We Get What We Accept

“The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.”

–John Stuart Mill

In a 2009 essay on the nature and effect of mediocrity, political columnist Gareth van Onselen opined that this infectious disease is fueled by apathy and legitimized by indifference, and, if ignored, it will self-replicate, “…generating and reinforcing the very environment in which it thrives; and, the more it comes to dominate public thought, the harder mediocrity becomes to recognize.”

Sound familiar?

I came up in the police service, spending my entire adult life in a pursuit where my name was at the bottom of my work product – essentially creating a personal “brand” – building a reputation with those who would read and interpret the myriad incident reports, forms, affidavits, investigative notes, and the other documentary and explanatory narratives that I created during my work – including clerks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, reporters, and the public.   

It was important to me that others viewed me as a professional – comfortable that my reports were terse, factual, accurate and well-crafted – something deserving of my name. 

Anything less would reflect poorly on myself and my agency. 

I was reminded of the importance of professionalism and expectations while reading Daytona Beach News-Journal editor Pat Rice’s column in Sunday’s newspaper entitled, “Qualities Daytona’s next city manager needs.”

Among other attributes, Mr. Rice explained, the City of Daytona Beach should look for “..a really good listener, and not just to the city’s perceived power structure,” in other words, someone who listens to the entire community, not just the oligarchical powerbrokers who rule with an iron fist and an open checkbook come campaign season.

In addition, Mr. Rice feels “The next city manager needs to make City Hall more transparent that it is right now,” citing that City Hall has been in “information lockdown,” an environment where the entrenched City Manager Jim Chisholm controls the flow of information to citizens and the media through gatekeepers like Communications Manager Susan Cerbone.

I agree with that assessment. 

According to Mr. Rice, depending upon the media request, “…it may take hours, or days, or weeks to get the information requested.”

That is unacceptable – and probably illegal under Florida’s public records statutes. 

Most important, Mr. Rice rightfully acknowledged that “The next city manager needs to visibly put just as much energy into the core beach side and Midtown neighborhoods as City Hall currently has to develop downtown and the area around Interstate 95 and LPGA Boulevard.”

Spot on.

In my view, selecting the next municipal chief executive will be the most important decision Daytona Beach city commissioners will make during their tenure – one that will have an enduring effect on the community’s social, civic, and economic future.

So, why have these same elected officials been so willing to accept the malignant spread of mediocrity under Mr. Chisholm for so long?

An institutionalized “averageness” from a manager who will not listen, share information, or focus on areas of the city awash in blight, dilapidation, and economic stagnation – all while exclusively serving the needs of well-heeled political insiders in return for political insulation – ongoing, systemic issues that our local newspaper has only now acknowledged.

I find it strange that just 43 candidates applied for a Florida city manager job currently paying Mr. Chisholm nearly $300,000 (for a city in this condition?) – with many of the applicants having little actual experience in the influential and multifaceted role.

Of the twelve finalists selected by Georgia-based Slavin Management Consultants, newly elected City Commissioner Stacy Cantu said, “I’m not too impressed with the top 12 that we have right now,” explaining that she hopes the firm conducts a thorough background check of the applicants.

Me too.

My sincere hope is that Ms. Cantu and her colleagues won’t be afraid to wipe the slate and start over if necessary – even employing a different headhunter if that’s what it takes to deepen the pool of candidates.   

Unfortunately, this indifference to governmental shoddiness is not limited to Daytona Beach – the problem has made Volusia County a cautionary tale in the eyes of our Central Florida neighbors. 

When is enough, enough?

Mediocrity allows bad things to happen, like placing a city-owned/county funded residential homeless assistance center in the middle of nowhere without any consideration for client transportation beyond forcing them to cross a foggy highway in the predawn hours – no crosswalk, no sidewalk – something that has now resulted in the death of a 30-year-old woman who was working hard in the First Step program to change her life and reunite with her 10-year-old daughter. 

In response to this compound tragedy, Volusia County Vice Chair Billie Wheeler mewled in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Of course from the beginning we knew it would be a logistical problem, but the city of Daytona Beach said they would take care of it.”

It is this excuse-based, finger pointing, “not my yob, man” approach to government that is killing us.  Literally and figuratively. 

How tragic.  How utterly preventable.  

Mediocrity also distracts focus from serious issues and reduces expectations. 

It lowers the bar – and allows our elected and appointed officials to appease us with bluster, gibberish, and tall-talk – rather than taking definitive action to resolve the serious issues we face.   

We get what we accept. 

The time to demand positive change is now.

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Angels & Assholes for January 22, 2021

Hi, kids!

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

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

Angel               Daytona Beach City Commission

My wife Patti and I are longtime devotees of the time-honored traditions of New Orleans Mardi Gras. 

For many years, we have made the annual pilgrimage to The City that Care Forgot to become part of the problem – immersing ourselves in the ribald merriment, music, parades, food, drink, architecture, friends, and electric sense of excitement that pervades New Orleans in the week before the bacchanalia of Mardi Gras Day.

Once you fall in love with New Orleans, its hard to stay away.   

I often say that if you have ever heard the sultry deep voice of a baritone saxophone wafting from Jackson Square, echoing off those ancient walls, the notes floating down Chartres Street on a foggy late night/early morning in the French Quarter, then you understand the love affair we have enjoyed with this special place and time.   

Last year was different. 

In February 2020, the global pandemic was just weeks away from turning New Orleans into Ground Zero for the nation’s first widespread coronavirus outbreak – something many linked to the cheek-to-cheek revelry of Mardi Gras – coupled with a pair of bizarre incidents where two paradegoers were run over and killed by tandem floats during the Krewe of Nyx and Endymion parades, tragedies that cast a pall over all of Carnival.   

What resulted was a lot of finger pointing and political criticism over who allowed Mardi Gras to proceed in the first place. . .  

In the aftermath, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell cancelled all parades for Mardi Gras 2021 citing COVID-19 concerns. 

However, with Carnival Season here, and merchants demanding a chance at their share of the estimated $1 billion the event brings to the region – the City Council has adopted the “Not cancelled, just different” marketing strategy, which welcomes visitors to the Crescent City while adopting rules and suggestions for a safe celebration. 

I like that.    

In my view, striking a compromise which allows residents and visitors to safely enjoy this iconic tradition while giving merchants and vendors a much-needed economic shot in the arm is smart government.

After all, even if the ‘powers that be’ cancel the “official event” out of an abundance of caution – people will still come – like it or not.    

On Wednesday, the Daytona Beach City Commission did the right thing under difficult circumstances when it gave the go-ahead for the 80th Anniversary of the world-famous Bike Week celebration in March.

In an excellent article by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, we learned:

“…city commissioners agreed to issue the permits that allow businesses to temporarily do things outside they normally can’t. But commissioners only agreed to that in exchange for a promise from bars, restaurants and shops to limit their indoor occupancy to 60% during the event that will run from March 5-14.”

As I understand it, those merchants who do not apply for an outside vending permit will be allowed 100% occupancy during the event – and everyone is expected to use cleaning products, masks, hand sanitizers, temperature checks, signage, social distancing, and other common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

That’s fair.   

In an unusual display of leadership, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry abandoned his characteristic mandates and sided with strapped business owners and service workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s economic devastation:

“If we deny the permits then they’re going to be packed inside like sardines,” Henry said.  Getting more people outside keeps them safer, and it also allows businesses to make more money, he said.”

(I could almost see the cartoon lightbulb illuminating over the Mayor’s baldpate as he wrestled with the problem. . .) 

Seriously.  Nice work, Mayor Henry. 

Thanks for doing the right thing for those in your struggling business community who really need the help right now.    

Ultimately, the measure passed commission muster on a 6-1 vote with Granny Ruth Trager casting the lone nay after wringing her hands over whether “…bikers will behave and follow the special safety precautions.”

“This has been a very, very difficult decision for me.  I understand the merchants need to get money for employees, yet I have gotten a bunch of phone calls and emails from residents concerned for their health. This variant going around is even more contagious than last year.”

I appreciate the personal and political pressure, but would Granny Ruth rather the event launch as an ass over tea kettle, anything goes, wide open fun, debauch – with no master plan, rules, or regulations in place to mitigate the threat and manage the crowds that will be descending on the Halifax area whether they have been invited or not? 

In my experience, a well-formulated plan is always better than taking ones hands off the wheel and adopting a “hope for the best” strategy.

Kudos to the Daytona Beach City Commission for having the courage to address the very real needs of struggling businesses and entertainment venues – while encouraging common sense precautions to ensure a safe event. 

Not cancelled.  Simply different.  Good government in action.   

Angel               Volusia County Council   

During the Volusia County Council’s discussions surrounding the purchase of a 36-acre tract between Old Dixie Highway and Interstate 95, something many believe is crucial to preserving what remains of Ormond’s historic “Loop,” Council Chair Jeff Brower said that while taking a walk on the property, he could “…almost smell the history.” 

I don’t think that was “history” he was smelling. . .

It was the foul stench of Plantation Oaks developer Parker Mynchenberg forcing our elected official’s hands in the ongoing fight to preserve our environmentally sensitive lands and shrinking wildlife habitat.

After months of negotiation by the intrepid Ormond Beach environmental activists Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Pilipczak – who obtained more than 63,000 signatures on a petition to “Help Save the Ormond Loop” while pressing the Ormond Beach City Commission to do something, anything, to help save this endangered space – Mynchenberg offered the property to Volusia County for $1,368,000.

