Angels & Assholes for January 3, 2020

Hi, kids!

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

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

Asshole           Daytona Beach Downtown Development Authority

“Sham: Cheap falseness, not genuine, having such poor quality as to seem false, a trick that deludes”

–Merriam-Webster

Despite the death song of some downtown merchants, and the growing protests of long-time residents, it is painfully clear that the City of Daytona Beach is moving full steam ahead with an asinine plan to destroy a serviceable streetscape on Beach Street and replace it with something, well, different.

When the process begins in a few weeks, I think it’s safe to say that not all of the small businesses that currently occupy downtown storefronts will be there when the project ends sometime later this year.

And maybe that’s part of the plan?

I cannot imagine how it must feel to put your blood, sweat and tears into something you built – only to have your own municipal government actively work against you – with the only logical explanation being that your shop or service doesn’t comport with some wealthy insiders “vision” of what they ultimately want downtown to look like. . .

Now, apparently to soften the blow of a terminal diagnosis, the City of Daytona Beach is announcing grand plans to “help” downtown merchants by suddenly changing tack from a cloistered, fuliginous, information black hole to what is now being described as a culture of “consistent communication” and a willingness to listen to “impacted groups” and solicit feedback.

My ass.

In my experience, the only accurate predictor of future performance is past behavior, and anyone paying attention can call this sham a mile away. . .

Given the experience of some merchants during the Orange Avenue reconstruction – which began in August 2014 yet wasn’t finished until 2017 – and myriad other projects that drag on for months, even years, beyond estimates, nobody is holding out much hope for the proposed Beach Street “improvements” timeline.

And don’t get me started on the Tom Staed Veterans Memorial Bridge fiasco – a county project which, despite daily fines, finger pointing and official promises – has remained perpetually under construction since 2016. . .

Now, to calm the fears of some Beach Street merchants – or to salve their own tortured conscience – Daytona Beach officials are saying all the right things, promising to assist struggling businesses, and, now that the city has awarded the $4.4 million job to P$S Paving, actually listen to their concerns. . .

Bullshit.

The Daytona Beach Downtown Development Authority, which just happens to be chaired by an attorney with Cobb Cole (a firm representing everyone who is anyone in the downtown development game), are exporting dollars to a Ponte Vedra Beach based marketing agency while flogging “special events” as a means of providing palliative care for the doomed – a too little, too late hospice for retail used-to-be’s.

One concerned reader forwarded me a copy of a colorful brochure, apparently sent by the Downtown Development Authority in resident’s water bills, touting Christmas events on Beach Street.

It arrived on December 31st. . .

Wow.

Clearly, a select few in the Halifax area aristocracy have definite plans for what our downtown will look like over the next decade – including which businesses will be allowed to prosper and which will wither.

I believe their dream of creating a “destination” ultimately includes the commercial development of City Island – the real estate is simply too valuable – and all the right players are on-board – which means the rest of us are just along for the ride. . .

If it’s any consolation, in my view, the die was cast on the fate of downtown Daytona long before what passes for public discussion even began – and was cemented when His Royal Majesty J. Hyatt Brown callously held a proposed $750,000 children’s splash park in the “Brown Esplanade” hostage to the lane reduction project.

Unless the street project moved forward – the splash pad would be “eradicated.”

(And I’m a mean-spirited ogre?  Whoa.)

To ensure there was no confusion where our exalted Ruling Class stood, J. Hyatt was bolstered in his hostile demand by our High Panjandrum of Political Power, Mori Hossieni, as the two titans rose before their hired chattel and gave them not-so-subliminal marching orders.

The great Bob Dylan said, “he not busy being born is busy dying” – and, in my view, that moment at the Daytona Beach City Commission meeting of December 18, 2019, marked the birth of “Hyattona” – and the death of anything that doesn’t comport with one man’s vision for the rest of us.

Angel               Louis Fuchs  

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

— Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias”

Unfortunately, the Halifax area elite could give two-shits when it comes to curating our community history – and the memory of those who took us from a salty patch of palmetto scrub, across the Bell Curve of civic success, to where we are now.

Instead, Volusia County’s self-aggrandizing ‘powers that be’ seem more interested in assuring their own legacy (and currying favor) through the deification of our present-day pompous political insiders.

Even if their strange idea of civic glory only lasts a few decades.

In the 1960’s, a small group of local businessmen, led by the venerated J. Saxon Lloyd, formed the Civic League of the Halifax Area – one of those “membership by invitation only” secret societies that, to this day, continue to serve as the puppet masters who form public policy in their own image – and to their own advantage. . .

The Civic League, and those “Rich & Powerful” political insiders who populated it back in its heyday, were of the opinion that a clique of power brokers was more effective at community decision-making than our democratic system of politically accountable representatives, “which change administrations every year, because it will be permanent.”

(What’s changed?)

No one was more ingrained in the local power structure of the day – or more dedicated to the future success of east Volusia County – than Halifax area business leader and community activist, Lou Fuchs.

In fact, Mr. Fuchs is the late uncle of the esteemed Dr. Hal Kushner, a former Vietnam Prisoner of War and true American hero, whose ophthalmology practice has served residents of the Halifax area since 1977.

It is reported that, as a boy, Dr. Kushner spent a couple of summers working at his Uncle Lou’s linen service.

Given the importance of Mr. Fuchs personal and professional contributions to our areas progress, the Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce named one of their most prestigious honors “The Lou Fuchs Leadership Award” – a prize which now appears on the political resume of every Old School Volusia County “mover and shaker” worth their salt.

In fact, the honor was so exclusive that recipients were nominated and selected solely at the suggestion of previous award winners.

Unfortunately, I guess Lou’s contributions to the halcyon days of the “World’s Most Famous Beach” just don’t measure up to those of our current nobility – who have successfully built a “New Daytona” in the piney woods west of I-95 – then collectively turned their backs while the rest of our once vibrant community, including our beleaguered beachside, decomposes into dilapidated oblivion. . .

In keeping with their obsequious trend of renaming awards after our present crop of uber-wealthy overseers – it was announced this week that the Chamber has callously shit on the revered memory of Lou Fuchs – and will now refer to the honor as “The Glenn Ritchey Leadership Award.” 

Jesus.

What happened to honoring Mr. Fuchs’ dedication and contributions?

Hell, what happened to the common human emotion of shame?

The Chamber’s unabashed brown-nosing follows closely on the heels of their equally boot-licking move to rename the annual “Enterprise Award” after the current King of Kings J. Hyatt Brown. . .

(Which, by the by, will be bestowed on the do-nothing, publicly funded Team Volusia at the Chamber’s elegant soiree later this month. . .you read that right.)

Damn. . .

Sorry, Lou.  Your legacy is lost to whatever passes for our malleable and capricious history now.

In the end, I wonder how the Halifax area’s mutable historical record will remember this damnable period of our civic, social and economic existence – and the contributions of our current crop of Exalted Monarchs and their shameless “Pretensions of Greatness”?

Quote of the Week

“Deltona, where the trust of the commissioners and city manager was lost a long time ago, only added to that mistrust.

When I read the Opinion page (“Big News: It’s Amazon”) and it lists all the “obvious people” who were aware of what was going on, I just shook my head.

The residents were told: Non-Disclosure Agreement, we can’t say anything.

When you’re approving $2.5 million in incentives, the residents have a right to know a bit more than “We can’t say anything.”

The city’s DeltonaTV page posted “It’s all pretty exciting #amazon is coming to #deltona and the residents FAITH in City of Deltona, Florida has never been stronger.”

Really?

In my opinion the city missed a big opportunity to regain some of that FAITH and residents trust.”

–Dayle Whitman, Deltona, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Deltona’s Amazon secrecy strained trust,” Sunday, December 29, 2019

Well said, Dayle.   Thank you for your important contributions to the betterment of Deltona and beyond.

Also, a Barker’s View tip o’ the hat to Mr. Andy Brachhold of Daytona Beach for mentioning this humble blog in his recent News-Journal editorial, “Keep Beach Street unique and vibrant.”

Sincerely appreciated!

Besides, anytime my name is evoked (without spitting on the ground in disgust) it apparently pisses off all the right people – that can’t be a bad thing. . .

And Another Thing!

Look, I get it.

And, I admire the effort.

Recently, it’s become increasingly clear that a few of our Halifax area aristocrats and their fawning minions are enlisting the help of others in the community to answer my hypercritical screeds on social media.

The typical response usually takes the form of reminding me that I “don’t speak for everyone,” and end with some tripe about “how dare you besmirch the altruistic efforts of the Great and Powerful J. Hyatt Brown to gift us nice things and elevate us from this foul and fetid wasteland.”

Then, they question what I’ve done in my life to better our community. . .     

Unfortunately, my detractors – who always telegraph their intent by admitting they were “asked to comment” – seem to come from that segment of the population who still equate the quality of a person’s civic vision with the size of their bank account, and belittle my supporters with arrogant comments like, “I pay more taxes than most of you combined!,” then remind everyone of their former relevance and standing before they were hypnotized by daytime television. . .

Because they obviously don’t have a clue about current events, local politics or the innumerable problems brewing outside the guarded entrance to their tony gated community.

I suspect we’ll see more of this orchestrated resistance to my rambling thoughts and jaded opinions on the issues and newsmakers as our local governments – and those organizations and hangers-on who make their living suckling greedily at the public teat – egotistically succumb to the need to answer my rants.

