On Volusia: The Trials of Heather Post

Why is it we always find a way to make an ass out of ourselves whenever we have guests over?

On the very morning of our world-famous “Daytona 500 Day” – with all its spectacle and pageantry – and the sense of excitement that only comes from 40 rolling billboards, driven by no-name adolescent’s making left turns for 500-miles, can generate – we open the newspaper and read about the latest brouhaha between the uber-weird District 4 County Councilwoman Heather Post and her “colleagues” on the dais of power in DeLand.

How embarrassing. . .

Last Saturday morning, Councilwoman Post hosted something she self-described as “Government 101” – a “Meeting for Citizens to Engage Themselves in This Critical Process.”

Now, I have no idea what that means, but Post apparently wanted an opportunity to lecture her weary constituents on how “local city commissions and county councils work, how bills are enacted at the state level, and the process to amend the Florida Constitution.”

Didn’t hear about it?

That’s okay – apparently no one else did either.

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, about eight people showed up.

Look – God bless her – at least Heather tried to educate us bumpkins on how this bastardized oligarchical kleptocracy we call governance here on the Fun Coast functions.  That’s more than most in county government have done.

For her trouble, a couple of Post’s fellow elected officials on the Volusia County Council made it clear that any attempt to break ranks – violate the ancient Code of Omerta – and engage with constituents will be met with faux outrage and an overweening sense of officious superiority that only these preening assholes can muster.

After all, the idea of communicating with citizens, opening a dialog or allowing those who pay the bills some limited input – or even insight – into the murky intrigue that passes for “the people’s business” is anathema to County Manager Jim Dinneen’s administration.

Make no mistake, Mr. Dinneen – at the physical direction of those wealthy political insiders who set public policy while feeding greedily at the public trough – personally controls everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here in Volusia County.

In my view, our County Manager is a cheap bag man – a Teflon coated facilitator – who enjoys the political protection of those who pour hundreds-of-thousands of green dollars into the campaign accounts of those cut-rate whores we elect to represent our interests – and it serves no purpose to allow taxpayers even a hint at what happens behind the curtain.

Perhaps Mrs. Post’s most egregious sin on Saturday came when she was mildly critical of Mr. Dinneen’s gross ineptitude and inability to properly manage a 2011 contract with an out-of-state information technology company that utterly failed – for seven years –  to implement a computer program for the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Seven years.

Ultimately, Jimmy’s little oversight cost you and I $117,000.

So, when Mrs. Post’s fellow elected officials were made aware of her seminar – and her public reproach of county management – in typical fashion, they circled the wagons and dramatically overreacted.

For instance, the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys – whose District 3 seat is up for reelection this year – complained in the News-Journal that Post’s symposium was more of a “PR stunt than ‘Government 101.’”

Jesus.  That’s rich.

In my view, the most shameless self-promotion in recent memory came earlier this month when Deb – a demonstrable liar with a history of saying one thing to her constituents, then doing another when it comes time to vote – feigned interest in discussing impact fees for transportation infrastructure, knowing full-well what the result of that empty exercise would be.

Then, in perhaps the most egregious display of political pomposity since his autarchic suggestion that the City Island library be “relocated” and the property used for speculative development, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, took a cheap swipe:

Speaking of Mrs. Post’s meeting in the News-Journal, Old Ed said, “I had not heard that” (which is not unusual, there are a lot of things Mr. Kelley conveniently doesn’t hear about) “I think you’d want someone explaining that who’d had a little bit more than a year of experience on the council.” 

“This should have been something discussed in a council meeting.  I guess I can go host a talk show now.”

My God – only a perennial/professional small-minded local politician could have uttered such a damnably arrogant slight against a fellow sitting official.  And since when does a duly elected member of the county council need to ask permission to engage with those she represents at a community forum?

(For the record, Ed – the reason you can’t host a talk show has nothing to do with Mrs. Post’s community meeting – and everything to do with the fact you’re a scatterbrained dullard who hasn’t had an original thought since you accepted your first campaign contribution.)

Look, I don’t agree with much of anything that Heather Post says or does – she fancies herself a maverick, yet votes in lock-step with the majority of the council on any given issue, especially in matters involving the wants of developers – but we do find common ground on a couple of thoughts she expressed – “It is the people’s responsibility to ensure that we (elected officials) are doing the best job possible.  We need people to keep us accountable.”

I also agree with Mrs. Post when she states, “I’m not a politician.” 

That’s true.  She’s not a politician.

She’s an uber-weird show-boater with a ‘look-at-me’ complex – but since when has that personality quirk prohibited anyone from holding public office?

In fact, its become a prerequisite.

In my view, this on-going spit-spat between Heather Post and the rest of the council is indicative of much larger, and certainly much darker, issues in county government.

When a goofy public affairs forum, attended by a handful of civic-minded people, results in this level of official outrage and petty personal assaults by what passes for our senior elected “leadership,” in my view, it exposes the depths to which this administration will stoop to silence internal dissent, marginalize opposition and ensure that the light of day never sees the cloistered maneuverings and shadowy collusion of those political insiders who truly control our lives and livelihoods in Volusia County.

 

On Ormond Beach: They call it “progress”

As a life-long resident of Ormond Beach, I have a real affinity for our unique community here on the banks of the beautiful intercoastal waterway.

I grew up on North Halifax Drive when it was little more than a fire trail, went to elementary school at St. James Episcopal Church, and played in the side yard of the Casements long before it was renovated into the wonderful civic amenity it is today.

Our daughter and son-in-law were married there.

I knew Mr. MacDonald – the proprietor of the original Billy’s Tap Room – and frequently solicited his help whenever our kickball wound up on the roof of what is now the Gaslight Shops on East Granada Boulevard.  I found it fascinating that he had dime coins given to him as a boy by John D. Rockefeller in exchange for carrying one of the wealthiest men in historys golf bag to what is now Oceanside Country Club course.

I saw smoke rising in the sky from our backyard the day the Ormond Garage burned – and I have walked across the old draw bridge with my classmates as we visited Santa Claus and the talking tree each Christmas at the former City Hall.

As a child, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. aboard the personal train car of Ormond’s most philanthropic benefactor, Chapman Root – the “Silver Holly” –  complete with its multifaceted observation dome.

The car is now part of the Root Family exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Science in Daytona Beach.

My wonderful memories of life here in the “Birthplace of Speed” go on-and-on.

Those of us fortunate enough to call this place home enjoy a rich history and a wealth of outdoor recreation activities and parks, and in so many ways we’ve stayed true to our roots, balancing controlled growth along our main east-west commercial corridor while protecting natural spaces and virgin forests.

I have also been publicly appreciative of the good work of City Manager Joyce Shanahan, who has brought a high degree of stability and transparency to Ormond Beach government, restored public trust in our utilities and maintained an effective dialog with area residents.

However, times they are a changin’.

Last week, as I traveled west on Granada Boulevard, I came upon the horrific scene of utter environmental devastation taking place near the intersection of Tomoka Avenue.  A closer inspection found the wholesale destruction of hundreds of old growth specimen trees – to include dozens of ancient oaks – all felled in a gnarled morass.

granada 2

The wholesale ruin goes on for acres on both sides of Tomoka Avenue, then south on Bennet Lane, with men in heavy equipment actively churning this once pristine forest, which so appropriately buffered the heavily traveled thoroughfare from residential areas to the south, into an ugly black muck of twisted vegetation and splintered limbs.

Like many of you, I heard rumblings that a new WaWa convenience store – co-located with yet another chicken wing drive-thru, and one of those posh specialty grocers some people find so fashionable – was going up, but I really didn’t pay any attention to the when, where or why.

The development goes by the typically pretentious handle – Granada Pointe.   

Shame on me.

I know something about this beautifully tucked away area of our community.

In 1992, my wife Patti and I built our first home in the Woodgrove subdivision, a small two-story pink house which sits at the intersection of South Center Street and Tomoka Avenue.  If you look closely, you can now see it from Granada Boulevard.

If memory serves, the subdivision was built on an old farm and pasture that once took up much of central Ormond Beach.

From my up-close and personal experience, I can tell you that the area provided habitat for a variety of turtles, snakes, birds, raccoons and small mammals.

Now, nothing lives there – except those unfortunate souls who have just watched their property values settle to the bottom of the toilet.

According to a survey performed by the City of Ormond Beach, there were 34 “historic trees” on the three parcels (one located on the north side of Granada Boulevard), with 15 located on the southern parcels along Tomoka Avenue which are being prepared for “commercial development.”  Of these, four trees were said to be in “poor condition.”

The report, dated July 13, 2017, states, “All trees, including the (11) historic trees will be removed (except tree preservation areas below) from the southern parcels as the site requires up to 4’ of fill to bring the buildings, roads and parking areas to proper elevation, excavating for storm water ponds and extensive utility relocation work along Granada Boulevard.” 

