Today We Remember: The Men of Spike Team Asp

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance now officially established as the last Monday in May.  It is the day we honor and memorialize those brave men and women who have given their lives in defense of our nation.

Each Memorial Day, Barker’s View publishes the remarkable story of Spike Team ASP – an incredible tale of the heroism and ultimate sacrifice of three United States Army Special Forces soldiers on a covert mission in the Laotian countryside on March 28, 1968 – and their enduring legacy of service and devotion.

Never forget.


In late March 1968, United States Army Sergeant First Class George “Ron” Brown of Holly Hill, Florida, Sergeant Alan Boyer of Missoula, Montana, and Sergeant Greg Huston of Shelby County, Ohio, along with six indigenous personnel – collectively known as “Spike Team Asp” – conducted a top-secret intelligence operation behind enemy lines approximately 12-miles northeast of Tchepone, Laos.


Assigned to the Military Assistance Command Vietnam/Studies and Observation Group (MACV/SOG) this team of elite Special Forces soldiers was tasked with setting Air Force wire-tapping equipment and sensors along the labyrinthine Ho Chi Minh trail system, the main north-south supply line for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.

The men had been covertly inserted into the area after launching from Nakon Phanom, Thailand aboard a CH-3 from the Air Force’s 20th Helicopter Squadron call sign “Pony Express.”

More than 25 special forces soldiers and many indigenous troops had already been killed or gone missing in our deadly secret war in Laos.

At approximately 11:00am on the morning of March 28, the team reported that they were in contact with an enemy force and requested an immediate emergency extraction from the area.

A helicopter arrived in the area a short time later and quickly located the team on the ground.

Due to thick canopy jungle and rough terrain the pilot was unable to land so a rope ladder was dropped from the open doorway of the aircraft to the men below.  Five of the six indigenous troops climbed the ladder and were safely taken into the helicopter.

As the sixth was going up, Sergeant Boyer was seen beginning his ascent on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Al Boyer
Alan Boyer

Just as Boyer started climbing, one of the rope’s mounting brackets either broke free or was shot away by heavy enemy ground fire.  Personnel on the helicopter reported observing the indigenous soldier and Sgt. Boyer falling to the ground.

According to reports, Sgt. Dave Mayberry, who served as the chase medic on the extraction helicopter, observed the Green Berets still very much alive and heroically returning fire and defending their position.

When Sgt. Mayberry turned to treat one of the wounded he lost sight of the men on the ground.

Brown, Huston and Boyer were never seen again.

Numerous air assets were diverted to the area and a rescue team was assembled, but the mission was called off later that afternoon when there were no further communications from the men.

On April 1, 1968, Special Forces Sergeant Chuck Feller, along with several indigenous soldiers, launched on a mission to locate the lost men of Spike Team Asp.  After just six hours on the ground, Sgt. Feller and his team came into direct contact with the enemy and called for an emergency extraction.

Ron 3
Ron Brown

Again, a rope ladder had to be dropped and one of the indigenous soldiers was forced to dangle from the rungs as the helicopter returned to the airbase in Thailand.  Sgt. Feller later reported that his search found no evidence of Spike Team Asp.

Interestingly, after Al Boyer went missing in action, his best friend since childhood, Doug Hagen, was attending North Dakota State University when he heard the news.  He decided he needed to find out what happened to his friend, and enlisted in the Army, ultimately joining the 5th Special Forces Group, just as Boyer had done.

On August 7, 1971, 1st Lieutenant Doug Hagen was killed during heavy fighting while leading a reconnaissance team – RT Kansas – on a secret mission deep within enemy controlled territory.

For his heroism, Doug received the Medal of Honor, the United States highest decoration for valor.  He was the last United States Army soldier to earn the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam war.

In January 2000, a team from the former Joint POW/MIA Accounting Office conducted extensive excavations of the Laotian countryside near where Spike Team Asp was last seen.

During the latter part of the war, the Ho Chi Minh trail was heavily bombed leaving the earth deeply cratered and much of the topography completely different than it had been in 1968, making search and recovery efforts extremely difficult.

However, the archaeological excavation uncovered several personal artifacts attributable to U.S. military personnel, to include a metal boot insert and several uniform buttons.

In addition, a single human tooth was recovered at the site.

The tooth was later linked to Ron Brown through dental x-rays at the Department of Defense Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii.

In May 2003, Sergeant Brown’s daughter, Ronda Brown-Pitts, was notified by the Army that her father’s remains had been found in Laos.  Unfortunately, dental records provided to her showed that her father’s tooth had a filling – and the tooth recovered did not.

Due to the confusion, Ronda demanded a DNA test, but it was refused based on the Army’s policy of “body desecration.” A DNA test would have destroyed “all of the remains.”

In 2006, a casket containing the remains of Master Sergeant George “Ron” Brown was delivered to his daughter and later interred with full military honors in Dayton, Texas.

Many years ago, I received a POW/MIA bracelet bearing Ron’s name.

When I was a young boy growing up during the Vietnam era, these bracelets were a fairly common sight, but not so much anymore.  In the 1970’s many school children wore the bracelet as a means of ensuring that the POW/MIA issue remained a priority until they all came home.

For those whose adopted POW didn’t come home, the bracelet holder became the keeper of the eternal memory of one man’s sacrifice.

The silver band has become both a personal memorial, and a public reminder, that there are some debts of gratitude that cannot be repaid.

This small token has allowed me to learn about Ron’s military career and his incredible heroism; and I have had the honor of speaking with his friends and family, and to meet and correspond with some of the men he served with on Okinawa and in Vietnam.

He was a husband, a father, a former member of the U.S. Army Parachute Team “The Golden Knights,” and a professional soldier of incredible skill and dedication.

Even though Ron’s “remains” have been repatriated, I still wear his bracelet as a personal remembrance of one man’s sacrifice to the high cost of freedom – and in memory of Greg Huston, who remains missing.

Greg Huston

Incredibly, the story of Spike Team Asp continues.

On March 7, 2016, one day before what would have been Sergeant Alan Boyer’s 70th birthday, United States Army and DOD officials presented his sister with Alan’s military decorations, to include the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

During the visit, Judi Boyer Bouchard, now of Leesburg, Florida, was notified that a single leg bone fragment had been located by the Defense Department POW/MIA Accounting Office.  The bone shard was apparently purchased by a Laotian activist from Lao nationals described as “remains dealers,” and later positively identified through mitochondrial DNA analysis.

On June 22, 2016, Sergeant Alan Boyer was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 28.

He was laid to rest just 15-feet from his best friend, Doug Hagen.

Doug Hagen

Currently, more than 1,500 Americans remain missing after the Vietnam War.

Overall, there are more than 81,600 missing personnel from past conflicts, including World War II, Korea, the Cold War and the Global War on Terror.

On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us remember the extraordinary service of men like Ron Brown, Al Boyer, Greg Huston and Doug Hagen – and all those brave souls who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great nation.

Never forgotten.

Angels & Assholes for May 26, 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               Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood

In 2022, the Florida legislature considered the best interests of residents fed up with being held hostage in their homes while (insert unsanctioned invasion here) seizes control of their community.   

Working cooperatively with Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young – last year, Rep. Tom Leek of Ormond Beach and Sen. Tom Wright of New Smyrna Beach – filed bills which ultimately resulted in an effective law addressing these unpermitted “pop-up” events. 

The statute allows county sheriffs to designate “special event zones” authorizing enhanced fines, vehicle impoundment for non-criminal traffic infractions, occupancy limits, and other sanctions, including the recovery of costs associated with designating and enforcing a special event zone from the organizer or promoter. 

As any resident of the Halifax area can attest, the law was desperately needed in the aftermath of out-of-control events like the disastrous Daytona Truck Meet in 2021, which resulted in gridlocked traffic, reckless driving, public urination, and other nuisance conditions which taxed law enforcement and first responders as an estimated 50,000 participants descended on our area. 

Earlier this month, Sheriff Chitwood enacted the special designation ahead of “Orange Crush 2K23” – an event which recently drew huge crowds to Tybee Island, Georgia and resulted in numerous arrests and traffic violations – including reported incidents of participants throwing items at police officers. 


In my view, Sheriff Chitwood’s proactive response to averting potential mayhem represents the perfect application of Florida’s new special events law.

Last week, Sheriff Chitwood sent cease and desist letters to organizers of “Orlando Invades The Beachside” originally scheduled for this weekend. 

According to a report by Katie Kustura writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Sheriff Chitwood explained that the unsanctioned event would place an “…unreasonable strain on the already burdened law enforcement, medical, firefighter and beach safety resources of Volusia County.” 

To their credit, the promoters agreed to seek proper permits should the event be rescheduled.

With the latest “livestream” fad, “Tic-Toc” challenge, or internet promoted “flash mob” pushing many American cities closer to anarchy, we can be thankful Volusia County has bold law enforcement leaders like Sheriff Chitwood and Chief Young – working collaboratively with their colleagues and our legislative delegation – to enact and enforce substantive laws that provide those who serve and protect the tools to keep residents safe.   

Well done. 

Asshole           Volusia County Council & ECHO Advisory Committee  

“If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.”

–Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.   

We live in a time and place where the decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods are increasingly made by paid consultants – out-of-town “experts” who facilitate “groupthink” and provide a thick layer of political insulation for those we elect to high office and the career senior administrators who abhor any innovation or creativity that disturbs the status quo.   

Because in Volusia County, “If everyone is thinking alike, who can criticize the outcome?”

Trust me.  Expert “advice” does not come cheap.

Unfortunately, the final product often ends up on a groaning shelf in a dusty records morgue in DeLand – totally ignored.  The paid expert’s expensive suggestions never enacted (or even read) by any elected or appointed official…

Let’s face it, as the Volusia County Council’s recent $6,000 consultant-facilitated “goal setting” session proved – County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and his senior “staff” rigidly control all internal and external processes – and any involvement by those wooden figureheads on the dais of power is pure window-dressing. 

Now, even county advisory boards are emulating the fast and loose spending of the elected officials they advise… 

Recently, the Volusia County Council approved a request by the ECHO Advisory Committee to fund the creation of a “strategic plan.”  As part of the committee’s required annual report, the group sought “…funding in the FY24 ECHO budget to hire a firm to lead the development of an ECHO strategic plan…”

According to the council agenda report, the plan will help identify future projects and needs with “our partners” (i.e., municipalities and non-profits); explore ways to improve the grant process and programs; provide recommendations for marketing ECHO projects; and other grant-related areas that the committee identifies as needing strategic input or direction.

Incredibly, on a 5-2 vote, the council authorized an ECHO budget expenditure of ‘no more than’ $75,000 to hire an outside firm…

My God.

When Volusia County residents took a strong leap of faith, ignored their best instincts, and overwhelmingly voted to continue the Volusia ECHO and Forever programs, I’m not sure using our hard-earned tax dollars to pay outside consultants was what we had in mind? 

In my view, the ECHO program lost all legitimacy earlier this year when Volusia County openly looted the fund using a cheap strongarm tactic called a “Direct County Expenditure.” 

In March, by unanimous vote, the Volusia County Council approved a bundled “5-year plan” which placed divisional capital improvement expenditures – specifically the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure – on the back of the Volusia ECHO program.

Rather than come before the committee with their hat in hand, a novel idea for improving our environmental, cultural, historic, and outdoor recreation programs, all articulated in a properly formatted grant application with matching funds – just like other ECHO applicants are required to do – our elected officials simply took what they wanted from our cookie jar.   

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.”


