Our Top Stories 2019

Daytona Times
DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY
Local officials participated in the First Step Shelter ribbon-cutting ceremony last month.

The Daytona Times staff chose the following stories of the many that our newspaper staff reviewed, covered or wrote this year. Factors considered include newsworthiness, local relevance, uniqueness, and emotional impact.

First Step Shelter opens 

After a decade of debate, a homeless shelter finally opens in Daytona Beach. The 15,000-square-foot First Step Shelter originally slated to cost $2 million ballooned to $6 million. After the first week, 10 residents were living there with goals to soon hit 45 and eventually 100. The facility, located at 3889 W. International Speedway Blvd., offers medical, social services, men and women’s dorms, offices, employment services, mental health services, jail diversion program, and transportation. 

DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./ HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY
Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite gives remarks at a city reception in his honor in October.

Violence in the city 

Gun violence in Daytona Beach had residents on edge and kept law enforcement busy. In November, nine people died to gun violence, including a relative of Mayor Derrick Henry. One victim was gunned down by police for allegedly shooting another and an investigation was ongoing. A prayer vigil brought the community together. In July, a string of two shootings in six days resulted in four arrests, one dead and three shot. The incident was traced to a beef over rap music and drugs, according to law enforcement. From Oct. 20 to Nov.19, police responded to 28 gun-related incidents. 

New president at B-CU

Dr. E. LaBrent Chrite became the seventh president of Bethune-Cookman University in July. He replaced Interim President Hubert Grimes. In 2019, the university continued to deal with lawsuits and accreditation issues. Grimes had asked for $7.5 million to keep the school open. Since becoming president, Chrite has taken measures to improve the university’s standing, including reducing enrollment and expenditures. The City of Daytona Beach held a public meet and greet for Chrite in October. 

No vote on half-cent tax 

A countywide half-cent sales tax designed to help with infrastructure projects was voted down during a special election in May. Fifty-five percent of Volusia County voters said no to 45 percent who voted for the tax. Voter turnout was just 28 percent. The tax was expected to bring in $46 million per year to the county and 3.7 million ($74 million over 20 years) to Daytona Beach. All 16 municipalities supported the tax. The Daytona Times ran a series of articles addressing how and where the tax could help the Black community, including flooding, roads, sidewalks, and more. 

DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY
Dr. Jerry L. Picott speaks at a meeting at Campbell Middle School.

Former B-CU president dies 

Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, former president of Bethune-Cookman University, died in February at age 91 in his Port Orange home. He led the institution from 19752004 and was its fourth president. During his tenure, the school went from 12 to 37 majors. Bronson maintained accreditations with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), Florida State Board of Education and the University Senate of the United Methodist Church Board of Higher Education. Bethune-Cookman also started accredited Nursing and Education programs during his tenure. 

Suspected serial killer caught

Authorities believe Robert Tyrone Hayes killed a total of four women, including Iwana Patton, a Black woman in Daytona Beach. Hayes was arrested at his West Palm Beach home on Sept. 15 by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and charged with the murder of 32-year old Rachel Elizabeth Bey, whose body was found off a highway in Jupiter in 2016. Daytona Beach police say DNA links Hayes to the murders of Laquetta Gunther (2005) and Julie Green (2006) while ballistics link him to Patton (2006). Patton was a nursing aid and medical tech assistant, according to her niece, Dr. Aneesah Farris. 

COURTESY PHOTO
Dr. Oswald P. Bronson, former president of Bethune-Cookman, died on Feb. 17 at age 91.

Picott leaves Campbell 

After nearly four years, Dr. Jerry L. Picott left Campbell Middle School to take a position at Keiser University. Picott turned around the majority Black school in the heart of the Black community. Campbell received three straight D grades before his tenure and was in danger of being taken over by the state. The school has received three straight C grades under Picott. He says challenges remain and urged the community to continue to support the school. 

Amendment 4 drive

The fight to restore voting rights to ex-felons hit home locally as there was joy and some disappointment. The Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP had Florida Rights Restoration Committee President Desmond Meade as its guest speaker at a July banquet. The former felon turned attorney and civil rights advocate spoke on the importance of the amendment. Local exfelons also expressed hope and frustration. Governor Ron DeSantis and lawmakers passed a measure that included adding fees, but the courts ruled against it. Implementation still remains to be seen. Meanwhile, civil rights organizations continued to push for ex-felons to register to vote. 

DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY
Residents attend a meeting about the proposed half-cent sales tax.

Road construction irks residents 

Road construction on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. between Magnolia Avenue and Orange Avenue had businesses in that area feeling a pinch; a few even shut down for the project. Residents and businesses dealt with detours and street access delays. Daytona Beach and Volusia County officials said the project was going well despite traffic woes. The project includes restructuring the road’s surface, updating underground utilities, new utility poles, widening sidewalks, improving lighting, installing decorative lighting features and landscaping, and street parking on the east side of the road. 

Flooding in Midtown

Heavy rains in October exposed flooding issues and need for stormwater projects in Midtown. Campbell Middle School, the Caroline Village housing development and Garden Apartments bore the brunt of floods due to a clogging of the Nova canal, which runs along Nova Road. Keech Street, Caroline Street, Jean Street, South Street and Orange Avenue all were flooded as well as businesses along Orange Avenue and even the Midtown police substation. Flooding was also seen around Daytona State College, Madison Avenue, North Street and Mason Avenue.

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