Everyone in county government is mad at me, the Chamber of Commerce thinks I’m out in left field, and even loyal readers question my sanity.
Wednesday’s blog about whether the county should place a traffic signal on C.R. 491 at Horace Allen Street in Lecanto certainly generated lots of conversation. Most from people who thought I couldn’t be more wrong.
“A signal light there would back up traffic on 491 horribly. Bad idea,” someone wrote.
In fact, looking through the comments, I didn’t find a single one who agreed with me. Others suggested different improvements, such as right-turn only off Horace Allen, or dropping the speed limit on Horace Allen and Maylen Avenue to discourage it from being a cut-through.
Like I said…perfect!
The idea of the blog is not to barrel over Citrus County with my wisdom which, as we all know, is somewhat inconsistent. I provide subject, background, perspective and a little opinion — then it’s handed off to you. A successful blog is not one where 40 people agree with me. A successful blog is one where 40 people are engaged in polite conversation.
Why, you may ask, am I so hung up on conversation? Can’t we just go on with our lives complaining about the County Commission in Soundoff, sending nasty emails and acting like there’s nothing we can do?
Well, yes, of course. If we want to play the victim of local government, have at it. That’s not my Citrus County, though.
You see, there’s a bigger picture here. A reason why we’ll stay stuck if citizens and decision-makers don’t have meaningful public dialogue.
It’s this: sales tax.
We haven’t talked much about sales tax recently, but the idea is still there. A penny sales tax on the 2026 ballot — I call it “1 for All” — to pay for the things we need but can’t afford. Topping my list is our woeful road network.
Spend any time at County Commission meetings and invariably if the conversation is roads someone will mention how much easier it would be with that additional penny sales tax. It would raise about $15 million a year, with tourists paying 25% of it.
From a commissioner standpoint, the sales tax is a huge winner. Citrus is the only county in Florida to not have that additional penny sales tax and commissioners see the absolute logic of adding Citrus to the list.
Except one thing. One glaring obstacle. Voters have to approve it.
And the law says the County Commission’s only role is placing a referendum on the ballot. After that, commissioners can’t spend a dime of public money advocating for it.
A tax referendum is a true partnership. Community leaders support the referendum and county commissioners promise to spend it wisely. Voters who trust the process will support it; those who don’t, won’t.
The process has many components but I’m focusing today on communication. Simply, we need to start having some real conversations about our road network and just what the heck we’re going to do about it.
Commissioner Rebecca Bays’ idea for concurrency — developers pay their fair share of road improvements — is great in theory but the details are scary. It means identifying tens of millions of dollars in necessary road improvements to handle the growth that’s arriving now and coming tomorrow.
Unfortunately, I know of no other way to get a handle on our road needs. I had suggested a while back that the county and two cities combine forces for a countywide transportation master plan that identifies our weak points and offers remedies. Concurrency is similar and — GASP! — will require a consultant to set us on the right path.
None of this is easy. Studies cost money. We all know “consultant” brings a bitter taste to taxpayers, but that’s really unfair. Wasting money on studies that are not needed or won’t go anywhere is one thing; investing in a plan to serve us for decades seems like a wise investment.
Griping about C.R. 491, residential road resurfacing, Croft Avenue (today’s photo), Turkey Oak Drive, Cardinal Street, or any other traffic mess is an exercise in futility. And saying no to all new growth, while a cheap and easy campaign slogan, is not a plan.
No. This challenge is ours alone. Just Wright Citrus readers are engaged in conversation about roads and all we’re asking is for commissioners to take the lead.
Together. That’s how this will happen. Or not.
Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.