According to a report by Jarleene Almenas in the Ormond Beach Observer, “County Councilmen David Santiago and Don Dempsey, who voted no, said they were concerned about the strategic plan’s potential price tag. Santiago said he believed the committee has done great work on their own so far. Though ECHO is self-funded, he thought an outside consultant would be a waste of those dollars.

“I think they’re fully capable, in my opinion, to do that visionary work and maybe work within staff resources to come up with these goals,” Santiago said.”

I rarely agree with Councilman Santiago, but he is spot on this time.

Apparently, Brad Burbaugh, the county’s director of “resource stewardship” – who also serves as County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald’s duenna for the ECHO committee – claimed that a recurring issue with developing an internal plan is that the “…county has not been successful with its partners — the municipalities.”

“We think part of that is that their priorities are when they bring projects,” (?) Burbaugh said. “We’ve talked about that, because they’re responsible to elected officials as well, but how do we get everyone in the room, including elected officials, to develop a 2040 vision for ECHO?”

Say what? 

Hey, Brad:  How about Volusia County start by treating taxpayers and the municipalities like “partners” instead of victims of serial bullying? 

The fact is, if they are honest, many municipal officials will tell you they do not trust Volusia County any more than the average citizen does – for good reason – and there isn’t a damn thing any high-priced “expert” can do to change that.

Here’s some cheap advice for the ECHO Advisory Committee:

The board was created to serve as the promised “citizen oversight” component.  Get the County Manager’s minion out of the process, find a backbone, and tell these sneak thieves to keep their grubby hands off our money.

Then you can recommend quality projects with a clean conscience – those that comply with established grant criteria – rather than stand idle while brazen bureaucrats fund normal repair and replacement costs using ECHO funds.

Once you have worked cooperatively to develop a collective vision, allocate the $75,000 saved to properly vetted projects that enhance the lives of those whose hard-earned tax dollars fund this valuable program. 

You’re welcome.  

In my view, the “direct county expenditure” scam harkened back to the bad old’ days, when ECHO became little more than a slimy slush fund – our tax dollars earmarked for environmental and cultural projects pillaged to fund required governmental expenditures, purchase off-beach parking lots, and a mysterious (now defunct) plan to extend the Daytona Beach Boardwalk – with little, if any, public input in the process.

I realize independent thought is a foreign concept in the gilded Halls of Power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building, but teamwork and the honest competition of ideas nurtures group cohesion, increases knowledge, fosters creativity, encourages organic problem solving, and develops specific objectives and metrics – not open-ended generalities that are the stock-in-trade for most consultants.

Rather than throw more of our money at a project best addressed in-house, in my experience, good things happen when people work cooperatively utilizing a transparent process that considers the priorities of all stakeholders. 

The Volusia County Council should try that sometime…

Asshole           Deltona’s Acting City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm  

With Memorial Day approaching – a time when we honor those brave souls who gave their lives in defense of freedom – it is fitting that we remain vigilant to the slow creep toward official suppression of our sacred right to free and open expression and the ability to have substantive input in our government.

I cannot think of anything more important in a representative democracy. 

This week, true to the fitting sobriquet bestowed by the late great political commentator Big John, Deltona’s acting City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm reverted to his base instincts when he unilaterally shut down the right of taxpayers to be heard on civic concerns.


Because he is a petty autocrat who desperately wants to silence citizen dissent.  That’s why.

On Monday, Deltona residents were surprised to discover that the City Commission agenda opened with the city’s highly subjective “Decorum Policy” warning that the mayor – or “a majority of the City Commission” – may interrupt, warn, or terminate any citizen addressing their elected officials “…when that statement is too lengthy, personally directed, abusive, obscene, irrelevant, or otherwise reasonably perceived to be a disruption to the fair and orderly progress of the discussion at hand.”

Violators of the dictum face being frog-marched out of the chambers by a Volusia County Sheriff’s Deputy…  

Also, without warning, discussion, or consensus, residents also learned that the “Public Forum” section of the City Commission meeting had been moved to 6:00pm – 30-minutes before the official start of the regular meeting – and citizen comments were not televised on the community’s public access channel Deltona TV


You may recall that Mr. Chisholm enforced the same dictatorial edict during his tenure in the City of Daytona Beach – a cheap move by a politically unaccountable manager that was viewed almost universally as an affront to the foundational principles of our democratic process – a policy that was immediately reversed when he mercifully retired.

None of this heavy-handed oppression should come as a surprise.   

In an editorial marking the end of The Chiseler’s reign in Daytona Beach, the News-Journal accurately noted:

“For all his accomplishments, Chisholm has drawn criticism for a close-to-the-vest decision-making style. While he has been sporadically available to the public — as when he appeared to answer questions recently at The News-Journal’s forum on the decay along East International Speedway Boulevard — his natural habitat is behind closed doors.

It’s an approach that has blindsided potential allies, cut off the city from benefits of wider partnerships and new information, and more often looks to outmaneuver rather than convert critics.”

Sound familiar?

Yet, in February, the wholly dysfunctional Deltona City Commission voted to extend Chisholm’s $200,000 contract for one-year – complete with a lucrative package of perquisites mirroring “all of the benefits of a full-time employee” – including pension payments, full health, dental and vision coverage for the manager and his wife, and a vehicle “including insurance, maintenance, repair and fuel” and “without restriction of personal use.”

Earlier this month, rather than allow the future permanent manager to select his or her own assistant, Mr. Chisholm hired Rick Karl – another retired long-time Volusia County bureaucrat, attorney with the influential Daytona Beach firm Cobb Cole, and recent political candidate – to serve as Deltona’s deputy city manager with a salary of $165,000 plus benefits…

Not a bad retirement gig, eh? 

In 2022, Mr. Karl ran for the Florida House District 29 seat and was soundly defeated by Webster Barnaby, who took 59.5% of the vote.

Although the good citizens of Deltona did not want Rick Karl representing them in the state legislature – they got him anyway – as The Chiseler’s handpicked deputy…

Yeah.  I know.   

One of the most acute symptoms of civic dysfunction is the pomposity of power – the arrogance that distances public officials from those they were elected and appointed to serve – best exemplified when the exalted members of The Monarchy adopt policies that allow them to ignore their servile subjects – or when an acting manager autonomously sets restrictive public policy.

If limiting public comment is the will of the majority of the Deltona City Commission – that policy should be debated in the light of day – during an open meeting where elected representatives must look constituents in the eye and explain their support or opposition to citizen input. 

Regardless, Mayor Santiago Avila, Jr. – as the presiding officer of commission meetings – should address this issue immediately, then demand action on an aggressive and transparent search for The Chiseler’s permanent replacement.  

In my view, suppressive diktats designed to limit citizen involvement in government or prevent those who cannot attend meetings from hearing the concerns of their neighbors should not be unilaterally enacted by a tyrannical lard ass whose only loyalty is to his obscene publicly funded paycheck.    

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

In keeping with the disturbing theme of government sponsored censorship, this week Volusia County District Schools took the cowardly and unconstitutional step of blocking criticism from parents and taxpayers on the asinine annual transfer of principals throughout the district.

On Wednesday, Volusia County Schools posted a list of thirteen interdistrict transfers of principals on its official Facebook page, writing:

“As we celebrate the new positions and assignments of Volusia County School Administrators, we’d also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the retirees. Your contributions have shaped the future of countless students and your legacy will continue to inspire! #LeadingWithGraceAndRespect”

After some 40 comments, many from angry parents and stakeholders concerned about the destabilizing roil this annual game of musical chairs has on our challenged schools and communities – Volusia County Schools abruptly shut off public comment on the site and hid previous comments in violation of our First Amendment protections. 

A sampling of the comments (as captured and reposted by the Twitter site “Anonymous Teacher” @VPSteacher) found honest questions and admonitions: 

“It is ridiculous to keep moving these poor men and women!  How do you expect them to gain trust with the staff, children, and parents, then fix the problems while they are being shuffled around schools like a game of hot potato?”

“Why do y’all do this?  Every time we get a good principal you take them away?”

“Stop playing with our children’s education!”

Apparently, those honest critiques did not sit well with those in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.

In response, Volusia County Schools arbitrarily blocked citizens from expressing their viewpoint, posting a banner which states, “Volusia County Schools limited who can comment on this post.”

Free speech and civil liberties advocates have repeatedly warned government entities that blocking a citizen’s right to engage in non-threatening public discourse on an official social media site – or hiding or deleting comments critical of an elected official or the government entity – is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

As a result, I and others were unable to express our views on an issue of public concern. 

As social media expert Kristy Dalton wrote in a 2019 article in Government Technology entitled, “What Could Happen If Governments Restrict Social Followers?”:

“Courts are being more consistent in finding that government profiles on social media are public forums, and that blocking profiles is a violation of citizens’ First Amendment rights.

What if you restrict a profile with the good intention of reviewing the user’s comments on a case-by-case basis, but you don’t immediately review the comments, or you forget to? Relevant information (that doesn’t violate your social policy) might never see the light of day. 

Whenever government is in a situation where it is choosing which comments to allow and which to restrict, trouble is near.”   


“Leading with grace and respect”?

My ass…

Quote of the Week

“On May 16th, the City Commission approved the rezoning of 19 commercial acres and a development order for 270 “Tymber Creek Apartment” units behind Walgreens at the SR 40 intersection. Beyond the currently allowed 164 units, the Planned Business Development can qualify for density waivers in exchange for voluntary upgrades and community benefits.

Threat #1: Adjacent subdivisions were told the existing commercial zoning could allow a big box Target store.

Threat #2: The 164 unit plan, if imposed, would construct affordable housing with minimal buffers and setbacks.

Last year, the Planning Board recommended denial of the 270 unit application by a 5-0 vote. The January City Commission hearing was twice delayed until April 18, when elected officials signaled a vote to deny. Four commissioners asked the developer to consider less density in an area where schools, roads and hospitals are already stressed.

Threat #3: Introduced by applicant attorney Mark Watts: SB102, a new state law signed by the governor on March 29, to take effect on July 1. The “Live Local Act” will allow developers to bypass local land use rules in commercial and industrial zones if 40% of the units are set aside for affordable housing. The state can exercise preemptive power in eliminating local public hearings and assigning a city’s highest allowed density and building heights, potentially 525 units for Tymber Creek. Blindsided, the commission tabled the application until May 16.

Tallahassee lobbyist Jeff Sharkey testified that the new law, providing cash subsidies to developers, was a bold “experiment” aimed at addressing a statewide need for affordable housing. Residents of adjacent Indian Springs and Moss Point, promised larger buffers and setbacks, spoke in begrudging favor of the 270 unit proposal as “a lesser of two evils.”

Commissioner Susan Persis, who had voiced an unequivocal “no” on April 18th, reversed her vote, based on private meetings with the developer and residents of Indian Springs and Moss Point, even though no new adjustments were made to a proposal that caused her “a couple of sleepless nights.” Other Zone 3 subdivisions and city residents were apparently a non-factor.

Commissioner Travis Sargent, the lone “no” vote, was troubled by impactful density overloading hospitals, roads, and schools, and refused to yield to the threats or make a decision based on “an experiment.”

Our commissioners took an oath to support, defend, and protect the laws of our city. Why abandon that oath under threat of a new law that will not take effect until July 1?”

–Former Ormond Beach City Commissioner Jeff Boyle, Letters to the Editor, Ormond Beach Observer, “Tymber Creek decision was coerced,” Monday, May 22, 2023

And Another Thing!

“Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Flagler County School Board member Sally Hunt surprised her colleagues: “I was really concerned from a safety perspective at the workshop before last,” she said.

She did not explain.

