Angels & Assholes for July 21, 2017

Hi, Kids!

It’s been an interesting week.

On Thursday, we learned from County Manager Jim Dinneen – in a well-scripted roll-out of both a comprehensive tax increase, and the proposed construction of a new five-story courthouse and four-story office complex in downtown Daytona – a project that we (you, me, our children and grandchildren) will be on-the-hook for to the tune of $195-million to $260-million over 30-years.

Man, you’d think we were building a Bethune-Cookman dormitory or something?

The good news out of DeLand yesterday was the fact that the County’s beach concession contract will be awarded to a local company – and the previously proposed, completely ludicrous, micro-managing “staff recommendations” that would have required all vendors to paint their trucks a homogeneous white – were roundly rejected by our elected officials.

I was proud of Vice Chair Deb Denys for supporting the removal of onerous – and expensive – “white truck” regulations.

Now, can we ferret-out those members of “staff” who waste precious public time and resources developing ridiculous and meaningless rules?

Look, Volusia County clearly needs a new justice center – the Court House Annex has seen better days – and Circuit Judge Terry Perkins was right when he said that someone is going to get killed.  Security at that facility is virtually non-existent – and the fact there has not been a serious incident is a testament to the men and women of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office who move prisoners and (until yesterday) provide physical security.

I’m just not sure we needed a $250,000 consultant’s study to tell us that – and time will tell how the new private contractor who has been tapped to provide security services at Volusia County courthouses will work out.

I’ll have more on these and other important issues facing us here on the Fun Coast next week.

Now, 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:             Circuit Judge Kim C. Hammond

This week we learned the sad news of the passing of Judge Kim Hammond.  For more than 30-years, Judge Hammond served the citizens of the Seventh Judicial Circuit with incredible dedication, compassion and commitment to the law.

He was a fine jurist – but a better human being.

Judge Hammond passed away under hospice care in Ormond Beach on Sunday.  He was 72.

Kim Hammond was a talented athlete – an All-American quarterback at Florida State University – and he even played professional football in Miami and Boston.  But Judge Hammond will be best remembered for his steady hand and calm demeanor while presiding over three-decades of criminal cases in Flagler County.

He was one of the most genuinely nice people I ever met in the Criminal Justice system.

Judge Hammond taught us that kindness, a keen sense of humor and gentle compassion can fundamentally change people – and our system of justice – for the better.

That was his contribution – and his legacy.

He will be missed.

Asshole:          Florida Department of Environmental Protection

 Given the historical dysfunction and ineffectiveness at FDEP, unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised to read the terrible news out of Deleon Springs this week.

If you haven’t taken the family to the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Pancake House at Deleon Springs State Park – you’re doing it wrong.  Cooking your own buckwheat pancakes on an open griddle in the cozy little restaurant has been a family tradition in Volusia County since I was a small child.

People gather around the beautiful clear spring, tour the museum and walk the grounds while they wait for a table in the small wooden building – which can be an hour or more on weekends.

This wildly popular attraction has been operated by the Schwarze family for 56-years.

State regulations require that park vendors renew their concession contract every five-years – and the Schwarze’s agreement expires on September 30th.

When they attempted to renew – the family business couldn’t get anything out of Tallahassee.

Nothing.  Crickets.

Through no fault of their own, this West Volusia icon is now in danger of closing – not because it’s a failing business, to the contrary – it is because a long-term contractor hasn’t received any substantive communication from the state regulatory agency who governs their lives and livelihood.

It’s hard to order supplies, reassure frightened employees and plan for the future when you don’t know if you have a future.

Following a public outcry on social media – some state bureaucrat finally got off their ass and had a preliminary meeting with the restaurant.  A state spokesman later gave the Daytona Beach News-Journal some gobbledygook attempting to explain the problem away – but a resolution has not been reached.   

If this quaint family restaurant goes away simply because a leaderless hulk of a state regulatory agency can’t get their collective shit together, that is a travesty.  Unfortunately, it is indicative of the level of incompetence and inefficiency that has ruled FDEP – and other state agencies – since the organization was fractured and neutered by our reptilian governor, Rick Scott.

According to the News-Journal, there is hope that a contract extension can be put in place before the deadline.

I damn sure hope so.

Asshole:          Tony “Beachside” Grippa  

 Set your watch – I’m going on the record right now:

The much ballyhooed “Tony Grippa Beachside Redevelopment Committee” will have absolutely no substantive impact on the future stability and revitalization of our long-suffering beachside and core tourist areas. 

I hope I’m wrong.  But I’m not.

In a recent article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, former Brown & Brown executive, closet beach advocate and redevelopment committee chair, Tony Grippa, announced to the assembled political appointees that, “beach management is not within our purview for the committee.”

Yahtzee! 

Goodnight, everybody!  Thanks for coming – hope everyone feels better about themselves for having participated!

Really?

It’s like asking someone to rebuild, refurbish and restart a hocked-out, rattletrap jalopy – only they aren’t permitted to touch the engine.

When pressed by the intrepid Paul Zimmerman and Dave LaMotte – the only authentic beach advocates on the board – about the importance of beach access to the revitalization process – Grippa responded, “Certain issues have kept this community from developing.  Let’s start with things that can bring the community together.”

 I agree – Volusia County’s abject failure to openly and honestly discuss beach access and management issues is at the very top of the divisive issues list.

But that’s never going to happen.

Transparency on matters relating to the beach – or anything else – is directly counter to County Manager Jim Dinneen’s strategic plan to whittle away public access and participation in the process – so he misleads our elected officials into believing that even discussing these important issues will unleash Pandora’s Box.

So, let’s sit around and talk about ‘feel good’ things that bring us together!

Let’s all sit cross-legged on the floor, hold hands, and listen to the likes of Daytona Beach Redevelopment Director Reed Berger regale us with tall tales about how well the city and county work together, drone on with his revisionist history of redevelopment on the beachside, and hem-and-haw during questioning by committee members as he exposes his complete ignorance of the issues at hand!

That always helps, right?

Screw it.

Another earmark that immediately gives away the crushing ineffectiveness of any “improvement committee” ever formed in the Halifax area is when wealthy members start using phrases like, “I’m so darned excited!” and “I think we’re going to make a really, really big difference!”

 No, you’re not.

You are a hand-select group with all the right last names – and special interests.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Tony Grippa is a nice guy – and most of the people serving on this committee are highly successful, incredibly smart and very influential members of the community who truly mean well.

But they must see what’s going on, right?

Let’s call this what it is right up front – another ad hoc “See, we’re trying!” political insulation committee formed by those moral weaklings on the Volusia County Council in the aftermath of an embarrassing news exposé on the abject blight, dereliction of redevelopment officials and agencies, and the inherent corruption of politicians and half-bright political insiders who insist on bedding down with every speculative developer who drifts onto Daytona’s beachside.

Trust me – the elected officials who concocted and approved this committee could give two-shits less what their appointees ultimately come up with.

Unless the group’s findings support County Manager Jim Dinneen’s goofy boardwalk extension plan (which is already being budgeted, so hide and watch) – or comport with the exact needs, wants and profit motives of those uber-wealthy power brokers that committee member Dr. Kent Sharples dutifully reports to – it’s an empty exercise, like pissing your pants in a dark suit.

You’ll get a warm feeling, but no one really notices.

At the end of the day, local and county government is not going to redevelop the beachside.

Unless and until the ‘powers that be’ stop the neglect, enforce property management and maintenance codes, stop tolerating blight generators and dilapidation, and work collaboratively with committed residents to make the beachside an attractive, profitable place for private investment – we are doomed to more of the same.

It’s that simple – and we don’t need another impotent committee to tell us that.

Again, let’s all hope that I’m wrong on this one.

Asshole:          Volusia County, Daytona Beach CVB & Ocean Center

 Last Friday, a friend and I were driving south on A-1-A from Ormond Beach.

We were on our way to grab a beer and a sandwich at North Turn in Ponce Inlet, which, by the way, isn’t a bad way to pass a warm summer afternoon.

Around Belaire Plaza, we noticed an increasing number of jacked pick-up’s – you know, those big trucks with the huge tires, stratospheric lift kits, roaring exhaust and weird neon paint schemes – usually driven by a twentysomething suburban white kid with a baseball hat on backwards and a budding attention-seeking complex?

I know about these things – my goofy high school friends and I were their ‘founding fathers’ forty-years ago.

By the time we were just north of Seabreeze Boulevard – they were everywhere.

Three screaming trucks pulled out in front of us, blowing coal-black smoke and squealing tires as they raced south toward Main Street.  I muttered “assholes” under my breath as my friend reminded me that they were just kids having fun.

Being known for my keen and cultivated sense of perception and advanced deductive reasoning skills – I shrugged my shoulders and commented, “Must be some kind of truck thing going on?” 

