Cui Bono? To whose benefit?

“Lucius Cassius ille quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat identidem in causis quaerere solebat ‘cui bono’ fuisset.”

“The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, ‘To whose benefit?”

― Marcus Tullius Cicero

So much of what prompts me to write involves the esoteric shenanigans of local government, or the buffoonery of our local elected and appointed “leadership” – who always seem to pull defeat from the jaws of victory – whose mismanagement and ham-handed subterfuge has left the greater Halifax area a “tarnished jewel,” as our local newspaper puts it.

But this one’s different.

This weekend, we learned of disturbing plan being hatched at the City of Daytona Beach – and the timing and scope of this strange and evolving situation involves all of the elements that raise the hair on the back of my neck – and then some. . .

In the immediate aftermath of the primary election that returned Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry to the throne of power in this increasingly challenged community, lame duck City Manager Jim Chisholm throws a surprise party of sorts, announcing that the municipality is ready to spend between $18 and $24 million for a new City Hall?

Yep.  At a time when many are watching their financial lives collapse due to the pandemic, major shopping centers declaring bankruptcy, strategic closures of local businesses, and our area tourism industry on a downward slide, the City of Daytona Beach is suggesting the time is right for a multi-story Taj Mahal municipal complex.

You read that right.

During my long career in government, I became adept at recognizing a good, old-fashioned game of civic Three Card Monte when I see it.

Traditionally, the scam is a classic confidence game, where a practiced grifter takes the ace of hearts and two queens from a deck of playing cards and bends them into a tent shape.

Then, with a skillful hand, the con artist flips them around – betting some unsophisticated bumpkin in the audience that he can’t keep his eye on the money card.

Looks simple enough, right?

But he can’t.

You see, the dealer has mastered the art of deftly manipulating the cards – and to ensure the deception – the swindler employs a convincing shill or two in the audience who distract the rube just long enough. . ., well, you get the rest.

The uninitiated will never guess the right card unless the grifter wants to build your confidence – so you double-down and bet the farm – because that’s the way the scam is intended – to separate you from your hard-earned money without exposing the intricate mechanics of the ruse.

In this variation of the scam – now renamed “Daytona Emerging” – taxpayers are being shown a new City Hall complex, a public/private parking garage, and a mysterious “shovel-ready” apartment building.

One of them represents the “real” reason our elected and appointed officials are looking to spend $24 million in public funds during these desperate times. . .

Now, just try and keep your eyes on the real prize.

City Manager Chisholm, a master illusionist who is retiring in less than six-months, is working the cards, keeping the public guessing on the true motivation behind the scheme, while his adroit accomplices – Mayor Henry and John Albright, chief executive officer of CTO Realty Growth Inc. (formerly Consolidated Tomoka Land Company) – work the crowd, providing just the right diversion in the newspaper.

First, residents are being led to believe Daytona Beach City Hall – a modern 60,000-square-foot, two-story facility built in 1975 and remodeled in 1988, complete with recent upgrades to the roof and HVAC systems – is suddenly “functionally obsolete.”

Now, we are being shown an expensive rendering of a palatial, multi-story municipal complex on property owned by CTO Realty Growth, Inc. at International Speedway Boulevard and North Ridgewood Avenue – complete with the five-story parking garage abutting a new “multifamily building” fronting North Palmetto Avenue to the east.

As we watch the game unfold, many are questioning why the City of Daytona Beach would abandon a perfectly functional building to build an incredibly expensive “new” City Hall – which will not add one dime of tax revenue to the all-important Ridgewood Avenue frontage – in an area slated for a slew of off-the-tax-roll government buildings, to include a massive courthouse complex and county offices north of ISB between Third Avenue and Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard.

Others are openly speculating that the move is necessary to accommodate J. Hyatt Brown’s need for additional downtown office space – essentially vacating the current City Hall building so it can be acquired as a cheap annex for the new Brown & Brown headquarters on Beach Street.

In my view, the true motivation for Mr. Chisholm’s mini-moves are slowing coming into view:

The municipal government wants to spend some $15 million in Downtown Community Redevelopment Area funds to support the profit motive of CTO Realty Group by underwriting a parking garage for the mysterious developer of the proposed apartment complex.

According to an article by the intrepid Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Chisholm said the new development would evolve in stages, with the parking garage built first and a City Hall built later. The company that owns most of the Ridgewood Avenue block between International Speedway Boulevard and Bay Street, CTO Realty Growth Inc., has a developer under contract to build apartments on the site but could use help with the expense of a parking garage…”

There is another old-time ruse employed by developers and their shills to ensure needs on both sides of the dais of power are met.

For instance, if a developer is seeking to build a 100 unit residential development, they make application to the county or municipal government listing 350+ units – so that, ultimately, the vote to approve the land use amendment gives the appearance that elected officials are sensitive to environmental and infrastructure impacts – and not afraid to hold the speculative developers feet to the fire.

It’s all horseshit – civic theatrics – a foregone conclusion, where the fate of the project is never seriously in doubt – because everyone who is anyone is in on the ruse, with all players ostensibly getting what they need – including the public, who don’t realize they were never part of the end game.

And this is no different.

In the case of “Daytona Emerging” – we are being baited with a massive new municipal building which is both unnecessary and horribly expensive – while CTO Realty Growth and its customer walk away with millions in public funds to partially finance their private project and guarantee a profit.

Look, I’m not saying that J. Hyatt won’t ultimately assume physical control of the “old” City Hall building (let’s face it, he already has actual control of the government) as Brown & Brown employees begin their move to his publicly supported glass and steel edifice on Beach Street.

However, in my view, this latest confidence scam is being orchestrated to camouflage yet another “business as usual” corporate welfare scheme – and set the precedence for the use of public funds as Downtown Daytona slowly begins its artificial “renaissance” – and We, The Little People, once again line the pockets of all the right last names.

At the very least, these backroom machinations once again beg the question:

Cui Bono?  Who ultimately benefits?

Trust me.  This one bears watching. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Labels

Labels are what we use to tell us what is inside – or to describe ourselves and others.

Sometimes those descriptors are accurate, other times not.

We use tags not only to describe the content, but list the ingredients, or, in the case of people, to classify individuals and groups by their differences – gender, race, color, religion, income, intelligence, sexual orientation, size, shape, age, republican, democrat, etc., etc.

We use these marques to separate and maintain order, allowing us to keep things of like type together; after all, without them, we wouldn’t be able to tell a can of corn from one containing green beans, because cans typically all look the same with the labels removed. . .

It gets more confusing when you consider that there are an infinite diversity of green beans – bush and pole types, French-style, sliced, Italian cut, mixed, fancy – or broken down further by the different brand name they are sold under – Green Giant, Del Monte, Libby’s – over time, we pick our go-to favorites and become “brand loyal,” rarely going outside our preference to try other varieties of the same product.

Often, with a single word, a label can communicate things like quality, brand, taste – and they are carefully crafted by manufacturers, marketers and snake oil salesmen to present the contents of the package in the most attractive light possible – so, its up to us to determine the actual value and worth based on our own personal experience with individual brands.

I recently reflected on the use of labels and descriptors in our modern lives and political debates – the need to differentiate between those we agree with, and those we don’t – and separate ourselves by our own notions of self-identity, good and bad, black and white, rich and poor, smart and stupid – I do it all the time.

Increasingly, some in our society have come to using racial, gender and other “identifiers” to divide us into specific categories – usually based on their weird notion of what is “fair” – and our merits are no longer as important as our genetics.

And don’t get me started on the depth of the political divide. . .

Following last week’s primary election, I followed with interest a social media dust-up between newly re-elected Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and several of his constituents, during which the Mayor described one participants argument as “lunacy and heretical” – labels which were clearly meant to transfer to the person.

That is the nature of our political discourse in this foul year 2020 – and I am just as guilty as Mayor Henry, or anyone else – of lowering the bar and calling names.

Don’t expect anything to change.

For instance, get ready for some major mudslinging and imaginative descriptors as the two predominant political parties square off in the battle for the Big Enchilada this November.

Unfortunately, the idea of labeling ourselves, and each other, to set ourselves apart from our broader commonalities – then forming exclusive socio-political alliances which always pigeon-hole those who are different from the group – and use exclusionary rhetoric, even violence, as a means to a radical end seems to be increasing in popularity.

And, over time, one group’s ideas and vision for the future become morally and ethically superior to others – based solely on their external differences or cultural experience – leaving no room for social, civic or political compromise, as any differing opinion is immediately labeled racist, homophobic, misogynistic, lunacy, heretical, etc.

Then, my life matters more than yours – and our political and ideological differences are reduced to fistfights, rioting or worse.

And it seems there is not a damn thing we can do about it.

The cities of our nation are on fire – and no one who should seems to care about stopping it, so long as the mayhem serves a perverse political need on both sides of the political divide.

Fortunately, that is not my personal experience – and my wonderfully diverse family love and help one another unconditionally.

I found it interesting that the front page of Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal carried a piece by editor Pat Rice entitled, “The News-Journal will reflect reader diversity,” oddly suggesting that the racial and gender composition of the newsroom determines how the news is reported.

“In newsrooms, diversity is important because it impacts how we determine what makes news, and it impacts how we cover it.”

Say what? 

Frankly, I have never cared about the cultural identity of reporters, so long as they got the who, what, when, where and why of a news story reasonably correct and present the facts in a clear and unvarnished way.

Over the years, the News-Journal has lost an incredibly diverse pool of talent to “downsizing,” an evolving industry, and good old-fashioned mismanagement – so, with the newsroom now whittled down to a precious few, why would Mr. Rice place ultimate importance on the color of a reporters skin, rather than the quality of their skills and journalistic integrity?

According to Mr. Rice, “Much more often, newsroom diversity is important because it impacts how we as a group determine what to cover and how to cover it.”

