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.
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…
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?”
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.
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.”
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”?
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 FlaglerLive.com, “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: https://tinyurl.com/xpzkkbsr )
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.
6 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for May 26, 2023”
Today the News Journal reported the latest debacle in the never ending quest to force the public to live with huge and ecologically damaging developments. Typically, the Ormond Beach commission okayed large developments. One on Tymber Creek Road and another near the Old Dixie Highway. Pine Tree Road intersects with the Highway and will be a principle entrance/exit for the new development. Traffic on the Old Dixie Highway will be difficult for those using that road. I bicycle through the area regularly and avoid high volume traffic periods. I can only imagine the shock that the new people moving into our area from the urbanized north will have when being slowed down by bicycle club traffic. Currently , motorists scream, blow their horns, and sideswipe bicyclists. Imagine!
your cycle, not in this area, too dangerous. matter of time before you are bumped by a car.
Thank you Mike Chitwood for stopping Orlando invades Daytona this weekend.Thank you NAACP for saying don’t go to Florida even though the CEO was born and lives in Tampa.Move to Chicago if it is so bad.Watch out for Persis she will be running for a higher office.Time to eliminate public schools in this state.If I want to sell my home Zillow has school ratings.I live in Ormond but have to send a kid to the slime Mainland with a rating of 2 .Teachers are quitting ing 4 counties around us as seen on cable news last night and time for the voucher system ..Get rid of school boards and teachers unions and open charter and more private schools and religious schools .Let my tax money go to the parent and use the Money a public school gets and give it to the parent to choose the school they want their kids to go to. Enjoy the weekend
Shame on the Mayor and the Commission of Deltona for waking and allowing to feed the repulsive, vampire, known as the
“The Worst in Public Life”
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said it best!
“This town needs an enema”
And his Rosetta Stone…..
“They are all corrupt, I’m corrupt”!!!!!
You can’t touch the “Chiseler “ because he has so many lawyers they just wear you down with experience, and the irony is they are paid for by the taxpayers!
You shpuld be on the radio like Mark or Big used to be the area needs more of your great information.
Can the county only continue to get worse? Leadership is absent. And we have the elite and rich lining up behind car-guy randy-dye to run against jeff brower-head for his chair spot…which will it be, us serving the rich, or the hapless useless whiner in chief we have now? This just cant be all we have.