She asked why the workshops couldn’t be held in board chambers, on the first floor, where evening meetings are held, and where the County Commission holds its meetings and workshops. The school board holds its workshops on the third floor, in Room 3, a large room that accommodates a rectangular seating arrangement for the board members, who can face staffers or members of the public as they sit on the other side to present.

“Historically, we always had them in a chamber room like that, so that it was more informal, staff could sit across from us at a large workshop type of table and have a discussion,” Board member Colleen Conklin said, “instead of being in a more formal setting with one or two people fitted at the podium.”

Hunt said she felt unsafe in the third-floor room at the May 2 workshop. “I like having exits. I feel safer in this space,” she said, referring to the downstairs board chambers. “I like having a deputy in the room. And I just wanted to throw that out. I’m not the only person who shares that concern of the workshops.” (A deputy is usually present at the board’s monthly evening meetings, and sometimes more than one deputy when controversies are afoot.)

“Why, we have other board members that feel unsafe in the workshop area?” Conklin asked. No one else answered.”

–Pierre Tristam, writing in, “School Board’s Sally Hunt Feels Unsafe in Workshops and Asks for Permanent Deputy Security,” Friday, May 19, 2023

(Please find Mr. Tristam’s eye-opening report here:  )

There was a time when physical and ethical courage were required characteristics for those seeking elective public service – a willingness to endure the slings and arrows of the political and legislative process – and the strength of character to fearlessly stand for that which is right and just. 

Unfortunately, despite what We, The Little People are told each campaign season, those we elect to high office increasingly recoil from those who pay the bills, more concerned about political insulation and expediency than collaborative governance.

The fact is, Ms. Hunt had no reason to be frightened by concerned supporters of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club who attended the School Board’s public workshop to request their elected officials keep the club open. 

Her real concern was purely political.

According to Mr. Tristam’s report, after being asked by a citizen for her support, Hunt inquired of board chair Cheryl Massaro if allowing mere serfs to address The Monarchy directly is sound precedent:

“…public comment can address the chair and the board as a whole, but not individual members. Is that different for a workshop?”

“No, it’s generally the same, they’re just talking to people,” Massaro said.

“Is that the precedent that we want to set?” Hunt asked.

“It depends,” Massaro said, “what do you want?”

“I would, you know, the public now sees me as the swing vote,” Hunt said, making air quotes around the terms. “I find that pretty annoying, if I’m being honest.” She said she would prefer that she not be singled out. Massaro turned to the audience and said: “I am asking the public not to mention any other board members’ names as they do their presentation.”


The piece also pointed out that the thin-skinned Ms. Hunt previously shutdown direct dialogue with her constituents by no longer using electronic communications for school board business – and her emails are automatically routed through Flagler County Schools administrative staff… 

In my view, at a time when we desperately need open and honest discourse with those who steward our tax dollars and enact public policy, the irrationally paranoid Sally Hunt should make good on an earlier promise and resign. 

Flagler County residents deserve better.  We all deserve better…

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

May God Bless America and all who paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedoms this Memorial Day.   

Angels & Assholes for May 19, 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           Ormond Beach City Commission

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Tuesday, the resolve of the Ormond Beach City Commission was tested by a developer in a high-stakes game of chicken.

They blinked…  

After drawing a line in the sand with an out-of-town firm seeking to put a sprawling 300 unit multifamily apartment complex near the busy intersection of Tymber Creek Road and West Granada Boulevard – a two-year convoluted process that saw the project unanimously rejected by the Ormond Beach Planning Board in December 2022 citing concerns over density and the resultant increase in traffic at the already overburdened intersection.

Then, in their infinite wisdom, during the 2023 legislative session, Florida lawmakers passed the “great experiment” known as the Live Local Act – ostensibly designed to encourage “affordable housing” to meet our states growing need – which gives developers unprecedented concessions while neutering local government’s ability to control its community’s growth – and destiny. 

In my view, the developer, Varden Capital Properties – a real estate investment firm founded with the objective of “…acquiring undervalued real estate, repositioning the asset and creating positive returns for its investors” – seized the initiative and wielded the new law like a cudgel – essentially threatening, “Nice community you got here.  Be a shame if anything happened to it…” – suggesting if the Ormond Beach City Commission failed to approve the project at a reduced 270 units (as negotiated by worried area residents) – it could, based on the site and new regulations, result in a massive density increase if workforce housing were incorporated.   

When the City Commission tabled discussion of the project’s rezoning and development order last month, the developer’s attorney, Mark Watts, sent a clear warning.

In an April article by Jarleene Almenas, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, we learned:

“The law sets a “bad precedent” from the home rule standpoint, said attorney Mark Watts, who represented the developer at the hearing. But, it is coming, and based on the site, the developer — VCP Ormond Beach II, LLC — could build up to 525 units on the 19-acre property once the law goes into effect. At this time, the developer is asking the city for 270 units, reduced from 300, and is proposing larger buffers and setbacks to lessen impacts on the nearby neighborhoods of Moss Point and Indian Springs.

“The thing that we’re balancing is what type of multifamily will be here, because it’s not a question of if it will be here,” Watts said. “It’s what type, and how much do we want to control that process. The most control you will have is … in this process.”

However, the one card that convinced many residents the developer was bluffing is the fact Varden is not known for including affordable housing in previous projects (that I could find, anyway) – and workforce housing was not included as part of the original Tymber Creek proposal.    

In fact, most of Varden’s current “new development” projects involve “luxury class-A multifamily” complexes or, in the case of the proposed Ormond Beach project, a “market rate apartment community” with upscale furnishings and amenities not normally found in low-income housing.    

This week, when the chips were down, rather than stand strong for the dwindling quality of life of their claustrophobic constituents dealing with the vice-like crush of overdevelopment from all sides, they caved – rolled over and urinated on themselves like a frightened cur – with the majority voting to approve the rezoning and development order.   

According to a report in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Commissioner Travis Sargent said he remained troubled by the density of the proposed apartments. He voted yes for the rezoning for the project, but no for the development order.

“Our hospitals are overloaded, our roads, schools, and here we are making a decision on an experiment,” he said.”

Good for him. 

Unfortunately, to add insult, current Commissioner, and declared Mayoral candidate, Susan “Old Yellow Stain” Persis, showed the bright streak down her back when she went so far as to grovel from the dais – begging for mercy like a cowed jellyfish – “I think we’ve all probably had a couple of sleepless nights … so we just trust you, the developer, to treat Ormond Beach special, and that’s what we would really hope, and think about our residents.”

My God.

In another crushing blow to what remains of our quality of life, on Wednesday evening, the Daytona Beach City Commission reversed their previous well-thought decision to deny a sprawling 1,600 home development amid traffic concerns.

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

“It wasn’t the quality of the development between Interstate 95 and Tomoka Farms Road that led commissioners to a no vote in March. It was their worry that adding thousands of people to the vacant 415-acre site just south of Interstate 4 was going to cause severe traffic tie-ups in the already congested area where International Speedway Boulevard, Tomoka Farms Road, and Bellevue Avenue intersect.

So the developer worked with a traffic engineer and city and county officials to come up with a plan to reconfigure and improve traffic at that busy nexus near I-95 onramps and offramps. Commissioners liked the suggestions, and they liked the developer’s pledge to pay for the $1.7 million worth of improvements.”

Wow.  A paltry $1.7 million in “improvements” was all it took? 

I’m asking. 

Because anyone who has sat in bone-crushing traffic on (insert Halifax area thoroughfare here) staring at the exposed bones of yet another sticks-and-glue apartment complex being erected on every square inch of vacant space – or been trapped east or west of that still unfunded Monument to Mediocrity at the LPGA Boulevard pinch point – wants to know why area elected officials continue to shove ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag and call it “progress.”?

With the ominous threat of already approved projects like the massive Avalon Park still looming on the horizon – residents deserve to know the end game – an honest explanation beyond the constant refrain, “Hey, our hands are tied…”

Good luck, neighbors. 

When it comes to balancing the needs of existing residents and the wants of insatiable developers – those of us who pay the bills and are forced to suffer in silence lose. 

Every.  Damn.  Time.  

Angel               DeLand’s NorthWest Square

Over the past 25-years, many communities around the country have made an economic comeback using the walkable urbanism concept and focusing on repurposing existing structures incorporating an eclectic mix of retail, specialty restaurants, housing, arts, and entertainment.

Sadly, that proven idea hasn’t caught on in these parts…

In my view, far too often our redevelopment mavens walk away from the time consuming and expensive proposition of reclaiming, renovating, renewing, and revitalizing blighted buildings in favor of allowing speculative developers to clear more pine scrub and build more, more, more – or showering “panacea projects” with publicly funded incentives and hoping against hope that the latest “gamechanger” has a trickledown effect on the surrounding area. 

Sound familiar?

Last year, the City of DeLand approved a rezoning allowing the century old former Trinity United Methodist Church building to be transformed into a multi-use food hall and community marketplace known as NorthWest Square.  The project is the brainchild of Deland residents Chris and Jessica Levings, who purchased the property on W. Wisconsin Avenue last August.

This week, the Levings and their business partners announced that renovations to the building are underway with plans to open early next year. 

In an informative article by Sheldon Gardner writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned a few of the spaces proposed vendors:

“A few familiar faces have already secured space in Northwest Square.

Levings said they were relieved to have one of the main priorities, a tap room and wine bar, covered, thanks to Bill Budzinski, owner of The Elusive Grape.

Desert Sage owner Lorna Owens will be selling specialty teas and candles, and Adele Gerbracht and Judi Bradford will run the artist co-op.”

That’s exciting – and represents the kind of private investment in existing structures and established neighborhoods that is so desperately needed in many areas of Volusia County. 

Kudos to the City of DeLand, the Levings, and their partners for this visionary mixed-use project. 

Perhaps it is time for municipalities (especially east of the Palmetto Curtain) to ease onerous fees, restrictions, and roadblocks to innovation and redevelopment to encourage entrepreneurial investment in vacant buildings and established neighborhoods without artificially skewing the playing field in a free and open marketplace. 

Good things happen when government gets out of the way…  

Quote of the Week         

Daytona Beach, Florida

Median home price: $256,550

“Though a home by the Great American Race costs nearly twice what it might have a few years ago, compared to a lot of Florida, it’s still insanely cheap. That means you’ll have plenty of money left to buy a giant F-350 and cruise along one of the only drive-on beaches in the country. The city is slowly moving away from its spring break image, so you won’t have to deal with as many drunk college students invading the shores each March. Plus, with Orlando just a short drive away, Daytona offers the perfect place for a beach escape with easy access to big-city amenities.”

–Thrillist Contributor Matt Meltzer, “American Beach Towns You Can Actually Afford to Move To,” April 15, 2023


(For the uninitiated, that means, “Welcome to Florida…”)

Earlier this week, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on a story originally published on the online travel and lifestyle website Thrillist naming Daytona Beach as one of the most “insanely cheap” beach towns in the nation. 

Drawing on all the Halifax areas worst stereotypes – from giant trucks to drunk college students and seasonal special events – Mr. Meltzer made it clear that residents of this civic, social, and economic wasteland are just a short drive away from civilization…  

It was immediately clear to denizens of Florida’s “Fun Coast” that Mr. Meltzer was off on his estimation of Daytona Beach’s median home price.  In an informative article by Brenno Carillo writing in the News-Journal, we learned from a local realtor that the actual average price for a three bedroom/two bath cracker box is now closer to $330,000.

For historical perspective – two years ago – listed the Daytona Beach Resort Area as the third most affordable region, with the median home price in Volusia County estimated at $280,000. 

The sad reality is, with the dearth of affordable housing in Volusia County now estimated at 16,000 dwelling units, and 28% of families considered Asset Limited/Income Constrained/Employed (ALICE) – including 14% living below the federal poverty line – many low-income working families have been shut out of the local housing market. 

