Marbut hustles for more public funding

Robert Marbut

Robert Marbut

By Jon Susce
jsusce @

Self-proclaimed “Homeless Expert” Robert Marbut has brought his 21st century version of “The Music Man” to the Volusia County/ Daytona Beach area.

Marbut was last seen being chased out of Sarasota by neighborhood activists and merchants. They discovered that Marbut had no trombones, only false statistics and empty promises. Now Marbut has brought his scam to the Volusia/Daytona Beach area.

He’s still playing the same tune as he marches into downtown Daytona Beach where he can be found hawking a proposal to residents and business owners that promises to alleviate the serious problems of the chronically homeless and widespread substance abuse.

What boggles the mind is that Marbut’s plan for Daytona Beach/Volusia County completely contradicts the plan he tried to sell in Sarasota. Marbut’s radical inconsistency makes him look even more like a mouthpiece for local political forces.

Marbut hooked up with local politicos in Sarasota (including a 68 times convicted felon), all of whom sought to discredit City Commissioner Susan Chapman who successfully analyzed and rightly opposed Marbut’s plan as ill conceived and a touchstone for chaos in downtown Sarasota.

Tom Lyons

Tom Lyons

Tom Tyron

Tom Tyron

To be more specific, Marbut’s plan in Sarasota was backed by former Sarasota County Commissioner, Joe Barbetta, current Sarasota County Commissioner Paul Caraguilo and Michael Barfield, who is presently the local Sarasota ACLU president and a 68 times convicted felon who spent two terms in the Florida State prison system.

Incredibly, Marbut’s plan in Sarasota, which was to put a multi-million dollar homeless center a few blocks from downtown Sarasota, was also backed by the Sarasota Herald Tribune, inclusive of editor Bill Church and columnists Tom Tyron and Tom Lyons.

Marbut’s plan, for which he was paid $50,000 plus expenses, was to have the local sheriff first gather up all of the urban outdoorsmen throughout Sarasota County who were living on the streets and in “bushes” at various homeless encampments. Next, Sarasota County Sheriff deputies were to place those picked up off the street and “bushes” into Marbut’s homeless shelter in downtown Sarasota. Marbut’s reasons for placing the homeless shelter in downtown Sarasota was that they would be near various human service agencies and that the Justice Department facilities would be in close proximity for easy access.

After deputies had picked up those folks living on the street, including hundreds of chronic substance abusers, and transported them to Marbut’s facility, they were to be given a shower, a bed to sleep in, some food and would then spend the night with breakfast served next morning. They would then have been free to leave the facility and roam the streets of downtown Sarasota, if they so desired. At the end of the day, they could then return to the facility.

The genius of this plan is to concentrate hundreds of vagrants and substance abusers within a few blocks of key residential and business interests in downtown Sarasota, not to mention within
close proximity to African-American neighborhoods that are being primed for urban re-development. Yeah, right? The absurdity of this plan got Marbut exiled from Sarasota, but now he’s rolling out his “Music Man” game plan in Daytona/Volusia County.

Marbut is a long time political operative based in San Antonio, Texas, who has been touring around Florida cities seeking to alarm residents and merchants by warning them that homeless vagrants  with substance abuse issues are descending on their cities in substantial numbers. He then SELF PROCLAIMS that HE is an EXPERT on the plight of the homeless and has developed a solution.

Marbut has unsuccessfully carried his message not only to Sarasota and Daytona Beach, but to Panama City, Key West, Orlando, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo. Just like the “Music Man”, he travels from city to city looking to hook a live one.

Marbut cites the success rate of his Pinellas County Safe Harbor project as an example of his success, which is a total fabrication. He has even spread the absurdity in Daytona Beach that HE SOLVED THE HOMELESS PROBLEM IN SARASOTA. All Marbut accomplished in Sarasota was to pick up his $50,000 plus consultant fee and thousands of dollars in expenses, then swiftly pack up and move his “Music Man” gig to Daytona Beach.

