Best of Barker’s View: A History of Deception

(Note: Angels & Assholes will return next Friday. In the interim, I find it fun to look back and see how much things have changed – or stayed the same – here on Florida’s “Fun Coast.” During a trip to Virginia last week, I saw firsthand how unchecked sprawl has inexorably changed the character and landscape of Volusia, Flager, St. Johns, and Duval Counties – with more development on the way – and precious little evidence of the infrastructure expansion and improvements we so desperately need to cope. Here’s a look back from April 2022 on the most important topic of our time – now from the vantagepoint of 20-20 hindsight… See you next week!)

“A favorite theory of mine [is] that no occurrence is sole and solitary but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.”

–Mark Twain

I am an observer – and a student of history.   

Rather than participate officially, I watch the action and analyze things from the sidelines – with a hard-earned ability to discern both the minute and significant – gaining insight into all aspects of a situation, determining patterns, and comparing modern issues with historical outcomes. 

Invariably, motivations become apparent once you learn that leopards are incapable of changing their spots. . .

With practice, one can see through the cosmetics, drapes, and disguises used by politicians (and those who control them) to craft an image of themselves relative to the perennial problems we face – especially true during an election year – hoping those they “govern” won’t peek behind the well-crafted façade and connect the dots (and the dollars).     

In time, we find the issues we face bear striking similarities to other events in our history and ignoring this convergence often results in that painful sense of “déjà vu” – the experiential learning that only comes from touching a hot stove twice.

These recurrences are often called “history repeating itself” – and, as Winston Churchill warned, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

This week, I took notice as a giddy sense of excitement built ahead of Tuesday’s Volusia County Council “growth management and development permitting workshop” – which will be held in council chambers between the intentionally inconvenient hours of 9:30am and 2:30pm – putting it off the table for most concerned citizens who work for a living. . . 

Incredibly, some smart people are pinning their hopes to yet another hot air generator – one more mind-numbing PowerPoint presentation hosted by the same do-nothing “growth management” drones who remain comfortably mired in the same incestuous relationships with real estate developers and insiders – another time-wasting diversion for the masses while the bulldozers continue to roar. 

No thanks.  I have seen it all before. 

Look, I hate to be the proverbial turd in the punchbowl – but I remember the sense of excitement I felt in the leadup to the “Smart Growth summits” of 2003 and 2004.

And who can forget the Great Smart Growth PowerPoint of November 2008?  With its ominous conclusion, “Where do we go next?”

(Unfortunately, hindsight tells us the answer to that question was a “cram ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag” growth management strategy that continues to allow our elected dullards to maintain their paralytic grip on the stagnant status quo while ensuring their political benefactors can squeeze every dollar they can out of our decimated natural places. . .)

Remember that heady horseshit?

“The concept of Smart Growth emerged as communities have been increasingly impacted by “sprawling” development patterns and related infrastructure and service delivery costs. Locally, this pattern cannot be sustained without permanent destruction of vast ecosystems and wildlife corridors”?

I do. 

Or how about that collective feeling of keen anticipation ahead of the exalted “Smart Growth Policy Review Committee of 2013-2014” – the council commissioned Blue Ribbon political insulation committee charged with recommending a host of planning and zoning policy initiatives? 


Oh, I know!  How about the “Smart Growth Policy Review Committee of 2015-2016”?

Just me?  Okay.

Wait, I’m certain you will recall the impressive presentation by Clay Ervin, our long-serving director of Growth and Resource Management, at a Volusia County Council meeting in January 2019.

Or Director Ervin’s subsequent ‘Dog and Pony Show’ at the Knights of the Roundtable conclave in June of that year, to “…explore the idea of “smart growth” within the county, with the input from municipalities and other community stakeholders.”

If it sounds like “déjà vu all over again,” that’s because it is… 

Have you seen evidence of “smart growth” initiatives or “low-impact” development rules resulting from these decades-old shim-shams?

Me neither.

So why are we so eager to expect a different outcome?

This weekend, a very smart friend of mine sent a front-page clipping from the Tallahassee Democrat – published 50-years ago this week – with the glaring headline, “Halt Florida’s Chaotic Growth, Experts Plead.” 

The lede, written in April 1972, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Mike Toner of the Democrat-Miami Herald News Service, explained, “Florida’s growth is outstripping the efforts to plan properly for it, and, in some parts of the state, growth should stop until planning can catch up. . .”

In the report, Mr. Toner quoted the recommendation of two groups with seemingly competing interests – the American Institute of Architects and Florida Defenders of the Environment – who promoted a list of “temporary solutions,” which included “A halt to all major transportation programs, especially I-95 and I-75 in south Florida and I-10 in north Florida, while a comprehensive study of their environmental impact is made,” and “…a moratorium be placed on areas “of new and potential growth” where the growth is certain to affect natural resources…”


The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

The one common denominator is a long stain of compromised politicians – and the developers and special interests who own the paper on their political souls – who continue to approve malignant sprawl (with a building tsunami of approved projects already on the books) that look us in the eye and tell us there’s “nothing we can do/hands are tied” while approving zoning changes, increasing density, and always ensuring a malleable “planning process” that is quickly destroying our environment and quality of life.    

In my view, tomorrows “growth management workshop” represents more bureaucratic gaslighting, more nonsensical rehashing of “low-impact” development concepts that have been intentionally suppressed for years – yet another diversionary tactic – a means of putting time and distance between now and any substantive action to reduce the malignant sprawl that has already outpaced our transportation and utilities infrastructure and is now rapidly threatening our water supply. 

They do it because we allow it, and in this election year, it is time to determine who has our back and who is content with ‘more of the same.’

I often sound like some demented Henny Penny, but as I have previously said, please take a moment from your busy lives and truly reflect on what the basic principles at the heart of these matters mean – not for us – but for our children and grandchildren. 

As we have seen in recent elections, there remains one fundamental mechanism which, if exercised broadly, will allow us to prevail over the political insiders and well-heeled donor class that seem intent on promoting this “growth at all costs” insanity for personal enrichment:

In this election year, it is the ultimate power of the ballot box.

In truth, it is the only thing that strikes concern in the heart of these self-serving bastards who are actively selling their political soul – and our unique quality of life – all while wasting precious time with these insulting diversions.

Don’t be fooled again.


Thanks for reading.

A&A will be back next week. Have a great weekend, y’all!

One thought on “Best of Barker’s View: A History of Deception

  1. “In this election year, it is the ultimate power of the ballot box.” is this a reposting, seems we had an ‘election cycle’ last year(2022)?
    Who on the Volusia Clowncil are we voting for this year(2023)?


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