Our priorities are covering news and holding politicians accountable
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- My wife, Sera, and I, were at the senior awards Thursday evening at New Smyrna Beach High School where the community's best and brightest were recognized for their achievements in the classroom, on the field and the world around them. We were the only media outlet there, which is no surprise. We'll also be at the graduation Saturday night at the Ocean Center.
We made a commitment to greater New Smyrna Beach four years ago when we launched NSBNews.net, which we've now re-branded as "Headline Surfer," which reflects our broader appeal to Internet readers looking for real news and commentary. While print media continues to sell out to business-friendly sources for advertising, we continue our mission of reporting the news.
For the second year in a row, families and loved ones of the Cudas graduates will be able to watch from our posted videos as they are called to the stage at the Ocean Center to receive their diplomas. You'll be able to hear what the valedictorian and class president have to say to their fellow graduates, along with all the pomp and circumstance. We've covered all of the home football games, including Homecoming, as well as other school-related activities throughout the school year.
We're devoting an entire week to recapping the year that was for the 2012 graduates of NSBHS. While print media salivates over taxpayer-supported advertising, which allows politicians and insiders to control the media, we just go about our business of reporting the news. Yes, it's unfortunate and despicable that we were the only media outlet excluded from advertising for the city's 125th anniversary, but it's not surprising since we are the only media outlet actually going beyond spoon-fed stories supplemented by taxpayer-supported advertising.
The city needs a big focus on the anniversary coverage to take away the sting of June 8-10, to take away the sting of what has become all too obvious. Regular folks can no longer relate to municipal government -- at least in this city where the majority of those attending city commission meetings are those looking to cash in on CRA grants. The real embarrassment for New Smyrna Beach will come high noon Friday, June 8, when the two city commission seats and that of the mayor go uncontested. You can bank on it.
That 125th anniversary coverage can't come soon enough. Consider this: For the first time in modern history, the majority of the city commission could be held by officials who weren't chosen by the citizens. The same thing happened a year ago in Oak Hill, which was mired by scandal in its police department led by a chief who was a cocaine addict and a city clerk/administrator with a DUI conviction who used the city dumpster to empty her beer bottles in the morning before reporting for work. Both were shown the door.
Oak Hill actually has a mayoral contest with commissioners Linda Hyatt and Douglas Gibson both vying for the top spot. Not so in New Smyrna Beach where city hall administrators with six-figure salaries give direction to inept elected officials who are rarely quoted beyond the agenda reporting of government meetings. Mayor Adam Barringer made no bones about it prior to the last city commission meeting when I asked him if City Manager Pam Brangaccio tried to deny calling me an "idiot" because I dare question her on her residency here or on Treasure Island in Pinellas County.
The mayor said she didn't deny the name calling. Since then, he has been silent. You'd think a mayor seeking a second term would have craved the media spotlight. Not so. Not now.
Politicians talk a good game, but then again that's all it is -- a game. And that's to do the bidding of their insider friends. To say all the right things, if saying anything at all, just to gain votes.
Take for example, County Council candidate Jim Hathaway, the elder statesman on the city commission. He announces to his 100-plus friends on his Facebook candidate page how saddened he is about the recent passing of a military vet just days before Memorial Day. And he doesn't even show up for the service on the holiday at Riverside park where his own mayor is receiving a plaque.
Then again, neither did the city manager. They were sent an e-mail asking why they weren't there as was City Commissioner Lynne Plaskett -- who may or may not seek re-election with the qualifying deadline looming. Jason McGuirk, an announced candidate to succeed Hathaway wasn't there either.
The only public official of note not there to explain why he wasn't there was Steve Casserly, running for the seat held by Plaskett, who called Thursday to tell us he had an emergency illness in the family. That's more than justified, but the silence from the others is deafening.
In a community where politicians hang their hats on a plethora of CRA-funded projects at the expense of the rest of the city where economic development is non-existent and people struggling to pay their utility bill and put food on the table, municipal government meetings are attended by chamber and merchant insiders jockeying back and forth between the CRA and advertising authority pots of taxpayer gold.
The city bought its news coverage on the 125th with print media, but we'll still cover the event regardless. And we'll do it bigger and better than all of the print news outlets combined like we've been doing for four years now. City hall and its high-priced administrators and $60,000 consultants can try starving us out, but all they are doing is bringing more on themselves. Just Google their names. They'll tear their claws into anyone or anything that brings them into the sunshine through public records and good old-fashioned reporting.
They dismiss us as electronic bloggers,they call us idiots and they throw used napkins in our face during public events. What they won't do is answer our questions. Ask Jason McGuirk where he stands on the issues. Other than McGuirk's press-release candidate announcement six months ago, you won't find anything of substance with him quoted in any media outlet. He's laying low because he doesn't want to have to campaign. He wants to get the seat the easy way -- by default.
How many times has the mayor been quoted by any media outlet in the last few months, never mind that he purposely avoids us? They all run the other way when it doesn't suit their needs.
What they don't get is the public disconnect that comes with business as usual at city hall. Give Hathaway credit. At least he's out there (on Facebook, that is) cheerleading for the vets, even if he is a no-show for the patriotic flag displays, the singing of the national anthem and the playing of "Taps."
About the Blogger
Henry Frederick is editor/publisher of Headline Surfer, Florida's first 24/7 Internet newspaper, launched April 7, 2008 in New Smyrna Beach, and accessed via HeadlineSurfer.com, NSBNews.net & VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Frederick was the top winner in the 2012 Florida Press Club contest: 1st place for Blog Writing & 3rd place each for General News Writing, Public Safety Reporting & Best Online Presence (with social media). He's received 18 major journalism awards as a breaking news, investigative reporter & city editor for daily newspapers in Florida, Massachusetts, New York & Connecticut since the mid-1980s.
View his blog archives here