It seems those elusive “high paying jobs” that adorn every application for corporate welfare schemes and state budget appropriations just haven’t materialized at the rate promised by our “economic development” types who continue to swoon over the low-hanging fruit of industrial warehouse scutwork promising $15.00 an hour…

As a result, while our area is touted as “insanely cheap” – perhaps for out-of-state retirees looking for a new life in the sun – in Volusia County, almost 1 in 3 working families are concerned about food insufficiency, access to quality health care, lack of savings, struggling to meet monthly living expenses, and suffering the constant stress of financial instability.   

That’s not a positive…

Recently, the United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties issued their first report on the gap between wages and basic living expenses since 2021. 

According to the News-Journal: 

“ALICE arrived at a household survival budget of $67,896 for a family of four (including a preschooler) in Volusia County, and $26,892 for a single adult.

Those figures for Flagler County were higher: $70,524 for a family of four and $28,296 for a single adult.”

Amid that distressing reality, this week, US News & World Report published their dubious “Best Places to Live” list which placed Daytona Beach in the top 50 this year. 

For the record, Green Bay, Wisconsin took the cake…

According to reports, the ranking employs a subjective methodology “…using government and other data: quality of life, value, job market, and desirability.”

The report cites beach driving, “arts and entertainment” (?), and Daytona International Speedway among our most desirable draws. 

Look, call me a skeptic – but I prefer to believe that which I see with my own eyes – rather than rely on “government data” regurgitated by an online magazine, tired pap and fluff that provides elected officials another layer of political insulation by glossing over the serious quality of life issues they continue to kick down the dusty political trail…

As a casual observer of our life and times here on this salty piece of land, I keep an eye on how Volusia County is perceived by those our hospitality gurus spend handsomely to attract.  While I am not some marketing and research expert paid to tell the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau what they want to hear – my unsophisticated analysis of anecdotal reviews finds the beauty and accessibility of our drivable beaches remains our most popular draw. 

Just about everything else – from chain restaurants to “things to do” – receives low marks. 

But that has never stopped our ‘powers that be’ from patting each other on the back – the same tired names touting our slow crawl along the latest “road to recovery” from (insert most recent economic setback here) – or touting the next “gamechanger” we are told will deliver our core tourist area from years of blight and stagnation.   


Rather than rely on sensationalized horseshit or arbitrary lists – as a lifelong resident of the Halifax area, I always tell out-of-state friends and family considering a move to our area to come for a long visit and see all we have to offer before making the leap.

There are many civic attributes we can be proud of in coastal Central Florida.

I have spent my life here, raised a family, and I love all the wonderful things the Halifax area has to offer.  That is why I never put much stock in our perennial placement on those “other” online lists that are not as kind…

In my view, for decades, our civic “leaders” have ignored the expensive recommendations of their own highly paid consultants and purposely avoided setting a comprehensive vision for our region – an authentic and marketable identity beyond “Wide. Open. Fun.” and the stagnant status quo – something existing residents, and the thousands of families flooding into Volusia County, can embrace.

And Another Thing!

“An expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home, has no responsibility for implementing the advice he gives, and shows slides…”

–Edwin Meese

For a terrible period of my professional life, I worked for a Ph.D – a Doctor of Philosophy

One thing I learned from that harrowing experience is that a quick way to pay ten Ph.D’s is to hire one Ph.D – because they have a way of propagating…   

For instance, if you hire a Ph.D to paint your house, he or she will invariably subcontract with another to scientifically analyze the molecular structure and bonding capabilities of various tints and coatings – while another studies the surface, considers paintbrush bristles, handles, and poles – while another provides their learned opinion on masking tape adhesion coefficients, and another advises the first on the nap and pile of various rollers – all while others conduct suitability studies and provide a list of painters who will actually do the work, as yet another produces a white paper explaining your freshly painted home’s influence on regional real estate values, etc., etc., etc.

Just don’t ask your original Ph.D to maintain your lawn and take out the trash – that takes another set of agriculture, horticultural, and logistics “experts” to facilitate more empirical research, visioning sessions, and roundtable engagements to develop “parallel consensus through objective data analysis to facilitate changes in organizational culture that facilitates regular lawn maintenance and household refuse management.”    

This carping about the “synthesis of known and unknown factors” and hypercritical nitpicking will continue, ad infinitum, until cost estimates have doubled

I’m kidding.  But not by much. 

With all due respect to my friends who have earned advanced degrees, I was reminded of that inside joke earlier this week when I read that the Volusia County Council paid $6,000 to Dr. Herb Marlow of Analytica, a “strategic planning” firm which, “…incorporates powerful facilitation and engagement techniques to ensure a tangible link between the underlying data and the desired direction sought by the client,” to “facilitate” a goal setting session.

I know.  I don’t get it, either – but I think that’s the point…

As I understand it (and I’m not sure I do), seven ostensibly smart elected officials required the services of a third-party vendor from Newberry, Florida to set a list of simple goals – each painstakingly framed in a way that no one on the dais, or in the Halls of Power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – could ever be held responsible for failing to meet those dubious objectives.

Apparently, the public session was preceded by one-on-one discussions with council members while Dr. Marlow jotted down a list of “goals and objectives.”

According to a report by Al Everson in the West Volusia Beacon:

“Cutting the size of government, reducing regulations, eliminating redundancies and saving tax dollars were among goals voiced by members of the Volusia County Council in a planning workshop May 10.”

Sounds great!

But before you get your hopes up about limiting government, improved transportation infrastructure, water quality, overdevelopment, objective performance evaluations for senior administrators, or a comprehensive beach management plan as the dunes continue to crumble – here is a list of a few of the future “accomplishments” you and I can look forward to from Volusia County government:

Create a more efficient regulatory framework.

Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations, particularly public safety, and economic development.

Develop and implement a plan for expanded recreation and sports tourism activities.

Continue and enhance fiscal stewardship.

Foster and support a solution-oriented culture.

Function as a highly effective Council with demonstrated impact. 

(As opposed to a horribly dysfunctional and ineffectual shit show – a murky place where public policy is cobbled together behind closed doors – and things happen despite the elected body’s abysmal leadership and oversight, not because of it?)


Under the “goal” of increasing the “efficiency and effectiveness of government operations, particularly public safety, and economic development,” suggested implementation actions included:

“Identify where Volusia services or practices are duplicating those of another agency and then determine the need to continue the service/practice.”

Always a sound objective for organizations who possess an authentic capacity for self-assessment and a willingness to address duplication and other inefficiencies.  Unfortunately, upsetting the bureaucratic applecart has never been Volusia County’s strong suit…  

“Identify and then modify processes so that services are provided more efficiently and more effectively.”

Hey, great idea!  A process (one would hope) that is a daily, hourly, constant, comprehensive, and continuing responsibility of the County Manager’s office.

“Further delegate decision-making authority on appropriate decisions to staff or PRLDC.”

Is that possible in Volusia County government, where plausible deniability is the operative ethic for senior management? 

“Develop public safety training facilities.” 

Clearly, Dr. Marlow forgot to meet with Sheriff Mike Chitwood, because I think he has already accomplished that with little, if any, involvement of the Volusia County Council.

“Development checklists.”

This bloated bureaucracy with an operating budget now exceeding $1.1 billion needs an expert to tell them to develop checklists?   

“Standardize processes and practices where reasonable, yadda, yadda, yadda…” 

Wait.  I’m no egghead, but isn’t that an exact duplication of goal #2?


Look, you get it.  These are the kind of simplistic/commonsense management and leadership objectives one should already expect from County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – the highest paid public administrator in all the realm – along with his bevy of assistant county managers, deputy directors, senior department heads, etc., etc., etc. – each commanding six-figure salaries and all the perquisites of their high (and horribly redundant) offices.

Now, in keeping with Volusia’s typical “fox in the henhouse” strategy that invalidates all of this – “The Wreck” will “meet with staff” and produce a plan for achieving the Council’s malleable goals – and a method for tracking them. 

But who will hold them accountable? 

No one.  That’s who. 

Unlike the county’s consultant, I am not an educated man – but I will bet you a donut that subjective terms like “effectiveness and efficiency” have a different meaning for me than they do for you – and I’m almost positive these concepts will have an even broader meaning to Mr. Recktenwald and his staff.   

Because when it comes to hacking the thick rind of fat off a bloated hog, that is rarely a job best left to the hog… 

None of that matters.  All the right terms were bandied about.

Mission accomplished.

Now that our elected dullards have spent thousands of our tax dollars on another useless naval gazing exercise they can check the “goal setting” box, pat themselves on the back, and stumble into budget season doing what they do best – generating hot air and protecting the status quo while the serious issues that affect the lives and livelihoods of We, The Little People are wholly ignored.

In my view, the first goal of Volusia County government should be to earn the trust of those it exists to serve.  And our elected officials shouldn’t need a guy from out-of-town with an impressive sheepskin, nice suit, and a briefcase to help them understand that…

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

Archangels: National Police Memorial Day 2023

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week.  This National Day of Remembrance pays tribute to law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Law enforcement nationwide is well-worthy of our admiration and respect as they go in harm’s way to protect your family and mine.

Last year, 118 law enforcement officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the United States.

So far, 41 have paid the ultimate sacrifice in 2023.

To all those serving or who have served – thank you for holding the line.

We stand alone, together.


From my earliest memories, law enforcement officers have always been my heroes.

They still are.

Today marks National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day 2023.

A time for reflection on the incredible contributions of the men and women who so courageously serve and protect us all – and an opportunity to honor those brave souls who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

In what is proving to be a particularly deadly period in our history for line of duty deaths, it is important that we remember those officers who, as Lincoln said, gave “The last full measure of devotion.” 

It is also fitting that we take this opportunity to consider the greater question of the role of the police in a free and open society – and the importance of citizen support for their indispensable work in preserving our way of life in America.

The great privilege of my life was the opportunity to serve in law enforcement with some of the most dedicated and talented public servants I have ever known.

For thirty-one years I had the distinct honor of standing with strong men and women who hold a thin blue line between order and chaos, between good and evil, between you and I and the predatory criminals who prey on that which we love most.

In my long career, I learned something about law enforcement officers and what these extraordinary people are made of.  I have always thought that any contribution I made was just a function of the job at hand, but I am extremely proud just to have been associated with people I consider true American heroes.

Brevard County Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. was one of them.

In early 1986, I was a young officer with the Holly Hill Police Department assigned to the Uniformed Patrol Division.

Bob 1
Bob Nicol, Jr.

At that time, I had been on the job for about three years (in other words, I had just learned how to write a traffic ticket the same way twice) and I was working the “Midnights” – 11:00pm to 7:00am – answering calls for service from an old Dodge Aspen patrol car with a single blue light on the roof, and a Motorola “Mocom” radio, equipped with a green light to let you know it was on and a red light to let you know it was transmitting when you keyed the microphone.

A quaint antique by today’s standards.

Today, a patrol vehicle’s interior looks more like the flight deck of the Space Shuttle, with mobile data units, stolen vehicle trackers, tag readers, electronic citation systems, digital video cameras and multi-channel 800MHz radios.

It is amazing how advances in technology transformed policing during my career.

One night I arrived at the police department for briefing, got a cup of coffee from Dispatch, and took my seat at the long wooden table where officers gathered before and after each tour to pass-on important and not-so-important information, listen to the sergeant give duty assignments, gossip, tell wholly inappropriate jokes, and bitch and moan about, well, everything.

