Angels & Assholes for July 3, 2020

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:

A few days ago, I made the all-to-frequent trek to my neighborhood convenience store for a carton of smokes and case of beer – shuffling through the godawful heat of the parking lot, dour look, eyes downcast, situationally depressed as we all are – wanting desperately for this insidious virus to go its course and allow a return to the ‘normalcy’ we once took for granted.

Just as I reached the door, a loyal member of the Barker’s View Tribe called my name – and quickly approached with a great smile, courteously asking if she could give me a hug – an everyday gesture of kindness.

Unfortunately, I was quick to demur – because, well, “you can’t be too careful these days” – and sheepishly extended my elbow for that socially distant bump-and-run that now combines a hug, high-five, and handshake into one brief, wholly impersonal, ‘greeting.’

I felt like a heel rejecting her spontaneous show of neighborly affection, awkwardly recoiling like some hypochondriacal shithead – but, you know. . .

This incredibly kind lady told me that during these dark and dangerous times, these pathetic screeds of mine have become something she looks forward to – a mental respite from the depressive reality of interminable days spent isolating from friends and family – a diversion from the omnipresent gloom and doom.

From the bottom of this beat-up old heart – thank you for making my day.  My year.

I’ll be honest.  When we said our goodbyes, her sincere appreciation of this blog brought up a lot of emotion in me – the good kind – something we all need more of right now. . .

Look, I realize that these weird, hypercritical missives of mine aren’t for everyone – and, in recent weeks, I’ve had more than a few readers take their pent-up frustrations out on me for voicing opinions they vehemently disagree with – and that’s okay.

Comes with the territory.

But this brief interaction with an exceptionally caring soul made up for all the bile and heartburn.

This fortuitous encounter was restorative – a kind word in troubled times – and reminded me in the most wonderful way of what is important.

Here’s to the day when we can once again unhesitatingly embrace each another – show genuine affection, shake hands and hug like friends and neighbors should – and return that all-important physical, civic, and social contact that is such a vitally important part of any community.

Wash up.  Back up.  Mask up.  Whatever works, dammit.

This isolation must end.   

We need to reconnect with family, friends, and neighbors on a basic physical level and breakdown the barriers of face masks, quarantines and social exclusion – now, more than ever.

Hang in there, y’all.  I’ll do the same. . .

Angel               Pictona at Holly Hill

When I was a kid I looked forward to the carefree days of summer.

I can’t tell you the excitement I felt receiving my final dismal report card of the school year – hesitantly peeking at the bottom to make sure it wasn’t stamped “Summer School” – then letting out a scream of relief knowing I would soon be on my way to the Appalachian foothills of East Tennessee to spend three blissful months with my fun-loving maternal grandparents!

I’m old and set in my ways now, and no longer experience the wild swings of strong emotion I enjoyed in my youth, but on rare occasion, something will take me back to those halcyon days – that fleeting thrill of pure fun and anticipation – the smell of Coppertone and chlorine, the angle of the sun, a whiff of salt air, the sultry evening perfume of jasmine and honeysuckle – that bring a rush of long forgotten memories.

Some little something that, just for a moment, turns back time to those warm days with friends, climbing trees, catching lightning bugs in a jelly jar, swimming holes, fireworks, camp outs and backyard bar-b-ques, complete with an ice-cold slice of those old-timey two-foot-long watermelons that are only sold out of the back of a rusty pick-up truck. . .

As adults, we forget the unadulterated delight – and incredible importance – of the fun and frivolous times of our lives.

Let’s face it, the coronavirus pandemic has put a serious crimp in our summer fun – in fact, it downright sucks – and we can all use a diversion from the near-constant barrage of bad news and universal contention that spew from what passes for “news,” 24/7.

We really need a healthy diversion right now. . .

Earlier this week, we learned the exciting news that Pictona at Holly Hill – a state-of-the-art pickleball and recreation complex – is just two-weeks from its grand opening!

On Wednesday, July 15, the 12-acre facility which dominates Holly Hill’s historic Hollyland Park will welcome the public with eight covered pickleball courts, an elevated viewing area, a restaurant known as The Kitchen – and for those who take advantage of annual memberships – a players lounge and locker room with showers, a massage area, and clubhouse shop with pickleball accessories and apparel.

In addition, Pictona will have an indoor activity area that can be converted into space for private parties – along with 16 outdoor pickleball courts and facilities for bocce ball, a croquet pitch, horseshoe pits and shuffleboard courts, with a pavilion that includes bleachers and restrooms.

According to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “On the west end of the complex will be the Florida Health Care Plans Senior Activity Center which will also be free and open to the public. It will offer a variety of workshops, classes and programs with an emphasis on promoting wellness and physical fitness.”

Impressive.

In a fantastic example of what a true public/private partnership should be, the Pictona complex – one of the largest in the nation – resulted from a $1.2 million contribution from the City of Holly Hill – bolstered by a $400,000 ECHO grant from Volusia County and $50,000 in sponsorships and private donations.

Incredibly, the bulk of the project – more than $4 million – came from the incredible generosity of Ranier and Julie Martens of Ormond Beach.

Once fully operational, Pictona at Holly Hill is expected to create 15 new jobs in the community.

According to the News-Journal, “The Martens said the Pictona complex will become the property of the City as soon as it is completed. The couple have also agreed to donate their time to oversee its operation for the first two years. The facility will then be turned over to be managed by the board of the not-for-profit Pictona at Holly Hill pickleball association.”

“All credit goes to Rainer and Julie Martens,” said Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte. “It’s their vision and mostly their money (that created Pictona). It’s really exceeded what I thought it would be. The City Commission and I, we’re all excited to see it open.”

Look, I’m not the most athletic guy you know – but I intend to learn how to play pickleball this summer – and take advantage of the Halifax areas most exciting new recreational opportunity in decades.

Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Martens!

We really needed this.

Asshole           Flagler County School Board

I’ve said this ad nauseam, but here is a reason citizens no longer trust local government, or the myriad other taxing authorities that siphon our hard-earned dollars to inflate astronomical budgets, while inept administrators allow service delivery to recede into mediocrity.

In my view, the problem remains the complete lack of accountability for those who violate the public trust and compromise the integrity of institutions, coupled with the depressing absence of substantive oversight by those we elect to protect our interests.

In my experience, there comes a time when many publicly-funded bureaucracies transition from their core purpose of providing essential governmental services to a self-serving, and overtly defensive, ogre that exists to protect its weakest links while ignoring, marginalizing and destroying anyone – internal or external – that calls attention to the dysfunction.  (See Volusia County Government, City of Palm Coast, et al.)

Case in point:  This week, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on the tragic case of former Belle Terre Elementary School Principal Dr. Terrance Culver, who was accused way back in September 2019 by parents and staff of a bevy of horrific violations – including  “…misappropriation and/or embezzlement of funds, sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination, libel and defamation, gross mismanagement and repeated violation of whistleblower laws.”

According to reports, last year, the school district launched an investigation into a “compilation of claims” made by some 12 whistleblowers that were brought to light in a complaint filed by the intrepid Flagler Beach attorney Stephen Furnari.

In addition, in November 2019, the president of the Belle Terre Parent Teachers Association filed a criminal complaint with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office alleging “fraud and public corruption” at Belle Terre Elementary School that spanned three years.

Subsequently, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly rightly turned the investigation over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Among other revelations, in 2017, Dr. Culver misused federal funds allocated for the purchase of apples for the school cafeteria, some 206 of which were used by Culver’s daughter to create candy apples which she sold for a total of $824.00, “but the money did not go to the school.”

Apparently, Dr. Culver later reimbursed the district $63.70 for the apples. . .

Good return on investment, eh?

Since when is the clear misuse of federal food service funds, while leveraging the buying power of the district to underwrite a personal for-profit venture, pardonable by stroking a check?

The investigative findings issued by school board counsel Kristy Gavin to Dr. Culver’s attorney are dated April 13, 2020 – months after the initial December 14, 2019 completion deadline – and sustain a host of abhorrent charges, that, in my view, evidence a continuing pattern of bullying, preferential treatment, personal dishonesty, favoritism, gross mismanagement, and abuse of position resulting in a terribly hostile work environment.

Clearly, this was not a one-off lapse of judgment.

According to News-Journal reports, during Dr. Culver’s tenure with the Volusia County School District, he was investigated for the following allegations:

In 2000, while assistant principal at New Smyrna Middle School, he was said to have, “…sent an inappropriate email through his work email; used inappropriate language in class; ate food during class time; called students names and referred to them as being in “retarded classes;” paid a student to eat a roach; accused a student of being a thief; grabbed at a student; and did not follow repeated orders to stay away from a certain student, according to the professional standards investigation.”

 Then, in 2004, “…while Culver was assistant principal at Silver Sands Middle School, he was investigated for acting in an inappropriate manner by allegedly “grabbing an eighth-grade female student by the arm, spun her around, took her by the hips, bent her over and pressed (his) body against her backside to demonstrate inappropriate dancing,” according to the investigation.”

My God.

After leaving Volusia County following the 2006-2007 school year, Culver was hired by Flagler County Schools.

