Sunday, September 29, 2002
Special Issue on Crime and Constitutional Amendments

For some reason -- a confused delivery person, or maybe they're just giving 'em away today -- we got a print version of the News-Journal at home today. The big story in the front section is the first of a multi-part series on crime. The News-Journal seems to have a thing for locally produced multi-part series that focus on a particular issue. More power to 'em: I have to credit their management and their editorial staff with at least trying.

The story is built around the contrast between crime in Daytona Beach proper and crime in the what's now Volusia county's largest "city": Deltona. You should say "city" like Dr. Evil when you read that, because the so-called city of Deltona doesn't have a police force. I don't understand the details of how that works at all, but the Volusia County sheriff provides police protection in the "city" of Deltona. Maybe it's a contract arrangement, or maybe this city isn't really a city (in the having a charter and having a government sense) at all. It did have its origins as a Mackie development, after all.

The crime theme continues to this feature column on the front of the Local section by the Flablogger himself, Mark Lane.

A personal irony is that last night, for the first time in weeks, Mack and I got ourselves out of the house and drove up A1A to Ormond Beach to have dinner. We went through the bee-yoo-tee-full Daytona Beach primo touristo area on Atlantic (A1A) between Seabreeze and Silver Beach. It's hard to do that without having a conversation about the damaged folks that end up here: bums of every sort, drunks and druggies, petty criminals -- a wide and sundry assortment of losers -- all hanging out within a few blocks of the bars, the beach, and the boardwalk in that neighborhood. About how folks who live on the mainland often never make it over to that part of town, because it's, well, just so depressing. To unintentionally complete the tour, on the way home we crossed over to the mainland at Seabreeze and drove down US 1 (Ridgewood), another seamy area, complete with the same usual suspects. (Recently, I should've said something about the transvestite hooker who got killed along there a few weeks ago, or how the guy suspected of killing her got killed there last week.) Then cut back on ISP (International Speedway Boulevard, the street formerly known as Volusia Avenue. With a name like Speedway, is it any surprise at how fast people drive on it?), down Beach Street (it's on the mainland side of the river -- as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up) past the carnival where Lorenzo Lamas or some other has-been star did some Evel Knevel motorcycle jump earlier this week. We might've stopped at the carnival, but, as Mack said, who wants to go to a carnival where homeless people are going to harrass you for money? Then back across the river on Main Street to the beachside, past the biker bars, and back down A1A to the Shores. The sign when you get to the Daytona Beach Shores city limits says "Life Is Better Here". And it is, incrementally. Fewer homeless, fewer druggies, more retirees, more working folk.

As Mark points out in his column, because this remains a tourist destination, even a sporadic one featuring "special events" (Bike Week, Black College Reunion), the crime that goes down here often gets national attention, but the resources to deal with it remain local and modest. There's also a a partial disconnect among attempts by local politicos to promote simultaneously (1) a "family" image, (2) bikers and babes, and (3) rich people as the target crowd to bring their money to Daytona Beach and leave some behind.

I would add that like lots of beach or Sun Belt towns, there's just going to be a problem with homelessness by nature of geography. Public policy can reduce or enhance that problem: Check out Howard Owens on consideration of a proposed homeless shelter in El Cajon, California (a suburb of San Diego). It does seem to me that there ought to be a different public policy towards homelessness in Daytona Beach proper, or even in Volusia County, but I can't honestly tell you that I know what the current one is. I can only tell you that there are plenty of damaged people living in this area, and that there seems to be little effort either to help them take care of themselves or to induce them to go somewhere else.

Oh yeah, the Opinion section included a complete run-down on the 11 or so proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution. I can't find that story in the online edition.

Was there a word, pro or con, discussing the upcoming war? Two letters to the editor and condensed versions of international opinions, and that's that. Ugh.

Addendum. Mr. Lane sent me the link to the list of Constitutional Amendments. They're here. With the News-Journal, there's no telling how long this link will work.