Look, I live for the feud – so keep them coming.

Frankly, I enjoy the challenge – because it validates in my own inflated ego that Barker’s View is making a difference in the life and direction of our community – and I’m flattered that anything I could write would result in this much angst in the Ivory Tower of Power.

Maybe our “Rich & Powerful” should consider the source – then think long and hard about the source of this growing civic frustration.

Despite the incredible popularity of this site, I remain, quite simply, a half-drunk everyman – a star-crossed rube banging out my political vexations – then floating them out on the ether, hoping against hope to encourage a larger discussion in the community.

And, maybe it shouldn’t be so dreadfully easy for a few well-heeled insiders to use influence and backroom deals to force their myopic vision on everyone else?

I’m positive that our democratic system of governance works better with the open debate of competing ideas – an all-inclusive discussion that incorporates a variety of opinions into public policy design – a process which values the diverse input of all stakeholders, rather than succumb to the dictatorial edicts of a few.        

In my view, at this dawn of a new decade, it is not the loquacious blathering of some ‘keyboard warrior’ like me that our wealthy overseers need to worry about as they frantically work to protect the status quo.

As I said in my New Year greeting earlier this week – it is the awakening that is slowly taking place across the breadth of Volusia County that threatens their grip on power – and, at the end of the day, our haughty ‘powers that be’ will have no one to blame but themselves.

In my view, the thousands of independent thinkers who read these posts every month – who share these views throughout the community, form their own opinions, then vote their conscience at the ballot box – will ultimately return power to We, The People and set a bold new course for inclusion, fiscal responsibility and equality in local governance.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend – and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year – everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

As we enter the dawn of a new decade, I want to sincerely thank the loyal Barker’s View readers – the independent thinkers who consider my views, form their own opinions, then vote their conscience.

God knows I’m not perfect – and I understand these hypercritical political screeds and weird thoughts on our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast are not for everyone – but, with your help, I believe there is an awakening taking place across the breadth of Volusia County.

Since its inception, this small blog site has now hosted hundreds-of-thousands of page views and, for good or ill, the content continues to grow in popularity with thousands tuning in each month.

Although we don’t always agree, I believe the success of Barker’s View is in driving a larger discussion of the issues – and in letting our ‘powers that be’ know someone is watching from up here in the cheap seats.

The fact so many of you seek out a genuine alternative opinion on the issues of the day tells me that this experiment is making a difference in the life and direction of our community.

I appreciate that.

2020 holds the exciting potential of fresh beginnings – and an election that may well begin our transformation from the oligarchical rule of a few, to an inclusive system where values-driven elected officials represent the very real needs of all constituents.

We’ll talk about that potential – and much more – in the coming year.

Thanks for taking the ride.

Mark

On Volusia: The Whole Enchilada

As a child of the 60’s, I can look back and see how far we’ve come in realizing the technological advances enjoyed by George Jetson and his “space age” family – conveniences that were unimaginable in a time when television was still black and white, no cell phones, personal computers, tablets, robots, 3D printing, eReaders, computer-aided design, or the everything all the time marvel of the internet.

While flying cars are still a ways off – autonomous drones are evolving into the workhorse of the sky – and moving walkways are now commonplace.  The Jetson’s “Televiewer,” which allowed George to read the news off a screen is antiquated, and robot vacuum cleaners are de rigueur in any modern home.

As advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are incorporated into business and industry, George’s envious workweek of three, three-hour days spent pushing buttons is increasingly becoming a reality as the challenges posed by flesh-and-blood labor are solved by automated ecommerce systems.

After all, high-speed robotic arms and scanners that power packaging and palletizing lines – then unload, scan, sort, store, select, load and ship orders without any human intervention beyond computer programming – don’t call in sick, take a bathroom break, require vacation leave or file for workers comp – and they never hire labor attorneys. . .

Once these direct labor jobs are automatized, retailers and their logistics providers see a reduction in indirect labor costs – such as supervision, human resources, housekeeping, quality assurance, inventory management, safety and security – limiting expenses to the essential functions of equipment programming and maintenance, operational engineering and information technology support.

Studies by respected market researchers have shown that up to 32 percent of workers doing routine, repetitive and predictable tasks will need to transition to entirely different occupations by 2030 due to automation.

With the industry in flux, why are Volusia County economic development shills focused on pursuing warehouse and distribution operations under the nonsensical guise of “high paying jobs”?

Look, I’m no expert on the operation and management of large distribution facilities – just a blowhard with an opinion on everything – but I can read and understand trends, and so can our self-styled business recruitment gurus, who have built a cottage industry serving as a conduit between our money and the next big thing.

It doesn’t take a logistics engineer  to understand that, with hundreds of new consumers moving into Central Florida every day, online retailers – and established brick and mortar chains – will build their warehouse and distribution centers exactly where corporate analysts believe it will best serve their order-fulfillment needs in the most economically efficient manner possible – and they don’t need the input of some sketchy public/private “economic development” consortium – or our hard-earned tax dollars – to do it.

Clearly, distribution centers are the low hanging fruit of the economic development game in an era where publicly funded corporate welfare has reduced negotiations to filling the slop trough with our money.

Following a clumsy roll out orchestrated by Team Volusia just before Christmas, on Thursday, the City of Deltona finally announced what everyone with two synapses still firing have known for months – Amazon will open a massive distribution center at North Normandy Boulevard and East Graves Avenue.

So much for those super-secret “non-disclosure agreements,” that, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, apparently weren’t worth the paper they were printed on:

“Elected officials and employees at the city and Volusia County knew.

Representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation knew. CareerSource Flagler Volusia, Team Volusia and Enterprise Florida all knew. Local marketing executives and RMA, a Pompano Beach-based consulting firm, all knew.

And a lot of their friends and business associates knew too.

Some even told The News-Journal — but wouldn’t allow themselves to be quoted.”

Wow.

So much for the personal integrity of those who hold positions of trust in our community.

I don’t agree with the whole Secret Squirrel gamesmanship when public funds are involved – but, if that’s the law – follow it, dammit.

These jabbering assholes have the self-restraint of Kristen Wiig’s Saturday Night Live character, “Surprise Party Sue,” who loves to be in on the secret, yet can’t physically control herself from spilling the beans.

Welcome to Volusia County, Mr. Bezos – the rules are different here. . .

My God.  What a shit show.

I guess getting a jump on the competition in Volusia County really is all about who you know, eh?

Following the grand reveal, the Deltona City Commission made good on a promise to offer Amazon (who last year reported annual revenues of $232.9 billion) a healthy incentive package worth some $2.5 million in ad valorem tax rebates over five years – provided the ecommerce giant agrees to produce 500 jobs paying storeroom wages.

I don’t mean to denigrate the behemoth’s ultimate contribution to the local economy (especially to the personal pocketbooks of those “friends and business associates” of our high and mighty elected and appointed officials who got an unfair heads-up) – but, with rent in greater Deltona averaging $1,114 – I just don’t see $2,600 a month as living high on the hog – especially in an unstable environment where human employees are rapidly becoming an operational and financial inconvenience in the age of automation.

And I don’t see the need to give the biggest business in the universe one dime of public funds.

The site is located almost equidistant between all major population centers in Central Florida with immediate access to I-4 – and had anyone bothered to ask – I’ll just bet Amazon, or any other mega-retailer looking for an order fulfillment advantage – would have paid the City of Deltona handsomely for the privilege of locating on the most suitable real estate in the region.

But we’ll never know.

We also don’t know what a 1.4 million square foot distribution warehouse looks like in five, ten or fifteen years – or what happens once Amazon’s initial infrastructure investment becomes antiquated and overburdened.

In fact, a lot of unanswered questions remain.

In my view, one thing is crystal clear following this ham-handed process – Team Volusia’s fumbling president, Keith Norden, proved once and for all, that – beyond over-dramatizing Team Volusia’s intrusive meddling in municipal affairs – and taking eleventh-hour credit for the “major get” – he and his senior staff don’t have the acumen to pour piss out of a boot with the instructions on the heel, much less advocate to the financial advantage of long-suffering Volusia County taxpayers.

Congratulations, Deltona.

Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.

And you just got the whole enchilada, baby. . .

 

Barker’s View Honor Roll 2019

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 everyone who helped foster the success of this blog site during the past year as we proudly unveil the 2019 Barker’s View Honor Roll – the only award in Volusia County you can’t buy!

I’m fond of an expression that some purport to be an ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Be it a blessing or a bane, we long-suffering denizens of Florida’s fabled Fun Coast most definitely live in a fascinating era – something akin to the old Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World – careening through a political maze, white knuckled, only to find the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. . .

Whatever.

But the one constant on this wacky political thrill ride is that, regardless of our unique hopes, dreams and vision, we all coexist on this salty piece of land, and, each in our own way, want what’s best for the place we call home.

From what The Daytona Beach News-Journal have dubbed our “Rich & Powerful,” the movers and shakers with infinite power and influence – to those of us who struggle mightily just to eke out a living in this weird economy – all while coughing up exorbitant taxes and fees – we are all collectively dedicated to the proposition that we can be better, that we deserve better.

So, it’s my pleasure to honor all those who fight the good fight – who persevere, overcome and make a life here in Volusia County – those who courageously stand for public office and endure the slings and arrows of harsh criticism – those who have devoted their professional lives to public service – and those who pay the bills and suffer in silence.