President George H.W. Bush

President George H.W. Bush

Marbut is trying to duplicate his Sarasota shtick in Daytona Beach/Volusia County. To accomplish this he must first substantiate his credentials as a “Homeless Expert.” He has stated publicly that he is a “Homeless Expert” with a 30 year involvement in homeless issues. Strange that Marbut does not mention a word in his massive biography (publicly distributed in a San Antonio media publication) about his involvement with the homeless until 2008.

Far from being a “Homeless Expert”,  Marbut is a very skilled politician who initiated his political career as a twelve-year-old youth volunteer for the Richard Nixon presidential re-nomination at  the Miami Beach Republican Convention in 1964. Marbut was Chief of Staff to San Antonio Mayor, Henry Cisneros: a San Antonio City Councilman; and a White House fellow to President George H.W. Bush.

Before becoming a “Homeless Expert” Marbut was a sports promoter for the NBA San Antonio Spurs and took the lead in the development plans not only for the Spurs in the Alamodome (which cost the public $186 million in 1993) but also the AT&T Center at a cost of $215.5 million in 2002. The AT&T Center is the present home of the Spurs. Marbut also was the lead in the failed attempt to bring the Pan American Games to San Antonio.

(By the way, Marbut also has a Masters Degree in Terrorism. If the “Homeless Expert” gig folds; he may be able to market himself as a “Terrorist Expert” and put the run on ISIS in Iraq and Syria).

Being undeterred by his ousting from Sarasota (and why should he be deterred after pocketing $50K plus), Marbut shows up in Volusia/Daytona Beach at the invitation of some naive politician who probably fell for the phony press clippings. After hobnobbing with the local politicos, he was invited to address the Daytona Beach City Commission.

Being a skillful politician, Marbut’s very first act before making his initial presentation to the Commission, press and public, was to put his finger up in the air, observe the direction of the political winds and act accordingly Marbut prepped the city commission as he has all of the others to set the stage for his shtick. He gives a speech in Daytona Beach that went like this:

“The homeless population won’t just stagnate, but worsen. There will be an estimated 15-20% increase in growth coinciding with increases in domestic violence and post-traumatic stress disorder among military combat veterans. I’m about disrupting the entire way of doing business with the homeless.”

Incredibly, without discussion, the Daytona Beach City Commission approved a six-month $50,000 plus expenses contract for Marbut to come up with a report to tackle the homeless problem in their area.

Marbut tells them he will inventory the major homeless providers in the region and evaluate current and future needs. His plan will include a proposed start-up budget to create a transitional shelter as well as a five year operating budget. Appropriately, Marbut will begin his work on April Fool’s Day.

Before getting his money, City Manager Jim Chisholm gave his view to the Daytona Commissioners:  “I think he’s got a good approach and it’s been well received by a lot of people. He could have a no-nonsense strategic action plan completed by August.”

Eventually Marbut gets his marching orders from the public officials who hired him. Very simply put, ‘Get the homeless, especially chronic substance abusers, off the streets of Daytona Beach, and make it difficult for them to return!’

By contrast, Marbut’s political support in Sarasota came from politicians that wanted the homeless centered in the downtown area, while Daytona Beach public officials want the homeless, and especially chronic substance abusers, away from the million-dollar hotels and other central business concerns and residential properties in Daytona Beach, miles from the major economic engine driving Volusia County.

Marbut will be paid about $49,806 for his work and expenses, the bulk of which Daytona Beach will cover. City records show that ten other Volusia County cities interested in trying something new  to overcome the homeless problem also chipped in $17,452.

Marbut, as a trained political operative with years of experience in manipulating public opinion, now launches into Marbut mode on behalf of his political bosses.

He arranges an interview with the local leading area newspaper, The Daytona News-Journal, aimed at convincing Daytona area residents of Marbut’s project viability. The Daytona News-Journal happens to be a subsidiary of The Halifax Corporation who owned The Sarasota Tribune. The Sarasota Tribune was a major supporter of the failed Marbut shelter in Sarasota. The following appeared in the News-Journal:

“Robert Marbut has two master’s degrees, a Ph.D. and three post-graduate fellowships under his belt, including one as a White House fellow to President George H.W. Bush. He’s served as a San Antonio City Councilman and mayor pro tem and he runs a consulting business for cities nationwide hoping to dramatically reduce their homeless counts.

