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 Beach City Commission
My wife Patti and I are longtime devotees of the time-honored traditions of New Orleans Mardi Gras.
For many years, we have made the annual pilgrimage to The City that Care Forgot to become part of the problem – immersing ourselves in the ribald merriment, music, parades, food, drink, architecture, friends, and electric sense of excitement that pervades New Orleans in the week before the bacchanalia of Mardi Gras Day.
Once you fall in love with New Orleans, its hard to stay away.
I often say that if you have ever heard the sultry deep voice of a baritone saxophone wafting from Jackson Square, echoing off those ancient walls, the notes floating down Chartres Street on a foggy late night/early morning in the French Quarter, then you understand the love affair we have enjoyed with this special place and time.
Last year was different.
In February 2020, the global pandemic was just weeks away from turning New Orleans into Ground Zero for the nation’s first widespread coronavirus outbreak – something many linked to the cheek-to-cheek revelry of Mardi Gras – coupled with a pair of bizarre incidents where two paradegoers were run over and killed by tandem floats during the Krewe of Nyx and Endymion parades, tragedies that cast a pall over all of Carnival.
What resulted was a lot of finger pointing and political criticism over who allowed Mardi Gras to proceed in the first place. . .
In the aftermath, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell cancelled all parades for Mardi Gras 2021 citing COVID-19 concerns.
However, with Carnival Season here, and merchants demanding a chance at their share of the estimated $1 billion the event brings to the region – the City Council has adopted the “Not cancelled, just different” marketing strategy, which welcomes visitors to the Crescent City while adopting rules and suggestions for a safe celebration.
I like that.
In my view, striking a compromise which allows residents and visitors to safely enjoy this iconic tradition while giving merchants and vendors a much-needed economic shot in the arm is smart government.
After all, even if the ‘powers that be’ cancel the “official event” out of an abundance of caution – people will still come – like it or not.
On Wednesday, the Daytona Beach City Commission did the right thing under difficult circumstances when it gave the go-ahead for the 80th Anniversary of the world-famous Bike Week celebration in March.
In an excellent article by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, we learned:
“…city commissioners agreed to issue the permits that allow businesses to temporarily do things outside they normally can’t. But commissioners only agreed to that in exchange for a promise from bars, restaurants and shops to limit their indoor occupancy to 60% during the event that will run from March 5-14.”
As I understand it, those merchants who do not apply for an outside vending permit will be allowed 100% occupancy during the event – and everyone is expected to use cleaning products, masks, hand sanitizers, temperature checks, signage, social distancing, and other common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In an unusual display of leadership, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry abandoned his characteristic mandates and sided with strapped business owners and service workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic devastation:
“If we deny the permits then they’re going to be packed inside like sardines,” Henry said. Getting more people outside keeps them safer, and it also allows businesses to make more money, he said.”
(I could almost see the cartoon lightbulb illuminating over the Mayor’s baldpate as he wrestled with the problem. . .)
Seriously. Nice work, Mayor Henry.
Thanks for doing the right thing for those in your struggling business community who really need the help right now.
Ultimately, the measure passed commission muster on a 6-1 vote with Granny Ruth Trager casting the lone nay after wringing her hands over whether “…bikers will behave and follow the special safety precautions.”
“This has been a very, very difficult decision for me. I understand the merchants need to get money for employees, yet I have gotten a bunch of phone calls and emails from residents concerned for their health. This variant going around is even more contagious than last year.”
I appreciate the personal and political pressure, but would Granny Ruth rather the event launch as an ass over tea kettle, anything goes, wide open fun, debauch – with no master plan, rules, or regulations in place to mitigate the threat and manage the crowds that will be descending on the Halifax area whether they have been invited or not?
In my experience, a well-formulated plan is always better than taking ones hands off the wheel and adopting a “hope for the best” strategy.
Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission for having the courage to address the very real needs of struggling businesses and entertainment venues – while encouraging common sense precautions to ensure a safe event.
Not cancelled. Simply different. Good government in action.
Angel Volusia County Council
During the Volusia County Council’s discussions surrounding the purchase of a 36-acre tract between Old Dixie Highway and Interstate 95, something many believe is crucial to preserving what remains of Ormond’s historic “Loop,” Council Chair Jeff Brower said that while taking a walk on the property, he could “…almost smell the history.”
I don’t think that was “history” he was smelling. . .