This includes those hardworking civic activists who fight valiantly, time and again, to protect our quality of life – from beach driving to environmental advocacy and beyond.  In my view, these grassroots efforts form the very backbone of our community.

When I began trying to provide a genuine alternative opinion four years ago, I could not have imagined how many of you would take the time to read, to welcome my perspective and consider these diatribes for what they are – and what they are not.

Thanks to your engagement, this blog continues to open doors and influence opinion – and I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people – including a few of our “movers & shakers,” some of whom still have the humility and sense of humor to laugh at themselves and our situation.

Invariably, whenever I meet people who are familiar with Barker’s View, including those in powerful public positions who I frequently write about – they are incredibly kind to me – and take the time to offer their own unique opinions of the issues, point out where we differ or agree and provide constructive criticism for the blog.

So, it is appropriate that as we start a new decade, we recognize those who have impacted our civic lives – positively or negatively – in a significant way over the past year.

The problem with lists is you will invariably miss someone important – and if I have overlooked your contribution, please forgive me.  It was not intentional.

While this Honor Roll isn’t all inclusive, it begins and ends with YOU – those who read, contribute, opine, comment, argue, agree, disagree, disparage, elevate, share, find solutions, think deeply, offer criticism, offer hope, offer a word of encouragement – political allies and foes alike – especially the one’s who “get it,” and can still be my friend when the debate is over.

All of you.

But most of all, the faithful readers of Barker’s View – the independent thinkers who analyze and contemplate my often warped thoughts on the issues and newsmakers of the day – often vehemently disagreeing with my assertions – and use these screeds to continue a larger discussion in the community, an important exercise that can lead to new ideas and solutions to the myriad problems we face.

With over 382,000 page views since our inception – including readers from 81 countries from around the globe in 2019 alone – I couldn’t possibly know everyone who regularly accesses this site, but it is important to me that you know how much I appreciate your interest.

Whether you hate everything I stand for – or support an alternative point of view in a place that desperately needs someone to question the status quo – I am forever thankful for your attention, insight and critique.

You are making a difference in our beautiful community.

The only thing I can promise you is that, in the coming year, I’ll be here, watching from the cheap seats – a rheumy-eyed witness to the machinations of our local governments – providing you, the devoted members of the Barker’s View Tribe, with my jaded opinions and skewed perspective on the issues of the day.

As always, I appreciate your taking the time to read and consider.

And for your support and friendship.

That’s all for me – here’s wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

2019 Barker’s View Honor Roll

Patti Barker

Ed Kelley

Ben Johnson

Billie Wheeler

Deb Denys

Rev. Fred Lowry

Heather Post

Barb Girtman

Governor Ron DeSantis

The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Mayor Bill Partington

Dwight Selbey

Troy Kent

Susan Persis

Rob Littleton

George Recktenwald

Travis Hudson

Mayor Chris Via

CiCi and J. Hyatt Brown

Deltona City Commission

City of Holly Hill

Sheriff Michael Chitwood

Josh Vedder

Jane Shang

Scott Markham

Kelly Joyce Schulz

David Isenberg

Hubert Grimes

Mark Harper

Joe Petrock

Mori & Forough Hossieni

Dr. Kent Sharples

Hon. Chris Miller

Maryam Ghyabi

Jenny Nazak

Harvey Morse

Bethune Cookman University

Big John

John Penny

Jane Glover

Greg Akin

Ginny Maccio

Volusia CEO Business Alliance

Dana McCool

Elaine Barnicle

David Simmons

Marilyn Stumpf

Jim Chisholm

John Miklos

Chris Nabicht

Kelly McGee

Steve Ridder

Ryan Ridder

Florida Legislature

Mayor Derrick Henry

Ruben Colon

Carl Persis

Sophie’s Circle Dog Rescue

Tom A. Wright

Clayton Park

Cyndi Ritchey

Paul Renner

Don Shinnamon

Sheriff Rick Staly

Dan Eckert

Mayor Bill Hall

Pat Rice

Mike Scudiero

Tom Leek

Tony Ledbetter

Dana Paige-Pender

Roundtable of Elected Officials

Elizabeth Fetterhoff

Stetson University

Chief Craig Capri

David Santiago

Richard Myers

Bob Davis

Evelyn Fine

Brown & Brown

Mayor Heidi Herzberg

Clay Ervin

Hope Place

Dustin Wyatt

Tim Curtis

Mike Springer

Ida Wright

Linda Cuthbert

Jamie Haynes

Minto Communities

Volusia Building Industry Association

Rob Merrell

P&S Paving

Robert Giebel

Root Family Foundation

Eileen Zaffiro-Kean

Jimmy Buffett

Jewish Federation

Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company

Deltona Strong

L. Gale Lemerand

ERAU

Jeff Feasel

Dan Ryan

Volusia Issues

ICI Homes

Bellaire Community Group

Eddie Hennessey

Steve Koenig

Riverside Conservancy

Volusia County Government Forum

James S. Purdy

Lisa Lewis

Hard Rock Daytona

FAITH

Larry Bartlett

Rev. Kathy Tew-Ricky

First Step Shelter

FREE Daytona Beach

Tanger Outlets

Dinah Voyles-Pulver

Foundation Risk Partners

Daytona Tortugas

The Civitas Project

Deltona – A City on the Move?

Volusia Politics

Larry Arrington

Joe Forte

Steve Vancore

Joe Yarbrough

Volusia County Schools

Glenn & Connie Ritchey

Daytona Beach Regional Chamber

Jerry Cameron

Security First Insurance

Dr. Sandford Kinne III

Bob Lloyd

Arthur J. Byrnes

Jameson Distillery

Libby Ann Higbee

Elaine Stewart

Anne Ruby

Bryon White

Karen Jans

Kevin Wallace

Babe’s Blue Room

Weegie Kuendig

Amy Pyle

Greg “F-ing” Smith

Krista Dowling Goodrich

Roland Via

Joe Hannoush

Ormond Einsteins

Marc Bernier

Jim Cameron

Norma Bland

Randy Dye

Dan Merrithew

Frank Fabrizio

Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia

Ormond Issues

Helping Hands Through Arts

Frank Van Pelt

France Family

Joyce Cusack

Debbie Darino & Justice for Ponce

Tony Grippa

Jeff Brower

Linda Williams

Sheila Hancock

Keith Chester

Barry Chantler

Ron Wright

Paul Rice

W. R. Dalla Rosa

Daytona International Speedway

Elizabeth Albert

Martin J. Favis

Tom Russell

Pat Northey

County of Volusia

Eric & Vanessa Lewis

Mayor Russ Owen

Mark Watts

Chief Stephen Aldrich

GateHouse Media

Volusia County Voters

Michael Booker

St. John’s River Water Management District

Mark Geallis

Nancy and Lowell Lohman

Rainer and Julie Martens

E. LaBrent Chrite

Theresa Doan

Jim Dinneen

Rob Gilliland

Kevin Bowler

Charlie Lydecker

The Sheltering Tree

GovStuff.org

One Daytona

William Jones, Jr.

North Turn Beach Bar & Grille

Jason Davis

Stephan Dembinsky

George Anderson

Tito’s Vodka

Clay Henderson

The West Volusia Beacon

Rev. Ronald Durham

Daytona International Airport

James Pericola

West Volusia Hospital Authority

Brian Soukup

Ken Strickland

Halifax Health

Gary Conroy

Derek Catron

Sandi Snodgrass

Jayson Meyer

Quanita May

Claire Metz

Deputy Frank Scofield

Rick Karl

Gloria Max

Rep. Michael Waltz

Mainland High School

Coach Morris Small, Jr.

Protogroup

John Albright

Cassidy Alexander

Roy Johnson

Joe Pozzo

First Step Shelter Board

Robin Hanger

Sons of the Beach

Daytona Beach Police Department

Chief James Bland

Ed Connor

Synergy Billing

Nancy Keefer

EVAC

Chuck Duva, M.D.

Sen. Rick Scott

Taxpayers of Volusia County

AdventHealth

Saralee Morrissey

Tom and Kayti Caffrey

Krys Fluker

Colleen & Rob Corrozza

Paul Zimmerman

Tim Egnor

Penny Currie

Jane Bloom

Sonya Wiles

Doug Quartier

Volusia County Sheriff’s Office

Bill Bernardo

Reed Berger

Casmira Harrison

Daytona State College

Catholic Charities

Kurt Ardaman

Bill Milano

Bob Jagger

Gina and Dan Farmer

Chase Tramont

Rep. Bill Posey

Spencer Stratton Hathaway

Judy Rock Bergevine

John Danio

Rhonda and Walter Glasnak

Lori Campbell Baker

Jamie Seaman

Tanner Andrews

Mike Panaggio

HAAA

Mary Synk

City of DeBary

Ormond-by-the-Sea Association

Buc-ee’s

Ted Doran

Joyce Shanahan

R. J. Larizza

Victoria Fahlberg

Team Volusia

Glenn Ring

Nick Conte

Daytona Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau

Josh Wagner

Jonathan Edwards

Paula Reed

Matt Metz

Patrick Gavin

Betty Goodman

Flagler County Sheriff’s Office

Dr. Ronald Fritz

Ruth Trager

Jeaneen Witt

Shelley Szafraniec

Rose Schuhmacher

James D. Sass

Robert Sprouse

Elliott Hagood

Michael Mc Bride

Bill Partington II

Linda Ann Brownlee

Henry Wolfond

Aaron Delgado

Mark Lane

Larry Steele

David Lamotte

Alexey Lysich

Keith Norden

Dannette Henry

Claudia Archer

Jason Greene

Tony Walsh

Julie Sipes

Stan Schmidt

Ray Hill

Kevin Gelnaw

Edward Gist

Linda Gatewood

Alicia Page

Nancy Epps

Liz Wade

Michael L. Young

Ted Hordecky

Iron Head

Claudia Vanderhorst

Sandra Walters

Zetta Baker

Liz Murdoch

Paul Skinner

Thomas Akin, Sr.