No shit, Sherlock.     

As it turned out, an estimated 10,000 participants and spectators turned out in their smoke-belching, train-horn blaring, monster machines for Daytona Truck Meet 2017 – billed by promoters as the “Coolest Summertime Truck Show on Florida’s East Coast!”

Add to that it was the coolest summertime truck meet most locals never heard of.

I like to consider myself fairly clued in to local current events – but I was caught flatfooted by this one – and I think Daytona Beach city officials were too.

After all, we spent a collective $400,000 in public funds on our successful attempt to lure about the same number of Shriners to town last week – and it was all we heard about for a month.

I dunno – maybe we expected a heads-up?

Unfortunately, over the course of the weekend event, a few turds decided it would be a good time to show their ass.

In the aftermath of the drinking and rowdiness (things I enjoy) and the traffic gridlock and reckless driving (things I don’t enjoy) on Atlantic Avenue last Saturday night, I took a drive through the epicenter – essentially Hartford Avenue south to ISB – on Monday afternoon.

The street surface looked like Big Daddy Don Garlits and Shirley “Cha Cha” Muldowney were vacationing in Daytona Beach with the Force family.

It was damn near a continuous stripe of burnt rubber on asphalt for as far as I drove.

I couldn’t help but shake my head when I thought what that craziness must have sounded like in the wee-hours of Sunday morning.  I also wondered how much more motorized mayhem the good residents of our struggling beachside are expected to endure?

From what I read, police were caught off-guard by the traffic, residents in the area were telling stories that rivaled the debauchery of the former BCR/Spring Break days, and it was clear that the famous “ire” of Daytona Beach residents – a collective anger that can make or break a special event – was slowly rising like hackles on a hound dog.

In my view, much of this could have been avoided with better communication between those who hosted the event – the Ocean Center – and those who helped promote it – the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau – and the residents those facilities and organizations ultimately serve.

I get the sneaking feeling the City of Daytona Beach was left out of the loop.

And the citizens who live beachside were clearly blindsided.

No one that I have spoken with in recent days was remotely aware that 10,000 monster trucks were descending on the Halifax area last weekend.

Now, everyone is pissed off by the infantile stupidity of the few bad apples that turned A-1-A into a scene from a bad Mad Max movie – and they should be.

I’m going to stop short of labeling the Daytona Truck Meet an asshole, because not everyone involved acted out.

However, the event now has a stigma attached and, based upon the comments at yesterday’s Volusia County Council meeting – this event is dead as a doornail.

And that’s a shame.

When properly managed, the infusion of 10,000 people for a single event can have a significant economic impact on our community – the annual Jeep gathering proves that.

Regardless of whether you agree that sporadic seasonal theme “weeks” and “(insert happening)-toberfests” are the way forward for Daytona Beach – I think we can all come together in demanding better communication from our elected and appointed officials – and the various tax-supported agencies responsible for promoting tourism in Volusia County.

Those of us who are directly impacted by these virtually unannounced “pop-up” special events deserve better.

Angel:             Judge Hubert Grimes

 After being appointed interim President of Bethune-Cookman University, retired Judge Hubert Grimes has hit the ground running, doing his level best to right the imperiled ship, tighten the sails, and stop the money leaks that have threatened to sink the school.

Considering recent in-depth investigations by the Daytona Beach News-Journal (something they do incredibly well) and a growing outcry by concerned students and alumni – you know, the ones who pay the bills – over the secrecy and goofy financial machinations by outgoing President Edison O. Jackson – Judge Grimes has little time to waste.

To his credit, Grimes has called for a forensic audit of the financial quagmire that was the University’s involvement with a dormitory financing scheme that may ultimately cost some $300-million over time.

That’s an important step in reconstructing the “who, when, why, and how” of this ugly mess.

I have one question:  How is it possible to keep Board of Trustee’s Chairman Joe Petrock in place?

After all, these financial atrocities – the exorbitant pay increases, the $18-million operating loss, a cash shortfall of nearly $8-million, the DeVos bruhaha, a declining endowment and the dormitory debacle – all occurred on Chairman Petrock’s watch.

Am I wrong?

I am certain Judge Grimes understands the importance of a clean house to starting fresh – and building trust.

In my view, that begins by jettisoning the locally well-connected Joe Petrock and restoring student confidence in the direction and oversight of the B-CU Board of Trustees.

Asshole:          Florida Department of Corrections

Regardless of your personal thoughts on crime and punishment – I think we can all agree that in 2017 – inmates in the State of Florida should be afforded basic human rights and civilized treatment while incarcerated.

For the past seven months, State Representative David Richardson has investigated conditions in Florida prisons – to include conditions at Tomoka Correctional Institute just west of Daytona Beach.  During unannounced tours of facilities throughout the state, Rep. Richardson has found that inmates are being denied necessities – such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, sheets, shirts, soap and toilet paper.

That’s right.  Toilet paper.

During my working life, I once went into Tomoka to inspect a truck we acquired for the police department.  Inside, I noticed that some of the inmates were literally wearing rags – something I dismissed as their work clothes.

Now, it would appear this is the norm.

Unbelievable.

Once again, this draconian mismanagement speaks to the utter dysfunction of the Florida Department of Corrections – a systemic issue that has seen many good men and women leave the corrections service in frustration and disgust.

I congratulate Rep. Richardson for his good work.

Quote of the Week:

“He has a look-at-me attitude. He’s flashy.”

Daytona Beach Police Sergeant Tim Ehrenkaufer, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, describing the attributes of a 10-year old budding career criminal who is suspected of stealing at least three automobiles in the Halifax area since June.

To heck with an ankle monitor – take the kid’s toilet paper away.  Show him what life on the other side is going to be like. . .

Have a great weekend!

 

A Floridian’s Nightmare

No political rants or angry screeds on our dismal collective condition here on the Fun Coast today.

I just can’t muster it, kids – nor could I be responsible for what I might say in my current state.

I’m going to let you in on a secret.

The heat and humidity of “Florida’s Summer of 2017” is driving me loopy.

I’m losing it – and as Travis Tritt said, “The whiskey ain’t workin’ anymore.”

I have a weird sociological theory that refrigeration is the only thing that separates us from the Great Apes.

You remember the 1986 movie The Mosquito Coast?

It was an excellent drama about an increasingly insane inventor who set out with his family to build a utopia in the jungles of Central America.  In a pivotal scene, the mad man – expertly portrayed by actor Harrison Ford – screams, “Ice is civilization!”

Dude was right.

As you may have heard (after all, I’ve bitched about it to anyone who’ll listen for days), the air conditioner at Barker’s View HQ took a dump last week.

As my luck goes, even a $750 emergency after-hours diagnosis, complete with several refrigerant recharges by experienced service technicians, failed to resuscitate that beautiful water-to-air contraption that has run full-tilt and kept me in cold comfort for the past ten-years.

Look, I don’t have a clue what a ‘heat index’ is – but that sucker has been in the low 100’s for days.  Suffice it to say, it’s friggin’ hotter than the Hinges of Hell.

As my beloved air conditioner slowly died in my arms – I was frantic.

As any Floridian would be.

I began writing increasingly larger checks to different technicians, “doctor shopping” for one more fix of R-22 refrigerant (at $100 per pound?) that I hoped would forestall the inevitable.

Let’s face it – my motives were purely selfish.

When the unit quietly gave up the ghost during the overnight hours last Monday, her passing was marked by the internal temperature inside our home climbing to a steady 86-degrees – where it has stubbornly remained for over a week.

As is my habit during times of acute crisis – I immediately stripped to my boxer shorts and mixed a strong cocktail – then dug the fans out of our sweltering garage, wept openly and began drinking heavily.

After extensive training, and intense knowledge and practical testing, the Federal Aviation Administration has granted me certifications as an instrument rated commercial airplane pilot.  At one time in my life, I could expertly program sophisticated GPS systems and set up other navigation and communications radios all while orienting and operating an aircraft referencing only the flight instruments.

But I’ll be dipped if I could ever program my air conditioner’s thermostat.

As I went through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, etc. – sweat dripping from the moobs I’ve grown in retirement – I stabbed wildly with my index finger at the backlit plastic box on the wall – a technological advancement that looks like the flight deck of the Space Shuttle – insanely cussing and hoping against hope I would hit just the right button that would bring back the cool.

It’s called heat-induced psychosis – I think.

In the end, it was not to be.

She was not coming back.  I knew that.

Once reality hits, you would be surprised just how inventive even a tool like me can get.

Look, you can spend $175,000+ for an advanced degree in the physics of fluid dynamics – or you can simply watch a heat-crazed Floridian as he expertly daisy-chains a series of box fans to direct a tepid breeze into his bedroom when the A/C shits the bed.

Am I wrong?