(One of the first things you learn as a police chief is that cops complain – that’s how they cope with the horrific and unnatural things the job brings them in contact with.  It’s when they stop complaining that you have a problem on your hands.)

That night my sergeant introduced me to the “FNG,” a “f—g new guy,” sitting by himself at the end of the desk.

He was a short, stocky blond-haired guy with big 80’s-style aviator glasses who thrust out his hand and eagerly introduced himself with a big grin and a heavy Western New York accent, “Howyadoin’, I’m Bob!”

At the time, many police departments didn’t have the formal field training and evaluation programs of today, and most in-service training was conducted by senior officers teaching their juniors the ropes through experiential learning and anecdotal information.

That night I was assigned to show our newest officer the city limits and get him familiar with the streets, point out the hot spots, and generally indoctrinate him on how to survive the physical and political hazards of small-town Florida.

If you’ve ever shared the confines of a patrol unit for hours-on-end with another officer then you know how fast, and how strong, a bond develops between partners in a business where you put your life in another person’s hands, and they know you will do the same for them.

Robert Nicol, Jr. was born in Coatbridge, Scotland, in 1948.

He was a former deputy with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office in Canadaigua, New York, a small community in the Finger Lakes region.

Escaping the aftermath of a messy divorce, Bob fled New York as a newly minted single-father with three young children – two boys and a girl – and his mom in tow.

Settling in Holly Hill, Bob soon applied to the police department and was hired almost immediately by Chief Pat Finn who was extremely impressed by Bob’s military background and his previous law enforcement experience.

During four-years in the U.S. Army, Bob served proudly in some of the fiercest fighting of the Vietnam War and was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat, the Bronze Star for valor and the Army Commendation Medal for his extraordinary service to our nation.

Bob Nicol was an American hero before he ever pinned on a badge.

Although twelve-years my senior, he had an energetic personality, contagious laugh, and a great sense of humor that impressed me right away.  We quickly became friends, and since Bob didn’t know many people here, we spent a lot of time together in the bars and nightclubs of Daytona Beach.

When we weren’t working, you could find us perched at Club Mocambo, the Beachcomber, Silver Bucket, Full House or any of a dozen other illustrious local night spots, quite stylish in our leather Member’s Only jackets.

Unlike me, Bob was an affable, good-looking guy who always had a way with the ladies – and I benefited more times than I care to admit just from my association with him.

Those stories and escapades are legendary, but perhaps better left for a different forum. . .

I learned a lot from Bob – personally and professionally.

He was a great father to his two young sons and beautiful daughter – and he doted on his mother, a brash Scot who spoke with a thick brogue and frequently made shortbread cookies that I miss to this day.

Most of all, Bob was a damn good cop – smart, dedicated, and tenacious.

It didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself in the local law enforcement community and, in May 1987, he was offered a sworn position as a deputy with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

It was a great professional development opportunity, and the job offered more money to support his children.

We discussed the pros and cons, and late one shift Bob and I met door-to-door in our patrol cars in a parking lot near Ridgewood Avenue.  He told me he was going to take the job.  I congratulated him, we shook hands, then immediately began making plans to facilitate his move to Port St. John.

Bob and I remained great friends, even though our schedules and the hour-drive between us put a dent in our prolific nightlife.

Probably for the best.

It wasn’t long before Bob proved himself a true asset to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.  He was respected and very well-liked by everyone who knew him.

He was a cops-cop, and the epitome of who you wanted stepping out of a police car in a dark alley when you really need help.

At approximately 4:00am on Saturday, September 19, 1987, Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. was on patrol on U.S. 1, just south of State Road 405, when he made a “routine” (if there is such a thing) traffic stop.

During the encounter, Bob arrested the driver, Scott Roberts, 21, on traffic-related charges.

Further investigation found that one of the five passengers in the vehicle, later identified as Jeffrey Mason, a then 24-year-old landscaper living in Orlando, was in possession of less than 20-grams of marijuana.

Bob arrested him on the misdemeanor charge.

While Bob was securing Roberts in his patrol car and attempting to control the four others still inside the vehicle, Jeffrey Mason broke free and escaped custody – running across the divided highway with Deputy Nicol in close foot pursuit.

As they ran into the roadway, a vehicle traveling north swerved to avoid Mason and inadvertently struck Bob at high speed.

The force of the impact sent his body crashing into the windshield, catapulting him over the top of the moving car before throwing him to the pavement, witnesses said.

His neck was broken and the base of his skull crushed.

Bob was transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center where he remained in Intensive Care with severe traumatic brain injury.

After a manhunt involving some thirty law enforcement officers, Jeffrey Mason was found cowering in a wooded area near S.R. 405 and taken into custody without incident.

It was later determined that he was on probation in the State of Ohio for involuntary manslaughter stemming from a 1983 traffic crash which killed the passenger in his car.

On Wednesday, September 30, 1987, my friend Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. lost his courageous battle and died from injuries sustained in the line of duty twelve days earlier.

He left behind his mother, Pat Skindzier, and three children, then ages 15, 8, and 5.

Brevard County Sheriff Jake Miller posthumously awarded Deputy Nicol the Medal of Valor for his actions that fateful morning – the highest honor bestowed on a law enforcement officer.

I will never forget the enormous number of law enforcement officers – all of us shining and resplendent in our Class A dress uniforms – who gathered for his funeral with full honors at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Titusville.

I openly wept for the first time in my young career over the flag-draped coffin of a fallen brother and friend.

Later, Nicol Park on US-1 in Port St. John was named in Bob’s honor.

A fitting tribute to a hero – but a tragic waste of an incredible soul.

It is a tradition in law enforcement and the military for brothers and sisters in arms to join in remembrance of our fallen comrades on days such as this to honor their service, sacrifice, and friendship.

The name of Deputy Robert Nicol, Jr. is inscribed on memorial panel 35-E: 8 at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.


“Remember! All who have served alongside them; we who have donned the same proud uniform, being sworn to the same faith and allegiance — We will never forget their sacrifice. Remember!”

On this Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day, I remember my friend Bob – and his great devotion and sacrifice – along with all the men and women of law enforcement who have laid down their lives so that we may live in peace.

In valor there is hope.

Angels & Assholes for May 12, 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           Palm Coast Realtor/Mayor David Alfin

Central Floridians are horribly divided over the myriad civic, social, environmental, and economic issues we face – but the one thing that universally unites us is our wholesale rejection of the horseshit spewed by self-serving politicians with financial ties to the real estate development industry who preach the virtues of explosive growth.   

Now, add Palm Coast Realtor/Mayor David Alfin to the lengthy list of cheap shills holding high office who continue to piss down our back and tell us it’s raining…

Last week, in an informative article by Mark Harper writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned that Palm Coast recently surpassed The Lost City of Deltona as the largest municipality by population in Volusia and Flagler Counties. 

“Alfin, the city’s mayor since 2021, intends to capitalize on Palm Coast’s population feat.

Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin

“I’ll spare no amount of energy to make sure everybody knows it. It’s good for the community,” he said.

More than that, though, Alfin is stoked about what appears to be another growth surge. The first homes are being built in new developments west of U.S. 1, including Sawmill Branch near Matanzas Woods Parkway, and Reverie, a couple of miles to the south.”

Meanwhile, current Palm Coast residents are lamenting the fact that city government seems unwilling or unable to maintain the woefully inadequate existing municipal infrastructure – but rather than tap the brakes and take a conservative approach to future growth – Mayor Alfin (a resident since 2012) is calling for more, more, more.

“Alfin said that’s only a part of an even larger future-growth exercise the city is undertaking: plotting out the buildout of the city’s land.

“We’re master-planning a doubling of the geographic footprint of the city, 40,000 acres,” Alfin said. “We call it the frontier project or initiative. There is no other swath of land this size that exists on the east side of Florida that can be master-planned.”

Last month, the city’s Planning and Land Development Regulation Board approved the massive “Palm Coast Park” – another “development of regional impact,” which will blanket an area of 4,677 acres with 6,454 cracker boxes – an increase of 3,600 “dwelling units” since the project was initially approved way back in 2004.

My God.

With powerful state Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast serving as Speaker of the House, last week, the Florida legislature passed a budget containing some $54 million in public funds to accommodate future growth in Flagler County, with $25 million allocated for extending Matanzas Woods Parkway to the west “…into largely vacant land that’s primed for development.”

Now, existing residents of the region want to know who is looking out for our quality of life? 

(No one.  That’s who…)

In my view, so long as the public teat remains patent and speculative developers are given carte blanche by craven politicians with a chip in the game, we can expect this malignancy to metastasize until the last of our greenspace is paved over, traffic is gridlocked, and we are drinking our own recycled sewage.   

As one long-suffering Palm Coast taxpayer recently wrote on social media:

“Controlled growth is great but not if you aren’t dealing with infrastructure needs and lack of good shopping. Seems like a love for the almighty dollar, with no interest in quality of life for those who you are enticing to move there or the current residents. Not to mention decimation of natural habitat to overbuild subdivisions. I wish more compassion was used when making these decisions. Growth without thoughtful planning is greed.”

Let that sink in: “Growth without thoughtful planning is greed…”

Angel               The Hapless Residents of Jungle Den Villas

I’ve thought a lot this week about the outdated concept of fairness.

How the “rules” apply to some, but not all, depending upon one’s perceived power and access to policymakers and the legislative process. 

From decisions regarding the appropriation of public funds, and who receives those lucrative corporate welfare schemes that skew the marketplace, to the routine administration of codes and ordinances, this inequitable “whoever has the gold makes the rules” environment our compromised elected officials have embraced can have lasting impacts on the lives and livelihoods of those up here in the cheap seats who have little, if any, influence. 

Recently, a small condominium association in the riverside hamlet of Astor ran afoul of Volusia County’s confusing permitting requirements after voting to take down a decaying oak in a communal area of the Jungle Den Villas.

Now, the residents are facing a draconian $20,000 penalty…

According to an article by Sheldon Gardner writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the association’s president Tony Adams reported that the residents hired a tree service and obtained an arborist’s report before proceeding.

They thought that met the requirements to remove the compromised tree:

“The tree was dangerous. It was decaying, and the root system was damaging the dock and seawall, according to a document from a tree specialist. Adams said the tree had dropped limbs on the dock.

Then came the notice from Volusia County. The association was in violation of the county’s tree laws and could face more than $20,000 in replacement costs. It would either have to plant more trees or pay up.

The county’s tree regulations outline such hefty costs for people who, mistakenly or otherwise, run afoul of permitting requirements.”

According to Volusia County’s malleable zoning laws, while single-family and two-family residences are, under certain conditions, exempt from tree-permitting requirements – multifamily properties are not.  And under certain circumstances, obtaining an arborist’s assessment is sufficient – while in other cases a permit is required.   

Understand?  Me neither…

In an email to the News-Journal, Volusia County’s Growth and Resource Mismanagement Director Clay Ervin said the goal “…is to mitigate the impact of the tree removal,” and that his office is willing to work with property owners to address violations.

Remedies may include replanting trees or paying into something called a “tree fund.”

Based upon a convoluted mathematical formula that only a government bureaucrat could cypher – the “cost per cross-sectional square inch” of the felled oak – without replanting trees or other mitigation efforts, puts the Jungle Den Villas on the hook for thousands of dollars in replacement costs. 

For a lone rotting laurel oak?

So, what’s got Barker the Bitcher’s knickers in a twist? 

Over the past five-years, I have watched in horror as the land was raped with slash-and-burn  efficiency across the width and breadth of Volusia County – with developers churning wide swaths of pristine old-growth forests, sensitive pine scrub, and wildlife habitat into a mire of black muck and splinters – all to make way for the next sprawling aesthetic and environmental insult of zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes “starting in the $300’s.”   