Sam Bell

Ron Andersen

Julie Hart Lantier

Christina Gerson

Katherine Wanamaker

Sandy Walters

Frank Sawyer

Psycho Magnet

Diane Reynolds

Niki Yanakou

Lori Bennett

Yogi Martin

Gary Mostert

Billie Barker

Barry du Moulin

Barb Shepherd

Gus Massfeller

Robin Michaels

Charles Pickens

Michael Harley

Joel Paige

Laurel Foley

Chris Belflower

Dawn Starr

Kat Brown

Jared Crawford

Sherry Purdy

Phyllis C. Hogan

Chuck Siple

Mark Annitto

Susan Barrie

Jeffery P. Terzini

Suzanne Scheiber

Brian Smith

Sandy Coffman

Linda Parkin

“T” & Bill Lawson

Don Bok

Melissa Lammers

Linda Leary

Al Smith

Eric Breitenbach

Beth and Jim Legary

Ron Martin

Rob Hougham

Robert Augusto

John Lawrence

Maritza Avila-Vazquez

Deana Sallee

Victor Ramos

Jeff White

Dr. John Hill

Linda Smiley

Rich Waters

Lisa Martin

Kayleen Garcia

Noreen Morris

Cheryl Reed

Andy Grosso

Rob Bridger

John Difiore

Kevin Callahan

Jerry Ficco

James Alford

Don Burnette

Loren King

Bob Apgar

Diane Clow

Pete Lynch

Brian

Pam Lawler

Anita Bradford

Dan Luby

Pat Katzenstein

Dr. Fred Costello

Dave Seyse

Richard Kane

Mike Denis

William Sell

Linda White

Karen Waters

Robert D. McFall

Sherry Huskey-Hopson

Fredrik Coulter

Steve Weaver

Kevin Duffy

Bill Barber

Michael Pleus

Steve Thomas

Dorothy A. Fogg

Jim Fogg

Leo J. Vidal

Bill Boots Bouthillette

Noel Bickford

Dayle Whitman

Roberta Richardson

Vicky Jackson

Alycia Severson

Joe Balona

John and Sue Lyle Reynolds

Ruth Norman

Dede Siebenaler

Luke Zona

Judge David Hood

Katherine Hurst Miller

Linda Morse Dixon

Volusia School Parents Forum

Greg Gimbert

Ted Teschner

Randy Cadenhead

Bud Baldwin

Katy Kustura

Robert Stolpmann

Flaglerlive.com

Amazon

Michael J. Arminio

Richard Waters

Jack Jarrell

Ormond Beach Observer

City of Flagler Beach

Volusia County Deputies Association

Frank Thomas Graham

Volusia County School Forum

All who contribute and wish to remain nameless

And,

Well, you know who you are. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Barker’s View

And she brought forth her firstborn son, 
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; 
because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, 
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all best wishes for a healthy, happy and most prosperous 2020!

Mark & Patti

The Birth of “Hyattona” or just history repeating?

The Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” 

As we grow older, some of us gain perspective as well – a civic point of view based upon our memories of the past.

On Sunday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s editorial board took a long reach in a piece entitled, “Beach Street renaissance,” which began:

“There was a time when Beach Street was the thriving heart of Daytona Beach — a place where people could live, work, shop, eat and have fun, all within walking distance.

 And that time is … about five years from now.”

 The fact is, when I was a young boy, downtown was exactly as described.

A flourishing place – anchored by the major retailers of the day – with a plethora of boutiques, restaurants, specialty shops, upscale clothing stores, a movie theater and rows of beautifully appointed windows displaying the merchandise within.

At the end of any shopping trip, if you were “good,” your mom would take you to the toy store at Dunn Brothers.  Extraordinary.

Across the street was an attractive park, complete with landscaped greenspace, interesting monuments, a bubbling artesian spring which flowed cool sulfurous water into ponds surrounded by inviting benches – all interconnected by meandering walkways.

An almost universally shared experience enjoyed by everyone who came of age in the Halifax area in the 1960’s and early 70’s.

Suddenly, everything changed.

In the fall of 1974, for what I’m sure was the best of intentions, our ‘powers that be’ welcomed the Volusia Mall on what is now  West International Speedway Boulevard – and, within the year, both Sears and JC Penny closed up shop and relocated to shiny new stores at opposite ends of the mall.

And, downtown Daytona Beach joined thousands of other traditional Main Streets and business districts across the nation in a slow, but steady, descent into neglect and squalor.

Once bustling sidewalks became the realm of homeless mendicants – with the accompanying sights, sounds and smells that registered the death knell of a once proud and prosperous civic core – while dying shops who were left behind tried in vain to remain relevant in a disloyal retail environment they couldn’t possibly understand or change.

Despite fits and starts, Beach Street would never again see the level of success it enjoyed prior to the day the fabric of our community changed forever.

However, the bones of something great remained.

A beautiful riverfront with beachside access, ample natural spaces, a historic baseball park, a nearby marina and fashionable buildings which retain the class and appeal of a time that simply cannot be recreated.

It was the perfect canvas for a resurgent effort to rebuild and revitalize downtown – and perhaps the rest of our beleaguered community – with a ‘whole community’ vision that would incorporate the best ideas, efforts and input from those of us who call the Halifax area home.

Those who remember what was, and envision what could be. . .

Something we could collectively take credit for with “Look what we did!” buy in.

A collaborative process that allows residents to take ownership and build pride in place as they help revitalize a civically important area following years of strategic rot.

But that’s not how things work here.

Screw your “community building” bullshit, Barker.

We know what’s best for you – and we have the money to prove it. . .

So, we are forced to watch the behind-closed-doors birth of “Hyattona” – a contrived community center all built to adorn an out-of-place, unimaginative glass and steel monument to one man’s self-importance – a classless modern monolith that will house operations for His Majesty King J. Hyatt Brown’s billion-dollar insurance intermediary.

Once again, our elected and appointed officials are following in lockstep conformity – oohing and ahhing with each new reveal – acting as though they haven’t been given the script in advance as they rubber stamp the next demand and acquiesce to secretive projects proposed by Consolidated Tomoka, pushing ahead with plans for P$S Paving to narrow Beach Street while developers announce yet another “dense cluster” of hotels, boutiques, parking garages and specialty shops which will, of course, compliment the Brown & Brown headquarters.

Back in the spring of 2017, I explained a theory based upon mounting evidence that our ‘powers that be’ secretly constructed a “Grand Plan” for the future of the Halifax area – something those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence knew nothing about.

In my warped mind, this well-orchestrated blueprint was hatched by a few of Volusia’s powerful political insiders – the uber-wealthy donor class who have gained near total control of our democratic processes through massive campaign contributions to hand-select candidates – and are using the resultant political clout to craft our community in their image.

As the onion is slowly peeled on what our future will look like – I hate to say I told you so – but it looks like my weird suspicions were true – and I suspect we will see City Island in play soon. . .

No one really cares what you and I think about the revitalization of our downtown.

Because it’s not about us.

In my view, the new concept community of “Hyattona” was set in stone the minute Mr. Brown stood before the Daytona Beach City Commission last week, and, for the umpteenth time, arrogantly waved his money under their noses (“We don’t view the $18.3 million as a gift, we view it as an investment”), after all it’s one thing to “gift” a park to the residents of Daytona, but quite another to use that “gift” to demand tax funded maintenance, ramrod an intrusive road project and procure other expensive public concessions and ancillary development to benefit your new office building.

Word to the wise:  Whenever someone repeatedly reminds you, to the penny, how much he or she has “gifted” you, it comes with strings attached. . .

Interestingly, the same area of downtown currently being developed in honor of one man’s legacy is set atop the ruins of another man’s search for civic immortality.

Way back in 1914, Charles Burgoyne, an uber-wealthy Daytona Beach printer, paid for street lighting and contributed money for many civic improvements – including a 10-foot-wide paved sidewalk known as the “Burgoyne Esplanade” – between Orange Avenue and Bay Street, along with a thriving music venue, a park pavilion and free concerts at his mansion.

Following Mr. Burgoyne’s death in 1916, his wife, Mary, lived in the rambling mansion – “The Castle” – for another 25 years until she and two servants were unceremoniously evicted by the new property owner, a Jacksonville businessman, and moved to a beachside apartment.

Then, the mansion, with its ornate wall and outbuildings, was demolished and hauled away – while property developer, Burgoyne Properties, built and leased twenty commercial buildings on the site of Mr. Burgoyne’s legacy. . .

Perhaps Mr. Brown, and the other ‘movers & shakers’ who are forcing their self-serving vision on the rest of us in downtown Daytona and beyond should realize that, in the end, all fame is fleeting – and forcing change on a suspicious and unwilling constituency only lasts as long as voters permit it.

