Flying Blind: Another Corporate Welfare Scheme at DAB

There’s an old joke that asks:

“Want to make a little money in aviation?”

“Start with a lot of money…” 

This week, Volusia County taxpayers learned the hard lesson of that punchline as the majority of our elected officials in DeLand ignored the lessons of history, threw caution to the wind, and entered a lopsided “partnership” with the then unknown “ultra-low-cost air carrier,” Avelo Airlines. 

So, beginning in late June, you can wing your way from Daytona “International” Airport to the “premium destinations” we were all teased with:

New Haven… 

(The second much sought-after destination remains a mystery?)

I find it fascinating that ostensibly bright elected officials can be sold a pig in a poke – literally appropriating our tax dollars to support some enigmatic entity who remains cloaked in secrecy until the corporate welfare demand is approved – then theatrically sweeps from behind the velvet curtain for the ‘Grand Reveal’ – as We, The Little People who pay the bills scratch our heads and silently muse:

“New Haven…?”

Yeah.  I know.

During Tuesday’s VCC meeting, the very capable Cyrus Callum, Volusia County’s Director of Aviation and Economic Resources, switched hats – morphing into a highly effective shill for the two-year-old airline that, we were told, originally demanded $3 million in a “minimum revenue guarantee” scheme on a promise of twice-weekly flights to two “premium destinations.”  

As the sales pitch droned on, Director Callum held our clueless council members in suspense like a cagey gameshow host, dropping perplexing hints like, “Somewhere in the Tri-State…” and “The Mid-Atlantic area…”

If our elected decisionmakers still had the capacity for shame and self-awareness – the spectacle of them playing twenty-questions with a senior staffer before being asked to appropriate public funds for a secret private entity would have been mortifyingly embarrassing…

According to Mr. Callum, after “negotiations,” he and the DAB team were able to reduce the impact of Volusia County’s assurance to $1 million in guaranteed revenue – a fund described as a weird insurance policy to be held in reserve and used as a bailout if/when the carrier fails to meet quarterly estimates.

In keeping with the typical cloak-and-dagger horseshit that allows corporations with their hand in our pocket to keep their identity legally secret until giddy politicians can be convinced to vote in the blind – Mr. Callum did an extraordinary job of anesthetizing the council – glossing over our abysmal history of underwriting airlines who invariably leave us in their jetwash after gorging greedily at the public trough – ultimately coaxing a 4-2 vote (Councilman Jake Johanssen was absent).  

To their credit, Councilmembers Danny Robins and Don Dempsey had trouble reconciling the fact that Volusia County does not routinely cover overhead for local small businesses – and, in my view, it appeared they were struggling with the current logic that has government skewing the playing field and meddling in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, the remainder of our self-described “small government/fiscal conservatives” were somehow able to convince themselves that – despite our hard-earned experience with JetBlue, Silver Airways, Sunwing, etc. – risking public funds to cover the operating and start-up estimates of a small airline with just 24-months experience in a highly competitive industry (that already offers flights from Orlando International Airport) is a rational financial decision.

In a free and fair marketplace, entrepreneurial investors take educated risks based upon an estimated return on investment – while government stewards our tax dollars to deliver those services, infrastructure, and utilities we cannot provide for ourselves.   

In my view, when government insinuates itself into the marketplace – picking winners and losers (or, in the case of enticing airlines to DAB, pissing away good money after bad), voting in the blind, ensuring ludicrous minimum revenue guarantees, building private infrastructure, gifting tax breaks, and lavishing public funds on private entities – it flies in the face of fairness and is counter to the time-honored principle of due diligence – mitigating risk by entering “partnerships” with eyes open, terms negotiated, and all players identified – rather than gagged and blindfolded in the ultimate act of fiduciary irresponsibility.   

When we question the practice, Volusia County’s economic development shills – career bureaucrats who accept public funds to serve in the public interest – assure us this grift is now a required practice in the murky world of corporate welfare and “public/private partnerships” – where our tax dollars are used to underwrite the for-profit motives of private entities. 


I wonder if Chairman Jeff Brower and Councilmen Matt Reinhart, Troy Kent, and David Santiago would invest their family’s personal savings in a mysterious business entity that refused to identify itself? 

So, why are they comfortable doing it with our hard-earned money? 

Now, we’re being told that another anonymous airline has designs on a spot at Volusia’s patent public teat…

In my view, it is time our ‘powers that be’ stop playing this expensive game of corporate hide-and-seek which requires the allocation of public funds with no substantive information, public debate, or transparency.

Daytona “International” Airport: Another Pig in a Poke

Only in the weird world of Volusia County government – where throwing caution to the wind and playing fast-and-loose with other people’s money is considered a professional competency – could our “economic development” shills shamelessly dream up the asinine acronym MRG (“minimum revenue guarantee”) on the hope of luring the umpteenth “ultra-low-cost” airline to Daytona “International” Airport. 

On Tuesday, senior staff will use wildly subjective booking and economic impact estimates to sell the Volusia County Council another pig in a poke – a shadowy undisclosed air carrier that has apparently agreed to provide twice-weekly flights to two equally mysterious “premium destinations” (which, I assume, means anywhere other than Atlanta or Charlotte?)

Wait.  Haven’t we heard this horseshit before?  (More on that later…) 

Here’s the rub:

According to reports, the “secret” carrier wants Volusia County taxpayers to secure “start-up shortfalls in revenue” (read: operating overhead) with a pot of public funds – dubbed a “minimum revenue guarantee” – to be held in reserve, just in case they need it. 


According to an informative article by business editor Clayton Park writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“If approved by the County, the proposed minimum revenue guarantee fund would only be made available to the mystery airline if the revenues it generates from the new service at Daytona Beach International Airport were to fail to meet its pre-determined minimum targets. Should that occur, the airline would only be able to draw from the fund the amount needed to make up for its revenue shortfall.

The money for the fund would come from the county, with the source up to the discretion of the council to decide. Helga van Eckert, the county’s economic development director, confirmed that her division, for example, does have several million dollars in reserves to be used for “business support and economic development programs.”

Van Eckert said she would not be opposed to designating a portion of those reserves for the airline fund, but added that option would be up to the council, not her.”

As only happens at the nexus of government and corporate welfare schemes, our elected representatives will be directed by senior staff to put $1 million in the proverbial brown paper bag to be doled out to the unnamed airline in the event the carrier fails to meet arbitrary revenue levels conjured up by the company itself…

Sounds logical, eh?    

I mean, your small mom-and-pop business – the one that jumped through myriad government hoops to get started, pays taxes, employs area residents, spends local, and scrimps and saves to make it in this artificial economy – receives monthly bailouts from the several million dollars Helga keeps squirreled away in the cookie jar for “business support programs” whenever you fail to meet monthly revenue goals, right? 


Look, I no longer possess the cognitive skills to remember all the bargain basement carriers that have attached themselves to the public teat, slobbered down hundreds-of-thousands in incentives from Volusia County taxpayers, then left us in their jetwash – but here’s a few:   

Anyone remember our short-lived relationship with JetBlue – who, in 2016, entered the Daytona Beach market following a $2.3 million package that included the use of local hotel bed tax revenues from Volusia County’s three tourism advertising agencies to market Daytona Beach in the New York market, waiving airport fees, and promises by numerous local businesses to fly JetBlue via a “travel bank” established by the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce?

Despite those lucrative perquisites, in late 2018, JetBlue flew off into the wild blue yonder while senior airport officials mewled about what a “blow” the carrier’s departure was for the community…

So, rather than learn from their very expensive mistake – those with a fiduciary responsibility to steward public funds in a rational and responsible manner did the same damn thing while expecting a different result.

In JetBlue’s wake, “Silver Airways” accepted a publicly-funded goody bag filled with expensive inducements which included some $100,000 to market a once daily Daytona Beach-Ft. Lauderdale route, a partnership agreement with the Daytona Tortugas organization (remember Tortuga One?), waiving landing fees and “facilities costs” (read: rent and utilities), a year of free ground handling services (estimated at $91,250) and a quarterly payment of $25,000 for one year to help “offset some of the airlines startup costs.”

For travel to Ft. Lauderdale?

In 2019, Silver suspended service at DAB, explaining “…the flights were not operating at a fare level that is financially sustainable to continue in current market conditions,” – which (I think) translates to English as, “No one wanted the hassle of flying from Daytona Beach to Ft. Lauderdale when they can drive it in just over 3-hours…”

So, rather than step back and analyze why DAB is routinely jilted by “low cost” domestic carriers, our powers that be opted to throw more Chanel No. 5 on the hog – spending $12 million renovating the terminal – because if millions in economic incentives aren’t working, it must be the carpet, right?   


Then came our short fling with the Canadian tour operator Sunwing

According to a 2018 News-Journal article:

“Sunwing agreed to give nonstop Toronto-Daytona Beach service a try in part thanks to an offer of economic incentives from the airport, the CVB and Visit Florida, the state’s tourism arm. The agreement calls for the airport and visitors bureau each to chip in $125,000 towards a tourism marketing campaign aimed at the Toronto market, with Visit Florida providing matching funds as well as funds provided by the airline.

The airport also has agreed to waive facility and landing fees for the first two years of service here by Sunwing.”

Despite these money-flushing incentives, freebies, and marketing funds – when Canadian flights resumed in 2021, our friends at Sunwing apparently forgot to return DAB to the list…

Now, senior county administrators are asking Volusia County taxpayers to underwrite some enigmatic “ultra-low-cost-carrier” to the tune of $1 million – even though the council agenda package confirms that neither the terms of “MRG agreement,” nor the airline use/lease rental agreement, have been negotiated? 

Wow.  Talk about a pig in a poke…

Rather than take advantage of the valuable hindsight gained from our failed strategy of “throw more money at it” – tomorrow, the Volusia County Council will be blindly sold on another “game-changer” – led like lumbering oxen by our highly paid resident “experts” and encouraged to piss even more of our hard-earned money away on a mystery carrier that isn’t sure it wants its name associated with us at this point. 

My God…

George Santayana was right: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”      

Angels & Assholes for March 31, 2023

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           The DeLand & Greater West Volusia Chamber of Commerce

Growth management, economic vitality, and sustainability in this era of malignant sprawl elicit strong emotions from residents across Volusia County. 

Wherever people gather, in community forums, and across social media, the seminal issue under discussion is the impact of growth and unchecked development on our environment and quality of life.

Unfortunately, as the bulldozers continue to roar, there are always more questions than answers…

On April 27, The DeLand & Greater West Volusia Chamber of Commerce is hosting a “3-Day Mega Event” known as “Vision 2023”:

“This annual Chamber event brings together the Mayors of the 6 municipalities in the West Volusia region to deliver their Mayoral Addresses and participate in a moderated Q&A.  Stay informed!”

Day two is billed as, “An educational, interactive Summit for professionals interested in pro-active planning for business success.  Panel and roundtable discussions, workshop breakouts, and luncheon keynote.  Gear up for success!” 

According to the Chamber, the event is sponsored, in part, by land use attorneys Cobb Cole (Diamond) and Mattamy Homes (Platinum) an Orlando real estate developer responsible for the Addison Landing project in DeLand. 

Here’s what bothers me:

If you have a passing interest in what your mayor may (or may not) have to say on the issues of explosive growth, jobs and economic stability, our overstressed transportation and utilities infrastructure, environmental impacts, water quantity and quality, and their “vision” for 2023 and beyond, it’s going to cost you:

$35 for Chamber members/$40 for non-members…

You read that right.

Sorry.  Call me hyper-sensitive, but I have a problem with that.

In my jaded view, if the DeLand & Greater West Volusia Chamber of Commerce want to hold a klatch and discuss “pro-active planning for business success” – or host a paid huddle so that those so inclined can listen to the nonsensical ravings, handwashing, and historical rewrites of those “Volusia Visionaries” who got us into this fetid mess in the first place – that’s fine by me. 

Like P. T. Barnum so aptly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

But I am suspicious of any “summit” which brings together sitting elected officials representing the mosaic of unique communities in Wild West Volusia – one sponsored by some very heavy hitters in the real estate development community – ostensibly to discuss the most important issues of our time behind closed doors, in a publicly owned building, restricted to those willing (and able) to pay the access fee.

I realize this is a recurring meeting of the minds – and if history repeats (and it always does here on the “Fun Coast,”) – absolutely nothing of substance will be revealed during these hot air generators known as “Mayoral Addresses,” but the nature of the sponsorships and fees have some residents concerned. 

For instance, when a resident of Deltona expressed concern about having to “pay” to speak to the mayors – Mayor Santiago Avila, Jr. (one of the featured speakers) bristled on social media, calling the citizen’s comments “…very obvious attacks and unfounded insinuations,” and reminded the resident that they were welcome to “make an appointment” to meet with him.

(Since when did these D-list politicians – who spent most of last year incessantly banging on our doors, accosting us in parking lots, and littering our mailboxes with glossy mailers announcing how “accessible” they would be if elected – get so damn busy that those who pay the bills need to make an appointment for an audience?) 

Apparently, Mayor Avila missed the glaring point that We, The Little People – his constituents who cannot afford the $40 access fee to participate in a “moderated Q&A” – have no way of knowing if what he tells them in a public meeting will be different than his address before some very influential members of the real estate development community.

In my view, this is why the public’s business should be conducted in public view – not behind a paywall – and the senior leadership of The DeLand & Greater West Volusia Chamber of Commerce should understand the importance of that.    

Asshole           Volusia County Council

“It’s déjà vu all over again…”

–Yogi Berra

My thoughts on the Volusia County Council being led around like a bull with a ring in it’s nose by senior staff on the issues of toll-free beach driving for residents, and the establishment of a trial dog friendly beach near Andy Romano Park in Ormond Beach, generated a lot of interest last week. 

Regardless of their individual thoughts on the plans, most agreed that watching the tail wag the dog at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building is disturbing. 

Following an election that overhauled the bulk of the Council, by careful design, the decision-making process is still controlled exclusively by entrenched bureaucrats and those uber-wealthy insiders who historically use our elected officials like dull tools – a means to a very profitable end. 

Add to that the Old Guard’s continued focus on protecting the status quo and frustration builds for those of us who see their quality of life destroyed by malignant overdevelopment, gridlocked traffic, increasing fees and taxes, and a lack of substantive public input in the process.   

In my view, an excellent example of this corrosive obstructionism occurred last week during the discussion of Councilman Troy Kent’s well-thought plans for a pilot dog friendly beach and toll-free resident access.

Although both themes have been floated numerous times by various iterations of the VCC, this felt different to me. 


Admittedly, I am a compulsive rube – and during their swearing-in ceremony in January – I naturally bought into the hype and horseshit of putting the divisiveness of the past behind, the council’s vow to work collegially to achieve goals, and, most important, At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson’s inspirational call to employ the “Four C’s”: “Cooperation, Collaboration, Communication, and Commonsense.”


The lofty promise that our “new” elected officials would finally work as a mutually respectful “team” – a group of independent thinkers, each devoted to the best interests of their constituents, who respect differing opinions and find consensus through respectful debate? 

Didn’t take long for things to go to shit, eh? 

To his credit, Councilman Kent came prepared. 

His proposal for a trial dog friendly section of beach was supported by the City of Ormond Beach – and included a generous $100,000 gift of start-up funds from area philanthropists Nancy & Lowell Lohman. 

In addition, Mr. Kent unveiled a forward-thinking plan that would charge out-of-town visitors slightly more for vehicular beach access and off-beach parking, generating enough additional revenue to reduce the burden on Volusia County residents. 

In my view, Kent’s well-thought initiatives exemplified the “Four-C’s” – not mere suggestions, but workable strategies for making our greatest natural resource a more fun and accessible place for Volusia County families – plans that were uncomplicated, well-organized, and clearly communicated without asinine acronyms and bureaucratese.

There are certain hot button issues that always uncover the malleable mindset of those who tell us what we want to hear each election cycle – then metamorphose into something completely different upon taking their seat on the dais of power.

Beach access ranks at the top of that list.

After reading my thoughts on the council’s weird, almost choreographed machinations, several Barker’s View readers reached out to express their frustration with how those who hold themselves out as “fiscal conservatives” and “small government republicans” continue to allow this bloated and insatiable bureaucracy in DeLand to influence public policy in a way always beneficial to county government, rather than those it exists to serve. 

As “Fun Coast” history proves, any discussion of changes to Volusia’s incredibly expensive ‘beach mismanagement’ strategy is guaranteed to end on the side of the bureaucracy – ensuring a patent flow of cash now totaling over $24 million annually – to feed the wholly ineffectual Coastal Division and its various support functions. 

Look, I hate to break it to you, but toll-free beach access for locals was never going to happen. 

The deck was stacked before the discussion even began. 

Days before the public meeting, Councilman Danny Robins published a laundry list of dubious “facts” on social media, openly shitting on both of Kent’s ideas, so everyone (including his “colleagues” on the dais) knew how he planned to vote – telegraphing to anyone paying attention how the “discussion” would go. 

After listening to Councilman Robins drone on with his disjointed and hyper-emotional monologs – including his petty point of order designed to silence Chairman Jeff Brower – one respected political observer accurately described Robins as little more than a “staff member with a vote.” 

Spot on.

To make matters worse, Councilman Robins took to social-media this week to goad those who disagree with the direction and dysfunction of Volusia County government – a tactic that looks petty and meanspirited at what should be the most accessible and responsive level of community governance.   

Another disturbing revelation last week came when Councilman Don Dempsey callously admonished tax strapped Volusia County taxpayers from the dais to “suck it up” – suggesting residents should pay even more for beach access, including off-beach parking.

Many took Mr. Dempsey’s tone-deaf scolding as an elitist slap to thousands of area families struggling in a place where 14% of the population live south of the poverty line with a per capita income well below both the state and national average. 

A socio-economic reality where “pennies a day” is more than a political punchline.


For most of the meeting, Councilman Matt Reinhart seemed out of his element – because he was – and it quickly became clear that nothing of substance was going to happen on either front as the incredibly well compensated “senior staff” once again succeeded in protecting the status quo, crushing innovation, and kicking the can down that dusty road of political procrastination…

As our elected dullards quibble over “process” (as though there were rhyme or reason to any of this), debate who can talk and when, and silence each another with parliamentary sleight-of-hand as the bureaucratic hierarchy drowns them in excessively complicated minutia on another PowerPoint – We, The Little People, ponder our future in an environment where policymaking has been gifted to a politically unaccountable bureaucracy.

