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.
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.
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: https://tinyurl.com/mr2um7ty
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.”
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.
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!
2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for May 5, 2023”
Drive from the river to ISB and I95 time to knock down half the garbage that is empty and around the Brickyard that is closing with the best burgers.One mile radius around that restaurant is the hood and major crime like the 16 year old killed two blocks away.two days ago.Time to stop knocking trees down in Ormond and build medium income housing on ISB and rebuild that shit hole.
You’re spot on with the angels and asshole this week for sure! LAMP prevented Poltergeist 5: On the Atlantic and Dana McCool is one brave lady who is setting an awesome example for the people in her community, among others.
As for the city of Deltona… well, they completely screwed the pooch for Stone Island by ILLEGALLY dumping that water. With aforethought! A disgrace! The lawyers are the only ones who will make any money on that, unfortunately. At $50k per homeowner, they will collect 40% each and the homeowners are out tens of thousands of dollars in damages each from the flooding. It’s not fair all the way around.
Thanks for keeping us updated on the knuckleheads!
Happy Cinco de Mayo!