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:
I’ve got a confession to make.
Despite living in blissful denial – I’m getting older.
Look, I realize that my boyish good looks – the result of a healthy diet of Tullamore Dew and Marlboros – can be deceiving, but the evidence is mounting that I am no exception to Chaucer’s proverb, “Time and tide wait for no man…”
This week, I underwent cataract surgery to correct this horrid gauze-like glare in my left eye – and by the time you read this – the exceptionally talented ophthalmic surgeon Dr. Todd Geis and his wonderful team will have restored Superman’s X-Ray vision!
Unfortunately, the preoperative drops have made it all but impossible to focus on this damnable computer screen…
So, I hope you will forgive this week’s mercifully abbreviated edition of Angels & Assholes.
With any luck, your curmudgeonly scribe will be back next week with clearer vision – and more weird thoughts and asides on the political horseshit and civic machinations that make life here on Florida’s fabled “Fun Coast” so incredibly interesting – and infinitely frustrating…
Thanks so much for your support and loyal readership. It means more than you know.
Now, let’s take a look at the week that was:
Asshole Volusia County Council
For the uninitiated, the term “Political Posturing” (a/k/a “Moral Grandstanding”) is defined as the use of hollow speech, handwringing, and superficial legislative action as a means of generating political support through emotional appeals.
It often manifests as a weird form of limbic synchrony where elected poseurs ape the actions of politicians at the next level of government – mirroring the faux-concerns and partisan diversions of their counterparts by seeking solutions to problems that rarely exist – then tout their moral superiority while camouflaging the resultant censorship and heavy-handed overreach as necessary societal protections.
Trust me. This théâtre de l’absurde is not limited to one political party or the other…
Meanwhile, the real threats facing those unable to protect themselves from the true civic, social, and environmental evils that exist in our society go unaddressed while politicians primp and preen.
Recently, the Volusia County Council used routine appointments to the innocuous Library Advisory Board to find answers to the non-existent problem of “inappropriate materials” in the children’s section of Volusia County Public Libraries…
In fact, the “problem” is so infrequent we typically trust trained librarians to use a reasonable and effective vetting process to keep harmful material out of the hands of children.
According to reports, of the tens of thousands of books available in Volusia County libraries, just four were challenged in the past two years.
Only two were removed.
But Councilman Don Dempsey is not satisfied with what works. He feels we need a new, more controversial and timewasting mechanism for “monitoring” content.
“How can we monitor the materials that are put in the library, so that if we have something that’s been controversial, that we could vote on it – or this board could vote on it?” Dempsey asked.
“How do we monitor what’s been given to our kids?”
Let’s see… How about trusting their parents?
So, instead of relying on qualified librarians, vigilant parents, and proven processes, the County Council – sitting as self-styled omniscient inquisitors – will now use their infinite wisdom to rule on suspected heresies and sorcery – giving a thumbs up or down according to the rules of the Directorium Inquisitorum?
Look, as a grandfather of two children under the age of six (with one on the way!) I do not want them subjected to inappropriate material – especially at a public library – no parent or grandparent does.
And that is why there are effective processes already in place.
Of the myriad civic and social issues we face here on the “Fun Coast” – serious threats to the public welfare, environment, beaches, infrastructure, and our quality of life that are within the actual purview of our elected and appointed dullards – public libraries are rarely on the list of things keeping Volusia County families up at night.
What I found most disturbing was the fact At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson began the theatrics by making a motion to disband Volusia County’s Library Advisory Board altogether – a citizen committee that makes recommendations to the County Council, County Manager, and Library Services Director on matters relating to the development and improvement of one the few county operated services that works well.
In my view, by condescendingly bashing the contributions of committee members, Councilman Johansson telegraphed that he’s not interested in hearing from those who dedicate their time and talent to advisory boards – suggesting that if a group of people want to get together to discuss library issues and “wear the same color t-shirts,” they can merely genuflect before the Monarchy, prostrate themselves as any other villein, and express their suggestions during the allotted “public participation” period gifted to their subjects.
“I question the reasoning behind having this board, as well,” he told his fellow council members. “Is this more of a group of people getting together and chatting about how to make our libraries better? Can this not be done outside the constraints of a committee or a board?”
My God. The abject arrogance of these ill-informed assholes is mind-boggling…
And our ‘powers that be’ question why no one wants to serve on boards and committees?
Equally disturbing, during the ensuing discussion, the two highest paid bureaucrats in all the realm – County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and County Attorney Michael “I’ll Get Back to You on That” Dyer, who collectively command a combined annual salary (minus benefits and perquisites) of some $478,000 – were unable to articulate the process by which books and materials are selected for Volusia County libraries.
Another area that Mr. Recktenwald is personally responsible for – yet remains utterly clueless of the essential functions and processes he ostensibly oversees.
Why is that?
In my view, at the prices “The Wreck” commands, his bureaucratic ineptitude is getting too blatant to ignore. Or are we expected to wait until another inmate is found tacked out in four-point restraints, in the nude, in the bowels of the Volusia County Jail – or worse?
I’m asking. Because those on the dais of power won’t – and this routine inability of senior appointed officials to respond to policymakers with even rudimentary answers in a public setting is concerning…
At least it should be.