Quote of the Week

“I strongly believe that land can be used to preserve animal habitats and natural resources. This is a smart move because when you think about it. If we ever wanted to study animals or other natural resources, those would be there for us to study at our expense.

Also, the reserved land can be used as a getaway place. Does anybody ever go home and think, “I just need a place to get away from everything?” Well, that land that was reserved would be that one place. When people go to places like this, they have a certain state of mind that is like you found that place.

Lastly, places like parks can be used to appreciate nature. When you feel like you need a place to sort things out, parks can be that calm, serene place. As an added bonus, they could probably help lift your mood.

I hope that we, as a society, play an important role in preservation of our undeveloped land for future generations.”

— Erick J. Palacios II, age 12, Boy Scout Troop 403, as excerpted from The Ormond Beach Observer, Letters to the Editor, “Reserving land for recreation,” Monday, March 27, 2023

Far wiser than his years…

And Another Thing!

I frequently refer to the State of Florida as the “Biggest Whorehouse in the World.”

Because it is.

My fears were reconfirmed this week in a fine piece of investigative reportage by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s intrepid business editor Clayton Park – with contributions by Editor John Dunbar and USA TODAY Florida Network – that demonstrated the importance of local journalism while shining a very bright light on why many in the Florida legislature are hellbent on circling the wagons, drawing the shades, silencing critics, and further weakening public records laws. 

In his excellent article, “Strength or conflict of interest? Florida lawmakers’ real estate ties spark debate,” Mr. Park helped answer the age-old question, “Qui Bono?” by uncovering the disturbing connection between certain key legislators and the incredibly lucrative overdevelopment that has blanketed what remains of the Sunshine State with zero-lot-line cracker boxes over the past decade.

At present, some 40% of state lawmakers have ties to the real estate and land development industries.

According to the report:

“Ben Wilcox, research director for a citizens watchdog group in Tallahassee called Integrity Florida, said he finds it troubling that so many state lawmakers have personal ties to the real estate industry.

“The (Florida) Legislature is meant to be a citizens legislature where they have other jobs, (but) it creates obvious conflicts of interest when you see developers and homebuilders sponsor legislation that benefits their industries,” said Wilcox. “They do bring expertise and experience, but more often than not, it’s a cause for concern.”

Connections include a land-use lawyer sponsoring growth management legislation; a homebuilder co-sponsoring legislation on building regulation; a big developer sponsoring legislation that would take away local control of setting limits on development; and a high-paid executive at a giant development firm co-sponsoring a bill to cap the fees his employer pays for economic impact.”

Of course, in keeping with the prevailing political ethic “It’s only a crime if you get caught,” former state Sen. Fred Dudley, who now serves as a construction attorney for a law firm in Tallahassee, was quoted, “There’s nothing illegal about it unless it’s beneficial only to that legislator.”

Whatever you say, Fred…

The article also exposed the current legislative push to gut long-standing home rule authority – essentially neutering local governments by barring them from passing ordinances designed to manage growth, protect water quality, control pollution, and conserve wetlands.

In my view, it doesn’t require Sherlock Holmes to deduce the very bright connection between massive campaign contributions from influential forces in the real estate development industry and those local and state elected officials who legislatively facilitate the slash-and-burn land clearing and “help here/hurt there” mitigation strategies that have allowed malignant sprawl to destroy wildlife habitat, eliminate environmental buffers, and change both the character and topography of the state.  

A situation many believe is contributing to disastrous flooding throughout Central Florida and beyond.

The informative article did an excellent job juggling the competing interests of the usual obsequious apologists for influential development interests, our elected marionettes who rubberstamp projects with Pavlovian efficiency, and those – like Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower – who are encouraged by the recent uptick in citizen pushback:

“We’re not going to stop growth. It’s ridiculous to think that. But we need to grow responsibly. Part of that is to not build on wetlands,” Brower said. “We can’t maintain this cavalier attitude of ‘build at all costs.’ But I’m encouraged that the pendulum may be swinging back towards more growth management. Every town hall I go to, among the biggest concerns, No. 1 is over-development. They (citizens) know it’s affecting their quality of life.”

Mr. Brower should be careful.

It’s that kind of ‘Crazy Talk’ that got him politically castrated by Volusia’s Old Guard

If you live here on Florida’s increasingly claustrophobic “Fun Coast” and care about our dwindling quality of life – I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Daytona Beach News-Journal and perusing this important piece of journalism.

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


Barker’s View will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks as I take some time away.   

I find it interesting to look back at how many things have changed – and remained the same – on this salty piece of land we call home.   If you are so inclined, while we take a short break, please enjoy a look back at the extensive archive located at the bottom of this page. 

On Tuesday, I’ll be co-hosting “The Smoking Truth” podcast with Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool for an always raucous hour of competing opinions on the news and newsmakers of the day. 

Please find The Smoking Truth here: – or wherever you receive your favorite podcasts! 

See you soon!    

Angels & Assholes for March 24, 2023

Hi, kids!

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

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

Asshole           Volusia County Council

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

–Carl Sagan

Call me a soothsayer, but I just knew the innovative ideas of creating a dog friendly section of beach – and freeing Volusia County residents from the odious burden of double-taxation in the form of beach access fees – were dead on arrival when the bureaucracy started presenting its own “facts” ahead of the public meeting last week – prefaced by the fearmongering line, “What you are not being told about Free dogs on the beach and Free beach driving passes…”

Upon taking office in January, District 4 Councilman Troy Kent expressed interest in establishing limited dog friendly sections of beach in each coastal community – and resurrected the possibility of allowing residents to drive on the beach toll-free by charging out-of-county visitors a little extra for vehicular access and parking in beachfront parks. 

Councilman Troy Kent

The idea had originally been a campaign promise of Chairman Jeff Brower – but, of course, the initiative was universally shit-on by the previous iteration of the council because, well, it was a campaign promise of Chairman Brower…

Sadly, in lockstep conformity with the bloated bureaucracy he serves like an errand boy, in February, Councilman Danny Robins moved to squash the idea early, wringing his hands and crying the Poormouth Blues, championing the cause of nickel-and-diming strapped residents at every turn:

“The big elephant in the room is, how are we going to pay for it?  I don’t want to hear that we have a $1.2 billion budget — that’s not a sufficient answer … We’re in an economic decline.”

Yeah.  Let’s get the inconvenient fact “…we have a $1.2 Billion budget” off the table early… 

The truth is, area families are the ones suffering from inflation, rising housing costs, and “economic decline” – while Volusia County government remains flush with cash – as the increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy gets larger and more distended by the day.


On Monday, literally one-day prior to the discussion, Volusia County officials received an email from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service warning that opening a dog friendly pilot site near Bicentennial Park in Ormond-by-the-Sea could violate provisions of the Incidental Take Permit that protects shorebirds, sea turtles and other threatened species – which, some warn, could potentially end our century-old tradition of beach driving. 

So, after sitting stone-faced as over twenty residents spoke both for and against the proposal – and the hyper-emotional Councilman Robins engaged in a few of his nonsensical stream-of-consciousness histrionics – some of our elected representatives suggested ruthless penalties for anyone found in the company of a dog without a “doo-doo bag” in their hand, more signage, adding a full-time animal control officer to patrol the short stretch of sand writing citations commanding hundreds of dollars in fines, having pet owners pay a fee and register with Volusia County, and generally making it so burdensome that no one in their right mind would visit the “dog friendly” area – the council deferred their decision on creating a test site near Andy Romano Beachfront Park in Ormond Beach until staff can obtain more information from the feds.

It was interesting to watch Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan at work – a true Master of the art of Bureaucratese and Pettifoggery – as she dispassionately inflated costs for the trial program by swinging a wild-ass guess that the dedicated animal control officer would cost $104,000 and a few waste bag dispensers would set us back nearly $6,000.

(Just for grins, I did a quick Google search and found durable aluminum pet waste bag dispensers with keylock holding up to 700 bags for $61.00 each – and 6,000 replenishment bags for less than $200.00…)

While we’re talking about inflated costs for services – another Google search found that the combined salaries of the three senior staff members who spoon-fed the canned PowerPoint presentations to council members totals almost $500,000 annually (2021 excluding benefits. 

Wow.  Talk about the Old Bamboozle…

In my view, this was a perfect example of government taking a simple suggestion – the establishment of a small area of our 47-miles of beach to accommodate dogs on a leash – and making it so onerous, complicated, and expensive that it takes the fun out of the concept, paints any elected official who supports it as a spendthrift, and exasperates supporters until they simply give up and go away. 

Even with a generous donation of $100,000 in start-up funds gifted by Ormond Beach philanthropists Nancy and Lowell Lohman – and an anticipated favorable nod from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – it would be at least November before the proposed trial period would begin, giving senior staff something to micromanage, analyze, trifle over, dissect, worry, and bicker about for the next, oh, seven-months.

Look, most people of average intelligence could create a dog friendly section of beach before lunch with little consternation, additional staff, or added cost – but not county government.  

In the cloistered Halls of Power in DeLand, by splitting hairs, arbitrarily setting an astronomical budget estimate, bringing to bear multiple levels of government and federal regulatory agencies, parading high-paid lawyers, division directors, and deputy managers before the dais of power – the bureaucracy ensures the status quo – and innovation is quickly suffocated to the strains of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well, mission accomplished, fellas…    

When talk finally turned to Councilman Kent’s well-thought plan for increasing revenue using paid off-beach parking for out-of-town visitors to allow Volusia County residents toll-free vehicular access to our beach, Councilman David Santiago immediately employed some parliamentary slight-of-hand to effectively cut Kent off at the knees to ensure nothing of substance could be done to change the current fee schedule.   

Once the status quo was safe, “staff” began down a byzantine path as the lawyers were once again trotted out to explain why a “uniformity requirement” of the County charter demands the general fund “buy down” the difference in the cost between residential and non-residential annual passes.

I don’t get it, either. 

But it apparently means you and I – the stoop-shouldered Volusia County taxpayer – will continue to pay twice for the privilege of accessing our beach for the rest of our lives…

As the “discussion” continued, to ensure that We, The Little People keep paying through the nose for a day at the beach, those stalwarts of the status quo used their patented scare tactic – raising the specter of burying us with even higher property taxesnever once considering hacking the thick rind of fat off the redundant, ever-expanding (and grossly ineffective) Coastal Division and its various and sundry support functions.

Look, you and I both know they were never going to let us off the hook for beach tolls. 

That was telegraphed last week, well before Tuesday’s hot-air session, when Councilman Robins published a laundry list of “facts” on social media so everyone (including his “colleagues” on the dais) knew how he planned to vote – announcing that the “Beach Budget is roughly $14 million dollars” (the beach management budget is actually $24,527,613.  The $14 million represents the amount the “beach budget” is subsidized by the general fund under the “buy down” requirement). 

He also embroidered a fancy dress for this tax by another name and labeled it a “user fee.”   

$24.5 million annually? 

For what? 

To ham-handedly “manage” a natural shoreline that could manage itself without any interference from Volusia County?  

I defy anyone to point to a single beach management service – from closed ramps to officious wardens, impassable walkovers, the lack of a comprehensive erosion control plan, a chronic lifeguard shortage, and the ever-expanding ugly forest of poles, signage, and cones littering the strand – that works well for residents and visitors.   

Ominously, in a weird (but not unexpected) twist, Councilman Don Dempsey showed us serfs the whip by threatening an increase in beach access and parking fees for residents as well.   

You read that right.  

That will teach us ungrateful helots from getting our hopes up, eh?   

I realize that getting the government’s heavy hand out of our pockets and away from every aspect of our daily lives – including a day at the beach – is frightening to our powerful elected elite and those entrenched mandarins who control our lives and livelihoods from the Ivory Tower of Power in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.

As things stand now, the Council voted 6-1 – with Chairman Jeff Brower casting the lone “No” vote, to direct staff to bring back recommendations for charging out-of-town visitors for off-beach parking.

Now, many are wondering who this “new” iteration of the Volusia County Council exists to serve – We, The Little People who pay the bills, or the omnipotent bureaucracy, now containing so much mass and internal momentum that antiquated notions of oversight, policy implementation, and political accountability no longer matter?   

On Thursday, Paul Zimmerman, president of Sons of the Beach, wrote an excellent summation of this latest exercise in futility on social media:

“The County Council kills the dog beach, AND free beach access for their own residents…miraculously the FEDs send a letter to the county the day before the vote threatening the ITP (Incidental Take Permit) and HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan) if dogs are allowed…

The bureaucratic staff flexing their muscle…just showing who is in charge and how they can sabotage any action that runs contrary to the bureaucrat’s agenda. Sadly most of this new council are too dim to realize they are being manipulated…or they are part of the problem…hard to believe but this council may be worse than the last one…we seem to have 2 that represent the citizens and 5 the status quo, 5 are incapable of independent thought or investigation.”

Well said.

I sincerely appreciate the fact that Councilman Kent made good on his promise to bring these innovative ideas to the table, working to make our beach a more fun and attractive draw, and presenting a commonsense plan for increasing revenue to feed the insatiable machine while removing some of the burden from Volusia County residents.

Stay tuned, folks. 

When Councilman Don Dempsey callously admonished struggling Volusia County families to “suck it up” and expect to pay more, something tells me enjoying a day at the beach is about to get more expensive for everyone – even as annual pay raises and perquisites for senior administrators expand exponentially.

Sadly, the tail continues to wag the dog in DeLand…  

Angel               Florida Commission on Ethics

No.  I haven’t suffered a closed head injury. 

Just like a blind hog finds an acorn on occasion – sometimes even those toothless and somnolent watchdogs over at the Florida Commission on Ethics get it right.

Last week, the Ethics Commission exonerated Deltona City Commissioner Dana McCool after spurious allegations she misused her public position were brought by thin-skinned Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez.

Maritza Avila-Vasquez

In dismissing the frivolous complaint, the state’s ethics apparatus rightfully determined that the mishmash of butt-hurt babbling and hyped-up horseshit that Avila-Vasquez cobbled together in an attempt to destroy her “colleague” lacked legal sufficiency. 


According to Avila-Vasquez’ grammatical nightmare of a formal complaint (I’ll spare you the transcript) to the Ethics Commission, the entire tempest in a teapot stemmed from a testy off the dais tête-à-tête between the two elected officials last year during which Commissioner McCool is alleged to have dropped the “F-bomb” (the Vice Mayor’s word, not mine). 

In my jaundiced view, the pettiness of the complaint had a whiff of political revenge about it and it rightfully backfired.  I’m glad the Florida Commission on Ethics (which, given the shady nature of politics in the Sunshine State, should be working in shifts) dismissed Ms. Avila-Vasquez’ ridiculous complaint for what it was. 

I’ve said it before, if the Lost City of Deltona is to restore the public trust, then the elected officials must begin the painful process of sorting through the divisive baggage and set a collective vision, putting aside the mean-spirited “gotcha” politics, self-serving collusions, and accusatory maneuvers, then find a means of working cooperatively with community stakeholders to achieve civic equilibrium.

Perhaps that healing process could begin with a sincere and public apology from Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez to Commissioner McCool for her wholly disproportionate reaction to a perceived personal slight – and for putting a colleague through the emotional wringer of an Ethics Commission review.    

Or maybe it is time to vote petty politicians/shit-stirrers like Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez out of office altogether?

Regardless, the good citizens of Deltona deserve better.

Quote of the Week

“In a blockbuster investigation published last week, the Washington Post may have cracked at least part of the code. The Post spoke with five independent insurance adjusters, hired by insurance companies to deal with the crush of Ian claims. Each and every one of them reported the same thing: Their professional appraisals of damages was altered – always downward, in some cases as much as 90%. Photos documenting ravaged homes were removed from reports. Descriptions of damages were changed. Jordan Lee, an adjuster who inspected dozens of homes for Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Co., said that when he looked back at the final version of his reports, 100% had been altered.

The Post spoke with adjusters who were working with three insurers, none of whom would talk to reporters. There’s no proof that other insurers were engaging the same tactics to avoid paying claims. But there’s also no getting around the fact that more than one-third of claims filed after Hurricane Ian are seriously overdue, or were denied any payment at all.

Yet lawmakers thought insurance companies needed more leeway to deny claims – and put them at risk of having to pay their own insurer’s legal bills if they took them to court and lost.”

–Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board, “This is what a real insurance emergency looks like, Florida,” The Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, March 19, 2023

Imagine that.

While the legislature is in session, perhaps it should consider making Florida’s new state slogan: “Prioritizing profits over people…”

And Another Thing!

As regular readers of these screeds have no doubt noticed, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of our sacred rights enshrined in the United States Constitution – and how quickly our foundational truth that all humans are granted certain freedoms and liberties by God, and the state does not have the power to usurp or infringe upon those rights – is being rapidly eroded by those we have elected to represent our interests at all levels of government.   

The farther afield things get in Tallahassee and Washington (and DeLand, for that matter), I’m quick to let people know that I am a proud No Party Affiliate

After spending most of my adult life as a staunch Republican – I came to the realization that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties represent Lincoln’s idea of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”   

It is a feeling secretly shared by many, who now whisper their fears in private, careful not to be seen as disloyal to the lockstep conformity required by those partisan firebrands on both sides of the Great Political Divide determined to seize power at any cost

As the wild-eyed fringe elements of both political parties wrested control from moderates – those more interested in good governance than fighting the never-ending “culture wars” – we watched as national politics descended into chaos, the pandemic proved how willing we were to be locked inside our homes and have our businesses shuttered by cowardly politicians who now deny their Draconian measures, inflation strained family budgets, and we collectively came to the frightening realization that both state and local governments are actively figuring out ways to operate independent of We, The Little People by trying their best to assure us the omnipotent bureaucracy knows best.     

Scary stuff.

I have a theory that it’s easy to bury someone alive if you convince them each scoop of dirt is a gift, and that you are doing them a favor by lavishing them with rich soil. 