I have been shocked by the sight of wetlands being filled in an asinine “hurt here/help there” mitigation strategy, and watched claustrophobic wildlife slaughtered on area roadways as they tried to escape the incursion on their dwindling habitat.

In 2018, Ormond Beach residents were aghast when an influential real estate developer destroyed 2,061 specimen hardwoods that comprised a pristine natural buffer and wildlife corridor between an established residential area and busy West Granada Boulevard, all to accommodate another convenience store and drive-thru car wash…

Unfortunately, the fervent cries of shaken residents were ignored when Ormond Beach’s elected officials made it clear they didn’t give two-shits that the very landscape and character of the community was under assault.

At the time, former Ormond Beach Commissioner and civic activist Jeff Boyle’s efforts to voice the public’s outrage were reported by the News-Journal:

“With obvious heavy hearts, we join thousands of Ormond residents who mourn the senseless devastation on West Granada Boulevard,” Boyle said at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting. “None of us were prepared for the massive deforestation or to be told by this commission developer property rights required you to vote yes.”

“In what became a pointed discussion, Boyle alleged commissioners granted the developer special exceptions and failed to limit the project’s size. Ormond’s 27-year designation as a tree city now is a “joke,” he said, adding: “Each citizen lost something priceless.”

I was reminded of Mr. Boyle’s heartfelt sentiments on Arbor Day 2023 when I passed a new clear-cut gash on West Granada Boulevard and found the only thing left standing on the now denuded lot was a godawful cellular tower camouflaged to look like, you guessed it, a tree… 

In my view, now that the political souls of key legislators, the Volusia County Council, and many municipal elected officials have been purchased by the strategic campaign contributions of real estate developers and the sutlers who feed themselves on the crumbs they leave behind, don’t expect anything to change.

As the bulldozers continue to roar – so-called “Growth and Resource Management” bureaucrats will salve the consciences of their elected bosses by bullying the voiceless ‘little people’ – heaping fines and fees on defenseless residents who make honest mistakes and run afoul of confusing permitting requirements while crowing “Look at us!  We’re protecting trees!” – even as the wholesale destruction of what remains of our wild places is sacrificed on the almighty altar of greed…  

Thanks to the residents of Jungle Den Villas – and The Daytona Beach News-Journal – for bringing this absurdity to light. 

Quote of the Week

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University landed $15 million to build a new, 45,000 square-foot Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, at its research park. It “will be designed with large, complex industry and Department of Defense projects in mind, providing for opportunities to collaborate with industry, various government agencies and strengthen the ability for students to work on obtaining security clearances,” according to the request.

ERAU also got $5 million for equipment at its research park.”

–Reporter Mark Harper, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “$155 million in state budget to accommodate growth, quality of life in Volusia, Flagler,” Thursday, May 4, 2023

Dear fellow Florida taxpayers:

Once again, it is my honor to welcome each of you as members of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s prestigious Jack R. Hunt Society in grateful recognition of your generous $20 million gift from Florida’s 2023-2024 state budget. 

Unfortunately, there will not be any official acknowledgement of our significant contribution – no gala reception or gilded awards dinner – no backslapping by our “Rich & Powerful,” and no haughty ego massage with “The Strapped Florida Taxpayer Research Facility” adorning a new building on campus.    

In keeping with tradition, any formal recognition for our collective donation to the private university will rightfully be lavished on our High Panjandrum of Political Power Mori Hossieni, the omnipotent Chairman of the ERAU Board of Trustees, whose undisputed political influence extends far beyond his personal fiefdom at Embry-Riddle.     

Call me crazy, but I still subscribe to the antiquated concept that the public treasure should be used for a public purpose – with only incidental benefit to private for-profit interests.

I’m fairly sure I read that somewhere during my lengthy career in public service… 

Fortunately for the university, Mr. Hosseini’s combination of political power and paternalistic oversight has seen our Harvard of the Sky on the receiving end of a flood of public funds as politicians desperately seek to remain in Mr. Hosseini’s good graces. 

Look, I realize the political realities of those lawmakers who carry the water for their powerful campaign donors – and I also understand the ability of our “imaginative” elected officials to stretch the definition of a “public purpose” to the nth degree.

However, given the serious issues facing Floridians, in my jaded view, this year’s taxpayer funded tithe for a $15,000,000 SCIF – and $5,000,000 in “high speed computational design equipment and stations” to further underwrite ERAU’s Research Park – seems over the top. 

In February, freshman Rep. Chase Tramont of Port Orange sponsored a pair of appropriation requests for Rodney Cruise, the figurehead Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 

Perhaps by design, I found Rep. Tramont’s funding applications short on substantive information – devoid of any documented support for the public expenditure, such as public hearings seeking input, letters of support, or major organizational backing – and no independent third-party study to determine need.  

Just a box checked on the state provided form attesting that the collective $20,000,000 requests will “…be used directly for services to citizens.”  


As always, when it comes to the nexus of public funds and private interests, there are more questions than answers…

For instance, now that you and I have funded a 45,000 square foot Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at ERAU – is Skunk Works coming to Daytona Beach – or is this a weird “build it and they will come” folly with taxpayers covering the overhead? 

And why should Florida residents purchase design equipment for a private research park “…to grow entrepreneurial opportunities” for Embry-Riddle? 

I am not sure using public funds to eliminate risk is the way the whole “entrepreneurial” thing works…

In my view, there are many potential positives that can emerge from expanded research and development opportunities at ERAU – especially in partnership with private corporations that market innovative technologies to the Department of Defense – but the citizens of the State of Florida should not be expected to pay for it. 

And Another Thing!


“Bloggers” — Certain comms people may hurl the phrase derogatorily, but those pundits and journalists won this year’s great war over words even without buying ink by the barrel. A defamation bill championed by the Governor died with a whimper as chambers struggled to align over such matters as anonymous sourcing. Traditional media advocates like the Florida Press Association led the fight against the bill and were helped by groups on the right like Americans For Prosperity, and the left like Equality Florida. The state’s largest editorial boards uniformly deriding the legislation may have helped — though considering the Legislature’s makeup and the bill’s press-hounded sponsors, maybe not. Regardless, it’s the independently owned media outlets living primarily in a virtual space that faced the greatest threat. Another win? Sen. Jason Brodeur’s other anti-media bill, one requiring any blog covering state government register and report monthly on its finances, never got out of the gate. And considering how quickly figures like DeSantis distanced themselves, that bill appears both dead and buried.”

–Publisher Peter Schorsch, Florida Politics, “Winners and losers emerging from the 2023 Legislative Session,” Sunday, May 7, 2023

When it comes to state sanctioned censorship as a means of controlling the narrative and protecting the sensitive sensibilities of the “Ruling Class” from critique and examination – there are no “winners.” 

I’m not talking about the worst days of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge – I am referring to the Florida legislature…

Although most of the oppressive measures put forth in the 2023 Florida legislative session designed to quash free speech failed – the message was received, loud and clear.

If you are reading this, I assume you are an independent thinker, the politically feared “informed voter,” who challenges the official narrative and considers alternative views before forming your own opinions on the issues. 

There is also a segment of Barker’s View readers who currently hold high office – dedicated elected and appointed officials who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – smart servant-leaders who don’t take everything as a personal affront, use pointed criticism to their advantage, and consider the content of blogsites and the ‘everyman’s soapbox’ of social media a good barometer of public opinion.

Unfortunately, some thin-skinned political hacks who have bought into the trappings of office and succumbed to the ego-driven sense of infallibility that comes when “staff” laughs at their jokes – hypersensitive politicians who bitch and fume over We, The Little Peoples often irreverent view of their sanctimonious (and self-serving) machinations – become more insular, circle the wagons, and work to muzzle anyone who disagree with them using the formidable power of government and the legislative process.

This year, two state lawmakers filed bills designed to crush our inalienable right to free expression under the guise of reining in the “media” – a reaction to the equally reprehensible “cancel culture” that has weaponized political correctness and made social pariahs out of anyone who voices a controversial opinion which the fringe element finds objectionable. 

In March, Governor Ron DeSantis quickly distanced himself from a widely criticized bill filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur that would have required bloggers who criticize the governor, members of his Cabinet, or state legislators to register with the state

Another bill filled by Pensacola’s Rep. Alex Andrade sought to lower the bar on Florida’s defamation law, opening the door for politicians to file crippling lawsuits against anyone who dared to openly criticize their official actions and motivations. 

Make no mistake, these suppressive measures were not limited to blowhard bloggers like me and would have jeopardized the free expression of conservative pundits, newspaper editorialists, and every Joe and Jane Lunchpail who vents their political spleen on social media.  

Although neither of these asinine measures passed, by simply showing us helots the whip, Florida lawmakers sent a frightening message that political dissent will be dealt with in the harshest of terms. 

In my view, this has nothing to do with accountability – or improving journalistic standards – and everything to do with punishment and suppression. 

Fortunately, not everyone was onboard with this power-hungry assault on our First Amendment freedoms.

In a letter to Florida lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Cory Mills, who represents the 7th District of Florida (which includes parts of southern Volusia County) criticized the proposed legislation, saying “This bill is encouraging the state to violate its citizens’ fundamental rights as Americans, and is not only unpatriotic, but it is not representative of the free state of Florida.”

First Amendment Foundation executive director Bobby Block said earlier this year, “I believe it will introduce a whole new Wild West of litigation,” Block said. “This is about intimidating free speech, chilling free speech and silencing critics.”

And earlier this week, in an op/ed published in the West Volusia Beacon, Al Everson wrote:

“Turning thin skins into profit is a new business model for the legislators and their wealthy pals. The only bright spot in the whole thing is that it is clearly unconstitutional. That has not stopped the Legislature in the past.”

He’s right – and many fear this creep toward state sponsored censorship is far from over…

In an informative article by Douglas Soule that appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat this week, those fears were confirmed:

“Rep. Alex Andrade, R Pensacola, the House bill sponsor, said the legislation would be brought back next year. He said the criticisms, which he called incorrect, had nothing to do with bill not going the distance.

“I could not care less about platforms or media outlets criticizing it,” he said a couple weeks before session ended. “I really just care about getting a good product in the right posture that I’m comfortable putting my name on. And that just takes more time than we have left in session.”

How horribly arrogant – and completely clueless. 


I encourage everyone who values the foundational freedoms of our democracy to remain vigilant to these future threats – and demand accountability at the ballot box from any craven politician who seeks to limit our ability to actively participate in our government – and vehemently remind those who hold themselves out for high office that all political power is derived from the will of the people. 


Community Event:

Volusia County Council District 4 Representative Troy Kent will meet with constituents from 5:00pm to 6:00pm Monday, May 15, in the Ormond Beach Regional Library auditorium, 30 S. Beach Street. 

According to reports, the Q&A is part of Mr. Kent’s quarterly “District Dialogue 4 Residents” series.

If you are concerned about the Volusia County Council’s comprehensive vision for our future (I know, but I can hope, right?) I urge you to attend.

Besides, it might be the only time you can speak with a sitting council member without one of County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald’s senior staff playing chaperone…     

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

ERAU: More intrigue at our Harvard of the Sky…

As usual – I’m confused. 

Not surprised.  Confused…

Last week, in an article by Mark Harper writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “$155 million in state budget to accommodate growth, quality of life in Volusia, Flagler,” we learned:

“Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University landed $15 million to build a new, 45,000 square-foot Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, at its research park. It “will be designed with large, complex industry and Department of Defense projects in mind, providing for opportunities to collaborate with industry, various government agencies and strengthen the ability for students to work on obtaining security clearances,” according to the request.

