WTF? Petty Politics Reaches a New Low in Deltona

You are going to see this again on Friday in something I call “Angels & Assholes.”

Something tells me you will be able to decern in which category it will appear. . .

I’ve seen some petty shit in my day – but Deltona’s spiteful Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez takes the cake.

During three decades in public service working with elected officials of all stripes, I learned a lot about human nature, hubris, and the effect of power and position on small minds – but I’ll be damned if I have ever seen anything like the continuing shitshow staged in a dumpster fire that passes for “governance” in the Lost City of Deltona. 

Maritza Avila-Vasquez

As many frustrated residents will attest – I am not alone in that assessment.  

As the utterly dysfunctional Deltona City Commission begins the expensive process of hiring the umpteenth city manager in its brief history – once again, another distracting sideshow was staged when the thin-skinned Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez filed a formal complaint against fellow commissioner Dana McCool with the Florida Commission on Ethics in December.    

What heinous violation of Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers is Avila-Vasquez alleging?

Graft?  No.

Public corruption?  Not even close.

Nepotism?  No.

Violating the State Constitution?  Nah.

Financial disclosures and voting conflicts?  Not hardly. 

According to Ms. Avila-Vasquez – Commissioner McCool engaged in conduct far more monstrous, toxic, and deleterious to the public trust when she used inappropriate language during a testy off-the-dais exchange in October. . .

Yep.  Commissioner McCool dropped the “F-Bomb” to the Vice Mayor.

Good for Ms. McCool.    

In my view, the abject obscenities that have been foisted on the good citizens of Deltona since Avila-Vasquez and her “colleagues” were elected to high office – the political roil, massive staff turnover, behind-the-scenes machinations, rubber-stamping of land use changes, discrimination suits, utter dysfunction at City Hall, and the destabilizing game of musical chairs in the executive suit – has been far more detrimental to the public trust – and city coffers – than any frustrated tirade by a passionate elected official who cares. 

But in the Vice Mayor’s world – all that matters is her delicate sensibilities.

Commissioner Dana McCool

In July 2022, Avila-Vasquez became angry when she did not get her way following a request to then acting City Manager John Peters and Deputy City Manager Stacey Kifolo demanding that an event she supported be advertised by the City of Deltona. 

During an August City Commission meeting, the Vice Mayor publicly excoriated Kifolo from the dais – openly embarrassing a senior city official at a public meeting – something that did not sit well with several of her colleagues, including Commissioner McCool.

According to Avila-Vasquez’ formal complaint, “After that meeting I was verbally attacked by residents accusing me of disrespecting Ms. Kifolo and demanding my resignation due to breaking charter rules and malfeasance.  None of which was legally proven to be correct.”

(To be completely transparent, there was never an independent hearing to determine if the Vice Mayor’s conduct violated provisions of the charter – merely the opinion of the contracted city attorney and assistant city attorney. . .) 

During a subsequent meeting, things boiled over when then Commissioner David Sosa took exception to Ms. Avila-Vasquez’ lambasting of Ms. Kifolo, resulting in Mayor Heidi Herzberg calling a five-minute cooldown. 

Behind the scenes, Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez approached Sosa outside the public meeting (?) and inquired “what that was all about.”  According to the complaint, during that exchange, Avila-Vasquez observed Commissioner McCool approaching her and “I asked her to stay away from me and walked back to the dais.”

When the meeting ended, according to Avila-Vasquez’ grammatical nightmare of a case in chief:

“I walked down to the chamber to ask a staff member a question.  When I turned to walk out the back door, I was confronted by Commissioner McCool who questioned me as to why I told her to stay away.  She went on to say she was sick of my attitude**comments, & complaining and used many F-bombs.  She said – Who the hell did I think I was?  She kept on using the F-bombs towards me and was very threatening with her words.  I believe at one point I had the opportunity to ask her what her problem was, she responded by saying, “You and your F-bombs words” She walked away still cursing at me., Her final words were; “It is ok.  You have 4 F-bomb weeks left and then your F-bomb Ass will be out of here”.  Elections were 4 weeks away from that day.  There are witnesses to this exchange – both Staff and the Mayor.”

In my view, the crux of the matter is revealed in Avila-Vasquez’ “Statement of Facts,” wherein she states, “Commissioner McColl (sic) was openly politicking for my opponent and was using these events to try and embarrass me in a public meeting.”

Sounds an awful lot like F-bomb political revenge to me. . . 

In September 2022, Acting City Manager John Peters was removed from office after he asked to resign from the role and return to his former job as Public Works Director.  

Then, on or about October 7, 2022, Deputy City Manager Stacey Kifolo was mysteriously “suspended with pay” for reasons that were never made clear – taking her out of the running for the interim role – just as the City Commission took up a dubious “process” (one that had all the earmarks of a foregone conclusion) which ultimately led to former Daytona Beach City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm being tapped to replace Peters in an acting status.

So, what fate befell Stacey Kifolo after her run-in with the almighty Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez? 

Your F-bomb guess is as good as mine. . . 

Nobody who should seems to know – but everyone is certain that another F-bomb lawsuit is most probably in the works.  

Last week, Commissioner McCool responded to Avila-Vasquez’ allegations in an article by Al Everson writing in the West Volusia Beacon:

“She is entitled to her opinion about protocol and decorum, and I’m entitled to my opinion,” McCool said. “People get mad. They work through it, and they move on. I got mad about it. I did some self-inventory. We need to move on.”

I have known Dana McCool since she decided to run for office on a platform of reforming the city’s horribly broken water billing system in 2018. 

As you may recall, Ms. McCool made national headlines when she engaged in a peaceful protest of Deltona’s suspiciously escalating utility bills – paying a disputed $500 water bill in pennies – noting that each of the coins represented a resident that needed a voice. 

Then, she became that voice.

Since being elected to the District 4 seat in 2020, Commissioner McCool has been a staunch, provocative, and outspoken advocate for her constituents. 

While I do not always agree with her politics – I know Ms. McCool arrived at her stance on the issues from hard work, research, and a clean heart.    

Most recently, Ms. McCool joined Eric Raimundo to launch The Smoking Truth Podcast – a lively discussion of political issues and topical concerns in Volusia County and beyond – and I have enjoyed participating in three episodes of the popular podcast. 

In my experience, Dana McCool is enthusiastic, blunt, and forthright – often passionately profane – shooting straight from the hip with no spin or equivocation – all the attributes one wants in an elected representative but rarely gets. 

Unfortunately, Commissioner McCool recently announced that she is battling Stage 4 bone cancer. . .

In my view, Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez filed a frivolous ethics complaint as a means of political revenge – meant to destroy the character and reputation of a fellow sitting elected official.  In using the Florida Commission on Ethics to her pernicious advantage, Avila-Vasquez helped clog a system that should be working in shifts to ferret out true acts of public corruption in the Sunshine State – not used as a blunt instrument by petty politicians seeking to embarrass a colleague they disagree with.   

That’s F-bomb bullshit.

My hope is that Commissioner McCool will keep fighting the good fight – personally and professionally. 

We need more bold souls doing good work in the public interest – and less faux-shrinking violets playing petty games for their political advantage. 

I’ve said it before, if the City of Deltona is to restore the public trust, then the elected officials must begin the painful process of sorting through the divisive baggage and set a collective vision, putting aside the mean-spirited “gotcha” politics, collusions, and accusatory maneuvers to find a means of working cooperatively with community stakeholders to achieve civic equilibrium.

The good citizens of Deltona deserve better.

Angels & Assholes for February 3, 2023

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole           City of Ormond Beach

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

— George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

There is never a dearth of things to fume about here on the Fun Coast.

Each week I am faced with the dilemma of selecting who, or what, to opine about in this space. From the petty to the profound, sometimes I get it right – sometimes I miss the mark entirely.   

My editorial sieve is based on a weird ‘unreasonable man’ standard – a simple assumption that if something bugs me, it probably bugs you.

So, here goes:

Over the past week I have watched Granada Pointe – much of which remains an unsightly weed-strewn blotch on Ormond Beach’s main thoroughfare – a place where 2,061 specimen hardwoods were clear-cut and ground into splinters to accommodate a Wawa and drive-thru car wash – transform into an urban campground and commercial parking lot.

What the developer promised would become a tony retail complex with a specialty grocer, posh “shoppes,” upscale retail outlets, a bank, restaurant, and other amenities – advertised as being no different from any other commercial development on Granada Boulevard –  has dissolved into an ugly unimproved veld – complete with a mudhole that rivals a Namibian warthog wallow – an overgrown stain that now serves as the centerpiece of Granada Boulevard – a highly visible monument to the malleability and acquiescence of the Ormond Beach City Commission. 

Inconceivably – five-years on – much of the 32-acres (including 1.3 acres of “mitigated” wetlands) that were publicly sacrificed on both sides of the street remain vacant – with tall grass and a washed-out dirt road replacing the “reforestation” we were promised.

For nearly two-weeks, a large conversion van has been parked on the shabby lot with a hand scrawled placard on the side announcing, “Need Help with Auto Repairs.” 

Each time I pass a gentleman can be seen sleeping soundly behind the wheel while his traveling companion tends to housekeeping duties through an open door. 

Look, I don’t know if our new neighbors are in legitimate need, or merely practicing a variation on the age-old “stranded traveler” ruse, but how much longer before they declare permanent residency?    

If you’ve lived in the Halifax area for any time, chances are you have become anesthetized to the plight of beggars plying their trade, but this is different. 

This isn’t about panhandlers – it is about broken promises – and a disturbing lack of pride in place and appearance that continues to lower the bar in Ormond Beach.     

The citizens of Ormond Beach lost something of real substance in this lopsided trade – a long-standing natural buffer of old-growth suburban wildlife habitat was sacrificed at the altar of progress – on the assurance of an up-market retail center that would complement the character of our community.   

Now this? 

In my view, it is time for the City of Ormond Beach to begin evaluating past performance before rubber-stamping additional projects for developers with unfinished business elsewhere in the community – and hold those who have been granted extraordinary latitude for shaping our main commercial corridor accountable for their broken promises.

Asshole           Gannett Co., Inc.

Earlier this week, those precious few who still subscribe to The Daytona Beach News-Journal learned from executive editor John Dunbar that the newspaper will no longer allow reader comments on its website. 

After explaining that “public discussion and civil debate are crucial to our society,” and the importance of media engagement – which I think means listening to the diverse opinions and perspectives of readers and the all-important competition of ideas that can lead to social and civic change – Mr. Dunbar wrote:

“But for all their benefits, we also know that comment sections across the internet can quickly devolve when they’re left unmonitored. We wanted to be different. Involvement from our journalists in the discussion and moderating when things got off track helped us provide a better experience.

Now, it’s time for a reset and we are hitting pause. Starting Feb. 1, the “View Comments” button will disappear from our articles.”

Damn. 

The fact is, Gannett, the corporate media behemoth that owns hundreds of paid daily and weekly newspapers across the nation – including The Daytona Beach News-Journal – made the decision for Mr. Dunbar. 

Last year, the failing news giant reported it was cutting editorial content across the network after “research” found that “…editorials, guest commentary columns, op-eds and letters to the editor have lost relevance in an age when opinions overflow on social media.”

In addition, Gannett’s crystal ball also suggested that “contemporary audiences” are too stupid to differentiate between objective reporting and opinion content. . . 

Bullshit.

The fact is, this was a purely cost-cutting move for a media conglomerate that has been awash in red ink, laying off veteran reporters, selling buildings and assets, eliminating Saturday editions, then homogenizing and regionalizing newspapers while keeping the masthead and lightly peppering what passes for the “local page” with just enough area reporting and headlines like “Roach activity found at (insert Daytona Beach restaurant here)” to keep it marginally relevant to Volusia County.

There appears to be a move afoot across our most sacred institutions to silence citizens – from the machinations in local council and commission chambers to the Fourth Estate that once served as an effective watchdog – our sacred right to participate in our government, and express our individual thoughts and opinions, is under attack.

Increasingly, small-minded politicians and entrenched bureaucrats go to great lengths to quash dissent and civic activism by cloaking their overweening censorship in “civility ordinances,” “rules of decorum,” and other asinine suppressive measures eerily mimicking those of the Khmer Rouge. . .

It has become obvious that some local governments would prefer citizens acquiesce to orchestrated “public meetings” – choreographed shams where predetermined policies and expenditures are rubber-stamped – while the ‘people’s business’ is hammered out behind closed doors and shaped by insider influence, far from the prying eyes of us tax strapped rubes. 

Now, Gannett – the nation’s largest newspaper owner – has decided to ignore the thoughts, concerns, suggestions, and opinions of its readership as a mean of squeezing more profit for some private equity firm or global hedge fund by pushing those of us who consume the “news” deeper into the static and chaos of social media.    

Is it simply the end of an era?   

Or the beginning of something more sinister, darker, and more suppressive, where our ‘powers that be’ pay lip service to our right to free expression, but effectively remove the soapbox from the public square?

A place where We, The Little People receive governmental diktats through canned “press releases” spun by “Community Information Directors” – regurgitated word-for-word by a handful of “journalists” who are handcuffed and gagged by their corporate overseers in Tysons Corner?

Frightening.  

Angel               Main Street Merchants

For the first time in a long time, beleaguered Main Street merchants – and Halifax area residents – have real cause for hope. 

In an informative piece by business editor Clayton Park writing in last Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned that Teresa Doan – the long-time owner of numerous historic commercial buildings on Main Street and beyond – has sold some seventy area properties to CTO Realty Growth, LLC for a reported $5.4 million.

The sale includes fixtures like Dirty Harry’s Pub & Package, the Full Moon Saloon, The Bank live music club, Biker’s Den building, and the Hog Heaven Bar B-Q restaurant, a residential property on Wild Olive, and several vacant lots currently used for itinerant vendors during special events.   

In addition, Ms. Doan sold the former Corbin Building to the City of Daytona Beach last year for a reported $3.1 million. 

According to the report, Doan has entered a lease agreement with CTO which will allow her to operate the current businesses “for the next few months,” which means most of these classic spots will be open for Bike Week 2023 in March.    

Then, the sky’s the limit.

Because things can’t get much worse. . .

For decades, residents and long-time observers have watched as the economic stagnation that devastated much of our core tourist area spread like a malignant chancre. 

As the smart money moved west to Boomtown Boulevard, much of the beachside came to represent an old, ugly, and intractable problem, an embarrassing shrine to human greed and government ineptitude – a turnip squeezed dry – a grotesque thing no longer worth the effort and expense of saving.

Over the years, revenue generated from the “Main Street Community Redevelopment Area” went to bond big ticket items – like the Ocean Walk Shoppes – with many beachside residents complaining that the investment east of A-1-A hasn’t had the “trickledown effect” they were promised.

Another issue has been storefronts that remain vacant most of the year – only open during Bike Week and Biketoberfest – leaving several blocks looking shabby, abandoned, and depressed.

Most agree that the piecemeal strategy of redeveloping Main Street one dilapidated building at a time has been a painfully slow process – but year-round businesses like the popular World’s Most Famous Brewery have proven that Main Street can be more than the twice-a-year epicenter for motorcycle events.

According to the News-Journal’s report:

“Tom Caffrey is the co-owner along with business partner Krista Goodrich of The World’s Most Famous Brewery at 816 Main St.

“Any new blood and new businesses in the area I’m happy for,” he said regarding CTO’s plans for Doan’s Main Street properties. “Hopefully, those buildings don’t get torn down. There’s a lot of history there, but I’m happy that she sold them and welcome any new businesses that come in. I’m super excited about the future.”

I agree. 

Anything is possible with the right vision.

With any luck, the City of Daytona Beach will get out of the way – eliminate the bone-crushing red tape and syrupy-slow pace of the traditional “redevelopment” process that has sent many potential investors to surrounding communities – and allow intrepid entrepreneurs to transform Main Street into the vibrant draw our beachside so desperately needs.

Quote of the Week

“The tolls were budgeted to bring in about $5.5 million this past fiscal year, continuing a recovery from the big hit they took during the pandemic. How big a hit the county will take from last year’s hurricane damage remains to be seen.

Since the start of county beach management in 1988, this money was always meant to supplement the costs of running the beach. It doesn’t come close to paying for everything.

Free local beach driving would likely wipe out about $1 million of beach toll revenue. That means the money would need to be made up somehow just when the county is scrambling to pay for storm damage along the 47-mile beach and toll collections are down because of beach ramp closures.”

–Columnist Mark Lane writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The return of the endless beach toll debate in Volusia County,” Sunday, January 29, 2923

I’m a huge fan of the venerated columnist Mark Lane. 

His Footnote column is the first thing I turn to each Sunday – the last vestige of purely local flavor in what remains of our regionalized ‘hometown’ newspaper.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the “endless beach toll debate” – he got it wrong.

Mr. Lane is not a beach driving enthusiast – preferring to visit traffic-free sections of the beach – and that’s okay. 

To each their own, I say.

But I disagree with his basic premise that Volusia’s Atlantic coastline somehow needs to be “run” by demonstrably inept bureaucrats who have turned the beach I grew up on into an overregulated, uninviting, and sign-polluted money grab that bears no resemblance to the great natural resource we all enjoyed before the county assumed “management” in 1988.

To be clear, the current debate is not over beach driving – but the right of Volusia County residents to enjoy vehicular access to our beach without being forced to render unto Caesar twice – once in our exorbitant property taxes and again at the toll booth.

A free and open beach was a major draw for families visiting the World’s Most Famous Beach before Volusia County erected gates at approaches – with toll booths staffed by contract tariff collectors – who lecture beachgoers with a litany of rules, regulations, and a final admonishment to follow the confusing mishmash of do this/don’t do that signage, wooden poles, and traffic cones.  

Many long-time locals that I talk with cannot tell you the last time they enjoyed a day at the beach – turned off by the double-taxation of a $25 annual duty to Volusia County for the privilege of participating in our century-old tradition of beach driving – and legendary run-ins with officious county wardens.

Others are still righteously pissed over the pernicious gifting of 410 linear feet of our beach as a cheap spiff for the developer of the Hard Rock Daytona.

Remember?

In 2018 when Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy – stood up for our interests and filed suit to challenge the removal of cars behind the Hard Rock – Volusia County flexed its muscles and sued taxpayers with our own money while confederating with a private entity to limit our access to a public beach.  