Really?

Because, those of us who pay for the privilege of consuming the news from our local newspaper – regardless of our race, color or creed – would prefer that Mr. Rice and his bosses at Gannett simply focus on bringing us quality local news in a comprehensive and unbiased way – rather than stuffing our daily paper with pap and fluff from the Palm Beach Post and other members of the “USA Today network.”

At first, I thought Mr. Rice’s article was a joke – one of his lighthearted Sunday asides – then I realized he was serious.

In my view, diversity in the workplace and beyond is extremely important – but race, gender or ethnicity should have no influence on how the basic facts of a news story are investigated, compiled, or reported.

That’s not fair to anyone.

With all of print media on a rocket sled to oblivion – and our newspaper seemingly changing fonts and formats every other edition in a weird strategy to remain relevant in a digital world – the fact our local newspaper chooses to focus on the notion of selecting reporters based upon their gender, race and “life experience” – rather than their learned and innate ability to ferret out the stories and information that make a difference in the life of our community – is astounding.

To the reporters and staff who work for Mr. Rice and those like him – my heart bleeds for you – as he suggests the color of your skin or gender dictates how you should report the immutable facts and circumstances of incidents, accidents and the administration of government.

I cannot think of anything more inherently presumptuous, or, dare I say, “racist.”

Are current employees going to be fired or run-off to make vacancies for employees who do not look like them?

Will The News-Journal use forced attrition to ensure demographic equality with the community – or use money they clearly don’t have to hire more employees (while excluding others) who meet Gannett’s engineered idea of what the newsroom should look like?

Exactly, how does Mr. Rice plan to achieve this corporate idea of a social utopia over on 6th Street?

Unfortunately, as the regionalization and homogenization of The Daytona Beach News-Journal continues, we can expect more of the same as the executive focus turns from quality reportage to some warped idea of “inclusion” in its rapidly shrinking newsroom.

Sorry, folks.  It is not about reporting the news anymore.

Our “local paper” has clearly lost sight of what is important to us, regardless of our race, color, or creed – and abdicated it’s important role in our community to political correctness – even as our coastal version of Rome continues to burn.

Angels & Assholes for August 21, 2020

Hi, kids!

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

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

Angel              First District Court of Appeal

In December 2018, Sheriff Mike Chitwood made headlines when he rightfully called six members of the previous Volusia County Council “scumbags” for “violating the public trust and circumventing the will of the people,” when all but Councilwoman Heather Post voted to seek a legal exemption from Amendment 10, the ballot measure returning sovereignty to constitutional officers that was approved by 63% of voters.

Instead of accepting the voter’s decision, our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, began telling tall tales that the transition would cost taxpayers $10 million – then, he led the charge to have former County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert use public funds to challenge Amendment 10 in the courts.

Of course, the Volusia County Council’s decision to contest the results of the election using a weak “home rule” argument came during a typical off-the-agenda ambush.

It was all bullshit, a bald-faced lie – Old Ed and The Funky Bunch knew that – yet, the majority continued to defend the Old Guard’s status quo, regardless of cost.

To his credit, at the time, Sheriff Chitwood courageously called on Chairman Kelley to “…resign from office for his lack of leadership.” 

Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s astute suggestion fell on Old Ed’s tone-deaf ears and we have been stuck with this obstructionist asshole ever since. . .

Earlier this week, we learned that the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee upheld a previous ruling by a Leon County circuit judge rejecting Volusia County’s asinine opposition to Amendment 10, clearing the way for a return to political accountability in key county offices.

Unfortunately, if we have learned anything about Kelley’s régime – a wholly compromised plutarchy that takes it’s marching orders from wealthy political insiders who have controlled the Chairman like a ventriloquists dummy for years – it is that Old Ed and his handlers have no qualms using the peoples own money to subvert their will.

Earlier this week, the consigliere of Volusia County’s ruling elite, Dr. T. Wayne Bailey – who, a half-century ago, served as co-chair, along with Dr. P.T. “Bud” Fleuchaus, of the 21-member group that cobbled together the county’s original charter – continued to challenge the appeals court ruling in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, saying:

“My view as a citizen is that the issues raised in the case are such that there ought to be a Supreme Court determination because it is a constitutional issue.”

That’s horseshit, T. Wayne. . .

I can’t think of anything more unconstitutional – more inherently un-American – than using public funds to underwrite an effort to overturn the will of the people – and reverse a voter-approved measure that fundamentally changes our local government by increasing transparency and ensuring political accountability.

Next week, the Volusia County Council will have one more bite at this expensive apple when they decide whether to take their daft fight against Amendment 10 to the Florida Supreme Court.

It’s time for this governmental defiance to end.

Maybe this will help:

I have washed my feet, donned my sackcloth robe, reverentially genuflected and prostrated myself on the floor, forehead to the carpet, arms outstretched in utmost humility and submission, dutifully facing west toward the Ivory Tower of Power at the Thomas C. Kelley administration building in Deland.

There now (in my best Gregorian chant):

“Oh, Great and Powerful Monarchs of the Volusia County Council – In your infinite and infallible wisdom – your faithful taxpayer, Mark the Nobody of Ormond Beach, does humbly and meekly beseech you to allow our collective voices to be heard, as erring and imperfect as they may be, and stop the expensive challenge of Amendment 10 to allow our High Sheriff and the other constitutional offices of our all-knowing, all-seeing government to have slight independence from your powerful prince, the politically unaccountable County Manager.  Verily I beg of thee.  Amen and Amen.  Selah.”

Whatever. . .    

Here’s hoping that, for once, common sense prevails, and this ill-thought challenge of the peoples sacred right to self-determination at the ballot box is brought to an end.

Wait.  Damn.  Can somebody help me get up off the floor?

Asshole           Daytona Beach City Commission

This week, the Daytona Beach City Commission voted without discussion on a non-committal resolution “…approving the selection of preferred design options to be used in the construction of improvements to East ISB.  The City Commission wishes to support the design of either FDOT option C – “SR A1A Roundabout Concept Plan” or a plan for intersection improvements using the current “T” intersection configuration, whichever is most efficient as determined by FDOT.”

In other words, we are either getting an almost universally despised roundabout – or a proper signalized intersection at the most heavily used beach access point in Volusia County – but the ultimate decision is being left to the Florida Department of Transportation as Daytona Beach officials succumb to political cowardice and abdicate any responsibility.

Why? 

Because to make a difficult decision, one that will effect the lives of thousands of residents and visitors, takes courage – true political backbone – and that virtue simply does not exist in a place where elected officials callously turn a blind eye to the malignant blight that continues to consume the Halifax area’s core tourist strip, Main Street, Mid-Town, Downtown, East ISB, beachside/westside, etc., etc.

Of course, we are told the equally weak-kneed Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce will pass a similar wishy-washy resolution supporting the “whatever you guys want” approach to traffic infrastructure improvements on the ruined remains of East ISB.

Considering that, for decades, every in-coming president of the chamber has stood in their finery and crowed, ad nauseum, about the need to revitalize the “ISB Gateway” during their haughty acceptance speech at their annual high society Grand Gala – so, one would have thought the chamber’s “leadership” would have demanded that Daytona Beach city commissioners get off the fence and fight for what their members and constituents want?

In addition, the Hotel & Lodging Association of Volusia County – and Sons of the Beach – Florida’s premier beach driving and access advocacy, will also be asked to pass similar watery resolutions.

Say what?

My sincere hope is that SOB President Paul Zimmerman gives a one-finger salute and tells those Caspar Milquetoasts at the City of Daytona Beach to stuff their political insulation ploy where the sun don’t shine. . .

What a crock of shit. . .

Since this foul idea’s inception, residents and veteran traffic engineers have fought against the ludicrous idea of placing a traffic roundabout at the intersection of East ISB and A-1-A – a plan that was inexplicably supported by the City of Daytona Beach – despite all best evidence that it will result in a nightmare of gridlock during peak season and compromise traffic flow year-round.

It is not that traffic circles don’t work – it’s that the dynamics of this particular intersection make a weird loop-de-loop inappropriate.

Then, in April, during a meeting of the ISB Coalition attended by Florida Department of Transportation Interim District Secretary Jared Perdue, Daytona Beach City Commissioner Rob Gilliland “suggested the signalized intersection idea be dusted off and reconsidered.”

A glimmer of hope!

According to Secretary Perdue,  “If the community is not wanting this roundabout, we’ll go back and look at that.  We don’t want to deliver a project the community doesn’t want.”

In short, FDOT was begging for direction!

Instead, rather than get the project moving, Daytona Beach elected officials decided to punt. . .

So, why won’t the Daytona Beach City Commission, and their sycophantic stooges over at the Regional Chamber of Commerce, get off their collective ass and lobby for what residents and business owners have been demanding from the beginning?

At a time when Daytona Beach needs a comprehensive vision for the future of the beachside and beyond, on Tuesday, 6,090 voters returned the city’s Monarchical Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry to the throne – ensuring more of the same indecisiveness, vacillation, uncertainty, political insulation tactics and fence straddling that always occur in the absence of strong leadership.

Next month (I hope) the Florida Department of Transportation will hold a virtual public hearing on the future of the intersection.

That meeting may well be our last/best opportunity to be heard on this important matter, now that the City of Daytona Beach has decided it does not want to get involved in the decision-making process. . .

My sincere hope is that residents and stakeholders will scream, en masse, that – despite the total abdication of responsibility by our elected officials – We, The Little People, who live and eke out a living in the Halifax area, fervently oppose the imposition of a nightmarish roundabout at East ISB and A-1-A.

Now, it is up to us.

As one intrepid civic activist aptly described the City Commission after the vote:  “No brains.  No balls.”