It was the foul stench of Plantation Oaks developer Parker Mynchenberg forcing our elected official’s hands in the ongoing fight to preserve our environmentally sensitive lands and shrinking wildlife habitat.
After months of negotiation by the intrepid Ormond Beach environmental activists Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Pilipczak – who obtained more than 63,000 signatures on a petition to “Help Save the Ormond Loop” while pressing the Ormond Beach City Commission to do something, anything, to help save this endangered space – Mynchenberg offered the property to Volusia County for $1,368,000.
A “deal” would need to be finalized in just three-days – otherwise, “…he would sign a contract with a homebuilder” at weeks end – paving the way for the clear-cutting and development of the ecologically and archaeologically important parcel.
The obvious source of funding for the purchase of this critical acreage is the voter-approved Volusia Forever program – but the mad rush imposed by Mynchenberg’s ultimatum caused many to question whether the scramble to identify a funding source violated established criteria and created an unfair double-standard for other projects already in the funding pipeline.
The deadline rubbed me wrong.
Because it reeks of looting this important conservation program to fund Volusia County’s pet projects – while other applicants are made to jump through administrative hoops.
According to an informative report by Mary Helen Moore writing in the News-Journal:
“Pat Northey, a former Volusia County councilwoman who chairs the ECHO Volusia Forever Alliance, said the deal presented to the council on Tuesday was premature.
“We all know and love the Loop,” Northey said. “We would encourage you not to be held hostage by an artificial deadline.”
At the end of the day, Mr. Mynchenberg backed off his extortionate demand (which may well have been little more than a cattle prod to move the issue through the muck and mire of a sloth-like bureaucracy in a timely fashion) and agreed to work with Chairman Brower to give Volusia County a reasonable 90-days to develop a workable funding strategy.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
A special thanks to Ms. Scheiber and Ms. Pilipczak for their hard work and dedication to the conservation of this incredibly unique scenic byway while protecting the flora, fauna, and old growth forest of the surrounding historic ecosystem.
And here’s a tip-‘o-the-cap to the Volusia County Council for keeping an open mind and demonstrating the nimbleness to act on a time sensitive opportunity to preserve this important part of our local heritage for generations to come – while respecting established policies and protocols that ensure ECHO and Forever funds are allocated in a fair and equitable way.
Asshole Ormond Beach City Commission
Now, let’s look at the other side of the Plantation Oaks issue:
My fervent hope is that my long-suffering neighbors up here in God’s County (seriously, I heard the Big Guy has a place out in Talaquah) will eventually have a belly full of this rudderless ship of fools we repeatedly elect to lord over us on the Ormond Beach City Commission.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, our elected dullards approved the rezoning of the Plantation Oaks subdivision – and removed the 55-and-over age restriction which would have limited an increase in traffic on The Loop – an endangered National Scenic Byway.
Originally permitted some two-decades ago, the subdivision is being built literally on fringe of the historically significant stretch of Old Dixie Highway.
The subdivision was annexed into the City of Ormond Beach in 2019.
You may remember back in December when Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington penned some gibberish in the Ormond Beach Observer openly shitting on the efforts of Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Pilipczak to protect the Loop – then refused to consider the allocation of municipal funds for the purchase of the protective buffer that is now being considered by Volusia County.
In yet another slap in the face to the 63,000 people who signed the Save the Loop petition, on Tuesday, the Ormond Beach City Commission hemmed and hawed when Scheiber and Pilipczak asked that a simple letter of support be sent to Volusia County as they wrangle with the funding issue.
“There are 150 scenic American byways in the United States, and we’re incredibly fortunate to have one in our city,” Scheiber said. “Moving forward, it would benefit all of the City of Ormond Beach, if (the city) would support the project.”
Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to review a “draft” of the letter of support at their first meeting in February.
In my view, Scheiber and Pilipczak did exactly what Mayor Partington suggested and approached Volusia County to fund the conservation of this sensitive property – then our elected municipal officials drag their heels when asked for a letter of support?
As a resident of Ormond Beach, what I took personal exception to was Mayor Partington’s blatant misrepresentations to citizens and fellow commissioners when he stated in a November 2020 email that the cost to purchase the protective 36-acre tract at Plantation Oaks would be “$11 to $16 million” – which, at best, was little more than a wild-assed guess, and, at worst, a damnable lie – one that I’m sure had a chilling effect on many residents.
