Good morning and happy Monday! Let’s talk politics.
I spend half my life trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. As a decades-long local government reporter, my job was to understand county politicians so well I could anticipate their next move.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t predict votes. I have no more clue than you what these folks are going to do. But I do look for patterns of behavior and I spend as much time as I can getting to know commissioners away from politics so I understand their values.
I’m getting to a point. Hang on.
The thing about a county commission is there are only five of them. That effectively ties the hands of government up with three people. It could be three different people on any given vote, but three commissioners are all one needs to get anything done.
This brings to mind a situation decades ago. I got a call from someone who said a commissioner was going to make a motion the following Tuesday to fire the administrator. I reached four of five that night — two said they wanted the administrator gone and two said they would stick with him.
I had an argument with the editor about placement of the story. I thought it was a big deal. He thought it wasn’t as I only had two commissioners saying they planned to vote for the administrator’s removal.
“Jim!” I said. “It only takes three!”
I won the argument, and the story had the placement it deserved. The following Tuesday, three commissioners were on the verge of firing him when the administrator abruptly resigned.
There’s a point to that story other than a stroll down memory lane. When it comes to the County Commission, the political margin is razor-thin.
Three County Commission seats are on the 2024 ballot: District 1 (Jeff Kinnard), 3 (Ruthie Davis Schlabach, and 5 (Holly Davis). Kinnard has already announced his re-election plans and I’m expecting the same from the other two.
Kinnard is the veteran of the three, going for his third term. He was re-elected to a second term without opposition, which doesn’t happen too often for county commissioners.
One would think there’s no way that’ll happen again. Not because Kinnard has suddenly become someone he hasn’t all this time, but because the public has become rather ornery.
I wrote last week about holding back on some blog topics because my healing isn’t going as fast as I want and I’m a little cranky. The public’s cranky too, but they’re not holding back.
I read a Soundoff comment in Sunday’s Chronicle that’s pretty indicative of where folks are these days. The comment dripped with sarcasm, criticism, downright disgust, and blamed commissioners for all that is wrong in this world.
Here’s a snippet:
“You’re all phony and dumb like foxes with your hands deep in our pockets. It’s insane. It’s insane we tolerate it.”
And that was one of the least offensive comments.
— An angry electorate isn’t good. Especially when the anger is not specifically defined. Folks are just plain unhappy with the County Commission. Some of it is localized — Ozello anti-glampgrounders for example — but a lot of it can be summed up in two words:
Citizens are looking for leadership and commissioners seemed overwhelmed. That’s how side distractions such as Library Guy or a mysterious resolution on immigration suddenly take hold and become the focal point.
Look. I’m cool with citizen anger. I totally get it. After a while, though, we need to channel that into something that’s constructive and forward-moving.
— Angry as the citizens are, I’ve not heard yet of a single legitimate candidate out there to take on the incumbents. We’re not happy but we have no more clue how to solve our challenges than the five people who have the job now.
You’d think that’s good for incumbents but not necessarily so. Time and again we’ve seen angry voters make changes just to make a change, regardless of whether the person being elected is qualified or not.
One thing to close:
I wrote last week about the Betz Farm sale. We had over 100 Facebook comments that varied across the board. Excellent conversation.
The County Commission had zero conversation when voting to negotiate with a developer to sell the property. Just Wright Citrus readers provided over 100 comments. Commissioners had none.
When citizens are having a conversation and decision-makers aren’t, that’s a red flag.
Question is, do they see it?
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.