That abject greed and bureaucratic aggression left a festering wound that has never quite healed.

With the Volusia County Council now comprised exclusively of self-described “conservative Republicans” – ostensibly committed to the freedoms and liberties only possible with smaller government, lower taxes, fewer fees, and less regulation of our everyday lives – why such a hurdle to talk openly about this prominent issue at a public meeting?   

The decision to discuss removing beach tolls for residents resulted in handwringing from Councilman Danny Robins – who mewled that eliminating tolls would cut off a prime source of government revenue – namely the $5.5 million that is shoveled into the greedy maw of the insatiable machine each year from beach tolls – before trotting out the boogeyman of raising property taxes to cover the loss.

Not a peep about cutting the thick rind of fat off that bloated hog. . . 

Unfortunately, Councilman Matt Reinhart signaled his own opposition to removing beach tolls, saying “Let’s get our beach back before we worry about [a] free beach,” before claiming that most people he speaks with say they want the county to keep the fees.

My ass.

At the end of the day, the vote to merely discuss this hot button issue passed on a 4-2 vote with At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson and Danny Robins voting against even talking about fee relief for their strapped constituents.

Where does District 5 Councilman David Santiago fall on the issue? 

Good question – he’s still on vacation. . .?    

Whatever.

Hey, I’ve got some ideas!

How about we get Volusia County government off our beach and allow the coastline to heal itself naturally – then pare down the bloated Coastal Division and eliminate those parasitic six-figure salaries, limit their scope to access maintenance, lifesaving, and sanitation services – remove barriers to free entry, limit building east of the Coastal Construction Control Line, and stop spoiling the natural beauty of the shoreline with ugly poles, signs, and barriers.

While we’re at it, how about we move toward a more open and transparent government in Volusia County – and become a place where We, The Little People get the values we voted for – then demand that those who hold themselves out as ‘conservatives’ put this swollen bureaucracy on a diet, reduce fees and taxes, “right size” county government, start holding highly paid senior administrators accountable, and limit regulatory intrusion into a day at the beach?

Food for thought:  Knowing what we know now – I wonder what the result would be if the 1986 referendum that granted Volusia County control of our beaches were placed on the 2024 ballot? 

And Another Thing!

Welp, another season of rubber chicken galas celebrating the contributions of our civic elite is well underway and it appears that, once again, your intrepid scribe has fallen short. . . 

Yep.

Look, I don’t want to burst your bubble, John Q. – but when the haughty “awards season” comes to an end – you and I won’t be standing atop the podium, rubbing shoulders and slapping backs with the Halifax area upper crust

So, don’t look for your name (or mine) to be called when the illustrious “J. Saxton Lloyd Distinguished Community Service Award” – or the coveted “Lou Fuchs Outstanding Leadership Award” – is bestowed.  (I’m pretty sure Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Fuchs would be mortified if they could see the condition of the community they helped build. . .)

Nope.  Not this year.

Or any other year, for that matter. 

Because it’s not about us – and it never will be.

The point is that those who think they so richly deserve these ostentatious accolades (mainly our “Rich & Powerful” overseers) get to pass the same “awards” amongst themselves year-after-year-after-year – much like they pass the same nickel around – while you and I, the great unwashed hordes who are expected to pay the bills and keep our pieholes shut, look on admiringly. . .

Whatever.

Last week, the exclusive Civic League of the Halifax Area – Volusia’s stodgy Old Guard – which bills itself as “a non-profit and nonpartisan group of community leaders dedicated to civic engagement,” bestowed the “Cici & Hyatt Brown Lifetime Achievement Award” on our High Panjandrums of Political Power, Forough and Mori Hosseini, at the organization’s annual soiree at the equally private Oceanside Country Club.

(Don’t get too excited about adding your voice to the Civic League’s discussion – membership is by invitation only…cuts down on the riffraff, I guess)

In a recent article by reporter Jim Abbott writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:

“Forough and Mori are two very special people,” Cici Brown said in presenting the award. She praised Forough Hosseini for her dedication to Food Brings Hope, the non-profit that provides food and educational resources to 1,500 underprivileged children in 32 schools in Volusia and Flagler counties.

In his remarks, Hyatt Brown focused on Mori Hosseini’s accomplishments as chairman of the Board of Trustees of both the University of Florida and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In accepting the award, Mori Hosseini called education “the fuel to the fire of our democracy.”

Inspiring.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a child living in abject poverty in the tiny hamlet of Pierson who went to bed hungry last night after the omnipotent House of Hosseini pulled Food Brings Hope’s nutrition and educational programs following a David and Goliath powerplay with the Town Council in December.

Remember? 

I do.  

And if you are one of the 35% of children living below the federal poverty line in Pierson – I will bet you remember it too.

Every time your empty tummy rumbles. . .

Screw that maudlin crap, Barker!  Not NOW!

This is the time set aside each year for our ‘movers & shakers’ to don their finery and fawn, preen, and celebrate the success of all the right last names – namely our godlike oligarchs who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on Florida’s Fun Coast – not be reminded of hungry and homeless children, okay?

Whatever.

On Tuesday, the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual awards banquet at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort beginning at 6:00pm. 

Interestingly, the evenings “feature presentation” includes a Q&A with Senator Ben Sasse who was recently named president of the University of Florida.

According to reports, Senator Sasse will give his first address at the Chamber gala – not in Gainesville…

Why? 

Because he was told to.  That’s why. 

According to the News-Journal’s business editor Clayton Park:

“Mori Hosseini, chairman of UF’s board of trustees, confirmed Sasse’s public remarks at the event will be his first as university president.

“I asked him if he would do it and he agreed,” said Hosseini, who lives in Ormond Beach and is the owner, chairman and CEO of Daytona Beach-based ICI Homes.”

I’ll bet he did…

In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Hosseini’s daughter, Nellie Lupoli, will be installed as the chamber’s 2023 board chair. 

Here’s hoping Ms. Lupoli will be the first Chamber Chair to finally get some movement on the long-promised (by every previous chair in recent memory) revamp of the tragically blighted East International Speedway Boulevard gateway. 

Now, here’s the big news:

According to the Daytona Chamber’s website, this year’s “J. Hyatt Brown Enterprise Award” – the Big Enchilada of Halifax area accolades – will be presented to…

Wait for it…

No.  The winner is not your small business that kept local families employed during the darkest days of the pandemic, or a Downtown Daytona shopkeeper who struggled mightily to keep the doors open and lights on during the interminable bridge project, multiple streetscape “improvements,” and fought to stay afloat as the floodwaters rose during back-to-back tropical storms.

Sadly, it is not the intrepid Ted Teschner, who kept the torch burning at his iconic family-owned restaurant Mr. Dunderbak’s for 47-years as the Volusia Mall crumbled around him.    

No.  Not this year.   

Drumroll, please:

On Tuesday, the “J. Hyatt Brown Enterprise Award” will be presented to – Volusia County Emergency Management… 

Yeah.  I know. 

I know. 

Last week, a dear friend – anticipating how completely devastated I would be when the recipients of this year’s various civic awards were announced and, per usual, Barker’s View wasn’t on the list – presented me with this coveted honor to recognize my continuing penchant for jousting at political windmills: 

I’m honored. 

Under the circumstances, it was completely appropriate.

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

_____________________________________________

Please join me on the latest edition of The Smoking Truth Podcast with Dana McCool and Eric Raimundo for a raucous and wide-ranging discussion of the issues with the irrepressible political strategist Mike Scudiero which is out this week! 

Please find Episode 20 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ_DImpGR2M

Angels & Assholes for January 27, 2023

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel               Port Orange Councilwoman Kat Atwood

You wouldn’t know it from my often-acerbic take on local politics and those who practice it, but I have a great deal of admiration for anyone with the mettle to hold themselves out for elective service who still respects the sanctity of their office – and the needs of their constituents. 

In my view, the idea of “service above self” speaks not only to one’s political ambitions – but also the courage to step aside when wellness, focus, or motivations change and ensure citizens receive the best representation possible. 

Given the rigors of modern political campaigns, and the power and perquisites of high office, it is rare when a sitting politician demonstrates the selflessness to stepdown when circumstances warrant, the gracious act of putting the needs of others above their own.

The mark of a true servant-leader

Last week, Port Orange Mayor Don Burnette announced that newly elected City Councilwoman Kat Atwood has announced her resignation citing health issues.  Ms. Atwood ran unopposed for the District 2 seat after Chase Tramont left the council to undertake his successful run for the Florida House of Representatives.

As a United States Navy veteran, Ms. Atwood knows something about that sacred concept of “service above self” – and I found it refreshing that the citizens of Port Orange had such a staunch advocate occupying the dais of power – someone who heeded the call to translate their unique military leadership experience to elective office. 

Recently, Ms. Atwood gave a heartfelt explanation for her departure to concerned constituents on social media:

“Those who know me know that I am an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of girl. I believe in giving it my all – or why bother doing it at all, right?

That said, the people of Port Orange deserve nothing less than my 100%. I cannot, in good conscience, occupy the District 2 seat knowing that I am not 100% healthy. I cannot be charged with making City decisions, voting on laws and City issues that affect Port Orange families, workers’ benefits, resident concerns, union issues, employee retirements, etc., without being 100% present to address them properly. I’m just not made that way; that’s not who I am.  And, it wouldn’t be fair to my husband, our children, or my parents to not take this time to focus on my health and heal.  In short, as difficult as this decision was to make, it was the right decision.”

Thank you for your service, Ms. Atwood.

Godspeed.  

When the time is right, I hope you will consider a return to local politics – we desperately need your sense of service and selflessness now, more than ever. 

Angel               Volusia County Teacher of the Year Vonda Morris

During a ceremony held last Friday at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, Vonda H. Morris, a Probability & Statistics / AP Statistics Teacher at Spruce Creek High School, and a math educator for 28 years who has taught at the middle, high school, and collegiate levels, was named 2024 Volusia County Schools Teacher of the Year! 

According to reports, Ms. Morris was selected from an outstanding field of sixty-nine nominees representing schools across Volusia County and one of five finalists for the district recognition. 

Now, Ms. Morris will represent Volusia County Schools in the state Teacher of the Year program.

In a release from Volusia County Schools, Ms. Morris received high praise for her significant contributions in the classroom and beyond:

“Vonda H. Morris is a leader whose work goes beyond the classroom, serving as a member of the school leadership team, mathematics department chair, new teacher liaison, class sponsor, and sunshine committee chairperson. Her test scores exceed district, national and state averages.”

Unfortunately, it was clear from Tuesday’s Volusia County School Board meeting that the chasm between classroom teachers and Superintendent Carmen Balgobin’s top-heavy administration continues to deepen as evidenced by the unstaunched hemorrhage of talent from the district. 

I encourage everyone to listen to what passes for “public input” when veteran teachers and paraprofessionals approached our elected officials from behind a weird strapped-off podium – an asinine barrier which physically and subliminally separated them from board members.

They spoke passionately of disrespect, being called out for referring students for discipline who engage in acts of violence, suffering physical abuse (to include one teacher who described being bitten in the classroom), anxiety, filthy facilities, fighting, obscenities, low morale, disillusionment, and a frustration with ongoing wage compression while contract negotiations remain at impasse – with “international teachers” being shipped in from foreign countries to fill the loss of certified educators – descriptions that sound more like a dystopian Thunderdome than a public school system with a budget now exceeding $1 Billion.  

If you have children in Volusia County Schools or pay taxes here, I encourage you to listen to the fervent pleas of these dedicated professionals. 

It is eye opening.    

Please find that section of the School Board meeting here: https://tinyurl.com/29tser8d

A sincere congratulations to Vonda Morris for this well-deserved special recognition – along with my heartfelt thanks to all teachers who dedicate themselves to educating, mentoring, and inspiring the next generation under difficult (and increasingly dangerous) circumstances for far less than they are worth.   

(Photo Credit: Volusia County Schools) 

Angel               City of New Smyrna Beach

With a few notorious exceptions, the City of New Smyrna Beach gets it right.

This quaint seaside community exudes the Old Florida charm that many cities are striving (and spending) to recreate.

That does not happen by accident. 

With bustling commercial corridors on both sides of the intercoastal and quaint residential areas that complement the relaxed feel, city officials have crafted the quintessential ‘beach town’ that now rivals Florida gems like Siesta Key, Captiva, and Key West.     

Unfortunately, New Smyrna has not been spared from the malignant sprawl that has spread across the width and breadth of Volusia County – a “growth at all costs” strategy, facilitated by compromised politicians whose loyalties were bought and paid for with massive campaign contributions – ramrodded by land use attorney’s and others who convinced us that developers can do anything they damn well please, regardless of how it affects their neighbors.

Now, many residents are concerned that the devastating flooding that blanketed many areas of Southeast Volusia during Tropical Storm Ian correlates to the hodge-podge of area development that left some neighborhoods uninhabitable. 

To their credit, earlier this month, city officials passed a six-month building moratorium on residential developments of ten acres or more – or more than 25 homes – in certain FEMA-designated flood zones covering the bulk of the city.

Now, the City of New Smyrna Beach has commissioned a study by Gainesville-based engineering firm Jones Edmunds & Associates Inc., who are now charged with determining the who, what, when, where, why, and how some 1,200 residents were left with between four-inches and four-feet of standing water in their homes and businesses. 

Last week, officials hosted a public information session attended by some 500 residents at the Brannon Center to communicate the “goals, scope, and schedule” of the study. 

In an excellent report by reporter Brenno Carillo writing in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned from the engineering firm’s vice president Brett Cunningham:

“The study will also “analyze the impact of large new developments and their associated stormwater management systems for potential adverse offsite impacts.”

“Once we put together a model and make sure that it’s matching all the observations we have for it, we are going to kind of go back in time, if you will,” Cunningham said. “We are going to take out some developments on the mainland side and on the beachside and see how things would have been in Hurricane Ian without those developments.”

The study will also “review the city’s stormwater code and standard for appropriateness and potential improvements.”

“(We are going to) compare those to what other similar communities are doing and see if there are other recommendations that we would have,” he added.

The firm’s team will “present findings and recommendations to the City Commission” in May.”

In other words, the study will check the arithmetic of those planners, engineers, and others who recommended approval of these developments back during Volusia County’s ‘Orgy of Greed’ that resulted in a frenzy of slash-and-burn clearcutting to facilitate anything and everything that came down the pike. . .

Interesting. 

In my view, and at the risk of opening a Pandoras Box of panic-stricken real estate developers, if the study finds a direct connection between development, radical changes in topography, and substandard stormwater management – and the devastating inundation that impacted and displaced so many existing residents – there should be serious consequences for any shill who convinced us, “if you’re not growin’, you’re dying…”

According to the News-Journal, if you live in the New Smyrna area and would like to assist with the study, please email photographs and video of flooding to nsbfloodinfo@cityofnsb.com

This one bears watching, folks.

Angel               Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission

From the ‘Will wonders never cease’ file, last week, the Volusia County PLDRC said “No” to a developer’s request to change the zoning on twenty-six acres of undeveloped property at the intersection of South Blue Lake Avenue and Taylor Road near DeLand.

The 4-3 vote to reject the request came after the county’s malleable planning staff instinctively recommended approval. . .   

According to a piece by reporter Al Everson writing in the West Volusia Beacon:

“…the board voted 4-3 to recommend that the County Council keep the current land use of Rural, instead of the requested Urban Low Intensity. Changing the land use would have set the stage for the zoning to be changed from Rural Agriculture (A-2) to Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD).

Under the A-2 zoning, development would be limited to one home per five acres, or a maximum of about five homes.

But the property owner, Stewart Properties LLC, wanted to carve the 26 acres into 71 lots for single-family homes, as well as green spaces, a community park and stormwater ponds, in a community that would be called Taylor Ridge.

According to the Beacon, PLDRC Chair Ronnie Mills cited traffic and flooding concerns – and reminded his fellow committee members that once the county’s comprehensive plan is amended – it opens the door for increased density.

In my view, considering future impacts on existing residents and civic infrastructure is called responsible growth.

Interestingly, last February, the DeLand City Commission rejected a proposed annexation of the Taylor Ridge property over concerns that the developer would be entitled to more homes than permitted by current Volusia County land use regulations.

(Sounds like the old “When Mom says “No,” go to Dad” strategy of ultimately getting your way, eh?)

The measure will now go before the Volusia County Council with the PLDRC’s nonbinding recommendation dragging along like a neon boat anchor for everyone paying attention to see.      

We will soon see if our newly-seated Council members are willing to respect the deliberations and advice of their advisory boards – or will simply follow the pernicious process of rubber-stamping comp-plan amendments with no consideration of the civic and environmental impacts, or the quality of life of existing residents.

Asshole           Bethune-Cookman University Board of Trustees

Bethune-Cookman University is in real trouble.

In my view, the University’s wholly incompetent and irretrievably broken oversight board and what passes for ‘leadership’ are to blame.

I am not alone in that dismal assessment.

On Monday, an estimated 300 students gathered on the Bethune-Cookman campus demanding the resignation of the Board of Trustees – to include Chairman Belvin Perry – amid chants of, “Hey, hey, ho ho, the Board of Trustees has got to go” and “Hail Wildcats! Hail Belvin? Hell, no!”

According to a report in the Daytona Times, the student protest centered on the short, but shambolic, tenure of National Football League Hall of Famer Ed Reed as B-CU’s head football coach.

Reed was effectively dismissed on Saturday amid swirling controversy (without ever signing a contract) following his strong criticism of B-CU’s abysmal athletic facilities – along with his passionate support for players, their families, and staff. 

In my view, Ed Reed had the courage to say what others would not – putting his own time and money to solving long-standing problems, going so far as to personally pick-up trash around the school’s practice facility.

His honesty and sharp-elbowed push for positive change did not sit well with B-CU’s ‘powers that be.’ 

Unfortunately, as Ed Reed found out, speaking truth to power rarely ends well in these parts. . .

Now, the disclosures prompted by Mr. Reed’s shocking observations and subsequent departure has morphed into a nationally publicized catastrophe for the B-CU administration. 

More ominously, this week’s campus protest exposed disturbing revelations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions in B-CU dormitories – accompanied by gross photographs of mold and mildew infested student living spaces – a situation described by the Daytona Times as “…moldy and rat-infested dorm rooms, substandard athletic facilities, and poor cafeteria food, among other things.”

