DeBary’s perennial critic
Government watchdog — Mort Culligan gives the DeBary City Council a piece of his mind during a 2016 hearing.
BEACON FILE PHOTO
Asking for help — Members of the University High School bowling team appeal to the DeBary City Council in February for travel money to help the team compete in a national competition. After the proper paperwork was completed, the team members returned to the City Council’s April meeting, and were awarded $500.
BEACON PHOTO/RICK BUTLER
Every local government has the occasional penny pincher who appears to oppose one spending plan or another, but DeBary has a particularly vocal critic who appears to enjoy browbeating the City Council at its monthly meetings.
At the April 5 meeting, wearing a soiled American flag around his ankle in protest of something or other about how President Donald Trump has too many flags behind his desk, Morton Culligan used every one of his three-minute citizen-comment opportunities to bash the mayor and City Council members.
Culligan spoke repeatedly about the council’s “waste” of his taxpayer dollars.
Should DeBary spend the same $20,000 as it has in recent years for its popular Fourth of July fireworks?
“You’re literally sending my taxes up in smoke! You should be ashamed of yourselves!” was one of Culligan’s milder exhortations.
This prompted Mayor Bob Garcia to admit he’s just a big kid, and he loves the annual fireworks show. Other council members quickly chimed in, noting how the fireworks party brings the citizens together, and how popular it is.
The City Council unanimously approved renewing the city’s fireworks contract for the next three years.
Should DeBary help send University High School’s second-best-in-Florida bowling team to Nashville, Tennessee, to compete in the National Championships? Not so, according to Culligan.
“This is just a game!” he thundered. “I don’t want my taxes to send some kids off to play games!”
Standing in front of the stunned high-school bowling team, he continued in that vein for his entire three minutes, going on about how the city is coddling “pampered young people” and sending them the wrong signal about raising their money by begging a government.
As he spoke, he trampled the American flag around his ankle in the team’s view.
After quietly hearing him out, again, and passing a new policy to require matching funds from any group soliciting monetary support from the city, the City Council unanimously voted to give $500 to help send its team to the Nationals.
Mayor Garcia invited the team back to appear before the City Council, win or lose.
“We are so proud of you,” he said.
Before the meeting ended, Culligan had used up another two three-minute comment periods, bringing to an even 12 minutes of his caustic “advice” the council patiently endured.
He told a reporter he’d lived in DeBary for 30 years.
“I’ve been thrown out of a few meetings before this,” he said.
In more important business, the DeBary City Council voted unanimously to contribute $20,000 a year for five years to help in the operation of the proposed West Volusia homeless shelter in DeLand.
Volusia County is footing the $1.13 million bill to build the shelter, on the condition that West Volusia cities, churches and other organizations can come up with the money to operate it.
DeBary City Council Member Mike Brady said a regional solution is needed for the problem of homelessness.
Vice Mayor Lita Handy-Peters noted that a $20,000 pledge was pretty much in line with what other cities with a similar population had pitched in.
DeBary’s kids also will get a boost from the City Council, which studied five options for a new $250,000 kids’ playground for Rob Sullivan Park.
On the recommendation of Parks and Recreation Director John Fletcher, a “turnkey” playground was selected and will be installed by the equipment manufacturer as soon as a contract is signed.
- Rick Butler, email@example.com