Of course, to make us all feel better about ourselves for killing century old hardwoods to make way for an up-scale gas station – and the third grocery store within a half-mile of each other – the city has set aside a 10-acre “conservation area” behind the Moose Lodge.

My ass.

The Ormond Beach Planning Board unanimously approved a rezoning request for the project last July.

At the time, Paul Holub, the local real estate developer who is ramrodding the project, was quoted in the Ormond Beach Observer, “Granada Pointe was designed to minimize impact to the surrounding residential areas, with the landscape buffers, privacy walls and the design of the site’s retention pond.”

Do these speculative developers know no shame?

My God.

Perversely, they call this “progress.”

Does Mr. Holub – or our elected officials – truly believe that Woodgrove and surrounding neighborhoods won’t suffer the near constant “impact” of restaurant, retail and grocery operations – to include deliveries, amplified speakers, traffic and outdoor lighting – which will take place 24-hours a day – literally in their backyard?

And what of the inevitable flooding and run-off that results from raising the surface 4’ above current grade?  And what happens during periods of torrential rain when storm water retention ponds overflow and drain south across Tomoka Avenue?

Despite the very real concerns of area residents, last August our elected officials on the City Commission unanimously approved the project on the recommendation of city planning director Ric Goss and others.

According to Mr. Goss, those residents who are fretting that their property will flood during storms need not worry – “I think we resolved that issue.”

You think that issue has been resolved?

I hope Mr. Goss is willing to bet his job on his hunch.

Because if this project results in flooding, damage, noise and light pollution to area homes as many suspect, I, for one, will be joining the mass call for Mr. Goss – and any other bureaucrat who had anything to do with this project – to be summarily fired and run out of town on a rail.

In my view, one key problem we face in the Halifax area is a complete lack of accountability by public officials – self-described professionals who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – then quibble away the very real concerns of citizens who have invested all they have to carve out a life here whenever a developer wants to start clearing land.

When our environment is decimated, and people’s lives and livelihoods are placed at risk for the benefit of another cookie cutter commercial development, “We hope” and “I think” doesn’t cut it in my book – and its high time these well-compensated guessers are held to account when they’re wrong.

According to Mr. Holub, “As with most of the projects we have built in the last 30-plus years in Ormond Beach, in the end, once it is built and open, the community will use it and support it and accept it.”

As though we had a choice. . .

(Update:  Ormond Beach Planning Director Ric Goss retired at the end of 2017 after serving the city for more than 10-years.  The point of holding city officials accountable for their professional opinions stands.)

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for February 16, 2018

Hi, Kids!

I’m back – as Charlie Daniels said, “hungover, red-eyed – dog tired, but satisfied” – from a wild week in New Orleans, where we became part of the problem in the lead up to Mardi Gras last week.

Even at my advanced age, I can still party all day at places like Boondock Saint and Circle Bar, then catch beads and throws all night – Sazerac in hand – on the uptown parade route.

But now it takes me a week to recover.

Ouch.

My love affair with New Orleans began over 30-years ago, and after all this time, whenever we visit, I am reminded in the most wonderful ways why she stole my heart.  For me, it remains the most unique city in the nation – 300-years of incredible beauty, rich traditions and intractable civic and social problems.

Sadly, you’re more likely to be killed by a 16-year old street thug with a gun there than perhaps anywhere else in the world – I know, my wife and friend were standing less than 100-yards from a shooting incident last Thursday night – and at least four people have been murdered in street violence since Lundi Gras.

Politicians in Louisiana have taken graft, kick-backs and corruption to a whole different level – something locals have come to accept as just another ingredient in the gumbo of life in the “Big Easy.”

As one friend of mine who owns a bar on St. Charles Avenue rhetorically put it, “What’cha gonna do, I guess?”

Yet, ‘The City that Care Forgot’ endures.

You can travel down a beautifully canopied, but trash-strewn and potholed street, reeling from the the heavy odor of decay from collapsed structures that still haven’t been cleared since the levy broke – then cross an intersection and immediately smell the fragrance of fresh cut lumber at a construction site, where an old shotgun house – or some centuries-old commercial building – is being lovingly renovated, restored and resurrected.

And it gives hope that anything is possible.

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

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

Asshole:          Volusia County Council

I want to commend a recent editorial in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Stacked deck on impact fees,” which provided a thoughtful analysis of our County Council’s recent dismissal of any reasonable attempt to raise impact fees to help cover the cost of increasing infrastructure demands.

A week or so back, Councilwoman Deb Denys feigned interest in the idea – if just so she can say “See, I tried to get them to do something” – during her reelection attempt.  (And I sincerely hope there is a contest.  To-date, no one has stepped up to challenge her.)

If this empty exercise did anything, it exposed the depth to which our elected officials will publicly wallow and squirm to protect the interests of their campaign contributors who pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into local races as an effective means of controlling direct access to the public teat.

In most places, when obscure LLC’s, “political action committees,” and dubious corporate entities funnel hard cash into the campaign coffers of political candidates – then the people who control those contributions receive millions of dollars in “economic incentives” as return on investment – it is investigated as quid pro quo corruption.

In Volusia County, it’s called the cost of doing business – and you don’t have to be Elliott Ness to connect the dots from certain donors to certain lucrative “incentives.”

Yet, here on the Fun Coast, it’s all perfectly legal under our bastardized campaign finance system – yet, morally and ethically dishonest to its rotten core.

I wish the News-Journal would have explored that important aspect of this equation – something everyone recognizes, but no one wants to talk about.

In my view, it is patently wrong for our elected officials to make asinine excuses and insult the intelligence of their constituents.  Clearly, they desperately want the proposed half-cent sales tax increase, because Volusia County government needs ever increasing sources of revenue like a parasitic insect needs the blood of its host.

To say that impact fees should not be part of a comprehensive discussion of how we respond to the inevitable environmental and infrastructure pressures brought by massive growth and development is not just shortsighted – it is a well-choreographed sham to transfer the cost to the citizens of Volusia County, while protecting the self-interests of those uber-wealthy few who stand to benefit.

Despite the snobbish claims of our elected and appointed officials that We, The People are too stupid to understand the process, in my view, this dismal refusal by the county council to use all available existing sources to build and maintain infrastructure is a game changer.

Let’s send a strong message to these political whores who befoul their high office with this continuing swindle that we’re not as dumb as they think we are.

How, you ask?

Just say NO to their money-grubbing half-cent sales tax increase.  That’s how.

Asshole:          Brown & Brown

Look, my take on this may sound petty – but I’m going to say it anyway – because I’m nothing if not a trifling asshole with a sideways opinion: 

Now that you and I are strategic investors in the Daytona Beach-based international insurance intermediary, Brown & Brown – I feel a fiduciary responsibility to you, my fellow unofficial board members, to keep a close eye on our new business partner – and ensure that J. Hyatt keeps his lofty promises.

You know – trust but verify.

As you may recall, residents of Daytona Beach and Volusia County recently went in our collective pocket for a $15.5 million incentive package (to “assist” a company which reported $1.88 billion in revenue last year) for construction of a new 10-story corporate headquarters complex on Beach Street.

One of the high promises made to us by Chairman J. Hyatt Brown was that, in exchange for tax dollars and other breaks, Brown & Brown would create at least 600 “new” jobs paying an average of $41,300 – a handsome improvement over our current abysmal local wage.

While you and I may have thought the promised “new” jobs would originate where the incentive money did – you know, here in Volusia County – we later learned that the required positions need only be “new to Florida.”

Oh.

I guess I should have listened closer when J. Hyatt did his best Bachman-Turner Overdrive impression, screaming “B-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” to the thunderous applause of his fawning sycophants last September.

I guess the devil truly is in the details.

With 16% of Volusia County residents living at or below the poverty line, I think everyone viewed J. Hyatt’s job creation promise as a real silver lining – an alternative to the scullery work and tragic “affordable housing” cycle that has kept thousands of our neighbors living hand-to-mouth.

Last week, at the annual soiree of that oxymoron known as the “Volusia County Association for Responsible Development (?),” (which, I think, exists to throw cocktail parties that place “consultants” elbow-to-elbow with elected and appointed decision makers) J. Hyatt told a roomful of our local ‘movers & shakers’ that he plans to meet his promise of 600 new jobs well before the 2022 deadline.

Yep.

However, locals shouldn’t break out the resume just yet.

Apparently – rather than organically creating 600 “new” local jobs – Brown & Brown will simply uproot two existing “profit centers,” one currently located in Detroit, the other in Boston, and transfer these 700 employees to the “new” Daytona Beach campus when its completed in 2020.