 

Angels & Assholes for December 20, 2019

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:

Before we get this weekly hayride started, I want to take a minute to say thank you to every member of the tribe who rode to my aid during a pretty dark week here at Barker’s View HQ.

As most of you know, I was recently named in a spurious complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics – false allegations which specifically targeted Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte – accusations which were summarily dismissed following a preliminary investigation by state officials.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal and other local media outlets responsibly covered this ugly issue – but it didn’t help salve the heartbreaking reality of being wrongly accused.

I’m all washed up – a retired has-been with no relevance – but Mr. Forte remains very much in the fray.

Knowing the depth of his character and commitment to good governance, the fact Mr. Forte will be forced to forever explain this senseless stain on his otherwise stellar record of honest and ethical public service troubles me to the core.

While the experience only served to further harden my manners – and lower my already whale shit opinion of mankind – I know this unfortunate episode truly weighed heavy on a man of Joe Forte’s integrity.

My spirits were buoyed beyond belief by the response of Barker’s View readers – even from some of you who abhor these screeds and despise everything I stand for – who raced to defend my honor.

When the chips were down, you showed up.

I’m humbled by that.

As the great Texas folklorist J. Frank “Pancho” Dobie said, “You’ll do to ride the river with. . .” 

Thank you all from the bottom of my beat-up old heart.

Enough of that maudlin crap – let’s get things started, shall we? 

Look, this week’s A&A is a long one – so don’t think you have to eat it all in one sitting.

This isn’t “Mrs. Petrie’s Rum Nut Plum Raisin Cake of the Season” – just my goofy views on life here on the Fun Coast – so feel free to savor it, in moderation, throughout the Holidays. . .

Angel             Deltona City Commission

Well, the hyper-dramatic Grande Révélation didn’t quite go as planned. . .

Just yesterday, antsy taxpayers in Deltona were all set to learn the identity of the company they are gifting massive “economic development” incentives to – but, alas, secrecy prevailed as Team Volusia announced that, because of “unforeseen delays,” the mysterious “client” has opted to remain in the shadows.

Unfortunately, the ham-handed “emergency meeting” on Thursday left the Deltona City Commission looking like a troupe of buffoons as the rug was pulled out from under them – and exposed Team Volusia president and CEO Keith Norden as an addled, ill-informed stooge. . .

But, at the end of the day, the Deltona City Commission did the right thing.

Look, I get it.

I don’t agree with it.  But I understand the pressures.

Earlier this week, members of the Deltona City Commission preliminarily ponied up some $2.5 million in tax incentives for an entity that hasn’t even been identified yet. . .

What else were they going to do? 

Call it a sign of the times, I guess.

We live in an era when local governments are asked to handover hard-earned tax dollars to a mysterious business enterprise, shrouded in secrecy, and touted by “economic development” types as the next best thing to sliced cheese – a one-sided transaction long on faith, but with very little hard information – other than a promise of storehouse jobs paying around $32,000 annually.

That’s hardly the “high paying” careers we are promised, ad nauseum, by those who are paid handsomely to separate us from our tax dollars in the name of business recruitment.

In my view, those who the good people of Deltona have elected to represent their interests were right to wait until the operator of the massive distribution center is ready to reveal their true identity – and prove their corporate commitment to seeing the project to fruition – before final authorization of $2,479,966 in ad velorem tax rebates for the still undisclosed company.

In my view, companies like Amazon, and other mega-online retailers, didn’t dominate the marketplace by selecting locations for their logistics and distribution centers by throwing darts at a map – or listening to the pap and fluff of some Team Volusia shill. . .

I suspect, under the right circumstances, whomever this secret enterprise is would pay the City of Deltona if it meant getting a profitable location in the very epicenter of Central Florida.

But that’s not how the game works. . .

Now, people like Chris Wimsatt, vice president of business development at Team Volusia – who makes a fine living getting politicians to throw our money around – will paint a rosy picture of all the wonderful things Deltona can expect once they host a massive industrial warehouse.

In an article heralding Deltona’s incredibly expensive corporate welfare offer, Wimsatt said, “Clearly it’s something that is a game-changer for the county and the city, and we think a wonderful catalyst for further development.”

My ass.

“Game-changer,” “springboard” and “wonderful catalyst” – all the bullshit adjectives and contrivances from the Team Volusia playbook were trotted out for the benefit of elected officials and their constituents – who are only now coming to the realization they are being asked to give massive tax breaks to someone who hasn’t even introduced themselves.

Trust me.  It’s a frigging warehouse – not a panacea for all the social, civic and economic ills that continue to plague Volusia County like a grotesque disease – and I hope everyone keeps that in mind.

Clearly, questions are beginning to outnumber answers – and this shell game isn’t exclusive to Deltona. . .

In my view, it should be criminal for any government entity to give away millions in public funds, tax incentives and infrastructure improvements unless and until all the players have been properly identified, and those of us who pay the bills know exactly who – and what – we are being saddled with.

If we’ve learned anything this year, it is the importance of transparency in maintaining the public trust – and these Secret Squirrel “nondisclosure” games which statutorily cloak negotiations involving millions-of-dollars of OUR money don’t instill confidence in those of us who pay the bills.

I don’t know about you, but I’m damn tired of Team Volusia and others pissing my money away on project’s that would have naturally settled here without their insidious meddling and horseshit hype.

Angel               First Step Shelter

After a decade of anguish, political posturing, back-biting and intrigue, this week the beleaguered First Step Shelter – the Halifax areas premiere life enrichment and personal development seminar for the urban outdoorsman – opened to much fanfare in the hinterlands west of I-95.

Here’s wishing the shelter’s convoluted “leadership” conglomerate – a weird amalgam of the First Step Shelter Board, Catholic Charities, an Executive Director, etc., etc. (all of which are totally subservient to Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm) – a hearty congratulations and best of luck going forward.

They’re going to need it. . .

My sincere hope is that First Step is a rousing success, because, God knows, the homeless population that has besieged our core tourist area and beyond – and the long-suffering residents and businesses that have been forced to tolerate it – deserve a break.

We need these community-based services desperately – and I encourage everyone who can to donate whatever possible to the effort – because failure is not an option.

However, I’ll withhold judgement until we see the tangible results of our already sizeable investment. . .

This week, as everyone who is anyone was backslapping, cutting festive ribbons and celebrating the Grand Opening; I was quietly reminded of the story of the boy and the Zen Master:

On his sixteenth birthday the boy gets a horse as a present. All of the people in the village say, “Oh, how wonderful!”

The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”

One day, the boy is riding and gets thrown off the horse and hurts his leg. He’s no longer able to walk, so all of the villagers say, “How terrible!”

The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”

Some time passes and the village goes to war. All of the other young men get sent off to fight, but this boy can’t fight because his leg is injured. All of the villagers say, “How wonderful!”

The Zen master says, “We’ll see.”

Angel              International Speedway Boulevard

“It’s not me.  It’s you. . .”

Like some faithful but aging lover who has been kicked to the curb in favor of a younger, more attractive flame – watching the abandonment, and ultimate demise, of our main thoroughfare saddens me.

Recently, News-Journal Business reporter Clayton Park published an excellent piece entitled, “Ale House eyes Tomoka,” reporting efforts by the chain to potentially relocate its Daytona Beach eatery from its long-established location on ISB to a “new standalone” restaurant at the now fashionable Tomoka Town Center.

If things gel, Ale House will join a host of other former ISB residents – from Ross to Barnes & Noble and Hobby Lobby – that have left their roots and moved to the bustling 170-acre mixed-use development on Boomtown Boulevard near the LPGA/I-95 interchange.

If you ever question why I read and digest everything I can get my hands on regarding Halifax area business and politics, it is because sometimes I find a pearl in the remains of this rotting oyster of ours – an insight so profound that it speaks to the very heart of the myriad issues facing Daytona Beach and beyond.

In this case, Mr. Park included a very revealing quote by Dick McNerney, a clearly astute commercial realtor with Adams, Cameron & Co., who remarked that the restaurants move “makes perfect sense.”

“Everything around there is old and tired,” he said of the area next to the I-95/International Speedway Boulevard interchange. “By moving to Tomoka Town Center, they’d be getting a nice clean new facility.”

Wow.

I understand that no one wants to be left behind when the Gold Rush starts, but at the end of the day, what are we becoming?

As “New Daytona” continues to emerge from the pine scrub west of town – with elegant gated developments and a “theme” subdivision which has created a vast faux-beach community – coupled with a surfeit of restaurants and retail on the frontage road just east of our sparkly new Tanger Outlet – one gets the idea that New Daytona’s sandy Phoenix remains on the rise.

Yet, a short drive east finds the rust and rot of our once vibrant beachside – the grim and very visible consequence of multi-layered political dysfunction, gross mismanagement of public funds and resources, and a wanton neglect by greedy property owners who consistently put profits over progress.

And don’t forget the serious issues facing Midtown – which has, for years, suffered from inattention – virtually deserted by those who are elected and appointed to help solve the acute needs of its long-suffering residents.

Now, ISB has been formally identified as “old and tired” by those in the know.

As the burial shroud is slowly wound round our once grand gateway (just as our never-ending I-95 interchange is coming to completion) we can fondly remember west ISB in her heyday, when she was once new and vibrant. . .

As the big money continues its rapid move west, so does the focus and attention of our “movers-and-shakers” – you know, the Chamber of Commerce set, our goofy elected officials and their friends in high places, like the CEO Business Alliance, etc.