Given the cost of a B-CU education, that’s unacceptable – and indefensible.   

In my view, B-CU never fully recovered from the sordid scandals and shadowy maneuverings that resulted in a financial spiral and corresponding lack of confidence that nearly destroyed the school’s reputation and viability.   

At the time, many felt those in a position to know better – the Board of Trustees – had an ethical, moral, and fiduciary responsibility to alumni, students, and staff to ensure the best interests of this historic university were protected from the self-serving motives of former ‘administrators’ and predatory shysters who financially gutted the institution. 

They didn’t.

Now, like before, the insular Board of Trustees – whose response to any internal or external criticism is to circle the wagons and communicate in canned pronouncements while refusing to alter their disastrous course – has left students, athletes, and staff feeling powerless to control the destiny of this vital community asset and preserve the important legacy of Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune.

So, students let their voices be heard.

Unfortunately, this continuing lack of substantive give-and-take with stakeholders and students will not end well, and many fear the continuing instability will hamper the university’s ability to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff. 

In a prepared announcement, B-CU Interim President Lawrence Drake advised that the University is preparing a comprehensive assessment of “…all its facilities for fitness, renovation, and teardown, as well as the construction of new facilities to enhance our campus,” while prioritizing “necessity and cost, as financial resources are limited.”

No word on who, when, or if anyone in a position of responsibility will be held accountable for allowing facilities to deteriorate into the horrific conditions described by Mr. Reed and the student body.

Kudos to those courageous students who moved swiftly this week to bring much needed attention to the on-going abominations being committed at B-CU before it is too late.

Quote of the Week

“The County Council will discuss the costs for beach access at its meeting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, a result of District 4 Councilman Troy Kent making a motion during his closing comments at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Kent — who while campaigning for his seat during the recent elections, vowed to “fight tooth and nail” for residents to be able to drive on the beach for free — said at the meeting that he wanted all non-residents to have to pay to park on the beach and at the county’s beachfront parks.

“The access for our beaches and many locations is broken,” Kent said. “I do not believe the county has done a good job in running our beach. I am hopeful that we can turn that around with this council and this advocate, because there’s never been a District 4 representative more pumped up, more concerned, and more excited to get our residents on our beach, enjoying it the way they should.”

–District 4 Volusia County Councilman Troy Kent, as quoted by Senior Editor Jarleene Almenas in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Volusia County Council to discuss cost of beach driving tolls for residents in March,” Thursday, January 19, 2023

Being a cynical dipshit, I am tempted to ask:

“Why is it when Chairman Jeff Brower suggested allowing Volusia County residents to drive on the beach without paying a fee – citing the fact we pay for the privilege each year with our exorbitant property taxes – he was strung up as a barking-mad lunatic by his “colleagues” – while Councilman Kent is now heralded as an oracle?” 

But I won’t. 

Frankly, I am grateful to Mr. Kent for finally getting this important issue the fair hearing it deserves. 

Perhaps our “new” Volusia County Council just want to get the matter settled early – drive a stake through the heart of “free” beach driving once and for all – or perhaps they are sincere about reversing the abysmal mismanagement and fee-grabbing that has turned our most precious natural asset into the uninviting, sign-polluted, and overregulated place it has become?

I don’t know.  But it will be interesting to watch how this play out.    

For anyone interested in preserving our long-standing tradition of beach driving – and protecting our shoreline from the threat of further erosion – please join Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, for their annual meeting on Saturday, February 18, at Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, beginning at 10am.

Everyone is welcome.

Topics will include a pause on new oceanfront development, with expert guests providing information on future tropical storm projections, sea level rise, meteorology, and beach erosion.

Sons of the Beach is a non-profit organization whose only membership requirement is a willingness to preserve Volusia County beaches.

For more information – or to join SOB – please go to www.sonsofthebeach.org   

And Another Thing!

Last week, reporter Charles Guarria published an exclusive in Volusia Hometown News regarding the concerns of David Wimmer Presents, the producer of the incredibly successful Welcome to Rockville four-day music festival held annually at Daytona International Speedway, claiming some local hotels are increasing room rates to unacceptable levels during the event.

According to a release by DWP earlier this month:

“During the 2022 Welcome to Rockville, one of the major concerns expressed by our fans was the high rates at the hotels in Daytona. As a result, fans chose not to attend or booked hotel rooms outside of Daytona. If this trend continues, we will be forced to look at a more affordable location for Welcome to Rockville. We are asking that the hotels please offer reasonable rates so we can stay in Daytona for many years to come.”

Wow.

Of course, Bob Davis, Grand Poobah of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, was quoted by the Hometown News, “If our pricing has inched up a bit, it is from supply and demand.”

“We don’t gouge people. We don’t do things of that nature. It would be a violation of price-fixing laws. We don’t price fix. Everybody prices their rooms as how they see fit.”

Inched up a bit?

In a startling revelation, Mr. Guarria reported:

“The Courtyard by Marriott at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a mere half mile from the speedway. It charged an average of $300 per room last year for Welcome to Rockville. For this year’s festival, it has raised the prices to $439 for Thursday, May 18, and $444 for the succeeding two evenings. One month before the festival, a room can be had for $168 per night on average.”

“By comparison, a front desk receptionist informed the room price averages $250 during another busy time, snowbird season.”

Look, I’m no tourism analyst – but that’s over $1,300 (before taxes and fees) for a three-night stay at a Courtyard by Marriott. . . 

So, is this a case of supply and demand – charging what the market will bear – or a short-sighted money grab by some Daytona Beach Resort Area hoteliers forced to survive on the peaks and valleys of an event-driven cyclical economy – a boom/bust mercenary mindset that now threatens to drive Welcome to Rockville, which attracted an estimated 140,000 headbangers to the area in 2022, out of our fragile market? 

Shockingly, Mr. Davis – apparently speaking on behalf of the Halifax area hospitality industry – responded to the producer’s concerns with the laissez-faire shrug – “If he wants to pull out, let him pull out.”

Damn.

Absent the infamous 2021 “Golden Shower” when Sophia Urista, the vocalist for Brass Against, dropped trou and gushingly, effusively, and volubly, urinated on a willing fan’s face as he sprawled on the stage – and the inclement weather during last year’s event that caused consternation over refunds – Welcome to Rockville has been seen as a positive for local businesses since arriving here from Jacksonville three-years ago. 

The Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently took things more seriously than Mr. Davis and broadcast DWP’s price gouging concerns to local industry marketing execs in an email earlier this month.

With beachfront resort properties struggling mightily in the aftermath of back-to-back tropical storms – amid reports that tourism dollars are down 30-50% – time will tell how local hoteliers will respond.

In my view, in an area that has taken a dim view of alternatives to traditional hotels – including criminalizing the concept of short-term rentals outside narrowly defined areas – it is time our hospitality gurus take a hard look at what remains of the “brand” and finally come to agreement on how to break (or embrace) their reliance on the special event cycle.

But transitioning to a more year-round destination requires a draw – a competitive product – something all the slick marketing slogans in the world cannot replace.

Unfortunately, over the past decade, the stodgy Halifax area tourism and hospitality apparatus has stood lead-footed – locked in almost paralytic inaction as the death spiral of the beachside gained speed – allowing corrosive blight, civic neglect, and economic stagnation to blanket our core tourist areas like a shroud.

It is called vision, something far more openminded and creative than the unhospitable “Screw ‘em. If they want to leave, let ‘em leave” mentality that continues to hamstring substantive progress here on the Fun Coast

That’s all for me.  Have a great Rolex 24 weekend, y’all!

Future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades. . .

“Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”

–Timbuk3, “The Future’s So Bright, I gotta wear shades”

Regular readers of these screeds know that I frequently equate the buffoonery of Fun Coast governance to a Théâtre de l’absurde.

Because it is.

An exercise in spoofing and quackery – the painfully drawn-out bureaucratic tragicomedy of fumbling to develop imaginary solutions to very real civic problems – while always ensuring adequate time and distance between the profit motives of our “Rich & Powerful” oligarchs and substantive public policies to preserve that which is important to We, The Little People.

You know, things like clean water, greenspace, and our quality of life. . .

I have a weird love/hate relationship with this dreadful political theater – the carefully orchestrated sideshows and attention-grabbing horseshit that is always punctuated by obsequious “D-list” politicians having their picture taken frotteuring “B-list” politicians – the egoistic preening and posturing that come so naturally to those self-centered peacocks who hold themselves out for public office today.    

For instance, last week, the incredibly popular Florida Governor Ron DeSantis travelled to our area to announce what The Daytona Beach News-Journal described as “…the largest slice of a $100 million pie” – $37.6 million in public funds earmarked for beach erosion projects in Volusia County following the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Nicole. 

Now, you and I know that $37.6 million is a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to what it will eventually cost to harden our greatest natural asset – but it is a start – and the appearance of one of the most popular politicians in the nation presented a prime opportunity that some of our tone-deaf County officials couldn’t help but take political advantage of. 

Posing proudly in front of the ruins of a public bathroom at the Dunlawton approach (a collapsed structure that has remained in place presumably to be used as stage dressing for political photo-ops since November) Governor DeSantis, along with County Council members Danny Robins and Matt Reinhart, were joined by beleaguered County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald to get a little dust on the spit-shines while having their picture taken holding one of those gaudy oversized cardboard checks politicians use as a prop whenever they are doing us a favor.

As though long-suffering taxpayers, and those poor souls working feverishly to protect their crumbling beachfront homes, had won a prize. . .   

My God.  Sick. 

Look, I get it. 

Getting elected to high office is an increasingly difficult proposition at all levels of government – and the pseudo-gravitas that comes from rubbing-elbows with popular politicians can have influence in an apathetic world where “glossy mailers” and goofy partisan “voter guides” have replaced identifying the issues, studying a candidate’s positions and voting record, or thinking for oneself.       

Just watch any of our local elected officials as they fall over each other jockeying for position, schmoozing, brown-nosing, and theatrically posing for the cameras (usually in their obligatory cowboy boots) whenever Gov. DeSantis makes one of his increasingly frequent appearances to secure the vote in Volusia County. 

But this is different.

Our government’s response to natural catastrophes – at the local, state, and federal level – should be a preplanned and well-executed process, based upon the concepts of emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts taken from lessons learned – not an orchestrated political stunt by pompous elected and appointed officials using a disaster scene as the backdrop for promoting their own self-interests.

It will also require a serious discussion of limiting development east of the Coastal Construction Control Line.   

Trust me.  Danny Robins and Matt Reinhart had absolutely nothing to do with Gov. DeSantis’ political decision to allocate $37.6 million to Volusia County (hell, Reinhart has been in office less than a month) – and both would rather take an ice water enema than discuss a building moratorium east of A-1-A – but that did not stop these two shameless self-promoters from doing what they do best.

(Sadly, I assume The Wreck climbed down from the Ivory Tower of Power in a desperate attempt to rehabilitate his tattered reputation as the debacle at the Volusia County Department of Corrections rages?)

Yeah.  Disappointing.

Look, I’m no image consultant, but if Robins, Reinhart, and Recktenwald are going to continue their pathological pursuit of having their photograph taken rubbing up against real political players – they should take Governor DeSantis’ example and remove their sunglasses – which presents a subliminal image they have something to hide, an inner sense of célébrité, or are avoiding eye contact with their constituents. 

Oh, wait. . .

The fact is elected and appointed officials at all levels of government have some difficult and time sensitive decisions to make regarding the replenishment and long-term protection of our most precious natural asset before the next series of corrosive storms pay us a visit.

Unfortunately, the future of our beach is not so bright.

In my view, now is the time for strong leadership, cutting the bureaucratic red tape, and facilitating a commonsense approach to stabilizing what remains, saving existing structures, and establishing a plan for the future – not more grandstanding and asinine political theater as politicians take credit for returning our money where it is needed most.

The Seduction of Secrecy

(Angels & Assholes will return next week. In my absence, a few things caught my jaundiced eye – like the age-old theater of Governor Ron DeSantis standing with several of our fawning Volusia County Councilmembers and County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – all holding one of those enormous cardboard checks – (as though strapped taxpayers in desperate need of beach erosion control won a prize?) – standing proudly before the ugly backdrop of a destroyed publicly owned beachfront restroom that has been laying in ruins since, oh, November…

We’ll have more on that stunt next week. For now, here’s a ditty from January 2020. As I’m fond of saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Ain’t that the damn truth?)

January 2020

(Lightly Edited)

“Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to the truth.”

–Thomas Jefferson, 1815

I find it fascinating that people – depending upon position and perspective – can see the same issue from such distinctly different viewpoints.  For instance, those who hold lofty public positions and elevate themselves above those who elected them have a different line of sight from those of us down here in the trenches.

In Volusia County, there is a supreme third perspective – the views of those known colloquially as our “Rich & Powerful” – the oligarchical insiders who trade in local politicians like cheap livestock each election season – then use their purchased clout to shape public policy.

As a result, the always self-serving vision of our uber-wealthy overseers is the only one that matters.

As outsiders peering into the inner sanctum of local governments through the greasy window in the fortified portcullis that separates us from those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – we are forced to use scripted public meetings to catch a glimpse of where our haughty “leadership” stand on the pressing issues of the day.

With the advent of paid government mouthpieces, “Community Information Directors,” and “Public Information Officers” – who sanitize, manage, and condense “the message” into expressionless press releases while running interference for public administrators – these stilted biweekly theatrical productions by the Volusia County Council and various municipal commissions are the only knothole we have left.

Over time, it has become painfully apparent that most official decisions are a foregone conclusion – hashed out ahead of time in the city or county managers office or based solely on the political insulation of a “staff recommendation” – reducing the need for public input or strategic thought on the important issues.

This homogenized decision-making process excludes differing opinions from the debate – reducing public policy considerations to an exercise in rubber stamping the behind-the-scenes “suggestions” of those with a chip in the game.

Look, don’t get me wrong – secrecy simplifies things.

However, as taxpayers, we should have an equal voice on how our money is spent – and some meaningful input in legislative and policy decisions that directly affect our lives and livelihoods.

It’s true.  “Information is the currency of power,” and ensuring the people’s ‘right to know’ is the central purpose of Florida’s venerated (yet increasingly eroded) public records and open meetings law.

Recently, this growing culture of secrecy became problematic when the City of Deltona willingly entered the high stakes game of attracting an Amazon distribution center – and the adage ‘knowledge is power’ became more than just a worn proverb.

Now, the long-suffering community is embroiled in yet another controversy as some city commissioners rightfully question why some members were provided advance information – and others were not.

Meanwhile, no one has mentioned that the good citizens of Deltona were asked to pony up millions in tax incentives before knowing who – or what – they were luring to town. . .

In my view, our local governments are increasingly falling victim to what Fritz Schwarz, Chief Counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice, has called “the seduction of secrecy,” and everyone will agree that an informed citizenry is democracy’s best defense.

So, why are We, The Little People being treated like mushrooms: Kept in the dark and fed bullshit?

I mean, the lengths to which some government offices will go to avoid answering legitimate questions from citizens and reporters – such as where millions in public funds have been spent – are becoming too obvious to ignore.

The working press, who, despite having some trust issues of their own, still hold an important watchdog role over the often-self-serving nature of government, should be provided reasonable access to investigate and report on the maneuverings and motivations of those who hold power over us.

That always gets messy – and it should.

Our elected and appointed officials derive their authority from the will of the people – in other words, they work for us – or at least they should.

Somehow, in Volusia County, those well-defined roles have been reversed.

This sense of remoteness between the average citizen and those we elect to serve our interests, is becoming institutionalized, an accepted part of what passes for local governance in the new decade, an environment where public policy is formed in seclusion.

Especially when public officials seem to completely ignore that the “trust issue” even exists.

This summer, when incumbent politicians come out of their bunkers in the Ivory Tower of Power to shake our hands, slap our backs, and ask for another bite at the apple, please take a minute to ask them when those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence became an afterthought?

Ask them why they sold their souls for a cameo in a staged play that no longer bears any resemblance to a representative democracy – or service in the public interest. 

Angels & Assholes for January 13, 2023

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

No, you didn’t bump your head – A&A is publishing a day early this week. 

Sorry for the confusion.

Angel               Volusia-Flagler Veterans & Halifax Urban Ministries

Halifax Urban Ministries is doing God’s work.

The Daytona Beach nonprofit’s mission is to prevent homelessness among low-income families by providing emergency assistance and helping those who are on the streets find permanent housing. 

This week, a report by the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties found that 19,000 military veterans in Volusia and Flagler are considered Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed.  ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty level, but less than is required to meet living expenses. 

In 2020, the United Way also found that 33% of Volusia County households are considered ALICE. 

According to a recent report by the Ormond Beach Observer:

“With the increasing cost of rent, it’s becoming more difficult for organizations like Halifax Urban Ministries to connect people with housing they can afford, said HUM Executive Director Buck James. HUM’s free Barracks of Hope program provides transitional housing to veterans who have struggled with homelessness, addition and mental health.

“I think more people in every category are reaching out for help, and that would include veterans,” James said. “As costs continue to escalate, it’s just becoming more difficult for everyone.”

The Barracks of Hope program provides up to nine-months of transitional housing, daily meals, and counseling services for struggling veterans. 

Fortunately, not-for-profits like United Way, CareerSource of Volusia-Flagler, and Halifax Urban Ministries recognize the problem and are working cooperatively to connect eligible veterans with Veteran’s Administration benefits, access to employment training and skill development, and help support local food pantries to assist with groceries. 

Let’s hope 2023 is the year our state and local elected officials open their eyes to the plight of ALICE families – including those veterans whose dedicated service and sacrifice helped provide the blanket of freedom we enjoy – and demand a better effort from our “economic development” shills than the low hanging fruit of warehouse scutwork.

To find out how you can help, please contact Halifax Urban Ministries at (386) 317-5880 or online at www.halifaxurbanministries.org

Asshole           Volusia County District Schools

In a week where Volusia County District Schools announced it would be contracting with a company to fill educational vacancies with “international teachers” – now we learn that the district has declared an impasse in its contract negotiations with Volusia United Educators.