The good news is it’s nothing a new $6,000.00, 3.5-ton unit with multi-position air handler and internal purifier in Architectural Gray powder-coat can’t take care of.

The bad news is they can’t put that sweet love machine in until Friday.

Could be worse.  Right?  (That’s been my mantra for the past few days. . .)

In the meantime, Patti and I are throwing elbows and jockeying for position around a couple of portable air conditioning units (God’s Love in a Box) that the installer mercifully loaned us.

It’s dropped the temperature in the main part of the house to a balmy – but doable – 79.

The dogs?

Well, they have their own portable unit going – it’s a cool 72-degrees in Patti’s home office where they idly lounge about in total comfort.

The moral?  Take nothing for granted, my friends.

I guess.

And stay cool. . . If you can.

 

 

 

On Volusia: More “Fun Water” Please!

I recently wrote a blog in anger – that happens from time-to-time.

Nearly 1,700 good folks like you read it in less than 48-hours – and more are tuning in by the hour.

I guess I’m not the only one who’s pissed off on the Fun Coast. . .

In a piece entitled “Adding Insult to Injury” I posted a photograph of a scene I happened upon quite by accident.

On Friday, I stopped by the ABC Fine Wine and Spirits in Ormond Beach to pick up a fresh handle of Tito’s vodka – “fun water” – as I like to call it.

As I was exiting the parking lot – I observed a patch of weed-strewn asphalt just off Northshore Drive that is being used by Volusia County officials to store beach traffic signs, a red lifeguard tower, and other county-owned equipment and detritus – all in plain view of residents and visitors alike.

CardinalAlthough you wouldn’t know it by looking at the dilapidated structure now, but the cracked parking lot surrounds what was once Florida’s first “shopping center” – serving the Ellinor Village subdivision.

After being vacated and languishing on the soft beachside real estate market, in 2015, the Volusia County Council purchased the property for $1.8 million tax dollars at the recommendation of County Manager Jim Dinneen, ostensibly for “off-beach” parking.

The building has been there a longtime. When I was kid, I used to ride my bike down to Black’s Pharmacy where I would buy a few packs of bottle rockets and some candy – and those of us who grew up here in the 70’s can (vaguely) remember partying hard at the Other Place, Ormond’s premiere Rock-n-Roll venue.

Now, just two-years after becoming county-owned property and vanishing from the city’s tax rolls, the lot has become a shabby, unkempt eyesore – complete with faded paint, unchecked weeds, ugly No Trespassing placards and brown wooden boards covering all doors and windows.

I defy anyone to tell me the difference in the general appearance of Cardinal Drive and A-1-A in Ormond Beach and any intersection in Ciudad Juarez.  Seriously.

It radiates a feeling of hopelessness.

After reading last week’s blog, a regular reader of Barker’s View dropped me a note to say that, until recently, he lived in a home directly behind the former shopping center.

He estimates suffering a 20% loss on the value of his property when it sold – something he directly attributes to the horrific conditions on the county’s property.

Another reader alerted me to serious issues at county facilities in DeLand as well.

Someone “in the know” wrote that conditions inside the “old jail” (I believe they were referring to the facility on New York Avenue, downtown) and former elections offices have become disorganized dumping grounds as well.

I don’t know – I’m just passing along what I was told.

Maybe one of our elected representatives could get off their ass and take a tour?

In a scene that could only come from a macabre Twilight Zone episode – or the pages of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – in February, it was reported that Volusia County and the City of DeLand were discussing swapping a municipal-owned building on West Rich Avenue for the county’s former jail property.

What’s weird about that, Mark?

Well, let me tell you:  A sticking point was the fact County Manager Jim Dinneen said he wanted a promise from the city that the property will be used for development.

“We don’t want to swap property and for them to turn it into a park,” Dinneen said.

“We are really interested in creating jobs. We want to know what kind of economic development plan they have.”

 You read that right.

The most historically dysfunctional shitheel to ever occupy a County Manager’s office had the abject temerity to give a dictating lecture to Mayor Bob Apgar, City Manager Michael Pleus and the outstanding team of city staff and residents who recently received national recognition as the best Main Street in America on how they should use a vacant jail that has stood out like a weeping syphilis chancre as the downtown area around it was beautifully redeveloped and revitalized.

How dare that chiseling shit presume to tell the City of DeLand – or any other progressive community – how to do anything?

Is it possible that Jim Dinneen has become so tragically delusional – so horribly bent by his virulent form of megalomania – that he actually believes anyone other than his highly-paid toadies and clueless elected officials care one whit about his kleptocratic thoughts on “economic development” – or anything else for that matter?

You may remember way back in 2015 when Dinneen was caught flatfooted after trying to push a $64-million plan to renovate and replace county-owned buildings and facilities that he and his staff had strategically allowed to deteriorate?

You remember the sights of weed-strewn storage lots, dilapidated metal buildings – the leaking ceilings, rodents, snakes and vermin in the Sheriff’s Office evidence facility – unkempt public works facilities and other scenes of utter dereliction – punctuated by astronomically expensive Taj Mahal construction projects for new buildings and facilities?

I do.

Apparently, Little Jimmy lives in a bizarre Fantasy Land where worker drones throw good money after bad to build replacement facilities – then allow the same government bureaucrats who trashed and neglected the former facilities to go to work on the new ones.

In one glimmer of hope – Dustin Wyatt, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal – reported today that our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, is urging his fellow elected officials to sell off some of the multi-million dollar “off beach” parking lots that are sitting vacant.

In my view, Ed’s either seen the light – or he has a friend in need of some cheap beachside property.

Look – I’ve said this before – it’s time for our elected officials to begin the process of removing Jim Dinneen and restoring confidence and organization to a government gone wacky.

This walking Napoleonic complex is a foul ball – a con artist who serves as a well-paid shill for influential power brokers – who could give two-shits about those of us who pay the bills.

Sheriff Chitwood was right when he said, “Either he (Dinneen) has Alzheimer’s disease, or he’s a pathological liar.” 

The fact is, the disgrace on Cardinal Drive – an eyesore foisted on residents and visitors alike – is not the first county-owned property that has served as a “blight generator” in neighborhoods where these facilities are located – and if Dinneen has his way – it damned sure won’t be the last.

And people ask why I drink. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: Adding Insult to Injury

Well, Mark has his knickers in a wad again.

Yep.  “Barker the Bitcher” is at it again.  It’s the little things that set me off like a Roman candle.

In my experience, you can tell the strength and quality of an organization by the way they handle the “small stuff.”

And it’s all small stuff.

In author Michael Levine’s excellent 2005 work, “Broken Windows, Broken Business,” he opined that organizational problems – large and small – often result from managements inattention to seemingly insignificant details.

You see, an organizations true priorities are exposed by the trivial.

According to Levine, “There’s a significant psychological impact to dingy surroundings—to stained carpets and broken toilets.”  He believes that you simply cannot convince those you serve (or your own employees) that you truly care about them if you are constantly sending subliminal signals that you don’t.

Smart guy.

Whenever I get away from Barker’s View HQ – even if it’s just to run a few errands – I use the time to consciously observe my surroundings.

Like anyone else, I can become desensitized to the contributors to blight – such as that zombie house in the neighborhood that hasn’t been inhabited since the Great Recession – or an overgrown, trash-filled vacant lot.

After a while, you tend to ignore these things and just drive right by – they become part of the everyday landscape of our lives.

But imagine being a visitor – someone new to the area who is looking to relocate a business or purchase a home – seeing our area in living color for the first time in their lives.

I mean, they’ve heard all the hype and splendor espoused by our redundant chamber of commerce/advertising authorities/visitor bureaus, and let’s say they bit on an expensive Danica Patrick ad.

Or maybe you’re a conventioneer – say, a member of the big Shriners International “mega” get-together – a group somewhere south of 10,000 that we threw some $400,000 in public funds at to coax them to Daytona Beach this year and next.

We got’em.  They’re here.

Now what?

I can assure you these folks aren’t blind to the blight, dilapidation and neglect that permeates many highly-visible areas of the Halifax area.

And I’m not talking about the archetypal, Snidely Whiplash-looking Daytona Beach slumlord here.

I’m talking about Volusia County government.

Late last week, I was (naturally) leaving a liquor store on South Atlantic Avenue in Ormond Beach when the blatant “do as I say, not as I do” arrogance of Volusia County government hit me like a ton of bricks once again.

If you happen to be a taxpaying citizen of Volusia County – I think you’ll feel the same way.

In 2015, at the direct recommendation of County Manager Jim Dinneen, the Volusia County Council approved the expenditure of general funds (and stolen ECHO dollars) for the purchase of 1.8 acres of property on the west side of State Road A-1-A in Ormond Beach for $1.8 million.

$1.8 million – of our tax dollars.