Quote of the Week

 “Responsibility falls on both government and citizens to create the civic sphere and shape the future of their communities. We know that Florida needs a visionary and workable planning process that relies on an informed and active citizenry. Improvements to public participation by modernizing and updating public participation ordinances, increasing transparency by providing public notice in a broader range of media formats and empowering citizens through programs like the Citizen Planning Bill of Rights will move us closer to protecting and creating the vibrant, sustainable and livable communities that contribute to outstanding quality of life.”

–Excerpted from “Best Practices for Citizen Participation in Community Planning,” 1000 Friends of Florida, August 2020

This week I did something I rarely do anymore.

I actually agreed with the News-Journal’s editorial board in their informative op/ed, “Involve citizens in growth decisions.”

Admittedly, I was not familiar with 1000 Friends of Florida – but after reading the non-profit organization’s impressive stand on smart growth initiatives, environmental sustainability, and building better, more resilient, communities – I want to be their friend, too.

I have long been an advocate of the charette procedure – a concept where all stakeholders come together in intensive planning sessions to brainstorm ideas, resolve conflicts, map solutions to common problems and keep a project true to its intended purpose.

As a result of these collaborations, everyone involved – citizens, creatives, designers, developers, planners, government, business owners and others with a stake in the project – become co-authors of the mutually inclusive plan.

The very concept is verboten here.

I mean, can you imagine a civic project or real estate development scheme anywhere on the Fun Coast where residents would be permitted substantive involvement at the planning stage?

That is, beyond some canned “neighborhood meeting” a savvy real estate attorney needs to check off a box on their way to another land use amendment that will change the face of our community forever. . .

I would encourage everyone who cares about our sensitive environment and the nature of unchecked sprawl in east Volusia County to review the Citizen Bill of Rights proposed by 1000 Friends of Florida, which would, among other provisions, provide citizens standing in the planning process and protect comprehensive plans from the “shell game” of last-minute changes,” off-the-agenda public policy by ambush, and other legislative sleight-of-hand.

The Citizen Bill of Rights ensures Floridians:

The right to shape changes to your neighborhood, community and region.

The right to a process free of last-minute changes.

The right to a super-majority vote on major land use decisions.

The right to more easily challenge decisions made by your local government.

The right to be free of fear of unwarranted legal retaliation.

At present, some seven Florida counties and municipalities have adopted the Citizen Bill of Rights to include enhanced public participation provisions in the planning process and ensure the integrity of comprehensive plans and land use regulations.

Perhaps this innovative commitment to true smart growth initiatives is something our local governments should consider going forward?

For more information, please see www.1000fof.org

And Another Thing!

As I said earlier this week, the bedrock principle of our American democracy – that all power is derived from the consent of the governed – is rooted in the conduct of fair elections, the idea of “one citizen, one vote,” that purely American concept of political egalitarianism.

On Tuesday, the system worked.

Some were elated with the results – others horribly disappointed – while many more simply stayed home and shrugged the whole thing off as a rigged sham. . .

Unfortunately, far too many Volusia County residents have fallen victim to the malignancy of political apathy – that feeling of disinterest and indifference born of having the rug pulled out from underneath them one too many times – the sense that their vote doesn’t count, or their collective voice can be silenced if their decision at the ballot box goes against what the entrenched ‘ruling class’ wants.

Sound familiar?

Perhaps this election year is a time for new beginnings – and a restoration of public confidence in the system.

In my view, that fundamental change must begin with those we elevate to higher office.

Let’s face it, politicians have never had the best reputation – ranking somewhere below used car salesmen and lawyers on the Trust-o-Meter – and, by and large, it’s their own damn fault.

In over three-decades in municipal government – I came to understand that the virtue of integrity is omnipotent – because once the public’s trust is lost, it is almost impossible to regain.

At the risk of preaching the obvious – the “do as I say, not as I do” gospel according to Barker – I would like to extend some unsolicited hard-learned advice to our newly elected officials, and those still in the running, that may help foster a culture of honor in the Halls of Power throughout Volusia County and beyond.

Take it or leave it:

For those candidates who won outright this week, I encourage you continue your life of public service with an unwavering commitment to those ethics and ideals that drew you to this often-difficult path in the first place.

Many politicians become everything they hated when they first stood for public office, and that has wide-ranging implications, because reneging on campaign promises and developing a moral malleability are confusing, and corrosive to the public trust.

When human beings with inherent faults and weaknesses ascend to high office, an adherence to strong core principles and a demonstrated commitment to values-based service are a critical anchor point.

Be open to criticism – do not take it personally.  You are a politician, and you will have detractors.

Use today’s often-caustic political discourse to understand the issues that are important to your constituents – but avoid rolling around in the social media mud.

That does not mean elected officials shouldn’t have their own mind – or be constantly swayed by which side screams the loudest, or kowtowed by blowhards like me, who have all day to nitpick decisions and complain, ad nauseum – and they should not be afraid to make difficult decisions, knowing that honest mistakes aren’t always politically fatal.

And they should not become subservient to the social and civic elite with the wherewithal to externally manipulate the political system with massive campaign contributions as a means of seeking a return on investment.

Do the right thing, dammit – for the right reasons – even if it means going against your “colleagues” on the dais of power.  (Never forget – they’re just as confused as you are.)

Be open to outside counsel.

Remain attentive to the voice of your constituents and never succumb to the arrogance of power and trappings of office that breed a false sense of infallibility.

Stay humble.

If you ever – even once – find yourself uttering the words, “Do you know who I am?” – in any context – resign immediately. . .

You cannot be all things to all people.  But you can be kind to those who voted for you – and those who didn’t.

It takes just as much time during a public meeting to be remembered as an attentive representative as it does to be labeled an arrogant shithead – and political grudges or personal agendas waste precious time.

Remember, 99.999% of those you represent simply want someone to listen.

Respect the process.

The “staff” are career civil servants with families, professionals with a true desire to provide effective and efficient essential services to your constituents.  They are dutybound to serve the people’s representatives with equal enthusiasm.  Listen to what they have to say – and never compromise them for political expediency.

Set a good personal example.

Be a role model who embodies community standards, serve in the finest traditions of the public service, and become a mentor to others who seek elective office.

Look outside the box and challenge the status quo.

Search for new and innovative ways to serve your constituents and refuse to accept administrative stagnation and foot-dragging.

Read Florida’s Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees and abide by it – its not a suggestion – it’s the law.

If you were born a congenital asshole like me – then find someone with the personal qualities and moral courage you respect and emulate them.

As an elected official who took an oath to serve others – make honor and integrity a way of life.

There.  I’ll get off my soapbox. . .

Now, we must be willing to meet our elected officials halfway.

Rather than be sucked into the pit of malaise and apathy that lumps all elected officials into the same scum bucket, I tend to look at the individual and their record over time – because I have known some exceptional servant-leaders who, by their personal example, improved the community, maintained the public trust, and elevated the art and science of public policy design.

I hope you will join me in wiping the proverbial slate clean for our first-time elected officials – and those who have been returned to office on their merits, rather than the size of their campaign account – as they gain experience, learn the role, and, hopefully, continue to respect the voter’s confidence in their vision and abilities.

They deserve the opportunity for a fresh start – and so do We, The People.

At least until their words, actions and policy decisions prove otherwise. . .

When that happens, I will be standing ready to call foul, and protect our quality of life through my old-fashioned notion of political accountability – I hope you will, too.

After all, that is how our democratic system and our inalienable freedom of self-expression is supposed to work.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fight Continues

Despite the challenges of a global pandemic – amid a backdrop of social unrest, political polarization, and the rise of radical ideologies that seeks to destroy our system of governance – a national nervous breakdown – thousands of Volusia County voters cast their ballot yesterday and let their voices be heard.

Once again, the system worked – and I want to extend my sincere appreciation to all candidates and voters who participated in this sacred process – that includes our intrepid Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis, her impressive staff, and legion of volunteers who make it all work, maintaining the public trust by ensuring the integrity of our elections.

The bedrock principle of our American democracy – that all power is derived from the consent of the governed – is rooted in the conduct of fair elections – “one citizen, one vote,” the purely American concept of political egalitarianism.

Each vote carries equal weight, and, in theory, an equality of representation through political accountability.

At least it should.

Now, as most you know, I’m a cynical asshole – but I don’t (yet) subscribe to the maxim often attributed to Mark Twain which says, “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”

It does make a difference.

I still believe voting is the most important civic responsibility that citizens of a free and democratic society have – because it separates citizens from subjects and ensures our basic rights under the law – which permits blowhards like me the freedom to vent my frustrations, call out basic unfairness and challenge the close-knit plutocracy that continues to erode and manipulate our democratic system in Volusia County.

Our system both unites us in the common goal of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people – and divides us among party lines and various political philosophies.

Hell, if nothing else, the electoral process secures our right to complain, right?

In my view, if, through apathy, lethargy, or cynicism, you fail to cast a ballot – then you forfeit the right to criticize the very government that demands your hard-earned tax dollars and sets public policy that controls our lives and livelihoods.

Yesterday’s primary sorted the wheat from the chaff – paring down the field – setting the stage for the final contests on election day, and for the most part, I was encouraged by the results.

Several races were decided last night.

In a few key contests, candidates that I supported acquitted themselves well – and I feel all self-congratulatory this morning, because I rarely get it right. . .

For instance, the impressive Danny Robins, easily took the Volusia County Council District 3 seat, with an energetic Matt Metz outright winning the hard-fought Public Defender race, while County Judge Chris Miller was returned to the bench.

In municipal races, my dear friend Bill Hall was reelected Mayor of South Daytona – as was hard-working Mayor Don Burnette in the City of Port Orange.

Unfortunately, in the City of Daytona Beach, the incumbent Monarchical Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry was returned to office after claiming slightly over half of the 12,152 votes cast in that race (from a population of over 70,000. . .)