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “He (Brown) declined to specify what kind of jobs the company was creating locally, but said they aren’t entry-level positions. “They’re highly complex jobs dealing with specialty lines of insurance,” he said.

 “Brown said the new trainees the company has added recently in Daytona Beach are part of the 700 jobs that are expected to be created by the relocation of the two profit centers.”

 So, why the rush to move current B&B employees to the Fun Coast?

I mean, why not take the opportunity to establish new jobs for existing area residents – you know, in keeping with the spirit of the subsidies that will be paid by existing area residents?

Well, as I understand it, if Brown & Brown meets the job/wage requirements, it stands to receive $4.5 million in performance-based “incentives” – $900,000 of that coming directly from our hard-earned local tax dollars.

Oh, and the company will also be eligible for additional giveaways to off-set construction overhead and infrastructure totaling $4.5 million from Volusia County residents – and $4.5 million from the City of Daytona Beach taxpayers.

According to our addle-brained County Chairman Ed Kelley, “Fantastic is the only word that comes to my mind.  It’s going to make us a destination for employment,” beyond service jobs, he said.”

(Really?  Because ‘bait-and-switch’ is the first thing that came to my mind. . .)

“A destination for employment?”

Where?  When?

What in God’s name is he yammering about?

I’m guessing Old Ed dozed-off, face-first, in his balsamic-drenched arugula at the VCARD gala and missed the part about “relocating” existing jobs, rather than creating “new” ones for Volusia County residents.

Because I sure as hell missed it.

Sorry Detroit.  Sorry Boston.  Your loss is our gain.

So, let’s welcome our new high-income neighbors!

You’re going to love your new digs!

My suggestion:  Buy a loft downtown, close to work, because once Margaritaville, Mosaic, Woodhaven, etc., etc. are built out, the resulting traffic congestion is going to make Boston area gridlock look like some idyllic country road. . .

And for us yokels left to underwrite the whole shebang – well, try not to be too sore over the fact we were kind of led to believe one thing – but ended up with something completely different.

Welcome to “Corporate America,” kids – The Art of the Deal.

Angel:             Chief Craig Capri & the Daytona Beach Police Department

Kudos to Chief Spike Capri who stood his ground and supported the bold actions of his officers in seizing 23 at-risk dogs – including a four-month old puppy, and seven newborns – from a Reva Street home last year.

During an unrelated investigation into a stolen car found on the property, officers discovered the animals being held in deplorable conditions, confined in small cages with contaminated water and floors covered in waste.

Several of the malnourished dogs were suffering from open, untreated puncture wounds.

Investigators also found physical evidence of dog fighting and forced breeding, to include what one veterinarian described as a “rape stand.”

Earlier this month, Judge Angela Dempsey ordered these vulnerable animals be returned to the abusive son-of-a-bitch who made their lives a living hell – ruling that officers violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights and should have obtained a warrant to search the property.

Look, I understand the exclusionary rule – God knows I’ve lost my share of evidentiary hearings – but what about the inevitable discovery exception?  I’ve been out of the business a few years, but weren’t the officers conducting a lawful investigation when the 23 dogs were observed?

I’m not second-guessing Judge Dempsey – I’m asking.

Speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chief Capri was quick to point out that, under the circumstances, he would do the same thing again “in a heartbeat.”

I admire that.

In my view, Chief Capri and his officers acted in the highest traditions of the police service when they saved these tortured animals from an abusive, filthy and life-threatening situation.

When officers discovered animals in immediate danger, they conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion – and acted decisively to intervene and alleviate their acute suffering.

I find it unfortunate that, under the circumstances, there was no other legal alternative available to Judge Dempsey.

Considering there is an active investigation on-going, was there no room for continued judicial oversight – or some other means that would allow Judge Dempsey to monitor these helpless animals and protect them from continued abuse?

I mean, under current city ordinances, can a person possibly be permitted to keep 23 dogs in a single-family home?

Again, I’m asking.

In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department continues to impress – and I want to recognize the outstanding kindness and compassion of Officer Kera Cantrell, who went above and beyond the call of duty in adopting and providing a safe and loving home to “River” the weeks-old puppy who was heartlessly abandoned to the elements and certain death under the Seabreeze Bridge one cold day last month.

Kera’s a great lady – and an exceptional law enforcement officer.

We’re fortunate to have incredibly compassionate people like Officer Cantrell, under the extraordinary leadership of Chief Capri, in service to the citizens of Daytona Beach.

Thank you for your commitment, both to our community – and to those helpless creatures who cannot speak for themselves.

Angel:             First Step Shelter Board

Members of the First Step Shelter Board are publicly asking what the rest of us have been thinking for months: “What the hell’s taking so long?”

I mean, it’s a homeless shelter – not a Summit Hospitality hotel renovation, for Christ sake.

On Tuesday evening, the First Step Shelter Board met to discuss their frustrations and examine what can be done – if anything – to put some fire under the various professionals and bureaucrats whose expertise and sign-off will ultimately be necessary to break ground.

Two months ago, everyone who is anyone in Volusia County gathered in front of a staged bulldozer while golden shovels turned ceremonial dirt.  Once the flowery speeches, gushing accolades and political backslapping at the barren site were over – nothing.

Crickets.

Now, members of the First Step Shelter Board – that diverse group of dedicated citizens and public servants who took perhaps the most intractable local problem of our age by the reins and spearheaded a viable effort to build a permanent shelter to provide temporary housing for area homeless – have legitimate concerns about the shelter’s design and construction schedule.

As I’ve said before, the timeline proposed by the architectural firm hired by the City of Daytona Beach is outlandishly drawn-out.  Under the current protracted calendar, the shelter’s doors won’t open until sometime in late 2019 – that’s two-years beyond what many involved in the process predicted.

And that’s unacceptable.

Board members are rightly concerned that, as more time passes, would-be benefactors and corporate donors will simply lose interest – or rightfully question the project’s management and oversight.

Other well-informed citizens doubt the shelter will happen at all.

One thing that truly concerned me was an uninformed comment by Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, who also serves as president of the First Step Shelter Board.  According to Mayor Henry’s take on the foot-dragging, “Short of city commissioners putting pressure on staff, there’s not much more we can do.”     

First, that’s not the way it works.

Second, that’s City Manager Jim Chisholm’s job – and Mayor Henry should know that.

If the City of Daytona Beach plans to continue supervising construction of the First Step Shelter, perhaps it’s time that Mr. Chisholm turn his legendary temper and logistical skills toward those in his charge who are hamstringing this important progress – and that includes contractors who are pretending a simple homeless shelter requires the architectural and engineering design of the Shanghai Tower.

Angel:             Paul Zimmerman & Sons of the Beach

No one has done more to educate us on the on-going shitstorm that is the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock debacle than the intrepid Paul Zimmerman, president of Florida’s premiere beach access and advocacy group, Sons of the Beach.

If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest that everyone examine Paul’s recent photographic expose (available on Facebook at FREE Daytona Beach) depicting the horrific conditions at our new “4-Star” Hard Rock resort hotel – the never-ending fiasco which is still actively under construction on the bones of the haunted Desert Inn on Atlantic Avenue.

As you must know, last April our elected corporate shills on the Volusia County Council orchestrated amended legislation which gave the developer of this languishing “resort” – Summit Hospitality Group – a firm date of February 28th to finish things up, or lose the generous giveaway removing beach driving from the strand behind the hotel.

As a former licensed contractor, Paul knows exactly what he’s talking about.

Look, I don’t have a clue which end of a hammer you blow in – but I can look at a picture of spalling concrete, rusted and fractured support posts, the effects of flooding and saltwater intrusion, the copious use of floor-jacks to prevent catastrophic collapse and the slapdash use of grout and plaster to cover obvious problems – and come to the opinion that, in a rush to finish, patched-over eyewash has replaced the complex structural repair and replacement one expects of a quality renovation.

My hope is that an independent regulatory agency will inspect this project – preferably before its ramrodded to completion using bubblegum and bailing wire – and take decisive steps to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

At the very least, Hard Rock International has got to be wondering exactly what they stepped in here on the sandy shores of the Fun Coast. . .

In my view, if they put the corporate brand on this very visible disaster at this stage of completion, Hard Rock stands to lose far more credibility in the global market than Summit Hospitality ever will.

Angel:             Bethune-Cookman University Athletics

The Barker’s View sports department sends hearty congratulations to B-CU Women’s Basketball on being ranked 25th in the nation on the College Insider.com Mid-Major Top 25!

Bethune-Cookman – 19-4 overall, and undefeated in Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference play – received their first-ever Division 1 national ranking after their big win over North Carolina Central Monday night.

The Lady Wildcats are now one victory away from their first 20-win regular season in over three decades.

In addition, the school announced on Tuesday that guard Angel Golden was named the MEAC Conference Player of the Week, while forward Lyndsey Edwards received special recognition as Co-Defensive Player.