The catch?

A “deal” would need to be finalized in just three-days – otherwise, “…he would sign a contract with a homebuilder” at weeks end – paving the way for the clear-cutting and development of the ecologically and archaeologically important parcel. 

The obvious source of funding for the purchase of this critical acreage is the voter-approved Volusia Forever program – but the mad rush imposed by Mynchenberg’s ultimatum caused many to question whether the scramble to identify a funding source violated established criteria and created an unfair double-standard for other projects already in the funding pipeline.  

The deadline rubbed me wrong.

Why?

Because it reeks of looting this important conservation program to fund Volusia County’s pet projects – while other applicants are made to jump through administrative hoops.  

According to an informative report by Mary Helen Moore writing in the News-Journal:

“Pat Northey, a former Volusia County councilwoman who chairs the ECHO Volusia Forever Alliance, said the deal presented to the council on Tuesday was premature.

“We all know and love the Loop,” Northey said. “We would encourage you not to be held hostage by an artificial deadline.”

At the end of the day, Mr. Mynchenberg backed off his extortionate demand (which may well have been little more than a cattle prod to move the issue through the muck and mire of a sloth-like bureaucracy in a timely fashion) and agreed to work with Chairman Brower to give Volusia County a reasonable 90-days to develop a workable funding strategy. 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed. 

A special thanks to Ms. Scheiber and Ms. Pilipczak for their hard work and dedication to the conservation of this incredibly unique scenic byway while protecting the flora, fauna, and old growth forest of the surrounding historic ecosystem. 

And here’s a tip-‘o-the-cap to the Volusia County Council for keeping an open mind and demonstrating the nimbleness to act on a time sensitive opportunity to preserve this important part of our local heritage for generations to come – while respecting established policies and protocols that ensure ECHO and Forever funds are allocated in a fair and equitable way. 

Asshole           Ormond Beach City Commission

Now, let’s look at the other side of the Plantation Oaks issue:

My fervent hope is that my long-suffering neighbors up here in God’s County (seriously, I heard the Big Guy has a place out in Talaquah) will eventually have a belly full of this rudderless ship of fools we repeatedly elect to lord over us on the Ormond Beach City Commission.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, our elected dullards approved the rezoning of the Plantation Oaks subdivision – and removed the 55-and-over age restriction which would have limited an increase in traffic on The Loop – an endangered National Scenic Byway.

Originally permitted some two-decades ago, the subdivision is being built literally on fringe of the historically significant stretch of Old Dixie Highway. 

The subdivision was annexed into the City of Ormond Beach in 2019.

You may remember back in December when Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington penned some gibberish in the Ormond Beach Observer openly shitting on the efforts of Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Pilipczak to protect the Loop – then refused to consider the allocation of municipal funds for the purchase of the protective buffer that is now being considered by Volusia County.  

In yet another slap in the face to the 63,000 people who signed the Save the Loop petition, on Tuesday, the Ormond Beach City Commission hemmed and hawed when Scheiber and Pilipczak asked that a simple letter of support be sent to Volusia County as they wrangle with the funding issue. 

“There are 150 scenic American byways in the United States, and we’re incredibly fortunate to have one in our city,” Scheiber said. “Moving forward, it would benefit all of the City of Ormond Beach, if (the city) would support the project.”

Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to review a “draft” of the letter of support at their first meeting in February.

My God.

In my view, Scheiber and Pilipczak did exactly what Mayor Partington suggested and approached Volusia County to fund the conservation of this sensitive property – then our elected municipal officials drag their heels when asked for a letter of support?

What gives?

As a resident of Ormond Beach, what I took personal exception to was Mayor Partington’s blatant misrepresentations to citizens and fellow commissioners when he stated in a November 2020 email that the cost to purchase the protective 36-acre tract at Plantation Oaks would be “$11 to $16 million” – which, at best, was little more than a wild-assed guess, and, at worst, a damnable lie – one that I’m sure had a chilling effect on many residents.

In truth, Mr. Mynchenberg’s asking price is just over $1.3 million dollars. . .

Who gets away with this shit?

In my view, Mayor Partington’s fairytales and canards might play to the mendacious instincts of his “colleagues” on the dais of power – and they may fool some of the people, some of the time – but these cumulative dishonesties will ultimately result in an irreversible breakdown in the public’s trust of their local government. 

That’s dangerous to the stability of our community. 

In 2019, Ormond voters rejected the notion of four-year terms – and supported term limits 62% to 38%. 

Unfortunately, this much needed change was not instituted because the question was conveniently dependent on the four-year terms. . . 

Perhaps it is time Ormond Beach taxpayers – especially those committed to protecting what is left of our greenspace and wildlife habitats – consider resurrecting the idea of term limits?

In my view, it is well past time to move some of this compromised dead wood off the dais of power and onto that fetid ash heap where political grifters and elected developers’ shills go when their sham is exposed.  

Angel              NBA Official Eric Lewis

From the Barker’s View Sports Desk and Bethune-Cookman Athletics:

“Bethune-Cookman University alum Eric Lewis officiated his 1,000th NBA regular season game Tuesday night in Salt Lake City as the Jazz defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 118-102.

Lewis would have reached the milestone over the weekend in Phoenix, but the Suns’ games with the Indiana Pacers were cancelled due to Covid-19.

The Daytona Beach native is coming off a 2019-20 season that saw him work two games of the Los Angeles Lakers-Miami Heat NBA Finals, his second straight Finals assignment. It capped off a lengthy stay in the NBA’s “bubble,” officiating the conclusion of the regular season and playoffs, most notably the Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets as well as games in the Boston Celtics-Heat and Lakers-Nuggets matchups in both Conference Finals.

During the regular season, Lewis was assigned the NBA All-Star Game in Chicago after it underwent a format change. It was his call of a Kyle Lowry foul that sent Anthony Davis to the free throw line for the game-winning point in Team LeBron’s 157-155 victory over Team Giannis.

His wife, Vanessa, is the Women’s Head Basketball Coach at Bethune-Cookman and has led the Lady Wildcats to four Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference regular season championships and a 2019 NCAA Tournament appearance.”

Congratulations Mr. Lewis on your stellar career – and all best wishes for continued success in the rarified air of the National Basketball Association! 

Angel               Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company

Periodically, well-meaning people ask if I accept advertising on this blogsite. 

I don’t.

The fact is these screeds are so hyperpolitical – one man’s critical views on the myriad civic, social, and economic issues we collectively face – that I believe hawking goods and services would both cheapen the message and limit content so as not to damage an associated brand.   

Besides, my writing style is so incoherent that any given screed will find half my readership embracing it – the other half demanding I be thrown in stocks outside the Thomas C. Kelly administration building and given the Falanga treatment. . .  

Besides, any marketing campaign I embraced would be absurd:

“Jock itch?  Chafing?  Rash?  When Barker isn’t busy ripping your city council a new bunghole over a tax increase, he’s using Cruex powder to fight that funky fungus. . .” 

See my point?

The advantage is that when I find a unique local product that stands above the rest, it gives me the freedom to express my unsolicited admiration and offer a good suggestion to BV readers without any sense of favoritism or conflict.

That happened this week when I sampled a unique local beverage. 

Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company was founded in 2015 in Southeast Volusia by two brothers, Bryon and Kyle White, along with former mentor-turned-business-partner, Mark Steele.

This delightful tea comes from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the Yaupon Holly tree found only in the Southeast United States from Texas to Florida, and north through Virginia, and is the only naturally caffeinated plant species that grows in the United States and most of North America.

Yaupon Brothers trees are grown in certified organic “forest farms” right here in Volusia County, where consumption of the leaf began at least 8,000 years ago.

Interestingly, the indigenous Timucua people of Florida called Yaupon Cassina, and believed that it purified the mind and body of those who drank it. The leaf’s natural caffeine and powerful antioxidants also gave Timucua warriors strength and energy before the hunt and battle.

The leaves were roasted, infused in boiling water, and drank hot from elaborately carved whelk shells.

This week, I purchased a box of Yaupon Brothers “American Green” tea – which most closely represents how indigenous tribes would have taken it thousands of years ago.

The product arrived in an attractive and environmentally friendly “eco-tube” containing 16 natural fiber sachets.   

Once prepared, I found the tea to be a naturally sweet organic brew with a rich, grassy fragrance that kept me wanting more.

(On a recent chilly evening I tried it in a Hot Toddy with good bourbon, fine local honey, and fresh lemon – it was superb – and I am told using their Lavender Coconut blend with Palmetto honey and an orange wheel is even better.)   

The complete lack of bitterness and mild nature of Yaupon means you cannot over-steep it – allowing three cups from one sachet by just adding more hot water.   

After I tried Yaupon Brothers, I reached out to Bryon White – a guy who genuinely cares about creating clean and sustainable agriculture jobs while protecting our fragile ecosystem – to complement him on this outstanding local product.

In addition, I admire the fact Yaupon Brothers has a deep social conscience and seeks to do good for others here in Volusia and beyond.

For instance, out of respect for the origins of their tea, Yaupon Brothers donates 5% of every sale to the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NāTIFS) which promotes education and reclamation of indigenous foodways while addressing the economic and health crises affecting Native communities. 

