Well, that’s one way to get noticed.
How else to explain Commissioner Jeff Kinnard forcing a vote Tuesday on committing $2 million for “services” associated with the LifeStream Baker Act facility being planned for Lecanto?
He received a 3-2 vote to move forward with preparing a contract to prove the county’s commitment to LifeStream so the six-year wait for the Baker Act facility may show signs of life. Commissioners Holly Davis and Diana Finegan joined Kinnard in the vote.
Davis, though, was a toss-up. She could have gone either way and may still vote against the contract when it comes up in March.
Why am I amazing you with these details on a Thursday? Politics, of course!
Here’s what I mean:
— The perception there’s stuff going on that we’re not all in on.
Kinnard SEEMED to have info about LifeStream that other commissioners didn’t have. He also insisted the county commission had already budgeted $2 million for LifeStream, so what’s the big deal.
Well, and I told him this Wednesday, the county says there is no $2 million in this year’s budget for LifeStream. Kinnard insists it’s there, and made a point that the people overseeing the budget this time last year are no longer around. So maybe they’ll find it.
Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach said she’s tried for months to get data from LifeStream to see if it’s upholding the contract for mental health and addiction services. Stonewalled time and again, she said.
So, you can see how there’s a feeling that some people know more about this than others. I don’t know if that’s true, but expect to hear more about it in the coming weeks as this story develops.
— Unconventional tactics.
When something that hasn’t been rushed suddenly gets rushed to a vote, it’s a massive red flag. What’s the hurry?
If I’m seeing this correctly, Kinnard’s plan was simple: He wanted to move this project off the dime, and he didn’t care if the process ruffled some feathers.
Not only were commissioners unprepared, he didn’t tell the staff either. So an easy but vital question — Do we have $2 million set aside and, if so, where? — couldn’t be answered because no one was prepared for it.
(The Just Wright Citrus Editorial Board stands firmly against such moves as the one Kinnard pulled. They slice the public out of the vote by not letting them know beforehand a vote is expected.)
Well, ruffle it did. No surprise. Anytime I’ve seen it happen, which is rare, it ticks off the other commissioners. They feel blindsided about having to vote on something they thought was just going to be a discussion.
It’s a bold move and a gamble. The spring-on-them vote is unpredictable. Commissioners debated it for quite a while, and I don’t think Davis made up her mind until 10 seconds before voting with the majority.
So, all-in to get the Baker Act project moving, Kinnard rolled the dice that he’d come out with some concrete direction for the first time in six years. He did — the $2 million contract is planned for a vote on March 28.
He also has the sudden attention of four commissioners. That could be a good thing or a bad thing.
— Finally, you know politics is involved when hospital board attorney Bill Grant is in the picture, as he was Tuesday dancing around an intriguing offer: a “seven-figure” donation so long as the county owned the Baker Act property and not LifeStream.
At the moment it’s the other way around.
It’s clear some commissioners like Grant’s idea, or at least want to think about it. So we need to toss that in the mix.
Schlabach called for a workshop at 10 a.m. March 14; later that day, during the regular board meeting, the LifeStream folks are making a presentation and THAT should be interesting in light of all this. Two weeks later, it’s the contract.
If that was Kinnard’s plan all along — get a vote to move the needle — it worked. That said, I can’t excuse him for forcing a $2 million vote without letting the public know beforehand. It catches people off guard and isn’t fair. The end doesn’t justify the means.
Still, it’s what’s there. Now all involved have six weeks to figure this out.
And that, my friends, is today's taste of Citrus County politics.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.