Well done, ladies.

Did I mention that all these accomplishments came as B-CU’s incomparable head coach, Vanessa Blair-Lewis, is nearly 9-months pregnant?

Congratulations Coach Blair-Lewis – on all fronts.

Incidentally, her husband, Eric, is a 14-season veteran of the NBA, who officiated the Cleveland/Boston match up which was nationally televised on ABC Sports last Sunday.

There is a lot of good things going on at B-CU Sports, and we’ll have more on their continuing success later.

Suffice it to say, both the school – and our community – are very proud of these young athletes!

Quote of the Week:

“It’s nice to have the information. I think that’s good enough for me. I think letting a sleeping dog lie in this case might be the best situation.” 

–District 5 Volusia County Council member, The Very Reverend Dr. Fred Lowry, shillyshallying his weary constituents as to why the burden of funding transportation infrastructure improvements in the face of massive, unchecked growth should be placed squarely on the taxpayer – rather than the wealthy developers who stand to benefit most.

What’cha gonna do, I guess. . .

Have a great weekend, kids.

On Volusia: The Burden is Ours. Alone.

I’ve seen some poorly choreographed political theater in my day – but the recent farcical skit produced by our elected officials on the Volusia County Council is another brazen assault on our collective intelligence.

This time, their tired Kabuki involved “revisiting” impact fees.

Last week, the now up-for-reelection Councilwoman Deb Denys took center stage and delivered her lines like an aging doyenne, desperately trying to redeem her dismal history of gross disservice to her fed-up constituents.

According to Deb’s well-rehearsed script – she crowed that it might be a good idea for the council to review our stale impact fees in the face of mega-developments growing like tumors along the spine of east Volusia – projects that everyone agrees will ultimately cripple our wholly inadequate transportation infrastructure.

In doing so, her fellow actors in this Theater of the Absurd knew that allowing her the spotlight might give ol’ Deb some much-needed credibility among that segment of her constituency that still haven’t pegged her for the bald face liar she is.

Don’t take my word for it – watch the video circulating on social media taken during her last campaign when Deb passionately promised us she would never vote to remove beach driving from the strand behind the languishing Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock project.

During the discussion, in a wholly orchestrated moment, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, whined like a demented grandmother that forcing developers to help alleviate the burden these gargantuan projects have on existing infrastructure might drive up the cost of homes – or prove a “hindrance” to the creation of more commercial warehouse jobs.

Yep.  Old Ed is all about “fairness” when the business interests of his buddies are at stake.

In actively poo-pooing the idea of raising impact fees, the Right Reverend Fred Lowrey suggested (with a straight face) that, “Letting a sleeping dog lie in this case might be the best situation.”

Trust me.  That narcoleptic cur known as legitimate impact fees for infrastructure improvements was euthanized 15-years ago.

But, exactly which situation are you talking about, Fast Freddie?

The one where you and your cronies approved massive residential and commercial development from Farmton to the Flagler County line without the first consideration of its detrimental, and irreversible, effects on our sensitive environment and infrastructure?

Or, is it the one in which your uber-wealthy pals at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance are figuring how to best shove a half-cent sales tax down the collective throats of your constituents to pay for the very same environmental and transportation impacts that should rightfully be borne by those who benefit most?

Speaking of sleeping dogs, our own elected Rip Van Winkle – “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – naturally agrees with his goofy colleagues.

It seems whenever the prospect of holding his campaign contributors financially accountable, Pat magically grows a social conscience and openly frets about how reasonable impact fees might price new homes out of the reach of “families.”

(If you believe Pat Patterson gives a Tinker’s damn about your family, see a doctor – now.) 

Sleepy Pat even went so far as to suggest that anyone who bases their support for the sales tax increase on how our elected officials address impact fees are comparing apples and oranges.

According to Pat, even equating the two is “getting way out of line.” 

My God.  These sycophantic slugs are all the same.

Then, yet another highly compensated junior county attorney took the stage and suggested that the formula for calculating impact fees is simply too complicated for us hapless dupes to possibly understand.

Bullshit.

Folks, in its current form, the Volusia County Council will never – under any circumstances – ask their handlers to pay their fair share for anything.

That’s not the way it works in the Dinneen administration.

Those whom the Daytona Beach News-Journal has described as our “Rich and Powerful” do not lavish hundreds of thousands of green dollars into the campaign accounts of the anointed ones so they can be bothered with pesky impact fees.

In their world, loyalty goes one way – to the highest bidder.

Especially when these shadowy players are comfortable that they can coerce every man, woman and child in Volusia County to cover the ever-increasing burden with a shameless, money grabbing sales tax hike.

Let’s face it – these incumbent whores are bought-and-paid-for – and one need only review the current campaign finance reports of certain 2018 County Council candidates to see who is compromised – and who is not.

It’s now crystal clear – the burden is ours.  Alone.

On Volusia: Fair or Unfair?

Publishing a local newspaper in the digital age must take a Herculean effort.

I’m certainly no expert – or even an amateur journalist – just a casual observer of the local scene who sees the global pressures on traditional print media in an evolving market.

Sweeping changes in technology, the speed with which what passes for “news” is gathered and regurgitated, and the morphing social contract between those who report and those who consume, are forcing an industry-wide transformation.

Now, imagine the myriad issues inherent to publishing a daily paper in an environment wholly controlled by a select few oligarchs – an institutionalized hierarchy that controls every aspect of our lives and livelihoods through a morally corrupt campaign finance system that has co-opted our local system of governance here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Consider the ethical and journalistic pressures of reporting the news in a place where the ‘powers-that-be’ demand that local mass media serve only to legitimize the system by touting massive giveaways to insanely wealthy corporations and billionaire families – always cloaked in the promise that using our money to ensure their continued prosperity will result in more scullery jobs – or the benefits of effectively privatizing public amenities and taking away our local culture and traditions in the name of “economic development.”

These stressors were never more evident than in Editor Pat Rice’s column in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal.

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Pat’s work.  He’s a smart guy – incredibly bright and intuitive – and I truly believe he has our collective best interests at heart.

However, Pat works in a very confined space, one where the delicate balance of independently reporting and opining on the news while protecting the self-interests of those who control literally everything – including scarce advertising dollars – is razor thin.

In his piece, “Proposed sales tax no slam dunk,” Mr. Rice discussed several potential obstacles local leaders face in their desperate attempt to shove a half-cent sales tax increase down the throats of an already tax strapped constituency.

Unfortunately, in my view, Pat deftly tap-danced around the one issue that may ultimately condemn this shameless money grab – and those doing the heavy lifting for the millionaire’s who stand to benefit most – to the political ash heap of tax scams past:  Public Trust.

They simply do not have the confidence of the people they represent – and for good reason.

According to Mr. Rice, I don’t entirely agree with radio personality and former County Council member Big John’s statement in January that “the trust in Volusia County government administration is at an all-time low.” But the county administration does have an optics problem.”

Optics problem?

That’s like saying the Titanic had a slight moisture issue in the lower decks.

“It may be because Dinneen has been viewed— fairly or unfairly— as responsible for curtailing beach driving. It may be because some perceive the county — again, fairly or unfairly — as too often siding with developers.  Like last week, when a discussion about impact fees on new homes seemed scripted to ensure no increase.”

 Or, it may be because, as others in positions to know have pointed out, our elected and appointed officials in Volusia County government are duplicitous sacks of shit who continue to perpetuate a massive fraud against their constituents – one which requires a constant infusion of new funding sources to feed the private interests of political insiders – and keep this grotesque “tax and giveaway” wheel turning.

If you still believe that our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and those dullards we elected to represent our interests on the dais of power in DeLand, have any semblance of credibility – I encourage you to examine the unfolding shit-storm that is the Desert Inn/Westin/Hard Rock debacle.

Last year, in an off the printed agenda surprise attack, County Manager Jim Dinneen personally orchestrated revised legislation that gave developers of the languishing, perpetually behind schedule, hotel project an extension on a previous ordinance that set specific performance standards – including a date certain for opening – or the ultimate incentive of removing beach driving from the strand behind the hotel would be null and void.

The deadline set by our elected officials was clear and succinct – “This ordinance shall stand repealed in the entirety if the conditions … have not been met in full by Feb. 28, 2018.”

 Well, it has become self-evident that construction on the building, and its highly touted “Rock Star” amenities, can’t possibly be completed, tested and inspected – at least to the quality standards one expects of a “Four Diamond” resort – in just 17-days.

So, the doctrine of fairness and transparency in government would naturally dictate that the incredibly controversial issue of beach driving be taken off the table per the letter and spirit of the ordinance – a move that Hard Rock International should rightfully understand and embrace.

