BOBBY WINSLER SHOW INTRO
LIVE INTRO: Welcome In! However you’re making us part of your day whether it’s Apple Podcasts, Spotify, the iHeartRadio app or even through the Concurrent mobile app or website I’m sure glad you’re joining us.
Today we remember Pearl Harbor, a day that still lives in infamy. Not that we should ever need a reason to thank them but on days like this we are reminded how thankful we are to all our veterans out there.
It is so good to be back. That Tuesday last week was simply jam-packed with the universal garbage decision, pirate's Cove, lowering the collections on the animal shelter which will be the topic of an upcoming column, there was too much happening in real time to take the break to recap for you on the show. My semester down at the University of Tampa is quickly coming to a close, right now I am in between classes that I teach on Tuesday and in each of these classes it's our last meeting before adjourning for winter break.
As you may know, I teach advertising in public relations but it is in the department of communication. That is going to be the underlying theme of both topics today but it may come off as contradictory. In one case I think we need far more communication, and in the other case I respect the right of people to join the conversation, but do think that there's a better message, more optimistic approach that is getting lost in the shuffle and highlights the importance of a strong commentary section in the newspaper.
Let's start with what happens when there's not enough communication. And Sunday's column I wrote about the importance of parks. We stayed on the east side of the county this past weekend but I heard all good things come out of the events over in Crystal River, and certainly there was some magic in the air seeing all the lamp posts decorated, vendors under the depot, and of course the giant tree in the beautiful new Liberty Park that truly made Saturday a special night. Now pirates cove park at the end of Ozello Trail would not necessarily be used in the same way these centerpiece city parks are. It's important to be able to admit that, even if you're in favor of the project, because it keeps you realistic about where the funds should come from.
Commissioner Jeff Kinnard deserves a lot of credit, it's never easy to become the public face of a divisive issue, he has stood by what he believes, which in this case is at least in theory also what I believe, that the park would be beneficial to our county, the state, and to the people who would choose to visit it.
Where Dr Kinnard's communication tactics fall short are in the ability to establish an element of trust. Trust is at the heart of all communication, not to say that distrust doesn't occur, but when it does you lose a lot more than a viewer or a voter, you lose all credibility.
Several meetings back when the board was moving toward voting on negotiating an offer, Commissioner Kinnard correctly stated that it would be easier to secure state funding with a concrete number in place, so the board should vote to advance the negotiations and that's all I'm asking for. That's a favorite saying of his, I'm just asking for this one thing. Commissioner Ron Kitchen, now Chairman Kitchen, called him out on this at the time saying it's never just one thing, that may be how it starts, but that the pattern has been when commissioner canard says just one thing then it usually means A dozen things. This is endearing when done once or twice, but over a period of time it can be more counterproductive than effective.
This is what leaves me head scratching. I understood the plan when it was to obtain a final number for the property, add that appropriation to our wish list that we give the county lobbyist and the state delegation, and then do our own efforts while in Tallahassee during session which is this January through March to try to get the project approved. What is simply inconceivable to me is that this reasonable plan would be fully abandoned in favor of the county picking up the entire tab. Now, it's not the county general fund, but some of it is. As established in past meetings the money collected when Duke introduced the new property in 2019 is general fund money that for some reason the past board excluding commissioners Ruthie Schlabach and Holly Davis, but including commissioners Kitchen, Kinnard, and Scott Carnahan had earmarked for special projects.
I don't see a way this project gets done anymore. With a plan now public that lays out a roadmap of the county paying for it, I don't see the state getting involved when they can point to the articles to talk about funding it through park impact fees, tourism development council, and other sources, but the park for its intended use which is to attract residents and tourists alike to enjoy a bit of old Florida, the experience enhanced by that wonderful drive out there, needs to be a state project.
I don't understand the impatience behind moving off a good idea so quickly when one speed bump, the negotiations not going well, is hit. My best advice for how to remedy the situation would be for commissioner Kinnard to say that the state should fund the project as originally planned, and that as the public face of the efforts so far that he will take negotiating the price of the deal into his own hands, something that was suggested by a fellow commissioner prior to now but that he turned down as not part of his job, and then do as he does so well which is go to Tallahassee during session and plead his case. Whether it is the quality of his reasoning or the rhetorical tactics such as just one more thing, commissioner Kinnard is a pretty persuasive guy. I believe this project can be saved if and only if these things happen which will also go a long way in restoring trust from the commission to the constituency.