This dubious purchase was part of a frenetic land-grab – a spending spree spurred by Dinneen, as he encouraged our elected officials to piss away multi-millions of our hard-earned tax dollars on any and every available space where Little Jimmy felt he could shoehorn an “off beach” parking lot.

At the time – in perhaps his only cogent thought during a brutally uninspired term – our former cartoon character of a council chair, Jason Davis, doffed his goofy fedora and said, “We keep buying all this property, which is part of the prerogative of this council, but there’s still underlying costs that are going to come up for development,” he said, estimating costs of redevelopment could reach $50 million.”

“We’re buying all this land for parking lots, but where are we getting the money to build the parking lots?”

Well, apparently, “we” are getting at least some of it by openly ignoring even routine maintenance and upkeep on these incredibly expensive parcels – and blatantly violating city codes and ordinances in the process.

In the photograph above, you see that the rear of our despicably unkempt $1.8 million county-owned property at the northwest corner of Cardinal Drive and State Road A-1-A is now being used as an open storage yard for a lifeguard tower and various beach speed limit and directional signage – some carelessly toppled– all set on the cracked asphalt of a weed strewn parking lot of a faded, abandoned building that sits like a long-dead carcass in the epicenter of Ormond Beach’s tourist area.

To add insult to injury – it’s off the city’s tax rolls as well.

Tragically, this dumping ground is almost purposely exposed to public view – a neglected shithole set on the fringe of a residential neighborhood – an open eyesore for residents and visitors alike.

With millions being spent on dubious “economic development” incentives – and all of us being urged by the “powers that be” to use less water, clean up our lawns and properties, and pay more-and-more in taxes and fees – just who in the hell do these people think they are?

My God.

Still think Jim Dinneen and our historically arrogant and completely out-of-touch members of the Volusia County Council give two-shits about us and our quality of life?

Not if you live anywhere near a county-owned facility they don’t.

And if I hear one more insult from some stuffed shirt millionaire or politically active CEO about how beautiful things are here on the Fun Coast – I’m going to vomit.

When this latest debacle – this government-funded blight generator – makes it’s circuitous way back to DeLand, you can bet your bippy our responsibility-averse County Manager will once again publicly blame the “Coastal Division” for yet another five-alarm fuck-up and our $97,000 per year “All Things Beach” Director, Jessica Winterwerp, will make yet another public apology before cashing her paycheck.

Hey, Jessica – maybe you can use more of our money to hire another Miami-based consultant to tell you how to properly store your division’s equipment?  You know, so that it doesn’t contribute to the appearance of a Third-World pigsty?

Something else Mr. Levine proposed is the novel idea that senior leadership should eject poor performers from the organization as quickly as possible, letting everyone know that the issues have been effectively dealt with.

Not in Volusia County government – you go along, you get along – and your strategic ineptitude will be handsomely rewarded.

How much longer will we – the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County –  be subjected to this level of gross mismanagement, embarrassment and abject neglect of every reasonable expectation of community standards and aesthetics?

As I’ve said, ad nauseum, in government, as in most progressive organization, accountability exists when a responsible individual – and the services they provide – are subject to oversight.

This occurs when the person with the paid responsibility is required to provide articulable justification for their actions, omissions, expenditures and performance.

Despite the obscene amount of corroborating evidence proving that Mr. Dinneen is physically incapable of holding his senior staff responsible for this continuing pattern of gross mismanagement – rather than demand accountability – our elected officials continue to praise Dinneen’s performance and reinforce his arrogance with staggering salary and benefit increases that have reached the point of absurdity.

The most visible symptom of the abject dysfunction at the top of the county’s organizational chart is consistently the bureaucracy’s inability to properly manage and maintain county-owned facilities.

Look at the photograph again – or better yet, load up the family and check it out for yourself.

Maybe snap a few pics for your elected representative.

Then consider the ramifications of openly storing a bunch of faded wooden sign frames and a big red wooden tower in your backyard – you know – in plain view of your neighbors?

See what happens.

I guess what pisses me off most is the fact that County Chairman Ed Kelley sold us a bill of goods.

He claimed to be a responsible “everyman” who served Ormond Beach for many years.  So why does he allow the very government he oversees to foist this irresponsible and highly-visible dumping ground on his most loyal constituents?

Why?

Because Ed Kelley and Jim Dinneen don’t give a damn about you – we were outbid during the election – and they prove it every day.

Pay the bills and shut up, John Q.

We dump publicly-owned property and equipment when and where we want to.

We misplace traffic cones and inexplicably prohibit parking on a section of beach during the busiest season of the year – with no explanation or accountability.

We bully and trash the municipalities with impunity.

We engage in an on-going series of missteps, foul-ups, administrative gaffes, bureaucratic bloopers, weird “oversights” and outright errors in sound judgment with absolutely no reasonable oversight or professional accountability.

We pay incompetent shitheels hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in salary and benefits each year while expecting nothing – nothing – in return.

In short – we do what we want, when we want – and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

Am I wrong?

In my view, Ormond Beach City Manager Joyce Shannahan – a true bright spot in the fetid wasteland of local government – should direct code enforcement officers to take immediate and decisive action against Volusia County until this blatant eyesore at Cardinal Drive is remediated.

I can assure you they would do the same for you or me.

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for July 14, 2017

As a cop, I interviewed thousands of victims and witnesses through the years.

Invariably, the target of a financial crime could recall the exact moment they became suspicious or knew that something wasn’t right – yet they pushed forward, getting deeper into the scheme, or continuing to trust the group or individual who exploited them despite mounting evidence they were being duped.

For some it was greed – others felt sorry for the suspect – or they trusted that he or she was who or what they said they were, but all agree they should have cut ties immediately when they first suspected a problem.

Strong personalities can convince you to ignore your instincts.

It’s why we rely on trusted financial professionals to give us the best advice possible – not because they are better or worse at picking investments – but because they take emotion and impulsiveness out of the equation and steer us away from unscrupulous (or just dumb) money mistakes.

Most large organizations have a president, chief financial officer and a board of trusted directors to provide overlapping oversight.

And when that important system breaks down – or intentionally or unintentionally fails to act in a manner consistent with its fiduciary responsibility – it is time for change.

Most corporate Chief Executive Officers, and others serving in senior leadership roles, will tell you the importance of knowing when to make your exit.

Jumping ship too soon – or too late – can be equally destabilizing for the individual and the organization.

Management experts have established certain cues that suggest when it is time to take your leave.  These include defensiveness, resistance to change, and an aversion to internal and external transparency which results in an environment where the chief executive does what he or she wants – rather than what the organization needs them to do.

There are other metrics which organizations can use to tell when it’s time for drastic changes to the Board of Directors as well – such as resistance to change, silencing criticism, lack of strategic fiscal management and an over-reliance or fealty to the CEO.

Sound familiar?

When Bethune-Cookman University announced earlier this week that Dr. Edison O. Jackson had opted for “early retirement” in the wake of the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s exposé on B-CU’s staggering $17.8 million operating loss and declining endowment, I immediately thought he exited with grace – and at exactly the right time.

With all that’s transpired, I question the strategy of allowing Dr. Jackson to stay in place through the end of August – or the board’s decision to pay Jackson for a “four-month sabbatical.”

Regardless, in my view, his departure is a good start.

Although Dr. Jackson’s strong personality, exorbitant salary and propensity for secrecy in fiscal affairs have contributed to the university’s financial quagmire – the trustees had a fiduciary, if not ethical, responsibility to students and alumni to keep the institutions financial and administrative house in check despite the weird internal machinations in the president’s office.

That’s their job – not rubberstamping the whims and wants of a chief executive with a spending problem – or ignoring serious warning signs of potential fraud.

The practice of simply launching dissenting points-of-view from the board, ignoring credible requests for forensic audits, and proceeding full-speed-ahead with an asinine and incredibly expensive financing scheme for campus dormitories, sets the stage for a good old-fashioned house cleaning.

In my view, that should begin with the resignation of board chairman Joe Petrock.

After all, he has been an active participant in the mismanagement – the depth of which is slowly being exposed – and has arrogantly ignored alarms that B-CU was headed in the wrong direction.

Most disturbing is the fact that Petrock has been remarkably closemouthed on the important issues surrounding Dr. Jackson’s departure – and has attempted to dismiss solid news reports as being based upon “rumors” and “misinformation.”

In my view, Petrock’s response is in keeping with the board’s apparent failure to ensure adequate due diligence on the company which ultimately received the dorm contract.

For example, when there is evidence that a managing partner has been sued (twice) for fraud – and a mysterious forensic examiners report shows that the original agreement with the company may have contained Dr. Jackson’s forged signature – maybe the board should have taken a second look?

Hell, any one of those glaring clues should have resulted in an immediate all-stop.