After a while, they no longer have the ability to complain…

It is all in how you spin the “facts.”

Sound familiar?      

As a practiced observer with enough experiential scars to recognize when someone in an expensive suit is pissing down my back and telling me it’s raining – I believe what is happening in Tallahassee this legislative session (and closer to home at the Volusia County Council) is truly alarming.

In my view, the théâtre de l’absurde that passes for all levels of government has grown so outrageous that many people I speak with have simply tuned-out – always expecting the worst – refusing to watch or read the “news,” constantly pushing the boundaries of what they once vowed never to accept, and suppressing that queasy feeling that our freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights are being usurped for the convenience of tetchy politicians seeking to suppress the legitimate criticism and participation of those citizens who cannot afford a chip in the game.  

Trust your best instincts, folks.

That weird feeling in your gut is right – these asinine bills working their way through the Florida legislature that suppress free expression, demand that bloggers register with the government, lower the bar to allow petty politicians to sue anyone who speaks out against their money-grabs and incompetence, and wield the full might of the state government like a cudgel to punish political opposition, limit our access to public records, and silence critics – are inherently wrong – and a damnable slap in the face to every veteran of the United States who served and fought to defend our sacred democratic principles. 

You know, those same veterans that shameless politicians embrace for photographs each election cycle?

The next time a politician asks for your vote (because you will rarely see them again after they get elected) remind them that the government did not give us our rights – and it cannot take them away with the wave of a legislative wand. 

The United States Constitution is not there to tell American’s what our rights are.  It exists to limit the power of tyrannical despots when they infringe on those inalienable rights. 

In my view, that is something all citizens should remember. 

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

Angels & Assholes for March 17, 2023

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              Atlantic High School Students – “We Are United”

Volusia County residents were shocked following the arrest of Arin Hankerd, 42, of Ormond Beach, a teacher and football coach at Atlantic Hight School in Port Orange, on multiple charges related to alleged “sexual contact with a student” at the school.

That shock turned to righteous outrage when it was disclosed that Hankerd had a documented history of inappropriate conduct with students during his previous tenure at Mainland High School.

According to a February 14 report by Katie Kustura writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“The Port Orange police report shows this isn’t the first time concerns have been raised about Hankerd and his contact with students.

Daytona Beach police took two reports in recent years when Hankerd was the physical education teacher at Mainland High School; both reports were closed without criminal findings.

In the first report, a student said Hankerd made her feel “uncomfortable by hugging her and asking her personal questions, such as if she would date older men.” In the second report, a student said Hankerd touched her shoulders and thigh and asked her personal questions.

The Port Orange police report states Hankerd told the victim he transferred to different high schools frequently, and “a rumor went around the school he transferred because he was talking to young girls.”

The police department’s Facebook post regarding Hankerd’s arrest received more than 550 comments and 800 shares by Tuesday. In at least a dozen comments, parents and former students said they or someone they knew had raised concerns about Hankerd or had interactions with him that made them uncomfortable.”

It was later reported that the Port Orange Police Department is now investigating four more cases of sexual abuse “involving females Hankerd met in his role as a high school teacher.”

During a subsequent court hearing, Circuit Judge Karen Foxman said that it appears Hankerd is someone “…who took that environment that’s supposed to be safe for children and turned it into somewhat of a hunting ground in order to sort of prey on minor children…”

Naturally, many students and parents at Atlantic High School were frightened and confused – high emotions made worse by the typically tepid response by Volusia County District Schools. 

According to a follow-up report by the News-Journal, in response, senior Sofia Valle and other Atlantic students formed the unofficial club “We Are United” and held a peaceful silent protest outside the school on February 27 to “…raise awareness about the situation and sexual abuse as a whole.”

To their credit, some one hundred Atlantic students participated in the protest.

“I was just really nervous that when (the school administration) would shut it down that I would get in trouble, which I was prepared to face because I feel like I’m fighting for something that’s right, and I would have no problem getting in trouble for that,” Valle said.”

An inquiry by News-Journal reporter Brenno Carillo found that Volusia County Schools felt that a student assembly to address the situation “would not be adequate” (?) since the law enforcement investigation of Hankerd is ongoing.

Instead, a District mouthpiece gave the typical canned response to horrific events that always involves “having extra counselors present during the week…” 

Fortunately, the We Are United protest appears to have opened a desperately needed line of communication between the Atlantic administration and concerned students, who rightfully questioned how a teacher and football coach could have engaged in sexual relations with a student on the school campus? 

In my view, considering his previously identified conduct at Mainland High School, the circumstances surrounding Hankerd’s arrest should sound an alarm in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. 

But it won’t.

If history repeats (and it always does here on the Fun Coast), rather than initiate a top-to-bottom review of how process, procedures, and personnel may have contributed to this dangerous situation – especially one where serious indicators of predatory behavior by a teacher were missed or ignored, allowing him access to more victims on a different “hunting ground” – Volusia County District Schools will simply circle the wagons – obfuscate, deny, spin the facts, explain, play things close to the vest, and make excuses why senior officials were caught flatfooted and became uncommunicative in the aftermath of a traumatic event. 


Kudos to Sofia Valle and those courageous members of We Are United who stood up for the safety of their fellow students by fighting against sexual abuse, providing a safe place for victims, and starting a serious discussion of how this horrific crime can be prevented on school campuses and beyond.   

Sounds like senior administrators at Volusia County District Schools could learn something from these young student activists…   

Angel               Daytona Beach City Commission

This space prides itself on one man’s subjective divination of “who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us.”

I’m the first to admit, some days I get it right – and sometimes I miss the mark completely.  

In my view, the four members of the Daytona Beach City Commission who voted to deny a rezoning request this week that would have paved the way for a massive 1,600 unit residential and commercial development – including 340,000 square feet of commercial, institutional and light industrial uses – on 415 acres between Interstate 95 and Tomoka Farms Road had the best interests of everyone in east Volusia County at heart. 

Look.  I may be a rube, but I’m not stupid – and neither are you.    

We all know this is merely a momentary reprieve from a development that will ultimately be approved – adding more pressure to our already overburdened traffic, utilities, environment, medical, and water infrastructure and resources – even as the specter of the gargantuan Avalon Park looms on the horizon…

It is clear that the increasing grumble of disenfranchised existing residents (and some of our vocal new neighbors/voters/potential candidates in sprawling subdivisions west of that Monument to Mediocrity at the LPGA Boulevard pinch-point) who see their quality of life crumbling as the bulldozers roar, is having an impact with more elected officials who sense the increasing frustration of those of us stuck in three light cycles on any main roadway in the Halifax area. 

It is heartening that so many are beginning to push back on the detrimental effects of the asinine “shove ten-pounds of shit into a five-pound bag” growth strategy that has many residents feeling claustrophobic – and betrayed by those they relied upon to protect our best interests.

According to an excellent report by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“The mayor and city commissioners have been taking heat from local residents who are worried that Daytona Beach is building too much too quickly. They worry about increasingly congested roads, and whether the city’s water and sewer infrastructure can handle the expansion.”

According to the report, “Commissioners agreed to reconsider the project’s rezoning after traffic concerns on the county’s Tomoka Farms Road are hashed out between city and county government leaders.”

I was surprised to read that some in attendance encouraged the Daytona Beach City Commission to approve the rezoning citing the quality of the project.   

Unfortunately, we are well beyond the point of cherry-picking “smart growth” development that enhances area aesthetics and attracts those elusive “high paying jobs.”

That would have required strategic thought and creative planning – selecting quality projects that respected Florida’s natural environmental processes, retained and reused stormwater, and protected neighboring properties from runoff and flooding and saying “No” to the mediocre – demanding distinctive and attractive communities with a strong sense of place that would have complemented Daytona Beach’s unique history as a vacation destination and prompted infill and revitalization in our core tourist area.   

Instead, with over 12,900 units set to sprout west of I-95 alone – our ‘powers that be’ have approved every sticks-and-glue apartment complex, zero-lot-line cracker box, and strip center that came across their dais, while interfacing industrial warehouses with existing neighborhoods and thoroughfares – blanketing the community with a hodge-podge of ugly sprawl in a cart-before-the-horse orgy of greed that has left existing residents suffering the natural consequences of too much, too soon

Ah, what “could have been,” eh? 

In my view, now that Daytona Beach and beyond is reaching build-out – it is refreshing to see that the voices of so many residents are finally being heard by those with the power and ethical responsibility to protect our quality of life from the dramatically destructive impacts of malignant overdevelopment. 



Stay tuned.  It will be interesting to see how this project ultimately worms its way to approval…

Asshole           Volusia County Council

Whenever one of my cockeyed observations on our life and times here on Florida’s Fun Coast ruffles the feathers of our highbrow illuminati – those “Rich & Powerful” (the News-Journal’s descriptor, not mine) who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide – they accuse me of being a “bully.” 

I’m not bullying anyone. 

In my view, our social and civic elite aren’t accustomed to hearing the unvarnished opinions of a plebeian – or having their loyalties and motivations questioned by someone who hasn’t purchased a chip in the game. 

For instance, last week in this space, as a longtime resident of Ormond Beach, I mentioned that some of my neighbors and I lost confidence in Commissioner Susan Persis, and her husband, Volusia County School Board Member Carl Persis, last September when they posted pictures of their vacation on social media from Europe while the rest of us were hunkered down in our homes, many without power, as the raging winds and rain of Hurricane Ian howled outside our windows.    

Trust me.  I was not alone in that assessment. 

It had an aloof air of “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” about it – and I said so. 

Now that Commissioner Persis has filed to run for Mayor of Ormond Beach, I felt in was politically pertinent to express my concerns about her personal commitment to the job – and her willingness to put the needs of her constituents over vacation plans when the chips are down.

For speaking my mind, I was accused on social media by another member of our moldy civic ‘upper crust’ of “having it out for Susan and Carl,” and told that I went “out of my way to hurt them.”


In my view, this was just another example of the elitism that continues to separate We, The Little People from those we elect to represent our interests in municipal and county government – which should be open, accessible, and responsive to residents – yet, when us lower caste taxpayers call foul on those who hold themselves out for high office, no matter how irresponsible or outrageous their behavior may be, our criticism is considered out-of-bounds whenever the right last names are involved. 

Although our “high and mighty” deny it, the “trust issue” is still a major problem here in Volusia County, and those who measure these things say that public confidence in government can be best assessed by two elements – perceived competence and positive intent.

While judging basic competence should be obvious – it is said that determining positive intent is gauged by the local government’s humanity and transparency – something often based upon a citizen’s interaction with the bureaucracy, and the accessibility and responsiveness of their elected representatives. 

Sadly, since our “new” Volusia County Council was seated in January, I have received several calls from Barker’s View readers lamenting the fact that obtaining an audience with their district council member now requires going through a county gatekeeper who schedules the appearance.

Then, the meeting is shepherded by “staff” under the guise of providing “expert” guidance on whatever topic the citizen may wish to discuss with their representative. 

That’s called controlling the narrative.

Like a malignant tumor, the purpose of a bureaucracy is to expand and multiply – that begins with self-protection. 

While the names and faces on the council may periodically change – those at the top of the bureaucratic pyramid rarely do – and the “system” quickly learns the importance of indoctrinating and controlling the elected officials as key to protecting the status quo.  

Recently, Paul Zimmerman, a lifelong area resident and respected civic activist who serves as president of Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, wrote an open letter to the Volusia County Council asking, in part:

“Why then are some members of the council insisting on having county staff present during meetings with citizen’s groups or individuals? It has been my experience in these meetings where staff is present, staff acts as a nanny, filtering information from a status quo perspective, a roadblock to open discussion between citizens and their representatives.

These chaperoned style meetings leave some in the public coming to the conclusion that the council is being groomed to follow the lead of the staff. That is not why the council was elected. The council was elected to represent their constituents, not reflect the status quo of county staff.

If the council is only going to follow the directions of staff, then why bother with elections?”

In his predictable response, District 3 Councilman Danny Robins used the opportunity to confirm my worst suspicions about the intellectual capacity of some area elected officials – and take a not-so-veiled swipe at Chairman Jeff Brower.

Here’s an excerpt:

“From my time on the council, countless community meetings and seeing what’s said on social media, I believe it’s crucial to have specialized people within our organization at public meetings.

Not only to keep notes and write down the questions of our citizens, but to answer any technical questions that ordinary people including elected officials may not know.

As you know, some politicians aren’t qualified to own a pet rock. Imagine a plumber trying to answer questions within an electrician’s wheelhouse?

Often I see elected officials at community meetings just like the last Sons of the Beach meeting providing a tremendous number of agenda driven, misinformation catering & pandering to the people in the room, telling them what they want to hear knowing they are not qualified or equipped with the factual information to do so. Then at another meeting saying the complete opposite, kind of like we saw at this year’s State of the County.

That in my opinion sends a mixed message to one’s colleagues, citizens, leads to chaos and causes confusion to our constituents. That is not OK and I believe the role of the government is to be truthful, use the tools (staff) the people pay for, get the factual information out and let the public decide its direction.

In my opinion, the only reason why you or anyone else wouldn’t want a resident expert at community meetings shows me that you aren’t interested in the facts or the truth.”

In closing, Councilman Robins made it perfectly clear he only wants to hear from those who agree with him – and those dull “tools” on the senior “staff” who tell him what he wants to hear regarding the intractable issues we face:

“In closing, please do not include me on these emails anymore in the future. They are self-serving, lack all facts and do not take into consideration the best overall interest, health, welfare, and safety of all 564,000 Volusia County residents.”


For all you “ordinary people” – it appears Councilman Robins believes only the all-powerful bureaucracy generates “factual information” – and anyone interested in speaking with their elected representative outside a supervised setting must have ulterior motives that threaten the status quo.

And that, my fellow Dalits, is the true state of Volusia County’s increasingly cloistered and insular government.

One might ask Mr. Robins – and our other elected “independent thinkers” who occupy the dais of power in DeLand:

If they won’t provide oversight, accept everything “staff” tells them with Burning Bush certainty, have no interest in a legitimate performance evaluation of the County Manager and County Attorney, refuse to communicate with constituents without a monitor present, and are only interested in hearing “the facts” as generated by some pseudo-expert in the bowels of the bureaucracy – Why do we need them at all?

Quote of the Week

“HB991 is officially called the Defamation, False Light, and Unauthorized Publication of Name or Likenesses Bill. But First Amendment activists like me who have read it call it the “Death to Public Discourse Bill.”

Key supporters of HB991 want you to believe the legislation is about taming the excesses of the “liberal corporate” media by giving the “little guy” a chance to avenge “bad” coverage. But the truth of this bill is all about making it easier for government officials and their rich and powerful allies to use the courts to punish those who criticize them.

And despite the belief by some conservatives that HB991 would only affect The New York Times, the Miami Herald and CNN if it were to become law, the reality is no information outlet would be spared the depredations of punitive lawsuits under its provisions. Fox, Newsmax, conservative talk radio stations will all feel the sting of this new law as public figures across the political spectrum look to exact their vengeance against inconvenient news coverage and commentary. The fallout would just as likely crush Fox’s Tucker Carlson as it would The NYT’s Paul Krugman.

More than that, this legislation would also subject bloggers, community groups, average users of social media — in short everybody who wants their voices heard — to the untold financial and emotional burdens of lawsuits.

And the way HB991 is currently written, a story doesn’t have to be wrong and damaging to an official to land a reporter, blogger or housewife Facebooker in court. It can merely cast the subject of the story in an unfavorable light.”

–Bobby Block, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation, as excerpted from the editorial, “Bad for Florida, bad for America,” West Volusia Beacon, Tuesday, March 14, 2023

And Another Thing!

I hear well-meaning people talking about decorum and civility in everything from the public discourse to the personal conduct of the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker we elect to represent our interests at all levels of government. 

Last week, reporter Al Everson published a thought-provoking piece in the West Volusia Beacon, “Do Orange City’s leaders need rules to be nice?” which explained that just before the end of the Orange City Council’s February 28 meeting, “Mayor Gary Blair asked his colleagues to consider adopting a “code of conduct” for themselves.”

According to the report, when asked why he proffered the suggestion, Mayor Blair explained, “Another [City] Council member used foul language on me in a public park in a public event.” 

In December, the Lost City of Deltona was rocked when that self-righteous arbiter of free expression Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez filed a formal complaint against Commissioner Dana McCool with the Florida Commission on Ethics alleging that McCool dropped the “F-bomb” (her word, not mine) on her during a testy off-the-dais tête-à-tête in October 2022.

You read that right.  A formal ethics complaint…

Then, the self-described “uncommonly well-educated” Deltona City Commissioner Tom Burbank reaped a whirlwind of public criticism – and the official censure of his “colleagues” – after he directed a hate-filled and homophobic screed against a private citizen who announced he was exploring a run for public office. 

Recently, another sitting Deltona official responded to citizen concerns of possible violations of Florida’s Sunshine Law by reasoning, “It’s only a violation if someone reports it” – in other words, it is only a crime if you get caught…

My God.

The natural response to this almost universal feeling of helplessness is that what passes for public participation in government continues to take an increasingly confrontational tone as taxpayers become frustrated by factors they see destroying their quality of life that are now completely out of our control, such as:

The uncontrolled sprawl that our elected representatives continue to rubberstamp, citizens being told they don’t have a voice because they supported the wrong candidate for public office, the abhorrent personal behavior of some sitting officials, the backbiting, nastiness, and political dirty tricks that pass for Volusia County elections, the sickening corporate welfare lavished on those who pay to play with massive campaign contributions to malleable candidates, and now, the refusal of some elected officials to meet privately with their constituents as “the system” ensures they stick to a scripted storyline that ensures the status quo.

I mean, imagine if your son were incarcerated at the Volusia County Jail and reported that he had been tacked out nude in a four-point restraint somewhere in the bowels of a cellblock (which, according to recent reports, is not out of the realm of possibility). 

Then consider if you tried to report this humanitarian atrocity to your elected Council member – only to be told the meeting would be monitored by a “resident expert” from the Volusia County Department of Corrections? 