In 2012, Culver was investigated for “allegedly making unwanted advances on a female co-worker,” and, in 2019, Culver and three other staff members were the subject of a formal complaint alleging the mistreatment of an autistic child.

“While two staff members’ contracts were not renewed and another left the district following the complaint, Culver remained.”

Bullshit.

If ostensibly bright (and incredibly well-paid) superintendents and elected school board members can’t use this series of documented issues as an early warning system to identify potential misconduct and protect students, staff and teachers, in my view, they are just as culpable as the offender.

Unfortunately, justice delayed truly is justice denied.

According to the News-Journal report, the investigation of Dr. Culver was delayed on multiple occasions, “…due to time conflicts, the eventual involvement of the district’s legal team and a requested extension from Culver’s attorney the investigation wasn’t released to the public until June.”

I have a big problem with that.

In typical fashion, with an active internal investigation on-going, in November 2019, Dr. Culver simply submitted notice of his retirement with an effective date of January 3, 2020 – then escaped personal accountability for his repugnant behavior through the benefit of a very lucrative public pension.

In my view, that’s wrong.

And this isn’t the first time someone holding high office – who accepts public funds to serve in the public interest – effectively dodged culpability for gross misconduct by simply pulling the ripcord on their very lucrative golden parachute.

Anyone remember the despicable scandal at Mainland High School? 

I do.  

Inexplicably, in her April correspondence, attorney Gavin advised that there would be no further action taken by the Flagler County School Board against Culver, beyond accepting his retirement.

Say what?

Once again, a senior public official holding a position of great responsibility in the community – then violated a sacred public trust – has escaped accountability.

In my view, detached elected officials and arrogant superintendents who allow senior administrators – principals who have almost omnipotent power over the school and personnel under their command – to run amok, conduct themselves in a manner that brings discredit to themselves and the district, and ignore the fervent cries of whistleblowers – epitomize public misfeasance.

Asshole           Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland

It is a rare and coveted honor to have the dubious distinction of receiving a Barker’s View Asshole Award two-weeks running – a political merit badge earned by those in public office who, in my jaded view, put their own self-interests above the needs of their long-suffering constituents.

By any metric, the wheel has come off the cart in the City of Palm Coast.

Last week, we learned that Mayor Milissa Holland may be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for her ties to what the News-Journal described as a “unique arrangement” between the city and her employer, Coastal Cloud, whose software provides a digital platform allowing the City of Palm Coast to communicate with citizens.

According to reports, former Palm Coast Communications Director, and current mayoral candidate, Michael Schottey, is alleging corruption by Holland and others – claims that were disputed by City Manager Matt Morton last month in a weird communique which besmirched Schottey, alleging he resigned his post “after multiple female directors complained about his treatment to them (?)”

As the plot thickened, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that a review of Schottey’s personnel file found no evidence to support Morton’s claim of harassment – and the former Human Resources Director (who is also suing the city) apparently stated Morton was not telling the truth about the nature of Schottey’s departure.

Now, we are learning that the ethical issues which have plagued Palm Coast City Hall may run far deeper than previously known.

Reports indicate that Palm Coast officials may have intentionally withheld two emails originating from Mayor Holland’s mayoral account – correspondence clearly covered by Florida’s open records law – from a public records request by the Palm Coast Observer.

It appears these damning emails were essentially a blatant sales pitch by Mayor Holland to the City of Orlando on behalf of her employer, Coastal Cloud, while acting in her official capacity and using a public email account.

On Tuesday, Palm Coast City Manager Matt Morton released a weird report from an Orlando-based labor attorney he hired after becoming convinced city employees were “leaking emails to the media” (?) – including a review of the city’s internal processes for investigating questions surrounding how the Observer’s public records request was processed.

The report found no wrongdoing by either Mayor Holland, or the city clerk’s office, while laying fault with “…the city’s current way of investigating whistle blower complaints.”

Of course, Holland touted the findings as a complete vindication. . .

The report directly contradicted the findings of Palm Coast compliance manager Jay Maher, “…who oversaw the city’s internal investigation and concluded the emails were unlawfully withheld from the public, called the report the city manager released a “hit job.” Maher is the supervisor of the city’s Internal Controls, Ethics and Contractor Fraud Investigations unit, which handles internal investigations involving city employees.”

Wow.

This is clearly more than an inter-governmental contretemps.

In my view, it smacks of public corruption and the suppression of whistleblowers – and bears watching by anyone concerned about good governance.

Kudos to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, and its intrepid investigative reporter Matt Bruce, for their outstanding exposé, which is peeling this stinking onion, expertly revealing the depth of internal dysfunction and subterfuge that has clearly paralyzed Palm Coast government.

In my view, the City of Palm Coast is rotting from the head down – a growing malignancy that is threatening the public’s trust in their government – and it is high time for embattled Mayor Milissa Holland to resign – just clear the hell out – and take the wholly compromised City Manager with her.

Quote of the Week

“Voters have to look past catchphrases like “fiscally conservative,” promises of “smart growth” and pledges to be “responsive to your needs” to find specifics on each candidates’ platforms — and be wary of those who only traffic in vagaries. Voters deserve to know how their chosen candidates will govern once they are in office.”

–Editor Pat Rice, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Our View column, “Pay attention to local races,” Sunday, June 29, 2020

And Another Thing!

It is no secret that Pat Rice and I don’t agree on much – he is a learned journalist and I am a chronic bitcher with internet access – but his informative piece in last Sunday’s News-Journal is something we can all get behind.

I never knew a successful politician that wasn’t a polished bullshit artist – adept at the art and science of double-speak and political posturing – the ability to paint themselves as something likable and attentive to a voter’s individual wants and needs regardless of the situation or issue.

That’s how the game is played.

Let’s face it, spinning positions and platforms to a large number of people is their stock in trade – especially when a question catches them flatfooted – and they are required to immediately form a politically advantageous position on an issue without sealing themselves in a box.

The gift of extemporaneous bullshittery is what separates the pros from the pikers – and not everyone can pull it off when it counts.

That’s why candidates and their handlers employ meaningless descriptors, inane expressions and catchphrases as they work to craft a marketable product that can be sold to voters – and the true political beliefs, positions and principles of the empty suit are only revealed in time – post election – when the damage is done. . .

I believe the requirements of hard-fought campaigns changes some candidates at the molecular level.

The heat and tempo of modern political contests seems to cauterize that part of their prefrontal cortex that houses the base emotions of guilt and shame – allowing them to pose, preen, posture and attitudinize during what passes for communication with their constituents after the election is in the bag.

But every now and then, men and women of honor stand tall to serve and lead their community boldly into the future – and work diligently to achieve greater prosperity and enhance the quality of life for everyone.

These true servant-leaders are incredibly few and far between, but they are out there, running values-based campaigns and eager to share their passion.

That is why it is so important for voters to meet candidates one-on-one, to lock eyes and ask the hard questions on the issues that are important to you, your business and your family’s future.

Only then can you determine if their previous voting record, accessibility, agenda and method of governance comports with the image they are trying desperately to project – or if you are being played as a fool by some polished political hack with no qualms about telling you exactly what they think you want to hear.

On Wednesday evening, July 8, I hope you will join me at a campaign fundraiser for Jeff “Plan B” Brower, my candidate for Volusia County Chair, from 5:30pm to 8:00pm, at Pitmasters Bar-B-Que, 4425 North US-17 in Delightful Deland!

All proper health precautions will be taken – and for a modest contribution of just $30 – attendees will be treated to a delicious all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet, complete with ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and all the trimmings.

I support Jeff Brower because I believe he is a man of his word who possesses the values, vision, and work ethic to fundamentally change the direction of Volusia County and return rightful focus on the needs of those who pay the bills – not the wants of uber-wealthy insiders with a profit motive.

This fundraiser is the perfect opportunity to speak directly with Jeff, learn about his positions on the important issues and see the many ways his vision for our future differs from his opponent – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys.

I look forward to seeing you next week as we come together to support Jeff Brower: The Peoples Candidate for Volusia County Chair!

That’s all for me!

Here’s wishing everyone a happy and safe Independence Day!

Let’s put aside our differences for just one day, and truly celebrate what it means to be an American!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: The Great Mask Debate

Eventually, politics creep into everything, as the need for a political party or candidate to position itself for maximum ‘likeability’ – to be seen as the “voice of reason,” more concerned about the welfare of the masses (potential voters) than their opposition.

To accomplish this, they employ professional strategists, political operatives and marketing experts to package and position their ideology as being so far removed from that of their opponent that concepts like rationality, practicality and common sense are no longer factors.

Especially during an election year.

Anyone who tells you the coronavirus outbreak has not been politicized clearly doesn’t read the newspaper, watch what passes for national “news,” or venture outside their hermetically sealed bubble.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, local politicians who are up for reelection took to social media – issuing rambling manifestos, pushing the latest pseudo “information” or governmental mandate, enacting endless “states of emergency” which facilitated draconian measures that were, in most instances, ill-thought and ineffective, beyond destroying our local economy by punishing small businesses for the “See, we’re doing something!” factor.