It’s high time that Bethune-Cookman look outside the cronyism and hangers-on in Daytona Beach and find an experienced change-agent with a reputation for financial conservatism and a background in successfully turning around challenged organizations.

The right person is out there.

This historic university is far too important to the life of our community – and the legacy of Mary McCloud Bethune deserves better from its caretakers.

Don’t you think?

Now, 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 have a peek at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:          Volusia County School Board

Several weeks back, I included a piece in this space taking the Volusia County School Board to task for their absurd practice of hopscotching school principals – a strategy that has resulted in instability, uncertainty, and a distinct lack of leadership – especially in difficult to manage schools.

Earlier this month, Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte personally appeared before the School Board and read an important open letter from Mayor John Penny asking for a halt to the constant churn of senior executives at the Holly Hill K-8 School.

To say that the good citizens of Holly Hill have been repeatedly screwed by district officials is an understatement.

For instance, in 2011 the community was in line for a new middle school – only to be jumped by the construction of Hinson Middle in Ormond Beach.  Then, Volusia County told the city that it now lacked sufficient student population to justify a new school.

The old switch-a-roo.

Instead, the school district built a weird, seemingly experimental, Kindergarten through Eighth Grade facility which has desperately struggled since the merger of Holly Hill’s middle and elementary schools.

Apparently, in the past six-years the Holly Hill K-8 has seen five principals and seven assistant principals pass through the doors – something that has resulted in a poor performing school with little hope for improvement.

In my view, the City of Holly Hill is struggling to improve economic development and build a better quality of life for its residents.  This is made more difficult by the presence of a neglected and chronically failing school.

My hat’s off to Mayor Penny and City Manager Forte for their strong leadership in taking the fight to the Volusia County School board.  They recognize that students and families in this beautiful but challenged community deserve better – and they are working hard for substantive change.

Angel:             Halifax Health District Board of Commissioners

Kudos to the Halifax Health District Board of Commissioners for their hard work in reducing the current tax rate for the publicly funded hospital.

This represents an 88% reduction since 2007.  That’s impressive.

I know folks can be hyper-critical of Halifax Medical Center – but I spent a week there once and found the experience most satisfactory.  In fact, the customer service and medical care I received was second-to-none, literally from the time I walked in the front door.

It’s refreshing to see a local taxing district that practices sound fiscal management and supports its operations independent of public funds.  Rather than working from the assumption that tax dollars will always be on the increase, Halifax Health has developed strategic long-term plans for other sources of income.

Volusia County has one of the highest combined tax rates in the State of Florida.  Clearly, Halifax Health is the one taxing district setting the standard for reducing this crippling burden that continues to hurt area families and hinder real economic development in the region.

Good job!

Angel:             Daytona Beach Special Master David Vukelja

 Earlier this week, the City of Daytona Beach – through Special Master David Vukelja – took another bold stand against malignant beachside blight when the resolute magistrate once again held landlord Jack Aberman’s feet to the fire.

After being forced to apply for rental licenses on 14 properties, Daytona Beach will now require that Aberman open each of those units to inspectors before August 2 – you know, just like everyone else.

Area residents are right to be skeptical – after all, many have lived next door to drug dens, flophouses, hobo jungles, overgrown lots and unlicensed rental properties for years.

Evidence suggests that Aberman – and others like him – have advertised substandard residential properties and reaped the benefits that naturally result from putting profits over preventive maintenance.

At the core of the process is the right of people to live in reasonably safe surroundings with the basic necessities of modern shelter – clean water, a secure roof, sanitary septic – a space free of vermin and insect infestation.  Is that too much to ask?

Apparently, it is for some Daytona Beach landlords – especially when life safety codes are viewed as an impediment to cash flow.

During this week’s hearing, a former victim who shared two of Mr. Aberman’s homes with a host of rodents, questioned whether the landlord would once again skate through the code enforcement process unscathed as he has so many times before?

Clearly, liens and civil enforcement actions mean nothing to those who exploit the system for personal gain.

My hope is that Mr. Vukelja’s firm, no-nonsense approach will force compliance once and for all.

In my view, if Mr. Aberman continues this gross manipulation of the “affordable housing” cycle – to include accepting some $90,000 in public funds to make repairs to 18 commercial rental units (and avoid enforcement action) many of which deteriorated back into abject squalor – should result in criminal prosecution.

Recently, a big fuss was made after the Volusia and Flagler Sheriff’s Departments arrested a few unlicensed general contractors.  What about a continuing enterprise that has advertised and rented unsafe, vermin infested, substandard and unlicensed housing units for years, subjecting cash paying customers to the dangers of life safety and property code violations then pocketing the profits?

If that’s not an on-going criminal exploitation of those who can ill afford to be taken advantage of, I don’t know what is.

Asshole:          Gloria Daniels and Halifax Health Medical Center 

 I wrote about this earlier in the week – but it bears repeating.

Recently, I saw a meme depicting an infant child and a small dog which said, “If you have to be told we’ll die in a hot car, you’re too stupid to have either of us.”

Last Sunday, Gloria Daniels – a homeless person from Illinois who was living from her automobile – suffered chest pain and drove to Halifax Hospital for medical assistance.  Unfortunately, she left her small pug in the car, apparently thinking that cracking a window and leaving food and water would allow the dog to survive the hellish heat of a Florida July afternoon.

To add insult to injury – a security officer found the dog in the car.  Thank God, right?

Wrong.

Rather than immediately act to rescue the animal from almost certain heat injury or death – this mental midget opts to leave him put and “check” on the pup a couple of times before finding it dead in the car – cooked to an internal temperature of 109.9.

He literally watched the animal die.

For her failure to report the dog’s presence in the car, Daniels has been rightfully charged with a felony crime for her cruelty.  But in all honesty, when did her responsibility end – and the security officers begin?

She was admitted for a medical emergency and left her pet behind in the parking lot – Daniels should have alerted someone, if she was able.

The security guard was just an irresponsible dipshit.  Mid-afternoon on a July 9th?  Really?

Look, no one stands-up for cops, firefighters, security personnel and other first responders as vehemently and consistently as I do.  Even when they’re wrong – because I know first-hand the no-win situations they face daily.

But this case is patently indefensible – knowingly leaving a dog trapped in a 115-degree oven for hours on a summer afternoon is beyond my comprehension.

This represents willful and wanton negligence and deserves to be dealt with in the harshest of terms.  In my view, this level of abject stupidity and gross carelessness simply cannot be foisted on those who depend on professional security services.

Folks – I’m begging you – if you have pets or small children, please develop a system to double-check the interior of your vehicle and ensure that no one is left behind, even for a minute, every time you exit the car.

Every time. 

And if you come upon an animal or child trapped inside a hot vehicle, take rapid and decisive action to ventilate the interior, remove the victim as rapidly as possible, then contact law enforcement and emergency medical personnel immediately.

I keep a window-shattering spike in my vehicle’s “go bag” for just such an emergency.

Seconds matter.

Asshole:          Senate President Joe Negron 

I’m a prime example that not everyone is cut out for college.  I was either too smart or too dumb to join my contemporaries into the ivy-covered walls of higher education – a decision I’ve regretted numerous times in my life.

However, Daytona Beach Community College, now part of Florida’s state college system, gave me the opportunity to attend a local law enforcement recruit school and begin a successful career.

Other’s I know have moved on to great things after attending Daytona State’s nursing, culinary, emergency medical and fire service programs.

It’s literally a place for local kids to jump-start their lives.

Community colleges provide access to education and technical training opportunities for thousands of citizens who either lack the tuition or grades required to qualify for in-state or private universities.  Course offerings at state colleges tend to mirror the requirements of the local workforce, while also offering a limited selection of baccalaureate degrees.

Recently, Senate President Joe Negron twisted arms and worked overtime to boost funding for Florida’s universities at the expense – and detriment – of the state college system.

According to Negron’s thinking, state colleges offering four-year degrees represent direct competition to Florida’s universities – and he apparently believes community colleges should be relegated to trade school status – all while he worked to help certain state universities achieve “elite” status.

That’s bullshit.

For a time following my retirement, I worked in the international flight training industry where I helped negotiate a contract with a state college in Central Florida to provide a comprehensive pilot training curriculum, aircraft and airport facilities.

It was clear that our operation would never compete with the likes of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – nor was it meant to.

Our company provided a unique opportunity for non-traditional students and veterans to obtain flight training in preparation for a career in aviation at the reasonable cost found at state and community colleges.

Look, I agree that the third-largest state in the union should have at least one university ranked in the nation’s top 10 (University of Florida is ranks 13th, while Florida State comes in at 38th) – but not at the expense of local educational opportunities.

In the end, Negron and the State Legislature shorted state colleges some $25 million dollars in a convoluted scheme that also seriously hurt traditional public schools, students and communities throughout the state.