I felt that Mayor Henry’s challengers, Ken Strickland and Sherrise Boyd, ran principled and committed campaigns which drew a bright light to the myriad issues facing this challenged community – standing firm to their conviction that the people of Daytona Beach deserved better.

They can both be proud of the effort.

So, in my view, the subjects of the Duchy of Daytona Beach have no one to blame for the stagnation and malignant blight that continues to consume the Halifax area’s core tourist strip, Main Street, Mid-Town, Downtown, East ISB, beachside/westside, etc., etc. – while Mayor Henry continues to do as he is told by his wealthy handlers and champions the unchecked sprawl on Boomtown Boulevard and beyond.

Clearly, the vast majority of Daytona Beach residents oppose being forced to drink recycled sewage as their municipal government maxes out its permitted share of our fragile aquifer – even as it facilitates more residential and commercial development on our sensitive wetlands west of I-95 – so why do they continue to bend over and take it?

Repeatedly.  Again, and again and again?

Whatever.  The 6,090 who took the time to reelect Mayor Henry sealed the majority’s fate. . .

Last evening, we also learned that the grassroots campaign of Jeff “Plan B” Brower is seriously threatening the entrenched status quo as voters in the all-important Volusia County Chair race made it clear that there is some shit we won’t eat – and proved Dishonest Deb Denys isn’t going to sail into the catbird seat on a sea of insider money.

In an incredible showing, Jeff Brower flogged the incumbent darling of the Big Money set – soundly beating her by 4,706 votes in the primary – yet failing to reach the tipping point of 50% plus one that would have carried the day.

Now, the gloves come off.

You can bet your sweet bippy there are some high-level confabs taking place today as the Denys campaign licks its gaping wounds and decides on a no-holds-barred strategy that will simultaneously cloak her abysmal record of political cowardice and kowtowing, and use her sizable war chest to sound advantage.

That is, if Deb’s uber-wealthy sugar daddies in the real estate development industry decide they still want to throw good money after bad in the general election. . .

You can bet they will.

When it comes to ensuring a place at the public trough and buying influence with massive campaign contributions – nobody does it better than the East Volusia Elite who continue to control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tides on Florida’s Fun Coast.

The stakes just got a whole lot higher.

After all, who else is going to carry the water for speculative developers and the entrenched insiders as their puppets on the dais of power begin to go away, eh?

Despite yesterday’s outstanding results – now is not the time to let our packs hit the ground.

I encourage everyone to keep a close eye on the County Chair race – this one’s important – and given the competing interests in this presidential election year, you can bet the turnout will be far greater than what we saw yesterday.

Please show your personal and financial support for Jeff Brower’s energized campaign to take back Volusia County government and ensure a bright and equitable future for all citizens.

Learn how you can help at www.jeffbrowervcc1.com

The fight continues.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Make a Difference

I wrote a version of this blog post four years ago, on the cusp of another important primary, and the maxim still holds true:

Politics is not just about elections.

It can seem that way, especially now, during the final few hours before the primary when local candidates – many of whom are under real pressure for the first time in their lives – go bat-shit crazy with fear, failing self-confidence and false hubris.

Like Dr. Thompson said so eloquently, “That is the nature of professional politics.  Many are called, but few survive the nut-cutting hour…”

Tomorrow, the die will be cast, and the field whittled down to the true players; the Big Dogs who are moving to the general.

The also-rans – the fringe candidates and political dilettantes – will soon be forgotten.

Their hollow excuses to those who financially and philosophically supported them will fall on deaf ears.

No one will care.

Some candidates may win outright – taking 51% of the vote – while other races will remain close.

Alliances will shift overnight, and things will take a decidedly serious turn as campaigns gear up for the Big Dance in November.

Last Sunday, I took a leisurely drive down to the Ormond Beach Public Library to “early vote.”

The most direct route from our home takes me along the west bank of the beautiful Halifax river, and as I drove along enjoying the view on a late summer morning, I smoked a Marlboro and contemplated what I was about to accomplish at the midpoint of what passes for our political process in 2020.

Casting a vote remains the most sacred obligation of American citizens.

In my view, participating in our democratic process reaffirms our commitment to freedom and the idea of government, “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and for one brief shining moment, puts the power back in our hands.

Now, I realize that much of the process has been manipulated well in advance – with the two party monopoly having gerrymandered the process in their respective favor – while local power brokers shower the campaign coffers of hand-select candidates with massive contributions that skew the playing field for those willing to sell their political soul to protect the status quo.

As I turned the corner to the library, I saw that the parking area was virtually awash in campaign signs, each blending into the other to form a kaleidoscope of bright colors and shapes that encircled the entire lot like an impenetrable blockade.

So many campaign signs in such tight confines that the individual messages became meaningless.

I wrote that line in 2016 – and nothing has changed. . .

I slowed and navigated the phalanx of cheap nylon tents and lawn chairs occupied by perspiring candidates and their supporters, each wearing campaign t-shirts like battledress, sucking on water bottles, and staking out territory at what must be the ragged edge of the solicitation restrictions.

I assume they were acting out of some desperate belief that their very proximity to the door could sway a vote or two.

As I exited the Lone Eagle and began walking toward the door, I saw an “operative” circling behind me, calling out, “Hey, buddy!  I saw your Military Police bumper sticker – I was an MP, too!  Would you like a voters guide?” while extending a glossy brochure in my direction. . .

As a confirmed “No Party Affiliate,” and an informed voter, I don’t need some pre-marked Republican or Democrat “guide” to know which candidates I support.

I can make up my own mind.

And, so can you.

Let what passes for the local “leadership” of the two major political parties bicker and bitch over the petty squabbles and hyper-dramatic skirmishes that those who get entrenched in partisan politics seem to live for.

By now, we know where the candidates stand on the issues important to our lives and livelihoods.

So, I waved off my new “buddy” and entered the library where the superb staff of Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis’ made for a flawless experience – and I was in-and-out in less than ten-minutes!

As I drove away from the polling place, I thought about what this election means for our future, and the dire consequences that hang in the balance.

Many have come to the realization that our quality of life here on Florida’s Fun Coast is under siege by greed-heads and others who would see us drink our own sewage – and sit in gridlock traffic while they throw up even more cracker boxes in “lifestyle communities” and “cities within a city” – while the unbridled sprawl of one community begins to impact its neighbors.

It has become the Wild West, a gold rush in the pine scrub – and, so long as all the right facilitators are in place – it will not end until everyone who is anyone is fat and happy.

I do not make a lot of political endorsements on this blog site.

Naturally, I assume that most of you can make up your own mind on the issues of the day – and determine which candidate best matches your personal vision for our future in keeping with the needs of your family.

I have made an exception in the Volusia County Chair race between Jeff “Plan B” Brower and Dishonest Deb Denys.

Look, I know that all races on the ballot are important; however, in my view, the contest for Volusia County Chair will have a lasting impact on our collective quality of life for years to come.

It is a match between two diametrically opposed philosophies – the difference between substantive change in Volusia County’s fiscal, environmental and civic policies – and the stagnant status quo – which always places the wants of uber-wealthy insiders over the needs of many.

As for me and mine – I plan to stand firm in my conviction that clean water, greenspace, wildlife and natural places are more important to the lives of our children and grandchildren than the overstuffed pocketbooks of uber-wealthy land speculators and the sutlers who make their living on the crumbs left in their wake.

Always more, more, more – while our clueless elected leadership continues full speed ahead with no thought (or plan) for keeping our transportation and utilities infrastructure on pace with out-of-control development from Farmton to the Flagler County line.

I believe it is time We, The Little People, elect strong, ethical leadership who will stop the abuse, neglect and unfair manipulation of the marketplace that has become a malignancy on many areas of the Fun Coast and left thousands of Volusia County families living at or below the poverty level.

In my view, Jeff Brower represents the passion and positive change we desperately need in Volusia County.

Clearly, Jeff Brower can’t be bought.

He has worked diligently to identify waste and mismanagement in County government, and has served as a tireless advocate for accountability, responsive representation, and the environmental protections we so desperately deserve.

I also admire his active volunteerism and commitment to preserving our unique heritage of beach driving and access.

Most important, Jeff Brower knows that character counts.

I believe his impressive dedication to the highest ideals of the public service – ethical leadership, accessibility, and fairness – will serve the best interests of ALL citizens of Volusia County.

I strongly urge you to vote for Jeff Brower tomorrow, and support his bright vision of returning government to the people of Volusia County, Florida.

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for August 14, 2020

Hi, kids!

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

Before we get started, its Friday Funday once again here at Barker’s View HQ!

Let’s play a little game I like to call Which is Which!

For those who haven’t played before, the rules are simple – take a wild-ass guess at the following questions by selecting either A. or B. from the photograph below.

Ready?  Here we go:

One of these things has helped our community by cleaning the air, supporting wildlife habitat, reduced noise pollution, improved the soil, increased property values, stood tall and strong to provide protection, and beautified our environment?

The other is a dense, hard barked, thick trunked, deep-rooted impediment to the civic contributions of the other? 

Guess which is which. 

Ed Kelley Tree

Take your time. . .

You’re right!  The continuous contributions of an inanimate oak tree trump the civic obstructions and bureaucratic fumbling and bumbling of King Edward The Dullard every damn time!  We need more of them!

(Trees that is.  We have enough knot-head politicians. . .)

Thanks for playing everyone!

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

Asshole           Volusia County School Board

“Out of every one-hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”

— Heraclitus

Fear is contagious.

In the absence of strong leadership, trusted information and clear direction, the fear contagion can spread like wildfire, resulting in mass panic – and once widespread anxiety takes hold – it is almost impossible to control.

A good analogy is what I like to call Barker’s Theory of Herd Reaction to a perceived threat.

For instance, if fire breaks out in a crowded theater, most people will be instantaneously reduced to their primordial physiological instincts once they smell smoke in a confined space and the amygdala area of our brain sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.