In truth, Mr. Mynchenberg’s asking price is just over $1.3 million dollars. . .
Who gets away with this shit?
In my view, Mayor Partington’s fairytales and canards might play to the mendacious instincts of his “colleagues” on the dais of power – and they may fool some of the people, some of the time – but these cumulative dishonesties will ultimately result in an irreversible breakdown in the public’s trust of their local government.
That’s dangerous to the stability of our community.
In 2019, Ormond voters rejected the notion of four-year terms – and supported term limits 62% to 38%.
Unfortunately, this much needed change was not instituted because the question was conveniently dependent on the four-year terms. . .
Perhaps it is time Ormond Beach taxpayers – especially those committed to protecting what is left of our greenspace and wildlife habitats – consider resurrecting the idea of term limits?
In my view, it is well past time to move some of this compromised dead wood off the dais of power and onto that fetid ash heap where political grifters and elected developers’ shills go when their sham is exposed.
Angel NBA Official Eric Lewis
From the Barker’s View Sports Desk and Bethune-Cookman Athletics:
“Bethune-Cookman University alum Eric Lewis officiated his 1,000th NBA regular season game Tuesday night in Salt Lake City as the Jazz defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 118-102.
Lewis would have reached the milestone over the weekend in Phoenix, but the Suns’ games with the Indiana Pacers were cancelled due to Covid-19.
The Daytona Beach native is coming off a 2019-20 season that saw him work two games of the Los Angeles Lakers-Miami Heat NBA Finals, his second straight Finals assignment. It capped off a lengthy stay in the NBA’s “bubble,” officiating the conclusion of the regular season and playoffs, most notably the Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets as well as games in the Boston Celtics-Heat and Lakers-Nuggets matchups in both Conference Finals.
During the regular season, Lewis was assigned the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago after it underwent a format change. It was his call of a Kyle Lowry foul that sent Anthony Davis to the free throw line for the game-winning point in Team LeBron’s 157-155 victory over Team Giannis.
His wife, Vanessa, is the Women’s Head Basketball Coach at Bethune-Cookman and has led the Lady Wildcats to four Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season championships and a 2019 NCAA Tournament appearance.”
Congratulations Mr. Lewis on your stellar career – and all best wishes for continued success in the rarified air of the National Basketball Association!
Angel Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company
Periodically, well-meaning people ask if I accept advertising on this blogsite.
The fact is these screeds are so hyperpolitical – one man’s critical views on the myriad civic, social, and economic issues we collectively face – that I believe hawking goods and services would both cheapen the message and limit content so as not to damage an associated brand.
Besides, my writing style is so incoherent that any given screed will find half my readership embracing it – the other half demanding I be thrown in stocks outside the Thomas C. Kelly administration building and given the Falanga treatment. . .
Besides, any marketing campaign I embraced would be absurd:
“Jock itch? Chafing? Rash? When Barker isn’t busy ripping your city council a new bunghole over a tax increase, he’s using Cruex powder to fight that funky fungus. . .”
See my point?
The advantage is that when I find a unique local product that stands above the rest, it gives me the freedom to express my unsolicited admiration and offer a good suggestion to BV readers without any sense of favoritism or conflict.
That happened this week when I sampled a unique local beverage.
Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company was founded in 2015 in Southeast Volusia by two brothers, Bryon and Kyle White, along with former mentor-turned-business-partner, Mark Steele.
This delightful tea comes from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the Yaupon Holly tree found only in the Southeast United States from Texas to Florida, and north through Virginia, and is the only naturally caffeinated plant species that grows in the United States and most of North America.
Yaupon Brothers trees are grown in certified organic “forest farms” right here in Volusia County, where consumption of the leaf began at least 8,000 years ago.
Interestingly, the indigenous Timucua people of Florida called Yaupon Cassina, and believed that it purified the mind and body of those who drank it. The leaf’s natural caffeine and powerful antioxidants also gave Timucua warriors strength and energy before the hunt and battle.
The leaves were roasted, infused in boiling water, and drank hot from elaborately carved whelk shells.
This week, I purchased a box of Yaupon Brothers “American Green” tea – which most closely represents how indigenous tribes would have taken it thousands of years ago.
The product arrived in an attractive and environmentally friendly “eco-tube” containing 16 natural fiber sachets.
Once prepared, I found the tea to be a naturally sweet organic brew with a rich, grassy fragrance that kept me wanting more.
