OUR TOP 10 STORIES

150101_dt_front01The Daytona Times staff chose the top 10 of the hundreds of stories our newspaper staff reviewed, covered or wrote this year. Factors considered include newsworthiness, local relevance, uniqueness, and emotional impact.

1.  Protests, prayers, die-in
Local residents joined the nationwide protests surrounding the deaths of Ferguson Mo. teen Michael Brown and New York resident Eric Garner. Protesters were stunned and outraged about the decision to not indict police officers in the shooting death of unarmed Brown, 18, and choking death of Garner, a 43-year-old husband and father. Bethune-Cookman University students led a prayer vigil on campus in November and forums were held at churches in Flagler and Volusia. In December, teens Tatiana Otis and Katarina Figueroa spearheaded a die-in at the Volusia Mall to bring awareness to race relations in the county. The group held signs that read: “Breathe Together, Choke the System,” “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

2.  DBPD sought more bodycams
The shooting death of Michael Brown, which was captured on video, showed the importance of videotaped evidence during police interaction with the public. The Daytona Beach Police Department requested 50 more in September from the City of Daytona Beach. As of September, 50 officers were assigned with the 2.5-inch cameras. Approval would bring the number to 100 – almost half of the 231 sworn officers on the force. “Eventually the chief would like to have every police officer with the Daytona Beach Police Department equipped with a body camera, said spokesman Jimmy Flynt. “Now is that going to happen? We don’t know, but we would love to have that.’’ In August, there were 212 sworn active officers on the force. The breakdown: One Asian male, 24 Black males, 10 Hispanic males, 133 White males, four Black females, three Hispanic females, one two or more races female, and 36 White females.

3.  Strong November finish for Black candidates
The city, county and state held onto their Black representatives in Volusia County. Daytona Beach Commissioner Patrick Henry, Volusia County At-Large Member Joyce Cusack and Florida Rep. Dwayne Taylor all were re-elected to their posts in November’s general election. Henry won the Zone Five commission seat handily against 24-year-old political newcomer Stanley B. Pandy II with 72.14 percent of the vote. Cusack held off opposition by  Pat Northey, a county council member seeking the at large post. Taylor defeated Republican Michael Candu.

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4.  Orange Avenue project hurts businesses
Daytona Beach city officials moved forward with the long-awaited $17.6 million dollar Orange Avenue reconstruction and upgrading streetscape project from Nova Road to Beach Street.  The project will include six-foot sidewalks, improved lighting, the installation of new traffic lights and new underground utilities including water, sewer and storm water.

However, business owners were upset with the project’s impact on business. In November, a critical commercial section of Orange Avenue from Nova Road to Caroline Street had reopened 30 days ahead of schedule thanks to an expedited construction plan. The opening allowed direct access via Nova Road to several small businesses fronting Orange Avenue.

5.  Jenkins leaves B-CU; new coach named
Bethune-Cookman introduced Terry Sims as its new head football coach on Dec. 22. Sims had spent the past five years as an assistant football coach, primarily responsible for safeties and special teams. He also was the assistant head coach, handling some of the day-to-day duties of the program. The native of Jesup, Ga was named B-CU’s 11th head coach. The announcement came just five days after the resignation of Brian Jenkins, who accepted the head coach job at Alabama State University. B-CU Director of Athletics Lynn Thompson said the selection of Sims was a swift process and that “five outstanding candidates’’ had been interviewed for the job.

6.  First Black woman elected in DeLand
Jessica Davis, a career counselor for at-risk teenagers, was sworn in as the first African-American female to the DeLand City Commission’s District 3 seat on Nov. 18. Davis was elected during the Aug. 26 primaries, beating opponent Krystal Brown – also a Black woman – 73 to 26 percent. “Thank you to everyone that came out tonight to show me support at my swearing in. Being the first elected African-American female to the DeLand City Commission is a humbling and rewarding experience. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to serving the City of DeLand,’’ Davis shared after winning the seat she will hold for the next four years.

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7.  Black pioneer teachers honored
The Bethune-Cookman University Women’s Advisory Board paid tribute to 74 living Black educators on Dec. 12 as a fundraiser for its endowed scholarship fund. Thirty-eight of the honorees were present. The theme was “Honoring Our Unsung Heroes: The Black Teachers of Volusia County – Our Guiding Lights through Segregation. The event followed major reunions in 2014 of early students and educators at Campbell Elementary and Turie T. Small Elementary.

8.  Proactive approach to gang culture instituted
Schools and law enforcement united on Nov. 13 to educate the community on local gang activity and to discuss ways to curb it. Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood told the Daytona Times that there are over 20 known street gangs in the city. The workshop at Bethune-Cookman followed the death of Preston Reed, 22, who was gunned down in DeLand on Nov. 9. The cooperative educational meeting was attended by about 300 people. It was coordinated by Volusia County Schools, Bethune-Cookman University, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Daytona Beach Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office at B-CU’s Center for Civic Engagement.

150101_dt_front01d9.  Heavy rainfall cripples area
Heavy rainfall caused isolated flooding in coastal areas. According to Volusia County Road and Bridge Director Judy Grim, many canals were at the top of their banks or had overflowed in some areas. This included the LPGA canal in Holly Hill, the Halifax canal in Port Orange, and the Turnbull Bay hammock. This caused drainage backup into streets, primarily in the incorporated cities of Holly Hill, Port Orange and New Smyrna Beach. The John H. Dickerson Heritage Library was one of the sites that temporarily closed because of flooded roads. The City of Daytona Beach reported that dozens of streets flooded and closed throughout the city including the heavily impacted Orange Avenue community where a reconstruction project, was underway.

10.  Signs cause chaos during election cycle
At a special meeting days before the Nov. 4 election, commissioners voted 4-3 to enforce the city’s Land Development Code, which prohibits signs to be erected on public property. Mayor Derrick Henry along with Commissioners Paula Reed and Patrick Henry voted no, citing a need to relax the rules until the upcoming election is over. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to knowingly go and take a sign and stick it in a public piece of property because it is against our code. I think all of us are up here and we all believe in consistent code enforcement,” said then-Commissioner Carl Lentz, who had a public feud with Ruth Trager about signs placed on public property, specifically at the City Island Library –an early voting location. Trager went on to defeat Lentz in the election with 63 percent of the vote.

Other notable events
B-CU wins Florida Classic again. The Wildcats defeated instate rivals Florida A&M University for the fourth year in a row in November. The 18-17 victory happened in front of a crowd of 41,126 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

The 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the topic of several events at the Daytona Beach Regional Library.

The Affordable Care Act entered in its second year. The act mandates that all Americans (with few exceptions) have health care insurance. Bobby Michaels, the North Florida community organizer for Enroll America, told the Times, “There are new options, new benefits and financial aid available.’’

The African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand featured photojournalist Duane Fernandez’s exhibit, “The Trayvon Martin Journey: From Sanford, FL, Daytona Beach, FL, Orlando, FL and Washington D.C.”

The Westside Elementary School Parent Teacher Association sponsored its annual “Neighborhood Watch for Education” block party on Oct. 15 in the Cedar Highlands neighborhood. Over 400 people showed up to the event.

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