According to reports, school administrators are now reviewing potential contracts with two entities that import qualified English-speaking teachers from other countries under the J-1 visa to fill the massive number of instructional vacancies that remain in Volusia County classrooms as teachers and support staff continue to flee this dysfunctional shit show.

At present, Volusia County Schools currently have 141 instructional vacancies (down from 272 when the school year began) and 239 support vacancies – including 80 paraprofessionals.

Later this year, it is expected that Volusia County Schools will assist these international teachers with their arrival in the United States and help find housing (good luck) allowing them to start teaching later this year.    

School administrators in Flagler County are considering a similar arrangement.

Then, on Wednesday, the district’s mouthpiece issued a “press release” announcing that, “After careful consideration, the district’s bargaining team declared Impasse with the Volusia United Educators (VUE) Instructional and Support bargaining units regarding salaries and benefits.”

Wait.  At a time when contract negotiations with its teacher’s union have reached stalemate, the district has the huevos to tout the savings inherent to filling the recruitment and retention void by hiring “international teachers” when you don’t have to pay them benefits? 

Really?  

The slanted release went on to explain the district administrations unique interpretation of the laws and regulations governing labor relations – including a weird prohibition on communications with School Board members – something VUE President Elizabeth Albert rightfully took umbrage with, calling the district’s release an “egregious misrepresentation” of the impasse process.  

According to an excellent article by education reporter Danielle Johnson writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ms. Albert summed up the concerns many have going forward:

“I get it. I get it that you’re trying to figure out how to solve this vacancy problem, but I want you to reflect upon this,” she said during public comment later on Tuesday. “If you don’t fix the problems that we have in our district right now, in our classrooms, in our schools, it doesn’t matter who you bring here because they’re not going to want to stay either.”

Albert said that teachers are revered and respected in other countries and questioned what will happen if they come here “and they’re met with violence and disrespect.”

Good question. 

Interestingly, it was also announced on Tuesday that the district’s recruitment and retention coordinator, Christy Mahaney, is also moving on to “bigger and better things.”

Yeah.

Stay tuned, folks.  This one bears watching.

Asshole           County of Volusia – Community Information

I’ve repeatedly written snarky bits poking fun at the County of Volusia’s abysmal audio/visual capabilities – technology that allows concerned residents who cannot haul themselves to DeLand twice each month to watch their County Council make the sausage. 

We, The Little People’s ability to access public meetings remotely is important because, as The Daytona Beach News-Journal recently reported, the Council’s impact is felt daily by Volusia County residents:

“The County Council has a lot of power collectively; it sets the policy direction for the county government, and the county manager carries out the decisions. The county is involved many parts of people’s daily lives: fire rescue services; water and sewer service; zoning; community services; the county jail; animal control; beaches; libraries; parks; and more.”

I have likened the rickety audio system in the Council Chambers to an early model of Bell’s harmonic telegraph (although, acoustically, it sounds more akin to two rusty soup cans connected by a taught waxed string in the style of Antonio Meucci’s telettrofono) – the difference being that one can decipher what is being said by either of those early means of voice-communications.

Apparently, no one who should give two-shits in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. . .

At present, taxpayers are required to squint to see the machinations of our elected policymakers and the massive bureaucracy that drives it, after navigating the Volusia County website – where we can choose between a postcard sized screen, a grainy and pixilated enlarged image, or an audio-only transmission. 

Over time, my preferred method of staying informed is to down a strong antiemetic, put the audio on in the background (Urrrp), and try to keep breakfast down. . . 

Unfortunately, that prevented me from observing the smirks, eyerolls, and meanspirited facial tics that telegraphed what members of the previous iteration of the Council thought about the ideas and suggestions of Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilwoman Heather Post. . .

But we are told things are different now, at least according to the promises of our “new” representatives, and a welcome spirit of collegiality – based upon “teamwork and coordination” rather than the contention and abject dysfunction we have come to expect – will drive deliberation and consensus. 

Time will tell.

Last week, Volusia County Judge Angela Dempsey – the wife of newly seated Councilman Don Dempsey – issued the oath of office to Danny Robins, Jake Johannson, Matt Reinhart, Troy Kent, and Mr. Dempsey (Councilman-elect David Santiago is on vacation for the first two meetings.  According to reports, he couldn’t get a refund for the trip, so, priorities being what they are, Mr. Santiago will start serving the citizens of District 5 sometime in February…).

As Judge Dempsey presided over the solemn occasion – the microphones sputtered and popped – intermittently cutting-out altogether – as a bewildered technician looked on, uncomfortably trying to make corrections between ceremonies. 

Then, during the business meeting that followed, technical issues with microphones on the dais became a distraction – and a glitch in the system that places councilmembers in the speaking queue malfunctioned – just when Councilman Johansson wanted to second an important motion by Mr. Kent to discuss establishing dog friendly sections of beach in all coastal communities. 

As it happened, when it appeared the motion would die, Chairman Brower relinquished the gavel to newly named Vice Chair Danny Robins and seconded the motion himself.

That resulted in some consternation from Mr. Johannson:

“I don’t want for you all here to presuppose anything that I may or may not do until I do or do not do it, and I suspect that we don’t want to do that for anybody else. You were perplexed that it wasn’t gonna get second. I was ready to second it.”

This is 2023, folks.  I can video conference with friends across the globe – but my councilmembers can’t effectively communicate sitting next to one another? 

Bullshit.

For the uninitiated, according to reports, the current gilded Council Chamber was renovated in 2015 when a construction company owned by the family of a then sitting County Council member was the only entity to submit a bid (the councilmember left the room during the vote to avoid a potential conflict). 

It was the first time in three-decades the meeting space – and its antiquated technology – had been updated. 

What happened? 

And when will anyone admit a problem and fix the damn thing?

At this point, many citizens assume that Volusia County is doing everything possible to make access to public meetings so onerous and annoying that we simply go away.

Is there another explanation? 

And why don’t they want us watching?

I’m asking. 

In my view, with a new slate of elected officials seated – and an operating budget exceeding $1 Billion – it is time for our powers that be to implement upgrades that will allow effective communications with constituents who cannot be physically present – and breakdown the technological barriers to interaction on the dais.

In my view, that capability should include a public access television presence that will increase accessibility to the “people’s business.”  

Enough is enough.

Asshole           County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald

Last Friday, Volusia County made good on its threats and summarily fired former Department of Corrections Director Mark Flowers citing “performance and leadership issues.”

Interestingly, Flowers’ career at Volusia County did not end with a simple dismissal (or a negotiated exit to avoid costly litigation) – as senior officials took the extra step of destroying his professional reputation in writing – following a ham-handed HR process that we are told initially denied Mr. Flowers his due process right to a hearing. . . 

Mr. Flowers’ attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, has another explanation:  Retaliation. 

Prior to his termination, Flowers filed complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations alleging that he was retaliated against by senior officials after he blew the whistle and requested an internal investigation into the abuse of inmates by correctional officers. 

In response, Volusia County turned the tables, claiming that an internal investigation sustained serious violations against Flowers – including that he ordered the isolation of inmates, violated suicide protocols, created a hostile workplace, and directed that corrections officers place an inmate in a dangerous “four-point restraint” for an extended period.   

In his notice of termination, Volusia County Public Protection Department Director Mark Swanson rubbed salt in the wound, claiming Flowers had lost the support of many “if not all” of his command staff and correctional officers:

“While I recognize that you now claim that members of the command staff are incompetent and need to be fired, it is important to note that you were the one who promoted them into command staff positions.”

Wow.   

Something tells me that little ditty is not going to age well. . .

Now, as the ominous allegations and counteraccusations continue to fly, the one senior executive ultimately responsible for the operation and administration of all aspects of county government – the omnipotent County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – continues to draw a salary in excess of $246,700, plus benefits and perquisites, while successfully dodging accountability for the lack of situational awareness that led to the continuing debacle at the Department of Corrections.   

I have a problem with that. 

If you pay taxes in Volusia County, you should too.  

Disturbingly, last month, Community Misinformation Director Kevin Captain issued an embroidered “press release” blatantly mischaracterizing the results of an external review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office – which included an arrogant “statement” from Recktenwald that provided him an opportunity to publicly defend against the allegations brought by Flowers. 

In my view, this self-serving attempt to spin the facts of a growing scandal – coupled with the historic “trust issues” that have plagued Volusia County for decades – has further eroded the public’s confidence in County government and now casts doubt on Recktenwald’s moral authority to lead.    

There is a long-standing military tradition that newly seated At-Large Councilman Jake Johannson – a career naval officer and former public administrator – is no doubt familiar with:

“With responsibility goes authority and with them both goes accountability.”

The manager’s role is stipulated by County Charter – and Mr. Recktenwald’s authority is inviolate, to include complete autonomy in hiring, promoting, assigning, and terminating all county employees – with serious penalties for any elected official who insinuates themselves into operational aspects of government. 

In exchange for accepting this immense responsibility, the chief executive receives a salary and benefits package commensurate with the political volatility and answerability that comes with the position – and in Volusia County – the position is given a cursory pat on the head that passes for a ‘performance review’ each December – then, like clockwork, gifted a hefty pay increase. . .

In most organizations where such enormous power is consolidated in the hands of one individual, the concept of “accountability” is incredibly important to maintaining internal and external trust, and the delegation of authority to various “directors” and department heads in no way relieves the chief executive of his or her ultimate and continuing responsibility. 

It’s a hard dollar – and why holding a high-visibility leadership position is not for everyone. 

As a result, poor leaders often become so risk adverse that mediocrity and the status quo become the operative ethic – and when scandal hits – the instinctive organizational reaction is to control the narrative, “spin” the facts in a way most sympathetic to the bureaucracy, circle the wagons, find a scapegoat, deny, obfuscate, admit nothing, and make counteraccusations.

Sound familiar?   

Look, I am not talking about the everyday faults and imperfections inherent to human involvement in a complex bureaucratic system with lots of moving parts.  Honest mistakes are a healthy part of the process and can lead to positive changes in policies, protocols, and efficiencies – and repeatedly replacing the chief administrator over petty differences is incredibly destabilizing.        

But this scandal involves the physical abuse of persons in the legal care, custody, and control of the County of Volusia, grievous allegations that include segregating and tacking out an inmate in four-point restraints, in the nude, on a concrete pad – for days – something Mr. Recktenwald either knew, or should have known, was occurring. 

It has also dissolved into diametrically opposed accusations – with Mr. Flowers attorney claiming he was discriminated against and suffered retaliation when he brought forth information to Mr. Recktenwald regarding abuses at the jail. 

Add to that Mr. Captain’s suspiciously stilted press release and the administration’s credibility problem expands. 

Exponentially.

In my view, now that Mr. Flowers has been terminated (with extreme prejudice) – it is right and just for County Manager Recktenwald to do the right thing and resign. Only then can the new Volusia County Council begin the complicated, but necessary, process of restoring trust in county government. 

Quote of the Week

“Adrian Brown was under the influence of alcohol to the point that his “normal faculties were impaired” when he operated the boat on Lake Osceola on May 31, 2021, according to the document from the Winter Park Police.

The report stated that Adrian Brown hosted a gathering where the majority of people were under 21. It also stated that Adrian Brown was an adult over the age of 18 and “had the authority or ability to regulate.”

Carter, who was under 21, drank “a large amount of alcoholic beverages,” causing him to be impaired, and he subsequently drowned, the report stated.”

–Reporter Frank Fernandez, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Brown son granted deferral in drowning,” Sunday, January 8, 2022

Kids are tailor-made to embarrass you. 

It’s what they do during periods in their formative years – and why I rarely mention it when some prominent progeny in the community pulls a boneheaded move and leaves their parents red-faced.   

Trust me.  I know what an incorrigible pain in the ass I was growing up (my long-suffering wife will tell you not much has changed…) and my frequent youthful indiscretions mortified my mom and dad on more than one occasion. 

But this is different. 

On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal published an article regarding “The accidental drowning of an intoxicated young man and underage drinking during a party at the home of J. Powell Brown, the president of Brown & Brown insurance, led to a misdemeanor criminal charge against Brown’s son.”

The piece explained that on Memorial Day 2021, Adrian Brown, then 20, hosted a house party where underage drinking occurred.  During the party, Brown reportedly operated a boat on Lake Osceola where a young man, identified as Charles Harrison “Harry” Carter, 20, failed to surface after swimming from the boat. 

A postmortem examination later found that Carter had a blood alcohol level of 0.317 – four times the legal limit of .08 for adults. 

According to the News-Journal:

“Several witnesses told police that Adrian Brown was under the influence of alcoholic beverages while operating the boat and had hosted a gathering where underage men and women were drinking.

Police found 80 empty bottles and cans of beer and hard seltzer aboard the boat as well as an empty bottle of wine and a half-empty bottle of vodka, the report stated.

Adrian Brown was charged with hosting an open house party causing or contributing to a death, a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.”

What has many shaking their heads is the fact Brown, now 22, “…reached a deferred prosecution agreement on Oct. 19, 2022, in which the charge will be dismissed and not refiled as long as he does not commit any “criminal violation” for six months, according to the agreement.

The agreement also requires Adrian Brown to successfully complete a four-hour drug and alcohol awareness class. The agreement also required him to pay $500 to Kids House of Seminole County and $50 to the State Attorney’s Office for the cost of prosecution.

In a motion filed Oct. 26 in Orange County Circuit Court, Adrian Brown’s attorney, Tad A. Yates, wrote that Brown had already completed the four-hour class and payments.”

The Brown family has reportedly settled a wrongful death lawsuit related to Carter’s drowning. 

The details of that settlement have not been disclosed.

And that’s that.  

Not surprisingly, many in the community are concerned about the appearance of things since this story broke on Sunday – questioning that the outcome of this tragic case might have been different – but for the power and prominence of the young man’s family? 

Others equate the outcome to the son of another wealthy Halifax area family who received what many thought was preferential treatment (“the deal of the century”) following his arrest and prosecution on charges of trafficking in cocaine and methamphetamine (which could have resulted in a lengthy prison term and massive fine) then being found under the influence, and in physical control of vehicle at a local bar, while on probation. . .

Does power and political influence result in extraordinary leniency for a few, while others are taken into the “system” and forced to accept the life-altering consequences of their actions?   

I hope not. 

Because even the appearance of differential treatment can result in a loss of confidence in our judicial system.     

Justice for Harry? 

You be the judge. . . 

And Another Thing!

On Monday, the City of DeLand hosted the Volusia Legislative Delegation – an annual audience with our state legislators and senators – a chance for local governments, civic organizations, and even We, The Little People – Joe and Jane Lunchpail – to dutifully genuflect, approach the thrones, prostrate ourselves before the assembled political clerisy – and beg for their largesse. 

That might be a slight embellishment, but it’s accurate, and a sure sign that the election season is over – a clear demarcation between the campaign season, when those seeking to represent our interests came to us, knocked at our door, and asked for our input (and our vote.)

Now, we are required to come before them, hat in hand, to seek a return on our tax dollars.   

Whatever. 

According to reports, four of the six men who represent the Fun Coast in Tallahassee listened to some three-dozen requests – everything from funding for a new fire station in Holly Hill, to an impassioned plea for emergency assistance as the City of New Smyrna Beach struggles to recover from back-to-back hurricanes, a call for pedestrian safety initiatives, and prison reform – even a request for Florida to participate in a Convention of States to reign in the power of the federal government.   

Hell, I’d just like a little help with expediting local transportation infrastructure improvements, environmental protections, and water quantity/quality assurance – now that the massive sprawl that has feathered the nests of many of their campaign donors in the real estate development industry has outpaced our ability to support it. . .

Look, I realize these screeds come off as unappreciative of the delegation’s legislative efforts – and I always seem to tetchily focus on the turd in the punchbowl – but, in truth, I sincerely hope that our powerful state representatives can bring home bacon this session.

We need it.

Many of our neighbors are still hurting from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole – with some hospitality gurus speculating that tourism in down 35% to 50% due to beach erosion and damage to supporting infrastructure – and the ravages of the storms’ floodwaters have many still making repairs and rebuilding their lives on both sides of the Palmetto Curtain.

Time will tell. 

I don’t know about you, but I have also been impressed with some of the early suggestions of our newest members of the Volusia County Council – initiatives that will genuinely improve our quality of life and keep with our unique traditions.

For instance, Councilman Troy Kent has requested a February discussion on designating dog friendly sections of beach for each coastal community – something that was shot down by those obstructionists on the former council. 

I like that.

According to an excellent report by Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer:

“Kent’s suggestion is to create 100-yard sections of beach in all coastal unincorporated areas and municipalities where people may bring their dogs on a leash. He recommended adding signage, trash cans and waste stations at each, as well as having a lifeguard station to ensure people follow the rules the county chooses to instate, if the council does approve of the idea.”

Refreshingly, newly seated At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson said he was waiting to second Mr. Kent’s motion to discuss the idea when a technological glitch prevented Chairman Jeff Brower from recognizing him. 

Unfortunately, the only district-level holdover from the previous iteration of the council – Councilman Danny Robins – tried to shit on the idea and dug in his heels as he was taught by Volusia’s Old Guard

In doing so, Mr. Robins exposed a disturbing lack of vision and creativity when he cited the fact our beach is a “disaster” right now – while looking backward to the failed policies and procrastinations of his lockstep mentors on the former council. 

“I’m a dog guy just like you, just like everybody up here,” Robins said. “But there’s a lot of history with this.”

My ass.

According to the Observers report, Kent said staff would provide background information on the issue when it’s placed on the agenda, and that, while the beach is in a bad condition now, it won’t always be. If the council doesn’t talk about it now, Kent speculated the issue would fall to the wayside.”

Look, I have been burnt before – so, I’m not going to get giddily incontinent over the vision and direction of our “new” Volusia County Council just yet – but even a crusty naysayer like me must admit that most of our recently seated representatives have at least said all the right things.

Again, time will tell. 

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

Barker’s View will be on the road next week! 

Angels & Assholes will return for your listening and dancing pleasure on January 27th.

In the meantime, please enjoy a walk down memory lane by selecting a few ditties from the voluminous archives at the bottom of the page.  I find it interesting to see how history repeats here on the Fun Coast – the similarities and coincidences that have cemented my view that, “the more things change, the more they remain the same. . .”

Thanks for reading – see you soon!   