Each Tuesday until their new factory and shop is finished, Yaupon Brothers will be hosting “Tea Tuesday” at 504 Pullman Road in Edgewater from 8am to 11am.

In addition to their full line of natural teas, Yaupon Brothers has partnered with other area creatives to offer pastries from Dutch Oven Bread Company and coffee from Moose Dog Coffee Company. 

If you would like to try this great local product and support sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship in Volusia County, Yaupon Brothers has graciously extended a generous 15% discount using the code BARKERSVIEW when ordering from their informative website at www.yauponbrothers.com

“American roots.  A different leaf.  A better tea.”

Good stuff.

Quote of the Week

“What has frustrated us is the efforts we have expended just trying to find out how to get positively on a list that we can rely on to get the shot. We drove up to that mess that was staged in Daytona Beach; it took us longer to get turned around and out of there than it took to drive there. No shot. A friend and his wife got it by staying in a cold car all night with a couple of thousand others.

Today I logged on for the event in DeLand at exactly 9 a.m. and managed to order two tickets through the Eventbrite site and waited 29 minutes until the program told me it was sold out.

I don’t mind telling you that I am a bit frustrated. Why can’t a registry be set up people like me can sign in and be assured that we will in fact be contacted and told where and when we will get the vaccine?

I grew up in a time when polio was rampant in this country. When the vaccine was discovered, the whole town of Waycross, Georgia was organized and immunized – with not a computer in sight. Surely we can do better.”

–84-year-old John B. Henderson, Daytona Beach Shores, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Organize Vaccines,” Saturday, January 16, 2021

And Another Thing!

I’m not an emotional guy. 

Maybe it’s the effects of aging – or the fact my three-decades in policing burned away that portion of my cerebral cortex that governs “feelings” – but there is little in my life that stirs the passionate, almost ungovernable emotions of my youth.

But this week, a special person did a kindness for my family that moved me to tears. 

As loyal readers of this blogsite know, on Wednesday, I tried (and failed miserably) to secure a spot for my 86-year-old mom in the over-the-horizon queue to receive a coveted COVID-19 vaccination. 

Beginning before dawn, my wife and I joined friends and family in a frustrating attempt to get one old lady a chance at life outside lockdown by collectively navigating both the Publix Coronavirus registration process – then Volusia County’s weird concert ticketing program-turned-inoculation appointment grab bag. 

It didn’t work out for us. 

In anger, I took to this site and publicly decried the five-alarm foul-up that is Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout – an unmitigated shit show – a first come/first serve online competition for scarce “appointments” that continues to put our most vulnerable residents at risk.

My heart sank further when I learned that a friend called the Volusia County Citizen Information Center 143 times via his cellphone – and 143 times by landline – before finally getting through and securing an appointment. 

That’s a cumulative 286 calls before receiving a chance at this potentially lifesaving vaccine. . .

Then, what can only be described as a heaven-sent miracle happened that left me stunned.    

Just when my family was planning our next strategy for how we might cover all bases and try for another appointment in this godforsaken “system,” a loyal member of the Barker’s View Tribe – the intrepid civic activist Mary Synk – graciously reached out to offer a slot she secured to my mother for Monday’s vaccination event at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. 

Praise be.

I am amazed by Mary’s selflessness and sincere concern for my mom – and I want her to know how much my family appreciates this incredibly generous act of human kindness.

We are thankful beyond measure.

As firm believers in the karmic concept of “Pay it Forward,” my family and I will repay Mary’s compassionate deed to others when and where we can – passing the gift. . .    

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

An Exercise in Futility

As of 6:49am on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, I had been “in the queue” to reserve a vaccination for my 86-year-old mother on the Publix Coronavirus website for nearly one hour.

At 7:33am, the screen went blank and the ominous message “An error (500 Internal Server Error) has occurred in response to this request,” which ended my fruitless quest to protect my mom from a potential death sentence – by 7:49am, the site returned with a message that all available appointments had been claimed. . .     

Bullshit.

Two-hours later I jumped on the opportunity to try my luck on Volusia County’s online booking platform for a chance at getting her an appointment at any of the three events scheduled at the Fairgrounds later this week.

With family and friends all trying desperately to give one old lady a fighting chance – my wife was disconnected from the Volusia County Citizen Information Center line – while a friend and I waited in vain to register for one remaining appointment.

Ultimately, after waiting over 30-minutes – the system kicked both of us out with a message that all appointments for the three-day DeLand event were full. . .in minutes

Oh, the oxymoronic Volusia County “Citizen Information Center?”  Still a monotonous busy signal. . . 

But it is comforting to know that Volusia County Emergency Management “empathizes with my concerns.”

Stressful.  Frustrating.  And, ultimately, futile. 

And the grim scavenger hunt continues. . . 

It’s all a giant crapshoot – a hopeless exercise – an over-the-horizon logjam of the elderly, sick, and infirm, vulnerable people of all races, colors, and creeds who have been stepped over by cowardly assholes on all sides of the political spectrum, craven politicians and well-connected Big Shots who have waltzed to the front of the line, abusing the privilege of their public positions to receive precious doses in some cockamamie scheme to “encourage others” to get in this endless queue of the unfortunate masses with no political clout.

And all anyone in a position to influence these things can do is feel sorry for themselves and complain about the ineptitude of the next level of bureaucracy above them. . .  

Sickening.  Literally.     

You see, my mom – she doesn’t know anyone important. 

She has no political influence or preferred status (beyond being in the very category of people the CDC placed first on the eligibility list as confirmed by Governor Ron DeSantis’ toothless executive order) and she does not want any special favors – or some bureaucrat’s goddamned empathy. . .   

Like so many other elderly Floridians, my mom simply wants a legitimate opportunity to obtain an appointment – a more permanent reservation – perhaps one that places her on a larger list beyond fighting desperately for a one-hour timeslot on registration systems that continue to crash like clockwork.  

And she wants a legitimate distribution system that stops “medical tourism” – where tourists (even some from outside the United States) descend upon our state solely for the purpose of receiving a vaccination – a fair and legitimate process where players like AdventHealth stop using the federally supplied vaccine as a cheap marketing strategy for their “Medical Group,” and tin-pot politicians and incompetent bureaucrats stop patting themselves on the back for the “great job” they’re doing, etc., etc.

She wants a chance at life beyond lockdown.

What is happening in the State of Florida is a disgusting example of government ineptitude on parade.

To add insult, The Daytona Beach News-Journal glommed onto an oh-so-pompous op/ed from the Palm Beach Post’s painfully obvious column entitled, “Florida is botching the vaccine rollout.”  

No shit.  Is there anyone from Pensacola to the Planet Pluto who doesn’t know that?   

So why in the hell don’t those of you who buy printer’s ink by the barrel do something about it? 

Complaining and pointing fingers is my job. Dammit. 

I don’t need to pay Gannett, or some other massive media conglomerate, to commiserate with me – I need them to get off their ass, stop fanning the political flames, and launch an independent investigation into the who, what, when, and why of how this rollout of the vaccine left the tracks. 

Ferreting out threats to our collective safety is the fundamental job of an investigative journalist (if Gannett still has any on their ever-shrinking payroll) and, in my view, protecting the public welfare is the essential role of the media in a free and open society.

This sham cannot continue. 

We can all agree, the politicization of the most important mass vaccination in the history of mankind is an abomination – something that can no longer be left to those jacklegs at the Florida Department of Health – an agency that should be immediately disbanded as a clear and continuing threat to the public’s health and welfare. 

Volusia County – you suck at your job of protecting vulnerable residents.

State of Florida – you’re worse. 

Now, get your heads out of your ass and develop a system that allows permanent advanced registrations and stop this frustrating scramble for first come/first served luck-of-the-draw “appointments.”

Do it now.  

If I sound pissed-off – that’s because I am.

And you should be too.   

Respect Your Elders

I realize that to the ‘woke’ generation, the concept of respecting and honoring those who have come before is an outdated sentiment that somehow encourages unconditional compliance to the “old ways.”

It doesn’t. But that never stops young and aggressive half-baked climbers intent on clawing their way to the top from ignoring the old maxim of leadership – “You don’t know what you don’t know” – which always leads to unintended consequences.

That’s part of why the Volusia Democratic Party continues to implode in spectacular fashion.

As I have said before, the sordid details of this internecine warfare exemplify all the reasons I exchanged partisan politics for the autonomy and freedom of thought of a no party affiliate – especially now that the fringe elements of both parties have bashed their way into the wheelhouse.

During my professional life, I had the pleasure of serving as the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Association representative to the Volusia Substance Abuse Policy Advisory Board, developing recommendations to the County Council on the allocation of federal grant funds to local non-profits and service organizations.

It was during my appointment to the board that I first came to know the venerated former Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack.

I found Ms. Cusack to be incredibly well-informed on the issues – someone with a unique combination of institutional knowledge, life experience, and political practicality – who always brought an interesting perspective and quiet confidence to the table. 

When she spoke, Ms. Cusack commanded any rooms attention. 

Regardless of party association, Ms. Cusack is universally respected in Volusia County and beyond. 

From her courage in participating in lunch counter demonstrations during the Civil Rights era – to her elected service in the Florida House of Representatives and Volusia County Council – she is a proven uniter who has worked hard to improve the quality of life for all residents. 

