RESIGNED — Embattled Interim City Manager James Chisholm is pictured here at a recent Deltona City Commission meeting. BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

Editor’s note: This edited column by Mark Barker is in response to a letter to the editor by Douglas MacDonald, of Deltona, who argued that Deltona Interim City Manager James Chisholm resigned due to a “savage barrage of criticism.” That letter was published in the Aug. 24-30 edition of The Beacon.

While I defend Mr. MacDonald’s right to voice his views, I wholeheartedly disagree with his dangerous premise that elected and appointed officials should be shielded from pointed criticism by force of law.

In fact, it speaks to all that is wrong with the bureaucratic cloistering of our elected officials — wherein the “system” isolates them from those they serve — and the current weaponization of political power as a means of suppressing legitimate criticism and dissent.

In Mr. MacDonald’s autocratic world, whenever a citizen presents themselves to address a grievance with their duly elected representative — unless they come hat-in-hand, genuflect before the might of government, and pay appropriate fealty — then “security” is summoned by the gatekeeper and they are escorted from the inner sanctum, ordered not to return until such time as they demonstrate obedience to the all-powerful elected elite.


How much longer before outspoken gadflies and engaged citizens are “disappeared” — packed off to a Stalinist-style gulag camp for the crime of “malicious slandering” of the ruling class — stripped of their citizenship and labeled an “unperson.”

Don’t think that can happen?

Read history … and think again.

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

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

In my view, Deltona’s former Interim City Manager James “The Chiseler” Chisholm was well-deserving of the ire and criticism heaped on him by residents before he fled City Hall in a huff and took his minions with him.

Despite what Mr. MacDonald may think, The Chiseler “endured” the same “savage barrage of criticism” from many in the Halifax area who suffered through his insular and opaque form of governance for, of, and by those wealthy and influential few with a chip in the game …

The fact is, Deltona’s fractured and dysfunctional elected “leadership” failed to heed the well-documented lessons of Chisholm’s history — and they were doomed to repeat it.

The long-suffering citizens of Deltona had both the right and civic obligation to call out a senior executive commanding an obscene $200,000 — plus the perquisites of a potentate — who then engaged in the same backroom shenanigans he was infamous for during his contentious tenure in Daytona Beach.

In my view, those who blame citizens for the dysfunction of their elected and appointed officials, should understand that this public outcry is what happens when those who pay the bills are repeatedly ignored and gaslighted by those who accept public funds to serve in the public interest.

What we witnessed in Deltona is democracy in action — and it should be celebrated and encouraged, not stifled by ministerial edict and oppressive ordinances intended to shield the fragile egos of pompous public officials at the cost of suppressing our right to free and open expression.

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at 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.


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