Angels & Assholes for January 6, 2022

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel               The “New” Volusia County Council

Whether you agree philosophically and politically with the results of a local electoral process that has taken on the characteristics of a Turkish bazaar – for good or ill – our skewed “system” worked as intended.   

On Thursday, members of the “new” Volusia County Council were sworn-in with much pomp, circumstance, and turd-polishing pontification – annoyingly punctuated by the embarrassing audio malfunctions the long-suffering taxpayers have been forced to accept for far too long.  

Like many of you, I listened carefully to the various longwinded speeches of our newly seated “representatives” – and made a comprehensive list of the many lofty promises made. Of course, I got that warm feeling I always get when talk turns to quarterly coffee klatches with the lower caste, “cooperation and commonsense,” and “respecting citizens time.”

I was incredibly pleased by one of the first significant items addressed, when At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson suggested adopting a hybrid schedule to permit a mix of both daytime and evening meetings to allow more constituents to attend.

District 4 Councilman Troy Kent (who always comes off like a hyper-enthusiastic Middle School Assistant Principal…) strongly supported this concept – and took it one step further – initially making a motion to go to all evening meetings beginning in February. 

That died for lack of a second (while “staff” shifted uncomfortably in their seats. . .)

Another motion from the dais called for alternating start times with one monthly meeting beginning at 10:00am and the other at 4:00pm. 

The measure passed unanimously (with Councilman-elect David Santiago absent).

In my view, this move is a quantum leap forward in addressing the needs of those long-suffering constituents forced to take time away from work to approach their elected officials on issues of concern.

Good stuff.  Well worthy of an “Angel” designation, (I think).   

Kudos to our newly constituted Volusia County Council for considering the needs of their constituents and setting a new bar for accessibility and responsiveness. 

Will progress continue? 

I don’t know. 

I’m still trying to decipher exactly what the theater we witnessed on Thursday means.

But, in my view, the hybrid schedule is an invigorating departure from the stagnant status quo.  

Unfortunately, in my experience, because the bureaucracy and its entrenched leadership remains the same – and the self-serving motivations of those influential insiders who control the rods and strings of public policy have not changed – I don’t expect anything to substantively improve on the dais of power.

That includes the continuing political castration of Chairman Jeff Brower. . .   

I hope that’s not the case.  But it is.   

Disturbingly, when talk turned to refining “the rules” – those contrived constraints which our elected officials use to limit the right of We, The Little People to provide input, speak our mind, and stand before our elected representatives for redress of grievances – it became apparent that some of our Monarchical “representatives” (including the monotonous bureaucratic babbler Councilman Troy “Super Excited!” Kent) still believe their time is more important that yours.

Bullshit.

In keeping with tradition, things later dissolved into minor confusion over procedural issues as the new members attempted to get their sea legs – and Chairman Brower once again proved that, while he is a capitulating nice guy – he is wholly out of his element on the political battlefield –and, as per usual, the Chair allowed the “discussion” to melt into a chaotic ramble. 

But it’s the citizens who are holding up the “people’s business”? 

My ass.

It seems in Volusia County, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   

Don’t take my word for it, watch the fun here: https://tinyurl.com/3avmh5y4

Stand by.  Things are just getting started. . .

Angel               Politis & Matovina and The City of Daytona Beach

The Halifax area has its share of problems, but we can still do what we do best:

Throw a kickass party!

On New Year’s Eve, thousands of revelers enjoyed the 16th Annual Politis & Matovina Law Firm’s New Year’s Eve on Main Street Party – a family friendly celebration complete with multiple entertainment stages, street performers, food, drinks, and a midnight ball drop.

Thanks to the support of Politis & Matovina, the event was free for residents and visitors!

The City of Daytona Beach assisted by closing Main Street to vehicular traffic, and, as always, the Daytona Beach Police Department kept everyone safe.

Throughout the evening, Fox News Channel provided national exposure of the Daytona Beach Resort Area with frequent cutaways to a roving reporter interviewing revelers of all ages along Main Street. 

I’m certainly not a “hospitality genius” (Lord knows we have enough of those) but our resident experts at the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Halifax Area Advertising Authority – the “brain trust” who decide how bed-tax funds are spent – could learn something by talking to Main Street merchants, analyzing historically successful events versus those that fill hotel rooms but have a destructive impact on our tattered “brand,” then wisely allocate funds to aggressively market these high draw/low impact events to potential visitors.

Last year, former Daytona Beach Mayor Dick Kane concluded an excellent essay on historical issues with our tourism industry when he laid down some hard-earned wisdom:

“The Resort Tax started at 1 per cent and, like them all has grown to 24 million and is technically overseen by the County Council. Maybe it’s time to take another overall look at our tourist lifeblood.”

I agree.

That requires a break from the current strategy of repeatedly rubber-stamping goofy marketing slogans (“Seize the Daytona,” “Wide. Open. Fun.,” “Beach on, bitches!” etc., etc.) concocted by another out-of-town advertising agency – then demand that our tourism gurus focus on what works – rather than throwing good money after bad while expecting a different result. 

It would also help to see substantive movement on the long-anticipated renovation of the blighted East International Speedway Boulevard gateway – that suppurating carbuncle that for decades has served as a ghastly first impression to visitors and potential investors – a much-needed makeover we have been promised (repeatedly) will begin “early this year.”

Kudos to Politis & Matovina, the City of Daytona Beach, and everyone who worked hard to make New Year’s Eve on Main Street another roaring success!

Asshole           Volusia County District Schools

In an outstanding October 2022 exposé by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s education reporter Danielle Johnson, we learned that the mother of a student with Down syndrome who attends Seabreeze High School under a deferred graduation program filed state and federal complaints alleging discrimination against her son and other students with disabilities.

According to the original report, “Anni Suadi says the district “warehouses” students with disabilities in segregated “building 15” at the high school “like it used to be back in 1950,” and that Volusia County Schools has not followed her son Lance Avery’s legally binding individualized education plan (IEP).

The actions, which she calls “immoral,” “unethical” and “illegal” in her complaint, have deprived him of opportunities to participate in electives and be included with general education students. She’s pulled him out of school until a change is made to include her son and other students.”  

Unfortunately, the trials of Lance Avery are not unique in Volusia County Schools.

In 2021, the United States Department of Justice reached a settlement with Volusia County Schools after finding the district’s “…systemic and discriminatory practices” were punishing students with disabilities for behaviors the students couldn’t control.”

That investigation began in 2017 after an attorney representing eleven students – nine of whom were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – filed complaints on their behalf with the DOJ.

According to a 2021 News-Journal report:

“The DOJ found the students’ claims to be true. The district relied on overly punitive disciplinary tactics and law enforcement to address behaviors that are known or should be known manifestations of the students’ disabilities. The district also “routinely sought to exclude these students by removing them,” by asking parents to pick children up from school or asking them to keep the children home, by suspending the children, or by using Baker Act procedures to involuntarily hold children at hospitals.” 

The resulting settlement gave the district three-years to revise discriminatory policies and procedures. . .

Earlier this week, the News-Journal reported that Lance Avery’s due process claim was dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge following a hearing in December. 

Controversial attorney Barbara Myrick represented the Volusia County School Board. . .

As you may recall, in April 2021, Myrick was arrested on a charge of unlawful disclosure of statewide grand jury proceedings and subsequently resigned from her role as Broward County School Board General Counsel.   

The indictment came in the shambolic aftermath of the Broward County School Board’s disastrous handling of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

You can read more here: https://tinyurl.com/ysnduu9m

On Tuesday morning, School Board Member Ruben Colon – in my view, one of the most transparent, sincere, and genuinely helpful elected officials in Volusia County – confirmed that Ms. Myrick serves as an attorney with a firm contracted by the district, and she specializes in cases related to exceptional student education.

To her credit, Anni Suadi, told the News-Journal “she’s not done fighting.”

According to the News-Journal report:

“In the final order, the judge did acknowledge that one witness, an Americans with Disabilities Act compliance officer, presented testimony that was “highly insensitive,” as she stated, “we can’t have him (Avery) on campus where the students who are much younger than him are using him as a plaything and a toy and a pet.”

“The kids are mentors,” Suadi said, disagreeing. “Lance, he grows socially, he becomes independent, he communicates, he complies, he’s on task, he does what all the other kids do….

He’s made friends. Nobody plays with him like he’s a pet or a toy.

Suadi intends to appeal the final order with a lawsuit and is in touch with an assistant United States attorney in the Middle District of Florida’s Orlando Division about elevating her complaints. She has also filed a report with the Daytona Beach Police Department over alleged falsification of Avery’s records.”

Good for Ms. Suadi. 

Given the fact the school district is under an active federal settlement agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section, my hope is DOJ intervenes on Lance Avery’s behalf and gets this matter out of the Florida Administrative Hearing process and into a federal courtroom where it belongs.    

In fact, my hope is the Civil Rights Division will open a branch office here on the Fun Coast, clear the logjam, and let the chips fall where they may. . . 

Quote of the Week

“The News-Journal requested the surveillance video, but Captain cited a law that exempts from public records videos “relating directly to the physical security or fire safety of the facility or revealing security or fire safety systems.”

“In follow up with our legal team, case law has consistently held that video obtained from a surveillance system at any government facility falls within that exemption,” Captain wrote in an email to The News-Journal. “There are several attorney general opinions that confirm this. It does not matter how many cameras are involved.”

–Volusia County “Community Misinformation” Director Kevin Captain, as quoted by The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Report: Inmate, officers give conflicting accounts of incident at Volusia jail,” Wednesday, December 28, 2022

In recent weeks, many have been fuming about the growing speculation following scandalous revelations of inmate abuse at the Volusia County Department of Corrections. 

Despite Volusia County’s repeated attempts to downplay the scandal – it’s a ‘big deal.’

Look, I often make light of the civic issues we face here on Florida’s Fun Coast.  Let’s face it, laughing at our collective plight beats the alternative of throwing ourselves in the floor and having a good cry. . .

But one thing I never joke about is trust in government.   

Unfortunately, in Volusia County “the truth” has now become a choreographed narrative carefully crafted by Mr. Captain – a highly paid mouthpiece who “manages” information and controls the story by spinning “facts” – a strategy which ensures that no one in a position of high responsibility is ever held accountable for (insert debacle du jour).      

On Monday, I wrote my thoughts on the swirling controversy at the Volusia County Department of Corrections – including allegations by former Department of Corrections Director Mark Flowers that he is being retaliated against by senior administrators for blowing the whistle on issues at the jail.

Much of what we know about this disturbing controversy initially came from Mr. Flowers’ attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, as reported by The Daytona Beach News-Journal – revelations which were followed by counter-accusations from Volusia County – including claims that an internal investigation sustained a laundry list of violations against Flowers that include ordering the isolation of inmates, violating suicide protocols, creating a hostile workplace, and directing that corrections officers place an unidentified inmate in a “four-point restraint” – naked – for days.

Last month, just hours before the Christmas break, Volusia County issued a self-serving press release choreographed by “Community Information” Director Kevin Captain – complete with a chest-thumping “statement” from County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald – touting the results of an independent review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney of a single use of force incident when corrections officers intervened following a fight between two inmates.

According to Mr. Captain’s glowing release, “An independent, outside review of an altercation at the Volusia County Branch Jail in April found no evidence that corrections officers used excessive force while gaining control of a combative inmate.”

Wow.

That’s vastly different from the findings of Volusia County Department of Public Protection Captain David Vanis whose initial internal investigation concluded, “Based on the information gathered during this investigation, I am unable to determine if the force used against (inmate Caruthers) on April 26, 2022, was excessive in nature.”

Of course, Mr. Captain’s spin set up Mr. Recktenwald to spike his apparent vindication from Mr. Flowers’ pointed allegations in a prepared statement:

“The fact that the review by the State Attorney’s Office of the interviews, evidence and circumstances came to the very same conclusion shows that we were thorough and transparent in our investigation,” said Recktenwald. “We appreciate the detailed and professional manner in which our internal affairs staff conducted the investigation. The suggestion that our investigation was handled in anything less than an appropriate and exemplary manner has been proven to be false.”

Nothing to see here, folks.  Keep moving. . .

So much for self-reflection, a transparent failure analysis, an honest examination of leadership breakdowns, acceptance of responsibility, and the recentering of organizational values at VDOC, eh?

In my view, the FDLE investigative report – and the subsequent prosecutorial review – paint a disturbing picture of issues at the Volusia County Department of Corrections – with conflicting testimony, opposing vantagepoints, and differing recollections of the same incident.

According to reports, neither the Volusia County Department of Public Protection, nor FDLE, were able to definitively determine if the use of force was excessive in nature, resulting in findings of “not sustained” in the case of four of the officers named in the incident – and “unfounded” in the case of two of the officers involved.

Back when I was conducting and reviewing Internal Affairs investigations, “not sustained” generally meant that the investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation – while “unfounded” determined that the alleged incident did not occur.

According to the findings of Assistant State Attorney Ashley Terwilleger, the inquiry was complicated by the fact, “Video surveillance of the area outside the cell provided views of the common area outside of the cell but no angle provides a view of the interior of the cell. There are no video surveillance cameras for the interior of the cell.”

As a result, the State Attorney’s Office found “insufficient evidence to proceed.”

I don’t know about you, but I find Director Captain’s slanted media release, and refusal to release video of the incident, alarming – especially since Volusia County rarely (if ever) publicly comments on employment matters and pending litigation. . .

As the great television journalist Bob Schieffer once said, “…self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation; it makes it worse, because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says.”

Add to that Mr. Captain’s reliance on legal mumbo-jumbo, “case law,” attorney general opinions, and “exemptions” to Florida’s public records laws whenever it does not serve the County’s narrative – and it gives the appearance our county government has something to hide. . .

That’s a problem.

But don’t worry. 

When the time is right, these incredibly well-paid senior administrators will puff out their chests in righteous indignation, then crow, ad nauseam, about their “honor and professionalism” while their bosses – our elected representatives – gaze misty-eyed from the dais, validating this abhorrent continuing course of conduct with their inaction. . .

It’s good to have “friends,” right?    

Earlier this week, I said what many are thinking regarding the ongoing shit show at the Volusia County Department of Corrections – hoping against hope that “The Wreck” would follow his conscience, accept responsibility commensurate with his vast authority (and paycheck), do the right thing and resign during the swearing-in ceremony for the “new” Volusia County Council.   

You know – out with old, in with the new?

Right.

That will teach me to put faith in senior Volusia County officials following their conscience, eh?

Hell, even with Councilman Matt Reinhart, the former jail warden now in a position of oversight, the 800-pound abusive gorilla in the room that is the VCDOC debacle wasn’t even mentioned.

(Like I said – where is the United States Department of Justice when we need them?)

The faces on the dais of power may have changed this week, but make no mistake, the exclusive Good Old Boys Club is alive and well in the cloistered Halls of Power at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building – and those of us who pay the bills are clearly not members.

Despite our optimism for new beginnings, the “Trust Issue” which has hampered substantive progress continues. 

That’s a damn shame.

And Another Thing!

Whether we like it or not, you and I are about to run a railroad. 

What?  You don’t know diddlysquat about the management and logistics of operating a complex commuter-rail system that will ultimately connect DeLand with points south? 

That’s okay.  Neither do our powers that be.

Unfortunately, no one who should seems to give two-shits as we trundle like a runaway locomotive toward the Florida Department of Transportation’s handover of SunRail to Volusia, Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties and the City of Orlando. 

What we do know is that in coming weeks, work will begin on the final segment from DeBary to DeLand while senior administrators in DeLand and beyond continue to shillyshally on the all-important details as the clock ticks.

The twelve-mile section will cost $34.2 million (Volusia County taxpayers will cover a quarter of that) and the line will terminate at a depot to be constructed near the DeLand Amtrak station. 

With FDOT actively preparing to unload SunRail onto the backs of locals in June 2024, the who, what, when, where, and how (don’t get me started on the why) of the operation and management of the commuter-rail system remains in limbo – including exactly how much you and I will be on the hook for annually – given that ridership is far less than what is required to sustain operating costs for a system that still does not run nights or weekends.   

As I understand it (and I am not sure I do) some are suggesting that the current Commuter Rail Commission become SunRail’s operating agency – an incredibly expensive proposition that would require constructing another massive multifaceted bureaucracy – including hiring some 200 people, building dedicated office space, purchasing various insurance coverage, etc., etc., etc.   

Another suggestion is to contract with Orlando’s existing public bus system known as Lynx – which knows nothing about running a railroad – a move some see as limiting Volusia County’s say in the governance of the system even more than it has been. 

So, why the lack of urgency to find solutions?

Better ask your elected “representative” on the Volusia County Council while they are still feeling communicative. . .

Recently, West Volusia resident and dedicated government watcher Keith Chester wrote in the West Volusia Beacon:

“Our County’s leaders have, as is often said in County Council meetings, kicked the can down the road long enough on the issue of SunRail. It is time to start moving forward with the public’s input. Just waiting to see what the State and the SunRail commission offers up is wrong.

To members of the Volusia County Council, please bring the DeLand SunRail project out of the shadows and call for a nighttime workshop that will allow for the public to participate in the process. Enough of the wishy-washy BS over SunRail, it is coming so let’s make the best of it together!

Sorry Keith.  I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. . .

Happy New Year, everyone.   

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

The Trouble With the Truth

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

– Albert Einstein

Much has changed in the administration of local governments since my retirement from public service.

Good and bad.   

One of the most noticeable is the widespread use of highly paid public information professionals – the “spinmeisters” who serve as gatekeepers for senior administrators and elected officials, none of whom speak directly with the media outlets who once ensured accountability in the cloistered Halls of Power, now communicating exclusively through canned ‘press releases’ and orchestrated “statements.”

Most do a great job of keeping us informed, serving as a single point of information, especially during times of crisis. But make no mistake – as the official mouthpiece, the “PIO” reflects the character of the organization they represent.

“In my day,” public officials developed close working relationships with individual reporters based upon mutual trust – the daily exchange of information that kept the public informed – and I was honored to serve with some of the best in the business.

All these years later, I still maintain friendships with some of the hardworking print and television news reporters I had the pleasure of working with. 