So, you and I will now be subjected to yet another infamously longwinded Dog & Pony Show to address a threat that does not exist (to be held at a time when Councilman David Santiago doesn’t have something more important to do and can attend the meeting) by Library Services Director Lucinda Colee (who, no doubt, has better things to do than read some phonics-based PowerPoint to our elected dullards).
Folks, this contrived virtue signaling and political posturing is what happens in the absence of strong leadership, commons sense, or substantive citizen input…
Asshole Thin-skinned Politicians
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
Wow. If Mr. Jefferson could see us now, eh?
During my professional life, I was often accused of having “sharp elbows” – moving through the world, as William Safire wrote, “…giving and receiving offense” – a strong advocate for those policies and initiatives I thought were important to the community I served.
Guilty as charged.
Only now, looking back, can I see both the necessity, and folly, in that aggressive approach…
With experience, career civil servants learn that, in government, sometimes the only way to make things happen is to challenge the status quo, make a conscious effort to avoid the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality, and develop relationships with subordinates, peers, and superiors that can survive honest differences of opinion and allow the vigorous debate of complex issues without creating animosity and destroying relationships.
In my view, anything else is disingenuous and a disservice to constituents.
In February, Orange City Mayor Gary Blair got his gilded knickers in a twist over a contentious encounter with another council member who (God forbid) addressed him using “foul language.”
As a result, Lord Blair took offense and called for a formal “code of conduct” for elected officials to “ensure a civil discourse at public meetings, in public arenas, or when communicating via electronic means.”
In my view, Mayor Blair – or any other elected official – who enforces “respect and courtesy” through official edict as a means of projecting a faux sense of collegiality is being less than honest with those who pay the bills – and setting a dangerous precedent for limiting free expression on the dais of power.
What is it with these thin-skinned elected officials today?
Many politicians we elect to high office at all levels of government seem capable of the most despicable and meanspirited forms of personal destruction during what passes for political campaigns – real cutthroat politics – then, once elected, clutch their pearls, and suddenly transmogrify into a sniveling Caspar Milquetoast…
Typically, the first time a politician learns that not everyone agrees with them – or fails to genuflect in reverence when they pass on the street – their massive ego recoils in horror and they begin looking for a legislative means of forcing “civility” from their constituents and colleagues.
Because a terse exchange in a public park “didn’t sit well” with Mayor Blair, the taxpayers of Orange City dished out public funds to City Attorney William Reischmann to research, craft, and present a meaningless “civility pledge” at a recent meeting.
In an informative overview by reporter Chris Berger writing in the West Volusia Beacon, we learned:
“According to the pledge, the goal is to “ensure a civil discourse at public meetings, in public arenas, or when communicating via electronic means.”
Reischmann said he believes being kind to each other won’t be that difficult.
“I don’t think it’s a hurdle too high, but it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Reischmann told the council.
The pledge, Reischmann pointed out, was not a guarantee of civility but a recognition of it.
“This basically says we just all play nice in the sandbox and we treat each other with respect,” Blair summarized. “When we’re out and in public, we watch our language. You know, we just treat each other like decent human beings, as we should.”
Orange City needs a formal public policy for that?
Now that Mayor Blair has had his 15 minutes of unwarranted attention, I sincerely hope his delicate sensibilities have been soothed. Because I am certain the taxpayers of Orange City will be thrilled to know their City Attorney’s valuable time can now be focused on more pressing civic matters…
Look, in my view, the legislative process should be raucous – a spirited debate of the issues – a freewheeling, transparent, and public competition of ideas with substantive input from those whose lives and livelihoods will be directly affected by the resultant policy – not some sterile exercise by restrained elected officials who fear offending the Mayor Blairs of the world…
Robust debate is one of the foundational principles of good governance, but as recent bills filed by state lawmakers have proven, many politicians have no qualms using the power of the legislative process to silence their critics, preempt home rule, and further consolidate power at a higher, and far less responsive, level of government.
In my experience, respect and professional courtesy are earned – not legislated.
If an elected official has cultivated the respect of their colleagues by admitting mistakes, giving credit to others, showing compassion to those who can do nothing to help them, holding fast to a strong moral compass, following the rules, setting an example, responsibly stewarding public funds, and diligently representing the interests of all citizens – they will naturally agree to disagree on certain issues, develop ways to compromise, and find common ground on those matters most important to their constituents – all without pledging allegiance to a toothless and artificial civility code.
Angel Charlene Greer & Jeep Beach 2023
Today begins the final weekend of Jeep Beach 2023!
Now celebrating its 20th year, Jeep Beach has become a true benefit to the Halifax area and universally embraced by locals as a quality annual event that gives back to the community.
Unlike many “pop-up” invasions and “truck meets” – mechanized insanity that leave area residents trapped in their homes as rowdy enthusiasts turn our streets into a congested dragstrip and our beachside neighborhoods into Party Central during three days/two nights of gridlocked debauchery – Jeep Beach brings thousands of visitors to our area for a great week of fun at various venues throughout the area.
