There’s an old joke that asks:
“Want to make a little money in aviation?”
“Start with a lot of money…”
This week, Volusia County taxpayers learned the hard lesson of that punchline as the majority of our elected officials in DeLand ignored the lessons of history, threw caution to the wind, and entered a lopsided “partnership” with the then unknown “ultra-low-cost air carrier,” Avelo Airlines.
So, beginning in late June, you can wing your way from Daytona “International” Airport to the “premium destinations” we were all teased with:
(The second much sought-after destination remains a mystery?)
I find it fascinating that ostensibly bright elected officials can be sold a pig in a poke – literally appropriating our tax dollars to support some enigmatic entity who remains cloaked in secrecy until the corporate welfare demand is approved – then theatrically sweeps from behind the velvet curtain for the ‘Grand Reveal’ – as We, The Little People who pay the bills scratch our heads and silently muse:
Yeah. I know.
During Tuesday’s VCC meeting, the very capable Cyrus Callum, Volusia County’s Director of Aviation and Economic Resources, switched hats – morphing into a highly effective shill for the two-year-old airline that, we were told, originally demanded $3 million in a “minimum revenue guarantee” scheme on a promise of twice-weekly flights to two “premium destinations.”
As the sales pitch droned on, Director Callum held our clueless council members in suspense like a cagey gameshow host, dropping perplexing hints like, “Somewhere in the Tri-State…” and “The Mid-Atlantic area…”
If our elected decisionmakers still had the capacity for shame and self-awareness – the spectacle of them playing twenty-questions with a senior staffer before being asked to appropriate public funds for a secret private entity would have been mortifyingly embarrassing…
According to Mr. Callum, after “negotiations,” he and the DAB team were able to reduce the impact of Volusia County’s assurance to $1 million in guaranteed revenue – a fund described as a weird insurance policy to be held in reserve and used as a bailout if/when the carrier fails to meet quarterly estimates.
In keeping with the typical cloak-and-dagger horseshit that allows corporations with their hand in our pocket to keep their identity legally secret until giddy politicians can be convinced to vote in the blind – Mr. Callum did an extraordinary job of anesthetizing the council – glossing over our abysmal history of underwriting airlines who invariably leave us in their jetwash after gorging greedily at the public trough – ultimately coaxing a 4-2 vote (Councilman Jake Johanssen was absent).
To their credit, Councilmembers Danny Robins and Don Dempsey had trouble reconciling the fact that Volusia County does not routinely cover overhead for local small businesses – and, in my view, it appeared they were struggling with the current logic that has government skewing the playing field and meddling in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, the remainder of our self-described “small government/fiscal conservatives” were somehow able to convince themselves that – despite our hard-earned experience with JetBlue, Silver Airways, Sunwing, etc. – risking public funds to cover the operating and start-up estimates of a small airline with just 24-months experience in a highly competitive industry (that already offers flights from Orlando International Airport) is a rational financial decision.
In a free and fair marketplace, entrepreneurial investors take educated risks based upon an estimated return on investment – while government stewards our tax dollars to deliver those services, infrastructure, and utilities we cannot provide for ourselves.
In my view, when government insinuates itself into the marketplace – picking winners and losers (or, in the case of enticing airlines to DAB, pissing away good money after bad), voting in the blind, ensuring ludicrous minimum revenue guarantees, building private infrastructure, gifting tax breaks, and lavishing public funds on private entities – it flies in the face of fairness and is counter to the time-honored principle of due diligence – mitigating risk by entering “partnerships” with eyes open, terms negotiated, and all players identified – rather than gagged and blindfolded in the ultimate act of fiduciary irresponsibility.
When we question the practice, Volusia County’s economic development shills – career bureaucrats who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – assure us this grift is now a required practice in the murky world of corporate welfare and “public/private partnerships” – where our tax dollars are used to underwrite the for-profit motives of private entities.
I wonder if Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilmen Matt Reinhart, Troy Kent, and David Santiago would invest their family’s personal savings in a mysterious business entity that refused to identify itself?
So, why are they comfortable doing it with our hard-earned money?
Now, we’re being told that another anonymous airline has designs on a spot at Volusia’s patent public teat…
In my view, it is time our ‘powers that be’ stop playing this expensive game of corporate hide-and-seek which requires the allocation of public funds with no substantive information, public debate, or transparency.
7 thoughts on “Flying Blind: Another Corporate Welfare Scheme at DAB”
Twice a week to New Haven the home of nothing and at least a one hour ride to NYC and another hour plus to Long Island.This is a joke right? APRIL FOOLS? No offense residence of that area but I never met anyone visiting or living in New Haven.Guess a two day drive to see family in Brooklyn.Hate Orlando Airport they ran out of parking last time.We need to fix Daytona not be a charity to a no name airline.
Is this why Kelly Parsons Kwiatek and Randy Dye along with their stuffy Daytona Chamber crowd celebrate these corporate “wins?” The bigger the smelly giveaway, the more the corporate people like Dye, Napoli, and Kwiatek lift their expensive wine and whiskey glasses to toast us poor schlubs who pay for it!?!
come on. let’s just face facts.
these people do not give a blind half-assed flying fuck at a rolling doughnut about squandering money. that’s why they are positioned there. tired of their shenanigans and their bullshit.
it’s all about the illusion that they are doing what’s best. we know they are not, they know they are not. we get pissed off. they just don’t care.
by the way, we will need a fresh doughnut for next week.
and keep them away from all two car funerals.
It is sadly again, laughable. In the real world, businesses do not make decisions like this if they don’t know all the details of the transaction to take place. The leadership remains questionable at best…
Hey, if you want to go on different days of the week, you can do it from Melbourne!
Wonder how much of a handout they got there?
I also wonder why they were able to announce both of Melbourne’s cities at once? And their second city sure does seem to fit the description of Daytona’s mystery city.
They could have added that same airline to New Smyrna Beach airport and still get the same number of people to fly it…noone!!!
A quick search will show anyone who wants to know they have way too many “routes” that they gave up on within a few months.
They’ll try the market for a few months and before losses hit $1 million they will pull out of the area without any risk of financial loss.
If our area is such a destination like we market it as then we wouldn’t have to provide incentives for companies to do business here.