On Sunday, a disturbing article by Mark Harper in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Former Democrat chair challenges election loss,” detailed an objection by the former leadership of the Volusia Democratic Party to the mysterious rise to prominence of 29-year-old political newcomer, Richard Thripp, following a controversial intraparty election last month. 

According to the report, former Chair Jewel Dickson was joined by long-time Democratic leaders Joyce Cusack and Joan Lane in submitting a compelling appeal to state party officials of what some are calling Thripp’s “bloodless coup” of the VDP. 

Normally, I would simply dismiss this intramural bruhaha for what it is – a power grab by an aggressive young regime, hungry for status and change, resulting in local party politics reflecting the abject dysfunction currently destroying both of our major political parties and hampering substantial progress at all levels of government.

However, given my personal admiration for Ms. Cusack, this ongoing havoc caught my attention.

In their challenge, the three former leaders suggest Thripp “…wrongfully dismissed the ballots of 13 committee members in declaring Valerie Duhl winner of the state committeewoman race. Counting those votes would leave Duhl tied with Susanne Raines, who has filed a separate objection.”

(Find my thoughts on the Duhl/Raines feud here: https://tinyurl.com/y4vyac46 )

In addition, the appeal argues that 62 precinct committee members were improperly allowed to vote, claiming that the candidate oath forms they were required to file had been “notarized illegally.”

As deftly stated in Mr. Harper’s article, Thripp’s machinations set up the local Democrat’s own #StopTheSteal moment. . . 

Now, Dickson, Cusack and Lane are asking the Florida Democratic Party’s “Judicial Council” to either retabulate the vote excluding the disputed ballots or hold a second election.

In keeping with Barker’s Number 1 Rule of Politics – which says all politicians, once they have ascended to a position of power, will ultimately become everything they hated when entering the ring – it appears Richard Thripp is emerging as an empire building tin-pot dictator with a “my way or the highway” management style who is shrugging off growing suspicion that the VDP election was unfairly manipulated. 

In the News-Journal report, Mr. Thripp is quoted, “I am going to refrain from commenting on the (appeal). I will say that it has been disappointing — the behavior of the prior Democratic party leadership.”

In my view, given the circumstances, Mr. Thripp’s lecture on behavior is rich. 

The matter is now in the hands of top Florida Democratic Party attorney Mark Herron – in my view, someone who knows the ropes when it comes to building an empire – and gaming an election.    

Look, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do hold firm to the concept of respecting the rights and contributions of those who paved the way for a new generation – with leaders ascending the ranks based upon one’s character and experience – rather than their ability to organize a cheap coup d’état.   

That destroys organizational continuity, because no one – friend of foe – ever trusts the usurpers who seize power through questionable means.   

In my view, perhaps its time for VDP Chair Richard Thripp to do the right thing and call for a new internal election which will put aside the challenges, get the internal squabbles of the local Democratic party apparatus off the front page of the newspaper, and show the respect and standing due Ms. Cusack and the others upon whose shoulders he stands.   

In my view, on the day we celebrate the birthday and extraordinary work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a day of national service and community volunteerism – all citizens should thank courageous servant/leaders like Joyce Cusack for her contributions to the betterment of our state and community. 

And reflect on how far we have come – and how far we still must go – as we honor our nation’s foundational principle that all human beings are created equal and endowed by his or her Creator with the fundamental and inalienable right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

______________________________

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

We’ll be talking local issues and taking your calls at 386-523-1380. 

Please find us at 1380am “The Cat” – or online at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).

It’s the fastest two hours in radio!

Angels & Assholes for January 15, 2021

 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               Florida Department of Emergency Management and Florida National Guard

Last week I was exposed to COVID-19. 

You don’t need to be a hypochondriac like me to understand how unsettling that news can be. 

While most who become infected with the virus experience mild to moderate symptoms the grim statistics prove others are not so fortunate, and I always consider the worst-case scenario. . .

To be on the safe side, my wife and I self-isolated ourselves – and, at the suggestion of my long-suffering medicine man – Dr. Sandford Kinne – we waited the median incubation period, then went to the New Smyrna Beach City Gym where the Florida Department of Emergency Management and Florida National Guard have established a testing facility. 

Although identification is not required, as suggested, we preregistered for the testing online and received a scan code in advance – which allows you to move to a shorter line and expedite the process.

After a wait of less than 10-minutes, we were welcomed inside – self-administered a painless nasal swab – and conveniently received our results by text message in approximately 20-minutes.

Fortunately, both of us tested negative, and while we will continue to quarantine for a few more days per CDC guidelines, the fact the virus was not detected is a big relief.

The testing process was done with great precision – and the young soldiers, nurses, and staff could not have been more accommodating or kind – immediately easing our natural apprehension with their courtesy and efficiency. 

Impressive.

I sincerely appreciate the professionalism of the Florida Department of Emergency Management and the Florida National Guard who are on the frontline in the fight to eradicate this scourge. 

If you are considering a COVID-19 test, please go to https://tinyurl.com/y35xpjd3 and follow the prompts for “walk-ins/appointments”. 

Testing is available 8:00am to 4:00pm daily at 1000 Live Oak Street, New Smyrna Beach.

Angel               Founding Director Mark Geallis, Homeless2HOME

Mark Geallis is a man of vision. 

What sold me was when he had the foresight to run like a scalded dog from that debacle known as First Step Shelter – a move that proved Mr. Geallis is a man of high moral character – someone who embraces the ideals of honesty, fairness, and human compassion.

While others in a position of public trust spent millions of tax dollars on a structure that bears no resemblance to the low barrier homeless shelter that we were promised, Mr. Geallis held firm to his values and maintained his professional integrity at great personal cost.  

He is also a man of action.

Using the tiny home village concept, Mr. Geallis is working hard to fill the “most critical missing part” of overcoming homelessness by establishing a community of 150 small houses, each no larger than 400 square feet, a true micro village that will accommodate the housing needs of limited income elderly persons, the disabled, and the homeless.

According to the Homeless2HOME website, “Our business model is to be 100% funded by donors, foundations and the revenue generated onsite by residents and micro businesses.”

“We will not pursue typical government grant funding which restricts innovative programs like ours. What we do want from government is cooperation in needed zoning approvals and consideration for donated land only.”

This powerful vision for a holistic community is to allow residents to live a “simple but dignified life.” 

While bumptious politicians squawk ad nauseam about the need for “affordable housing” – after ignoring the problem for decades – Mr. Geallis has developed a viable option which provides those less fortunate with a real alternative to the mean streets.  

In my view, the concept of a privately funded and operated organization, free from the bureaucratic meddling and lethargy that often accompanies government grants, is the key to bridging the gap between homelessness and self-sufficiency.

According to reports, Mr. Geallis is using the successful Community First! Village concept, a 51-acre master planned tiny home community in Austin, Texas, that “…provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness.”  

Much remains to be done as Mr. Geallis works to see his extraordinary vision become a reality.     

To determine how you can help, please visit the project’s website at www.homeless2HOME.org for more details.

Angel              Ruben Colon and the Volusia County School Board  

INERTIA:  “… is the resistance of any physical object or entity, to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion.  The resistance to change is proportional to an object’s mass.  The greater the mass the more energy it takes to effect a change in direction or speed.  This principle applies to objects as well as to cultures and governments.”

Look, I don’t know much about the administration of a vast public school district with a budget rapidly approaching one-billion-dollars – but like turning a supertanker at sea – it takes advanced planning and a deft hand, always considering the unintended consequences of changes large and small.  

It is a big undertaking with a lot of moving parts – an unwieldy taxing authority with sloth-like dexterity and a governing board that often seems content to take the word of self-serving insiders in the Ivory Tower of Power over the righteous protestations of parents, teachers, and staff. 

And when changes are undertaken and big ideas put forward without due consideration for the concerns of those who pay the bills, the pushback should not be ignored.       

To get a better understanding of the issues facing our school district, I read, talk with people who are “in the know”, listen to parents and teachers, maintain a dialog with insiders who have a chip in the game and form opinions based upon my own experience, perceptions, and splenetic instincts.   

My criticisms of this behemoth bureaucracy are frequently attacked by a few pretentious gadflies – self-appointed “experts” who believe they are privy to the district’s every secret and mystery because they watch every carefully choreographed school board meeting with religious intensity.    

Whatever. 

The one thing I do know something about is the administration and operation of a police department – because I spent the bulk of my adult life doing exactly that.   

Recently, many were surprised to learn that district administrators have developed a crude plan to create – “The Volusia County School District Police Department” – an apparent solution in search of a problem.    

But why?

One social media expert explained that the establishment of a district police department was the brainchild of Superintendent Dr. Scott Fritz – who, unfortunately, has been on medical leave for months.

Others told me it was to give District Security Director Michelle Newman (who apparently plans to self-levitate to the role of Chief of Police should the plan come to fruition) access to certain restricted databases which are available to sworn officers with authorization for legitimate law enforcement purposes. 

Not many people I have spoken with like this guessing game very much. 

In keeping with the District’s insular culture, the “plan” is sorely lacking in specifics – but I can assure you of one thing:

Creating, maintaining, and sustaining a law enforcement agency is going to be incredibly expensive. . .

Don’t take my word for it.

According to Sheriff Michael Chitwood, the cost of hiring, training, and equipping a single law enforcement officer is approximately $120,000 – yet senior district administrators would have us believe “additional costs would be minimal.”