Instead of standing by his word, Chairman Kelley and our county attorney’s office have the abject temerity to pull a slimy bait-and-switch scam on those they represent – pissing backwards and quibbling facts – working hard to convince us rubes that legally agreed upon performance standards and hard completion dates mean nothing – so long as the ultimate goal of removing our heritage of beach driving prevails.

Once and for all, these shameless hucksters have exposed themselves as the disingenuous prostitutes they are – bought-and-paid-for whores who have no qualms lying openly to their constituents whenever it serves the bottom line of their greedy masters.

“Fairly or unfairly,” the barefaced political chattel on the Volusia County Council – and their well-paid facilitator who runs interference for the whole sham – represent the most perverse and malignant form of political cowardice and quid pro quo sleaze ever foisted on an unsuspecting public.

And that, Mr. Rice, is why nothing this rabble says will ever be trusted again – and that includes the emergent need for even more sources of revenue to slake the insatiable appetite of this bloated pig of a county government and the select few it exists to benefit.

 

 

 

 

Best of Barker’s View – Volusia Politics: So, it’s our fault?

This angry screed was published in August 2016.  It serves as a brief history lesson for anyone who doubts the importance of who we elect in Volusia County. . .

My God.

If I receive another arrogant lecture from a speculative developer scolding me and my neighbors because they can’t build an overpriced high-rise theme hotel, and carry our money out of town in trucks, I’m going to vomit.

The coverage by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, and other local media outlets, of the shamefaced Henry Wolfond, CEO of Bayshore Capital, Inc., and his failure to sprout the phantom “Hard Rock” hotel/condo from the sand dunes – a project that Wolfond promised was going to be the magic panacea to protect us hapless rubes from ourselves and cure every ill facing Daytona Beach from economic blight to head lice – has consumed more newsprint than the Hindenburg disaster.

Three months ago I wrote:

“Just last year our friends at Toronto-based Bayshore Capital, Inc. promised that if we just gave up our heritage of beach driving, in turn we would receive 375,000 square feet of tempered steel and sex appeal; a sweet, sweet release from all our burdens in the form of a monolithic miracle of jobs, oiled-up pretty people in private cabanas, and luxury condos for the rest of us.

 Bayshore’s hired mouthpiece, Glen Storch, warned us (Like Oliver Douglas preaching to the residents of Hooterville) that if we balked at giving the Hard Rock what amounts to a private beach then our cure-all would be snatched away and we would be left to rot like poisoned rats in this hellish cesspool of economic affliction and violent street crime we pathetically call “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”

 Our benevolent dictators – the uber-rich puppet masters who actually run what passes for “government” in Volusia County – immediately directed their hired hands on the County Council to give Bayshore what they wanted.”

 And they damn sure did.

Gave them everything they wanted and more.   

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of these people, these speculative greedheads, preaching to us about how badly we fucked-up – openly whining about how our “obstructionism” cost us the opportunity to have nice things.

Everyone who is anyone got into the act.

According to the News-Journal, “former Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey was at the front of the line to buy a condo. Ritchey, president and CEO of one of the nation’s most successful automobile sale operations, has become a friend of Wolfond since the Hard Rock land was purchased five years ago, and he also became passionate about seeing it come to life.”

Really?

Note to Mr. Ritchey:  Henry Wolfond was not your friend.  He was buying your influence – you know it, and we know it.

The fact that he contributed heavily to the monument to your own self-importance that was erected at the Bandshell – and in doing so got the Bayshore brand on the brass bootlicker plaque – does not make him your friend.  It makes him a common whore.

Look, Glenn, we’re not buying a cheap used car here.  You don’t have to put the ether to us.

The citizens of Volusia County are big boys and girls who have been screwed so many times by real estate developers, carpet-bagging thieves and outright pirates that we walk with a collective limp.

We get it.

So just stop.

And the fact that J. Hyatt Brown gave Wolfond $5,000 as a show “deposit” on a luxury condominium that he knew was never coming out of the ground is just laughable.  Hyatt Brown spent more than that on his last city commissioner – so don’t think for a minute we bought into this bullshit simply because Mr. Brown – or one of his cronies – threw a little money around.  We’ve come to expect it.

As usual, now the powerbrokers and the failed developer du jour stand together and point their fucking fingers in our face like a demented Ebeneezer Scrooge and blame we, the people, for shitting on yet another cure-all.

They stand as one and arrogantly lecture us on how our temerity in questioning the developer’s right to a private beach in return for 60 parking spaces and a weak promise ruined everything.

I’m sick of it.

Trust me.  If Wolfond – or any other developer in the free world – thought that they could make a buck off this place they would do it in a heartbeat.  The fact is, Bayshore was commanding Palm Beach prices in a place that can’t even support a decent chain restaurant.

I mean, does anyone do their homework anymore?

You don’t need a market study to understand the citizens of Volusia County are so beat down and deprived that a new Wa-Wa makes us feel all haughty and up-scale.

If we had the money back that we’ve given to International Speedway Corporation, Consolidated Tomoka, the “E-Zone” mess, and the countless speculative developers and “friends of friends” that have come down the sandy pike, we could revitalize the entire “Fun Coast” overnight.

These hypocritical shitheels refuse to admit that it is their fault.  Not ours.

The fact that smart people don’t want to invest money in a place that has been falling apart right before our eyes for the past 20-years has nothing to do with beach driving or high-rise hotels.

The reason no one wants to throw good money after bad down this festering cesspool is that they have watched the skimming by special interests and influential insiders, and the abject corruption inherent to the process that has made Volusia County generally – and Daytona Beach specifically – look like a fucking Banana Republic.

These big dollar financiers that kept Wolfond and his dubious project at arms-length know they have a better chance of squeezing out a profit in downtown Port Au Prince than on Atlantic Avenue.

Don’t preach to me about “uncertainty and delay” over beach driving lawsuits.

Our elected officials – and their wealthy puppeteers – have created an environment that is so unstable and flagrantly criminal that no one north of Bunnell or south of Mims wants anything to do with us.

We’ve become the wet turd in Central Florida’s front yard that nobody wants to step in.

Like working in a sewer, eventually you just become immune to the stench and waste floating all around you; and locals have been duped so many times we have just become accepting of it.

We really don’t know any other way.

As an example, rather than realize that he is a huge part of the problem and benevolently resign his post – County Manager Jim Dinneen appears in the newspaper coverage yapping in the background about the Boardwalk expansion like the whippy little shit he is.

Focus, Jim.  We’re not talking Ferris wheels and Tilt-a-Carts here.  Big boy time, Mr. County Manager.

Unbelievable.

At the end of the day, the proposed Hard Rock project accomplished what it was designed to do.

It closed yet another approach and set the stage for the removal of even more beach driving space.  The ordinances that were passed on the back of this project – and the “Westin” (which it appears is being renovated by two guys on the weekends) – was the goal of our benevolent dictators from the beginning.

And at the end of the day, they got what they wanted.

Screw this ridiculous smokescreen.

We saw this coming all along, and the takeaway has nothing to do with high-rise condo’s or even beach driving.

We have confirmed the valuable lesson that the very institutions we once trusted – the people we elect and appoint to represent our interests – have been corrupted and co-opted by greedy bastards who have no qualm about using public resources, tax dollars and the judicial system as weapons against their own constituents to line their pockets and those of their “friends.”

And when they fail.  It’s our fault.

Please remember that at the polls.

Best of Barker’s View – A Critical Decision for Volusia County

You know the old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”?  Here’s a little diddy from two-years ago.  Interesting. . .

Looks like the Hard Rock Hotel – you know, the project that was billed as a panacea for every problem facing Volusia County from beachside blight to head lice – has been “put on hold” for the foreseeable future.

Seems those pesky Sons of the Beach and Let Volusia Vote radicals may have all but spoiled it with their lawsuits and roadblocks to happiness and prosperity.

You remember the Hard Rock, right?  The magic potion guaranteed to revitalize Daytona Beach and save us from ourselves?

Just last year our friends at Toronto-based Bayshore Capital, Inc. promised that if we just gave up our heritage of beach driving, in turn we would receive 375,000 square feet of tempered steel and sex appeal; a sweet, sweet release from all our burdens in the form of a monolithic miracle of jobs, oiled-up pretty people in private cabanas, and luxury condos for the rest of us.

Bayshore’s hired mouthpiece, Glen Storch, warned us (like Oliver Douglas preaching to the residents of Hooterville) that if we balked at giving the Hard Rock what amounts to a private beach then our cure-all would be snatched away and we would be left to rot like poisoned rats in this hellish cesspool of economic affliction and violent street crime we pathetically call “The World’s Most Famous Beach.”

Our benevolent dictators – the uber-rich puppet masters who actually run what passes for “government” in Volusia County – immediately directed their hired hands on the County Council to give Bayshore what they wanted.