Then came the fire hose flow of cash from Washington that put $96.5 million into Volusia County government coffers, ostensibly to offset the loss of revenue and support citizens and businesses affected by the shutdown, but, in reality, turned into a series of carefully orchestrated campaign opportunities for the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who made hay over the fact a paltry $15 million was allocated for the municipalities – while Daytona International Airport alone received over $21 million (in a separate CARES Act allocation not from the $96.5 million.)

Say what?

In March, we were told by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Health that surgical face masks should be reserved for healthcare workers on the front lines on the pandemic – with reminders that wearing masks are only effective in preventing community spread when worn by an infected individual.

Then, on April 3, when it became clear that the catastrophic run on hospital resources many feared would happen if we didn’t “flatten the curve” never materialized, we were warned of the danger of asymptomatic and presymptomatic vectors, and told to wear a mask or cloth face covering whenever we couldn’t “social distance.”

In turn, we watched as local, state, and national elected officials began using masks as a prop – a signal of virtue – with face coverings becoming yet another symbol of the nation’s partisan chasm that grows wider by the day.

In fact, a mid-April poll taken by the Gallup/Knight Foundation of mask usage by demographic subgroups found that 49% of those identifying as Democrats or Democrat leaning independents always wore face coverings outside the home – while just 26% of Republicans or Republican leaning independents reported consistently wearing coverings outside their home (46% of GOP respondents said they never do).

You’re telling me that’s a coincidence? 

A recent article in Politico by Ryan Lizza and Daniel Lippman entitled, “Wearing a mask is for smug liberals. Refusing to is for reckless Republicans,” spoke to our growing cultural and political divide:

“For progressives, masks have become a sign that you take the pandemic seriously and are willing to make a personal sacrifice to save lives. Prominent people who don’t wear them are shamed and dragged on Twitter by lefty accounts. On the right, where the mask is often seen as the symbol of a purported overreaction to the coronavirus, mask promotion is a target of ridicule, a sign that in a deeply polarized America almost anything can be politicized and turned into a token of tribal affiliation.”

As one who invariably sides with the protection of civil liberties, and the inalienable right of all American’s to remain free of tyrannical government overreach, I happen to believe that the idea of public education and consistent messaging should always take the place of harsh mandates, “executive orders,” and forced compliance.

Recently, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board, who long ago threw off the yoke of objective, middle-of-the-road reporting in favor of left-leaning sensationalism and partisanship, issued an editorial which, once again, insulted our intelligence with the headline, “Mask wearing isn’t political, it’s lifesaving.”

Of course its political!

The piece goes on to support the absolutely false narrative that, “Of the available antiinfection steps, face masks are the most effective and important.”

Don’t take my word for it, ask your doctor, or the Centers for Disease Control – proper hand-washing remains the most effective means of preventing individual infection – while face coverings are believed by many epidemiologists to be effective in stopping a percentage of community transmissions from an infected person to others.

One is no more “effective and important” than the other.

But hand-washing does not provide the all-important visual symbolism some are looking for. . .

Unfortunately, the News-Journal’s pompous screed descended into its tired bashing of the current administration, followed by a demand for states and communities to “require” the use of masks through, I assume, a rigorous application of government force and penalties on the non-compliant portion of an ostensibly free population.

At present, in Volusia County, only the City of Daytona Beach – on the executive suggestion of its tinpot tyrant Mayor Derrick Henry – has ordered its subjects to “get in line” (his words, not mine) and wear masks whenever they venture out – something that is impossible to enforce, but got Mayor Henry’s name in the newspaper during the campaign season by further exploiting community fear. . .

Like many perennial politicians, Mayor Henry has once again proven he has no qualms using the full might of government intervention for shameless self-promotion – and I hope Daytona Beach residents will remember that at the ballot box this fall.

Fortunately, an innovative new program was launched last week we can all embrace.

The public information practitioners of our county and municipal governments recently teamed up with their community partners for a novel approach to coronavirus awareness called Step Up Volusia, which asks residents to “Wash Up, Back Up, Mask Up.”

The program, which respects the rights, liberties and common sensibilities of those it serves, will use billboards, digital messaging, community influencers and celebrities to get the word out on the importance of proper hygiene, social distancing and masking to preventing the spread of disease.

Rather than mandate the wearing of masks, Step Up Volusia encourages taking personal responsibility for protecting the welfare of others around us from contracting COVID-19 in a way that depoliticizes the practice and fosters community acceptance.

I like that.

Look, I admit, I haven’t worn a mask much during the pandemic – I have seasonal asthma and the mask makes it difficult to exchange air (plus, it gets in the way of my ever-present Marlboro) – but I’m all about voluntary compliance and individual responsibility over draconian government mandates.

I’ll bet the vast majority of Volusia County residents are too.

Wash up.  Back up.  Mask up.  That’s something we can all support.

To learn more, please go to www.stepupvolusia.org

 

 

Angels & Assholes for June 26, 2020

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               Rhonda Kanan

Kudos to the intrepid Rhonda Kanan, the courageous New Smyrna Beach resident who continues to stand tall in her fight to right an injustice – and ensure basic fairness for residents of that quaint waterfront community – while securing a legitimate financial return on a prime riverfront asset for all taxpayers.

Earlier this year, Ms. Kanan filed a lawsuit alleging discriminatory practices by The Anglers Club – an all-male (and almost exclusively white) private club which leases incredibly valuable public land from the City of New Smyrna Beach.

The legal action attempted to correct what the city’s elected officials would not, challenging the validity of a 99-year agreement that allows the group exclusive access to the city-owned property for just $25 annually.

Unfortunately, the original suit was dismissed by a judge last month – who ruled Ms. Kanan did not have standing to bring the action – allowing her 20-days to refile the lawsuit.

And, by God, she did – filing a revised suit last week.

According to a recent report by WFTV:

“The lawsuit, filed by resident Rhonda Kanan, accuses the club of being an “exclusive, discriminatory fishing and boating white-boys club… engaging in numerous acts of racial, religious and sexual discrimination.”

The suit even accuses the private club of holding “Robert E. Lee parties.” The attorney representing the Anglers said he did not know if the claims of that theme party were true.

“I just feel like there’s no room for racism or discrimination in the world today,” Kanan said.  “I feel like the city of New Smyrna Beach and its leaders are actually supporting discrimination. They can say they’re not, but their actions are very clear, they speak volumes.”

An attorney for The Anglers asserts that, like fraternities, sororities or the “Junior League,” the organization should be permitted to make their own membership rules.

The club plans to file another motion to dismiss Ms. Kanan’s complaint.

Unfortunately, despite the 2009 opinion of outside legal counsel that disputed the validity of the lease and recommending the agreement be renegotiated or the club removed from the property altogether – nothing happened.

Inexplicably, the spineless New Smyrna Beach City Commission has refused to address the agreement which was last signed in the early 1940’s. . .

What a godawful embarrassment – shameful political cowardice run amok – and, in my opinion, a cruel slap in the face to women and persons of color in the community.

This week, Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County NAACP, weighed in on the club’s openly discriminatory practices on publicly owned property:

“In this day, with all of the things all these companies and organizations are looking at, the laws and rules and protocols, that needs to change. Shame on the city of New Smyrna Beach,” Slater said.”

As I’ve said before, in my view, if a group of ‘good ol’ boys’ want to purchase private property, build a meeting hall, and form the New Smyrna Beach chapter of the Lily-White Sausage Club, who cares?

Just get the hell off publicly owned land if you are not willing to welcome everyone.

Frankly, I cannot imagine anything more boring, more inherently dreary, than a “club” that arrogantly limits membership to like types – rejecting the rich cultural and social mix that makes a community great.

In my view, Ms. Kanan is right to scream “Not on my dime!” while standing firm for the rights of all New Smyrna Beach residents in opposing the gross practice of gender and racial discrimination on municipal property.

Shame on the City of New Smyrna Beach for turning a blind eye to this insult to the taxpayers.

Asshole           City of Daytona Beach

For a municipal government that already looks like it went twelve rounds with Conor McGregor, the City of Daytona Beach received yet another black eye this week when Deputy Utilities Director Jo Ann Macrina was indicted on federal charges of conspiratorial bribery, bribery, and tax evasion in connection with money and other items of value that she allegedly accepted while serving as Commissioner of Watershed Management for the City of Atlanta.

The criminal indictment stems from an extensive FBI investigation into the corrupt practice of circumventing established process and granting lucrative city contracts to a DeKalb County contractor.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, while employed by the City of Atlanta, Macrina discussed potential employment with the contractor, and allegedly accepted items of value “in exchange for or as a reward for” providing access to information and preferential treatment with respect to City of Atlanta projects.

The indictment also alleges Macrina accepted $10,000 in cash, jewelry, a room at a luxury hotel in Dubai during a “speaking engagement” paid for by a private entity, and landscaping work at her home in exchange for two work orders – one valued at $9 million, the second valued at over $2 million. 

Damn.

In May 2016, just seven months before she was hired by the City of Daytona Beach, Macrina was summarily fired by then Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in a surprise Friday afternoon bloodletting at City Hall.

According to Alan Greenblatt, writing in a 2016 article for Governing, “Reed’s decision to fire Jo Ann Macrina, who’d been in charge of watershed management, was not terribly surprising. Her agency had suffered a slew of problems, including billing foul-ups, sewage spills and accusations of employee theft.”