“There will be costs but it will be minimal in comparison to agencies who truly start a new police agency,” Newman said.

But what about the fine print?

This half-baked, poorly planned idea was put on the Volusia County School Board’s agenda on Tuesday as a “Non-Ministerial/Ceremonial Resolution” – complete with the recommendation of Interim Superintendent Carmen Balgobin.

Perhaps more disturbing, the resolution was brought forward with no background information, budget impact statement, proposed policies, operational procedures, or a thousand other administrative, operational, and high liability considerations that every law enforcement executive thinks about every hour of every day.  

Given the fact the Volusia County School Board has repeatedly cried the “Poormouth Blues” – looting reserve funds to make the frayed ends meet – and fighting tooth-and-nail any reasonable attempt by Volusia United Educators to seek a living wage for teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff – along with openly ignoring internal warnings of a looming financial crisis – why would they even consider this ludicrous suggestion?

Just when it appeared this goofy ‘resolution’ would be shot through the grease at this week’s meeting of the Volusia County School Board – board member Ruben Colon boldly stepped forward in the public interest to table the matter until additional information and discussion could be had.

His colleagues unanimously agreed.   

That was the right call. 

While I may not agree with Mr. Colon on every decision – he is a man of great integrity, who genuinely cares about the needs of students, teachers, and staff – a committed elected official who is quick to respond to tough questions and willing to discuss the issues in an open and transparent way.

You can look for Mr. Colon to drive a greater discussion of this issue in coming weeks.

I respect that.

In my view, creating “The Volusia County School District Police Department” out of whole cloth simply to obtain access to state and national criminal information databases is a massive overreach – especially considering that all current School Resource Officers are already authorized to obtain that information – literally at the stroke of a computer key.

Kudos to Ruben Colon and the members of the Volusia County School Board for taking the logical step of postponing this incredibly expensive proposition until the myriad details can be fleshed out in the light of day.

That’s what fiscal responsibility and conscientious leadership looks like. 

Angel               Florida Department of Transportation   

According to an informative article by Jim Abbott reporting in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, this week the Florida Department of Transportation set about dismantling the unpermitted construction of a controversial “valet parking lane” on Oakridge Boulevard.

As you may recall, last fall, Protogroup – the mysterious Russian developer constructing the on-again/off-again “$192 million” Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums – began work on a 50-foot westbound “contra-lane” on a one-way section of Oakridge Boulevard near the twin-tower’s elevated parking garage on the westside of North Atlantic Avenue. 

One problem: The FDOT permit authorizing the valet lane expired way back in July 2018 and was never renewed.

At that time, civic activist Paul Zimmerman put into words the outrage many were feeling in a letter to Daytona Beach and Volusia County officials:

“Is there any governmental body or individual in either Daytona Beach or Volusia County that is going to rein in this developer who has repeatedly violated agreements and time frames?”

“Allowing a developer to continually ignore agreements invites future difficulties. Please someone stand up and call this developer to account.”

Fortunately, someone did just that.

In early October, the Florida Department of Transportation issued a cease-and-desist order giving Protogroup 21-days to apply for a new permit – or face having the construction removed at the developer’s expense.

FDOT meant what it said.

It is refreshing to see a state regulatory agency stand by its word – and take definitive action to address the concerns of residents who saw this wrong way valet lane as a clear and present danger – while sending a message to others who dismiss the rules as a mere hindrance to their vision of “progress.” 

Thanks, FDOT!

Quote of the Week

“Duly elected officials’ actions of today matter, regardless of our previous personal or personal accomplishments. It’s not who we are; it is why we do and/or what we say about current controversial challenges before us. And all our public’s opinions deserve to be considered, weighed, and accounted, whether perceived as fair or unfair.”

–Linda Cuthbert, Chair of the Volusia County School Board, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Comes with the territory,” Tuesday, January 12, 2021

And Another Thing!

I am fond of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s business editor, Clayton Park. 

He’s a good egg – meticulous in his research and dedicated to winnowing the facts. 

In addition to being one hell of a journalist, Mr. Park tries hard to bring a balanced approach to business reporting by seeking differing opinions and constructing a multifaceted view of things – a difficult feat in our artificial “boom and bust” local economy. 

However, this week I took exception to the News-Journal’s description of a section of our beach in the article, “Margaritaville to open its own beach club.”

In his introductory statement, Mr. Park said, “Paradise” is set to open its own private beach at the end of this month.”

I damn sure hope that was a typographical error. . .

In my view, it is one thing for Minto Communities – the Canadian developer of that faux beach community which is rapidly paving over our aquifer recharge area west of I-95 – to use a contrived escapist lifestyle made popular by the carefully crafted “beach bum” image of Jimmy Buffett to sell cracker boxes to middle-aged “Parrotheads.” 

It is quite another to insinuate that the very strand of beach I grew up on is now set aside for the exclusive use of Latitude Margaritaville residents.

It isn’t. 

Make no mistake, even those “traffic free” areas of our beach that have been given away as a cheap spiff for speculative developers are still open and available for use by anyone willing to walk to them – especially Volusia County taxpayers who fund what passes for the management and upkeep of our most precious natural amenity.

What Margaritavillagers have is an exclusive “beach club” in Ormond-by-the-sea – something locals have watched come out of the dunes since it broke ground in the summer of 2019. 

In my view, the “…tropical, coastal-style beach club” complete with “…an open-air pavilion with covered seating, cabanas, a resort-style heated swimming pool, and a catering bar for special events,” represents everything I abhor – artificial, phony, contrived, Disneyesque – a counterfeit version of “paradise” fabricated by some marketing and image group.

But it “looks” the part – and it sells houses.

At the end of the day, that is all that really matters. . .

According to the News-Journal’s report, it is 11-miles from the 55-and-over “active adult” community on LPGA Boulevard to the thatched roof entrance to “paradise” – which is marked by a gaudy sign announcing, “Private Beach Club – No Public Access.”

How neighborly.

How welcoming to long-suffering locals who are expected to tolerate the quality-of-life impacts of this massive development in silence – move over, shut-up, keep out, submit your question in writing. . .  

Whatever.

To quote an old Buffett tune:

I don’t want to live on that kind of island

No, I don’t want to swim in a roped off sea

Too much for me, too much for me

I’ve got to be where the wind and the water are free. . .

Amen.

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

A Second Look at a Bad Idea

As a proud graduate of the FBI National Academy, I quietly rolled my eyes when former Volusia County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Michelle Newman was anointed Director of Safety and Security at Volusia County Schools. 

In my view, Ms. Newman is infinitely qualified for the role – two master’s degrees, rose to the level of Captain at VCSO (before being demoted to lieutenant in 2012), yada, yada, yada – she is head and shoulders above the farcical ruse that posed as “school security” before her appointment, but Director Newman is most decidedly not an FBI National Academy graduate – and it is not because she wasn’t given the opportunity to earn that coveted credential.

That wasn’t an issue before – but it is now – and the circumstances should not be brushed aside as the School Board takes steps to create its own police department. 

It may be ancient history – but it is history nonetheless.

Normally, one’s failure to complete the most prestigious law enforcement leadership training program in the world due to conduct violations would be an insurmountable hurdle for any police executive wishing to advance their career. 

But not at Volusia County Schools.

Here, senior administrators apparently ignore the results of a background investigation (if there was one) – then propose spending scarce public funds to stand-up a law enforcement agency from scratch – simply to allow Ms. Newman “direct access to computer-aided dispatch communications to run background checks and license plates to assist in school-based investigations.”

Oh, did I mention it will also allow Ms. Newman “direct access” to special risk benefits and the gravitas of calling herself “Chief of Police”?

My God. . .

According to Sheriff Michael Chitwood, the cost of hiring, training, and equipping a single law enforcement officer is approximately $120,000 – yet those in the Ivory Tower of Power at Volusia County District Schools (who know exactly squat about the requirements for starting and maintaining a police department) would have us believe “additional costs would be minimal.”

“There will be costs but it will be minimal in comparison to agencies who truly start a new police agency,” Newman said.

Specifics? Fuggitaboutit. . .

My ass.

In typical fashion, this half-baked, poorly planned idea was put before the Volusia County School Board as a “Non-Ministerial/Ceremonial Resolution” without any announcement or discussion – with the preconceived recommendation of Interim Superintendent Carmen Balgobin.

Perhaps more disturbing, the resolution was brought forward with no background information, budget impact statement, proposed policies, operational procedures, protocols, job descriptions and classifications, equipment needs, professional standards, use of force considerations, organizational matrix, written directives, fiscal procedures, rules governing conduct and discipline, recruitment and retention strategies, selection and training requirements, weapons and firearms policies, investigative standards, juvenile arrests and detention protocols, criminal intelligence limitations, complaint processing, prisoner transport, holding area security, interviews and interrogations, communications needs and policies, records retention, the secure maintenance of evidence and property (including narcotics, weapons and currency), body armor requirements, body-worn camera policies and video retention, technology requirements, internal audit schedule, supervisory and command protocols, use of confidential informants, undercover operations, vehicle operations policies, etc., etc., etc.

And a thousand other administrative, operational, and high liability considerations that every law enforcement executive thinks about every hour of every day.   

Given the fact the Volusia County School Board has repeatedly cried the “Poormouth Blues” – looting reserve funds to make the frayed ends meet – and fighting tooth-and-nail any reasonable attempt by Volusia United Educators to seek a living wage for teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff – along with openly ignoring internal warnings of a looming financial crisis – why would they even consider this ludicrous suggestion?