“Damn the needs and wants of those dupes and fools that put you in office – we know what’s best for them, and by God we own you.  You knew the deal when you sold your soul to J. Hyatt, Mori and ISC, and you WILL use the legislative process to our advantage. . .”

How must our ill-fated Chairman Jason Davis – the “Common Joe” with “everyday common sense” who ran on a populist platform to reform the very culture of County government – have felt when he realized that he had been bought and sold?

How must it have felt the exact minute Davis became everything he hated?

And how did you feel?

What was your reaction the moment you realized that your elected officials were no more than hapless dupes willing to sell your rights, heritage and lifestyle to yet another speculative developer?

Remember how you felt when Councilman Josh Wagner folded in a steaming pile of cowardice and corruption – changing his allegiance and voting for the very ordinances that would give Bayshore and others a traffic-free beach – in a cheap bait-and-switch gut-punch to his blindsided constituents?

Or when Judge Sandra Upchurch let us all know that in Volusia County the citizens right to petition their government to preserve a century-old historic use of our beach is “facially unconstitutional in its entirety.”

In many ways, the shock and anger of it brought out the very best in us – and fundamentally changed the way we view the political process.

Thousands of us went out and signed petitions started by a courageous few who realized that without a grassroots effort to fundamentally challenge the open thuggery of County government we were all doomed.

Many of us aligned with Sons of the Beach, Let Volusia Vote and other coalitions of concerned and civic-minded allies working tirelessly to let our elected officials and the wealthy power brokers know that there is some shit we plebeian’s won’t eat.

We supported the fine and courageous work of attorneys David Vukelja and Dennis Bayer as they continue to fight like rabid badgers for the fundamental right of citizens to petition their government for the redress of grievances.

And perhaps more importantly, we have learned the hard lesson that the very institutions we once trusted, the people we elected and appointed to serve our interests, have been corrupted and co-opted by greedy little bastards who have no qualm about using public resources, tax dollars and the judicial system as weapons against their own constituents.

As I write this a three-judge panel at the Fifth District Court of Appeal is hearing an appeal filed by Let Volusia Vote challenging Judge Upchurch’s finding.  If LVV prevails, people might still enjoy the fundamental right to have decisions on matters related to our beach ratified by the electorate: You know – you and me – that whole, government of the people, by the people and for the people thing that at one time was so popular in this country?

Here’s hoping that the Fifth District Court of Appeal does the right thing – for the right reasons – and reaffirms the fundamental right of citizens to effectively control political might and power when it is wielded counter to the will and needs of the people.

If not, I’m afraid we are doomed to have the fate of our beach, our heritage, and our lifestyle decided for us by cheap thieves and money-mad political grifters using a broken system to their own self-advantage.

 

 

Best of Barker’s View – Volusia Politics: Pave paradise, and put up a Margaritaville. . .

This was originally posted in February 2017.  Let’s have a look back, shall we?

“Now most of the people who retire in Florida are wrinkled and they lean on a crutch.  And mobile homes are smotherin’ the Keys; well I hate those bastards so much.  I wish a summer squall would blow them all the way up to fantasy land.  They’re ugly and square, they don’t belong here, they looked a lot better as beer cans.”

–Jimmy Buffet, “Migration”

Hey, neighbors!  More good news!

The latest “Game Changer for this area” just arrived!

Woot!  Our troubles are over again.  Again.

I’m not talking about some Hard Rock Café with a motel attached, a goofy Russian condo/convention tower, or some weird temporary beachfront restaurant with a massive density variance, or even a discount outlet mall, or high-end sporting goods store that provides “synergy” with Daytona International Speedway, or – hell, you get the idea. . .

No.  I’m talking about Jimmy Buffet’s new Margaritaville “Latitudes Daytona” development by Canadian mega-developer Minto Communities!

According to an article by Clayton Parks in this morning’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Minto Communities announced that Buffet’s Margaritaville Holdings company has agreed to become a strategic partner in developing its planned 6,900 home community for residents 55-and-older on the north side of LPGA Boulevard, just west of Interstate 95.”

 Yep!  In just a few short months, you can live the artificially contrived vagabond lifestyle of the professional beach bum!  (For $200,000 to $300,000 plus HOA fees, that is. . .)

“With Minto’s expertise in creating master-planned developments and Margaritaville’s inherent ability to deliver fun and escapism, Latitude Margaritaville has the exact coordinates for those looking to live the Margaritaville lifestyle as they grow older, but not up,” stated John Cohlan, the CEO of Palm Beach based Margaritaville Holdings, in a news release.

Sorry Daytona Beachside.  You lost.  Fuck off.

Who needs the fun and escapism of an actual “beachside community” when we can just artificially create the idyllic coastal lifestyle you once represented in a mass of commercial sprawl west of I-95?

And if Minto’s resident Parrothead’s have a hankering for an actual beach, we can bus them over to one the marketing folks created far removed from the rabble and rubble of Daytona Beach.

Look, I’ve been a Jimmy Buffet fan since forever.  Even if he became everything he hated – hell, that’s the American dream, right?

I’m an old-time Parrothead who knows all his songs by heart – and the first guy you’ll see in a coconut bra and grass skirt while tailgating at a concert.

The fact is, Jimmy Buffet has become a quadrillionaire by selling a unique brand of escapism through his music – and myriad other similarly themed businesses – all built around the brand, which include bars, restaurants, apparel, beer, and resort hotels and casinos throughout the southeastern United States and Caribbean.

Believe me, every time Jimmy sticks his foot on a salty piece of land, he comes up with a gold nugget between his toes – and I have no doubt the Margaritaville machine will make a success of the world’s first “theme subdivision” right here on the “Fun Coast.”

Not to poop the beach party, but has anyone considered that this development – and others like it – are being built directly on top of our aquifer’s (read: drinking water) sensitive recharge areas?

Or the fact that we do not have the current infrastructure capacity (roads, utilities, police, fire, etc.) to absorb another 7,000+ homes into our already overburdened system?

They say Latitude Margaritaville at Daytona Beach is expected to be the biggest master-planned community ever built in the Volusia-Flagler area.

Almost everyone I speak with regarding these developments cite traffic gridlock – increased pressure on our transportation infrastructure – and the potential environmental impact of paving over our sensitive wetlands and virgin forests west of I-95.

Apparently, when it comes to infrastructure repair and replacement funds, we’re broke as all get-out – just ask county manager Jim Dinneen.  He’s wringing his little hands and wailing that we need an additional sales tax, and I mean right now.

No, we tied up most of our transportation funds on “other projects,” and what remained we used to extend Williamson Boulevard to Mori Hossieni’s ICI Homes new 1,300 home, 400 townhouse, development “Woodhaven” in Port Orange.

And make no mistake – you and I did, in fact, pay to extend Williamson Boulevard 2 ½ miles further south to accommodate Mori – the High Panjandrum of Political Power and poster boy for using public funds to eliminate private risk and overhead for developers.

When you factor in proposed developments in southern Volusia, to include the Farmton project, and the “Restoration” (sorry, just choked on my coffee there for a second) development near Edgewater and New Smyrna Beach – you begin to see the potential environmental and infrastructure impact.

Recently, a group of concerned environmentalist representing everyone from the Sierra Club to the Friends of Spruce Creek Preserve, Inc., employed a Washington D.C. based law firm to challenge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “come one, come all” process for approving development projects.

Last summer, the News-Journal reported, “Several related projects in Volusia County aim to open a swath of undisturbed, ecologically valuable land to development and urban sprawl from cities along Florida’s eastern coast,” according to a “Notice of Violations” letter to the Corps on behalf of local environmentalists.

 “The Corps’ piecemeal approval of individual projects, and its deliberate disregard for obvious indirect and cumulative impacts, constitute clear legal violations.”

The letter asks the Corps “to remedy these violations in order to avoid litigation.”

I hope they sue their eyeballs out.

Environmental protection groups are seeking a moratorium – or at least a deep-breath – on any project that could cause potential harm to our sensitive local eco-system until a formal environmental impact study can be completed and a statement issued – research that is almost a decade overdue.

Look, Volusia County doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to growth management.

The process – first, foremost and every time – involves giving massive amounts of money and incentives to the right people – those who stand to make a ton of cash developing our sensitive recharge areas and green-spaces – using the “we’ll worry about the impacts later” model and hoping against hope that they can mitigate the resulting problems using the tens-of-millions in new tax dollars they hope the projects will generate.

Another interesting element of the fun-in-the-sun, tequila-soaked “Margaritaville” development that bears watching is the teaser in Mr. Park’s article, “The community will also operate for its residents a private oceanfront beach club in Ormond-by-the-Sea that will be accessed via a loop shuttle bus.”

Ormond-by-the-sea? 