This Tallahassee Two-Step – “pet project” – crap needs to end.

Quote of the Week:

“Current stats compiled by the local United Way show that nearly half of Volusia County households can be described as impoverished or “asset-limited, income constrained” — a phrase describing families that don’t meet the legal cutoff for poverty, but struggle to afford decent housing, food and other basic needs.”

Daytona Beach News-Journal Editorial, Use Caution with Taxes, July 7, 2017

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

 

 

I’m Begging You – Let’s help make it stop

I recently saw a meme depicting an infant child and a small dog which said, “If you have to be told we’ll die in a hot car, you’re too stupid to have either of us.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fed up with the number of innocent children and dogs that suffer and die each year after being left or forgotten in hot cars – a grim occurrence that naturally peaks during the sweltering summer months.

Last Sunday, Gloria Daniels – a homeless person from Illinois who was apparently living from her automobile – suffered chest pain and drove to Halifax Hospital for medical assistance.  Unfortunately, she left her small pug in the car, apparently thinking that merely cracking a window and leaving food and water would allow the dog to survive the hellish heat of a Florida July afternoon.

A security officer found the dog in the car.  Thank God, right?

Wrong.

Rather than immediately act to rescue the animal from almost certain heat injury or death – this mental midget opts to leave him put and “check” on the pup a couple of times before finding it dead in the car – cooked to an internal temperature of 109.9.

Come on.  He literally watched the animal die.

For her failure to report the dog’s presence in the car, Daniels has been rightfully charged with a felony crime for her cruelty.  But in all honesty, when did her responsibility and criminal liability end – and the security officers begin?

She was admitted for a medical emergency and left her pet behind in the hospital parking lot – Daniels should have alerted someone, if she was physically able.

The security guard was just an irresponsible dipshit.

Mid-afternoon on a July 9th?

Really?

Look, no one stands-up for cops, firefighters, security personnel and other first responders as vehemently and consistently as I do.  Even when they’re wrong – because I know first-hand the no-win situations they face daily.

But this case is patently indefensible – knowingly leaving a dog trapped in a 115-degree oven for hours on a summer afternoon is beyond my comprehension.

To my mind, this represents willful and wanton negligence and deserves to be dealt with in the harshest of terms.

I happen to know Halifax Health Security Chief Mark Jones personally.  He is a good man, dedicated to public protection, and a proven asset to Halifax Medical Center.  I have every confidence that he will take appropriate action to see that the offending officer is held personally accountable for this sickening inattention to their ethical responsibility as a security professional to protect life and property – in all its forms.

Far be it from me to tell Chief Jones how to do his job, but this asshole should be launched like a Saturn 5.

Now.

The security of a medical facility is a difficult and incredibly important job – due, in part, to the vulnerability of patients, professionals and others who visit and work in the relatively open environment of a hospital.

In my view, this level of abject stupidity and gross carelessness simply cannot be foisted on those who depend on professional security services.

Folks – I’m begging you – if you have pets or small children, please develop a system to double-check the interior of your vehicle and ensure that no one is left behind, even for a minute, every time you exit the car.

Every time. 

And if you come upon an animal or child trapped inside a hot vehicle, take rapid and decisive action to ventilate the interior, remove the victim as rapidly as possible, then contact law enforcement and emergency medical personnel immediately.

I keep a window-shattering spike in my vehicle’s “go bag” for just such an emergency.

Trust me.  Seconds matter.

 

On Daytona: Bring Back “Chatterbox”

I enjoy reading the news.

It’s how I learn.

In days gone by, I used to like the feel of newsprint in my hands – the smell of the ink and shiny black residue that would appear on your fingers gave the feeling you were part of things.

The consumer.  The last link in the chain.

Back in the day, it took a symphony of professionals – reporters, editors, layout specialists, typesetters, pressmen, distribution and delivery folks – everyone coordinating against the clock to get it right and get it to your door.

Those who grew up in the Halifax area might recall getting both a morning, and an evening, newspaper.  We even had a “society column” known as “Chatterbox” written by the inimitable Margie Schlageter.

How things have changed.

Today I take my news almost exclusively online.  I can read an aggregate of trending articles from around the world, three or four national newspapers, a few digital opinion sites and finish up with our local paper in the time it takes me to finish a couple-cups of coffee.

I read it all.

A check of my browser bookmarks finds an eclectic list of hard news, editorial, national politics and alternative opinion blog sites that I frequent – everything from The Economist to obscure New Orleans street-sheets.

But I always return to my favorite – The Daytona Beach News-Journal – the paper that first fueled my obsession with current events, gave my father and I a point to connect, helped teach me to read analytically and think critically, and brought the latest news of the day to our doorstep every morning.

It still fascinates me – and the newspaper continues to provide for my on-going education.

For instance, just last week I learned that an Osteen man found a human skull in a bag while mowing his lawn.

Oddly, I wasn’t surprised by that.  You probably weren’t either.

After all, this is Florida – the sight of an alligator walking through a crowded parking lot with a corpse clamped firmly in his jaws is almost commonplace – and dinner table conversations often start with, “Honey, I heard the neighbor found a set of human feet in a Publix bag on the side lawn.  I wish people were more considerate. . . How was work?”

No, I just took another sip of coffee and moved on – reading the latest How Great Thou Art piece on yet another member of Daytona’s uber-elite – then perused the most recent installment of the Who Bought the France Manse? series.

I also learned that a recent study of financial hardship conducted by the United Way found that 89,476 Volusia County households are considered impoverished or “asset-limited, income constrained.” 

It goes by the cute acronym – ALICE.      

The term represents those among us who are working, but due to child care costs, “transportation challenges,” high cost of living, food, fuel, taxes, etc. are living paycheck-to-paycheck – just above the poverty threshold.

You read that right.  42% of our families are impoverished.

The study also found that Volusia – the second highest taxed county in Florida – has an average household income that is a dismal $7,000 less than the state average.

Go figure.

Over the weekend, I also learned of a plea agreement with a convicted felon who was in possession of a firearm and shot a young man in the chest – killing him in the street – as the two argued over some frivolous issue on Garden Street last year.

Page C-3.

Apparently, the State of Florida and the accused killer’s defense attorney reached an agreement which will have him serve just 15-years in prison.

The victim was 25-years old.

Life gets cheaper everyday here on the Fun Coast.

Not a lot of outcry from that ugly news either.

I guess we’ve become desensitized – comfortably numb – to violent crime, political corruption, neglect and abject poverty in the Halifax area.

I mean, we’ve had so much smoke pumped up our ass by the chamber of commerce set and our local elected and appointed officials that our basic human emotions of shock and empathy have developed a thick mahogany bark.

To assist our collective anesthetization, local media outlets on the Fun Coast put great emphasis on the frivolous.

Meaningless, empty issues become “big news” – such as making a pulp fiction mystery series out of the identity of a recent homebuyer – someone who paid less than $5-million dollars for a home real estate experts say would have brought $20-million anywhere in South Florida (you know, a place where the newspaper of record doesn’t waste a good reporters time trying to publicly identify a buyer who wishes to remain anonymous. . .)

Perhaps you’ve enjoyed the fourth or fifth installment of the News-Journal’s in-depth exposé on a carnival vendor erecting transitory midway rides in that ugly scar on the City’s boardwalk – a temporary spackling to cover that gaping hole – at least until the Shriner’s mega-convention is over, anyway.

Or the fact that the ‘powers that be’ in Port Orange are still hung-up on who they should name the old police department building after.

Man, that civic conundrum has provided weeks of diversion for the masses, eh?

Apparently, the number of residents who submitted facetious names to point out how ludicrous these things become – such as “Building McBuilding Face,” “Little Trump” and “The Forgotten One” – was lost on their elected officials, folks who take these things very seriously.

After all, what good is public service without getting your name on one of those ubiquitous bronze plaques that prominently grace every public works project in every city in the world – a goofy monument listing the name of every politician and appointed official associated with the thing except those who paid for it?

I’m often taken to task for being negative about everything – nothing ever seems to measure up in my world – and well-intentioned people say that Barker’s View should spend more time looking at the positives, you know, “building up” our areas “renaissance” instead of constantly pointing out our faults and blemishes.

Perhaps.

But my legendary hypocrisy only goes so far.

In my view, contributing to this smokescreen of positivity is a disservice to those intrepid citizens who have taken the blinders off and are working diligently to bring attention to the serious social, economic and civic issues that face communities throughout the Halifax area.

Grassroots efforts that are gaining true momentum in stimulating those in City Hall and beyond to begin the arduous and expensive process of tackling blight, dilapidation and the feeling of hopelessness that has hampered true revitalization for years.

Apparently, regular readers of this forum feel the same way.

I’m extremely pleased to report that this experiment in alternative opinion continues to post impressive numbers, with thousands of readers seeking out these amateurish screeds monthly.