Like victims of a contagious pandemic of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, city and county officials – and those who make their living grubbing from government coffers – will conveniently forget the fetid mess on what remains of the beachside and beyond as developers continue churning ecologically sensitive land west of the Interstate into the “Next big thing.”

 For now, we can just be comfortably anesthetized by the ‘big doing’s’ on Beach Street – pie-in-the-sky plans for a “dense cluster” of retail shops, a hotel (with rooftop pool!), parking garage, plazas and multi-family housing between ISB and Bay Street – as our “Rich & Powerful” tell us what our tawdry little lives will look like in the future. . .

Your input wasn’t needed, so tough shit, you nay-saying residents and business owners.

(Don’t take my word for it, look at the beautiful architectural renderings, with happy shadow people idling away the afternoon, strolling among posh boutiques and palm-lined boulevards – “doing lunch” and spending their disposable income from those good “high paying” warehouse jobs on wine, cheese and tchotchkes.)

Whatever.

I just wonder, in the aftermath of this Bacchanalia of Building in the hinterlands west of town, if any thought or planning has been given to what the rest of our beleaguered community – and our dying tourism and hospitality industry – will look like when the party’s over?

Asshole           Team Volusia

Sometimes I wonder if those who have been elected and appointed to represent Volusia County municipalities – the mosaic of unique communities that make us such a special and eclectic place to live, work and play – remember who they work for?

Earlier this month, our soi-disant Gurus of Economic Development over at the taxpayer funded Team Volusia – that laggardly camarilla that seemingly exists as an international travel agency for president and CEO Keith Norden and his coterie of high flying bon vivants – exerted their power with what amounts to a hostile takeover of the local Economic Development Practitioners Council.

In Volusia’s labyrinth of redundant “economic development” teams, councils, chambers, millionaire cabals, cliques and committees, the Practitioners Council is comprised of business recruitment professionals who are actually employed by the municipalities – those who are truly engaged in bringing new enterprises and encouraging capital investment in your community and mine – a heretofore independent arm of “Investor” cities who contribute heavily to keep Team Volusia alive.

Now, following a curious near unanimous vote of our municipal practitioners – the Vice Chair of Team Volusia will serve as “Co-Chair” of the Practitioners Council, to, among other demands, “facilitate the mutual exchange of information between our investors and staff of Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation, including without limitation information regarding potential prospects, sites, and opportunities.” 

Co-Chair?

Am I the only one who sees these shameless power-plays for what they are?

I mean, why can’t our highly-compensated and ostensibly smart city managers recognize Team Volusia’s strategic overreach for what it is – then put their foot down and say, “enough is enough”?

And why do our elected municipal officials continue to throw good money after bad subsidizing this unnecessary sham?

In my view, so long as one red cent of public funds is being spent on this charade (Ormond Beach alone spends some $25,000 annually, which, as a citizen, makes me an “Executive Level Investor”) then Team Volusia works for us – the long-suffering taxpayers of the municipalities who contribute – and this aggressive takeover of our independent local practitioners should not stand.

I guess it makes things infinitely easier when every local practitioner is required by committee bylaws to share their leads and prospects with the Team Volusia staff (who always seem to play things close to the vest) so that Norden and Company can take credit at the eleventh hour. . .

Bullshit.

Look, I don’t know about you, but I tend to judge organizations by their attention to the small, but infinitely important, aspects of their business – elements that demonstrate the groups professionalism and commitment to their stated mission.

For instance, a cursory glance at the Team Volusia website finds that substantive information hasn’t been updated since 2018 – nearly two-years – which immediately telegraphs to me, and any site selector who stumbles over it, that Team Volusia could care less. . .

I defy you to find any summary of meeting agendas or minutes for the Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation – a “public/private” partnership that is subject to Florida’s open meetings law – on the website, or anywhere else for that matter.

And don’t get me started on the false narrative created by the “Volusia’s Largest Employers” list in the Site Selection area – or the fumbling, stumbling performance of senior Team Volusia officials before the Deltona City Commission yesterday. . .

Why would our municipal officials continue to invest in a “corporation” that can’t muster the ‘management and leadership’ to maintain a professional web presence? 

In total, Team Volusia has proven, time and again, that it is more interested in lavishing the VIP treatment on its upper echelon – and hosting elegant soirees for all the right last names – rather than focusing on the job at hand.

To show you just how incestuous things have gotten here in Fantasyland – the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce is set to bestow its contrived “Enterprise Award” – this year obsequiously renamed in honor of His Magnificence King J. Hyatt Brown – on Team Volusia at the Chamber’s Annual Celebration of Mediocrity gala next month.

Yeah.  You read that right.    

Criteria to be determined, I guess. . .

If you are a dues paying member of the Regional Chamber of Commerce – a business owner who contributes to our local economy with your hard work, sacrifice and creativity – maybe your company should analyze the return on investment?

Perhaps it’s time to ask, “What have you done for me lately?” or why your hard-earned membership fees are being spent on frivolous cocktail parties – where sycophants and politicians laugh at rich people’s jokes – and dubious awards for wholly ineffective publicly funded economic development shills?

Major Award
“A Major Award”

I mean, our Regional Chamber of Commerce couldn’t find one private employer in all of Volusia County to honor?

Really?

Not Foundation Risk Partners (having Charlie Lydecker carry home the J. Hyatt Brown Award would be rich, right?)  Not Security First Insurance?  Not Synergy Billing?  Not B. Braun?  Not Costa Del M- (oh, sorry. . .)

Hell, not one established business which employs our residents, supports the tax base and forms the backbone of our local economy?    

Wow.

Look, if any Chamber member is interested – save your $125 per seat fee for the gala.  Instead, you can join me at my local watering hole and buy me highballs while I get sloppy drunk and humiliate your staff and openly disrespect your contributions to our local economy.

Hell, we’ll make a night of it!

In my view, that would be less embarrassing than sitting in an elegant banquet hall being publicly slapped in the face by the Chamber’s leadership as they present a fabricated award to a quasi-governmental agency and openly ignore the efforts of struggling local businesses trying to stay afloat in this terribly difficult marketplace.

And people still wonder why Volusia County remains a cautionary tale among the real players in Central Florida business and industry? 

My God.

Get rid of this shameless scam.  Now.

Quote of the Week

“Finally — what the heck?! Why can’t the Volusia County Council get it together and find out why we don’t have a bus going to the Tanger Mall and shops?

 If the council and cities are going to keep giving builders the go ahead to keep building more and more houses then they had better start giving people more options for riding the buses. Oh, by the way, when people keep building more houses, apartments, condos and businesses this becomes a big city complex and that’s what we are becoming so leaders better adjust their outlook for public transportation.”

–Joy Putnum, Ormond Beach, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal Letters to the Editor, “Growth brings big changes to Daytona,” Saturday, December 14, 2019

I’m afraid, Ms. Putnam, despite your spot-on appraisal of our bleak future, that the Volusia County Council doesn’t give a damn about your valid concerns – or the general public’s ability to access the very shopping and entertainment venues they helped pay for with their hard-earned tax dollars.

You see, when developer shills have their hand out – the rallying cry is “high paying jobs!” – but once the check is cashed, no one really want’s you to have public transportation to those retail positions – because they fear a bus will also bring “undesirables” to their idea of a tony shopping experience.

We can’t have the Great Unwashed Hordes mingling amongst the gilded ones, now can we?

To his credit, Volusia County’s preeminent political pundit, Big John, has worked diligently to see public transportation extended to Tanger Outlets and beyond – and I have it on good authority that County Manager George Recktenwald is actively working behind the scenes to bring a Votran bus to the Tomoka Town Center area early next year. . .

Keep your fingers crossed.

And Another Thing!

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

We’ll be talking local politics – and taking your questions on the issues of the day – on “The fastest two-hours in radio!”

 Listen locally at 1380am “The Cat” – or worldwide at www.govstuff.org (Listen Live button).

If you would like to participate in this wide-ranging forum, please call in at 386-523-1380!

I would really enjoy hearing from you – and learning your unique perspective on the issues that effect our lives and livelihoods here on the Fun Coast.

That’s all for me – have a great weekend, everyone!

Lives are at stake. Dammit.

“I think we here in Volusia are in compliance today, it’s a good learning opportunity for us to take a look at where we can improve, and by all means we’re going to make sure we always meet the mandates that are set forth through policy.”

Greg Akin, Chief Operating Officer, Volusia County Schools, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Grand jury slams school safety,” December 16, 2019

“I think”?

You think our schools are in compliance with the mandatory safety and security provisions set forth in the aftermath of the atrocity at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas?

My God. . .what the hell is he blathering about? 

Last week, a report was released by the statewide grand jury impaneled in February and charged with investigating the implementation of legislative recommendations and physical security mandates contained in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Safety Act.

According to the report, the panel heard evidence of widespread noncompliance in school districts around the state, describing some security plans as being, “held together with nothing more than chewing gum, duct tape and hope.”

Sound familiar?

It should.

Because recent violent incidents at several Volusia County schools, including an ambulatory drunk, armed with a pocket knife, that penetrated the gauze-like security protocols at a local high school before taking a seat in an occupied classroom – and the frequent no-holds-barred brawls among students that turn a “learning environment” into a prison riot – and you get the idea Mr. Akin, and the other unqualified jack-legs responsible for our children’s safety, are clueless.

