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.
“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.
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.
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!
5 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for May 12, 2023”
So the citizens elected a realtor and then they are aghast when they discover that he wants to develop every available inch of space. Let me guess. His campaign centered around ‘Owning the libs’. That will get anyone elected (and re-elected) in this state. There simply aren’t enough kayakers and hikers to compete with the votes of people in their air conditioned homes who only want to get into their air conditioned cars and go to air conditioned restaurants, shopping centers, doctors, etc. Few complain that there aren’t green spaces.
Thankfully we have Volusia Forever and Volusia ECHO as something that can represent us for some of what’s left.
Did you know that Volusia County has an ordinance that suggest we don’t use fertilizer during the rainy season? Now the state legislature is once again making laws that tie the hands of local governments.
Here is a recent post from the Florida Native Plant Society.
The Florida Legislature made a back-room, midnight-hour deal with TruGreen to rob local governments of the authority to enact ordinances that prevent the misuse of fertilizers on lawns. We have very little time to convince Governor DeSantis he needs to veto this offensive provision so counties and cities will still have the autonomy to prevent pollution in their own backyards.
Ask Governor DeSantis to veto the provision to SB 2502 (“Back of the Bill” provisions, Section 85, Lines 2455-2460) that would preempt local governments from adopting or amending fertilizer ordinances. If the “back of the bill” part of that sounds strange or fishy to you, that’s because it is. This provision was added in the closing days of the session, late on Sunday night, without any committee debate, public input, or staff analysis of the potential impact.
Our springs, rivers and estuaries are choking on excessive nutrients. Nutrient pollution imposes large and measurable economic and quality-of-life impacts on our communities. It kills the seagrasses and other submerged aquatic vegetation many wildlife species (e.g., manatees) depend on for food and to meet other habitat needs.
Maybe your city or county is one of the 117 local governments that have already adopted an ordinance to manage fertilizer applications to turf grass. Or maybe your county or city would like to adopt such an ordinance. The legislature is trying to steal that authority away from every local government in the state to help pad TruGreen’s bottom line.
Let the Governor know:
-Fertilizer ordinances may be the most cost-effective way to reduce nutrient pollution.
-Research has determined these ordinances do not result in nutrient-starved lawns.
-It is contrary to his clearly-stated commitment to address Florida’s water quality crisis.
-If your county or city is one of those that has adopted an ordinance of its own; or
-If your county or city is considering the adoption of a fertilizer ordinance; and
Ask him not to deny local governments the ability to be part of the solution to Florida’s water quality woes. We have very little time to act, so please email or phone the Governor’s office as soon as possible.
… with $25 million allocated for extending Matanzas Woods Parkway to the west “…into largely vacant land that’s primed for development.”
Meanwhile the LPGA bridge over the Tomoka River, which was needed yesterday, remains unfunded.
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Great read as always! I don’t even know what to say! There’s so much to choose from! What a disaster our government is, what they do, allow to happen, etc.
I am still sad every time I drive past the annihilated area on Granada and I just see more construction going on just down the road from it and around the corner for a couple of businesses. Blocks away are hundreds of houses that weren’t there yesterday.
When Jeff made comments way back, he was personally attacked by the incumbent mayor (I got crap in the mail from him! Like I needed another reason to disrespect him!) and I felt so bad for him. He continued to work so hard for our once great city behind the scenes. Kudos to Jeff!
For what it’s worth I went through the lunacy of the tree police in Altamonte Springs in 2004 after our bout with the trifecta of hurricanes. I was part owner in an office complex and our campus had multiple large old Oaks that were preserved through development years earlier (yes we were one of those that felt preserving the big trees added to the appeal). Somewhere in time after we initially developed the complex the wonderful City of Altamonte adopted a tree ordinance that I would say makes the Volusia County one look like an amateur attempt at a copy.
If memory serves me correct was approximately two weeks after the final hurricane of 2004 that the City notified all commercial property owners that given the severity of damages that many had incurred they were allowing a grace period of 45 – 60 days to replace those trees lost to the storm and if you were unaware of the required replacement criteria they would have their personal meet with you to review. There were hefty fines if you did not comply.
If your property was recently developed and had the obligatory 4” DBH caliper oak trees then you had to replace them with the same, however if you had a 48” oak that you had saved you were required to replace that same diameter, in other words 12 four inch DBH caliper oaks. So the likelihood of being able to find space on your own site for all these trees was pretty slim. The answer to that problems was simple, you write a check to the City “Tree Bank” for their exclusive use.Quite the haul for the City, and so courteous to allow that extra time to come up with the money. As I’m sure you are aware, no insurance covers landscape, it may pay for the damage the falling tree does but not the tree itself.
If you check, you might be surprised to find just how many municipalities have adopted this practice
Still need to meet up with you and buy you a drink
Glad DeSantis went after Disney.Gave up on the localal builders who give politicians a reason to go to the tailor who make their pockets bigger.