Now, our elected officials tout ignorance as a virtue – and the bureaucracy is allowed to control the narrative, “spin” the facts, while independent thought and contrary opinions are dismissed as “self-serving” misinformation and deemed a danger to the “best overall interest, health, welfare, and safety” of the blissfully uninformed masses.


Rather than open lines of clear communication, improve transparency, and listen to the criticism of their constituents – instead, Florida legislators propose asinine laws weakening our right to free expression, prohibiting citizens from speaking ill of the King – ordering bloggers to register with the state and file financial disclosure forms, lowering the bar and encouraging petty politicians to silence critics and activists by suing them for “libel” whenever we call out their autocratic assholery for what it is.


How patently un-American

A slap in the face to anyone who ever took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I’m going to say this again:

In my view, this “civility and decorum for thee, but not for me” push by some officious politicians is further eroding the fundamental freedoms once protected by our democratic institutions – and widening the chasm between government and the citizens from which its power originates – setting the stage for the dire proposition of our elected elite exercising the all-encompassing dictatorial power to do anything they damn well please without editorial challenge.

We live in strange times, friends. 

That’s all for me.  Have a great St. Patrick’s Day, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for March 10, 2023

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 Senator Jason Brodeur, Seminole County

You don’t have to agree with me.    

In fact, I learn best from those who look at civic issues through different eyes and engage in thoughtful debate – the vigorous competition of ideas and diversity of opinion that spurs a larger discussion of the issues we collectively face here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

Apparently that free and open exchange of ideas across the “blogosphere” is making some very important policymakers nervous – I guess because it lets them know We, The Little People are paying attention to how the sausage gets made.

In my jaundiced view, that is the true contribution of even crude blogsites like Barker’s View.

Before I became a hyper-opinionated blowhard, I enjoyed a productive professional life serving as Chief of Police for the wonderful community of Holly Hill. 

As a visible representative of local government, I often took the brunt of public criticism – in coffee shops, on the streets, in living rooms, and over the phone – I listened to residents’ concerns, never forgetting the importance of accessibility and allowing an opportunity for citizens to ask questions, provide a suggestion, or just vent.  

In retrospect, it was one of the most important and fulfilling parts of my job.

When serving a small town, you come to understand that acting as a sounding board for your constituents is a healthy part of community life.

Naturally, I was also subject to withering criticism – most of it deserved, some not – and sometimes the name-calling (especially those barbs questioning my lineage) became quite pointed and personal. 

That comes with the territory.

With experience, smart public officials learn to use even misplaced criticism as a civic barometer – because there is often a kernel of truth in even the most cock-eyed point of view.  

Unfortunately, some self-centered politicians take these gripes personally – an affront to their massive ego, political ambition, and the false sense of infallibility that often accompanies powerful positions where everyone laughs at your jokes…   

The fact is, if you serve in government – that dark and cloistered place where tax dollars feed the machine that both makes and enforces the rules – then I suggest you grow some hard bark. 


I subscribe to what remains of The Daytona Beach News-Journal because (occasionally) it contains the last remaining flakes of local reportage – area stories, explanations, and editorials told by some incredibly talented journalists who actually live here. 

That’s important in an era where corporate media conglomerates are busy regionalizing and homogenizing hometown newspapers across the nation – and staying apprised of area happenings now comes with being lectured, ad nauseum, by some moonbat from the Palm Beach Post and other Gannett properties – all spewing slanted sermons that are bulk packaged and passed off as “news.”

But as an informed citizen – I hold my nose and read it anyway

Then, I think critically about the issue, sort fact from conjecture, consider sources and motivations, view the information presented through the prism of experience and perspective, then form my own opinions – neither always right, nor always wrong.  

Because the thought of living in an echo chamber controlled by partisan political tribes determined to suppress any message not in lockstep with their party line is grim. 

In my view, censoring the views of others and demanding conformity – even fealty – to state-sponsored spin is counter to our democratic principles and inalienable freedoms.

Frighteningly, we seem to be inching closer to that dictatorial precipice everyday…

Now that local governments are doing everything in their considerable power to curtail the ability of the average citizen to address their elected representatives and make themselves heard on the issues – passing insidious “civility ordinances” and subjective rules of decorum that only apply to taxpayers (as our elected overseers behave anyway they see fit) while limiting when, where, and how the governed can prostrate ourselves before our increasingly monarchal rulers – blogs, podcasts, and social media platforms remain the few citizen soapboxes left for those who cannot afford to purchase a chip in the game. 

In my view, this censorship cloaked in a velvet glove is morally and constitutionally wrong.  

In fact, there is nothing more damaging to the fabric of an open society than state sponsored suppression of free speech, silencing alternative opinions, and squashing the unfettered competition of ideas – especially when those ideas stir strong emotions, challenge the status quo, and ruffle the feathers of those in positions of power.  

Last week in this space, I hit the pinnacle of editorial unanimity by pissing off literally everyone who read my rambling screeds – especially my goofy take on Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower’s State of the County Address.

Hey, “I call ‘em like I see ‘em,” and eventually I get around to goring everyone’s sacred ox…  

However, that animus was quickly followed by real concern from many Barker’s View readers who were shocked by a now squashed senate bill introduced by Florida Senator Jason Brodeur, which, among other tyrannical edicts, would have required:

Sen. Jason Brodeur

“If a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post, the blogger must register with the appropriate office, as identified in paragraph (1)(f), within 5 days after the first post by the blogger which mentions an elected state officer.”

Under the proposed law, the failure of a blogger to file these state mandated reports would have resulted in fines of “$25 per day per report for each day late, not to exceed $2,500 per report.”

You read that right.

I cannot think of anything more patently un-American

In my view, Bobby Block, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said it best:

“From my own experience, the only places where journalists would ever have to register with the government have been apartheid South Africa, the countries behind the Iron Curtain, the USSR, Zaire, Burkina Faso, and socialist Ethiopia,” Block said. “… I don’t think Florida being in that company of those countries is a good thing.”

More to the point, last week, Charles C. W. Cooke, senior writer for the acclaimed conservative editorial magazine National Review, accurately called Sen. Brodeur a “moron,” and described his bill as “…an unconstitutional, moronic disgrace, and the guy who wrote it, Senator Jason Brodeur of Seminole County, is an embarrassment to the GOP.”

Finally, Governor Ron DeSantis – who is said to have been “caught off-guard” (?) by Brodeur’s proposal – addressed the growing national firestorm following his State of the State Address on Tuesday:

“Every person in the legislature can file bills. I see these people filing bills and there are these articles with my face on the article, “bloggers are going to have to register with the state,” attributing it to me.  That’s not anything I’ve ever supported, I don’t support. I’ve been very clear on what we are doing.”

With that, Brodeur’s asinine legislation was dead on arrival. 

Now, the darker questions remain.

How could a senior elected official propose a bill in direct contravention of the First Amendment and Florida’s state constitution which holds, “…no law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press”?

And to what strategic purpose did Governor DeSantis wait so long to address this blatant attack on our fundamental right to criticize powerful policymakers without the chilling effect of requiring government registration?

Being an incredibly astute politician and Harvard trained lawyer, Gov. DeSantis must have known of Sen. Brodeur’s ill-thought intent to propose this baldfaced censorship and the righteous shitstorm of controversy that would ensue?

And what will become of our fundamental liberties if/when another despotic asshole ramrods a similar bill through a supermajority giving “elected state officers” the all-encompassing dictatorial power to do anything they damn well please without editorial challenge? 

I’m asking.

Because, at this point, the only thing I am certain of is that I will never register my personal and political thoughts with the “appropriate” Thinkpol office in Tallahassee. 


Nor will I pay a fine for expressing my independent views and opinions on the ethics, acts, omissions, abject idiocy, and shady motivations of those who accept massive campaign contributions from influential special interests, then enshrine themselves on a pedestal in the Ivory Tower of Power.

Yeah.  Not going to happen.

That’s not bluster and braggadocio.

It is an incredibly difficult and hard thought stand by a disenfranchised citizen who took an oath and devoted my life to public service – someone who, if Senator Jason Brodeur had his way, would be considered a criminal and formally sanctioned by the state for expressing an opinion contrary to that of the burgeoning Monarchy in Tallahassee.

Stay vigilant.

Gideon Tucker was right: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

Asshole           Volusia County Council

In 2020, Volusia County residents took a strong leap of faith, ignored their best instincts, and overwhelmingly voted to continue the Volusia ECHO and Forever programs. 

Originally established in 2001, then renewed by voters in 2021, these tax supported programs were created to fund environmental, cultural, historic, and outdoor recreation opportunities and the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands for conservation. 

In fact, the ECHO Volusia Forever Alliance sold us on the continuation of the programs by answering the question, “What are ECHO Grant Awards?”

“They are matching funds that are granted to successful applicants to help pay for facilities that are open to the public, in one or more of the four ECHO categories.”

Further, the Alliance explained to wary voters, “To qualify for a grant, applicants must show that they have matching money equal to the amount of the grant they are seeking from the ECHO fund.”

As with most programs administered by Volusia County government, in the lead-up to the vote to renew ECHO and Forever, taxpayers became concerned about the manner and means by which the funds were being administered – including a lack of transparency in the process – which resulted in the formation of citizen oversight committees. 

It became known as the “trust issue” – and is the exact reason Volusia County voters rejected a proposed half-cent sales tax in 2019.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most Volusia County residents were under the distinct impression that ECHO funds would be used to bring new and innovative opportunities to life by partnering with non-profits and municipal governments with an innovative project of countywide interest who agreed to the grant match and performance requirements.   

Instead, on Tuesday, by unanimous vote, the Volusia County Council approved a “Direct County Expenditure” bundled as a “5-year plan” which will now place divisional capital improvement expenditures – specifically the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure – on the back of the Volusia ECHO program. 

Trust me.  Our councilmembers did not come before the taxpayers with their hat in hand, a novel idea, and matching funds in their briefcase like other ECHO applicants are required to do.

Instead, with the wave of a bureaucratic wand, the Volusia County Council approved a list of 43 projects at 32 sites to be funded using $15.4 million in ECHO funds – with 24 of those projects identified as “improvement of current assets.” 

Increasingly, council meetings are like Wednesday on the Mickey Mouse Club – “Anything Can Happen Day” – and it helps when you have a staff of professional shills, fluent in bureaucratese, who can justify any appropriation using a liberal application of bullshit, smoke, and mirrors.

For instance, Brad Burbaugh – who holds the lofty position of Director of Resource Stewardship (a title you will only find in government) said – “It’s a strategic investment plan, informed by the grassroots needs of our community that balances both improvement of current assets, new construction projects and restoration.”

My ass.   

Call it what your conscience allows, Brad – I call it sneak thieverysupplanting normal and recurring repair and replacement expenditures with funds earmarked for ECHO grants, then selling it to us rubes who pay the bills as a cost savings

To ramrod the massive expenditure, Mr. Burbaugh exhumed a dusty 2020 resolution passed by the Volusia County Council authorizing the ballot initiative and permitting the council to use ECHO funds for “direct county expenditure for County government projects or by grants-in-aid awards.”

(You remember that resolution, right?) 

In addition, Burbaugh masked the foul odor of another bait-and-switch shim sham wafting from the council chamber by assuring our “new” elected officials that their previous counterparts dipped into ECHO funds for 22 projects totaling $16,119,596 by “direct county expenditure” since 2007…

Look, I don’t know about you, but when I voted to extend the ECHO and Forever programs, I had no idea that those dollars would ultimately be used for cultural and historic amenities like repairing long neglected beach ramps, walkovers, and fishing docks, renovating public restrooms at county parks, and replacing aging playground equipment.

You know, those preventive maintenance, repair, replacement, and improvement obligations that most responsible government entities budget for each year – rather than quibble resolutions, twist ballot language, and stretch programmatic intent to shoehorn anything and everything that has long been overlooked but can no longer be ignored?

Apparently, Councilman Don Dempsey wasn’t concerned about the county dipping into ECHO funds, only why more of the loot wasn’t coming to West Volusia. 

According to a report by Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, Dempsey questioned:

“…why many of the projects were located on the east side of the county, with only a couple facilities in the northwest side of the county being included in the plan.”

Burbaugh said that the proposal was based on the county’s needs and that the projects were taken from the divisional budgets.

“It may be worth to look at finding more needs on the west side,” Councilman David Santiago said. “Balance it off.”

Seriously.  I don’t make this shit up, folks…

Frankly, this harkens back to the bad old’ days, when ECHO became little more than a slimy slush fund – our tax dollars looted to purchase off-beach parking lots – and millions of dollars squirreled away to fund a mysterious (now defunct) plan to extend the Daytona Beach Boardwalk – with little, if any, public input in the process.   

I hope this serves as a wake-up call for those lethargic watchdogs on the ECHO and Forever Oversight Committees – those We, The Little People who pay the bills rely on to recognize these shameless money grabs – and preserve the integrity of these vital programs for future generations.

In Volusia County, the more things change, the more they stay the same…

Asshole           Deltona City Commission

Some conspiracy theorists define a “Shadow Government” as:

“…a family of theories based on the notion that real and actual political power resides not only with publicly elected representatives but with private individuals who are exercising power behind the scenes, beyond the scrutiny of democratic institutions. According to this belief, the official elected government is subservient to the shadow government, which is the true executive power.”

If you live in Deltona, that should sound eerily familiar…  

At this abysmal time in the city’s history, is there another explanation

On Monday evening, despite the vehement objections of civically active residents – and two incredibly capable alternatives, the Deltona City Commission sidestepped the venerated century-old Daytona Beach law firm of Cobb & Cole – and Winter Park attorneys Fishback Dominick, who have served Central Florida for over eight-decades – instead opting on a 5-2 vote to recycle the civic lightening rod Marsha Segal-George as the city’s “new” legal counsel. 

To their credit, Mayor Santiago Avila and Commissioner Dana McCool stood firm for the residents of Deltona – remembered the hard lessons of history – and voted against doing the same thing while expecting a different result… 

Following the most divisive period in Deltona’s shambolic history, why would any conscientious elected representative vote to retain an attorney who is still listed as a “senior associate” with the very law firm they opted to fire just weeks ago?   

Shocked Deltona residents were extremely vocal in their opposition to more of the same from Segal-George – who has been enmeshed in every civic nightmare this tormented community has experienced in recent years.

Before the vote, one by one, citizens approached the dais and used terms like, “screwed us over,” “hasn’t served the city well,” “has brought division,” “too much baggage,” and “someone who has wronged us in the past,” to express their experience with Ms. Segal-George during her tenure as city attorney.

When the vote was taken, the uproar from the outraged audience required that Mayor Avila gavel a five-minute recess. 

In my view, a recent social media post by Deltona civic activist Dayle Whitman accurately summarized the crooked road that brought the commission back to the very place they started – and gave voice to the utter exasperation many residents are feeling:

“They pretended to be interested in the candidates, who gave up their time to be put on display, so the commission could make us feel like they gave a shit, when they didn’t.

The request to get residents input on hiring a new legal team was in fact Deja Vu, an instant replay of the October 12, 2022, special commission meeting.

Well guess what Deltona they pulled the same shit sham on all of us last night. 

The only hope we have is to get outside help involved in saving our corrupt city.

It’s going to take more than the handful of people who stand up and fight for our city at every commission meeting.

And I’m not sure we can do it. Deltona is the laughingstock of Volusia County, maybe even the state.”

A “shit sham” is right… 

For instance, despite the raucous opposition of residents – and with questions still unanswered about when and how Interim City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm will be replaced by a permanent charter officer – on Monday, by unanimous vote, the City Commission contractually ensconced him in the position for another year

With The Chiseler now commanding “$200,000 per year in equal bi-weekly payments of $7,691.31” plus the perquisites and privileges of a High Potentate – concerned residents are demanding to know when a legitimate process will be finalized to recruit a permanent manager.

Unfortunately, per Mr. Chisholm’s modus operandi – hard answers to these important civic enquiries are less than forthcoming – leaving more Deltona taxpayers beginning to question exactly who, or what, is controlling this puppet regime behind closed doors… 

My God.

Deltona’s leery residents are right.

Something stinks in Deltona.

Quote of the Week

“For the low, low price of $3 million, you could be the next owner of the parcel that once housed the Hotel Putnam in Downtown DeLand.

Earlier this week, a for-sale sign sprung up outside of the dirt lot that, as of just last month, no longer boasts the 100-year-old hotel. The building was torn down when an engineer reported that it had become structurally unsound and could collapse at any time.

Realtors with Colliers are hopeful that Florida’s hot real estate market will lead to a quick sale.

“Developers are still very active in these challenging times. They’re looking beyond what people think will be a short-term recession,” Colliers Executive Vice President Casey Babb told The Beacon. “Florida continues to grow very well, and we don’t see that slowing down in Central Florida.”

The location is a prime piece of real estate, he said, and he thinks the City of DeLand will be receptive to a housing project that looks to capitalize on the Putnam’s history, possibly allowing as many as 120 units on the site, which has Downtown Commercial zoning and is in the Downtown Historic District.

Real estate firm Axia Partners purchased the building in September 2021 for $2.3 million. When The Beacon spoke with a representative from the company in January, he said the plan, if the building were to come down, would be to build something “meaningful” in its place.

A representative from the company was unable to immediately be reached…”

–Reporter Noah Hertz, writing in the West Volusia Beacon, “FOR SALE: The site of the former Hotel Putnam,” Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Welp.  There you have it, folks.    

Now that the historic Hotel Putnam has been reduced to dust and hauled off – 100 years of West Volusia history and memories gone in a roar – it’s salvaged bricks now being sold as a fundraiser by (ironically) the West Volusia Historical Society – the vacant lot is on the real estate market…

So much for the assurance from our now uncommunicative friends at Axia Partners – the Utah-based real estate investment group that purchased the hotel last year and promised DeLand resident’s that the firm was “…committed to finding a use for the Putnam site that pays tribute to the once prestigious hotel and the history of DeLand that it reflects.”

Personally, I like the idea of Beacon readers Frank and Kim Schnidman, who suggested asking “…Axia to simply deed the property to the City of DeLand for the purpose of a downtown park and green space The lasting legacy Axia Partners can create for themselves and their investors is to donate the $3 million property to DeLand for a City Park, “Putnam Park, a gift of Axia Partners.” Then the company and its investors can take a tax deduction for this charitable contribution. This would truly “leave a lasting legacy in the market”!!