Getting to topic 2 but first,
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I'm looking down in my notes here, and I didn't talk about anything that I wanted to in that first topic. The superintendent of Alachua County schools, and North Central Florida home of the city of Gainesville, went on a frenzy blocking numerous constituents after inviting them to speak in a virtual town hall. The manatee county commission might be about to be sued again, this time over there ability or in this case inability to draw redistricting maps that make sense, they were sued earlier this year for potential sunshine law violations but nothing came of that, and so as I usually do in my first topic I was going to point out how well we're doing in comparison to others, which remains to be true, and yet I didn't get to any of it.
And so in the spirit of consistency, I think this topic is going to go off the rails as well. As you know, the second topic is always reserved to react to the chronicle Sunday commentary section, and in this Sunday's edition we got the annual plea from Gerry Mulligan on behalf of the Citrus County United Way for Christmas financial donations. This was one of the main catalyst points that led to me starting the concurrent last year. The United Way had just received $450,000 in cares act funds and the newspaper had not done a good job of explaining how that money would be used, all the while advocating for more money to be donated.
The analogy that I used was that if somebody who is sitting in their car outside of a store or someone's house and somebody inside the building is wondering what they're doing. In all likelihood, the person in their car has a good explanation for why they are stopped there such as checking for directions but the situation is such that there's a degree of skepticism from onlookers until more information is presented. That's the United Way. And to their CEO Megan Pitzer's credit, shortly after I had written a letter to the editor advocating for increased communication, kind of my thing as you tell, she wrote a wonderful piece addressing many of those concerns. I doubt her motivation was my criticism, she strikes me as a self-motivated person who would have written the piece anyway, but either way I was pleased with the result that the organization took into their hands while underwhelmed by the continued lack of information coming from the newspaper. This dismay at a lack of communication strategy has continued throughout this year aimed at a more specific section of the chronicle, particularly the opinion section, and of course at the county commission at large as well.
In the last year or so, many others have started up there media outreach, and I think that is a good thing for county residents even though I disagree with a lot of what is being set out there. I also think we play it fast and loose with titles, for example I am not a journalist but rather an opinionist, I don't report on news as a reporter, I contextualize the news as a commentary writer.
Beyond categorizing the writers who are out there, you can start to categorize the outlets. I've done this in the past stating that the chronicle is a community outlet that appeals to how you feel. Stories about albino raccoons and 70th wedding anniversaries are a vital piece of our media landscape because they make us feel good. This, in contrast, to the concurrent which is a thinking outlet. Our main goal is not to leave you feeling good, although if that's a byproduct then I'm glad about that, but our goal is to make you think about issues in a way that you may have not been able to get to on your own.
What I'm seeing now is a lot of anger outlets. I don't mind confrontation, and I do think that the county shies away from it in a way that is unproductive when it comes to challenging groupthink, but there is a line that is quickly being crossed.
One such example was a blog post about a man who received a visit from local deputies after having sent one of the commissioners and email with the phrase your days are numbered used. The way the blog post is written, it makes the commissioner who turned the email over to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office out to be the villain, while it makes the person who had sent the threat out to be the victim. I want to be clear, the person who sent your days are numbered is not the victim, they are a child.
Children can't accept responsibility for their actions so they blame others, or they expect others to come to their defense. What some in the conservative movement are having trouble with is the difference between censorship and an idea not gaining traction because it's simply a bad idea. I come up with bad ideas all the time, and I take responsibility for them, and we move on. What seems to be happening now, particularly among conservative media, is that bad ideas are presented into the marketplace, they are not well received, and that must mean that the quality of the marketplace is biased against the conservative, not the responsibility that the idea was just bad in the first place.
This isn't to say censorship doesn't exist at the national or even the local level. I tried desperately to raise awareness around the amount of committee money that was being spent, this is also called dark money because of its notoriously hard to trace sources, there was spent in 2020, tens of thousands of dollars, and could never get anyone from the chronicle interested or any of my letters to the editor published.
That to me felt like censorship especially since Ruthie schlebaugh and Mel eckley, two people endorsed by the Chronicle, or the most guilty offenders of accepting this dark money assistance, so I understand the anger behind not feeling like you're heard and wanting to do something about it. There are limits though, and if it's hard to delineate what thresholds we shouldn't cross, why don't we start with this? If there's even an outside chance that you are the source of the problem, don't consider yourself the solution as well.
You can't send your days or number to an elected official and expect no consequence, or worse, blame that official when there are consequences. This stuff is important, it's too high stakes for that kind of juvenile behavior, and it's okay if you did it in a fit of passion and it was a mistake, I make mistakes all the time, and then I admit them, ask forgiveness, and we move on. That's what adults do. You're here listening to this because you've chosen the grown-ups table, and for that I am eternally grateful.
SIGN OFF - That’s all from the Bobby Winsler Show. Follow the Concurrent on social media for the latest updates and we’ll be back next Tuesday at noon.
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