ERAU also got $5 million for equipment at its research park.”


Look, it’s no secret that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – our “Harvard of the Skies” – is the personal fiefdom of our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mori Hosseini – the powerful chairman of ICI Homes – or that his undisputed political influence ranges far from the confines of the ERAU campus to the halls of power in Tallahassee and beyond.   

In February, first-year Rep. Chase Tramont of Port Orange filed an appropriations project request on behalf of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University seeking $15,000,000 for construction of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

You read that right. 

According to Rep. Tramont’s barebones request, he listed the most appropriate state agency to administrate the funds as the “Department of Education” – but stated that the DOE had not been contacted at the time of the request?

He also listed the “Requestor” of the appropriation as Rodney Cruise, the figurehead Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – and the “Contact for questions about specific technical or financial details about the project,” as Jeremy Ernest, ERAU’s Vice President for Research and Doctoral Programs.

In answer to the question, “What type of organization is the entity that will receive the funds?” – Rep. Tramont checked “Non Profit 501(c) (4)” (the Internal Revenue Code for a “social welfare or community organization”?) – rather than “University or College.” 

When the appropriation request asked, “What is the specific purpose or goal that will be achieved by the funds being requested?” Rep. Tramont explained:

“The SCIF, containing an aluminium (sic) barrier, will block radio frequency and electromagnetic frequency interference to protect both classified and sensitive information. The facility will allow companies and agencies the ability to complete highly confidential and classified projects. This secured facility will also provide access to taxiway sierra. The taxiway access gives faculty and students unique opportunities to work on highly classified, confidential, and sensitive projects.”

The questions continued…

“For Fixed Capital Costs requested in Question 13, what type of ownership will the facility be under when complete?”

Answer: “Non Profit 501 (c) 3.” (Say what?)

“Is there any documented show of support for the requested project in the community including public hearings, letters of support, major organizational backing, or other expressions of support?”

Answer: “No.”

“Has the need for the funds been documented by a study, completed by an independent 3rd party, for the area to be served?” 

Answer: “No.”

“Will the requested funds be used directly for services to citizens?”

Answer: “Yes.”

“What are the activities and services that will be provided to meet the purpose of the funds?”

Answer: “The addition of the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility will strengthen the student and workforce experience by offering opportunities to work on sensitive projects. Students can obtain DoD Top Secret Security Clearance through these initiatives which strengthens their credentials post-graduation, entering industry.”

The “benefit or outcome” of the expenditure is listed as “Improve Quality of Education,” with the metrics for measuring success listed as:

“Create shared facilities and resources that enable collaborations and major proposals to our select areas of research.”

“This will be measured by the number of internships, opportunities for students, and high paying jobs created.”

(You can read Rep. Tramont’s appropriations request for yourself here: and you can find a list of his 2022 campaign contributors here: )

So, is Skunk Works coming to Daytona Beach, or is this a weird “build it and they will come” folly? 

Regardless, I’m not sure that’s the way any of this works – or why in the hell you and I are paying for it… 

A SCIF isn’t designed to “strengthen the student experence…” – it is an accredited facility built to strict U.S. government standards set by the Director of National Intelligence to prevent visual, auditory, or electronic eavesdropping or the interception of highly sensitive electronic information. 

All aspects of the building materials, construction, access, and operation of a SCIF are held to exact security standards because they serve to facilitate the secure handling of our nation’s most sensitive compartmented information (SCI).

Typically, an organization must have a U.S. government sponsor to get a SCIF accredited – and only government employees and contractors with the appropriate security clearances are allowed to enter the facility.   

Now, I realize the political realities of lawmakers who carry the water and keep themselves in Mr. Hosseini’s good graces.  And I also understand the ability of our “imaginative” elected officials to stretch the definition of a “public purpose” to the nth degree. 

I don’t know about you, but in my jaded view, using state tax dollars to build an incredibly expensive 45,000 square foot SCIF at ERAU seems like a stretch…

As always, when it comes to the nexus of public funds and private interests, there are more questions than answers.

What is the benefit of researching and developing advanced aerospace programs in the confines of a highly secure facility, then rolling out the final product onto the taxiway of one of the busiest airports by operations in Florida? 

I’m no mastermind in the ways of espionage, but it seems all a potential foreign adversary would have to do is post up at the Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club with their Kodak Instamatic.    

You know, real “Cloak and Dagger” shit…

While I realize that Rep. Chase “Secret Squirrel” Tramont did not contact the Florida Department of Education prior to filing a $15 million appropriations request for that agency to administrate – but I wonder if anyone involved bothered to contact the U.S. Department of Defense to determine if they are willing to partner with ERAU in conducting classified research on the busy ramp at Daytona “International” Airport? 

Look, I understand why there was no independent third-party study or public hearings to determine need – that’s not the way things are done here on Florida’s “Fun Coast” – but why didn’t any government organization, defense contractor, or Mr. Hosseini’s minion, ERAU President P. Barry Butler, bother to show their commitment to such an expensive and complex project by jotting out so much as a simple letter of support? 

In my uneducated view, something stinks over at Skunk Works South…    

Call me a skinflint, but with the myriad infrastructure, property insurance, environmental, housing, and growth issues facing Floridians, if ERAU has a direct need for a $15 million secret facility to further advanced research with corporations that develop and market products and processes to the Department of Defense – then the university, and its private partners who will financially benefit, should pay for it. 

Angels & Assholes for May 5, 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               Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program of St. Augustine

For the second time in four months, volunteer archaeologists from the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) of St. Augustine have descended on Volusia County beaches like Indiana Jones and The Doomed Condominium to investigate a wooden shipwreck from the 1800’s. 

As Mother Nature slowly reclaims that which is hers – scouring the shoreline, eroding, and redistributing more sand each time a Nor’easter or tropical cyclone roars through these parts – the temporarily exposed bones of our seafaring past provide a brief window on antiquity.

With each revelation, we learn a little more about our rich history – something that has become more of a hindrance to “progress” than a means of learning the struggles of our ancestors and how local society evolved – a modern impediment to be erased and replaced by something “new,” then quickly forgotten. 

As a curious child growing up on the barrier island – back when coastal scrub covered the vast dunes north of Granada Boulevard and the Halifax area was far different than the gridlocked mess it is quickly becoming – I listened to stories of fierce storms and shipwrecks along the coast, and enjoyed riding my bicycle past the unique Nathan Cobb Cottage on Orchard Lane, built from flotsam salvaged from the schooner Nathan F. Cobb that ran aground in 1896. 

Nathan F. Cobb Cottage

But the tall tale I found most intriguing was the legend of the ill-fated City of Vera Cruz, a 300-foot brigantine rigged wooden steam ship which met its fate thirteen miles off the easternmost point of Cape Canaveral one stormy night during the summer of 1880. 

On August 25, 1880, the ship, with 29 passengers and 48 crew departed New York enroute to Havana and Vera Cruz, Mexico, with the experienced Captain Edward Van Sice at the helm. 

Unfortunately, the Vera Cruz encountered severe weather along the Florida coast during the harrowing overnight hours of Saturday, August 28, 1880.

The late local historian Alice Strickland, in her seminal work “Ormond on the Halifax,” quoted a local settler who recalled, “We are in the midst of the severest and most disastrous gale that has occurred upon the coast within the memory of anyone living upon it.”

Sixty-nine souls perished when the ship broke up just after daybreak on Sunday morning…

Over the next several days, the battered bodies of victims were pushed north with the current and began washing ashore on Volusia County beaches.  The gruesome scene was described in a 2018 article by T. S. Jarmusz in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Strickland’s book tells of scavengers known as “wreckers,” who picked over the dead for any valuables they could find.

“Bodies from the wreck were strewn along the beach for miles,” wrote Strickland, who died in 2003 at age 91. “And one settler reported that ‘beachcombers stripped the bodies, even tearing the rings from the women’s ears.’”

Settlers formed a makeshift burial brigade to dispose of the bodies, which were being attacked by the area’s wild hogs, she wrote.

“Sixty-seven of these bodies were interred in one huge pit dug back of the first row of dunes just north of Number Nine Plantation,” Strickland wrote. “For many years a large timber set upright in the ground marked the spot, but was finally destroyed by woods fires.”

Although old-timers have long speculated about the unmarked grave, the exact site has never been identified. 

Interestingly, in 2004, efforts to stop a condominium project led to an archeological examination of a vacant parcel between Sandpiper Ridge and Beau Rivage in Ormond-by-the-Sea. 

According to Mr. Jarmusz’ report, the exploration with ground penetrating radar failed to find any evidence of the victims of the Vera Cruz, leaving the archeological consultant to speculate on the accuracy of Ms. Strickland’s anecdotal report:

“…he wondered whether Strickland was misinformed or if her book had a misprint. The development team thought the site may have been further north or east, in which case it could’ve been washed away by storm surge. Still, development plans were set aside, and the site remains vacant.”

I guess good can emerge from tragedy… 

It seems not even a Florida developer wants to market a luxury condo called “The Mass Gravesite at Poltergeist Dunes.” 

I can’t help but wonder what future generations will think when underwater archeologists uncover the rusted rebar and hulking concrete foundation of a still unfinished high-rise tower at what was once the ancient seaside intersection of Oak Ridge Boulevard and A-1-A – scratching their heads and questioning aloud, “How could an ostensibly advanced civilization allow this to happen?”

Another Halifax area mystery for the ages, eh? 

Kudos to the members of LAMP for their dedication to the scientific practice of marine archeology and furthering a better understanding of our 500 years of maritime history in Florida. 

Angel               Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool

There are some elected servant-leaders who instinctively understand their role:

To place the needs of others above their own. 

This week, Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool exemplified that sense of selfless sacrifice when she turned her courageous fight against Stage 4 metastatic bone cancer into a means of helping others. 

Dana McCool

Recently, Ms. McCool began losing her hair as a side effect of chemotherapy and decided to turn it into a positive by raffling off the chance to shave her head with all proceeds going to the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation – a 501(c)(3) organization that provides non-medical financial assistance to those undergoing cancer treatment in Florida allowing them to focus on fighting the disease. 

True to her word, on Monday, Commissioner McCool bravely took a seat in front of some two-dozen friends, constituents, and well-wishers at Deltona City Hall as Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood stood in for the out-of-state raffle winners and went to work shearing Dana’s locks. 

Aptly calling the event “May 1 More Be Saved,” Ms. McCool reached her goal of raising $5,000 for the foundation – assisted by a generous $500 donation from the Rotary Club of DeBary-Deltona-Orange City.

Commissioner McCool, who previously defeated breast cancer, gave hope and inspiration to others during the event:

“This is going to empower other women because we are not our hair, we are not; we are strong of spirit, mind and body.  This is for every woman, every man going through cancer right now that feels like they will be losing something; you are not, you are starting the fight.”

Dana McCool is a class act and a true warrior – a public servant of great conviction who never backs down from a fight – or an opportunity to help others.     

I have had the pleasure of appearing with Dana and her talented co-creator, Eric Raimundo, on their popular public affairs podcast “The Smoking Truth” – two civically engaged and incredibly smart people with distinctly different political views who can refreshingly agree to disagree – a fun hour which is always a wonderful learning experience for me.   

This informative podcast is just one of the many ways Ms. McCool gives back to her community by keeping Deltona residents informed on the issues of the day. 

Please find The Smoking Truth here:

In a recent article by the News-Journal’s intrepid Wild West Volusia reporter Katie Kustura, a member of Ms. McCool’s eclectic circle, former Volusia County Council member and longtime civic activist Pat Northey, said:

“I think, considering all that she’s going through, for her to be this open about her health issues is remarkable,” Northey said. “She’s not running from her cancer battle, she’s facing it straight on, and she’s trying to make something positive out of what is a difficult health concern.”