The inviolate rule was to never breach that sacred trust, and I learned early that when my agency made a mistake (and I made some doozies) – it was important to air the dirty laundry – admit the error, explain the circumstances without excuse or embroidery, apologize to constituents, and set about making things right. 

Could that soul-bearing exercise be painful? 

You bet it was. 

That’s the trouble with the truth.  It is difficult – but essential. 

However, the alternative of allowing issues to fester into scandals can be disastrous – and any Public Relations pro will tell you the cover-up is always worse than the crime.  Because once a government official or entity loses the public trust, it is nearly impossible to win it back. 

Unfortunately, when elected and appointed officials begin circling the wagons and pulling the shades, things quickly deteriorate – and a domino effect of distrust can quickly spread – especially to those charged with the oversight of governmental operations where even the appearance of impropriety can have wide-ranging implications.  

In my view, the most recent example of this bureaucratic sleight-of-hand is the on-going conflagration at the Volusia County Department of Corrections following revelations of horrific inmate abuse – including allegations by former Department of Corrections Director Mark Flowers that he is being retaliated against by senior administrators for blowing the whistle on issues at the jail. 

Much of what we know about this disturbing controversy initially came from Mr. Flowers’ attorney, Kelly Chanfrau, as reported by The Daytona Beach News-Journal – revelations which were followed by counter-accusations from Volusia County – including claims that an internal investigation by Human Resources sustained a laundry list of violations against Flowers that include ordering the isolation of inmates, violating suicide protocols, creating a hostile workplace, and directing that corrections officers place an unidentified inmate in a “four-point restraint” – naked – for days.

Ugly. 

Now, things have gone from bad to worse.   

Amid this swirling controversy, last month, the final act of that foul iteration of the Volusia County Council resulted in a 5-1 vote to gift County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and County Attorney Mike Dyer a 4% pay increase.  Only Chairman Jeff Brower rightfully reserved judgement until the various questions, speculation, and investigations surrounding the Department of Corrections debacle are concluded. 

As this rotten onion continued to peel, just hours before the Christmas break, Volusia County issued a self-serving release choreographed by “Community Information” Director Kevin Captain – complete with a chest-thumping “statement” from County Manager Recktenwald – touting the results of an independent review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State Attorney of a single use of force incident when corrections officers intervened following a fight between two inmates.

According to Mr. Captain’s glowing release, “An independent, outside review of an altercation at the Volusia County Branch Jail in April found no evidence that corrections officers used excessive force while gaining control of a combative inmate.”

Wow. 

That’s a far cry from the findings of Volusia County Department of Public Protection Captain David Vanis whose initial internal investigation concluded, “Based on the information gathered during this investigation, I am unable to determine if the force used against (inmate Caruthers) on April 26, 2022, was excessive in nature.”

Of course, Mr. Captain’s spin set up Mr. Recktenwald to spike his apparent vindication from Mr. Flowers’ pointed allegations in a prepared statement:

“The fact that the review by the State Attorney’s Office of the interviews, evidence and circumstances came to the very same conclusion shows that we were thorough and transparent in our investigation,” said Recktenwald. “We appreciate the detailed and professional manner in which our internal affairs staff conducted the investigation. The suggestion that our investigation was handled in anything less than an appropriate and exemplary manner has been proven to be false.”

Nothing to see here, folks.  Keep moving. . . 

So much for self-reflection, a transparent failure analysis, an honest examination of leadership breakdowns, acceptance of responsibility, and the recentering of organizational values at VDOC, eh?

In my view, the FDLE investigative report – and the subsequent prosecutorial review – paint a less than “exemplary” picture of issues at the Volusia County Department of Corrections, with conflicting testimony, opposing vantagepoints, and differing recollections of the same incident.

According to reports, neither the Volusia County Department of Public Protection, nor FDLE, were able to definitively determine if the use of force was excessive in nature, resulting in findings of “not sustained” in the case of four of the officers named in the incident – and “unfounded” in the case of two of the officers involved.

Back when I was conducting Internal Affairs investigations, “not sustained” generally meant that the investigation failed to disclose sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation – while “unfounded” determined that the alleged incident did not occur. 

According to the findings of Assistant State Attorney Ashley Terwilleger, the inquiry was complicated by the fact, “Video surveillance of the area outside the cell provided views of the common area outside of the cell but no angle provides a view of the interior of the cell. There are no video surveillance cameras for the interior of the cell.”

As a result, the State Attorney’s Office found “insufficient evidence to proceed.”

I don’t know about you, but I find Director Captain’s slanted media release alarming – especially since Volusia County rarely (if ever) publicly comments on employment matters and pending litigation. . . 

Confused?  Me too. 

According to an excellent follow-up by reporters Sheldon Gardner and Frank Fernandez writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Report: Inmate, officers give conflicting accounts of incident at Volusia jail”:

“The FDLE did not make a finding on whether the force by correctional officers was justified or illegal. The agency, as it typically does, turns over its report to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecutors to decide whether charges are warranted.”

Now Mr. Captain – and Mr. Recktenwald – have a big credibility problem. 

I suspect FDLE – and the Office of the State Attorney – are reassessing this disturbing development as well. 

At least I hope they are. . .

In my view, this problem begins (and ends) with County Manager Recktenwald – who either knew, or should have known, of the systemic abuses, low morale, and dangerous practices employed at the jail – and that neither Director Captain’s release, nor his gloating “statement,” were an accurate portrayal of FDLE’s review.

Now it is high time for the United States Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate, provide oversight, and return public confidence to the Volusia County Department of Public Protection.

With significant questions swirling around the myriad issues at the Department of Corrections (and the executive suite) – this is not the time for Mr. Captain’s “cover your ass” crisis-management, skewed press releases, and the political insulation tactics that have effectively destroyed the public’s trust in Volusia County government. 

With a new slate of elected officials set to be sworn in on Thursday – the ceremonial transfer of power presents an excellent opportunity for The Wreck to finally accept responsibility and resign.

Because We, The Little People will never believe anything Recktenwald or Captain say again. . .  

I hate to throw a damper on the pomp, circumstance, and self-congratulations, but the first order of business for our “new” Volusia County Council should be to throw open the musty drapes at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building and allow the disinfecting light of day to shine – then hold those in positions of high responsibility accountable for the maladministration that allowed these disturbing issues to fester in the first place. 

The Honor Roll 2022

Hi, kids!

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Where does the time go?

Each year, I like to recognize those intrepid souls who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life – or detracted from it – in some significant way as we proudly unveil the 2022 Barker’s View Honor Roll!

In coming weeks, the annual Halifax area rubber chicken banquet season will be in full swing. 

That time of the year when various chambers of commerce, political organizations, and exclusive civic clubs dress up in their finery and bestow honors and accolades on all the right last names while We, The Little People sit in gridlocked traffic wondering how in the hell anyone could take credit for…this.  

However dubious, the Barker’s View Honor Roll remains the only prize in Volusia County that our “Rich & Powerful” cannot buy!

No, this honor is reserved for youall of you – from the gilded Halls of Power to the thousands of strapped families trying desperately to find safe and affordable housing on a warehouse workers wage.   

From our social, civic, and economic elite – the ‘movers and shakers’ with outsized influence – to us lowly rubes who struggle desperately to eke out a living and raise families in this weird artificial economy – we all have a personal stake in improving our quality of life here on Florida’s fabled Fun Coast

That proposition has become increasingly difficult in an era when elected bodies are little more than elaborate rubber stamps – malleable marionettes who enact rules to prevent substantive citizen engagement and interaction – a time when addressing The Monarchy for redress of grievances is a frustrating exercise in futility as the important decisions are predetermined by influential insiders and laundered through political insulation committees long before the choreographed theater of a public meeting.   

Don’t take my word for it. 

Take time out of your busy workday to attend a meeting of the Volusia County Council – approach your elected officials on the dais of power – and see if they acknowledge your physical presence, let alone answer your questions. . . 

As a result, the prevailing ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality has many rightly convinced that we deserve better from those who control our fate and are increasingly willing to speak truth to power.   

Thank you.

You are my heroes.

I honor all who fight the good fight – those who stand for elective office for the right reasons and endure the slings and arrows of harsh criticism, the administrators and career civil servants who have devoted their lives to public service, the watchers, the informed voters, and dedicated gadflies who so courageously let their voice be heard – and those of us up here in the cheap seats who pay the bills and suffer in silence.

Thank you.

To those hardworking civic activists who struggle valiantly to protect our natural places, improve amenities, preserve our unique traditions, keep our history alive, and enhance our quality of life – from committed environmentalists and those who fight for animal rights to beach driving supporters, smart growth advocates, and beyond – your dedication and perseverance is inspiring.   

Thank you.

I never lose sight of the fact that the opinions of cynical blowhards like me do not matter.

As Roosevelt said, the real credit belongs to those “who are actually in the arena” – who spend themselves in a worthy cause – the grassroots efforts of neighborhood organizations, the philanthropists who give so generously, and the volunteers who form the very backbone of our community.

Thank you.

Seven years ago, I launched Barker’s View as one man’s soapbox, a place to vent my jaundiced spleen and provide an alternative opinion on the news and newsmakers in Central Florida – neither always right, nor always wrong.

I could never have imagined how many of you would take the time to read, welcome a unique perspective, and consider these diatribes for what they are – and what they are not.

Thanks to your engagement, this blog continues to open doors, shine a light, and influence opinion – and I appreciate the opportunity to meet and correspond with so many wonderful people – including a few of those “power brokers” and politicians I take to the woodshed – some of whom still have the humility and sense of humor to laugh at themselves and our collective situation.

While I cannot know the hundreds-of-thousands of you who have visited this site – including readers from some 87 countries around the globe this year alone – I appreciate each of you for taking the time to connect with Barker’s View.   

Thank you.

Invariably, whenever I meet Barker’s View readers – you are incredibly kind to me – and take the time to offer your own unique perspective on the issues, point out where we agree or differ, provide constructive criticism, and give suggestions for future content.   

Thank you.

To everyone who reached out this year, stopped to chat in the grocery aisle, wrote a note, or sat down next to me on a barstool to discuss the world’s problems, pass along gossip, commiserate, share a joke, argue a fine point, or just lend a word of encouragement.

Thank you.

I appreciate that more than you know.  

The problem with making lists is you will invariably (and inadvertently) omit someone most deserving, and if I have overlooked your contributions, please forgive me – it was not intentional.

Please let me know where I fell short.  The mistake is mine alone.

While this Honor Roll is not all inclusive, it begins and ends with YOU.

Those who read, contribute, opine, comment, argue, agree, disagree, disparage, elevate, share, offer solutions, moderate a social media site, participate in politics, educate our children, speak out, campaign for public office, serve on an advisory board, plan for our future, offer criticism, demand accountability, serve their community, care for the sick and infirm, risk their lives to save others, raise the bar, give generously, provide hope and encouragement – political allies and foes alike – anyone who can still be my friend when the heated debate is over.

Thank you.

Most of all, to the faithful readers of Barker’s View – the independent thinkers who analyze and contemplate my warped thoughts on the myriad issues of the day – and those who further a larger discussion in the community, an important exercise that can lead to innovative ideas and solutions to the problems we face.

Thank you.

You are making a difference!

The Good Lord willing, in the coming year, I will be here – spectating from the Peanut Gallery – cocktail in hand – a rheumy-eyed witness to the machinations of our local players, power brokers, and politicians – providing you, the devoted members of the Barker’s View Tribe, with one man’s jaded opinion on the important issues that affect our lives and livelihoods.

Thank you all.  May God bless each of you and this beautiful place we call home.

That’s all for me in 2022, y’all!

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

2022 Barker’s View Honor Roll

Aaron Delgado

Aaron Van Kleeck

Abraxas Books

Adam Bucher

AdventHealth

Aja West

Al Everson

Al Moore

Al Smith

Alan Blythe

Alan Burton

Alan Lowe

Alan Rosen

Alex J. Kennedy

Alex Zelenski

Alexander Haff

Alexey Lysich

Alice Popour

Alicia Page

Allan Brewer

Allan Gochall

Allen E. Harrell

Allen Espy

Alvin B. Jackson

Alvin Mortimer

Alycia Severson

Amanda Brower

Amanda Gang

Amazon

Amy Pyle

Andre Vidrine

Andrea Totten

Andrei Ludu

Andrew Ethridge

Andrew Gant

Andrew Grosso

Andrew Hall

Andrew Sandall

Androse Bell

Andy & Debbie Cotton

Andy Dance

Andy Esterhay

Andy Grosso

Andy Kelly

Angela Dempsey

Angelique Nelson

Angry Mom

Anita Bradford

Anita Burnette

Ann Johnson

Ann Marie Sikorski

Ann McFall (RIP)

Ann Russell Hylton

Ann Ryder

Anna Hannon

Anna Wright

Anne B. Evans

Anne Ruby

AnnMarie Groarke

Anonymous Teacher

Anthony DeFeo

Anthony Recascino

Argentina Tavarez

Arlene AL

Arthur J. Byrnes

Astrid Deparry

Austin Spivey

Avalon Park Daytona

Avanu

B&B Cheetah

Babe’s Blue Room

Barb Girtman

Barb Shepherd

Barbara Bonariggo

Barbara Deering

Barbara Kincade

Barbara Whitehouse

Barbara Zimmerman Phillips

Barry Allen

Barry Chantler

Barry du Moulin

Barry Gear

Beat Kahli

Beck Crush

Belinda A.

Bellaire Community Group

Belle Schumann

Ben Butera

Ben Johnson

Benjamin Bartlett

Benji Shiflette

Benjiman Jerkins

Benny Barker

Beth Branton

Beth Legary

Beth Rogan

Beth Sutherland

Bethune-Cookman University

Betty Goodman

Betty Landrum

Betty Ledyard

Big John (RIP)

Biggins Gentlemens Club

Bill Albert

Bill Barber

Bill Bernardo

Bill Boots Bouthillette

Bill Chaffin

Bill Fletcher

Bill Fraser

Bill Hall

Bill Hyde

Bill Koster

Bill Lindlau

Bill Milano

Bill Navara

Bill Offill

Bill Orpinuk

Bill Partington

Bill Partington II

Bill Posey

Bill Wastrel

Bill Willis

Billie Barker

Billie Wheeler

Billy Flash

Billy Rose

Blaine Lansberry

Blanca A. Maldonado

Bo Brewer

Bob Apgar

Bob Bennett

Bob Davis

Bob Finch

Bob Fitzsimmons

Bob Jagger

Bob Kates

Bob LaRue

Bob Lloyd

Bob Manley

Bob O’Connor

Bob Renforth

Bob Walker

Bobbi Glass Cline

Bobbie Stricklen

Bobby & Tracy Parks

Bobby Thigpen

Bobby Wise

Bobby Woell

Body Exchange

Bonnie Ness Whaley

Brad Burbaugh

Brad Carter

Brad Hoisington

Brad Lackey

Brad Nordin

Bradford Gonzalez

Brandon Young

Brandy Lee White

Brass Against

Brenda Hahn

Brendan Frey

Brenno Carillo

Brent Brown

Bret Douglas

Brian Hazen

Brian Holt

Brian Lapointe

Brian Nave

Brian Smith

Brian Soukup

Britney Miller

Brodie Hughes

Brown & Brown

Bruce Heugel

Bruce Robb

Bruce Williams

Bryan Feigenbaum

Bryan Glaze

Bryan Jaquish

Bryan Soukop

Bryn Rawlins

Bryon White

Bub Robson

Buc-ee’s

Bud Baldwin (RIP)

Bud Ritchey

Buz McKim

Buz Nesbit

Byron Cogdell

Byway Chairperson

C. Bear

Caitlyn Casey-Parker

Cameron Lane

Candace Chelf Griffey

Carl Cusumano

Carl Persis

Carmen Balgobin

Carmen Rosamonda

Carrie Baird

Carson Kapp

Casmira Harrison

Cassidy Alexander

Catherine Craig Fisler

Catherine Pante

Catherine Robinson

Cathleen “Kat” Atwood

Catholic Charities

Cathy Wharton

Celeste Morgan

CEO Business Alliance

Chad Lingenfelter

Charleen Smith

Charlene Bishop

Charlene Greer

Charles Guarria

Charles “Chuck” Duva

Charles Barkley

Charles Cino

Charles Lichtigman

Charles Moskowitz

Charles Paiva

Charles Puckett

Charles Sintes

Charlie Lydecker

Charlotte Hope Gillis

Charlotte Price Carr

Chase Herbig

Chase Tramont

Cheryl Bagshaw Frederick

Cheryl Espy-Dalton

Cheryl Reed

Chez Paul

Chief Tomokie

Chip Olden

Chip Wile

Chris & Christine Daly

Chris Belflower

Chris Bonner

Chris Bowler

Chris Challis

Chris Cloudman

Chris Conomos

Chris Gollon

Chris Graham

Chris Jarnagin

Chris Long

Chris Nabicht

Chris Pruner

Chris Quarles

Chris Sanders

Chris Via

Chris Yates

Christian Miller

Christina Gerson

Christine Power

Christine Ratti-Sprowl

Christopher Alcantara

Christopher Cloudman

Christopher France

Christopher Jenkins

Christopher Kelly

Christopher Marlow

Christos Mavronas

Chuck Collins

Chuck Gittner

Chuck Guarria

Chuck Marcus

Chuck Siple

Chuck Tindall

CiCi Brown

Cindy Gambrell Fleishmann

Cindy Hale

Cindy Nour

Cindy Rivera

City of Daytona Beach

City of Daytona Beach Shores

City of DeBary

City of Deland

City of Deltona

City of Flagler Beach

City of Holly Hill

City of New Smyrna Beach

City of Ormond Beach

City of Palm Coast

Claire Metz

Claudia Archer

Claudia Vanderhorst

Clay Carpenter

Clay Ervin

Clay Henderson

Clayton Park

Clement Nadeau

Cliff Colby

Clifford Windle

Clinton F. Smith

Coach Morris Small, Jr.

Coastal Cloud

Cobb Cole

Colleen Corrozza

Colleen McDevitt

Conklin Center

Connie Colby

Connie McNamara

Connie Rutter

Corunna Stevens Goris

Cory

Cory Mills

Costa Magoulas

County of Volusia

Craig Albright

Craig Capri

Craig Hickcox

Craig Lee

CTO Realty Growth, Inc.