Social media is abuzz with horror stories of bullying and violent physical altercations – to include anecdotal tales of headlocks, choke-holds and students dragging other students across under-supervised lunchrooms by their hair – closed-door interrogations of victims by administrators, and a host of other frightening scenarios that play out daily on school campuses across Volusia County.

The fact is, even the best safety and security measures are only as good as the professionals who develop, test and implement them.

In my view, here in Volusia County Schools, the legally-defined security specialist role has become a catchall – a negligent afterthought – and the glaring lack of leadership and expertise is self-evident.

This lack of professional competence and concern is exemplified in Mr. Akin’s nonsensical, CYA statement to The Daytona Beach News-Journal.  It seems no one at Volusia County Schools understands that doing the bare minimum to meet what they think the standard may be isn’t enough.

Lives are a stake.  Dammit. 

One would have thought that given the grave urgency of protecting our schools our new Superintendent, Dr. Scott Fritz, would have made immediate modifications to the district’s seemingly non-existent safety and security function.

It’s called hitting the ground running – prioritizing urgent issues before an emergency – and taking bold, decisive action to establish a culture of accountability and telegraph what is important to students, teachers and staff.

He didn’t.

Instead, following Dr. Fritz’ first goal setting session, the News-Journal reports that we can expect three priorities in the new year – in-house vaccinations for middle schoolers, the possible consolidation of the historic Osceola and Ortona elementary schools (leaving the beachside with a K-8, similar to what Holly Hill residents were saddled with), and the expansion of the bureaucracy with a “Deputy Superintendent” and “Chief Information Technology” position. . .

Not one word in the newspaper about our immediate need for the restoration of order on our school campuses or implementing something that vaguely resembles a security and safety program manager.

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss?   

I have publicly asked Volusia County School Board chairman Carl Persis to take official action to recruit a professional security expert with the training and experience to secure the high-risk, dynamic environment of a school campus – someone with a proven track record of developing the passive and active safety and security procedures necessary to protect the thousands of lives placed in the district’s care each day.

And the mettle to enforce them. . .

To date, Chairman Persis has proven a massive disappointment – a perennial politician who plays lip service to concerned constituents – and I have seen absolutely no substantive progress on this most important issue since my reasonable request weeks ago.

In my view, it is time the statewide grand jury starts handing down criminal indictments of any senior administrator, or elected school board member, in any district in the State of Florida who fails to thoroughly implement the essential statutory mandates of the MSD Public Safety Act.

These do-nothing incompetents – as recipients of public funds – should be held personally responsible for the reprehensible environment we are forced to subject vulnerable children to each day.

We simply cannot wait for the unthinkable before Volusia County – and other districts around the Sunshine State – pull their collective head out of their ass and do their jobs.     

The tools are in place – the strategies have been clearly spelled out in state law – and these best practices have been paid for and sanctified with the blood of innocents.

This simply cannot continue.

   

 

On Volusia: “It’s all good news” Until it isn’t.

I always enjoy reading Daytona Beach News-Journal editor Pat Rice’s take on topical issues in his standing column in Sunday’s paper.

He always has a unique perspective – but his question this week, “Why, in Daytona Beach, does it take way longer than expected to build roads and bridges and buildings?” – I’m going to assume was rhetorical.

Because, in my view, the answer is painfully obvious to anyone who has been paying attention for, oh, the past decade or so. . .

The reason speculative developers, government contractors and sundry greed-heads take so damnably long to complete projects – regardless of scope or inconvenience – is because they can.

If the long and varied saga that ultimately became the Daytona Beach Hard Rock taught us anything, it is that, even on the extremely rare occasion where performance bonds or contractual guarantees are used to ensure compliance with governmental concessions, or the release of public funds to underwrite various aspects of the project, those charged with looking after our interests are asleep at the switch.

Or they become wholly complicit in ensuring completion and quality obligations are overlooked or ignored entirely.

For instance, in February 2018, Volusia County officials realized that Summit Hospitality, the developer of Hard Rock, would be hard pressed to meet the drop-dead date for completion as established by county ordinance – which would have jeopardized the Volusia County Council’s over-the-top concession to essentially privatize some 410’ linear feet of OUR beach by removing traffic and ease of public access behind the hotel.

The real problem came when long-suffering residents realized – based upon their personal observation of deplorable conditions on the external seawall, photographs depicting structural integrity concerns in a subterranean parking garage and an unfinished pool deck – that no governmental entity worth its integrity and standing could possibly risk their reputation by certifying an incomplete renovation as meeting the exacting standards set forth by ordinance.

Yet, that is exactly what happened.

Now, Halifax area residents are standing in the shadow of an ugly concrete monolith in the very heart of our core tourist area – the multi-story shell of a highly-touted “$192 million” hotel/condo project, complete with the rusting shoots of the “north tower” which never seemed to germinate – a project that was billed as the biggest and best by our local ‘movers & shakers,’ who never seem to look past the hype and fluff of some marketing hack, or ask the darker questions, like – “What if. . .”

Way back in 2017, former Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey told us he personally negotiated the terms of the project with principals of Russian developer Protogroup – then he fired up the Allstar Goodtime Band and played a rosy tune for all us skeptical rubes who couldn’t seem to recognize a good thing when we see it, remember:

“It’s great to see it finally happen,” said Ritchey, who has a riverfront home on the beachside. “It seems like it has the potential to be something really great. I’m just really excited that it’s going to be a linchpin and an encouragement for other development on the beachside. It’s all good news.”

Then, in typical Daytona Beach style, the public was given a glimpse of some beautiful architectural renderings – complete with pixilated little cars and happy shadow people frolicking about – and our hopes were buoyed by some preliminary construction activity at the site and completion of the parking garage across A-1-A.

Unfortunately, at that time, Protogroup had apparently yet to secure the cash necessary to see the project completed.

At the time, I thought it admirable that Protogroup’s Alexey Lysich and his family dropped some serious personal coin to see the project come out of the ground.

It demonstrated a level of personal commitment that was refreshing in the weird history of the Halifax area’s here today/gone tomorrow oceanfront developers.

Then came a disturbing report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal which exposed some potentially uncomfortable information that was found during a review of the “Panama Papers” – leaked documents that contained personal financial information regarding the offshore bank accounts of uber-wealthy individuals and public officials from around the globe.

Although offshore business entities and banking is legal where permitted – from the “who’d a thunk it” file – some shell corporations and offshore accounts are used for fraud, tax evasion, and the avoidance of international sanctions.

Really.  I’m not making that up. . .

Apparently – according to the Panama Papers – a guy by the name of Alexey Lysich of St. Petersburg, Russia was associated with an offshore bank account in the Seychelles.

In his defense, at the time, Mr. Lysich told the News-Journal he – “doesn’t think it’s him” – and assured us all that neither he, nor his family, has any connection to the Russian government.

After all, “Money is money” Lysich said.

I don’t know about you, but that bold statement never sat well with me. . .

You see, us denizens of this salty piece of land have been screwed so frequently by developers with dubious financing that we walk with a permanent limp – and we learned a long time ago that, when the chips are down, our elected and appointed government officials will side with the “next big thing” over their constituents every time.

Now, with a January construction deadline imminent, on Tuesday, Protogroup will hold a neighborhood meeting in the parking garage (?) at Oakridge Boulevard and North Atlantic Avenue, ahead of a request to the City of Daytona Beach for a three-year extension to the completion requirement.

My God.

What does this mean for our fading tourism and hospitality industry, who continue see occupancy, revenue and bed tax collections for area hotels plummet year-over-year?

How does having a perpetually under construction hulk in the epicenter of our beachside encourage entrepreneurial investment?

And how long should the incredibly courageous owners of the Sea Dunes Motel – who took a bold stand to hold firm to their roots as a family-oriented seaside retreat – have to live in the shadow of a construction crane that rarely moves?

In my view, Paul Zimmerman, lifelong resident and president of Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, Sons of the Beach, recently posed a commonsense approach to this perplexing issue on social media:

“Given Protogroup’s failure to comply with past agreements and their lack of transparency and forthrightness.  We, the citizens, should demand at least four major terms prior to any extension.

  1. A requirement of a performance bond or an escrow account with at least 20% of the cost of project deposited with a structured timeline of milestones to be met with penalties withdrawn from the escrow for FURTHER non-compliance.
  1. A schedule of periodic citizen walk-through’s of the project to determine progress and the degree of completion at the time – without the walk-through – there is no accountability.
  1. An acceptable and required beach access which has not been consistently provided in the previous three years, and,
  1. Abandonment of the wrong way valet traffic lane on Oakridge Boulevard. There are more but these four should be non-negotiable. There is not only an agreement with the City, but with Volusia County (abandonment of the approach and air rights for the connecting walkway) as well.”

I think we’re well-passed the idea of asking residents to give up even more of our vanishing quality of life to accommodate the exalted developer du jour, don’t you?

At least I hope we are.

In my view, it is time our elected and appointed officials begin representing those of us who pay the bills and demand that the provisions of performance assurances and completion deadlines are enforced.

The economic future of our beleaguered beachside depends upon it.

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

Angels & Assholes for December 13, 2019

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           Mark D. Barker

I’m an unabashed troublemaker.

An unrepentant sinner who heaps harsh criticism on those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest, yet consistently put their own self-interests – or those of their political benefactors – ahead of the wants and needs of their long-suffering constituents.