According to a recent article by Jim Abbott writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:
“The hashtag this year is #chasingamillion,” said Charlene Greer, the event’s executive director and chairwoman, a reference to the goal of raising $1 million for area charities through this year’s weeklong celebration of the famed automotive brand that runs April 23-30 in Daytona Beach.
That total would exceed the $650,000 that was raised and donated to 70 area charities at the 2022 Jeep Beach. Incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity in 2017, Jeep Beach Inc. over the past decade has raised a total of more than $3.8 million to support recipients that include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia & Flagler Counties, the NASCAR Foundation and the Childhood Cancer Foundation.”
The event continues this weekend with “JB23 20th Anniversary Main Event Show at Daytona International Speedway,” a celebration of all things Jeep – to include an obstacle course, promotional giveaways, food truck vendors, live musicians, and sand sculptors – with a special performance by Colbie Caillat on Saturday beginning at 7:05pm.
Tickets for all events are available at www.jeepbeach.com
Kudos to Charlene Greer and her legion of dedicated volunteers who work hard to make Jeep Beach an incredibly special Daytona Beach tradition!
Quote of the Week
“Conservative grassroots organization Americans for Prosperity-Florida and its Hispanic outreach arm, the LIBRE Initiative-Florida, are bringing on former Rep. David Santiago as LIBRE-Florida’s new Strategic Director.
Santiago, a Republican, brings extensive legislative knowledge to the AFP-FL team following his years of service as an elected member of the Deltona City Commission and the state House.
AFP-FL touted Santiago’s reputation as a “dedicated” Representative known for his work with grassroots leaders and his fellow lawmakers on what the organization described as “transformational policies.”
Santiago’s legislative product focused on the insurance industry, with priority bills tackling topics including workers’ comp, travel insurance, surplus lines insurance, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, pharmacy benefit managers, car insurance, reinsurance, civil remedies, rate making, construction defects, and condominium loss assessments.
Santiago represented the Volusia County area in the House from 2012 through 2020, when term limits prevented him from seeking re-election. Post-legislative service he worked for the law and lobbying firm Colodny Fass and held the top position at Floridians for Lawsuit Reform.”
–Publisher Peter Schorsch, Florida Politics – Legislative, Influence, and Policy, “Personnel note: David Santiago named strategic director at LIBRE-Florida,” Tuesday, April 25, 2023
When not otherwise occupied, David Santiago serves as the District 5 representative to the Volusia County Council…
And Another Thing!
Are you getting your monies worth?
It’s a legitimate question.
Something strapped families ask themselves all the time when evaluating where to trim their monthly budget amid rising inflation and precious few of those “high paying jobs” our economic development shills keep promising…
When it comes to Volusia County government, are you getting the best bang your buck?
After all, it is your money.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Sunday edition included an informative article by Sheldon Gardner, “Who Takes Top Salary?” which provided a shocking list of the highest paid bureaucrats in Volusia County government:
“Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald tops the list of highest-paid government officials across the county government agencies surveyed, earning just under $247,000 per year followed closely by Volusia County Schools Superintendent Carmen Balgobin at $245,000.”
Not including benefits…
According to Volusia County mouthpiece Kevin Captain, “The county benefits package has a total that rivals the amount paid in salaries/wages.”
Whoa. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg…
When you figure that every department, division, and donjon within County government has a bevy of directors, deputy directors, managers, assistant managers, supervisors, dinosaurs, sloths, protégés, consultants, mandarins, toadies, arbiters, etc., etc., etc. – also drawing six-figure salaries, that adds up to real money.
For those of us here in the real world, anyway…
In my view, one inherent problem with perpetually expanding bureaucracies is their top-heavy structure – where a few senior executives command exorbitant salaries in exchange for running interference and providing political insulation – while those delivering public services at the tip of the spear often make less than their counterparts in entry level jobs in the fast-food industry.
For instance, according to the report, “The county is offering starting pay of $15.94 an hour for full-time emergency medical technicians, $17.88 for paramedic trainees, and $20.49 for paramedics,” while Buc-ee’s is advertising a starting pay of $17.00 an hour for cashiers, cleaning and maintenance attendants, and grocery stockers.
But everyone is fat and happy in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand…
Yet, time and again, We, The Little People, who are expected to pay the bills and suffer in silence, watch in slack jawed amazement as these highly compensated dullards are repeatedly caught off guard or learn of internal scandals after the fact – incapable of answering simple questions regarding governmental processes and systems they are directly responsible for – always couching requests with “I’ll get back to you on that” – an effective means of creating time and distance to avoid any level of official accountability.
Now, Councilman Jake Johansson is suggesting throwing citizen advisory board members “out of the club,” and – one assumes – only receive information from inside the tightly controlled confines of a bloated bureaucracy where grossly overpaid senior officials both manufacture and monitor the narrative while steering public policy from deep inside the inner-sanctum.
Make no mistake, they do consider our government a very exclusive “Good Old Boys Club.”
One that you and I will never be members of – until we begin electing true servant-leaders who care more about the needs of their constituents than protecting this incredibly lopsided system…
That’s all for me. Have a great final weekend of Jeep Beach 2023 weekend, y’all!