.”  Yes, he is.  Given the savagery depicted in the video – and his credible threat to kill the victim – in my view, the “child” (who is four-months shy of his 18th birthday) represents a clear, present, and on-going danger to the paraprofessional and the public.  

The fact is, there is no logical or legal justification for his shocking brutality, and if we are to reverse the grim trend that has turned many Florida schools (including Volusia County’s) into a dystopian Thunderdome – and the streets of Central Florida into a war zone – then it is high time the legislature gets serious about strengthening our horribly broken juvenile justice system.

And fast.

Recently, a teacher in Volusia County described being physically attacked, bitten, and verbally assaulted by a student in her classroom – apparently an occurrence that happens far more frequently than is reported – and a critical reason why so many educators are rightfully fleeing the profession in fear for their safety. 

For far too long, Florida’s shambolic juvenile justice system has been a farcical game of catch and release – a laughable revolving door where even violent offenders are shunted into various namby-pamby “diversion programs” – and allowed to return to the very environment that both countenanced and cultivated their abhorrent behavior and provided a ready supply of victims.

All while the Department of Juvenile Injustice expected a different outcome…

Last week, the world was shocked when a woman was shot and killed in Pine Hills – then the suspected predator returned to the scene and brutally murdered a 9-year-old child, a television news reporter, and wounded the child’s mother and a photojournalist. 

It was later revealed that the suspect is a 19-year-old with an extensive juvenile record.

“At 19, he has a lengthy criminal history to include gun charges, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft charges,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference last week. 

A career criminal by 18 – a suspected mass murderer at 19 – and no one in the juvenile justice system saw this coming?


In my view, it is time Governor Ron DeSantis and our state legislature return focus on that which is truly important and start tackling the harsh reality of juvenile violence – a clear and present danger that is threatening the lives of residents, destroying our public education system, and causing potential visitors to think twice about vacationing in a combat zone…  

Kudos to State Attorney R. J. Lariza and his outstanding staff for having the courage to stand strong for the citizens of the Seventh Judicial Circuit and vigorously prosecute the suspected perpetrator of this horrific crime.   

Enough is enough. 

Asshole           County of Volusia

Buckle up, kids.  This one boggles the mind…

In 2019, Volusia County launched the highly successful Nurse Triage Program designed to alleviate pressure on advanced life support ambulances and EMS personnel by allowing nurses collocated with 911 dispatchers to handle non-emergency situations by phone from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center.

According to reports, between December 2019 to March 25, 2021, the triage program managed 2,167 calls and assisted nearly 400 patients avoid an emergency response, which freed advanced life support ambulances 176 times.   

In 2021, Volusia County’s E-911 Redirect Triage Program received national recognition from the National Association of Counties. 

At the time, former Volusia County Emergency Medical Services Director Jason Brady said, “…the even bigger reward is seeing the positive impact that this program has had on our county’s emergency response system and the residents who rely on it to serve their medical needs.”

In the view of many, the success of the triage program was measured in lives saved as advanced life support services were kept available for those who truly needed them, while helping alleviate the crush of patients who are regularly stacked like cordwood at area emergency rooms, now that our elected dullards have allowed massive overdevelopment to surpass available healthcare resources, utilities, and transportation infrastructure.    

Interestingly, Volusia County prominently features the benefits of the nurse triage program on their paramedic recruitment site, telling potential EMS employees that it “…helps identify low-acuity calls for service that could receive treatment at an alternate care site, thereby freeing up ambulances and emergency rooms for patients with higher acuity complaints.”

So, is this award-winning program being expanded? 

No.  Not here.   

This week it was announced that the triage program is being scrapped by Volusia County – with the five part-time nurses assigned to the program summarily dismissed in “good standing” at the end of the month.

According to a recent report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Those familiar with the decision also said the program cut came as a surprise to people on the team.”

I’ll bet it did.   

It probably came as quite a surprise to some of our elected representatives on the Volusia County Council as well…

Want another surprise?

Those Volusia County employees who have recently been charged with Driving Under the Influence and relegated to “administrative duties” will be assigned to carry on parts of the program going forward.

That’s right.  This once nationally recognized program has become a dumping ground.

