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BACK TO REALITY – ACTION NEEDED NOW

Posted November 20, 2016

The summer of political pie in the sky is over and while the transition from departing incumbents to fresh faces takes place, local governments and citizens who care need to focus on real issues that need immediate attention. There are three that got little attention in election discussions, but have the potential to move us forward or hold us back in the months ahead. They are:

 1. THE POTTINGER IMPACT

Pottinger is the catch name, based on Federal court rulings in Miami/Dade County appealed to the 11th District Court of Appeals in Atlanta, for local actions to provide space that can be occupied by homeless individuals without fear of arrest or harassment. Daytona Beach has created such a space, but its compliance with Pottinger provisions is still being debated. Volusia County, in its “Go to Zero” budgeting policy has specifically rejected any responsibility for homeless services. As more homeless arrive with the winter winds, it will become an issue more focused than the seemingly endless debates over which governmental organization is going to end up providing a long-term solution and who and how that solution will be funded. To try and make the Pottinger part of the discussion understandable to all, GovStuff has obtained from a long-time student of homeless issues an overview we think provides perspective. Not written by a lawyer, the discussion provides a clear view of what some Federal courts have held Pottinger requires and provides a reference for its basis in Daytona Beach. Click HERE to review the overview.

2. WHO DROPPED THE BALL? WHO WILL PICK IT UP?

There is much to be excited about along the growth hot-spot bordering I-95 just south of the LPGA interchange. New car dealerships and other businesses are blossoming along Tomoka Farms Road. The Trader Joe’s Distribution Center is a beehive of activity, and the opening of the Tanger Outlet Mall all are bringing new activity to the area and creating new jobs to stimulate the regional economy. Since at least last June, however, Daytona Beach and County leaders have been aware that public transportation – the service nobody uses unless they have to – doesn’t exist and won’t be coming without new funding for Votran, the County subsidized bus service. As GovStuff reported on County Manager Jim Dinneen’s ‘Go to Zero Debt’ plan on September 25 (to see report, click HERE), County Council authorized Dinneen to follow a policy of taking on no new funding, which in this case appears to rule out service to the growth area without even a study as to what subsidizes may be needed. The importance of Votran not only to the job market, but to the poor and disabled for whom Votran is a lifeline to community services and living necessities was underscored by a detailed 2015 survey that showed more than a fourth of fixed route passengers depend on the bus to get to and from work. In 2015 more than a third of passengers had incomes of under $10,000 and more than half less than $30,000. Health, education and social service agencies buy passes and tokens annually that provide nearly 40,000 rides for qualifying residents. You can link to the Votran report by clicking HERE. As exchanges between Votran and the City of Daytona Beach and Tanger, which you can review by clicking HERE, reflect, all parties are pleading poverty and suggesting action is the responsibility of somebody else. Although the issue arose in June, it didn’t make it to the County Council agenda until November 17 where members disagreed on a response. If you feel we are keeping people from working or letting jobs go unfilled, or from reaching vital services, it’s past time for action.

3. ALL OUT CAMPAIGN AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OVERDUE

 Daytona Beach and Volusia County are in the midst of an epidemic we shouldn’t have and can’t afford. Volusia leads all of Florida’s lager counties in the rate of domestic violence offenses, ranks 4th among all counties in the total number of crimes classified as domestic violence and is on track to increase its numbers by close to 6 percent this year. Eighty percent, 3,643 of domestic abuse violations are for simple assault. But 2015’s 10 murders, 35 forcible rapes and 836 aggravated assault and stalking charges underscore the out-of-control nature of the crime. Because cases often become “he said, she said” matters, law enforcement and prosecutors often have trouble building solid cases, as illustrated by recent high profile accusations involving a 2016 election candidate. State Attorney R. J. Larizza in late October kicked off a new joint task force to combat domestic violence in the 7th Judicial Circuit, most of which takes place in Volusia County. As part of the multi-agency effort Larizza has assigned two Volusia-based prosecutors to full time domestic violence work and utilized a $480,000 Federal Grant to add an additional seven victim advocate positions in Volusia, bringing the total of full-time outreach to eleven. Daytona Beach feels the effect of domestic violence more than any other area of the county. With 1,593 offenses in a population of 63,634 reported in 2015, the city is in full-blown crisis. By contrast, although about the same number of offenses were reported by the Sheriff’s Office, which patrols unincorporated areas, Deltona, the largest city, DeBary, Oak Hill and Pierson, they come from a population (226,715) nearly four time larger. To see the relationship between domestic violence and population take a look at the chart below that breaks it all down and illustrates the epidemic in the City of Daytona Beach. To make the effort LaRizza has begun truly effective, here are a few steps that could be taken with citizen initiative (that means all of us):

· A resolution by County Council and each City recognizing the issue and calling on local police agencies to step up education and enforcement.

· Arrange for social media reminders of how to report domestic violence situations and assure safety.

· Discussion from the pulpit or community outreach by the faithbased community to focus attention on the problem.

· Seek sponsors for materials suitable for parent-teacher groups and high school social studies classes on response to difficult home situations.

To review the 2015 Volusia report domestic violence offenses by city, click HERE.

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