Yet, despite this open source information that was readily available to anyone who cared to look (I found it with little more than two keystrokes), the City of Daytona Beach hired Ms. Macrina in January 2017 – most recently paying her $137,980 in public funds annually.

For a deputy department head with a sketchy work history?

According to reports, Macrina has now been suspended without pay. . .

During whatever may or may not have passed for a preemployment background investigation, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm either failed to notice, or simply ignored, the fact the City of Atlanta received a federal subpoena in September 2016 for records related to Macrina’s department seeking specific information on contracts issued to companies controlled by a co-defendant in the conspiratorial bribery case.

Perhaps more disturbing, in October 2019, while Macrina was actively employed with the City of Daytona Beach, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that federal investigators had issued subpoenas seeking “…Macrina’s travel expenses during her last five months on the job, the ethics pledges she signed, any requests she made to perform outside work and her financial disclosures.”

In addition, the AJC report waved red flags which should have provided advance warning to anyone paying attention that the character of Macrina’s service in Atlanta was clear cause for concern:

“City leaders discovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing or stolen equipment in the department, including industrial water meters worth $5,200, copper and pipes. More than a dozen Watershed employees were fired and seven were later indicted for the thefts. One audit found security in Macrina’s department was so lax that it was impossible to know how much equipment was stolen or missing.”

Wow.

Why would anyone paid to protect the interests of the citizens of Daytona Beach take a chance on bringing that level of mismanagement and dysfunction to this community?

I have a problem with that.

Look, there is nothing I’m aware of to suggest Macrina was involved in similar conduct to that alleged in Atlanta during her employment with the City of Daytona Beach – and she is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law – but I question whether hiring an individual for a position of public trust commanding a six-figure salary was prudent under the circumstances of her termination from the City of Atlanta.

Mind-boggling.

Asshole           Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland

The roil in Palm Coast continues as former senior officials are reporting that Mayor Milissa Holland may be under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for her ties to what the News-Journal described as a “unique arrangement” between the city and her employer, Coastal Cloud.

According to reports, former Palm Coast Communications Director, and current mayoral candidate, Michael Schottey, is alleging corruption by Holland and others – claims that were disputed by City Manager Matt Morton on Monday in a weird email response which besmirched Schottey, alleging he resigned his post “after multiple female directors complained about his treatment to them (?)”

As the plot thickened, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported this week that a review of Schottey’s personnel file found no evidence to support Morton’s claim of harassment – and the former Human Resources Director (who is also suing the city) apparently stated Morton was not telling the truth about the nature of Schottey’s departure.

Mr. Schottey has also denied Morton’s allegations that he mistreated coworkers.

Whoa.

(Perhaps Mr. Morton should open his copy of the “City Managers Handbook” and flip to chapter on why its never a good idea to comment on personnel matters. . .)

Whatever.

It is apparent the federal government is finally recognizing that  We, The People are tired of the often loosie-goosy relationships between government and the private sector in Volusia and Flagler Counties – and the Department of Justice may well be acting on credible complaints from whistle blowers and others to preserve the integrity of our local governments.

Let’s hope so.

In a recent News-Journal article, former Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said of Holland’s  involvement with Coastal Clouds effort to provide certain digital services to the city – an arrangement that was supposed to be cost neutral – yet, according to Landon, ultimately cost the city some $100,000 in “licensing fees”:

“This is what gives government a rotten name and that’s really just disappointing to me,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen that way. Once again, may not be criminal. But at least in this ex-city manager’s book, that’s definitely unethical.”

“Landon indicated that when Palm Coast first considered its arrangement with Coastal Cloud, he made clear that the arrangement would not lead to any cost for the city. But he said it ended up costing ‘big time,’ with more than $100,000 for annual licensing fees. Landon claimed he was terminated shortly after he raised concerns about the software costs, with Holland calling for his abrupt dismissal at the end of a Sept. 18, 2018 meeting. Landon’s possible dismissal was not part of that meeting’s agenda.”

“I made it very clear that the city would not be spending any money,’ he said. ‘The next thing I know, I’m not working there any longer.”

Wow.

Look, even if Mayor Holland’s seemingly conflicted roles are on the up-and-up – it smells like the proverbial rotten mackerel in the moonlight – and as a perennial politician she should understand that and step aside.

In my view, the murky suspicions, innuendo, backroom deals, eyebrow raising partnerships, creepy connections and apparent quid pro quo nods which always benefit those with the wherewithal to influence our “democratic” processes through a broken campaign finance system has left many in Volusia County with the well-founded fear that local governments have become a piggy bank for the “Rich and Powerful.”

In my experience, when it comes to protecting the public trust, even the appearance of impropriety is cause for concern.

It is time those who hold themselves out for high office understand the importance of preserving a fair and level playing field – stop the oh-so-cozy relationships with campaign donors and influential insiders – and remember their sacred oath to the people they serve.

Quote of the Week

“The city of Ormond Beach is for sale, and has been since we weakened our wetland and development rules in 2009 and began granting waivers and exceptions for huge multi-parcel planned business developments.  We’re selling out our environment and our city’s historic character for money, and we’re trampling the rights of adjacent property owners protesting each rezoning. These decisions are being made for us and not by us. Elections have produced tragic consequences.”

–Lori Bennett, Ormond Beach, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, Letters to the Editor, “Plantation Oaks Over-Development on the Loop,” Monday, June 22, 2020

Well said, Ms. Bennett.

And Another Thing!

The quadrennial livestock auction that selects the winners and losers of Volusia County elections is in full swing – with all the right last names injecting tens-of-thousands of dollars into the system to preserve the status quo and ensure a return on investment.

For instance, this evening – at a secret location revealed only to those willing to pay “$750 per couple or $500 per individual” the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys will grace you with her monarchical presence at an exclusive “VIP Reception” to support her candidacy for County Chair.

Or, for a mere “$350 per couple or $200 per individual” you can rub shoulders with Dishonest Deb at a “Party Barn” (“Wear your boots and jeans!”) for an open bar, buffet dinner and live entertainment.

According to the notice, your temperature will be taken at the door – but I’ll just bet your check will be welcomed into the party barn, regardless of its COVID status. . .

Oddly, if you want to put on your cowpoke costume and attend tonight’s super-secret hootenanny to add to Deb’s campaign war chest (that already tops $74,000 for a county chair race?) – you are asked to RSVP to an email account linked to our own State Senator Tom Wright, which makes sense, because the clandestine soiree is being hosted by Senator Wright, his wife Cindy, and Congressman Michael Waltz.

Wow.  Heavy hitters.

Must be super-important to some very prominent people that Dishonest Deb be reelected, eh?

Trust me.  This non-partisan election is about a core group of elite political power brokers’ who are intent on maintaining access to the public teat – and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to see Denys ascend to the catbird’s seat.

In other words, it’s business as usual, baby. . .and it is why your vote is so vitally important.

Now, let me tell you about my own involvement in this year’s County Chair race.

Despite my dire warnings, Jeff “Plan B” Brower has invited me to speak at his campaign fundraiser on Wednesday, July 8, from 5:30pm to 8:00pm, at Pitmasters Bar-B-Que, 4425 North US-17 in Delightful Deland!

For a contribution of just $30.00, you will enjoy a delicious, all you can eat, BBQ buffet of ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken and all the fixings!

Special guests include Robyn Collins, who sang with Pat Benatar, and, by special invitation, the incomparable Joann Gilmartin “The Glasgow Girl” – who has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras.

Of course, I’ll be the fly in the ointment, uncomfortably pontificating and jabbering about local issues as we join together to support Jeff Brower: The People’s Choice for Volusia County Chair!

If you are so inclined, perhaps we can enjoy a beverage together at the cash bar (I tend to become exponentially more interesting with the liberal application of Irish Whiskey) and we can put a face to a name or get reacquainted.

Everyone is welcome!  Not just senators, congressmen, and well-heeled insiders. . .

At Jeff Brower’s fundraiser, working people don’t have to be reminded to wear their “boots and jeans.”

Most important, this fundraiser is the perfect opportunity to meet Jeff Brower and speak with him one-on-one regarding the issues that concern you and your family’s future.

This event is sponsored by Jeff Brower for Volusia County Chair.

For more information, find Jeff on Facebook (@RestoreTrustVolusia) or www.jeffbrowervcc1.com

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

Hope to see everyone July 8th!

 

 

NASCAR: A Rush to Judgment?

Anyone else get the sinking feeling that as NASCAR continues to founder it develops more sensational plot twists than a bad Peyton Place episode?

Yeah, me too. . .

The faux-fistfights in the pits, the goofy taunting of fans by contrived heels, the baby faces who preen and posture, the throwing of water and chest-bumping bravado of 20-something no-names – a script that tries hard to take fans back to a day when real men drove stock cars to their limit and bare-knuckle, helmet-throwing brawls often settled scores right on the apron.

Now, the modern storyline reads like a bad wrestling promotion.

But this latest drama resulted in a crash of epic proportions. . . 

What started out as a well-thought attempt to open the flagging sport to a more diverse demographic and show support for driver Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr. – the only African-American competitor in the upper stratum of the Cup Series – NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation made the controversial decision to ban Confederate flags from all racetracks.