Don’t hold your breath…

And Another Thing!

“Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on (political) offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”

–Thomas Jefferson

Things are beginning to heat up for the 2024 elections with Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington announcing his run for the District 28 Florida House seat now held by incumbent Rep. Tom Leek who has filed to run for Florida Senate District 7.

The announcement came following Tuesday evening’s Ormond Beach City Commission meeting.

Commissioner Persis

I found it incredibly interesting that political opportunist and sitting Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis filed to run for Mayor Partington’s still warm seat on Tuesday morning at 11:00am… 


Personally, I lost all confidence in Commissioner Persis in September 2022, when – with Hurricane Ian’s winds still raging outside – I received a message from a Barker’s View reader who was rightfully mad-as-a-hornet over tone-deaf “Vice Mayor” Persis, and her husband, Volusia County School Board member Carl Persis, aloofly posting their European vacation photographs on social media while their frightened constituents were weathering the howling onslaught here at home.

What I found most cringeworthy was when Vice Mayor Persis doubled-down on her cluelessness by marking herself safe from Hurricane Ian – from Europe…


I do. 

Although Commissioner Persis evacuated to Europe and wasn’t there for Ormond Beach residents when we needed the leadership of our Vice Mayor most – it appears her unbridled hubris and pathological political ambition won’t permit her to do the right thing and step aside for someone (anyone?) who would put the needs of their constituents over their own when the chips are down.

Old Thomas Jefferson said something else that rings true:

“The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

That’s all for me.  Have a great final weekend of Bike Week 2023, y’all!

Angels & Assholes for March 3, 2023

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               State Attorney R. J. Larizza

Last week, the nation was galvanized by the brutal beating of a paraprofessional at Flagler County’s Matanzas High School by a 17-year-old student.  This week we learned that the “student” has three prior battery arrests on his juvenile criminal history.

That video was hard to watch…

A school security camera captured the brutal image of the student – described by The Daytona Beach News-Journal as 6-feet, 6-inches tall and 270 pounds – rapidly advancing on the teaching assistant and delivering a Butkus-like body blow that sent the woman flying to the floor rendering her unconscious.

With his victim prone and defenseless, the student relentlessly punches, kicks, and stomps the woman – pummeling her limp body until staff members and School Resource Deputies intervene. 

According to the News-Journal’s report:

“A deputy’s body camera video shows the handcuffed student being led out of the school. As he walks by where the woman is being treated, the student tried to spit toward her and said he would kill her when he returned, according to the charging affidavit.

In the video the student is heard yelling “Stupid (expletive). I’m going to (expletive) kill you.”


Given what I witnessed on that video – that should be taken as a credible threat

From the vantagepoint of over thirty-years in law enforcement, this barbaric attack met all the elements of the first-degree felony crime of Aggravated Battery on a School Board Employee, and on Friday, Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney R. J. Larizza appropriately charged the juvenile as an adult, and he is being held at a Juvenile Justice facility in Daytona Beach.  

The victim – a mother of two from Palm Coast who works two jobs to provide for her family – was initially hospitalized due to her injuries and is recovering at home.

Now, let the handwringing begin…

Almost immediately, the “But, But, But…” crowd began their mewling chorus of – “But he was an Exceptional Education Student…,” never mind that each day thousands of special education students attend classes without physically mauling instructional personnel.

“But he was living in a group home…,” each day hundreds of students dealing with homelessness, abuse, and parental abandonment attend school and peacefully interact with students and staff.

“But it’s the school’s fault.  The district was negligent.”  Maybe so.  I don’t know what security procedures the district has in place to protect vulnerable teachers and staff from unprovoked acts of violence – but that does not justify the ferocity of this attack by a 17-year-old thug who it appears set out to beat his teacher to death with his bare hands.    

“But it’s not the child’s fault.  He is not a threat.”  Yes, he is.  Given the savagery depicted in the video – and his credible threat to kill the victim – in my view, the “child” (who is four-months shy of his 18th birthday) represents a clear, present, and on-going danger to the paraprofessional and the public.  

The fact is, there is no logical or legal justification for his shocking brutality, and if we are to reverse the grim trend that has turned many Florida schools (including Volusia County’s) into a dystopian Thunderdome – and the streets of Central Florida into a war zone – then it is high time the legislature gets serious about strengthening our horribly broken juvenile justice system.

And fast.

Recently, a teacher in Volusia County described being physically attacked, bitten, and verbally assaulted by a student in her classroom – apparently an occurrence that happens far more frequently than is reported – and a critical reason why so many educators are rightfully fleeing the profession in fear for their safety. 

For far too long, Florida’s shambolic juvenile justice system has been a farcical game of catch and release – a laughable revolving door where even violent offenders are shunted into various namby-pamby “diversion programs” – and allowed to return to the very environment that both countenanced and cultivated their abhorrent behavior and provided a ready supply of victims.

All while the Department of Juvenile Injustice expected a different outcome…

Last week, the world was shocked when a woman was shot and killed in Pine Hills – then the suspected predator returned to the scene and brutally murdered a 9-year-old child, a television news reporter, and wounded the child’s mother and a photojournalist. 

It was later revealed that the suspect is a 19-year-old with an extensive juvenile record.

“At 19, he has a lengthy criminal history to include gun charges, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and grand theft charges,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference last week. 

A career criminal by 18 – a suspected mass murderer at 19 – and no one in the juvenile justice system saw this coming?


In my view, it is time Governor Ron DeSantis and our state legislature return focus on that which is truly important and start tackling the harsh reality of juvenile violence – a clear and present danger that is threatening the lives of residents, destroying our public education system, and causing potential visitors to think twice about vacationing in a combat zone…  

Kudos to State Attorney R. J. Lariza and his outstanding staff for having the courage to stand strong for the citizens of the Seventh Judicial Circuit and vigorously prosecute the suspected perpetrator of this horrific crime.   

Enough is enough. 

Asshole           County of Volusia

Buckle up, kids.  This one boggles the mind…

In 2019, Volusia County launched the highly successful Nurse Triage Program designed to alleviate pressure on advanced life support ambulances and EMS personnel by allowing nurses collocated with 911 dispatchers to handle non-emergency situations by phone from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center.

According to reports, between December 2019 to March 25, 2021, the triage program managed 2,167 calls and assisted nearly 400 patients avoid an emergency response, which freed advanced life support ambulances 176 times.   

In 2021, Volusia County’s E-911 Redirect Triage Program received national recognition from the National Association of Counties. 

At the time, former Volusia County Emergency Medical Services Director Jason Brady said, “…the even bigger reward is seeing the positive impact that this program has had on our county’s emergency response system and the residents who rely on it to serve their medical needs.”

In the view of many, the success of the triage program was measured in lives saved as advanced life support services were kept available for those who truly needed them, while helping alleviate the crush of patients who are regularly stacked like cordwood at area emergency rooms, now that our elected dullards have allowed massive overdevelopment to surpass available healthcare resources, utilities, and transportation infrastructure.    

Interestingly, Volusia County prominently features the benefits of the nurse triage program on their paramedic recruitment site, telling potential EMS employees that it “…helps identify low-acuity calls for service that could receive treatment at an alternate care site, thereby freeing up ambulances and emergency rooms for patients with higher acuity complaints.”

So, is this award-winning program being expanded? 

No.  Not here.   

This week it was announced that the triage program is being scrapped by Volusia County – with the five part-time nurses assigned to the program summarily dismissed in “good standing” at the end of the month.

According to a recent report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Those familiar with the decision also said the program cut came as a surprise to people on the team.”

I’ll bet it did.   

It probably came as quite a surprise to some of our elected representatives on the Volusia County Council as well…

Want another surprise?

Those Volusia County employees who have recently been charged with Driving Under the Influence and relegated to “administrative duties” will be assigned to carry on parts of the program going forward.

That’s right.  This once nationally recognized program has become a dumping ground.

What will become of the remainder of the program’s budget – which was advertised at $284,000 when it began in 2019, you ask?    

Well, according to the News-Journal, Director Judge tells us, “The county plans to divert funds that would have gone toward the program “into other areas” to keep residents safe, Judge said.”

Talk about a convenient (if not skeevy) way to “divert” previously allocated public funds, eh? 

I don’t make this shit up, folks…

Of course, the official spin is that some of the non-emergency patients assisted by the triage nurses were ultimately transported to area emergency rooms because many federally qualified urgent care facilities have waiting lists and require a copay (cha-ching) – which means those without the ability to pay must be seen at an ER – ultimately, not as many patients were sent to alternative facilities as senior officials would have liked.  

According to the News-Journal report, as a result, Volusia County Emergency Services Director Jim Judge said the program “…wasn’t worth keeping financially.”

“And so, you know, as a result of that, ultimately the patients ended up going to the emergency room, and many times going by ambulance to the ER.” Judge said. 

Yeah.  You know…

So, what does that mean for Volusia County residents who relied on the program – and the demoralized EMS personnel who have long-decried adverse working conditions, wait times, lack of support, the hemorrhage of qualified employees, and gross mismanagement that have placed those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence at risk for years

In my view, this insightful blurb from those in the trenches says a lot:   

“People familiar with the decision to cut the Nurse Triage program, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about hurting their careers, said they are concerned that the change will end up hurting residents. They expressed concern that people with true emergencies might have to wait longer as more resources are devoted to non-emergencies.”


Whenever I read “…spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns of hurting their careers,” and, “(Director) Judge said Emergency Medical Services “did have a couple of DUIs,” it tells me all I need to know about the culture, discipline, and leadership of Volusia County Emergency Services – and the clear organizational need to lower the bar and keep even compromised employees because they cannot recruit and retain qualified personnel.

Which begs darker questions…

Like why was the E911 Nurse Triage Program selected as the parking spot for county employees who have been charged with a serious criminal traffic offense? 

In my view, the spate of DUI arrests should sound a klaxon with someone (anyone?) in what passes for upper management in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand. 

Is it unaddressed traumatic stress?

A toxic work environment? 

A failure to recognize and assist employees in crisis?

A lack of organizational discipline and professional standards? 

All of the above?

Trust me.  We will never know

I doubt most of our out-of-the-loop elected representatives will either.

Because introspection and strategic thought – the evaluation of strengths and challenges, seeking internal and external input, listening to the concerns and suggestions of first responders, and improving service delivery – requires accountability and responsibility, which is anathema in the senior echelons of Volusia County government.

Unfortunately, don’t expect anything to change.

This culture of mediocrity and fierce protection of the status quo will continue until our elected representatives finally have their fill and demand that County Manager George “The Wreck” Rectenwald begin meeting the oversight requirements of his incredibly high paid position beyond the bare minimum required to avoid external scrutiny.   

With a budget now in excess of $1 Billion, Volusia County taxpayers deserve better.

Quote of the Week

“What remains of a long-planned effort to create a model community and an economic-development showcase between DeLand and Orange City is morphing into something different.

Something with more warehouses and more densely packed housing, perhaps.

With a 5-2 vote Feb. 16, the Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission voted to recommend that the County Council amend the old Southwest Activity Center blueprint.

One change would add warehouses and distribution centers — such as the Amazon facility in Deltona — as permitted commercial uses. The second change would set the residential density at four to eight units per acre and reduce the minimum lot sizes for single-family homes from 7,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.”

–Reporter Al Everson, writing in the West Volusia Beacon, “New vision takes shape for Activity Center,” Friday, February 24, 2023

Sounds like the same old “vision” to me. The disastrous strategy of shoving ten-pounds of shit in a five-pound bag to maximize profit over quality of life and labeling it “progress.”   

And Another Thing!

Did you watch the State of the County Address this week?

Me neither. 

I just couldn’t bring myself to waste another hour of my life being schmoozed by smiling elected and appointed public officials, who, after gorging themselves on a “free lunch” paid for by government contractors (hoping We, The Little People won’t notice how badly it reeks of reciprocation), try to convince us how great we all have it here on Florida’s Fun Coast

Rah, Rah, Rah – Sis, Boom, Bah…

From what I’ve read in the funny papers, it sounds like County Chair Jeff Brower expended a lot of hot air trying to convince himself (because none of the “Who’s Who” of Volusia County give two-shits what he has to say) that after being publicly humiliated and politically castrated by Volusia’s Old Guard for the past three years, somehow he still holds out hope for “working cooperatively for positive change” (?).

Of course, the spectacle was punctuated by an incredibly expensive choreographed production emphasizing how this wholly compromised system somehow “works for us.” 

Kum ba yah, my Lord, Kum ba yah…


Honestly, I just could not do it this year…

According to reports, Chairman Brower went on one of his ineffective but passionate rants about “controlling growth” – now that malignant sprawl has all but overtaken the width and breadth of Volusia County – and you can bet there was happy talk of “responsible development” – a subjective term that, to many sitting politicians, means it is irresponsible not to monetize every square inch of this sandy piece of land – flora, fauna, and existing residents be damned.   

According to a synopsis by reporter Sheldon Gardner writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chairman Brower also used the opportunity to eulogize area springs, lakes, and rivers:

“Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower said improving water quality should be the council’s top priority in a speech Tuesday at the State of the County event at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach.

“Those rivers are sounding an alarm. Those springs are sounding an alarm that require immediate and continuous action,” Brower said. “Swimming is not permitted in three of our five springs because bacteria counts are too high.”

“Four of our rivers, including the Halifax, which is the northern part of the Indian River Lagoon, the Indian, St. Johns, Tomoka River, as well as Spruce Creek are all on the Impaired Water List of the Clean Water Act,” he added.”

My God. 

I think I would have had greater respect for Chairman Brower if he had simply approached the podium, held his head in his hands, and openly wept for three-minutes…  


I was also baffled by a section in the pageant’s 45-page glossy program that clearly misplaced Low Impact Development under the “Protecting natural resources” section (sandwiched between advertisements for P$S Paving and Masci General Contractors) which touted a “…$75,000 grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity” to develop “recommendations” to fill a “companion guidebook.”

Wait.  Recommendations?

Say what?

Volusia County government has been kicking the rusty low impact development can down the dusty political road for years – no closer to requiring developers adopt runoff management, pollution control, and effective flood protection measures now than they were five-years ago when our Director of Growth and Resource Mismanagement Clay Ervin first hit the trail with his horseshit LID dog-and-pony shows.

Remember?  I do. 

Now, Volusia County plans to spend $75K to compile suggestions for local governments and property owners? 


In keeping with the redundant (and repugnant) year-over-year smokescreen of “Things are looking up!” Brower ended with the sanguine trope:

“That’s who we are. We are a special place and a special people. It is that love for place and neighbors that can make our county with God’s help the best place to live, work and blah, blah, blah…”

Sadly, we’ve heard it all before. 

Look, I may be a rube – but I understand the basics of classical and operant conditioning – and, over time, the simple formula hot stove = pain has taught me to not put too much faith in what a politician says while he or she is belching their “free lunch.”

I prefer to trust that which I see with my own eyes, rather than what some slick tax-funded agitprop would have me believe.

As someone who pays attention to our deteriorating surroundings, ruminates on the effects of uncontrolled sprawl while trapped in four light cycles at (insert East Volusia intersection here), sees the abysmal condition of our beach and core tourist area, stands slack jawed amid reports that inmates have been tacked out nude in the inner recesses of the county jail, drives by massive glass and steel monuments to corporate welfare, reviews campaign finance reports to identify who (and what) is controlling my destiny, watch as residents are bled dry with fees and taxes while humbly begging permission for a three-minute audience with their exalted monarchy, and looks on helplessly while what remains of our wildlife habitat and green space is slashed-and-burned to satiate some greedhead’s perverse idea of “progress,” as hundreds of our neighbor’s homes repeatedly flood due to overdevelopment, it takes a lot more than a slick video and a neutered politician in a garish necktie to change my perceptions.

In my jaded view, the true state of Volusia County is a harsh reality for those working hard to feed and house families in this artificial economy, and the daily experience of many of our neighbors is a far cry from the shameless puffery and whoopla staged on Tuesday…

Better luck next year.

That’s all for me.  Have a great first weekend of Bike Week 2023, y’all!   

Angels & Assholes for February 24, 2023

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           Deltona Commissioner Tom Burbank

“I’ve traveled the world, I’m uncommonly well-educated and have had two successful careers. I’ve been a Squad Leader, a Supervisor, a Manager, a Director, a Chairman, and now I’m a Tribal Elder. Given that, I like to think I’m a fair judge of people. On the subject of Nick James Lulli I offer the following personal impressions:

IMHO…The man (I use the term loosely) is: A tool, a sycophant, a wannabe, a stooge (too diminutive to be a goon), a puppet, a kiss-ass, ingratiating, obsequious, an apple polisher, a parasite, mealy mouthed, a brown-noser, more follower than leader, a bottom feeder, a remora, a leech, (probably) an impulsive liar, in prison terms…somebody’s wet-butt boy.

I’ve run out of pejorative adjectives. I don’t get to use them much as I normally give people the benefit of doubt.

He claims to be a marketing professional and communication expert, and yet has no website to peruse. He accepts fees for his work and yet I can find no record of his having a business license.

He may have one, we’re looking into it.

The notion that anybody would elect him to lead is beyond comprehension. Tb”

–Deltona District 1 Commissioner Tom Burbank’s unprovoked cyberbullying following resident Nick Lulli’s announcement that he is exploring a run for the District 6 seat in 2024

Yeah.  Him again.

Every time I read that hurtful and homophobic diatribe from the sanctimonious shitheel Tom Burbank – the vitriol directed at a civically active resident considering a run for elective service – it makes my blood boil

Fortunately, I am not alone.

The parade of passionate Deltona citizens who approached their elected officials on Monday evening to condemn Commissioner Burbank’s vicious attack on a private citizen spoke to the true character of a community under siege by their own elected representatives – and the depth of dysfunction and idiocy that continues to destroy public confidence in Deltona government.

I was particularly moved by the fervent plea of one resident who challenged the remainder of Deltona’s elected officials to file individual complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics over Burbank’s hateful smear – or be considered complicit in this abhorrent behavior. 

