One of those days I sat down to write at 11 a.m. and next thing it’s 8:15 p.m. and I’m just typing the first words. In between came life and a 45-minute conversation with a commissioner, which I always enjoy.
That means my blog idea goes out the window because I’m learning the hard way that any original thought past 6 p.m. should come in very small bites.
So, I’ll break down Tuesday’s County Commission agenda instead. The board meets at 1 p.m. in the Courthouse.
Going to be a long day, which is actually sorta unusual. Over the years, the meeting prior to Thanksgiving is fun in the sun, everyone is in a good mood. Political differences disappear for a day.
This agenda, unfortunately, wasn’t drawn up for brevity.
— Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach has a “State of the County” address at 1:15 p.m. While not tradition, it isn’t unusual for the outgoing chairman to sum up the year, and this will be Ruthie’s last meeting as chair.
I really feel for Ruthie. I think we all do. After being elected to office and then suffering under the thumbs of Scott Carnahan and Ron Kitchen Jr. for two frustrating and unproductive years, Ruthie finally had her chance to chair a new board with an eye on getting things done.
Breast cancer surgeries and treatment have sapped some of her strength, but not her enthusiasm for the job. She yells at me, sick or well.
“How come you never call me?” she demanded recently.
“Um…I don’t want to bother you,” I answered sheepishly.
It infuriates her to think the public isn’t satisfied with the job commissioners are doing. We can get caught up in the day-to-day, and it’s easy to forget that this board has plenty of accomplishments, and I’m sure Ruthie will spell them out.
(I’m not being facetious. I’d rather have the chairman give the state of the county than me. But if you’re looking for victories, two off the top of my head: site dedication for the animal shelter and groundbreaking for the Inverness Airport Business Park. Both longtime dreams with little movement until this County Commission kicked them in gear. Oh, and Monday’s groundbreaking for the C.R. 491 widening.)
— 1:30 p.m. Inverness Villages 4 MSBU engineering study. We covered this pretty well Monday but I’m going to say just one thing:
That MSBU presentation is still not accessible online. I don’t know why. The info was emailed to commissioners Monday and I asked that it be attached to the agenda so the public can view it prior to the meeting. The explanation I received made no sense. I sent an email to County Administrator Steve Howard asking that he please ensure agenda backup is attached. He said he’d look into it.
— Now, this is interesting. There’s a 1:45 p.m. public hearing on the “proposed County Surplus Property Inventory List Appropriate for Use as Affordable Housing.”
It seems this hearing is required by state law, even though we have no properties on the list. Actually, this is what the agenda memo says: “Citrus County, Florida, does not have surplus properties appropriate for use as affordable housing at this time.”
Now. If I’m a smarty pants, I’d suggest the county DOES have surplus property appropriate for use as affordable housing. Betz Farm, anyone? Good thing I’m not a smarty pants.
— Finally, not on the agenda: Commissioner Diana Finegan’s resolution on illegal immigration. Finegan missed the agenda deadline but will push for a vote anyway.
Under normal conditions, the county attorney would never let commissioners vote on something not on the agenda. Why? Because the agenda gives citizens notice of potential votes. That’s pretty much the purpose of the agenda.
A commissioner who wants to sidestep the agenda process can rally her supporters while potential opponents don’t know whether to show up or not. That’s why it’s OK for commissioners to discuss non-agenda items and even reach consensus, but no formal vote without proper notice.
Allowing a vote on this non-agenda resolution sets precedent for a commissioner to do it again on something that’s actually meaningful. Let’s wait two weeks, give the resolution proper notice, and publicly debate it till the cows come home.
That’s it. Happy Tuesday, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.