"Citizens!! Go to the back of the bus!"

backofBusThings started out lousy for the citizens of Port Orange Tuesday night and went steadily downhill from there.
First, the City had the wisdom and foresight to schedule two publicly noticed meetings at the same time–the Parks and Recreation Board meeting and the Town Center CRA meeting.  Since the Riverwalk Park was, of course, part of the Town Center discussion, some of the members of the Parks and Recreation Board wanted to attend both but could not.  If you were one of the people at the Parks and Rec meeting, don’t worry…….you didn’t miss much.  Just the usual last minute, disjointed presentation by a high-priced lawyer who was clearly so poorly prepared that I almost felt sorry for him.  (Can you imagine feeling sorry for a high-priced lawyer?)
After bumbling along for a while he made the inevitable request that the taxpayers foot more of the bill for the developer’s project.  Sound familiar?  The expected comparisons with incentives given to the Hard Rock Cafe and Trader Joe’s developments by other municipalities were made but every one seemed to agree that Buddy’s Boondoggle didn’t quite warrant those comparisons.  While it took most of the meeting to get to that point, the City Council finally stood on its own ten feet and told the developer to come back after everyone had some time to consider what they were just seeing for the first time that night.  Only problem is that Council is so obviously desperate to believe in this development as the Holy Grail of the east side that I already feel my wallet getting lighter.  Looking at Marina Grande in Daytona Beach and Halifax Landing in South Daytona, one has to wonder what makes us think things will be different in Port Orange.  The “halo effect” that those monstrous concrete walls have had on the surrounding areas is dim at best.
OOPs.  Almost forgot about the citizens at the back of the bus.  After being told by the mayor that citizen input would not be allowed we were told to hurry up, hurry up, hurry up and say something in the last few minutes of the meeting.  Then go back to your seats in the rear–you’ve paid your fare, leave the driving to us.
PS  Thanks to Councilman Ford for asking hard questions about the financial viability of the developer and the appropriateness of using TIF to support private development.  My guess is that the “halo” has deafened as well as blinded the rest of council and he won’t be heard.
Mike Gardner
618 Ruth St
Port Orange, FL  32127

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