Some people think all I do is sit in the back of the room and wait for county commissioners to trip up so I can point out their clumsiness
I won’t deny it happens. Depends on the circumstances, though. I’m not going to write every time the county goofs up – it happens from time to time, just as it does to us all.
That’s why I enjoy pointing out successes, such as the one that occurred Tuesday when Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach brought the Pirates Cove plan back to the table and found a very receptive board of colleagues.
You may recall this being discussed last month and Commissioner Jeff Kinnard’s idea to use impact fees and ask the Tourist Development Council for money to help buy the property.
Kinnard also proposed using $85,000 from the so-called Duke account, an amount set aside each year funded by the additional tax brought in by the Duke natural-gas plant north of Crystal River.
Kinnard and Davis wanted the plan; Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchen Jr. were against. Schlabach voted no because she thought state conservation money was available and she didn’t want to use the Duke fund.
Now, I have to say when Schlabach first cast that vote, the one I wrote Tuesday came out in a whisper, my first thought was a political one: unforced error. A yes vote wouldn’t have cost a dime without more votes, and a no vote possibly alienates fellow commissioners whose support for her own park ideas in Beverly Hills may be needed down the road.
Schlabach didn’t have that in mind, but the vote bothered her. On one hand, her principles said don’t spend county money buying waterfront property, removing it from the tax rolls. On the other was a feeling in her gut that people will look back and applaud a county commission that had the forethought to protect this property.
“Fifty years from now someone may say, you’re brilliant for thinking of this,” she said during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Schlabach said she could support it if the Duke money wasn’t used and the county instead combined impact fees with a funding request of the TDC.
By consensus, that’s what commissioners decided to do. If the TDC agrees to the $185,000, it’ll come back to the county commission for more direction
Regardless of how you feel about Pirates Cove, this a win in at least three ways:
– Kudos to Schlabach for voting on something, having second thoughts, then bringing it back with a better plan. Both Kinnard and Davis said they preferred Schlabach’s idea. We need to see more of this. Voting no is easy. Trying to make something work takes tenacity, patience and imagination.
– I can’t do this justice, but Kitchen was extremely helpful to Schlabach even though he was TOTALLY OPPOSED to what she was trying to do. Kitchen doesn’t think the county should invest any money into the Pirates Cove idea, and he has his reasons.
But there he was, assisting Schlabach and others understand the TDC funding process and how best to make the ask.
It’s not that Kitchen just brushed it off. As commissioner, Kitchen has chaired the TDC for seven years but is backing out of it for his final year in office. So it wasn’t like he was being nice to Schlabach because he knew he’d torpedo the plan once it reached the TDC.
No, he was just being an effective chairman, helping the conversation to move along instead of squashing it because it didn’t fit his agenda. I’ve seen this Chairman Ron Kitchen before. I look forward to seeing it again because it’s super efficient.
– Schlabach raised a very good point before launching into the Pirates Cove issue. She noted that the only time the five of them can talk business is during a county commission meeting, and she is hoping that in 2022 there are more conversations among colleagues, and not just votes on an agenda.
That falls right into my wheelhouse. We’re all about conversation at Just Wright Citrus, intelligent talk that leads somewhere. What I saw Tuesday were county commissioners opening their minds to new ideas and seeing where it goes.
The cynic says this is only Christmas jollies, that this feeling won’t carry into January. I’m as cynical about politics as they come, but something tells me it might be different this time.
That’s my view from back of the room.