Cumiskey Consultants

Curtis Colee

Curtis Wayne

Cyd Lichter-Khayter

Cyndi Ritchey

Cyndi Stevenson

Cyrus Callum

D. Gray Leonhard

D. J. Lebo

D. W. Smith

Dale Anderson

Dallas Seibert

Dan Eckert

Dan Hurst

Dan Lowe

Dan Luby

Dan Merrithew

Dan Ravan

Dan Ryan

Dana C. Dougherty

Dana McCool

Dana Paige-Pender

Dana White

Daniel Apker

Daniel Escalera

Dannette Henry

Danny Erwin

Danny Fuqua

Danny Oakes

Danny Robins 

Danny Rodriquez

Danny Yanesh

Darcy Lynn

Darius M.

Darlene Kochendoerfer

Darlene Weincouff

Darren Zoeckler

Dave Jeffries

Dave Seyse

Dave Stokes

David Alfin

David Allen Potter

David Brannon

David Butlien

David Carroll

David Cromartie

David Fisher

David Foxman

David Giles

David Higgs

David Hudson

David Isenberg

David Jarvis

David Jones

David LaMotte

David Loh

David Lowe

David Mims

David Romeo

David Romeo

David Santiago

David Simmons

David Smith

David Sosa

David Sullivan

David Swanson

David Vukelja

David W. Acuff

David Wilkerson

Dawn Fields

Dawn Glaczenski Petrella

Dawn Larson

Dawn Nichols

Dawn Smith Tharpe

Dawn Starr

Dayle Whitman

Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance

Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau

Daytona Beach News-Journal

Daytona Beach Police Department

Daytona Beach Regional Chamber

Daytona Crab

Daytona Dog Beach, Inc

Daytona International Airport

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona State College

Daytona Times

Daytona Tortugas

Deana Sallee

Deanie Lowe

Deanna Newkirk

Deb Denys

Deb Lord Lafreniere

Debbie Darino & Justice for Ponce

Debbie Dolbow

Debbie Kruck-Forrester

Debbie Phillips

Deborah Jarnagin

Deborah Joy Williams

Deborah Phillips

Debra Berner

Dede Siebenaler

Dee Dee Stahl

Defend the Loop

Deltona – A City on the Move?

Deltona City Commission

Deltona Strong

Deneen Mangan

Denise Bennett

Denise Brewer

Dennis Breo

Dennis Craig

Dennis Creamer

Dennis Futch

Dennis Norman

Dennis Simpson

Dennis Thomas

Denny Hockenberry

Derek Catron

Derek Lamontagne

Derek West

Deric Feacher

Derrick Henry

Derrick Orberg

Developing Daytona Beach

Diana Malik

Diana Webster

Diane Carney

Diane Choquette

Diane Clow

Diane Crisp

Diane Garrity

Diane Howley

Diane Kirvan

Diane Reynolds

Diane Severini Smith

Diane Vandervoort

Diane Whitby

Diezel Depew

Dinah Voyles-Pulver

DME Holdings

Don Bennington

Don Bok

Don Burnette

Don Dempsey

Don Lepore

Don Quixote

Don Shinnamon

Dona Butler

Dona McIntire

Donald Freeman

Donald Moore

Donald Needham

Donald O’Brien

Donald Parks

Donald Williamson

Donna Craig

Donna Dea

Donna Fitzpatrick

Donna Maxwell

Dontpooponputnum.org

Doris Catauro

Dorothy A. Fogg

Dorothy Prasek

Doug Daniels

Doug Fisher

Doug Kinney

Doug Pettit

Doug Quartier

Doug Rumery

Douglas Bell

Douglas Denison

Douglas Gibson

Dream Green Volusia

Drew Bastian

Dru Driscoll

Duane De Freese

Duffy Dyer

Duncan Demarsh

Durenda West Durrance

Dustin Wyatt

Dwight Selby

E. LaBrent Chrite

Earl

Earl Sullivan

Earnest Murphy, Jr.

East ISB Dead Zone

East/West Volusia Forum

Ed Connor

Ed Danko

Ed Gist

Ed Kelley

Ed Noseworthy

Eddie Branquinho

Eddie Hennessey

Edgewater Environmental Alliance

Edith Shelley

Edward Gist

Edward Somers

Edwin Ferrari

Eileen Zaffiro-Kean

Elaine Barnicle

Elaine D’Amore Tillard

Elaine Gibilisco

Elaine Stewart

Elbert Bryan

Elena Jarvis

Elizabeth Albert

Elizabeth Blackburn

Elizabeth Caswell

Elizabeth Fetterhoff

Elizabeth Lendian

Elizabeth Wade

Ellen Hayden Needham

Ellen Wintermuth

Elliott Hagood

Emily English

Emily Nice

Enis Qosja

Enrique Zahn

ERAU

Eric & Vanessa Lewis

Eric Breitenbach

Eric Cooley 

Eric Lewis

Eric Raimundo

Eric Sander

Erick Piskator

Erika Barry Webb

EVAC

Evans Smith

Eveline Kraljic

Evelyn Fine

FAITH

FDOT

First Step Shelter Board of Directors

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office

Flaglerlive.com

Fletcher’s Pub

Florida Department of Health

Florida Legislature

Food Brings Hope

Forough Hosseini

Foundation Risk Partners

Framework Group

France Family

Francis Snipes Himes

Frank Bruno

Frank Castle

Frank Costa 

Frank Fabrizio

Frank Fernandez

Frank Garaitonandia

Frank Molnar

Frank Sawyer

Frank Thomas Graham

Frank Van Pelt

Fred Cleveland

Fred Costello

Fred Lowry

Frederik Coulter

Fredrik Coulter

FREE Daytona Beach

G. G. Galloway

G. L. Crews

Gail Gianfelice

Gannett

Gary Crews

Gary Libby

Gary Mostert

Gary Owens

Gary Smith

Gary Wandelt

Gene Crouch

Georgann Carnicella

George Anderson

George Butts

George Cameron Lane

George Colby

George F. Ritchie

George Miller

George Mirabal (RIP)

George Pappas

George Recktenwald

George Smith

Gerald Fieser

Geraldine Morgan Clinton

Gerard Pendergast

Gerard Witman

Ghyabi Consulting

Gigi Bennington

Gil Adams

Gina Baker

Gina Joseph

Gina Marie Legler

Ginger Adair

Ginny Maccio

Glenn & Connie Ritchey

Glenn Irby

Glenn Ring

Glenn Storch

Gloria Max (RIP)

Gloria Nitz Crescenzo

Godwin Kelly

Gordon Brown

Gordon Meyer

GovStuff.org

Green Lion Café

Greg “F-ing” Smith

Greg Akin

Greg Burns

Greg Fretwell

Greg Gimbert

Greg Hansen

Greg Knapp

Greg Vernam

Gregory Trent

Greg’s Local Politics Page

Gus Massfeller

Gwen & Rev. Larry Edwards

H.V. Grantham

HAAA

Halifax Health

Hard Rock Daytona

Hardy Smith

Harold Briley

Harry Black

Harry Jennings

Harry L. Burney, III (RIP)

Harry Newkirk

Harvey Morse

Heather Post

Heather Rutledge

Heidi Herzberg

Helene Wetherington

Helga van Eckert

Helping Hands Through Arts

Henry Springer

Henry Wolfond

Heraclitus

Hero’d Out…

High Paying Space Jobs

Highland Park Fish Camp

Holly Hill Police Department

Holly Rose

Holly Smith

Homeless2Home

Hometown News

Hopcycles

Hope Place

Hornitos Tequila

Howard Bailey

Hubert Grimes

Hugh Watkins

Hunter S. Thompson

ICI Homes

Ida Wright

Indigo Lakes Residents

IRL Council

Iron Head

Itsaboutgreen

Itz Princess P’earl

J. D. Bushdid

J. D. McGurk

J. Hyatt Brown

J. Mark Barfield

J. Scott Green

J. Suzy Peterson

Jack D. Howell

Jack Driskell

Jack Gonzalez

Jack Jarrell

Jack Surrette

Jack White

Jack Williams

Jaclyn Carrell

Jacob Johnson

Jacqueline P. Kelly

Jakari Young

Jake Johansson

Jake Sachs

James & Ashley Brodick

James Alford

James Bland

James Clayton

James Connell

James D. Sass

James Fulcher

James Gillis

James Manfre

James Newman

James Pendleton

James Pericola

James Powers

James S. Purdy

James Shuler

James Smith

Jameson Distillery

Jamie Gill

Jamie Gogarty

Jamie Haynes

Jamie Overfield

Jamie Seaman

Jamison Jessup

Jan Shinnamon

Jane Bloom

Jane Glover

Jane Mealy

Jane West

Janet Kersey

Janet Nutt

Janet Schmutz

Janet Tomlinson

Janice Smith

Janie Gagne

Jared Adams

Jared Crawford

Jared Thompson 

Jarleene Almenas

Jason Davis

Jason Greene

Jason McGuirk

Jason Raynor (RIP)

Jason Umberger

Jason Wheeler

Jay Barton

Jay Maher

Jay Young

Jayson Meyer

Jean Lord

Jean Lowe

Jeaneen Witt

Jeanne Hertan Savoie

Jed Smith

Jeff Boyle

Jeff Brower

Jeff Feasel

Jeff Martin

Jeff Miller

Jeff Phillips

Jeff Terzini

Jeff Thorla

Jeff White

Jeff-A-Rooski

Jeffery P. Terzini

Jeffrey Ault

Jeffrey Bender

Jeffrey Dees

Jelly Bean

Jennifer Dean Shaffer

Jennifer Finno Ellis

Jennifer Leigh

Jennifer Whittet

Jenny Nazak

Jerry Cameron

Jerry Chow

Jerry Ficco

Jessa Monroe

Jesse Godfrey

Jessica Davis

Jessica Gow

Jessica Matthews

Jessica Melton

Jessica Winterwerp

Jessie Thompson

Jewel Dickson

Jewish Federation

Jim Abbott

Jim Annett

Jim Arthur

Jim Bayer

Jim Berkley

Jim Cameron

Jim Chisholm

Jim Connell

Jim Evans (RIP)

Jim Fogg

Jim France

Jim Goempel

Jim Judge

Jim Kotas

Jim Landon

Jim Legary

Jim McCammon

Jim Melady

Jim Meyers

Jim Morris

Jim Neviaser

Jim Pappalardo

Jim Patton (RIP)

Jim Purdy

Jim Rose

Jim Stewart

Jim Weite

Jim Whittet

Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Paul

Jo Glennie

Jo J. Reeves

Joan Anthony

Joan Campanaro

JoAnn Mancuso

Jodi Beard

Jodie Samman

Jody Lee Storozuk

Joe Bungart

Joe DeAngelo

Joe Don Lewis

Joe Forte

Joe Hannoush

Joe Martincic

Joe Mullins

Joe Petrock

Joe Pozzo

Joe Roebuck

Joe Stitch

Joe Will

Joe Wolfing

Joe Woody

Joel Paige

Joey Gallagher

John & Karen Bulman

John A. Peacock

John A. Peters

John Albright

John B. Henderson

John Boyer

John Bozzo

John Cavanaugh

John Clukey

John Danio

John Difiore

John Dunbar

John Garrett

John Gibson

John Guthrie

John Hawkins

John Hawkins

John Hill

John Holton

John Kirvan

John McCormick

John Nicholson

John Penny

John Peters

John Power

John R. Rogers

John Reid

John Reynolds

John Rossi

John Szaroleta

John T. Anthony

John Warsinske

Johnny Frisbie

Johnson Bros.

Jon Cheney

Jon Wong

Jonah Powers

Jonathan Abraham Eid

Jonathan Brokaw

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Foley

Jonathan L. Squires

Jordan Tyler Hobson

Joseph Hopkins

Joseph Prince

Joseph Valerio

Josh Fogarty

Josh Vedder

Josh Wagner

Joy R. Myers

Joyce Cusack

Joyce Shanahan

Juanita Garza

Judith Campbell

Judy Gillingham

Judy Rock Bergevine

Julian Fojon-Losada

Julie Bowers

Julie Cafiso Sanderson

Julie Sipes

Julio David Sosa

Kadie Hayward Mullins

Kandi Schromm

Karen Chasez

Karen Foxman

Karen Jans

Karen Robey

Karen Stokes Stone

Karen Waters

Kat Brown

Kat O’connor Atwood

Kate Brady

Kate Perez

Katherine Hurst Miller

Katherine Wanamaker

Kathleen Dulco

Kathleen McNeilly

Kathryn Disbrow

Kathryn Voltoline

Kathryn Weston

Kathy Jean

Kathy Josenhans

Kathy Tew-Ricky

Kathy Yingling Weaver

KathyAnn Zimmerer

Katie Kustura

Kayleen Garcia

Keith Chester

Keith Norden

Keith Prewitt

Kelli McGee

Kelly Frasca

Kelly Kwiatek

Kelly McGee

Kelly Pancratz Nixon

Kelly Schulz

Kelly White

Kelvin Miller

Ken & Deborah Strickland

Ken Bradley

Ken Bryan

Ken Doremus

Ken Edwards

Ken Fustin

Ken Sipes

Ken Smith

Kenneth Parker

Kenneth Wintermuth

Kenny Franks

Kent Sharples

Kerry Orpinuk

Kevin Bowler

Kevin Callahan

Kevin Captain

Kevin Duffy

Kevin Gelnaw

Kevin Kilian

Kevin Lowe

Kevin Para & Ashley’s Ride 

Kevin Parkinson

Kevin Reid

Kevin Smith

Kevin Wallace

Kevin Walsh

Kiki Bobo

Kim Harty

Kim Morris

Kim Olden

Kim Vukelja

Kimberly Hennessey

Kimberly Sheeter

Kimberly Short

Kimberly Taylor-Bandorf

Kimberly Yaney

Krista Goodrich

Kristen Gregor

Kristine Cunningham

Kristine Tollefsen-Cunningham

Krys Fluker

Kurt Ardaman

Kurt Sniffin

Kurt Swartzlander

Kyauta Ezekiel Kadala

Kyei Anchor Solomons

Kyle Bainbridge

Kyle Bryer

Kyle Capsaicin

Kyle Daly

Kyle Powell

Kyle Totten

L. Gale Lemerand

L. Ronald Durham

Langford Every

Larry Arrington (RIP)

Larry Bartlett

Larry Denham

Larry Edwards

Larry French

Larry Newsom

Larry Steele

Laura & Greg Ward

Laura Berglund Weast

Laura Devlin

Laura Roth

Laurel and Mike Foley

Laurel Lynne

Laurel Webster

Lauren Olsen

Laurie Cromie

Laurie Elaine

Laurie Massfeller

Lea Bartos

Leah Case

Lee Ann Luedeke

Lee Strong

Leo J. Vidal

Leonard Marinaccio III

Les Cantrell

Lesa France Kennedy

Lesley Blackner

Leslie Burnett

Let Volusia Vote

Libby Ann Higbee

Linda Ann Brownlee

Linda Cuthbert

Linda Gatewood

Linda Gaustad

Linda Leary

Linda Morse Dixon

Linda Parkin

Linda Scheibener-Boardman

Linda Smiley

Linda Smith

Linda White

Linda Williams

Linnie Richardson

Lisa Lewis

Lisa Martin

Lisa O’Neal

Lisa Rinaman

Lisa Scartelli

Liz Murdoch

Liz Wade

Lloyd Bowers

Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia

Lois Paritsky

Loren King

Lorenzo Bizzio

Loretta Arthur

Lori Bennett

Lori Campbell Baker

Lori Graf

Lori Koontz

Lori Richards

Lori Tolland

Lori Weakly Galvis

Louana Cordaro

Lou Bonnell

Lowell Lohman

Lu Witton

Luke Delaney

Luke Zona

Lynda Kessler

Lynn Caniglia

Lynn Curley Ney

Lynn Swenson

Lynn W. Thompson

Lynne Newell

Lynne Weremay

Mad Mom

Maggie Thompson

Main Street Station

Mainland High School

Manny Chevrolet

Marc Antonie-Cooper

Marc Bernier (RIP)

Margaret Hudson

Margaret Macduffie

Margaret Peggie Hart

Margie Padgett

Maria Summerlin

Maria Trent

Marianne Burley

Marie Condon Smith

Marilyn Ford

Marilyn Stumpf

Mario Bertolami

Mario’s

Maritza Avila-Vazquez

Mark Adkinson

Mark Annitto

Mark Ballard

Mark Billings

Mark Flowers

Mark Gardner

Mark Geallis

Mark Harper

Mark Huling

Mark Lane

Mark Mchugh

Mark Nealon

Mark Soskin

Mark Swanson

Mark Watts

Mark Wolcott

Mark9000

Marko Galbreath

Marla A.