 What the fu.. (excuse me) happened to the Buffet-themed ‘Landshark Bar’ that Consolidated Tomoka teased us with when they were seeking massive concessions and variances for their vacant beachfront just north of the county’s Taj Mahal-like lifeguard station?

Never mind.  We’re just along for the lovely cruise.

What will be, will be.

And there’s not a damn thing you or I can do about it.

But, in an area where existing residents are hyper-sensitive (for obvious reasons) to the whole concept of “private” anything near what’s left of our beach – that didn’t sit well with me.

Fellow residents of Coastal Florida’s original La-La Land – sit back, spool-up a cold Margarita in your Margaritaville blender – put on your best Margaritaville flowery shirt and copyrighted flip-flops – put some Margaritaville seasoning on your trademarked salsa and chips – and anesthetize yourselves into peaceful oblivion.

Because some holding company is about to own the rights to your whole fucking way of life.

After all, life is infinitely less complicated once you sell your soul. . .

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for February 1, 2018

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:

Earlier this week, someone on social media opined that reading Barker’s View is like watching Fox News – “Angry, twisted versions of facts that are always spun negative.”

Guilty as charged.

To show that I’m not a complete Debbie Downer, I thought we would start this week’s segment with a little game I like to call, “Guess Where?”

The rules are simple – study the photograph below and take a wild-ass guess if the thing depicted is in Kabul, Port-au-Prince, Juarez or the Daytona Beach Resort Area?

Come on.  Play along.

hotel 7

Our friends at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Beachside Redevelopment Committee and the Regional Chamber of Commerce are welcome to join in!

It’ll be Wide.  Open.  Fun!

Asshole:          City of Deltona

It’s clear to anyone paying attention – Florida has its issues.

But something the beleaguered residents of the Sunshine State have going for us is a robust public records law – one that ensures the people’s right to know what our government is doing with our money, and why.

In fact, under the law, public officials are required to interpret record requests in the broadest possible way – that means not quibbling over non-existent technical exemptions.

Last week, we learned that the City of Deltona’s event manager, Chris O’Donnell, resigned his post just one month after the city’s $9 million community center opened.

It’s important, because Mr. O’Donnell was a major salesman for the tax funded project – including providing decision-makers with dubious projections that the center would bring in some $970,700 annually – a figure significantly higher than what similar public facilities realize.

With a few weddings, a birthday party and a smattering of civic events under its belt, is it possible that Mr. O’Donnell came to the sobering realization that Deltona’s highly touted new center wouldn’t come close to his initial earning predictions?

Or, are there internal or political conditions inside City Hall that made it impossible for him to continue?

The suspense was exacerbated by Mr. O’Donnell’s cryptic comment in the newspaper that he would never work in city government again.  That’s strange, because wild horses couldn’t pull most bureaucrats out of their cushy offices – highly sought-after jobs with important titles, regular pay and awesome benefits (I know, I was one of them. . .)     

What gives?  

Unfortunately, the details of exactly why Mr. O’Donnell left the public service remain open to speculation – but when it comes to Deltona government – it seems conjecture and guesswork are typically all we have to go on.

Why is that? 

As I understand it – Deltona’s uber-weird City Manager, Jane Shang, has unilaterally exempted O’Donnell’s letter of resignation under the terms of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – a federal law designed to protect the privacy of medical records and healthcare information.

I also find it interesting that O’Donnell recently told the Daytona Beach News-Journal he is prohibited from discussing the terms of his departure due to a “non-disclosure” agreement he signed with Deltona.

That’s odd.

Why would a local events manager be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement?

I mean, literally everything about the facility – from the budget to fees to bookings – are open for public scrutiny.

Once again, the City of Deltona has succeeded in turning some routine human resources matter into a Hardy Boy’s mystery – and it is completely unnecessary.

In my view, Jane Shang and other senior administrators have worked overtime to keep the public’s prying eyes out of city business.  This includes the imposition of onerous fees and other hoops designed to frost the windows at City Hall and hide the machinations of this wholly dysfunctional government.

Again, why?     

I sincerely hope that the Daytona Beach News-Journal doesn’t take this bullshit lying down.

In my opinion, any news organization worth its salt owes it to their consumers to dig deep and challenge pseudo-exemptions to our cherished open records law by government pencil pushers with a paranoia disorder – even on issues that don’t seem that important on their face.

Angel:             Commissioner Rob Littleton, Ormond Beach

In an open letter to the editor of the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Ormond Beach District 4 City Commissioner Rob Littleton put into words what many of us have been thinking.

As our elected officials in both municipal and county government are ramping-up an intensive “re-education” campaign designed to sell We, The People on their latest money grab – a one-half cent sales tax increase, ostensibly to fund transportation infrastructure improvements in Volusia County – Mr. Littleton is a voice of reason.

In his letter, Commissioner Littleton explained that he has a real problem with three aspects of the plan that is being foisted on us by the powerbrokers.  These include the potential for using tax dollars generated by the increase for other than transportation needs, disparities in funding distributions, and the use of public money (and staff time) to sell the tax hike with this “vaguely defined” education campaign.

Mr. Littleton asked, “Do they (constituents) want their property tax dollars used to sell this to the voters?” 

According to a dubious private study, bought and paid for by that Star Chamber of uber-wealthy elitists over at the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, voters will most likely support the half-cent measure – but it will require a disciplined, well-funded, and well-executed campaign plus strong and nearly universal support from the local governments through the county.”

Well, it appears Mr. Littleton is one servant-leader who is not in lock-step with the crowd.

It takes political courage for a lone public official to stand up, speak the truth, and ask the hard questions – especially when certain last names are involved.

The fact is, given the abysmal track record of Volusia County’s current administration – and the very real fear that any tax increase will ultimately be hijacked and diverted for things other than the original selling point – Mr. Littleton is right to be skeptical of the motivations of those who stand to benefit most.

In my view, we need more like Rob Littleton in public office.

He has demonstrated the strength of character and fortitude to stand against a very strong flow and logically consider the best interests of his constituents – rather than blindly push the self-serving notions of a few political insiders with a profit motive.

Angel:             City of Daytona Beach & First Step Shelter Board

 There is a memorable quote from a long-forgotten movie starring Danny Devito – “All I know is, the choices we make dictate the life we lead.”

I’m a strong believer in personal responsibility, and the importance of good decision-making to a happy and healthy life.  My father taught me that.

My life experience proved to me that sometimes things conspire against the best of us – and when you’re living on the ragged edge of sanity, addiction, or complete financial ruin, it doesn’t take much to end up in a living hell.

Sometimes people slip through the societal cracks.  In the Halifax area, we drive past them every day, tourists walk around them at beachside parks and they live and die in the shadows.

And we shake our heads in pity – or cuss them for what they represent in a resort area already struggling with blight.

But the question remains, do we, as a society, have a moral obligation to provide for those who cannot adequately care for themselves?  That small, but very visible, segment of our local population who – for myriad reasons – can no longer meet what Maslow described as the basic physiological needs of food, water, clothing or shelter.

Well, that is the age-old conundrum – and I certainly don’t have the answer.

What I do know is that the City of Daytona Beach – and those who dutifully serve on the First Step Shelter Board – continue to work tirelessly to find a compassionate solution to the problem of chronic homelessness and the deleterious economic and social impact it is having on the Halifax area.

Even when they don’t agree – they never stop trying.

I admire that.

This week, city officials took their case to the First Step Board, explaining that conditions at the “safe zone” near Clyde Morris Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue are becoming untenable.

The solution proposed by Daytona Beach was relocating the encampment to a patch of scrub near Derbyshire Road – a location which would put the safe zone near the “Boomtown Boulevard” of the LPGA corridor.

For good reason, the board rejected that idea – but allowing a growing tent city in the middle of a major commercial corridor, literally on the doorstep of Embry-Riddle, isn’t the best option either.

It’s a tough problem, but that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about alternative solutions.

The City of Daytona Beach has borne more than their fair share of this difficult burden, now it is time for Volusia County and other area municipalities to step up to the plate.

In my view, the Volusia County Council has – like always – simply thrown money at the problem without taking a whit of responsibility for finding workable answers.

Unless someone with the strength of personality and political clout of Mrs. Forough Hossieni takes the lead and ramrods a project (like Hope Place) to fruition, our county officials are seemingly blind to the catastrophe unfolding on our streets.

Chronic homelessness is a countywide problem that will ultimately require a countywide solution.

And with the First Step Shelter still over a year out – we desperately need workable options to the current safe zone – solutions that will require strong leadership and creativity.

Unfortunately, as usual, the Volusia County Council is out-to-lunch when it comes time for the heavy lifting.