Then, just when it appeared NASCAR was making substantial progress on the issue of inclusiveness, sensitivity and furthering a greater discussion of diversity in a sport still very much entrenched in its Deep South roots, we learned the worst possible news.

Upon arrival at Talladega Superspeedway in preparation for last weekend’s GEICO 500, someone on Wallace’s race team discovered a rope “noose” hanging in their assigned garage stall – a despicable, racially charged symbol of terror  – a horrific hate crime that NASCAR immediately linked to Wallace’ advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement – an act of divisiveness and intimidation that rightfully shocked the conscience of a nation.

In response, NASCAR instantaneously issued the following:

“Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team. We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act. We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport. As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”

Wallace was notified of his victimization by NASCAR President Steve Phelps – and Bubba immediately characterized the incident as a “painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society.”

The clearly embarrassed Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivy, accurately described the incident as a “vile act” and a “display of hatred” as the national media drew a direct line between the atrocities at Selma and Birmingham to a lone garage stall in Talladega.

And, with complete justification based upon published “facts”, the world seethed with rage.

On Monday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps angrily announced that if the person responsible were from the inside the sport – they would be “banned for life” – and the investigation of the crime was properly turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as the United States Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division offered every available resource – vowing to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice for Wallace.

During a press conference, Phelps bristled – then doubled-down – when some misfit reporter had the gall to question if the incident had been “staged.”

“I would say that is something that personally offends me,” Phelps said. “This is a terrible, terrible act that has happened.  For those who would think that this is staged, I wouldn’t know where to go with that.”

The drama became an international cause célèbre playing out on the front page of every newspaper in the world – and served as an incredibly provocative lead story for every network affiliate, online aggregate and news channel – complete with scenes of Bubba Wallace, overcome with emotion, as his car was escorted to the starting line by the massed compliment of Cup Series drivers, owners and crew in an amazing show of solidarity.

According to the Associated Press, “Wallace was joined by his team owner, Hall of Famer Richard Petty, who gently placed a hand on Wallace’s shoulder as he sobbed. Wallace after the race went to the fencing along the grandstands and greeted supporters. Many were Black and wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts.”

“It’s just been hectic, you know, carrying this weight,” he said. “I’m proud to stand where I’m at and carry a new face. Look at (these fans). Is this the first time you’re here? From Atlanta? That is so cool! The sport is changing.”

And, just like that, NASCAR suddenly became relevant again – a sport clearly capable of introspection and instantaneous cultural change – who corrected the institutional sins of the past in less than 24-hours and immediately began drawing a young, hip, racially diverse fan base at Talladega.

Then, NASCAR’s carefully orchestrated public relations/marketing strategy of “success from scandal” hit the skids when, apparently, an astute federal agent – one of 15 FBI agents who were redirected from ongoing federal investigations to the Superspeedway – noticed that every stall in the garage had a “noose” similar to the one discovered in Wallace’ space.

Yep.  The “noose” turned out to be no more than the “handle in the garage pull down rope.”

Damn. . .

It was a simple lanyard loop used to close the garage door – and it has been there since at least 2019.

As the news flashed ‘round the world at digital speed, and the narrative changed, you could almost hear Steve Phelps’ asshole slam shut as he came to the sudden realization the drama he churned into a frenzy – that kept the sport in worldwide headlines for 48-hours and exacerbated national tensions – wasn’t a heinous hate crime at all.

And it left the sport – including sponsors – with egg on their face as the natural reaction of fans turned from shock and unity to widespread anger.

Perhaps the FBI (not all 15 case agents, just one or two) should take a look at why, and how, this matter was reported to federal authorities – and, ultimately, used by NASCAR executives to exploit a young black driver who was convinced by the president of his sport that he is a victim.

How terribly corrosive to the frayed fabric of our society.

How horribly sad for this young man who will forever believe he was targeted.

In my view, NASCAR President Steve Phelps should go.

The “sport” owes Bubba Wallace – and all Americans – an immediate apology.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The Loop: Let your voice be heard!

Inexplicably, Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington is telling us the encroachment of some 1,500 residential properties on what was once pristine old growth forest – clear cut impacts we can see with our own eyes beyond a thin veneer of spared trees – is a mass “misconception.”

In a recent article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Developers’ plans spark concern over impact to Ormond Loop,” Partington once again suspended reality when he said, “There’s a misconception out there that a portion of the Loop is being bulldozed.  That’s just completely false.”

We know that, Mayor.

It’s already been bulldozed, you quibbling asshole!  

Now We, The People are worried about the repugnant impacts of increased traffic and toxic runoff that some 1,500 home sites will invariably bring once the Ormond Beach City Commission rubber stamps the zoning change approved by the so-called ‘Planning Board’ next month.

You may remember that this is the same Mayor Partington who gave us his twisted philosophy on over-development back in September when the sprawling Plantation Oaks subdivision was annexed into the City of Ormond Beach: “They (?) say if you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

Well, I don’t give two-shits what “they” say.

Here in the real world, the tens-of-thousands of area residents who are concerned about our quality of life and environment – who can already see the devastating impacts of the Plantation Oaks development – feel like the victims of yet another governmental “bait and switch.”

Way back in 2002, when a horribly misguided Volusia County Council approved a 55+ manufactured home community on a 4-3 vote, we could not have imagined that, 18-years later, the developer would seek a zoning amendment permitting site-built homes – open to families of all ages – a change which will exponentially increase traffic along one of our most precious natural amenities.

In an effort to bring attention to the destruction of The Loop, a concerned area teenager started an online petition seeking protection for “…one of the most beautiful scenic spots in our county” – an entreaty that has garnered some 37,600 signatures (including mine) and galvanized an anxious community.

To show just how deeply the City of Ormond Beach has been infected by the influence of the real estate development community, Planning Board member G. G. Galloway, himself a commercial realtor, said in the newspaper, “The girl who did the petition didn’t do her homework.  They (the developers) have every right to do that (project).”

Of course they do!

In this utterly unbalanced environment – where the massive campaign contributions of builders and real estate speculators dominates, then skews, the political playing field – the little people, those of us who pay the bills and are expected to suffer in silence, are bulldozed like a majestic oak whenever we stand in the way of their obscene idea of “progress.”

In his sickening defense of the indefensible, Galloway goes on – alternately praising the contribution of developers, then claiming the board had “no choice” but to adopt Volusia County’s zoning approvals for Plantation Oaks.

Why is it that whenever citizens seek reasonable environmental protections and limitations on the devastating affects of sprawl, those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests always claim their hands are tied – yet, when a developer seeks changes to comprehensive plans, zoning amendments and other legislative sleight-of-hand designed to undermine safeguards and maximize profits – the process seems like a foregone conclusion?

Anyone who tells you that the deck isn’t stacked against the will of the people is lying.

For instance, earlier this month, the clearly compromised Ormond Beach planning department issued a staff report essentially supporting the Plantation Oaks zoning amendment which concluded:

“The proposed development will not adversely impact environmentally sensitive lands or natural resources.”

Unbelievable.

The fact that a municipal planning staff – individuals who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – could openly engage in the blatant falsehood that the deforestation, paving, development, use of fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides, septic, water and traffic impacts on over 1,000 acres of primordial, canopy forest ecology and wildlife habitat – will not drastically impact sensitive lands and natural resources defies logic.

Because it’s a damnable lie.

According to the News-Journal’s report, “The Ormond Beach City Commission will hold the first of two public hearings on the Plantation Oaks zoning amendment on July 28, starting at 7 p.m. The “socially distanced” meeting will be open to the public and will be held at City Hall.”

I hope you will add your voice to nearly 38,000 of your neighbors and let these developer’s shills on the dais of power in Ormond Beach know exactly how you feel.

Find the online petition here: https://tinyurl.com/yc7h4urv

Tell them you want Plantation Oaks to remain as it was when the developer foisted it upon us nearly two-decades ago – then demand that any vehicular access to Old Dixie Highway be forever blocked to prevent the beautiful Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail from becoming just another over-traveled thoroughfare.

Look, the Plantation Oaks debacle may be a lead-pipe cinch – an inescapable fait accompli for yet another developer intent on cashing in on the exploitation of our last remaining natural places – but we do not have to accept future environmental abominations as a sad fact of life here on the Fun Coast.

In my view, now is the time the silent majority of residents – those who have suffered the indignities of having our intelligence and environment repeatedly insulted by elected marionettes in municipal and county government, and the “staff” members who tell them exactly what they want to hear – begin the purge of these entrenched sellouts and return a sense of fairness, honor, access and accountability to the halls of power in Volusia County.

 

On Volusia: Let’s make them whole – not rich

After decades observing the inner-workings of local government, I don’t believe anything I hear and only half of what I see – never more evident than when I mix Kaopectate with three-fingers of strong Irish whiskey and gawp at what passes for a Volusia County Council meeting. . .

Over time, political power – whether elected or appointed – comes to see itself as infallible, unwilling to admit mistakes or accept responsibility for their individual and collective acts and oversights.

As an example, for years, Volusia County residents have warned their elected representatives of the inherent danger of over-development – inadequate transportation infrastructure, utilities, potable water, emergency services and the devastating impacts on our sensitive environment.