Then, several interesting dynamics begin to surface as adrenaline hits the bloodstream.

A small segment of the group will remain in their seats regardless of the emergent threat – paralyzed by fear – frozen in place – unable to move, think or reason for themselves.

A few more will sit together in the floor in a communal group, holding hands and singing Kumbaya – convinced that some higher being will ignore the many and save the worthy – while others form a committee and begin discussing “ideas and suggestions,” ultimately bickering over why more fire suppression equipment wasn’t engineered into the building design – or where to place blame for the origin of the fire – as the conflagration builds around them.

The majority will stampede in a blind panic.

Some will be lost in the crush of a terrified mass reaction without ever being threatened by fire or smoke – as the crowd reacts to any perceived positive or negative change – and individual thought and freewill are quickly replaced by a mob psychology.

In turn, the frightened pack will begin to mimic the behavior of those around them, ignoring convenient exits and obvious opportunities to escape in favor of going with the group.

However, in the midst of the chaos, one or two true leaders will emerge – men and women who remember their training, keep their heads about them, and instinctively employ best practices, demonstrate professional competence and exhibit strong leadership skills – setting a personal example of competence and courage that calms the mass hysteria, palliates fear, and restores individual confidence.

These leaders can, by virtue of trust, quickly disseminate the best information available on how the group can protect itself – then launch a logical and organized response that soothes the primal panic and shepherds the majority to a safe place.

Unfortunately, the Volusia County School Board’s dismal attempts to craft a cogent reopening strategy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic has been the antithesis of leadership, resulting in widespread fear and uncertainty among anxious students, parents, teachers, and staff.

On Tuesday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s front page headline ominously read, “‘I am afraid to death’ – Volusia teachers head back to classrooms despite unclear virus plans,” as more than 4,000 teachers and staff members returned to the classroom for “planning and professional development” before school starts in various forms on August 31.

Inexplicably, with just two-weeks before students return to campus, district administrators have yet to finalize opening plans – or release hard numbers on how many children plan to return to the classroom.

They also haven’t provided an adequate explanation as to why the district’s janitorial contractor has apparently been on a continuous smoke break since schools closed, rather than using the time to deep clean and sanitize facilities.

Meanwhile, our elected officials on the Volusia County School Board continue to wring their hands while clueless administrators are in desperate need of direction and leadership.

My God.

According to reports, Volusia United Educators, the union representing teachers, continues to negotiate a reasonable solution – including an option that would allow teachers and students to begin the year in a virtual learning format (in violation of state mandate) – as families and staff remain in limbo.

Some teachers have broken ranks and taken to social media to express their fears of reopening or garner support for returning to the classroom – and the VUE has rightfully posted photographs of the disgusting, wholly unsanitary conditions they encountered this week.

That’s not “crisis management” – that’s a tumultuous disaster in the making. . .

And the chaos continues.

In my view, Michelle Maclin, a math coach at Southwestern Middle School in DeLand, said it best in a News-Journal article earlier this week:

“My philosophy is if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” Maclin said. “(District officials) have not been able to clearly articulate what the plan is.”

This glacial indecision, abdication of responsibility, utter ineptitude, and bureaucratic paralysis by elected and appointed officials simply cannot continue while the lives of students, teachers, staff, and families hang in the balance.

Angel               Bethune-Cookman University’s Nursing Program

Like the institution as a whole, Bethune-Cookman University’s L. Gale Lemerand School of Nursing has faced almost insurmountable challenges over the past few years.

In February 2018, the Florida Board of Nursing placed the program on probation when students failed to meet national testing standards.

Then, in June of that year, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges placed Bethune-Cookman on probation for one year, threatening the university’s accreditation and placing the continued viability of Dr. Bethune’s dream in jeopardy.

Tragically, at that time, several students in the struggling nursing program failed to receive their nursing degrees and were offered “liberal studies” degrees instead – leaving some disillusioned participants with massive debt and no clear career path going forward.

Now, under the outstanding leadership of B-CU President Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite – coupled with a renewed enthusiasm by faculty members and a focused return to rigorous standards – this week we learned that the School of Nursing currently holds a 100% pass rate among spring graduates who have taken the National Council Licensure Examination!

Wow! 

That represents hard work and dedication, and B-CU’s spring graduates can be exceptionally proud as they take their place among today’s highly trained medical professionals.

Kudos to the students, faculty, and staff of the L. Gale Lemerand School of Nursing for this remarkable achievement!

Angel               Volusia County Professional Firefighters Association

Here’s a Barker’s View ‘Thank You!’ to the brave men and women of the Volusia County Professional Firefighters Association for their recent endorsement of Jeff “Plan B” Brower for Volusia County Chair, and Danny Robins, who is running for the Volusia County District 3 seat!

Clearly, Volusia County firefighters and first responders have the best interest of our community at heart – and they did not disappoint.

On Monday, the VCPFA Local 3574 joined their brothers and sisters at the Volusia County Deputies Association in lending their support to the candidacies of Brower and Robins as our dedicated first responders join the call for substantive change in the vision and direction of Volusia County government.

In backing Jeff Brower, the VCPFA wrote, in part:

“The Volusia County firefighters promote candidates that we believe will prioritize the safety and well-being of our citizens, communities, and front line first responders.”

“We believe you are the candidate that best represents our high ethical standards and ideals.  We are encouraged by your positive attitude and commonsense approach to problem-solving.  We are truly inspired by your tenacity and follow through.  You have not given up on your goal to help your community and citizens, despite the hurdles placed in front of you.  You have not backed down from the establishment.  In fact, you have risen to the challenge.  This can-do attitude will serve you well in the challenges you will face as Volusia County Chair. . .”

In turn, the firefighters complemented Mr. Robins’ previous public safety experience and vowed, “We look forward to working with you and assisting you in your new position as District Three Volusia County Councilman.”

In my view, the extraordinary courage and contributions of our dedicated first responders in fire/law enforcement/EMS and emergency communications deserve the unwavering support of those elected officials who maintain budgetary and policy control over their respective disciplines.

Now, more than ever.

The members of the respective Volusia County Professional Firefighters and Deputies Associations comprise a sizable voting bloc – and their resolute endorsement of Jeff Brower is a clear indicator of how many county employees feel about the incumbent candidate – and where our intrepid first responders stand on the future of Volusia County government.

Conversely, it seems the only support Mr. Brower’s opponent – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys – can muster is a few tepid letters to the editor of the News-Journal from a gaggle of out-of-touch political has-beens who just woke from their afternoon nap. . .

In my view, receiving the coveted “Seal of Approval” of Volusia County’s fire service and law enforcement personnel should send a powerful message to voters where Jeff Brower and Danny Robins stand on the issues that are important to all of us.

Quote of the Week

“. . .we can push to end the ban on food trucks on the street (Main Street) so you don’t have to spend money on a kitchen build out. Maybe get someone who has one of the side of the road BBQ pits (not a food truck! )

And maybe we can push for financial investments and grants for business owners on the street to make upgrades or open a business!

We need to throw out the city plan that limits the type of businesses that want to open or make existing businesses harder to comply with or sustain!!!

Why can every other Main Street have antique shops and coffee and ice cream and novelty, but we are limited to bar, t-shirt, or leather for the whole street?! Can you imagine if these store fronts were filled with unique shopping, different foods and exciting atmospheres that literally gave the tourists on the street something to wall to and explore?!

I never understood why we dumped so much of that and so much money into beach street, where tourists can’t walk to. They don’t even know it exists. Many of them fly in and don’t have a car and can’t get there… But right across from the boardwalk and hotel we get nothing, aren’t allowed to open anything, and can’t make it diverse and interesting like other tourist towns.

The bikers loved beach street and it had a lot for them to experience. But we kicked them out of there. They loved shopping and sightseeing and antique collecting! But somehow we think if we had diverse businesses on the street it would hurt the bikers. It wouldn’t! It would give them more reason to come! They drink coffee. The women love to shop, they like to be able to get food and drinks. We should offer them a total package! Not 10 different t-shirt shops that all sell the same thing for two weeks of the year.

What are we trying to do with the street? There is no reason it should be a ghost town! We should offer something for everyone sitting on the beach to get out and explore!!!”

–Jennifer Finno Ellis, owner of Victory Tattoo, Main Street Daytona Beach, writing on social media in response to The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s, “Daytona’s Main Street struggling through virus impacts,” Monday, August 10, 2020

And Another Thing!

I have seen some shit in my time.

However, I’m not sure any of us has experienced the level of abject buffoonery and pure, old-fashioned ignorance and unsophisticated hubris currently on display by our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, as he bungles his way through this campaign season.

Old Ed is clearly nervous about the upcoming County Chair race – and he should be.

In many ways, his bizarre, mean-spirited behavior – both from the dais and on social media – has glaringly exposed all the reasons why many Volusia County residents are demanding fundamental change in their government and a different vision for their future.

For instance, during the recent News-Journal “debates” featuring Jeff Brower and his opponent – Dishonest Deb Denys – Chairman Kelley took to Facebook Live and clownishly snipped-and-sniped at Mr. Brower – all while voters tried desperately to consider the candidates unique take on the issues.

Instead, Old Ed pestered and baited viewers from the sidelines, while ridiculing the fact Mr. Brower makes his living with his hands, besmirching hardworking Volusia County residents with his effete snobbery.

It was an artless, but deliberate, distraction – a strategic diversion from Dishonest Debs abysmal record, which, when viewed in the light of day, becomes a mirror image of Ed Kelley’s own disastrous history of kowtowing to his well-heeled political benefactors, obfuscating facts to fit the narrative, and ignoring the needs, wants and input of constituents while protecting the status quo at all costs.

Sound familiar?

