A simple question to start the week:
Do we trust the government?
Not so easy to answer, right?
Our first instinct is to say no. Only a fool trusts the government, right? Bunch of money-grabbing politicians coming up with rules to make our lives miserable, taxing us to death while hiring bureaucrats who don’t recognize common sense.
Or we go the other way. Laying aside the sport of politics, the government is efficient, transparent and friendly. It is constantly trying to improve relationships. Government will cut someone a break if it can.
I’m fascinated by the idea of whether we trust the government or not, and how that comes into play as the 2024 election season rolls up.
I can spend weeks on this — consider yourself warned — as we break down what we trust and don’t trust about the Citrus County government.
Let’s start in Homosassa.
When state environmental protection regulators said they were going to OK a 7-Eleven gas station at Halls River Road and U.S. 19, protectors of the Homosassa River went into a panic. Any issue with underground gas tanks so close to the Homosassa Springs would be catastrophic, and they begged the county to step in.
Well, here’s the problem. This is a state permit. As you see from today’s photo, construction is continuing and the tanks are going in. Environmental regulators have been on the scene and say they’re on top of it.
Commissioner Diana Finegan was in Saturday’s Chronicle praising state government for protecting the Homosassa River. I guess that means she trusts the state will get this right.
Finegan lives in Homosassa and she’s asking the public to trust that she has its best interest when it comes to protection of the river.
So, Homosassa, do you trust that the state and county government will ensure that this gas station isn’t more than just another 7-Eleven? And on what do you base that trust?
In general, we don’t trust the government. Or the media. Or organizations. Actually, we tend not to trust anything that’s bigger than us.
I remember having a conversation one day with Congresswoman Karen Thurman, a longtime friend. We talked about lack of trust in Congress and the press but agreed the problem is when everyone gets together. Individual congresspersons and reporters can get along, but as institutions not so much.
Trust in government was once related to experience, but not so much anymore. We have ideals built up that cannot be switched regardless of what happens.
Logic has no hold. Thousands of Citrus County residents truly believe in their hearts that the 2020 presidential election was stolen despite not a single strand of worthwhile evidence. I mean, not a thing. Yet those folks will look me straight in the eye and say they’re right and I’m wrong. And nothing will change their minds.
It’s not like they’ve experienced having their vote stolen, so the lack of trust is not personal. It’s of the learned variety. Over time, it’s sunk in that certain political forces are out to get you, that’s all there is to it.
Here’s the illogical part of trust. These same people who swear up and down that Joe Biden is not president would never dare to suggest that the local elections are rigged.
Why? Because there’s a huge difference in trust between the federal level and Maureen “Mo” Baird’s supervisor of elections office.
The big government is easy to distrust. It’s faceless, nameless, disconnected, and speaks a language far different from ours.
Mo Baird is our neighbor, our friend. We see her at church and the grocery story. She attends County Commission meetings and conducts voter-registration drives at the library. If Mo tells us the vote is safe, we have no reason to doubt her.
Now. I realize that’s not a blanket statement. There are folks in our community who, armed with nothing but their imagination, don’t trust Mo Baird. They have no reason to base that other than the national don’t-trust-elections craze.
Citrus County is facing some very significant challenges. Growth, roads, schools, taxes, traffic — and then some. We’re going to make decisions next year on three county commission seats. The stakes could not be higher.
So here’s our question: Do we trust the government? Let’s ponder that some.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.