(On a recent chilly evening I tried it in a Hot Toddy with good bourbon, fine local honey, and fresh lemon – it was superb – and I am told using their Lavender Coconut blend with Palmetto honey and an orange wheel is even better.)
The complete lack of bitterness and mild nature of Yaupon means you cannot over-steep it – allowing three cups from one sachet by just adding more hot water.
After I tried Yaupon Brothers, I reached out to Bryon White – a guy who genuinely cares about creating clean and sustainable agriculture jobs while protecting our fragile ecosystem – to complement him on this outstanding local product.
In addition, I admire the fact Yaupon Brothers has a deep social conscience and seeks to do good for others here in Volusia and beyond.
For instance, out of respect for the origins of their tea, Yaupon Brothers donates 5% of every sale to the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NāTIFS) which promotes education and reclamation of indigenous foodways while addressing the economic and health crises affecting Native communities.
Each Tuesday until their new factory and shop is finished, Yaupon Brothers will be hosting “Tea Tuesday” at 504 Pullman Road in Edgewater from 8am to 11am.
In addition to their full line of natural teas, Yaupon Brothers has partnered with other area creatives to offer pastries from Dutch Oven Bread Company and coffee from Moose Dog Coffee Company.
If you would like to try this great local product and support sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship in Volusia County, Yaupon Brothers has graciously extended a generous 15% discount using the code BARKERSVIEW when ordering from their informative website at www.yauponbrothers.com
“American roots. A different leaf. A better tea.”
Quote of the Week
“What has frustrated us is the efforts we have expended just trying to find out how to get positively on a list that we can rely on to get the shot. We drove up to that mess that was staged in Daytona Beach; it took us longer to get turned around and out of there than it took to drive there. No shot. A friend and his wife got it by staying in a cold car all night with a couple of thousand others.
Today I logged on for the event in DeLand at exactly 9 a.m. and managed to order two tickets through the Eventbrite site and waited 29 minutes until the program told me it was sold out.
I don’t mind telling you that I am a bit frustrated. Why can’t a registry be set up people like me can sign in and be assured that we will in fact be contacted and told where and when we will get the vaccine?
I grew up in a time when polio was rampant in this country. When the vaccine was discovered, the whole town of Waycross, Georgia was organized and immunized – with not a computer in sight. Surely we can do better.”
–84-year-old John B. Henderson, Daytona Beach Shores, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Organize Vaccines,” Saturday, January 16, 2021
And Another Thing!
I’m not an emotional guy.
Maybe it’s the effects of aging – or the fact my three-decades in policing burned away that portion of my cerebral cortex that governs “feelings” – but there is little in my life that stirs the passionate, almost ungovernable emotions of my youth.
But this week, a special person did a kindness for my family that moved me to tears.
As loyal readers of this blogsite know, on Wednesday, I tried (and failed miserably) to secure a spot for my 86-year-old mom in the over-the-horizon queue to receive a coveted COVID-19 vaccination.
Beginning before dawn, my wife and I joined friends and family in a frustrating attempt to get one old lady a chance at life outside lockdown by collectively navigating both the Publix Coronavirus registration process – then Volusia County’s weird concert ticketing program-turned-inoculation appointment grab bag.
It didn’t work out for us.
In anger, I took to this site and publicly decried the five-alarm foul-up that is Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout – an unmitigated shit show – a first come/first serve online competition for scarce “appointments” that continues to put our most vulnerable residents at risk.
My heart sank further when I learned that a friend called the Volusia County Citizen Information Center 143 times via his cellphone – and 143 times by landline – before finally getting through and securing an appointment.
That’s a cumulative 286 calls before receiving a chance at this potentially lifesaving vaccine. . .
Then, what can only be described as a heaven-sent miracle happened that left me stunned.
Just when my family was planning our next strategy for how we might cover all bases and try for another appointment in this godforsaken “system,” a loyal member of the Barker’s View Tribe – the intrepid civic activist Mary Synk – graciously reached out to offer a slot she secured to my mother for Monday’s vaccination event at the Volusia County Fairgrounds.
I am amazed by Mary’s selflessness and sincere concern for my mom – and I want her to know how much my family appreciates this incredibly generous act of human kindness.
We are thankful beyond measure.
As firm believers in the karmic concept of “Pay it Forward,” my family and I will repay Mary’s compassionate deed to others when and where we can – passing the gift. . .
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!