The Daytona Times staff chose the top 10 of the many stories our newspaper staff reviewed, covered or wrote this year. Factors considered include newsworthiness, local relevance, uniqueness, and emotional impact.
1. Hurricane Matthew – The storm ripped through the state and didn’t spare East Central Florida.
Matthew was a wind machine, causing lots of damage. It damaged homes and businesses in Flagler and Volusia Counties. Snapped trees and downed power lines were everywhere, and some residents were left without power for more than a week. Daytona Beach was thrust in the national spotlight for days as news agencies covered the storm extensively.
Along with extensive damage to cars and homes, the hurricane did damage to Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand, Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Daytona International Speedway, New Smyrna Speedway, city buildings and local churches. Repairs and clean up from the storm continue. Dec. 16 was the deadline to apply for FEMA assistance.
2. Orange Avenue construction – Work still lingers on the Orange Avenue infrastructure project although though most of the pavement has been laid. The $13.4 million project replaced power lines, sewage, storm drainage, water lines, improved lighting, signage, widen sidewalks, among other improvements.
Construction was delayed mainly by issues with underground power lines and pipes. Hurricane Matthew also caused delays. Businesses and residents have been frustrated with the pace of the project. Some merchants filed a lawsuit against the city due to a loss of business during the project, which started in 2014.
3. Huger sues the city – Thomas Huger, son of former Daytona Beach City Commissioner Dr. James Huger, filed an age discrimination suit against the city in August. Thomas Huger, in his 60s, was turned down for a position last year as deputy Public Works director. The position went to David Waller, a younger White male. The lawsuit states that Waller was less qualified, had less work experience than Huger, and has less education.
Huger filed a claim against the city last year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) citing racial and age bias.
After EEOC complaints were filed against the city and questions were raised by Daytona Beach-Volusia County branch of the NAACP about Daytona Beach’s hiring and promotions practices, the city released a diversity report.
In a series of stories last year, the Daytona Times reported on EEOC claims filed against the city that charge racial discrimination.
4. Still homeless – Daytona’s homeless situation didn’t get any better in 2016. The city is nowhere near building a permanent shelter, which could cost around $1.2 million to construct.
Scenes of homeless people sleeping outside city and county offices made headlines when the Salvation Army closed its Bridge Bed program after funding had run out. The city helped put people in hotels for a few weeks.
Some residents also disapprove of a plan by Halifax Urban Ministries to turn vacant Hurst Elementary in Holly Hill into Hope Place, a sanctuary for homeless families. The cost is about $3.5 million and the facility could assist anywhere between 200 and 300 people. The city of DeLand revealed plans to build a homeless shelter at a construction cost of $4 million.
5. Local election activities – The 2016 election drew presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to Daytona Beach. Trump spoke in front of 8,000 at the Ocean Center, while Clinton visited the Dickerson Center and Municipal Stadium for Bethune-Cookman University’s football homecoming game. Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine also spoke at Daytona State College.
Locally, Daytona Beach Police Chief Michael Chitwood defeated four other challengers for Volusia County sheriff. It also was a major win for the Henry family. Derrick was re-elected mayor. His brother Patrick, a city commissioner, was elected to the Florida House of Representatives District 26. Their sister Dannette won the Zone 5 city commission seat vacated by Patrick.
6. Black Lives Matter and activism – Police shootings and killings of unarmed Blacks around the country led to large-scale protests against racial injustice and police brutality. The Black Lives Matter movement hit home.
Deltona High teacher, physical fitness trainer and longtime Daytona resident Carlos Harris organized a march and rally that drew 200 people on early July following fatal shootings of Black males in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis.
Daytona resident Sean Hamilton organized two other events. After a shooting in July at a local grocery store, Hamilton organized an event on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at James Huger Park near the Dickerson Center.
He also helped organize a vigil and prayer in October at Derbyshire Park along with the Rev. Joyce Phelum in honor of Bashawn Johnson, who was shot in killed in front of his family home on Lewis Drive. No arrests have been made.
7. Local Islamic backlash – In the age of terrorism, backlash against the Islamic community is being seen all across America. Daytona Beach was no exception.
Shortly after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando where 49 people where killed, a police car stationed outside the Islamic Center of Daytona Beach to protect it amid threats got bombed. The incident made national news headlines.
A note was left behind saying “Black Lives Matter.” It still isn’t clear who left the note but it still raised concerns, especially in the Islamic and Black communities.
Following the Pulse shooting, Regan Creamer, an Atlantic High School senior and daughter of a police sergeant, organized a multi-faith prayer for the victims and their families at the Daytona Beach police station. More than 200 people attended the event.
8. Harlem Park – Joe Harris Park, also known as Harlem Park, remained in the headlines this year.
Some residents were upset and criticized what they saw as backroom dealings when they learned that Bethune-Cookman University has taken over stewardship of the park. The school and city both say that the city has ownership, but residents are skeptical. The park has been fenced up and B-CU security officers patrol it.
The city and institution cite public safety concerns. The park has been the site of several shootings in the past. At a few meetings, residents voiced their anger at both B-CU and city officials. As of now things continue as they are. A possible fight for the park may loom.
9. Billy Jackson laid to rest – After 64 years, the mortal remains of Billy Jackson were returned home to Daytona Beach. His funeral was held in August.
Jackson died at age 13 at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, outside of Tallahassee.
He was at the school from August to October 1952.
The Dozier School operated from 1900 to 2011 as a reform school. It was notorious for beatings, rape, torture and more. His remains were found with along with the bodies of 80 others at a gravesite near the school.
About 300 former Dozier students formed an organization called the “White House Boys.” They work to keep the legacy and stories of the victims alive. A few spoke at Jackson’s funeral. The family finally has some closure, but the pain remains.
10. Dr. James Huger dies – Dr. James “Jimmy’’ Huger died on Oct. 14 at the age of 101. Huger was the first Black to serve on both the Daytona Beach City Commission and Volusia County Council. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service as a Montford Point Marine who desegregated the U.S. Marine Corps.
Huger was a lifetime member of the NAACP, a civil rights activist and longtime member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. He also worked for Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune at Bethune-Cookman. Hundreds paid tribute to him during a service held on Oct. 22 at Bethune-Cookman University.
Other stories of note
McClairen retires from B-CU
Jack “Cy’’ McClairen retired from Bethune-Cookman after 55 years with the institution as a student athlete, coach and administrator. At 85 years old, he last served as senior associate athletics director.
McClairen was a dominant athlete in football, basketball and track. He coached both the football and basketball programs. His 300 wins as basketball coach is still a school record. He also helped build the school’s golf program. He is in the MEAC, SIAC and Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
Mattie Howard and Jacques Hodge die
Legendary gospel deejay and promoter Mattie Howard died at the age of 73 back in April. Howard ran a longtime gospel radio program on WPUL AM 1590. She had a career spanning 30 years in radio. Retired educator James “Jacques” Hodge died in September. After moving to Holly Hill from South Orange Village, N.J., Hodge became and remained active in the Daytona Beach-Volusia County NAACP branch until he suffered a stroke.