In my view, it is high time for Ed Kelley and those dullards sitting on the dais of power in DeLand to stop sitting on their laurels – smugly content that throwing around copious amounts of our money is the sole extent of their obligation – and begin working collaboratively with Daytona Beach to develop alternatives.

Look, I take a lot of cheap shots at Daytona Beach city officials – but I have been incredibly impressed with their efforts to find a compassionate answer to an incredibly difficult problem.

Clearly, the City of Daytona Beach should not be expected to bear the full impact of this growing humanitarian crisis alone.

Trust me – with “Speed Weeks” just days away, I suspect we will see some movement on this issue very soon.  I only hope the very real needs of those we are trying to serve aren’t forgotten in the shuffle.

Asshole:          B-CU Board of Trustees

Just before this forum published last week we learned the grim facts of Bethune-Cookman University’s involvement in a weird luxury apartment development in Daytona’s struggling Midtown neighborhood – a project that was so secret apparently not one of the university’s trustees – or anyone in city government – was aware of it.

Now, Canadian developer Heron Group has been left holding the bag after B-CU abruptly backed out of the deal – and there will be hell to pay.

It is apparent that the Heron Group, unlike the B-CU board of trustees, does not hesitate to protect its interests.

A blistering lawsuit recently filed by the Heron Group’s able attorney charges – among other sins – that Bethune-Cookman engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and breach of contract.

The suit is seeking calamitous damages against the university totaling in the tens-of-millions.

As the ramparts built by the university’s disgraced former president Dr. Edison O. Jackson continue to crumble, we are left with a very bleak picture of a terribly compromised institution – one with absolutely no substantive oversight and an immoral lack of accountability by senior administrators and trustees.

Look, I’m just a smartass with a thesaurus – but these are truly smart people – and it defies logic to say that board members and senior staff with extremely close ties to the university, and the community, simply didn’t know what was going on.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first-time intelligent people ignored their best instincts – or their responsibilities.

For instance, Bethune-Cookman University’s At Large Trustees include luminaries such as the Halifax areas own Dr. Kent Sharples.  Excuse me?

I mean, how many more local institutions of higher learning are we going to allow ol’ Kent to involve himself with?

I’m just asking.

Only in Volusia County can you go from the American Music Festival disaster to the boardroom of the CEO Business Alliance and Bethune-Cookman University. . .

In most industries, senior administrators are given one bite at that apple before they are exposed as jacklegs and cashiered out of the service – but not in academia – or economic development organizations, I suppose.

Is it possible everyone was too busy accepting honorary doctorates, bickering over commencement speakers and bullying whistleblowers to notice that Dr. Bethune’s beloved institution was being looted by some of the very administrators charged with protecting and promoting it – or was something even more nefarious afoot?

I mean, how could the Board of Trustee’s not have known?

The answers to these increasingly difficult questions will ultimately be revealed – and this sordid mess won’t end well for those who feebly attempt to sweep things under the rug and clean up the evils of the past.

This growing scandal is too big to contain now – and the very fate of a once great university hangs in the balance.  It is time for those with direct personal involvement to step aside and allow professionals to investigate, formulate the appropriate charges and begin the process of bringing those responsible to justice.

It is going to be expensive – and it is going to take time.

I say again – in my view, this difficult period should rightfully begin with the immediate resignation of the Board of Trustees.

It is time for complete transparency, and anything less is counter to the goal of exposing the truth and rehabilitating the reputation of this important institution.

Quote of the Week:

 “Do residents believe government employees should take time and effort away from serving the citizens in order to promote this new sales tax?  Do they want their property tax dollars being used to sell this to the voters?  Of course they don’t, and neither do I.”

 –Ormond Beach City Commissioner Rob Littleton, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, regarding the proposed half-cent sales tax increase.

 News & Notes:

Near the end of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the title character reckons it’s time to light out for the territory, lest Aunt Sally “sivilize” him – “I can’t stand it.”  Huck said, “I been there before. . .”

I know how he felt.

Now and then you must throw off the yoke, spit the bit and go a little crazy.  It is the only effective preventative I know for the curse of complete insanity – a condition I stagger closer to everyday.

It’s time to recharge and relax.

This week, the Ancient and Honorable secret order known as “The Fun Pigs” will launch on another great adventure, seeking wanton fun and shameless debauchery in a place that holds great significance for my wife Patti and I (more on that later).

Yep!  We’ve iced down some cold beer in the Yeti, laid in a supply of fine spirits, and fueled up with a full tank of freedom as we set out on another infamous road trip.

During this brief hiatus from the roil and churn of local political shenanigans, I’ll be posting a few “Best of Barker’s View” segments – and adding some goofy quips and commentary describing our escapades on social media as well.  (If you’re not already following BV on Facebook and Twitter, now would be a great time to get off your arse and join the fun!)     

As always, thanks so much for reading.

I am proud to report that January 2018 was one of the best months in the history of this experiment in alternative opinion blogging – and I sincerely appreciate your continued interest.

Please know that I’ll be back tilting at the windmills of life here on Florida’s Fun Coast on Monday, February 12th, when Barker’s View will join Big John on “the fastest two-hours in radio” – GovStuff Live! – beginning at 4:00pm.

Find us at 1380am or online at www.govstuff.org (listen live button)!

We are also in the planning stage for a possible “Barker’s View Readers Party” – a good, old-fashioned kegger – sometime this spring, with all donations going to support those intrepid souls at Sons of the Beach in their fight to protect our heritage of beach driving and access!

Stay tuned!

Have great weekend, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Volusia: Do the Right Thing

The problem with doing someone a favor is eventually they come to expect it from you.

Just ask the City of Daytona Beach.

This week, city staff let the First Step Shelter Board know that conditions at the homeless “safe zone” near Clyde Morris Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue have become untenable.

In fact, the place has taken on the appearance of Toussaint’s leper colony in French Guiana, and anyone who has driven by the burgeoning tent city can see that something must change.

It’s also clear that city officials are getting pressure from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and other strong forces, to move the camp out of a major commercial corridor – a location which is literally in the side-yard of Daytona International Airport.

I understand their concern.

After thoughtful discussion, board members rejected the city’s request to spend $585,555 to develop an alternative site in the scrub west of Derbyshire Road.  The idea of moving the encampment to the “Boomtown Boulevard” area of the LPGA corridor is counter to the thriving, multi-use gateway many are working and spending to achieve.

I understand that decision as well.

The fact is, the City of Daytona Beach has done their level best to find a compassionate solution to this growing issue while other elected bodies, namely the Volusia County Council, have sat on their ass and done nothing – except take convenient credit for the good work of others.

On Wednesday, Chief of Police Craig Capri, speaking in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, didn’t mince words, “The current situation is not working.  Why does Daytona Beach always have to take the brunt of it?”

He’s right.

From the moment city officials took the reins and intervened in the Great Homeless Standoff of 2016, partnering with the Salvation Army to move entrenched street people from the front of the Volusia County Administration Center on Beach Street, Daytona Beach has demonstrated a true hands-on willingness to help.

Now, it is time for Volusia County government to become an active part of the solution, you know, like our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, said they were during his haughty State of the County Address.

By any measure, the economic and social impact of chronic homelessness is a countywide problem – which deserves a countywide solution.

Regardless of which side of the issue you fall on – we are facing a true humanitarian crisis that simply cannot be ignored while we wait on a more permanent answer – and save the bullshit tough-talk and “let ’em starve” rhetoric for someone else.

Look, I’m no Mother Teresa, but I find that flippant attitude immoral.

We have a warm and dry facility to house and nourish stray dogs – and we should probably have something similar to provide basic, temporary shelter from the elements for our fellow human beings who cannot care for themselves.

Why?  Because its the right thing to do.  That’s why.

With the First Step Shelter more than a year from completion (?), it is imperative that local governments find a way to work collaboratively to develop an effective alternative.  After all, that’s what it means to serve in the public interest – and while that concept is foreign to many area politicians – sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and make things happen. . .

Perhaps Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm’s idea of each municipality identifying its own safe zone is a fair and equitable (albeit temporary) solution to the Halifax areas current quagmire.

I mean, if the mosaic of east Volusia municipalities each want their own fiefdom, then you have to take the good with the bad.  But in universal issues that effect all of us, County government has an obligation to find comprehensive answers.

Good luck with that.

In my view, rather than demonstrate strong leadership on this important issue (or anything else for that matter), Volusia County has – in typical fashion – turned its back on the citizens of Daytona Beach, choosing to simply throw our money around, rather than roll up their sleeves and help with the heavy lifting.

As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, it’s easy to criticize how the doer of deeds could have done them better – God knows, I do it all the time.  But I truly commend the City of Daytona Beach for bearing the full impact of this difficult problem, all while working diligently to find an effective and benevolent way forward.

Now, it’s time for Volusia County – and other area municipalities – to step up and do the right thing.