Like Ms. Denys, Old Ed has served on perhaps the most ineffectual council in recent memory – and that’s a damnable shame – because several of its current members, like Ben Johnson, Barb Girtman and the bruised and battered Heather Post – had some high-minded ideas at times.

Unfortunately, the contributions of other council members were often overshadowed by Dishonest Debs near-constant grandstanding – her loyal shilling for uber-wealthy developers and willingness to weaken environmental protections in the name of “economic development” – all while crowing, ad nauseum, about her unimpressive role as the ceremonial figurehead of various do-nothing transportation and environmental political insulation committees.

Yet, despite Dishonest Debs demonstrable record of flip-flopping and backpedaling on important issues like beach driving and access – Old Ed continues to pace the ramparts of the Ivory Tower of Power – dutifully protecting the interests of well-heeled political insiders and running interference for their darling like some demented sentry still holding firm to a lost cause.

Sad, really.

I’d like to (once again) tell Chairman Kelley that it’s time for him to set the gavel down and retire – quietly shuffle off to that fetid ash heap where washed-up, lame duck political hacks go when they have nothing left to offer those insidious insiders they once thought were “friends.”

But I won’t.

Frankly, Ed Kelley has done more to promote the candidacy of Ms. Denys opponent and ensure her flaming defeat than any glossy mailer or radio advertisement ever could – and our doddering fool of a County Chair will have no one else to blame come election day.

Besides, I take a perverse pleasure in watching Old Ed get his ass handed to him whenever he engages in “petty wars” with his long-suffering constituents on social media – fed-up citizens who obviously find great gratification rubbing the Chairman’s nose in the rotten remains of his odious political career.

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

Confusion Reigns Supreme

“The Halifax Advertising Authority and Conventions Visitors’ Bureau is instructed (mandated) by the Daytona Beach City Commission to present an exact plan for Biketoberfest for their approval, and has been for the past 29 years.

The past six months the CVB has a Biketoberfest committee who sits with Jim Morris, the assistant city manager (and an attorney) and many officials of the city, including code enforcement, law enforcement, traffic, and sheriff’s department. At these meetings Morris and other officials go through all requests. During these workshops most are corrected, and a few are denied. They cover such items as serving food, parking and space.

 Morris then presents this package to the City Commission for its approval. This package is neither affirmative nor a negative as to Bikertoberfest. This is requested by the Daytona Beach City Commission. The hospitality industry is neither suggesting nor discounting the Bikertoberfest event — it is what is required!

 The hospitality industry kindly asks the elected officials to consider requesting our local Health Department officials for their expertise on this event before coming to a decision. We above all want to ensure a safe event for our local citizens, our tourists and all 51,000 employed in hospitality in Volusia County. We understand that there are certain procedures in place — masks and social distancing — but not all of Volusia County requires this.

Our top priority is to keep everyone safe.”

–Bob Davis, Daytona Beach Shores, CEO of the Volusia County Lodging and Hospitality Association, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Biketoberfest is a matter of procedure,” Monday, August 10, 2020

In his recent letter to the editor, Mr. Davis provided a behind-the-scenes look at the process – and the role of the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau – in developing the annual Biketoberfest Master Plan.

I thought it was also a valiant attempt to protect the CVB’s Biketoberfest Committee from being labeled the “bad guy” when some yet-to-be-determined entity finally makes the call to cancel the popular event – or the City of Daytona Beach simply refuses to issue the life-sustaining special event permits required for success.

Unfortunately, the official speculation and lack of leadership on this important issue has left area businesses – and potentially thousands of visitors – totally confused regarding the ultimate fate of the event.

Trust me, Bob, the Volusia County Health Department is not going to help.

If we have learned anything during this pandemic – providing timely public health information to policymakers when it matters most is clearly outside their wheelhouse.

So, the question remains: It is mid-August and the clock is ticking – are we having Biketoberfest or aren’t we?

Last week, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Biketoberfest 2020 “…looks like it’s a no go unless a solid safety plan to protect participants from the coronavirus can be created.”

In my view, creating an acceptable safety plan, one that would cover the variety of venues and entertainment options available to Biketoberfest participants, is an increasingly difficult proposition, considering that Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick “Il Duce” Henry recently telegraphed his thoughts on the viability of the event:

“It would be a tall order for them to offer something I would support.”

Other members of the City Commission expressed similar concerns, making it highly unlikely that the annual event – which many area businesses rely on to ensure their survival – will take place in a form recognizable to repeat visitors.

But who the hell knows?

Recently, the News-Journal reported, “Approval of the Biketoberfest plan would require an exemption to the city’s Local State of Emergency and Executive Order, which currently prohibits large gatherings. An exception was recently made to allow concerts at the Bandshell, but only after the organizer of that event worked closely with city officials to develop a strict safety plan.”

Again – with “exceptions,” accommodations, and approvals granted for favored events and sponsors – while other venues and businesses receive official warnings from City Hall – the intent of the rules and the fate of Biketoberfest remain clear as mud. . .

Adding to the confusion was a follow-up article in the News-Journal wherein Mayor Henry said “deliberations” are ongoing:

“It remains for me a tall order, but we will see,” he said. “You have to be open as government to hear and respond accordingly.  It’s a challenging time for businesses and we certainly respect that.”

Say what?

“We will see?”  When?

Then, Commissioner Rob Gilliland sent murky mixed signals when it was reported, “…Gilliland thinks it is unlikely that the commission ultimately will approve the Biketoberfest permits, given the state of the pandemic this summer.  At the same time, he would like to see planning continue, to be prepared if the spread starts to slow in the fall.”

These convoluted maybe-maybe not “deliberations” have left many businesses who depend on robust special events scratching their heads.

Do they purchase stock, engage outside vendors, sign bands and entertainment, hire security, obtain PPE, tool up for food service, plan for parking, arrange for increased staffing, prepare event plans, etc., etc. – all of which is an incredibly expensive undertaking even during a good year.

It appears our ‘powers that be’ are either unwilling, or unable, to make a decision during an election cycle when the life expectancy of struggling Main Street area businesses are being called into question on the front page of the newspaper.

As usual, confusion reigns supreme. . .

As this week’s pared-down motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota proved – in just two-months, thousands of bikers are going to show up on our sandy doorstep, regardless of what the City of Daytona Beach decides – or doesn’t.

In spite of the pending blame game over who killed this year’s lucrative special event – the natural result of the political weakness and scarcity of elected leadership that defines the Halifax area – someone better be prepared to deal with it. . .

If Not Now, When?

“Optimism is a pressure—it is stress-inducing and intelligence-lowering. 

Pessimism is a release: it is relaxing and mind-expanding.

Read the Book of Ecclesiastes (“To everything there is a season”) or Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (“The Bird of Time has but a little way/To fly”) to see how beautiful and peaceful zero expectations can be.

And remember, when John Lennon wrote “It can’t get much worse” he was, I am sure, being ironic. Of course it can, it always can.”

–Bryan Appleyard, “The happiness conspiracy: against optimism and the cult of positive thinking,” New Statesman, February 2015

I admit.  I am a confirmed pessimist – a curmudgeonly malcontent – with a glass half-empty mindset that serves as a tarnished and dented suit of armor providing protection from the disappointments and absurdities of life here on Florida’s Fabled Fun Coast.

Recently, a loyal reader of these cynical screeds nominated a local restaurateur for the weekly Angels & Assholes column – in his view, an Angel who recently reopened his establishment after a short hiatus to stop the financial hemorrhage resulting from the pandemic.

Look, don’t get me wrong – coming back from a near-fatal strategic closure takes a heroic leap of faith – well worthy of our collective praise and, more important, our continued patronage.

But given the weird times in which we live, perhaps acknowledging survivors as winners and losers is inappropriate. . .

For instance, I happen to know many less fortunate business owners who have closed their doors forever – and some who struggle mightily to eke out what passes for a “living” in a patently unfair environment where some businesses are allowed to succeed – even supported by government largesse – while others are doomed to wither and die under the iron boot of government overreach, which permits dictatorial politicians who haven’t missed a paycheck to select who lives and who dies.

These are entrepreneurs and dreamers who spent their lives building something – hardworking people with families and children, employees, mortgages, grocery bills, and car payments – who were first asked to tighten their belts by the state, and have now resorted to boiling and eating those same belts to survive.

Are these people any less worthy of our respect and admiration for having the incredible courage to reinvent themselves after watching their lives evaporate in a pile of insurmountable invoices?

My heart bleeds for them.

Inexplicably, those who should care for them continue to add insult with their infernal optimism. . .

In the August issue of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce rag, “Inside Volusia Business,” Chamber Chair Robert Lloyd began his monthly piece, “The longer this pandemic persists, the harder it is to write an encouraging article to our business community.”

Then don’t.

Perhaps Chairman Lloyd and other well-heeled community “leaders” should embrace the fact that each day, many small businesses – some of which are well-established fixtures in the Halifax area hospitality industry – are drawing their last breath, closing their doors forever with little fanfare, suffering the enormous personal and financial pressures that mount as options dwindle.

That’s not something to celebrate with giddy pap and fluff.

This weekend, the Regional Chamber posted on social media a bright sunshiny “happy face” that cheerily announced, “Happy Happiness Happens Day!” – something that prompted one Daytona Beach area business owner to respond:

“It’s simply not a good time right now and happiness seems very far away and possibly like it may never exist again. While being positive is a great way to live, the reality is this, we are not happy and the only way happiness will HAPPEN is if we are given back our inalienable right to pursuit it!”

I agree.

This forced optimism in the face of an evolving civic and economic disaster isn’t just annoying – it’s cruel.

I’m not saying that caving in to ass-dragging depression is the right response either – but, in my view, when good people are in the fight of their life – empty optimism and admonishments to their members like,  “This is not a time to bring politics into information sharing. All that do this will be removed from the comments section. Now is the time to practice civility,” destroys morale and effectively neuters the Chamber’s voice.