Certainly not an angel.  And, let’s face it, the asshole moniker fits best. . .

If you’re a loyal reader of these screeds, my guess is you’ve figured that out by now.

The one thing I got right in life was a wonderful 31-year career in law enforcement.  If someone had asked me to sit down and write out the perfect career track – I could not have imagined a more fulfilling or personally rewarding endeavor than my three-decades with the City of Holly Hill.

Was it perfect?  No.

During a 31-year career in municipal government, I made my share of operational, administrative and personal mistakes.  Misjudgments, omissions and strategic errors that cost taxpayer dollars, diminished service delivery and, I’m sure, confounded senior administrators, elected officials and my long-suffering constituents.

Fortunately, I worked for some truly remarkable servant-leaders along the way who allowed me to learn from my mistakes, took the time and effort to point out the error of my ways and ensure that I didn’t repeat the same blunder twice.

I worked hard every day to set a professional example by never compromising my personal or professional integrity, to always tell the truth to citizens, subordinates and superiors – even when it was unpopular – and, when it came to putting young men and women in harms way, I never asked anyone to do anything I wasn’t willing to do myself.

And I never shirked my sworn responsibility to uphold the law without fear or favor.

I’m proud of that.

Now, I don’t give a Tinker’s damn about any “legacy” of service – but my professional reputation remains important to me – that’s why what I have to tell you is so difficult for me.

This summer a complaint was brought against Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte to the Florida Commission on Ethics by a long-time resident who, around 2007, embarked on something of a personal crusade to implement aggressive code enforcement.

Unfortunately, the accuser made up baseless allegations against me as a means to an end.

According to the complainant’s “Statement of Facts,” after making a personal “survey” of the city between 2007 and 2008:

“I began to notice that certain property owners, who I later determined to be longtime friends of former chief of police Mark Barker had major violations ignored by police officers.”

The complaint also alleged that when City Manager Forte returned to office in 2014 after a seven-year stint as Assistant County Manager in Seminole County:

“He immediately began adopting the same behaviors as former chief of police Mark Barker who retired just months earlier that same year.  Property owners, known to be close friends with former chief Barker, continued to repeat violations at their properties as police officers and Joseph Forte refused to report those to the special master.”

The complaint contained a smattering of photographs and email exchanges between the complainant and city code enforcement officials regarding reports and enforcement actions dating to 2008.

While I was not formally named as a respondent in the complaint – the foundation of these spurious allegations was that, during my service as Chief of Police, I showed favoritism or gave preferential treatment to unidentified “longtime friends” who were also “major violators” of city codes – and follows with the ludicrous notion that Mr. Forte, after a seven-year absence from Holly Hill, carried on this preferential treatment for my unidentified “friends” after I retired.

The accusations also included an absurd assertion that my officers and I were untrained and incapable of conducting code enforcement activities.

Bullshit.

On October 17, 2019, a preliminary investigation by the Commission on Ethics was completed and sent to the full commission for review and formal determination.

Earlier this week, the Commission issued a formal finding of “No Probable Cause” in the matter and dismissed the complaint against Mr. Forte – official action which exonerated him of all charges – while also making the original complaint and subsequent investigative report a matter of public record. . .

For the record, I was never interviewed – or even noticed – during the course of the Commission’s inquiry.

When I learned about the investigation following its conclusion, I reached out to the Commission’s investigator personally to ask how – in the absence of any opportunity to participate and provide sworn testimony or exculpatory evidence – would I be able to clear my name of these utterly baseless accusations?

I was told that the five-year statute of limitations on ethics violations had run since my retirement, and there was no evidence found to corroborate the complainant’s allegations, so, the Commission saw no need to interview me.

I also learned that the subject apparently became uncommunicative with investigators as the inquiry moved forward:

“The Complainant did not respond to telephone voice mail messages or an email message seeking further information relative to the complaint during the investigation of this matter.  However, prior to the finalization of the Report of Investigation, he provided an email response referencing alleged code violations he had noted dating back to 2007, while acknowledging that the Respondent (Mr. Forte) who previously left the City’s employ in 2007, did not return as City Manager until late 2014.”   

The investigator suggested I obtain a copy of the investigative report and use the findings as I saw fit to defend myself.

In other words, just deny it.

That should satisfy my detractor’s curiosity, right?

The fact is – I don’t have many friends – and none of them would ever compromise my professional ethics or personal integrity by asking me to intervene in a petty code enforcement matter.

And I have never insinuated myself into the code enforcement process, or the investigation and criminal prosecution of anyone, beyond what was necessary to provide supervision and oversight of an operation that was my legal responsibility.

In addition, I categorically reject the complainant’s notion that I, and the officers assigned to conduct code enforcement operations during my tenure, had “no certifications in code enforcement and routinely showed little knowledge of city codes/ordinances.” 

The fact is, during my long career I conducted and supervised complex, long-term investigations of homicides (literally from crime scene to courtroom), narcotics trafficking operations, financial exploitation, and major criminal offenses – to include successful prosecutions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – and have partnered with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on large scale investigations and long-term operations to uncover and prosecute criminal activity.

In addition, I authored the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Association’s emergency management protocol for multi-jurisdictional incidents – held the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation – and am a graduate of the 187th Session of the globally prestigious FBI National Academy.

And the sworn law enforcement officers I assigned to administrate the code enforcement function were also extremely well-trained and experienced professionals who worked diligently at a thankless job to make a positive difference in the community.

Look, I hate to congratulate my own accomplishments, but I think my training and experience qualifies me – or any other sworn law enforcement officer – to investigate The Great Garbage Can on City Right-of-Way Case of 2008. . .

The only cognitive recollection I have of the complainant is his incessant reports of residential garbage cans not being removed from curbside in a timely manner, junk cars in driveways, parking of RV’s, storage of goods in carports, etc., etc. – and I always considered him a frustrated, if somewhat overzealous, resident who wanted to better his community.

While a I bear no animosity toward my accuser, in my view, the lack of material evidence and extreme nature of this official action is over the top.

While I support the accuser’s right to complain about his government – perhaps the bar for destroying lives and careers with a frivolous public integrity complaint should be a tad higher?

Admittedly, code enforcement has never been a political priority in the City with a Heart – and most of our efforts during my time in command were complaint driven.  Let’s face it, given the civic challenges facing a city approaching 120 years old, issues must be triaged, and limited resources expended judiciously.

Perhaps that doesn’t sit well with everyone – but it’s a fact of life in many small towns.

I have grown some hard bark over the years, and, in retirement, I really don’t give a rat’s ass what people think of me personally.

I am what I am – a washed-up hack, a warrior with no more battles to fight, a pathetic irrelevant who spends his time jousting with political windmills and sharing my jaded opinions with you.

Whatever.

But what’s left of my tattered reputation is still important to me – and I wanted you, my loyal readers, to know about these ugly allegations, as I suspect The Daytona Beach News-Journal will rightfully report on the matter soon enough.

I also want you to know that, regardless of what you think of me, Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte is one of the most decent, honorable and values-oriented public servants I know.

His reputation speaks for itself – and it is above reproach.

Although Mr. Forte didn’t serve as city manager during my tenure as police chief, I had the pleasure of working with him for many years and in various capacities – literally from the time he was a firefighter with Holly Hill Fire/Rescue through his early service as the chief executive.

Through the years, Mr. Forte has demonstrated the strength of character and professional competence that has made him one of the most highly respected managers in Central Florida.

His vision, creativity and strict attention to stewarding public funds have set the City of Holly Hill on a path of restoration and renewal.

The fact his good name has been besmirched by these pernicious and wholly false allegations sickens me.  My career is over – while his continues to blossom, and he will forever after have to answer ‘yes’ when asked if he has been investigated for an ethics complaint.

That’s wrong.

This wasn’t just some overbearing neighborhood snoop taking swipes at a public official for their failure to enforce municipal code – this was a formal sworn complaint alleging violations of Florida’s public integrity statute that resulted in official proceedings by the Commission on Ethics.

I’ve never been a fan of our state ethics apparatus – a weird process where the best the innocent can hope for is a finding of no probable cause – before being spit out the other side of the machine to rebuild their tarnished reputation.

And those who are found guilty of breaching the public trust often receive a slap on wrist.

When I complain about local government – or make snide remarks about sitting officials who I feel have sold us out – I try and explain the mini-moves and political machinations that led me to that opinion in my own off-color way.

I don’t make it personal because it isn’t to me.

And I can take it as good as I give it.

From that point of view, I have no idea why the person who submitted these demonstrably false allegations tried to personally and professionally destroy a good man like Mr. Forte – or why the individual chose to drag my washed-up ass through the fire five-years after my retirement from public service – but I have some damn fine attorneys who are champing at the bit to find out. . .

I didn’t quite know how to tell you about this – or how any subsequent media treatment will be received by my associates and political enemies – but we’ve been together too long for me to hide something from you.

Look, I’m not looking for sympathy – but I would have thought less of myself if you didn’t hear this from me.

As I ponder how best to proceed – how to restore my bruised reputation in this frightful era of guilt by accusation – I have come to the opinion that, if I am going to take an indignant public stand against perceived injustice, political malfeasance and the corruption of our democratic system – then I should work equally hard to protect myself, and those I respect, from bullies and cowards who use our public integrity law as a cudgel.

When I figure out how best to do that, you’ll be the first to know.

Thank you for your incredible support and friendship.