We have demanded moratoriums, asked them to stop making willy-nilly changes to comprehensive plans, sought adequate impact fees and a transparent permitting process.

Instead, our elected officials callously ignore our legitimate concerns for the future, and our diminishing quality of life, while flippantly approving any amendment to the rules and regulations that might benefit their campaign contributors in the real estate development industry – giving us the “Hear no evil.  See no evil.  Speak no evil.” treatment as thousands of new homes and commercial properties continue to sprout like weeds.

Then, when the effects can no longer be ignored, our omnipotent elected monarchy arrogantly tell us their idea of unrestrained growth is inevitable – so, get used to it.

Don’t take my word for it.

Examine the impacts of Margaritaville, the faux beach community in the pine scrub west of I-95 that sits directly atop our aquifer recharge area, the sprawling Mosaic, and the proposed Avalon Park Daytona – which plans to develop some 10,000 residential properties and massive commercial space literally on the southwest border of Ormond Beach – or drastic changes to the Plantation Oaks subdivision that threatens to forever alter our precious natural amenity known as The Loop.

When we attempt to provide input to our elected officials, we are marginalized, made to feel unwelcome in the people’s chamber, and curtly reminded of our station – where our remarks must be laser focused on one individual in a crowded room, and time limitations are placed on our ability to participate in government – while those who asked for our sacred vote haughtily ignore our questions, refusing to even acknowledge our presence.

Recently, I was disturbed by the Volusia County Council’s unanimous decision to promote Interim County Attorney Mike Dyer to the permanent position in that patented “tell ‘em one thing, do another” sleight of hand that always keeps their constituents guessing.

Look, I’m certain Mr. Dyer is capable of performing the role – after a lackluster tour at the Volusia County School Board – the lifelong member of Volusia’s good ‘ol boys club was welcomed back  to county government, got his nose firmly up all the right backsides, then embedded himself like a blacklegged tick.

In January, following a politically motivated bloodbath in the County Attorney’s Office, the council placed Dyer in the temporary role.  At that time, we were promised that the full-time position would only be filled following a transparent nationwide search.

To his credit, at the time, Councilman Ben Johnson shared concern that appointing Dyer as interim might give the impression that, if Dyer is eventually chosen as the permanent county attorney, that the decision was a “foregone conclusion.”

Of course, our concerns were assuaged by Councilwoman Deb Denys who assured us the process to select our new county attorney would by transparent – and “discussed publicly.”

She lied.

No search.  No discussion.  No transparency.  A foregone conclusion. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Dyer’s incredibly lucrative and open-ended contract – which was “negotiated” by an outside Orlando-based law firm which does contract legal work for Volusia County (?) – was unanimously approved by the council.

When Councilwoman Heather Post attempted to protect the interests of taxpayers by seeking the mere discussion of a salary cap to ensure that the other foregone conclusion inherent to the position – an automatic annual pay increase – doesn’t get out of control, the silence from her “colleagues” was deafening.

Now, the politicization of the County Attorney’s Office can begin in earnest. . .

Then talk turned to potential charter amendments – one of which could have resulted in a massive pay increase for our part-time elected officials – which I thought was unconscionable to even consider during an unprecedented election year when thousands of their constituents are out of work with businesses closing daily.

Again, to his credit, Councilman Ben Johnson stated unequivocally that he would not support the change – and suggested that any consideration of a pay increase should not benefit current sitting officials – while Ms. Post droned on about how a bump is ultimately necessary to attract “…the type of people willing to put in for these positions.”

What “type of people” is she referring to?

I assume she was referring to other mercenary assholes who are more interested in what an elected position can do for them, as opposed to honoring the sacred privilege of public service?

Ultimately, the motion to move the charter amendment forward died on a weird 4-3 vote – with our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, joining Councilman Fred Lowry and Councilwoman Barb Girtman in voting for the awkward measure that would theoretically see an elected council member hauling in some $361,920 over a four-year term.

In my view, we should not pay council members anything beyond reasonable reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses specifically related to their service – excluding their own shameless self-promotion and goofy junkets.

Let’s make them whole – not rich.

That’s fair.

And you can bet your sweet bippy this idea isn’t going away. . .

During this election season, perhaps it would be prudent for voters to ask incumbent politicians why We, The People, continue to be ignored in matters large and small – then demand an answer.

Attend candidate fundraisers, grip-n-grins, debates, and hobnobs – look them in the eye and ask why.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being punished by these wholly compromised dullards who continue to congratulate their own performance, paint themselves as “good stewards” of our hard-earned tax dollars, then lie like a cheap rug when it suits their self-serving agenda.

We deserve better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: An Improbable Second Act

Now that my working life is over, I have time to contemplate and analyze my often-turbulent life and times – a life of incredibly good fortune that brought me everything I could have hoped for, personally and professionally.

Through the crystal prism of hindsight, and the bottom of a martini glass, I can see the spectrum of my good times and bad, and, because it is my life, if I chose to exaggerate the positives and accomplishments – and downplay the pain, weaknesses and dysfunction – well, that’s my prerogative.

Admittedly, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream – but what life worth living is?

In many ways, these often-snarky screeds are self-reflective – originating from the vantage point of my own mistakes from over thirty-years in municipal government – and incredibly cathartic.

These essays represent my attempt at a Second Act.

This weird path is nothing I could have imagined when I retired from a lifetime of government service – a dilettante citizen editorialist, a prolific blogger, a bloviating blowhard – an entrenched bureaucrat who found a post-public life voice.

When I review Barker’s View readership statistics each month and see that thousands of you actually took the time to read something I wrote – and consider my goofy alternative opinion on an issue – it massages my enormous ego and makes me feel like a pretentious Big Shot.

I’m not, of course.

But like Walter Mitty, throughout my life I have been gripped by a very active imagination that always seems to paint me as the valiant hero in my contrived contretemps.

You’ll notice that weird concept play out repeatedly in these posts of mine, and perhaps that’s my subliminal remuneration for the time spent – a renewed sense of purpose.

Just like my life in law enforcement, my new calling as a blogger doesn’t pay very well – in fact, like any hobby, it costs me money to pursue – but it fills a very large void in my life, and, I hope, drives a larger discussion of the issues.

Earlier this week, I received a statement from the Social Security Administration which provided an earnings record, a startling chronological tableau of the financial return for my life’s work.

Trust me, I did not enter the police service at age 22 with the goal of getting rich.

In fact, according to social security records, my starting salary in 1983 was just $13,752 annually – and I never made more than $80,470 after 31-years – even though most every police chief in Volusia County earned substantially more than I did.

I never complained.

For me, it wasn’t about the money.

During times of economic stress, I turned down pay increases if my subordinates couldn’t receive one – because that’s the right thing to do – and, given my level of talent and education, I felt fortunate just to have a job in the profession I loved.

Truth be told – and I can be honest now that I’ve secured a pension – I would have paid The City of Holly Hill for the privilege of serving a community that was so appreciative of my efforts, that embraced me, warts and all, and provided the opportunity to give the bulk of my life to work worth doing with people that I loved and respected.

In fact, I never met a true public servant that marked success by the size of their bank account.

Perhaps that is why the recent news that the Volusia County Council hasn’t given up on their cockamamie decision to pursue a change to the charter that would give them a substantial salary increase is so infuriating.

On Tuesday, our elected dullards will openly discuss the proposition of further feathering their own nests.

You may remember that during a “workshop” back in January, we got a disturbing glimpse at the thought process and true motivations of some of our elected officials when they mournfully cried the Poor Mouth Blues – then arbitrarily decided that the charter dictated term “Council” doesn’t carry the same ego-maniacal cachet as “Commission.”

Seriously.  That was their rationalization – and the reason they want to spend public funds to place this horseshit on the ballot this fall.

Then, our vainglorious elected elite had the unmitigated gall to publicly wallow in their own narcissistic angst over how terribly expensive self-promotion has become for politicians in this foul year 2020 – openly mewling about out-of-pocket expenses, a lack of personal assistants (?), the price of gasoline and high cost of automobile insurance – before determining how to best couch ballot language for a pay increase that gullible voters might actually swallow.

Until a recent article on the subject in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, I didn’t know exactly how much we pay our elected officials to sacrifice their valuable time and extraordinary talents for us ungrateful bastards who elected them – and I’ll just bet you didn’t either.

Based upon Volusia’s governing charter, our part-time elected officials are paid at a rate 50% of that paid in other Florida counties, while the county chair receives 60%.

“Council members are paid $45,240 annually and the council chair is paid $54,288 annually. . .”

Wow.

Which means, if we paid them at the rate authorized by state statute, council members (including the chair) would receive $90,480 annually – in a county where some 43% of Volusia households do not earn enough to consistently cover basic monthly living expenses.

Yet, even in these dire times, where small businesses are closing their doors at an alarming rate – and displaced workers are struggling to feed their families on a horribly broken unemployment system – these tone-deaf windbags continue to seek an exorbitant salary, “reimbursement for expenses,” fees for attendance at various self-congratulatory soirees and awards banquets, etc. – not to mention travel, hotel and dining expenses for do-nothing meetings, conferences, hobnobs, grip-n-grins and hot air generators in, Tallahassee, Washington D.C. and beyond.