I mean, whose side is the Chamber on?

And why do incumbent politicians continue to enjoy this level of protection from our ‘powers that be’ when they should be explaining and defending their suppression of certain area businesses?

This is an election year, dammit, and if the collective voice of Volusia County’s business community isn’t heard now, then when is the proper time for struggling entrepreneurs and their devastated employees to “bring politics into information sharing”?

Screw civility.  Shouldn’t those who hold themselves out as advocates for a “fair and equitable” business environment be going to war in defense of those beliefs – and their dues paying members who are struggling for survival?

My God.

Perhaps now is the time for entities like the Daytona Regional Chamber – organizations that ostensibly exist to nurture new businesses and support existing ones – to put the “happy, happy, joy, joy, joy!” mantra away, roll up their sleeves, and fight hard for changes to the arbitrary regulations and arrogant pollice verso policies that insult our democratic sense of basic fairness.

_________________________________________

Please join Barker’s View this afternoon on GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm!

We’ll be taking your calls and discussing the issues of the day on the “Fastest Two-Hours in Radio!”

Join us locally at 1380am “The CAT” – or on the web at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).

Thanks in advance!

 

 

 

 

Angels & Assholes for August 7, 2020

Hi, kids!

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

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

Asshole           Volusia District 3 Candidate Gary Conroy

I rarely write about national issues – because, like most local issues – I don’t have enough money to influence them.

In my view, its okay to disagree.

Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts – and our freedoms allow us to hold differing points of view on the issues that affect us – but, as Americans, I believe there is a line that should not be crossed.

I have very strong opinions on the current direction of the “social justice” movement, and how a push for positive change in police/community relations has been hijacked by those bent on the destruction of our free and democratic society using violence and intimidation, while pushing a radical agenda at the point of a gun in some areas of our country.

Now, an area political candidate’s apparent support for organizations that advocate the overthrow of the United States government has crept into our local political discussion.

I find that disturbing.

This week, a concerned resident of Edgewater took sitting City Councilman Gary Conroy – a candidate for the Volusia County Council District 3 seat – to task for his involvement with the Black Lives Matter organization.

That included a demand for an apology following a confrontation at a recent roadside rally.

According to the citizen, during a recent demonstration on State Road 44 involving members of the BLM organization – along with a group of flag waving Trump supporters who stood on the opposite side of the street (literally and figuratively) – Mr. Conroy is said to have crossed the line when he approached the Republican phalanx, “…barging people out of the way.  Knocked one guy out of the way.”

Of course, Mr. Conroy – a former police officer – claims he was simply trying to find common ground among two “diametrically opposed” groups.

Really?

A video taken on the day shows Conroy clearly holding signs and actively supporting the BLM organization – a group that has repeatedly called for the murder of law enforcement officers – along with demands that police departments be abolished.

Last month, BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors, an understudy of Eric Mann, former agitator of the Weather Underground domestic terror organization, described herself as a “trained Marxist” committed to the overthrow of our democratic system of governance.

I found that interesting.

Why?

Because Mr. Conroy hired Joshua LeClair, who is the former “District Organizer of Florida for the Communist Party” to manage his campaign for the District 3 seat.   

You read that right.

Given the fact, as an elected member of the Edgewater City Council and a former police officer, Mr. Conroy would have been required to take a loyalty oath swearing that he will “…support the Constitution of the United States and of the State of Florida,” I contacted him and asked if he was aware that his campaign manager was an avowed communist?

His response:  “Its news to me.”

He claimed that the post identifying Mr. LeClair’s activities was “…made by a fake account in an effort to hurt my campaign,” and went on to explain that it was part of a smear effort that originated during his run for office in Edgewater.

I really wanted to believe him, but the explanation felt contrived – and it quickly became clear that Mr. Conroy quibbled the facts.

After paying Mr. LeClair $1,000 a month for his services since approximately March 2020, after my June contact with Mr. Conroy, his “campaign manager” mysteriously disappeared from campaign finance reports.

Then, just eight days later, Mr. Conroy hired a second individual to consult on his campaign who was also a declared member and “activist” of the Communist Party USA!

Say what?

When I made Conroy aware of this fact, he responded, “Please don’t tell me he is some kind of subversive LOL,” – then, “Oh no!! I’m going to start vetting better.  I should have known better when LeClair suggested him!!!”

Weird.

Look, once is a mistake – twice is a pattern. . .

At this week’s Edgewater City Commission meeting, as Conroy’s constituent continued to demand an apology for his behavior at the rally – Councilman Conroy vehemently tried to silence his critic from the dais – demanding that Mayor Michael Thomas stop the “attack” and stifle the voice of an Edgewater taxpayer.

When Mayor Thomas rightfully allowed the citizen to finish his remarks – Conroy lost all composure – exaggerating the criticism as an “attack on my person” – then lambasted Mayor Thomas for allowing the citizen to speak his mind.

In my view, that is unacceptable.

It was ugly – and gave a startling glimpse at what Volusia County residents could expect if they were to challenge Comrade Conroy should he ascend to the Volusia County Council chamber.

Like many mealy-mouthed politicians, Gary Conroy appears to be of the opinion he can speak from both sides of any issue with equal enthusiasm – standing with organizations who call for the slaughter and defunding of police, turning his back on the very law enforcement officers he claims to represent – or engaging declared communists to steward his campaign, then backing away when his association is exposed.

Is Gary Conroy a Manchurian candidate?

I don’t know.  But he has all the earmarks. . .

In my view, Gary Conroy is wrong for Volusia County.

Frankly, he’s not right for Edgewater either.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. Conroy’s impressive opponent, Danny Robins, and discussing his informed take on the issues and unique vision for Volusia County.

It became immediately evident that Mr. Robins is incredibly bright, with that all-important “fire in the belly” – a true call to serve – that sets servant-leaders apart from those with a self-serving political agenda.

In my view, Danny Robins has an impressive breadth of life/business experience, and a reputation for fair dealing, that puts him head-and-shoulders above the likes of conniving, retread politicians with a track record of double-talk.

I found his grasp of the issues refreshing – he’s clearly taken the time to educate himself on what’s important to those who live and work on the Fun Coast – and I appreciate his thoughts on smart growth initiatives and willingness to build consensus with all stakeholders.

Early in my life I proudly took two oaths – one when I enlisted in the military, the other before starting my career in law enforcement – both swearing that I would support, protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Like many of you,I remain true to those sacred affirmations today – and I will not remain silent while someone like Comrade Conroy attempts to insinuate himself into a higher office for reasons that remain murky.

Please vote Danny Robins for Volusia County Council District 3.

Asshole           Volusia County & Daytona Beach Elected Officials

“The new Orange Avenue bridge is opening this week. Really. Finally. No more delays.”

–Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Well, the News-Journal was almost right. . .there was one more slight delay. . .

In my experience, even fledgling politicians quickly learn that the key to avoiding awkward public moments comes from the simple lesson of watching where one steps.

For instance, if an elected official observes someone plant their shoe in a steaming pile of shit – most inherently understand the importance of guiding around the mess – rather than running over, laying down, and wallowing in it while photographers memorialize the moment.

Unfortunately, some Volusia County officials have failed to grasp the concept. . .

I was reminded of that valuable political lesson this week when elected and appointed officials of Volusia County and the City of Daytona Beach delayed the opening of the long-awaited Tom Staed Veterans Memorial Bridge by yet another few minutes so they could take part in an embarrassing “ceremonial vehicle processional” – trundling across the still unfinished span as resident’s waited patiently and shook their heads in disbelief – as their elected officials firmly attached themselves to this monument to government inefficiency like barnacles on a bridge piling.

Hell, we waited over 4-years for the bridge to open – I guess it didn’t matter that citizens had to wait a few more minutes while our elected elite received the recognition for this abomination that they so richly deserve, eh?

Look, I wasn’t there (I wash my beard on Thursday mornings), but I have no doubt that our Monarchical elite were resplendent in their flowing Royal mantles as they slowly traversed the span – smugly congratulating their own performance for a project that was 18-months overdue and became a running joke among their constituents – as our arrogant emperors held up travel and commerce just a little bit longer to ensure they are forever associated with this epic debacle.

During this week’s County Council meeting, I suffered an involuntary spit-take with my afternoon cocktail when I heard Councilwoman Billie Wheeler openly praise County Engineer Tadd Kasbeer for his efforts. . .

Say what?    

Yeah.  Well done, Tadd.

You accepted public funds to steward a two-lane bridge project that took as long to construct as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – and, with cracks now forming in the unused sidewalk – the span is reportedly three-weeks from actual completion.

My God. . .  

By their craven need for attention – our elected officials have cemented in the minds of the governed just how obtuse these thickheaded, egoistic dullards truly are – something every resident (and voter) should be reminded of every time they drive over the bridge.

Angel               Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood

Residents of Volusia County learned this week that Sheriff Mike Chitwood has contracted COVID-19.  Incredibly, this insidious virus has taken him out of the action for the first time in his 33-year law enforcement career.

They don’t call him “Iron Mike” for nothing.

During this damnable pandemic, Sheriff Chitwood has stood tall among our often-halfhearted public officials, demonstrating outstanding leadership – calling out bureaucratic stagnation and pushing aside administrative roadblocks – fighting hard for the right of his constituents to remain informed.

Frankly, without Sheriff Chitwood’s tenacious efforts to push data to us on social media (despite the bumbling opposition of our public health apparatus) Volusia County residents would have been forced to navigate this viral storm in the dark.

Now, we are beginning to see the devastating toll of this disease up close, as increasing numbers of our friends, family, neighbors, and community leaders struggle to recover – or, sadly, succumb to complications.