Marbut, who lives in San Antonio, is a former homeless service president and CEO who has worked on homeless issues for 30 years. Frustrated by the lack of real improvement, in 2007 he started visiting hundreds of homeless service facilities nationwide to see what worked and what didn’t. He developed guiding principles of stabilizing the lives of the unsheltered and a system that begins with him diving into a locality’s homeless experience.” WHAT UTTER NONESENSE!

Marbut knows how to get public attention. He spent three days on the streets of downtown Daytona Beach disguised as a homeless person, stating the need to get a firsthand look at the problem. After moving to a hotel on a Daytona Beach beachfront hotel and driving around in his rental car, all of which is at the expense of the county, he makes this revelation: “Without a new program, the Volusia homeless population will not just stagnate, but worsen.”

Next Marbut reinterprets his contention regarding food supplies for the homeless. Incredibly, he asserts that feeding the homeless is counterproductive. When asked why, Marbut answered, “We did  the research.” When asked to give details of that research, Marbut gave the usual political double talk and produced no research.

The reason Marbut asserts this remarkable theory is very simple and self-serving, it supports HIS homeless shelter proposal of the day. In his madness, Marbut’s proposal will leave few providers  to feed the homeless on the streets. With no official programs feeding the homeless, there will be fewer food sources, thus forcing the homeless into Marbut’s proposed shelters.



Another Marbut tool to push acceptance of his scam is to inform public officials of the Pottinger v. City of Miami federal law suit, which states that cities and towns can be sued by the ACLU  for arresting the homeless if they don’t have a facility to house them. Marbut skillfully used his ACLU ally and supporter in Sarasota, the 68 time convicted felon, Michael Barfield to push his scam.

Once again, as he did in Sarasota, he touts his homeless shelter as a necessity for freeing municipalities like those in Volusia County from potential lawsuits from the ACLU or other legal aid organizations. So Marbut publicly states, don’t arrest these vagrants and break the law until I build my multi-million dollar facility.

Marbut’s choice of locations for the homeless shelter in Daytona Beach is another crystal clear indication of his primary role as a mouthpiece for local political agendas.

Marbut’s proposal for a homeless shelter in Sarasota sold a location near various Human Service agencies and the Justice Department facility. But in his Daytona Beach plan, Marbut locates the shelter miles from downtown Daytona Beach. The only facility in close proximity to the Daytona project is the Volusia County jail. Following his Sarasota Plan, Marbut could have found numerous Human Services and Justice Department facilities near Downtown Daytona Beach. The lack of these facilities would not be a problem in his Daytona Beach plan.

There are at least three prime sites for Marbut homeless shelters near downtown Daytona Beach: The EVAC building at 112 Caswell Avenue in the Holy Hill section, the old Daytona Church building on 211 Bay Street and the Bell South office on Ridgewood Avenue.

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Marbut is being paid over $50,000 by the Daytona Beach/Volusia County politicos, while looking for another $100,000, to run the homeless, especially the chronic substance abusers, as far away from downtown Daytona Beach and the economic engine of Volusia County as possible.

Commissioner Susan Chapman

Commissioner Susan Chapman

Marbut’s history is that of a political operative carrying out the desires of public officials and politicians who are controlled by those making millions off of residential and commercial development, people who could care less if there is a homeless or substance abuse problem just as long as it is located far away from their development interests.

In Sarasota, the multi-million dollar development interests wanted the homeless and substance abusers dumped into the city, far away from their developments in unincorporated Sarasota County.  A move like this would help to embarrass elected public officials like Commissioner Susan Chapman, who has been a thorn in their sides. In Daytona Beach the reverse was true, and Marbut is the hired gun to make this happen.

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