For attending two meetings a month and schlepping around to a slate of officious time-wasters that never seem to improve our quality of life or lower our already exorbitant tax rate. . .

My God.

If our elected officials are convinced that a pay increase is truly the highest and best use of our hard earned tax dollars during these unprecedented times – then, by all means, they should put that question to the voters this fall.

Something tells me this is not going to bode well for incumbent council members seeking their own undeserved second act – nor should it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for June 12, 2020

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              Daytona International Speedway

Kudos to the France family, President Chip Wile, and the team at DIS for their innovative idea to host high school graduations at the World Center of Racing!

On May 31, more than 1,000 graduating seniors crossed the physical and metaphorical finish line at the famous trioval when Bunnell’s First Baptist Christian Academy, Flagler-Palm Coast and Matanzas High Schools took part in a unique drive-thru ceremony at the speedway.

According to a release by DIS:

“We’re honored to have the graduates of Matanzas, Flagler-Palm Coast, and First Baptist Christian Academy, along with their families, with us on what will be a very special day at Daytona International Speedway,” said track President Chip Wile. “The France family and track are committed to supporting our community in any way possible, and we’re glad to be able to provide what will be an unforgettable experience for these graduates. Their day is finally here.”

After diplomas were conferred, each graduate’s vehicle took a “Victory Lap” around DIS, then a moving of the tassel and cap toss ceremony took place near pit road.  In addition, the event was simulcast on speedway radio and live streamed on the Flagler County Schools website.

What an incredibly memorable commencement ceremony – and a fitting tribute to the hard work and perseverance of these students.

When area school districts and students were desperate for a fitting venue that would permit proper safety protocols, our community partners at Daytona International Speedway stepped up in a big way to ensure a memorable day for these graduating seniors.

I guarantee it was the most distinctive ceremony in the nation!

While the offer was extended to both Volusia and Flagler County students, inexplicably, only Flagler seized the chance – while Volusia remains torpified, like a deer caught in the headlights. . .

In my view, the France family and everyone at DIS deserve our sincere appreciation for recognizing a community need and immediately offering an unforgettable opportunity.

Thank you!

Asshole           Volusia County School District

To say that Volusia County School Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz inherited a shit show is an understatement.

Since taking office, he has been faced with the sins of his predecessors, tried to establish a new leadership structure, patched security lapses, assumed the results of historic poor planning, sorted out gross scandals, shouldered a weak and vacillating School Board, been hit with yet another budgetary catastrophe and dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a tough job with no easy answers, and, despite the many setbacks of this crazy year, Dr. Fritz appears to be hitting his stride.

This week, we learned the devastating news that in coming days he will begin cancer treatment – and the sincere thoughts, prayers, and best wishes of everyone in Volusia County go with him.

Because that is what we do here – when the chips are down, we put our petty political differences aside, and pull together to help and support those who are going through a rough patch.

The fact is, we need Dr. Fritz’ leadership now, more than ever – because it is patently clear that the entrenched power structure that he was forced to accept upon his arrival continues to fail him.  And us.

Last Friday evening, in an oddly timed social media notification, Volusia County Schools issued an ambiguous statement to the “VCS Family” announcing, “In the Fall of 2020-2021, Volusia County Schools is planning to have all students start on the first day of school.”

Whatever the hell that means in this crazy, mixed-up mess that was the 1999-2020 school year.

Then, late this week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he plans to reopen school campuses in August.

Now, I don’t know how your “family” works, but in mine we communicate important information directly, discuss options and alternatives, then collectively agree on a path forward – especially when those decision will have a lasting impact on our lives, livelihoods and household budget.

But not in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand.

No, in that den of dysfunction, despite nine reopening committees consisting of over 150 people, decisions are seemingly made in a vacuum, then disseminated to everyone affected via a Facebook page (?) – with teachers, staff, parents and students all receiving the news simultaneously – leaving everyone scrambling for answers.

That’s not communication.  That’s chaos.

To make matters worse, rather than identify a single point of contact for anxious parents, the official release ended with, “Volusia County Schools is responsible for the content of this message. If you have any questions, please direct them to your individual schools.”

Say what?

Naturally, the district’s Facebook page received hundreds of comments and questions.

Here’s a brief sampling of the fallout:

“What does this mean? Starting in person, starting online? Can VCS not compose a release with CLARITY for students, parents, and teachers that goes out through an official means of communication (AKA not Facebook?) I’ll certainly have plenty to say about this at the next meeting and the district can expect an email from me in their inbox on Monday.” 

“I got this email as a mom – I have NOT heard this information as a teacher. Also – only elementary families received this info – this leaves more questions NOT answers. I thought we were going to work on COMMUNICATION… your employees would like to know information BEFORE families.”

“If VCS is Responsible for This message, why then would I direct my questions to the individual school which in all likelihood doesn’t have the answers???”

In light of the disorientation brought by the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Volusia County School Board and our highly compensated district administrators, have an obligation to restore organizational confidence, end the trepidation many families, teachers and staff are feeling and rebuild the public’s trust in the safety of our schools.

I am not sure you do that with half-baked Facebook posts.

And what about Volusia County’s graduating senior class?

Recently, Michael Walters, a Deltona resident whose daughter is graduating from University High, recently began an online petition hoping to convince the district to hold ceremonies in June – preferably at an outdoor venue which would allow some 4,000 students to graduate with their peers in the presence of family and friends – as it should be.

According to the district’s website, area high school graduations are currently scheduled to begin a month from now – July 9-11 – at the Ocean Center, the same tired and cumbersome venue as before.

“Admission will be $3 per person. Parking will be $5 for ceremonies. . .”

 Guests will be limited to just two.

My God.

It’s not for me to decide if Volusia County students were cheated out of a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience at Daytona International Speedway – an incomparable event that may have served as recompense for their topsy-turvy senior year.

However, I cannot think of a better primer for graduates on the utter dysfunction and incompetence of Volusia’s tax-supported bureaucracies – something that will serve as a foundation for their lifelong distrust of governmental organizations. . .

Congratulations, kids.  And good luck – you’re gonna need it.

Quote of the Week

“There will be a tipping point where we can’t get back,” Rinaman warned. “Now we still have an opportunity to do things right. We are fortunate to have 600,000 acres of conservation land along the St. Johns River. We need to protect that land. We need to protect the headwaters of our tributaries. We need to provide buffers so we can protect wetlands to keep out pollution.”

–St. John’s Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, as quoted in Another View – The Florida Times-Union, “St. Johns River faces new challenges,” Sunday, June 7, 2020

An irrefutable fact of environmental conservation is that in order to protect the water – you must protect the land.

Yet, in Volusia County, our ‘powers that be’ continue to find innovative ways to make it easier for speculative developers to build massive residential, commercial and industrial sites along the width and breadth of our shrinking wetlands, estuaries and wildlife habitats.

500 new homes here, 10,000 there – with overlay districts and “compressed” permitting processes set to ramrod development on the tired promise of “high paying jobs” – all while ignoring the poisonous runoff that endangers our rivers and sprawl that increases pressure on the aquifer – the very source of our drinking water.

Now, we’re seeing yet another development threat to our beautiful and wholly unique natural amenity known as The Loop.  

A tipping point indeed.

In my view, our powers that be have moved to satiate the greed-crazed desires of their benefactors in the real estate development community with such rapidity that we’ve become more concerned with transportation infrastructure, utilities and emergency services than the wholesale destruction of our natural places.

Perhaps that was the plan all along?

And Another Thing!

We are entering the quadrennial Season of Caring, that weird period when incumbent elected officials would have us believe they actually give two-shits about the wants, needs and dreams of their long-suffering constituents.

This short, well-defined, period is marked by backslapping and clubby fundraisers, gaggles of sweaty true believers waving signs on street corners, glossy mailers littering our countertop and omnipresent yard signs cluttering our neighborhoods – all reinforced with the smiling visage of perennial politicians set on a televised loop-reel – while, off-screen, they prostrate themselves before those uber-wealthy oligarchs who finance the whole shebang.

We will once again be treated to the velvety underbelly of perennial politicians who, every four-years, undergo this reverse lycanthropy – transitioning from the political werewolves they’ve become back to friends and neighbors seeking to represent our best interests if we’ll be so kind as to give them our vote.

And another bite at the apple.

This chummy familiarity ends abruptly on election day – so, enjoy the soft-soap treatment while you can. . .

If we’ve learned anything here on the Fun Coast, it is that political representation has become an illusion – a chimera where our elected officials on the Volusia County Council and beyond no longer work for us – or care about our civic essentials, even as they embrace every desire of those who control our future with campaign contributions and the influence it buys.

Like watching a magic show (or a horror movie) it is okay to enjoy this brief moment, so long as we are willing to momentarily suspend reality and keep it all in perspective.

Just remember, the next several months are a staged production, expertly choreographed by gifted bullshit artists trying desperately to erase our short-term memory and return incumbent politicians to office.

With qualifying for most state and local races ending today, we may see last-minute candidates jumping into area races, each with various purposes and agendas, not all of whom have our best interests at heart.