Last Friday, Sheriff Chitwood gave a touching tribute to the life and incredible civic contributions of Daytona Beach civic activist Norma Bland, who died last week following a valiant fight with COVID-19.

“She was always fighting for what was right. Not because she stood to gain anything from it, but because she was a true community leader who took it upon herself to do her part for the common good.”

Well said.

Get well soon, Sheriff.

We need your leadership now, more than ever.

Quote of the Week

“We now have a person running for Volusia County Chair (Jeff Brower) whose interests are the same as ours. He is a dedicated, well-loved father, businessman, and a man that respects all folks believing in their God whatever their religious denominations are.

And, as importantly, he wants to control growth to coincide with our drinking water demands. Meaning, he wants to ascertain we are able to drink water purified by natural aquifer methods and not processed, purified toilet water (see Miami News Times, March 12, 2018 article: “Florida Legislators OK Plan to Dump Sewage Into Drinking-Water Aquifers”).

Not to mention the 100 gas pumps on LPGA, in one corner?

The vernacular from the candidate who was in office and now running for chair is: Trust in leadership. Really, how did that work for us so far? We have one clear choice and one clear vote for chair: Jeff Brower. We want Volusia back and not ran by outside forces!”

–Chuck Collins, Ormond Beach, writing in the Ormond Beach Observer Letters to the Editor, “We want Volusia back,” Monday, August 3, 2020

And Another Thing!

Today I start another trip around the sun.

Yep.  Sixty years old.

Damn. . .

It’s true what Hemingway said, “Time is the least thing we have of.” 

This milestone birthday has set me on a weird self-examination of my life and times, an opportunity to take stock of that which is important, that which is not, and a chance to prioritize those things I’ve yet to accomplish as I enter the gloaming of my life.

For instance, when examining my productive years, I realized how much time I wasted as a young man fretting about what others thought of me.

It was a big deal, partly because I was a career-oriented guy, and wanted desperately to position myself for advancement and greater responsibility as most aggressive young people do.

(I know, its hard to believe that at one time a sluggard like me had ambition – but its true.)

That meant years of working hard, playing interoffice politics to my advantage (which gave way to my now famous working motto: Let no ass go un-kissed), accepting any assignment I was offered, maintaining an impeccable uniformed appearance and always presenting myself as a professional – because it mattered to me what others thought of my bearing, skills, and performance.

Now, not so much. . .

One of the life lessons I’ve learned is that only those firmly ensconced in retirement can honestly say they no longer give two-shits what others think of them – and truly mean it – but that freedom comes with a price.

As I have not-so-gracefully aged, the truth has become infinitely more important to me than image – and I hate bullying and oppression by those who misuse their lofty public positions for personal gain.

So, over time, I have slowly descended into a hyper-critical blowhard who sounds off on the news and newsmakers of the day without fear or favor.

A damnable “blogger.”  Always pointing out, as Roosevelt said, how the strong man stumbled, or the doer of deeds could have done them better.

That naturally rubs some people wrong.  At least I hope it does.

Right or wrong – I’m proud of what this blog represents – and one of the great privileges of my life is that so many of you take the time to read Barker’s View and add your own unique perspective to the greater discussion.

Your avid readership means more to me than you know, because it has returned a sense of purpose I so desperately need.

The problem with introspection is that the view is always subjective – slanted by our own perception of reality and protected by ego and vanity – so, it helps to listen to an outside opinion – even when it hurts. . .

Recently, a prominent Halifax area attorney posted his thoughts of me on social media:

“The real garbage is the crap Mark Barker spews. He’s a basement blogger who was a lifer with Holly Hill police department. Sucks on two government teets, HH pension and SS, while spending his days criticizing government. Literally biting the hand that feeds him.”

Given that I was already in a contemplative state, I thought:  Damn.  He’s right. I’m guilty on all charges.     

Except one.  I don’t draw Social Security.  Yet.

(Oh, and its spelled “teats”. . .)

The barrister’s brief, but accurate, summary of my life forced me to take a long look back, and, for the most part, I liked what I saw in the rear-view mirror.

For instance, I take enormous pride in the fact I spent my life in service to others, working side-by-side with some true community heroes – people who willingly go into harms way, again and again, to protect and serve others.

Some of them, like my dear friend Brevard County Deputy Bob Nicol, gave their lives in the line of duty. . .

But it was worth it.  All of it.   

The sleepless nights working the streets – the excitement of high-speed chases, careening through the streets with my hair on fire, the thrill of being shot at by a barricaded suspect, the satisfaction of solving complex crimes, the haunting sights, sounds and smells of human destruction, enduring the ugliness of man’s horrific inhumanity to man and child – and confronting true evil in dark places while putting your life in someone else’s hands and the honor of having them do the same.

The pride that comes from serving a cause greater than your own self-interests with honor, dedication, and personal sacrifice – failing time-and-again but never giving up – and experiencing the camaraderie and depth of friendship that only comes when men and women face real danger together.

I feel incredibly fortunate just to count myself in their number, and each day I still try and live up to the values-based standards set by those great leaders who mentored me and provided important opportunities for success – and failure.

And I am extremely proud of the pension check I receive each month – a just reward for many years of hard work for often pitifully low wages – an amazing financial benefit for career public servants that was built and stewarded by a grateful community.

The learned lawyer’s post also had me reminiscing on the unwavering support of my wonderful wife and family who love me unconditionally – and the enduring devotion of a precious handful of dear friends who ignore my eccentricities and care for me at my best, and worst.

That circle of love includes the amazing citizens of the City of Holly Hill who never failed to show their immense appreciation and support for those who serve them.  I have never forgotten that.

Wow.  It really has been one hell of a ride, hasn’t it?

Thanks, Counselor, for reminding me in the most glorious way of all the blessings in my long and happy life. . .

Have a great weekend, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence First – Verdict Afterward

“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.

“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first–verdict afterward.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t!” said Alice.

“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.”

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

The City of DeBary never disappoints.

Anyone who enjoys a good, old-fashioned political shit show need look no further than this quaint community on the banks of the St. John’s river.

In fact, this blog cut its teeth on what was known as “The Debacle in DeBary” – a horrific look at the caustic reaction that occurs when greed, malleable politicians and environmentally sensitive land come together.

But what sets DeBary apart is their weird city charter – cobbled together in 1993 – with a provision that allows a majority of the city council to overturn the will of the people and unseat any sitting elected official who is found to have “violated any express prohibition” of the charter.

Under what passes for DeBary’s warped sense of justice, the City Council assumes the role of witness, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner  – then, a few entrenched bureaucrats who consistently paint themselves as pseudo-victims pout their “testimony” before the wholly illegitimate Kangaroo Kourt – a compromised and patently un-American sham that ignores the people’s sacred vote – turning what was once a representative democracy into an internal popularity contest.

Don’t take my word for it, ask former Mayor Clint Johnson how it worked out for him. . .

The problem is, what constitutes a charter “violation” appears to be at the sole discretion of thin-skinned middle managers who have no qualms initiating the ‘nuclear option’ anytime a council member makes them “uncomfortable.”

For instance, on Wednesday evening, the City Council held a “hearing” to determine the fate of Councilman Stephen Bacon on charges he violated the charter when he, “…improperly ordered City Clerk Annette Hatch to include some material in the minutes of a recent meeting.”

As I understand it, when Bacon attempted to hand Hatch his speaking notes following a May council meeting – which he asked to be placed in the meeting minutes – Hatch refused to accept them, saying, “she didn’t need them.”

A brusk interoffice contretemps ensued.

“You need to take these. You need to put them in the minutes,’” Hatch said.

“He said, ‘You need to do your job.’”

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

In turn, City Manager Carmen Rosamonda “investigated” the incident (without speaking to Bacon?) then banned the duly elected Councilman from accessing any non-public area of DeBary City Hall.

With that, the die was cast for the next DeBary coup d’état – and city attorney Kurt Ardaman did what he does best and immediately hired outside counsel to “prosecute” a frustrated old man who can’t seem to grasp the council/manager form.

Following the initial “hearing” – something Mr. Bacon’s attorney aptly called a “travesty” – he was essentially found guilty of violating the charter – setting the stage for the second “hearing,” which essentially constituted the penalty phase.

Trust me.  Everyone in the council chambers – and those watching online – were convinced that Councilman Bacon was about to “forfeit” his seat on a vote of his colleagues.

Fortunately, following a contrite statement, wherein Bacon agreed to work as a member of the “team” and follow the rules, his fellow council members agreed the dust-up didn’t rise to a terminable offense and Bacon was allowed to continue serving the citizens of DeBary.

It made for great political theater – the name Clarence Darrow was invoked by Bacon’s lawyer, and the city’s hired bulldog skillfully earned his keep – but the inherent unfairness of making up rules on the fly as the ham-handed “process” slugged forward was frightening to anyone who values good governance and due process.

Stuff and nonsense, indeed. . .

Clearly, Councilman Bacon is a cantankerous asshole with a caustic personality and an inability to follow established procedure – but it was painful to watch the elderly official fumble and bumble his way through the “hearing” – clearly confused, alternately speaking into the battery pack of his microphone and shrieking that his “constitutional rights” were being violated (because they were).

In the end, Mr. Bacon was openly humiliated for his transgression – and the City Council remained intact.

Kudos to the remainder of the DeBary City Council for – after publicly spanking Mr. Bacon – allowing the will of the people to stand.

It was the right thing to do.

Now, it is time for this small town’s ‘powers that be’ to revisit the charter and craft a section for prohibitions on the activities of elected officials that permits an independent outside arbiter to sort the wheat from the chaff – then let the citizens ensure their sacred vote can’t be discarded every time a staff member gets their knickers in a twist.

For now, there is an election quickly approaching, and Councilman Bacon has a very capable opponent in William Sell.

This is a political problem that requires a political solution.

That’s how a representative democracy is supposed to work.