Maybe our local media could take a hint?

Look, we are hungry for hard news – we need the good, the bad and ugly – and the incredible response to solid, in-depth reportage, such as the News-Journal’s “Tarnished Jewel” series, demonstrates that.

If our politicians and the “Power Brokers” who control them need their ego stroked – let them join a Country Club.  The rest of us need objective reporting to form solid opinions – and develop our situational awareness on the important issues of the day.

Perhaps it’s time for the Daytona Beach News-Journal to resurrect Chatterbox and get the society gossip – and self-important blathering’s of enthusiastic millionaires telling us how wonderful we all have it – off the front page.

What do you think?

By the way – please join Barker’s View this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm on GovStuff Live! with Big John on WELE 1380am, or online at http://www.govstuff.org (listen live button) as we discuss the topics important to our lives and livelihoods in the Halifax area.

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for July 7, 2017

Hi, Kids!

Here we are on the cusp of the big Shriners International mega-convention at the Ocean Center and things in and around our core tourist areas are looking up!

If you haven’t driven down Atlantic Avenue in the last week I encourage you to have a look-see at what a fresh coat of paint and a few pallets of sod can do for the overall aesthetic of the place.

Look, you and I both know it’s a thin veneer – a façade, really – and that if history repeats as it is wont to do, we will plunge right back into the squalor, blight and destitution that we experience when we don’t have guests over.

But what the hell – enjoy it while it lasts, right?

For now, just sit back and appreciate all the self-important accolades by and for everyone who has a personal need to take individual credit for the convention.

I mean, everyone who is anyone is writing their version of history in the pages of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – recounting old memories of meetings gone by, and hyper-inflating their contributions and “leadership” in tales that get taller with each telling.

But what the hell – what good is a mega-convention if you can’t attach your name to it?

Plus, I enjoy poking fun at these blowhards.  (It’s why people hate me.  It’s why I hate me. . .)

Frankly, I don’t give a damn whose idea it was – after all the yammering, political posturing and money spent – let’s just be glad the Shriners are arriving – en masse – with their fezzes at a jaunty tilt and their clown cars and motorcycle squads polished and ready for the big parade.

The organization does tremendous work through the famous Shriners Hospitals for Children – charitable work that has earned Shriners International a Four Star (97%) rating for accountability and transparency.

Good work, gentlemen.

Let’s wish the nobles well as they enjoy what we all hope will be a great week on the “World’s Most Famous Beach.”    

Now, 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 see who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:          The County of Volusia

There are certain pivot points where we get an opportunity to see just how bloated and out-of-control County Manager Jim Dinneen’s shit-train of an administration truly is.

Several recent high-profile screw-ups on the beach introduced us to numerous directors, deputy directors, supervisors, consultants, contractors, and a host of other high-paid chieftains and hangers-on who make up this sprawling bureaucracy that has grown like a malignant wart fed on tax dollars.

For instance, last week’s no-parking debacle behind the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project bought us a lecture by Beach Safety Director Ray Manchester – then Mr. Dinneen deflected blame on something called the “Coastal Division,” which, according to Volusia County, is responsible for “managing, maintaining and improving coastal parks, beach access and coastal recreational facilities for the quality-of-life benefit of residents and visitors.”

 We were also introduced to the culprit responsible for the parking cone issue, Jessica Winterwerp, the Director of the Coastal Division – who, by-the-by, reports to a completely different Director than Director Manchester.

Director Winterwerp has been busy of late trying to figure out how to speed things up at beach access kiosks after Council Chairman Ed Kelley had to wait a few minutes for the common peons ahead of him to settle their bill, listen to the litany of rules, roll their windows down and turn on their lights, before driving onto the strand.

How many overlapping layers does it take to manage a public beach?  I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.

But perhaps it explains why it costs $10 bucks to get on the beach. . .

Now, we learn that Volusia County will reach down and dictate the manner and means by which beach concessionaires can earn their livelihood and feed their families in the future.

In typical fashion, the county is raising fees, enacting onerous regulations, and doing everything in their considerable power to price the independent operator out of the business.

That includes the asinine requirement that everything from hot dog carts to ice cream trucks be painted a homogenized white.

Why?

Well, our tyrannical elected and appointed officials couch this gross overreach, and open suppression of the free market, in the tired promise that they’re doing it all in our best interest.

In her latest contribution to any issue of the day – something we can expect week-in-and-week-out until the 2018 election – the always self-important Councilwoman Deb Denys commented, “This is a discussion council has to (have).  However, I do know part of the goal is to bring the vendors up to a better quality visually. We want a better product.”

 No, you don’t.  You want more money, Deb.

You want to continue propagating ridiculous rules, regulations, fees, “do this, don’t do that” decrees, erecting more signage, and doing anything possible to make the “beach experience” so burdensome on families and visitors that we simply give up and allow you to exploit what’s left as cheap incentives for speculative developers.

Why won’t you simply admit it?  I, for one, would respect you if you did.

I encourage everyone who cares about the future of our beach to take a minute and join Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere grassroots beach advocacy group.

If you are fed up with overpaid county bureaucrats telling you and your family what you can and cannot do on your public beach – or believe that our heritage of beach driving deserves protection from the arbitrary whims of the uber-rich – please visit http://www.sonsofthebeach.org and sign-up.

Maybe even toss a few bucks to your new civic organization to help with legal fees and other programs to protect our most important economic engine.

You’ll be glad you did.

Angels:            Citizens 4 Responsible Development

How could anyone in the Halifax Area not be totally impressed with the consistently good work of Amy Pyle, Linda Smiley, Anne Ruby, Sandy Murphy, Ken Strickland and the members of Citizens 4 Responsible Development?

Not content to stand back and accept more of the same, C4RD boldly steps into the breach and develops workable solutions to problems that have plagued Daytona’s beachside and beyond for decades.

Now, the group is pushing forward with plans to bring colorful artwork to the desolation and dreariness of Main Street.

By partnering with ArtHaus, a local artist supply dealer, C4RD members obtained a ready source of student artwork for display in the empty windows and dingy storefronts of Main Street.  This simple, but highly effective project promises to bring life, charm and a true sense of community back to this historically challenged area.

Thank you C4RD – and the other grassroots organizations that are working hard for effective and lasting change.

Asshole:          Lambda Legal

In some weird attempt to bring attention to themselves, Lambda Legal, the self-described “oldest and largest national legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work,” is attempting to defend the indefensible.

Earlier this week, the organization publicly criticized Sheriff Mike Chitwood and his deputies for the arrests of 18 degenerates who were observed by law enforcement officers engaging in open sex acts in public parks throughout Volusia County.

According to Susan Sommer, Lambdas Director of Constitutional Litigation, “It’s very disturbing, the effort to publicly shame and humiliate gay men.  It puts men at risk of harassment, of even vigilante behavior against them, and generally these kinds of law enforcement techniques are more draconian than any alleged transgression would warrant.”

What? 

Susan, I strongly suggest that you get out of your New York City office and see for yourself what the good people of Volusia County – gay and straight – have been dealing with for years.

During a long career in law enforcement, I both participated in and supervised hundreds of vice suppression operations.  In my experience, most of these perverts aren’t gay men at all – they are warped assholes with a compulsion to anonymously seek out like-types and openly expose themselves and masturbate in public spaces and restrooms.  Period.

This isn’t about developing meaningful, long-term relationships – in fact, many times words aren’t even exchanged.

It is disturbing, unsanitary and dangerous.

Unfortunately, this conduct is so widespread that I cannot think of one local jurisdiction that is not adversely affected by it – which is why I would never go to any public park – and I damn sure wouldn’t take small children to one.

And members of our community who are gay find this behavior just as offensive as any heterosexual citizen does.

The reasons why we are even having this bizarre conversation speaks volumes about how disjointed and completely out-of-touch our society has truly become in 2017.  I mean, there are obviously more pressing civil rights and sexual orientation issues that organizations like Lambda Legal can focus their efforts on?

Attempting to justify open sexual conduct in public parks – places where young children go to play – is the height of irresponsibility and, in my view, irreparably damages the cause and reputation of the LGBT community by associating law abiding gay and transgender people with a criminal sex offense.

As Sheriff Chitwood said:

“What group stands up for the people that want to use the park and should not be subject to a man masturbating or a man walking up to them soliciting sex and rubbing their groin and grabbing their ass?  So, their argument holds no water with me.”  

 It doesn’t hold water with me either, Sheriff.

 Good Job, sir.    

 Angel:             City of Daytona Beach

Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission for considering permitting food trucks to have a bigger impact on our limited local dining scene.

Anyone who has been outside the cultural wasteland of Volusia County can attest to the popularity of food trucks.