Just when it appeared this goofy ‘resolution’ would be shot through the grease at Tuesday’s meeting of the Volusia County School Board – member Ruben Colon boldly stepped forward in the public interest to table the matter until additional information and discussion could be had at a workshop. 

While I may not agree with Mr. Colon on every decision – he is a man of great integrity, who genuinely cares about the needs of students, teachers, and staff – a committed elected official who is quick to respond to questions and willing to discuss the issues in an open and transparent way. 

I respect that.

In my view, creating “The Volusia County School District Police Department” out of whole cloth simply to obtain access to state and national criminal information databases is a massive overreaction – especially considering that all current School Resource Officers are already authorized to obtain that information – literally at the stroke of a computer key. 

Kudos to Ruben Colon and the members of the Volusia County School Board for having the presence of mind to see this ill-informed sham for what it is – and taking the logical step of postponing this incredibly expensive proposition until the myriad details can be fleshed out in the light of day.

That’s what fiscal responsibility and conscientious leadership looks like.    

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

A new year and a fresh start

When it comes to Volusia County politics, I rarely get my hopes up.

While the faces on the dais change, the ‘system’ remains, and – for good or ill – the limitations of the charter dovetail precisely with the formal restrictions of the council/manager form of government to make it impossible for any one councilmember to effect even modest change.

As a result, our elected officials are largely steered by “staff” – career bureaucrats who invariably limit options by bringing narrowly defined “recommendations” that leave few alternatives – or protected by do-nothing committees, so narrowly defined, constructed, and neutered that they serve as little more than political packing peanuts that insulate the council from criticism.    

As a result, much of the agenda is a foregone conclusion. 

That’s not going to change. 

But last week felt different. 

On Thursday, it was difficult not to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance that began the first Volusia County Council meeting of the new year as returning and newly elected council members participated in the traditional swearing-in ceremony that marks the transfer of power.

A formal demarcation, an exciting new beginning.

A cause for hope.

The opening remarks given by Chairman Jeff Brower and incoming District 3 Councilman Danny Robins were nothing short of inspirational, reaffirming their personal commitment to the protections and provisions of the United States Constitution, returning county government to the people, a message of unity set amidst a backdrop of national political and social divide.   

Watching from the comfort of Barker’s View HQ, I noticed that during the first public participation opportunity before the new council, there was a welcoming lightness in the chamber – and I was impressed when Chairman Brower thanked each citizen who addressed the body – as others in the gallery applauded the contributions of their fellow citizens.    

Unfortunately, it did not take long for old ways and simmering animosities to bleed through the fresh coat of optimism that Chairman Brower had so carefully applied. 

For instance, when it came time to select the vice-chair – Councilwoman Heather Post rightfully nominated Barbara Girtman – while former vice-chair Fred Lowry put Billie Wheeler forward – citing her seniority and experience. 

I have said it before, Councilwoman Girtman is clearly the intellectual superior and voice of reason, an incredibly bright servant/leader who understands the role of honor, integrity, and transparency in preserving the public trust, while always maintaining an open mind and staying above the fray.

Regrettably, Billie Wheeler used her nomination to spew the first blatant falsehood of the new council when she lied blatantly and with confidence: “I’ve been absolutely fair on all sides.”

Bullshit.

Remember way back in 2019 when Councilwoman Post qualified to run for a leadership role in the Florida Association of Counties against Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine?

I do.

It would have been the first time in the 90-year history of the Association that a sitting Volusia County representative had been a candidate for the organizations Executive Board.

It was symbolic, but important – so much so that then Chairman Ed Kelley wrote a letter advancing Ms. Post’s candidacy on behalf of every citizen in Volusia County.

However, when the time came to support their colleague – in a shameful display of quisling, mean-spirited backstabbing – Councilwoman Wheeler joined former Chair Ed Kelley in actively and enthusiastically campaigning against Councilwoman Post!

Many viewed this despicable move as a classic double-cross – a highly disparaging betrayal of a fellow elected official – and a complete embarrassment to Volusia County.

I never forgot the sight of Wheeler and Kelley wearing Constantine campaign decals and beaming with pride at their four-flushing treachery. 

I’ll bet Ms. Post didn’t either. . .

When the roll was taken on the question of vice-chair, Ms. Girtman lost to Wheeler in a 4-3 vote.

Then, the real fireworks started.   

When the discussion turned to the County’s response to the Coronavirus, Councilman Ben Johnson launched into an old-fashioned ass-chewing – dressing down Councilwoman Post for what he believed was her harsh treatment of Community Information Director Kevin Captain. 

As I understand it, following the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County’s debacle at Daytona Stadium, which saw senior citizens camped in their cars in a first come/first served scramble for the COVID-19 vaccination, Chairman Brower called for a press conference to reassure worried residents that Volusia County government had nothing to do with this shit show – and confirm that an organized appointment system will be used in the future.

Apparently, Ms. Post didn’t get the word – because the information was buried in an email sent the night before – and she assumed a phone call would precede any media briefing to ensure that the elected officials were on the same page.   

Naturally, Councilwoman Post felt out-of-the-loop and directed her frustration at Director Captain, rather than allow County Manager George Recktenwald to address the issue with his subordinate.

Everyone knows that communications between elected officials and staff can be precarious at best. 

When an informational exchange crosses that razor thin line and is perceived as a “directive” or becomes disciplinary in nature – that can constitute a violation of the charter – and bad things happen. 

Those protections are in place for a reason.  And Councilwoman Post knows that.   

It was a tempest in a teapot – a classic kerfuffle – and Director Captain apparently got his knickers in a twist. 

As a result, it became something Councilman Johnson clearly felt needed to be aired out in the bright sunshine of an open public meeting.

Councilman Johnson’s scathing rebuke took Chairman Brower by surprise. 

“I feel like you just broadsided the whole council,” Brower said. “I’m really disappointed.”

He shouldn’t have been.

In my view, perhaps this contretemps should serve as an early reminder to Mr. Brower that he is not the captain of a cheerleading squad.    

The Volusia County Council is a group of duly elected representatives – the handmaidens of public policy – each with their own views, agendas, and constituencies. 

Doing the “people’s business” can be messy and fractious, marked by bitter disagreement and the debate of competing ideas, as the governing body works to sort the wheat from the chaff, build consensus, and come to terms on the best way to serve the collective interests of the people. 

In my view, it is healthy to air grievances, argue the fine points, and leave nothing unsaid.

By hashing out differences and speaking their minds – councilmember’s can reduce the risk of frustration turning into animosity.

It is a government – whose power is derived from the will of the governed – not an exclusive club where everyone is expected to play nice and maintain appearances in public. 

In fairness, Mr. Brower should be allowed a honeymoon period – a time to build his parliamentary chops – and better understand the often-quirky personality traits and hidden intrigues of his “colleagues.” 

One thing is clear – Chairman Brower’s heart is in the right place – and the rest will come in time.   

Besides, its apparent Chairman Brower has District 5 Councilman Fred Lowry to help him navigate the humps and bumps of contentious meetings. . .    

In my view, Dr. Lowry has been such a non-contributing factor that many thought he was suffering some form of voluntary mutism – after all, he hasn’t uttered two-words from the dais in the last five-years – yet suddenly came out of his hard candy shell last Thursday as a virtual Font of Wisdom and our preeminent expert on the minutia of Robert’s Rules of Order. 

I couldn’t tell if Dr. Lowry was being condescending, attempting to take charge, or just awkwardly welcoming Mr. Brower to the political mosh pit?

Whatever. 

I’m willing to give our “new” elected officials a chance to get their sea legs, to heal old wounds, and prove their stated commitment to building a better Volusia County through a renewed focus on returning a government of the people – while reshaping a positive vision for the social, economic, and civic future of all residents. 

A new year. A fresh start.

__________________________

Please join Barker’s View this afternoon on GovStuff Live! with Big John beginning at 4:00pm as we take your calls and discuss the local issues affecting our lives and livelihoods here on Florida’s Fun Coast!

Find us at 1380am “The Cat” – or online at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).

It’s the fastest two-hours in radio!

Angels & Assholes for January 8, 2021

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           Florida Department of Health in Volusia County

The concept of accountability is all about expectations. 

An important element of command says that those who are led – the citizens and subordinates whose very lives are placed in the hands of others – have a right to expect that their leadership will be held to exacting standards of professionalism, personal conduct, and accountability. 

During my years as a law enforcement executive, I quickly learned that the commander is given authority over others to see that the agency’s mission is accomplished, that public funds are expended in an efficient manner, and essential services delivered in an effective way.

As such, he or she is held personally responsible for everything the department, and its individual members, does or fails to do. 

As a result, successful leaders develop a culture where professional ethics are valued, where accountability translates to consequences – both positive and negative – and everyone understands their role in the context of the organizations internal and external expectations.     

Unfortunately, in Volusia County the concept of authority, responsibility, and accountability has, over time, been replaced by something different – an environment where mediocrity rules the day – and expectations have been driven so low that public confidence has been lost.

That can be dangerous during a real crisis.