Fortunately, we also have some great candidates already qualified for key races.

One of those is Jeff Brower, my choice for Volusia County Chair, who will be holding a sign waving event this afternoon, 4:30pm to 6:00pm, in Ormond-by-the-Sea at 1258 Ocean Shore Boulevard (park in the Publix lot).

Now is the time to do our civic homework, get involved, study the issues that are important to us – and determine which candidates best reflect our core values.

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

A Note to the Barker’s View Tribe:

Barker’s View will be taking a few days off next week and Angels & Assholes will resume on June 26.

Please feel free to peruse over 500 archived posts on this site, each offering my goofy views on the issues that touch our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Debacle in DeBary Continues

As long-time readers of this blog will remember, I cut my editorial teeth on The Debacle in DeBary, a strange time when – with the help of City Hall – developers made a stealth move on sensitive land known as the Gemini Springs Annex.

It was a clumsy attempt to set the stage for a ‘transportation-oriented’ development near the SunRail station – except the sleazy nature of the city’s behind-the-scenes involvement with a dubious environmental engineer with influence at the St. John’s Water Management District shocked the conscience of many in the small community.

Then, in the worst of small town theater, the former City Manager – in my view, a misogynistic shitheel with the ethics of a broke-back snake – along with several mewling bureaucrats set about unseating a duly elected mayor over a few opinionated Tweets and Facebook posts they claimed violated the malleable municipal charter.

The remainder of the City Council took on the role of judge, jury and executioner – while a few entrenched bureaucrats painted themselves as pseudo-victims during an illegitimate Kangaroo Kourt that ultimately cashiered former Mayor Clint Johnson – and ignored the will of the people who cast their sacred vote – turning what was once a representative democracy into an internal popularity contest.

In my view, this entire debacle was a failure of the unfortunate city attorney, Kurt Ardaman, who has made so many expensive and blatantly stupid mistakes in his representation of the City of DeBary that he should be drummed out for quackery.

It appears his stock in trade remains funneling legal work to outside attorneys under the guise of the latest civic melodrama to grip the community – and he has been the common denominator in every shit-storm to befall the citizens of DeBary.

Shameless.

Now, yet another elected official has fallen victim to DeBary’s weird brand of politics.

According to a report in the West Volusia Beacon, on July 1 the City Council will hold a “hearing” to determine the fate of Councilman Stephen Bacon on charges he violated the charter when he, “…improperly ordered City Clerk Annette Hatch to include some material in the minutes of a recent meeting.”

As I understand it, when Bacon attempted to hand Hatch some papers in her office – his speaking notes from a May meeting – she refused to accept them, saying, “she didn’t need them.”

A brusk interoffice tête-à-tête ensued.

Apparently, that exchange was followed by a spat between Mr. Bacon and the emotionally fragile City Records Manager Erick Frankton (who was a key player in Johnson’s removal) who demanded that a sitting elected official “apologize” to Clerk Hatch, and things went south from there.

In turn, City Manager Carmen Rosamonda “investigated” the incident and naturally supported Hatch’s view of things – then banned the duly elected Bacon from accessing any non-public area of DeBary City Hall.

Really? 

Look, Commissioner Bacon has a history of being something of a sharp-elbowed, acerbic asshole – and this is not the first time he has been accused of overstepping his bounds.

According to reports, in 2018, Finance Director Liz Bauer “…had complained about an unwanted conversation about religion Bacon had initiated with her at City Hall. Frankton related Bacon had asked him to look at or fix a computer that was his personal property, not city-issued equipment.”

That resulted in official censor by his “colleagues,” who ordered Bacon not to give orders to city employees.

As I have said before:

At the end of the day, Stephen Bacon – love him or hate him – is a duly elected representative of the people of the City of DeBary, and, in my view, the will of the people is omnipotent.

Florida law has specific provisions for the formal removal of an elected municipal official.

The statute sets out a precise process that requires the collection of verifiable signatures on a specifically crafted petition, which both names the official and explains the reasons supporting a recall election.

It also provides for due process and judicial review; and the setting of a special election by the chief judge of the judicial circuit in which the recall petition is filed.

The law says nothing about railroading an elected official out-of-office because he hurt the feelings of a couple of mid-level bureaucrats.

Never underestimate the creepy factor in DeBary politics.

I don’t know about you, but this all-to-frequent practice doesn’t smell right to me.

Never has.

Commissioner Bacon might be a pompous politician with a caustic personality – but the people of DeBary elected him to represent their interests – and if they don’t like the manner in which he governs, they can toss his haughty ass onto the ash heap should he stand for reelection.

My hope is the good citizens of DeBary will eventually come to the realization that their sacred vote has become meaningless in an environment where bureaucrats with no political accountability can throw up their hands and theatrically shriek “I cannot work in this environment!” – setting the stage for an equally unaccountable city manager to orchestrate the removal of a sitting elected official who oversees his position.

In my view, if you care about good governance in your own community, you should care about good governance everywhere – and these convenient Tiny Town coup d’états must stop.

 

 

 

On Volusia: The Arrogance of Ignorance

Communication experts speak of the importance of “active listening,” which is defined as making a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the totality of the message being communicated.

It requires that one pay attention, stay focused and resist the temptation to form counterarguments while the other person is speaking – because, in interpersonal communication – nothing telegraphs the true motivations, status and advantage dividing the sender and receiver of information like preaching, patronizing and interruption.

One of the most acute symptoms of the dysfunction that permeates our local political system is the pomposity of power – the setting apart of our elected representatives – who seize control through a horribly broken campaign finance system that allows oligarchical players to shunt massive funds to hand-select candidates.

A sordid, yet completely legal, process that leaves many local elections a foregone conclusion – and removes the political competitiveness that gives We, The Little People a chip in the game. . .

The resultant Teflon coating of haughtiness that forms on the anointed ones, who no longer have to worry about developing a relationship with their constituents to ensure reelection, was most evident last week when members of the Volusia County Council missed a golden opportunity to address some of the most pressing civic and social issues of our time.

During Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting, several concerned community activists representing the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other recognized area leaders stood before our elected officials to very eloquently address some of the most pressing social issues of our time.

Unfortunately, with active protests occurring both locally and nationally, their important presentations fell on deaf ears. . .

In keeping with Chairman Ed Kelley’s royal decree that the exalted members of The Monarchy neither physically acknowledge, nor verbally engage, with the servile subjects who come before them – Old Ed warned the DBBCA representative to direct his words only to him – then cutoff NAACP President Cynthia Slater when her “time was up.”

Rather than demonstrate a modicum of respect for the opinions and suggestions of those community leaders who took their time to come to DeLand and provide substantive input in addressing the seemingly intractable differences we face – our elected dullards openly ignored them – sitting in stone silence atop the dais of power – perfectly communicating the fact they could give two-shits about their concerns or input.

When I pointed this out on Friday, the response I received on social media from our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, was most telling:

“The public participation part of the meeting from 9:30-10:00 is for anyone to offer their comments on anything they choose with a 3 minute time frame to follow.  I have asked any and all of the Clergy that spoke to meet anytime for meaningful dialog.  As you can read Council does not comment during this time.”

To make sure I understood my place, he attached a snippet of the county’s “rules” governing a citizen’s right to address their elected officials, the most important being:

“After you are recognized by the County Chair, state your name and address for the record before beginning your comments. You may speak up to three minutes, either during Public Participation or when an agenda item is heard.

The County Council will not answer questions or requests during Public Participation.”

My God.

Pull your head out of your ass, Mr. Chairman.  This one’s important.

Clearly, Old Ed just doesn’t get it. . .never did, never will – and not one of our elected officials broke ranks and told Chairman Kelley he was full of shit and engaged in substantive discussion with the delegation.

Tragic.

Here in the Kingdom of the Damned, I believe the arrogance of ignorance is rooted in the fact our elected officials have lost the capacity to listen to the concerns of anyone other than their uber-wealthy handlers – even as our community begs to be heard.

Look, we all understand that when we enter the halls of power in that Citadel of Self-importance at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building, the rules-are-the-rules – and they are inviolate.

Unless, of course, our wholly compromised elected officials want to indulge in their frequent practice of “Public Policy by Ambush” – voting on important issues that directly affect our lives and livelihoods after strategically leaving the details off the printed agenda to prevent even the possibility of contention – or public input.

As always, the rules are different depending upon which side of the dais you are sitting on.

And that breeds frustration, animosity and anger.

Now, more than ever, we need policy-makers who are willing to open their ears, minds and hearts to the wants, needs and dreams of their long-suffering constituents – servant-leaders with the capacity to actively listen to those who are working diligently to return peace to our streets and give voice to those seeking social justice and basic fairness.

My sincere hope is that change will begin at the ballot box this fall.

I say again:

Had these haughty assholes on the dais of power taken the time to engage in purposeful dialog with these influential community leaders, how might that discourse have ameliorated the simmering tensions and brought us all a little closer to middle ground?

Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

Something tells me that after the way these civic leaders were publicly humiliated when they approached the Volusia County Council during what passed for “public participation,” these respected clergymen and community representatives won’t bother to take Chairman Kelley up on his hollow offer of “meaningful dialog” on his terms.

Would you? 

__________________________

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