I recently had a barstool conversation with a slightly sloshed local sage who speculated about whether it is time to cleave Volusia County into two parts.
As ridiculous as that sounds, the differences between the two sides of the same geopolitical region could not be more glaring.
I often wonder if our neighbors in West Volusia — with its quiet places like DeLand, with its award-winning Downtown, university vibe and hometown charm, and quaint communities like Pierson and Lake Helen — feel hamstrung being lashed to the stagnation and strategic blight that blanket the core tourist area of Daytona Beach.
It seems all we have in common are the same influential “big money” campaign donors. These uber-wealthy insiders control their environment with massive campaign contributions to selected candidates.
Until Wild West Volusia decides to secede from its rowdy neighbor to the east, the two sides will remain incestuous cousins, struggling under the thumb of that dysfunctional behemoth that is the ever-expanding Volusia County government.
Recently, the Volusia County Council and School Board met in joint sessions to discuss the contentious subject of redistricting. This is the charter-mandated requirement to redraw district boundaries in the second year following each decennial census.
Redistricting adjusts the boundaries of Volusia’s five political subdivisions to account for uneven growth rates, dividing the county into areas of contiguous territory “as nearly equal” in population as possible.
Care is taken not to dilute minority populations or manipulate electoral borders to give undue advantage to one political party or group.
You know, the concept of basic fairness in the political process? (Sorry, I just shot a mouthful of Woodford Reserve through my nose … I hate it when that happens.)
After the second time-waster joint meeting, despite emotional entreaties from Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis (who explained that adopting a combined map would save money and reduce voter confusion), the Volusia County Council and School Board refused to put their ultimatums aside and select a common map.
Mrs. Lewis — whose passion and diplomacy proved the depth of her commitment to the process and her personal dedication to serving her constituents — asked those dullards on the dais to put politics and individual wants aside and compromise in the interest of Volusia County citizens:
“There is one thing: You will not make everybody happy. As you well know, in any decision that you make when you vote on anything before you, not everybody is happy. This is not me, it is not I, this is us and we, as a group of people.”
They couldn’t do it.
In explaining his arrogant obstinacy, our self-anointed eminence grise, The Very Rev. “Dr.” Fred Lowry, who claims to represent Volusia County District 5, tut-tutted:
“Lake Helen and DeLand don’t want to be split up. I completely understand that. I’ve gotten all kinds of emails today from Enterprise and Osteen, and they don’t want to be split up, and they don’t want to be with the east side. You’ve got Orange City that doesn’t want to be split up, and you’ve got DeBary that’s tired of being split up. There’s no map that satisfies all four of those criteria, so I don’t know. To me, we’re just going to have to bite the bullet.”
Which is complete horsesh–t, because eight out of 10 people in Florida (probably less in Volusia County) have no idea what redistricting is, nor do they care.
Most are too busy eking out a living and raising their families to become mired in the minutiae and political posturing of these self-serving half-wits.
Taxpayers have a right to expect that those they elect to represent their interests will work collaboratively and think strategically — holding firm to their fiduciary responsibility to protect public funds from waste and inefficiency — and live up to the ethical principles expected of public servants while working selflessly to find common ground.
In an excellent article in The West Volusia Beacon, these farcical joint proceedings were described as:
“After almost three hours of debate, motions, amendments to motions, counter-motions and parliamentary confusion, the two bodies politely walked away, burdened by their failure to reach agreement on reapportionment.”
Which is almost accurate.
In my view, “burdened by their failure” assumes the capacity for cognitive shock and a sense of the “greater good,” with the self-awareness to reflect on the consequences of their actions, along with a sincere desire to seek honest compromise, even when the security of one’s political fiefdom is at risk.
That is what true servant-leaders do.
As Supervisor Lewis so eloquently said through tears of frustration during her final futile plea for concession and agreement:
“We can’t look at ‘now’ and it can’t be territorial, that this is ‘mine,’ this is ‘me’; it’s for the county as a whole. So, I, just hope that whatever transpires, you do it from your heart, and you do what you think is the best thing for the people of this great county, because it is a great county.”
Folks, that is what real leadership looks like.
— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at barkersview.org. A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.A01 04 county Plan_FI-5B_ADA