You know in those old movies how the writer is stuck and keeps ripping sheets of paper out of the typewriter, crinkling it up and tossing it to an overflowing wastebasket?
I’ve been doing the laptop version of that for the last hour.
Maybe you can help walk me through it.
As you likely know, I’m in Tallahassee for Citrus County Legislative Days. I’m having a wonderful time, thanks for asking.
This isn’t my first time attending these things. Sponsored by the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, they are the political networking events of the year. If you’ve got a big project that needs state money, this is the place to be.
But all my prior trips were, of course, with the Chronicle. It was somewhat structured. An editor discussed with me beforehand the stories I’d be targeting. I couldn’t just wander off on my own.
Well, here at Just Wright Citrus we encourage random wandering. So driving up the lonely stretches of U.S. 19 (or as I like to call it, “Suncoast 4”), I started wondering just what the heck I’d be doing.
It’s 10:15 p.m. Wednesday and I’m still wondering.
Don’t get me wrong. This is an awesome, incredibly important event. All these fantastic local projects – the Crystal River and Homosassa River restorations come to mind – started because ordinary citizens went to their state government directly and asked for help.
The Homosassa and Crystal River contingent will tell you: Their projects are sunk if not for these meetings. No way I know to quantify it, but Citrus County Legislative Days have likely directly led to tens of millions of dollars in state funding for local projects. I’m probably lowballing it.
I don’t want to ignore the incredible efforts of the chamber, its sponsors and everyone involved with this endeavor. It’s pretty impressive.
So what’s the problem? Now it’s 10:25 p.m. and I just don’t feel like getting that deep. Maybe tomorrow. But here’s other events of the day:
– I saw no less than five FHP troopers lying in wait on U.S. 19 between Lebanon Station (bonus points if you know where that is) and Tallahassee. Just wanted to pass that on.
– The constant fear of a speeding ticket aside, that really is one of my favorite drives. But you have to like that stuff, meaning miles and miles of nothing.
One year I headed up the Capitol having just made that drive. The elevator doors opened and a very pro-development Citrus County commissioner stood there.
“Didja just get here?” he asked me.
“Yeah, drove up U.S. 19,” I answered.
He gave me a look. “Uck, what a boring drive!”
That was well over 20 years ago and I remember it like yesterday.
For the record, the Tallahassee trek is a beautiful drive across a piece of old Florida that is becoming rarer to see. It’s a treasure.
– If I’m in Tallahassee, it’s guaranteed I’m getting lost at some point. But even this one surprised me.
I was walking from the hotel to the Capitol to join Crystal River folks for a meeting with Rep. Ralph Massullo. I walked into the House Office Building and looked up at a wall directory of reps, and saw that Massullo was on the second floor. One floor up. Got it?
I went up to the second floor and of course couldn’t find where I was going so who did I run into? My state representative, who was kind enough not only for a selfie but also to direct me to where I needed to go.
They have a nice meeting in Massullo’s office, it ends and I walk to the elevators. Get in and go one floor down. Remember? Second floor. I hit the button for one floor down. Elevator doors open. I don’t know where I am. I walked around like a numbskull with all these well-dressed people who clearly weren’t from some backwater and knew their way around an office building.
I get back into the elevator. Ah, now I see the problem. I hit the PL button when I should have hit LL. Or the other way around.
To a guy who counts floor levels by numbers and not letters, that doesn’t seem fair. Well done, House Office Building, well done.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.