A few weeks before Matt Morton resigned but not long after he’d been slandered publicly by Victor Barbosa–the man cave-runaway playing the role of a Palm Coast councilman–a colleague of Morton’s gifted him a pair of socks. The stitching near the cuff read: “Ringmaster of the Shit Show.” (Whoever gave it to him has a social conscience: proceeds from the socks’ sale go to Doctors Without Borders, some of whom might need to set up a MASH unit at City Hall.)
I thought the gift misplaced. Morton was the show’s casualty, not its ringmaster. But now we have a winner. Someone should give rookie Councilman Ed Danko a pair.
Danko’s performance, starting at a council meeting two weeks ago and growing horns in his door-to-door lies to the point of drawing disbelief and denunciation from the governor’s office is all a new abyss for a council that over the past eight months, since the arrival on the council of those two dynamites Danko and Barbosa, has managed to turn the city into a farce, shame the council and publicly insult the city’s civil servants almost on cue every other week.
Danko’s attack on City Attorney Bill Reischmann, the last man standing between banana Republicans and the rule of law, and his slander of Denise Bevan, the interim city manager who managed to log 14 spotless and tireless years with the city until Danko smeared her in 14 seconds, was a disgraceful ploy to deflect attention from the investigation focusing on Danko’s own boorish behavior toward three employees. If the independent investigator Bevan properly hired to further the investigation needs irrefutable evidence about Danko’s tactics, his behavior toward her, in public, was as much of an exhibit as the individual complaints and statements filed by three city employees about him.
And this Danko is the man who is running the campaign of Alan Lowe for mayor. This is the Danko who’s been lying about former Milissa Holland getting threatened by the governor (the resign-or-else lie), the man dragging in Holland’s daughter into his campaigning schemes only to slander her (“couldn’t be too ill”), the man lying about Morton’s “severance,” an echo of Lowe’s lies about Morton’s “golden parachute.”
This is the type of demolition derbies staring Palm Coast in the face. This is what you’re voting for, if you vote for anything associated with these assassins of civility and governance.
Let’s give Danko the benefit of the doubt and take even his slanders as vulgar politics by a man without a filter. What about his governance? It’s as catastrophic as his insults.
Two weeks ago he and Barbosa, these bogus supporters of law enforcement, education and their own government, very nearly left the city, the school board and the sheriff’s office potentially without internet for refusing to approve a routine maintenance contract for the city’s broadband infrastructure. Danko thinks the city should shut down its Fibernet system and turn it over to the private sector, like Spectrum. It’s not an outlandish idea. But it’s a policy discussion, not an occasion to ambush city services and the city’s customers so Danko can score a few political points on behalf of his mayoral hopeful. The following week he had the nerve to tell the sheriff to his face that he was “the best investment.”
Danko, 68, is fond of telling Council member Nick Klufas, who is exactly half Danko’s age, not to lecture him. But that’s exactly what Danko needs. When Klufas compared Fibernet to the city utility, Danko snapped back that the utility was “$200 million in the hole.”
For starters, the utility debt is $144 million, much of it the debt from last decade’s acquisition of the utility from Florida Water. But someone should remind Danko that that’s how utilities operate, and that public utilities do so on a far sounder basis than private ones because they don;t have to worry about ripping off customers to satisfy shareholder value. Florida Power and Light’s parent company is $48 billion in debt, even though FPL is a monopoly. Pacific Gas and Electric, the country’s largest utility by customer base, just emerged out of bankruptcy but still with a nearly $40 billion debt and an additional $25 billion in settlement costs for its guit in causing the deaths of 84 people and wiping out a whole town after its own equipment started a wildfire. If Danko is so fond of Spectrum as a broadband provider, perhaps he should pay attention to the $62 million settlement the company was ordered to pay to some customers for defrauding them of promised speed, or the new class-action lawsuit it faces for harassing consumers with robocalls without their consent. Say what you will about the Palm Coast utility or Palm Coast’s Fibernet, we’ve never had anything remotely approaching any of those issues, and unlike those private companies, anything Palm Coast’s operations do is an open book.
Danko’s private-sector worship is standard-issue liturgy of reactionaries too busy bashing government to take note of the private sector’s cataclysmic record and bailouts at our expense. If Danko is concerned about a private contractor on the city’s pay, it’s not FiberNet he should be worried about, it’s Waste Pro, the garbage hauler that’s been collecting more complaints than trash in some weeks. The company is vying for a new contract. But Danko has been too busy letting himself unethically be schmoozed by Waste Pro to remember where his fiduciary responsibilities are. He’s turned into a fifth column intent on undermining the very government to which he was elected to serve. (“I was elected to serve the people,” I can hear him object with his decibel-defying indignation. But what do you think our government is, Ed? Kim Jong-un’s people? You don’t treat them much better.)
This walking IED and his detonators Lowe and Barbosa is to whom we’re entrusting the UNF/Jacksonville University future of Town Center? The Innovation District? The Arts District? The city’s partnership with the schools, AdventHealth, the Health Department? The city’s administration, which would bleed talent if Danko got his way?
Politicians can be loud, dense and obnoxious. Disagreeing with them is irrelevant. But Danko’s ignorance about how basic city operations work is putting the city’s services in jeopardy. His threats and slanders of current and past city officials, on zero evidence, is doddering McCarthyim by a man with no shame. As a minority councilman, the damage is limited. If he gets his third vote in Alan Lowe, we’re not talking shit show anymore. We’re talking sack of Rome.
Palm Coast may not be the playground of the gods. But it doesn’t deserve this degradation. And voters don’t deserve this in an election that may be decided by a plurality of as little as 25 percent. This election comes down to a referendum–for or against the toxic politics of the last few months. For or against governance. For Palm Coast, or for Slum Coast.