After facing a barrage of criticism from his angry constituents, in my view, the fact that Mr. Burbank did not have the moral courage to resign and put an end to the embarrassment and distraction that his vicious attack has caused the City of Deltona tells us all we need to know about his sense of honor, personal integrity, and political loyalties. 

Commissioner Tom Burbank

To add insult, during subsequent comments from the dais, Commissioner Burbank – mockingly wearing a rainbow shirt – dodged responsibility and gaslighted his shocked constituents:

“To anybody in the audience or the viewing audience who I may have been offended, by assuming my comments were meant to be homophobic, nothing could be further from the truth.  I had no idea when I wrote that that the target of my ire swung that way, I really didn’t.”

You read that right.  It’s your own damn fault for assuming – not his.

Ultimately, Mayor Santiago Avila followed his conscience – and the palpable sense of outrage in the room – when he relinquished the gavel and moved to censure Commissioner Burbank as an official (if inconsequential) expression of the elected body’s collective condemnation of the shame and disrepute his actions have brought to the community. 

(All while Deltona’s lame duck City Attorney Marsha Segal-George babbled from the sidelines about the potential legal liability of doing the right thing.  Marsha, Marsha, Marsha…)

To say it was the least they could do is an understatement.

The measure passed on a 6-1 vote with Commissioner Burbank still refusing to acknowledge or atone for his bigotry.   


Considering the scathing rebuke of his neighbors – and loss of confidence by both constituents and colleagues – what’s keeping Burbank on the dais of power? 

In the past week, disturbing information has been made public that in 2009, Mr. Burbank resigned his employment as a Planner II with the City of Deltona following a written reprimand, a documented series of “performance-related concerns,” to include his defamation of the Planning and Development Services Department in front of staff and members of the public.

Which makes me curious…

Is it possible that Mr. Burbank’s soiled reputation as a failed low-level paper-pusher – an incompetent do-nothing with a high opinion of himself who accepted public funds then failed to meet acceptable standards – left him holding a grudge against the community who had a right to expect more?   

Is that what motivates Commissioner Burbank to viciously punch down from his position of power? 

Does that explain his unprovoked aggression, self-aggrandizement, and abject arrogance? 

I’m asking. 

Because I’ll be damned if I can find another logical explanation (other than pathological hatred) for his repugnant dehumanization of a private citizen.

My hope is that the good citizens of Deltona will reject the timid response of their now compromised elected officials and demand accountability – continue to press for Commissioner Burbank’s resignation – or initiate recall procedures as specified in the city charter and state statutes. 

In my view, this is not a free speech issue.

Burbank’s bullying – especially when used as a cudgel by a sitting elected official to scare a citizen away from participating in our sacred democratic process – carries ramifications far beyond the fetid pit of Deltona politics. 

Frankly, the use of cyberbullying as a means of coercing a potential candidate should pique the interest of the Florida Commission on Ethics, the Florida Elections Commission, and any state or federal agency tasked with protecting civil rights.

During a week that saw disgusting antisemitic propaganda distributed throughout Volusia County by nameless cowards – bigoted scum who spew lies, hate, and promulgate prejudice – craven acts that have been roundly condemned by local law enforcement and conscientious elected leaders – emphasizes the fact that Mr. Burbank’s hateful debasement of a private citizen has no place in civil society.   

Where is the public condemnation by the Deltona Professional Fire Fighters Union who promoted Burbank’s candidacy?

Where is the outrage from our local legislative delegation?

In my view, enflamed Deltona residents are right.  When it comes to hate speech and vile political coercion – silence is complicity  

Angel               East ISB Coalition

“I might in process of time (although I now found it impossible) renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption.”

Dr. Victor Frankenstein, 1818

Throughout my professional life in law enforcement, my colleagues and I often used morbid humor as a psychological salve – a way of making sense of the nonsensical – of alleviating trauma and easing the shock of man’s inhumanity to man.

I’ve kept many of those inappropriate coping skills in retirement.

For instance, I make fun of the asinine machinations of local government and the drone of misplaced “positivity” from politicians and our hospitality gurus who must know better, yet insist taxpayers deny that which we see with our own eyes.

I have perversely joked that each year around this time, our ‘powers that be’ develop a weird dissociative amnesia – which allows them to traverse the abject blight, dilapidation, and human carnage that populates what passes for the gateway to our core tourist area on their way to the haughty State of the County address at the Ocean Center – where they nosh on a “free lunch” provided by government contractors and ignore the obvious as they toot their own horns…

How can civic “leaders” gather smack in the middle of this neglect and decrepitude and not be moved to tears by nearly three-decades of civic inaction?


Now, after years of panel discussions, coffee klatches, standing room only “Town Hall” meetings, News-Journal exposés, “public visioning” sessions, FDOT presentations, catchy videos, colorful renderings of luxury apartments, talk of a loop-de-loop at the busiest beach approach in Volusia County – and lots of hot air from every Chamber of Commerce president in recent memory – there is a glimmer of light in the darkness, and we may finally see substantive movement on the long-awaited East ISB improvement project. 

Stop laughing at me, dammit… 

I’m being serious here. 

Last week, in an informative piece by reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:   

“On Friday morning, 13 years after the idea was conceived, those dozens of leaders who refused to let the street makeover die celebrated the start of what will be a roughly 17-month reinvention of the city’s main gateway to the beach.

“We never gave up,” said ISB Coalition Chair Maryam Ghyabi-White, who’s been a major force in several Daytona Beach road projects.”

According to the report, work on the estimated $30 million project is set to begin in April and should wrap in “summer” 2024.

“The project will widen East ISB between the Halifax River bridge and State Road A1A to create enough space for wider traffic lanes on the four-lane road, 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes between the bridge and Halifax Avenue, a 6-foot-wide sidewalk headed westbound, and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk headed eastbound.”

All kidding aside, in my view, none of this would have been possible without the dedication, perseverance, and organizational skills of the incredibly smart traffic engineer Maryam Ghyabi-White – who has the unique ability to bring massive egos together and mold a common vision – while making each entity feel it was their idea all along.

That’s no easy task.    

So, what comes next? 

Damned if I know.  But concrete and asphalt can only do so much.

I have a long-held belief that any substantive change to our decaying core tourist area will come from entrepreneurial investment – like the recent efforts of Dr. Charles Duva to improve the look and feel of the disastrous East International Speedway Boulevard with his restaurant and entertainment venue Beaches – visionaries willing to bring their talents and money to transform the current pattern despite what must be their best instincts to run west.

That requires a high level of support from local government, residents, and the business community to establish an attractive environment for private investors – innovators with the right set of eyes – who see beyond the blight, vacancy, and dilapidation to the potential of our beleaguered beachside.

In Daytona Beach, perhaps that means keeping the stagnant “economic development” types on a short leash – demand that they get out of the way – and stop the bureaucratic meddling and asinine obstacles that have driven many successful enterprises to other communities. 

Unfortunately, beachside merchants from the Seabreeze Entertainment District to Main Street and the East ISB Gateway, have long been ignored and maligned by city and county officials – victimized by blame-shifting and made to feel like an afterthought – while millions in public funds were wasted, incumbered, or lavished elsewhere. 

In my view, it is time to reverse that grim trend, develop a much-needed vision for our core tourist area, and begin the important (and expensive) process of rehabilitating the Daytona Beach Resort Area’s tattered brand. 

Now, let the progress begin! 

Happy Days are Here Again!  Again!

Hell, even Daytona Beach’s effusive Mayor Derrick Henry was struck dumb by the momentous occasion.

According to the News-Journal’s report:

“Moments like this are so good, so magnificent and so glorious that I was left without words to describe what a great day this is,” Henry said as he looked out at the crowd that included FDOT officials, city commissioners, business leaders, attorneys, city staff members and local residents.

The mayor said the city has wanted to improve East ISB for 20 years, but needed state funding to move forward. He thanked “the partners who helped Daytona Beach reach its destiny.”

Henry said the city needs to ride the momentum of the project and chase after more dreams.

“We never want to flatline,” he said. “The best is yet to come.”

Wow.  “Destiny.”  Goosebumps, eh?

Come-on you dream chasers in city and county government! 

Ride the momentum, dammit!

Let the East ISB renovation be the Frankenstein’s Plasma Ion Generator that reanimates the decomposing corpse of our beachside – returning decades of civic asystole to a normal and vibrant sinus rhythm! 

Would you please stop snickering at me?  Geez Louise!

O’ ye, of little faith… 

Just stop – don’t give me your maudlin bullshit about “…we’ve heard it all before, Barker.” 

Didn’t you see all the right last names gather for the ceremonial groundbreaking last week? 

Pictures were taken! 

They even had those goofy golden shovels and cartoon hardhats…if that doesn’t say ‘progress,’ I don’t know what does

After 20-years, we have finally reached our destinyMayor Henry said so!

You Negative Nellies.  Just wait and see…

Angel               Tomoka Oaks Residents

“I tell ya, golf courses and cemeteries are the biggest wastes of prime real estate.”

–Al Czervik, Caddyshack

Despite the pleas of their claustrophobic constituents, the chaunt of those elected officials that owe their political souls to the largesse of well-heeled developers who invest heavily in their campaign is: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” 

That also happens to be the survival strategy of a malignant tumor

But here in the Sunshine State – arguably the biggest whorehouse in the world – unchecked greed knows no bounds and the justifications for this orgy of overdevelopment just don’t hold water anymore (literally).    

Now, developers routinely ramrod insane zoning changes that allow as many zero-lot-line wood frame cracker boxes per acre as possible by claiming it is their God-given right – then threaten crippling legal action against any local government who challenges the Devine Right of Kings.    


With many areas on the Fun Coast reaching build-out – and more subdivisions being thrown up so close to environmentally sensitive areas that even those who once supported “responsible development” are repulsed – the real Al Czerviks of the world have set their sights on shoehorning more, more, more onto what was once the primary amenity of many Central Florida communities: Golf courses.

Recently, some 250 residents of the long-established Tomoka Oaks community attended “developer-initiated meetings” to learn the fate of their quality of life as plans move forward to erect 300 homes on their former golf course.  

You read that right. 

In 2021, it was announced that a local “investor group” purchased the former Tomoka Oaks Golf & Country Club with plans for what some are calling a ‘development within a development’ – something that longtime residents believe will drastically change the character and livability of the established community. 

Now, existing homeowners in Tomoka Oaks, The Trails, and nearby Escondido Condominiums are rightfully concerned about the adverse impact of additional traffic and increased density on their daily lives and property values. 

Sound familiar?  It should.

In 2021, angry residents of Indigo Lakes in Daytona Beach pushed back against a proposal to develop single-family homes, townhouses, offices, light industrial space and a senior living facility on the now defunct 250-acre golf course that winds its way through their neighborhood.

Last year, despite some 20 months of intense opposition, the City of DeLand voted to allow a residential development on a contaminated former golf course and dump site known as Beresford Reserve.

In December, residents of LPGA International learned that Virginia-based Fore Golf Partners LLC, who has owned the two 18-hole courses since 2019, has plans to turn the golf community’s three-hole practice course into 154 single-family homes and 40 townhouses – all west of that Monument to Mediocrity that is the two-lane Tomoka River pinch point…

Fortunately, some visionary communities in Florida and beyond – who understand that once you pave over green space you never get it back – are purchasing and repurposing shuttered golf courses, turning them into public parks, trails, orchards, equestrian centers, community gathering space, outdoor fitness areas, and stormwater retention systems.  

But not here.

While the Tomoka Oaks project meanders through the planning stages – I encourage all residents of Ormond Beach and beyond to follow developments closely. 

If you have tried to crawl your way along Granada Boulevard – or (insert any area roadway here) – imagine the horrific impact of some six hundred additional cars entering and exiting the fray at Tomoka Oaks Boulevard…

Yeah.  I know.   

For additional information, please go to:

Quote of the Week

“At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson, who voted in favor of the ordinance, said the changes would help young couples buy an acre, start with a modest mobile home and upgrade to better housing over the years.

“I know the picture that some are painting that a mobile home might be this single-wide tin thing with tarps over the porch and some person with no teeth trying to cook a burger out back, when in fact my parents lived in a very nice double-wide mobile home that was better than any home I first lived in,” he said. “So I think it’s all a matter of who your neighbor is.”

–At-Large Volusia County Councilman Jake Johansson, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia Council OKs mobile home site expansion,” Thursday, February 23, 2023

I find it fascinating (and more than a little frightening) when we get a glimpse into the minds and internal deliberative process of our elected officials… 

On Tuesday, the Volusia County Council voted 6-1 to expand areas where mobile homes are permitted in what we are told is a move to increase affordable housing opportunities.   

According to the News-Journal’s report, “Councilman David Santiago was the lone vote against the proposal. He raised concerns about unintended consequences such as impacts on property values. He said he is an affordable housing advocate but didn’t think the ordinance was the right way to go about it. “I think we should resharpen our pencils and look for other options, Santiago said.”

I don’t know how to break it to Councilman Santiago, but in a place where gross rent now tops $1,148 a month – with a per capita monthly income of just $2,685 – it’s going to take a pretty sharp pencil to keep a roof over many of his constituent’s heads…

The move now opens 51,883 acres in Volusia County to mobile homes as primary housing across a variety of rural and agricultural zoning categories.

And Another Thing!

I want to publicly commend Volusia County Councilman Troy Kent for valiantly championing the cause of dog-friendly beaches for area residents beyond driving to New Smyrna Beach or Ponce Inlet.

He did it for the right reasons, and I appreciate that.

Then, I want to commiserate with my fellow Fun Coast taxpayers…

The fact is, none of this affects me, because I no longer visit Volusia County beaches. 


I’ve had my last run-in with officious beach wardens with beards, short pants, and a God-complex.

The fear of being slapped in irons for smoking a Marlboro.

The fact I can no longer access the stairs I helped pay for north of North Shore Park due to the phalanx of “No Parking” signs that have sprouted like foul weeds in traditional beachside parking areas along A-1-A all the way to the Flagler County line (while unchecked high-rise development is permitted on the crumbling dune line elsewhere…)

I prefer to not render unto Caesar twice.  Once in my property taxes, and again at the tollbooth.

That’s why. 

I’m not a huge fan of being lorded over by the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker, and I don’t care for my government regulating otherwise lawful activities – nuisances and practices that can easily be alleviated with a modicum of courtesy and commonsense rather than another ordinance (and corresponding signage, staff, etc.) – like picking up after your dog, packing your trash off the beach at the end of the day, and being a good neighbor and citizen.  

I also question Volusia County’s patented kneejerk response to any wrinkle in the stagnant status quo that immediately requires expanding the bloated bureaucracy by hiring additional staff to write citations whenever a resident or visitor misses one the thousands of “do this/don’t do that” signs, poles, and cones that litter the coastline.   

Look, this issue has been rehashed time-and-again, with previous iterations of the council opting for the path of least resistance and further overregulating a day at the beach.

So, why not try something different? 

Why is it that dog-friendly areas work in destinations across the globe, but not here on Florida’s Not-So-Fun Coast? 

Hell, why is it that nothing about our godawful beach management scheme seems to work here?  

I mean, do they fear the ramifications to Volusia County’s iron-fisted (and incredibly expensive) control if We, The Little People start enjoying ourselves on our greatest natural resource? 

God forbid.

As in years past, no one is asking that roaming packs of vicious curs be allowed carte blanche across all 47-miles of Volusia’s Atlantic coastline – just a few designated and properly regulated areas in coastal communities where pet owners can enjoy the beach with their fur babies.  

On Tuesday, following a three-hour discussion (yeah, I know) our elected representatives directed staff to prepare “options” (hold on to your wallets) for a test site at Bicentennial Park on the North Peninsula. 

According to an informative report by Sheldon Gardner writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal:

“Staff members will bring back options for the test program at the March 21 council meeting, including possible user fees for dog owners. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. If plans advance, the council is expected to have a formal vote to establish the program at a following meeting.”

Wait.  “User fees for dog owners”? 


“Volusia County dog owners, COME ON DOWN!  You’re the next contestant in this weird game of Tax-Fees-Spend-Repeat!”

My GodWill those fee-grabbing parasites in DeLand ever stop? 


According to the News-Journal report, “The county will consider adding a new staff member to oversee the dog beach area, along with related equipment and services such as trash pickup and waste bags.”

So, there you go.  Volusia County’s unofficial motto in action: “Give with one hand – take more with the other.” 

One bright spot in the tedium came when Halifax area philanthropists and dog lovers Nancy and Lowell Lohman “…offered to donate $100,000 to help get the test program off the ground.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. 

Because this is how the bureaucracy exterminates the good ideas and campaign promises of our elected representatives by making implementation so onerous, expensive, and cumbersome that no politician in their right mind could vote to approve the costly end product.

It’s called the tail wagging the dog – and it will continue until the exact second our elected officials look County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald in the eye and demand he better manage his massive existing resources to accomplish goals and implement policy. 

My God.

More staff.  More regulation.  More equipment.  More signs.  More, more, more… 

Whether you agree with dog-friendly sections of beach or not – just know it’s not about you.

It’s not about any of us. 

It is about shoveling more of our hard-earned cash into the maw of this insatiable machine by any means possible.    

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

Angels & Asshole for February 17, 2023

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           Deltona Commissioner Tom Burbank

Each week I cling to the possibility that the Deltona City Commission has finally reached its nadir. 

It hasn’t. 

Unbelievably, Central Florida’s most shambolic and unstable elected body continues to plumb the depths of dysfunction – like a bathyscaphe exploring the deepest reaches of a bottomless shit-trench – and it is clear the assholery of some members of the Deltona City Commission knows no limits. 

Earlier this week, I received a note from Nick James Lulli, a resident of Deltona, who very courteously let me know that he enjoys reading Barker’s View – and is exploring a run for the Deltona City Commission in 2024. 

While I have never met Mr. Lulli – I get a lot of calls and emails from potential political candidates considering entering the fray (I’m able to talk most off the ledge) but he seemed sincere in his desire to contribute to his community – so, I congratulated his consideration of public service (then commiserated on the tragic loss of his sanity) and thought no more of it. 