Please join me in sending Deltona Commissioner Dana McCool all best wishes for a quick and effective fight against this scourge.  May her bold spirit continue to serve as a positive example for others battling cancer.

This is what true courage and leadership looks like…   

Asshole           Volusia County Council

The purpose of “Diversionary Politics” is to distract the short attention spans of We, The Little People, from the serious social, civic, and economic issues our elected dullards refuse to address.    

We’ve seen that deceptive strategy at play during the 2023 Florida legislative session (which mercifully ends today) as the “culture wars” overshadowed those issues that directly threaten our quality of life – such as the ability to control growth and density at the local level.  

On some level, I think busying themselves with controversial, yet inconsequential, horseshit – reinventing the wheel, procrastinating, and “solving” nonexistent problems – is a way compromised elected officials have of living with themselves after selling their political souls to the highest bidder…

For reasons known only to them, on Tuesday the Volusia County Council began cobbling together something known as a “stupid motorist law” – an ordinance proposed by Councilman Danny Robins at a meeting in March – which would create enhanced penalties for drivers who disregard traffic control measures during a state of emergency, including forcing motorists to pay up to $2,000 for rescue services (not including ambulance fees, of course.)  

According to Councilman Robins, “I think it could possibly be very fitting here locally especially after what we experienced when it came to public emergency response after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.” 

As a former law enforcement officer, Mr. Robins should know that Florida already has a statute requiring motorists to obey traffic control devices (FSS 316.074) – defined as signs, signals, markings, and devices that are placed by a public body for the purpose of regulating, warning, or guiding traffic. 

It carries a stiff penalty, too – with fines of $264.00 per incident – including three points assessed against a violator’s license and increased insurance premiums. 

But Mr. Robins wants ‘deterrence and repercussions.’


I can tell you from the vantagepoint of over three-decades in law enforcement – if we are going to start charging citizens for emergency services based upon their own stupidity – Volusia County is going to be swimming in fines and fees! 


With appropriate laws and regulations already in place, why does this bunch spend so much time devising ways of squeezing more, more, more out of their already strapped constituents?

Or is this merely another diversionary hot air generator?

At the end of the day, the council voted 4-2 (with Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilman Troy Kent voting “No”) to send Robins’ Folly back to the legal staff for more expensive hemming, hawing, and timewasting research before we are subjected to yet another longwinded presentation on creating a “new” emergency power that already exists in state law… 

In explaining his logical opposition to the proposed “stupid motorist law,” Councilman Kent said, “Pun intended, I think it would be stupid to waste any more time on it because of state law.”

Me too. 

In my view, perhaps it is time taxpayers start pushing for a “stupid politician” law – a means of holding those dapper dullards we elevate to high office accountable for their gross inaction on the environmental destruction, malignant sprawl, threats to our water quality and quantity, polluted rivers and streams, and increasingly overwhelmed transportation, medical, and utilities infrastructure in the face of the massive overdevelopment they continue to rubberstamp.

A law that demands accountability from those who sold us the steaming crock o’ shit that says radically changing the natural topography and flora of the land to shoehorn even more zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes on every square inch of vacant pine scrub would not result in destructive flooding on roadways and established adjacent properties.  

An ordinance that requires those who accept public funds and serve in the public interest to stop the over-the-top corporate welfare schemes that piss away millions of our hard-earned tax dollars to lure the low hanging fruit of industrial warehouse scutwork – dead-end jobs doomed to be replaced by robotics and automation – ensuring the for-profit projects of billionaire corporations, and attracting no-name airlines to Daytona “International” Airport offering twice-weekly service to the “premium” destinations of New Haven, Connecticut and Wilmington, Delaware.    

A statute to stop the crisis of leadership that has resulted in a scarcity of safe and affordable workforce housing as council members “took no position” – sitting on their thumbs while the Florida legislature made decisions for them – gutting local controls, neutering zoning regulations, and lavishing tax abatements, refunds, and other incentives on developers.    

And, with beachfront homes crumbling into the ocean, how about a toothy federal diktat requiring a comprehensive beach management strategy that will protect existing structures by limiting future development seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line to prevent additional damage to protective vegetation and dunes?  

When will our elected representatives address those critical issues that the strapped taxpayers of Volusia County truly care about?

Don’t hold your breath.  It’s not about us. 

It is about putting more smoke in the air to distract us from questioning the lucrative status quo…

Quote of the Week

“What’s making some local government officials shift uncomfortably in their seats and find a quiet place to pore over the new law’s requirements?

For one thing, local governments must (that’s right, must) OK multifamily and mixed-use residential developments in any area zoned for commercial, industrial, or mixed-use as long as at least 40 percent of the rental units will be affordable for at least 30 years. For mixed-use projects, at least 65 percent of the total square footage will have to be used for residential purposes.

That means an affordable housing complex could open along much of Granada Boulevard, Beville Road, International Speedway Boulevard in the heart of Daytona Beach, or in an area zoned for industrial uses where city planners had never envisioned housing.

It will not mean affordable housing developments have an automatic right to build in single-family home neighborhoods. But a developer could create affordable housing on commercially zoned land within a residential area or on the edge of the neighborhood.

Also of note: A city or county won’t be able to require a proposed multifamily development to obtain a zoning or land use change, special exception, conditional use approval, variance, or comprehensive plan amendment for the building height, zoning, and density.

Local governments also won’t be able to restrict the height of a new development below the highest limit allowed for a commercial or residential building located within one mile of the new structure.”

–Reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Florida’s new affordable housing law strips power from local government officials,” Thursday, May 4, 2023

In my view, those “local government officials” who are now shifting uncomfortably in their seats have no one to blame but themselves – and their own paralytic inaction on the growing issue of workforce housing. 

After decades of procrastination during the orgy of greed that resulted in a blanket of urban sprawl across the width and breadth of our state – many believe the Live Local Act is a godsend for strapped Floridians who have been priced out of an exponentially expanding housing market (in Volusia County, estimates show that some 56.22% of households who rent are overburdened with many living far below the national median income).

But one thing is certain, it is clearly a boon for insatiable developers looking for the next lucrative workaround of local land use and zoning regulations.

For years, civic activists and organizations like F.A.I.T.H. have begged local “leaders” to create a countywide housing trust fund using American Rescue Plan funds in a place with a median renter wage of just $13 an hour – where a one-bedroom apartment now requires a $16 an hour wage – and a current shortage estimated at 16,000 affordable housing units. 

Now that any reasonable local control has been undermined in this vacuum of inaction, can we expect Cabrini Green South on East Granada Boulevard?

If there’s enough money in it, you can bet your sweet bippy we will…   

Based upon our experience with speculative developers, prove me wrong?

In my view, this proves once and for all that kicking the can down the dusty political trail on the pressing civic, social, and economic issues we face has consequences.

So do elections…   

And Another Thing! 

Admittedly, I don’t know much. 

Like you, I’m just another hapless rube wandering the wilderness seeking a glimpse of truth.    

But during my productive life serving the City of Holly Hill, one of my responsibilities involved coordinating emergency management services for the community – ultimately earning the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation from the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association. 

After years of training, certifications, and practical experience, the one overriding principle I learned was the importance of carefully developing and exhaustively exercising comprehensive emergency management plans when things are calm, so that everyone in the organization, partner agencies, and the community, knows how to respond during an actual threat. 

During the planning phase of the emergency management cycle, when everyone on the team begins reaching the same conclusions, it is important for leaders to employ the argumentative theory known as “The 10th Man Rule.”   

The tenth man is also known as the “devil’s advocate” – a contrarian whose key role is to disagree with the majority, point out flaws, criticize the status quo, and strengthen the decision matrix by pointing out unintended consequences, raising options, and developing alternatives. 

(That concept might sound familiar to regular readers of these screeds…)

I was reminded of that important process this week when I read the disturbing details of a lawsuit filed by some 40 unfortunate residents of the Stone Island community against The Lost City of Deltona. 

“In bringing this suit, we are simply asking that the City compensate the residents of Stone Island for the losses that the residents have sustained based on the City’s action. And for some, those numbers may well be significant, but decisions have consequences, even for a municipality,” Allison and co-attorney Andrew Doyle said in a statement.

Deltona does not comment on pending litigation, city spokeswoman Catherine Barker said Friday.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida in late September as a Category 4 hurricane.

On Oct. 1, “Deltona unilaterally opened the flood control structure,” which redirected “hundreds of millions of gallons of floodwaters “from Deltona over to Stone Island,” the lawsuit said. “Deltona did not notify residents of Stone Island of this action. Deltona has never taken responsibility for damage caused by these actions.”

At an Oct. 3 City Commission meeting, a city engineer reported the city opened the flood control structure without permission from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the lawsuit said.

At that same meeting, “a representative of Deltona stated and asked whether Deltona would rather flood 100 houses or flood 1,000 houses,” the lawsuit said. “In other words, would Deltona rather redirect floodwaters to and through Stone Island or leave the floodwaters in Deltona?”

–Journalist Gabrielle Russon, writing in Florida Politics, “Volusia County homeowners blame City of Deltona for sending Hurricane Ian floods right at them,” Saturday, April 29, 2023

Like I said, during an emergency, well-informed decisions matter.

With proper planning, many of those Sophie’s choices that arise in the confusion of an actual emergency can be avoided – because bad decision-making can have lasting consequences for the lives and livelihoods of others. That’s a key reason why preparedness actions should always include communicating with affected residents so they know what to expect when disaster strikes.

Anything less is irresponsible. 

And dangerous.     

For instance, what would have been the outcome had someone in the City of Deltona’s often shambolic hierarchy opened the floodgates, knowing that residents of Stone Island would be inundated, and someone drowned as a result? 

By the grace of God that did not happen – or Deltona city officials may well be facing criminal prosecution rather than another expensive lawsuit – which is why I drone on, ad nauseum, about the importance of leadership and accountability in government.   

What I find incomprehensible is that Deltona officials knew the destructive outcome in advance – yet purposely shunted their floodwater on an unsuspecting community in unincorporated Volusia… 

In an informative report by Patricio Balona writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:

“According to the lawsuit, the city of Deltona built the drainage system in 1991 to push floodwaters from Deltona to Lake Bethel, which is east of Stone Island, and then to the St. Johns River.

In 2005, after a lawsuit by the Stone Island Community, Deltona closed off the drainage system by building a dam that stopped floodwaters from flowing through the community.”

Perhaps most disturbing, the News-Journal reported, “Deltona opened the dam even though the city’s stormwater masterplan made officials aware that the Stone Island community would flood, the suit claims. And Deltona’s knowledge of the impact of flooding was also highlighted when the St. Johns Water Management District refused to give Deltona permission to open the dam in 2008 during Tropical Storm Fay and in 2017 for Hurricane Irma, the suit said.”

One would think that in the 18-years since the last Stone Island lawsuit, someone in Deltona government would have considered how to mitigate the threat before this disastrous dilemma presented during Hurricane Ian?

In my view, taxpayers and elected officials should use these legal actions as an early warning system – a window into potential organizational dysfunction and lack of effective oversight – and a means of exposing (and correcting) weak spots in the management chain. 

It should also be a wakeup call. 

In my view, this lawsuit transcends the petty politics and internecine warfare The Lost City of Deltona has become known for – and speaks to the importance of moving away from the perpetual (and expensive) “acting manager” revolving door.

It is time to bring forward-thinking, professional, and personally accountable leadership to City Hall.

That’s all for me.  Have a great Cinco de Mayo, y’all!