What will become of the remainder of the program’s budget – which was advertised at $284,000 when it began in 2019, you ask?    

Well, according to the News-Journal, Director Judge tells us, “The county plans to divert funds that would have gone toward the program “into other areas” to keep residents safe, Judge said.”

Talk about a convenient (if not skeevy) way to “divert” previously allocated public funds, eh? 

I don’t make this shit up, folks…

Of course, the official spin is that some of the non-emergency patients assisted by the triage nurses were ultimately transported to area emergency rooms because many federally qualified urgent care facilities have waiting lists and require a copay (cha-ching) – which means those without the ability to pay must be seen at an ER – ultimately, not as many patients were sent to alternative facilities as senior officials would have liked.  

According to the News-Journal report, as a result, Volusia County Emergency Services Director Jim Judge said the program “…wasn’t worth keeping financially.”

“And so, you know, as a result of that, ultimately the patients ended up going to the emergency room, and many times going by ambulance to the ER.” Judge said. 

Yeah.  You know…

So, what does that mean for Volusia County residents who relied on the program – and the demoralized EMS personnel who have long-decried adverse working conditions, wait times, lack of support, the hemorrhage of qualified employees, and gross mismanagement that have placed those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence at risk for years

In my view, this insightful blurb from those in the trenches says a lot:   

“People familiar with the decision to cut the Nurse Triage program, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about hurting their careers, said they are concerned that the change will end up hurting residents. They expressed concern that people with true emergencies might have to wait longer as more resources are devoted to non-emergencies.”


Whenever I read “…spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns of hurting their careers,” and, “(Director) Judge said Emergency Medical Services “did have a couple of DUIs,” it tells me all I need to know about the culture, discipline, and leadership of Volusia County Emergency Services – and the clear organizational need to lower the bar and keep even compromised employees because they cannot recruit and retain qualified personnel.

Which begs darker questions…

Like why was the E911 Nurse Triage Program selected as the parking spot for county employees who have been charged with a serious criminal traffic offense? 

In my view, the spate of DUI arrests should sound a klaxon with someone (anyone?) in what passes for upper management in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. 

Is it unaddressed traumatic stress?

A toxic work environment? 

A failure to recognize and assist employees in crisis?

A lack of organizational discipline and professional standards? 

All of the above?

Trust me.  We will never know

I doubt most of our out-of-the-loop elected representatives will either.

Because introspection and strategic thought – the evaluation of strengths and challenges, seeking internal and external input, listening to the concerns and suggestions of first responders, and improving service delivery – requires accountability and responsibility, which is anathema in the senior echelons of Volusia County government.

Unfortunately, don’t expect anything to change.

This culture of mediocrity and fierce protection of the status quo will continue until our elected representatives finally have their fill and demand that County Manager George “The Wreck” Rectenwald begin meeting the oversight requirements of his incredibly high paid position beyond the bare minimum required to avoid external scrutiny.   

With a budget now in excess of $1 Billion, Volusia County taxpayers deserve better.

Quote of the Week

“What remains of a long-planned effort to create a model community and an economic-development showcase between DeLand and Orange City is morphing into something different.

Something with more warehouses and more densely packed housing, perhaps.

With a 5-2 vote Feb. 16, the Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission voted to recommend that the County Council amend the old Southwest Activity Center blueprint.

One change would add warehouses and distribution centers — such as the Amazon facility in Deltona — as permitted commercial uses. The second change would set the residential density at four to eight units per acre and reduce the minimum lot sizes for single-family homes from 7,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.”

–Reporter Al Everson, writing in the West Volusia Beacon, “New vision takes shape for Activity Center,” Friday, February 24, 2023

Sounds like the same old “vision” to me. The disastrous strategy of shoving ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag to maximize profit over quality of life and labeling it “progress.”   

And Another Thing!

Did you watch the State of the County Address this week?

Me neither. 

I just couldn’t bring myself to waste another hour of my life being schmoozed by smiling elected and appointed public officials, who, after gorging themselves on a “free lunch” paid for by government contractors (hoping We, The Little People won’t notice how badly it reeks of reciprocation), try to convince us how great we all have it here on Florida’s Fun Coast

Rah, Rah, Rah – Sis, Boom, Bah…

From what I’ve read in the funny papers, it sounds like County Chair Jeff Brower expended a lot of hot air trying to convince himself (because none of the “Who’s Who” of Volusia County give two-shits what he has to say) that after being publicly humiliated and politically castrated by Volusia’s Old Guard for the past three years, somehow he still holds out hope for “working cooperatively for positive change” (?).