Then, on Wednesday morning, Mr. Lulli sent me an incredibly disturbing cyberbullying social media post attributed to sitting Deltona City Commissioner Tom Burbank, which read as follows (verbatim):

“I’ve traveled the world, I’m uncommonly well-educated and have had two successful careers. I’ve been a Squad Leader, a Supervisor, a Manager, a Director, a Chairman, and now I’m a Tribal Elder. Given that, I like to think I’m a fair judge of people. On the subject of Nick James Lulli I offer the following personal impressions:

IMHO…The man (I use the term loosely) is: A tool, a sycophant, a wannabe, a stooge (too diminutive to be a goon), a puppet, a kiss-ass, ingratiating, obsequious, an apple polisher, a parasite, mealy mouthed, a brown-noser, more follower than leader, a bottom feeder, a remora, a leech, (probably) an impulsive liar, in prison terms…somebody’s wet-butt boy.

I’ve run out of pejorative adjectives. I don’t get to use them much as I normally give people the benefit of doubt.

He claims to be a marketing professional and communication expert, and yet has no website to peruse. He accepts fees for his work and yet I can find no record of his having a business license.

He may have one, we’re looking into it.

The notion that anybody would elect him to lead is beyond comprehension. Tb”

You read that right…

Commissioner Tom Burbank (Who apparently missed the “Dress to Impress” class during his prestigious education…

Clearly shocked by Burbank’s blatant character assassination, Mr. Lulli responded to protect his character and reputation – accurately calling Commissioner Burbank’s vitriolic smear exactly what it is was – “a homophobic attack” – before stating, “There is no room for hate in Deltona, Commissioner Burbank must step down immediately.” 

(Find Mr. Lulli’s full response here: )

In my view, Mr. Lulli is right.  Burbank needs to resign. 


Following his hateful screed, one of Mr. Burbank’s constituents gave voice to what many Deltona residents are thinking in a subsequent social media post:

“Tom Burbank you are my commissioner and you should be ashamed of yourself for the hate you are spewing! You need to immediately resign! This diatribe (I can use big words too) proves you cannot competently and without prejudice represent all the diverse people in your district!”


In my experience, whenever someone prefaces a statement with “I’m uncommonly well-educated” followed by their résumé, I know instinctively what I am dealing with:  A pretentious twit with a high opinion of themselves – and Commissioner Burbank’s ad hominem attack on a constituent and taxpayer proves just how accurate that metric can be.    

You may remember that Mr. Burbank’s self-absorbed nature was first exposed last year during his campaign for the Deltona seat in a haughty remark to the West Volusia Beacon:

“Burbank said he wasn’t planning to run for office, but he made the leap because he is “something of a figure in town,” and many people have asked him to.” 

My God, what a sanctimonious asshole…

I don’t make this shit up, folks.

As you may recall, last week I opined on another whale-shit level personal attack wherein Deltona’s bullying Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez filed a formal complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics alleging Commissioner Dana McCool somehow violated the State Constitution when she dropped the “F-bomb” during a heated off the dais tête-à-tête.

This week, in what was clearly a one-two punch, I learned that Commissioner McCool was recently threatened and intimidated by an unnamed former public official, apparently for doing her fiduciary duty and asking the hard questions during the city’s contract negotiations with its firefighter’s union…

Again, I don’t make this shit up, kids. 

Couldn’t if I tried.

Look, I don’t live in Deltona. 

But if you care about good governance in your community, you should be concerned about good governance everywhere – and as Volusia County’s largest municipality by population – the fetid rain from its continuing civic shitstorms falls across the remainder of the metropolitan statistical area – and Deltona’s abject dysfunction is a big reason Volusia County rightfully remains the laughingstock of our much more successful neighbors in Central Florida…

Yesterday, I sent a formal request to Commissioner Burbank’s official email account seeking an explanation for the inexplicable – namely how an “uncommonly well-educated” public official could possibly justify this vicious and hateful attack on a private citizen?

It was my futile attempt to understand in what context a sitting elected representative would refer to a constituent and taxpayer as “…somebody’s wet-butt boy.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Burbank did not respond. 

In my view, the fact that Mr. Burbank has not vociferously apologized to Mr. Lulli, publicly denounced this hateful rhetoric for what it is, and formally resigned to protect the integrity of his high office speaks volumes about his abysmal lack of character and bullying cowardice.   

Maybe the Lost City of Deltona has finally reached its lowest possible point?

Unfortunately, given the never-ending churn in City Hall, I doubt it. 

Stay tuned – this latest scar on Deltona’s reputation is far from over…

Angel               Flagler Beach City Commission

I have a great deal of respect for those who answer the call to public service – who weather the slings and arrows of criticism and dedicate themselves to a cause greater than their own self-interests – spending their time and talents furthering the greater good.

Conversely, I have nothing but distain for anyone in government (elected or appointed) who accept public funds to serve in the public interest then feather their own nest – and those of their “friends” (read: “special interests”) – while wallowing in mediocrity, running interference for the stagnant status quo, and allowing their own ineptitude to hamper progress while the needs of their constituents are ignored. 

Unlike larger bureaucracies, in small towns the acts and omissions of senior administrators are more readily apparent because they are felt more acutely by those who pay the bills.

Rather than hide in the Ivory Tower, chief executives in smaller communities are required to get their hands dirty, speak directly with constituents, work shoulder-to-shoulder with staff, lead from the front, and set the example – which means there is no place for wooden figureheads who do little more than dodge accountability and orchestrate agendas from on high. 

To say things are changing in the quaint ‘Old Florida’ hamlet of Flagler Beach is an understatement – and, in the opinion of many, not for the better.

Last week, Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson was summarily fired on a 4-1 vote of the City Commission. 

Given his disgracefully lackluster performance, no one was surprised.

The action came after what FlaglerLive! described as “…a humiliating, public dressing down,” during which Whitson’s many missteps and missed opportunities – including ignoring the deadline for a $700,000 tourism grant, the cancellation of the city’s successful July 4th fireworks celebration, a failure to plan for the departure of key staff, the deteriorating aesthetics of the community, low morale, and an unexplained failure to implement pay raises for city employees that had been previously approved by the commission, to name a few – were paraded across the chamber…  

With just less than two-years on the job, in the view of many, Whitson’s termination was long overdue. 

Unfortunately, this civic instability comes at a time of significant change in Flagler Beach – including preliminary plans for replacing the city’s iconic fishing pier, construction of a 100-room resort hotel literally on the town square, and a critical coastal renourishment project. 

On Monday, the City Commission took the sound approach of allowing time and distance between Whitson’s departure and their selection of an interim manager. 

According to reports, the list of potential candidates has been narrowed to three. 

The process will now move to meetings with department heads, a public meet and greet, and one-on-one discussions with commissioners ahead of a vote on February 23. 

Tene lupum auribus.

When a council or commission wades into that dark trench and begins sifting the glitter from the turds – sorting through the cheap grifters, refugees fleeing the frozen north, lard asses looking for a cushy retirement gig, fakes, phonies, and “managers in transition” – the elected officials truly take a wolf by the ears… 

(Use The Lost City of Deltona as a cautionary tale – because it is.) 

Good luck, Flagler Beach.

Something tells me you’re going to need it…

Angel               City of Ormond Beach

With apologies to Charles Dudley Warner, “Everyone complains about the devastating effects of flooding, but nobody does anything about it…”

It is apparent to everyone except those elected officials beholden to real estate developers that the malignant sprawl across the width and breadth of Volusia County has contributed to widespread flooding in the aftermath of significant weather events.

Look, I’m not an expert in fluid mechanics, but even an uneducated rube like me can deduce that water will seek the most efficient route to the lowest topographical level – so radically altering the elevation of the land, the proliferation of impervious surfaces, building on top of natural recharge areas, and insufficient onsite retention cannot help but adversely affect adjacent properties.   

Recently, the City of New Smyrna Beach took the commonsense measure of a short-term residential building moratorium in flood prone areas until an independent engineering firm can complete an analysis to determine if recent development contributed to widespread flooding during Tropical Storm Ian. 

This week, we learned in an informative article by Senior Editor Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer that “Over the next decade, the city of Ormond Beach is planning more than $19.6 million worth of capital improvement projects for its stormwater system.”

During a workshop earlier this month, the Ormond Beach City Commission reviewed a consultant’s study which included suggestions for several capital improvement projects to control flooding primarily west of the Halifax River, “…and include recommendations for flood studies, infrastructure upgrades and evaluations of stormwater capacity.”

According to the Observer’s report, “Commissioner Harold Briley asked about the improvements needed to the North U.S. 1 corridor, where runoff also affects the nearby Ormond Lakes subdivision. City Public Works Director Shawn Finley said the city is working with developers to address stormwater impacts.

“Part of the need for looking at this is to stay out in front of it, so that some of the development in the future doesn’t reverse some of the benefits that we’ve gained — doesn’t exasperate some of the issues that may be out there,” Finley said.”

The word Director Finley was searching for is exacerbate – which means to worsen or aggravate a current situation.

Ormond Beach residents whose tax dollars pay his salary are exasperated – which means frustrated, annoyed, and infuriated… 

Perhaps Commissioner Briley identified part of the problem?

I think we can all agree that putting the fox in charge of the henhouse is rarely a good compliance strategy.

In my view, it is high time city and county regulatory authorities stopped “working with developers to address stormwater impacts” and start requiring their strict adherence to existing land use and stormwater retention regulations – to include taking enforcement action against projects found to have contributed to flooding.

In addition, the stormwater master plan study also recommended some $4.15 million for water quality projects to reduce pollutants entering the Tomoka River Basin and the Halifax River – both of which have been designated “impaired waterways” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 


Are these recommendations essentially closing the barndoor after the old gray nag has bolted, run down the road, and is now stuck in traffic somewhere on Granada Boulevard?   

You bet it is.

However, planning for much needed infrastructure improvements – especially transportation and stormwater management – represents a step in the right direction as local governments begin the incredibly expensive and cumbersome process of playing ‘catch-up’ after blindly permitting unchecked residential and commercial development countywide.   

Better late than never.

Angel               Sons of the Beach

Sons of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, has stood tall defending our interests in the never-ending battle to protect our most precious natural asset from government overreach and those who would trade public access as a cheap spiff for out-of-town developers with a profit motive.

Now, amid growing concerns of further beach erosion, Sons of the Beach has been actively lobbying for a moratorium on new development east of A-1-A. 

In consultation with environmental scientists and experts on coastal erosion, this grassroots organization is making a convincing argument for the emergent need to limit future building on the natural protection of the dune line east of the Coastal Construction Control Line.

Despite the dodgery and procrastination of our ‘powers that be’ – Sons of the Beach recognizes the need for a different, more holistic approach to beach management and renourishment – a substantive departure from the ineptitude and gross maladministration of Volusia County that has left our coastline an overregulated forest of distracting signage, ugly poles, and traffic cones. 

Newly seated District 4 Volusia County Councilman Troy Kent recently announced his support for the right of Volusia County residents to enjoy vehicular access to our beach without being squeezed twice – once in our exorbitant property taxes and again at the toll booth.

The idea of removing onerous beach tolls for residents has been a key goal of Sons of the Beach for many years – because it is the right thing to do.   

I believe Councilman Kent has found an ally in his fight to improve beach access for Volusia County families.   

The strength of any organization lies in the willingness of its members to get involved – to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of furthering its goals and objectives – and no one has worked more diligently to improve our unique coastal lifestyle than SOB president Paul Zimmerman and his dedicated membership.     

Now, this important beach advocacy needs your help. 

In my view, Sons of the Beach is the perfect place to use your talents and enthusiasm to make a positive difference – working with fun, likeminded people – each dedicated to preserving our unique heritage while improving the beachgoing experience for residents and visitors. 

If you are interested in preserving our long-standing tradition of beach driving – and protecting our shoreline from the threat of further erosion, privatization, and mismanagement – please join Sons of the Beach tomorrow morning for their annual meeting at Schnebly Recreation Center, 1101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, beginning at 10am.

Everyone is welcome!

Topics will include a pause on new oceanfront development, with expert guests providing information on future tropical storm projections, sea level rise, meteorology, and the ongoing threat of beach erosion.

Sons of the Beach is a non-profit organization whose only membership requirement is a willingness to preserve the beauty and accessibility of Volusia County beaches.

For more information – or to claim your free SOB membership – please go to

Quote of the Week

“How could you?

How could you tear down the memories?

DeLand gets to be a streetlight city with no history left, no landmarks, no memories left.

How can you tear down that historic, once-beautiful hotel, our Hotel Putnam?

One look at those weary walls now – walls that speak of my story, your story, our story – one must stop, listen, weigh in. We must shore up those walls and stories, meet one another, sample the menu, hear the music, learn the lessons, create new stories together.

Shore up those worthy walls!”

— DeLandite Dot Brown, 95, who married into the Hotel Putnam family in 1953. She recently shared her memories of the historic hotel, which were compiled by her daughter Terry Brown, and published in the West Volusia Beacon, “An Ode to Lady Putnam,” Monday, February 6, 2023

On Monday, the historic Hotel Putnam met its grim fate.   

By Tuesday morning, the century old Grande Dame of West Volusia was reduced to a pile of splinters and dust – another victim of what some believe was willful neglect and strategic rot in the name of progress…and profit.

How sad. 

Don’t worry – the Utah-based real estate investment group that purchased the hotel last year reassured us that the firm is “…committed to finding a use for the Putnam site that pays tribute to the once prestigious hotel and the history of DeLand that it reflects.”


Feel better?

Me neither. 

And Another Thing!

While reading accounts of Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson’s recent removal – to include a gloomy photograph of Whitson dejectedly moping off the dais – I kept waiting for his Golden Parachute to deploy. 

Then I saw it in an informative piece by the News-Journal’s Frank Fernandez:

“Whitson’s termination is effective April 10, but he will be on administrative leave until then, and will still receive his salary. Since the termination was with “no cause,” Whitson will also receive a 20-week severance with applicable deductions in a lump sum and any accrued vacation time. The city will pay his health insurance for the 20 weeks.”

Jesus.  Not bad, eh?    

“No cause”?  Really?

My ass.

Given the host of omissions and ham-handed slipups that ultimately resulted in Whitson being booted out on his ass, his cash-cushioned landing could only happen in government…   

Maybe its time for financially responsible communities to change that? 

You’ve heard this nattering from me before, but with the Lost City of Deltona, and now Flagler Beach, on the hunt for their next chief executive, it bears repeating.

Regardless of jurisdiction, the one constant in local governance is that city and county managers enjoy professional protections that those in the private sector will never know – even when their decisions and behavior are far from professional.

Look, I get it.  But when is too much, too much?

From the vantage point of over 30-years in municipal government, I know a little bit about the perils of political instability, competing agendas, and the internal strife that comes from ideological clashes and petty bickering between competing factions.

As a result, I’ve seen good managers demonized – pilloried for trying to do the right thing despite the prevailing political winds – left with no alternative but to move along and ply their itinerant trade elsewhere.

And I’ve seen the worst-of-the-worst hang-on by their fingernails, destroying the morale of dedicated public servants, while various city/county management fraternities defended their weakest link… 

As a result, I understand the need for both reasonable legal protections – and strong oversight.

A good chief executive is worthy of a competitive, performance-based salary and benefits package that adequately compensates their contributions – but why should a bumbling shit-heel that fails to live up to community expectations receive an extortionate severance package? 

I’m asking.

Like you, as a resident of Volusia County, I’ve seen some of the most quisling, totally inept assholes ever to worm their way into public management thrive – at least for a while – as they cloak themselves in internal and external political and contractual protections while sitting on their sizeable ass protecting the stagnant status quo – then saunter away with a sack full of cash when their gross incompetence became too brazen to ignore.

In most local governments, the only thing standing in the way of a chief executive transmogrifying into a tyrannical despot (or a do-nothing hump) is the elected body – politically accountable policymakers charged with the direct oversight of one extremely powerful individual.

But what happens when that supervisory responsibility becomes little more than an end-of-the-year afterthought – a perfunctory pat on the head leading to an automatic pay increase for the chief executive – a shim-sham “evaluation” which leaves most taxpayers shaking their heads because nothing resembling that happens in the meritocratic private sector where performance counts?  

And why is it that once we elevate the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker to high office they make asinine decisions with our money – risks they would never take with their own business or egg money – like offering astronomical employment contracts to city and county managers – many of whom have a checkered track record?

For instance, those dullards on the Deltona City Commission, in an off-the-agenda ambush, recently extended the contract of Interim City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm – which includes $87,400 per six-month period, all the benefits and perquisites of a full-time employee, and 80-hours of personal time off – with Deltona taxpayers ponying up the full premium for health, dental and vision coverage for The Chiseler and his spouse (say what?) – including contributions to a private pension plan, and use of a vehicle “including insurance, maintenance, repair and fuel” and “without restriction of personal use.”


For an interim city manager?

In 2011, the Florida legislature put limitations on public employee severance pay – providing that payouts may not exceed an amount greater than 20 weeks of compensation – and a prohibition on severance when the employee has been terminated for misconduct as defined in Florida Statutes.

In my view, it is time for further caps on these lopsided “Golden Parachutes” – incredibly expensive padding that has become de rigueur in City Halls and County Administrative offices everywhere.

Those reforms should include raising the bar for severance eligibility to include a failure to meet reasonable performance and professional standards – rather than the current practice of lavishly rewarding even short-tenured poor performers.     

Anyone else enjoy that kind of gilded safety net?

Hell, does anyone else here in the Real World receive free gasoline? 

Yeah.  I didn’t think so. 

That’s all for me.  Have a great 65th Daytona 500 weekend, y’all! 

Angels & Assholes for February, 10, 2023

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           Deltona Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez

“I, therefore, Deltona Vice-Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez request to press Ethics charges against Commissioner Dana McCool for her disrespect towards me and those present at the time she used inappropriate language towards me. I trust that whatever actions are taken towards her disrespectful behavior will deter other elected officials from doing the same.”

Sounds like the Vice Mayor is full of herself.    

She’s full of something else, too…

Who in the hell anointed Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vasquez of the Lost City of Deltona the arbiter of free expression?  And when did engaging in speech that this self-righteous political elitist subjectively deems “disrespectful” rise to a violation of the Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers?    