For reasons known only to our elected leadership, after nearly a year of non-stop bad news and fearmongering, rather than federalize and streamline the distribution of the potentially lifesaving Coronavirus vaccine – a nationwide coordinated response that brings all best practices and proven protocols to bear – the states have been given the task of prioritizing their citizens using an “eligibility list” developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then delivering the vaccine using a hodge-podge approach.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has delegated distribution responsibility to the counties – a process ostensibly administered by the horribly broken Florida Department of Health.

In turn, we have seen first-order debacles, like watching elected officials from all levels of government and both major political parties – from Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, to Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – jump the line and receive the vaccine ahead of the elderly, infirm, and most vulnerable – a terrible example of political privilege that has destroyed public confidence in the process and let taxpayers know exactly where they stand.  

These craven politicians justify this despicable act of entitlement by couching them as “inspirational” – staged encouragement for others to take the vaccine – even as thousands of willing recipients who meet the age and risk requirements are being turned away from makeshift, first come/first served distribution sites.

In Volusia County we have come to accept this abysmal conduct from some of our elected “leadership” – knowing well that most perennial politicians have lost the human emotion of shame

But this problem goes deeper than personal and political cowardice. 

This complete lack of an organized, effective, and efficient response has been allowed to continue with no sense that anyone is being held accountable for their actions. 

This fiscal year, Volusia County taxpayers will underwrite our local Florida Department of Health apparatus to the tune of $2,668,695.00 – plus an additional $380,000.00 to, in part, fund the “…oversight of the COVID-19 response and supervision of COVID-19 response employees…” 

Based upon all available evidence, I don’t think we are getting our money’s worth. 

Do you? 

From the beginning of this viral crisis, the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County has done its level best to circle the wagons, control access to vital information and statistics, and adopted an insular public information policy that has devolved into a refusal to respond to media requests – or even return phone calls from the working press.

In my view, it is the textbook example of malfeasance by a publicly funded agency – a deliberate, well-formed, and continuing course of conduct which includes willfully obscuring and delaying critical information (such as initially refusing to publish data on deaths and rate of infection in nursing homes), or even provide statistics on how many people in each county had been tested, etc., etc.

Now, the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County’s public information officer, Holly Smith, has gone virtually mute. . . 

Why, during the greatest public health crisis of our time, would a public health agency refuse to push information to those who need it most?

Thanks to the intervention of our new Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower, and District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post, this week area seniors received a tepid apology and a shoulder shrug from FDOH-VC lead Patricia Boswell.

“I would have done it differently, she said. I do apologize to anyone who has been impacted in a negative way.

The old bureaucratic two-step – “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.”

Whatever.

Now, do the honorable thing and resign, Ms. Boswell.  Immediately. 

For far too long, Volusia County residents have been saddled with a system where the same inept “leaders” are permitted to lord over repeat fiascos – you know, the “try the same thing, with the same leadership, and expect a different outcome” approach to organizational management. . . 

When this pathogen is ultimately brought to heel, area residents deserve a top-to-bottom housecleaning of the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County – and a return to the concept of responsibility and accountability that will begin to restore confidence in this important public service.

Quotes of the Week

“As my wife and I, friends in New Smyrna Beach, and seniors over 65 wrestle with whether it is wise to risk an early-morning drive to Daytona Stadium on Jan. 4 or 5 in the hope of maybe obtaining one of the highly limited 1,000 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine available each day, it is beyond outrageous to read in The News-Journal that Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, 51, jumped the line to receive the coveted vaccine Dec. 30 at Halifax Health Medical Center.

Worse, he hides behind the absurd argument that he is displaying leadership for people wary of taking the vaccine. Apparently, Ronald Durham, the city’s community relations manager, came up with this bright idea and had no trouble selling it to Henry and then providing cover for the mayor. It is telling that Durham will not divulge who he strongarmed at the hospital.

The public does not need to see any more smiling photos of politicians receiving the vaccine. We want to see real political leadership to assure a timely, efficient rollout of the vaccine, starting with those most at risk. Seniors, many with serious health issues, want the vaccine but are forced to risk Darwinian first-come, first-served scenarios for which the directives are less than clear, and success is doubtful.

Throw Henry out of office, fire Durham, reprimand the executives at Halifax Health, and expedite the vaccine to those who need it most. You should not need clout to obtain something as lifesaving as this vaccine.”

–Dennis Breo, New Smyrna Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Jumping the vaccination line,” Sunday, January 3, 2021

“Elderly people, some in their 80s, sleeping in a car overnight along a roadside, for a chance at the vaccine! Spending hours in a traffic jam only to be turned away! International Speedway Boulevard/State Road 92 backed up for miles in both directions!

This was ridiculous and dangerous. What kind of leadership would allow this to happen?”

–Michael McDowall, Ormond Beach, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “A vaccination pileup,” Wednesday, January 6, 2021

“This same vulnerable population, desperate for the vaccine, waited overnight in their vehicles with temperatures dipping into the 40s. Our Health Department has had literally months to plan for the distribution plan. Why wait a week to distribute when this is a life and death situation?

Why not have a sign up online?”

–Sara Collins, DeLand, The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Letters to the Editor, “Better organization for vaccines,” Wednesday, January 6, 2021

“The 69-year-old arrived outside the stadium at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, then spent the night in her car, like many other senior citizens. She was hoping to be among those vaccinated for the first dose of COVID-19 that was being distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The temperatures that night dropped into the 40s. Thankfully, she also brought a blanket.”

–WFTV, “Woman waits 19 hours at Daytona Stadium to get vaccine on birthday of brother who died from COVID-19”

And Another Thing!

The time has come to punch back against the dreaded Coronavirus. 

Finally, we are off the mat and in the fight.   

At present, two vaccines have been fast-tracked to the warfront giving hope to millions who have spent the past year in isolation and seen their lives destroyed. 

It was far worse for others who stood helplessly outside hospitals as their loved ones inside died alone – while the bodies of victims of the greatest mass casualty event of our time were stacked like cordwood in refrigerated trucks outside overcapacity morgues. . .      

After all of the politics, posturing, and hype – what we hope is an effective countermeasure to this scourge has finally entered the fight.    

No one expected the rollout to be flawless.

The logistics of coordinating a worldwide distribution plan, ensuring equity and fairness for developing nations, establishing responsible eligibility criteria, the massive undertaking of shipping and storing a vaccine that must be maintained at extremely cold temperatures – the challenges seemed insurmountable – yet medical science, human ingenuity, and old-fashioned perseverance continue to overcome the hurdles between pharmaceutical companies and the injection site.

Last week, the vaccine came to Volusia County – and chaos ensued. . .   

From Halifax Health’s controversial decision to allow Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and his wife to promenade past a line of vulnerable senior citizens patiently waiting their turn – something many of his constituents saw as flagrant political privilege – while the ugly images of elderly residents, some draped in blankets like third-world refugees, camped in their cars in frigid weather, locked inside the confines of Daytona Stadium for a chance at a “limited supply” of the vaccine, were splashed across international news outlets. 

Hundreds more were turned away when they arrived at the distribution site at the advertised time only to find the plan had changed.  Again. 

In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department did an outstanding job – turning what could have been a cattle stampede into something relatively orderly by employing an effective traffic management plan and exhibiting the professionalism and expertise citizens have come to expect.   

Now, this shit show – which was perpetrated without the advise, consent, or assistance of Volusia County government – is being described by the city’s compromised leadership as a “learning experience.”

With months to plan, and years of developing and exercising proven protocols for the mass distribution of vaccines, when it finally came time to execute, the lead government agency – the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County – failed miserably.

As this debacle unfolded, citizens bore silent witness to the lack of communication between local government entities, the shamelessness of tin-pot politicians, and the lack of accountability that has destroyed public confidence.   

In my view, this latest outrage should not go unanswered. 

That is why I have limited today’s installment of Angels & Assholes to the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County – one mans jaded and world-weary opinion on an agency gripped by malignant mediocrity.

A fervent demand for true leadership when we need it most. 

However, I have learned that in Volusia County speaking out comes at a cost.   

Look, I understand that the way I say things can be off-putting – some get it, others don’t – and I certainly do not expect everyone to agree with my opinion, in fact, I learn from the vigorous debate of competing ideas.     

To paraphrase W. Somerset Maugham, “My lifelong problem is people think I’m being serious when I’m being vulgar – and vulgar when I’m being serious.”

I can give as good as I get – but something happened this week that exposed why denizens of Florida’s Fun Coast are so reluctant to give an opinion or engage in political discussions of the social, civic, and economic issues we face.    

As punishment for voicing my views (and embarrassing our local elite) on the issue of politicians receiving the Coronavirus vaccine before those most in need, I was recently marked as a vile racist by (of all people) former Volusia County Councilman Josh “Shithead” Wagner (an apt moniker bestowed by the insightful Bob Davis, president of the Hotel & Lodging Association of Volusia County, way back in 2013).

In my view, Ol’ Shithead is a despicable human being whose fetid political career speaks for itself, but the element of shame didn’t stop him from openly besmirching my character on social media in the most contemptible way:

“Mark D. Barker you don’t realize you are (a) racist that has a gift with a pen (or maybe you do).

I read your posts and am often impressed with your writing style. However, Mayor Derrick Henry who you are attacking is trying to help the community he knows…not the community you think you know.

You spew hate and have no idea what is happening in the black community.

Keep checking your likes in the fringe and surround yourself with people that will tell you that you are great.