Of course, some are worried that the presence of these movable food vendors will somehow “erode the economic health” of existing brick-and-mortar restaurants – but in all honesty – I don’t see that happening in communities where food trucks have been embraced for the convenience and alternative they provide.

Look, it seems that restaurants in the Halifax area have a life expectancy of about 18-months – regardless if it’s a chain or a mom-and-pop.  Sadly, they come and they go.

I recently attended a party at Ormond Brewery and had a chance to sample the delicious food produced by “Southern State of Mind” – an insanely popular food truck operated by my old friend Lee Buckner – a local family man with a phenomenal talent in the culinary arts.

Trust me – If you haven’t tried the slow smoked pulled pork, you’re doing it wrong.

In my view, food trucks add a festive atmosphere wherever they set up – and its high time the citizens of Daytona Beach have the opportunity to enjoy the eclectic offerings these unique venues provide.

Quote of the Week:

“There was not an inch of the beach not covered with garbage, it’s everybody’s cups, food, plates, alcohol, you name it. There are cigarettes, diapers, pads, tampons, needles — it’s pretty disgusting.”

Kary Ford, CFB Outdoors, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal regarding post-July 4th beach cleanup efforts

 

Volusia Deputies Association: Bold Move

Over the trajectory of a long career in law enforcement, I have seen both sides of the labor/management divide.

The good, the bad and the ugly of organized representation in public service – and the ever-changing bounty and abuses by elected and appointed officials who alternately curry favor with – or openly punish – unions depending upon which way the political wind blows.

When I was first hired, my department had only recently organized with the Police Benevolent Association and feelings on all sides of the equation were still raw.  And throughout my career I was in-and-out of the union due to various internecine squabbles or promotions.

Trust me when I say that 35-years ago a small-town police officer made substantially less than they do now – and city policy prohibited us from working a second job or off-duty details.  I was 22-years old, just a kid, really, and I didn’t make as much as my friends in the private sector.  I was also required to pay into the pension fund, union dues, etc. (my friends did not) which left very little at the end of the month.

I was ridiculed, laughed at, told by friends and family to go to college, get into business, start making money and build a comfortable life.

My first wife and I divorced my rookie year.

I think the instability, changing hours, call-outs, low pay, and the natural uncertainty that police families face every time their loved one leaves for work all conspired against us.  Plus, we were young and couldn’t see beyond tomorrow.  Those anxieties are still a reality for law enforcement families and they always will be.  It’s not for everyone.

When I came on the department I found a family.

Like all families, my fellow officers and I could argue and fistfight (but nobody else better get involved or you fought all of us) and we forged strong bonds that transcended working hours.  In fact, for a period, I don’t recall having more than a handful of friends who weren’t cops.

We worked together, drank together, celebrated births, weddings and deaths together, laughed together, cried together, got thrown out of bars together, and, in some cases, we lived together.

Regardless of how problematic life became, I always knew that if I could just make it back to the police department there were people in that building who truly cared about me – and that no matter what – I would always have a couch to sleep on, a hot meal, a cold beer and someone who could help me work through the issue.

For instance, one time I really needed three-hundred dollars.

I mean, I really needed three-hundred bucks.

I made some stupid financial mistakes and overextended – bought a used Nissan 280ZX, a sportscar that was just on the cusp of what I could afford, applied for my first American Express card, spent a few too many nights picking up bar tabs and ran up a few unexpected bills.

Twenty-three years old, recently divorced, and dead broke.

They were coming for my car – my only means of transportation to and from work – and my rent was due.  My roommate is now the insanely successful owner of a major Daytona Beach automobile dealership – but at the time – he didn’t have the cash to meet both halves of the rent either.

I was between a rock and a hard place, as they say.

Just when I thought I was about to suffer the embarrassment and inconvenience of having to turn my car back into the dealership – my sergeant pulled me aside in the locker room, quietly handed me three one-hundred dollar bills, and said, “Pay me back when you can.”

I scrimped and saved until I repaid the debt – but I will never forget that unexpected act of kindness by a brother officer.  I didn’t ask for the money – and he really didn’t have it to give – but he knew I had a problem and did what he could to help.

That’s what being part of this incredible brotherhood and sisterhood is all about.

We’re both retired now – but I recently reminded that wonderful man how much his generosity meant to me.

He jokingly asked when I was going to pay him back. . .

I’ve noticed that law enforcement officers today have lost some of that collegial closeness, amity and camaraderie that us “old school” cops knew “back in the day.”  We tended to remain with the same agency for 30-years – enjoying the good times and suffering the bad times together.

Times change, and the new breed of young men and women called to the police service tend to be more career oriented, less focused on custom and tradition, and much better educated than my generation of officers.

They question the “why” of things.  We rarely did.

For good or for ill, this “new generation” are more self-aware – and infinitely more mindful of better opportunities elsewhere.

Law enforcement has become less of the lifestyle it was when I was young – and more of a technical career path where practitioners hopscotch departments and disciplines depending upon how green the grass may be compared to where they currently serve.

They have in-demand skills – and they want, and deserve, to be adequately compensated for their contribution.

Most of the people that I came up with in local law enforcement are either retired or serving in senior leadership positions – and when we get together these days the tales get taller and we commiserate over health insurance, lament the latest knee replacement, share pictures of the grand kids – and invariably tell the young cops how it was “back in our day.”

Knowing full-well that this generation is facing some of the most difficult social circumstances to ever confront the police service in the United States.

Now, the Volusia Deputies Association find themselves in a pitched battle with County Manager Jim Dinneen’s administration over an antiquated pay and benefits package that has resulted in an exodus from the Sheriff’s Office in recent years.

Add to that the current culture war within the agency that naturally occurs when a very popular and charismatic long-term sheriff like Ben Johnson is replaced by a very popular and charismatic outsider like Mike Chitwood, and you have some serious organizational stressors at play.

The deputy’s union has been roundly criticized for their recent public awareness effort utilizing a large truck sign announcing, “Volusia Deputies are Understaffed and Underpaid – Enjoy the races at your own risk,” which they paraded up-and-down International Speedway Boulevard during the big Coke 400.

Good on them.  Bold move.

This stark message might embarrass the ‘powers that be’ – and you may not agree with it – but it’s damn sure true.

Some have complained that the union appears to be crying poor-mouth in an environment where the average per capita income is in the toilet (whose fault is that?) – even Sheriff Chitwood belittled the effort as a “juvenile prank” and encouraged members to take the 3% retroactive deal the union leadership recently rejected.

Granted, I’m supernaturally biased when it comes to the issue of law enforcement pay and benefits – and, I’ve been on the management side of the bargaining table, trying hard to keep compensation and expensive benefits in line with my bosses demands – but the fact remains, if we paid these brave men and women what they are worth we couldn’t afford them.

Imagine actually living the biblical verse, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Here I am.  Send me.”

Willingly and repeatedly putting your life, and your family’s future, on the line for people you don’t even know – even people who hate you – day in and day out – in a furnace-like environment where the vitriol, hatred of established authority, and the open slaughter of members of your service is increasing exponentially throughout the nation.

That takes pluck.

The fact is, these deputies do a remarkably dangerous and dirty job with a high-degree of pride, honor and professionalism in an era where those increasingly quaint attributes are snickered at.

Going into harm’s way and facing the horrors of the worst-of-the-worst of our society – protecting and serving under extremely difficult circumstances – with their every word and movement recorded for later criticism by those who could have, would have, done it better.

Given the abject greed, mismanagement and fiscal waste that is the hallmark of the Dinneen administration – the gross executive salaries, multiple retirements, deferred compensation plans, allowances and insurance packages – hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual pay and benefits to a county manager and senior bureaucrats who continue to accept bloated pay raises while proving daily that their personal and professional loyalties lay exclusively with a handful of power brokers with a profit motive.

While Sheriff Chitwood may disagree with the method of getting the message out – he ran a wildly successful campaign on the very foundation of securing a better wage for his deputies.

Given the wide margin by which the Sheriff was swept into office – it appears a sizable majority of the good people of Volusia County agree.

I also hope that union leadership will avoid putting their membership in the middle of a clash of the titans.  Reasonableness and compromise is all important to the collective bargaining process.

In my view, we simply cannot allow our sheriff’s office to become a training ground, a steppingstone to Orange County, Seminole County, the Orlando Police Department and beyond.

Reasonable compensation and benefits strategies that reduce pay compression, restore regional competitiveness and encourage a progressive, career-oriented environment at VCSO will pay dividends in increased service delivery and better institutional knowledge for years to come.

We need that now, more than ever.

I hope you will join me in supporting the Volusia Deputies Association Local 6035 in their effort to secure a better future for the courageous men and women of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office – and their families – who sacrifice so much for our security and protection.

 

Photo Credit:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

Happy Independence Day!

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effe  ct their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.