Last week, many were shocked to learn that as the utterly dysfunctional Deltona City Commission begins its latest “process” of luring the umpteenth city manager in its brief history – another distracting shitshow emerged when thin-skinned Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez filed a formal complaint against Commissioner Dana McCool with the Florida Commission on Ethics in December.   

Maritza Avila-Vasquez

What heinous violation of Florida’s Code of Ethics is Avila-Vasquez alleging?

Graft?  No.

Public corruption?  Not even close.

Nepotism?  No.

Violating the State Constitution?  Nah.

Financial disclosures and voting conflicts?  Not hardly.

According to Ms. Avila-Vasquez – Commissioner McCool engaged in conduct far more toxic and deleterious to the public trust when she used inappropriate language during a testy off-the-dais exchange in October. . .

Yep.  Commissioner McCool dropped the “F-Bomb” to the Vice Mayor.

Good for Ms. McCool.   

In my view, the abject obscenities that have been foisted on the good citizens of Deltona by Avila-Vasquez and her “colleagues” – the political roil, staff turnover, behind-the-scenes machinations, rubber-stamping land use changes, off-the-agenda public policy by ambush, “golden parachutes,” discrimination suits, utter dysfunction at City Hall, “suspensions” of senior officials, and the destabilizing game of musical chairs in the executive suit – has been far more detrimental to the public trust – and city coffers – than any frustrated tirade by a passionate elected official who cares.

But in the Vice Mayor’s world, all that matters is her delicate sensibilities – and the politics of personal destruction.   

Commissioner Dana McCool

This entire bullshit bruhaha began when Avila-Vasquez threw her weight around and publicly lambasted former Deputy City Manager Stacey Kifolo from the dais after she failed to act on the Vice Mayor’s demand that the city advertise an event she supported.

Several other elected officials, including Commissioner McCool, took exception to the Vice Mayor’s meddling.  

Ultimately, the dispute resulted in a behind-the-scenes tête-à-tête during a subsequent commission meeting wherein Avila-Vasquez claims Ms. McCool used the “F-bomb.”

According to Avila-Vasquez’ grammatical nightmare of a sworn complaint:

“I walked down to the chamber to ask a staff member a question.  When I turned to walk out the back door, I was confronted by Commissioner McCool who questioned me as to why I told her to stay away.  She went on to say she was sick of my attitude**comments, & complaining and used many F-bombs.  She said – Who the hell did I think I was?  She kept on using the F-bombs towards me and was very threatening with her words.  I believe at one point I had the opportunity to ask her what her problem was, she responded by saying, “You and your F-bombs words” She walked away still cursing at me., Her final words were; “It is ok.  You have 4 F-bomb weeks left and then your F-bomb Ass will be out of here”.  Elections were 4 weeks away from that day.  There are witnesses to this exchange – both Staff and the Mayor.”

In my view, the crux of the matter was revealed in Avila-Vasquez’ “Statement of Facts,” wherein she claims, “Commissioner McColl (sic) was openly politicking for my opponent and was using these events to try and embarrass me in a public meeting.”

Sounds an awful lot like old-fashioned political revenge to me. . .

What a crock o’ shit.

What I find more intriguing than Ms. Avila-Vasquez’ meanspirited diversion is that – on or about October 7, 2022, Deputy City Manager Stacey Kifolo was mysteriously “suspended with pay” for reasons that were never made clear – taking her out of the running for the interim role just as the City Commission took up a less than deliberative “process” (one that had all the earmarks of a foregone conclusion) which ultimately led to former Daytona Beach City Manager Jim “The Chiseler” Chisholm being tapped to replace the hapless John Peters in an acting status.

So, what fate befell Stacey Kifolo after her run-in with the almighty Vice Mayor Avila-Vasquez?

Your F-bomb guess is as good as mine – so, I filed a public records request with the City of Deltona to find out.

The request for records regarding Ms. Kifolo’s suspension and termination was denied citing an exemption of records pending termination of litigation and settlement of claims. 

That’s right.  Bend over Deltona taxpayers, here it comes again. . .   

This constant political churn, followed by the shadowy disappearance of a senior city official, is what is increasingly referred to as “typical Deltona” – an unstable dumpster fire with no resemblance to a representative democracy – that has destroyed the integrity of the local government.

Unfortunately, Commissioner McCool recently announced that she is battling Stage 4 bone cancer – yet, she continues to serve the community with great dedication and enthusiasm – which, in my view, makes Avila-Vasquez’ continued pursuit of this sanctimonious vendetta even more reprehensible.

My sincere hope is that Commissioner McCool will keep fighting the good fight – personally and politically.

We need more bold souls challenging the stagnant status quo and doing good work in the public interest – and less faux-shrinking violets playing petty games for their political advantage.

Angel               City of DeBary

At the risk of picking civic scabs, the small Wild West Volusia community of DeBary hasn’t always been the most ecologically friendly spot in Volusia County. 

In fact, I like to say this blogsite cut its editorial teeth on what was known as the Debacle in DeBary – a grim time in the city’s history when greed overcame the common good – and developers, with the help of City Hall, made a stealth move on sensitive land known as the Gemini Springs Annex.

It was a blundering attempt to set the stage for a ‘transportation-oriented development’ near the SunRail station – except the sleazy nature of the city’s behind-the-scenes involvement with an environmental consultant who had powerful influence at the St. John’s Water Management District shocked the conscience of many in Central Florida and beyond.

In fact, it was a sordid saga that could only have happened in Florida – where the act of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse is considered sound public policy…

Fortunately, it appears things have changed for the better in DeBary.

Photo Credit: West Volusia Beacon

Last week, Mayor Karen Chasez authorized the transfer of 170 acres in the bend of the St. Johns River known as Alexander Island to public ownership.    

The ecologically sensitive land will be set aside for conservation and passive recreation. 

According to an excellent report by reporter Al Everson writing in the West Volusia Beacon:

“DeBary purchased the land, situated in the very turn of the St. Johns River from west to north, for $3.5 million. The city tried to secure help in saving the environmentally sensitive tract from development by applying for help from the state under the Florida Forever program, but state officials passed over the opportunity to aid in saving the property.

Owned by the Recicar Trust, Alexander Island was for sale in Florida’s hot realty market. Though much of the property is low terrain, there are some 17.5 acres of uplands that could become upscale homesites for those wanting a view of the river and access to launch a boat. City leaders felt the need and the pressure to preserve the land’s natural state as the perfect place for a park and habitat for wildlife such as rare birds, tortoises, bears and boars.”

To the city’s credit, they ultimately shunned a dubious “interlocal agreement” with Volusia County that would have seen the citizens of DeBary pay $1.3 million – with the county contributing some $2.2 million from Volusia Forever – to purchase Alexander Island and create a conservation easement.

According to the Beacon’s report, under the terms of the rejected deal, “…the city would own the land and the county would manage it. However, the agreement also contained provisions the city would not accept, notably giving the county the power to regulate construction of amenities on the site, such as restrooms, pavilions and docks.

Moreover, in the event of a violation of the conservation easement by the city, the inability to “cure the violation” would authorize the county to “enact any of the enforcement actions, as it chooses,” including “the right to recover 100 % of the [county’s] contribution towards the purchase of the property plus interest.”

Yet another enforcement action would be for the county “to invoke its fee transfer rights,” including requiring DeBary to give Volusia County “all right, title and interest in the Property if the terms of the easement are violated by” the city.”

F-bomb that…

In November 2022, the Beacon reported that “disenchantment” with the county’s stance prompted City Council Member William Sell to propose that DeBary purchase the land on its own using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for it.

“I want it to be our park. I don’t want the county involved,” Sell said. “I’m just totally disappointed in this process. … Personally, I’d say forget about trying to get money from the county.”

Smart move.

My hat is off to City Manager Carmen Rosamonda, Mayor Chasez, and the DeBary City Council for heeding the hard lessons of history and recognizing the grim fate that awaits unsuspecting municipalities who get into bed with Volusia County.

Well done.

Asshole           Former Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post

I’m sorry. 

No one feels more empathy for former Councilwoman Heather Post than I do. 

That’s why I hate to exhume the festering carcass of her tumultuous political career from its final resting place on the ash heap of history – but the always controversial Ms. Post was back in the news this week following a citizen complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics alleging she violated the Florida Constitution by failing to file a required financial disclosure form in 2021.

Normally, Fun Coast residents could look on this as just another in a long line of attempts to besmirch Ms. Post’s reputation and tamp down any future political ambitions – however, former Councilwoman Post is no stranger to fumbling the rules on this important requirement of public office.

As you may recall, in July 2021, the ethics commission found probable cause that Ms. Post violated the Florida Constitution and disclosure laws by making inaccurate “Form 6” filings from 2017 to 2019.

Apparently, the matter was settled when Ms. Post’s modified the statutorily required submissions to add her home, a $300,000 asset, and the salary of about $45,000 paid by the county.

At the time, a press release issued by the commission explained:

“Probable cause was found to believe Volusia County Council Member Heather Post violated Florida’s Constitution and disclosure laws by filing inaccurate 2017, 2018 and 2019 Form 6s. However, no further action will be taken by the Commission due to the particular circumstances of the matter, including the filing of amended disclosures.”

And here we are again?

Heather Post

According to the Florida Commission on Ethics, financial disclosure is required of elected officials (and some government employees with purchasing authority) because it enables the public to evaluate potential conflicts of interest, deters corruption, and increases public confidence in government.

That’s no easy task here in the Sunshine State. . .

In an informative report this week by Sheldon Gardner writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:

“…a DeLand resident filed a complaint with the ethics commission about the issue saying, “local officials should be held responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the position,” according to a preliminary investigation report.

On Jan. 27, the Commission on Ethics found probable cause to believe that Post “violated Florida’s Constitution and disclosure law by failing to timely file her 2021 Form 6,” according to a press release.

The Commission on Ethics reached out to Post multiple times via email, phone and regular mail to remind her of the missing form.

Post called the Commission on Sept. 12 and said she was injured falling down a flight of stairs in April 2022 and that “she would ‘take an Uber to get the form overnighted’ to the Commission,” according to the report. But the form didn’t come in.”

Now, fines against Ms. Post have accrued to the maximum of $1,500 and the Commission has apparently turned the matter over to a collection agency. 

What gives? 

Councilwoman Post understands better than most that harsh criticism and close scrutiny comes with the territory, and that political accountability is vitally important to the integrity of the process.  

From the beginning of her political career, it was clear Ms. Post had sharp elbows and was not afraid to speak truth to power in service to her constituents.   I admired that.

For her willingness to pushback against an entrenched system, she became a political punching bag – the target of powerful political insiders and their elected chattel on the dais – who tried desperately to pound a square peg of independent thought into the round hole of conformity.

She also became a lightning rod for time-wasting controversy – with a penchant for the shameless self-promotion that has become an essential quality of politicians everywhere.

For good or ill, Councilwoman Post was a polarizing figure – and you will rarely speak to anyone familiar with Volusia County politics who have ambivalent feelings about her service.

But this is different. 

Ethics rules help avoid potential conflicts of interest and undue influence – and Ms. Post should understand the importance of that – especially in Volusia County.   

In my view, the filing requirement is equally important to campaign finance disclosures – an itemized reporting which allows We, The Little People to see which insiders and industries are attempting to purchase the loyalty of malleable candidates for elective office with massive contributions. . .

In my view, public officials have an obligation to follow the rules that ensure trust through transparency and protect our system of governance from the cancer of corruption.    

Quote of the Week

“Mayor Derrick Henry gave out several awards to local leaders who have helped the shelter flourish. Recipients included Chitwood, Halifax Health President and CEO Jeff Feasel and AdventHealth Daytona Beach CEO David Weiss. Chitwood gave his award to Alphonso.

The mayor also recognized P&S Paving head Tim Phillips for getting into an agreement with the city to harvest and buy dirt near the city-owned First Step property that helped fund shelter construction.

“Tonight is really about saying thank you to those who made the shelter come to fruition,” Henry said.”

–Reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Shelter fundraising gala raises $247,000, celebrates successes and benefactors,” Monday, February 6, 2023

I don’t make this shit up, folks. 

You read that right – Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry thanked P$S Paving for “getting into” a no bid, “behind closed doors” agreement which allows them to haul incredibly lucrative fill dirt from city-owned property.


I have no idea why Mayor Henry would bring up what has become the most contentious aspect of the incredibly controversial (and expensive) First Step Shelter, but I am glad he did, because it gives us an opportunity to take a sentimental stroll down a very dark and slippery Memory Lane.

You may recall that in December 2018, the News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean broke the story, “Daytona homeless shelter $2 million dirt deal upsets competitor,” which shined a bright light on how former Daytona Beach City Manager James “The Chiseler” Chisholm – who is now Interim City Manager in the Lost City of Deltona (?) – quickly cobbled together a no-bid arrangement with P$S Paving ostensibly to pull his fat ass out of the fire over runaway expenses related to the First Step Shelter construction:

“When budget numbers for First Step Shelter construction were released Aug. 29, the figures showed the project’s total cost had soared to nearly $6 million — twice the amount discussed publicly.

The backlash was immediate, and so was the effort to bring down the price. City documents The News-Journal recently obtained show that within a day or two, City Manager Jim Chisholm was already working on a plan to raise at least $2 million to help cover the shelter bill.

The fundraising idea centered on a deal with the Daytona Beach company doing foundation and site work on the shelter, P&S Paving. The idea was for P&S Paving to slash its charge by more than $1 million, and then send another $1 million to City Hall in exchange for exclusive rights to dig a 40-acre retention pond on city property and keep the valuable fill dirt extracted from the huge hole in the ground.”

Naturally, that didn’t sit well with other local contractors who weren’t entitled to the same access to publicly owned dirt that P$S Paving received:

“The arrangement, which the City Commission approved a month later, also gives P&S Paving a shot at digging at least one more retention pond on the sprawling 626-acre city property that includes the 10-acre shelter site.

But not everyone is thrilled with the agreement.

With the recent construction boom leaving fill dirt in more scarce supply, Halifax Paving President Tad Durrance would have loved a shot at digging that pond and hauling off the dirt. But he never got a chance, and neither did anyone else.

Bids were never solicited. The agreement with P&S Paving was hammered out behind closed doors, city records show.”


I do. 

Who cares about transparency and basic fairness in the public procurement process when Mayor Henry and The Chiseler needed quick political insulation after the massive price increase was revealed for that White Elephant in the hinterlands west of town, eh? 

My ass.   

Now, things seemed to have worked out swimmingly for everyone involved.

Unless you are a Daytona Beach or Deltona taxpayer…

In May 2022, the Daytona Beach City Commission gifted P$S Paving a 21-month extension on a 6-1 vote allowing them to continue hauling dirt from the taxpayer owned site without a price hike. 

According to a News-Journal article, earlier this week, in an off-the-agenda ambush, the Deltona City Commission opted to extend the incredibly lucrative contract for Acting City Manager Jim Chisholm – gifting him a salary and benefits package worth $200,000 – including $87,400 per six-month period – 80-hours of personal leave, and “…the city paying the full premium for health, dental and vision coverage for the manager and his spouse. The city also will contribute to a private pension plan in an amount equal to the Florida Retirement System. The city also will provide Chisholm with a vehicle “including insurance, maintenance, repair and fuel” and “without restriction of personal use.”


So, how’s things around your worksite or small business?

According to a 2022 United States Census report, the per capita income in Deltona is just $25,711 – with 11.1% of residents living in poverty…

Yeah.  I know.   

Sounds like The Chiseler’s patented “behind closed doors” sleight-of-hand is paying off. 

For him, anyway.   

It’s times and absurdities like this when I really miss Big John…

And Another Thing!

Admittedly, I’m biased – but I could not be prouder of the City of Holly Hill!

This week, Pictona at Holly Hill – the $6.3 million state-of-the-art sports, wellness, and entertainment venue that began as a public/private partnership between the City of Holly Hill and founders Rainer and Julie Martens – attracted over 1,100 players from throughout the nation to the Association of Pickleball Professionals Daytona Beach Open.

The tournament will see players of all skill levels participating in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles matches, with some 750 amateur and 350 professional pickleball players participating.   

The tournament will continue through Sunday. 

In a real boost for area hospitality advertising – livestream coverage of the tournament will begin tomorrow on ESPN+ – with a Championship Sunday broadcast Sunday evening at 8:00pm on ESPN2. 

This national exposure speaks to the increasing popularity of the sport – and serves as a much-needed marketing opportunity for the Daytona Beach Resort Area.  

Photo Credit: Daytona Beach Visitors & Convention Bureau

Pictona at Holly Hill is a beautiful 49-court facility which includes twelve covered courts – and a covered championship court seating 1,200 – which can host professional pickleball events with seating for 1,600 during staged arts and entertainment events – along with a clubhouse, restaurant, education and wellness facilities, and other amenities open to both members and the general public. 

Last year, at the urging of city officials, Pictona at Holly Hill received the largest single grant in Volusia ECHO history when the Volusia County Council approved a $2.5 million public investment in expanding the facility.

I can tell you from personal experience that Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte, the elected officials that comprise one of the most stable local governments in Volusia County, and the city’s dedicated staff get the most from every tax dollar they receive while providing a full range of responsive and efficient essential services to a grateful constituency.

In fact, Holly Hill sets the gold standard for fiscal stewardship, inclusivity, and the lasting benefits of working cooperatively to reach civic goals – and the community’s burgeoning success has been hard-fought – and a longtime coming. 

In my view, Pictona at Holly Hill represents the essence of what a successful public/private partnership should be – a mutually beneficial investment which pays solid economic dividends across the host community and the region.   

Kudos to the “City with a Heart” – and Pictona at Holly Hill – for hosting another worldclass event!

If you are interested in watching some exceptional match play between some of the best pickleball players in the sport, general admission tickets for the APP Daytona Beach Open start at $15 with premium box seats, stage seating, and second floor suites overlooking the championship court available. 

Doors open at 8:00am daily!

Pictona at Holly Hill is located directly across from Holly Hill City Hall at 1060 Ridgewood Avenue (US-1).

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