Poke your head out and run for something rather than just chopping people down. Maybe it is time for you to self-reflect and not just judge. #BarkerTheRacist”

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shithead Wagner – in my view, a Class-A douchebag whose stench still permeates the County Council chamber – just do an internet search and take a long walk down memory lane. You can start here https://tinyurl.com/yykjb5pj or here https://tinyurl.com/yxnhmgyl or here https://tinyurl.com/y2qgxsk8 or. . .you get the idea.)

I was wondering how long it would take one of Mayor Henry’s apologists to hang this dreaded and indefensible label on me. 

Now I know.

The message is clear:  Sit down, shut-up, and remain silent or be painted with the foul brush of bigotry and prejudice – and watch as everything you hold dear is tarnished and sullied by some effete political has-been. 

It is wrong, despicable – and expected. . . 

In my view, Mr. Wagner’s ad hominem attack speaks to the depths to which some will go to remain relevant by destroying the character and reputation of anyone who dares criticize the status quo – or speak the truth as they see it.  

Barker the racist.  The nuclear option of petty political vengeance.   

For voicing a differing opinion?  For taking exception

My God. . .  

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

A Failure of Leadership

“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout!”

–Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny

The Caine Mutiny is the 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk which chronicles the increasingly irrational behavior of Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, a by-the-book veteran naval officer, as he loses the respect of the officers and crew of the USS Caine, who ultimately relieve Queeg of command during a typhoon leading to a final dramatic court martial.

For students of the power and possibilities of leadership, the novel – and subsequent 1954 film starring Humphry Bogart – demonstrate how a lack of effective communication, perceived tyranny, paralysis of action, incompetence, and inconsistency can quickly conspire to erode confidence – something that can prove extremely dangerous during a crisis.

I am limiting this Friday’s Angels & Assholes to the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County – which, in my view, has taken on all the characteristics of a rudderless ship – because the ham-handed, wholly disorganized, and conflicting nature of the initial distribution of a limited supply of potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine this week made national news and served as a horrific example of what happens when poorly led government agencies run amok. 

As often happens during a catastrophe, some heroes emerged.   

In my view, the Daytona Beach Police Department acted flawlessly – and we owe them a debt of gratitude for doing what they do best in developing an organized and effective traffic plan while providing physical security – after being handed a steaming pile of bullshit by the FDOH and asked to make apple pandowdy.

After the confusing mess of Monday morning, that evening the vacillating nature of the FDOH dissemination “plan” left one thousand Volusia County seniors camped in their cars, locked inside the Daytona Stadium venue with temperatures dipping to the 40’s, to prevent the massive accumulation of cars parked on the shoulder of LPGA Boulevard.

Does any of that seem reasonable, organized, or effective to you?    

In turn, thousands more were shooed away from the first come/first served chaos – which one vaccine-seeking senior aptly described as a “cluster (expletive)” in The Daytona Beach News-Journal – with many more questioning why their public health apparatus is making the distribution process so intentionally difficult? 

There were poignant stories of grandparents desperate to receive the vaccine so they could cuddle their grandchildren after months of isolation – while others with preexisting conditions worried that they would succumb to the virus before they had the opportunity to be inoculated. 

Desperate.  Confused.  Frustrated.  Life and death.   

In my view, because the stakes are so incredibly high, this is perhaps the greatest failure of local leadership in our time – and it should not go unaddressed. 

Look, I am not an expert.  God knows I made my share of mistakes during my time in government.

But my career development included earning the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation – and I can tell you with certainty that the mass distribution of medical countermeasures for epidemic illness and high consequence biological events is nothing new. 

So why aren’t these established, tested, and exercised plans being implemented?

Part of my education and preparation included the study of “disaster ethics” – which state providers have an obligation to deliver care and services consistent with the professional standards of consistency, fairness, effectiveness, and transparency. 

That is not what I am seeing here.  Are you? 

Having served in a leadership role during dynamic events and been responsible for developing public policy and protocols for the command and control of multijurisdictional emergencies, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the FDOH in Volusia County is not up to this monumental task.

Now is the time for Governor Ron DeSantis to pull out all the stops, lobby for an increased supply of vaccine and improve logistics, engage medical elements of the Florida National Guard, seek private assistance if necessary, and turn every quick care facility, hospital, pharmacy, primary care physician, and every suitable parking lot in the state into a vaccine distribution site – or demand that the response be federalized and simply get out of the way. 

Time is of the essence – and this “cluster (expletive)” cannot continue.   

Photo Credit: WFTV-9

The High Cost of Not Asking Questions

“They call me King Turd up here on Shit Mountain but if you want it you can have the crown.”

–Sturgill Simpson

I think I know how Sturgill feels. . .because I definitely wore the crown this week.  

It is abundantly clear that not everyone likes what they read on this blogsite.

Good.  That’s the point. 

Last week, I opined on the ugly internecine warfare over at the Volusia Democratic Party clubhouse which has left some questioning if newly appointed Chair Richard Thripp is playing favorites following a disputed internal election.   

I also pointed out Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry’s flagrant foul when he and his wife arrogantly paraded past a long line of senior citizens so they could receive a limited dose of the Coronavirus vaccine at Halifax Health on Wednesday. 

When called on it by the News-Journal, Mayor Henry immediately shunted the blame for this growing public relations nightmare to the City of Daytona Beach’s “community relations manager,” Dr. L. Ron Durham, then claimed “I want Daytona Beach residents to be inspired to get the vaccine.”  

I am still not sure how the Mayor’s wife, Dr. Stephanie “Do you know who I am?” Henry, fits into the inspirational plan (a public service campaign that appears limited to Mr. Henry’s Facebook page) – but last week Big John reported on GovStuff Live that Mrs. Henry received her first dose of the vaccine against the CDC’s eligibility criteria – and Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order – which gives priority to Floridians 65 and over, long-term care residents and staff, health care personnel with direct patient contact, and hospital patients deemed to be at extreme risk for COVID-19.

I find that concerning.

You should too. 

When you shine a light into some very dark corners of our community, what you find often raises more questions than answers.  

Like, what is Dr. L. Ron Durham’s role in deciding who will, and who will not, receive the potentially lifesaving vaccine? 

And what criteria does he use when determining which senior citizens will be saved – and which will be cruelly tossed from the lifeboat to make way for tin-pot politicians and their families?

Now that Durham’s role has been exposed by the Mayor – what does his boss, City Manager Jim Chisholm, plan to do about it?  You know, to preserve the integrity of the distribution process during the worst public health crisis of our time? 

And why would Halifax Health – which, for years, has been deeply enmeshed in Volusia County politics through a hand-select Board of Marionettes, strategically manipulated by those “Rich & Powerful” forces that control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast – give away 500 precious doses to friends and family members of staff before, say, my 86-year-old mother – who missed out simply because she doesn’t know the right people?   

Or why – during the 40th extension of the Local State of Emergency related to coronavirus disease – with some 449 people dead of the disease in Volusia County alone – did the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County close its doors and leave the phones unstaffed on Thursday to celebrate the New Year?   

Perhaps most important, why are Volusia County’s most vulnerable citizens being asked to compete for a limited number of doses in a first come/first served free-for-all at Daytona Stadium tomorrow and Tuesday, while residents of surrounding counties are treated to an effective online appointment system that avoids the crush and queue of seniors desperate to protect themselves?

And why won’t the publicly funded FDOH in Volusia’s public information officer return phone calls to the working press?  And just how long will those of us who pay for the service tolerate this bureaucratic obstruction and lack of transparency? 

Whatever.  I could go on, but you get the picture. 

In the aftermath of my screeds on these two hot topics, I have been attacked by some misguided souls aligned with Thripp and Henry – held out as everything wrong with the acerbic political discourse in Volusia County – with some of their faithful followers calling for this blog to be censored and removed from social media.

That is where we stand at this foul point in history:  You don’t like the editorial message? 

Have the “authorities” shut it down. . . 

My God.

(For the record, while I post a link to several prominent social media sites, Barker’s View is a standalone alternative opinion website – which means you can either access and read the content – or not.)

Other pouting partisans have attempted to marginalize my opinions – dismissing these contributions to the discussion as a “non-contributing factor” (perhaps they are) – and labeling me a miserable bastard who “must be difficult to know in real life” (which I am – just ask my wife and friend).

Look, I get it.  It comes with the territory and I have grown some hard bark over the years. 

I will proudly add these recent criticisms – and questions about my lineage – to the massive pile of grievances, gripes, complaints, and open threats I regularly receive – angry missives that let me know I am hitting close to issues and questions that some would prefer to remain in the shadows.

Killing the messenger doesn’t help answer these pressing and disturbing questions. . .

In my view, this week’s pushback exemplifies the age-old problem of Volusia County’s two major political parties: 

They always defend their weakest link to the detriment of their members and message – even in the face of the gross political privilege and entitlement that perpetuates the “Us vs. Them” divide between our elected officials and those they are sworn to serve.   

So, keep those cards and letters coming, folks.

I don’t take it personally.    

To those who feel the need to defend Mayor Henry and Chairman Thripp from the slings and arrows of harsh criticism – and have demanded that I sit-down and be quiet – please know I’m not going anywhere. 

Not until I get answers. You shouldn’t either.

I still believe that so long as these diatribes continue to infuriate, incense, enflame, and inspire – perhaps they will encourage a deeper search for answers that will lead to lasting solutions.