Marla Abell

Marlene O’neill

Marshallann Marti Weeks Camp

Martha Fraser

Marti Jolley Winn

Marti Smolinski

Martin J. Favis

Marty Grimshaw

Marvin Miller

Mary Anne Connors

Mary Bruno

Mary Connor

Mary Feeley

Mary Forester

Mary Helen Moore

Mary Jane Hurst

Mary Jolley

Mary Lou Dean

Mary Martin

Mary Mcleod Bethune 

Mary Reid Morelly

Mary Synk

Maryam Ghyabi-White

Matt Doughney

Matt Gable

Matt Ihnken

Matt Metz

Matt Morton

Matt Reinhart

Matthew Foxman

Matthew Hopson

Matthew Monroe

Matthew Reider

Maureen France

Maureen McConnell

Megan O’Keefe

Meganne Sarau

Mel Lindauer

Mel Quinton

Melanie Bingle Marsh

Melissa Holland

Melissa Lammers

Messod Bendayan

Michael Booker

Michael Chitwood

Michael Chiumento III

Michael Dorsett

Michael Dye

Michael Dyer 

Michael Ihrig

Michael J. Arminio

Michael Kolody

Michael L. Young

Michael Lee Young

Michael Mc Bride

Michael McDowall

Michael Moltane

Michael Orfinger

Michael Pleus

Michael Politis

Michael Ray

Michael Redbourn

Michael Rogers

Michael Schottey

Michael Sznapstajler

Michael Ulrich

Michael Von Kreuzfaufsteiger

Michael Waltz

Michelle Carter

Michelle Newman

Michelle Zirkelbach

Miguel Capellan

Mike Agostinis

Mike Bregg

Mike Chuven

Mike Dean

Mike Denis

Mike Fincher

Mike Ignasiak

Mike Jiloty (RIP)

Mike Lambert

Mike Martin

Mike Orfinger

Mike Panaggio

Mike Philbrick

Mike Poniatowski

Mike Read

Mike Scudiero

Mike Shekari

Mike Springer

Mike Synan

Mike Tacinelli

Mike Thomas

Mike Walker

Mike Waltz

Mike Wilkes

Mike Worlledge

Milissa Holland

Milverton Robinson

Mindy McLarnan

Minto Communities

Missy Herrero

Missy Phillips

MOAS

Molly Cunningham

Monica Paris

Mooma Clooda

Mori Hosseini

Muzo Rules

Nan Tarasi

Nancy Capo

Nancy Epps

Nancy Keefer

Nancy Lohman

Nancy Long

Nancy Maddox

Nancy Miller

Nancy Niles

Nancy Steele Lilly

Nanette McKeel Petrella

NASCAR

Natalie Brunner

Natalie Pilipczak

Neil Harrington

Neil Kapp

New Smyrna Board of Realtors

News Daytona Beach

Newton White

Nic Klufas

Nick Conte

Nika Hosseini

Niki Yanakou

Nikki Ross

Noah McKinnon

Noel Bickford

Nola Barker

Noreen Morris

Norma Bland

Norma Guida

North Turn Bar & Grille

Northern Mockingbirds

Oliver Du Bois

One Daytona

Orlando Sentinel

Ormond Beach Historical Society

Ormond Beach Observer

Ormond Brewing Company

Ormond Einsteins

Ormond Issues

Ormond Strong

Ormond-by-the-Sea Association

P&S Paving

P. Barry Butler

Palmer Panton

Palmer Wilson

Pam Carbiener

Pam Clark

Pam Jarvis

Pam Lawler

Pam Novy

Pam Wilsky

Pamela Daley

Pamela Rodriquez

Parker Mynchenberg

Pat & Ed Northey

Pat Cavanaugh

Pat Fanning

Pat Finn

Pat Hodgkins

Pat Jeffries

Pat Katzenstein

Pat Patterson

Pat Rice

Pat Zeitlin

Pat Zuegg (RIP)

Patricia Boswell

Patricia Heard

Patricia Miracle

Patricia Page

Patricia Stevenson

Patricia Venuti

Patricio Balona

Patrick Opalewski

Patti Barker

Patti Corbett

Patti Starkey

Paul Carpenella

Paul Deering

Paul Milward

Paul Nelson

Paul Renner

Paul Rice

Paul Skinner

Paul Stevenson

Paul Zimmerman

Paula Reed

Paula Rossiter

Peg Brown

Peggy Farmer

Peggy H. Schultz

Penny Currie

Perego

Permaculture Daytona

Pete Lynch

Pete Zahn

Peter

Peter Grosfeld

Peter Kouracos

Peter McGlashan

Peter Migner

Phaedra Lee

Phil “Father Phil” Egitto

Phil Giorno

Phil Maroney

Phil Rice

Phil Vanderhoof

Phil Wassem

Phillip Hoffeld

Phyllis Beynon

Phyllis Butlien

Phyllis Clark Hogan

Phyllis Stauffenberg

Pictona at Holly Hill

Pierre Louis

Pierre Tristam

Pierson Town Council

Port Orange Gov Forum

Preston Root

Protogroup

Psycho Magnet

Quanita May

R. J. Larizza

Rafael Ramirez

Rainer and Julie Martens

Ralph Brown

Rand Bennett

Randall Rowe, III

Randy Ast

Randy Bennett

Randy Cadenhead

Randy Dye

Randy Fine

Randy Hartman

Randy Post

Raquel Levy

Raul Zambrano

Ray Evans

Ray Hill

Ray Marcov

Ray Max

Raymond Johnson

Realty Pros Assured

Rebecca Cabral

Rebecca Lynn Doremus

Rebecca Wade

REC of Volusia County

Reed Berger

Regina Santilli

Reginald C. Williams

Rell Black

Rene Coman

Renee Richardson

Reuben “Lounge Lizard” Morgan

Rhonda and Walter Glasnak

Rhonda Kanan

Ric Urquhart

Rich Brown

Rich Felisko

Rich Malkus

Rich Tracey

Rich Waters

Richard Bellach

Richard Bryan

Richard Feller

Richard Frizalone

Richard Kane

Richard Klein

Richard Little

Richard Martinez

Richard Myers

Richard Nisbett

Richard Slaughter (RIP)

Richard Thripp

Richard Waters

Rick Basso

Rick Belhumeur

Rick Dwyer

Rick Goodsite

Rick Karl

Rick Nedescu

Rick Rawlins (RIP)

Rick Rivers

Rick Robertson

Rick Rollins

Rick Staly

Rick Steffen

Risa Newman Ross

Rita Ware

River to Sea TPO

Riverside Conservancy

Rob Bobek

Rob Bridger

Rob Brown

Rob Corrozza

Rob Gilliland

Rob Hougham

Rob Jackson

Rob Kuhn

Rob Littleton

Rob Merrell

Rob O’Connell

Rob Sabatino

Robert Augusto

Robert Augusto

Robert Barnes

Robert Barrett

Robert Burnetti

Robert Burns

Robert D. McFall

Robert Giebel

Robert Gilliland

Robert Greenlund

Robert Hawes

Robert Jagger

Robert Joseph Sorenson

Robert Maccio

Robert Mullins

Robert Riggio

Robert Sanders, Jr.

Robert Sprouse

Robert Stolpmann

Robert Taylor

Robert W. Krause

Robert Watson

Roberta Richardson

Robin Hanger

Robin Newton

Robyn Heath Walker

Robyn Hurd

Rocky Lawrence

Rocky Norris

Rodney Cruise

Roger Accardi

Roger Duvernoy

Roger Eckert

Roger Jones

Roger Sonnenfeld

Roland Blossom

Roland Via

Rommel Scalf

Ron Andersen

Ron DeSantis

Ron Kendrick

Ron Martin

Ron Nowviskie

Ron Rice (RIP)

Ron Wright

Ronald Donovan

Ronald Jungk

Ronnie Mills

Root Family

Rose Ann Tornatore

Rose Schuhmacher

Ross Blissett

Ross Janke

Roundtable of Elected Officials

Roxanne Hallahan

Roy Johnson

Roy Mohr

Ruben Colon

Russ Cormican

Russ Moulton

Russ Owen

Rusty Ford

Ruth Norman

Ruth Trager

Ryan Dealy

Ryan Ossowski 

Ryan Ridder

Sally Gillies

Sam Bell

Samantha J. West

Samuel G. S. Bennett

Sanctuary Café

Sandford Kinne

Sandi Snodgrass

Sandra Bass Van Cleef

Sandra Chavous

Sandra Kay Watts Battiste

Sandra Upchurch

Sandra Walters

Sandy Kauffman

Sandy Krieter

Sandy Murphy

Sandy Walters

Santiago Avila, Jr.

Sara Collins

Sara Crane

Sara Murphy

Sara Ragsdale Petroski

Sarah Bruce

Sarah Johnson

Saralee Morrissey

Scott Caldwell

Scott Cleary

Scott Fritz

Scott Gutauckis

Scott Harkins

Scott in Daytona Beach

Scott Lee

Scott Markham

Scott O’Connell

Scott Owen

Scott Simpson

Scott Stiltner

Scott W. Spradley

Sea Dunes

sean Kelly

Sebastian

Security First Insurance

Seminole Curmudgeon

Sen. Rick Scott

Sergia Cardenas

Seth Green

Sharon Adams

Sharon Raffel

Shawn Collins

Shawn FL

Shawn Goepfert

Shawnerie Langford

Sheila Hancock

Shelia Prather

Shelley Szafraniec

Sheriff Guindi

Sheron Weatherholtz

Sherrise Boyd

Sherry Gilreath

Sherry Huskey-Hopson

Sherry Purdy

Sheryl A. Cook

SJRWMD

Skip Andress

Skip Armstrong

Skylar Swisher

Smoking Truth Podcast

Snake Andress

Soles4Souls

Sonja Tyrus

Sons of the Beach

Sonya Wiles

Sophia Urista

Sophie’s Circle Dog Rescue

South Daytona Dan

Spencer Stratton Hathaway

St. John’s River Keepers

Stacey Simmons

Stacy Cantu

Stacy Wager Day

Stan Kapp

Stan Schmidt

Stanley Escudero

Stasia Warren

Stephan Dembinsky

Stephanie Bidlack Cox

Stephen Bacon

Stephen Matthews

Stephen McGee

Stephen Terence Williams

Step-Up Volusia

Stetson University

Steve Aldrich

Steve Burdette

Steve Crump

Steve Koenig

Steve Miller

Steve Parker

Steve Puckett

Steve Ridder

Steve Stinson

Steve Thomas

Steve Thorp

Steve Weaver

Steven Burk

Steven Henderson (RIP)

Steven Miller

Steven Narvaez

Stirling Gosa

Stony Sixma

Sue Barnes

Sue Krainik

Sue Lyle Reynolds

Sun Flowers

Susan Ball

Susan Barrie

Susan Brehme Park

Susan Bussinger

Susan Cerbone

Susan Driscoll

Susan Falkenstein Reilly

Susan Guzman

Susan Lear

Susan Lutz

Susan M. Murphy

Susan Persis

Susan Scofield

Susan Skow

Susanne I. Odena

Suzanne Johnston

Suzanne Kridner

Suzanne Scheiber

Suzie Johnston

Sweetie (RIP)

Synergy Billing

T. R. Brown

Tadd Kasbeer

Tami Lake

Tangela Hardy

Tanger Outlets

Tanner Andrews

Tariq Hamid

Taxpayers of Volusia County

Team Volusia

Ted Doran

Ted Erwin

Ted Hordecky

Ted Noftall

Ted Teschner

Tennessee Hills Distillery

Tere Arce

Terence Perkins

Teresa Hunt

Teresa Martin Lawson

Teresa Morford Rice-Peck

Teresa Pope

Terica Charles

Terri Miller

Terri Roberson Tippins

Terry Brock

Terry Cady

Terry Heisler

The Avion

The Bridge

The Civitas Project

The Frye’s

The Lowe Down

The Nines Parlor

The Nowinski’s

The Pallet Pub

Theresa Doan

Thom Morris

Thomas Akin, Sr.

Thomas Burbank

Thomas R. Larrivee

Tiger Roberts

Tim Baylie

Tim Curtis

Tim Egnor

Tim Grigsby

Tim Harbuck

Tim Phillips

Timmy & Annemarie Groarke

Tina Guzman

Tina Louise

Tina Monteiro Blount

Tina Peppeh

Tina-Marie Schultz

Tishian Pearson

Tito’s Vodka

Todd Hammond

Todd Phillips (RIP)

Tom A. Wright

Tom and Kayti Caffrey

Tom Bertolami

Tom Clapsaddle

Tom Coriale 

Tom Goreau

Tom Laputka

Tom Leek

Tom LoBasso

Tom Maccio

Tom Morgan

Tom Rebman

Tom Russell

Tom Ryan

Tom Sejnowski

Tom Symenski

Tom Wright

Tommy Jee

Tomoka Oaks Residents

Toni Adkins Hiller

Tony Cassata

Tony Goudie

Tony Ledbetter (RIP)

Tony Servance

Tony Walsh

Tonya Gordon

Travis Hutson

Travis Sargent

Tripp Parham

Troubled Men Podcast

Troy Crawford

Troy Kent

Troy Olson

Troy Shimkus

TulaPuppy

Turner Hymes

US Coast Guard – NSB

Valencia Gallon-Stubbs

Valerie Duhl

Valerie Joiner

Valerie Manning

Valli Perrine

Valoree Mclean

Vanessa Blair-Lewis

Vernon Burton

Vic Baker

Vic Irland

Vicki Duma

Vicky Jackson

Victor Barbosa

Victor Ramos

Victoria B. Holmes

Victoria Fahlberg

Vikki Leonard

Virginia Vainella

Voloria Manning

Volusia County Concerns

Volusia County Council

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Volusia County Government Forum

Volusia County School Parents Forum

Volusia County Schools

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Volusia ECHO

Volusia Firefighters Association

Volusia Forever

Volusia Forever/ECHO Alliance

Volusia Issues

Volusia Political Scene

Volusia Politics

Volusia Tax Reform

Volusia United Educators

Volusia Wildlife Corridor

Volusia’s Old Guard

VolusiaExposed.com

Votran

Wallace Bailey

Wanda Van Dam

Warren Shaw

Waylan Niece

Wayne Bryan

Wayne Harris

Webster Barnaby

Weegie Kuendig

Welcome to Rockville

WELE “The CAT”

Wendall Ray DallaRosa

Wendy Alvarez

Wendy B. Anderson

Wendy Wilson  

Wesley Heidt

West Volusia Beacon

West Volusia Hospital Authority

Westplan Investors

Will Roberts

William Freebern

William Jones, Jr.

William Reischmann 

William Sell

William Tillard

William Whitson

Willie Kimmons

WNDB

World’s Most Famous Brewery

Wray Gillette

Xiangjun Li

Yaupon Brothers Tea

Yetay Smith

Zetta Baker

Zev Cohen & Associates

All who contribute and wish to remain nameless.

And, well, you know who you are. . .

Looking Forward. Remembering the Past.

For me, the week between Christmas and the New Year has always been a time for reflection. 

Looking forward while remembering the past.

During my professional life, I used this typically quiet week of the year to close out projects, clean up outstanding assignments, determine what worked and what didn’t, reflect on mistakes (and I made many), recenter personal and organizational goals and values, consolidate strengths, identify weaknesses, and contemplate the challenges ahead. 

Sounds simple.  But it isn’t. 

Because being honest with oneself is always difficult.

In my experience, self-reflection can be painful when our faults and foibles are laid bare – and we are forced to admit where we fell short – then make personal and professional course corrections to ensure the failures and omissions of the past are not repeated.

For example, I once worked for a police chief who refused to accept excuses or explanations – only acceptance of direct responsibility for my mistakes and those of my subordinates – and an assurance that I had learned from the error in judgement and would not repeat it. 

This sense of accountability was incredibly important to my early career development because honest mistakes became confidence building learning opportunities – rather than career-ending disasters – something I have never forgotten.

Unfortunately, in some local governments, openness, accessibility, and a willingness to admit missteps has become anathema in an era that values “CYA” political insulation over transparency.

In my view, this close-to-the-vest strategy has become standard procedure for bureaucracies that communicate to their constituents through highly paid internal mouthpieces, who report exactly what politicians and public administrators want We, The Little People to know, using carefully crafted releases and canned soundbites heavily seasoned with pap, fluff, and bureaucratese.      

Rather than submit to the open Q&A that once allowed reporters to probe public officials, winnow the truth from spin, and report the good, the bad, and the ugly of government – now, taxpayers are treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed horseshit – left to peer through the greasy pane in the locked portcullis that separates us from those we elect and appoint to represent our interests.

Left to speculate on the behind-the-scenes machinations and true motivations of those in control.

That’s where I come in.

As a Barker’s View reader, you are obviously someone who thinks deeply about the issues that touch our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast – an educated participant concerned about the direction of what passes for a “representative democracy.”   

I am not blowing smoke up your ass – and it does not mean we have to agree on everything. 

People who reason critically and view the world around them with an analytical eye tend to read and evaluate differing points-of-view – including alternative opinions that are counter to the posturing of our elected elite – then form their own take on the motives of policymakers and string-pullers.   

In my view, it is this independent thought that separates the sheep – and those partisan navel-gazers who never look beyond the confines of their close-minded camps – from active, informed, and involved citizens from which all political power originates.

I still believe it is a fundamental duty of citizenship to remain vigilant – even fiercely skeptical – of outsized political power and those murky insider forces that seem intent on shaping our future based on some mysterious plan which does not need or want our input – only our money and apathetic acquiescence.  

Bullshit.

Thank you for reading – and for contemplating our shared experience.

As we close out this strange year, I want to take this opportunity to send my sincere appreciation to the loyal Barker’s View tribe who follow this alternative opinion forum and perpetuate a larger discussion of the issues. 

Thank you for indulging my oddball views and rants.  Your curiosity about the news and newsmakers lets our “powers that be” know someone is watching – and oversight is a fundamental element of accountability.

But that is wisdom for another day.

Now is the time to hoist our glass and celebrate new possibilities.

Last week saw the final self-absorbed goodbyes of the most dysfunctional iteration of the Volusia County Council in recent memory – a bickering group of meanspirited procrastinators who oversaw a bloated bureaucracy where astonishing incompetence is handsomely rewarded – even encouraged – with stratospheric salaries, exorbitant benefits, and clockwork pay increases for those senior administrators who protect the stagnant status quo.

As they sail off to the ash heap of history, the political epitaph of this sad ship of fools will read “Lost opportunities, Lost possibilities…” and history will not be kind.

But that is polluted water under an aging and too-narrow bridge – and stupidity deserves no sympathy.

Now, we turn our jaded eyes to what comes next.

On Thursday, January 5, a new slate of elected officials will be sworn-in amidst much pomposity and circumstance – the pageantry that begins the process of separating those we elect from We, The Little People – the soon forgotten Oath of Office that marks their ceremonial ascendance from butcher, baker, and candlestick maker to the gilded Monarchy

Only time will tell if our new crop of representatives will embrace the concept of service above self – putting the needs and quality of life of their frightened constituents over those of their well-heeled political benefactors – and allow collegiality, mutual respect, and inclusion to build consensus on the difficult issues we face. 

At heart, I am an infernal optimist, willing to give our “new” council a chance to get their sea legs, to heal old wounds, eschew vindictive animus and petty politics, and prove their stated commitment to building a better Volusia County while shaping a positive vision for the social, economic, and civic future of all residents.

A New Year. A fresh start.

Again, thanks for reading.

_______________________________________

Join Barker’s View on Friday for our “2022 Honor Roll” – which remains the only civic honor in the Halifax area (however dubious) that our “Rich & Powerful” cannot buy! 

See you then!