Of course, the spectacle was punctuated by an incredibly expensive choreographed production emphasizing how this wholly compromised system somehow “works for us.” 

Kum ba yah, my Lord, Kum ba yah…


Honestly, I just could not do it this year…

According to reports, Chairman Brower went on one of his ineffective but passionate rants about “controlling growth” – now that malignant sprawl has all but overtaken the width and breadth of Volusia County – and you can bet there was happy talk of “responsible development” – a subjective term that, to many sitting politicians, means it is irresponsible not to monetize every square inch of this sandy piece of land – flora, fauna, and existing residents be damned.   

According to a synopsis by reporter Sheldon Gardner writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chairman Brower also used the opportunity to eulogize area springs, lakes, and rivers:

“Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower said improving water quality should be the council’s top priority in a speech Tuesday at the State of the County event at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach.

“Those rivers are sounding an alarm. Those springs are sounding an alarm that require immediate and continuous action,” Brower said. “Swimming is not permitted in three of our five springs because bacteria counts are too high.”

“Four of our rivers, including the Halifax, which is the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon, the Indian, St. Johns, Tomoka River, as well as Spruce Creek are all on the Impaired Water List of the Clean Water Act,” he added.”

My God. 

I think I would have had greater respect for Chairman Brower if he had simply approached the podium, held his head in his hands, and openly wept for three-minutes…  


I was also baffled by a section in the pageant’s 45-page glossy program that clearly misplaced Low Impact Development under the “Protecting natural resources” section (sandwiched between advertisements for P$S Paving and Masci General Contractors) which touted a “…$75,000 grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity” to develop “recommendations” to fill a “companion guidebook.”

Wait.  Recommendations?

Say what?

Volusia County government has been kicking the rusty low impact development can down the dusty political road for years – no closer to requiring developers adopt runoff management, pollution control, and effective flood protection measures now than they were five-years ago when our Director of Growth and Resource Mismanagement Clay Ervin first hit the trail with his horseshit LID dog-and-pony shows.

Remember?  I do. 

Now, Volusia County plans to spend $75K to compile suggestions for local governments and property owners? 


In keeping with the redundant (and repugnant) year-over-year smokescreen of “Things are looking up!” Brower ended with the sanguine trope:

“That’s who we are. We are a special place and a special people. It is that love for place and neighbors that can make our county with God’s help the best place to live, work and blah, blah, blah…”

Sadly, we’ve heard it all before. 

Look, I may be a rube – but I understand the basics of classical and operant conditioning – and, over time, the simple formula hot stove = pain has taught me to not put too much faith in what a politician says while he or she is belching their “free lunch.”

I prefer to trust that which I see with my own eyes, rather than what some slick tax-funded agitprop would have me believe.

As someone who pays attention to our deteriorating surroundings, ruminates on the effects of uncontrolled sprawl while trapped in four light cycles at (insert East Volusia intersection here), sees the abysmal condition of our beach and core tourist area, stands slack jawed amid reports that inmates have been tacked out nude in the inner recesses of the county jail, drives by massive glass and steel monuments to corporate welfare, reviews campaign finance reports to identify who (and what) is controlling my destiny, watch as residents are bled dry with fees and taxes while humbly begging permission for a three-minute audience with their exalted monarchy, and looks on helplessly while what remains of our wildlife habitat and green space is slashed-and-burned to satiate some greedhead’s perverse idea of “progress,” as hundreds of our neighbor’s homes repeatedly flood due to overdevelopment, it takes a lot more than a slick video and a neutered politician in a garish necktie to change my perceptions.

In my jaded view, the true state of Volusia County is a harsh reality for those working hard to feed and house families in this artificial economy, and the daily experience of many of our neighbors is a far cry from the shameless puffery and whoopla staged on Tuesday…

Better luck next year.

That’s all for me.  Have a great first weekend of Bike Week 2023, y’all!